Friday, June 15, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: A Fun-Filled Week



I have to admit that I missed the extra time reading this week that I had last week.  It's amazing how much you can read in just half an hour.  :)

John and I tag-teamed the swim meet Saturday, having hired a babysitter for the three little girls since John had to go into work for a little while.  I enjoyed the time there, watching my kids swim and spending that time with them.  Mostly, I was pleased with their good attitudes, how they cheered each other on, and how they took responsibility for getting themselves to the right place at the right time.  The cherry on top, however, was Sarah Beth coming in third in the 50m freestyle!

I had hoped that this week would be a little slow, that we would have some good downtime since it's summer and all.  But I was wrong.  We were out of the house early (before 9:00 which isn't that early, I know, but it is summer) three mornings, and we had things the other days, too.  Remember that an ideal day for me is when we stay home all day long.  :)  But that didn't happen this week.  And that's okay.  I'm trying to have a fun-filled summer, working on my word for the year:  fun.  Without spending too much money, taking advantage of resources we already have.

Here are a few things I enjoyed this week:
  • Navajo Code Talkers by Nathan Aaseng.  I saw this book at one of the gift shops at the Grand Canyon and knew that it would make a wonderful souvenir.  Almost as soon as I finished it, John picked it up, and I know that several of my children will read it, too.  The United States Marines used Navajos to come up with a code the Japanese could not break during World War II.  
  • Heartless by Anne Elizabeth Stengl.  I'm reading this book for the second time, and it is really helping me get through my morning runs on the treadmill.  I guess I would describe it as Christian fantasy mixed with fairy tales.  Oh, so very good!
  • If I Run by Teri Blackstock.  I don't usually read thrillers, but I'm enjoying this one.  In order to escape being framed as the murderer of her friend, Casey has to flee.  Dylan is hired to find her, but some things about the case don't add up to Casey being the murderer.
  • We were supposed to meet friends at the Health Museum Tuesday morning, but things came up for them.  So we went by ourselves and had a good time.  Afterwards, we went to...
  • Costco to activate our Groupon membership and do some shopping.  I know I spent too much, stocking up, but I also know that we'll eat everything that I bought.  :)
  • I took the kids swimming Monday and Thursday evenings, and we had fun.  Hannah is getting the hang of using her puddle-jumper which means that I don't have to keep a hand on her every single second, although I do keep a very close eye on her.  
  • playing Battleship with Mary.  She's been asking me to play a game with her all week, and finally I realized that it's summer, and I want to be available for things like that.  So I said, "Yes," and enjoyed the time with her.
  • Hearts of Fire:  Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Faith.  This book reminded me how easy my life here in the United States really is.  The stories of these women were truly inspiring, and I encourage you to read this book to see what the Christian life is like in so many parts of the world.
Tomorrow I'm going to see Guys and Dolls with a friend.  This musical is one of my favorites, so I've been excited about it ever since I first heard about it.  

What did you enjoy this weekend?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Traveling with Children, Part 4: Souvenirs and Impulse Buying


When you walk into a gift shop at a national park or any other attraction, you find all kinds of wonderful things that would be lovely to own.  At least, that's what my initial impression is.  If we are not careful, however, we can spend way too much for things we realize later that we don't really want.  Here are two suggestions I came up with to help curb impulse buying.
  1. Have a budget.  It is easy to spend too much especially when you are visiting multiple gift shops.  
  2. Add to collections you already have.  As I mentioned above, there are all kinds of neat trinkets and doodads that might be nice to own.  I recommend buying things that will add to something you already own.  Daniel enjoys collecting pocket knives, so when we found one at the Grand Canyon that was really "cool," I encouraged him to buy it -- instead of something else that he wouldn't appreciate as much later.  
In case you're wondering, here are my favorite souvenir purchases:
  • Books.  Mr. Potter gave us this suggestion on our tour to DC, and what great advice it is!  Sometimes you can find amazing books at gift shops, ones you won't find anywhere else.  When we buy them, we write in the front where we purchased it.  Since books are something that everyone can use, we are all reminded of our wonderful trip when we look at the inside flap.
  • Coffee cups.  While I don't actually drink coffee, I do appreciate a cup of tea every morning.  I enjoy the visual reminder of our fun times together.  Hmmm.  I think I'm starting a collection.  :)
  • T-shirts.  John and I do like occasionally to buy ourselves t-shirts if we can find some that we really like and are not too expensive.  But we don't buy them for our children.  They're too expensive, and our children don't wear them long enough.  Although we could probably make an argument for buying one for Sarah Beth so we could pass it down to each child.  ;)
How do you handle impulse buying in gift shops?  What kinds of things do you enjoy as souvenirs?

