Monday, May 31, 2010

Stay at Home Summer Camp

Happy  Memorial Day!  Now that the unofficial start of summer is here, it's time to start making those summer plans.  Check out my latest post on Arizona Mama  to see how I use one of my favorite tools, the Summer Bridge workbooks, to help keep the kids busy, having fun and using their brains! 

Now I'm off to make Memorial Day special and share my gratitude to those who sacrificed so much for our countries freedom. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday Sentament

"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave" - Elmer Davis

Thanks to all the men and women who have sacrificed for our freedom and those who continue to do so!

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Power of Praise

I went to a class about parenting "gifted" children a few months ago.  It was a very interesting and informative class.  I wish I would have had a notepad to write down everything I hoped to remember!  The one thing that caught me off guard and seemed to contradict what I had previously been taught about parenting was the discussion on praise.  When I was a teenager, teachers would occasionally praise students work.  Parents rarely did, it was like thanking someone for something they were supposed to do anyway - unnecessary.  By the time I had kids, the parenting gurus talked about catching your kids (or your husband) doing something good so you could praise them for it.

In this parenting gifted children class, the coordinator of the district's gifted program shared the results of a new study.  Some kids playing on a soccer team were told they were good players; they were satisfied and often didn't want to continue playing soccer the next season.  Other players  were praised for specific things, like their hustle or a good block.  Those kids were more likely to continue playing soccer.  The same held true with academics.  When students were told they were smart after a test, and then turned down the chance to take another similar test.  Other students were given specific praise on things like their effort; they were more likely to volunteer to take another similar test.  The study showed that children are more motivated when their efforts are praised, instead of when the results are praised.  They often feel that they've met the goal when the results are praised.  Conversely, they are motivated to keep improving when they are praised for the process.

Vague praise often feels insincere and patronizing. Children and adults are motivated when we feel truly appreciated and noticed.  I try to keep that in mind when praising and encouraging my children.  I love them because I love them, but I appreciate them for specific reasons; a compliment from a teacher for good participation, finishing a book, or being thoughtful.  Try your own experiment for a week and let me know your results!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Retail Therapy

Do you ever find yourself in a funk that you can't seem to shake?  I think it happens to most of us.  The real trick is getting back to our normal selves!  I know I'm most likely to get the blues when I'm overwhelmed with too much to do.  What I need most is the thing that is hardest to do - some retail therapy. Nothing seems to turn me around like some girl time cruising the mall.  I know it's more the girl time, time without any pressing responsibilities, that does the trick than the actual shopping.  The mall just provides all those "shiny" things that are great for distracting me from life's challenges, I'm sure the walking around helps too.  So does the food - there's got to be a little food somewhere along the way!  

My favorite therapy companion is my mom, even when I was in high school I liked shopping with her best (except when she would tell random boys at the mall I thought they were cute).  It was a lot easier then to find a day to spend at the mall, and we would spend the whole day shopping.  Now we try to get a big chunk of the day, but the end usually comes too soon.  On the rare occasion we do get a whole day, I've noticed our stamina has dropped off.  Not enough training, I say!

While finding a screaming deal or two is a nice bonus, the day isn't really about buying.  We've had several "successful" shopping trips where the only thing we bought was lunch or a cookie.

Who is your favorite therapy partner?  Where do you like to escape to when you need a little retail therapy?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Food Log

Last November I decided to take a little break from keeping a food log.  Back then I figured I start up again after the new year, which I did - way after the new year!  Isn't that how it goes?  Our little breaks turn into months or years. My "little break" really shows, especially on the scale.  For the first few weeks, I lost a couple of pounds, overall I've gained 11 pounds since I stopped tracking my food.  Obviously I was doing a lot more eating than exercising too; it's so much easier to do when I know I don't have to enter in the food log.  There's no accountability. 

So this week I got back on the band wagon.  I'm not sure if I really want to give up all those sweets (even though I know I should), but I'm choosing to take a little step in the right direction.  It sounds silly that recording what I eat and how much I exercise makes a difference in my weight management program, but I need that level of awareness and accountability.  It doesn't always keep me from eating more than I should, but I'm grateful for the times I don't eat something because I don't want to log it, and the times I have a better balance because I'm aware of the areas I'm lacking.  Yesterday I had beans for lunch because I hadn't eaten much fiber over that last two days.  

