Monday, January 31, 2011

Homemade Cracker Jack

I found a recipe for Homemade Cracker Jack last week, so I decided to give it a try one night. I made a few tiny adjustments to mesh the recipe with my usual way of making popcorn.

First, I mixed:
1/4c vegetable oil
1/2c sugar
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp vanilla
I put 3 kernels of popcorn in the pot, covered it, and put it over medium high heatWhen my tester kernels popped, I added in 1/3c popcorn kernels, replaced the lid and removed from heat for 30 seconds
I returned the pot to heat and waited for the kernels to pop.

I messed up here, I should have followed the original directions to shake the pan continuously, but I forgot about that and as a result some of the popcorn near the bottom had a burnt taste. (With regular popcorn, this hasn't been an issue for me, I think it happened here because the sugar syrup is so thick, the popcorn doesn't move as much on its own).

Once it was all popped, I poured it out onto wax paper to coolYummy homemade cracker jack!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

More Baby Coos

Judging from the visitor statistics for my blog, y'all like me a whole lot more when I shut up and just put a video of the baby on here. And I wanna keep ya happy (really, I do), but I just haven't been able to catch Secora laughing on video yet. I have many many many minutes of me acting like a fool and her looking at me like, "dude. really?" but no laughs.

So you're stuck with more cooing. Maybe I can catch a giggle later this week

And while we're here, a couple of the big girls enjoying our heat snap earlier this week (we got up to the 50's!! Supposed to be below zero again in a day or two)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Paging IT

About a week ago, my computer plug stopped working right. Now, the battery had already pretty much died about a year ago, so without a plug, the computer won't work. And I need the computer to blog facebook look up homeschool materials. (In all seriousness, I do look up something homeschool related virtually every day, but I'm also home alone with 3 small children every day and believe me, if I didn't connect with other moms who really "get" that, no one would want to be around me).

So, I spent a week jiggling the cord every time my computer claimed it was unplugged and it was getting worse and worse and I just knew it was going to shut down on me without warning one day. Last night, Josh fixed the cord by splicing the plug from another cord we weren't using onto the end. I can't tell you how he did it, because I have no idea what was involved. That's what I got married computer tech.

No wait, love. I got married for love.

And the computer tech (and cheap household and car repairs).

But mostly the love.
It ain't pretty, but it works wonderfully and it was free.

Friday, January 28, 2011

50 questions answers

Number 91 on my 101 goals list is to answer the 50 questions that will free your mind. Let's get started, shall we?

1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? At this moment in time, I think I feel about 35 or 40, but that's because I haven't recovered from the pregnancy yet. I would like to be perpetually 25...old enough to make my own rules, young enough to have energy to do whatever I want.

2. Which is worse, failing or never trying? I suppose the PC answer is "never trying", but failing can really really suck sometimes. I think there are a few things where the chance of success doesn't outweigh the potential hurt of failure. There are plenty of others that will eat away at your soul if you never give it a shot.

3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? Money. So much of this is tied to money. We have to do what we don't like to get the money we need to maintain the social standing we think we ought to have. Or, we do what we don't like because we're afraid we won't be able to meet our necessities if we don't.

4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? Unfortunately, yes. I feel like there are about 100 years worth of stuff I still want to do and I don't have 100 years left. I'm trying my best to stop worrying what other people think and do what's right for me and my family though.

5. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? All the hate. There is so much animosity directed at so many people for so many reasons.

6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? there a traveling the world with my family job? If we're going with actual work, I'd vote for being an assistant for a home birth midwife

7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing? I'm doing what I believe in and it's hard and I second guess myself at least 3 times a week

8. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? I'd let the student loans default, work odd jobs for cash under the table and travel

9. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken? Seeing as how nothing horribly tragic that was out of my control has happened to me or my loved ones, I've totally controlled it. I haven't always liked the outcome (or the options I had to choose from for that matter), but I made the choices

10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? Depends on what we're talking about. I get easily sucked into society's idea of "what's right" or the "right" order to do things

11. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do? I let them know they're off base

12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Laugh. Even when you don't feel like it

13. Would you break the law to save a loved one? Save them from what? To save their life...absolutely

14. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Uh, no, not really. I have seen "a little off" turn into "bat shit crazy", does that count?

15. What’s something you know you do differently than most people? I'm often singing a song in my head and also doing some sort of math problem (song about 95% of the time, math about 50%...they often overlap)

16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy? Because our experiences shape who we are and everyone has had different experiences.

17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back? Visit all 50 states. Money.

18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? Most definitely (and I ain't sharing it here)

19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? Texas, because it's home.

20. Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? Nope and nope. In fact, I saw a special about elevators on Nova or something and they said the "close doors" button never works on elevators....only there to give you the perception of having some control.

21. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton? To be perfectly blunt, I'm living out the worried genius part and the stomach pains, headaches and insomnia are a bit much, but I like being able to figure things out quickly and remember them with little effort.

22. Why are you, you? Because I have done what I've done and assimilated the consequences into myself and used them to make future choices.

23. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend? Recently, yes. Pre-college days, not so much.

24. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you? Moving's more a forced situation. Losing touch when you're still close by is a choice. Even if the other person pulls away first, you make the choice whether to pursue the friendship or not. If your friend moves, there's not much you can do about it though.

25. What are you most grateful for? That's a pretty tall order. There's a lot I'm grateful for and it's hard to decide on ONE thing at the top of the list. I'm gonna say Joshua...I think it's safe to say I'd be living a VERY different life right now if it weren't for him and aside from the obvious stuff, he's been a very calm, stable influence on me.

That's all for now! The other 25 will come later!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ancient Egypt

We've chosen to follow the classical style of teaching history, which means we are going roughly in chronological order. You spend 4 years working through history (ancient history, middle ages, early modern, modern) and then go back to the beginning and start all over again, but in more detail. For our first pass through, we're using Usborne books (though I'm planning to switch to the science curriculum from Pandia Press and might try out their history too).

We've worked our way through the prehistoric times and Mesopotamia and it's time to move on to Ancient Egypt. Sierra's been excited to get to this part and has already read one book on Egyptian History on her own, so I wanted to included a lot of extras for this one. I've set aside 6 weeks to spend and here are some of the activities we'll be including:

Your very own Rosetta Stone: I wrote down a message that had to do with our family history, then I came up with a short story that included all of the words in my original message. I created a symbol for each word in that short story (phonetically; things like to, too and two have the same symbol). Then on one page I wrote the story along with the symbols and on another page, she has the original message written in just symbols. She'll use her "Rosetta stone" to decode the message.

Make a pyramid: I'm not entirely sure she gets what a pyramid actually looks like from the 2D pictures in a book, so I'm going to print out these on heavier paper and let her cut them out, and fold and glue them into a pyramid shape.

Mummify a barbie: We'll follow the directions on this site to learn a little more about mummification. Update: Here is the post showing Sierra making her mummy.

Mummify an apple: We'll follow the directions on this site to both tie in a lesson on scientific process and gain a visual understanding of the dessication step of mummification

Try food from Egypt: I'm not sure what we'll make yet, but I think we'll try something with dates (maybe these candies) and maybe some more recent food, probably hummus since she has decided she likes chick peas. She'll help me make everything and we'll all try it. Update: I posted a tutorial on how to make the date candies later on in the blog.

Make "papyrus" from construction paper: I found this website (there are a few pop ups through that link, you probably want to have a pop up blocker if you visit) that gives directions on making your own papyrus with river reeds, but we'll be using the easier construction paper method they give at the end of the article.

Crossword Puzzle: A fun way to review the information, I found an Egypt crossword puzzle on the SeaWorld website, of all places.

Find the area on the globe: We've been doing this all along. We always get the globe down while we're reading from the history book and I point out the area we're talking about. For Egypt, I'll also be giving her an outline map and having her draw in the Nile River, Memphis, Giza and Rosetta.

Time line: I still haven't started a time line, but I really think she needs it. Whenever I read something like 1800bc, I tell her, "that was about 4,000 years ago" and she has some idea of how big a number that is from her math lessons, but I think she needs something more concrete. I've heard of the Sonlight time lines and mostly liked the idea, but I'm hoping the time line Pandia Press is releasing soon will be just right.

It's going to be a busy 6 weeks, but I think we'll have lots of fun!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Online Bake Sale

Well here's an idea I haven't heard of online bake sale!! My friend, Elizabeth, is providing one of the items in another blogger's online bake sale. The bake sale is her way of meeting her Team In Training fundraising goal for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A great cause and yummy food! It's a win-win! Check it out, auction takes place January 31!

101 Goals: #74

In my 101 Goals, #74 is to learn how to edit and post videos from my new playsport camera. I'm halfway there! I got the software on my computer and figured out how to download the videos from the camera, get them on youtube and post them here. It's gonna take actually reading an instruction manual for me to understand how to do the editing. In the meantime, you can see and hear a few baby coos (I hope)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Fried" Pies

Got a phone call from my doctor about that gallbladder ultrasound. The verdict is no surgery for now. I can do a HIDA scan if I want, but I declined because I have not had any attacks and have felt better since she had me start taking pepcid every day. I want to put off doing anything else as long as I'm doing okay and she agrees that's a good idea. Also, one reason gallbladder issues can come up is because your body does weird things with cholesterol when you're pregnant. Because of that, I should have at least some improvement as my hormones level out more. In the meantime, I'm still be pretty careful with my diet. I still eat things like pizza and chocolate, but I don't have large quantities of fatty foods in one sitting. I figure after I go two weeks without an attack, I'll push the envelope a little.

