Monday, January 31, 2011

Conquering fears

Over the past few months, I have been working on conquering a couple of fears. One makes sense, I suppose. The other was kind of silly. Both are still a work in progress.

One of my fears has to do with my job. This sounds really silly, but I have been totally dreading doing the announcements at church. 

Now, for anyone who knew me in my Discovery Toys days, this probably sounds ridiculous. One of the things I MOST loved about working with Discovery Toys was the opportunity to speak at retreats and conventions. I love sharing an idea, or inspiring someone or motivating people. 

I have done hour-long seminars. I have spoken at retreats. Back in my reporter days, I often was a guest on a weekly radio show.

But for some reason, I have NOT been looking forward to the day I would have to talk for 3 minutes on stage at church. I have been so afraid that I would walk out on stage, my heart would start pounding, my mouth would get dry, everyone would be staring, and I would have no where to hide. I envisioned myself staring blankly at a crowd full of people, unable to remember anything I was supposed to say.

I think my fear might have something to do with the fact that announcements are inherently boring. One of the things I like about speaking to a group is making a connection. I like to see people nod or laugh at a joke. I like to see someone's face light up when they "get it." That interaction fuels me and makes public speaking fun.

But announcements? I'm picturing myself standing all alone on a big stage staring out at several hundred people who are looking forward to me sitting down. I was thinking of how I would probably try to make a joke and everyone would give me that look of, "Could you hurry up already?"

Well, I have done the announcements three times now. I simply couldn't avoid it any longer. The first time, I dreaded it all day Friday and all day Saturday. I knew it was ridiculous, and yet, the more I thought about it, the more I couldn't stop thinking about it!

The second time, I was less nervous.

So, basically, I survived the announcements. Thank God, I didn't have a panic attack or faint or trip. I'm hoping it will get easier each time I do it.

I think I made a few stupid jokes, and I'm not sure if I really covered all of the announcements. In fact, I can't remember if I actually even said my name. I probably talked way too fast and had that look on my face you get when you are climbing to the top of a roller coaster. But that's OK.

More than anything, I'm relieved that I'm starting to conquer my fear.

Please tell me I'm not the only one with ridiculous fears. Is there anything that you are dreading at the moment? Have you conquered an irrational fear lately? I would love to hear!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Leap of faith

Isn't this a sight that makes your stomach leap into your chest? Or perhaps it makes your heart fall into your stomach?

This is something we see frequently at our house. By frequently, I mean about 20 times a day.

Every other baby in this family has learned at an early age to crawl down the stairs. We have taught them to turn over on their bellies and scoot down. Each one has learned the skill within a few weeks, and all the others have become proficient at descending the stairs well before his or her first birthday.

Not this one.

She likes to stand at the top of the stairs with her toes practically teetering off the edge. "No, Jayda!" we say in a stern voice. "Jay-jay go down!" we say, as we have told her a million times before while making her slide down on her tummy.

But all of this attention only makes her smile even more and laugh as she moves toward the edge of that top stair.

Finally, one of us can't take it anymore. We rush toward her to stop her.

And what does she do?

She leaps into our arms, laughing with delight. The "catcher" has a near heart attack.

Of course, we put her back at the top and make her slide down on her tummy. But it doesn't help. 

What baby wouldn't love the thrill of having any one of her five older family members come running toward her just so she can take a flying leap?


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Coupon

I had to run some errands this afternoon, and I decided to make a quick stop at my favorite clothing store.

I had one child at home sick, two watching a movie with him, and the baby was napping. My husband was working from home, which allowed me to leave for an hour. However, it had to be a quick trip because this kind of peaceful atmosphere might not last for long.

Before I left, I made sure I had The Coupon.

Yes. I had scored. It was for 30 percent off my entire purchase. That means I didn't have to worry about spending X amount so I could get X percent off. Doing all of that math in the dressing room makes me sweat.

Usually when I go shopping for clothes, I need a particular item and have to struggle to find just what I'm looking for. This time, I walked in and found about 10 things I didn't need, but absolutely loved! And with The Coupon in my purse, I was about to score some great deals.

