Thursday, December 30, 2010

"To Do" List 2011 - and 2010 Report Card

It's the end of the year, that time to reflect upon the past year and think about the future. It's also time to take down the Christmas decorations..because quite frankly, I'm getting tired of the tree constantly dropping itself all over the living room. But I digress...

I took a look at last year's "To Do" list and was pleased to note that I've stuck pretty close to reaching the goals I set for myself, particularly the ones most important to me. There are a few areas that I need to improve on. Here are the grades I gave myself:

1. Dramatically decrease Internet time. B- 
Some weeks I've been really good with this, others I've sunk countless minutes into meaningless surfing. But I'm a lot better at recognizing when Internet time is interfering with life, and when that happens I shut my computer off for a few days. Facebook has a big pull on me, and I've seriously considered canceling my account on more than one occasion. But for now, keeping it is a good exercise in self-control.

2. Read more good books. A+ 
I've read so many good books this year. The great ones that stand out on my mind are The Chronicles of Narnia, Radical, The Mission of Motherhood, The Hiding Place, and Gospel-Powered Parenting. My favorite time to read is right after I put the boys down for their nap. I get a blanket and curl up on the couch for at least thirty minutes with a good book, and during the warmer months I would sit outside in a quiet corner of the yard. I've found that reading begets reading; when I'm interested in and excited about a book, I'll find all sorts of pockets of time throughout the day to pick it up and read a bit more - especially when my computer is off!

3. Research homeschooling methods. B 

I spent the year talking with homeschooling moms and reading books about methods and curricula. I developed my own philosophy about why I want to home school, what I'd like our home school experience to look like, and what benefits I want the boys to gain from learning at home versus going to a school building. The book, "100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum" has a few surveys that were very helpful in narrowing down all the available methods to a few that match with my philosophy - which turned out to be Unit Studies and/or Charlotte Mason method.

4. Meal plan. A+

I hit upon a method for meal planning that works well for me, and I planned out almost every week of this past year. I plan five meals for the week: two involved recipes, two simple ones, and one "convenience" meal (something that is prepackaged, like Trader Joe's Orange Chicken). I don't plan a particular meal for each day of the week, but I am flexible to choose which meal works best for that day. 

5. Make my own bread. C-

I put genuine effort into this one, but failed for a few reasons: 1) It's really hard to make homemade sandwich bread. 2) I was never able to find a whole wheat bread recipe that we could all agree on. 3) It's so much easier to just buy a loaf of bread at the store that it's not worth the effort of making it at home. I still do make bread to accompany meals, because there's nothing better than fresh bread with homemade soup.

6. Exercise more. C- 

I'll be honest. I hate exercising. I hate waking up at 5:30AM and running for thirty minutes. So I haven't done much of it this year. I've tried, but after a few weeks I would gradually succumb to my warm sheets and put it off for another day. And then another day. And another. Until I stopped altogether. And then I'd repeat the cycle. 

7. Read to the boys 30 minutes a day. B-

I did read to the boys every day, but not for thirty minutes every day. I'd say that we hit the thirty-minute mark maybe one-quarter of the days.

8. Read the whole Bible. B

I kept my chronological reading plan pretty closely, though I skipped about 30 days of readings over the year. Right now I am halfway through Paul's letters, and at some point in the last two years I've read everything after that point, so I consider that I've read the whole Bible.

9. Memorize scripture. C 

I got off to a good start but stopped somewhere in the middle of the year. I need to do better with this during this coming year!

New To Do list for 2010

1. Lose weight. I have about 20 extra and unwanted pounds hanging around that I'd really love to get rid of before springtime. Part of the problem is that my metabolism is slowing down and so weight sticks around more easily than when I was in my early 20s. It's taken me the better part of this past year to figure this out. But let's face it, most of the problem is that I eat more than I need to and don't exercise enough. To accomplish this goal I will: 1) Eat less. 2) Eat healthy food. 3) Complete 9 weeks of the C25K plan - a running program that takes 30 minutes, three times a week - and then maintain the workout schedule afterward.

2. Decrease Internet time. I plan to go back to my earlier method of having my computer off during the day and only turning it on for a few minutes during nap time or after the boys' bedtime.  

3. Read the whole Bible again. My goal is to read through the Bible once a year. I gained so many spiritual benefits from reading it through once and I'm really looking forward to starting over and doing it again. I'm still trying to decide if I should try a different reading plan, read a different version of the Bible, or just do the exact same plan/version I did this past year. 

4. Take part in Project 365. This is a challenge to take a photo every day, for a year. Hopefully it will get me to become a better photographer by looking at everyday life in a new way.

