A Letter to My Sensitive Children

Dear Monsters,

I love you. I truly do. I want you to be successful in life with whatever you choose to do. I want you to have amazing careers and families. I want to equip you both with the knowledge that you’ll one day need to pick out your dad and my’s nursing home. And encourage you to find a career that pays you enough to make it a good one. I want you to be able to roll with the punches and to not be afraid to make mistakes. Because it is through mistakes we learn the greatest lessons. I want you to take what I’m about to say and carry it within your hearts for all eternity.

“Toughen up, Buttercup.”

You’ve both been told this a number of times, but you don’t seem to grasp it yet.

Monster A, I really don’t need to know every time your dad scares you. He’s doing his job and honestly, he’s just not that scary. I also don’t need to know when Monster S tells you something you don’t want to hear. She’s your little sister. It’s her job to annoy you. Stop being so scared about EVERYTHING! If you got past being scared of daddy when he’s trying to scare you, he wouldn’t find it so funny and keep doing it. I know, honey. Sometimes parents are jerk-faces.

Monster S, you’ve got to start figure some stuff out on your own. Just because Monster A teases you does not mean you should get butt-hurt by it. Love ya, Hon, but seriously, stop it. He’s your big brother. It’s his job to tease you, but I promise he is your biggest protector and loves you more than anything. Also, stop complaining when you don’t get your way. I really can’t think of a single time it has worked for you. Oh, and EAT YOUR FOOD! I will continue to send you to bed without supper until ya figure it out Sweet Pea. You eat two meals and two snacks a day. I won’t even feel bad about it.

Now, listen up. I say these words to you not just because I think you need to learn that life doesn’t always go the way you want, but because I know from experience how painful life can be when you take everything/everyone a little too seriously. It’s lousy. It’s something I struggle with daily. Just ask your dad if you don’t believe me. I get my feelings hurt a little too easily, most of the time from very well-meaning people. Sometimes even from the two of you. I want you to be caring and compassionate people. I want you to feel free to express how you’re feeling in most situations, but you need to steel yourselves against what the world WILL throw at you. You need to understand that I will always be there for you, but I’m going to start watching from the sidelines more and more over the years. You will always have an ear to listen to whatever you have to say. But I can’t fight your battles for you forever and I also can’t decide how you will respond to things. You should start practicing with the small stuff now, while I’m still here to guide you along the way. I don’t tell you to “toughen up, Buttercup,” because I don’t want to listen to you or deal with your problems. I do it because I DO love you. I love you with my whole heart. No one but God will ever love you as much as I do. And when I release you from my home into the wide, cruel, beautiful world, I will do so with the un-doubtable knowledge that you will be successful, mostly happy, productive members of the human race.

Love,
Your crazy, “mean,” mom

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Out of last week’s post came a new idea. What if I had a site that had nothing to do with my kids? Wow! What a concept! I love writing so I decided that I would make another site that’s just for me. Book reviews, recipes, rants, raves, whatever. I would love it if you wanted to follow that as well, but if not I totally understand. My challenge to you last week was to find something that makes YOU happy. This is one of the things I’ve found that works for me. I hope you’ve found something for you.

The new site is called Another Kyla. I hope you’ll check it out but don’t judge to harshly right now since there is only one post at the moment.

I have a challenge for you

Busy week around here. AF Ball, last minute changes, football game, etc…….

I don’t tell you all this to aggrandize how busy I stay. I tell you this as a cautionary tale. Because honestly, since I’ve started homeschooling and becoming accustomed to being a “military wife” (which I love), I’ve completely lost myself. I love my kids, and I love teaching them. I love seeing them accomplish great things. I love when my husband’s superiors approach me and tell me how proud of him I should be (and of course, I really am.) But I’m lost. I can’t figure out who Kyla is anymore. I’m a “mom” or “Willingham’s wife.” I’ve always prided myself on still being able to hold onto the things that I’m proud of about me. I’m a damn good singer and actress. I’m an awesome cook. I know a lot of really amazing, useless, trivia. I’m really smart. But nobody knows that side of me here and that’s hard to come to grips with. I guess I haven’t really had a chance to find MY niche here. The kids and I have found a space, but I haven’t as an individual yet. I’m taking steps to work that out.