At the top of my pile sat a couple of super cute sweaters. They weren't the total spring sweaters. But they weren't the heavy, woolen, 10-pounders I've been wearing lately to survive the 5 degree tundra around here. A really cute sweater would go a long way toward making me feel like I can make it through the rest of the winter. A really cute sweater might even make all of the runny noses and fevers in this house bearable.

I got ready to check out and gave The Coupon one more close look to make sure it was the one I needed. It was good until Feb. 4.

But it didn't start until... Jan. 27.


I found a salesperson and made sure she saw my pile of potential purchases.

"It looks like I grabbed the wrong coupon when I left the house," I said, hoping she would offer me the coupon I know she had stashed in her drawer for wonderful customers such as myself. "Could you hold these items while I drive all the way home and get The Coupon."


Another salesperson asked about my pile to which I added another pair of jeans, just for good measure. I told her my sad situation with The Coupon.

"No problem," she said. "We will hold your items for you."



"A lot."

Now, what to do? There was no way I would have time to get back across town on Thursday when the coupon took effect. By then, my cute sweaters in my perfect size might be gone, anyway. But I wasn't possibly going to pay full price when I knew I had to have a coupon SOMEWHERE at home. Heck! One probably showed up in the mail today!

I know what the salespeople were probably thinking. I was kind of dressed up. I looked like I might even have one of those jobs people go to during the day. I probably looked like I had all the time in the world to go clothing shopping in the middle of the day.

Would it have helped if I explained that I NEVER get to leave the house in the middle of the day? That I homeschool? That I usually wear a sweatsuit all day and carry a baby on my hip? That it was so rare for me to so easily find these articles of clothing in my size that I love? That I'm in a state of depression from the BITTER COLD AND THE ONLY THING THAT WILL SAVE ME IS THAT CUTE SWEATER?!? THAT I LIVE 20 MINUTES AWAY AND MY HUSBAND IS GOING TO DIE IF I TELL HIM I HAVE TO DRIVE BACK TO THE MALL TO USE THE COUPON?!?!?

So, I drove home. I found The Coupon.

It expired yesterday.

I had one dumb coupon that doesn't start for two days and another that expired yesterday. HOW could I possibly have let this happen? Maybe I should start programming The Coupons into my iCal?!

With some quick thinking, I went online and signed up to receive discounts by mail. I begged my e-mail to ding with the signal my 40 percent off coupon had arrived. But the best I got was an introductory coupon to save $25 off a $75 purchase. (My pile was a bit taller than that, I'm sorry to admit.)

Good enough. Movie still playing. Baby still sleeping. Sick child not puking.

Back I went.

The salesperson looked shocked that I actually returned. I showed her the meager coupon and explained that USUALLY the store sends ME the BEST coupons, not this lousy one for $25.

"OK, I've got a 40 percent off you can have," she said.

"NOW you tell me."

But, I must say. That sweater is cute. And think I can survive February now.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

What's going on

It's been frigid here the past week, but we've been fighting the desire to hibernate with lots of activity!

Here's what we've been up to. We've been:

How about you? What are you doing to beat the winter blues? Oh... and P.S. It's Day No. 6, and still no sugar in my drinks!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sugar-Free Mama?

I don't know. I'm just thinking "Sugar-Free mama" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "Sweet Mama." "Sweet N Low Mama" isn't working for me either. "Splenda Mama?" Not so much.

It's probably not time for a name change yet, anyway. But I am kind of proud of myself that I made it one entire day without drinking any sugar. Yes. I did mean to say "drinking" any sugar.

Despite my New Year's Resolution, I have been thinking about trying to reduce the number of calories I consume in liquid form. I got up Monday morning, and without any premeditation, decided it would be the day. I made my morning tea, and... GASP! ... didn't add any sugar.

I took a few sips, and instead of immediately giving in, like I usually do, I started getting used to it.

It takes a lot of beverages to get me through the home-schooling day around here. With the cold weather, I have increased my daily consumption of hot, sugary liquids to an all-time high. I usually have two cups of tea in the morning, with sugar. I start craving a can of Coke around lunchtime. The afternoon usually includes some hot chocolate, decaf coffee, herbal tea or maybe some chai latte. Whatever the case, it always includes sugar.

