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.