I've used a couple of different website for tracking my food and exercise.  This time, I'm going back to My Pyramid Tracker.  It's not as "fun" as something like Spark People, but it doesn't encourage reducing calorie intake below a safe level.  I also like the energy balance scale it has.  My goal is to have my calorie intake and calorie output within 500 calories to help keep my metabolism higher. 

Here's to a little step in the right direction!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In the Spotlight: Skits

Last week in Cub Scouts we focused our den meeting on skits.  Our gathering activity was charades.  I forget how much kids like that game until we play it.  

After our pledge, prayer and "uniform inspection", we focused on choosing a skit.  We had four or five for them to choose from.  They chose one with enough parts for everyone to have lines.  That was a big downside of our last skit - only three boys had a speaking part.  After we practiced it once, the boys really got into the spirit of the skit, we discussed simple costumes to make and a few props.  There's a silly move at the end.  One of the boys wasn't too keen on that part, but he was ready to be silly with the rest of the boys by the end of the meeting - not that we pushed him, he just got into it.  

Then the boys devoured a plate of ants on a log.  It's always good to see kids get so excited about celery!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A New Racket Is... Just a New Racket

The Easter Bunny brought me a new tennis racket back in April.  I finally had a chance to try it out over the weekend.  We had one decent racket before that, but the others are small and slightly warped.  So I figured having my own new, Wal-Mart special racket would ensure that I always got a big racket - which it did.  But that's about all it did.  My skills didn't really improve,  I was still exhausted within half an hour.  We didn't even bother keeping score.  Our game sounded pretty much the same as it did pre-new-racket; serve the ball. run-run-run, serve the ball again.  So unless you count hitting the ball twice to get it over the net, we really didn't gain any new skills at all.

I always think it's funny that at the beginning, I'm chasing down the ball - but by the end the ball needs to come straight at me if I'm even going to make an effort to hit it.  I'm also always surprised by the random muscles that hurt a couple of days after playing tennis, this time it's my triceps and my inner thigh.  Go figure!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Family Home Evening: Divine Qualities

Our lesson was once again from the Young Women Personal Progress book (Divine Nature, Experience 6), it is such a great lesson resource.  We read Matthew 5:9; John 15:12; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 2:12-17; 1 John 4:21; and Moroni 7:44-48.  We talked about the different divine qualities that were mentioned in those passages and chose one quality to work on for two weeks, then record our experiences and progress in our journal - I chose thankfulness.

Time ran short for an activity. We had Red Cake for a treat :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Sentament

"It is at our mother's knee that we acquire our noblest and truest and highest ideals." - Mark Twain

Friday, May 21, 2010

Disco Party on Arizona Mama

My latest article, Disco Party, is up over at Arizona Mama!  We had our own fun disco birthday party recently, but it could be used for an end of the school year celebration or just for fun!   The picture is a teaser of a couple of the games we played - fun and cute! (It was a great use of my paper scraps too.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Science Fair Boards Control Issues

Science Fair projects season isn't my favorite time of the year.  They should just send a letter home and tell the parents directly what kind of crazy project they want us to do! 

No, I don't really do my kiddo's experiments for them.  But I do have a hard time letting them put their own boards together.  For some reason, I feel like their board is a direct reflection on me; it has to be neat and clean and creative. It starts with typing up their information.  I'm getting a little better now that the youngest kiddos can type somewhat efficiently, but even at that I have trouble when they say "no" to my suggestions for their word choice.  It's the same when it comes to the style of their documents.  Thankfully my older children help with the graphs.  This year all I did was re-size the graphs so they were nice and big - that's not too controlling.  Is it? 

This year they also wanted to paint their boards - aaahh!  They painted about a forth of the board before the time crunch kicked in.  I wasn't trying to be controlling - it just needed to be done to get turned in on time.  The layout went pretty good.  We laid everything out, adjusted it, and  agreed on the plan. But when the child started gluing, the plan apparently flew out the window - twice.  "I thought you were going to put those things closer together so you'd have room for the crumpled up papers below." (Don't you like my patient Mom voice? Just ignore it was said through gritted teeth.)  One minute later - "I thought you were going to put those things closer together so you'd have room for the crumpled up papers below, just like on the other side!" I think it was at this point I pushed the child aside and took over.

