Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cost Break Down:Frozen Chicken: With Bones or Without?

This cost break down comes to you courtesy of Shawn.  Since I broke my foot he has been doing the grocery shopping, which I admit has been fabulous!  I do not miss that as an item on my to do list. But….he does it differently than me!  I sent him to the store to buy chicken breasts and he came home with  a bag of bone-in skin-on chicken breasts, which I would never buy.  But, he insisted, it’s a lot cheaper!! No, I said, not after you figure for the weight of the bones And skin you are paying for but will only throw away!!

Well, we never miss a chance to have a calculator fight, so once we were done tossing them at each other ( just kidding) we did some actual math.  Shawn deboned and skinned the chicken and weighed the waste bones and skin, roughly a third of the bag was waste.  After weighing the actual meat, we calculated that the 2Kg bag cost $0.98 per 100g of actual chicken meat.  The bag of frozen deboned, skinned chicken works out to…. drum roll please…  $1.09 per 100g. 

Okay, so if you can wield a knife well enough to debone frozen chicken ( I can’t but that’s where Shawn comes in handy), and you don’t mind investing that bit of extra time, you can save a whopping ten cents per 100g?  I guess I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s worth it or not at your house… as for me? I think I’ll skip the extra step.  That is, unless my awesome husband wants to continue doing all the grocery shopping, in which case the answer is he can buy whatever chicken he wants Smile!

PS:  As an unrelated side note, I got my cast off this week and am feeling great and just a bit stiff .  Love being able to drive again!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Breaking News!

I haven’t blogged in a long time.  I couldn’t find a way to fit it into the packed schedule our family has had this year, but suddenly I find myself with a lot of time…

Because I broke my foot!

I fell going down some stairs. After I got over my first feelings of embarrassment and hope that no one saw me, I knew right away that the crack I heard was indeed some bone in my foot.  I was getting my daughter dressed for her dance recital at the time, so I got her off to the staging area and sat down.  I knew shock would carry me for a few minutes.  God’s timing is great!  My other daughter asked to go to the bathroom, and my mom brought her out into the lobby.  I was able to send a message to Shawn that I had fallen and broken my foot.

I tried not to draw attention to myself, but that was hard to do and eventually I had a whole group of people rushing to help me.  The building staff got a wheelchair and the dance studio staff got me ice packs.  I was so thankful there was a side door and I did not have to be carried out through the lobby! We were out of the building just as shock wore off.  My mom took the kids home and Shawn took me to Emergency.

So now, I am all casted up and taking up residence on my couch.  Other than the physical pain, and embarrassment, the worst part is mourning the summer plans I will not see come true anymore.  I had imagined a whole summer of playing in the local pool with my kids and endless playground days.  It’s my right foot that is broken, so I can’t even drive them to these places.  I can’t lift my baby, and I definitely can’t walk around with him on my shoulder.  We are still going to attempt our planned camping trip, since my parents will be there and help us supervise kids.

I have known for a long time that I tend to feel too much of my value from productivity.  God has been teaching me to let go of that.  Certain times during my pregnancies I would be too tired to do much and I would really struggle with it.  I have often said “ I wish I knew how to ignore what needs to get done and just relax and play with the kids more often.”  Well, Shawn so lovingly pointed out… now I get that chance!  God has put me in a place where I must let go of control, and where I cannot feel proud of all that I can get done.  I cannot be a super mom, managing laundry, cooking,cleaning,teaching and playing with ease.  Right now, it’s hard to manage to get myself into the bathroom!!

I have a great group of friends, and I know that in the weeks ( months?) to come, I will have to ask for a lot of help.  I tend to struggle with this too.  About a year ago, a friend of mine broke her foot.  I remember thinking at the time that I was glad that was not me, as I would never want to ask for help like she did.  Guess who the first person I phoned was? Haha!!  Her tip?  Keep a stroller in the house so you can put the baby in it and hop around if you need to, and accept all offers of help!!

My mom cleaned my house before she left, and I had just bought two weeks worth of groceries.  Friends are bringing meals all this week, so I am set for a bit.  I have an appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon next week, and then I will likely be fit with a “boot” cast and know more about how long I will need it.  I’m warned that the very best case is 6, probably 10 weeks.  I tend to be a slow healer, so I am not going to set my hopes on the speedy recovery and risk being disappointed. 

Until then, my kids are enjoying coloring on my bulky knee to toes fiberglass cast while I get used to accepting help instead of offering it.  I’m going to have to slow down and just sit more.  And, I’m going to have to let Shawn pack for camping!!!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What Grade Are You In, Dear?