5. Read more good books. Judging by the huge stack of books in the "To-Be-Read" pile, this shouldn't be difficult. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

These kids...

...will do anything for chocolate. Including sitting still long enough for me to take a decent picture of them. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas eve was a nice mix of chores and family time. We had a breakfast of gingerbread pancakes, which is everyone's favorite wintertime treat, and then watched part of It's a Wonderful Life together. Then we spent the rest of the morning working outside doing yard work. I helped Mark while the boys found all sorts of things to climb on and jump off of. After lunch and naps it was time for West Hills' Christmas Eve service, and then to our friends' house for a birthday party for Jesus. The whole evening was a sweet time of fellowship and reflection on Christ and His love and sacrifice.

Christmas morning with the boys was a lot of fun, particularly since they didn't even know they were getting presents. Tommy came out of his room asking, "Is it Christmas Day now?" and Ben was the first to notice that there were presents underneath the tree. He said, "Tommy!! Look! There's presents!!" in an awed voice. We continued our tradition of giving three gifts that match those of the Three Wise Men plus a book (simply so I can have an excuse to buy hardcover classics). Their main gift was a pair of waterproof RC cars. They spent the rest of the day playing with them. 

The rest of the morning was spent hanging out in our PJs watching some more Jimmy Stewart, visiting grandparents, and playing with our toys. We had a yummy Christmas dinner in the evening with Mark's parents and grandma and then an early bedtime for all. It was a pleasant and relaxing Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Messy Week

It's been a messy week here in the Knapp household. The boys' normally virtuous behavior turned extremely challenging earlier this week. Only it took me until near the end of the week to realize what was going on. I kept thinking, Gee, it seems like I have so little patience! What's wrong with me? Until one of my children bit the other, actually drawing blood. Twice. That was the wake-up call that made it hit me: it's them, not me! Realizing that they were going through a normal phase of challenging behavior was actually a relief to me, because it meant that it was something we could work through and would eventually have an end. It doesn't help that they both seem to be going through a growth spurt, and so are nearly perpetually hungry and tired, which is enough to make any adult extremely irritable.

For the first time in his life, Ben fell asleep on the floor, after a round of discipline for applying his teeth to his brother. He slept for an hour this way, until I moved him to the couch, where he slept another half hour. This was at 10am!
The boys were better behaved by Thursday afternoon and Friday, so we rolled up our sleeves and tackled some important projects: cookie-decorating and snowflake-making.  Which was messy. Good thing we have hardwood floors and a good vacuum. 

The cookies we decorated were the kind found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store in the shape of a log, that you just slice and bake. I normally opt for making cookies from scratch because they taste so much better, but this was an emergency, and a matter of life-and-death (as far as small children are concerned). I spent all Thursday morning mixing, kneading, refrigerating, rolling, cutting, and baking sugar cookies. Only to find out that I made a fatal mistake that resulted in over-buttery yucky cookies. Pillsbury came to my rescue Thursday afternoon and made my children ecstatic to have a sugary canvas on which to smear their frosting, sprinkles, and candies.

Can you tell these were decorated by a 2- and 4-year old? 
We made paper snowflakes on Friday morning. The boys were happy to have me cut out their snowflakes and then they went to work gluing and sprinkling glitter. Now I can be satisfied that we got all the messes out of the way and can enjoy the week before Christmas. Hopefully.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

New Fish in Town

Last night Mark and I went to a Christmas party where we participated in a White Elephant gift exchange. By the end of the evening we were the new owners of a pair of fish, one healthy and the other very sickly. Not wanting to contaminate our healthy aquarium, Mark decided to give the fish a home in our outdoor fountain.

Since we were left with an empty fishbowl, we thought this would be a good time to get the boys their own fish. So, after breakfast this morning we went to Petco to pick out their new pets. They chose a pair of guppies, a yellow and an orange. We got a male and a female so they have the opportunity to mate, and any offspring can be transferred to our large aquarium. We had a name brainstorming session in the car on the way home with our new friends, and the boys decided on "Henry Oppermation" (Tommy's choice) for the boy fish and "Poppermation" (Ben's choice) for the girl fish. So far Henry and Poppy are happy in their new home.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Blue Friday

This weekend we repeated our new tradition of spending our Black Friday Blue Friday at the beach on the day after Thanksgiving. We were expecting freezing cold and dreary weather like we had last year, particularly because it was so cold at our house. But instead we were greeted with clear blue skies and temperate weather. 

We had a relaxing, enjoyable day just spending time with each other and exploring the beaches through a four-year old's and two-year old's eyes. It made our hearts thankful and joyful to spend the day in such a beautiful place. We hope this tradition carries on through the years and helps our boys appreciate God's awesome creation, particularly on the day after our Thanksgiving feast - the holiday which invites us to take stock of all the ways we are blessed and to be thankful to our Creator.