So I was craving sweets the other night and a chocolate bar isn't on the safe list yet, so I decided to make "fried" pies out of the Rather Sweet Cookbook. Again, I won't be sharing the actual recipe because I'm not sure of copyright issues, but really, we're talking a regular pie crust and jam, I'm sure you could find something very similar out there.

Start out by mixing the dry ingredients in a food processor (or you can do it by hand, but food processor is much easier) Add in butter straight from the fridge that's been cut into 1/2" chunks Process until it resembles sand and dump it all into a bowlAdd ice cold water and gently mix (this is like the kolaches, if you overwork the dough, it's gonna end up tough. A light touch is very important) Separate into three balls Working with one ball of dough at a time, roll out to about 1/16" thickness Cut into approximately 5-6" rounds Put 1/2-1tbsp jam in the center of each circle (I used the same cherry jam we had used for the kolaches) Wet the edge of the dough with water (actually, an egg wash would probably seal better) and fold in half, press the edges with a fork, and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet Bake until lightly browned (about 10-15 minutes) and snap photos of your oldest reading books to your youngest When the pies are done, marvel at all the nicely sealed pies that are no longer nicely sealed. Sigh and realize this just isn't your week for things turning out right and be thankful your family is more concerned with taste than looks. While still hot, brush with a basic powdered sugar and milk glaze.

Tasty tasty eating and actually not all that bad for you (as far as fat and sugar are concerned...not a ton of vitamins either though).
Tempt my Tummy Tuesdays

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Sewing Non-Tutorial

Welcome to the "How to Make a Kindle Cover" FAIL edition!

I had grand plans of making my own Kindle Cover and sharing a how-to with you, but I screwed up (in multiple ways), so look at this as more of a starting point combined with a "what not to do".

My goal was to make an easel style cover that would acommodate the M-Edge light. I'm not going to bother with all the measurements, because mine weren't right.

Things started out promising.

I wanted a tab to fold over the bottom and keep the case closed when not in use and also serve as a support to help keep the cover from just sliding open when it was in "easel mode". So I cut two pieces of fabric the same size and sewed a piece of the hook side of velcro on one of them Then I laid the other piece on top (right sides together) and sewed around three sides Flipped the whole thing right side out And sewed around it all with a very narrow seam allowance to give a nice edge

My cover was to be made up of one long pocket of fabric stuffed a stiffener, so next I sewed a piece of the loop side of velcro onto one of those so I'd have somewhere to attach my tab
Another key feature I wanted was a pocket to hold the light. I cut a piece of my fabric that was just slightly bigger than the tab on the light. I folded the edges under and pressed them. And my fabric melted. Take a break to play with the smiling baby. Ignore my double chin...I inherited (as did Sedona) the lack of a chin from my mother, whataya gonna do?

Back at the sewing table, I had a feeling things were headed downhill, so I just grabbed the nearest non-melty fabric and cut it to the right size (I eye-balled it this time)
I folded under the edges and pressed them Sewed a straight line across each short end so they wouldn't unravel And lined up where I wanted the pocket to go on the finished cover I sewed the pocket along both long sides, keeping both short sides open And this was the last time things were really going my way. The light fits in that pocket perfectly I put my kindle on top along with the elastic I planned to use to hold the kindle in place and noticed Problem #1. My math was way off somewhere and that pocket was too high. This is where things went wrong. Rather than taking the pocket off and sewing it lower (as I should have done), I forged ahead.

I taped my elastic where I wanted it to go (easier than pinning) and put the other piece of fabric on top (right sides together)
This is where things were so derailed, I stopped taking pictures. The short story: sewed around three sides, flipped it right side out and discovered Problem #2 My top elastic was too loose, I should've stretched it a little while sewing. And Problem #3 My bottom elastics were too short, they needed to be longer and higher up so they'd hold the kindle better. Keeping with that forge ahead mentality, I just sewed another elastic on there (which isn't at all neat...the ends aren't tucked into the seam now, not to mention there's not really anything holding the bottom of the kindle now). And Problem #4 I didn't make the cover wide enough to accommodate the width of the battery case on the light.