By far, the funniest side effect of home schooling is that Colleena has NO IDEA what grade she is “in”.  As she looks old enough to be in school now, people often ask her, and she looks at me helplessly as if she hasn’t the faintest clue of what to say.  Baden, having spent a few years at school, understands the importance of this question and answers much more naturally with “ grade 2”.

I never noticed before, but this is our culturally normal way of finding out how old children are.  It becomes a moot point after high school, but until then, it’s the way we gauge a child’s age, likely interests and areas of learning. We might say “ Oh, you’re in grade 3?  That must mean you are learning cursive in school… do you like it?”  

I kept coaching her to say “ I’m in Kindergarten this year”.  This is what people expect, and from that they can deduce that she is 5 or 6.  She refused, however, and one day I pressed her to find out why.  “ I thought I was in Grade 1 and 2!” she said.  It was cute, and it made me laugh, but honestly, I can understand her confusion.  None of her workbooks are for Kindergarten.  The thing about homeschooling is that children learn whatever they need to understand next, and this is different from the public system .

Neither Baden nor Colleena does many workbooks in “their grade”.  Many homeschooling materials come with no grade, suggested grade windows, or are very different than the province where we live.  Language Arts Through Literature has different colors of workbooks that you progress through, with suggested grade equivalents.  Colleena is doing the “blue” level, which is “about grade 1”, and Baden the “red”.  Although “red” is marked for grade 2, in our province, they wouldn’t study the topics in it until grade 3, maybe grade 4 if they are in French Immersion.  Their Math books are graded, and each child is ahead by one year, besides, this curriculum is again further ahead than the province’s stated levels for their years.  They are both doing grade 2 Bible, as it was easier for me to have them do the same one, and their science books are “grades 4-6”.  In French I am sure they are behind where they would be in school, as I have really dropped the ball there and am having a hard time finding enough materials.

So, you can understand Colleena’s confusion.  She has no idea why people expect her to be in Kindergarten.  Homeschooling has made me realize that I have to stop lumping all kids of the same grade together as having similar interests, abilities or areas of study.  Just in case you’re wondering, I am not going to be teaching cursive to Baden next year in “grade 3”.  I can’t read his printing a lot of the time, and I am not moving on to a potentially messier style until he is neater at this one.  He is not going to be hurt by another year of printing, he’s an 8 year old boy and this is just where he is at. I for one am going to simply ask how old a kid is from now on.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Colleena’s Beauty Salon

I remember hearing a story once about a famous artist.  As a child, he took the ink well and drew pictures all over the walls.  His mom, instead of freaking out, saw that he had talent and encouraged him to draw, but on paper.  I always liked to imagine she had to count to 12 thousand before responding, because that is what I would have done to avoid going bananas.  Oh, and I’m sure she made him clean it up too…

I always wanted to be that mom, the one who doesn’t mind the inconvenience of cleaning up after some great exploration or learning opportunity.  The one who kept her cool, and encouraged her kids to explore their interests.  Sometimes I am.  My kids ( and often my friend’s kids) are always doing some crazy thing at my house.  They play with tubs of water on the kitchen floor ( and get in them), I tape paper on walls to let them paint it, I let them paint windows, I fill the bathtub with snow, I give them puffed wheat to “cook” with in the play kitchen and I have even filled up a paddling pool on my deck in early spring so they could splash in their bathing suits.  It’s often said “ only at your house!”

I was pretty cool when I discovered that Colleena had cut herself some bangs…She did a pretty good job, and only minor touch ups were needed at the hairdresser’s.  But last week, I really blew it.  Colleena snuck downstairs and gave haircuts to her Barbies, their clothes, and horses.  When I discovered the pieces, she lied to cover it up.  I won’t lie, I was mad.  Some of the things she cut where mine from childhood.  In that moment, I was thinking “ I am NOT going to have a kid with a scissor issue, I have to put a stop to this right now!”.  It was a big angry fight, ruining an other wise great day.

After I had some time to cool off, I got to thinking… why not let her cut hair?  Can I make an appropriate venue for this?   So I made a little plan, and today I got to put it into action.

DSC_0880I went to Value Village, and for only a few dollars, I bought a small scrubs shirt as a smock, a dolly that none of us had any attachment to, and a bib to be the “client’s” cover.

Colleena got out all the toolsDSC_0879

She wanted to use, washed and combed out the hair and set to work.