It takes a lot of sucrose to keep this home-schooling mama sweet all day long. But I started doing the math and figured that I'm drinking at least half of the 1,800 or so calories I should be consuming per day.

The first thing I noticed this morning was that I was a LOT more hungry. By about 10:30, I was ready for lunch.

Then, I started craving a banana. That was weird.

Later, my glucose level was getting so low I had to have an orange. Who knows what will be next? Apples? Grapes? An old container of baby food?

I'm not trying to cut out all sugar from my diet, although I would love to try that if I could ever find that much will power. I'm also not looking to replace sugar with its equally evil counterpart (in my opinion), artificial sweetener.

But a day without liquid sugar felt pretty good. In fact, I feel kind of powerful that I defeated the one thing that seems to have the most control over me: Sugar.

I'm going for Day 2. And if I make it, maybe my kids will abandon my old name of "SW-EEEEEET MAMA!" start calling me "Super Mama!"


Sunday, January 16, 2011

The skating rink

This is a double post from my daily photo blog. I'm starting to really get in the hang of posting a photo every day over there, and I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would! But for those of you who read in a reader or via e-mail and you don't check the link to my daily photo blog, I'm posting this one both places.

Our ice-skating rink is finally complete. It turned out far better than I ever anticipated! 

Because we started so late building it, we couldn't even consider trying to level the yard first. It's funny that even in a yard that seems fairly flat, a few inches of decline can make a huge difference when you are thinking of filling a space with water.

The rink is about 28 feet by 26 feet. My wonderful husband had to build up the far side because it is about six inches deeper than the opposite corner. This means we have about eight inches of water in the deepest section and only about two inches in the diagonal corner.

We've learned a lot about the freezing properties of water. It took us nearly a week to add layers of water and let them freeze. In the middle of this process, we got several inches of snow. That seems like a good way to fill the rink with water, right? Well, not exactly.

It's too cold for the snow to melt and create a nice smooth surface. If it freezes, it will create bumps that have to be chipped away. So, snow means we need to shovel the rink!

But after much waiting, much shoveling, much filling, much chipping away at uneven ice, we finally got  to skate this weekend!

I joined in on the fun on Sunday afternoon. The rink doesn't seem like it would be big enough to really get good exercise. But it actually is. It took me a few laps to find my center of gravity. I haven't ice skated in about 10 years. 

Once I did, I spent about an hour going around and around. We brought out some music, which was even more fun!

These days, we closely monitor the weather. But unlike most years when we moan and groan if it drops below 20, we are starting to look forward to those days! We want to keep our ice frozen so we can have lots more fun on the rink.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hello, my name is Emily, and...

I'm very thankful that one thing home-schooling has brought into my life is a lot of awesome mom friends. In general, they seem to be very intelligent, conscientious, caring, deep thinkers.

So, I'm not sure why it is that every time I am in their company I have an irrepressible urge to start up a conversation about how much I dislike home schooling.

It's as if I think the minute I enter their presence, I have actually made it to group therapy.

"Hello. My name is Emily. And I don't like to home school."

You can only imagine how popular this must make me with a bunch of women who have a deep conviction that educating their children at home is not only the best way to teach their kids, but also their calling. I'm sure that given the general public perception that home-school moms are a bunch of jumper-wearing, ultra conservative nut jobs that what they are dying to hear when they have opened up their homes for some much-needed social time is another mom listing every reason she dislikes home schooling.

OK. I somewhat jest because I really only have a few home-school mom friends who seem to be totally passionate and sold-out about what we do. Most others, to some degree, have chosen this path because it seems better than the other options (for us). We certainly wouldn't wish it upon anyone else.

We consider each morning a daily struggle to die to every selfish desire of what we would want to do with our brains. We have given up on the hope of ever having a clean house. We don't think about participating in play groups with younger kids or going to coffee while the kids are in school or going to the gym in the morning. We avert our eyes when we see all of the Facebook posts from public school moms complaining that Christmas break is too long or dreading an institute day.

I know it's the time of year.

