Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Back in September, Weston started working on the Great Illustrated Classics version of The Swiss Family Robinson. At the time, I felt it was a little beyond his reading level, but he was determined, so I agreed. Almost every school day since then, he has been reading small chunks of it. Admittedly, there were times when I thought we ought to save this "really hard book" for the future. But Weston, even in the midst of a few harrowing reading lessons, wouldn't be deterred. He wanted a book like this under his belt. Well, yesterday, he finally finished it! And, he could just barely get through the last paragraph, for the giddiness of being so close to success. It was a wonderful accomplishment for him! He has come such a long way in his reading ability since September. And I just couldn't be prouder of him! We saved our party for tonight, so Jeff and Ruth could join us. It was truly a champion's party, which included pizza, watermelon, popcorn, coke floats and a viewing of the old Swiss Family Robinson movie. Way to go, Weston!!

Monday, February 27, 2012

I've lost my girl

Ruth had the opportunity to go and play assistant to her Dad on a short recruiting trip this week, so it is decidedly masculine around our house. But I actually started to feel like I was losing my girl last week, when she announced to me that she wants to have a Star Wars themed birthday party in a few months. What?! Ruth's birthday party is pretty much my one chance a year to throw a really girly party. Because, Every. One. Else. In. My. House. Is. A. Boy. And she chooses Star Wars. {sigh} I blame her father.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A worker is worth his wages

We have long wondered about the best way to handle household chores, and we've tried a few things that just haven't worked. But, a couple of weeks ago, we instituted a new system, which we are all very pleased with, so far. The way it works is all the chores and their monetary values are printed on magnets and kept on the freezer in the utility room. And each child (old enough to do chores) has a magnet with his/her name on it. (There are also separate assigned, non-negotiable, non-paying chores that must be done). Once the children have completed all their school work and regular chores, they then have the opportunity to earn some money with the elective chores. They may choose from any of the listed chores that haven't already been done by someone else. Each chore may only be done once a week, and only if it needs to be done. They must tell me which chore they intend to do, and I must show them how to do it, if they've never done it before. Then, I have to inspect the work, before a chore magnet can be put under a kid's name. On Sunday, we tally up each kid's pay. Chores can be divided, but then, pay also has to be divided. The system works well, I think, for several reasons. One is that the kids can pick their own chores, and they can compete for the "best" ones. Our kids are also motivated in the competition with one another to make the most money each week. And they also take pride in the jobs they have done and try to keep things a bit neater. Besides all that, the other chores seem to be getting done more quickly and without as much prompting, so that the paying jobs can be tackled. I'm so glad we found this system, and I hope it continues to work so well for us. How do you handle chores at your house?

This week's completed chore chart
*I have already been asked by several people what is printed on the chore magnets, so I am adding a little update here to clear up the fuzziness: Our assigned, non-paying chores include loading/unloading dishwasher, taking out trash, setting/clearing table, and picking clothes up off the floor. Ruth also has a paying job that is only hers, which is doing the laundry. Some of our extra paying jobs are dusting various surfaces in the house (window sills, base boards, cabinet doors), cleaning potties, tubs and sinks, sweeping the front porch, picking up toys and trash outside, cleaning out the van, wiping down all the stainless appliances and straightening books on the bookshelf. Most of them are valued at 50 cents, but some of the bigger jobs are a dollar or more. I think each family has to decide for themselves which chores are for pay and which are just a contribution to the family. And, each family also has to decide what the right value of each chore is to make it meaningful to their kids. If there is a job that particularly needs to be done, and no one selects it, I can do it myself and the kids can loose the privilege of getting to earn money for it, which they don't really like because they think of these as "their" chores.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The true nature of people: stupid, impatient and completely uncaring

This is a rant post. Can you tell?!

