Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to School and Fun with Schedules!

Well, we've given up on the lazy days of summer, and moved on to life in First Grade.  Today is Natalie's first day of First Grade =)  Which is WAY less emotional since we homeschool.  As much as my kids can drive me crazy, just the thought of sending them away to school makes my heart hurt. 

I've mentioned before that this particular pregnancy has turned me into an organization junkie, especially since I've been in the second trimester.  So, I've been organizing everything I can get my hands on over here.  I emptied and cleaned out the school cabinet, organized it with new school supplies, got all of our bills and home paper work in order, set up a new filing system for the school year, and set up a household binder.

Here are the before and after pics for the school cabinet:

  The household binder idea comes from a cute little blog called Family Fun Notebook.  It has a section for a calendar, our schedule, school & co-op information, meals & recipes, household chores, grocery lists, and things we need to keep track of for our farm animals.  The only thing that I am still working on is a daily schedule.  While I like my stuff to be organized and look nice and neat (in theory, anyway...in practice it is a different story), my use of time is no so much in the same boat.  I like making colorful, pretty-looking schedules and chore charts on the computer, but I really struggle sticking to them.  So, I've been checking out schedules on other blogs and asking friends how they run their days, and I think I may have something that will work for now.  My schedule tends to change and adjust often, because with little ones, it's hard to keep the same pace all the time...especially when new babies come, and you throw in nursing, diaper changes, and naps at random times throughout the day.  So, after perusing different resources, I've come to realize a few very important things about making a schedule:

1.  There is no absolutely correct way to make a schedule.
2.  While there is no one right way to schedule your day, there is only one correct way to start your day:  on your knees in prayer!
3.  Your schedule should be flexible, easily adjustable, and not too rigid.  I actually read a book that recommended you put a spot in your schedule called "do something spontaneous"!  Really?!  It's not spontaneous if it's on the schedule...The majority of the time, I try to stick to my schedule, but I have no problems dropping everything from time to time to go do something fun when a friend calls; or, when the kids obviously need a break from the regular routine of life, to just stop and be with them (maybe read books on the couch for an hour, go to the park, or go have a picnic outside); or, if I'm just lazy that day.... 
4.  You should start your day as early as possible, without compromising Mom's need for adequate rest (so, if you want to start your day at 5:30 in the morning, by all means, go for it, but make sure you are rested enough to get through the day without unleashing wrath on everyone due to lack of sleep...be reasonable on this one).
5.  Schedules should fit the family, not the other way around.  It's not about changing your entire family life for the sake of a schedule, but finding a schedule that fits the family, and keeps everyone on task.  A schedule should help everyone find the best and most efficient use of time without adding undue stress. 

So, there you go!  My rules and tips on schedules that I always follow.  And, in case you are wondering, the schedule I came up with is not locked into specific times.  It flows more like this:  as soon as we wake up, we say morning prayers, make the beds, and have breakfast.  After breakfast, we clean the kitchen, tidy up toys/bedrooms, get dressed, brush hair & teeth, and start laundry.  And, so on.  Now, we do get up at the same time each morning, and start school at the same time each day, and try to get the kids in bed by a  certain time...outside of that, it's goes more like this:  after item A is finished, move on to the next...whatever time it happens to be is fine with me, as long as it gets done according to my standards (standards depend on the age of the person doing a certain task, of course).  Oh, and during the summer and on holidays, my schedule is tossed out the window!  I still have a routine, to save us from going insane, but it's way more lax than when we are in school.  

As far as curriculum goes, we decided to go with Our Lady of the Rosary Homeschool.  So far, I think I like it.  The content is very good...it's a very traditional Catholic approach, including the Latin Mass, but until I've had a chance to really implement everything, I can't give an adequate review just yet.  It's definitely not as well-laid out and planned as say, Seton, but I really like the texts and materials.  So, while I think it will take a little bit more planning and time on my part to get everything into my lesson plan book, I think the effort will be worth it for the type of education my kids will receive from it.  But, again, like with my schedule, I have no problems re-evaluating as the year goes on and changing if need be.  

I found this really neat site that laid out a homeschool file system that I am implementing this year.  I think it will really help me save time, and stay on task.  You can see the full explanation of how the system works here at the Springs of Joy Homeschooling Blog.  I didn't do it exactly like she did, but I followed the basic concept.  For one, I only have 9 weeks at a time in my file box, instead of the whole year.  After each quarter is over, I'll reload the box for the next quarter.  I also don't have files for the Liturgical Seasons...if there is something special I want to do for that, I'll just put the stuff in the weekly folder that it goes in.  Basically, I have 9 folders each for Natalie and Andrew (1 for each week of the quarter), and I put everything in the weekly folder that they need to do that week.  Natalie's has workbook pages, loose leaf paper for writing out spelling words, blank sheets for painting, etc...If it wasn't something I could rip out of a workbook and put in the folder (like a text book or reader), I put that under her desk.  Andrew's just has a few things in his in case he wants to "do school".  I give him the option, because he's only 3.  Sometimes he wants to sit and color, or do an activity sheet, but not always.  This morning, he joined in about halfway through.  I bought a Pre-K book at Target for him, and I have a bunch of alphabet and number sheets that I use for his folders.  I also keep my teacher files in there:  my lesson plan book, spelling lists, quarterly exams, grading sheets...and, in the back, is a folder for completed work.  At the end of the quarter, all the weekly folders should be empty, and the completed work folder full, so I'll just empty out the completed work folder, put it in a separate labeled file in case I need it later for records, and then refill the box with stuff for the next quarter.

