Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Since today is the official, lawful beginning of the Christmas season (shame on those of you who have listened to music or [horrors!] decorated before today), we are, of course, decorating. And drinking hot chocolate. And listening to Christmas playlists from my iPod (some things change, some things stay the same).

I was commenting today that we're blessed not to be hauling in from a road trip and needing to decorate this weekend. There are little benefits to not being near to family at holiday time.

So, as part of the process, we're switching out an equal number of plates for the Christmas-themed ones (what a blessing it is to have a melamine seconds store here in-country where we can paw through and find perfectly good plates and bowls originally intended for sale in the States, and we have a whole set of miscellaneous Christmas dishes from there), storing wall and shelf decorations from the rest of the year and replacing them with Nativity sets from around the world, and packing up one of our two picture-book shelves to put out our selection of Christmas books.

The latter inspired me to do a good old-fashioned list post. Here are the books on our Christmas bookshelf (in the order I found them).

The Tale of Three Trees
An Amish Christmas
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Santa Cows
The Saint Who Became Santa Claus
The First Night
The Legend of the Poinsettia
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
The Christmas Star
Jacob’s Gift
Too Many Tamales
The Legend of the Candy Cane
Christmas is a Time of Giving: a Joan Walsh Anglund book from my childhood
Who Was Born This Special Day?
How Do You Know It’s Christmas? (I am so not a Precious Moments-type [no offense to those who are; I'm just not], and I have no idea how we ended up with this silly little book, but I laid aside my pride and included it in the list, because it's on the shelf.)
Christmas in the Big Woods
The Story of Christmas
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
The Night Before Christmas
One Wintry Night
The Nutcracker Ballet
The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet
A Christmas Carol (just for Mary Grace)
The Saturday Evening Post Christmas Book: a cultural treasure trove and link to a distinct time in our nation's history, specifically our parents' childhoods
A Little House Christmas
Messiah: Wordbook for the Oratorio
The Family Read-Aloud Christmas Treasury
Christmas in America (The book linked is not actually the one we have, although I wish we did. Ours is one done about 20 years previous and is rather dated but still interesting.)
Michael Hague’s Family Christmas Treasury

Some of the books were deliberately acquired, some were gifts, some picked up at used and/or half-price bookstores (so semi-deliberately acquired, as opposed to specifically sought/ordered).

The last several were bought at a half-price store before we left the States originally. They have been great for orienting the kids to traditions that they might not get to participate in in person being halfway around the world. It is important to ML and I that they have a grid for things like that so that they are able to relate, at least in a cursory way, to conversations and experiences of their peers at whichever point they "re-enter" their passport culture. We're trying to do a good job of this raising TCK's thing, and the holidays are an important part (waking MS to watch the Cowboys' game at a friend's house from 11pm to 1am last night was another little part :-).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Kids at Thanksgiving

While I helped lay out the dishes at our Thanksgiving celebration with our ex-pat friends (mostly co-workers of ML and their families), ML took on the task of getting pictures of the kids in their nice clothes. While they were still nice. So, here are four of the blessings I am thankful for today. Five, if you count the man behind the camera.

Not the best photo of MS, but the best we got today. He actually looked quite dashing. I was particularly proud of the shirt. It's a striped Gap oxford-cloth button down, which I pulled out of a pile at the flea market area in our town where they sell used American and European clothes. It was in perfect condition, didn't look like it had ever been worn, and I paid all of the equivalent of $0.70 for it. Not bad. It's a little big, but that just means it will last him two winters, if not three.

A fairly typical smirky smile from JW.

Not photogenic at all. Nope.

I just loved his posture and expression in this one.

A better face shot of ZL

What blessings!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A must-see for all married couples!

Just watch it. You'll understand.

The K Family Code of Conduct

Inspired by a thread on Sonlight a couple of years ago, I decided our family should have a "Code of Conduct." ML & I talked through what we might include, I made up a draft, and he, of course, took it, reformatted it, changed all the graphics, and made it look 100% better. Cause that's what he does. He even put the K family crest that he'd found when researching genealogy a few years ago in the center. Very stately.

You'll just have to take my word for it, though, because Blogger does not like .tif files, apparently, and ML's not home right now to show me how to make it into a .jpg (read: make me move out of my chair and do it for me). However, I'll list the items on the Code of Conduct for you, because you weren't likely to be able to read them on the tiny photo attachment, anyway.

Obey God, your parents, and other adults in charge...Quickly, Cheerfully and Completely.
Honor one another with your...Words, Actions and Attitudes.
Listen carefully.
Rule your spirit.
Work diligently.
Help and encourage one another.
Think and do what is right.
Talk to the offender, then to an adult.
Ask your family for hugs.
Don't speak to strange giraffes.
Be thankful.
Don't roller skate in a buffalo herd.