Lily wanted to play too, but she wasn’t allowed to have real scissors, so she was just a stylist tonight…

Colleena was so thrilled!  We had a lot of fun, and told her that we would allow her to keep certain dollies for hair cutting.  This also came with a stern warning thatDSC_0882 she was not to cut hair, whether real or dolly, without mom or dad, and that we would only play this game in the kitchen.

So, tonight ended on a much happier note.  Colleena got to try something she has been interested in, and mommy didn’t lose her cool.  And apparently, Dolly was pleased with the new ‘do…DSC_0891

Monday, March 5, 2012

How Long Should You Store Hand Me Downs?

This question is on my mind again this week.  With the girls, it’s not really an issue.  Colleena is petite, and Lily is average, so even though there are three years between the girls, there is only one size in between them.  Shirts generally go straight from one to the other, and I have one diaper box of pants in their closet. ( Have I mentioned how much I LOVE diaper boxes for storage?!)

Now… the boys… There are 7 years in between my boys, and although Bremen is bigger at weigh ins than Baden was at the same age, and even though I just broke out the size 24 month t shirts for an 8 month old, he isn’t likely to make up THAT much ground! ( yes, seriously.. he is almost 25 pounds, so while he isn’t tall enough to need the 24 months/size 2 stuff, he needs them for width. hahah!  He could probably make due with 18 months stuff, but I don’t have much left, and I do have a lot of that next size, so I figured I’d move him up a bit early and things could be a tad bit big)  When we weren’t sure if we wanted to have more than two kids, I pared down the baby clothes, figuring there was no sense in keeping boxes and boxes of clothes, not to mention the fact that there weren’t that many clothes to hand down from Baden, he wrecked most of them.  I had to buy new ( used) boy clothes after Bremen was born, since I hadn’t kept enough to avoid having to buy more.

And then, we had two more kids, hahah!  Right now, girls clothes can go as soon as Lily out grows them.  Baby toys, seats, swings and the like are leaving as soon as Bremen is too big for them ( he weighted out of these types of items!). I have been keeping, boxing and labeling boys clothes in each size as my oldest, Baden out grew them.  I tried to keep mostly things that are timeless, selling or giving away items with “in” characters or styles that were likely to be dated too soon.

Besides my own in house generated hand me downs, I recently got several huge rubbermaid containers full from a mom with two boys and way better taste in clothes than me.  I know her mom and she just wanted them out of her house, so she boxed them all up and her mom brought them over.  Everything two kids could wear in sizes 18 months to 5.  Gorgeous, really cool clothes.  I keep them in that crawl space behind my wall over the stairs where we have our tv mounted.  Today, as we were emptying that space to do some work up there, the kids were playing in there having a great time, and I started wondering… should I really be keeping all these clothes?

Big items seem like a no brainer to me.  Snow suits, winter boots, shoes… all have large bins in my garage and are worth saving.  What do you think about the hand me downs?  How much is worth storing in boxes for up to seven years? How much work re-sorting, re-organizing and moving around these boxes is worth it? What will still be good?  I have noticed that some of Baden’s old outfits that I pulled out of bins smelled old even after I washed them for Bremen.  Sometimes shirts with that plasticy printing are all stuck together and gummy after sitting in a bin.  Elastics in socks seem to be brittle.  Should I put a time limit on it, as in I will keep what he could wear in the next two years?  I could sell or give away the rest.  Are boys jeans that manage to make it through without holes in the knees worth keeping for seven years?  Five?  Two?  The cheap ,ahem, frugal, part of me wants to keep them all, since it’s such a good way to save, make due with what I’ve got and a great feeling of being prepared for years to come, but is it really worth it?  How long would you store hand me downs?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mortgage Statements Are Nauseating!

My annual mortgage statement came in the mail today.  Most years, I have thrown them out with out even opening them ( I know, I am so ba-a-a-d!).  But this year, for some unknown yet apparently sadistic reason, I decided to open it. 

Over the past 12 months, we have paid only $1949 dollars off of the principal, and a whopping $12,948 in interest.  Oh but wait… the good news is… there is only 36 years and 4 months left of the amortization!  To further disgust Shawn and I, I figured out how many hours Shawn had to work to earn that $13,000… you don’t even wanna know… I wish I didn’t!!

Paying off our mortgage in record time hasn’t been on our list of financial goals, but now I am starting to wonder…  After we pay off the debt ( still making good progress!!), and start saving on a more regular basis, will I increase our mortgage payments and try to blast that huge beast?  Or will I want to relax a bit more by then? 

I can’t say for sure.  Just thinking about what else I would rather do with $13,000 has re-stoked the fire under my butt, and makes me want to buckle down even more.  Our lovely January vacation is over ( and paid for, yay!!) so now it’s time to get back to kicking that credit card !

