Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mind Your Own Business!

I heard something inspiring on the radio this morning.  Of course, as someone who loves talk radio, and who listens to what I consider quality talk–why spend my time with something subpar when there are so many other things I could spend my time on–hearing something inspiring on the radio isn’t anything new or strange.  But this particular item was inspiring enough that I wanted to write about it.

Now, go back to the title of this post, and read it out loud: “Mind your own business”.  How does this phrase automatically sound when you read it?  What punctuation do you put on the end?  What sort of situation does it cause you to imagine?  Have you used this phrase before?  What kind of situation was it?  I know I automatically associated the phrase with anger and with someone snooping in my life or in someone else’s life.  I imagine telling (and have told) people to ‘mind your own business’.  I suspect most people associate it with someone trying to control aspects of your life that you are certain the control of lies solely in your hands, or someone otherwise violating your privacy.

But this morning I thought of it in a new light.  This new light doesn’t give it a different definition, per se.  But it does mean something very different to me, now.  Let’s break down the phrase into its parts and see if you feel the same.

Mind.  What does it mean to mind something?  Merriam-Webster gives several possible definitions.  Some of them are: remind; remember; to attend to closely; to become aware of: notice; to regard with attention: consider important; intend; purpose; to be concerned about; to be careful; to be cautious about; to give protective care to; to be attentive or wary; to become concerned.  Of course, this list doesn’t include the meanings that would be implied in the phrase “Mind your parents”.  But as you read through this list, it becomes apparent that minding something is taking excellent care of something.FlowerPetals

Your Own.  This is pretty clear, I think.  But I’ll mention it anyway.  Something that is your own belongs to you and not to other people.  If you combine this with the first word of the phrase, you’ll see that you are being told to take care of something that only you can take care of, because it belongs to you and you alone.

Now we’re to the last word of the phrase: business.  What is your business?  We probably all have slightly different specific definitions of this, because that specificity changes based upon our own life philosophies and circumstances.  Again utilizing Merriam-Webster, I found that an archaic definition is ‘purposeful activity’.  For phrases such as the one I’m evaluating here, I like archaic definitions.  “Archaic” definitions are historical definitions, and therefore tell us more about the original intention of a phrase.  What is your ‘purposeful activity?  Other definitions include role, function; an immediate task or objective; affair; personal concern.  So how does ‘your own business’ apply to your life?  In a previous post, I discussed purpose as a parent (see My Single Most Important Job as a Parent).  I have other important purposes that include being a good wife, taking care of our physical home, writing this blog, and preparing myself for future endeavors (see Homeschooling Yourself).  Of course, each of these larger purposes breaks down into smaller and smaller aspects, until we get to the smallest task (such as writing this post or picking up the dirty laundry off of the bathroom floor).  My smaller purposes may not be exactly yours.  If you’re not a parent (or in some child-care role), homeschooling and changing dirty diapers probably means very little to you in terms of purposeful activity.  If you’re not a model, posing for photographs probably seems like frivolous activity.  And schmoozing with the rich and powerful probably seems like useless activity–that is, unless it helps you to perform your job duties.

Regardless of all the specific aspects and tasks, I think we can all agree that preparing for the future is pretty high on the list of purposes we all have , and that perhaps it is the single all-encompassing purpose.  So, I’m telling all of my readers now: Mind your own business!  What have you done today to take care of your business?  How have you prepared yourself or your children or your home for the future?  I can tell you that this makes me think of all the things I have not yet done: the letters I haven’t sent or even written, the skills I believe I need to learn, the things I haven’t yet taught my kids, the attention I haven’t paid to my pets, the neighbors whom I’ve neglected to check in on and help in some way, the home repairs I’ve not finished yet… I challenge you to ask yourself every evening, “How have I minded my business today?”  If you can’t answer yourself satisfactorily, make it a goal to be able to do so the following day.

Of course, as I stated at the beginning, this doesn’t change the meaning.  Things in other peoples’ lives that do not directly affect you are not your business.  You should still strive not to attempt to mind other people’s business.  And why should you, when you have so much of your own that needs minding?