The first two are the rules emphasized by the preschool and children's divisions at our home church, respectively. They, in and of themselves, pretty much cover everything, but we had a few specifics we wanted to add in. They're the things that we find ourselves saying over and over again throughout the day.

Theoretically, we would refer back to the Code of Conduct and even ask the child which one they're violating when they get in trouble. We're not so good at that, although it does hang on our refrigerator.

I am planning to print a copy on nice paper and have it framed to hang in a prominent, central place (the kitchen is actually kind of out of the "flow"), so that we can refer to it more regularly.

Bet you're wondering about the last one and the third from the last. Those were my mother's generic advice statements to us as we would leave the house when my brother and I were teenagers. Basically, it meant: you know what to do and what not to do, just remember to choose the right ones. It sure beat getting lectured repeatedly on the same things. And my kids love it when I similarly admonish them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wii Fit, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...


I am seriously enamored with our Wii Fit. Seriously. If it died tomorrow, I'd be depressed. Why? Well, let me try to explain.

1. I can exercise inside. A) I have young children who can't be left alone, and one or more of whom usually need supervision with their schooling most of the daylight hours, anyway. And B) although, I could get out and walk/jog/run, it is not at all culturally common and would make me seem even weirder than I currently come across.

2. I weigh in every day. For me, this is a good thing. It means I immediately see the consequences/rewards for what I am eating. And it makes me think twice. It's also incredibly encouraging to see my weight going down (which it has 10+ lbs. since I working out on our Wii Fit). And it keeps track of and charts my progress for me, including having me set goals and noting whether or not I meet them (I'm shooting for -1 lb. every two weeks and make it more often than not).

3. There are a variety of activities I can choose from, including Yoga, aerobics, balance games, and strength exercises. Okay, so I often choose the same thing day after day (lately, 20 mins. of step aerobics and 10 mins. of rhythm boxing), but I could choose something different (like 30 minutes of free steps while listening to a sermon file).

4. It gives me feedback as to how well/poorly I'm executing the task at hand. Is my balance perfect on my yoga move? Am I exerting the right amount of force on my strength exercise? Am I keeping perfectly with the rhythm and using the correct foot at the correct time on an aerobic routine? This, to me, is one of the huge benefits to Wii Fit over a DVD or even a class. If you care about your score (which I do...just a little; see #13), there's no room for slacking of for a rep or two or wobbling too much.

5. It gripes at me when I miss a day. And really lets me have it, if I miss more than one day. I know, it's just a computer/game, but I am motivated by that.

6. It adds up my time and keeps track of that, as well, so I can piece together a workout totaling an amount of time I have as a goal or a time slot I happen to have that day.

7. I can ramp up the intensity with weights. We purchased a 3 lb. wrist/ankle set (so, 1.5 lb. each) to wear on our wrists while we're working out (dh does yoga, strength and runs**). When we got used to those, we moved them to our ankles and bought a 2k (a little over 4 lbs.) set to wear on our wrists. When we got used to those, we bought a 3k set for our wrists and moved the 2k set to our ankles. I was planning to buy another 3k set (the heaviest we've found) for our ankles soon, but now that I'm pregnant, I'm thinking I may stick with what we have until afterwards. It's amazing how heavy and awkward the weights feel when we first start using them compared to how they feel once our muscles adjust. And rewarding to think about the muscles we're building up. I've noticed that someone got smart and started bundling weights and a "Wii Fit yoga mat" together. Smart, but neither are any better than what you can buy for yourself at Target.

8. My kids have a fun indoor option for exercise. Although MS goes to Taekwondo three times a week, and they have bikes that they can ride downstairs in the common area, I want them to learn lots of different ways to incorporate exercise into their lives, so that whatever their life circumstances in the future, they will have an option to draw on.

9. With their weigh-ins, the kids are getting a healthy understanding for what a normal weight is (it tells you, based on your height and age, what is underweight, normal, overweight and obese). This is not something I have had a grid for most of my life. I think it would have helped me a lot to know where I fell on the curve at various points. And not just when I've been overweight. There was a whole season in my life when I thought I was overweight, and I wasn't. I didn't notice when I became overweight, because I thought I already was, if that makes sense. Obviously, I'd like for my kids to avoid that "little" pitfall.

10. My kids see me exercising. They were seeing that some the past couple of years (as opposed to hardly at all before that), but it is much more often and consistent now. I shoot for 4-5 days a week and make it most weeks.

