Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Education

(now with pictures!)
It's on my mind a lot. Generally I like school. I like the science fairs and the reading contests and that he has to learn large group dynamics. I like volunteering in first grade and I LOVE helping in Gifted and Talented. But the negatives are starting to outweigh the positives.School is just too long. Bottom line. We have an early bedtime and between homework and dinner, there just isn't time for much else. Granted it only takes 30 minutes to do homework for him, but it's busy work. Worksheets or things he can do standing on his head and reading a book the teacher sends home. Because of this he's been given extra work. Not different. Extra.And what kinds of books is he bringing home? I wish I could say Charlotte's Web or Stuart Little.
(View from my kitchen. This rainbow lasted all of 10 minutes)
Instead they're something I like to call "sitcom books". The latest has a character called "The Fartmeister." I'm serious. Now, I don't expect my child to be reading Plato or anything, but could we up the quality a few notches please? The attitude of the school: at least they're reading.
Let me ask you this, if a child grows up to be an adult who reads nothing but adrenaline books and trashy thrillers, is it really doing them any good at all?
He'd much rather read about gravity or snakes and frankly, I don't see why he can't.
Instead of letting him do work at his level, he has to do all the stuff the rest of the class is doing, plus the more advanced work.
When he asks why he has to do worksheets for spelling words like "use" (hippopotamus would be more appropriate) I don't know what to tell him. I think it's dumb too.
I don't write this to bag on his teacher, she has to do her best for over 20 kids and has no idea what they have already read in their recreation time. I write it to point out the positives of homeschooling. He wont be busy doing things he's already done. He'll be learning math he doesn't already know because the class has to do math together. He'll have spelling words he has to actually study! I know he doesn't need to spend 30 minutes practicing spelling words he already knows.
I have nothing personally against my sons' teachers or even the school. I just think he should have down time, time to be a kid.
(what 6 year age difference?)
I've been on the fence about this for a while, but that has dramatically shifted in the past couple of months. I think I'm finally ready and prepared enough to home school. He's ready to start now, but I told him he should finish off the school year. We'll see how we both feel come August.
In the meantime I am reading: Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, The Well Trained Mind, TJED, Homeschooling Gifted Children (did I just use the "g" word? Yes! I did!!)
I'm excited! A little nervous, but mostly excited! I LOVE what I have been reading! And hope to have reviews forthcoming.
I know some of my readers homeschool and I would LOVE any advice, resources, and tips!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Minimized Living Room

Has it already been a week since I last blogged?! I'm trying for at least once a week.
We're still dealing with sniffles around here. Thanks heavens no one has coughed in days. The toddler has been loving tumbleweed's "nose bubbles" though. It's both gross and cute!