I had plans to attend a writing seminar in Austin this evening, and since Jeff is out of town, his parents volunteered to keep the kids for me. I dropped the kiddos off at their house, visited for a little while, and then started making my way toward Austin. I only made it about 20 miles before I came upon an infinitely long line of traffic at a dead stop, and there I stayed for more than an hour. There was a train on the track parallel to the highway that would go forward and then back, over and over again, obviously trying to redirect its path. I saw a fleet of emergency vehicles, what looked like a couple of hearses, and the AirEvac helicopter come in for a landing. Obviously, there was a major problem. Thus, the stopped traffic. And, the emergency vehicles. But many of the other drivers seemed to to be completely oblivious to the trauma happening just a half a mile in front of us. They began making unsafe u-turns into the oncoming traffic lanes, off-roading through the bar ditch, climbing out of their vehicles, beating on the sides of their cars and yelling rude and even obscene things into the air. People were literally dying right in front of them, and they acted as if this had all just been an elaborate scheme with the sole objective of delaying and irritating them, or maybe even, for the ultra-curious ones, of entertaining them. And, most of them seemed not even to give a thought to the fact that it could have been them in that car accident or to acknowledge that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. It made me so angry, and so sad. Is this really how people are deep down inside? And not even so deep down? Are they really more concerned with getting home to watch some stupid reality t.v show than they are about human life? Obviously, accidents like this happen every day. But, this is the first incidence like this I have been thrown into in quite some time, and I'll tell you, it didn't do much for my thoughts toward humanity, in general. What a sad, sad lot.

Here's the news story about the accident, if you want more information. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday, all day

Oh my word. I cannot tell you how glad I am to be to the end of this day. It was Monday. All. Day. Long. My oldest child woke up with a vendetta against me this morning. So, just overlay that over everything else. Two kids started the day with minor tummy troubles, which they got over fairly quickly, but which were not any fun at the time. Jeff had a meeting in Austin this morning, so I had to take the whole crew into town when it was time for Max to go to preschool, which isn't a big deal at all. It just puts everything out of whack for our school day. Attitudes toward school work were already pretty far out of alignment today, so we really didn't need the added burden. Over lunch, one child became enraged by the lack of spinach dip in the house and just could not regain control. In the early afternoon, I had to learn how to use the delay feature on the oven for "a vegetable dish to feed 20 people," that we would need for the Cub Scout Banquet later in the day. At 2:30, Weston had his follow-up appointment with the pediatrician to see whether all his infections had cleared up. They had, thank goodness. While we were there, I went ahead and had them do Clay's weight check, so I wouldn't have to come back later in the week. Well, somehow that kid managed to fall right off the growth chart he had worked so diligently to get his dot on. Doc is perplexed. She hasn't ordered any tests yet, but she wants me to keep a food intake journal for him for a few days, and then she will consult with a pediatric advisory board she is part of to see what they think. At 3:30, Ruth had an appointment with the orthodontist. She got new rubber bands, a different wire and an excellent report. After that appointment, I went to the preschool to pick Max up. I reached for something on the console and discovered melted Valentine candy everywhere. Lovely. At 4:15, I took the boys to martial arts. Ruth stayed in the van, I thought, to get some neglected school work done. But she was so upset about losing some privileges during the day, that she actually just sat there and worked herself into a frenzy, which ended in a migraine headache for her. At 5:15, we arrived at the location of the Cub Scout banquet so Weston could place his centerpieces out on the table. I found out the hard way that the paint wasn't dry on one of them. And, when Jeff met us there, he reported that the "vegetable for 20" (baked beans) had spilled in his car on the way over. (There was still plenty to serve, but the prospect of a dirty, stinky car and an impending road trip were not exciting). Then, my third child, making a mad and reckless dash to the restroom, managed to run into a wall and jam his thumb, though it sounded more like he was being murdered. Jeff stayed and watched Weston receive his Tiger Cub badge, and then hit the road for a work trip that will keep him away all week. But, the straw that just about broke the camel's back, was when our very own newly christened Tiger Cub won the award for sportsmanship at the Pinewood Derby, and burst out crying because he didn't win a trophy like some of the other boys. That's when I knew it was time to end this day before I did something crazy. I sped home like a maniac, insisted the children go straight to bed, and poured myself a large glass of wine. I'm so thankful we get to start over tomorrow!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Change the way you think about Brussels Sprouts

If you already like Brussels Sprouts (like me), you will LOVE these. If you aren't really crazy about Brussels Sprouts (like Jeff), these may just change your mind. My mom made them for us a few weeks ago, and we made them for ourselves last night. Just talking about making them literally made our mouths water. We were so anxious to put the delectable little morsels in our mouths, we ended up eating dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon! And all we had was the sprouts! And now, I'm eating the leftovers cold instead of dessert. They are that good. And, as a bonus, they are super-easy to make.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Lemon

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 Tbsp. water
Juice of lemon half, about 1 Tbsp.