Friday, June 8, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: Getting Things Done


During Sarah Beth's and Daniel's swimming instruction this week, the little girls and I hung out in our van because Hannah really wants to go swimming, too.  It's easier to keep her happy in the van watching a DVD than trying to keep her out of the pool.  :)  While they watch a video, I've been enjoying the time to get a little extra reading done.  Sometimes, I do a little work on my summer learning plan or just do a little catch-up on texting or email reading.

Here are a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • the party on Saturday.  All three little girls had a great time, and Hannah took an excellent nap. :)
  • spending time with Mary Monday and Wednesday nights when John took the older three swimming, and I needed to put Hannah to bed early because she didn't take a nap that day.  We read some books, played some games, and folded some clothes.  :)  I don't get time with any one child very often, so I try to make the most of it.
  • taking all of the kids swimming Tuesday evening.
  • sorting through my books in the library.  Yes, I'm enjoying it; I'm that much of a book nerd bibliophile.  :)  John says I have too many books, and (don't tell him I said it) I think he's right. At the very least, if I have owned a book for several years and haven't read it yet, I think it's time for it to find a new home where it will be read and appreciated.
  • working on my math for my summer learning plan.  It's hard!  But it's stretching my brain in a good way, and it's good for my children to see me struggling with a math problem.  As they see me work, rework, and work again a problem in order to get the correct answer, I hope they learn the value of persistence. 
  • watching Sarah Beth work on her own math.  Her math book for the fall came in, and she asked half jokingly if she started now, would she be able to finish her math earlier in the year.  I said, sure!  She thought about it and decided to begin this summer to get a head start.  I'm thrilled!  I'm not pushing it, though; we're aiming for three lessons a week so she doesn't get burned out too early.  
Sarah Beth and Daniel have a swim meet tomorrow to which John is taking them while I stay home with the little girls.  Other than that (which is a big deal because swim meets can take all day), we don't have any plans.  

What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 3: Three Things to Take Advantage of


When we drove into the first national park we visited, the Saguaro National Park, the park ranger asked if we had a fourth grader with us.  And we did!  She reminded us that families with children in the fourth grade get into national parks free.  We had forgotten, so we were happy for the reminder.  

Here are a few things we discovered that you might want to check into, to take advantage of, if you can. 
  1. Every Kid in a Park.  Did you know that you can get into national parks for free, if you have a fourth grader with you?  All you have to do is go to this site and put in your zip code.  It doesn't ask for a name, birthday, or any kind of identifying information.  Then you print out the paperwork and take it to a national park where they change the paper for a card.  Again, they don't ask for any information.  We figure this saved us close to $200 on our trip to the Southwest because of all of the national parks we visited.
  2. Other memberships you may already have.  When we visited Uncle Ray in Albuquerque, he suggested that we visit Explora one afternoon since it was going to be too hot to be outside.  I was thrilled when I realized that we could get in free because we have a membership to the Health Museum in Houston through a reciprocal program.  They even let Uncle Ray in free with us!
  3. Rest stops.  I know I've mentioned rest stops before, but they are the unsung heroes of road trips.  When you bring your own food, they are wonderful places to stop for lunch and/or snacks.  John and I usually ate standing up since we were tired of sitting, but it was especially nice for Hannah since she could climb on the picnic benches all she wanted instead of being stuck in a high chair at a restaurant.  
What other things should we take advantage of when we travel with our children?  If you have any suggestions, please share!

In case you missed them, here are part one about keeping children happy in the car and part two about things you might want to take but haven't thought of.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Book Review: The Better Mom by Ruth Schwenk


This little book is jam-packed with practical information on becoming a better mother but only through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Dealing with topics such as not being appreciated, having to be perfect, and dealing with the feeling that everything depends on the mother in the house, this book tackles most of the feelings that mothers deal with.  Several times, as I started a new chapter, I would find myself thinking, "This is exactly how I feel!"  Then the author gave wonderful advice on how to deal correctly with those feelings.

I enjoyed The Better Mom more than I thought I would which was a lovely surprise.  There was one thing I found terribly annoying, however:  the author used "mom" as a verb.  Other than that, I found this book to be very helpful in my role as a mother.