Just as in any school, our subject matter has grown more difficult than it was a few months ago. The kids are struggling to get through their work.

The short days, cold air and gloomy skies make it difficult to find a break to just get some fresh air. Sometimes we don't leave the house for days on end. Don't leave.

It gets increasingly difficult to stay focused after lunch. I long for naps and want to scrimp on writing assignments.

And that's when I question everything. "Am I asking too much or demanding too little?"

"How would my kids stack up in public school? Or in private school?"

"Am I focusing too much on one thing and letting them get by with too much in others?"

I get tired of asking them to focus. Stop talking. Stop making a beaver face at your sister.

Stop doing that crazy dance during our geography songs. No. Wait. Can you guys do that crazy dance during the geography songs?

I get tired of trying to occupy the baby so we can read. I just want to sit and play with her for an hour and enjoy her instead of having to brush her aside so we can get everything done. I want to ignore the curriculum, and go build a snowman. But I'm plagued by the mathematic fact that we have more lessons left in the math book than we have days on the school calendar.

I want to be the mom who hands out cookies and hugs when my kids come home after a long day. Instead, I'm the person who has required the long day.

I don't want to constantly repeat myself, but if I don't, the house erupts into chaos. One child is trying to do front handsprings off the ottoman. Another is dressed in a Prince Caspian costume doing target practice with his toy crossbow. The baby is throwing all of the CDs on the floor, and I am letting her because she's happy.

I look forward to the end of the school day as much as the students do.

Thankfully, our saving grace is all of our awesome home-school friends. Both the kids and moms alike are people you love to spend time with. And thankfully, we can make time to spend with them.

Now, let's just hope spring arrives before I bring up that darned topic one more time.

"Hello. My name is Emily, and..."


What we've been doing

I have several blog posts bouncing around in my head right now. I have noticed that the more I have to say, the more difficult it is for me to find the words to say it.

So, in the meantime, if you haven't been clicking on my daily photos over there on the right, here is a sampling of what we've been up to lately.

We've been:


Saturday, January 8, 2011

How do I love my iPad? Let me count the ways.

When I first heard about the iPad, I think I agreed with most of the world that it was probably one more gadget that I really didn't need.

But as I started hearing more about it, I became convinced that I would find ways to put it to good use if I had one. My husband had the same thought. He totally surprised me on Christmas Day with a rectangular box under the tree. Best. Gift. Ever.

People have been asking me if I really use it and what I use it for. Let me count the ways.

1. E-mail, Internet and Facebook. That goes without saying. I've heard a lot of people complain about the keyboard. It is definitely much easier to use than the iPhone. I can almost fit my fingers on the home keys and type like normal.

2. To do list. I use Toodledo, which was a download for $1.99. I LOVE this app. It allows me to create my to-do lists, organize them by category, give them a priority and due date, set up repeating chores and even set reminders.

3. Movies. I love watching movies while I walk on the treadmill or while I lay in bed, comfy and toasty warm under my electric blanket. I stream the movies through Netflix instant streaming.

4. Music. I love having my music library on the iPad. It's louder than the iPhone and can be transported around the house just as easily.

5. YouTube. I created a favorites list of music in YouTube and can watch and listen to my favorite songs.

6. Photo album. It's a beautiful, easy-to-carry photo album on the go.

7. Calendar. All of my calendars are now synched through MobileMe so I'm always up to date on my desktop and mobile devices.

8. The Bible. I downloaded the free ESV interactive Bible. It's lightweight and easy to find chapter and verse.

9. iBooks. Tons of books are available for free or for purchase and can be housed on my virtual book shelf. The iPad is compatible with Nook and Kindle.

10. Overdrive. This is the free app you need to download ebooks from the library.

11. Cookbook. I use the free AllRecipes application. The MacGourmet app also works on iPad, but it is only available as an iPhone app.

12. Globe. The kids and I use the free globe application when we don't feel like getting down the real globe for school.

13. Our school jingles. We listen to our geography songs and grammar jingles where ever we are in the house instead of gathering around the computer or CD player.

