Saturday, August 25, 2012

Homeschool Teacher In-service

This week was Teacher In-service.

Yes, I know we homeschool.

And I am the teacher. Still.

I am preparing for our 10th year of homeschooling. Did you hear what I said? TEN years of homeschooling!!!! I never wanted to homeschooling to begin with, and we are celebrating a decade of schooling at home. Even now, I often wonder how I got here! God's sense of humor I guess!

This year will also see my biggest challenge to date: one child in high school, one child in middle school, one in elementary, and one in Pre-K.

Needless to say, as I am finishing up a week lesson planning, my head is almost spinning around, 360 degrees, like some creepy horror show homeschooling mom.

It goes like this:

Okay, let's get this show on the road! Time to plan high school Biology! Great! Cells, classification, biology stuff. Do I have the lab equipment? Dissection kit? Okay, that should get us through the first month. Done.
Now,  printables on the letter "A", how to tie a shoe, and small-motor manipulatives. Oooo, I must remember to find that recipe on how to make play-dough at home. 
Okay, enough preschool. Moving to elementary history. Ah, this year we are studying the Medieval ages! Fun! Knights, castles, swords, Illuminated manuscripts-joy, joy! making the daily assignment calendar. Ooo that reminds me -
must work in time for Latin for the oldest two. Oh, but we have to schedule around The Young Adult's 3x a week math class.
Oh no! Did I forget about math when I scheduled First Lego League meetings? 
Where is my master calendar? Not that one - the color-coded one!
And the middle schooler must finish up his grammar program. Where is that book?

See my head spinning?

I know - I chose to homeschool! And what is more, I am making an extra effort to be organized. I figure that the more organized I am, the better the big boys can work on their own.

Oh, but I need to find a few lesson plans on The Deerslayer. I hated what we did two years ago.

I am hoping school starting up will not kill my efforts to get in shape. Being tons overweight, in spite of diet and exercise, I have made a bigger effort to ramp up what I am doing to workout. All fine and good. But it really needs to survive school. It sounds so easy - just 30 minutes!

Did I order those math books yet? No, I did not. I do not even want to contemplate how much the school books are costing this year.

 But 30 minutes while doing laundry (never-ending), directing school, and yelling at boys who would rather play Minecraft than decline Latin nouns. Plus, every time I work near the floor, the cat suddenly wants to cuddle with me. Nevertheless, it must work!

Shoot! I have to get those lesson plan for The Hobbit finished up! In less than two weeks, I will have 15 middle school coop students waiting for me to dazzle them with Tolkien!

Ah! One more week of planning! Buh-bye, summer 2012!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Holy Birthday, Batman!

First, let me make it clear that today's post has nothing to do with Batman. I think.... I never know where I'll end up, though!

Today is my birthday!
  • Yea! Birthdays are FUN! Birthdays mean good food, cake, and (in my best Spongebob-with-starry-eyes-voice)..presents! Not to mention the whole notion of having living though another year!
  • Boo! Birthdays mean I am one whole year older. The grey in my hair is multiplying. I am in (gulp), the last year of my 30's. Sigh.
Today is a day I share with several other women, who are both examples to me and reminders of all the growing I need to do:
  1. My Birthday Buddy, Sondra. She beat me a birthday greeting this morning! Dang it! I thought I would get to her first. She always manages it! Not that it is a race, but I wanted to show her that I remembered and thought about it on my own! Sondra is one of those women who I Want To Be. She always appears calm and patient. She is loving and kind. I am sure she would tell you she has her bad moments, but I feel pretty sure her bad moments are equal to my behavior on a good day! Sondra reminds me to be grateful for all I have, to live each moment with serenity, and to love.
  2. A woman I knew growing up, Mrs. Boyd. In spite of her ultra-large family, she seemed to do it all. She was industrious, smart, patient, and kind.  She always seemed to have time for me to come over when I was young, and play and watch her. 
  3. Julia Child - my Lil Bro reminded me of this birthday friend today. I have had to imitate her signature voice in vocal exercises (which is a real humility-opportunity, believe me! Nothing like standing at the front of a church and using your "outside" voice to chant Psalm 23 in Julia Child's voice to make you know that you would do just about anything to learn your craft!). My Life in France was such an eye-opener to me. Julia's attitude, her joie-de-vivre, her way of embracing like as an adventure is everything I am not! I am more Squidward than Spongebob, Felix than Oscar, Misty than Ash....well, you get the picture. Every time I cook, and know things are not perfect, I hear her voice in my head, telling me not to apologize for it, but to set it out and eat it up.
  4. Mary, Mother of God - okay, so today is not her birthday, but it is the Feast of the Assumption. And there is nothing like sharing your special day with the Blessed Mother! She is the woman par excellence. The human par excellence! 
So, from my birthday friends, I learn:
  • patience and thanksgiving (Sondra)
  • kindness and smart motherhood (Mrs. Boyd)
  • a reminder to live life with joy and gusto (Julia)
  • that there is so much more to this life than petty squabbles, material concerns, or even the humiliation of a big fat booty. And I can always ask for help from the Mother who Knows. (Mary).
So, I am off to give a hungry preschooler some lunch. Later I will get to go canter a feastday Mass (but not in Julia Child's voice), then go out to eat at an awesome local restaurant with my men-folk!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

