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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Clean house

We've enjoyed relaxing around the house the last couple days.  But with our trip to AZ on Monday, it was time to get to cleaning.  We took down the tree and all indoor Christmas decorations.  Since the lights aren't in our way and it's freezing outside, we left the outside things up.  I figure we'll unplug them next weekend at least.  I must say, though, that it is very nice to have a clean house.  I even finished finding places for everything in our bedroom from when we moved in.  We found places for everything in the playroom and all floors were swetp/vaccumed.  I am looking forward to starting off the new year in a clean house when we return.

I continue to spend a bit of time working on the kids' rugs each day.  They are both big enough that if I wanted them to be small I could stop and call them done.  But it's really rather easy so I'll continue to work until I discover I no longer have time.  We'll see how big they end up, perhaps these will be the big rugs in their rooms rather than small.  They feel really cool to sit on and so I'm thinking I want them to be big enough for the kids to lay on them.  Just not sure how much work I'll get done once Jon goes back to work.

One thing I had intended to do over break was create a schedule for afterwards.  And that I have yet to do.  So I am committing to doing so upon our return.  Or perhaps I'll take some paper to think about it while on the plane.  Our first week back we only have gymnastics, although I'm thinking we'll head to the library as well.  Second week we're back in full swing with gymnastics, story hour, and swim lessons.  Our free days will be Wed/Fri, so I'm thinking I'll plan activities out on Wed and Fri we'll stay home to relax, do laundry, and work on science projects.  We have lots of cool new art supplies as well.  Looking forward to getting back into a routine and helping the kids learn.  I'm hoping that we can get some snow to make playing outside a bit more fun as well.

Can't wait to visit Grandpa on Monday and get some quality time with him.  Hoping for a calm day tomorrow as I tutor and finish up work for a few days.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve!

We had another nice day today.  I spent the morning making the sticky buns and apple pie.  They look great!  The kids were pretty good and Jon had a chance to do a bunch of cleaning while I baked.  I didn't get anything prepared in terms of real food for tomorrow, but should be okay.  Just have to mix together the cheesy potatoes and sweet potatoes.  As usual I do need to sit down and figure out a timing schedule for everything, but likely in the morning.  Jon even remembered to charge the video camera today!

This afternoon Michelle and Brian came over for a nice visit.  Miraculously, both children slept until nearly 3pm.  We all shared the birthday cake, which turned out pretty well.  I think I'll skip the almond extract next time though, because it was very strong!   Then the kids provided entertainment until it was time to go to church.  It was really nice to see Michelle and Brian and now that we're closer I'm hoping to see them more often.

We went to the 4pm family mass, which was different than when I was growing up.  They moved the children's play portion to before the official mass and the homily was fairly long.  As usual, the church was packed and we ended up sitting on the floor in the vestibule, which was okay for the kids.  Next year we'll go earlier though and hopefully they'll be old enough to actually sit through mass.  And once Carolyn starts Sunday school next fall hopefully we'll start to know some other people involved at the church as well.  It's going to be nice to be settled into one town.  We came home and had our usual special dinner, looked at the Norad Santa tracker, read the Christmas story book, then the kids put out the milk, cookies, and carrots.  They put a bunch out, so we warned them Santa might not eat it all.  I already had a couple things though.  Jon is wrapping some of the presents now while I keep watch for opening doors.  Luckily Carolyn is bad with being quiet when she leaves her room.  I am really looking forward to the look on their faces tomorrow morning.  They each will only have 7 things to open, but they're all things we know that will get played with.  Plus we know others will spoil them!  Looking forward to the big crazy day tomorrow and then a quiet time at home before we head to AZ.  Great end to 2012.

Looking forward to the many blessings that God has in store for us this week!  Merry Christmas to all.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baking is complete!

Almost all the baking is complete.  Well, everything that could possibly be done in advance is complete.  Today I finished up with lemon love notes, kalachkis, and birthday cake.  We'll see how the cake tastes, but I think it looks awesome.  I used a gluten free recipe and it seemed a bit off as it cooked.  It inflated a lot while cooking and totally collapsed afterwards, although doesn't look terrible.  I put a layer of my usual frosting on it, some Christmas sprinkles, but then gave my first try ever at fondant for decorating.  Wow was this easy to work with!  Definitely will take some more finessing as far as coloring is concerned, but so easy to shape.  I have been thinking of doing a cross, but Jon suggested a star as I was mentioning my plans.  So I put a yellow star top with red and green stars around the edges.  I then wrote out "JESUS" as well.  We took a picture that I'll post when I upload.  (Looking forward to the tablet as perhaps that will make pictures here easier.)  Tomorrow I just need to do the sticky buns and apple pie, haven't decided on what other prep work I'll do.  That will most likely depend on how the day is going and what I have time for.  Not too much left overall though.

My dad and Patty were over this afternoon and it was nice.  Jon and I ran to the store to finish getting wrapping paper and stocking stuffers.  Then we relaxed, opened presents, and just enjoyed each other's company.  My dad is taking us to Disney on Ice, which I'm sure the kids will love.  They gave us a bunch of gluten free foods, which will be great as I get fully back into that in the new year.  Each kid received 2 TAG books with they immediately started playing with.  It's amazing how much they love their books.  The solar system book is sure to provide Carolyn with hours of discovery as well.  Definitely something we'll be bringing on the plane next week, since each system can have headphones inserted as well.

Well, off to go paint the handprint sets and then work a little on the doll sets.  I managed to get 1 doll and 1 outfit for each child.  So anything more is just extra, so we'll see what gets done.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Local decorations

We had a busy day today as Christmas draws near.  Jon took his car in to have the shaking at high speeds investigated.  Luckily it turns out the tires were just out of balance after the recent tire rotation he had done.  While we were waiting we had breakfast and went to The Grove.  The Holiday House is still going and has wonderful handmade crafts at decent prices.  We were truly amazed at the prices on the items and will definitely shop there in the future.  We got 3 ornaments for us, 2 for Jon's parents, and one for his grandma that are all personalized.  A great tribute to our first Christmas here.  We will likely go there for our ornaments each year as well since it's only slightly more expensive than typical stores and these are personalized and really cute.  We are thinking we'll do some of our shopping there or earlier at the craft fair in November next year.  The kids are really at a point where they don't need/want much for Christmas, so buying some well-made keepsake type things will probably be just what we want these next couple years.

Seeing the various crafts gave me some ideas for things I'd like to do.  There were pillows made similar to the fleece blankets I've made in the past.  No sewing, just tying the sides all together.  It could be nice to fill pillows as much as desired.  I could make some decorative ones for around the house as well.  Could even be something nice for right in front of the fireplace as well.  I really need to figure out a color scheme for each room in the house so we can start decorating.  I'm excited to finally have a house where I can get each room exactly as I want it. 

I started on the felt doll sets while everyone was at the store.  They are very difficult to make!  I'm having to make foam cutouts at the same time because I can't draw on the felt but the paper is too hard to work with when cutting.  But it's okay, because the kids can just dress up the dolls in the bathtub as well.  I will work more on this tonight after we're sure the kids are asleep.  It feels like Christmas has kind of snuck on me, but I'm looking forward to the craziness of the next few days and then the stillness afterwards.  The rugs will be far from finished come Christmas day, but that's okay, I will have something to work on while the kids are playing with their new toys/books.  Looking forward to some time with my Dad tomorrow as we officially start our Christmas celebration.  Then Christmas Eve with a cake, church, and special dinner.

Missing my mom quite a bit this holiday season, but I know she would be proud of what we are sharing with our children.  Love you Mom!

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Well, kind of anyway.  It snowed for a little bit and accumulated a little on the lawn.  I'm hoping we'll get more tonight so the kids can have some to play in tomorrow morning.  Otherwise we'll likely head to the library, so it's a win either way I suppose.

Today was a busy day, but apparently the kids needed that.  Oddly enough, we never left the house!  We had breakfast, read a bunch of books, and then made snickerdoodles this morning.  After lunch the kids took wonderful naps, likely due to the darkness and rain.  This afternoon they each had 2 snickerdoodles for snack and then we made handprint coasters for Jon's parents for Christmas.  They didn't turn out as well as I had hoped so we plan to see if we can find anything at the Grove on Saturday.  But I'm sure they'll still love them.  I plan to paint the second set with real paint after we get some on Sunday.  I let the kids use their washable finger paint on the first set since they didn't turn out great anyway.  Maybe we'll try the real salt dough that bakes in the oven next time.  But that took us just about until Jon got home.  I have made some more progress on the rugs for both kids as well.  They are both excited to see them grow.  I need to find a way to flatten them while I'm not working on them, I'm thinking I might put Carolyn's under the overturned coffee table tonight.  James' was started second so it's turning out a little better and is still pretty flat.  I have to start to decide what size I want these to be.  It's pretty clear I bought too much fabric, but you live and learn.