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Busy Work, or How to Stay Sane While Your Spouse is Away

I’ve been busy.  I guess everyone could probably say that, or, at least, I hope they can.  Not being busy with something productive is pretty tortuous and can lead to some unhealthy habits (eating out of boredom, too much tv watching, et cetera).  So I hope you have been productively busy lately.  As I said, I have.  And not just with caring for an infant and trying to keep my older three kids ‘productively busy’, now that they are on summer break.  Although, that does take up a significant portion of my time.

You see, my husband is away, and I have found the best way to keep my sanity is to create projects.  And the best ones are those that I can surprise him with–the kind that make him happier and more comfortable.  He’s been gone for approximately a week and a half and I have less than a week to go before I pick him up at the airport.  I realized late last week that I hadn’t really gotten started on the multi-room organizational project I wanted to get done.  So I jumped into it; I’ve been going full-throttle since.  It’s gone pretty well and been a fairly easy task, until now.  Have you ever hit that point where all that is left is the little tedious stuff that makes your skin crawl and your head spin?  That’s where I’m at now. 

I’ve decided I need to get better at throwing things away instead of saving them.  Doing that is really hard if I stop to think about it, but if I just toss it into the trash bag without hesitating, it’s really refreshing.  I don’t need that belt that has scratches and gouges, and I doubt anyone else will want it either.  My younger kids don’t need the shoes that have half the sole worn off…even though they wear hand-me-downs a lot, those are hand-me-downs I likely wouldn’t even put on them.  Another pair of ripped and torn jeans for my denim patch pile?  No thanks–into the trash they go!  All those hundreds of drawings my kids have made?  Sssshhhh!  Don’t say anything, but, I can’t keep just saving them.  Only the really great ones get to stay, and that’s only until I make a digital copy of it.  Perhaps an incredible few might get used in a wall-art project I’ve been conjuring up for the past few months.  Some day I’ll get to that…  But, right now, I just feel satisfied from getting rid of things I don’t need and making visible progress!  It’s making my kids feel good too.  They see the progress being made and have watched me a little bit (of course, they’ve not witnessed me looking through the stacks of drawings…).  They are making positive comments and I can see an improvement in their mood.

I know when my husband comes home, he’ll be happier and more relaxed because of what I’ve accomplished.  And that will make a happier and more relaxed me, and will make for a happier household overall.  That end-result is what’s keeping me pushing through the most difficult parts of this project.

Now, if only I can get through this quickly enough to do the other couple of projects I want to get done before he comes back…

When your spouse is away, whether for a deployment, drill, other military training, or a business trip (I get to hold down the fort during all of them), do you create projects to help pass the time?  What sorts of projects have you accomplished?  Or if you are planning one, what is it?  Sometimes mine are completely kid-focused, or don’t necessarily involve a set end point.  But there is always a certain threshold at which I’ve accomplished that goal.  And then I it’s time to set another one.  It may not be easy to push through in order to accomplish a goal, but doing so will bring you incredible self-satisfaction and a sense of self-dependency that will make it easier for you to start and finish other tasks down the road.


My Single Most Important Job as a Parent

I believe that we all have a purpose to fulfill.  We all have something that we are intended to do, but that we are not predestined to fulfill that purpose.  We must work in order to fulfill our purpose. It is possible that we will choose not to pursue this purpose…that we will veer instead towards things that are more comfortable and less work.  It is possible that even if we work, we may not succeed at whatever it is that we were purposed to do.  But this should not be a cause to give up.  The mere working towards something, specifically doing your best and giving everything you have to give, is a success in its own right.

What awaits us down the road?

I wanted you to have this in mind when I told you what I know is my single most important job as a parent.  It is not necessarily protecting them and it is not even necessarily teaching them.  My job is to prepare them.  Yes, I have my own purposes.  One of my purposes is to be a parent.  I honestly don’t know exactly what my others are, but I have made a promise to myself that I will do my best at the things I do so that I can fulfill every purpose I am intended to.  But within my purpose to be a parent, I have a purpose to prepare my children for their purposes.

