Wednesday, September 30, 2009

$75 Grocery Challenge (Sort of)

To make a long story short(er), we've been spending too much money on groceries (okay, on everything) & I found this challenge on Owlhaven via a magazine article a couple of weeks ago. Technically, the challenge was for the month of September, but we started on Friday. Since we get paid every two weeks, we will base our budget on that. I had been figuring groceries & household items seperately, which is silly because I usually buy them together, so now I will combine them. Most people participating in this challenge are doing $75/week. We will be doing $237.50 for 2 weeks, which is $118.25/week. Nearly twice as much, and here's why: we do not have a garden, a fully stocked or even partially stocked pantry, we have 7 people to feed (my mother is here for awhile), and just a few weeks ago our extra freezer died leaving us with the nearly useless freezer on our side-by-side. Not to mention that we're used to spending at least twice to three times that. Yes, I am hanging my head in shame. This will be a stretch for us, but we are going to give it the old college try. I will keep you posted on how this is going, and certainly feel free to join me in my money-saving endeavor.

Monthly Budget: $475.00
Total Spent: $137.76
Total Remaining: $337.24

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Are YOU ready for some football?

I LOVE fall. The cooler days, the changing color of the leaves, and football. Of course, here in Texas we only get one of the three, but it's a big one. Ever heard of Friday Night Lights? Yup, all about Texas and their obsession with football. Not being from Texas, we don't really have a college team here that we follow (Go Montana State Bobcats! Beat those Griz!!!), but both my parents attended Texas Tech, so that's usually who we root for. We don't know anybody who plays high school football, but we are always glad when they well. Professional football is a totally different story. We LOVE NFL football. I am a Dallas Cowboys fan through and through. Please do not think that I just jumped on the bandwagon when we moved to Texas. They've always been my team. I had pictures of Emmitt Smith hanging on my wall in college! DH is an Oakland Raiders fan. Please don't hold that against him. He always has been (even through the bad years), and he always will be. However, he enjoys watching the Cowboys do well, as long as its not against the Raiders and vice versa. Thanksgiving should be loads of fun at our house this year.
But for the past 2 years, we've experienced football of a different kind. Pop Warner Football. If you are unfamiliar with this, its full contact football for kids. Yes, we skipped right past nice safe flag football for our precious child and threw him right into giant shoulder pads and full-on contact. Bug loves it! We love watching him, and I'm learning more about football than I think I wanted to. LOL Last year, their team didn't do so well. This year, they've already won their first two games! Go Mitey-Mite Trojans!!
As for Lil' Coconut, she has joined the Pop Warner Cheerleading. She is, of course, really good at this. Usually the loudest, can remember cheers, and absolutely adores it. This year, she gets to be the lifted! This is both exciting & scary...for me. It's not very high, she just stands on people's legs, but still. This commitment is not for the faint of heart. The first two weeks of practice are 5 days a week, 2 hours a day. Then we switch to 3-4 days a week for 1 1/2 hours a day. Games are every Saturday. Some are at home. Some are 1 1/2 hours away. Still, they love it, and we enjoy it.
The first set of pictures is from our pep rallies and a scrimmage. Basically, the pep rallies are just for the girls to show the football players and parents new cheers and routines they've shared, and to award the cheerleaders with the spirit stick and "diva" award. The coaches decided to name the cheerleaders the "Trojan Divas" this year. As you can imagine, I am not impressed with this. There are some things I expect from letting my children participate in such secular activities, but am truly annoyed by this. Anyway, aren't they just so cute?
The next slideshow is of our first two games. Bug is #32. He usually plays nose guard. (NOT the defensive center, as I was calling him. DH corrected me. However, it IS the middle of the defensive line, so technically....) :P At both games it poured down rain. Luckily it was at the end of the first game, so the girls got to cheer, but they spent the whole time cheering down at the end of the crowd, so we didn't get any good pix. The second game it rained pretty much the whole first half, and then some. The girls didn't cheer at all, even they are supposed to, so at one point when it wasn't raining too much, Lil' C and Pinky Lee did a little cheer for us. Too cute!
The last slideshow is of Bug's "professional' pictures. I put it that way because I take them to the photo shoot, but I don't pay for their pictures. Even with my camera that is close to literally falling apart, I can take better pictures for free. FREE people! Who wants to fork out hundreds of dollars every year for pictures? Not me. So here's my version for this year. I plan on taking some of my favorites and touching them up in photoshop and then distributing them to those who want them. When we do Lil' C's I will post those.

Pep Rally & Scrimmage Pictures

First 2 Football Games

Bug's Football Pictures

Homeschool for Free!