Jon's last day before break is tomorrow and I'm very excited.  I have to go tutor at 4:30 so I won't get to really relax until about 6.  But we have some fun things planned and then after Christmas we get to just relax as a family!  I'm really looking forward to it and hoping I don't get asked to tutor much.

Here's hoping for a bunch of snow to dump tonight!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


We had flurries today and boy were the kids excited.  We had a pleasant start to the day, with James sleeping later than Carolyn.  After reading, breakfast, putting together dinner, and making rice krispie treats, I noticed the snow outside.  I asked the kids to look out the window so they both went to the fron door.  James response was "snow, I want to go play in it!"  At first I was hesitant, so started with "you'll have to get dressed and put your winter gear on."  The response, of course, was that they didn't mind and wanted to wear all their gear.  So we all got dressed and put them in their snowpants and snow jackets.  We went out and spent some time running for tag, walking along the bricks, and playing.  We wandered into the back and I decided to do some work.  I got more of their outdoor toys into the small shed.  I figure they'll last longer if they're kept out of the elements.  Then I worked in the garage, dragging some stuff into the big shed.  I want to be able to set up the weight bench after Christmas, so more stuff needs to be rearranged in the garage.  The kids enjoyed running around outside and before we knew it, it was time for lunch.  I declared to the kids we should spend more time outside, even when it's cold.

It appears, though, that James has an ear infection.  After a rough afternoon where he cried for seemingly no reason off and on for an hour, he cuddled with me pleasantly until Jon got home.  Then he declared his ear hurt, but he had just had his finger by it.  Later at dinner he again declared the same ear hurt.  So we gave him some motrin and he seems to be doing better.  We'll see in the morning, but I may need to find a new doctor in the area sooner than I thought!

Tomorrow we'll bake sugar cookies if the kids are up to it.  We're into 7 days of baking leading up to Christmas.  We'll still need to make snicker doodles, fudge, lemon love notes, and kalachkis.  And then of course I need to make a birthday cake for Jesus, stick buns for Christmas morning, and an apple pie for Christmas evening.  I enjoy the cooking and baking, but am also looking forward to a break on 12/26.  I have also decided on a new hobby/project to get started with as soon as I get to the fabric store.  We need rugs for various places throughout our house and it appears from various tutorials that they're pretty easy to make.  Because the ones I like are crazy expensive, I'm going to try making my own.  I'll start with one for Carolyn as we'll go choose some pink and purple fabric from whatever is on sale.  Shouldn't be too difficult and hopefully she'll like it.  I'm thinking I also want to eventually buy a sewing machine and get into making clothes and various things for around the house.  I like the idea of being able to truly customize everything and to be able to do it on my schedule.  We'll see when we have the funds to buy a sewing machine, and I'll have to do some research on what kind of machine to get.  Any suggestions?

I have really enjoyed my work slow down the last couple days.  It has allowed me to focus more on the kids and be more patient with their needs.  It makes me dream about how next year might be if Jon gets his dream job.  I can cut back on work some and we'll have plenty extra to do as we please.  Until then I will keep trying to balance everything and be as patient as possible.  I have definitely noticed that the more patient and intuitive I am, the shorter the wars we fight are.  James just needs to be held when he gets upset, Carolyn is usually tired so needs quiet activities.

Dear God, please continue to watch over us and guide us.  Help James get some good rest tonight so he may feel better tomorrow.  Continue to bless our family financial and guide Jon wit his employment.  Thank you for the opportunities we've had and that I know are coming.

Monday, December 17, 2012

New bath toys!

I finished the letters last night!  And today with the stack of foam I asked the kids what they wanted beyond letters.  Carolyn said a car, then got excited about every picture of everything we looked at.  She suggested a princess, a tree, and many other things.  We settled on a car for each child (Carolyn chose red, James chose black) and a set of numbers 0-9.  I managed to complete these this afternoon whilst making dinner (sloppy joes from scratch), read a few books, and waiting for Jon since he had a meeting.  But I got it all done so they had them for tonight's bath.  They both really liked everything and loved that the pieces stick to the walls.  Carolyn informed me she didn't do any spelling, but they both had fun and the water stayed in the tub.  I'm sure we'll come up with more ideas for these cheap bath toys.  I think we will be skipping the expensive toys from the store that get moldy quickly for the future.

Today was really a pretty great day overall.  Both kids slept in late and I got some quality time with James while Carolyn slept.  Once everyone was up we started breakfast and from there pretty much went straight to gymnastics.  Of course we spent 20 minutes looking for Carolyn's leotard that she had put in the hamper in her bathroom (she looked and said it wasn't there).  Gymnastics went well and James is improving on waiting his turn.  Lunch went late as usual on gymnastics days, but both kids went down fine.  I got to work and finished a mentor review despite the kids waking up in the middle of it.  We had a nice afternoon together.  I am really looking forward tomorrow when we'll make Rice Krispie Treats and I have no reviews to do for work.  I get to focus entirely on my children while they are awake!

I have decided that over break I am going to get things together for real preschool lessons starting in January.  We'll still have gymnastics Mondays, 1 library day, and swim lessons.  So I'm going to plan science activities the other days as well as "schedule" trips to the great places around here - kohl children's museum, the grove, the forest preserve, bowling at Pinstripes, and I'm sure I'll come up with more things to do.  But the main goal is get me away from the computer and get the kids out and about as needed.  And as I'm the planning type, I think this will be good for me.  Excited to finally be settled and get to focus on my family and what the kids need.

Thank you God for our wonderful blessings and keeping all of us safe.  Wrap Your arms around those in Newtown, Connecticut and all those impacted.  And wrap Your arms around my two sleeping children and keep them safe always.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sorting through the feelings

This weekend I've been sorting through my feelings, wondering a little while I feel so incredibly shaken by the school shooting on Friday.  Yeah, I'm part of the Columbine generation, but it had to be more than that.  I am bothered by other occurences - NIU, VT, the movie theatre in CO - but none of those stuck with me this much.  I think my issue with this is 2 fold.  First, the victims were mainly young, innocent children not much older than my own.  And second, an elementary school is supposed to be a safe zone.  You don't know if a crazy person will show up to a movie theatre, a grocery store, or a mall.  Universities and to some degree HSs aren't super safe places because of the clientele.  But elementary schools should be safe because those kids are mostly defenseless.  Little kids should feel safe going to school, a place parents should feel comfortable leaving their kids to grow and learn.  But that idea has been shattered here and I think that is what hits home the most.  I also don't want to see any of this politicized.  I want to see action - not political meandering and nothing really changes.  Provide more help to parents and families with children that are mentally unstable.  Increase gun laws to be sure there are accurate background checks, increase the cost of bullets, do something to make it harder for these people to get their hands on guns that can kill a building full of people in minutes.

And now I try to turn my mind away from all of this, to push the fear outside of my head and focus on my family.  I finished the bath tub letters for the kids today.  They are excited to play with the colorful letters and I wonder if Carolyn will try to spell any fun new words.  We tried to bake cookies today, but I believe my recipe was missing an ingredient and the cookies simply melted onto the pan.  A brief look made me realize that we probably needed an egg.  We'll move on the rice krispie treats for Tuesday though and have plenty of cookies to last until then.  We have our last day of gymnastics for a while tomorrow, so that should keep us busy.  As much as I'm looking forward to Christmas this year, part of me is looking forward to it being over and just relaxing.  I'm enjoying fires with the kids in the evenings, but I'm looking forward to the simplicity of every day life in this new house.  We have so much to explore and do.  Something seems to be missing from my holiday spirit this year - maybe it's the 45 degree weather and rain! 

Time to go spend quality time with Jon for a change.  This is going to be one crazy week between his meetings, my tutoring, and my soccer.  Can't wait until Friday night gets here and we have several days of family time with no interruptions!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Finally fully settled

We were officially unpacked weeks ago.  But I was finishing some of the final touches, with arranging picture frames and getting caught up with work.  I have been tutoring a ton and that has been creating a bit of a time crunch.  But I can finally say I feel caught up with everything and have some time to do things that got lost along the way.  So I have time to really update this blog with how we've been working on preschool things.

We got an additional 2 week trial of reading eggs that ends tomorrow.  Carolyn loves it and I think she's learning a lot from it, but it's really expensive for us.  So once this is up we'll continue to do other things and build on what she's learned.  Aside from that I've been stealing from the In Lieu of Preschool website.  I printed up some of the Bob book sheets and we tried those one morning.  I thought they were pretty cool, but Carolyn wasn't very into them.  We'll see if she gains more interest with time.  We've also been doing some math using counters, notecards, and containers.  Carolyn does a great job with it and soon I'm thinking we'll start subtraction.  But mostly we've been focusing on spending time together and baking.  I use baking as a learning experience, talking about various measurements - comparing tsp to Tbsp and we talk about following a recipe.  The kids love dumping into the bowl, and of course tasting what we make.  They like to stir whenever the chance arise as well.  We continue to read many books and I'm trying to encourage Carolyn to try to read more on her own.  The perfectionist that she is, though, she resists at times.  I don't want to push too hard and turn her off, so it's gentle for now as I know it's already in her.  She's been pulling out really long books for me to read to her lately, basically her way of saying she still wants me to do the reading.

