Wednesday, August 29, 2012

School Choices

Bug is only 2 and 1/2, but school choice is something I have contemplated since before she was born.  J and I are both graduates of a small Christian school in our area, but we don't plan to send our girls there for a variety of reasons (which I'd be happy to discuss with anyone who asks, but this isn't the place for that).  I was a public school educator for 5 years before Bug was born and have no issue sending my daughters to public school, except that I'm not a huge fan of the school district we currently live in (children and where they'd go to school weren't on my mind when we bought our house 6 years ago).  With those things taken into consideration (and the fact that I have a background and 2 degrees in education), homeschooling has come up in discussions more than once, but I had NEVER considered it for preschool.

Then, I decided to join Community Bible Study this year and the times for that meant I wouldn't be able to get Aubri from preschool on time (the wonderful one I had enrolled her in!) so I had to tell them she wouldn't be coming.  Then a college aquaintance showed all of the wonderful things she did with her daughter and one of her daughter's friends at home and I thought, "Brilliant!  Preschool/Tot School/Mommy School (whatever you want to call it) at home!"  I asked a close friend to join us one day a week and decided to do "school" with Aubri a little more unofficially the other days...Except now I'm not feeling so brilliant about it.  I'm thoroughly looking forward to that one day a week when I get to see another adult and Bug will have a friend to do school's the other days that concern me.  Another preschool opportunity with days/times that fit our schedule opened up, but I hmmmed and hawed and hmmmed and hawed and drove Jarrod crazy with my hmmming and hawing and hmmmed and hawed some more...and in the end decided not to send her, though I'm not sure why.

  Enter the week that Bug has pushed all of my buttons...yes, I want to send her to preschool!  But then she wakes up in the morning and says, "We do preschool, Mommy?  Preschool in the basement? (that's where our "school room" is set up because J worked so hard two years ago to finish our basement and provide a beautiful family room/play area/school area for our family) We sit on the floor and sing songs?  Josh come to preschool?"  And that melts (and breaks) my heart...melts, because I'm so glad she thinks it's going to be fun, she's interested in school (though I'm pretty sure she has no earthly idea what preschool is), and I know my years of being her teacher and her main influence won't last forever.  Breaks my heart because it convicts me of the fact that she wants to be near me and do fun things and I wanted to send her to school. 

So even though it's not really "homeschooling," we're going to give this Mommy School thing a try.  Fortunately for me (my background is 3rd/4th grade, not early childhood ed), there's Pinterest, LOTS of Tot School/Teaching Mommy blogs, etc to help me figure out how to "do school" with a 2 and 1/2 year old.  I have enjoyed purchasing some learning toys and we're going loosely Montessori/thematic with the assistance of Heart of Dakota's Little Hands to Heaven curriculum.  And you know what?  I'm pumped for my curriculum to arrive and for our "school room" (really a school corner) to be set up like I want it.   Will we become die hard homeschoolers?  As of now, I'm thinking probably not, but for now Mommy School it is!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things...Laundry Edition

When we bought our house, I had no idea that we were entering a hard water situation.  I'm pretty sure (okay 95% sure) it would have been a deal breaker for me.  Between the water and our washer (which I think contributes to the problem), my whites don't stay white, but have a gray tinge to them, the girls' colored clothing, (especially pale pinks, yellows, and greens) get a gross faded tinge to them and stains (any kind...even the ones that are supposed to come out) don't come out.  So over the last several years, especially since we had the girls, I have tried everything to make our white clothes whiter, get stains out, etc.  And in that time frame, I've come up with a few of my favorites...and a few of my "won't ever use again or recommend to ANYONE!"

1) Sunbleaching- I know...who knew that the sun in the sky could be such a wonderful laundry tool? This is something I didn't realize until we started using cloth diapers with Doodle.  The stains were unbearable and I wasn't sure what to do.  The sun came to my rescue and I have taken great joy this summer in seeing my cloth diapers in a variety of colors and patterns swaying in the breeze.  I've started using this method for other things as well.

2) Baking Soda- Though I do buy the Arm and Hammer detergent, I have started adding baking soda straight from the box into my washing machine. I'm not sure how much difference it is making compared with other things I'm trying (read I haven't done comparison study with a test group), but it makes me feel better.