I feel like a horrible mom. I know I’m not alone. Let’s just be honest. We’re afraid, or maybe embarrassed even, to admit that sometimes we need a break. Whether it’s the mom that worked all day and came home to take care of her family or the one that stayed home with her kids all day. We all need a BREAK every once in a while. But when we get that well deserved break, we want the kids back or we’re afraid that we’re burdening whoever has granted us that break even if that person is our husband/child’s father. I recently came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t have to hurry back home all the time to “relieve” my husband from “babysitting” the kids. And he doesn’t expect me to. As a wise woman once said – “Let it go!” (Self, take own advice.) I told Cody today that I was overwhelmed. I felt like the kids were constantly screaming. At me, at each other, at the couch, at the fence post (seriously, Monster S would do it), or asking me to do something for them when Cody was sitting RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM! They will walk up the stairs and across the house to come ask me something when they were sitting right next to someone who would gladly do it for them! I don’t understand. But then, I feel guilty for feeling that way. I think I’m a bad mom because I let them get to me like that. Then I kick myself in the teeth and tell me to stop it. I’m not a bad mom. I’m a normal WOMAN. One who is an introverted soul that happens to be comfortable around people. I need down time. I need to recharge and I do that by being alone. Ladies, we have got to take time for ourselves. Even if it is an hour tucked away in your room watching Netflix on your Kindle with your headphones (pff, who does that? Not me!) because you don’t want them to hear you. Find that mom that needs some sanity like you do and offer play dates or sleepovers, because you know she’s going to return the favor. I mean don’t get taken advantage of, but expect that. Or find that WOMAN (because that’s what she was before the husband and before the kids and, believe it or not, she’s still in there) and make friends with her family, introduce your husbands and leave the kids with them sometimes and go! SOMEWHERE! Doesn’t even matter!!! Because I don’t know about you, but I get little to no kid free time with my friends and as catty as women can be with and to each other we need friends.

Another thing I’ve been sorely missing in my life is being in the Word everyday. I know that sounds a little preachy for those of you who know me, and although I live my life very openly as a Christian, albeit a very sinful and growing one regardless of how long I’ve been one, I don’t really bring it up too much. It’s just not who I am. I have embraced that and I’m fine with it. I’ll talk to anyone about Jesus all day long. I love it! But I don’t normally say thing like “being in the Word.” Anyway, I’ve realized that I’ve let my relationship with my kids come before my relationship with my husband and ultimately even with God himself. I’m a firm believer in God, husband, kids, everything else, in that order. And honestly, I believe that is the main reason I have lost who I am. I feel like I’m not using what God has called me to use (my voice) as He intended. I feel like I have allowed everything to come in between His grace (because I’m a guilty sinner that doesn’t believe I can be saved because I know better than God, of course) and His goodness. I feel like everything has suffered because of it. I have put my kids first and all of my energy into them but I wouldn’t say I have the relationship I want with them because GOD is not in that relationship regardless of how many Bible lessons we do in our school work. And, oh! don’t I put on a good face?! I do everything I’m supposed to do to look like that picture perfect Christian but I am anything but. Putting it out here on the internet might make me see the ugly truth in that. It’s like I can put my faith, and God, in a little box when I’m “not using it” or when it’s inconvenient up on the shelf and never let it grow or change. But guess what. That causes an emptiness and loneliness that only He can fill. I don’t mind saying that I can be in a room FULL of people and I still feel alone. I can be curled up on the couch with my entire family and still feel miles away in my own little world. Well, you know what, I KNOW that I’m not the only woman who feels like that. And I AM DONE feeling that way. YOU have to nurture your relationship with your creator to be the best Daughter of God/wife/mother that you can be. It is your responsibility to 1.GOD, 2. YOURSELF, 3. YOUR FAMILY. If you don’t feed that, then it’s all for naught. If you’re not fed, whether it be spiritually, intellectually, even physically, you will waste away.

So, I have a couple of challenges for you:
1.) Go find something that makes YOU happy. Not your husband or your children, but YOU.
2.) Be willing to “Let it go” and receive help from your family and your friends. You don’t have to be Supermom.
3.) If you don’t have a WORKING relationship with God, get one. Stop trying to pretend you’re perfect. You’re never going to be. The secret is out! Stop living your relationship with your creator on a surface level and really start listening and delve into His word. MAKE IT YOUR #1 PRIORITY. Everything will fall into place, according to His will if you just do that! I truly believe that. Get help with it if necessary.