My most recent projects involve creating felt shapes that the kids will be able to put on vests my MIL is making.  This will allow the kids to kind of create their own dress up clothes.  I've only used 4 of the 100 felt sheets I ordered so far, so we will be able to make many other things.  If I have time before Christmas I'm also thinking I will create some people with clothes and maybe scenes for them to play with.  But we'll see if I can find time when they're sleeping and I'm not working in the next 9 days.  I also started on some new bath toys.  Inspired by ILOP above, I bought some foam sheets to make things that will stick to the walls.  I'm starting by cutting out the letters of the alphabet.  I started with each child's name and am now moving on to making 2 sets of the alphabet with various colors.  What's great is that these can come out of the tub if we want during the day as well.  It should help James with his letter recognition and Carolyn with her spelling/reading.  I'm hoping to have at least one set put together by their next bath night, which is Monday night, but we'll see. 

My goal in the new year is to spend more time playing with the kids during the day and guiding them to learn as I know they crave to learn.  I will be closing the lap top more often because, really, there are no emergencies for my job.  Plus with Jon starting to coach, I'll need to be sure they are getting the attention they need.  I will try to get on here and update on Saturday nights though, mostly so I have a record of what's going on.  We will need to start to think about kindergarten soon.  At this point I think we'll register Carolyn and see how things go.  If she's bored I might pull her back home and start doing a more formal curriculum that is at her required level (which I suspect is first/second grade at this time).

Time to go cut out some more letters and relax a little!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Extra hugs tonight

Reading about school shooting wrenches my heart every time.  I don't know if it's because I am part of the Columbine generation, but it shakes me to the core every time.  I am taken back to my junior year of high school, where we were profiled in Time as the next likely school for a tragedy.  We had the SWAT team on our roof and various bomb threats.  We had police walking our hallways as we collectively held our breaths, and we were blessed with no serious issues.  When I taught at  Jacobs we found out after the fact that a violence threat was found within the school.  It was scary to find out months afterwards that nothing had been shared with even the faculty, but again we were blessed that nothing came of it.

I am blessed every day that I get to spend so much time with my kids.  Even as the fight and argue, when Carolyn turns the mixer on and sprays flour all over, and as they struggle to sleep at night, we're lucky to have them.  It's going to take me days to get over this tragedy in CT, despite not knowing a soul there.  I scooped up both kids and gave them extra hugs today.  It was hard to leave to go tutor this afternoon, with sad thoughts lingering in the back of my head.  What is a parent to do these todays to protect the most vulnerable?  Kindergartners should be immune to violence, we shouldn't find a roomful that has been murdered.

Days like today make me add another item to the list of why to homeschool.  It eliminates a place where my kids could suffer loss without me at their side.  But I don't make decisions out of fear and I never have.  So it's not really high on my list of reasons as I've written about those before.  For the next few days though I'll be checking locks twice, giving lots of extra hugs, and being sure to tell the kids I love them a few more times a day.  Life can be so short and tragic.  We'll never understand the whys of such tragedies, but I will continue to pray that something will be done to stop something like this from happening again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas is coming!

I continue to not do a good job posting here.  But life continues to be a bit crazy with Christmas coming fast and work continuing full steam ahead.  I am now up to 6 in-person tutoring clients as I have trouble saying no.  But I'm thinking that a few of them will drop off after this semester ends, and 2-3 of them aren't every week. continues full boar as I have 9 mentors and over 75 tutors, so I am responsible for over 325 tutors overall!  I billed over $1k to them for November's work, which is nice but also means I'm working a lot.  I also spent countless hours with At&t getting our internet sorted out over the past 3 weeks.  But I can now say that it all seems fixed and they didn't charge us for any of it, including an upgraded wireless router.

I am being sure to spend time focusing on the kids and our family as much as possible.  We are spending nights in front of the fire, often reading various versions of the Christmas story.  Inspired by this I did get the kids a new nativity set that they can play with.  I want them to be sure to understand the true reason for the season and Carolyn is definitely getting it.  We started our baking last week as well, with chocolate chip and candy cane.  Saturday was the annual cookie baking with my in-laws, while Jon and I went shopping.  We happened to get James his twin bed and he loves it.  We already took down the crib!  Tuesday we made toffee, which will be replaced by something else in future years.  Today we went downtown and enjoyed lunch by the tree at Macy's in the Walnut Room.  What an amazing experience for the kids each year.

I feel like the kids are really being impacted by the onslaught of wheat and I noticed an increase in pain in joints.  So I ordered flour to make a gluten free mix and will be using that in any recipes that don't require rising dough.  We're starting tomorrow with oatmeal cookies, wish us luck!  I'm hoping that Jon won't notice the difference and plan to eliminate all wheat from our home beginning in January.  So I will begin figuring out how to make some breads that actually can hold sandwhiches!

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks and we finish the lead up to Christmas.  I have many ideas of things to do with the kids and I plan to enjoy just being together as a family.  It is wonderful to finally feel like we have all we need financially because we have been very blessed by God. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

All Settled!

It's been quite some time since I posted, because life has been crazy!  We've now been in our new house for 11 days and I'm feeling like we're finally settled.  The only boxes that remain are memory boxes high in the closets and Christmas tree ornaments waiting to be put on the tree tomorrow.  The rest of our decorations are up, including Jon's dream of icicle lights along the roof.  I never knew he was hoping to do that, but I really like the look too.  They're on a timer too, so no worrying about remembering to turn them off.  I put together the paper chain and lifesaver santa today as well.  I am looking forward to starting a new tradition with the kids this year - 12 days of baking.  I put together a list of 12 different desserts that the kids will help me to bake from now until Christmas.  We'll start out slow with Tues/Thurs this week, but do more as the weeks go on.  They love to help baking and with our new counters this should work out great. 

I've been really behind with Carolyn's school work lately, there just hasn't been time.  I focused this week on getting her signed up at a new gym and for swim lessons.  And we continue to read books.  I am struggling though with how to work with her at this point.  I am cutting back on work, which does give me much more time to both plan activities and complete them.  We're also now minutes from The Grove and the Kohl Children's Museum.  Jon's mom graciously bought the kids a membership to the museum for Christmas that started today, so I'm thinking we'll head over there one day this week.  I think the Grove will be good for winter days when we want to head over to look at the animals as well, and perhaps we can spend more time reading the information about each animal, writing down the names to get books at the library about them.  Carolyn is really into workbooks, so I am considering looking into getting her some that are appropriate for her age.  Time is a major factor and I'm not sure how to handle James while she's working either.  I've tried sitting her at a table to ask for help while working and sitting with James nearby reading or playing.  But she wants individual attention while doing the work.  And she still needs to nap.  I enjoy my time with her in the evenings reading chapter books, so I don't want to infringe on that.  I'm thinking I need to find activities for James to do that are age appropriate while Carolyn is working as well.  If we do just 30 minutes a day I think all will feel well stimulated and we could get through a lot.  But I'm just not sure what to do.  Any ideas on how to create activities that challenge both a 2.5 and 4.5 year old at the same are appreciated.  I'm thinking maybe something with color/shape recognition for James but creating patterns, counting, and spelling for Carolyn?  I'll spend the next few weeks brainstorming as I don't see starting anything until the new year anyway.  But all suggestions from anyone reading are welcomed.

I'm also setting a new goal in my weight loss journey.  With the new house and moving the scale, I've decided to start over.  So my starting weight last week was 175lbs.  I would like to lose another 10% of my weight by the time we head on vacation in June.  That gives me about 6 months, so just over 0.5lb/week to get there which is doable.  Considering I was down to 173 this week, it's a good sign.  I think at that point I'll be happier with the prospect of wearing a swim suit.  So I'm going to try not to eat too many of the goodies we're about to bake.  And we'll get the weight bench put back together soon.  Here's hoping for more success!

