Saturday, October 30, 2010

Photo Story Friday (on Sat) & the October Checklist

1) Hay Maze

2) Hay Ride

3) Pumpkin Patch
4) Pumpkin House

5) Paint Pumpkins (as Daphne & Shaggy)

6) Decorate Sugar Cookies

7) Fall Festival & Trunk-or-Treat
(Daphne, Shaggy, Scooby, & my last minute attempt at a scarecrow costume)
Still To Come:
8) More trick-or-treating & watching the 1st Harry Potter movie Saturday night (hoping it's not too scary)

9) Giant scary face pancakes on Sunday morning, church, make pumpkin squares (for the 1st time), & go to a mini-Halloween party

10 ) CRASH :/ (and sneak a few pieces of the kids' candy. After all this, us moms deserve it!)

Happy Halloween!!!

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tossing Out that Inner Critic

Since embarking on this whole "homeschool experiment", I feel like that nagging voice inside my head - criticizing and second-guessing everything I do - has shifted into overdrive. It used to rear its ugly head from time to time telling me things like "You should really know how to sew on a button" or "That chicken you cooked was overdone" or "That laundry has been sitting there for a week - are you EVER going to put it away?" It used to be that I ignored the nagging and dismissed those things as no big deal. I've got two young kids and a husband. Never-ending laundry is part of the deal. sigh...

But over the past few months, I feel like that voice is questioning EVERYTHING - my organizational skills, my teaching skills, my parenting skills...and cooking chicken? I've completely given up. But with the other stuff? Those are things I used to feel pretty good about...not that I had mastered any of those skills by any means, but the voice wasn't there.

As I've thought about it and OVERthought about it, I've figured out that THAT is my problem. Overthinking. I've been putting way too much pressure on myself - thinking that I need to make this the best homeschool experience ever, feeling I need to justify my decision to do this to others and myself, and fearing that I'm going to let my kids down if I'm not doing some awesome activity every second of the day. It's ridiculous, I know. My kids are six and four. They are happy playing with playdough. And even though, deep down I know that - the negative chatter is still there, and it annoys the heck out of me.

So I've been trying to get rid of the "mental clutter" as it's called in the Bag It Up Resilience activity on the Fishful Thinking website. I love how these activities that are designed to build up our kids are helpful for parents to do too -

Bag it Up - You can help your child to take stock of the "mental clutter." Start by sharing an example of a negative perception that you want to get rid of. Write the perception on a slip of paper and then put it into a bag labeled "throw aways" and then toss it in the garbage. After you've given your example, ask your child to come up with examples of his or her own.

My kids are still young enough that we haven't done this activity together yet, but I wrote my own list. The idea of throwing those self-criticisms into the trash is empowering! And lately, when that inner critic starts chatting it up, that's what I've been trying to think of - balling up those negative thoughts and throwing them away. Not that self-criticism is always a bad thing. It can help us improve and be better people, but when we focus too much on the negatives and not enough on the good things we are doing, the perception we have of ourselves can get pretty out of whack.

So Ms. Self Critic - who cares if the chicken is overdone? I can make a mean batch of Rice Krispie treats any day of the week - blindfolded.

*For more on fighting that inner critic, check out this month's Fishful Thinking newsletter by Dr. Karen Reivich.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

His New Secret Weapon

Noah has learned a new little ditty (courtesy of The Cat in the Hat Knows A lot About That). He's been singing it to me all week long, and even after the twentieth time, it still makes me smile and give him a squeeze. He sure knows how to melt his mama's heart. But now he's trying to use it to keep himself from getting in trouble - his new secret weapon (or so he thinks). He used it yesterday when he kept asking to go outside, and I kept telling him "Not yet. We'll go out in a little while."

So while I am loading the dishwasher, I hear the front door open.

"Noah! Come back in here."

He peeks around the door and immediately starts singing with the biggest smile on his face -

"This is the Mom Song, and moms are great! Moms are better than chocolate cake!!!"

As cute as he was (and he knew it!), Noah still had to wait until later to go outside. Who knew that a four-year-old could be so manipulative? Geez...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I just didn't have it in me...

Yesterday, we were supposed to go on a field trip to a local honey farm. But after last week - Domino's Pizza field trip, the park, Jr. Readers book club at the library, wildlife show at the botanical gardens, and the pumpkin patch - I just didn't think I had it in me.

And in the midst of all that, I taught five children's dance classes, helped Abby ride her bike for the first time in the culdesac WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS (super exciting!!!), had a youth activity on Weds. night, and did homeschool stuff. Now, of course, a lot of those activities count as school time, but I was exhausted. I actually wasn't planning on the pumpkin patch on Saturday, but Pat wasn't going to be able to go with us on Monday with the homeschool group so the kids wanted to go on Saturday with Daddy instead. And it was HOT! Record highs for this time of year, in fact. Not that I am complaining about warm weather, as we all know I am not a fan of the cold, but the sun was just beating down. No shade anywhere.

I guess I looked pretty rough towards the end (I felt it too!) because a lady who worked there actually came up to me and asked if I was okay. I guess she thought I was going to faint or something so she insisted on giving me an ice cold water out of her cooler. We had just finished our last water bottle so she was a lifesaver!

So, with all that, the thought of driving back out to the honey farm on Monday (in record high temps) was not all that appealing. Luckily, when I asked Abby about it, she started freaking out a little about the thought of seeing all the bees anyway. Not that I want her to be afraid, but I figured I could use her fear to my advantage this one time, and we'd skip it - which we did. Phew!