In a 12-in. non-stick skillet, heat 3 Tbsp. of the olive oil over medium heat. Arrange Brussels sprouts in a single layer, cut sides down. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and sprinkle sprouts with water. Cover and cook 2 minutes more. Sprouts should be just tender when pierced with a fork, and beginning to caramelize. Remove cover and increase heat slightly. When cut sides are well-caramelized, toss sprouts in pan, drizzle with lemon juice, and sprinkle with more salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 delicious servings.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bye-bye blank walls

I am always slow to hang things on the walls in a new house. Call me a hole-a-phobe or a commit-a-phobe, but I like to take my time when it comes to totally altering the landscape of a perfectly good blank wall. And, yet, I crave to have the emptiness filled. What can I say? I am a woman of contradictions. And, in our house, there is a sort of unspoken rule: Don't ask the husband to get out all his hanging gear--hammer, drill, wall anchors, level, ladder, etc--for just one item. (And whatever you do, don't go about hanging something without a wall anchor)! So, today, we took advantage of being trapped in the house by the weather to add a little pop of interest here and there. I love to surround myself with things that remind me of people, places and ideas that I love, which all of these things do perfectly.

This one we've actually had up for a while, and I absolutely LOVE it.
It is in the "kid wing" of the house, where everyone is sure to see it
everyday and be reminded what's expected of them.

This was a housewarming gift from my grandparents.
I love the way it exactly matches our woodwork.

On the left is an embroidered picture commemorating our wedding date,
made by Jeff's aunt and given to us just after we married. It's always been special.
And right above the bed is the amazing quilt my amazing mother-in-law made for me recently.
It's family heirloom hankies, hand-quilted together in absolute perfection. 

This was a gift from my parents for Christmas. It is hanging in a high-traffic area,
which must be passed on the way to the garage. I need this reminder daily, and especially
when I'm trying to get everyone out the door to go somewhere.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My nephew has arrived!

Tyler Lane Teasley arrived this morning at 9:13, weighing 8 lbs. 9 oz. and measuring 20 1/2 in. What a beautiful addition to the family!! Congrats, Jodi and Chad! He is just precious!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

School Update

Wow! I have done a really terrible job of keeping up with our school work here on the blog. Believe me, it's not because we haven't been doing anything. In fact, our school days are quite full, and our extra-curricular hours are full, as well. I won't try to cover everything going on with Watts Homeschool, but I will try to hit some highlights.

Ruth has been doing an incredible job in Math, making 100s on almost every assignment. She is cruising through her History book, and is on schedule to finish that up at the end of April, so she can spend some time in May just focusing on Texas History. She has read some very interesting books and done some neat projects for History, as well. She has begun the upper level Latin book and is doing very well with that subject. So well, in fact, that we have allowed her to divide her Latin time in half and fill the remainder of the time with the Rosetta Stone Spanish program, which she is excelling at. She has written some wonderful research papers for her CC Essentials class and has had some time to practice for her upcoming Ready Writing contest. She has begun the fifth grade Grammar book, and is also spending time working on Grammar assignments for CC. She has just about mastered the Spelling list for her PSIA Spelling competition and has also done some work in her regular Spelling workbook. She is making great progress with her piano music and is also practicing for her upcoming Music Memory contest. She is doing a wonderful job with her CC memory work. She has also done several neat experiments for Science. And, she has been working on her delivery of a poem for the PSIA Poetry Interpretation Contest. And, in addition to all that, she is attending martial arts classes two days a week. We are so very proud of her and of all her accomplishments.

Weston is becoming a stronger, more motivated student, and we are very proud of him, as well. He is most of the way through his first grade Math book, and he loves getting to do extra Math activities, when the opportunity presents itself. He is getting to be a much better reader and is even reading on his own some of the time and reporting about what he reads, rather than having a parent sitting with him to offer assistance with almost every word. His writing is getting neater, and he has learned a lot about putting sentences together. Spanish doesn't seem to come as naturally to him, but he works on the lessons diligently and has shown quite a bit of improvement. We have added a couple of things to Weston's school day since the beginning of the school year. One of those is electives from his Cub Scout book. He is super-motivated to get those activities signed off just for the thrill of completion, and so we have tried to increase his opportunities for doing so. Because of this, he has earned more beads than any of the other Tiger Cubs in his group. We have also added in a special Bible time for Weston, after finding that he was having trouble recalling some of the Bible stories. He seems to thrive with the one-on-one time and is able to remember the details much better. In addition to his regular school subjects, he is also thoroughly enjoying his participation in CC, scouts and martial arts.

