Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Affection for Twitter

When I first opened a Twitter account, I didn't really know what to do with it and I did very little with it for quite some time... until I realized what a wealth of information was available to me.  Now I use Twitter to my advantage for several purposes.

News - I want to know what's going on in the world and I don't want to sit through a newscast to get my information.  Instead, I subscribe to local and national news feeds such as Fox News.  Then I simply click on the headlines I'm interested in and read the story.  Short and sweet. I also get traffic information which is VERY helpful!

Business - Of course I promote my blogs and business on Twitter, but I also follow others related to my business.  What better way to get ideas and see what's going on? 

Family - I have connected to many blogs and websites to help me in homeschooling and being a parent of a special needs child.  I also stay up to date about what's happening in our neighborhood for families.

Bonuses - My favorite part about Twitter is everything else.  In the past year, I won event tickets, books, and DVDs from contests on Twitter.  I find all sorts of great deals and information from the tweets I receive and Bible verses are delivered to my phone on a regular basis.  What more could I want out of a social networking site?

I'd love to meet you there too!  Follow me at twitter.com/mamacurls!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer Goals

Forget New Year's Resolutions!  Our family sets summer goals.  These are usually short-term goals that we can easily accomplish in 3 months or less.  They are sometimes things that we don't work into our schedule throughout the year but work into our summer activities.  My husband's goal is to get our 1970 Chevy Pickup running again.  It's not a huge goal because of the truck - only the radiator needs to be replaced.  It's a big goal because of my husband's limited time. It's also a goal that my husband will enjoy accomplishing (with the help of his many apprentice mechanics).  Our oldest daughter's goal is to memorize the books of the Bible.  She is also planning to work with our middle daughter to switch bedrooms until Christmas (saving that story for an upcoming post).  Our middle and youngest daughters have chosen a couple of workbooks they want to complete to improve their academic skills.  As for my goal, it's not so small.  I've tried once to read the Bible in 90 days and did not succeed.  This time, I know I can get it done.  I have a trick up my sleeve with two six hour flights in my near future, as well as a week without my children.  These blocks of time will give me an amazing head start!  Here's to some big check marks on our lists of goals at the end of summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Father's Day Blessing

Our life has been crazy lately.  I say that as if there has been a time when it hasn't been crazy.  Recently, my husband has been putting in long hours at work, the kids have been going stir crazy trying to get their school work complete, and we are gearing up for a busy summer.  We stepped out in faith a few months back and committed my husband and our oldest daughter to going on a mission trip to Taiwan, feeling led to do so but uncertain about having the funds.  In an attempt to grow my home-based business, I also registered for a convention that I have always wanted to attend but never been able to squeeze in.  As with most of what we do (we can always do better), we have been prayerful and sought to do God's will in these two matters specifically.  

This past week was especially busy, adding Vacation Bible School to our schedule.  We may have had all of about five hours together as a family in the entire week.  Yesterday, the kids and I made a special breakfast for my husband and we got ready for church as usual.  As we were getting ready to leave, I pulled my husband aside and told him we could stay home and do Bible study.  He looked so worn down and this was a rare Sunday when we had no obligations at church.  We each took our shoes off and went into the living room to talk to the kids.  When the girls saw us, they immediately asked what was going on and pleaded to go to church.  We looked at each other, put our shoes back on and headed out the door.  How could we say no?  Because my husband was on call, he drove his truck to church and the kids and I went in our car.

The sermon was inspiring as always.  Teaching from Acts 5, it was a somber message about the apostles who were so bold in their faith that they preached constantly in spite of being threatened, imprisoned, and beaten.  My husband and I pray for that boldness in our daily lives.  Something that our pastor said during the sermon was that we should not feel guilty when we are blessed.  We should feel responsible, just as the apostles did.  I liked that enough to jot it in my sermon notes.  There are so many areas of our lives where we are blessed, but one delicate area is our finances.  While we are feeling the strain of my husband's long work hours, we are also feeling the blessing of a couple of slightly larger pay checks and want to be responsible with that little extra.  It is helpful because he works on commission and we have some large bills to pay at the moment in addition to some smaller paychecks in our near future when my husband goes on the mission trip.

We left service and met up again at a restaurant to have a Father's Day lunch with my parents.  When my husband arrived, he handed me an envelope that someone had placed on his truck during church. Our names were written on the outside and inside was a letter with 2 gift cards.  The letter said:

Your Heavenly Father listens and hears your prayers.  HE has given you these Visa gift cards to be used.  HE will continue to hear your prayers and HE wants you to know HE passionately loves you beyond your comprehension.  Continue to listen to HIM for guidance in how HE wants to work through you both to further HIS kingdom.

I just about fell over.  The amount in the envelope was an odd amount - exactly enough to pay some specific bills that we had been discussing a few days earlier!  For a moment, my mind wandered to the others in our church who needed money for various reasons.  Then I remembered the note I had written during service: When you are blessed, don't feel guilty.  Feel responsible.  We are currently praying through how to spend this money responsibly.  Although it matches the amount we needed, we want to verify that we are acting according to God's will. 