It's amazing what happens when you let go of things. You start to forget about them very quickly. Igloo still wants to get a flat screen, wall mounted, smaller television someday. But for the most part we don't miss its intrusive presence in our home. We have a small radio/ipod player we've been using for music and the news, but the big stereo with the 5 cd changer is gone.
The antique radio that was my MIL's but is completely useless -other than being old and cool and the perfect size for a fish tank-and is waiting for a new home. The frogs instead have gone into the kids' room on a dresser where they are happier I think. We have also kept the boom box for cds. But we haven't really used it. And if we don't use it within a year I think it needs to go.
So, I know I could minimize more. But I'm not in a contest with anyone but myself so don't compare me :P And don't compare yourself to me either. Unless it motivates and helps you.
See my living room? What's gone is the tv and it's accompanying stand and two book shelves.
We used to have two large bookcases near the entrance and they were honestly nothing but clutter magnets. So we moved them to what is now the "play room". This entire wall was so cluttered!!!! That's a picture of Jack in front of it last October. Now there's nothing there but a wall (that grey tote of baby clothes is under the house). Eventually when we have the money saved, we're going to take out the wall between the kitchen and living room where the piano is. But it's load bearing so we have to see how much that will cost.
It used to feel so cramped with the couch and bookshelves by the door and look at the stuff on the floor!
My living room feels so much more spacious now! I love it! Now there are two book shelves, a sofa, and the piano. The recliner went back to grandmas but we want to get a loveseat or something. Those curtains are too dark for this space. But I love them. Someday I'll use something lighter.
Can I tell you secret? I think we could ditch another bookcase too. I do! Notice they aren't immaculate? I refuse to make you think I have a "showcase house" even if my floors are clean.
Now the point of all of this again is not to see who can live with the least amount of stuff. My biggest pet peeve about my "small house sites" is it's unrealistic for people with kids! None of those people ever seem to have kids! It does seem like a "who can have the least stuff contest". No, it's really supposed to be about not feeling overwhelmed by it all. When I tell my kids to clean up their toys and they start to cry and say "it's too much though!" then I agree and say, "all right. There are too many toys. Let's get it to where there are enough instead of too many." And we pare it down and pare it down until they can handle it.
Then the in-laws decide my kids are deprived and cycle repeats. It's the circle of life I suppose.
That's easy to do with our kids' things, at least for me. It's much harder to it with our own, but we MUST. My kids have to see me give up my own treasures in order for them to learn that I am not my possessions and neither are they. We cannot let our things define us!
Having a home that angels would feel welcome in is more important than having a home with impressive things and if I want my children to learn that, I have to be willing to live it. And not half-heartedly.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by things in your home start small! You CAN do it and it's so worth it!!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sifting the Beds

Spring is coming!!!!And I am a nerd. An earth nerd. I would rather be outside working in my garden than anything else. I think it's affecting my social life.
We have been spending our free time fixing our garden beds. Every year we learn something new to help us create our little urban farm. Last year we went with the square foot gardening/raised beds approach. The only problem being we had a lot of beds and not a lot of means for bringing in new soil. And I hate using outside soil because you don't know if it was hot enough to kill seeds or if there's disease in it. So we used a lot of our own dirt with some added compost but we still had a lot of problems. We wanted to build more beds from the reclaimed 4x4 posts we have, but didn't have the dirt to fill them, either.
Now I have to use an aside because blogger isn't letting me use smaller font to caption my pictures. You'll have to live with italics for now.
(Make sure you get the slave labor to help!)
Notice I said dirt. We don't have soil. We have heavy clay and rocks. And lots of morning glory. I hate morning glory. Unless you also have it, you cannot imagine to extreme loathing, the tears and the thrown gardening tools. It's a war I can never win, but I win more battles every year.
But the clay isn't so bad if you add compost. In fact, it's really good once it's amended. We covered the ground with cardboard as a weed mat and it worked well, but the weeds still got through because it decomposes so well and we have SO MANY WEEDS.
This year, we are sifting!
My husband built one of these last year as we were collecting rocks. Now we're going opposite and collecting the good dirt minus the rocks and weeds.
Know what that is? Morning glory (bindweed) root. And it's gone!!!
We just used some old 2x4's we had lying around and got the mesh from home depot. He stapled it on -actually, he hammered staples on. Don't let a lack of tools scare you off!- and that was it! The first one her built was smaller and harder to manage. This one was built to fit over the wheelbarrow and instead he discovered it fits right over the bed so we can sift the dirt right back into the bed.
Worms!!!
We found our dirt to be really compacted this spring which is why we started looking into biointensive gardening. The way you prepare your beds is by double digging which is best demonstrated in this video.
By using this method we no longer feel the need for a tiller. That saves us a lot of money, plus with gas prices being what they are, gas powered tools are less and less attractive.
As an FYI, we are also looking into permaculture to see what we can use from that. I'm not so into the "food forest" thing, but we plan on using swales on our hill. If anyone has any recomendations for learning more about permaculture I'd love to hear it!!! And yes, I do plan on posting about what all that is in the future once I understand it better :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PFAPA

