Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inspector Hector Makes House Calls!

We have needed to "brush up" (Ha! Ha!) on our tooth brushing, so guess what? Inspector Hector, Plaque Detector came to our house IN PERSON, informing the children of proper tooth brushing protocol. (I wish you could see his great teeth--the picture is kinda hard to see!) Their mother asked Inspector Hector to make occasional follow-up visits. Inspector Hector also encouraged us as a family to cut way down on the sugar, so we have been using a lot of xylitol and stevia as substitutes. (The only two sweeteners of the several I have researced with very favorable reviews.) Thanks for the help, Inspector!

Posted by Picasa

Of Things Come and Gone

So, in my quest to be healthier, greener, and more frugal, some things come, and some things go. The important thing is though, that I feel like I am making upward progress in general.

Some things that have come:

I am recycling! Rexburg didn't have much of a recycling program, but they have a pretty good one here. It feels nice not to be as wasteful.

I make all my yogurt homemade. I have never liked yogurt before, but I do like homemade. I have gotten to the point that I can whip out a gallon batch while I am cleaning the kitchen after dinner. Way cheaper, and way yummier, not to mention it doesn't have the loads of sugar the store bought kind has.

I am more aware of where my food comes from and what is involved in it's production. We still like meat a lot, but I am o.k. paying a bit more for humanely treated, hormone and antibiotic free, grass fed meat. (To be completely honest, I don't buy it all the time, just most of the time) Because it is more expensive, we eat less of it (probably better anyway), and because of the gross looking filler most fast food chains use in their burgers (see Food, Inc.), we hardly ever go out to fast food places anymore, with the exception of an occasional In-N-Out, which doesn't use fillers, and raise their own beef. (Just an aside, no worries, I am not out-of-control about this. If you put a nice piece of steak in front of me that is not grass fed or antibiotic free, trust me, I will still eat it, and I will enjoy it very much.)

We have started our garden. Container gardening this year because we have no yard, but hopefully it will be great!

We have pretty much switched to using xylitol or stevia for our sweeteners. A couple of us have teeth that are very susceptible to cavities, so this is a good change for us.

Things that have gone:

I have been not using shampoo the past couple of months because of the potentially harmful chemicals in it (I have made my own, or used a baking powder/water paste and a vinegar rinse), but I think this one will go by the wayside. There is a cost/benefit to all these types of choices, and to me, the benefit is not worth the cost. I like the yummy smelling shampoo, hate the vinegar smell. I don't like the effort of mixing up the baking powder stuff--I am lazy I guess, and just like having my little bottle of shampoo right there. For me, I think normal shampoo is cheaper too, because although baking powder is cheap, I go through boxes faster. My shampoo lasts me a long time.

Cheese making: Curtis and I got all excited about making cheese after listening to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on CD. We made a decent batch of Mozerella, but when you get into any of the hard cheeses, it is really not that cost effective unless you have an unlimited supply of milk (ie; a cow). Also time consuming, because you have to let it age a long time. That will probably not be something we will pursue. We also tried making pasta, which we may continue to make on occasion, as it is pretty easy and tasty.

Sugar: Yup! While not completely gone, it is rarely used in our house anymore, as mentioned previously.

Anyway, things are coming. We are becoming a little healthier and a little wiser. Here's to even more progress in 2011!

Of Papers in a Jar

So, I occasionally hear or read about families that have great dinner conversations and use that time as a good learning tool. It has made me feel like our dinner-times are sadly lacking. We talk about...well, really, nothing! I am trying to feed the baby, the kids are usually complaining about the food, and Curtis and I are just trying to eat in between all that, not really thinking about much other then getting the kids on to bed so we can clean up and have a bit of time to ourselves. SO, in an effort to remedy that, last week I thought we would make a "conversation jar." I got on the internet and found like 15 pages of journal topics and questions. I printed the list off, then cut all the questions into strips, which I placed into a jar. Each night at dinner, we get out our jar and each person picks a strip of paper out of it which they, and anyone else who wants to, answer. It is a fun way to find out more about each other, especially the kids. We think we know them from spending most of our time with together, but it is kinda neat to hear their opinions on things we would never think to ask them about!

Of Dates with the Kids

One thing Curtis and I started doing several months ago that we have really been enjoying is taking turns having weekly dates with the kids. It is so nice to have one-on-one time with them to just giggle and talk about things they are interested in, and find out how they are doing. Usually we just do something inexpensive--Jamba Juice or ice cream somewhere, the pet store, a walk or bikeride, computer games, or pedicures in the living room...sometimes it is grocery shopping, although we try to find a fun treat to eat at home in bed while snuggling and reading a book...

The hope is that if we can continue this (and I think we can--both the kids and their parents LOVE it!), when they are teenagers, (or even younger) it will be a good venue to discuss issues and concerns they (or we) might have.


