Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Gratitude Project

The Thanksgiving holidays are quickly approaching. That means lots of time with family and friends, and more food than a person could possibly consume. But it's also a time of reflecting on the things in life for which we are thankful.

Yesterday, my friend and pastor, Ray, wrote this challenge:

~"This year I want to get more out of this "holiday".  I want to nurture a habit.  Holidays come around once a year.  Habits can stay with us for a lifetime.  Thanksgiving is a holiday.  Having an attitude of gratitude can become a habit.  It's a habit worth having, but it doesn't happen automatically.  It takes intentional effort.  I'm willing to put forth that effort in what I call "The Gratitude Project".  Here is how it will work:

Beginning Monday, Nov. 1 and going through Thursday, Nov. 25 I am going to take some time each day to reflect on someone or something I am thankful for and record my thoughts in a journal.  After 25 consecutive days of doing this, maybe it will become a habit."~

So I am taking his challenge, and I invite you to do the same. For the next 25 days, beginning tomorrow and ending on November 25, I will post on my blog something for which I am thankful. Just know, it may be a long post, or it may be nothing more than a few short sentences. But being thankful isn't about being elaborate, just honest. So starting tomorrow, look for 25 days of things for which I am thankful. I encourage you to take Ray's challenge, and make your own list. Maybe you, too, will begin a new habit of thankfulness.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Patch 2010

Today, after church, several families piled into vehicles and headed for lunch at a local pizza restaurant. Brient and I took the kids, and we all enjoyed some good food and good conversation with other parents with kids our kids ages. And after everyone was finished, we headed over to our local pumpkin patch to watch the kids explore, take some pictures, and, of course, bring home some prize pumpkins. Here are some pictures of all the fun we had!

Here's my littlest one playing in the hay maze. She really liked it, except that the hay got stuck on her diaper, and then her legs started itching!

Little Sister and Miss A have been friends for awhile now, and I have pictures of them last year in about the same place. The sweet little girl in green is a friend of Miss A, and Little Sister enjoyed playing with her, too, today!

 My sweet little ones.

Baby Girl is getting so big, and she had so much fun playing today!

Two sweeties!!

My Britches Girl is getting so tall and turning into such a lady. I love it!! And I love that, even though she is growing up, she still enjoys fun, "kid" things!!

These 2 sisters love each other! Baby Girl usually chooses her big sister over me! But I love that they are close, and I hope they stay that way!

As soon as we walked into the Pumpkin Patch, Baby Girl yelled out, "Punkin'!", let go of my hand, and starting running to check out all the punkins!  She picked up pretty much every little punkin she found!

My Little Man is getting tall, too, and very handsome. He is such a sweet guy, and I just love watching him grow up. 

My sweet beauty! I just love her energy and happy spirit! She is always smiling, and makes everyone around her smile!

 Two little trouble makers....

We have made it to the pumpkin patch every year since Britches was 2 and Little Man was 1. I have many, MANY pictures of them in amongst the pumpkins, each year getting a little bigger. It was a really fun day, and I'm glad we were able to go with some good friends from church to share the excitement!

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Soap Box

Generally, I don't use my blog for negative things, like gripes and complaints. But today, I just have to get this off my chest.

As some of you know, my Little Man is a Type 1 diabetic. He was diagnosed when he was 6 1/2 years old, and they immediately whisked us away to our local hospital to get medical care and necessary training on how to best manage this disease that he would now be living with for the rest of his life. One of the main things we were taught was in regards to his food. My Little Man is allowed to eat pretty much anything he wants, and can eat just like a normal kid, as long as we count how many carbohydrates are in each of the foods he eats. The amount of carbohydrates he eats determines the amount of medicine, insulin, that he gets. If he gets too much insulin, his sugar could drop too low and he could pass out and go into a coma. If he doesn't get enough insulin, his sugar could go too high and he could end up very sick or passing out and going into a coma. Neither is an acceptable option for me. So counting his carb intake is very necessary to be sure he gets the right amount of insulin and stays healthy. All that sounded simple enough. But...

As we very quickly realized, counting carbs is not as easy as it may sound. Oh yes, I know how to count, and most foods have their nutritional value clearly posted on the package for my convenience. If I buy any pre-made foods from the grocery store, it is right there on the label. The only problem is, we don't eat too many pre-packaged foods for me to take advantage of that option. Our nutritionist sent me to a fantastic website, Calorie King, where I learned how to add up the carb contents of each ingredient I added to a recipe, and then I could simply divide it by the number of servings the meal made. It was and is very time consuming, but I refer to it often and it is a very valuable and reliable resource. So now, when I cook at home, I have no problem adding up the carbs my Little Man is eating, and we can give his insulin accordingly. Sounds simple enough. But...