Don't even get me started on when the other child wrote on my beautiful board with a sharpie pen!  Unfortunately I didn't notice until the deed was already started.  There was no turning back - I just had to let go.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Congratulations Laurie!  You were randomly chosen as the winner to the month's subscription to The Homemaking Cottage.  Please email me at qualityhighschool at gmail dot com to arrange your subscription!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Things I've Learned From Blogging

I've officially been a blogger for a year as of last Saturday and I've learned many lessons from blogging!
  • Our family has a lot of fun!
  • Blogging holds me accountable.  It's one thing to have a desire, another to have a goal, and something totally different to be accountable to that goal by making it public.  Even if no one reads my little blog, there is still something binding about having my goals out there for anyone to see and ask me about at any time.  
  • It also helps me refocus my goals when needed.  When I'm running on empty, feeling frazzled and can't get it all done; I can look at life with slightly different eyes and use my time and energy for the things that matter most.
  • I understand life's lessons more deeply when I write about them. It's like the difference in learning about a subject and preparing to teach a subject, I get a higher level of understanding from putting what I learned into words.
  • Similarly, accomplishments are more meaningful when they are recorded.  This blog gives me a place to record my accomplishments - and share them with other moms who might be reaching for similar goals.  It also helps me stop and notice the accomplishments of my children, sometimes they grow so subtly.
  • Life is pretty in blogland.  This can be good and bad.  I try not to dwell on the bad things in life on my blog and I definitely don't want to use it as a tool to vent.  I want my blog to be encouraging and motivating.  On the downside, sometimes life in blogland is a little too artificially sweet.  And sometimes, we as women have a tendency to compare our worst with other women's best.  
  • Just because people don't leave comments doesn't mean no one is reading and enjoying.  I've caught myself feeling hesitant to leave a comment on someone's blog; other times I'm just too busy.
  • Rereading entries reminds me of cool things I did that I'd like to do again!
Today is the last day to leave a comment here for a chance to win a month's subscription to The Homemaking Cottage!

Monday, May 17, 2010

In the Spotlight: Music

Last week our merry little den of wolves completed their music belt loop.  We started off with musical charades, where the boys acted out instruments or songs. We let them hum the songs if they wanted to do that instead.  

After our opening exercises, we talked about why music is important to our culture and the influence music can have on us.  Our main activity was listening to different types of music.  We listened to Motown (none of them guessed that one), country, classical and spiritual.  I was surprised that they were most familiar with classical, and that it got them them most revved up - we were listening to Beethoven!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Family Home Evening: Stone Soup

One of my kiddos gave an awesome lesson where we acted out the story "Stone Soup".  If you are not familiar with the story; a traveler enters a small village hoping to find someone willing to share their meal.  He quickly discovers the villagers don't have any food to spare, they seem to be lacking variety of food themselves - one has mostly carrots, while another has mostly potatoes.  The traveler pulls a smooth, round rock from his backpack and proclaims it is a magic stone that will make enough soup for everyone.  He borrows a large pot of water and places it over a fire in the center of the village.  With his stone simmering away, he tastes it and declares it's pretty good, but it would be even better if it had potatoes.  The  villager with the potatoes brings some for the soup, the same thing happens with the carrots and so on, until everyone has contributed what they have and a the soup really is delicious.  The village is not only physically fed, but emotionally fed by the bonds of friendship built over good food with their neighbors.

This story was tied into the first experience from Good Works in the Personal Progress book.  When family members brought their contribution to the soup, they also read a scripture.  At the end of the story, it was pointed out how we benefit each other's lives when we work together toward a common goal.  We were encouraged to record in our journal acts of service we notice others doing for two weeks. 

Our activity was a game of Uno Attack.  Our treat was Frozen Lemon Pie - yummy!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday Sentament

"A mother's love is like a circle, it has no beginning and no ending.  It keeps no beginning and no ending. It keeps going around and around ever expanding, touching everyone who comes in contact with it." - Art Urban

 Don't forget to leave a comment here by Tuesday, May 18 for a chance to win a month's subscription to The Homemaking Cottage!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blogaversary & Giveaway!

Tomorrow is my blogaversary!  This year has gone by so fast.  I focused in on the purpose of my blog and come a long way to finding my niche. 

Shiloah at The Homemaking Cottage has been so kind to offer a prize for my special day - a month subscription to the online magazine.  There's been some really exciting changes over at The Homemaking Cottage and you can win a chance to check them out by leaving a comment by Tuesday, May 18! The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Wednesday.

If you don't want to wait, you can get in on a great deal!  Through Tuesday, May 18, Shiloah is running a 50% off sale on subscriptions for 3 months or more.  The coupon code is 2010 magazine.  That makes a 3 month subscription only $5!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Would You Take?

I posted a new article on Arizona Mama prompted from a discussion we had from one of our questions of the day we have most mornings on the way to school.  

