Friday, March 9, 2018

I'm Still Here

My family is on an epic adventure so I recently added blogging to my boys' lists of homeschooling tasks. Today my son asked if I had a blog. I do. This is it. But it has gone stale so I am going to dust it off and post some updates.

Still doing it... still loving it.

Healthy Eating
It's been a bit of a roller coaster. Mainly I put on a bunch of weight while working towards my MBA, then slowly took that off. I am currently at T + 52. Which, oddly enough, is within 2 pounds of where I left off 6 years ago!

I am a Konvert! At this moment all of our worldly possessions fit into a 10 x 12 storage unit and a 5 x 8 cargo trailer. We've purged and purged and purged some more and I loved every minute of it.

Amazon link

I have a lot more to add but will do it in 3 separate posts that cover each subject.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Weight Update: T + 50.

On March 2nd I posted that I was at my target weight plus 55. Today I am down 5 pounds! Yay!

I know most people would not get excited about 5lbs in 10 weeks. But remember, I am NOT dieting and I am NOT going out of my way to exercise.

I do occasionally swim laps at the Rec Center, and every Wednesday night Jeff and I have been playing racquetball. Also, with the weather warming up, we are outside more.

Let me reiterate that I am perfectly happy with this slow progress. I don't wake up every day wishing for foods I can't have. I don't force myself to go to the gym and get on an elliptical. But I do make a point to use my body everyday. I rake the lawn, pull weeds, swing with the kids at the park, take them on bike rides, and basically try and figure out fun ways to keep moving.

Also the more I cook, the less I want fast food or take-out.  I've mentioned several times that these foods are actually making me feel ill. I keep testing my limits though.... Two nights ago I ate an Arby's Roast Beef sandwich and a small order of mozzarella sticks. They were delicious but I had bad cramps shortly afterward and I won't share what happened next.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I am finding the idea of this lifestyle very alluring. It's exactly what it sounds like. Live life with less. Much less. And like it. Some people go all out and even ditch their houses. I would be happy to just clear out our drawers and the crawl space.

It's not like we're hoarders though. We do a hefty purge about twice a year. But we've gone through five or six of these cleanses since living in this house, and I am starting to wonder how we still manage to get rid of so much every few months. Where does it all come from? Do the boys get that many Christmas presents?

I take some perverse comfort in peering into my neighbors' garage and seeing clutter and children's toys piled up to the ceiling. But somehow feeling superior to someone else =/= happiness. Weird, I know!

So I am going to put some new goals out there and we'll see what happens. Now I am not shooting for living out of a backpack, but I must admit I am envious of a girl who can jump on a plane and travel the globe without a care in the world.

Unless you want ideas for doing this sort of thing yourself, you can probably safely stop reading now. (I never do when anyone tells me that… but I still appreciate the thought). So let's go room by room, shall we:
I think Minimalist design is a pretense
to prepare us for living on spaceships.
  • Get rid of obscure kitchen appliances (replace with ones we actually want to use with our new cooking habits)
Family Room:
  • Clear all the crappy, cheap McD's toys from the toy box (replace with Imaginext or Playmobil sets?)
  • Bring down books and children's games so they actually get used
  • Get rid of all the DVDs
  • Set up an art station to use up the building piles of markes, crayons, and play-doh
Living Room/Dining Room:
  • Hang the clock (stupid, I know, but this antique clock has been sitting on the floor behind the couch for months because I am afraid it will fall off the wall if I hang it!)
  • Finish selling the obscure crap in the spare room
  • Sell/donate the HUGE bins of toys that we never drag out because we don't want to deal with the mess
Boys' Bedroom:
  • Pare down the boys' clothes to 8 outfits each (plus dress clothes)
  • Bring down some games and books to store in the Family Room
Lego Room:
  • Sell off all the sets that are put up and away for "what the boys MIGHT be into someday" (pirates, castles, Batman, etc.)
  • Bring out, donate, or reduce the Playmobil sets
Master Bedroom:
  • Pare down to 8 outfits as well?? Put together dress outfits, buy items to match unused skirts/slacks or get rid of them
  • Set up pool; move pool supplies out to the shed (get all that equipment out of the garage)
  • Get countertop for base cabinets and set up power tools
I wonder if all these lifestyle choices naturally flow from each other. Once you start thinking about one choice, you can't help but think about others. It's been an interesting process.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I Don't Mean to Boast...

Okay, I'm lying. I do mean to.

I don't brag on my son much, because I know no one besides family really cares that much or wants to hear it. Plus there's this parent paranoia that manifests whenever someone else talks about their kids. It's like any deviation is a personal attack on how they are raising their own kids. I know I feel that way anyway... is it just me?

Well, if you tend to feel that way, skip this post (or brag on your own kid in the comments… I don't mind).