3) Vinegar- After attending a Mommy Talk on using organic and natural products (which we do some of) and then reading an article on what chemicals are in fabric softener, I gave up my fabric sheets addiction.  I used to throw a handful of fabric softener sheets into the dryer every time, but after reading about all of the chemicals a softener sheet contains, I've stopped for the most part.  Vinegar can be used as a fabric softener substitute by pouring into the liquid fabric softener place in your washing machine and, no, your clothes won't smell like vinegar.

4) Dish Soap and Peroxide- I read about this when searching for ways to make your clothes whiter and found that mixing hot water, dish soap, and LOTS of peroxide together and letting things soak does help stains...and it did to an extent.  Following this with sunbleaching helped.

5) I'd be remiss if I left out my mother-in-law and my mom.  Yes, they are two of my laundry agents.  When things just won't stay white or I just can't get stains out using our awful water or our washing machine, they graciously wash certain items for me at their house;)

"Won't Ever Use Again or Recommend to Anyone!"
1) Baby Ganics Stain Remover- maybe it was the combo of the stain remover and our water, but this stain remover left streaks on Aubri's clothes.  I did love that it was organic and contained less chemicals, but isn't the purpose of a stain remover to remove stains, not contribute new ones?

2) RLR Laundry Treatment- I ordered this from one of the places I buy cloth diapers and it was AWFUL!  The description claimed to "make whites whiter and colors brighter for a few cents a month.  Removes dried in mineral deposits and detergent residue from clothing."  Wrong!  Though it said to put it in with dry or wet laundry (tried both), it just clumped up and didn't rinse off of my clothes, leaving white clumps of nasty residue that I had to wash multiple times.

If you have hard water and have any other helpful suggestions, I'm open to them.  I don't like my kids going out with stains on their clothes (reason I buy Aubri's summer play clothes at Target vs. Gymboree) and I like my little girls' white tanks, tees, onesies, and dresses to stay white!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

"The Bush" vs. "The White Picket Fence"

I've been thinking a lot lately about balance, not just balance in my life as a mother of two little girls, but balance as I look at third world countries/developing nations through first world eyes at times. When I graduated from college, I never thought I'd be living in the United States, let alone raising children here.  I had always assumed God's plan for me including teaching overseas (either ESL or TCKs) or living in the bush somewhere.  Then I married J and his family's business is here.  He loves his work and I am so thankful to have a husband who has a job that provides well for our family and that he enjoys it at the same time.  But somewhere, we have to find a balance in between those desires.  And we have been striving to do that for our entire marriage (and are getting much better at it).

We just finished going through David Platt's (author  of Radical and Radical Together) study of the book of James in our small group and it has really opened my eyes to how we spend our money, how what I do day in, day out is furthering the kingdom of God and leading others to Christ, etc.  There are days when I would be willing to sell everything (well almost everything, but at least all of the "stuff") and move to "The Bush" somewhere among an African tribal people or deep in the rainforests of South America or Southeast Asia.  Days when I know raising my girls amidst another culture and teaching them to be grateful for all that they have is the deepest desire of my heart.  Days when I want to donate my girls' clothes because who really needs 10+ bins of little girl clothes in their attic?  And then there are the days where I desire to have a new minivan because we just "need" more space.  Days I "need" new living room furniture because the dog has pretty much destroyed our little loveseat and what do people think when they see our sad couch the moment they enter our home?  Days when the dream of owning land and building our dream house overtake the desire to donate large amounts of money to the missionaries who currently have two mortgages.  Days when the urge to repaint my home and have people praise me for what it looks like overtake the desire to send extra money to our sponsored children.  So how does one come to a good middle point of balance with these decisions?  How do you do it (if you struggle with these things)?

We have very close friends of ours who are in the midst of preparing to take their family of four to minister in Papua New Guinea and when I first heard this news, my first reaction (after I stopped sobbing at the thought of "losing" a dear friend and my daughter's best friend to the other side of the world) was to be jealous.  My second reaction was to ask why it wasn't me.  My third reaction was to be thankful I didn't have to make the 20 billion hour (okay...slight exaggeration) flight with 2 children under age 3.  Again, where's the balance?

Last week we decided that it was time to replace said sad loveseat with seating that is attractive, comfortable, not peed on by the dog, and sits more than 3 total people in our living room.  However, when J went to purchase it last night, I couldn't do it.  I couldn't let him spend x amount on a sofa and 2 chairs (that we were getting for a VERY good deal) because my mind was overtaken by the thoughts of starving children, missionaries without sufficient funds, dear friends about to embark on the journey of raising support, and even the thought that that money could go towards plane tickets for us to go (short-term mind you...3 weeks or so) with our little family to minister to missionary friends serving around the world.  Where's the balance?

