Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't Feed the Bears

I've got a nice little system going here.

In the middle of getting Michaela ready for school in the weeee hours of the morning (read: 6:30), I get Noah out of bed so he can start his classes. He, in turn, will get Gabe out of bed for me when he decides to wake up just minutes after I get Michaela on the bus and slip my last cold foot back into bed.

For some reason, Gabe is some kind of weird freak of nature around here. He's the only one of my kids that doesn't like to sleep in. Well, Michaela doesn't like to either, but she can be cajoled back to bed and Gabe can't. It really stinks that he's like this, because I'm somewhat of a night owl and I don't mind getting 8 hours of sleep. Gabe, on the other hand, requires the least amount of sleep of ANYONE in the house. Like I said, he's a freak of nature.

Soooo. The reason I said all that was because Noah is so nice to get him out of bed for me in the morning so I can catch a few zzzz's before starting the day (again). BUT, in order to keep Gabe civil and quiet so the REST of us can sleep, he has to put him in his highchair and get him some breakfast. Which, should really be no big deal.

Yet it IS a big deal. I'm not sure why, but Gabriel is NOT easy to please. First off, he's not patient. He will fuss a blue streak until you get him his sippy cup. That's IF you figure OUT that he wants that. Noah will try to just get him some dry cereal, but Gabe will start fussing about it. So we try the cup, but that just makes him louder until you actually get the thing in his hands. But the peace doesn't always last long after that.

And I just figured out why: Gabe doesn't LIKE dry cereal.

He doesn't particularly like wet cereal either. Well, let me back up here. Gabe would LOVE the sugary cereals that I let the older kids eat (wet or dry), but I just can't bring myself to let him eat that on any sort of regular basis. Not that it's the best for the other kids either, but for the one-year-old? I can't bring myself to do it. So we try to stick to Cheerios or Kix the majority of the time.

The Kix died a hard death pretty quickly. He just wouldn't eat it anywhere near long term.

Now, the Cheerios are a "nay." I think Cooper's eaten more of those than Gabe has.

This whole "no eating cereal" thing has made for one seriously fussy child for the rest of the morning. I mean, he LIVES for lunch. And I must be losing it because I JUST figured this out recently. I mean, for MONTHS I thought that he was just disagreeable or teething.

He was HUNGRY.

Sigh. But being the mother of six that I am, it is not in my nature to make different meals for different kids. If I make oatmeal for breakfast, we all eat oatmeal whether someone wants it or not. If I make eggs and toast, same rule applies. But if I sleep in, then the kids can choose which cereal they want and get it for themselves (ahhh, independence---how sweet is thy name!). So, if Gabe doesn't want to eat cereal on a cereal day, then my first reaction is "tough toenails toots."




"Awww, Kelly! He's a baby....."

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I can't let just let him starve because he's picky.....

But if he were TWO....now....that would be a different story!




So this not eating breakfast thing is a definite problem. And that's when my wheels started turning. Because, you see, Gabe WILL eat plenty of things. He likes finger foods of many different varieties. He especially likes the fruit snacks that the older kids get.

But that's not decent breakfast food.

Think think think......

What IS decent breakfast food? I mean, what defines breakfast? As a culture, we Americans will eat lots of different things for breakfast: grains, beans, meat, vegetables (you know, in an omelet), of course fruit and dairy, and even cold pizza. But what's the best for a baby? For a little kid?

Not to mention, what's easiest for ME? (or Noah, heh heh)

And this is what I came up with: whatever it is, it should really touch on each of the food groups. You know, the pyramid thing? Grain, meat and beans, dairy, fruit and veggies, and only a smattering of fats.

Ok, think think think.....

For toddlers, grains and fruits are pretty easy to figure out. You could just use raisins and Cheerios. But my kid doesn't LIKE Cheerios. So we'll start with raisins. OK, one down, 4 to go.

Then for dairy, I thought of yogurt. They make yogurt in a finger food version these days: Yogos. But Yogos have the equivalent of candy in the middle, so that was out. But they STILL make yogurt covered raisins.....BINGO! That knocks out two items, all rolled into one!