We have been extremely blessed by God and I find myself reflecting on this frequently.  Jon has a track position for this Spring that should also be a foot in the door for next Fall.  We are looking forward to the opportunity to share our financial blessings with others as we start to incorporate monthly giving into our budget.  Once we've built our emergency fund back up we're hoping to give more to church and pick a different charity each month to give $25 or so to.  We don't have a ton extra now as we work to pay down various loans, but I believe part of our blessings has been our stewardship with what God has giving us so far.  We're ready for the blessings to continue to be poured out and I'm excited to give back to some of the places that helped us along the way - like both of our undergraduate colleges.  Jesus is the reason for the season and this year it's very easy to remember that every day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wonderful Kids - Trouble with Moving

Considering everything going on in life, I have 2 amazing kids.  Life has been quite crazy as the bank plays games with our mortgage and we start to pack the house.  Carolyn mostly gets it and can verbalize her feelings.  But James, one who has always clung to me, is really struggling.  After having a fever on Sunday and waking up to me gone from his nap.  And then watching me pack up various things around the house, he lost it this morning over bandaids.  He got some out and I put them back because he didn't have a cut.  He got mad and bit me.  I picked him up and him in his crib.  Then for about 10 minutes we did a bit of a dance - I put him in his crib, walked out and closed his door, and stood in the bathroom doorway.  He climbed out of his crib, came out of his room, and tried to hit, kick, pinch, and bite me.  I tolerated the hit and kicking, staying as calm as possible.  When he tried to bite I scooped him up and we started over.  After 5-6 trips he was half-heartedly trying to hit me and I said "What do you need bud?"  To which he put both arms up and asked me to pick him up.  So I scooped him up and went and snuggled on our bed with him.  I talked to him about moving, telling him again that we're all going with and so are all of his things.  He asked some questions and seemed to get it a little more.  I'm glad I can be with him a lot to try and offer some comfort.  What broke my heart a little is he told me I've been working too much.  But things will all settle down in less than a week.  I'm hoping that with packing some things into the trunk will help him a little more.  I'm going to let the kids choose what to take with for the first trip.

I should get to bed at a decent time tonight because life is about to get very hectic until next Wednesday!

Friday, November 2, 2012

We have a Reader!

Yep, that's right, Carolyn read her first book today.  And she actually read the words!  Last week I wrote about her being interested in Reading Eggs.  Well, she continues to enjoy this website and has completed levels 11-30 in the past week!  Only 10 pre-reading levels left and she might just get through those in the next 3-4 days, depending on how much time we allow her to play.  I don't think I'll be purchasing a subscription since she got through so much and I don't like her sitting in front of the computer all the time.  But it really is a great program and she truly enjoys it.  She's learning so many sight words from the program that today she read one of her Tag books.  We were just hanging out and she picked up her book and started reading it.  I helped her by pointing to the words and helped with 1 or 2.  But she sounded words out and read the whole story.  We definitely celebrated and she read the book to Jon when he got home.  James is trying to get in on the action too and pretended to read me a book later in the day, too cute.  I'm excited to see her start branching out and trying to read more things now.  She's such a perfectionist that she shys away from sounding out words and prefers to just memorize them all.  But I have a feeling she's really going to take off now that she's had some success.

I feel like we always hear about how kids have no imagination these days and that they don't have enough free play.  Of course, we also hear about how families eat a lot of convenience foods.  And my jaw drops when I see statistics on the amount of television that kids supposedly watch.  My children watched 0 television this week M-F (football weekends).  And the weather is cold too, so we didn't spend a on of time outside.  What we did do, though, was use imaginations.  Carolyn and James have become awesome at entertaining themselves.  Early in the week while I was slicing onions and potatoes for our baked potato soup dinner, they pretended they were camping.  Carolyn has named her stuffed animals Mary, Laura and baby Carrie.  Anyone want to guess what chapter books we're reading right now?  We've never been camping, but it's awesome to see Carolyn taking books and acting them out.  Watching my kids play this past week I now understand why I don't know what toys to get rid of.  We didn't clean much up in the basement this week as they played.  Partially because I'm trying to see what we might weed out. And honestly, they played with nearly every toy down there!  They love to bake and play kitchen, we played Go Fish, Ants in the Pants, and Cooties.  We found old school Sesame Street figurines and I demanded cookies as Cookie Monster.  They pretend to workout with me, and spend time shooting baskets off the trampoline.  It's amazing the variety of play accomplished by 2 small people in a week's time.  But I get out of their way and participate as asked, because I realize their play is their job and important stuff is being worked out.  I'm looking forward to how dynamics will change once we're in the new house as well.

We had a scare with my grandfather this past week, but he appears to be out of the woods at this time.  He is home and the physical therapist has said she doesn't feel needed.  So I'm very glad that God has smiled down upon us once again and allowed us to keep this member of our family with us a little longer.  Carolyn is super excited about going to visit him next month.  Realizing it might be the last time I see him, I am looking forward to just being there and soaking in as much as possible.  Time with family is so precious, and we need to slow down just a bit to be sure we're spending as much time with each other as possible.

Time and balancing work and family has been a big struggle for me mentally lately.  I want to help provide for the family as much as I can.  With the move and large outlays of money, I feel like I should take on as many opportunities as possible.  But, alas, there are only so many hours in a day.  My hours with are expanding and I truly enjoy the work I do for the company.  I feel connected to my mentors and many of my tutors, and I have a boss that is great to work with.  I billed over $1k from the company last month!  K12 continues to be hit or miss, with expectations every changing.  I don't enjoy the work, but the paycheck is certainly nice.  I'm conflicted as to how long I should try to hold on to this position because I've never quit a job in such a short time frame.  I'm also slightly nervous about the move and how all the numbers will shake out, so I feel like I should hold on until we move.  I'm not looking forward to the prospect of having to take my computer with to Arizona to check-in on my classes while we're gone though.  Did I mention I'm not enjoying the hassling of kids to do their work, last minute meeting anouncements, and completely pointless "professional development"?  On top of these jobs is also my in-person tutoring.  I expect to retain 2 of my current clients as I move.  And gaining more could be easy if I so desire.  And so I struggle with deciding when enough is enough and when making money is interfering with enjoying my family.  I feel like if I can keep my contribution around $1k/month I should be happy.  After all, our mortgage is going down with the move.  We'd be comfortable at that level with plenty of extras.  And considering I'm at over $100 on my time sheets already this month, there's no doubt I'll make it there.  So I just have to make the tough decision of whether to cut and run now or wait until after the move.  I've trusted God so far, I just want to be sure I'm reading Him right as I do feel more and more at peace with leaving k12 behind.

Time to go spend some quality time with Jon before family pictures tomorrow!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Learning to Read!

Carolyn has just passed the 4.5 year mark and is taking off with reading.  I was looking online tonight at You Can Read, thinking about whether or not to print out some of the work pages.  I've been struggling a little with how to work with her on reading, since she's quite stubborn and has her own agenda generally.  She also is very shy about trying new things and often won't try to sound out any words.  We do a ton of reading to both children, so I know she's getting exposure that way.  But she came over wondering what I was looking at, so I decided to see if she'd be interested.  We started with going over the 4 sight words in the first lesson.  Then we paged through towards the end and she started reading!  The only prompting I gave her was pointing to the words on the screen, and she read the first sentence!   It was absolutely amazing and we spent a few minutes exchanging hi-fives all around.  She then asked to keep going, and we went through the words in the first 8 lessons.  Of the 32 words we looked at, I'd say she has at least 25 of them down already.  It was so cool to watch.

I then took a look at Reading Eggs.  There is a 14 day trial that I think we'll do for the next couple weeks.  But I think it's below Carolyn's level in that she has ALL her letter sounds already.  Her pefectionist learning style just doesn't seem to fit very well.  But since there's a free trial, we'll take a look and see how she likes it.  I'm just so excited that she really is learning how to read!  I would bet she'll be reading fairly easily by the time she starts kindergarten, just like I was.  So awesome to watch her develop.

While I was looking at the site with Carolyn, James was literally trying to push her out of the way saying "I read too!"  It was really cute, although we certainly don't appreciate the pushing.  He wants to be big so bad.  I honestly don't remember what he should be working on at his age though.  He'll be 2.5 in another month.  We've been working mostly on colors and he'll ask what letters are printed on shirts/sweatshirts that we're wearing.  I probably should start working on identifying letters with him (maybe?).  He's so interested in learning everything that Carolyn is.

I'm so glad that we chose to keep Carolyn home this year.  Not only will it make moving that much easier, but the bond these kids have formed is awesome.  Carolyn often helps translate James' words, which eliminates some of his frustration.  And they learn to take turns and sort things out between each other more than they would elsewhere.  This is a relationship that they will have for life as well.  I'm excited to get them into a community where their learning will be pushed so they can keep developing at this warpspeed.  I think that going to the children's museum in Glenview is going to be awesome once we're closer.

House is Sold!

Another crazy week here for us.  Spent the beginning of the week making phone calls and payments to various places to ensure we were ready to close on Wednesday.  Had to get the closing check on the way to closing.  The actual meeting only took about 45 minutes and went smoothly.  I have the new owners' phone number and we will arrange to transfer keys just before Thanksgiving.  Three weeks from tomorrow we will begin moving into the new house!  We are all very excited.

My 94yo grandfather had surgery this past week.  It was hoped to be minor, routine surgery to remove his gallbladder.  Unfortunately, the infection was much progressed.  He is stable now, but we are not sure how things will proceed.  As siblings we are keeping each other informed and I hope to hear good reports from my oldest brothers as the week progresses.  Our prayers are of course with my grandfather and all those caring for him at this time.

