Friday, July 24, 2009

Living the Dream

I was reading a friend's blog post a while back about how she felt like she wasn't living the life that she had always dreamed of. It got me thinking, am I living the life I have always dreamed of? I came to the conclusion that the answer is, yes. Oh sure, I had fantasies of becoming a famous actress. At one point in my life I couldn't imagine why anyone wouldn't want to be famous. And there was a time that I wanted to write young adult novels like Judy Blume. But really, truly from my earliest childhood what I have really wanted to be was a wife and a mother.

I have had people ask me, "Don't you want to get a job and have a career?" ...Um, no. Why would I want to go off to a job every day when I could be home with my daughters instead? Even after my girls are grown, I have no desire to get a job, unless I have to for financial reasons.

Being a good wife, mother, and homemaker IS a full time job. Whenever I try to do things "for myself", I find that I don't do as good of a job at what is most important to me, being a good wife and mother. Now I am not saying that I never take time to be alone and regroup or that I never do things like paint my toenails or read a book...or blogging. It is just when I try to do some big project or have some big goal that is unrelated being a wife and a mother that I end up being unhappy and overwhelmed instead of fulfilled.

I believe in following one's dreams and I believe that dreams can come true. I remember watching Cinderella as a teenager and being moved by the song, "A Dream is Wish Your Heart Makes."

A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling thru
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true

I am so glad that my dreams have come true!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

" My Husband Has Been Out of Town " Movie reviews

My husband has been out of town for the last 3 weeks hiking the John Muir trail. As much as I miss him, I enjoy having time to watch movies that he would never want to watch with me (and to catch up on my scrapbooking). Here are the movies I have watched.

Mama Mia - Cute story, love the ABBA music, Pierce Brosnan can't sing.

Nights at Rodanthe - love Diane Lane, a nice love story, hated the ending.

August Rush - a very sweet story.

Dead Poet's Society - love, love, love this movie. The way Keating makes the students rip up the textbook and learn to love poetry speaks to my homeschooling heart. His teaching style also reminded me of my darling professor husband. I bawled at the end when the boys all stand on their desks.

The Bucket List - Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are just great. Not my favorite movie, but I enjoyed it and was glad I had the chance to watch it.

P.S. I Love You - Gerard Butler is hot, Hilary Swank is not. A good love story nonetheless. I was surprised by the ending, but liked it.

St. Elmo's Fire - I absolutely loved this movie as a teenager and wondered if I would still like it as an adult... I do. It is such a great Brat Pack movie and the lines in it are just so quotable. I found myself anticipating some of the lines and saying them along with the characters.

Moulin Rouge - so bizzare, I thought about not watching it after the first 10 minutes, but I was scrapbooking and our TV remote is broken, so I kept watching. It was very weird to have the characters that are supposedly in the early 1900's start singing modern songs. I got used to it after a while. Overall, I didn't hate this movie like I thought I would after watching the first scene.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - An interesting concept. I liked the story and the epic quality, but I kind of hated the ending.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lovin' the Now I'm Reading series

Still working on getting child #3 to read fluently. Well, I was working on it until I got a bit caught up in this whole "getting ready to move" business. Now we're just letting things stew for a while. Maybe by the time we get to Hawaii, Arwen will have hit a developmental milestone and be reading easily...

Anyway, I wanted to mention how much I love the Now I am Reading series. I have gone through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons with all three of my girls. I picked this curriculum not because had researched all the wonderful possibilities, but because I typed "teach your child to read" into the Amazon search and that is what came up. So far it has worked just fine. Of course, I have only made it about halfway through with each of my girls.

That's when the Now I am Reading Series come in. Reading from real books has been so much more fun for my girls than reading from a phonics curriculum. Level 1 is all short vowel sounds, Level 2 is long vowel sounds and Level 3 is new sounds and blends*. We have one set for each level and by the time we have gone through each level the girls have been ready to start reading easy readers. I just finished level 3 with Arwen and will start working through easy readers after the move. It is almost sad to be leaving these cute books behind...almost... it will be more fun to have 3 readers in the house.

*apparently there is a Level 4 also

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can you still be a Charlotte Mason follower if you have never read her Original Series?

Of all of the homeschool philosophies, the Charlotte Mason's ideas resonate with me the most. It wasn't always that way. when I first heard about Charlotte, I got the impression that her philosophy was all about running around in nature. Now I am all for running around in nature, but I knew there was more to education than that. Later I read Catherine Levison's books' A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education and I thought, "O.K., sure, great." Some of the ideas I bought into and others I didn't. Then I read Karen Andreola's A Charlotte Mason Companion and I fell in love. Since then when I read others' interpretations of Charlotte's thoughts, I find myself nodding in aggreement and occasionally shouting, "Amen, sistah!"

But what about Charlotte's own words? I find myself scanning past them as a bunch of meaningless words. And I don't think it is the Victorian language. I consider myself to be intelligent and am a huge fan of Shakespeare and Dickens. Does it make me less of a Charlotte Mason follower to not have any desire to read her Original Series? I have even considered reading the Modern English version on, but I just can't get into it.