Tommy did a lot of this - he was content to stand and watch the ocean.

Rock climbing is always a favorite part of visiting the beach.

I love these little guys!

Me and my little buddy

Picnic lunch of our Thanksgiving leftovers 

Sleeping in the car after a long day of exploring.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Tommy has been going through some exciting changes since he turned four. One recent change is that he's been drawing people - something he's never seemed to be able to do until now. The first time he drew a person was last week. He brought the paper to me and said, "Look, Mommy, I drew this guy!" The picture  had so much detail (compared to what he usually draws) that I honestly did not believe he drew it! There were other children in the house at the time, so it was possible that another child drew it. I asked the other kids and they confirmed that Tommy was the artist of this masterpiece, which he named, "Pirate". The lines coming from the pirate's face are his beard. I forgot to ask what the wing-like things coming from his middle are supposed to be.

This morning Tommy got excited about doing another drawing. He said, "Mommy, I want to draw Jesus! I need a really really really big piece of paper, because Jesus is really big." So, I rolled out a Tommy-sized piece of our butcher paper, taped it on the floor, and handed him a crayon. This is what he came up with:

According to Tommy, "Jesus is sad because he lost his people." I assume he was referring to the story of Moses and the people of Israel who were enslaved by Pharaoh, a "very bad man" in Tommy's book. But then again, who knows what goes on in that 4-year old mind. Then he drew some people and declared, "Jesus found His people!" I asked, "Why is Jesus still sad?" After some thought, he decided he was sad because he was cold, so he drew him a coat. In case you're wondering, the appendage coming from Jesus' face is his beard.

I love this age!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mornings at Home

In the past few weeks it's been weighing heavily on my mind just how many mornings we're out of the house in a given week. There was really only one morning per week to call our own, and that become our "Stay and Play" day, our sanctuary from our normally busy mornings out of the house. Well, I've been enjoying our SAP days so much that I felt compelled to create more mornings like that. After lots of prayer and discussions with Mark about our schedule, we finally made the decision to cut something out of my schedule. It was a very hard decision, since every single activity I do has so many benefits...they all seemed so vital. In the end, it was Women's Bible Study that I decided to put a hold on. It wasn't an easy choice, since Bible study has been such an important part of my life for the past three years, and I've made so many vital relationships because of the various studies.

Having two straight days at home this week (Wednesday and Thursday) has shown has already shown me why staying home is so important to our family. One thing I realized was lacking in the boys' schedule was large blocks of time in which they could engage in free play - we had only small pockets of time that usually were interrupted by having to shuttle to an activity or prepare for some activity. With our newly free morning, they have the opportunity to play freely - making up games together, chasing each other around the house, or just playing in the mud without having to hear their mother say, "No, don't get dirty! We need to leave soon!" 

It has also provided plenty of teachable moments that normally wouldn't come up because we aren't home long enough for certain behaviors to come out. Having a few mornings at home has given me the opportunity give these behaviors the attention they need.

I hope that I am sharing with my children my contentment with being at home and teaching them to enjoy being in each other's company.

Benji "reading" to Tommy
Early morning Jeep ride
Brother chase
Watching train wheels move
Playing cars in their under-table "cave".
Decorating thank-you cards for his birthday presents (and name-writing practice)
Mud splashing!
Stuck in the mud

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tommy's 4th Birthday

We celebrated Tommy's 4th birthday on Saturday. The festivities started Friday afternoon when Mark took Tommy to the store to pick out his Happy Birthday Cereal, which was Lucky Charms. I hear that he originally picked up a box of generic brand shredded wheat squares, and Mark had to steer him over to the sugary section of cereals. We realized that it's so true that cereal box design is aimed 100% at children, because Tommy chose the brightest, most colorful box available, without even knowing what kind of cereal he was getting. So, he got to partake of his Sugar Bombs Lucky Charms on Saturday morning. (Not surprisingly, he was starving about an hour after breakfast, despite eating two bowls of cereal). 

He got to open his present after breakfast...a refurbished Power Wheels Jeep!

Taking brother out for a test drive. The Jeep goes a little slower than I imagined. We're currently figuring out how to modify it a bit. He drove it around for about an hour and went all over our property. We were very impressed with how well he drives. He actually figured out how to make a 3-point turn all by himself!

After he drove the Jeep around, Tommy and I went to the bookstore to pick out his birthday book (a Richard Scarry book) and to the coffee shop to get a hot chocolate. Then we all went to a birthday party for one of Tommy's friends who, amazingly, has the exact same birthday. After a sugar high, succeeding crash, and a nap, we celebrated our birthday boy with his grandparents, aunt & uncle and cousins with pizza and some seriously blue cupcakes.

