Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Different Path

I truly believe that my children were sent to me from God and that they are His children.  I always try to seek inspiration from Him regarding how I raise them.  This was the main reason I got into homeschooling: I pondered and prayed and felt like that was what God wanted for my particular children.  There are a lot of other benefits to homeschooling which I am aware of and even quite passionate about, but it all boils down to following God's path for my family.  There have been many times where I thought I couldn't do it anymore and I wanted to throw in the towel, but as I prayed I always got the answer "no, keep them home," and then I received extra help or strength in some way that enabled me to keep going. 

Imagine my surprise, then, when right after we moved here I got a very strong and clear impression out of the blue that I needed to put the kids in public school.  I hadn't even thought about it-- I had everything all planned out to keep homeschooling once we arrived.  It took me a couple days to realize that yes, this really was inspiration from God.  So I asked, "okay, which kids?"  Immediately the answer came, "All of them."  Even Bean, with his learning disability.  Even sweet, tenderhearted little Roo.

I knew that despite my misgivings about the public education system and despite the horror stories I'd heard (especially about homeschool kids integrating into the system) if God wanted my kids there He would take care of them and everything would be fine.  In the past, when I had thought about putting my kids in school temporarily, contacting the school and getting the ball rolling seemed scary and overwhelming.  But now, there was no hesitation.  I visited the school, had a tour, talked to the Principal, and filled out all the paperwork calmly and with no inner conflict of "what in the world am I doing?"  Everything fell smoothly into place and suddenly my kids had backpacks and lunch money and gym shoes and I was waving them goodbye as they ran into the elementary school.

Since then, I have had a million different thoughts and emotions, but there is the reassurance that I am doing the right thing for them right now. 

There have been a lot of benefits to them being in school.  Roo is getting tons of one-on-one reading help, which she needed more of.  The boys finally understand what I've been trying to tell them for years: that what I have been asking them to do in homeschool is not unreasonable and if they don't do it they're really going to struggle.  They are all experiencing the ups and downs of being with a big group of their peers, which I prepared them well for so they can keep it all in perspective.  They all have excellent teachers who really care about them.  They have more opportunities to do things like art and music and play sports.  I am grateful for these things and for the way we have felt quickly integrated into the community through our association with the school. 

However, there are also a lot of things I don't like.  The schools here in this town are way better than average and way better than what I've seen in some of the other places we've lived and that has alleviated many of my concerns about the public education system, but definitely not all of them. 

I don't yet know what we're going to do this fall.  Sometimes the Lord gives unmistakably clear direction very quickly, and sometimes we have to work and wait to get answers.  So far, I am leaning toward homeschooling the boys again this fall and letting Roo and Rabbit go to public school, but it's not set in stone yet.  One big factor is that we don't yet know where we will be living this fall. 

It's just funny to think about how completely different my life is right now than it was just a few months ago.  We were definitely outside the box-- homesteading, homeschooling and just being free spirits and now not only are we in a totally different landscape, climate, and housing situation, but my kids are going to public school for the first time ever.  They even ride the school bus.  What a contrast!

Monday, April 22, 2013

There There, Little Luxury, Don't You Cry...

...You'll be a necessity by and by. 

(President Hinckley used to like to quote that when talking about being financially prudent.) 

It has been so interesting to watch the evolution of the cell phone. 

My dad got a car phone in the early 1990's.  It was a big clunky thing next to the gear shift with an antenna screwed into the top of the car.  He was making a long commute (more than 70 miles, I recall) during Minnesota winters and it was really helpful for him to communicate with my mom.  I have no idea what it cost, but it wasn't cheap and the minutes were precious.  I was not allowed to touch it.

I think in the late 1990's my dad got a cell phone, but again, I never used it.  I was just thrilled to have a cordless land-line phone and when my dad got ten cents a minute long distance I was always wanting to call my friends in Minnesota (we moved to Utah when I was 15).  Dad would hand me an hour glass and say "when this is up, get off the phone."  I would turn it back and forth a few times to get more time.  I can only imagine the bills. 

When the Badger and I were newly married, we were SO poor.  But he was a pilot, and by then pilots kind of had to have cell phones.  So we had one, but we got the cheapest plan you could get, probably something like 60 minutes a month.  I think it was about $20 a month.  We only used it when we had to, but it was nice to have on road trips and stuff. 