I am just in awe of how much my son is responding to homeschooling. We went to the library today and we picked 13 books. About half of them 2nd & 3rd grade level chapter books, the other half various non-fiction books that caught his eye. He read a book on voting in the car on the way home and is right now reading 13 Buildings Children Should Know.

This is a benefit to homeschooling that I hadn't anticipated, but I really appreciate. Nathan isn't leaning that non-fiction books are boring like textbooks always were to me. I don't even bother with textbooks. We have a couple reference books that we loosely follow when we need some direction, but then we go to the library for more information that is age appropriate. Nathan can pick whatever interests him from a variety of choices. He is way more likely to read something that he helped choose, and I can't help but think he is more likely to remember ideas he is interested in rather than concepts being forced on him.

So here's my big brag just to get it all out there:

In the last month or so Nathan has read almost 20 chapter books of at least 75 pages. (He also reads his 400 page children's Bible from cover to cover about every other week.) He is over 90% finished with 2nd grade math and he keeps sneaking in "levels" from 3rd grade math because he is interested in the new topics. He often reads from our science encyclopedias to his brothers and they ask to try out the experiments. Also, because he is home with me all day, he helps with laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and general clean-up. His hobbies include programming using Scratch, keeping a blog, and writing comic books.

If it's a nice day, he runs outside and jumps on his bike. He is allowed a break to run around and work off some energy between every task. He is healthy and fit and never has to eat crappy school lunches. He "sneaks" carrots and apples from the fridge before heading back to his lessons. Some days he dawdles over his schoolwork until 3 or 4. Most days he is done by noon and can spend the afternoon engaged in tinkering or imaginative play.

I found this comment from an article about the importance of play very telling:

As a public school teacher of 18 years I have been dismayed at the reduction of recess time and by the pushing down of inappropriate curriculum into kindergarten and 1st grade. In a 6 hour full-time kindergarten day, they get a total of 40 minutes of unstructured play. Gone are most the kindergarten "house" corners where kids "pretended". You won't find a block corner in many classrooms either. I believe strongly in public education...but couldn't bare to put my daughter in that setting. She is now in a Waldorf school, where play in nurtured, and childhood is protected.
I haven't thought about that in years, but she's right. We did have a play house when I went to Kindergarten. At my local school, every minute of the day is structured for Kindergartners. This is not actually good for kids. Parents demand it, however, because they are under the misguided impression that education is in decline because kids aren't being taught enough, soon enough.

I am here to say, please look at my son! Kids don't need to be taught hardly at all! They just need to be exposed to wonderful resources. They want to learn. Nathan loves to learn and I hardly teach him a thing. He reads and we talk. It's beautiful. I often overhear him sharing what he's learned with his little brothers. This thing I have stumbled onto is amazing and I just wish we could take this little microcosm of learning that is my household and transport into the classrooms.

Okay mom brag over. I will probably post updates on his progress again though. I do believe this style of education could be a vast improvement for so many children. I would love to somehow be a part of the discussion for school reform to integrate what is being learned by me and over a million like me who perform this homeschooling experiment. I don't think Nathan is gifted or particularly exceptional; he is just being given better tools. I want to shout our success from the rooftops without calling down judgement on parents who choose public schooling. Is that possible? How can I get these results out of my living room and into the classrooms for all children to enjoy?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Didn't Learn That in High School

Remember that time you were talking with your friends at work about the Boston Tea Party? You know that time, your one friend was saying how much she sympathized with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Your other friend said she admired their ideals, but felt the Tea Partiers had a better grasp on practical ideas that could help our country. And then you said, "Yeah and speaking of the Tea Party, I didn't get the importance of the Boston Tea Party in High School, but gosh, it seems so relevant now…."

You don't remember saying that? Oh, you don't actually know anything about the Boston Tea Party? How is that possible; American History is required in school?! Oh wait… yeah, no. I don't remember either. I had to Google it just now to see what year it took place and my guess wasn't even in the right century.
Well probably we were sick that day. Let's talk instead about how Oliver Cromwell overthrew the monarchy. How this "hero of liberty" turned into a despised despot.  How is that champions of "hope and change" can become so reviled for their attempts to bring reform?

That doesn't ring a bell either? Missed that day too? What's my point? I am not trying to make anyone feel bad. I am trying to make people feel mad. I didn't know who Oliver Cromwell was either until some vague reference made me Google him the other day. Dude was so hated, he was dug up after he was buried and strung-up for all to see because he wasn't executed properly the first time.

I used to be embarrassed by what I didn't know. I guess I still am. But at least I can feel better by comparing myself to modern kids. They don't just suck at history, most American 18 year olds today can't find Japan, France, or the UK on a map! A third can't even find the Pacific Ocean!! I am sure you all know by know that we barely rank in the middle and sometimes even at the bottom in international surveys, but here's the government report just in case you want to see it in writing.