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year, New Budget

As this year drew to a close, my husband and I sat down to evaluate our finances and see what needs adjusting.  We’ve come to see that our budgets have been like a pendulum, swinging back and forth with equal energy between spending and extra debt payments. 

We always seemed to manage one or maybe two really strict low spending months, but then a catch up month would follow.  We can eat out of the cupboards and freezer for a month, keeping the groceries under $400, but inevitably the next month we’d be out of paper towels, toilet paper, flour, sugar, rice , potatoes, diapers and just about every other imaginable household item.  Other budget categories had the same problem.  We had no regular line for clothes, which is ok until Shawn needs new winter work boots, which come in over $200, or someone needs snow-pants or socks or whatever.  We can wear out or entire wardrobe but the stock up at the end of it is a big bill!

Shawn received a raise late this fall, so our income has changed slightly.  We sat down to work out a new basic budget, the one that we start out with each month then plan any new items we know are coming up.  We start with the same basic amounts, and then adjust for each month’s unique needs.  We wanted to make a budget that was a bit more balanced, creating a more even pace.

Our first major goal this year is to increase our donation to the church and reach a full tithe by the end of the year.  Since I blogged all about it already (Read about that here)  I won’t do more than mention it today, except to say that I will be tracking more closely the portion of Shawn’s income that is variable and working on a system to make sure I am tithing on things like overtime and bonuses.

We added planned amounts for home maintenance, vehicle maintenance and clothes.  Instead of these things being added as an “ other expense we know of” in a month when a need popped up, we will now have a planned amount.  Unused portions will be transferred into savings, still ear marked for that category and used when bigger-than-this-month’s-allotment expenses come up.

We’ve decided to save a small amount each month, instead of using all extra funds as debt payment.  We will still be paying about 10% of our income onto debt payments each month.  We have decided that the “Dave Ramsey” method of an insane pace sprinting until the finish line isn’t working for us.  We are opting instead for a marginally smaller speed, which will leave us with different options.  The small savings number will help when we want to take a summer camping trip, or pay for something like soccer or ballet.  We can spread these items out over the year instead of the month or two before they are due.

We’ll continue our renovations at a slow pace.  Saving ahead and paying for each stage will set the speed.

It is still our main debt related goal to pay off our Master Card by October when our mortgage will be up for renewal.  After that, we attack our credit line.  Recently, when regular interest rates where changed at the bank, the fees on our credit line doubled.  This will make it harder to pay off extra principal, and we are even more determined to pay off this giant mistake from our past!!

We will start paying our children allowances again.  We have tried different ideas off and on without much success this year and are still looking for a system that is the right fit for our family.  We’ve decided that it’s purpose will be to let our children practice making decisions about how to save and spend money.  They won’t be “earning” it per se with chores, but there will, in the future, be a list of extras they could do if they would like to earn more money for a goal they have.

I have gotten really slack about planning and tracking each month, and I want to make a new excel sheet to get us back on track in this area.

That about sums up my financial resolutions for the up coming year.  What are your goals this year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Tithe… on it’s own it’s an old word meaning a tenth, but the fuller meaning is to give back the tenth to God.  Do you tithe?

When Shawn and I started attending church, we’d toss the occasional “offering” into the plate.  Oh, we’d feel all good and generous about tossing in the odd $20.  But really, compared to the amount we were earning/spending/wasting, it was nothing.  Unlike the widow Jesus praises in the temple, it didn’t really cost us anything.

As our faith and commitment to Christ grew, so too did my conviction that this was not enough.  We began hearing a lot about this word, tithe, and it floored me.  “ What? People give that much to a church?!”.  I spoke to a lot of Christians that I knew and began exploring this idea.  Really, it’s a recognition that God gives you everything you have, including your salary, and that He asks you to return the “first fruits”, 10 %, back to Him. 

I began to question… 10 % of what though?  We talked to a lot of people about what they would consider income to tithe on.  Your pay? Definitely.  Child tax? Some say yes, others no.  That birthday check your parents gave you?  Probably not.  If you received a gift instead, you wouldn’t calculate the value and pay 10 % of that to a church.  Some do, though. Tax refund?  Again divided… if you’ve tithed only on your take home pay, this is income you haven’t yet tithed on, but if you tithe based on your gross pay, you have. That leads to my biggest question… tithe on your net pay, or gross??