What does this entail?  I must protect them until they learn to protect themselves.  But I must also teach them to protect themselves, and to allow me to protect them.  I must allow them to hurt themselves so that they will learn what it is like to be hurt and how to recover from that injury, whether physical or emotional.  I must give them boundaries and rules in order to guide them until they learn to be self-dependent.  But I must teach them to be self-dependent and, at the same time, to allow me to guide them.  I must let them set some of their own boundaries and rules in order to learn to be self-dependent.  I must teach them to love being taught and to love learning from others and to be open to learning from others.  Yet I must also teach them to teach themselves, so that they will not be reliant upon others.  I must encourage them to learn things that I do not know and to learn to teach me and each other, for that is how they learn to teach others. I must teach them to be prepared by showing them preparedness by example and by preparing things for them. I must also push them to begin to be prepared on their own so that they will not expect others to be prepared for them.

Parenting requires being strong and sure in your decisions while being humble and open to learning new things. Parenting is nearly contradictory, and almost paradoxical.  Yet, it simply requires a balance of these things.  As we strive for this balance, we are preparing our children for whatever awaits them in their lives.  We can only hope that we are doing our job quickly and thoroughly enough, for their purposes in life may be many and widely varied and may begin early.

Parenting, though ultimately intimidating, especially with this revelation, is the greatest joy in my life.  Though I hope that my work in previous jobs and in my future career has and will touch people and help to

bring great joy and positivity to their lives, none of that is as amazing and fulfilling as the purpose I am carrying out in this stage of my life.

How do you view your role as a parent?  Does my explanation speak to you, or you have different viewpoint?  I want to hear from you!


This is a test of the…

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Do tests BUG you? (Or is it bugs that give you the jitters?)

Oh, actually, it’s just a test of my child’s learning this year.  And, surprisingly enough, a test of how well I did as a teacher.  Really, I guess it’s not that much of a surprise.  I mean, we look at testing scores in order to judge how well our public school teachers are performing.  So, I look at how well my child does on his or her achievement test in order to judge myself.  And two years in a row, I’ve been disappointed in myself.

We just finished up my oldest’s test today.  On to the fourth grade we go…  I was ashamed to realize, as I watched him struggle, that I didn’t do enough to help him become more comfortable with taking tests or more open to using scratch paper during the math portion, and I also found him to be weak in the same areas he was weak in last year.  Eeeeek!  My daughter, 1st grade going on 2nd, will start her test tomorrow.  My fingers are crossed that she doesn’t struggle any more than she did last year.  She’s actually pretty good at taking tests.  My nervous son is not.

It probably didn’t help that I found myself getting the jitters as we got ready and as he was taking his test.  I know from my most recent college courses that I get testing jitters big time for my own tests.  But apparently I get them somewhat for my kids’ tests too.  I bet I’m unknowingly communicating to them that it’s something to be nervous about.  I tried really hard to downplay the fact that it was an achievement test I was administering.  (We use the CAT, or California Achievement Test, which allows me to be the administrator.)  I focused on it as being a review of what we learned so that we can know where we need to focus when we start back to school.  It didn’t seem to help any.

I have to wonder if part of my nervousness comes from the fact that I feel I am being graded as well.  And not just because I see that I haven’t given enough lessons in punctuation and capitalization and that he needs more timed math practice.  It must have to do with the fact that these test results ultimately have to be turned in to the state.  I don’t know if anyone even goes over them and compares them to the previous years’ scores.  I think part of me is afraid that the county is going to call me up and tell me I have to put my kids in public school because they didn’t score at a certain level.  Don’t get me wrong; my kids are very smart and they are absolutely thriving in homeschool. It’s just too bad the test doesn’t cover science, because they would blow that subject out of the water.  That’s their favorite subject.  I am pretty certain my son did as good or better this year, if they were to be compared.  And since I didn’t get a phone call last fall telling me that I wasn’t “allowed” to homeschool, I’m pretty certain I’m in good shape this year (not that I wouldn’t put up a nasty fight if I did get that phone call…).