If you are on Facebook, there is a page called "Homeschool for Free" that you can join, and they send out announcements when they find free things on the internet for homeschoolers to use. Sometimes there's some good stuff, so add them! I haven't been on Facebook for awhile :0 but today saw this link for a Christmas Lapbook. I hope this is the right link. I just copied and pasted from Facebook. I've never done a lapbook before, so I think we might use this one (or a version of it) as a break from our regular studies over Christmas break. If you've used a lapbook before, let me know what you think, and if you have any tips. Happy Lapbooking!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It's only hair, right?

My precious little Boo Boo Bear has been blessed with the gift of quick growing hair that the rest of us have. Unfortunately, that means frequent hair cuts. This is not easy to do to a toddler. He's already had his hair cut 4 or 5 times at least. We'd been stalling this time though, since last time had kind of been a big ordeal. It started to get kind of long, but still like we were aiming for the style that all those boys on Disney Channel seem to have. Then, for awhile, he sort of looked like David Cassidy with the feathered hair. LOL Then it evolved to this: Not the best look for a boy. Not only did he look like a girl most of the time, he was starting to look like a neglected little girl. Oh boy. So one night, we grabbed the clippers on the the longest setting and got to work. I'm thinking there might have been something wrong with the guard, because what we ended up with was this:
It's all gone. All that beautiful hair. As you can see, he's recovered from the ordeal. I have too, mostly. We both cried a lot that night. For several days it was as though I had lost my scruffy haired, hippy boy & had him replaced with military baby. He seriously looked like a different child. What do you think?

Busy Beaz Academy: First Few Weeks & Organization

So, you're probably wondering how the heck the homeschooling is going. Well, day one and the rest of that week was disappointing, to say the least. I had worked for weeks trying to make a schedule & plan things out so that everything would get done just so. I was feeling all sorts of crazy things & made the decision to start the same day as the public schools did. This was my first mistake. We weren't ready. I watched as my perfect schedule fell apart in a matter of hours. Soooo, after a few days like that, we took a few steps backwards, re-grouped, re-thought, and relaxed. Now, it was easy to see the flaws in my plan. I rearranged the schedule so that we do little kid activities after our first group time instead of after nap. Some of the activities that I thought Bug & Lil' C could do together needed to be done individually, so I split them up. Now, each kid gets plenty of one on one time. I also realized that we just can't get an entire days worth of the written lessons done in one day right now. I had thought about breaking it up before, but couldn't figure out how. Now I've found a solution that seems to be working for us. I've had time to get more organized as well. All of that to say that things are going much better now. We've completed 3 full weeks of homeschool now, and we're starting to find our groove. We've been talking about "persistance" in our lessons, and for us, it's starting to pay off! Yea!

Here is a picture of our "school room". It's our family room that's been converted to be used as a school room too, although we alternate between the futon in the family room, the dining room table, and the kids desks. Here are Bug & Lil' C's workboxes. I made the numbers with the pre-made workbox numbers from Melissa Renfro.
These are Pinky Lee's workboxes that I made using Melissa Renfro's blank workbox templates. Cute, if I do say so myself. And, of course, I do. The workboxes are working well so far. I've been using them more and more each day, and I've created a planning sheet that I plan to use this week to really make the most of them. Any work the child can do independently is placed in a workbox. This can be anything from their daily math worksheet to a coloring book, reading assignments to crafts. They really enjoy this. So far, there have only been 2 problems with this.
1. Pinky Lee & Boo Boo Bear take great joy in pulling all the boxes out.
2. Bug & Lil' C always want me to help them while I'm working with the other one.
I didn't make the little tags for Help from Mom, where they only get 3 helps per day, but I'm probably going to have to. The pulling the boxes out? Yeah, that's going to be an ongoing process I'm afraid.
This is a picture of Bug's Schedule Strip & Schedule. The schedule strips were also made using Melissa Renfro's templates. These are wonderful, God Bless that woman. She is very talented and I'm grateful that she shared these for free, since she usually gets paid for her work. You can find more of it on her website or at Scrap Girls. I also downloaded her fabulous caterpillar file folder game, but due to a printer problem, have yet to assemble it. (But I plan to!) I hope she comes up with more great stuff for us homeschoolers!
I probably took the schedule strip thing a bit too far, but that's kind of like me. I used them to not only schedule the school day, but the ENTIRE day. I'm so tired of reminding the kids 50 times a day to make their bed, feed the dog, etc. that I'm hoping this will help. Everything they have to do each day is on their strip. When they have completed it, the take the task off & put it in the cute little envelopes I made to hold them. This way, they can see what they have done so far and what they still have to do. This is still a work in progress for all of us. We don't love schedules, so it's taking us a while to fall into this one. However, I'm pretty sure if just DO it, it will work.
This is Pinky Lee's desk. We bought it a couple years ago at a garage sale for $10. It also doubles as a high chair, but we've never used it that way. Too cute, though.
Here is my lovely, organized bookshelf. I've organized it even more since then. I love organized stuff. *sigh*
So, that's how it's going & how it looks. If you're using workboxes, schedule strips, HOD, or whatever, please feel free to leave comments or links to let me know how things are going for you as your school year begins. Or how things are going now that your kiddos are back at school!
I know this was a long post...sorry! I still have so much to catch up on, so I'm planning on making multiple posts per day to try to catch up. Keep checking back!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Orleans