Ok, now for the meat department. Gabe would gnaw on a beef stick if I gave it to him, but that just seemed kinda nasty for breakfast. So I thought about beans.....hmmmm.....the only beans I could come up with would need to be cooked. But we're looking for finger food here, and baked beans don't fit into that. So, I decided to turn to nuts, and everybody knows what a kid's favorite nut is: peanuts. Peanut butter! Hmmm...finger food? Well.....

How about peanut butter crackers? That would not only take care of the protein department, but ALSO the grain department. Home run! Ritz makes those little peanut butter crackers that are just right for little hands.

That just leaves vegetables. Veggies aren't the easiest to get into a kid's gullet by far, but food makers are getting pretty creative at it these days. One thing I gave Gabe a lot when he was much smaller was the fruit and veggie puffs that Gerber puts out. I looked at the label, and they actually put dried vegetables in these things. Hey, dried, cooked, smashed, it doesn't matter to me! As long as he can eat them by himself, we're good.

So, that just left fats, and I think those get into processed foods by default so I didn't worry about it.

In the end, what I had put together was this:

-Yogurt covered raisins. Dairy and fruit.
-Sweet potato finger puffs. Veggie and grain.
-Ritz bitz peanut butter crackers. Meat (protein) and grain. (And probably some oil too)

I took portions of each and dumped them into a gallon sized Ziplock bag, shook them up and voila! Gabe Food!

Affectionately known as "Gabe's Morning Mix."

And would you believe it? The kid LOVES the stuff. I mean, full-fledged is gonna make himself puke he eats so much. Add a sippy cup of whole milk or 100% juice, and he's turned from a Grizzly Bear in the morning to a Peaceful Doe.

And a quiet one at that. Ahhhhh......sweet sleep at last!

(Oh, and I guess it's good that the baby is eating again. Yeah, that's probably a good thing.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I Watched Julia Child as a Child

I like Food. Yup. Definitely like lots of stuff about food. It's taste, it's texture, it's smell, it's ability to stop my stomach from grumbling. There's just not a whole lot you can dislike about food. Food is a very likeable substance.

Unless you're on a diet.

And THEN food is oftentimes the "enemy."

But no more! I have learned that food and I can co-exist peacefully with my waistline still intact! I just have to TRICK the food into being more.....friendly. More.....anti-flub. More good! Yet....er.....good that's......good! Good.....for ME! And the rest of me......and the rest of me that likes food a lot.....

Yes. Well. You know what I mean.

So, in the spirit of some of my favorite food blogs (yes, there IS such a thing. Do you doubt me?), I have decided to demonstrate the proper preparation technique for GOOD food preparation. The kind of preparedness one would need when they are preparing to prepare GOOD food. As opposed to BAD food (yes, there MUST be such a thing. But I doubt me...).

For my first preparedness seminar, I shall prepare a classic dish of unclassic proportions:

Lasagna!

Yet, not lasagna....

Vegetable Lasagna!

Come come, I will SHOW you........

***

First you must hunt and gather. THESE are the items you must retain for our purposes:
-Lasagna noodles (whole wheat!)
-Olive oil (Omega 3!)
-Cooking spray
-1% milk (low fat!)
-Flour
-Ricotta or cottage cheese (part skim!)
-Mozzerella cheese (part skim too!)
-Garlic (nature's gold)
-Salt, pepper, and nutmeg (optional)
-Parmesan cheese
-Veggies: zucchini, yellow squash, onion, frozen spinach, carrots, broccoli

Once you have all these fine ingredients together (Kevin, no fussing!), you start with the onions. You must Peel the onions (2 cups worth, or 2 med sized), and Chop the onions, as I have done here.
Small chopping here, no big stuff allowed!









Then , you spray your cooking spray in a fine pot of large-ish proportions (word of the day!), and saute (cook until soft) your 2 cups of onions on med-high heat, as I have done here. Once the said onions are somewhat limp, you add 4 cloves (2tsp) of minced garlic. Then you push all that around in your large-ish pot to get that nice and hot and limp as well. Once the onions start to get a little brown in some areas, dump it all into a large bowl and set it aside.




Next, you chop up those wonderful squashes into small bites and dump the lot o' them into your pot. You should have about 2 cups of each variety, or just throw measurement to the wind and use two of each. Whatever suits your fancy. Add a little olive oil to keep them company and turn on the heat!