Alright, so I’m going to work on all of these things myself. It won’t happen overnight. But I promise if you need happiness in your life, it will happen. You just have to make it happen. No one else can do that for you.

An American Classic: Tuna Noodle Casserole

I’m not sure why, but I can never spell “casserole” correctly. Anyway…

I love tuna. I love egg noodles, and cream cheese, and mushrooms. So this was perfect and very easy for a crazy day! The kids feasted on Kraft Mac & Cheese (I’m not winning any parenting awards tonight and I don’t care. Seriously, zero craps given.) I think Monster A would have eaten the casserole, but he was hungry and the orange powder goodness was done much more quickly and apparently was calling his name. Oh well, more for me!!!! Cody has calc tonight so it’s a long day for him. I think he’ll like it and if not, well, he can eat a sammich, and still more for me!!! This stuff is good. I don’t want to share. It’s easy enough I could probably make more. We’re kind of a tight budget this week since we’re “bracing ourselves for winter is coming” and the coats you need for living close to “the wall” or ya know, the Canadian border, are ‘spensive, so this is pretty budget-friendly! But here it goes… my soon-to-be world (my house is now the world?) famous TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE (sorry for the cruddy pic. Maybe some day I’ll have one of those fancy schmanzy cameras.)

photo (1)Ingredients

8oz cream cheese (I used the bar form, but you could probably use the tub kind too. Perhaps even the whipped kind.)
1/3 c. milk
1 t. Garlic Powder
3 c. wide egg noodles, cooked according to package
2 – 5oz. cans of tuna packed in water, drained and flaked
1 c. frozen peas (I should have only used 1/2 c – 3/4 c, but I probably need the peas anyway.)
4 oz. can of mushrooms, drained
2 T grated parm cheese
8-10 Crackers (I only had the Toll House Flatbread Crisps and they worked fantastically!)
2 T butter (just use the real stuff), melted

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 while cooking noodles.
2. Combine cream cheese, 2T milk, and the garlic powder in a small bowl. It doesn’t have to be smooth as the hot noodles will help it melt a bit.
3. Drain the noodles and add the tuna, peas, mushrooms, and the remaining milk. Stir together. Add the cream cheese mixture and mix gently. 
4. Spoon the mixture into a 2 – qt. greased dish. Cover with foil  (or if you’re like me and out of foil, a baking sheet. It works the same. I may never buy foil again) and bake for 20 mins.
5. Mix together the melted butter, parm cheese, and crackers to make a crumble of sorts. 
6. Top casserole with the cracker mixture and return to the over, uncovered, for 5-7 mins. or until the cracker mixture is golden brown.

Seriously, so easy-peasey and it tasted incredible. I was in some need of some comfort food tonight and this hit the spot. 

 

 

 

 

Rainy days and Mondays…and a new reading program

Alright it’s not a rainy day and typically rainy days make me happy anyway. However, the Monday part is really gettin’ me down today.

The kids were gone last week. They went to my grandparent’s house in Southern Oklahoma. Grandparents = they got whatever they wanted. So getting back in the swing of things today was rough. Getting them to understand that they have responsibilities here was even more rough. It was late when we got in since we made the five hour trek from Minneapolis, where they flew in. That being said, EVERYONE was EXHAUSTED! I decided to alter our schedule for today based on whenever they woke up and got around. So we got started about an hour late which made me feel rushed all day long. I’m a type A personality. I need structure. I NEED a schedule! And I NEED to stick to it! I also felt like we had so much to make up from them being gone for a week…and we do. I sent a little bit of work for Monster A (math and some spelling/reading worksheets) but not a whole lot got done, which I didn’t expect it too. It’s going to be a long week, playing catch up.

Also, Cody is going to be leaving soon so I want to make sure we’re taking advantage of the time with have with him before he’s off on an “adventure”…yeah, that’s what we’ll call it. Getting ready for his first “adventure” is also stressing me out. But we’ll be okay. Always are.