Still forging ahead, I put my stiffeners in there (I used cardboard from a diaper box: one piece for the back, one piece for the top and one piece for the front). I was on the right track here. I left space at the top of the kindle to fold the light over the top and I made the top stiffener wide enough to accommodate the width of the light. I slid in the back piece, sewed a seam as close to the top edge of that piece as I could get, slid in the top piece and sewed a seam as close to that as I could get, and then slid in the front piece. At that point, I should have folded in the top edges, slid my velcro tab in the middle and sewed across it. I knew the project was a bust at this point though, so I didn't bother folding them in and they'll probably fray horribly by tomorrow.

Because I didn't move that pocket, I ended up with my front piece being too short. Here's the finished product

And with it opened
And here it is in easel mode. Since the front piece is so short, my tab won't reach back to velcro and hold the keep the easel from sliding open

But it actually manages to stay open anyway
Overall, my theory was good, but my math was off. Actually, if I'd just moved that pocket lower when I realized it was too high and sewed the bottom elastic a little differently. Oh, and made it wider. Then, it would've been fine. All minor things really, but with 3 kids to look after, it took a long time to get all this done (all in one or two steps at a time), so I'm pretty frustrated with it. I'll probably try again (with a different fabric...I didn't like working with that stuff).

P.S. Grandma keeps asking if my kids are still alive. Yes, they are and we got along mostly okay for the weekend. We have changed up some of our rewards/punishments with the accountable kids program and I made a sign laying out the new guidelines we discussed (Sierra helped come up with it), complete with pictures for Sedona's sake, and we're starting fresh today.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

101 Goals in 1001 Days

Apparently this 101 in 1001 thing has been around for a couple of years, but I'd never heard of it. I know it's kinda cheesy, but I embrace my dorkiness and since you read here, you probably find it at least a little interesting too.

Start Date: January 23, 2011
End Date: October 20, 2013 (according to this site I'm not bothering to double check)

Rules: Goals must be attainable, but take some effort to achieve

Progress: 46/101 goals completed  12/101 goals in progress  1001/1001 days (100.0%) updated 10/20/13

Not yet attempted
In progress

1. Run 5K without walking
2. Drink 64oz of water a day everyday for a week (0/7)
3. Do a sprint distance triathlon 7/2013
4. Get a massage at least an hour long 5/12/11
5. Be in bed with the lights off by 10pm every night for one week (0/7)
6. Be in bed with the lights off by 12am every night for one month (30/30) 2011
7. Avoid all carbonated drinks for 26 weeks (26/26) 2011
8. Complete 2011 goal #3 (the postpartum tone-up) 12/15/2011
9. Get my eyes checked and get new glasses 5/2012
10. Sleep 8 hours straight 2/9/11

11. Read 5 books from the 2000-2009 banned/challenged books list I haven't read before (5/5) The Giver (#1), The Fighting Ground (#3), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife
12. Re-certify my IBCLC
13. Write a bucket list
14. Get 10 book suggestions and read them (11/10) Game of Thrones (read first 5 books), Nurture Shock, The Help, Lone Survivor, Delirium, The Orphan Train, Matched,
15. Re-read the Harry Potter Series (7/7) 2011 booklist
16. Read a non-fiction book from a viewpoint I disagree with Why We Get Fat
17. Buy (and start using) one of the Rosetta Stone programs bought Spanish and through Level 1
18. Donate 10,000 grains of rice through
19. Read 20 books from the Best 100 Novels list that I haven’t read before (1/20) The Poisonwood Bible,
20. Learn to identify 5 constellations (0/5)
21. Visit 3 museums (0/3)
22. Take the kids to the Spectrum Discovery Area at UM 6/18/11
23. Read the Little House on the Prairie Books to Sierra (2/9)
24. Change the oil in the car myself

25. Make a souffle
26. Make 15 new recipes from the Rather Sweet Cookbook (1/15) cafe chocolate cherry bites, creme brulee french toast casserole,
27. Make pasta from scratch
28. Home can 50 quarts of food (59.75/50) (stopped tracking in July 2012) bread and butter jalapenos; fig jam; carrot cake jam; carrots; pepper relish jam; refrigerator dill pickles; quick dill pickles; bread and butter pickles; blueberry jam; applesauce; strawberry jam; sweet potatoes
29. Make bagels from scratch
30. Cook an all Farmer's Market meal
31. Create a good hot chocolate mix

32. Have a child free weekend with Josh for our 10th anniversary
33. Take a family trip to Disney World or Disney Land September 2011
34. Take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine August 2012
35. Visit 2 states I've never been to (1/2) South Dakota
36. Visit another country
37. Go camping with all the kids
38. Update my passport with my married name Not possible, need replacement goal
39. Renew my passport when it expires paperwork mailed 6/7/2011
40. Get passports for each of the girls
41. Visit 3 new National Parks (2/3) Mt. Rushmore, Devil's Tower
42. Go on a girl's weekend with friends

