Saturday, December 28, 2013

Meet Jeffrey

He is Connor's pet rock. He has a blankie.

Some days I wonder if I am going to make it through the rest of Connor's childhood with my sanity intact. There is no reasoning with him or getting him to stop talking.

Jeffrey must sleep inside. 
We must have a picnic party. 
We must have a camping party. 
We must play "Cars" (the movie) with the Legos.
Mr. Bear must go with him on his lunch date with Daddy.
What are you going to do, Mommy?
When can I have a party?
When can I go to the hotel?
We need to buy a toy Frank.
I want to play with Hazel.
When can my friend come over?
Can I have something to eat?
Can I have some milk?
Will you play with me?
Sit there and I will tell you all about skeletons.
I hate the Grinch!
I love the Grinch!
When is Christmas?

I love that boy.
But my ears are starting to go numb.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sick Mr. Bear

Connor has been very attached to this bear lately. He calls him "Mr. Bear". When we went to Olivia's choir concert Thursday night, he remembered a minute after we left that he had forgotten him. He cried, and cried. "I wanted Mr. Bear to hear the concert!" It was so sad, but we were cutting it close and didn't have time to turn around.

This afternoon, Connor insisted that Mr. Bear was sick and needed a nap on the table while he was working. He asked me to get the thermometer and take his temperature. Being the awesome and indulgent mother that I am, I acquiesced. 

Poor Mr. Bear...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Reindeer Chow

My kids love "puppy chow" chex mix, so when I was faced with extra rice chex and almond bark last Christmas, it was only natural for me to attempt a candy cane variety. And thus Reindeer Chow was born. Christmas is just about the only time of year I make ANYTHING with almond bark, so it's kind of a luxury for both me a the kids. I like it because I don't have to bake anything and it's fast, the kids like it because it's delicious. Win-win, right? Plus, there are only 4 ingredients for this one, and I can buy them all at Aldi's. Go me!

Reindeer Chow

1 package vanilla almond bark (1.5 lbs)
1 box rice chex cereal
12 candy canes
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Start by crushing your candy canes. I shouldn't have to mention this, but just in case... PLEASE don't use fruity candy canes. You will regret it. Just get your plain old peppermint candy canes. You can crush them in a food processor unless you are lacking this cool kitchen gadget - like me. If so, never fear. Just stick a dozen in a bag and crush with a meat mallet. If you don't have a meat mallet, find something else heavy and hard. (No, your child's head should NOT be used to crush candy canes.)

Crush them so they are nice and powdery with a few big bits and set them aside.

One nice thing about the almond bark that Aldi sells is that the squares come already separated. There are actually 12 squares in the container, but because I prefer the cereal not too heavily coated, I like to use just 10. It's a personal preference. If you'd like the coating more heavy, just throw it all in. Either way, place it in the biggest bowl you own that will fit in your microwave. 

Melt it, stirring about every 30 seconds or so until smooth. This should take about 2-3 minutes tops.

Add your rice cereal. Mix together with the almond bark, using a rubber spatula to bring the candy coating up from the bottom. You're going to "fold" this rather than "stir" it. I hope you get the difference. If not, just do your best. Getting it coated well will take a few minutes of you folding and folding and folding and folding to make sure the almond bark is evenly coating the cereal. Be patient. It's worth it.

Eventually, it will look something like this.

At this point, start stirring in the crushed candy cane. I usually sprinkle half over the bowl, mix for a minute or so, then add the other half.

Mix it! Mix it good!

Then do the same thing with your powdered sugar. Don't skip the sugar - this is what keeps it all from sticking together when it cools and sets.

This makes a ton, so it's great to bring to parties or give out as gifts. It's so yummy!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pardon Me, Your Opinion is Showing

This past week, Ben and I made a decision. I'd like to say it was a difficult decision to make. The reality is that it was a careful decision more than a challenging one. In other words, it was clear what we needed to do, but we didn't make it on a whim, and prayed about it for several days after we had decided to make sure it was right.

What was this decision we made? We decided to enroll Connor in public school. 