We’re also trying out a new reading program…next week. We were going to start it this week and I am really excited about it, but I’m going to hold off until we’re back to what passes for normal around here. It’s called “Reading Reflex: The Foolproof Phono-Graphix Method for Teaching Your Child to Read” by Carmen and Geoffrey McGuiness. Honestly, I picked up this book from the library, not expecting much but hoping to get some pointers for my children who aren’t quite getting the phonics thing. This book makes total sense to me. It’s main premise is that letters don’t have any purpose outside of words and that letters don’t make sound. They are a symbol of the sound. Once we got past that this morning, which didn’t seem to take long, they were on a roll. (I did try to do a little bit today just to see how they responded to it.) I really think it looks promising. It explains that phonics requires a TON of memorization and is really only applicable to about 40% of words, e.g. the word “rain.” Yeah, that particular<a> makes a long “a” sound. So, we memorize <ai> makes a long “a” sound. What about captain, mountain, fountain, chaplain, etc.? We then have to memorize the rules for that, except phonics offers no rule for that situation, it only states that it’s an exception and never explains why. Makes sense, right? NO!!! Anyway, fantastic idea and I hope that I can implement it well. If it doesn’t work, well, back to the drawing board but the reviews are good enough to at least try it out. It’s a full curriculum and you can find it for around $10 on Amazon. May not be for everyone, but it certainly resonated with me while I was reading it. 

Well, y’all, it’s going to be an early bedtime around here. I know I’ll be met with complaints (which they normally go to bed with no problem at all) but if it makes for a better tomorrow I’m willing to do whatever!

I may post a recipe in a little bit however. Because this amazing tuna noodle casserole I’m eating right now deserves it!

The long promised post

The most daunting thing about home schooling was finding the curriculum that would fit my children’s needs most. I did a TON of research. I mean, it’s a lot of money up front, kind of like that time I decided to use cloth diapers (good idea, by the way.) I found a lot of great websites to use and luckily found an amazing group of veteran home schoolers, even if only for a year or two, that helped me out. So, please allow me to introduce our 2014-2015 curricula (cue the music!)

Monster S (Pre-K): I’m only using one curriculum for her. It’s totally interactive (puzzles, games and the like) instead of all book work. Confessions of a Homeschooler is incredible. I know I’ve talked about her before, but I cannot say how much we have enjoyed using this curriculum. I knew as soon as I saw the A Beka package that it wasn’t for us and I returned it. Gotta say I’m not too thrilled with their customer service. They’ve had the product back for a week and a half and I still don’t have a credit back on my card. But I digress. Her K4 Curriculum is so easy to use and for a much lower price ($15). It includes everything! Math, phonics, handwriting, Spanish (although we’re learning German), lesson plans. You end up printing A LOT though! I printed some in color and some in just black and white to save on ink. There are 34 weeks of complete lesson plans and although it takes some prep work on the parent’s end, it’s worth it! We also use her Letter of the Week Curriculum to fill in some holes where Monster S seems to have some problems. I think it was also $15.                                                        IMG_0483

Monster A: (Kindergarten) He’s got a lot of stuff…
Math: We’re using Math Mammoth in the Light Blue Series. It’s another print out, but I did it all in black and white to save on ink. There is an option to order a hard copy, but meh, I like instant gratification. I’m working on that patience thing. I was a little concerned about this because it seemed a little boring and maybe more advanced than I wanted for Monster A, but the price was good enough I decided I’d try it. He flies through these worksheets like they’re nothing. Seriously, 5-10 minutes at the most. It’s been awesome. It’s really 1st grade math, but he was ready.

IMG_0484Phonics: I’ve actually been using worksheets off of a website I found http://www.free-phonics-worksheets.com/. So far, I’ve found everything I’ve needed. He’s also using A Beka Letters and Sounds K5. I also got him the Number Skills K5 from A Beka but it’s too easy so I’ll add it to Monster S’s when she’s ready.) 

IMG_0486Logic: We’re using A Beka’s Think and Learn, which is probably my favorite thing from them so far. Honestly, I’m not impressed with A Beka for the most part. At least not for my kids. But of course, that’s where I got the majority of their curriculum. We’ll give it a shot. 

Science/Social Studies: Again, using A Beka but only as a supplement. I’ve ordered two subscription boxes for science and social studies. For science we’re using The Magic School Bus subscription box. We’ll get one box a month, which is great for my little ones. I’m also ordering the Little Passports subscription box which will also come once a month. I have no doubt that I can come up with stuff to keep them busy. 

Reading: Well, I still haven’t ordered an actually program. We just go to the library a lot and get easy readers. He actually finished his first book ever this week and was so proud of himself. I am so proud of him too. Reading is like breathing to me, so I hope I’m able to break it down into an easy format for him. 

