Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Signs of fall...

We enjoyed our first field trip today with our home school co-op...

We visited an apple orchard...

We picked and picked and picked...

Then we peeled and cored and sliced... and ate...

The day was perfect... so we bought our fall mums...

And then we visited the hiking trails at Hidden Oak Nature Center...

We decided this is where we will have Andrew's birthday party. It will be a search for treasure on his Golden Birthday.

Ahhh... Nothing like a crisp, sunny fall day!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Oh, so fabulous

I have been seeing a lot of news reports lately about all of the stars who are oh-so "Fabulous after 40". Jennifer Aniston probably leads the pack, along with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger, who both celebrated their 40th this year.

Here's my friend, Jen, showing off her perfection in this tiny, sparkly dress.

I think it's kind of cool that these female stars are proving that their careers don't have to end at 40. They haven't been relegated to the roles of the moms of teen-agers. They still play the hip, hot, happening leads roles on the movie screen. Many of them do look better than ever.

But, I wonder? Would they be quite so perfect without their personal trainers? Or if they had been pregnant and given birth once, not to mention two, three, four or even five times. I give Zeta-Jones credit for maintaining her good looks after childbirth. But does she have a nanny who gets up in the middle of the night, changes the diapers and stands in the preschool line?

How many of them keep their healthy glow because their chefs are cooking meals made from all-organic food? And what about their skin? I'm sure those frequent exfoliations at the spa don't hurt?

About the same day I spotted Jen in her sparkly dress, THIS photo of ME was released.

My son captured all of my fabulousness when we visited my daughter's preschool class. I love how he zoomed in on my prego-ness.

Here I am being attacked by the preschoolers who wanted to get hands-on with the book I brought for Alayna's birthday. I betcha that doesn't happen to Jen very often.

When I saw my photo next to Jen's, I was tempted at first to compare myself to her. But I don't want to make her feel bad.

It's not her fault that she probably doesn't have to come up with a meal plan for a family of five each day. It's not her fault she doesn't get to hang out in the preschool line. She can't help it that she has never developed a laundry system as innovative as mine.

She would probably love cleaning the toilet if she ever tried. Even more, she would love teaching her 9- and 7-year-old boys to clean up all of the extra mess they left in and around the toilet. And she would love the extra challenge of doing it while keeping her nails beautiful.

I've been thinking about all of the 40-year-olds I know. Many of them don't own sparkly silver dresses, like Jen.

They volunteer at school. They serve in their church. They keep their households running smoothly around one or more children. They have endured pregnancies. They have adopted. They have spent many nights awake with crying babies, puking children or waiting for their new drivers to come home from a date.

They have grown wiser through the experiences. They have great stories to tell. They are loved in a way one can only experience when it comes from a devoted husband, a needy newborn or a sensitive 9-year-old.

And, yes. They are fabulous inside and out!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Why do you do what you do?

On Friday night, I got to attend Mom's Night Out with the ladies in our new home school co-op. It was fun to get to know a new group of friends, and I feel so blessed to have these awesome moms in my life.

We had good food and good conversation, with the help of our hostess who had prepared some questions for all of us to answer. One of the questions was, "Why did you decide to home school?"

I listened as each of the ladies gave her answer. Some said they had "always wanted to" home school and finally got up their nerve to give it a try. Others loved the time spent with their kids. Others could see the benefit of using the "wasted time" at a traditional school to focus on other things, like orchestra or other special interests.

Somehow the subject changed before it was my turn to answer. "Whew!" I breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Sometimes I feel so out of place. I mean, I can't say that I've always wanted to be a home school mom. In fact, I always said that I would do absolutely anything required of me to avoid it.

Although I can see the efficiency, speed and overall quality of this type of education, I don't feel like it's the "best" way to educate all kids. It completely depends on the mom, the kids, their needs, their determination and their commitment. In fact, after seeing how much work it is, I don't know that I would try to convince someone else to do it.

Even a month into it, I can't say I love it. There are other things I could be doing with my time that would better use my strengths. But it's where we're at, so I try to do the best I can. I know that my attitude will rule the day. So, I try to be positive, make it fun and encourage the kids that we need to take ourselves seriously.

So why did we decide to home school?

We reached a point where the other options weren't working. It was pretty much our last resort. And it also seemed clear that this is what we were supposed to do. It was a leap of faith to give it a try and hope for the best.

For one of my children, learning in a classroom of 25 students in public school would be difficult. He is so bright in so many ways that he has become an expert at flying under the radar when he really is needing extra attention.

We loved private school, but his teachers there said they couldn't give him the extra help he needed. He was getting stressed. Our family was stressed. And with several hours of homework, a long commute and tuition costs, we had all reached a breaking point.