(There and) Back Again

I'm baaaack!

So, I decided to take time off from blogging. You see, this spring I read that:
  • sometimes writers who want to become successful (read: published) think that blogging can help them write better. Kind of like someone who wants to run a marathon does not begin training with a 25 mile run, but rather starts in small increments, and builds up to the long distance, as their little runner muscles develop and strengthen. Not that I would know, since the only time I run is when a June bug is headed for my face. But that is the basic idea. Marathon runner - trains in small increments. Writer - trains through blogging.
  • Those writers who believe that blogging in anything like running are, in a word, fools! 
  • "Real" writers do not blog. "Real writers" know that blogging distracts them from "real"writing. 
  • They also should not read books, so as to keep their voice "pure".
Yeah. For some reason, this made sense to me in May, so I packed up my blogging skills, put away my novels, and waited for genius to break forth.
Only genius ended up taking a back seat to kids, errands, housework, school planning, and so forth.
 The plan started to fail in late July, when I could no longer resist reading to my heart's content (or when the 4-year-old will let me). 

Then, not too long ago, I got fed-up with my lifeline, facebook, and took a big step back from the petty name-calling, bashing-of-the-human-race that is a social media site in a political year.

Have you ever turned on your garden hose, but did not realize there is a kink in it? You keep waiting for the water to flow, but nothing comes out. You can hear an ominous noise that tells you water pressure is building somewhere, and then, just before the hose explodes in a flurry of garden-hosey-material, you spot the kink, release the pressure, and watch a tower of water shoot 50 feet into the sky from your sprinkler head.

Well, I AM that garden hose. I need to write, people!

I give up! Maybe my short publishing days are over! I don't care anymore. (kind of)

All I know for sure is, I am back!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Formula for Math

My family is celebrating Mother's Day today, Saturday, by giving me the day off! It is a wonderful, thoughtful gift. I am enjoying it so much.
The beautiful flowers all my men gave me for Mother's Day. A girl's dream!

Thor and Nick Fury from The Avengers. One of my other Mother's Day gifts! A nerdy girl's dream!

 I have been sitting in my quiet room (except for the times the Monkey comes in to let me know people are not doing his bidding), watching movies on my computer and reading books. I just received Cookie Boy's new math book today, and could not put it down until I read it cover-to-cover.

You will draw one of two conclusions from that last sentence. Either:
a) "She must be one of those "math nerds", who really gets into Khan Academy and things like chemistry."
b) "She is really weird."

Both of those would be incorrect. Well, okay...I am a little weird. But mostly, b is an incorrect answer to this particular question.

First, to clarify, I am not a math nerd.

I am, generally, abysmal in math. For example, I was never in the "higher math" classes in school. Except eighth grade. The school sent my mother and me a letter the summer before eighth grade, informing us I was being placed in advanced pre-algebra.
 My mother read it, and promptly called the school to see if there had been a mistake.
There had not been a mistake.

Now, this seems like the kind of incident that a child might resent her mother for, holding it against her for life.
"You never believed in me and my ability to do higher math! If you had just believed in me, I could be teaching Linear Algebra at Harvard right now!"