Stepping on the scale this morning, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  I haven't been feeling well the last few days, but I have stuck with my workouts as planned.  I was quite pleasantly surprised to find a 2.5lb loss from last week.  This has pushed me over the 20lb mark and I am now down 21.6lbs from where I started!  While I still have some more weight to lose, this is a fantastic mark for me as I've always struggled to lose more than 5lbs in any one try.  So while this has taken longer than I would have hoped, it makes me very happy.  I put on sweatpants from last winter today and they are very baggy.  I have to roll the waist so they don't drag on the floor or sag in the butt.  The knees even fit a little strangely.  Definitely weird to see, but when I stop to think that I've lost over 20lbs and many inches, it makes sense.  I'm glad I kept all my old clothes as now I should start fitting into some of them.  I think part of the recent weight loss is that I am officially done nursing.  So my body is now accepting of losing the weight because it doesn't need to store it to feed any child.  It is possible that I will get into the 160's by Christmas, would be awesome.  If I can get down to 155 by next summer, I'll be ecstatic.  That's where I was at my lightest in college.  For now, I'll just keep focusing on filling my body with good protein, plenty of fat, and medium carbs.  Increasing the fat defiintely helps me stay full longer and, I think, is what encourages my body to shed the extra weight.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

7 years later

I lost my mom 7 years ago, at 10pm last night.  Some days it feels like it was just yesterday.  And others it feels like much longer.  So much has happened since I lost her - getting married, buying a house, having 2 kids, and we're now onto selling the first house and buying another.  My kids are lucky to have a special guardian angel, and so am I.  I know my mom is smiling down upon our family and I hope that she appreciates all that I'm trying to do for my children.  I know she would like the preschool projects and cooking activities I do with the kids.  She would love this new house and how awesome the kitchen will be to cook in but yet still be involved in everything going on around the house.  I will always miss being able to share my kids with her and they will miss having a second grandmother.  But we look through pictures and talk about her a lot.  To help the kids differentiate, she's "Grandma Angel".  Carolyn doesn't have so many bad dreams anymore, but when she did we talked about asking her Grandma Angel for a hug.  She would tell us in the morning about the hugs she got, and it sounded like she honestly felt like she'd been hugged.  James broken the candle I had bought for my mom that had also survived a few moves a couple weeks ago.  I had to try to explain to Carolyn that the candle could never be replaced - too hard for a 4yo to grasp.  But I'm looking forward to finding a spot in the new home to display some of my memories of my mother.  There are some built-in bookcases and I think I'll take a shelf or 2 for my memory book, pictures, and angels.  It's still hard to believe that I was only 22 when my mom passed away, way too young to lose such an important person.  But also makes me realize how important it is to value every day and try to be with my kids as much as possible.  I just truly never know how much longer I have with all of them. 

I wasn't feeling great today, so we watched Tumblebooks online.  Pretty cool program really and Carolyn probably could have sat there all afternoon listening.  Yesterday neither child napped much, but Carolyn got in a little phonics work and some math.  I'm figuring tomorrow will be a better day and we'll get to some preschool lessons.  Saturday we're heading to Lambs' Farm so there will likely be no naps.  Might also pull out the mixer and bake a cake tomorrow in my mom's memory.  I'm looking forward to all of my usual holiday baking pretty soon in the new house.  We found out today our mortgage is actually going to be less than what we're currently paying, so we should have some wiggle room to buying baking stuff, yay!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Phonics, Weight Loss, Potty Training

The end of this has gone pretty well.  We've been relaxing a bit and both kids have had some breakthroughs in various things.  I've even had a breakthrough with my weight loss as well.  Seeing 175.0 on the scale this morning means that I have lost 10% of my starting weight!  If you had asked me at the beginning of this calendar year if I imagined weighing this amount, I would have said no.  But it's great and I can't wait to see even more weight come off.  I've recommited to getting fit by 30 and got in all 3 workouts this week.  I definitely lost strength in the month I took off, but after a week I feel I'm right back to where I was.  So nice to start to feel physically strong again!

On Thursday Carolyn chose to work on her phonics worksheets.  She really sails through them and can easily identify the sounds of all letters.  The one sheet she struggled with involved a lowercase q.  She had no idea what it should look like, but recognized when I wrote it down for her.  She enjoyed working through the sheets and finding the different sounds.  Yesterday was a tough day as James wasn't feeling well, so no preschool work happened.  We discussed Carolyn's desire to read this morning though as she asked Jon to read her an article from his magazine.  And I told her that the place we're going will give her a prize and take her picture with the first book she learns how to read.  She proceeded to pull out a book and "read" it.  She does an awesome job of using the pictures to tell a story.  But we had to tell her that the library wants her to actually read the words.  I'm thinking I may pull out the sight words a little more often with her and maybe make sentences together.

After breakfast this morning, as Jon went to shower James walked to the bathroom and anounced he needed to go potty.  He's being doing this from time to time now, but I try not to pay much attention because it usually just leads to him playing in the bathroom.  But today he went into the bathroom, took off his feetie pjs and diaper, and went pee in his potty!  He sat there for a while and seemed to be working out what it feels like to actually pee.  I could see him working with the muscles to sort it out.  Of course we made a big deal and gave him high fives.  Carolyn even gave him a "prize".  I'm wondering if this will be his way of potty training, which is fine by me.  We will see what ends up happening, but it's very exciting since he's not yet 2.5.

This morning I deposited my savings bonds into our checking account.  It was a bittersweet moment, as this was one of our safety nets.  However, we're using the money for the downpayment on our forever home.  So how exciting is that!  I still have 1 left since I haven't gotten around to getting the death certificate for my great grandmother.  She'd be about 120 if she was alive today!  But with all of this house stuff, we have had that doing things the right way does have its rewards.  Jon has 1 of his credit scores over 800, the other two very high 700.  All 3 of my credit scores are over 800!  Because of this, we qualify for some breaks with our mortgage including a super low rate and a lower down payment.  We will continue to be good stewards of what God has blessed us with and I pray that we will be able to hand down our financial knowledge as well as a good start to our children.  Because of the fantastic start we have, we will have no mortgage by the time we're 60 and we should be able to save amply for our retirement and the kids' college.  God is definitely a great provider.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Painting Pumpkins, Leaf Rubbings

Yesterday was creativity day in our house.  We had nowhere to go, but 2 very energetic children.  So after breakfast and listening to both kids begging to go outside, we got dressed and I threw some old tshirts on them for painting.  We took the pie pumpkins they got at the pumkin farm on Sunday and I brought out their sidewalk paint.  I figured that way when they missed and inevitably painted on the driveway, it would just wash away.  They had fun painting, but it was fairly cold out so they complained about that as well.  Afterwards they rode their bikes until they were too cold.  We went into the basement and they played while I cleaned out the toy box.  Designated some things for donation and others for garbage.  Created some extra space in there for the move!

In the afternoon Carolyn fell off her bike.  After cleaning up a scrape and having snack, she did venture back outside.  It was quite windy so I suggested they gather some leaves to make an art project.  They loved this idea and ran around a bit finding leaves.  We brought them inside and sandwhiched them between 2 pieces of paper and then did rubbings.  They turned out as though you would expect from a 2 and 4 year old.  But they loved it, and Carolyn added extra things to her drawing.  She was very proud and told Jon about it when he came home.  Overall, a great crafty day in our house.

The pumpkin didn't turn out so well, as once the paint dried it flaked off.  That just means we might be able to paint them again.  Carolyn is really hoping to make a Jack O Lantern this year, so we will head to our usual family pumpkin farm to pick up a bigger pumpkin.  The kids tried to push the plastic face pieces we have into their pumpkins, but they were just too hard.

Our buyers have their financing!  After all the stress induced by our realtor, everything is good.  We have a letter confirming the financing pending paperwork we submitted yesterday and the typical employment verification 10 days prior to closing.  We go tonight to hand in paperwork to our lender for our purchase.  We printed everything last night and father W2, 1099, and paycheck stubs.  Looking forward to getting this part over with.  We will be moved in by Thanksgiving and can fully make this home ours.  No more saving random amounts of money for a new down payment - just for repairs.  No more repairing/replacing things we know will really only benefit new owners.  No more living the "when we get to..." part of life.  Just loving every minute of a great town in a great area.  Our sellers want to move the closing date up to 11/16 so they have the weekend to move out, I expect to okay that with Fred today.  This will also give us an extra day to go check out the house empty as well.  So excited to move!

I'm wondering this morning where my kids are.  It's 7:30 and neither one is awake.  Enjoying the morning calm though before what will be a very busy day.  I'm ready for snuggles though!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Letting Go

I've had a realization over the weekend that my kids don't need me as much anymore.  Yes, they're only 2 and 4 and they still need me quite a bit.  James often won't let Jon get him out of his crib in the morning.  And when he gets hurt generally only a hug from Mom will do.  When Carolyn fell yesterday she turned to me for comfort instead of the others around.  But they're getting older and I don't need to be around all the time.  I've been taking on more tutoring clients lately, which takes me away from the house.  At $50/hr, it's kind of hard to say no.  Plus I love helping high school students understand their work better and know they appreciate the help.  And so I've realized I'm not as needed.