My sister and J reminded me that I can further the kingdom of God by having a hospitable home environment in which to serve others, have families into my home, minister to other moms, etc.  They reminded me that it's okay to have nice things.  But for me, this summer in particular, it has been a constant battle..."The Bush" vs. "The White Picket Fence."  New sofa vs. extra money to our sponsored children.  New minivan vs. $ for plane tickets to visit/minister to friends serving in other countries.  Where's the balance?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Livin' and Lovin' Local

I'm feeling pretty good about the items I was able to get this week at some great discounts.  If you've never visited then you should really try it out.  She gives lists of store deals and the Target deals (with links to online coupons and Target coupons or references to newspaper coupons) are usually pretty incredible and save lots of money!!$$! 

$21 of merchandise for $11.44.  Yep, that's Chobani Champions Yogurt for kids that I got for $1 instead of $3, a Chobani yogurt, disinfecting wipes, 2 boxes of Annie's Organic Mac N' Cheese, Suave Shampoo for Kids, Suave Body Wash for kids, contact solution, markers, colored pencils, 2 boxes of crayons (both free), 10 pack of pens (free), and a roll of Scotch tape (also free)!

And for a little follow-up to yesterday's post about why I love to shop at farm markets and buy local produce, take a look at today's stash (which probably would have been more if the basket underneath the stroller was bigger or if Aubri was bigger and could carry more...or if the locally grown cantaloupes hadn't been so massive!).

It might be hard to see, but that's 2 heads of romaine lettuce, 2 cantaloupes, 4 lemons, 1 lb of plums (4 or 5 of them), 8 kiwis, 1 dozen ears of corn, a bag of grapes, 2 avocados, a quarter of a yellow watermelon, and a quart of blueberries (not pictured) for $21.  Try getting all of that locally grown produce for that price in the grocery store...go ahead, I dare you!

And because I just can't help myself, a parting picture of Bug proudly holding her yellow watermelon, which just might be her favorite find of the summer! (Please ignore the clutter in the background!)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

York County Favs

I am not a native York Countian and I once told the Lord that I would never live in York County (I also told Him I'd never date my husband again, let alone marry him and we all see how that worked out 5 and 1/2 years of marriage and 2 beautiful children later), but when we make plans, God sometimes just smiles down on us and says, "That's what you think, my daughter!"  So while I never want to hear anyone refer to me as a "Yorker," there are several things I love about York County in the summertime.  Here are my top 5 in no particular order.

1) Barefoot Farms- Located just north of Dover in the northern part of York County, Barefoot Farms is a beautiful place to go to pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries, and pumpkins.  It is owned by the sweetest, Christian people and we have taken Bugaboo (and now Doodle) since she was a baby.  I want my children to realize that food doesn't just magically appear at the grocery store, but that it grows from the ground.  I want my kids to feel the dirt between their toes and have seeds between their teeth and stains on their faces because they ate more berries than they picked!  I want those smiling pictures of them holding the pumpkin that is bigger than they are!  Last summer they opened a sandwich and ice cream shop so now you can have fresh raspberry and strawberry sundaes after picking.

2) Eastern Market- Located just off of Market Street in East York and only open on Fridays, Eastern Market is one of my favorite locations to take my girls.  The first few times I went, I wore Doodle in the Ergo and pushed Bugaboo in the stroller.  Bug quickly realized, however, that she wanted to partake in choosing fresh produce so she started walking next to me holding on to her station (rings linked together hanging off of the stroller- idea taken from Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic).  Her favorite things to purchase are "big, juicy wa-der-mel-on, kiwis, and mangoes."  We also splurge on a special treat on the mornings we go to market and share pretzel dogs and a fresh squeezed lemonade for lunch.  I have tried to start encouraging Bug to pick out a "treat" and have it be fresh fruit that I know was grown not far from where we're purchasing it.