We are thankful for our daily blessings from God, and we are especially thankful for this amazing Father's Day blessing.  We give all of the glory to God and pray that our testimony will grow the faith of others.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads and father figures!  I am blessed to have an amazing Grandpa who took me under his wing when I needed a dad and a wonderful husband who is the best daddy to our daughters!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Our Tornado Drill

My husband and I grew up in California and remember several big earthquakes.  Two years ago we moved to Missouri, smack dab in the middle of Tornado Alley.  In all of our years (even for the Y2K scare) we have never assembled a disaster survival kit.  That changed a few weeks back when Joplin was hit with a tornado.  I helped our oldest daughter pull up FEMA's website where we found a list of supplies to get us started.  She read the list to my husband.  He then told our other girls where to find the items and they got everything for our box.  If we didn't have something, I wrote it on a shopping list.  After putting our box together, we chose to place it at the back of our daughters' closet under the stairs.  As we placed it there, we prayed that we would never need it.

A week later, my girls and I were sitting at the table doing school work like any other day as the tornado siren began to sound.  I knew we would be fine because we just went over this with the kids AND we had all of our supplies in the closet.  The older girls and I quickly gathered school work, cell phones, chargers, my purse, food, shoes and jackets as we ran downstairs.  We scrambled to get the pets and my youngest daughter down with us.  On the way down, I called my husband and mom to tell them where we were.  Once we got down there and took a few moments to calm everyone, I called our property manager.  She urged us to come to the community storm shelter where our neighbors were gathering.  Once again, we gathered our belongings, put the pets in the basement bathroom, and left our house on foot.  On the short walk, I called my husband and told him we were going elsewhere.  My youngest daughter began panicking and I carried her the rest of the way with my other two running ahead of us.

We spent about an hour in the shelter with twenty other people and dogs before heading back home.  In that hour my daughter was able to calm down and I was able to think though all that happened.  Fortunately, the only thing that ever came our way that day was a good practice run.  Here are SOME lessons we learned (or were reminded of):
  • No matter how you feel underneath, stay calm so you can help the kids stay calm.
  • Do a family drill, even if it feels cheesy.  This is the only way to work the bugs out.
  • Pack some plastic bags in case someone's stomach isn't calm.
  • Put your emergency kit somewhere that you can take it with you if needed.  We repacked ours into three backpacks rather than one container.  This way three family members could each grab a bag.  Our kit did nothing for us when we were in the shelter and not one person there had any supplies.  It had the potential to get ugly in there.
  • Pack some fun stuff in the kit to help distract the kids.
  • If possible, have a small supply of prescriptions in the kit.
  • Call someone and tell them your plan as soon as you know something is going on.  We lost cell phone service during the storm and didn't get service back until eight hours after it was over.
  • As soon as you return to normal (or as soon as possible) call that person back and tell them you are OK.  For good measure, call anyone else who may be concerned.  I called my grandpa who would have panicked when he saw the news that evening because several tornadoes did touch down near our town.

These are a few things that come to mind.  Please share any other suggestions with me!

Homeschooling with Netflix

When listing my top 5 resources for homeschooling, I have to include Netflix.  Several times each week, we turn to Netflix for documentaries, educational videos and sometimes simply entertainment.  I use these movies when I want to work with one child and another needs an activity or the kids have worked really hard on something and need a little down time.  One day a week I go to my office and I am blessed to be able to take the kids with me.  On that day, they are allowed to watch a movie in the afternoon when their book work is complete.  We also use Netflix on our family movie nights by rewarding our kids with the opportunity to choose a movie (from our pre-selected list) if they have completed X, Y and Z.  Although we rarely use it, I have been known to pop a movie into our portable DVD player for a long car ride on occasion.  Something that we began using to replace television has become a valuable resource for our homeschool.

Every couple of weeks, I visit the Netflix website and add movies to our queues.  We have two queues, one for instant movies streamed to our computer or wii and the other for DVDs mailed to our home.  We can watch the movies in the instant queue in any order so this one is easy to maintain.  Any movie that offers the choice for instant queue, that is what I choose.  As for the DVD queue, the movies are listed in the order they will be shipped.  I am careful to rotate movies to please everyone in the family, so sometimes I have to adjust the order of these movies.  There are a few types of movies that make their way into our queue.  We watch a lot of documentaries about topics we are discussing, especially in social studies and science (Drive Thru History).    When we have read a book and there is a movie version available, we watch those (most recently The Hiding Place and Chronicles of Narnia).  Our youngest daughter likes to watch the cartoons that have a little lesson in them (her favorite is Sid the Science Kid).  As for entertainment, we use Netflix rather than the theater or most other rental places.  We sometimes wait longer for movies, but we don't mind.  Our recent favorites have been The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and The Ultimate Gift.  We definitely get our money's worth each month.