You need to saute them until they look like this:


Limp.

Mmmm. We LOVE limp veggies :)


Once they reach that point, throw them in the bowl with the garlicky onions.




Now for the carrots. You'll need to cut these up somehow, and make them lasagna worthy. I used a cheese grater and that worked fine. The carrots didn't know what hit 'em. 2 cups worth or two good sized ones should do the trick. Add some more olive oil and heat, and stir 'em up.

(The lone zucchini in the picture must be really self-absorbed to make sure his picture was taken TWICE.)





Again, LIMP is the goal. Once that is achieved, add 2 cups of chopped broccoli (I know, I know, someone has a 2 cup fetish--I didn't write the recipe!). I cheated and bought a broccoli cole slaw where the broccoli was chopped into the fine lengths you see here. I had to pick out the red cabbage, but it was a small price to pay. Hey, they even threw some carrots in there---Bonus!






Like before, cook the broccoli/carrot mixture until tender and then throw them into the onion/garlic/squash bowl of fun. Add about 1/2 tsp of salt in there and mix it all up.

Now forget about it for a while.








I guess now could be a good time to turn your oven on. You could wait until the pasta is cooked if your oven preheats quickly (like mine), or you could get a head start on it. Whatever you like, ok? 375, in case you're wondering.









Next step: the sauce. Magnifique! Ya gotta love sauce! White sauce! YUM!

Take your all-purpose vegetable limping large-ish pot and rinse it out. It must be made sauce worthy now.

Dump a 1/2 cup of flour in there--go ahead, it won't feel it. Then 3 and 1/2 cups of milk. Get the cobwebs off your wire whisk and put that baby to work. Add some bubble making heat and stir away! We're looking for thick, here, people. Thick! There'll be NO wimpy thin sauce in THIS lasagna!

While you're waiting for the sauce to thicken, get out another pot of large proportions and boil water in it. This is for the lasagna. I suggest you lay your pasta in the boiling bath and let it sliiiiither down into the warmth as it cooks through. Don't break, beat, or mash your noodles. You can gently guide them down, but don't force. Lasagna noodle cooking is an art. It must be handled properly.

And don't take them out until they're LIMP. Limpness is important!


Now, back to the pot o' sauce. Once thickness has arrived (like ranch dressing, we'll say), bless it with a 1/2 t of salt, 1/4 t of pepper, and dash of nutmeg.

Or, you could be like my friend Amie, totally disregard the spice instructions, and dump whatever you like in there. You're the one who's eating it. I could care less.

Whisk it up until it's evenly distributed.




So, here's where we're at: the veggies are hanging out, the water has boiled, the noodles are limping, and the sauce is thickened and spiced.

What you need to do next is make sure your bag of frozen spinach is thawed out. If it isn't, then take the bag and put it in a hot water bath for a while (nothing but the best for OUR veggies!). Once thawed, drain and massage all the water out of the spinach (read: grab chucks and squeeze the spinach as dry as possible, making balls)







Then take those wads of green goodness and sprinkle them over your sauce (maybe not the whole lot--about 3/4 of it). Add a 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and stir it all up. It should look like what you see here.



Then forget about it for a while.






Since those noodles are done, drain them and let them get ready for their sole purpose in life. I find that a wire rack dries them fairly quickly, making the noodles easier to lay into the dish. I drain them first, then I lay them out for a minute, then I stack them on a plate until they're needed.

You can do it however you like. Just make sure they're in their place when their king shall call for them.




Next on the agenda is to make the cheese spread. Many people like cottage cheese in their lasagna, but I'm a ricotta girl, so that's what I used. A carton of ricotta, and 1 and 1/2 cups of the mozzerella. I mixed them up, and this is what I got. No egg here folks. Just the cheese and the cheese. Set it aside.



I said NO egg....don't put one in! I'm tellin' ya!



Now, we're down to the fun part: the assembly. At this point, you should have: cooked noodles, a bowl of cooked veggies, a pot of thick spinach sauce, a bowl of ricotta/mozzarella, and a pre-heated oven.