24/7 Moms posts a "Table Talk" question every day to use as a conversation starter at the dinner table.  Sometimes I use their questions or a version of their questions, other times they are an extension of our scripture study discussion, and sometimes the kids come up with them on their own!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the Spotlight: Art

We kicked off May's Cub Scout theme "In the Spotlight" last week.  We focused on music and drawing.  The boys learned 3 songs about mothers for the first part of the music belt loop.  It also met the requirements for Elective 11d.

For the business portion of our meeting, we discussed ways to save energy (Requirement 7f).  I thought a great Mother's Day gift was boys who save energy!  We also passed out chore charts for Requirement 4e.

Our activity was letting the boys draw a picture on two paper plates, filling them with beans, and making a maraca to give as Mother's Day gift. Not only was this a unique gifts (even if it was loud), it also completed Elective 12a!  I meant to take a picture of my sample, but I already gave it to my mom for Mother's Day :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Chia Pet Update

Our homemade Chia Pets are even cuter than when they first started growing.  They really do need hair cuts!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Recap

I hope all you moms were pampered as much as I was yesterday.  The day started off with a clean house, thanks to all the kiddos pitching in on Saturday.  There was flowers and chocolate at church. My kiddos made me and one grandma grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Somehow I managed to have a little time to do some scrapbooking.  One kiddo made a chocolate cake, and even decorated it!  That same kiddo made a couple of pans of lasagna.  (It was a little harder than expected, so I jumped in at the end to help get it in the oven).  Another kiddo made homemade ice cream, a rare treat.  My oldest brought chocolate covered strawberries, salad and made the french bread.

There were gifts revolving around my interests, a little sprucing up of the bathroom, a book on writing and a shopping trip.  I enjoyed the thoughtful service and time spent with my family.  I spent time with my mom and an impromptu visit from my mother-in-law.  We even lured my step-dad to play a game of Apples to Apples, which may not sound like much to you but this is the forth time he's played a game in about 30 years!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's wishing that all you mothers, grandmothers, would-be mothers are showered with love and appreciation!  I hope we can all stick together, and lift each other up.

I thank all the women in my life who have influenced me to be a better mother, especially my own mother.  I'm grateful for all the times she took me with her to spend time with her and her friends and the times she played games with me at night.  I'm grateful we made it through the hard teenage years.  It still amazes me how smart my mom became when I was around 24! Most of all, I'm grateful for the relationship we have now.  She's someone I'm comfortable with sharing my thoughts, feelings, anxieties and joys.  She understands my heartache as I've gone through my own challenges raising children - not to mention the satisfaction she feels, now that I know what I put her through!

May we take some time today to reflect on the blessings of mothers in our lives!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday Sentament

"Mother is the one we count on for the things that matter most of all." - Katherine Butler Hathaway

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lessons from Motherhood

With Mother's Day just around the corner, I've been reflecting on the lessons I've learned since becoming a mother.
  1. While I don't miss changing diapers, there is a lot I miss about having little children.  I don't tell other moms they are going to miss changing diapers, but I understand what those moms meant when they told me that.
  2. Time really does go so fast.  
  3. It's important to think about how I really want to spend my time.  Playing with my children is not only acceptable, but often preferable!
  4. Children learn by example. Working with my children is the best way to teach my children to work.
  5. Being patient with my children is the best way to teach them patience. See #4.
  6. Kids are usually happier doing whatever they are doing, with mom - especially when they are younger.
  7. Letting my children choose how we spend some of our time together, shows them they opinions matter.
  8. Reading to young children creates lifelong reader.  Sometimes I'd like them to do other things too!
  9. Children need boundaries and consequences.  
  10. Parents can be strict and loving at the same time.
  11. Life isn't all about fun, but with a good attitude fun can be found in many situations.
  12. Mothers make mistakes; children love them anyway.
  13. Traditions build strong family bonds.
  14. It's important to take care of me too, or else I can't take care of anyone else.
  15. Helping in children's classrooms shows them how important their education is to me, and I get to see how they interact with other kids.  It's great to watch them when they don't realize I'm there!
  16. Chocolate can fix most anything.
  17. Have compassion on other moms, we may not truly understand the struggles they face.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cute Mother's Day Card

*** Spoiler Alert ***

If you are my mother in any way shape or form, don't scroll down to see the super cute card you'll be receiving in a couple of days.