Posted by Picasa

Of Old Testament and Lessons Learned

I am often not very good at setting and accomplishing long-term goals, but I was proud of one that I did do this past year. I finished the Old Testament in it's entirety. I've read it once before as a teenager, but it had been a while, (o.K., a loooonnng while!) so I thought I would give it another go. I don't think I will do it again though, at least not with a time limit, or while my kids are little. I found that I had to read so much each day that I didn't have the time to ponder some of the really beautiful and meaningful passages that I could have spent days on. (I will admit too, there were many of the "drier" sections that got skimmed!) I also, because of the fast pace I had to maintain the entire year, didn't have much time to read any other scriptures. Consequently, I think I limited my spiritual growth this last year for the sake of accomplishing my goal. Oh well, lesson learned. This year I have decided to study topically. I am excited to learn a lot!

Of Candles and Ties

We were cooking a "nicer" dinner the other day and for a change in pace, I told the kids that we should get our stemmed glasses out to drink with. Arden glommed onto that idea and wanted to go whole hog and have a fancy "restaurant" dinner. I sent the kids off for baths before dinner while our halibut and yams were cooking and made up fancy menus on the computer. Arden wandered in from his bath, and to my surprise, he had put on his white Sunday shirt, and gotten all decked out in his tie, vest, and slacks as well, all of his own accord! I decided if he was going to go to that length for dinner, I'd better change out of my teeshirt and exercise shorts, too! Anyway, we all got dressed up and had a delightful dinner. I was the waitress.


Posted by Picasa

Of My Soon to Be Non-Socialized Kids

So, some of our big news this last little bit is that we have decided to begin home schooling. It was an agonizing decision, considering that Arden attended a wonderful school with a great teacher, but I kept feeling like I needed to pursue that avenue for whatever reason. After visiting with many, many people, both home schooled and public schooled, we decided to give it a shot for the remainder of this school year. So far it has been wonderful! Before I go too much further, let me hasten to add that I don't think homeschooling necessarily makes kids turn out better or worse then their public schooled counterparts. I mention this because I have noticed that when I tell some people that I homeschool, they immediately go on the defensive, assuming (I would guess) that I do it because I think my kids will turn out better. That is not the case at all. I have two main reasons that I am doing it. The first is that I want my kids to grow up loving to learn. I had been volunteering for Arden's class grading papers for the teacher, and I couldn't believe how dull the paperwork was! I even fell asleep a couple of times in the middle of helping Arden with his homework, and it was then that I thought surely, they could make this more interesting! So, that is my quest with homeschool--I want to make it super fun, so my kids love to learn. Secondly, I really do enjoy being with my kids! I love doing crafts, science experiments, snuggling and reading to them, playing at the park, cooking with them, etc., and...well, once Arden got home from school and got his homework done, I hardly had any time to do those fun things with him and the girls before it was time to start dinner. Not cool in my book.

Of course, there are pros and cons to homeschooling, the same as any other major decision. There is definitely something to be said for a rested mom who has had time during the day for herself. I won't get that with homeschooling. There are also lots of fun assemblies and extra curricular opportunities at public school that my kids won't get to do. To me, that's not a really big deal, because you make other opportunities. For example, we are doing a day a week at the nearby charter school where Arden is signed up for some fun science classes, the Lego league, Literature, and a craft class. We signed him up for gymnastics as well. We are still in search of a good service project we can do....lots of fun things available for homeschoolers!

The biggest question I get from skeptics when I tell them that I homeschool is the one about socialization. It always surprises me that that is such an issue because that is the least of my worries with homeschooling. Sure, you can isolate your kids, and perhaps some homeschoolers do, but in general, homeschool kids are among the most "socialized" kids I know, simply because they have more opportunities to interact with people of all different ages, rather then just kids around their same age that they see at school every day. Not only that, but I know there is a lot of drama that goes on in the public school that is silly, but easy to get caught up in. I remember this from my experience in second and third grade, although I suspect it is multiplied in Jr. High and High school! How nice to just avoid that altogether, if possible!

Anyway, so those are a few of my thoughts. I don't claim to be a better teacher then someone whose profession it is, but hopefully I can make up for it in the time and attention I am able to give my little kiddoes. Again, we'll see how it goes the rest of this year, and if we decide to continue, but so far, so good.

So, we are done with week two. I am still trying to figure out how much structure to have, and how to organize things. It is coming, though. I've got lots of fun books on order that will hopefully come this week or next, so we can finalize our curriculum. In the meantime, we have been getting tons of books from the library about all sorts of things.

Our most recent trip to the library...I think we had 89 items checked out. Eeks! The kids had to put a limit on my book-checking out, because I tend to go crazy at libraries.