 I believe I was standing at my mother's elbow when she made the call, and when we found out there had been no mistake, we looked at one another and shrugged. She said something equivalent to, "If you want to take advanced Pre-algebra, that is up to you."
I gulped, thought about it, and accepted the challenge.
It was the only year I ever attempted an advanced math class.
Except chemistry - which is not a math class, per se, but a science class with a lot of advanced math in it.  Ms. Alfieri had pity on me and let me wash lab equipment for bonus points to bring me to a passing grade. Saintly woman.

I even chose a college major based on how much math I had to take.

True (embarrassing) stories.

Suffice it to say, math was never my forte.

Which is why it totally makes sense that I coach an engineering and robotics team.

Life is full of irony.
Which brings us back to the question: Why was I eagerly reading a math book on my day off today?

Let me first say this: I am finishing up my 9th year homeschooling my children. I have come to this truth: I could have learned math, and learned it well. I am learning, even as I teach my children, even at my ripe old age of thirty-mumblemumble. 

There are many different ways to approach math, it turns out. I always thought numbers were not complicated, opposed to learning the different rules for using the comma, reading TS Elliot, or learning all the reasons why the War of 1812 occurred. I mean, 2+2=4, and there just is not any other way about it.
Turns out, math is just as simple and complicated as anything else. And there are many ways to teach it, approach it, and learn it.
The way I was traditionally taught in school just did not work for me. I was always confused. I could memorize formulas, but use them???? Hah! (Actually, taking Metaphysics was much the same experience for me. I memorized every single thing I could, but just could not apply any of it. For one year. Then, it all made sense. I guess I have a slow brain.)

Each of my three big boys is taking a different math course. I used Saxon with all of them in their younger elementary years. When The Young Adult was in 6th grade, he almost exploded from hatred of Saxon math. Perhaps "hatred" is not a strong enough word for what he felt. He had a complete aversion, antipathy to the abomination he felt Saxon math to be.
And his grades
He begged me to find him a new math course. I could see the sense in that. I looked around.

Don't let anyone tell you homeschoolers are always nice and without prejudice. All you need to do to counteract that little fallacy is get on a message board about math and read the threads about what math curriculum to purchase. I have never in my life felt so much like I was walking a battlefield laced with mines, which were constantly exploding in my face.
Apparently, math curriculum is a very hot topic.

In the end, I found a program called LIVE Online Math. The Young Adult needed a teacher, and this program offered a video course along with a once-a-week online classroom meeting. It is a great program. Mr. Bovey is an excellent teacher. He might also become a saint after a few years of teaching The Young Adult.
I thought, as homeschoolers, I would never have the experience of of getting a note sent home from a teacher.
God bless Mr. Bovey.

Romeo also wanted to switch. After braving the math threads again, I decided to try him out on Singapore Math. He took to it like a nerd takes to Tolkien, and he has been happily zooming through Singapore, learning the ability to do mental math in a very speedy manner.

Cookie Boy, however, decided to stick with Saxon. (He is not a fan of change, in general.) Fine. It works for him. But now he is taking Saxon Algebra 1/2 and is doing fine, but....I have not been totally convinced it is meeting his needs. However, I could not find a program to switch him to that offered enough....mathy reasons to switch. Cookie Boy really likes math. He says he maybe even wants to teach math when he grows up.
I wonder if he is actually related to me?

Almost two weeks ago, I attended a conference where the speaker brought some curriculum she used, in order to show us examples of what her family did.

Now, another thing to know about homeschoolers - most of us are kind of crazy about curricula. We love us some good curricula! Homeschool fairs or homeschool conventions? All KINDS of curricula to explore! We are forever talking shop with one another: "What do you use for science/math/history/literature/Latin? how does that work? Can I see?" We like to swap curricula, borrow curricula, try out new curricula - we are all kind of nerdy-nerds.

So, like the good homeschooler I am, I listened up as the speaker displayed all her books on two tables. Books I have never used! Some I have never heard of! Some I have heard of, but never witnessed in person. Dozens of books for me to flip to through! Sigh!!!!

One was a math series, Life of Fred, by Stanley F. Schmidt, Ph. D.. I had heard of it, but only in passing. She even spent a few moments talking about that series. As I sat there and listened, it intrigued me. At break, I went and got my hands on that book. As soon as I read two pages, I KNEW I had found the new math program for Cookie Boy.