43. Mindfully accumulate 4 months of food storage
44. Live off food storage for one month (no grocery shopping)
45. Don't eat out for one month (different month than the goal above)
46. Pay off at least 75% of the ACS student loan (6.6/75) Revised: Pay off at least 15% of the original principle balance of the mortgage (7.06/15)
47. Complete 2011 goal #1 (save 10% of annual income in emergency fund) 12/22/11
48. Have a garage sale March 3, 2012

49. Start a journal to each of the girls
50. Watch the sunrise with the kids
51. Have an entire girl's day with just Sierra
52. Have an entire girl's day with just Sedona
53. Make silhouettes of each of the girls (3/3)
54. Have "the talk" with Sierra May 2012
55. Write out Secora's birth story post is here
56. Hike 3 trails with the kids that are at least 1/2 mile long each (2/3) North Window, Arches Dino Park
57. Go camping with the girls at a primitive, hike in campsite
58. Take a picture of each girl once a month and make a slide show at the end showing the progression (9/34)
59. Order Secora's birth certificate received June 2011
60. Teach Sierra how to shoot a BB gun December 2011
61. Take Sierra (and maybe Sedona, depending on how old/calm she is) to see The Nutcracker Tickets purchased for December 2013

62. Organize the older picture files on my computer, delete duplicates
63. Scan and organize pictures of Josh and I as kids
64. Make a will
65. Collect pictures of the women in my maternal family line and make a scrapbook
66. Organize my Cook's Country Magazines

67. Finish the full sized quilt May 2011
68. Finish the king sized quilt October 2013
69. Take a photography class
70. Get at least one ad on the blog, not counting adsense June 2011
71. Make a cover for the Kindle bought one instead
72. Buy a fabric I love and make something with it
73. Blog about each item as it's completed (34/101)
74. Learn how to edit and post videos from my Playsport camera Jan and Feb 2011
75. Photograph the alphabet
76. Photograph a day in the life
77. Participate on Book Crossing May 2012
78. Make soap
79. Go to a sports event
80. Try to make yarn
81. Buy a tripod Found one I didn't know we had!

Things to buy
82. Go to a real salon and pay to have my hair actually styled (in a style I can repeat) Had it colored purple!
83. Buy (or make) a headboard for our bed
84. Buy a new mattress
85. Buy all new underwear
86. Buy new make up
87. Buy a decent couch
88. Go out for sushi
89. Buy good silverware received some instead
90. Buy fresh flowers at the farmer’s market

91. Answer the 50 questions that will free your mind in blog posts (50/50) 1-25 26-50
92. Go on 3 picnics as a family (not including camping) (2/3) June 4, 2011September 2012
93. Move back to Texas August 2011
94. Send an unexpected care package to someone Done, but I can't say when or who b/c we chose to stay anonymous.
95. Hang a hammock and read a book in it
96. Clean out my email inbox
97. Wear earrings and a necklace every day for one month (0/30)
98. Send Josh’s ring to have the diamond replaced
99. Watch 10 movies I haven’t seen from the AFI 100 list
100. Get 3,000 blog hits in one month multiple months
101. Go to a First Friday

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Beast Has Awoken

In dealing with clients, I often mention the "fourth trimester". It's a term I learned from one of my early teachers and it means the first 3 months after a baby is born. The baby needs the fourth trimester to adjust to the world around them and the parents need the fourth trimester to adjust to realities of being completely responsible for another little life. During the fourth trimester, my personal parenting philosophy is to mimic pregnancy as much as possible. This little being is used to being warm, rocked, soothed and fed 24/7, and I try to be understanding of that and ease them into the world a little bit.

Secora is nearing the end of her fourth trimester though. She's less "newborn" and more "infant". That means she's much more awake. I learned years ago that babies are pretty much totally pooped out once they've been awake for 2 hours. I never scheduled my babies, but I did pay attention to when they woke up and then helped them get down for a nap about 2 hours later. Secora is in that stage now (if you don't help her nap, she'll stay awake and get fussier and fussier).

And that's all well and good. Except that she's the third baby. She has two older sisters that do not nap every 2 hours. We're having a bit of an adjustment while Sedona learns that you need to be quiet while a baby is napping (at least a little bit). Good thing this stage also means more smiling and cooing to melt the frustration away!