It was in about 2005 that the Badger went to the mall one day for something unrelated and ended up getting reeled in by the Verizon sales person.  He came home all excited about our new cell phones-- one for him and one for me-- and our new plan.  We now had phones with color displays and cameras!!!!!!  I was irritated with several things about Verizon and the transaction (I didn't like being locked into a two-year contract when our finances were so unstable, for one thing), but we have been with Verizon ever since because they have the best coverage for a pilot like the Badger who flies to really remote places a lot. 

And since then I have watched the way the cell phone and cell phone bills have evolved.  They have used very clever tactics to get us all used to paying more and more money to them and think it's normal.  Twenty dollars, fifty dollars, seventy five... now I am trying to figure out how to keep my bill under $150 a month and still have the service the Badger needs for his work, and I have friends who pay $250 and think nothing of it.

It used to be all about minutes.  Daytime minutes were precious and we watched them closely, but WOW!  you could talk to your family and friends for free on the evenings and weekends!  That was huge.  Then there was the Verizon-to-Verizon free calling and the 10 friends and family you could always call free-- but only if you were already paying for a plan with a lot of minutes.  Different companies used different incentives: "come to us because we will let you carry over your unused minutes from last month!" or "we keep track of your seconds, so you'll save minutes." 

I had that color-screen camera flip phone for over four years.  I knew I was eligible for a free new phone after two years-- and they had ones with slide-out keyboards!!! so you could text, but didn't text much (had to pay per text) and I was perfectly happy with my phone.  I could call people whenever and wherever I needed to, and I could even talk to my mom as long as I wanted for free on the weekends.  Life was good.

In 2010, shortly after we moved to Oklahoma, I got a smart phone.  I thought the idea of paying another $30 a month so you could have the internet on your phone was absurd, but this phone had a free hotspot that allowed us to run the internet at our house with the phone.  Our other option was satellite internet, which was $70 a month, so $30 for home internet was great, and the smart phone was a fantastic bonus.

I loved my little Palm.  After three years it was a very outdated model, but there wasn't another one out there that ran a free hotspot (they'd done that as a special promotion because Palm was going out of business.)   So even though it had some quirks and wasn't as flashy or easy to use as my friends' iPhones, I was perfectly happy. 

At the same time I got my Palm, the Badger upgraded to a really nice heavy-duty "plain" phone that he wore in a nifty clip on his belt.  It was a great phone, until one day the plastic clip broke and it fell off somewhere while we were on a road trip to Utah (we think it was at the gas station in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, but we're not sure.)  We had insurance on the Palm, but not on that phone, because we figured if something happened we could go back to one of our old phones.  But they were about five or six years old at that point, and the Verizon computers couldn't even recognize them anymore, so they couldn't activate them for us.  (Bleah!)  But the Badger was able to get a very basic no-frills phone for not much.  That's what he used for the next year and a half.  He was very good about it.  All his friends at work had these fancy smart phones they were always talking about and he had this little cheap-o phone and he didn't even complain. 

So that's where we were when we got here.  And now we are living in a town again where they have things like DSL internet.  So we no longer needed my Palm to run the internet (plus, Verizon's 3G network was really spotty here, but I think that's a conspiracy because over the last year the 3G has run slower and slower and more and more spotty and I think they were just trying to push everyone into getting the 4G and paying more money.) 

Now, of course, the big deal with cell plans is data.  Minutes, texts-- you can have them unlimited.  They don't care.  It's all about data now.  And you can get an iPhone for free, but you can't get a basic phone for free from Verizon anymore because the demand has dropped way off.  Or so they say.  I think they just want you to pay the extra money for data for your free iPhone. 

The Badger decided that the time had finally come for him to get a smart phone, and I agreed.  As a pilot, there is so much he can do with it: check weather, file flight plans, do weight and balance, etc.  So we just changed over to Verizon's Share Everything plan and got him a smart phone.  He is having so much fun with it, and he deserves it after all those years of being frugal and only having a basic cell phone.  And it doesn't really cost us more every month.

