Thursday, June 27, 2013

Have You Gone Modern?

When eReaders and eBooks first came on the scene, I declared that I would never turn my back on traditional paper books.   

How can I cozy up with a hard thin piece of plastic?  I said.

Books on a screen are not nearly as appealing as books on a shelf, I said.

That was before my husband gave me a Kindle as a gift a little over a year ago.  It took me all of 5 seconds to get hooked on this new-to-me technology and decide that it had it merits. 
  • It travels in my purse everywhere I go so I always a book (or two or three) at the ready when I find myself in need.  (Yes, I do sometimes need a book!) 

  • When I finish a paper book unexpectedly and don't have time to run out to the library, I can check out an eBook from the library via my home computer...or I can peruse the books I've already downloaded to my Kindle library. 

  • There is a little feature at the bottom of the screen that tells me  (based on my reading speed) how many minutes are left in my chapter and how many minutes are left in my book.  For someone with an obsessive personality (like me), that is an awesome perk. 

Sure, an eReader still has its drawbacks. I'm an intensely visual learner. When I'm reading a book and want to re-check something I've read, I can usually picture the side of the page and the placement on the page to find what I need quickly.  It doesn't work that easily with an eBook. And it really isn't as cozy to read with an electronic device as it is to hold and smell a paper book.  I'm content to see-saw between the two options and enjoy the best of both worlds. 

So, how about you? Have you gone modern?  Do you read from an eReader or do prefer traditional methods? 

: :: :: :: :: :: :: :

Want to catch up on what began as one reading question and has turned into an unofficial series? 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Employment

This week in our School of Home Skills, Brian is teaching the kids how to take out the trash.  They've been helping with this task for years, but we want them to know how to handle the job-- from start to finish-- alone.  They need to know how to empty all the smaller trash cans into the larger one, how to remove the bag (without dumping trash all over the kitchen), how to sweep the stray crumbs that gather around the trash can, how to tie the filled bag, where to put the bag outside until Brian can take it to the dump, where we keep the roll of trash bags and how to put a new one in, and the importance of washing hands after handing the dirty job.  Neither of the kids is especially thrilled about this job, but they are rising to the task just as they did when I taught them how to thoroughly clean the car inside and out after we went to the beach last week.  

We've taken our summer training a step further.  Gavin began talking about saving all his money to put towards a  LEGO set.  He figured out how many weeks he would need to save his small weekly allowance and, with Brian's help, researched what website offered the best deal.  

We decided to give him the choice of reaching his goal more quickly by working for it.  Our gravel driveway has large patches of weeds that grow up between the stones.  Brian is able to spray it, but only if the weeds are under control (which they are not).  He trained Gavin how to pull the weeds up by the roots and fill a bucket.  He agreed to pay Gavin $1 per filled bucket. Gavin thought it sounded like a great deal, but he soon realized it was hard work! 

It was hot, and Brian had strict standards.  Gavin had to fill the bucket above the rim.  He had to clear one area before moving to another.  He had to pull all but the tiniest of weeds.   He was motivated enough to work at his task, though.  Each bucket took about 1 hour to fill.  Then he dumped it in the designated spot and started in again.  

We chose to set Friday as pay day.  Instead of paying him each dollar as it was earned, he was responsible for keeping a record and reporting his total on Thursday night as Brian did the bills.  

Gavin's employment was a success!  At the end of last week, he was able to purchase his desired LEGO set and is now enjoying the fruit of his labor. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

a muddy, wet June Saturday

No, it was not a rainy day.  In fact, it was hot and sunny--a very "second day of summer" kind of day. 

However, it was a wet day because today  we hosted our annual sleepover for my youngest sister, Bekah.   Two years ago, we set the standard when we created a deluxe water slide-- playground slide made slippery with a running garden hose.  Last year,  a water balloon pinata was the main attraction. 

This year we decided to do a slip-n-slide.  I saw directions on Facebook to make a homemade slide, but Brian scoured the sale ads and found a store-bought one for cheaper than the supplies to make our own.