In fact, if Cookie Boy grew up and wrote a math program, he would write Life of Fred.
Math awesomeness - Life of Fred

 It is genius. Smart, witty, funny, thoughtful and simple. I actually read one whole book and felt cheated when the book ended, mid-story. A math cliff-hanger?

Fred, in the book I purchased, is a 5 1/2 year old little boy who teaches mathematics at KITTENS University. He is kind of smart and kind of gullible. He gets into all kinds of interesting situations, like, is he supposed to use the lamb in the back yard to make lamb pizza? How do you open a box with blunt scissors (and how NOT to open said box)? And how to get fired from a job in a pizza place in one day. Oh yeah, you also learn all about fractions, as well.
You can go here to read a sample from the book we purchased, Life of Fred: Fractions. We are going back a little to make sure Cookie Boy has all the concepts, as taught in this sequence.

I can't wait for Cookie Boy to begin this. I have a feeling we have a winner.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Brake for Car Decals

I guess I have been spending an inordinate amount of time in my van lately, hauling kids from one place to the other, because one of my new favorite hobbies is checking out the rear window decals of the vehicles I share the road with.

I am not sure if this is a nation-wide phenomenon or it is more a product of the "look-at-me-and-marvel-at-my-fabulous-offsring" lifestyle of the affluent area I live in, but these decals seem to grace the back of most SUV's, minivans, and cars I see.

Many people have the "cute cartoon people to depict our family" on their rear window. Like this:

The Stickersons: Family Car Stickers Decal Kit

I like this one better. My nerd family would have this one... if we did this kind of thing:
Star Wars Family Decal Set Stick People Car or Wall Vinyl Decal Stickers

Although, every time I see the "Family Stick Figures", it makes me think of some of the really big Catholic families I know. I so want one of them to put a set of these on the backs of their vehicles. Like my friend Ana's family - Dad figure, Mom figure, four big girl figures, two little boy figures, a baby figure, and two dogs.
It would take up the whole back window of their Suburban and would be SO awesome! People would be plowing into each other trying to comprehend it all! I am tempted to get her a set....

 Personally, I like this one I found on Amazon best:
ChainSaw Decal F*@K Nobody cares about YOUR STICK FIGURE FAMILY Funny Vinyl Sticker 8"x5"

The next most popular type rear window decal is the "my-child-participates-in" variety.
 soccer window sticker decal clings & magnets(thanks - you just make 'em. I am sure you are a fine company!)

 After being trained in child safety by a variety of agencies in the Dallas area, and being involved in the Safe Environment training for years, it creeps me out a little to think people are willing to advertise their child's name, team, jersey number, vehicle make and model to every stranger on the road. Can you imagine?
"Hey, Jeremy! I work with your mom and she got sick at work and asked me to come pick you up from practice.....You aren't sure you should come with me? Well, will this help you believe I know your mom? She drives a 2010 silver Toyota Sienna. I can give you the license plate number, if that helps. You play for the Frisco Football League Cowboys and you wear number 12. You also are a gymnast at WOGA. You have a sister named Ella and she plays soccer... See, I know your mom!"

Not to mention it is just a little obnoxious. One tasteful decal is not too bad, but in my area of the world NO ONE has their child in just one activity! And we like to brag about our busy lifestyle down here! I really do not want to know how over-committed your children are!

My very, very favorite was a small SUV we saw at a local soccer field a few weeks ago. The back window was not very large. The family had two sons clearly committed to every sport known to man. A third child had one smaller decal smack in the upper center. I wondered why that child only got one when his brothers' praises were being sung all over the back window. I finally decided he must only be two or three years old, and therefore is just gearing up. They will clearly need a larger vehicle with a wide back window when he gets going, too. I think they left about 5 square inches in the center free for the driver to check out the rear view in their current vehicle.
Offense 1 - They had the decals that not only advertised what sports/activities their children participate in, they also had their children's names on each one. The names, oh! the names of those poor children! My hope is that they had family meaning. Perhaps they were the dignified monikers for distinguished great-grandfathers who won the Purple Heart in WWII. I hope. Because if they were just going for "unique, different from all the other kids", they succeeded, and not in a good way.
Offense 2 - My first thought when we pulled in next to this vehicle was, "Those poor kids! They must never be home!" Why advertise that you over-commit your child and your family. Does any child need to be involved in five or six sports? If you want them too, and they want too, well...okay, but don't brag about it!