I've also realized that everyone benefits from me being gone at times.  Jon needs alone time with the kids.  They are just very different people when only one of us is home.  And he needs time with them that isn't at church or the store.  He's enjoying that time as he gets it as well.  Plus I seem to get extra hugs and snuggles when I get home.  Time away from me at this age seems to allow the kids time to miss me.  That sounds weird, but it is true.  Of course, knowing that I'm providing for our family's financial security and not out spending money makes it much easier to go.  Yet I still struggle with some sort of mommy guilt.

As the kids have grown up I've been worried I would miss some major milestone by being gone a short time.  Of course, as they get older the major milestones are fewer and farther between.  I was home for Carolyn learning to ride a bike.  I get to work with her on writing her letters and numbers, memorizing our phone number and address (that will change in 6 weeks).  I will get to work with James on potty training.  Right now I really, truly get the best of both worlds.  So in the last few days I've begun to make a peace of being gone a little more often.  I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband that is a terrific daddy to my children.  And it's time to let them have more time without mom nearby, so that we can grow as a family. 

I'm looking forward to what the next couple years bring us in our new home before anyone is in school full time.  And who knows, there always is a chance that we'll still be homeschooling because that's what the kids need.  For now, I'm going to look forward to tomorrow and a chance to just enjoy my kids with nowhere to go.  That's going to be nice.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Math and self-esteem

Today we worked on a few different math concepts.  Carolyn took a great nap and was ready to go when she woke up.  We pulled out her folder and she was excited to see the math worksheets I printed earlier today.  We started with a counting sheet (1-20).  She filled in the numbers that were missing from the boxes.  We're still working on how to write some of the numbers, so after she told me what was next I did some dash marks for her to trace.  Then she did a color by number.  She needs to work on coloring in shorter strokes, but I also think we need to sharpen her crayons a little.  It can be hard to make small marks with dull crayons.  She loved her ice cream cone picture when she was done though.   Then we did a patterns sheet.  There were 3 lines with shapes and she had to fill in what came next.  She did awesome, just asked for help drawing a triangle.  So after she drew one line, I dashed the two others for her to trace.  My little perfectionist.  Then she did another color by number, with smaller spaces.  A little trouble staying in the lines, but she's 4.  Next we did some work on reading a clock.  I know this can be a very hard skill.  But she was able to determine the hour and whether it was on the hour of half hour with slight prompting.  She's been interested in clocks a bit lately, so I thought this was a great opportunity.  She seemed to enjoy it. I wrote the numbers in for her since I wanted her to be able to focus on the clock aspect.  We finished up with working on addition.  She is starting to memorize some of the problems, or she's super fast at counting up the objects.  Not sure which, but 1+2=3 and 2+2=4 came out super fast.  She had to count for 3+4=7 and 1+3=4.  But she was liking these as well.  Such a smart little girl! 

We spend a lot of time telling our kids how great they are and encouraging them whenever they do something well.  We give out a lot of hi-fives and of course tons of hugs.  Our kids also often hear from strangers about how well behaved they are.  They hear this just yesterday from both of the guys here to give moving estimates.  It is nice for them to hear this affirmation from strangers, since we know it's genuine.  But it is great to see when the kids affirm we are building up their self esteem.  I was lucky enough to have such an experience today with Carolyn.  As we were doing the worksheet she noticed the name line at the top.  Here's the conversation that took place:

C:  Is that the name line?
Me:  Yes, but since we're at home you don't have to fill it out.  When you go to school you'll need to.
C: Why?
Me:  So everyone can know that it's your work.
C:  But won't they know just because it's awesome?
Me:  (Smiling)  All the kids will do awesome work, so you need to identify it was yours.
C:  But they'll know it's mine because it will be more awesome.
Me:  (Stifling a giggle at the cuteness)  Just in case they don't, you'll need to write your name.

Does she really think she's better than everyone else?  I don't think so.  But it's great to see that she thinks she does awesome work and that she believes her work is special because she does it.  She's a bit of a perfectionist so I battle with trying to remind her that making mistakes is okay.  I'll work on getting her comfortable academically this year so that she can adapt to a school environment where the teacher won't give her dashed lines for new letters/numbers.  And hopefully with experiencing more new things at home she'll realize it's okay to make mistakes.  For now, it's great to see how excited she gets about doing her "schoolwork" and to see her learning.

I, J and starting to pack

Carolyn continues to be really enjoying working on her letters.  She does a perfect job tracing and finding the letters.  And the craft projects keep her wanting to do more.  The second half of this week we did Itsy Bitsy Spider and Jack and Jill.  She got to make a spider and drew a picture of Jack and Jill.  I love her imagination and her pictures of people actually look like people!  We haven't done much else because she's been so into the letters.  Although yesterday we did bake brownies and the kids helped stirring the batter for that.  They love to cook.  Once we're in the new house it will be awesome to work together at the new counter.  We should all be able to stand around it and reach everything.  Much better than the cramped counter space we have now.  I'm going to pull out the recipes from the class my mom taught to preschoolers and give them a try!  I spent part of this morning working on new materials for Carolyn's preschool.  I printed out come math pages, phonics pages, and some more books to work on sight words.  I also put together some new projects so we're good through the letter P.  There's a chance I won't have to put anything new together next week!

I got started with sorting on Thursday and started packing today.  I have a mountain of things to donate and the pile is only growing.  It will be nice to not have to move a large portion of the things we have.  I need to take pictures of some things and try to sell them.  Anyone looking for an extra TV or TV stand?  We should be good with just 2 TVs for a while, until the kids are older and the living room becomes another hang out area instead of toy room.  Plus there still some toys I am thinking we won't take with - like the stride to ride lion.  It's hard to get rid of because both kids LOVED it, but they are too big for it now.  So in search of a new home for it.  It feels good to get started with packing, even if only 4-5 boxes are done.  I also unpacked 1 container into the dresser in the basement.  A few less boxes to move if we pack up the dresser and nightstand that are down there.  I can't decide whether to take James' dresser or not.  We'll be getting a different one for him from Jon's parents (it was his as a boy) and it's coming apart.  But we'll have to pack all the clothes if we don't move it.  We'll see how things are looking I guess.

Feeling pretty good about the move though, with about 6 weeks until closing.  I plan to pack a little more each week so that come a week or two before moving day we'll just have the daily use things left to pack.  And I figure we'll live for a day or two using paper plates so those can be packed up.  Ready to get to Glenview!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

G, H, potions, and paint

We've had an exciting week so far!  Since I had time to prepare crafts for Carolyn over the weekend, she's taken advantage of that.  Yesterday she completed both G and H - Gregory Gibbs and Humpty Dumpty.  She enjoyed the poems and creating the projects.  After the 2 projects she did some "worksheets" that she found.  I need to print some more of those this weekend because she was asking about them.  She started on I today with the tracing and we started on the rhyming but she was struggling.  James was up, so we moved on. 

We did some science today, stolen from another blog.  We took a bunch of cups and filled them with water and vinegar, varying amounts of each.  Some had all water and one had all vinegar.  We put food coloring into each cup.  Then took baking soda and I spooned a little into each cup.  The first one bubbled up and over, so they thought it was super cool.  We then went through the rest of the cups one by one and talked about how much vinegar was in each cup.  James thought it was great fun to watch, Carolyn was able to talk about what she was seeing - potions!  Once we'd gone through them, I handed over the baking soda and spoons for them to play.  They put the rest of the baking soda in and then I said they could mix cups.  As they were playing with that I put together some our homemade sidewalk paint (water, cornstarch, food coloring).  They ended up mixing everything together towards the end.  But they had a lot of fun and I like to think they're learning about sizes as they pour water between cups. 

Tomorrow Carolyn will go to story hour and learn some more Spanish.  She's really enjoying the class and this will be something we truly miss when we move.  But she's definitely learned some words in Spanish, which I think is great!  In the afternoon we'll finish I and Itsy Bitsy Spider with a spider craft.  I'm also thinking we'll do some leaf rubbing some day this week.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Abundant Blessings

It's been 3 weeks since I had a chance to write on here.  Life has been extremely busy as we've been sorting through housing issues.  I have been putting my faith in God that He had a plan and that we want to follow that plan.  But it was definitely frustrating and confusing at times.  The past few days we have seen everything come together and some amazing blessings.  We received an offer on our house nearly 3 weeks ago, and worked to come to an agreement.  The inspection followed, with the appraisal shortly after.  The appraisal took a full week to come back, which was certainly strange.  And then it came in $8k under our agreed price.  Our fantastic lawyer (Jon's uncle) worked with the buyer's lawyer and we have a new agreement.  We discovered we've been missing an exemption on our taxes the whole time we've been here.  So we received a refund for 2011, plus need to pay less to the buyers for the tax credit at closing.  We have seen many houses in the past few weeks, and got beat out by investors twice.  I repeated to Jon each time that God must have a better plan for us.  I said it out loud partially to convince myself, but I really did believe deep down.  We've done everything right along the way so I firmly believed we'd be rewarded. 