I have a credit for a free phone as well, and I could get a free iPhone, but I haven't yet.  I had them switch me over to the Badger's old basic phone.  It's not so much that it saves me a few dollars a month (though I'm always watching for ways to save money), but it's that I know I spent too much time messing around on my Palm and I know it would be even worse with an iPhone.  I have a strong tendency to get sucked into electronics (most of us do, I think) and I wanted to see if getting rid of my smart phone would help me to be more present with my children.  They are more important than electronic gadgets, and I know my time usage doesn't always reflect that vital truth. 

I don't know if it's going to work, though.  There is still the computer to suck me in, and it does more than it should.  And I am remembering that in the days before all those things I used to get sucked into books and mostly ignore my kids while I read.  Apparently the problem lies with me and not with whether or not I own a smart phone.  So I've been thinking about all this a lot lately and I still haven't decided what to do.  My birthday is next month and I either want a Kindle or an iPod, and I realize that if I get the smart phone (free!) it contains both an MP3 player and a Kindle-format reader.  And I miss putting the kids to bed by listening to General Conference talks on the Palm.  And checking the weather before I get out of bed in the morning.  Etc.  What to do... what to do... 

I absolutely love all this technology.  It's so amazing.  I don't always like the business tactics of the companies that provide it, and I don't like how much we have to pay for it, but overall it is worth it and I am so grateful and thrilled to live during this time in history.  

Rabbit and Cat

I found these pictures on the camera that Bean took.  We did have some nice days last week.  The neighbor's cat has done a little bit to compensate for my kids missing their animals, particularly for the Rabbit and Peanut, who are very fond of cats.  Here is the cat watching the Rabbit draw on the trampoline. 

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I'm Dreaming of a White... Earth Day?

Or something!  Maybe I did move to Narnia during the time of the white witch.  I keep thinking it's going to stop doing this and then it does it again. 

At least Price Charming has a little suit to celebrate the snow!   When my sister gave it to me I had no idea that he would ever wear it in snowy weather but he sure has. 

I love babies often look so surprised. 

There's a bit of a smile! 

This kid is SO LOVED by his older siblings.  It makes me so happy to see them holding him and playing with him. 
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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Small Town Life

I am really liking being back in a small town again.  I have almost always lived in or next to larger cities-- even when we lived in the country in Oklahoma we weren't far from a metro area-- but now we have moved back to a scenario a lot like when we lived on the Oregon coast in 2007 and we're kind of isolated. 

Our town is small, but not too small.  It does have a full-sized Walmart, as well as two other grocery stores and one other discount store.  There are lots of small shops along Main Street, so you can find most things you need locally.  And in this day of online shopping and Amazon Prime you're not usually going to have to pay lots more for things just because you live out in the boonies. 

In fact, I have found that these small towns often have really good clearance sales.  The chain stores send them the same merchandise they send everywhere else, but it doesn't sell as fast, so there tends to be more clearance at lower prices than you see elsewhere.  I just bought me a shirt for a dollar at Walmart.  I've been loving shopping at a small grocery store that often has things like organic milk and yogurt and nitrate-free meat 50% off because they have to stock it but the demand is low so it doesn't sell fast enough. 

I love it that you can get anywhere in town in ten minutes or less.  I don't have to fill the car up nearly as often. 

I love it that you get to know people by name: the library workers, the people at the bank, the checkout clerks at the grocery store, etc.  It's easy to feel connected to the community.  The Badger went to the Firestone dealer to have the oil changed in the van and he chatted for a long time with the manager there.  A couple days later I went to a playdate at a friend's house and she invited another friend, who turned out to be the Firestone manager's wife.  We'll have them over for dinner soon! 

I know people here who never lock their doors or their cars.  I don't think I can stop locking, but it's nice to think that there are still places in America where you can get away with that. 

It's good to be here.  It's going to be a wonderful place for my family!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Photo Shoot with the Rabbit

I bought the Rabbit a black turtleneck on clearance at Walmart recently and discovered that she really looks good in black.  That was a good excuse to take some more pictures of this adorable kiddo. 

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An Awesome Older Brother

Bean has a gift with younger children and they have so much fun with him!

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Almost Spring

If we were still in Oklahoma, spring would be in full riot right now.  But just as things were starting to green up down there, we moved much further north.  March was cold and snowy, but now we are starting to see hints that this new land is not Narnia during the reign of the White Witch.  There is a gully behind our property that is lined with large willow trees and they are thinking about putting out leaves.  I am really excited about this because when I look out my bedroom window I see this:

Imagine how pretty that will be when the willows have leafed out!  And they are so close: look! 