It made me think about what I can possible decorate my new-to-us-minivan with.
"My son wears a kilt - Scottish Highland Dance - Young Adult" (He would KILL me!)
"Our robot can beat up your robot - First Lego League - Romeo"
"Engineering Rules! - First Lego League - Cookie Boy"
"I break for 'bots - First Lego League - Young Adult"
"Soccer for recreational use only"- FSA - 64 - Romeo"
"My Son is a model Scout - Romeo"
"Boy Scouts of America - Cookie Boy"
"My son will make Eagle Scout if it kills me - Young Adult"
"Homeschool Book Club - read it and weep - Romeo"
"All my children are honors students - Homeschooling rocks!"

Speaking of homeschooling and decals/bumperstickers, I want this one thanks, Shop Great Products:

Before I get off this topic, I will leave you with  some helpful tips for those of you choosing to sport Child Activity/School Spirit/church affiliation decals on your car of choice:
  • Going 60 mph in 40 zone does not advertise for First Methodist on Main Street well.
  •  It does not reflect well on you or your honor student when you go 40 through an active school zone.
  • Leave off the decals that proclaim peace to all people/races/religions if you are going to continue to travel on my bumper. Respect applies to driving as well!

Beep beep!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wow! A girl decided to not blog for a few weeks, and everything changes! Well done, Blogger!

On to other things.

Life is....well, not quiet. It can't be quiet with four sons and activities. But it is dull. In a good way. Routine. The end of the school year is in sight. Usually I decide on a date in May that will be our last day of school. Then the calendar flips to May 1, and my mind shuts down. Honest! It is automatic. We pretend to do school for a week before I say, "To heck with it!" and we close down shop.
This year I have chosen May 18th to be our last day. We will need to continue with a couple of subjects through the summer (yeah, right....we'll see!).

Not sure what this summer will hold. June is already pretty busy. Hopefully, lots of swimming, reading, relaxing, and enjoying life.

Oh yeah - maybe a little writing, too!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Monday

Hallelujah! He is risen!

ArtGuy made my favorite eggs EVER!!!!!!

Happy Easter to you all!

Triduum was a blessed experience yet again this year. It was my second year as a choir member of St. Gabriel's parish. Boy, did we put a lot of hours into getting ready. Weeks and weeks of rehearsal; some weeks were 2x a week practices. And boy, did it pay off! The music this year was a level above last year. Everyone was so dedicated.

Today is "Easter Recovery Day". So far, I have had two mini-naps. I feel like I am moving in a fog still. My big boys are being a big help with the little one, so I can rest up.

I totally forgot to take any pictures on Easter Sunday. BOO to me! I realized on our way to my mom's house for Easter dinner that we forgot the camera, but I figured we could use hers. Then, I promptly forgot again. Ugh.

Oh well! Easter goes on for weeks. Maybe we will try again next Sunday!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Food Fight

"...the people complained against God and Moses,
"Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert,
where there is no food or water?
We are disgusted with this wretched food!"

I confess I had to do a double-take when I read the 1st reading from the book of Numbers today. I had NO idea the Monkey could quote scripture at the age of three.

'Cause I am pretty sure he says this every dinner time.

Few three-year-olds are adventurous eaters, so pickyness is not surprising. However, the Monkey is the worst of all my children. His palette is, shall we say, limited.

Chicken nuggets - yes. But only certain kinds.
Chicken - no.
pasta - no
vegetables - no
applesauce - yes
cereal - yes
string cheese - yes, but only certain brands

You get the idea!

I have a great book on how to get picky eaters to eat with manners, and we are working on it all, but man! Is it tough! Oddly enough, I had to do this with The Young Adult, as well. He was slightly younger, but just as bad. Funny, because now he eats everything. Including the sushi we will get later today.

For now, I do strategic stocking of my pantry, so I will have an arsenal of healthy options for the The Great Stubborn One. Lately, the battle has been going more in my favor. A tad.