Spray the bottom of your 13x9 baking dish with the cooking spray. Then take 1/2 cup of the spinach sauce and spread it out on the bottom of the dish. Lay 3-4 noodles on top of that.










Then, spread 1/2 of the ricotta/mozerella mixture over the noodles. Don't skimp! 1/2 does the trick!

After that's all even, then you can do the same with 1/2 of the veggies. Spread those out evenly. You gotta make sure every bite is consistent. Don't fall asleep on this step!






Next is the spinach sauce--about 1 cup worth. So at this point, you should have the base: spinach sauce then noodles. Then you have the first layer: cheese mixture, veggies, and spinach sauce again.



Then ya do it all over again.

The layer, that is. Not the base. That was just to be a base. Not a layer. Get it?



After you're done your second layer, top it with another set of noodles, the rest of the spinach sauce, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and as much mozzarella as you prefer. This is the finished, yet not edible product.


(Yes, I know you
can eat it, but you won't! You won't! You MUST cook it first!)





(Look at that layering........ohhhhhhhh......)


Anyhow, you must now cover your concoction with foil and bake it for 20 minutes. Not 22, not 13. I said 20. Follow me, as I follow the directions here people.

Then, you UNcover it and bake it for ANOTHER 20 minutes.





and you wait.....


and you wait......


and you clean your messy kitchen......





















And finally what you get is this:

Oooooo, La la!!!


(drool drool.....)

And this is how it looks on your plate:


The yum factor on this dish got 6 stars (one for every person who ate it). I thought it needed a little salt, but, eh, who cares? Salt is easy! Healthy, yummy, mouth watering on a diet is NOT. If you want nutrition information on it, email me. But if you try it, let me know. I had fun making it, even though it's a long process (especially when you're, ahem, taking pictures). It's a good make-ahead Sunday dish, or Saturday time-to-waste meal. We added some chicken breast on the side to round it out.

And just to give credit where credit is due, this is a Cooking Light recipe. Light! It's GOOD for you! Anti-flub!



Ahhhhhh......you can all eat a little easier now.....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Growing Up

There's been a whole lotta growing up going on around here. The process tends to slow down once kids get to a certain age, but my 3 youngest are still hitting milestones and keeping things exciting in that department.

Which, I'm thankful it's the 3 youngest, because I'm flat-out not ready for the kind of milestones my 3 oldest are going to throw my way in the not-too-distant future. Can I get an "Amen?"

***

Let's start with Libby:


video

She just turned five. FIVE. That's just so big! I can't believe she's five now.

Five is so neat to me. A lot like four was, mainly because Michaela never really made it that far. Of course she was that age years ago, but she never really was mentally five or perhaps not even four. So Libby is just this whole new world for me. A five-year-old girl! It's so different from a boy, and five is just pretty big and capable and all. I really enjoy her girlie side, too, which is kinda strange seeing as how I never was very girlie in any sense of the word. But she likes baby dolls, and purses, and shoes, and beads, and pink. Those sections of Toys 'R' Us used to be completely foreign to me, but now I'm starting to enjoy them a bit. It took 30+ years, but I think I'm getting a little girlie too!



She writes her name, reads beginner books (ie: Dick and Jane), can make her own bed, and feeds the cat. She's definitely melodramatic (as a girl should be, I guess), gets hurt somewhat easily, and runs like a .......well, girl. As the "only" girl, she tries to do, be, and play like the boys, but that doesn't always work out. The other day, she ventured into the woods to play with the boys in their forts, but couldn't do it without crying for fear of the unknown and the occasional scrapes the briers produced on her legs. I know she was trying to be brave and boy-like because she told me that when she's 6, she won't cry when she goes into the woods.

I don't know, I think I love her because she cried. She's just everything I'd want a little girl to be.

***

Asher is potty training. I would say he's trained, but last night, he soaked himself in the church nursery. That was the first accident he's had since Tuesday morning, though. That was the morning he decided that he was going to tell me he had to go to the bathroom, and actually went. For MONTHS he has categorically refused to use the potty. I would do everything I could think of, and NOTHING would change his mind on using the diaper OR the floor. Can you believe that? He would use the floor and just act like nothing happened! I mean, he's almost 3 for pete's sake!