Post-edit. Or, pre- post-edit. Or, too damn tired to rewrite the thing: I wrote this Friday morning and scheduled it to post on Saturday. And then Friday afternoon rolled around and all the baby smiles and coos in the world wouldn't have been enough to put a dent in the frustration. Back around Christmas time I saw the following on a blog I read regularly, "May your legs remember to walk away before your mouth loses its loving voice." Yeah, well, my legs forgot. After many many many reminders to be quiet and many many many reminders to put away what they had gotten out, I was greeted with two children sliding across the floor in a laundry basket and when I asked where their dirty clothes were, I walked into their room to find virtually everything they own thrown on the floor--every piece of dress up clothes, most of the clothes out of their drawers, most of their toys. It looked like a bomb had gone off. And then I saw it. The green playdoh crumbled into a thousand pieces on their carpet. They aren't even supposed to have playdoh downstairs (and they know it), I don't know where they even had that hidden out. And when I asked Sierra, "what did I tell you just this morning?" she immediately responded with "put each thing away when we're done with it" and when I asked if playdoh was allowed, she said, "no" and I asked why and she said, "because it gets stuck in the carpet and won't come out". So at least one of them KNEW they were doing exactly what they shouldn't be doing and did it anyway. It was a straw that broke the camel's back moment and I completely lost my shit. Yeah, I said it. Because it's true. And don't bother telling me if you've never had that day with small children, because I won't believe you anyway. I had the where with all to stay away from them, but "loving voice", "age appropriate punishment" and "take a deep breath and count to 10" were all out the window. There was yelling. Lots and lots of yelling. Here's to hoping for a better weekend :-/

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I'm All Sludgy

I had my ultrasound Thursday. No gallstones (yay!), lots of "sludge" (boo!). I won't hear from the doc until the radiologist looks at the ultrasound, writes a report and sends it to my doctor, but the ultrasound tech said my gallbladder looked sickly and she thinks they'll want to take it out. I realize that's the typical course of action, but I've also read that if you have your gallbladder out and there aren't any stones, you're more likely to continue having symptoms after the gallbladder's out (i.e. it was never the gallbladder causing the problems). I looked up some research articles specific to sludge, pregnancy and treatment options. I never had any problems with the right-sided pain before this last pregnancy, so I think that's a key factor to consider. What I found is that it's fairly common (somewhere around 30%) to develop sludge in the gallbladder during pregnancy and it's actually more common in women who aren't overweight, for some reason. I also found that it's fairly common for the sludge to go away on it's own in the postpartum period (one study I read looked at women between 1 and 10 months postpartum and 71% of them didn't have the sludge anymore even though they hadn't been treated). Also, sludge contains itty bitty stones and if it forms during pregnancy, those stones tend to be cholesterol stones, which can be dissolved with medication. The kicker for me is that my symptoms aren't necessarily gallbladder pain (a lot of people have sludge and even all out gallstones without any symptoms or problems, ever) and I'd sure hate to take on the risks and side effects of surgery and not fix anything (or possibly make it worse, if the problem is bile reflux, because that can be exacerbated by removing the gallbladder). I suspect I'll end up talking to the doctor, but right now I'm thinking I want to wait it out or possibly try the medication (I've looked it up in my Meds and Mom's Milk book and I'm comfortable with taking it while nursing). Pretty sure that means I'm off red meat and carbonated beverages for the next few months, but I've stopped craving both, so that's fine. That's the diatribe on me!

In other news, the weather has been warming up a little here. We actually stayed above freezing for a few days. And then we got some sun! We usually keep the back room closed off because it's really cold back there, but with the sun shining through, it really warmed up (there are a lot of windows). I'm sure we're all vitamin D deficient, so when I noticed we had sun and the room was actually warm, I undressed Secora and sat with her in the sun for a little while. The big girls came to check it out and were so thrilled to see some natural light and hang out in a warm room!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Accountable Kids

I will be linking up to this week's Homeschool Hints with this post because it seems Accountable Kids is popular in homeschooling circles.

We recently decided to give the Accountable Kids Program a try in our house. I found out about this about 6 months ago and I kept putting off buying it because it seemed too complicated and too expensive to me. Right before Christmas, Josh and I had some gift money to spend and were at the end of our rope always getting onto the girls for the same things, so we decided to split the cost and use our Christmas money to buy it.

If you're not a regular reader, a little background: we are a homeschooling family. Our oldest child (Sierra) is 6 and the middle one (Sedona) is 3. The accountable kids program is marketed to be used with children ages 3-14.

First, a basic run down of the program. I know it's going to sound complicated, it sounded complicated to me too, but the accountable kids book is 200 pages long and lays out everything step by step with lots of suggestions for how to make it work better for your family. Also, we took the book's advice and did not implement every step of the program at once. Especially with having younger kids, I think this helped us out. We only did Step 1 for the first week, then added in a step each week after that.

The set up: Each child has a board with pegs on it. These pegs hold all of their cards. There are basic chore cards, extra chore cards, tickets, bonus bucks, best behavior cards, privilege passes and a special date card.