Ring the dinner bell - time for wailing and gnashing of teeth!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Breaking

The weather is gorgeous here in North Central Texas. The windows were open all day, the breeze was blowing, and our allergies are all going haywire!
It is also Spring Break time for the local schools. Now, in the recent years past, we have not partaken of this break. We usually wait until Holy Week, as it seems appropriate and we are usually pretty far behind in our school work.
This year, as almost everything else we are doing is also taking a break, I decided we would, too. The Young Adult still has math class tomorrow, I still have choir practice Wednesday, and we still have homeschool cool Friday, but no dance, we skipped Scouts, and no soccer or youth group.

Sometimes you just need a break!

Today we did yard work, played video games, played board games, played Legos, read, took a nap, and played outside. It was a one-day vacation.
Tomorrow, we visit friends and celebrate Romeo's 10th birthday.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The High School Decision

It is almost spring, which means it is time to think about the next school year.

After 9 years of homeschooling, we are at a crossroads. The Young Adult will be in 9th grade next year - high school.
(Am I really old enough to have a child in high school? Didn't he just get out of diapers? They told me it would go fast when he was little, but I scoffed at them. I was too tired to even care. But now? Some days, I would love to go back and hold my little boy for a while. Sniff!)
The Young Adult announced last year he thought he wanted to try public school. My rule with the boys is that we are okay with them trying public school, but they cannot enter during their middle school years. I mean, there is so little good about middle school....shudder.....
Besides, 9th grade would be an ideal time to enter the school system, as everyone is headed to a new school, and being new would not be so hard.

I felt mixed by his decision.
 Part of me cheered - I could relax and let a school keep track of all his work, grades, classes and assignments. I would not have to worry about keeping a transcript. Or college requirements. And he could try that attitude he gets on some school teachers and see where that gets him!
Part of me was sad - He is getting such a great education at home and through the parts of homeschooling that are not at home. He would be giving up a lot of freedom

But, I understood his reasoning. He wanted to see what he had been missing, to be with peers, and to meet girls.

But he, too, has been conflicted. I gave him the deadline of March to make his final choice. He has talked to friends on both sides of the schooling fence, asking opinions, weighing options.

The Decision has been made - he has chosen to continue his homeschooling journey.

And I am starting to figure out exactly what I am going to need to do to help him with this adventure.

Pretty funny. The woman who said, when this same child was an infant, "I am not sure we will be able to afford private school when he is older. We went to public school and we turned out okay. All I know is - I am NOT homeschooling."

Here is to a new adventure!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Will He, or Won't He?

Enemy #1

The Word of the Day?


As in, "Wow, he is one strong-willed child!"

He, as in The Monkey.

It started this morning, around 10:30am. As a family,. we attended Romeo's Blue and Gold ceremony for Cub Scouts. I thought to throw a portable thingy of applesauce into my purse. I figured:

a) it will help the Monkey make it through the long, and sometimes boring, ceremony.
b) it will help the Monkey make it through the lunch of pasta afterwards.

The Monkey is a notoriously picky eater. As the baby of the family, he has been indulged more than the rest, although many times without us even meaning to. Lately, I have been giving him an eating plan that is a tad more strict.

Like today.

I brought the applesauce. He said no.

No biggie. I figured when he refused, it was still early and he would probably cave in at lunch.

He did not.

He sat and refused to eat one bite of applesauce during the whole lunch. He would even rather stick to his principles than cave in for a piece of cake.
Yup - he refused the cake. Just to spite me.

And the story had not changed all afternoon.

It is now 3:40pm, and he has not eaten one thing since about 9:30 this morning. He is increasingly more grumpy and more exhausted. His stomach growled about ten minutes ago so loudly, it literally made me jump.

I KNOW he is hungry. And he LIKES applesauce.

"I'm not hungry" he says, as his tummy rumbles audibly.

This could be a good attribute in an adult - sticking to what you believe.

It might be a long day, for both of us.

"Nothing gets past this mouth that I do not approve." - this statement has been endorsed by the Monkey

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stacking Cups and Buying Milk

I hate grocery shopping.

There! I said it!

It is not as bad as it used to be.
Like, there was the time when The Monkey was little, and I had dragged all the kids to the store. We were almost done when we realized The Monkey had grabbed a bunch of stuff and had been teething on it all. We ate hot dogs (and buns) with teeth marks on them for the next week....