For those who may not realize, I have been teaching Kelsey (4th grade) and Connor (Kindergarten) at home this year, in addition to caring for Maddox (age 3) and keeping 2 kids for a friend (ages 1 and 3). I know some of you already think I'm crazy for even attempting to babysit in addition to my already full plate. Without going into a lot of details, I can honestly say that having these 2 "bonus" kids in my home every day usually does not add significantly to my stress. In fact, in many ways it has helped alleviate it. It is one of those rare, wonderful situations where they fit almost seamlessly into our home because of their ages and temperament.

But I digress. Over the past few days as I have been sharing this decision with loved ones, about half have responded with friendly support and acceptance. This "acceptance" includes an unspoken trust that Ben and I have consistently made good decisions regarding our children's education choices, whether they be to educate in our home or at public school. However, the remaining half of responses have fallen into one of two categories:

1. Some of my friends that are also homeschooling parents have responded with few words and unspoken reservations written plainly all over their face. Although they are too considerate and respectful to tell me so, they obviously feel like we are making a big mistake.

2. Others have responded with what can only be describes as mild enthusiasm. This sentiment is often accompanied by a comment that generally includes the phrase "you finally realized..." Thus, the implication comes that the original decision we made to homeschool was flawed.

These responses have led me to reflect on the judgments we make about others. While I am a firm believer in Christlike morals, right and wrong, and God's truth, I'm beginning to realize that most of the big decisions we make about our families don't fall into one of these categories. It's the little decisions that we make every day that have the greatest impact on our journey toward salvation. These include things like treating others with kindness, forgiving offenses, attending church, saying our prayers, and so forth. If we are doing these little things, than the "big" steps on our journey to salvation (such choosing to be baptized), aren't really a big question, are they? They are a natural and appropriate step along our spiritual path. 

But this isn't a blog post about morals and salvation. The point here is that big decisions that Ben and I have wrestled with over the years (along with many, many other parents) cannot be made by simply determining what is morally right and morally wrong. That's why they are hard to make. A few examples of these are:
  • Whether or not to homeschool
  • Whether or not to have more children
  • Whether or not I should be a stay-at-home mom
In each of these examples, our loved ones have had varying opinions. Some were positive and some were negative, but the ones we appreciated the most were those that were neither but simply an expression of trust that we would make the right decision.

I know there are a lot of people with very strong opinions about the benefits of homeschooling. In fact, I am one of them! I firmly believe that homeschooling is superior to an institutionalized, impersonal, public education. There is no possible way that even a committed, kind, hardworking school teacher with a class of 15-30 kids can compete with the type of personalized, loving, and creative environment that a homeschooling parent can provide at home in a family setting. Research shows this to be the case academically as well as emotionally when looking at homeschooling vs. public schooling as a whole.

One might ask why we decided to enroll Connor (and even Olivia) in public school if we believe so strongly about the benefits of homeschool. It's simple. I don't want what's best for my kid. I want what's best for my family. My family consists of me, Ben, and our 4 children. Every decision we make takes into consideration the needs of each person, and then we seek the will of God because He can see what we can't. It's as simple as that. 

I'm going to resist my very extrovert-ish inclination to tell you why we think allowing Connor to attend public school will be best for our family right now. I'm even going to tell you it's very possible that Kelsey will be returning to school again this fall. Our reasons are our own, and it is our conclusion that this is the best thing for our family at this time. It may not always be, but we'll cross that bridge when we get there. 

If you are a close friend or family member of ours, and you recognize yourself as #1 or #2, I really hope that you will come to trust our judgment as we trust yours. I understand that it's not that easy - I've been judgmental myself from time to time. When I am on the receiving end I try not to take it personally, but I am rather tender-hearted and it does hurt a little when it comes from a loved one. If you recognize yourself as someone who has been supportive without reservation, I thank you with all my heart. I strive to be like you when it's my turn to be the unbiased listener and supportive friend. But mostly, I hope that we will all take a moment to stop and think a little about what our unspoken thoughts are conveying to others.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What A Piano Hides

Here's the picture of what our piano tuner and I pulled out, with the likely culprit. I've been missing that measuring tape for months!

On the bright side, our keys weren't really sticking. We had 55 cents wedged between the keys.