Here is my 9-week file box:
And the tabs (I need to add tabs for weeks 8 & 9):

  On Sundays, I take out the file for the coming week, and put it in a portfolio with tabs for each day of the week (so everything for Monday goes under the Monday tab, etc..)...that way, each day, she can just go to town on her workbook pages after I have presented the lessons for each subject.

Here is Ms. Natalie with her weekly work folder:
**please note the Holy Family in the picture..she chose that page for the picture because of Them =)

And, here is all three of them for Natalie's first day of First Grade!:
**please note the toothbrushes...Andrew was quite adamant about being able to see them in the picture...it's the only reason he agreed to be in it in the first place...boys!

And, Ms. Rachel...that little girls is quite the studious one ;)

Her very first masterpiece =) 

Now, I just need a name for our little school!  And, hopefully my motivation stays high...I'm good about staying on track in the beginning, but once I start losing steam, and have to rely on my own self-discipline, that's when the trouble starts....

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Still Learning How to Pray

I sat down this morning read the daily Gospel passage (please note, while this *should* be a regular, daily occurrence for me, it's not, and I am most certainly a work in progress when it comes to being a good Catholic).  The older two kids were outside with their Daddy, and Rachel was playing quietly, so it was nice and quiet for a change.  About halfway through the passage, I look over at Rachel, and she's sitting by the bookshelf, intently looking at a book...one of her favorite past times =)  I can't help myself, so I stop reading my Bible, and just watch her.  I notice how she turns the pages; the facial expressions she has at each page; how she stops at a page now and then, and her eyes move up and down over the pictures; the way she uses her little feet to help prop the book up.  After a few minutes, she looks up and sees me watching her.  So, she gets up, smiles, walks over to me, and climbs in my lap for me to look at the book with her.  I don't say anything..I just let her sit in my lap and turn the pages for her.  She cuddles close to me, babbles about something, and just enjoys being held.  Then, she hops down, says "bye", waves and goes on about her business.  The whole scene lasted maybe ten minutes.  While I was watching her, I realized that the way I just interacted with my child is exactly how Christ wants me to interact with Him!  So many times I try to figure out the "right way" to engage in meditation and prayer, but I always end up making it more complicated than it needs to be.  All it takes for a good meditation to occur is for me to just sit there and look at Christ.  Read a passage of the Gospel, then just look at it...the way Christ talked to others; the words He chose to use; the expression that may have been on His face; the emotion that was in His Sacred Heart; how He used His hands to heal and comfort; things He said to guide and correct our faults.  No words are necessary on my part.  And, if I'm lucky and sit still long enough, maybe He'll notice me watching Him, and He will smile and come sit with me, and speak to my soul.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seven Years and Still Going Strong!

Today is my husband and my's seventh wedding anniversary =)  In so many ways, it feels like we've known each other forever, but then in others, it feels like we just got married yesterday.  Being married has been better than anything I could have ever expected, and it has truly been the best years of my life.  We've had our share of annoyances and arguments, as any couple does, but for the most part, it has been wonderful!  So, I just wanted to put up a little photo montage of our life as husband and wife.  I've We've been pretty good about keeping up with a photo of the two of us each year on or around our anniversary, and hopefully we can keep up the tradition as the years pass and life gets busier and busier with each added member of our growing family.  

The Blessing of our Marriage:

Dedicating our Marriage to Our Lady:

After the ceremony:

Our first dance as Husband & Wife:

Cutting the cake =)  (sorry it's so light...I had to scan the wedding pics)  Oh, and for the record, the wedding cake was Angel Food-cake (strawberry shortcake)...It's my favorite!:

Our 1st Anniversary (our gift to each other was a new digital camera =)  I was pregnant for our first baby, Natalie:

Our 2nd Anniversary:

Our 3rd Anniversary.  I was pregnant for our second baby, Andrew:

Our 4th Anniversary:

Our 5th Anniversary (outside St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans...we spent our anniversary weekend there)  I was pregnant for our third baby, Rachel:

This last one is actually from Mother's Day, which was 3 months before our 6th anniversary...I'm sure we took one, but it is stuck on our desktop computer which is under the weather with a virus right now...this will have to suffice:

We haven't taken our picture for this year's anniversary...I plan on doing that this weekend when we go out to dinner to celebrate.  In that one, I'll be pregnant for baby number 4, yet to be named =).