Or the time when Romeo was a baby. The Young Adult and Cookie Boy were small and seated in the toddler seats at the front of my ginormous cart. They were fighting and irritating each other the whole trip. I was so busy refereeing them, I did not notice Romeo, seated behind his brothers in the cart itself. He had been quietly, but busily, chucking items out of the cart, throughout the store.We got to play "Treasure Hunt"!

No, it is not like that, anymore. The three older boys are all big now, and do not fight (much) in the store. The Monkey is still a pain-in-the-you-know-where, BUT, I now own two babysitters! The Young Adult and Cookie Boy! It has revolutionized my life, I tell you! Cookie Boy is a Red Cross certified sitter, and so good with The Monkey. They are all glad to stay home and not hit the grocery store with me, when possible.

So, earlier this week, the boys all prepared to stay home, and I got my act together and went to the grocery store.

I have decided - I want a sign I can hang from the side of my cart. It will say,

"Warning: full cart! Shopping to feed 5 men!".

 Then, maybe people won't stare so much.

I love the grocery store near my house. It is close, usually well-stocked, and I know where everything is. But shopping during a weekday morning is a little different than other times I shop. It is mainly women shopping, and most of them are apparently not trying to feed an army on a tight budget.

There were two types of shoppers there that day: Couponers and Shopper-Lites.

1) Couponers = make me feel guilty!

I used to coupon. I saved gobs of money. BUT, it was like a full-time job. It took hours each week clipping coupons, finding deals, and driving to different stores to get the items. We were able to spend a lot less on groceries, but it cost a lot of time. Plus, we had to organize our meals around whatever I was purchasing.

So, I see these women now, flipping through their coupons, and I just feel like a total loser. I know I could be saving money, but I can never find the time to coupon anymore. The family has promised to help, but they never do. I am constantly saving coupons in my coupon drawer, and then throwing them away as they expire.

Nothin' like a little (extra) guilt with my shopping!

2) Shopper-Lites
These are the women who are pushing around their small-sized carts. They are wearing their exercise clothes (to let you know they just came from the gym), their hair is in a jaunty-but-styled ponytail, and their makeup is subtlety-but carefully applied. They shop while they talk on their phones (to let you know they DO have a social life). Some do this on their own, and some do this while ignoring the small child they brought along with them, who is crying or whining or pleading to go potty.

They push their mini-carts, and pause only in the fresh-fruits-and vegetables section, or the health-food section, to carefully peruse the nutritional value of an item before they place it in their cart.
They hold carefully crafted lists of nutritional food items and their carts are the ones with green leafy things waving around, under which reside fresh fruit and whole wheat pasta.

They look at me with disdain, as I fly by with junk cereal stuffed into the top of the massive mound of groceries already in the cart. I check the list in my hand, written on scrap paper,  in my "hurried mom" style of writing. I pause, interpreting the scribble that looks like "tiklas" to actually mean "tortillas", and with a sign, I turn my monster cart around, food precariously balanced on top sliding threateningly, muttering angrily to myself because I realize that I have to go all the way back across the store for this item.

As I slowly execute a 180, the bread from the discount, day-old section free-falls from the top of the cart, slides across the floor, and lands at the feet of a Shopper-Lite. I smile as I retrieve the bread, trying to project the image that I LOVE being chubby, badly dressed, and pushing a cart that looks like it is bound for a summer camp program around. I do not mind at all bending down to pick up the d#$% bread again. I am not at all embarrassed to be trying to find a place where the aforementioned bread can safely reside. (and where the #$%$ are the tortillas going to fit when I get back to them? I guess I will carry them in my mouth or something! Why, oh why, did I not bring ONE boy with me. Romeo could have driven a second cart!)

Yes, I do have fresh fruits and veggies in my cart....somewhere.....There is even soy milk AND whole-wheat pasta AND TOFU, for goodness' sake! Under the Pop Tarts, Fruit Loops, and boxes of heavily processed crackers. (okay, okay - the tofu is for this...)

It is not ideal, and I know some of my readers will cringe and try to tell me that eating healthily is actually cheaper in the long run than junk. And, to a point, I agree. But teenage boys take a LOT of food. And my boys love fruit and veg, which is great. But a bag of grapes to last my kids about two days costs $6 - ON SALE!  A box of Austin crackers is $1.50. Do you know how quickly my boys can go through cereal?