Tips before adding movies to your queue:

  • Check the source of the movie before showing it to your kids.  You don't want to be caught off guard when a science video states something as fact that is simply theory or a history video promotes a point of view that disagrees with your beliefs.  I'm not saying don't show the video because sometimes these are great discussion starters, just be prepared. 
  • Know that it's OK to only show parts of a movie.  You pay a flat fee for Netflix, regardless of how many movies you watch.  Take advantage of this and share clips with your kids.  There have been several occasions when we have used bits and pieces of movies to emphasize a specific something and known that we never would watch the entire movie.
  • As with anything, take caution in what you introduce. There have been occasions when we have told our kids before watching a show that we are watching a specific portion for a specific purpose and this will not be a regular part of our queue.  This has helped us avoid heartache with some particular series that have a good portion here and there but are not generally on our approved list.
  • This may be a no-brainer, but talk to your kids about what they have watched and train them to be discerning.  We have an on-going dialogue about what is and isn't appropriate for our family.  Our kids (even the young ones) are great critics and have decided without prompting to turn some things off.  This is success to me because I want to raise people who can make responsible decisions for themselves, not just do what I tell them to do.
Disclaimer: In no way do I want to promote an idea that movies replace one-on-one instruction.  We use a variety of teaching methods and tools, primarily hands-on learning supplemented with books and other resources.  This is just one of those other resources.  Also, we are grateful that our children have a deep love for reading.  If this was not the case, I would probably be more reluctant to use movies as much as we do (which isn't much).  I encourage you to use the resources in the best way to meet your family's needs.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure

What do you do when one child finishes her work before the others?  Not just on a daily basis but also for the school year?  We have one child who gets up before everyone else and starts immediately on her work and we have another who drags her feet out of bed and works slowly through the day.  It's no surprise that the early riser is also finished with her work for the year and the other is still trudging through.  Our family has scheduled a time in our homeschool day called "Choose Your Own Adventure." During that time, the kids get to choose from a list of activities that changes according to our needs.  For example, two of the girls are in a play and so rehearsal time has been added into CYOA for now.  The list is always posted on the white board.  It is a typed list inside a page protector.  Seasonal activities are added using a dry erase marker so they can be removed when necessary. The kids who need to finish school work do it during the morning CYOA time.  In the afternoon, everyone gets CYOA time.  There are a few guidelines for CYOA.  Because I strictly limit screen time, each child only gets 30 minutes total each day between the wii and computer.  Also, I ask that if they chose a sedentary activity in the morning, the they choose something more active for the afternoon and vice versa.  So far, the kids have been responsible in their choices and greatly enjoyed choosing their own adventures.

Here are some items that have been on our list: card-making, sewing, baking, reading, correspondence, art projects, music, board games, outdoor play, playing on the wii fit, playing educational games on the computer, pottery, scrapbooking, rearranging bedrooms, science experiments, water play, play-dough, dress up, dog training, coloring pages, crafts, foreign language, drama practice, sudoko, word searches, crossword puzzles, and Bible study.

Monday, June 13, 2011

My American Dream

Mansions.  Exotic cars.  Jetting around the world.  That isn’t my American Dream.  If I had a million dollars, none of these things would be on my list.  First, I would move my family out of the small duplex that we currently call home and purchase a modest four-bedroom home where each of my kids could have their own room.   It would also have a garage and driveway where we could park our cars.  Not new cars, but our current rides that would be paid off.  In addition to paying off our cars, we would have the overdue maintenance performed.  Speaking of maintenance, I would purchase health insurance and get medical and dental checkups.  My kids are current on their checkups because they have insurance and my husband goes to the veteran’s hospital, but I am beyond overdue and my body feels it.  The last place where I would put a large chunk of money is my church.  Our food pantry is running low and the shelter we support needs lots of work.  Of course there would be a couple of splurges. I would purchase some homeschool materials that are on my dream shopping list. My selfish item would be a room in the house just for my card-making business that is starting to take off.  I would also love to have my husband’s motorcycle repaired from when a driver pulled out in front of him and the bike was totaled.  Lastly, I would take my family to California for a visit with my grandpa.  He is so lonely since my grandma suddenly died of cancer last June.  The kids and I were able to spend last summer with him and sort through all that needs to be done when someone passes.  Now I would like to make some new, happy memories with him.  The fortune wouldn’t last long, but it would be put to good use in my hands.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Daddy Dates by Greg Wright

Daddy Dates is written to give dads tools to build relationships with their daughters, mainly in the form of dates (thus the title).  Wright outlines the intentions behind the dates, how to implement the dates, and the impact of the dates with his four daughters.  Included at the back of the book are a personality test and a list of suggested dates for the dads who need the extra help in the creativity department.
Having a house full of daughters, I was eager to read Wright’s thoughts on raising girls.  This book offers some insight on parenting from a dad’s point of view and gives dads plenty of advice on how exactly to carry out a “daddy date.” For many, this may be a new idea and Wright starts those dads on the right path.  The inclusion of the personality test and date ideas is a great bonus to the book.  This is an easy read, like a light-hearted conversation with a friend.  From a book that calls itself a “road map for any day to raise a strong and confident daughter,” I would have preferred more depth.  From a Christian publisher, I would have appreciated more emphasis on Godly values.  All in all, it is good material for dads looking to be more involved in their daughters’ life.  Just don’t stop here.

This book was given to me by Booksneeze in exchange for my unbiased opinion.