One day, after church one Sunday, we decided to go out to eat. We picked Applebee's, because we like the food and we were SURE they would have the nutrition facts for each of the foods on their menu. They are, after all, a major food chain. But when I asked the waiter about it, he looked at me like I was speaking another language. Apparently, not too many people care to look at the facts about their food. Generally, when people are going out to eat, they plan to indulge and deal with it later. But I HAD to deal with it NOW, and I was unable to. He told me I might be able to look online to find the info I needed, but, DUH, I wasn't at home with my computer and, at the time, I didn't have a cell phone that had data. I did try to look up what I needed on Brient's phone, but it was so slow, and, by the time I even found the web site, our food had already been eaten and we were asking for the check. UGH! I was so aggravated by the time I left Applebee's, because I honestly thought that a major restaurant such as that would be able to provide the information that I really needed to be able to eat there. So, I don't take my son there to eat anymore.

I soon found out that my problem wasn't limited to that one restaurant. It happened again and again and again at large chains and small mom-and-pop places. It has become such a problem that Brient and I rarely eat out if we have kids with us. Since I have no idea the ingredients in food prepared by someone else, I have no way of knowing how many carbohydrates are in it. There are three restaurants that we frequent: McDonald's, Subway, and Taco Bell. Subway is a great place to eat. But, McDonald's nor Taco Bell are my favorite places to eat, and they both lack in the way of healthy foods. However, ALL THREE of these places clearly display the info that I need, and, because of that, I will continue to spend money at their places of business.

I am so absolutely angry that my family is unable to just drop everything and go out to eat anywhere we want. Before I can plan to have dinner out somewhere, I first have to sit down at home, find the restaurant online, and hope that they have what I need on their web site. And most of the time, I can't even find it there. (Like tonight, for instance, when I tried to find the nutrition facts for a local pizza place - Johnny's Pizza House. They have nothing online.) Many restaurant foods are listed on Calorie King, and for that I am thankful. But not everything is available. It is so frustrating and tiring to have to plan every single detail of my days before I can make a step.

Restaurants need to clearly post the nutrition facts for each and every food that is offered on their menu. There are many, MANY Type 1 diabetics out there, along with many other people with special food needs, that need to have facts about their food before eating it. I am not the only one out there who needs this.

So, until I am able to get what I need out of these major chain restaurants, I will be spending my money elsewhere, like McDonald's, Subway, and Taco Bell. These other restaurants will not get my business until they earn it back by providing me with some nutrition facts.

I'm getting off my soap box now...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rocking Robots

Recently, I signed up to be on the review team for Download N Go, and I am just so excited about that! It is so easy to talk about a product that you love! Download N Go offers complete and affordable unit studies, each of these written by Amanda Bennett, who has teamed up with The Old Schoolhouse to "create a brand new kind of product where the elements of unit study learning were merged with the hands-on learning and fun of creating lapbooks." There are so many units to pick from, it is hard to decide which one to start with! But, at such an affordable price of $7.95, you can pick several!!! I am THRILLED to be able to review our first unit, Rocking Robots!

I started out by downloading the unit, and I printed off the pages that I wanted to use. One thing I really like about this product is the fact that it is written for multi-level teaching. Since I have 3 kiddos that are learning right now, and they are different ages, it is very hard sometimes to find lessons that we can all do together. But all of the DNG units have components for each age level, so, while Britches and Little Man are writing about something, Little Sister is coloring a related page or something else on her level. And on the flip side of that, the lessons aren't only on Little Sister's level so that my oldest ones get bored.

The next thing I did was to visit my local library. Download N Go has a great book list to go along with this unit. All I had to do was go find the books and check them out. There were several books that were listed that were not at my library. But not to worry! My library WAS filled with many other robot books that made perfectly acceptable replacements. (So, if you can't find some of the books listed, don't worry about it! Just see what other great books you can find on the subject!) 

I went ahead and cut out all the lapbook components and glued them in, because, if I try to make them do all of the cutting and gluing themselves, we would never get finished! Plus, when we were ready to start our lesson, they were very excited to look through their books to see all the cool things we would be learning this week.

I loved the ease of working with this unit study. The printables are all there ready to print. My kids filled in the info as we read and learned. Also, there were LOTS of video links that took me right where I needed to be to watch a video of what we were learning for a particular day. I didn't have to spend lots of my time searching the web to find an appropriate video. That right there saved me so much time! And my time right now is so very limited! I am always thankful when I can save time on something!