Thanks, Phil, for being such an amazing husband and father!  I love you!! 

On My Mind

 I can't meet the needs of all abandoned, starving children in this world, but I can serve and take care of the ones I've been given.
I can't show love and affection to every adult out there who is broken in spirit, but I can give unconditional love and understanding to the man I married before God and His Church.

I can't stop every woman who walks into an abortion clinic from choosing evil, but I can openly and lovingly accept all the gifts of life that God sends to our marriage; whether I am ready for that gift or not.

All I can do to conquer the evil that is around me is to put love there instead.  Some of us are called to larger missionary acts, like Mother Theresa, St. Patrick, or St. Isaac Jogues, but some of us are called to be domestic missionaries.  

Sometimes, I feel so guilty about not being at abortion rallies, or serving in soup kitchens, or adopting orphans.  But, if everyone was out there, doing obvious missionary work, who would raise our children?  They would suffer for our negligence.  Yes, we do need more missionaries out there, but we also need more mothers and fathers who value the idea of moms at home with their children, and raising strong and virtuous apostles, so that the future will have those missionaries who go out into the field.  "The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers are few."  So, my part is to raise laborers.  Hopefully I can fulfill that need well in the eyes of God. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rockin' the Dipes

So, a few weeks ago I did a post about some cloth diaper soap that I wanted to try out.  I ordered some samples, and promised to come back and do a product review.  So, here is my review of Rockin Green Soap.  I tried samples of the soap that is specially formulated for hard water, which we have, in four different scents:  watermelon, green tea, clean, and lavender mint.  First of all, let me say that this soap is amazing when it comes to rinsing.  Every other soap I have tried on my diapers required multiple rinses, but with this soap, the water was free of suds on the first rinse!  This one detail deserves MAJOR props as far as I'm concerned.  It saves water, time, and money, and there's no harsh chemicals, so that gets an A+++ rating in my book.  And, when they are done washing and come out the dryer, they don't have that weird smell like other soaps I've tried.  It wasn't a bad smell, but kind of off, and not fresh or clean.  With this soap, the diapers came out without any scent at all, which was a nice change.  The *only* thing I was disappointed about was that they didn't actually come out smelling like the scent on the package.  The watermelon smelled weird in the package, the clean one didn't have too much scent at all, and both the lavender mint and green tea smelled nice in the package.  Of all four, I liked the green tea the best.  It actually did have a slight fresh scent after one wash.  So, I'm thinking that maybe if I use it for awhile, maybe the scent will kick in.  Or, maybe it's just our water that over powers the natural oils in the detergent, and causes the other soaps to have that weird smell.  I use regular detergent for our clothes, and not all of those make our clothes smell the way it smells in the box.  Oh, I should also mention that after I tried the Hard Rock samples (that's the name of the line of detergent for hard water), they came out with a Hard Rock 2.0 version, so maybe that one will work better, scent wise.  Either way, I highly, highly recommend this detergent if you use cloth diapers.  I've never tried a detergent that works as well as this on my diapers.  I give it 4.5/5.0 stars.  Oh, and another added perk is that they have a rewards program.  You earn points when you purchase items, and once you reach 300 points, you get a free bag of detergent, or you can cash in for other items they sell.  Good stuff!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dirt In All It's Glory!

Humility comes in so many different shapes and sizes.  I know this from personal experience.  Just this morning, in fact, we had a load of dirt delivered to fill in a low spot in our yard.  The problem began when I completely forgot they were coming early to deliver the dirt today - like before 8 a.m.  So, the kids and I were all cozy in my room, still sleeping....heavily (no judgment!  we're on summer break), when I heard this deep "Honk, Honk!"  I woke up, half in a daze, realized who was here, and threw on the first items of clothing I could find that were not pajamas...which means, I was decent enough to be seen, but I SO did not match in any way, shape, or form.  I actually debated about brushing my teeth before going out to direct the guy where to put the dirt, but he just kept honking, so I didn't have time.  So embarrassing!  I guess that's what I get for actually begging God for humility.  Humility always comes in ways I least expect, and in ways I really would rather it not.  Anyway, we now have a nice mountain of dirt in our backyard.  Which means the kids have a new playground...at least until Daddy gets around to spreading out the dirt to fill the low spot.  So, they spent the better part of the morning playing in the sprinkler and playing in the giant dirt pile.  I love these kinds of days!  Where the kids have no other care in the world, besides just enjoying being a kid.  Just simple fun.  It's country living at its finest.

Of course, the aftermath is not near as pretty, but hey, that's what bathtubs are for =)
(this was actually from a couple days ago, when they were playing in non store-bought dirt, but they pretty much looked like this today, as well)

Natalie told me before the dirt arrived that she was particularly excited about digging for dinosaur bones...I'll let you know if she finds anything ;)

Oh, and just for good measure, here's Rachel, watching the cows from our front window.  This was too cute to pass up!  She was actually 'mooing' at the window =):

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