Blue! Cupcakes
All festivities, talk of being a "big boy", and presents for Tommy left Benji wondering when his birthday was going to be. Just three more months, little man!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday, Tommy!

One week old

4 months old

1 year old

18 months old

Two years old

3 years old

(almost) 4 years old

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tommy at 4 Years

Your fourth birthday is tomorrow. I know every parent says this at some point (or many points), but it really is true that time is going by so quickly. It really seems like we brought you home from the hospital just the other day. But when I turn around, I see this big kid! Who talks to me, and says things like, "Mommy, how does gravity work?" I am amazed every day at how fast you are growing. It hits me at different moments throughout the day: sometimes while doing laundry and folding your size 5 pants and remembering that just a short time ago I was folding your tiny onesies, and sometimes when I realize that you're finally pronouncing the "th" sound when you say, "Can I have another apple?" instead of "anonner" like you've always said. I guess I'm going to have to get used to this growing up thing!
Here are some of your favorites, as deemed by me. Because we know that if I asked you, you'd say you love books about cars, shows about cars, food about cars (oh, wait...) and car toys.
Books: You love the Knuffle Bunny books. It's a good thing these happen to be your favorite, because I don't think I could tire of reading them. over. and over. Millions of Cats is also a favorite. You like to listen to books on CD in the car, and Burt Dow, Deep Water Man is so far your favorite book on CD. We've actually only read it together one time, because it's very long and has a lot of colloquialisms that I can't wrap my tongue around. But you're more than happy to listen to the story on CD for the whole fifteen minutes it takes to read through.

Shows: Cars still holds a special place in your heart, as does Wall-e. You also enjoy watching Little Einsteins--we only own three episodes (via iTunes), but you're content to watch those over and over. You really love our family movie nights. Daddy makes his homemade popcorn and we all watch a new movie together. So far your favorite movies have been Toy Story and The Sword in the Stone
Food: You love veggies, as always, and still dislike meat. We've been eating salad with dinner a few times a week, and I've been surprised to see that you actually love salad! For some reason I thought that children wouldn't like to eat lettuce, but you commonly empty your salad bowl. One new development in the past six months is the quantity of food you've been eating. You commonly eat as much or more than I do at meals, and you frequently need snacks in between meals. It's customary to hear, "Mommy, I'm hungry more!" an hour minutes after you've just eaten a meal. 

Toys: You're really into Legos, particularly building Lego vehicles. Besides Legos, you really only play with vehicles of one type or another. You play with your dump trucks and construction vehicles in the sand box and in the dirt, you race your matchbox cars on the floor, and turn your Lego cars into roller coasters and race them across the kitchen counter. It's amazing that your love for cars started when you were as young as nine months old and has continued. Makes me wonder if you'll be a car enthusiast when you're older. 

New things: We're very excited that you're beginning to read. You can read simple words like "cat", "hat", "the", and some words in the "oo", "or", "ch", "ar" families. Daddy was very impressed when he took you with him on an errand the other day and you read a sign that said, "Wet Floor"! I've realized that they way you've been learning to read is mostly on your own. I'll give you a mini-lesson when you seem interested in how to read a word that has a certain sound, like "book", but then later we'll overhear you reading words on your own and trying to sound them out.

We are beginning to see some new aspects of your personality. You are a rule-follower and enjoy telling Ben what he should do and what he shouldn't do. You are growing into your masculine tendency towards protection and often tell us, "Mommy, I'm the one that will protect you!" when we go on walks and there is the potential of a...lizard attack.

Your behavior has been uncannily good lately. We went though a few rough months this summer of serious heart training with you and it looks like we are enjoying the fruits of that...for now...until the next phase that we have to learn how to respond to. But for now we are enjoying a very polite, (relatively) respectful, joyful little boy who is a pleasure to be around.
You're remembering your dreams a lot lately. It seems that you mostly dream about typical little boy subjects, like submarines, trains, rocket ships, and race cars. One particular dream you recounted to us went something like this: "Mommy, last night I dreamed about a rocket ship! There weren't any windows. There were people inside that were yelling because they wanted to get out. And the rocket was on fire!" I was horrified, and thinking of the Apollo 1 fire asked, "Did the dream make you sad? (trying to figure out if it was a nightmare). You answered, "No, it wasn't a nightmare. The people weren't sad. They were just trying to get out." I was really confused at this point, but moved on to another topic.

You are becoming such a fun conversationalist. I genuinely love spending time with you, especially when it's one-on-one time and we can really talk. I'm looking forward to watching you grow out of toddlerhood and into little boy-hood.