But he's a pro now (well except for the problem in nursery). He's in underwear all day without a mistake. That includes naps! I got him some truck pull-ups for the nighttime, but I'm hoping that he will train good in that area as his older brothers and sister did. They didn't need pull-ups very long. I might be able to keep him dry in one package worth. That'd sure be nice. Considering how long he's been in diapers, my pocketbook needs a break!

He looks pretty proud, doesn't he?


***

Gabe is.......


video

He's the youngest to start. And yes, I know, 13 months is pretty late for most kids, but compared to my others he's early. 3 didn't walk until 15 months, one at 18, and one walked 2 days before 14 months (the previous earliest one). All the kids are getting the biggest kick out of seeing him walk everywhere. Used to be they'd alert me EVERY time he walked a few steps from the table to the couch. Now he walks from one side of the kitchen to the other. He still knows that crawling is the fastest method, but he seems to like being a "big boy" and getting around like the others.

He's chatting quite a bit as well. If you catch him in a good mood, he will all-but talk your ear off. He sounds like he's speaking intelligently, just in a different language. This morning, he was soooo cute by whispering all kinds of sweet nothings to me. If it weren't for the fact he was slobbering all over my nose, it would've been double cute :)

I can't believe my baby's walking. Man, he's gonna be riding a bike in no time. Sure feels weird to know he's the last one and all. I keep expecting to find myself pregnant all the time.

Can't say I haven't enjoyed every second though. Cuz I have.

I guess growing up is hard to do when you're growing old, too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Thieves!

Chris has been neglecting the bird feeder lately (one of his "jobs" around the house), but in light of his current busy-ness, I let him off the hook.

The birds, on the other hand, are really quite perturbed and have resorted to desperate measures.

Namely, eating the cat's food.



Here's our resident cardinal and his mate. They had been pilfering earlier, but didn't like the fact that I was trying to take their picture.



This happened this past Saturday. Chris was home, and he saw what they were doing.

Needless to say, the bird feeder, is now full.

...at least for a couple of days.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Happy 100th

To Libby and Caleb, who are doing SPLENDIFEROUS in Kindergarten this year! Happy 100th school day!



Only 70 more to go........

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Calculus and Catastrophic Epilepsy

So Chris is in college again. But many of you know that. What you may not know is that he's taking Calculus. He took this class 14 years ago, when he was in college the first time.

And he didn't do so hot. I think he got a "D."

Some would say (ie: Chris) that the reason he did so poorly was a combination of 3 reasons: he was goofing off in school, he had a bad professor, and he was dating me. Why I would have anything to do with his poor grade, I have no clue, but that's what some would say.

Either way, he's re-doing the class, and doing rather well this time (funny how I'm still in the equation, no pun intended). It was rough for him at first, seeing as how calculus is somewhat of a higher math, and he just hasn't had to think that hard for many years. So of course, I'm trying to do what I can to help him through it. At first, I suggested that he teach what he learns to me, so that it would help him solidify the concepts. He didn't think that would go so well. Fine. Next I suggested that he show me what to quiz him on. Again, that didn't suit him.

But, in an unconscious way, he's picked his method: he comes home and at random times (usually when I ask him how class went), he goes off into this grand dissertation on integrals, limits, functions, derivatives and what-not. To which my mind starts swimming and I am officially speechless AND clueless.

As the saying goes, "It's all Greek to me!" so I just nod my head and let him ramble.

But one thing I've picked up on, is that there is a fair amount of trigonometry intermingled in calculus. I know this because he's often hemming and hawing about how he remembers nothing about trig and really could use a refresher course.

Trig, on the other hand, is something I remember a bit about.

And truth be known, I've lived in a literal sine-wave for years now.

***

Yesterday was our bi-annual trip to see Chief.

Bi-annual is just a loose term. It usually ends up being somewhere around quad-annual, but we shoot for bi-annual. February and August. That's the goal. We almost made it last year. Maybe we'll be able to do it this year, we'll see.

But at this appointment, we didn't have a whole lot to talk about, and that's a good sign. For a long time now, Michaela's been stable.

I can't remember the last time she was tube-fed.