Many years ago now, Shawn and I both felt that God was telling us to tithe and watch how he would bless us.  We worked up to tithing on his take home pay, my child tax and our tax refunds.  This was our personal decision and goal, and I am by no means telling you what to do, but I would also have to say that this is a very direct Biblical standard. I think this is something that each of us has to take to God, and not set our standards based on others or what they tell us.  If you feel an inkling that you should take this area of your life to God, pray about it and see what He tells you.

So, for several years, we have loved the fact that our church will direct withdraw the same amount from our account each month.  I figured out what an average month’s take home pay with everything included is and set an amount.  I don’t even have to remember to write a check!  I have, however, realized that when Shawn earns overtime, we are not great at calculating what more we should be tithing.  Slowly, an idea has been settling in my heart that we are not quite being faithful to this principle.    When I looked at the total gross income to this house, and looked at our total amount given to the church, I realized that it was under 5%, not the 10% we thought we were doing. 

Recently God has used several things to get my attention about this. Some excellent sermons at church, as well as that inner voice.  Next was a book I read called “ The Generosity Ladder”.  The author makes this point:  It’s called first fruits for a reason.  You are supposed to give this 10% first, before anything or anyone else is paid from what you make. Tithing on your take home pay is technically giving the first part of your income to the government, and giving God 10% of the left overs.  It’s not the first portion. 

As often happens when it’s a “God thing”, Shawn’s been thinking and feeling the same things.  We’ve talked it over and are in agreement.  It is our goal to work up to tithing a full 10%. 

I admit, this feels a little scary.  In a time where there is not a lot of wiggle room in our budget, working up to double what we are currently doing seems impossible. Part of me, the selfish and doubty part, would rather use this amount to pay down debt, or save or increase our monthly budgeted amounts for certain categories. However, I can look back and see how God has blessed our first efforts at this, and how I have never regretted it.  Not even once.  I can trust that He will also bless us as we seek to follow his command to give the full 10% back to Him.  This isn’t money just laying around looking for a budget column though, so we didn’t feel able to get there instantly, we need to change a lot of numbers to accomplish this.  We’ll be increasing once right away in the New Year, and then making it our goal to increase again, reaching the 10% mid way through this year.

Instead of focusing on how scary this feels, I am going to trust in God and look forward to seeing what He is going to do in my life this year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Lovely Little Guilt Trip

This year, I have not been able to stop feeling guilty about  Christmas presents.

Did I over spend? Nope.  I got some awesome deals, and was able to get what I wanted at prices I wanted to spend.

Am I doing some things to help those for whom Christmas can be a difficult season?  Yes. 

Have I focused our home on the true meaning of CHRISTmas?  YES.  We are enjoying celebrating advent with a Jesse Tree going through the Bible to see how it all builds towards Christ’s birth.   

So what do I have to feel guilty about?  I’ll try to put it into words.

I LOVE to give gifts.  I love to watch my children with joy on their faces as they see that they have gotten that much hoped for toy.  I enjoy giving them both toys and opportunities to do something as gifts.  This year, I have a huge pile of things that will delight them awaiting wrapping paper in my hiding spot.  Shawn is building the girls a Barbie house.  Which, to those of you who know him should read : He has another  project on the go, when it’s finished it will be huge and beautiful.  It won’t cost much, though since he can build it mostly out of pieces he has in the garage… which to those of you who know him is a whole other story!

In years past, I have restricted gifts to one for each child from us, one from “Santa”, the stocking, and one from the other siblings combined.  But you know what?  I hated that.  It put a lot of pressure on me to make sure that the gift was “the” thing they were hoping for.  If you’re only giving one, it had better be the biggest item of the wish list!  They still got piles of presents from grandparents, friends and other family members, and the pile looked huge enough! I usually ended up thinking “ Why should the grandparents get all the fun of being the ones who got the awesome toys?”.  I just felt this was the thing to do to keep Christmas from being too much about the presents, so I kept planning this way anyway. 

This year, I did not even attempt such a limit.  We have saved ahead, bought items over time and made room in the budget for several large and dreamed about items for each kid. I bought a lot of the items used, and we planned which things we could make ourselves. We even ended up with several for Bremen, who at just six months will have no idea what is going on!  We weren’t going to do much, but still, there has to be something to write in the baby book as the item he received from us for his first Christmas, and the kids would notice if Santa didn’t leave Bremen a gift and stocking.   Then they insisted they wanted to pick out something to give him too!  Now, we have many gifts for each of them.

But, as I looked at it, I wondered: Is this too much?  So many people have so little, or are not able to feel peace and joy at Christmas.  Why do I feel bad that I can give my children good gifts? 