I am now reading Charlotte Mason Study Guide which is available as an e-book on Penny Gardner's website for only $5. Once again I find myself skimming past Charlotte's quotes, but this time as I skimmed a few quotes stood out to me and reminded me why I love this philosophy even though I am not motivated to read Charlotte's works in their entirety. I share them with you now. Feel free to skim past them. I won't think of you as a less of a CM follower, I promise.

"The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum."

"The getting of knowledge and the getting of delight in knowledge are the ends of a child's education"

"The nourished upon ideas and absorbs fact only as these are connected with the living ideas upon which they hag."

"All great ideas that have moved the world are in books. Don't get between the book and the child. Don't water it down; let the child deal with the matter."

"You may bring your horse to the water, but you can't make him drink; and you may present ideas of the fittest to the mind of the child; but you do not know in the least which he will take, and which he will reject....Our part is to see that his educational plat is constantly replenished with fit and inspiring ideas, and then we must needs leave it to the child's own appetite to take which he will have, and as much as he requires."

“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children.”

"Law Ensures Liberty.––The children who are trained to perfect obedience may be trusted with a good deal of liberty: they receive a few directions which they know they must not disobey; and for the rest, they are left to learn how to direct their own actions, even at the cost of some small mishaps; and are not pestered with a perpetual fire of 'Do this' and 'Don't do that!'"

"We cannot give a better training in right reasoning than by letting children work out the arguments in favor of this or that conclusion."

"The mother's task in dealing with her growing daughter is one of extreme delicacy. It is only as her daughter's ally and confidante she can be of use to her now. She will keep herself in the background, declining to take the task of self-direction out of her daughter's hands. She will watch for opportunities to give word or look of encouragement to every growing grace. She will deal with failings with a gentle hand.. On discovering such fault, the mother will not cover her daughter with shame; the distress she feels she will show, but so that the girl perceives her mother is sharing her sorrow, and sorrowing for her sake... It is before her own conscience she must stand or fall now."

“The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn 'outlines,' of the whole history...of the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the life time of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”

"Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire, it has perhaps no educational value."

Science should "reveal something of the beauty and power of the world."

“The question is not—how much does the youth know when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care?"

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How to host a fun kid's birthday party for less than $60

As I was getting ready for my oldest daughter's 11th birthday party last month, I realized that I had become somewhat of an expert at inexpensive, fun kid's birthday parties. I don't think this is a talent that I have always possessed, but something that I developed over the years of being a grad student's wife. Here are some things I learned that have helped me to plan fun parties without spending a bunch of money.

1. You don't have to spend a lot of money to host a party that your kids will enjoy and remember fondly. Sure, a clown, pony rides, and inflatable bounce houses are great, but are not necessary if they are not in your budget.

2. Don't go crazy with the party favors. These can really add up especially if you have a lot of guests (see # 3). Most party favors are going to be taken home and thrown away in a few weeks anyway. I usually do a bag with a small toy and stickers related to the theme and some candy. The candy is probably unnecessary since the guest with be having cake, but it helps fill up the bag without adding much to the cost.

3. Limit the number of guests. Since party favors can really add to the cost of the party, limiting the number of guest can really help keep the cost down. Another option would be to skip the favors altogether. Yes, they are tradition, but not required. Also, lots of guests mean buying more plates, cups, etc.

4. Don't host the party at meal times. Having to feed the guests a meal can really add to the cost. Host the party from 10am - 12pm or 2 - 4pm. That way there is no need to buy food for a meal. the food cost is limited to the cake and maybe a drink.

5. Don't go crazy with the decorations. Some balloons, streamers, and something to represent the theme is you have a theme is enough.

OK, enough tips, here is exactly how I hosted my daughter's 11th birthday party for less than $60. First she made her own invitation:
This one is hand written on card stock with stickers (the theme was a garden party). I have also made invitations on the computer.

Then we made the "cake"
Because it was a garden themed party, we made dirt dessert with pipe cleaner flowers from a kit Sierra got for Christmas.

And we decorated

Sierra made the flowers using an idea from a fairy book she has and we hung some balloons and streamers.

We also bought some cut flowers to go with the theme.

And we sprinkled some lavender flowers from our garden on the table. In the bowl are scented sachets that Sierra made (another idea from the fairy book). We already had a party favor idea, but she really wanted to make these.

We planned some games and activities. I usually try to plan three.

The first activity was painting pots. This also doubled as the party favor.
We planted petunias in the pots at the end of the party and sent them home with the kids.

Activity #2: Pin the Bee on the Flower game

Activity #3: Garden Charades ( I think Kali is pretending to be a worm...)

Then is was time for cake.

...and presents.

That's it. Total cost - just under $60.

This is everything I bought -plates, cups (we had forks), tablecloth, cake ingredients, pink lemonade, cherries to go in ice cubes for lemonade, balloons, streamers, card stock for invitations and decorations, fabric and ribbons for sachets, bouquet of flowers, poster board for Pin the Bee game, pots (we already had paint and brushes), potting soil, and petunias.

The kids had just as good of a time as they would have had if I had spent lots more. Well, maybe not if there had been pony rides...

* I have gotten many of my activity ideas from Other themes I have done include fairy, princess, ocean, zoo, Hawaii (before we even knew we were moving there), panda, beach, Hello Kitty, Sesame Street, Wonder Woman, magical land, ladybug and butterfly, and penguin.