Monday, October 24, 2011

This and That

A few personal miscellaneous items going on my life these days...

We have, I believe, a new church home.  We are enjoying it very much overall.  When I start to wonder about something, it helps me realign my expectations to remember there are no perfect people, no perfect pastors, and no perfect churches.  Hunter has become very grounded in the youth group, which also meets on Sunday mornings; and Kaleigh is really enjoying her first year of Sparkies, as well as the Sunday morning class that she just started (they don't call it Sunday school there).  I have met a few of Hunter's youth group leaders - in addition to the couple that I already knew - and last week one of Kaleigh's Sparks leaders introduced herself to me and said that she can really tell that Kaleigh works on her verses at home.  So far, all of the people at church have been warm and welcoming, and that is a refreshing change.

As far as my own involvement, I joined choir back when it started in early September.  My mom was in the choir last year, and already knew everyone; without her there, I never would have gone.  We sang last Sunday morning for the first time, for the Missions Conference.  It has been such a joy, the opportunity to sing again in an organized choir, the weekly fellowship with others in praise, and just getting to know a few people on a little bit higher level.  

My piano teacher from high school - a friend of the family whom I've actually known my entire life - also goes to our church, and has inspired me back into serious playing.  I've played a few times since moving, but it tends to fall to the back burner, with everything else going on.  Now I've been inspired to set aside time every day to play, and to work on whole pieces rather than just putzing around with this and that.  And it's really just the sitting down that needs to be made intentional; once my fingers hit the keys, I can play for hours until something urgent or pressing calls me away.  It has been a much-needed escape and a good way to squeeze in some alone time.

Crafts have also taken up a large part of my free time lately.  I'm doing some crafty Christmas presents again this year, so it's a good excuse reason to start early.  I plan to make candle gift packs for Randy's employees again this year - it's been a few years since I've had the time/energy/space to do these, so I'm looking forward to it!  I haven't started those yet, because there are a few supplies I will need before I get started.  I am also making each of the kids a blanket to match their new room themes.  Last year, Ryan requested another fleece blanket, so I am just looking for a good pattern to go with his theme (Americana).  Kaleigh's colors are lavender and pale yellow, and I am making her a quilt.  Hunter's theme is space, and I haven't decided on what kind of blanket to make him yet.  I'm kind of just scouting out material and waiting to see what comes.  His might be a kind of hybrid between the fleece blanket and a quilt; we shall see.  Other crafts include a baby blanket I need to whip up for the newest addition to the family, Emmalyn; the fleece pillow covers for the boys' giant pillows; and some cards for my personal stash.

Next week begins a month of my favorite extracurricular activity of all time: writing.  That's right; Tuesday is the first day of National Novel Writing Month 2011.  I am waffling between a couple of ideas right now, and might end up working on two novels, like I did last year.  On the subject of writing, I also plan to put together some more query letters and send out some more queries to agents in the coming weeks.  That also ended up on the back burner what with moving/unpacking/homeschooling/day-to-day stuff/etc.

I guess that's enough time spent on the miscellaneous.  Time to get back to my laundry and cleaning!

Last Day of Break

Here we are, on our last day of fall break already.  I just cannot believe the way time flies.  It seems to always be slipping away from me; the flight of time motivates and challenges me to avoid letting idle moments pass by, to make each moment count for something: to get things done, to spend time with my kids, to teach, to learn, to accomplish, to love.

Anyway, it was a nice break.  We made cookies and homemade apple cider, shopped for Daddy's birthday and made him a giant Packer cookie (complete with green and gold frosting!), played games and watched movies, painted fingernails (okay, girls only), and went grocery shopping.  

On Friday, we woke up semi-early and made cinnamon rolls and coffee and surprised Randy with his birthday gifts.  Then, Hunter and Kaleigh spent the day with their great grandma and grandpa while Randy and I enjoyed a day out and about for Randy's birthday.  We had lots of fun just bumming around, and even used up the rest of our Flex-spend dollars (since it's getting near the end of the year, I was afraid we were going to lose some of our money!): Randy got some much needed inserts at the Good Feet store, and I was able to get new glasses, which will be nice since my current pair is over 4 years old.  We also enjoyed good coffee and good food and just plain old good time together.  I love spending time with my best friend, to whom I am just lucky enough to be married! 

Just before supper time, we picked up the kids and took them to Grandma and Grandpa's house, where they spent the night and all day Saturday.  Randy and I had a nice dinner Friday night at Olive Garden, then enjoyed a lazy cozy day snuggling on the couch with movies and yummy snacks.  At the end of the day, we joined our children at my mom and dad's for the family birthday celebration.  My mom made fried chicken and mashed potatoes and a Bailey's marble cheesecake.  There were football, and wine, and a game of Trivial Pursuit; and a good time was had by all.

And so on this, our last day of fall break, we celebrate our happy weekend like this:


Yes, I am a mean Mommy and mean Teacher.  I make my children/students choose between schoolwork and house cleaning.  Muahahahahaha.  

In all seriousness, our weekends have been so packed for the last couple of weeks, that the house has become a bit of a disaster.  My dreams of always maintaining a perfectly neat and tidy house have been shattered.  They must be restored ASAP!  

So today we will do dishes and laundry, vacuum and dust and mop floors, make beds, and put away clutter.  We also have a couple of errands to run.  Then perhaps there will be time for a bit of relaxation this afternoon, before we jump back into school work tomorrow morning bright and early.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weeks Five & Six - and a Break!

Well, at the end of week 5, I didn't feel like there was much to report.  So I didn't bore you with that.

Last week, we wrapped up week 6 of school, and since we also did two weeks of summer school before officially digging in for the year, I decided it's time for a break.  It worked out nicely, because we just finished a spelling unit and a Bible unit, just finished reading Journey to the Center of the Earth, and finally(!!!!!) got a firm comprehension of adding and multiplying fractions.