Well, I went to see another house Thursday night this week and it is awesome.  I arrived a few minutes early and stopped by Kim's to visit with her and her parents.  Then headed over for my scheduled appointment and was blown away.  I got to meet the owners, who are amazing people.  They raised 3 children and having truly lovingly cared for their home.  There is nothing that needs to be done.  We told them we would be putting in an offer, and found out they already had one offer.  We came up significantly from our originally planned price because we really liked the house.  And then we prayed.  Yesterday afternoon the agent called to say they were accepting our offer - not even a counter offer!  A house in Glenview for a price we can afford, must be God's work.  We went as a family to see the house today, and show the kids what to expect.  I expected to spend 10-15 minutes at the house so as to not interrupt their day.  We spent an hour looking and chatting, finding out great things about the house.  The wife told me that she chose us because she felt a connection.  This husband and wife are amazing people and we feel very blessed to have met them and to be chosen to live in this house.  The kids played in the yard while we all chatted and it was a beautiful day.  We walked down to the park afterwards to show the kids and were shocked again.  What I remembered as a small tot lot type park with basketball is huge - 2 large play areas with sand, 2 tennis courts, a full basketball court, and a baseball field!  We are extremely excited to have this area so close by.  We are still in shock that this is all happening.  Once our buyers' loan comes through, we know we're home free because we know we'll be approved.

Being so busy with house hunting and the new school year with work, I've been slacking on the preschool activities with Carolyn.  She's been begging this past week for new projects and to work on letters.  Instead we've just been doing some reading and she's been doing a lot of writing and coloring.  Her imagination continues to amaze me, she drew plans for her dream house the other day.  But today I got a chance to put together some more projects, G-L, so we should be good at least through this week.  I think part of the key with her is doing new things as well.  I looked at the school website for where she'll attend kindergarten and discovered they use the math program I had considered using.  So I think we'll just go with what she needs and not worry about a program.  With work slowing down a little now I'm looking forward to focusing more on Carolyn though and getting her the stimulation she needs.  So hopefully I'll be posting more often as well.

Thank you God for the abundant blessings lately.  We are very excited for what our futures hold knowing we are in Your hands.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Crazy Week!

This was certainly one heck of a week around here!  Wednesday we went to the library and spent time outside.  Thursday we had a morning showing and played outside.  I tutored in the afternoon and worked 3 hours after the kids were in bed.  Friday we had a surprise showing (as in, our realtor goofed and didn't tell us), got an offer on the house (now negotiating), and had another showing scheduled (appears they didn't come).  Carolyn learned how to ride a two wheeler with no training wheels!  And by "learned" I mean got on the bike and rode it down our front yard onto the sidewalk and kept going.  She didn't want my help.  By the end of the day she figured out how to start on flat ground!  Just an amazing week.

Preschool stuff was somewhat all over the board this week.  But she's still really enjoying her "work".  Wednesday was a virtually no nap day and I had lots of work to do.  So we actually watched a movie in the afternoon and then went outside.  Thursday was a little better, but James was still up early, so we read some science books about sound, touch, and smell.  Carolyn really enjoys even the non-fiction books, I suspect because it's about her body.  Friday was an awesome day though.  I still had quite a bit of work to do, so I gave her some choices.  She was going to work on E and making an engine.  But then saw some math sheets I printed out a long time ago.  They were a mixture - counting objects, making tallies, writing numbers, and subtraction.  She sat and did the first half, then was surprised to find a coloring page mixed in (I put it half way).  Then she did nearly all of the second half, which was the subtraction.  The worksheet had summer objects printed to represent the numbers that were written.  So she learned to cross out the second number listed and then count how many remained.  She got every one right!  And this helped her work on how to write the letters as well.  What's more important, she enjoyed doing it.  Looking forward to what today might have in store.

I've fallen in love with a house in Deerfield, although admitedly I haven't seen it yet.  It's a ranch with a basement that back up to a park.  It is on Deerfield Rd and doesn't have a garage (car port and shed though), so some concessions there.  But it looks like it has the space we want and is in a great location, the kids could easily bike to the pool when older.  We could walk to downtown Deerfield and the library as well.  But, alas, it's just out of our price range.  I'm going to talk to our realtor and see if she thinks we could get Fannie Mae to accept a lower number.  Because I think this could be the house for us.  Of course, we have to go see it first.  Will it be like the other places Jon has seen?  I hope not.  Excited but also freaking out at the thought of moving.

And for anyone following my weight loss journey as well, I am now 1lb away from having lost 10% of my initial weight!  I honestly can't remember when I saw this number on the scale last.  Sometime between getting married and pregnant, so at least 5 years ago.  My toned shoulders are starting to reappear again as well!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Addition and the letter D

This week is off to a bit of a crazy start.  Spent most of yesterday installing a new kitchen faucet.  Then talked to customer service this morning to get the sprayer resent to us because the connection piece is smooth and impossible to grip to tighten with anything.  We have a pot underneath the sink for now!  As we went through today, things picked up steam.  Started with breakfast and the park.  Checked email while the kids had a drink and discovered I have been assigned my first classes!  But I couldn't acces them (?)  Went out to the sandbox and the kids played construction for a while, then played in their house in the backyard until they heard the garbage truck.  While waiting for the garbage truck to stop in front of our house, our REA called to announce a showing (yay).  Carolyn fell and skinned her knee chasing the garbage truck.  So we went inside to take care of that.  After lunch both kids went down for a solid nap. 

Got some awesome preschool things in today as well.  Last night I made some number flash cards.  Using notecards, one side has the number (1) and the word (one), the other side has dots for that number.  Carolyn was super excited to use these cards.  So we read a counting book, then started in.  We started with addition (green cards 1-9), 1+1=2, 1+2=3.  We got all the way through 1+9=10 before she got bored.  The first 4 or 5 she did without counting dots, but as the numbers got bigger we'd flip over so she could count the dots.  Then she just looked through the "pink" cards, which are 10-19, reading each number and looking at the dots.  We then did a matching game since I made 2 sets of green cards.  I put out 1-4 one set numbers up, other set dots up and had her match.  This game was really too easy for her.  I need to make a second set of pink cards for her to match those.  She then spent some time just playing with the cards.

That took around 30-45 minutes at which point she asked to do a project.  So I pulled out the letter D materials.  She traced and found her D and d's.  When then read Old Mother Hubbard, found the d's and identified the rhymes.  I'm backing off a little on her identifying the rhyming words and hoping that if I do it for a while she'll catch on.  Then she cut out various pieces and we glued them together to make a dog holding a bone.  She was excited about it that she showed Jon as soon as came inside.  I love seeing how excited she is.  Her writing, cutting, and gluing skills are progressing nicely.  She was even telling our neighbor about what she did today.

Spent the afternoon in the sprinkler and found out the showing is postponed to Thursday.  But I'm looking forward to this one because it sounds like these people have actually looked at our pictures online.  They are drawn to our house due to the lot - and the view out the back is really unbeatable even in our own neighborhood.  Praying that they like it and we can get Jon closer to work.  This is going to be a bit of a crazy week, but I'm looking forward to the challenges that are coming.  God seems to be pouring out his blessings upon us right now and I'm praying an offer on the house is included in that.  Say a prayer for us!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homeschool through primary grades, or no?

This debate is going to go through our house for at least the next 6 months, if not until next August.  Carolyn is flourishing and loving doing her preschool work at home.  She does basic addition, is beginning to read, can write almost every letter, can sort well, loves listening to history/social science books, and is enjoying science books and activities.  I read over 10 books to her every day, including 2 upon waking, 1 at nap time, and Jon reads 1 at bed time.  I also read out of a chapter book to her each night.  She loves every book, the current one being Matilda.  We've also read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Winnie the Pooh, The BFG, Mouse and the Motorcylce, and countless princess and fairy chapter books.  We just recently started on more of the classics.  I'm looking forward to starting Little House books after Matilda.  My point, I guess is, she's chugging right along, and she's only 4.  I might be wrong, but I think she's already beyond her age in terms of school.  She loves her art projects too - cutting, gluing, coloring, painting, sculpting with playdoh.  She interacts well with everyone she meets, including holding a conversation with the urgent care check-in lady while I paid our doctor bill last week.  So where do we go from here?

I seem to seriously think about homeschooling once a month or so.  But I'm always met with the same response from Jon.  "What's the rush" when I say that in homeschooling she'd learn things faster because she would be interested in the material.  No rush, but why make a child struggle to learn something because s/he isn't ready even though that's the grade that some arbitrary committee decided it should be taught in.  "What about socializing" is often asked.  This is one I get hung up on a little, because our current neighborhood doesn't have a lot of kids in it, at least not ones Carolyn and James' ages that are outside.  They don't have any real friends at this point, although Carolyn could put a list together for you if you asked her to.  I hope that they'll make friends through their sports activities and wherever we move I hope they'll have more friends on the block.  I do know that most kids learn bad behaviors in school, not things I care for my kids to start doing.  Do kids really need to learn to sit and listen for hours on end?  Learn to fit into the program and that their needs/wants don't matter?  Some might say that's part of life, but why does a 5, 6, or 7 year old need to learn that?  As they get older they'll naturally slow down.  Why stop a child from spending time upside down (Carolyn often hangs out in a handstand on the couch)?  From moving around while looking at a book (you should the positions!)