At home, we are able to shift our focus to work on the trouble areas. We have time to do extra activities that would never happen in a traditional classroom.

If it were up to me, I would have enrolled the kids in another private Christian school that offered extra services for kids like my son. He is bright and creative, but needs help in one area.

But would you believe that at the same time we were making this decision, we also found out that I was pregnant? I could have worked like crazy this summer and fall to make enough money to pay private school tuition at this other school. But knowing that would coincide with my third trimester, it made a lot more sense to give home school a try.

So, here we are. I definitely think we are doing the right thing for us.

The kids are happier than I have seen them in a while. They love doing school at home. They love having time to run outside and play everyday. They love having time for extra activities we couldn't have done before.

I love that I don't wake up every morning feeling stressed that I have to get lunches packed and hit the road by 7 a.m. I love watching them learn. And I love that we can sit on the back patio to study science, if we want to.

Does that mean we love every minute? Does it mean I'm suddenly a huge home school advocate who thinks everyone should do this? Does it mean I somehow have a supernatural measure of patience that makes it easier for me than other moms?

Absolutely not. We've made a choice. With that choice comes smaller daily choice to be happy and patient and stick to our routine, even when we would prefer to do something else. We're just doing the best we can each day.

So, what about you? Maybe you live in an area where your schools are awesome, and school is not even something you need to think about. Maybe you have always dreamed of doing school at home. Or maybe you love the environment of private school.

Why do you do what you do?

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friends, hidden friends, de-friending and the wonderful world of Facebook

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog post about Facebook. She had a bad experience with the social networking site and decided to cancel her account, much to the surprise of her 354 "friends". I have been thinking about her post for a few days and decided to write my own.

It's kind of funny this is actually the person who invited me to join Facebook, more than a year ago. I thought the request was kind of strange, to be honest. Why would I want to do that?

Facebook is persistent. It doesn't give up, even when real people do. So, it sent me one of its automated friendship requests, and in a weak moment, I gave in and joined.

Since then, I developed a love-hate relationship with Facebook that now has just evolved into an acceptance of it as part of my life.

At first, I found Facebook annoying and yet, oddly addictive. Why would I want to know that a friend I haven't seen in 10 years is making a cup of coffee at this very moment? And why do people who barely speak to me in real life want to be my online friends? Do I really care what 80s TV mom they most resemble?

As the weeks went by, I started to gain more Facebook friends, as is inevitable. It seemed that some people were just trying to increase their "friend count" by asking me, someone who sold them Discovery Toys two years ago, to be their FB friend.

I became more comfortable rejecting friendship requests of people if I couldn't remember who they were, had never talked to them in real life, or simply didn't want to communicate with them.

But as my friendship count increased, I also was pleasantly surprised by a few things.

I was learning about exciting news. Friends from high school were getting married. And having babies. My nieces and nephews in their teens had really funny or encouraging things to say. Long-lost friends wanted to get together after years of not seeing each other.

I could view photos of people I hadn't seen in years. I enjoyed seeing photos and reading updates of friends who live in the same town as I do, but with whom I had lost touch.

I also realized that more and more people in my life were suffering serious hardships. Life-threatening diseases. Family members with terminal illnesses. Challenging pregnancies. I wouldn't have had access to frequent updates and prayer requests, if it weren't for Facebook.

I went through some tough days myself and was encouraged by the quick responses of my Facebook friends.

Of course, we all run into the danger of letting Facebook and other sources of social networking take over the real relationships with flesh-and-blood people we need in our lives. I will admit that this has always been a challenge for me, with or without Facebook.

I prefer written communication over talking on the phone. Even back in grade school, I loved to write notes and letters and send postcards. With or without social networking sites, I have to make a deliberate effort to communicate like a normal adult by picking up the phone. And I've learned to do so!

I have finally accepted Facebook as simply an extension of my regular relationships. I'm thankful that I have been able to get to know people better through this source of communication. I have been able to keep in touch with people almost daily, when normally I might only see them a few times a year.

When I see how the younger people in my life use it, it also makes me realize that this is how younger generations primarily communicate. If I don't join in, they will continue to do what they are going to do. I will be the one who will miss out on possibly improving my relationship with them.

I think Facebook and I have sort of reached an agreement with each other. I rarely, if ever, take a Facebook quiz, and I don't play any of the games, only because I'm sure I would quickly become an addict! I also have my boundaries about who I will "friend".

On the other hand, Facebook often makes me laugh, cry or smile. If someone is driving me crazy, I can choose to "hide" them, and I'm sure many people have hidden me. Facebook and I are getting along pretty well these days.