Spring is going to be glorious here! 
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Prince Charming

The Badger and I decided that with this kid's smile, Prince Charming is the perfect nickname for him. 


I so love his little blue boat suit!  And the moose suit pictured above!  I love baby clothes!

You can see that he is discovering his hands.  He must like the way they taste, because he chews on them a lot. 
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Health Matters

So, we are now more than one third of the way through 2013 and it's time for me to look at my goals again.

I have been losing weight.  I maybe haven't lost quite as much as I wanted to by now, but I am close... I have lost about fourteen pounds.  I am so glad to be rid of them and I try to tell myself to be patient with the remaining forty-six because I do get discouraged that I'm still wearing size 18 jeans and I don't feel like I look like myself.  Moving to a new place makes you think about that more: people meet me here as a plus-sized person and they have no idea what I used to look like.  But they will just be amazed as I get smaller and smaller as the months go by, right?  Right.

One of the things that's been on my mind is that this next season of my life is a time for me to improve my overall health in every way I can.  Along with the weight loss there needs to be exercise (including perhaps *gulp!* strength training) and the establishment of healthy habits such as a decent bedtime and better care of my teeth and skin.  I have been thinking about the food I eat, as well as things like vitamins, probiotics, and essential oils. 

So I've been thinking about that, and about how all these things would be my big priority after the move, and then once I got here I started having gallbladder flare-ups again.  I would really like to keep all my organs if at all possible, and so I am trying to feed my body healthier so that I can avoid surgery.  In the past there have been certain trigger foods and this time around I think it's dairy, especially cheese.  Now, cheese is just about my favorite food on the planet, but I've gone off dairy before and I know I can do it again.  Plus, I know I will lose more weight if I'm not eating it.

So here's my plan:

No sugar, except one day a week in a moderate amount (since I have been known to binge...)
No dairy except butter and maybe some yogurt
No red meat unless I knew the cow
Organic Bountiful Baskets once a week and make sure we EAT IT ALL (no chickens to feed rotten produce to anymore!)
Grow and eat sprouts
Baby steps toward buying less processed food
Exercise... still trying to figure out specifics on that...
High-quality multivitamin/mineral daily for everyone in the family
Homemade Water Kefir-- a cup daily for everyone for probiotics
Start studying and using essential oils and herbs again, perhaps using them for gentle cleansing of my system
Study and consume coconut oil
Air purifiers and filtered water

I'm looking forward to increased energy and stamina so that I can be the person and mom I want to be.  I'm tired of being too tired and sick to play with my kids.  I know it doesn't have to be that way and I'm determined to change. 

Easter at Our House This Year

We dyed five dozen hardboiled eggs on Saturday morning while the cousins were still here so they could help. 

Our baskets are buried in storage, but we still managed to have a fun egg hunt Sunday morning.  Since we didn't go to any community or church egg hunts etc. I did buy the kids a little bit of candy (typically they get plenty from outside sources!)  And as always, I bought them each a present of a religious nature, something to help them on their journey to Christ.  As usual, they were mostly books. 

Happy Easter morning! 

The Rabbit got Daughter of a King by Rachel Ann Nunes and the Badger read it to the kids.  He cried and I cried listening from the kitchen.  I love being married to a man who cries when he reads tender stories to the kids. 

In the evening after church we ate the big ham from that dratted pig of ours.  I had a big fancy meal planned, but then I wasn't feeling well so the Badger took over and boiled potatoes and made rolls.  Just another reason why he's awesome. 

The ham was dry, but tasty, in case you were wondering. 

I love Easter.  I love thinking about the Resurrection.  It was wonderful to be able to celebrate it with my kids in so many fun ways this year. 
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One a Penny, Two a Penny...

Hot cross buns!

My mom used to make these.  It was the first time I've ever tried.  I had a little trouble with the dough and they were too dry, but the frosting encouraged the kids to eat them anyway.  We did these last Friday night when my sister Pineapple was here with my niece and nephew, which made everything more festive.

I just noticed Roo's Squirrel (with a capital S) on the piano in that picture!  Funny!

Here's a Peanut and her mangled bun.  In the background are Bean, Cousin Toad, and Aunt Pineapple holding Junior (Pineapple: please come back and hold Junior some more!)
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