14. Board games. Our favorite is the Blokus app, which was 99 cents.

15. Pages. I downloaded the Pages app, which was $9.99. I have only played with it so far. However, I am planning to use it to edit documents for my job. We create most of our documents in Pages, so I thought this would be useful to take to staff meetings and add notes on the spot.


Friday, January 7, 2011

One a week

I had an idea. As part of my goal to take one photo a day in 2011, I thought it would be fun to take one photo each week of my four children standing in front of the same tree.

I'm not going to try to make them smile or wear matching outfits or look perfect. I just thought it would be cool to see how they change throughout the year and how the tree changes. Of course, on weeks that we aren't home, we will get to take the photo somewhere other than in front of that tree, which will be cool, too.

Here is photo No. 1 of 52.

If you want to see all of my daily photos, click here.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sorting and second chances

As part of my job, I get to work on images for the sermons at our church. Our upcoming sermon series is called Foundations, and we decided to go with a Lego theme throughout the series. You can see what I mean by clicking here.

So, I have been consumed with Lego the past few weeks. I've been building Lego structures and laying on my stomach on the front patio taking photos of them. It's funny how my subject matter doesn't move and yet it takes me a while to get the perfect shot! ;0

Anyway, I also have been trying to get my hands on hundreds of pieces of Lego. This process has reaffirmed what I already knew... that there are a few products in this country that are in great demand. People will pay what they are asked to pay, regardless of the real cost to produce the product.

These products rarely go on sale. They don't have to! Apple products are like that these days. The Wii is another example. And Lego.

Did you know it costs 26 cents a piece to buy pick-a-brick Lego in bulk from the Lego store? Of course, there are other ways to get Lego in bulk through eBay and other sources.

On Sunday, a very kind person at our church noticed our Lego theme and asked if she could donate a massive Lego collection she had at her house. We are talking about thousands of pieces of Lego!

Now, I love to sort. It's kind of an odd hobby of mine. I love puzzles and parts and pieces. And sorting is definitely right down my alley.

But this was a challenge. Where does one even begin? Before long, I had our categories. Vehicle parts. People and accessories. Slanted pieces. Flat pieces. Odd shapes. Standard Lego bricks.

After a few hours of sorting on my own, the kids joined me. It was hilarious to see them get my system and start shouting, "I have an arm and a pirate's hat!" Or "I have a weird shape!"

We sorted until our fingers hurt. Who knew that sorting Lego could make us so tired!

It was kind of funny how our perspective changed during this process. When I was searching high and low for Lego at a good price, it seemed like such a valuable commodity. I was ready to put down a lot of money to get the Lego I needed.

But when I had massive quantities in front of me... more shapes and parts and pieces than I could ever use... it started to lose its value.

We thought of the little boy who once played with the Lego collection many times during the process. We wondered what the parts had been when they were put together? We wondered what he was trying to create with some neat projects that were still constructed. We talked about his imagination and personality.

Well, I'm glad we get to use that little boy's Lego collection. It's almost all sorted now. That massive box that seemed like a random heap of discarded toys will now be put to use.

It didn't seem so valuable in a material sense as it would have it we had purchased it new. Instead, it had a different kind of value. It was fun to breathe new life into that old Lego and give it a second chance.


Monday, January 3, 2011

The everydayschizophrenicMOM

I've been debating whether I should actually reveal this bit of psychosis here on the blog. But, I figure that those of you who actually like me enough to read my blog are already well aware of just how NOT normal I am.

So, you might remember that on Dec. 31, I asked you what you thought of my idea to post a daily "moment" on my blog. Then, after much sweat, a few panic attacks and a pinched nerve, I decided it was a horrible idea, and I couldn't subject myself to the pressure. Instead, I resolved to take one photo a day and leave it at that.

Well, in the meantime, I have been posting my daily photos on another blog. Goodness knows, the one thing I need in this world is ANOTHER blog! However, I'm on Day 3, and I'm actually finding it kind of enjoyable.

So.... if you want to see what we are doing over here everyday, you can check it out.

It's been kind of nice not having to worry about whether anyone is reading or if I'll get any comments. I don't have a sitemeter or a stat counter or even a fancy design. And I don't have to wonder whether anyone will find it interesting. It's just meant to be a reminder to myself of what a day looks like here. I hope to use the words for captions in our 2011 photo book.