What do you think? Have you purposely avoided Facebook and other types of social networking? Are you an addict? Or a reluctant user? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A minor glitch and a few small problems

There's one thing I always say about pregnancy: It's a good thing women forget how miserable it is or no one would have more than one child.

Of course, I'm being sarcastic. I know that pregnancy can be a beautiful and wonderful experience for a lot of women. I actually love the three months in the middle. But the third trimester feels like the longest year of my life. And that's not good, considering I'm only a couple weeks into it.

If you've ever experienced the third trimester, then your mind probably blocked out all of the aches and pains that came with it. I know mine did. Now, all of those repressed memories are coming back like a flood.

Every week, I take a minute to read about "what I should expect this week" on They always have some good advice.

For example, this week, the writers tell me that if I would like to avoid some of those unmentionable aches and pains, all I need to do is try not to spend long periods of time standing or sitting down.

Well, I can only walk for about three minutes, so I guess my only option is to lie down. All day. Perfect. I'm sure that will work just fine.

On top of that, I keep making the mistake of reading all of the updates on how dangerous the H1N1 virus can be to pregnant women, especially in the third trimester.

The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that pregnant women get the vaccine both for the regular flu and H1N1. I am reluctant because most of the vaccines contain Thimerosal, a preservative that contains Mercury.

The medical community says Thimerosal is safe both for children and unborn babies. However, families affected by autism believe that the preservative is the reason for the dramatic rise in autism over the last couple of decades. They advise against getting an immunization that contains the preservative.

Regardless of whether Thimerosal is directly linked to autism, it just doesn't sound healthy to me to inject my body with Mercury. Call me crazy.

So, that leaves me with the other option suggested by the news reports. I can just stay away from all people.

My 8-year-old had to go to my doctor's appointment with me today, and he heard me discussing the issue with my doctor. Later my son gave me a good piece of advice.

"Just make sure you don't use handrails, Mom. That is where you are going to get a lot of germs," he said. "If you feel like you need to use a handrail, then you could try doing the crab walk."

All-righty then.

Lie down. Avoid human contact. And when necessary, do the crab walk.

I think this will work.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

From beginning to end, 365 days of the year

Since I saw the movie, Julie and Julia a few weeks ago, I have been pondering one of the themes in the story.

In case you haven't heard about the film, the movie tells the dual story of Julia Child, the famous cook, and Julie Powell, a blogger who is a bit obsessed with Julia.

In the movie, we learn how Julia evolved from a bored housewife, living in Europe, to become one of the best-known cookbook authors of all time. Set in a different era, the movie also tells the story of Julie, another bored wife and self-described "government drone" who sets out to cook Julia's recipes every day for a year.

Julie started blogging way before blogging was mainstream. Her blog gains a following and by the end of the year, she becomes famous for her effort.

But was it really because she managed to cook all of those complicated recipes out of Julia Child's cookbook? Or was it because of her witty writing style and personal issues she exposed on the blog?

I think that part of what made Julie so unique was simply that she made a commitment to do something each day for an entire year.

That is a huge commitment when you really think about it. I mean, is there anything you would do every single day, without missing even one day of the entire year. (Let's not count the obvious... sleeping, getting dressed, going to the bathroom.)

Since watching the movie, I have been thinking about what I would do if I was going to do something for a year.

I have several friends who have vowed to take a photo every day for 365 days straight. One of them scrapbooks her photos; the other posts them on her blog.

I also have checked in several times on the blog of a woman who cooks something in her crockpot every single day.

If I was going to make such a pact, I think I would probably promise to update my blog 365 times a year. That is something that is fun for me, and yet, I know it would be a challenge not to miss one single day. Taking a photo a day also would be a good goal that I would enjoy, but would seem both challenging and do-able. I just can't seem to think of anything more original, though.

What about you? Would you read a chapter of a book? Exercise? Cook something?

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We celebrated my middle child's seventh birthday on Sunday.

Seven?! Doesn't that sound so much older than 6? It seems like it marks the transition from little kid, kindergarten boy to KID kid, first grader, who wants to understand all that is happening in the world.

After a BIG weekend dedicated to him, the other two kids and I came up with a list of seven things we love about our middle child.

He is such a snuggle bug. If I need a hug or a kiss, he is always willing to give me a snuggle.

He is very detail oriented. He wants to understand the WHY of how things work.

He is silly and crazy and makes everyone laugh.

He is kind and thoughtful, always thinking of others.

He is very intelligent. He learns easily and loves math.

He is loyal and a faithful friend.

I LOVE that boy's smile!