11. My kids tangibly see and know that I am overweight (okay, so my goal at this point is "overweight" :-l but I'm almost there!). I know, this is a strange thing to be grateful for. But I want my kids to know that my weight, at this point, is not normal. And that I'm not happy with that (although not obsessed with it, in spite of how this post might be coming across :-). And that I'm doing a lot to fix that. I saw this, to an extent, growing up, but I still think I needed a stronger message that overweight=bad (for health reasons, if nothing else).

12. They're developing more and more game/exercise options for the Wii Fit, so we can hopefully continue to challenge ourselves as we master the basic options included with the unit. One, in particular, we're pretty sure we're going to get while we're in the States.

13. I can be better than ML at things. He's smarter than me. He knows more than me. His Arabic grammar and vocabulary are far and above better than mine. But, by golly, who's the entire top ten list for Advanced Aerobics? Yeah, you know who.

I know I've come across like a commercial. I don't mean everybody has to go out and buy a Wii Fit (and the necessary prerequisite Wii system), especially given that the Wii Fits in particular are scarce right now. I was just thinking today, though, about how blessed I feel to have it (we pre-ordered on Amazon early enough to actually get one [they ran out of pre-orders, even]). So, I thought I'd share.

* I know. I missed yesterday. I don't even really have a good excuse this time. I mean, it was the finale of the season of NCIS we were watching, and it went longer than I thought it was going to, and I was really tired. But a good excuse? No, I don't have one. Hopefully, I'll squeeze in an extra post here in the next few days to make up for it.

**Yes, you can run with the Wii Fit. It doesn't use the balance board. You put the remote in your pocket/hold it in your hand. It's one of the kids' favorite things to do. You run past other Mii's along a path that winds through different types of scenery. You're following a trainer that acts like a pace runner. We've discovered, though, that if a dog runs past (yes, that happens, too), and you speed up and run past your trainer, you get to follow the dog and go on an entirely different path. They've had fun following different dogs (there are several on each length run) and seeing the different scenery.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Somebody over at By The Time I Count To 3 has been blogstalking me (it's okay; I told her I didn't mind, although I do hope my mom isn't reading this; she has this thing about stalkers). I have to call her Somebody, because she's being internet-cautious, and I don't know her name, but By The Time I Count To 3 is too long to type out every time, although I've used ByTheTime once or twice. Maybe that will do. Maybe Somebody has a preference. Maybe I should ask Somebody.

Anyway, I digress. So, I decided to blogstalk ByTheTime (I think that works for me) right back. And something she said reminded me of something ML said the other day, and I wanted to share it here.

One day not too long ago, I was venting to ML about the fact that our children can't seem to do *anything* without me being right.there.with.them. Whether it be school work or chores or putting their shoes on, if I step out of the room, chances are, when I return, it won't be done.*

This is kind of an on-going rant (although I've developed some coping mechanisms, like having them do school wherever it is I need to be; except the bathroom), but ML had a very insightful response this particular time. After I finished wailing, "Why can't they do anything without me keeping an eye on them and being right there with them?" (and I know that there are people who's children work independently at least at the age of my oldest; on chores, if not on schoolwork; I know, because I read about them on Sonlight!) ML replied, "Because they're our children?"

Oh. Hm. Yeah. Guess that kind of makes sense.

You see, neither ML nor I are super self-motivated people. We're actually kind of lazy. We really don't get a lot done without accountability and sometimes some hand-holding. Of course, there are exceptions (and those are the things we blog about usually :-P), but we are, to use a more gentle term, rather laid back.

So, I guess it stands to reason that we're going to have children with the same tendencies. Children who can put a lot of focus into building a Lego world or an imaginary zoo (or knitting or writing) but struggle with getting done when it comes to math or science (or housework or finances). I guess I should be glad that they, like their parents don't naturally stress a whole lot. That they, like their parents, naturally assume that they're going to be able to get "it" done in time, even though, if they looked at things realistically, that might not be the most accurate assessment (hello! Curriculum project, senior year; every paper/project either of us ever worked on, for that matter).

Does this help the situation? Surprisingly, it does. I no longer (well, I try not to) look at my children and expect them to behave like other people's children. I look at them and accept the fact that they are my children (and his) and understand that it is my job to teach them the skills they need to make these tendencies work in this life. The motivational skills, the time management skills, the break-taking skills, even, that are going to enable them to meet deadlines the rest of their lives. Even when they don't feel like it.

It's actually made me desperate to get those skills into them, because I don't want them to have to continually experience the stress I experienced (okay, so it's only mostly in the past, but it mainly is) until I learned them (or at least began to learn them).

It really did help.

*Now, we're seeing some progress in this area, especially with MS, but I guess this was more like a couple of weeks ago, because I was not seeing any progress at the time.