How The Program Works:

Step One: First, you assign each child basic chores. The chores are divided into morning, afternoon and evening chores (the cards are made so you can color code them). The book suggests starting out with basic things the child is already doing and that's what we did. For the morning, each girl is expected to eat breakfast, get dressed, brush their hair and brush their teeth. For the afternoon, each one is expected to eat lunch, do their schoolwork, and have quiet time. For the evening, each one is expected to eat dinner, pick up their toys, change into their pjs, put their dirty clothes in the dirty clothes hamper and brush their teeth. In addition to these, Sierra (who's 6) also has to wipe down the bathroom sink in the morning, read in the afternoon, and wipe down the table in the evening. One of the keys to the program is the child becomes responsible for their own chores. The parent isn't supposed to remind the child to do things, that's what they have the cards on their peg board for. As they complete a chore, they move that card onto the "finished peg". When they are done with all of their morning chores (or afternoon, or evening), they come to us and ask for a ticket. Again, the parent isn't supposed to remind them, it's their job to ask for it. There is a peg on their board for hanging tickets. Tickets are used to buy privileges and it's suggested to use activities that the kids are currently getting for "free" that you want them to understand is a privilege, not a right. We have been talking about reworking our ticketed activities, but right now a ticket can be spent to watch TV, ride their scooters for 15 minutes, play outside for 20 minutes (this one won't be around in the summer, but when it's 15 degrees outside, going out is a major ordeal and just doesn't happen on a regular basis), hold Secora, or play a game alone with momma or daddy. You can post a list of these privileges if the kids have trouble remembering them. Children can also LOSE tickets for poor behavior. Around here, that's screaming in the house, throwing a fit when they're asked to do something, or being mean to anyone (including the dog). The first few days, you offer some prompts and reminders, but after that, they're on their own to make choices about earning, keeping and spending tickets. The children also earn Best Behavior Cards at this point. Best Behavior Cards are an intermittent give them out when the children display behaviors you like, but it has to be a surprise to them. You don't tell them, "if you do xyz, you get a best behavior card" and you don't give one out every time they do a certain thing. The idea is to somewhat randomly reward them so they display good behavior all the time (well, most of the time ;-) because they never know when that best behavior card is going to show up. They use these just like tickets.

Step Two: Once the kids are doing well with step one and have the hang of the program, it's time to add in Step Two. This is when the privilege pass and special date card are introduced. The privilege pass is used to stamp out a specific negative behavior. You explain your expectation to the child and they can earn a privilege pass for meeting those expectations. Right now, Sedona is working on going down for a nap without stalling or throwing any fits. Sierra is working on eating dinner in a polite manner without complaining about the food. If they do these things as expected, they get a privilege pass, which allows them a special privilege (for Sierra it's computer time, for Sedona is Wii time), or they can spend it like a regular ticket if they choose too. The special date card is to teach them long term rewards. For each day that they do ALL of their basic chores, they get a star on the special date card. After they collect 10 stars, they get a special one on one date with momma or daddy. The special date doesn't have to cost money, but so far we've done dessert at a local cafe for those.

Step Three: Once the children are comfortable with steps one and two, it's time to add in step three: extra chores and bonus bucks. For the extra chores, parents choose some chores and designate them as daily or weekly. The children choose if they want to do these chores or not. For Sierra, her daily extra chore is wiping the kitchen counters and her weekly extra chores are helping vacuum (cleaning out the roomba when it's full) and doing her and Sedona's laundry. For Sedona, her daily extra chore is sweeping the kitchen (we got a child sized broom and it's a small kitchen) and her weekly chores are cleaning her and Sierra's room and dusting. If the children do these extra chores AND they've done all of their basic chores for the day, they earn a bonus buck. The bonus bucks are traded in once a week. For older children, you might pay a certain amount of money for each bonus buck (and help the child learn about budgeting, saving and spending wisely). Since our girls are still pretty young, we're going with a basket system...we have some items they like in a basket (including some money) and they get to "shop" from the basket with their bonus bucks at the end of the week.

Step Four: The last step to add in is the family forum. This is time for everyone to sit down together and discuss problems, concerns or successes. Step Four is also when you enact "quiet time" (for EVERYONE in the family), but since Sedona is still take naps, we are just building quiet time into the afternoon basic chores right now.

How Accountable Kids Has Worked For Us:

Week 1: The start of the program was rough. When we told the girls about it, Sierra was very excited. The first morning she had a breakdown though because she had only earned one ticket and she chose to spend it riding her scooter because Sedona was spending HER'S to ride her scooter. When scooter time was over and Sierra couldn't watch TV, she was very upset. By the evening she had figured it out and was good to go though. Sedona also needed A LOT of reminders in the early days. She also spent her tickets as soon as she earned each one at first, so we couldn't use taking tickets as a discipline tactic with her. By the end of the week, they were catching on though. Sierra was doing all of her chores independently and was also prompting Sedona at times when she forgot.