As much as I want to do these extra activities and such with the kids, sometimes it's good just to relax a bit and do things at home. I guess I worry that if I don't do these more exciting things outside of the house that Abby will get bored with homeschool or won't think it's as fun as being in the classroom. I have this terrible fear that she is going to say, "Mom, I miss school. I don't want to do homeschool anymore." Not that we are planning to do this for good. We don't know yet, but I do want to at least try it for this one year, see how it pans out, and take advantage of this extra time together. But I also want this year to be a good experience for her and for Noah too. And despite my secret fears and second-guessing myself every five seconds, it has been going pretty well...I think.

So this week, we are taking it easy - making paper boats, doing candy corn math, playing with pizza fractions, reading stories, and just going to the library club and Daisy Scouts this week. And if we need some extra excitement, I can always turn the bath water BLUE again.

Zoodles Premium Membership Winners!

And the winners of the Zoodles 3 month premium memberships are...

Nancy, Kat, and the Robins Fam!

Rest assured that the random selection process was handled most carefully (aka - I had my kids pick three numbers between 1-7 - doesn't get much more random than that).

You'll be receiving an email with more details about your membership very soon!

I'm sure you and YOUR KIDS will love it as much as we do!

* If you haven't checked out the Zoodles yet, it's a great Kid-Safe Browser that searches the web for FUN, age-appropriate, & educational games for your kids. It even has an Art Studio feature! It's easy enough for the kids to navigate independently and has all kinds of cool parent features too including setting time limits, blocking ads, weekly email summaries, etc...
The premium features have a small monthly fee but the browser is always FREE!!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Makes My "Columbus Day" - Paper Boats!

Thank goodness for *You Tube (and the pause & rewind buttons) or I would not have been able to pull this off this morning - How to Make a Paper Boat. After just a few minutes, the kids and I made "the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria" to go along with our Christopher Columbus lesson today. We were about to set sail in the bathtub when I decided that adding a BLUE food coloring to the water would really help to them remember that famous rhyme - "Columbus sailed the ocean BLUE in 1492!" The kids really got a kick out of that. Then they were off - huffing and puffing to see who could blow their boat across the tub first!

The boats only float for a few minutes before the paper gets completely soaked. We made a dozen boats or so and even threw in some science testing out which types of paper held up the longest.

For a last minute lesson plan, it turned out great! And I was especially relieved that the food coloring didn't stain the bathtub.

I'm playing along with Twinfatuation's Makes My Monday today!

*The Zoodles giveaway winners will be posted tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Perks of Homeschooling and Zoodles GIVEAWAY!

Just a few perks of this new homeschooling gig -

1) Watching Abby take her sweet time to create a "fairy house".

See the piece of cotton she used as a pillow? How cute is that?

2) Going behind the scenes at Domino's Pizza and letting the kids make their very own pie.

3) Eating peanut butter and jelly with a T-Rex...
Just to name a few. :)

Another great perk to homeschooling is also the Zoodles site which finds age appropriate games that make learning fun - because Mama needs some down time every once in awhile. And the kids LOVE playing on the computer. Zoodles has been such a great resource! After creating a "playground" for each of my kids specialized for their age group, all I do is click on the Zoodles icon on my desktop and a ton of great games pop up for the kids to choose from and play independently. It's so easy for them to navigate that I don't have to do a thing!

As part of the parent features, I can set time limits, block ads, and even block certain shows or characters. (Sorry, Spongebob.) With the lesson planning and such I'm doing these days, it's such a time saver too because the browser finds games in all subject areas. I can ask Abby to find a reading, math, or even a science game, and she's quickly able to look through the choices and find one. Noah The weekly email summaries are really helpful too so that I can see how much time the kids have spent on each subject for the last few days. There's also a Parent Play-Along mode so I can join in on computer time if I'd like, but the kids don't usually like to share the keyboard with me.

What's really cool about this kid-safe browser is that it's always FREE! Of course, you can sign up for a trial period which includes the premium features like setting time limits, blocking characters, weekly email summaries, etc...then after that there's a small fee each month for those features OR you can leave me a comment (today through Monday, Oct.11th) and be randomly chosen as one of THREE WINNERS of a 3 month PREMIUM membership - the same one that the Zoodles team gave to me so I could check out the site and all of its great perks!

So leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway, and I will announce the winners next Tuesday afternoon, Oct.12th!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Photo Story Friday & A SLIGHT change in plans (part 2)

Oh, the suspense! Despite my doubts and fears, did I brave the spur-of-the-moment-travel-across-three-states-never-been-done-before road trip, by myself with two kiddos, and endure public bathrooms galore along the way to CHICAGO? (Read Part 1 to get the full effect.)

Did I take advantage of our current homeschool status to visit friends & family, explore a BIG city, experience public transportation, visit the Field museum, and see actual dinosaur bones including the most complete T-Rex skeleton in the world? Did we visit the famous Millennium Park, go to the slighty-over-the-top American Girl store, feed carriage horses in Ghiradelli Square, and play a few games of foozball with Grandie & Grandad for the very first time?

And did I mention that Chicago is also the home to the world's LARGEST McDonald's?

Complete with its own "museum" and Happy Meal artifacts...

How's about that for an American history lesson?

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and Lolli

*BTW - Next week, I'll be posting a giveaway for something that's been another really helpful resource during our "homeschool experiment"! Hope you'll stop by!