As much as I want them to enjoy the surprise of all those gifts, I also don’t want them to think they need those things to be happy, at this or any time of year.  I don’t want them to be materialistic, always wanting more or bigger things.  I want them to happy with the simple things, enjoying what they do have.  I don’t want them to forget about the real reasons for all the traditions, but I still want to give them the gifts! Can I have it both ways?

Should I feel bad that we will celebrate an idyllic holiday complete with a turkey and piles of presents? Is giving them a pile of presents more about me wanting to be proud of what I’ve given them?  I don’t think so, but still I can’t help feeling that this year, they have way more than they need.

The mom side of me also had a panic attack when I realized I would have to find homes for all these things!!!

I want to be able to just relax and enjoy the fact that all my planning, hard work and bargain hunting have led us to a year that will delight them all.  But I keep stumbling over my own feeling that the amount of money, though it may not be large in some people’s opinions, really could have been spent more wisely.  That I could have done more for others instead. That my kids don’t need more things! And that maybe the truth is, in the end it would have been better to put the money on debt and pay it off faster, something that no doubt would have paid dividends much longer than the Littlest Pet Shop set out in the garage.  I just can’t help feeling that when it comes down to it, I have chosen the lesser thing.

How to I find balance between my desire to lavish my kiddos with gifts they are going to love and my feeling that it has all become too much?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Hat Trick of Nifty Thrifty Gifties

Ok, I have been meaning to get a few more gift ideas up before Christmas gets any closer, but just haven’t found the time to sit down and blog.  So, instead of making this into three separate posts, I figured I’d slap ‘em all together and share ‘em with you faster!

DSC_0225 1. Make your own paper dolls.
I happened upon this neat site once, looking for some craft idea or another, can’t quite remember!  ANYWAY!  I think these little paper dolls are so sweet!  You print off the outlines of the dolls ( or you can choose to print them in color) and choose from hundreds of sheets of hair, accessories, clothes and themes.  There is a complete nativity set, including animals, pirates, princesses, doctors, holiday themes, seasonal sets, cultural themes, the ideas go on and on.  I printed out a pilgrims and natives set right before Thanksgiving and used them as part of a quick study on the holiday. 

The site is .  There are craft ideas, the paper dolls and lots of activity ideas based on theme or age group, definitely worth checking out if you craft with young children!

I got a cute flowered folio from the dollar store and printed off a pile of the outfits and accessories. I’m including some popsicle sticks to glue onto the backs once they are coloured.  They’ll make neat puppets in the puppet theater of a certain little girl I know!  Quick and easy, or hours of fun colouring and designing outfits for kids !  I don’t know how to price this gift, it’s basically just the cost of printing it off at home ( which for me with our photocopier is less than 1cent a page).  Whatever it costs you to run your printer, this is still a cute and easy gift.

The site also suggests you can laminate them after colouring and use a repositionable glue to hold the clothes in place.  Then you’d be able to change outfits instead of just gluing them in place as I’ve done with my kids.  I haven’t found this repositionable glue ( but I haven’t really looked too hard either).  If anyone tries this, let me know how it works for you!

2. Nail polish and stickers.

Ok, nail polish is not exactly a ground breaking gift idea, I know!  But, I like to give the little stickers with it.  I think adding the extra of the stickers makes it a fun gift for a little girl who I happen to know will love them!  I like to buy what (for me) is at least a decent nail polish, as opposed to a super cheap one that will not go on well and chip fast.  Added to the stickers, this gift cost me about $10 all together.

3. Mini dish cloths and doilies.

Lots of little girls love their play kitchens.  It takes no time at all to whip up a mini doily or cute fun sized crochet dish cloth, and give them some special “linens” to play with.  I made these out of some left over cotton I had, so there is no real cost to speak of.   My girls use theirs as place mats, table cloths, dish cloths… you name it!  Send along some new play food or little dishes for a sweet gift!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Switch Gears or Stay the Course?

What do I know about choosing curriculum for my kids?  Apparently, not much!  As we are approaching Christmas, I have been evaluating what is working, what isn’t, what the kids like, and what they don’t.

One thing is unanimous, they love Apologia science, right now we’re using the Astronomy book with Junior notebooking journals.  I can’t say enough good things about it. Love it! Fun!