When we were done with our list of 7, he told us we could play a "bonus round" and go all the way to 20. Of course, we were more than happy to come up with 13 more reasons we love him!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Oops, I did it again

The second day of preschool, my daughter had a homework assignment.

On Day #3, we were supposed to send back to school a paper with her answers to questions about her family, her favorite things and what she likes to do. With child #1, I would have had that assignment completed within minutes of getting home from school.

With child #3, I forgot to even empty her backpack the entire weekend.

On Monday, I was so excited that...

1. I remembered it was her birthday.
2. I had purchased her birthday treat over the weekend to take to preschool.
3. I had purchased birthday plates on which to serve the treat.
4. I had worked in an hour of home school before we dropped her off for preschool at 9 a.m.
5. I had found a shirt in my closet that fit.
6. I had managed to get out of bed at 6 a.m. to decorate previously-mentioned door, chair, and kitchen for birthday.
7. I had purchased her birthday gifts and wrapped them the night before.
8. I remembered to send something to preschool that started with an "M", the letter of the day.

... I completely forgot the homework assignment. And this shortcoming was announced to all of the parents in the pick-up line at the end of class.

It seems to be the story of my life lately.

  • I'm sorry. I forgot to call you back.
  • I'm sorry. I forgot to listen to my voice mail... for three days.
  • I forgot to pay the cell phone bill, and they turned off my service. When it was finally back, I was so scared to listen to my voice mail, that I didn't get your message for three weeks.
  • I'm sorry. I forgot to respond to your e-mail.
  • I read your blog, but I forgot to leave a comment.
  • I forgot to say thank you.
  • I forgot to send a thank you note.
  • I forgot what time we were supposed to be there.
  • I'm sorry, kids. I forgot to make dinner.
  • I do have my super simple meal plan, but I forgot to buy half of the ingredients.
  • I keep finding little slips of paper all over the house with someone's name written on them, but I forgot what I was trying to tell myself.
  • You needed a binder for co-op? I forgot.
  • You have preschool again TODAY?!?
  • What day is karate again?
  • What day is it?

The problem isn't so much that I can't think straight. Or focus. Or remember anything other than getting the kids through their home school subjects and getting myself to bed as early as possible.

The problem is that I'm so used to being an extreme detail person. I'm usually one who remembers. And I think ahead to remember the details that would be involved in completing a task.

Now, I can't even remember what the task is.

And I don't really have a coping strategy for all of this. Yes... I am using my OWN planner more than ever these days. But I keep misplacing it. (I'm pretty sure it's WITH my sunglasses. If only I could remember where I put those.)

A few people in my life think it's pretty funny to see me like this. I have to admit, I don't think I'm quite as stressed because I really can't remember what I'm supposed to be doing half the time anyway. It's kind of fun to float through life without so many worries. Until someone calls, of course, and reminds you you are an hour late and you were supposed to bring a plate of brownies.

I'm hoping that at least some of my brain cells will be restored after the baby arrives. I'm really missing the old me. The one who can remember. Maybe I'll see her again next year?

PS... I actually wrote this post four days ago. But I forgot to hit "publish".

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WFMW: Little things mean a lot

All three of my children celebrate their birthdays within two months of each other, so I have been a little overwhelmed the past few weeks trying to plan parties, find the perfect gifts (on sale), and come up with ways to make them feel special.

Last week, my oldest son reminded me of some birthday traditions around here that had totally slipped my mind.

"I know we haven't had any birthdays for a long time..." he began. (Um. Yes... it's been a whole year since your last birthday!) "But do you think you could do that thing with the ribbons and the paper on the door?"

Ohhhhh.... He meant the streamers. I had forgotten a few of the simple things I always do on their birthdays (and my husband's birthday). And I didn't realize how much they meant to them.

Here are a few simple traditions around our house:

After the birthday person is sound asleep, I tape a big piece of wrapping paper to the outside of his or her door frame. The decorative part of the paper is facing the hallway. On the white side, I write a big birthday message with markers. When the child opens the door, he or she is excited to see the paper covering the door. She can either run through the paper or leave it up all day and crawl under it to get in and out.

I also try to hang streamers around the house, whether or not we are having a birthday at home.

I like to decorate that child's chair with streamers, or in this case, with pink feather boas!

On each child's birthday, it is his or her "day" to make all of the choices for the day. They get to decide what we will eat for lunch, where we will go for dinner and any other fun activities.

We also have a tradition of letting the birthday child open his gifts first thing in the morning. No waiting until after school or dinnertime around here!

These are simple things we do around here that make our children feel special on their birthday. It Works for Me!

So, what are your birthday traditions?

For more great tips, check out Works For Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

That girl

The moment my daughter was born five years ago, I thought something must be terribly wrong.