Well, there you have our wrap-up of the last two weeks ;-).

I feel the need to state again that one highlight of my week last week was on Friday, when I graded Hunter's math homework from Thursday and Friday, and I could see that he was really "getting it."  I even pointed to one fraction that he had forgotten to reduce, said, "This one needs reduced," and got in response: "Oh, that's one-half."  After weeks of struggling over the concept of reducing, he did it in his head!

Another big highlight of last week was when we picked him up from youth group on Wednesday night.  He had a sheet with several passages of scripture on both sides, and excitedly explained that if he memorizes all the verses by January 1, a large portion of the cost for the winter retreat would be paid.  He gets so excited about things, it's energizing (and sometimes tiring) to witness.  (And by the way, this was the first I'd heard of said retreat.  Don't get me started on the subject of one's child's first time away from home.  Just don't even.)  We told him that if he memorized all the verses and earned that portion of the trip, he could go on the retreat.  He came home and for his bedtime reading, immediately began working on the first passage, Psalm 1.  

On Friday, he said the entire passage to me from memory.  I was floored.  And thrilled.  Ecstatic, really.  That night, he had his first youth activity.  Later as I picked him up, his Small Group leader told me that the minute he'd gotten there, Hunter had rushed to find him so he could say his verses.  

My heart overflows.  I cannot express my joy in how he is so eager to get involved in the youth group and the memorization of scripture.  He was in AWANA last year, and did memorize verses nearly every week, but he never showed quite the exuberance he is showing now.  Granted, yes, there is something to earn.  But the verses will be in his heart and his head, and the thing to be earned is a weekend of fellowship with peers and godly leadership and training in the Word.  Can't think of anything that would be better.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Boys and Reading / Kids and Screens

I read an article once about how today's culture tells us that the only way to get boys to read is to give them super-simple reading materials with lots of gross-ness and icky-ness in order to keep their attention.  And yes, my son does enjoy the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  The article went on to discuss how if we took away the video games and these other kinds of books, and replaced them all with the adventure classics, that boys would learn that there is much more to be had in the world of reading.

I have to say that I did not agree with 100% of what the article had to say, but the overall spirit of the article was spot-on.  Today's boys have been conditioned to believe that "boys don't read" or "reading is an activity primarily reserved for girls or girly boys."  These last couple of weeks, with Hunter expressing how much he enjoyed both Black Beauty and Robin Hood, have been great proof that boys can discover the enjoyment of reading a true adventure story.

I also think, as a separate but contributing issue, that kids in general spend way too much time in front of TV and video games.  With less allowable time in front of screens, kids are practically forced to utilize other, more creative, outlets; reading and creative play come to mind primarily.

I have never been a fan of lots of screen time for kids, but a couple of months ago, I decided I needed some type of system that was more objective for the kids than "No, you can't watch TV right now," but still limited the amount of time they spend in front of screens.  So I made "Screen Cards."  Each card is worth a half hour of TV/video game/computer time, and each kid gets a certain number of cards per week.  It's working out great!  I chose an amount of time per week that breaks down into what I consider an acceptable amount of time per day, and the kids get the freedom of making choices as far as using their cards and getting time to watch TV or play a video game.  Of course, there are a few rules: homework and chores have to be done before using cards, and I rarely - if ever - let them use more than 2 in a row without a break for their eyes.  

But overall, they are both learning a little something about conservation.  Hunter often uses his up with 2 or 3 days to go in the week, and Kaleigh often has quite a few cards left at the end of the week!

Week Four

I have to stop and think for a minute... last week seems like a long time ago!

Hunter finished Robin Hood (the next book he chose) in two days.  Then he read it again, in two more days.  I think it's safe to say he enjoyed that book.  This reminds me of an article I once read about boys and reading, but I think that could get lengthy, so I will save it for another blog post!

In math, Hunter is working on the relationship between fractions and decimals.  I have to say, I'm a little concerned that he's not getting the concept that fractions are parts of wholes, even though I have used many different illustrations to help him grasp it.  In math (well, all of our subjects really; it just applies mostly to math) I like to teach/introduce a new concept, and then continue working on that concept until he really understands it well.  Then we move on to the next concept, having reviews every couple of weeks to make sure he doesn't forget how to do anything he's already learned.  I think we will be spending quite a bit more time on fractions and decimals.

Hunter got a B on his spelling test again, so this week we are adding an additional day of writing his words.

I finally got to the box that had our Ramona books in it, so Kaleigh and I started reading together again.  I've missed our Ramona time!  We continue our reading games, and her concept of putting letters and sounds together is growing; it is fun to watch!  I also got a lot more of our crafting supplies unpacked, and a great work center set up in the basement; so Kaleigh and I spent some time scrapping (card-making, really) last week and over the weekend. 

My dad got grapes for making grape juice, and in true Bissett fashion, had more than he knew what to do with.  So I got free grapes and spent last week canning juice.  I ended up with 5 dozen jars, but still have enough to do another 2 dozen at least; on Saturday I went in search of more jars and found a few more boxes.  Hoping to find apples soon so I can start on applesauce.  We'll need to get another shelf for the storage area soon!

We made it up to see my cousin and her new baby last Tuesday.  Emma is absolutely beautiful, and I enjoyed getting in a baby fix ;-).  We also had a lovely time playing with 2-year-old Annie, who I think enjoyed having playmates for a day.  I really wish we lived closer so we could see each other more often!

Well, I am off to check on the steel-cut oatmeal cooking on the stove, and to wake my Monday morning late sleepers!  Today I have quite a few things to work on around here, some of them fun and some of them not-so-fun, but all should make for a busy Monday.