So far, mixed reviews on Learning Language Arts Through Literature.  I like the concept of this set.  I like that it’s all in one big book, but in reality, it’s not working that well for us.  The big book is hard to work in, directions are sometimes unclear.  There isn’t the right continuity for us.  Spelling words are given at the beginning of the week, and not reviewed.  Then, they suddenly pop up a week later, as in “ which of last week’s vocabulary words fill in this blank?”.  It’s frustratingly slow for Colleena’s age level, and I find myself skipping most of the activities. We already bumped her from the kindergarten set to the grade one set based on her ability. Yes, that is the beauty of home schooling, but if I am skipping all of it, what is the point?  I find myself admitting that I won’t use that level again unless I happened to have a child who was still really struggling with what sounds the letters make by grade one.  Time required is very inconsistent.  Some days they need an hour, some days 10 minutes! 

And, mixed reviews on the ABeka math.  Baden finds it distracting that the pages are colourful.  They tend to put questions where they can fit them on a page, and it’s not always linear or consistent. Baden keeps missing questions because he just didn’t see where they were.  He doesn’t feel there is enough teaching sections.  Colleena loves her math book and is flying through it, but doesn’t seem to retain enough of it.  She is able to kind of float along and answer the questions without really understanding enough of the concepts. That could just be her fear of being "put on the spot" though.  She tends to freeze when she is afraid you're testing her and she might be wring.  I  add extra activities to make sure she really is getting the concepts.

They love the Bible course from Alpha Omega, but I am frustrated at the use of the King James Version.  It’s just not functional for us, so we have to reference a more familiar version.  Not a huge problem, and they are really learning some neat stuff that they retain well.

So, I am now asking myself… switch gears or stay the course with what I’ve got?   Baden has requested a plain math text with more questions and less pictures. Seriously buddy?  So, he looked at Saxon Math and loved the samples.  I tested him with their placement test, and he flew through grade 3 and into grade 4.  Do I make him finish the grade 2 that we have now?  I also looked into “Christian Light” math.  It appeals to me, especially with the smaller books, but it may be distracting to him still.

I also like the look of the Bible, Reading and Language Arts programs from “Christian Light”.  I am torn about just what my kids should study for “English”.  Do they need grammar rules already?  Spelling lists and practice?  Comprehension activities?  Read alouds?  All of the above? 

French is still the most difficult issue.  The Easy French Junior level is good for Colleena, but far too easy for Baden who does already speak French well.  I did find today the set the school uses to teach in Kindergarten and grade one at the Carrefour Fransaskois and I am able to borrow it for the year.  I think I'll begin using that on top of what we have.  They also had awesome games, books and cd's to borrow.  love the local French library.  I also want to find some activities and work sheets that would be the equivalent of Language Arts in French.  Still looking into a few recommendations I got.  It's hard to know what should be taught in which order.  Anyone know what they should be learning in grade 2 for French?  Is it still just vocabulary building?

I know this is my first year, and I knew that I would have a lot to learn as we went this year, but I really thought I knew my kids and their learning styles better!  Have any of you had to switch gears mid year?  Was it a positive change, or did you regret it?  Have you used Saxon or Christian Light programs?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let It Begin, Let It Begin!!

You know that little hamster from “Bolt”, anxious to begin the adventure?  Well that is how I have been feeling about our kitchen reno.  Now that I have accepted the fact that I will be living, cooking, and schooling amidst drywall dust and paint samples, I want to just get started already!!!  It’s killing me that my much loved new lino is still sitting in a roll in my garage.  We have a few things that have to get done before it can go in, but every time I wash this ( much despised) white floor, I get irked!

So, this week as I sat staring at hideous green wallpaper, I thought “ This is it, I have had ENOUGH! I am tearing that down TODAY!”.  But then it occurred to me that Shawn might resent that.  He might feel as if I was forcing him to move the kitchen things up in priority on the to-do list.  We’ve been feeling so overwhelmed, over scheduled and over committed lately.  So I emailed him at work, wanting to gage his reaction before doing anything.

“Hypothetically speaking… If you came home and I had ripped the “chair rail” off the wall, your reaction would be: A) HAZAAA!!  An item crossed off my to-do list  OR  B) What the happening?!?”" ( Which by the way is Lily’s way of exclaiming and it makes us all laugh).

Ahh, but my hubby knows me well, so he replied: “ Based on the fact that you are asking me, I am assuming you’ve already done it, soooo… A”

After swearing to him that I had not yet started anything and thatDSC_0216 I genuinely wanted his permission, he assured me he would still choose “HAZAA!!”.

I wasted no time, boy!  I hate this ugly faux chair rail that was really just baseboards haphazardly nailed half way up the wall and the green wallpaper.  The kids thought this was the funniest job on earth! “ You mean we can rip it all off?”  DSC_0217They gleefully helped pull off all the paper.  Then Baden manned the steamer and we got the glue and backing off without much effort at all.  It was awesome to see it come down!!