By now, you probably think all we do is travel. Apparently, this year it's true. Until the trip to California in January, I'm not really sure when the last time we took a vacation was. Our trip to New Orleans was not a trip unto itself, but merely an ending to our North Carolina trip. We planned to stop in NO on our way home, as it was only about 60 miles out of our way. (Okay, technically 120 miles if you count both ways, but who's counting, right?) Years ago, my mom was a traveling nurse, and we spent about 3 months living in New Orleans at the end of my 4th grade year. I remembered parts of the French Quarter, the Riverwalk Mall, Charity Hospital (where my mom used to work), the Audubon Zoo, and most importantly, the taste of beignets. Oh, how I love beignets! So I was anxious to see what it looked like all these years later, and especially after Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane and subsequent flooding really did a number on the city, but the people have done a great job of restoring it to its former glory so far, although I'm sure it will take many more years.

The first set of pictures is our hotel, The Place De'Armes. They took a building in the middle of the French Quarter that was at least 100 years old and transformed it into a hotel. Once you walked through the lobby and a short walkway it opened onto a lovely courtyard. Our room was on the second floor overlooking the courtyard. It was simply beautiful. The best hotel I have ever stayed at and I would recommend it to anybody. I would really love to take a romantic weekend there. Anybody willing to watch four adorable children? Anybody? Anybody?

The next slideshow is of the French Quarter. I love the architecture of this place. Probably one of the reasons I know I would love Paris! We walked from our hotel along the boardwalk, through the Riverwalk Mall(where we enjoyed a snack of beignets!!!), and all the way down to the Mardi Gras Museum. We didn't think it was as far as it really was, and we ended up walking probably 4 or 5 miles. The museum was closed. :( Luckily, we were able to see some of the floats in the entrance, and the people were nice enough to give us a ride in their bus back up to the street car stop. The children were THRILLED with the street car ride even though we only went 2 stops. We were planning on eating at the House of Blues, but it was closed too. :( That one I didn't understand. So we ended up walking again. We finally made it to the Hard Rock Cafe and decided to stop there. It was okay, but we've eaten at those several times, and would have liked to eaten somewhere more...native, I guess. Non-franchised. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were all exhausted and just fell right to sleep. The next morning, though our hotel had pastries, we walked down to Cafe Du Monde for beignets. Did you know that they only sell beignets? No other food. So, back up the street to a cute little cafe (can't remember the name to save my life right now) where I simultaneously had the most delicious breakfast sandwich and the most expensive breakfast ever. Seriously, we're talking $80 here. And the kids split plates. Umm hmmm. Happily, I've recreated that sandwich many times since then, so I suppose it was worth it. We walked through more of the Quarter, bought a dozen beignets for the road, and checked out of our hotel.

The last set of photos is of the Garden District. We drove down St. Charles place and back up again, snapping photos of just about every gorgeous house we could see, much to the chagrin of the people behind us. Some old guy even honked at us! LOL Oh well, we had a great time there. It was a great end to our summer vacation!

New Orleans - Hotel

New Orleans - French Quarter

New Orleans - Garden District

Friday, September 4, 2009

Under Construction! An Update!

Okay, so I got a little frustrated with changing the fonts, but it's working now. (I hope!) Also, you may notice a change in the labels. I wanted to add the label list to the sidebar, but when I did, the sheer number of them overwhelmed me. So I've condensed them to some more generic terms. I'm also planning on making cute little picture labels to replace the text labels, and making proper lists of all my favorite blogs & websites...when I get the chance. Let me know what you think of the new design, and if there's anything you want to see.
I also have not forgotten about the actual blogging. I do have some new pictures that I would love to share. However, ever since I cleaned off my desk to move it, I can't find the little doohickey that lets me upload easily. Whenever I find it, or the usb cable for the camera, I will get right on that.


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