So, my cart is a balance of health items and junk.

"Just like Fruit Loops, only generic! And in a huge, monster sized bag!"

But it is always, ALWAYS full. Almost bursting. Even the workers were getting annoyed with me.
"Excuse me, ma'am, your bread fell off. Again." They watch as I retrieve it for the millionth time.

Fine. Whatever.

. The huge, giant cart is stuffed full of food that I know will only last us for a week or week-and-a-half, if I can really stretch it. I go to pay, and try not to pass out, feeling like it is money flying out the window.

That evening we sit down to a meal of pasta (whole wheat!) with homemade, made-from-scratch cheese and tomato sauce, which they all complemented, and meatballs from the freezer section (which they raved on and on about. Why do I even bother to "cook"!).

Well, at least they eat!


I have been trying to sit down for days to write a blog entry, without success! I cannot tell you how many days this has taken to do this - I am embarrassed!

So, I have mentioned before my kids tend towards the "alternative sports" route. Romeo plays soccer:

but The Young Adult? Well...

Not your traditional sport!

and Cookie Boy? Well, Cookie Boy often gets left out. Most of the money I make (small paychecks, for which I am grateful, bu they do not go far), goes for Highland Dance. Romeo's soccer does not cost a whole lot. But it leaves nothing left for Cookie Boy. Our goal this year is archery. We finally have a place near us. For the moment, I have neither the $ nor the time (beginner lessons are Wednesday nights, and we already have soccer, youth group and choir). Hopefully this summer....

Anyhow, Cookie Boy has also been into the sport of Speed Stacking or Sport Stacking. He is my shy child. His first competition was a year-and-a-half ago, with 500 other kids. I was so proud of my guy for overcoming his natural reticence and getting out there and doing it.
The only pic I could find on Cookie Boy (right). Bad Momma!

We could not attend a competition last year, due to schedule conflicts. But Fall 2011, I was able to teach a Speed Stacking class at our homeschool coop. It was tons of fun! Better still, I discovered a competition was coming relatively close to us on Feb 25, 2012. So, I signed Romeo and Cookie Boy up.

We went this past Saturday, along with a friend and fellow Speed Stacking student, Mad Max. Mad Max totally killed it in class, so I had lots of hope for him! Romeo competed in the 9-year-old division. Cookie Boy and Mad Max went into the 12-year-old division, the oldest age at this particular competition.
Results, please....
Cookie Boy placed 2nd in the two individual events for 12 year olds, the 3-6-3 and the Cycle.
Mad Max placed 1st in both events in the 12-year-olds, plus he won 2nd overall for the Cycle and 3rd overall for the 3-6-3!
I was so proud of them!
Mad Max and his awesome trophies on the left, Cookie Boy on the right

And Romeo....

Well, it turns out that the 9-year-old division was the toughest of all. Them buggers are FAST! Romeo did not place, and felt a little bad compared to the other two, but I was so proud of him. It was his first time and he was sooooo nervous!

Mad Max's time for the 3-6-3 - 4.11 seconds
In the 9-year-old division, the third place time was 4.0 seconds.

Yeah, they were fast! And apparently, you lose speed over the next few years!

Speedy Speed Stackers!

So, that about wraps up this extra-long edition of Deep in the Heart! Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Let Them Eat Peeps!

Tomorrow is Feb 25. Seven years since my dearest sister passed from this life into the next. Seven long years that still tear my soul apart at times. I miss her so much. She was my confidante in so much. She loved my kids with a fierceness, and I knew she would always appreciate a good kid-related story.
I was always able to be just who I was when I was with her. Not only was that okay, it was perfect. She loved me as I was at all times, and always believed the best in me. Do you know how badly you want to make someone like that proud?
I still want to make her proud. I miss her like crazy. My heart aches every day.
My sister on the right. A much younger me on the left.

So, tomorrow, our family will continue our tradition of St. SzuSzu's Day, and eat Peeps, in honor of my sister, Susan. It was a family joke, as she once bit the heads of of the Peeps in every Easter basket when she was about 4 years old. She also liked Peeps.
So, in honor of her spirit, I urge you to pick up some Peeps for Feb. 25. Eat them - this is important - heads first!

And most of all, enjoy!