I want to thank Handlebar for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Friday, June 1, 2018

What I Enjoyed This Week: My Summer Learning Plan

A Joshua Tree.  And my kids.  ;)

There are many things about Classical Conversations that I appreciate, and one of my favorites is that it stresses the importance of redeeming the parents' education while we teach our children.  As I educate my children, I discover things that I don't know and wish I did which gives me the opportunity to rectify the situation.  And summer provides an excellent time to work on these items since I'm not teaching my children.  Yes, I do school for myself in the summer.  :)

While some people tackle subjects like math or Latin, I didn't feel the need to dig deeply into any particular subject this year.  But I do want to spend time on several -- about an hour each day.  I came up with this plan:

  • Monday is for math via MathCounts.  I hope to start a group in the fall. 
  • Tuesday for grammar via Our Mother Tongue.  Since I'm tutoring Essentials again next year, I thought a little extra preparation over the summer would be useful. 
  • Wednesday for CC webinars.  With Sarah Beth starting Challenge next year, I would like to learn as much as I can to help with this transition.  Also, I want to do more prep work for Essentials.
  • Thursday is for Teaching the Classics.  This method looks like a wonderful way to look at literature with my children, starting with picture books.  It works with any story!
  • What about Friday?  Fridays are for my home, specifically putting things in order and decluttering.  That's not really educational, but it is therapeutic!

Here's a few other things I enjoyed this week:
  • school is out for the summer!
  • Sarah Beth's birthday.  I had been given a gift card myself, and I had so much fun picking books out for myself at her store of choice Half-Price Books.
  • swimming lessons for Sarah Beth and Daniel.  They're new instructor is wonderfully knowledgeable and amazingly kind.
  • taking the kids to the pool Wednesday evening.  Mary has been wanting to go, so I made the time for it.  And Hannah enjoyed herself, too.
  • As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner.  A family moves to Philadelphia so the father can work as an undertaker a couple of months before the Spanish flu of 1918 breaks out.  The part of the book dealing with the flu is wonderfully written especially as it shows how many people were involved and what a big deal this pandemic was from the viewpoint of this particular family.  The last third of the book deals with the consequences, and they are just as hard to deal with as the initial flu.  
  • Classical Me, Classical Thee by Rebekah Merkle.  Another Essentials tutor recommended this for kids moving up into Challenge, so I bought a copy for Sarah Beth.  She hasn't read it yet (unsurprisingly), so I started it.  It's written for kids who are in junior high or high school in classical education, showing them how valuable their education really is and how they will use it when they're grown.  I'm thoroughly enjoying it!
  • doughnuts for breakfast since today is National Doughnut Day!
I'm taking the three little girls to a birthday party tomorrow.  Rachel and Mary are thrilled.  Hannah will have a wonderful time, too.  Other than that, we have a quiet weekend planned which will be nice.

Have you thought of implementing a summer learning plan for yourself?  What did you enjoy this week?  What do you have planned for the weekend?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Taking a Road Trip with Children, Part 2: Four Things You May Not Have Thought about Bringing But Might Want To


How do you find the balance between what you want to bring on a road trip with the room you have in your vehicle?  Honestly, I'm not sure, and that's not what this post is about anyway.  :)

As I planned for our trip touring the Southwest months ago, I started a list of things that I knew I wanted to take but that I would probably forget if I didn't write them down because they're a little unusual.  But I'm so glad that we made room for them in our van as they made our lives just that much easier.
  1. Sleeping bags.  You might have already thought of this one, or maybe your family doesn't really need them because you don't have many children.  But bringing sleeping bags on a trip makes it possible for six people to sleep in a hotel room that technically only sleeps four.  (Add in a portable crib, and you can get seven in there.  ;)
  2. Food.  You can save tons of money by bringing your own lunch food and/or snacks, especially if you have room for a cooler.  Besides, don't you get tired of eating out every single meal?  I do.  We usually eat supper out, but we like to eat our own food for lunch and some snacks.
  3. Ziptop baggies.  I took a handful of these on our trip to the Southwest, and I ran out!  I had to buy more!  They're great for dividing up family size snack packages so that your children don't fight over them.  I also appreciated having them when one of my children didn't finish part of his meal or snack so we could save it for later.  They're also handy for souvenirs with small or many parts, like a deck of cards.
  4. Handheld vacuum.  If you have room for this and already own one, you will want to bring it.  When your children start picking cactus spines out of their shoes inside your van, you'll be glad you have it.  (Ask me how I know!)  Or when your toddler drops a goldfish and another child steps on it, it can save your sanity.  :)
What unusual things do you take with you on trips?  What should I add to this list?