Some were not brave enough to attempt sliding onto a piece of plastic on their bellies so they stuck with the pool.

The older kids, though, were up for the challenge. 

The girls developed a part-knees, part hips sliding technique. 

Gavin showed no fear.  He caught on and figured out how to slide all the way to the end. 

In my continued effort to conquer my fear of sweat, I stuck it out with them in the heat, dipping my feet when necessary.  (Ignore my glowing white legs!  I am a red head afterall.)

This is the point where my camera batteries died so I can't show you the hunks of the watermelon we all enjoyed as an afternoon snack and the drippy, sticky mouths and bellies. I can't show you the mud-streaked legs or movie night in the living room.  

I can't even show you the eleven baby frogs Maddie caught and let swim in the pool (after I got out!).  Bekah wouldn't touch them, but she did help give them names like Kati and Gracie and John. 

I can't even show you that though the clock now reads 10:20 pm,  there are still a few kids reading by book light. 

How did you spend your Saturday? Do you have any fun water ideas I can file away for next year's sleepover? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Conquering My Fear of Sweat

Sweat makes me cranky.  Sweat makes me feel icky and it zaps my energy and my good attitude.  Though I love the relaxed pace of summer, I often spend most of it in the house, out of the sweat-inducing weather.

Running has slowly been pulling me out of my comfort zone.  I started running last year on the last day of September.  I had printed out the Couch to 5K plan sometime in July, but I didn't consider starting until I  was convinced that summer temperatures were finally behind us.  I ran comfortably though December, but when January arrived, I had to learn to power through the cold wind and icy air to run through the winter.  Spring brought a new obstacle-- a warmer but stronger wind-- and I learned to adjust to that, too. 

My goal for this summer is to conquer my fear of sweat-- to get outside and put up with the discomfort, not only as I run, but in an effort to make memories with my kids. 

I thought my first test would be a few weeks ago as we planned to attend a National Get Outdoors Day event as a family.  The forecast was a warm day with high humidity.  I braced myself for heat and I reminded myself not to complain, but instead the air stayed cool and we were caught in a torrential downpour while walking through the woods to the archery display.  I hadn't prepared myself for that!

I assumed my second test would be on Wednesday as we went to the beach.  It's no secret that I'm not a beach girl.  I dislike sand.  I dislike sunscreen.  Oh, and I dislike sweat.  My kids love the beach, though, and I told myself I would live in the moment and not complain this year.  On Tuesday,  I was reminded twice in the same day of the words of Jim Elliot: "Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God."  Timely. Can that apply to taking my kids to the beach?  I think so. 

Anyway, we packed up and headed to the beach.  I got into the van with a good attitude and I prepared myself for a little discomfort. The kids had a great time building in the sand, digging holes, and splashing, but it was pleasantly cool and cloudy, and instead of sweat, we had to deal with blue lips. 

As it turns out, my biggest challenge so far this year has been my morning run. The extreme humidity is a killer.  The damp air means that sweat can't evaporate efficiently so by the time I'm done, I literally have sweat dripping off of my elbows.  I've been attempting to maintain my running schedule by getting up early to run 3 mornings a week.  When I ran on Tuesday morning this week, the humidity was at 87% as I left the house.  Even thought the air was still mild, I returned home drenched.  That is terribly out of my comfort zone, but I'm learning to embrace least long enough to walk in the house to the shower!

Conquering a fear often means facing it head-on. To this end, I have almost convinced myself to sign up for a race on the morning before my 33rd birthday in August!  {You mean, I am choosing to sweat? And I'm choosing to do this a treat for my birthday?! I'm not even sure I recognize myself.}

Of course, this morning when I left for my run, it was only 51 degrees, and though there was still 93% humidity, I didn't sweat as much as I would on an 80 degree morning.  We still have another day at the beach coming up, though.  Somehow I know that an afternoon in the heart of July will deliver the heat and will push me a bit closer to conquering my fear. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

After the Book is Done

My unofficial blog series on reading is turning into an "official" series, I think.  We've talked about our reading quirks and how we choose the books we read aloud to our kids.  We've talked about whether we quit books we hate or soldier on , whether we prefer fiction or non-fiction, and what specific genres are our favorites. We also discussed whether we prefer to borrow or buy our books

So today I'm wondering...