I used to make cards all the time.  I even taught classes on card making.  I don't really want to admit the amount of supplies I own for card making.  When I stopped teaching classes, I put a bunch of my demo cards in a basket to pull from when I needed a birthday card or whatever.  It is so convenient to grab what I need out of the basket, that I rarely make cards.

One of my kiddos keeps reminding me I need to spend time making cards, because our card basket is pretty picked over. In the last few years, I've mostly stuck to Christmas cards and the kids birthday invitations.  I had a lot of fun with these simple cards - I love the colors!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Scavenger Hunt Birthday Party

One of my kiddos loves to have unique birthday parties.  This year's them was a scavenger hunt. The invitations were simple, but super fun to make.  We started off at our house playing Apples to Apples while everyone showed up.  Then we headed off to our local Wal-Mart for the actual scavenger hunt. The specifics and some of the clues are posted on Arizona Mama.

We came back home for cake and opening gifts.  The kids had fun playing Red Rover until their parents came for them.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spring into Action Pack Meeting

This month's Pack meeting fell on the same evening as two other events, so I missed some of Pack meeting and the part I was physically there for, I was slightly distracted from trying to switch gears.  I did get there in time to present two of my boys their Wolf badges!  That was definitely the highlight for me. 

There was a couple of games that I missed, but a few of us made homemade Chia pets.  We took a knee high nylon, put in some grass seeds and a cup or so of potting soil.  Then we got the seeds and soil down to the toe and tied a knot to keep it there.  Next we hot glued googly eyes and pom pom to make a face (or something like a face).  We came home and soaked it in water.  I was surprised at how quickly they started growing grass, it was less than a week.  I haven't seen any sprouts from the seeds we planted with the scouts or on our own. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Teacher's Class Rewards

One of my kiddos was complaining about how another kiddo's teacher was rewarding their class, because it was so much better than how their class was rewarded.  I wasn't thrilled how my complaining kiddo seemed to have an "entitlement" attitude, you know "I deserve a cool party for gracing the teacher with my presence".  It wasn't a good time for a discussion since we were pulling into the church parking lot.

This morning I asked my youngest kiddos how they would reward a class if they were the teacher.  One said they would reward students with thumbs up, happy grams (notes home) and positive phone calls home.  The anti-reward would be having students write their names on the board.  Interestingly enough, this is the child who was receiving the cool reward.  The complaining child chose the marble in the jar system that actually turned out to be a classroom jar, and smaller group jars so misbehaving students wouldn't get marbles taken out of the class jar, just their group jar.  The parties for filling the jars wouldn't be lame, and they wouldn't be food related.  The students would have a part in choosing the parties. 

Most importantly, we had a good conversation about balancing rewards with discipline and the challenges teachers face with time, money and energy to follow through with the rewards.  We talked about teachers involving parents in the process.  We also talked about the frequency of rewards.  If students are rewarded too often, it's not special anymore; too infrequently and students loose their motivation.  If teachers aren't using rewards, they're usually stuck to punishments like extra essays.

The conversation was good insight for me as a parent and as a Cub Scout leader.  Do I have an effective balance of rewards? I decided that I'm OK with the scouts since we have so much fun at our den meetings, it's like a reward in itself; and I don't have any disciple issues.  As a parent, there is always room for improvement.  It's great food for thought especially as we approach the summer!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Family Home Evening: The Good Samaritan

We had a great lesson on serving others.  We started off by reading and then acting out the story of the Good Samaritan.  Then we thought of a few ways to show Christ-like love to family or friends.  We decided on writing letters to great-grandparents; I'm thinking we'll expand it to Grandmothers to help the children remember their importance as we celebrate Mother's Day.

For our activity I put together a round of family history trivia.  Earlier in the week one of my kiddos was working on a family history project and didn't know some simple things like grandparents' first names.  So I put together questions that might be challenging for those not working on family history regularly. 
  • What year was Grandpa born in?  
  • What is Grandma's maiden name?  
  • What day was Dad baptized?  (Even he didn't know the exact date!)  
  • What is Uncle's birth date?  
  • What is Aunt's middle name?  
  • Who was Mom named after?  (That was a trick question since there was more than one person.)  
There was a moment when one of my kiddos was feeling bad for not knowing very many answers, but feelings turned around when I explained it was more of a fun way to learn about our family history, rather than a contest.

We finished off the evening with cheesecake - the real Jell-o kind (according to my family).  I still think of the cheesecake that has to be baked as the real kind - to each his own!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Saturday Sentament

"The decision to have a child is to accept that your heart will forever walk about outside of your body." - Katherine Hadley


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