For geography this term, we are studying the states. We went for a little train ride this last week, complete with peanuts and pretzels! We visited Alabama, where we learned about Rosa Parks and a little about the Civil Rights movement. We also made a quick stop at the Huntsman Space Center and learned a little about stars and solar systems.


In history, we have been learning about the Revolutionary War. We have read a lot about the Boston Tea Party, George Washington and his spy efforts, the war, and the issues that were involved. We checked out the "Felicity" books on CD and listened to all of those, which are a fun way to introduce the issues of the day, then we read a little more about them in books that are more specific to the events that happened.

In math, Arden learned how to tell time on a normal (not digital) clock. We also have been working on adding multiple digit numbers and money, and we have had a couple of "stores" where the kids have been able to buy things. It is great practice, and Arden is great at counting out $$ and adding sums together, while Maile is getting good at counting the coins and telling me which are dimes, nickles, etc. We have also found some fun math games on the computer which Arden really enjoys.

For writing, we started a "Fortunately, Unfortunately" story, which we are also illustrating, and have written letters to people and a postcard from our Alabama train ride.

For science we have done a few science expiriments, which I will include photos of later if I get to it. Right now I need to wrap up this blog, so I have time to write a few more things.

If anyone has some neat ideas for projects or fun ways for kids to learn things, please pass them along! I would sure appreciate it!

Of Sea Anemonies in January

On New Year's Day, we went to the beach to check out the tide pools. Can you believe it? In JANUARY! We were OUTSIDE at the beach!!! Anyway, sorry, I don't mean to rub it in. I know most of my readers are enjoying the snow there in the mountain west!

Anyway, we saw all sorts of neat critters including various starfish, sea anemonies, crabs and lots of different types of shells. All of us really enjoyed it except for Arden, who freaked out about the sea anemonies that looked like little blobs on the rocks. He was terrified that he would accidently step on one, so he stayed off the rocks and begged to go home the entire time. Other then that, it was great!




Posted by Picasa

Of Food Traditions and New Year's Eve

Isn't it ironic that every New Year's Eve, we pig out on junk food as our last hurrah before beginning our dieting on January first?! It's funny how tied to food traditions we become, especially around the holidays, and isn't it interesting that none of the food traditions are healthy? Christmas cookies and candy at Christmas time, chocolate at Valentine's, tons of candy at Easter, hot dogs, chips, and pop on the 4th of July, loads of candy at Halloween, etc., etc. I'll be the first to admit it's fun to indulge on occasion, but I thought maybe this New Year's Eve, we would see if we could start a new food tradition in our family--one of healthy snacks, to bring in the New Year on a good note. It turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself, and we felt great afterwards--not the normal, slightly bloated feeling one gets when eating too much tasty but not very healthy food!

I think this is one tradition we will try to keep, even if we still indulge on the other holidays! Maybe year by year we will slowly replace our candy and cookies traditions with more healthy alternatives! We'll see!

Our New Year's treat menu:

fresh pineapple slices with toasted coconut
carrot sticks with homemade ranch dip
apple slices with yogurt dip
dark chocolate squares with dried raspberry pieces
ants on a log with almond butter


We did enjoy our quiet New Year's Eve party at home with our little family. We played all sorts of fun games, and the kids enjoyed staying up late, although none of us quite made it 'til midnight!



Posted by Picasa

Christmas Part 4

...and of course the LOOONNNGG ride back!


We also enjoyed a wonderful slide show of Bob and Gay's trip to Italy, singing at a rest home, and a fun trip to the rec center, where we enjoyed a lazy river, awesome waterslides, and nice WARM water!

We are so blessed to have such wonderful family (on both sides!), and we are so fortunate that we all love each other and like each other, too! How grateful we are that we know God's plan of happiness for us, His children, and the knowledge we have that we can be together with our loved ones forever, thanks to the blessings we receive in the temple.

Happy 2010!

Posted by Picasa

Christmas, Part 3

...a wonderful sleigh ride up in the mountains with hot cocoa in the lodge afterwards...




Posted by Picasa

Christmas Part 2 tubbing....


...a visit from Santa...

...acting out the nativity...

...LOTS of cooking yummy food!...
Posted by Picasa

Christmas Part 1

We had a wonderful Christmas out in Colorado with all of Curtis' brothers and sister and their families! Bob and Gay were so gracious, despite all the chaos with the kids, and sure made this holiday memorable.

We had our annual "Halloween" pinata with all the cousins...



...a talent show...

Posted by Picasa

Of Christmas Book Nooks

One holiday tradition we have done for several years, that was introduced to us by some family friends, is to put all of our Christmas books under our tree. The kids like to sit underneath the cozy lit tree and color in some of the coloring books. (-:

Posted by Picasa