"Why isn't she crying?" I asked the nurses. I couldn't see what was happening because I had a C-section and my view was blocked as the doctor finished the surgery.

"She's fine," my midwife assured me.

Nothing was wrong. She was just so easy going that she didn't even cry the moment she was born.

Actually, I was just getting a taste of the five years to come.

This little girl is almost always happy.

The other four of us in the family often joke about how boring our lives would be without her.

She makes us laugh. She is full of love.

She's so cute. We love to just look at her, especially when she dresses up in funny outfits.

She's out-going. And, yes, out-spoken. She definitely likes attention.

She is fearless. A daredevil. And very athletic.

She makes friends easily.

She is full of life. Her excitement is contagious.

She is fun and funny. She is such a sweetheart.

We all look forward to the moment she wakes up in the morning and emerges from her beauty sleep. She always has something cute to tell us.

She is full of joy and spreads her happiness to all of us who are blessed enough to be around her every day!

I can't believe my baby girl is 5!

Happy Birthday!!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Everything is new this week

It's a good thing we got some rest Labor Day weekend. Tuesday hit like a whirlwind and I've been having a hard time this week staying on top of everything. It seems every fall activity started this week.

We've been sticking to our home-school schedule of doing school work from about 8 a.m. until 1 or 2 p.m. each day. But we got to experience some of that "flexibility" everyone talks about, adding on one day to give us more time on another.

On Tuesday, the boys started a new level of karate with two new sensais.

Wednesday brought Alayna's first day of preschool, complete with a brand new "big girl" haircut.

We rushed from preschool to our first home school "workshop" at Legoland, about 30 miles north of home. We found that home school events give us the chance to go places at a reduced fee and to experience popular attractions in near solitude.

We attended with some friends of ours. But in addition to our two families, only one other boy came for the workshop! They got to test the "tall towers" they built on the Lego earthquake simulator. The kids had a lot of fun roaming around Legoland with basically no lines!

From there, we made it almost on time to Alayna's new session of gymnastics. She is now in a new class with new friends and lots of new skills to be learned.

On Thursday, we started a home school gym class in the afternoon, and then the kids attended their first session of Awana.

Today was the first day of our home school co-op, which will meet every Friday. And tonight we are kicking off a new season of our church small group.

Whew! And I thought home school was going to be boring!

How about you? Is your fall turning into a tornado or are you cutting back on activities this year?

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

nine, nine, oh-nine

A few days before this significant date of 9/09/09 hit us, I suddenly realized that my oldest son will be celebrating a special birthdate of his own this year! He is going to be 9 on the 9th of November, 2009!

All three of my children have birthdays in the fall and I have been overwhelmed trying to decide what to do for them. I finally came up with a plan that instead of having a big party, each child would get to choose three or four children and invite them to do something special on their special day.

My daughter is taking a few girls to lunch and Build A Bear, and my second son is taking a few friends to play miniature golf and have pizza.

I was so relieved at this plan until I realized that my oldest son will be having his Golden Birthday in November. Actually, I believe it's even one step up from golden since the year also matches his age. My friend, Sarah, said that makes it his Diamond Birthday, but I haven't been able to find anything on the Internet on the topic. (Anyone else have any opinion on what this is called?)

Anyway, now I am feeling we should do something extra special for his big day. Having a party at our home is NOT an option! Even if we had a small party, it would stress me out at 37 weeks pregnant to have a party at home.

He does love Egypt, so maybe something with a "golden treasure" theme. But where?

Ideas, anyone?

I really need your creative minds on this one! My brain is almost mush!

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Farewell, Dear Summer

Now that Labor Day has passed, I'm finally willing to accept that summer is over.

I'm sure I say this every year, but it seemed like it was the best summer we've had!

How about you? What was the highlight of your summer?

We achieved our goals. Matthew and Alayna learned to ride their bikes without training wheels...

and they passed their swimming class...

Andrew made it through vision therapy.

We spent countless hours at the pool and riding bikes. We hiked, played at parks and had play dates.

We went to the arboretum...

and Cantigny...

and Naper Settlement...

and the zoo. We went to Pirate's Cove...

and the Splash Park...

We went to Holiday World...

and camping...

and the beach...

and Gatlinburg.

We visited family...

Remember the awesome rope swing?

We completed projects...

This was my final project of the summer. I painted the front door. (Nevermind where my husband sanded off part of the trim so he could install a storm door.)

And, as you can see, my stomach grew!

Farewell, Dear Summer. I love you. But I'm ready for the change. Welcome, Fall! We hope you bring us lots of fun!

What is your favorite season? And what was the highlight of your summer?

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