These kids are just amazing, and we couldn't be prouder of them. Every day is a learning adventure, and we are thankful we get to be a part of it!

Working on CC memory work

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Word of Advice

To Whom It May Concern:

If you decide to vandalize my property, you might want to think about using an alias. Just a suggestion. It might keep you out of trouble for just a little longer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

When are you guaranteed to have a day of snow, ice and sleet?

When everything in your house (hot water heater, heater, stove) runs on propane, and the propane company has neglected to put you on their route, and your propane tank runs dry, and it's a Sunday. Thank you, Lord, for sweaters, blankets, and the electric kettle!

"On the Rocks"

Winter has found us!

Ice piling up beside the empty propane tank

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Better with age

34.5 That's my age, as of today. I'm well on my way to the midpoint of my thirties. And, you know what? This is the best time of my life!  I dreaded turning thirty--felt like I was leaving my youth behind somehow. But here in my mid-thirties, I see things so much differently. I spent my twenties uncomfortable in my own skin and unsure of my own mind. I took myself much too seriously, and often treated life like it was some kind of heavy burden. But somewhere along the way, I've grown into myself. And I rather like who I've become (am becoming). I truly feel that I'm getting better with age. And, that's definitely something to celebrate!

Monday, February 06, 2012

Super Bowl Party

Last year, we spent somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred dollars at Sam's for snacks for the Super Bowl...and it was just us--2 adults and 3 small kids. This year, we decided to go ahead and invite some other people to join us. And we decided on upscale Mexican-thememd appetizers. Jeff worked hard coming up with unique twists on some old stand-bys, and just about everything was homemade. And everything was fabulous! We had Mexicali Meatballs, Chicken Jalapeno Bites, Mexican Shrimp Cocktail, Poppers by Ruth, Chorizo and Mushroom Nachos, Taco Pizza, Venison Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza, Salmon Dip, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Grapefruit Margaritas, Rice Krispie Balls (made with homemade marshmallows), and Football Cupcakes. Our house was full of people, which was absolutely delightful. I admit, I had to ask Jeff yesterday morning who was playing (and, more importantly, what their colors were), and I watched maybe only about 5 minutes of the game, but what a party it was! I can't wait for the next excuse to fill up our house with people and eat delicious food.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

9 Months

It's been a big month for our Little Bitty. He ushered in another tooth and has given up baby food and nursing almost completely. He is eating all kinds of table foods and has finally landed his dot on the very first line of the growth chart! Woohoo! And, miracle of miracles, he has started drinking liquid out of cup. For months, we have tried to get him to drink formula and water. We have offered several types of bottles and cups. We have tried flavoring the formula in a variety of ways. We have even tried shooting it in his mouth with a syringe. And absolutely nothing has worked. Until this week, when I decided to try soy milk. He still isn't guzzling it down, but at least he isn't spitting it out every time, and sometimes he is even willingly drinking it. He is still wearing size three diapers and mostly 3-6 month clothes. He is wearing a few 6 month/6-9 month onsies and sleepers. And now for the real fun: He has started clapping, waving, giving five and pulling up to standing. What he would really like to do is stand straight up from the floor and take off walking, but he hasn't quite figured that one out yet--though he does look super-cute with his little tushy sticking up in the air. The Sunday school teachers report that he is trying to mimic animal sounds, but I have not heard him do that myself yet. I have heard him make an adorable kissing sound, though, which I absolutely love. He also "talks" all the time and one of my favorite things is when the big kids are at martial arts and he mimics the "hi-yas." He is happy and sweet, and absolutely just the best little thing. I seriously cannot believe he is already nine months old!

Two teeth poking through the pasta sauce

Up he goes

Little Man

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Around the world and back again

Last night, we had dinner with my parents, grandparents, uncle and cousin in Belton. This morning, we had brunch at Waterloo Ice House in Bee Cave. And, this afternoon, Ruth and I attended a baby shower for my sister in Seguin. It's time to put this road-weary body to bed!