Then, we painted a couple of color samples and are test driving them for a few days before I commit to painting my whole wall a very dark rust.DSC_0219

Also coming together are the plans for the built in bench!!


And, I did remember to take some “before” pictures a couple weeks ago.  This is as clean as it ever gets around here, I was going to REALLY clean it, but then I figured that most of you have seen my house in it’s real state  (much much worse than this!) anyway… Haha!  Plus, I figured, why lie?  This is what it looked like!


Nifty Thrifty Gifty: UV Sensitive Beads

I first heard about these beads in our Apologia Astronomy book that we are using for science this year.  They were recommended as a neat extra project to learn about the sun’s rays and how UV light exists even when we think it’s cloudy or not overly sunny out.  I found them in lots of places throughout the states, but it took a bit more looking to find them in Canada.  Once I ordered them, I got to thinking : Not only is this a fun science project, it would be a great gift idea!
This is the item that helped me to stubble on, the neat site I mentioned in my earlier post.  The owner is great, they have awesome customer service and I would recommend checking out their site for all kinds of interesting science related gizmos!

The beads are white when they are in no UV light.  This package of about 100 beads is enough to make a few bracelets, or a couple necklaces alone, more if you mix them with regular pony beads.  DSC_0230

Once exposed to UV, they start to turn color.  These are the beads after sitting in the sun for a few minutes on my kitchen table.  It’s winter light here, so not bright, and it was through the window, so it’s amazing that there is still enough UV to change them!  Still, you can see how the colors start to appear.

My kids have t-shirts that work the same way, and they have always loved them.  They are looking forward to making bracelets and “testing” to see how much UV light there is in different situations.  Homeschool-wise, there I think there are several interesting projects I’d like to try with them.  You could smear your sunscreen on them, and see how much UV is really blocked by your favourite brands, or put some behind your sunglasses and compare them to a set right out in the sunlight.  Either the kids will learn the value of wearing the sunscreen and sunglasses, or maybe I’ll learn that they aren’t providing as much protection as I thought!

Gift-wise, I think they are just plain cool. I mean, common, they change color!  So many little girls love making bracelets etc. from beads.  This would be a more unique kind for them to play with, or share with their friends.

These bags were $5.95 each.  Granted, this is more than regular pony beads cost, but I think it’s worth it to have a few of these to play with.  I found them at too.  They are in the states however, and I figured that any cost savings on the beads themselves would be erased by the extra shipping, exchange and fees.  That site has a lot of cool science games and experiments too, and I may try ordering from there in the future.  If any of you do order from them, let me know how it went!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nifty Thrifty Gifty: Rainbow Glasses

I stumbled upon these neat glasses while looking for some supplies for a school project.  I thought they’d be a funny add-on to our study of light so I had a bunch sent with my order from  Basically, they diffuse light and break it into the separate colors so you can see a “rainbow”.  It’s like wearing a prism on your face. 

Even Shawn and I have to laugh when we’re wearing them.  It’s just good silly fun.  While I probably won’t give them as a gift all by themselves, I think they will be a unique little thing to add with our packages this year.  They were only $1.95 each!  And in case you’re thinking of popping over to Science Is to order some for yourself, maybe wait a day or two until my next nifty thrifty gifty post, I have another neat item from this store coming up.  I just wanna give a quick plug for this store.  DSC_0141It’s a neat little store in the Calgary area that carries a ton of interesting gift and project supplies.  Some of the items I bought from there, I couldn't track down anywhere else , so it`s definitely worth a few minutes of browsing!

                                                My dining room light fixture through the glasses.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Exciting Purchases!!


Guess what this is???  It’s my colour scheme coming together!!
FabricLand is having a huge sale this week, so we decided to head over and grab the upholstery vinyl we want for the bench Shawn is building in our kitchen. He roughed out a plan last night so we would know how much we need, and I am very excited that he is at the design phase!!  I decided to wander around and see if I could find anything that caught my eye since everything in the store is 50 – 70 % off right now.  The orange cushions we had purchased a few weeks ago to be the back of the bench. I’m planning a buttery yellow wall colour. 

DSC_1537 I’m planning to use this one for valences over the two windows and a few matching pillows on the bench.


This one is a heavier fabric that I’ll use for pillows on the bench too.

The cushions are shiny and silky so it was hard to get the colour to show well in the picture.  In real life, though, it matches almost exactly the orange in the two materials.  I plan on having one wall painted this orange.

Mwahahahaha, I love it when a plan comes together even though I’m winging it!!

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