There were several assignments for the kids to design and build their own robots. Considering the fact that Little Man LOVES designing, this was right up his alley! He spent hours building new creations! AND, what's even better, it inspired him to pull out an electricity kit that I bought for him a few years ago. He said he needed to learn a little more about electricity, so he could build a real, working robot. He spent hours working on that electricity kit, and even has designs drawn to turn his room into a science lab! I just LOVE when a lesson is so good that it gets them self-motivated to keep learning long after my teaching is over. LOVE IT!!

Here is a picture of Little Man's design for a desk in his room. This desk will be his "lab" to work on his electricity and robots!

Here are the designs that Britches and Little Man drew for a new robot. Britches' job is to take out the trash, so she designed a robot that would handle that job for her. And Little Man designed one that would just do everything, since he hates ALL chores! He even designed it to cook and clean up, so it would help me out! Good son!

Britches enjoyed the designing part, too, but she said her favorite part was watching the different videos! We were all really fascinated with all the robots out there that we never knew existed beyond TV!

 Here are the two oldest working in their lapbooks. 

And here is the picture Little Sister colored of her robot. This was an activity that went right along with our lesson, but was on her level. She has actually never done a color-by-number page, so this was a new thing for her. She had to concentrate on coloring according to the instructions, and she had to learn to work diligently at something until she finished. That was a little hard for her. But when she finished, she was very proud of herself!

 The only problem I had with the lesson, and this is entirely MY problem, is that I had a hard time keeping it to a week of learning! DNG is so full of really amazing things to learn, I didn't want to miss ANY of it! I could EASILY have turned this lesson into a 3 week project! And to be perfectly honest, I don't really consider that a problem, except for the fact that I was trying to stick with the 5 day schedule. I loved the fact that there was more information than I may need, so I could pick which things I wanted to teach my kids, and I didn't have to look for extra things to add to it! All that said, for the price, you are REALLY getting a good value!

 The things I love about this unit:
1. It was really easy to download and print, and I only really spent time cutting out and gluing in the templates to the lapbook.
2. It is all inclusive. I didn't have to hunt for any robot information on my own, which was a REAL time saver!
3. My kids LOVED the topic! Who wouldn't love the study of robotics?!
4. We were able to do things like writing and reading, but there were so many "hands on" activities that the kids were just having FUN! It wasn't boring!

All in all, we LOVED the week of learning! Little Man and Britches have had so much fun, they will probably have my kitchen table covered with robot making supplies for quite awhile! And Little Sister loved the fact that she was included in our "school work," because she had her own lapbook and pages to do.

Because of how hectic my schedule has become this year, we will definitely be doing more of the DNG units. I am so thankful to have found a project that lets me still do fun schooling like I want to do, but already has everything prepared for me. I love doing unit studies and lapbooking, and Download N Go is a perfect fit for our family!

Be sure to check out the Download N Go blog to read reviews from other homeschoolers!

~I received a free copy of Rocking Robots in exchange for my honest review of this product.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Birthday to Download N Go!!!

I am so excited to announce that I signed up to be on the review team for Download N Go products! That means that, in the very near future (like next week), the kids and I will be having lots of fun trying out these great units, and I'll give you my honest opinion of them. It's going to be REALLY FUN!

Each of the Download N Go units are written by Amanda Bennett. You can read all about how she came to work for The Old Schoolhouse by visiting this link. I have used a few of the Download N Go products, and boy are they great!!! When you purchase one of Amanda's units, they are completely ready to go. All you need to do is print off the pages you want to use, and get to work. They are well worth the $7.95 per lesson. Each lesson lasts for five days, but you could EASILY turn it into a much longer lesson. She has so much information in each unit, it is hard to keep it to only a week!

And this week is a very special week, because it marks the first birthday of Download N Go! Amanda teamed up with The Old Schoolhouse a year ago to write some really great units for your homeschool, and THIS WEEK, they are having a birthday bash!! Check out Amanda's blog to see the really amazing contests they have going on, and check out the cool prizes to be given away. There will also be a special deal every day, so be sure to check back for each day's deal. The contest and all of the specials will end next Saturday, October 9. You don't want to miss out on the fun this week!

And later on in the week, be sure to check back here at my blog to get a great review on the one of the newest Download N Go products, Rocking Robots! (Trust me, you're definitely going to want to get this one!)

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Suess