3) Flinchbaugh's Orchard and Farm Market- (Are you noticing a trend here?)  I just discovered the joy of Flinchbaugh's this summer.  I had driven by it occasionally on the way to visit friends who lived out towards Wrightsville, and yes, it's a 25 minute drive from my house, but I love the friendly staff and the fact that I can see the peach trees from the parking lot, knowing my peaches are nice and fresh.  They offer peach picking, apple picking, and pumpkin picking and also tours for a small fee.  They have a Summer Fest in July and a Fall Fest in October and we had a lot of fun.  Bug LOVES farms and so she enjoyed the wagon ride.  I love that my daughter is asking to go to "Finchbaugh Farm Makit" on her own.  She especially enjoys the yellow variety of watermelon we have purchased there.  Yes, it is a little pricier than some of the produce that is sold in the grocery  store, but to me the price it worth it to know it hasn't been pesticided to death, I know where it's coming from, and I'm supporting the "little man" by buying locally!

4) Perrydell Farms- This is Bug's all-time favorite place to visit.  I'm not sure where it came from, but Bugaboo has an obsession with cows.  She LOVES them!  At Perrydell Farms, you can visit with the calves up close in their hutches- pet them, get slobbered on by them, take in their lovely odor, er, aroma.  The best part in Bug's mind, though, is getting to feed the calves.  If you visit Perrydell around 4:00 pm, you can help to bottlefeed the calves.  You can also watch the "big cows" being milked in the milking parlor.  They're behind a glass window, but when they exit it's like you can reach out and touch them. We took a tour with our mom's group this summer and got to pet the calves, see the cows, watch the bottling process, walk in the refrigerator, and have chocolate milk and cookies.  Bug enjoys picking out a flavored milk or her own individual-sized jug of white milk to take home with us.  They also have delicious ice cream.  I don't know about you, but I like knowing that my milk ran through some pipes 100 yards away, was bottled, and sold to me.  Yum!  We go to "visit the cows" at least once a week...and Bug has several pictures of cows in her bedroom.  I've got to find some friends who will let us borrow cows and join 4-H.

5) York County Library Summer Reading Program and GO York! Letterboxing Program-
Whoever came up with the idea to combine reading with outdoor activity was a genius.  We live in the days of childhood obesity and children thinking that their food comes from McDonald's (hence all of my farm market/fresh food likes above).  So the York County Library decided to team up with GO York! and offer a reading program combined with letterboxing activities to be found throughout 30 different parks in York County.  This year the theme was Dream Big Read! and Go and Search the Galaxy!  We have had a great time following the clues and finding "rubbings" and it has given us the opportunity to discover wonderful parks and playgrounds throughout areas of the county that I wouldn't otherwise have familiarized myself with.  We have completed 20 out of 30 rubbings and read our 800 minutes and I'm pretty proud of Bug for all of her efforts (and hey, I'm just a little proud of myself for my efforts as well).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

16 Years Later...Another Gold!

It seems I do my best blogging late at night after I have stayed up way past my bedtime (and everyone elses' in my household) watching the, there won't be nearly as many blog posts once the Olympics are over because I will be in bed at semi-normal times and won't have the chance to blog.

I started this post last night right after the Fab/Fierce Five claimed their Olympic gold medal in Women's Gymnastics Team Competition and I stayed up way too late to watch it.  Jarrod encouraged me to watch it online ("Kor, you know it's not live, right?"), but my only response was that I watched the Magnificent Seven win the gold sixteen years ago and I was going to watch the Fab Five win it now.  I didn't expect him to understand because as a 13 year old boy he certainly wasn't glued to the television as Kerri Strug vaulted on an injured and ankle and Bela Karoly cheered "You can do it!" (in Romanian accent) from the sidelines.  But he tried and I appreciated that:)

Maybe it's the fact that I always wanted to be a gymnast (as so many American, Russian, Chinese little girls do).  Maybe it's the fact that I sit and watch in awe as they flip through the air and miraculously land on a piece of wood 4 inches wide.  Maybe it's just the American patriotism in me, but there was no way I was going to turn off the television and miss it.  I will say, however, that I felt quite old as I watched Gabby, Jordyn, Ally, McKayla, and Kyla.  Some of them were less than a year old when the Magnificent 7 won the gold 16 years ago...crazy!  I did some research to see where the Magnificent 7 were now and learned that they are married, have kids, are pediatricians, etc...yep, I officially feel old.  Even so, there is a sense of pride when our country brings home another gold medal and so I'll continue to stay up late, enjoy the human interest stories in between the action of the Games,  and get teary-eyed as our anthem plays and the American flag is raised until the very end.