Literature: He and I are actually doing the Classical Literature Vol. 1 Unit from Confessions of a Homeschooler (the site is literally on my “most visited” screen.) So far, we LOVE it!!! Okay, I probably love it more than he does, but he’s getting there. We’ll cover The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Little House in the Big Woods, Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and a few others. Again, an amazing price! We’ll make an awesome lapbook for each book!

Handwriting/Spelling: We went with A Reason For Handwriting and A Reason For Spelling. They’re great! They correlate with one another. All we’ve been doing so far is review but looking ahead, it looks like a great program. I’m excited about it!IMG_0487

 

So, this is it for now. We also have a Composer and Artist study but I’m going to wait for a little bit to introduce it to them. I’m not entirely sure that this list is what we’ll end up with at the end of the year, but it’s what we’re starting with. I’ll probably do reviews on each as time goes on and we get more familiar with each product. 

Alright, y’all. I’m turning in before I turn into a pumpkin. Good night!

 

Weeks of Contradiction

Forgive the crappy pic. iPhones can only go so far.

Forgive the crappy pic. iPhones can only go so far.

This last two weeks…wow! That’s really all I can say. Well, not really, because I’m long winded and can always think of something to say. It has been two of the best weeks I have ever experienced with my monsters (did not expect that) and two of the most frustrating weeks I’ve ever experienced with my monsters (I did expect that.) It has been more challenging than I thought it would be and less challenging than I thought it would be. In short, it has been two weeks of contradictions. 

Monster A. A little unsure about this venture.

Monster A. A little unsure about this venture.

Monster A is way further in math than I anticipated and is picking up things like crazy! He’s a little further behind in reading than I anticipated which is perfectly fine. He blows through a math worksheet in 5-10 minutes with very little help needed. Reading might take us 45 mins. I try to cut it off after that because he begins to get frustrated and honestly, so do I. So, we step back. Take a break. Play a game. And resume later. However, today I saw a light bulb moment. He finally did one of his phonics worksheets by himself! Was it completely correct? Nope. But it was close and I could tell he was trying and really starting to understand the concept. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud in my entire life. I think reading is just such a natural thing for me to do (seriously, 2-3 books of regular length a week) that I forget that learning to read is HARD work. There have many times over the past couple of weeks that I’ve been frustrated and had to tell him to move on to something else and we’d return while I go get a drink or something to chill out. Plus, he’s a five year-old little BOY. He has the attention span of a goldfish. Focus. It’s something we’re all working on. 

Monster S. Not really sure about this smile she's got going on. She looks far older than her 4 years.

Monster S. Not really sure about this smile she’s got going on. She looks far older than her 4 years.

Monster S…wow. She is blowing me away! Seriously. We have some problem areas. Mostly with identifying lower case letters and their sounds, but compared to a week ago she’s come leaps and bounds already. I think I need to combine two of the curricula I have to fill in some gaps. I’m pretty flexible with her. If she seems to be ready to move on to something harder, well then, GO GIRL, GO!!!! She’s smart, but seems to have a better grasp of reading than her brother does which drives Monster A crazy. Especially when she’s working on her own thing and answers a question that I asked him. They’re about on the same level right now, which again, is fine. I haven’t got into any real math with her yet. She doesn’t seem ready. My new mantra this year is “It’s fine!” just in case you’re wondering. 

Part of our classroom. This took some tinkering. Including, buy another table and some new chairs.

Part of our classroom. This took some tinkering. Including, buy another table and some new chairs.

So far, I really am loving the flexibility we have. Not just with our school work but with the fact that we can go anywhere, anytime and it’s lesson. We had a lesson in the grocery store the other day. Monster A had to tell me what was less/more expensive. We have pretty healthy eating habits around here too so we had a lesson on what foods are better to put in our bodies. We go to the library for story time, which teaches social skills and promotes literacy. Cody’s off tomorrow so I’m trying to talk him into taking us to the Peace Gardens at the Canadian border. So not only a science lesson by looking at the flowers, but also a social studies lesson by discussing why the Peace Garden was created. This is awesome. We’re learning through living. Yes, worksheets and book work is important, but living is so much more important. I honestly never thought I could love being with my kids so much, but so far, this has been one of the best experiences of my life.