The wheelchair is in storage--pulled apart into different pieces.

I even put away almost all her bibs and her drooling medicine (a couple showed up after doing some cleaning). I'm glad not ALL of it was put up, because there have been a few days here and there where she seems to "slump" and needs a bib and some meds. It doesn't last all that long--just a couple of days. Then she's back to her normal self.

But for the past couple of months, she's had quite a few ups and downs. Seems like every other week she's having her obligatory "bad days." Bad days where she doesn't talk a whole lot, drools quite a bit, and gets kinda stuck. She slowly starts to lean in her seat, like she's going to fall over. She picks up something, and her arm stops....hanging in mid-air.

One minute she'll pick up her spoon, put a bite in her mouth, and start to chew. The next minute, this happens:



And some might think that this is one of those "staring seizures," but it's not. In a true absence seizure, you can't "wake" them up. They come out of it on their own. But when she's like this, you can kinda un-freeze her by saying her name or moving her. She even functions better when standing up. Maybe some day I'll get a video of it. It's pretty interesting.

But this is about 35% of her life right now.

The other 65% is like this:



Nothing to sneeze at, I know. We'll take the smiles. Even if it's only two-thirds of the time.

But yesterday, Chief and I were discussing some of the finer points of trigonometry: specifically how sine relates to Michaela's version of LGS.

See, the wave used to appear like this:
Higher highs and lower lows. The intervals being fairly close together.

Now, we're seeing something more like this: Kinda like a kiddie coaster at a cheap carnival. Not very scary. The intervals may be just as close together, but the intensity is definitely less. Would I like the intervals to be farther apart? Sure. And there's been times when it has been. We're going to up her meds to see if that helps, but I guess, in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty decent wave we've got going here.

And THAT, my friends, could be a "sine" of even better things to come ;)




(because even I know how to do that kind of math......................but don't tell Chris)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Homeschool Happiness



Today is track separation/DVD making day.

The day where I let Noah use my laptop for his video school, and I create DVDs of his classes for his school weeks to come. This is THE hardest part of my homeschooling week now, and I'm really not doing it justice by calling it hard. It's not hard at all. Time consuming, yes, but it's really not difficult in the least.

We're now using the Bob Jones University Satellite program, and it's the best thing that's happened to us. On one hand, I LOVED researching my curriculum every year. Poring through brand new textbooks, going to the curriculum fairs to find the best deal, getting just the "right" match for my kids for school. Yet, this method was only the beginning of the homeschool year for me. After I decided on what they'd do for the year, then I'd have to order it and figure out the schedule for the entire year.

Then I'd have to teach it. Every day.

But not anymore! With the BJU video program, very experienced teachers are relaying the different concepts to my kids every day. So far (which may not always be), I am using their entire curriculum (well, everything I would've taught) instead of hodge podging it. So I'm not spending my spring figuring out what we're doing for school.

That's Bonus #1.

So now I order the books I need for the classes, and record those classes onto a DVD recorder directly from a special satellite. The satellite ONLY has the classes and programs from BJU; 4 channels of it. The satellite receiver box and the recorder are programmed to pick up the classes I want, and record them (sometimes during the night!). Each class is engaging, age-appropriate, and taught by very experienced teachers. It's like having the best come to my house each day and teach my kids. They even have special guests and show the kids far away places that I would never be able to accomplish on a field trip.

That's Bonus #2.

BJU also offers these classes on pre-made DVDs. However, because of the size of my family, the satellite option allows me to make the DVDs myself and SAVE them for the kids who will use them in a couple of years. The DVD lease option only allows you to use them for one year before you send them back (great for families with one or 2 kids). So, the books and classes I have now, I can use for Caleb and Libby and Asher and Gabe. Now that's a bargain!

That's Bonus #3.

I also am not worrying if I'm teaching things right or if he's learning what he needs to know for the future. Even though I liked mixing curriculums in the past, there was always that fear that I was missing something in the mix, or something was being forgotten that he'd need to know. Now, with using BJU materials, I know that the scope and sequence is right on track and even ahead of the public school kids at times. Bob Jones University has been in the curriculum business for a good long while (Chris and I used it when we were in school), and they're considered one of the top all-around curriculums out there. Some kids that graduate from high school after using BJU material are going to the major military academies and ivy league schools. They just flat-out produce an excellent product for educating our kids.