If you decide to buy a book, what do you do with it after you finish reading it?  Does it automatically go on your bookshelf?  What about if you didn't like it? 

After I read a book, I ask myself 2 questions:
  • Will I read this again?
  • Will I recommend this to someone? 
If I can answer yes to either question, I give it a home on the bookshelf.  If not, out it goes!

It's trickier with kids' books because I have a few hoarders among my children (and it drives their very un-hoarder-ish mother crazy!).  If I pick up a book that we've never read and I'm not sure if I'll love enough to keep, I'll put it with the borrowed books in our library basket.  That way, I can read it once and if I don't like it or can't imagine myself reading it over and over, I "return" it to the library as a donation and the kids are none the wiser. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

The School of Home Skills

{This post, like most of my posts that discuss books, contains affiliate links. However, I was in no other way compensated for the honest mention of this book.}

One of my goals I listed for 2013 was to "work with the kids on responsibility and finishing tasks to completion."  I mentioned in my May goal check-in that we were making some progress, but I've been kind of discouraged that I was having to make constant reminders about a chore routine we've been working on since August!  

I'm partly to blame.  I've become a crutch for them.  They forget to do something and so I remind them...which means now they wait for me to remind them instead of doing what they know they need to do!  Clearly, we need a change.

Cleaning House: A Mom's Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement by Kay Wills Wyma is changing our summer.  In the book, Kay realizes that her five children (ages 4-14) believe life revolves around them so they expect her to do for them what they feel they can't do for themselves.  She begins a one-year experiment, choosing a different area to focus on each month.  Bedrooms and clutter come first.  She requires each child to make their bed and keep their bedroom and bathroom area tidy without reminder every day or face monetary consequence.  Next she moves on to cooking, where she has each child take over preparing dinner one evening a week.  Her goal for their year was to 1) equip her children with skills that they could use to perform tasks confidently and well,  and 2) help her family learn a life of service to others.

Before I finished the book (probably before I even finished the second chapter), I was figuring how I could apply some of Kay's ideas in our home.  In their defense, my kids already do a lot to help around the house.  They unload the dishwasher, feed and walk the dog, make their beds, set and clear the table, put away laundry, dust and vacuum their rooms, and help gather trash.  They are diligent workers (after they are reminded!), but they tend to view work an interference to their play, instead of a necessary part of life and family.

I wasn't looking for a year-long project so I decided to scale down and teach them a new skill each week of the summer.   We began with laundry.  I called it Laundry School and on Monday morning, I gathered the three oldest kids (ages 10, 8, and 6) into the laundry room and taught them the basics of sorting, how to choose what temperature to wash different items, how to measure detergent, and how to use the controls on both the washer and dryer. 


At the beginning, I walked them through all the steps each time we did laundry.  Once they caught on (which was rather quickly),  I sent them to do the laundry as a group.  If one child forgot a step, another child was sure to remember.  I expected a lot of hesitation, but instead every one of them was enthused.  One day, Gavin lifted the lid of the washer to add another item and saw the water level rising.  He yelled for Owen to join him so they could watch together!

fascinated as they watch the basin fill with water

For their final exam at Laundry School,  each child was given full responsibility of the laundry for one day.  One son asked, "What would happen if I flunked my test?  Would that mean I wouldn't have to do laundry anymore?"  My answer?  "No.  It means you have to start laundry school all over again."  He passed his test, as did his siblings. 