Deep down I think that I really want to homeschool, but I don't have the responses needed for my husband at this time.  I don't know if I ever will, because we seem to just be at opposite ends on this.  Why change what's not broken? is often said.  But in my opinion, there's a lot broken about our schools across this country.  I'm a product of some great schools, but I lost my passion for learning along the way.  I started to give up when things got tough to learn.  And I think that was because I was never challenged until college, so I didn't really even know how to respond.  When I tell people I majored in physics with a minor in math I typically get "wow" or something similar.  I love physics, but I wonder how much I could learn if I had learned the proper study skills/how to stick with someone at a young age.  I had my Master's by 22, but might it have been in science rather than education?  I'll obviously never know the answer to this question because I can't turn back time.  But I'd like to think I can help my children make the most of themselves, and this might be the way to do it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fun with Sound

Today was a LONG day.  Both kids slept in a little, then we read some books as has become our morning ritual.  We had a good breakfast, then got everyone dressed and headed to the doctor.  James was cleared to return to all activities, without an additional xray.  He was trying to hang from the counter while we were checking in.  But he flipped out when the doctor walked in the room.  I think he remembered the pain he was in last time we were there.  By the end he was smiling and gave the doctor a high five.  Big difference from last time!
We spent the rest of the morning at grocery stores, home for lunch and naps.

With a slightly later nap, both kids slept later than usual.  By the time Carolyn was done listening to her book, James was up.  We finished reading the last sound book and then had some fun.  We made a "telephone" out of string and 2 cups.  Both kids had a blast playing with it and taking turns listening/talking.  I also filled 5 wine glasses with varying amounts of water and let them play using a spoon.  They really liked and switched between playing the glasses and with the phone.  Great learning afternoon!

And then our night turned into running around cleaning in a hurry.  Jon was out looking at houses with our realtor and she got a call for a showing.  I had 30 minutes to get the house in show shape, with both kids!  In the end, I did the best that I good and took the garbage out with me on the way out.  We headed down to the park to let them look.  Fingers crossed that they liked it, because that was terrifying.  It's a couple relocating for a new job, so they could want to move quickly which could be good.  We have seen a potential rental house that's only $1k/month.

I added pictures to some previous posts since I uploaded tonight.  Here's the crafts we have done so far that I took pictures of:

Ready for a 3 day weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sound books

Today was a bit of a lazy day.  Had planned to head to the beach, but just didn't feel like packing everyone into the car (now you see why we NEED to move!)  The kids were playing nicely on their own as while, so I didn't want to interrupt that.  After breakfast they played together in Carolyn's room for a while, and then came out in the living room to play store.  They had taken the letter and vehicle magnets off the garage door and put them into a basket, it was their money.  For a while they pretended to buy things, then would take the money to the bank for me - a way to give them the money back.  After a while this degenerated a little and then I was cooking things for Carolyn while she didn't do much.  So I suggested we head downstairs.  I got in my workout while the kids played some more.  They nearly emptied out the kitchen onto the table down there eating "lunch".  Amazing how much they'll play on their own and use their imaginations when left alone.  Afterwards we came upstairs and read some books before lunch.  I am often amazed at how much both children love reading!

After a short nap, Carolyn listened to another book on tape.  Then she picked up the remaining sound books to read.  While I finished my work, James woke up.  So I ended up reading 2.5 books about sound to both of them.  The first and last were non-fiction, while the middle was fiction.  I like to mix it up as I feel that Carolyn often relates to the fiction better.  Got some ideas too for projects we can do, especially this winter.  String 2 cups together to play telephone.  Make a pan pipe out of straws. 

Hoping that both kids get some better sleep tonight, because they were both exhausted tonight.  We have James' collar bone check up in the morning and then we're heading to 2 stores for grocery shopping.  Jon is going to look at 3 houses on his way home from work.  Looking forward to a 3 day weekend though!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Sense of sound

Another pretty good day today.  James was up early, before Jon left for work.  But Carolyn slept until 7:40, possibly a new record for her.  Although she was up at about 10 last night with a night terror.  They seem to happen about once a month now, when she's extremely tired.  So hopefully the extra sleep this morning and decent nap today will help for tonight.  After breakfast we gathered the library books and headed to the library.  I gathered a bunch of new "preschool" books for Carolyn about the 5 senses, community helpers, and a couple books for math lessons.  Both children enjoyed playing at the library for a while.  Stopped at the store on the way home, talked to the neighbor for a while, read some of the new books, then had lunch and naps.

Carolyn started off listening to a book on CD again.  It's developing into a really nice transition time for me, to wrap up anything I'm in the middle of and transition to smaller emails I can work on while helping her.  Although I need to reorganize my closet a little to make it easier for her to get the CDs and books.  Then we read 2 books about sound.  The first was more so about hearing, explaining the ear as well as how sound is a wave.  Lots of good pictures and a few key vocab words.  Then we read a picture book about the sounds of the different seasons.  Carolyn got a little annoyed I think with me trying to demo while reading to her, so asked to do a project.  I pulled out her next book to make and after reading it together she worked on cutting and pasting the sentences.  By then James was up, so she moved to coloring in the 2 books she's completed.  I encouraged her to color more detail and she did a great job with it.

I'm thinking tomorrow I will push a math lesson a little bit since it's been a few days.  I'm hoping also that James will sleep later, since I don't have any demos.  Overall things continue to go well though and Carolyn's behavior seems to have really improved.  I think she needs the challenge of learning some truly new things each day. 

James can count to 3!  He does it consistently now, and even counts objects.  We're working with him a little on identifying colors as well.  He can get green most of the time, and that seems to be his favorite color.  But we're working on the others as well and he's coming along.  He enjoys listening to the books on CD here and there as well.  While he doesn't page through the books really as he's reading, I figure it's not horrible for him to listen to a story being told.

It's amazing how different 2 kids brought up in the same house can be at this young of an age!  Haven't decided what's on the plan for tomorrow morning.  But strongly considering the beach or a spray park since it's going to be a HOT one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

C is for Clock

What an awesome day and beautiful weather!  Got a bit of a slow start this morning, Carolyn sleeping until 7 so didn't get to breakfast until about 8.  By the time I was showered and everyone was dressed it was about 9.  I had decided to get my workout in after naps, so wanted to keep near the house.  I remembered we had received a case of playdoh for Christmas (thanks Dad) but never got around to opening it because James was still eating everything and then the house was on the market.  So with the beautiful weather, we took it outside. Only opening 4 colors, they had a blast.  We made balls and then compared their sizes.  We made different shapes.  And then James starting rolling things down the driveway.  So I suggested we make different shapes, and proceeded to make a sphere, cube, and cone.  Carolyn added a circle and then tried to roll them all down the driveway (love having a small slope for this!)  Obviously the sphere won and we talked about that a little. 

But then their imaginations just ran wild.  It was so awesome to watch and made me think about what everyone says about today's kids.  They don't get enough free play time and aren't left to use their imaginations.  We made cookies, James cooked them on the concrete sticking out from the garage.  They turned playdoh into a workout too, running all over the yard.  We made a motorcycle, scooter, bat, and bat food (Templeton from Charlotte's Web - really a rat).  I don't even remember all the different things we did.  They played with playdoh for <1.5hrs before I called an end to it because James was clearly done.  Will definitely bring this back out in about 2 weeks or so because it was an awesome hit.  The kids then rode around until getting too hot and thirsty that we came in for a few minutes before lunch.  I have a fear that sending them to school will squelch this imagination.

Both kids slept better today, leaving us with about an hour for preschool activities.  Carolyn read a book on CD and then we worked on the letter C.  She wrote it, found it, then we read Hickory Dickory Dock.  Another poem memorized for her and definitely a letter mastered writing.  It will be interesting to see if there are any letters that give her trouble.  She then cut out and out together a grandfather clock.  She enjoys these projects so much, even though they're very simple.  Will post pictures when I upload at the end of the month.  James woke up as she finished, so she finished her "I See" book as he got some of his snuggle time.  She was excited to finish her second book that she can read on her own.  I will need to spend some time this weekend printing up some more letters and books I think.  I think these books are going to be exactly her way into reading too!

After snack we walked down to the park so I could workout.  I was a little nervous at first because sometimes James is a wanderer.  But both kids spent my running time chasing me.  They pretended to fall and nap in the field.  We exchanged high fives and walked together through the field.  It was a lot of fun and nice to get in my sprints.  Afterwards I pushed the kids on the swings, they went down the slides and then we wandered home.  Both kids seemed pretty exhausted by the end of the night.