That's Bonus #4.

But best of all, is the fact that I am successfully juggling my Homeschool/Housewife/Mommy duties in a much more efficient way. Whereas before, my house had to be neglected in order for me to homeschool, I can continue to maintain my daily housework, while the kids are being taught. BJU says their video programming is not a substitute for me (being the teacher), but that's not exactly true. They ARE a substitute for my time, and even though I still help with classwork and explaining concepts, I don't have to teach the concepts completely for a half hour per class. I can clean up the kitchen or fold laundry while he's doing the video. He knows where I am if he has a question. If he doesn't have a question, he just does what he's told to do as far as assignments.

And I'm not being constantly interrupted by my little ones anymore. They can interrupt me all they want now, I'm not teaching! My school days are not being sabotaged by fussy babies and sick toddlers. Poor Noah is not having to wait for me, wait for me, wait for me all the time while I take an important phone call from Michaela's doctors/social workers/teachers. If he DOES need me, and I'm not available for the above reasons, then he can easily pop in the DVD for a different class while he's waiting. Talk about effective use of time! He can even take this on road trips or vacations if need be. The versatility is priceless.

That's 5 bonuses, and maybe even more that I can't think of right now. I can't say enough good stuff about this homeschool program!

But in the interest of being "fair and balanced," I'll give you the cons as well:

-The startup cost is significant. The satellite/receiver is roughly $300. I got mine on SALE for $50 (which is also the sale going on now! Until Dec!), and many people are able to find a deal of some sort on it. But that's the cost for it retail. Then there's the DVD recorder you would need in order to record and store the classes that are broadcast every day. Some people already have these, but you NEED to have one with a hard drive. It's a MUST. I got one used from another BJU family for $200. That was a good deal. Some have gotten them cheaper than that. They retail for $200+ depending on the size of the hard drive. You can also broadcast the classes directly to your computer and buy software that will burn them onto DVDs, but this is costly as well.

-There is a monthly subscription fee. $50. All year long (there are classes that broadcast all year). And you're supposed to continue paying that fee even when you've recorded all the classes you want--for as long as you're using the DVDs you made. We just consider it another bill. It's not a huge expense, and we're used to paying it automatically every month. It's an INVESTMENT in my kid's education. It's an investment in my time and sanity. I can handle 40 bucks a month. But it's every month, and some people would consider that an annoyance. I don't think it's as much as some people pay for their digital cable satellite fees. And it's definitely not anywhere near as much for private school.

-There is a registration fee for each class. This is NOT mandatory, but it is highly recommended. The registration covers the fee for additional materials the satellite teacher wants the kids to have (like bonus material, aside from the straight curriculum, that they use to "spice" up the class), and it allows you a free replacement copy of the classes if BJU has a broadcast problem. They will send you a free copy if you're registered. If YOU make the mistake and you need a replacement copy, then you can buy it from them if you're registered. Otherwise, you're up a creek (unless you know someone who is also recording that class, like I've done many times even though I'm registered). The fees are usually $10/class for elementary classes, $20 for secondary classes, and $40 for high school classes. This is a one-time fee, and you won't need to do it for the other kids that use that class in future years.

-You need to put the classes on DVDs (which you have to buy. I usually get mine for $25/100). This is pretty time consuming. The classes are broadcast in one "blockfeed" for an entire week. So, for instance, if your child is doing 4th grade Science, then an entire week's worth of Science classes for 4th grade comes in one lump. You have to separate those individual classes so that your child can skip to the day they're working on. Back in the day, people used to use VCRs and it was no problem to just stop the tape at the end of the class and it was ready for the next day. But DVDs don't work like that, so you have to put "markers" in between each class, so you can skip to the next track on the disk every day. It's not hard work; it just takes time. BUT, it's time I can spend whenever it's CONVENIENT for me--not just during school hours. I've done some separating while waiting for water to boil, the washer to finish, or while the kids are asleep and Chris is studying. I will do a little bit during the week, and do the bulk on Friday (a day when I'm not recording anything). I also have 4 classes that record on Saturday, and I'll separate and burn those as they finish. That way, I have a free hard drive for the new week of classes that starts on Sunday.