Why is this bad? We are an ignorant people and only getting more so. We can't engage in meaningful discussions. We certainly can't engage in a rational debate that doesn't deteriorate into name-calling and mud-slinging. What's the saying? If we forget our history then we are doomed to repeat it? We can't keep taking away liberties and spending out of control and expect it won't lead to our downfall.

If 90% of children can't find Iran on a map, how are they going to form an opinion on whether or not Iran is a threat to Israel? Okay maybe you think it's about time we got out of the middle of that conflict anyway. Fine. If we don't care if the middle east blows itself off the map (solving a part of that whole geography ignorance problem BTW), then should we care that Iran and Venezuela are building a joint base that will allow Tehran to deal with "Iran's enemies"? Care to guess who Iran considers its enemies?

So do I think my homeschooled kids going to retain historical facts because they are reading about them at the kitchen table instead of at a school desk? No, actually, I don't. My point is that none of us remembers those things because we didn't care. Nobody bothered talking to us about these concepts. They made us read dry textbooks then lectured at us.

My sons and I talk about these issues. We don't use textbooks. I don't lecture. Why waste time on textbooks and lectures when we know kids won't retain the information or learn to do anything with it beyond test day? We aren't even testing well!! 

I don't mean to harp, so here's my suggestion. Lets just sit the kids down into small groups, give them a short lesson to read on Oliver Cromwell, the Boston Tea Party, or whatever, and have them discuss how the events relate to what's going on today. Whatever they get from that will stick with them much longer than those notes copied off the overheads.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

OJ Bites the Dust

I had a drink of my husband's Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice this morning and it tasted like ass. I used to love that stuff. Another vice loses it's hold....

If you want to know why I gave up the "zombie juice", read this.

Also I would like to note that I add these "journey" posts to document the effect of clean eating on a regular person. I know it's easy to read a blog like this and think, "Oh great, if eating right means giving up everything I love, then forget about it!"

I often felt that way too. So instead of "giving up" foods, I am replacing them with different options. I did not ever officially make a decision to "never" have OJ again. I told myself I could have orange juice whenever I wanted, but it had to be freshly squeezed from real oranges. Now, that process is no fun, so I don't do it every day. I don't even do it once a week. Once a month or so I bust out the juicer and make enough for the whole family (and then make orange-craisin muffins from the pulp).

I haven't even felt too terribly deprived by this. I knew a glass of orange juice was always just a big ol' mess away. I didn't not drink it because I wasn't allowed, but because I didn't have the inclination right that second to mess with the juicer (juicing by hand kills my wrists). That's an important distinction for a junk food lover like me.

So when I do let a little of the "bad" stuff slip back in, I am still surprised to find I don't even like it anymore. And this is why I don't like skinny people giving me diet advice. It's easy for them to pass up the OJ (or pop, or store-bought cookies, or deep-fried, then frozen, then reheated nuggets) when they never learned to like that sort of thing in the first place. But it's overwhelming to change your eating habits when you think you have to give up all the foods you love.

So these are supposed to be posts of hope. Posts that remind me that these choices do get easier. Posts that say, "If I can do it, you can too."

Don't think about it as "giving-up" foods. Give them a break while you explore new options. Revisit them 6 months down the road and see how you feel about them. I was not expecting to dislike that juice this morning. I was indulging in a moment. But instead I happily discovered that I am free of one more burden.

(I had a terrible time with grammar in this post... talking about things with all those double negatives and in dangling past participicular tenses (or whatever) is confusing).

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I Think I Am In Love (School Reform Part III)

My dad saw this guy on 60 Minutes the other night and told me to check him out.

He proceeded to tell me about this hedge fund manager turned YouTube tutor gone viral. This guy is not at all what I expected. Meet Salman Khan.

That's his TED Talk. Seriously watch it.... It not only inspired me, it made me laugh as well.

Some of his ideas fall in line perfectly with the suggestions I proposed in Parts I & II. And although technically he said this first, I think if people from different backgrounds and walks of life are coming to the same conclusions about ideas, it indicates that change is in the air....

Here's some more points from this talk that really hit a chord with me:
  • Reverse the method -- watch the lecture on your own time, do the work in class when a teacher is there to help
  • Don't move onto a new concept until you understand the one before -- you can't ride a unicycle until you master a bicycle (there is no such thing as 75% mastery)
  • Keep kids of different ages and skill levels together -- let them help each other (I made this point as well)
Sometimes I feel like a frickin' genius. My mind is churning out ideas that are in sync with what the best minds are proposing at the very same time. But then sometimes I feel like a hopeless fool. What good are dreams that will never come true? Yeah, I homeschool so why do I even care? Well, it's not just about my kids. They are going to get a great education, I have no worries there. What about the kids who have two working parents? What about the kids who live one block over in the "bad" school district?  What if I get in an accident? I just can't help but want more for all of us.

It feels so close.