So, please don't feel any pressure to leave comments. And there's no pressure to subscribe or follow or even look at it!

My hope is to post one photo a day. However, I can't seem to narrow it down, so you will find several entries per day. And, there's always the good chance this project will only last a week.

OR that I will change my mind tomorrow.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

First year

I spent a good chunk of the last few days creating Jayda's baby book. OK. I have an entire room of my house packed full of scrapbooking supplies. But I can't imagine ever scrapbooking again with how easy it is to create a photo book online.

I started out using iPhoto to make my book. After I had imported all of my photos and arranged them on the pages, I went to copy and paste all of the text I wanted from my blog. That's when I realized iPhoto does not have nearly enough options for including text.

So, I eventually made the decision to start over. I uploaded all of my photos to Shutterfly and I was glad I did. Although I love being able to drag and drop my photos into albums on iPhoto, Shutterfly offers a lot more options to customize the book with background colors, page layout and text. They also offer padded covers or leather covers.

Now, I know there are only a few people in the world who really desire to look at one's baby book. But just in case anyone is interested, here's the final product.



Today is 010111. The date alone makes me want to make a resolution.

I was thinking about my proposed resolution up until the final minutes of 2010. I could hear the fireworks exploding in the distance, and my mind was still filled with thoughts of blogging every day in 2011. The idea alone was making me tense. I was starting to panic even before the first day of January officially arrived.

I was thinking about my life. The reality is I home-school about 30 hours a week. I work about 20 hours a week. Part of my job is to write on a blog. I have four children who are hungry all of the time. They also produce a ton of dirty clothes.

I don't spend enough time reading my Bible or exercising or reading books or grocery shopping or cleaning. My house is cluttered. I need to clean out every closet and take the contents to Goodwill. I have a baby who likes to throw squishy bananas on the floor.

I want to update my blog every day. I can update my blog every day. However, I am choosing not to. (GASP!)

I know. This is so unlike me. I love to have goals and push myself to try new things. But I don't want the pressure. I don't want to turn something that is currently my hobby, my outlet, my joy into something I dread.

I am going to take a photo every day. And I am going to put it in a neat little folder on my computer so at the end of the year I can create a photo book with one photo of every day of 2011. I want to challenge myself to be creative with the photos that I take.

I might share some of those photos on my blog, but I'm not making any promises. I want to see how they turn out. And I'm not sure if they will really be that interesting to anyone outside my immediate family. I don't want all of my e-mail subscribers to leave me because I'm overwhelming them with daily photos in their inbox.

So, thank you to those who encouraged me. I really did appreciate it.

And now, after being inspired by notasupermom, I'm going to post a few other things I plan to do in 2011:

I'm going to check my e-mail as often as I like. I might even put my iTouch in one back pocket, the iPhone in the other and carry my iPad under my arm and then have a showdown to see which one can retrieve my messages faster.

I'm going to drink at least two cups of tea every morning. I will drink my tea with refined white sugar.

I am going to kiss my baby's bald head every day until she grows some hair. I am going to make her wear little hats with huge flowers and bows. I will talk in my baby voice as long as I can get away with it, saying things like, "You are the cootest wittle baby I evah did see. I wuv oo."

I am going to be a more daring friend. I am going to take risks and go out on a limb for people.

I am going to let the e-mail pile up in my inbox until I reach my storage limit or Comcast threatens to shut down my account.

I am going to read books to my children in foreign accents. This drives them crazy and they beg me to stop. I am going to try to annoy them as much as possible with this. On some occasions, I will teach them grammar in my deep south accent and give them spelling words in my Chinese accent.

I am going to play lots of board games with my kids. I might even watch a few movies.

I am going to make as many different kinds of soup as I can until winter is over. I don't care if no one will eat them but me. I will make soup.

I am going to continue to expand my shoe collection.

I will take naps. Lots and lots of naps.

I might update my blog every day some months. Or I might not.

So, 2011, bring it on. We just met, but I'm starting to love you already!

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