Other than these reasons, I can't think of anything else negative about this method. It is such a lifesaver for us. I was always stressed with school: getting it done, getting the housework done, giving the babies attention, doing it all right. I'm still not the best at housework, but at least I can keep on top of it. And I don't have to worry about taking care of some business phone calls. Or stopping school to change a diaper/nurse a baby/give out some discipline. And I'm not worried about the kids getting a good education.

I homeschool my kids because it's important to me to have them here with me and not be gone 8 hours in the day. It's important to me to teach them and train them up in the right way. To not expose them to the bad things in society that they can't handle yet. To be able to mother them through life, instead of letting someone else do it. I didn't sign up for the job of Mother, just for a stranger to take over. These things are important to me, and have been for a long time. This BJU satellite program has been an excellent tool to allow ME to achieve my dreams for motherhood and raising my children. I'm very thankful for it!

So, if you'll excuse me, I've got some classes to work on :)




If you'd like more information on this program, you can access the website here. You can also see excerpts of classes for grades K4-12 here.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Challenge

One of my close friends and I are in the middle of an all-out war. It's not pretty. Only one party will win, and the other will lose badly. Very badly.

I intend to be the winning party.

***

To those who know me, and those who have read this blog for awhile, it's an obvious fact that I am overweight. To those who don't know this (especially since I don't post my picture on this site), let's just spell it out for you:

Can you say 60 POUNDS?

Yeah. Seriously.

Well, there it is, out there for everybody. No hiding it, no shrinking behind the 6 kids I birthed in 10 years. Just the plain awful truth. 60 irritating pounds that my heart could live without (as opposed to dying WITH).

But why is it that 60 pounds feels so.....uh......yummy? Like a nice fat slice of double chocolate cake? I mean, I even feel that way to OTHER people I'm sure. Squishy. Kinda like how my Grandmother felt back when she was alive. Mmmmmmm.

Well.....back when she hadn't died of a heart problem.



ok.......welll then.....

***

The Challenge is this:

My friend Jeremy (who just happens to ALSO be overweight--but I'm not telling how much he has to lose. HE can tell y'all! Comon' Jer! It's like they do in AA!) decided that we needed to lose weight again. I say "again" because the last time we had a challenge like this, he was trying to get married, and he took the baton and totally RAN with it. In other words, he blew me out of the water and I still owe him a nice dinner for winning. But I digress.....

Anyhow, the Challenge. So we both need to lose weight, and whoever loses the most by Dec 31st gets a big, fat whompum prize from the loser. Which would be him. Cuz I'm NOT losing this time. The stakes are really too high. I need to lose it, I'm done having kids. No more excuses for me.

But, since it became painfully obvious that he loses weight faster and in larger quantities than I, we decided that we should go by a percentage. Whoever loses the higher PERCENTAGE wins the Challenge. He would like to lose a higher percentage than I, but I don't think he's gonna pull it off. Frankly, I just think I'm the bigger loser in general. I just have more will power.

Oh, not to mention, I want to beat him VERY BADLY.

***

One way I intend to win this Challenge is to keep myself accountable to those around me. I really don't care if EVERYBODY knows I'm losing weight and calls me on it constantly. In fact, I signed up for an online log, so I write down everything I'm eating and how many Weight Watcher points the stuff is (see, cuz I'm doing Weight Watchers, for now). As of right now, I get 27 points a day, and 35 extra points a week.

Here's my log so far for today:



I think I'm gonna try to stick this on my sidebar so you can click on it whenever you want, whether I post or not. I'm also putting a ticker up there to show how much I've lost. Talk about accountability! Feel free to check up on me as often as you like. Oh, and comment. Talk smack all you want. I need the push.

I need to WIN.

***

Feel free to join me on my little adventure to winning! Just let me know what you're doing, and maybe you can even put a ticker on your site too. We're not talking New Year's resolutions here people! We're talking LIFESTYLE changes! Working out and everything! No more couch potatoes! No more super sizing! No more Reese's Peanut Butter Cups!




OHHHHHHH!



.....it's getting painful already.....