Over the next few months, we intend to teach them about:
  • cleaning and vacuuming the van
  • gathering the trash, taking it out to the shed, and replacing the bag
  • loading the dishwasher
  • hand washing and drying dishes
  • pumping gas
  • putting away groceries and finding things in the cabinets
  • sweeping and scrubbing non-carpeted floors
  • learning the use of all the vacuum cleaner attachments
  • changing a lightbulb
  • inserting batteries properly
  • chopping fruit and vegetables with a knife
  • following basic recipes
  • using the outside hose
I don't intend to transfer all the work of our household over to them, but I want them to know how things work and to have  knowledge and confidence as they grow into young adults who will need these skills to run their own homes.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Old People" Routine

Around here, we keep our weekends busy, but I have a little secret.  The rest of the week, we are like old people.  We have a fiercely protected "old people" routine.  Every night, almost without fail, we put the kids to bed and sit down together on the couch with a snack. Brian watches TV and I browse the internet or blog.  Neither of us can read much at night, because, like old people, we'd both fall asleep. Most the time, we finish up with the 11 o'clock news before going to bed.  Like old people, we can't miss the weather forecast (though since Brian works outside, knowing details of the weather does serve a purpose). 

I use the term "old people" with the greatest of respect!  We love our routine and our quiet evenings. 

I'm looking forward to our "old people" weekend, too.  Tomorrow is a Saturday with no appointments (or races or events) and no company expected. Instead, the day will be full of errands, outside projects, a little Father's Day cooking, and probably a few games of UNO.   (It's the first unscheduled Saturday in weeks that has been this way and probably the last one like this for weeks to come!) 

What about you?  Do you love old people routines or do you prefer a little variety during the week?  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

a Summer Start {in Pictures}

I lamented the fact that spring arrived late, but (in our house) summer came early. 

A small peek into our summer days so far...



What do your summer days look like? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Our Summer Book List

Last week, I launched my new eBook, Summer Reading Guide For Families.  If you haven't downloaded yours yet, click here to download for FREE!  I'd also love it if you would spread the word to your friends on Facebook and Twitter by passing on this message:  

I just downloaded the Summer Reading Guide For Families from Bits and Pieces From My Life. Get your free copy here:  #familyreading

You may also want to download a free reading log to keep track of your books by clicking here

By the end of our school year in May, we had ticked off a large portion of the read-aloud list that I started in January.  Though we always enjoy our time reading together, it seemed as though we were rushing from one book to another, without savoring anything!  

I need to gasp a breath of fresh air this summer...and get the fun back in our reading.  

A few summers ago, we had a blast reading through the entire Mr. Putter and Tabby seriesso this summer I plan to read all 28 books of the Henry and Mudge series in order.  They are short enough to read in one sitting and engage all 5 of my children at the same time!  We've read most of them at some point but never in order and it is fun to see a series unfold as the author wrote it.  The kids are putting in their requests for the Poppleton series and the Annie and Snowball series, too! 

Also I've asked the kids what longer chapter books they would like to read this summer during our leisure time.  They requested the next book in a series we left hanging (Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Farm), a reread of a favorite (Ramona's World), and a nature story (The Adventures of Sammy Jay)

I'm looking forward to taking it easy with our books and our reading list! 

What are you planning to read to your kids this summer? 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

another June Saturday

In the morning, we went to a National Get Outdoors Day event where the boys got to go fishing for the first time...

...and Owen caught his first fish! 

Then in the evening,  we went on a double date where you will just have to believe we went to dinner and a movie with another couple because I only got one picture (this one) and we didn't even get this one until late at night after we go home!

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Our Summer Reading Program Returns

I hope you are enjoying my new eBook, Summer Reading Guide For Families.  If you haven't downloaded yours yet, click here to download for FREE!  I'd also love it if you would spread the word to your friends on Facebook and Twitter by passing on this message:  

I just downloaded the Summer Reading Guide For Families from Bits and Pieces From My Life. Get your free copy here:  #familyreading

This was not set up...I promise!
Last year we decided not to participate the library's summer reading program.  At one local library, the reading program had turned more game-focused than book-focused.  Our other local library was swinging the other direction and critiquing my children if they read books deemed too easy for them! Instead we began our own Summer Reading Program at home.  It was such a hit that we are doing it again this year. 