Weeks 2 and 3: We added in step 2. Sierra started to choose to give up a ticket because she didn't like wiping down the table after dinner, but that stopped when we instituted the special date card and she realized Sedona was going to earn a date before she did. Sedona still needs prompting to do her chores. I'm not sure if this is strictly because of her age or because we don't have the right rewards for her. Because the girls are doing their chores, but not earning many best behavior cards and continually losing tickets for the same negative behaviors, we chose to change the rules on the special date card after they had each earned one date. Now they only earn a star if they do all of their basic chores AND they don't lose a ticket for the day.

Week 4: We added in step 3. The girls were very excited to earn bonus bucks at first, but turns out those extra chores weren't so fun when they needed to be done on a regular basis. They have not earned many bonus bucks yet, but we haven't done our first cash in. I suspect they will pick up the pace when it's more tangible for them. I think I will also take the advice offered in the book and leave the basket of goodies out where they can see what they're working towards. In the future (probably right when we're ready to switch over to just paying them for bonus bucks) I will also probably start putting some high ticket items in games they've asked for, etc... that require them to really work hard and save up the bucks. Sedona also started taking her tickets off her board and leaving them around the house (a key part of the program is having the boards accessible to the kids), so we've instituted the rule that if I see a ticket and it's not on someone's board, it's my ticket. Now that she's losing all those, she's not doing it as often.

My overall review:

I'm liking the program, but it will take us a little longer to really get it dialed in for our kids. I think this is partly because of their age. I think it has been much more effective for Sierra than Sedona, and I'm not sure how well Sedona would do with it if she didn't have an older sibling around to set an example. I think the program is just fine for 3 year olds, but perhaps it would go smoother if the oldest sibling in the house is 5 or 6. The packaged deal on the website is well worth the money. There are a ton of color coded chore cards that would take you a long time to produce on your own. The book is also much more involved and helpful than it appears to be from looking at the website. I was expecting a rinky dink work book, but it's well written and very helpful. For instance, the beginning of the book talks about age appropriate expectations and there are even a few little tasks to help you "test" if your child is in the pre-operational or operational developmental stage. From the descriptions, I would've guessed Sierra was in the operational stage, but her answers to the little tests REALLY surprised me, and she's really kind of right on the line, but definitely not fully in the operational stage yet. Knowing that helped me adjust my expectations and how we implemented the program.

Another thing I like is they give you suggestions for how to make the program fit your family. There aren't a lot of hard and fast rules, there are a lot of ideas, but only the bare bones of the program have "rules", the rest you fit to your lifestyle.

The program has definitely helped us teach the girls to take more responsibility for their own actions and think about their choices. We will keep using it and adjust things as necessary as the girls get older. Overall, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure: Accountable Kids has a program that allows bloggers to review the program after using it in their homes for 30 days and receive up to a 50% rebate on their purchase. We purchased the Basic Kit with an Additional Child Kit. We have used the program for 30 days and all opinions above are my own.

Art Time

Josh and I both have science degrees, so we tend to lean towards math and science topics when we're teaching the girls. I have to really make an effort to pull in some art sometimes. The girls worked on a little project they had a lot of fun with over the last few days though. First, I drew their names in big block letters on poster board and let them paint them. Then, on another day, I gave them glue and a bunch of random things to decorate with and let them have at it. Small tip: Cotton swabs work great as "paintbrushes" for liquid glue, just cut one end off to minimize mess (if there are two tips, you can be sure a preschooler will dip both in the glue).

You'll notice we have a very strict dress code in our school. Sedona's in a fairy dress, with green flannel PJ bottoms and Sierra's in a ballet leotard with purple sweatpants.

While the big girls glued to their heart's content, I got the week's lessons together (which should've been done already, but there was that little "excruciating pain" thing over the weekend that kinda held me back) and Secora studied up on her ancient history.

When the girls were done, we left their pictures to dry. Sierra decided to cut up some of her postcards to use. I like her whole "claw mark motif" thing going on at the top there. And you may be able to tell all of the supplies were on the right side of Sedona's picture...she carefully glued one item on each letter of her name, then it's like she got to the S and just dumped the rest on. She did mention she was glad she had some 3's to use, because she's 3.

And I may be certifiably insane, but I've been letting Sierra take a few pictures (we only have the DSLR now, so this involves trusting her not to drop a camera worth several hundred dollars). She wants her own DSLR...yeah, maybe in 5 or 10 years if I ever upgrade.


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