(read pee-fap-uh). Not like Price Pfister.
This is where you get to learn about how we're going to handle this weird disease.
Today we went to see the immunologist at Primary Children's Riverton hospital. First I was really happy we didn't have to drive all the way to Salt Lake City as originally planned (Thank you!!!!), second, that place is AMAZING! It is so kid friendly, you don't feel at all like it's a hospital!
I love, love, love this doctor! She knew all about periodic fever syndromes and was able to answer all my questions. She noticed an indicator in Munchkin's blood work which was a marker for PFS that the doctors office missed. It was only slightly elevated, but she said it was an indicator. She was so thorough in her questioning and it made me feel a lot better about treatment options. I have to admit, when her primary care doc said "it sounds like PFAPA. I don't know a lot about it, but we usually just take their tonsils out and it goes away" it was a little unnerving. The immunologist said that yes, it seems to work for a lot of kids, but she's too young for that.
I agree!
My munchkin with a 105.3 fever. :o(
So the current plan is to give her prednisone as soon as her fever spikes. If that works and brings it down, we'll know it's PFAPA. If it doesn't work and her fever stays up, we have to do genetic testing for a disease called TRAPS. She doesn't seem to fit this one because it's genetic and as far as I know no one in our families have ever had something like this.
The last blood draw was pretty traumatic so if we can avoid that again we'll all be happy. We'll see how the next 3-4 episodes go and then we go back for a review in July. I finally feel like I'm not just being shrugged off because the regular doctors just don't know much about this. I feel like someone cares about my child, even if she isn't dying.
I'm feeling relieved, validated, and also happy I got to see my friend who lives right by the hospital. Pretty good day :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Repuposed Sheet Rug (or Rag Rug)

I updated my sheets during a Christmas Sale. Mine were old and getting that "time to replace" kind of feel to them. Now, there are A LOT of things one can do with sheets. I have made curtains out of them. I have made slings out of them. Tablecloths, pajamas, skirts, you name it.
But these were red sheets, faded red sheets (I also have very faded black ones I'm trying to find a purpose for) and I just didn't think they'd look good as any of that.
I was so inspired by Sew Liberated's braided rug that I wanted to make my own.
Beautiful, isn't it? But reading about making it and starting to braid, myself, and seeing how much work it would actually be, I chickened out. Nevertheless, it is GORGEOUS and I hope I'll have the patience (and variety of cloth!) to make one someday.
Meanwhile I looked into crocheting a rug. YouTube has a lot of videos about that and while I was browsing those trying to see if this is what I actually want to do I came across toothbrush rugs. This video was the best I found for demonstrating how you actually do this and it was FAST!
This is the first video but you need to watch the whole series.


I just used a big safety pin on mine, it worked fine. See how they look! The white is from a thrifted sheet set. It has red and black stripes. It's easy to make the strips. These are 100% cotton sheets and with a little snip they'll tear pretty evenly. Sometimes you'll get uneven edges but that's because they aren't 100% square.
So I decided to make two small rugs. First I made a circle rug which looked pretty weird and then I tried an oval rug which I liked a lot better because I knew what I was doing. I should have taken a picture, but we just could not get that circle to lay flat! I even tried washing it and drying it flat but it refused. I had made it too tight. It became the family "Chinese hat" instead so I decided to take it apart and add it to the other oval and make a bigger one.
It is perfect for standing on while doing dishes and is SO comfy under our feet! This is definitely something you have to get a feel for so if you choose to do one, give yourself some leeway on your first and make it a practice rug.
I found this incredibly relaxing to make. A little here and there and it was done in a week. I am currently saving pieces from blue and yellow sheets to make another one, a big one, for the kids' rooms.
My next project? I finally finished a repurposed jeans shoulder bag I'll be blogging about soon (once I get around to uploading pictures) and I have a tan sheet I found that closely matches my very old slipcover for my very old couch. The slip cover has a gaping hole in the seat courtesy of life and my three year old. I haven't decided exactly what I'll do with it yet, but once I do it I'll post about it. Have you made anything from old sheets or large swaths of fabric? Tell me about it! Share a link!