We start by setting weekly goals.  Each child had a say in what was reasonable, but Mama and Daddy got the final say to make sure no one was getting off too easily!  After much discussion, we settled on time goals this year instead of counting finished books.  This prevents a child from skimming through a book just to earn a prize and it ensures that difficult books will be savored even if they take awhile to get through.  Each child must earn six check marks each week (one check mark for each block of time) to earn a prize from the special prize basket.  By the end of our eleven-week summer break, each child should have earned 66 check marks! 

Brian upped the ante this year, promising that any child who earned 75 check marks would be entitled to a bigger end-of-summer prize.  About that prize basket...I keep it stocked with cheap toys and small pieces of candy or gum.  Last year I started with a bag of pinata filler and added a few more things throughout the summer.  This year Walmart had a large section of their birthday party favors on clearance so I stocked up for less than $10.  I put in things like lip gloss, erasers, slider puzzles, bracelets, and mini whoopie cushions.  On Friday morning, each child who has earned their check marks can choose one thing from the basket. 

The fun thing about all this is that we can still participate in the many activities our libraries offer. This year we plan to go to a juggling show, meet some minor league baseball players, take a Junior Robotics Lego class, and go to a preschool craft workshop.  Fun without the stress and pressure of book logs!

Do you participate in a summer reading program at your library?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Summer Reading Guide For Families eBook

A new version for 2014 is now available. Click here to access this year's edition of Summer Reading Guide for Families.

It's here!  My eBook is available to download for FREE!  Divided by category for easy navigation, it includes an eclectic assortment of choices and a printable checklist that you can keep by the computer or bring with you to the library.  

Click on the book cover to download your FREE copy!

Your feedback is appreciated.  After reading a book listed in the guide, come back here and let me know how you liked it.  If you've read a book that you think is worth a mention, let me know that, too! 

I'd love it if you would share this resource with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.  I've made it easy for you.  All you have to do is copy and paste: 

I just downloaded the Summer Reading Guide For Families from Bits and Pieces From My Life. Get your free copy here:  #familyreading

Saturday, June 1, 2013

a June Saturday-- 5K on a Hot and Sticky Day

This day-- this June Saturday-- was one of those days that was stuffed to the gills with a satisfying mix of both accomplishment and fun.

I ran my second 5K.  We awoke to a sweaty, muggy kind  of day, but the race was early in the morning before the heat became too oppressive.  Unlike the last time, all the kids came, too,  to watch and cheer me on. 

before the race

This was an out and back trail so I was able to pace myself until I got to the halfway mark and then give it my extra effort on the way back.  I managed to pass quite a few runners in the second half.  The lady in the yellow shirt (in the photo below)  ran beside me for most of the last mile until she finally pulled ahead at the end.  

I forgot to get my official time, but my iPod said I ran a 9:42 pace per mile.  I even placed third in my age group of women 30-39.  The man who won was also the winner at my first 5K.  He said that this course was harder because there was an incline unlike most races in our area that are flat. 

Looking a little less chipper post-race

After going home for a quick shower, we went back out for a celebratory lunch at a pizza restaurant we've been meaning to try since we moved to this town two years ago.  

Then it was back home to get to work.  Oh, but wait, we took another hour to play 2 rounds of Bocce ball first. 

Then we got to work.  We gave Finn (the dog) a bath, raked out and washed out his dog pen which took a long time and was extremely stinky work, pulled weeds, and watered the trees and rose bushes Brian planted a few weeks ago.  

 After another clean-up and round of showers, we went back out to grab ice cream for dinner (!).


Plus we needed to buy a shade tarp for the dog's pen so it was a good excuse.  When we got back home, Ben and Alaine were exhausted.  They snuggled up in bed (a "slum" party, as Alaine called it) and listened to a story on CD while they drifted off.  

Brian went back outside to fasten the tarp to the dog's pen while I made a batch of cookies for a homemade ice cream party we're going to tomorrow.  Oh, and did I mention I did three loads of laundry in between all the other goings on of the day?!  I'm tired just thinking about it. 

What did you do this weekend?  Any Sunday plans? 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...