One giant positive is that my other 3 kids allowed us to test with very minimal interruption.  That’s saying something for a 6 year old, 4 year old, and 6 month old.  Our breaks were extended when the baby woke up and needed me.  I discovered I couldn’t carry the baby with me because her cute face and babbles are apparently too distracting.

So, this is my starting off point.  Now I know where I need to focus.  I even wrote out some of the primary and secondary goals for the coming school year after the conclusion of today’s test.  I will use this information to create next year’s plan.  And I will hope that I have corrected the mistakes I made this year by forgetting what I needed to focus on in order to prepare my son for another test.

Here’s where I ask for advice and conversation from you…  How do you fight test jitters?  How do you prevent yourself from making your kids more nervous about a test when you are naturally not calm about tests?


Homeschooling Yourself

As a homeschooling parent, I do lots of research into what curriculum and methods I should use in order to best teach my children.  I enjoy reading books that talk about the methods that work for other homeschool families, and sometimes I find excellent and helpful tips.  I have books about the theory behind various genres of homeschooling and on what specific items I should be teaching my children. Those latter books, primarily the What Your [enter grade here] Grader Needs to Know series, were very dear to me as I first started out. Now that I’m figuring out what works for my kids–and that my kids don’t have to learn a specific list of facts and content created by someone else–I’m less inclined to pull them off the shelf.  In fact, they didn’t come off the shelf at all this school year…that is, until I had a moment of panic as I thought about whether the kids were prepared to take their achievement tests.

But in addition to books written strictly for a homeschooling audience, I think that college-level text books intended for Education majors who will go on to teach in a traditional school setting are, or can be, a jewel.  I’m currently reading Comprehensive Classroom Management: Creating Positive Learning Environments For All Students. It’s a 4th edition, with a good number of mistakes that should have been caught by an editor; but it appears that there are 10 editions, so those mistakes have hopefully been corrected by now.  I received this book for free at a yardsale.  I am enjoying my reading, and even taking notes on my favorite parts.  While I’m just simply enjoying reading this text, I am hoping that I can apply some of the concepts in this book to managing my multi-age, multi-grade homeschool classroom. I know there are probably homeschool-specific books out there with advice for helping me deal with the different attitudes and personalities of my kids in the classroom.  But for now, this is what I’m reading.

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The next homeschooling-related book on my ‘to-read’ list is Homeschooling and Loving It by Rebecca Kochenderfer.  (I received it recently through a freebie deal offered by Educents, a school and learning related deal site.  Although this particular deal is no longer available, they always have a lot of enticing and valuable deals.)  I’m not certain when exactly I’ll be able to start reading it.  That’s because I’ve decided to focus my personal education on topics related to my professional career–which, yes, I will get back to sometime down the road.  In the meantime, it seems taking classes is probably one of the best things I can do.  I recently discovered www.edX.org and I have registered for some of their classes that start this fall.  Their classes are free, and the lectures are taught by professors at places like MIT, Harvard, Georgetown, and more.  You can simply audit the class, or you can complete it and earn a Certificate of Mastery.  No, it’s not college credit (unless you find a college that will accept them as an equivalent, which I’m sure exists somewhere–or soon will), but it’s proof you did the work to complete a class.  In order to prepare for one of the classes I’m registered for, I need to study basic Biostatistics and Epidemiology.  I will be using OpenCourseWare in order to do this.  For those of you who have never utilized OpenCourseWare, I highly recommend it!  It can help you gain knowledge at your own pace for your personal or professional pursuits.  There are many courses listed under the ‘Education’ heading that homeschooling parents might find interesting or useful.  I also think it will be very useful as a homeschool supplement when my kids are bit older. (My oldest will begin 4th grade this fall, so, for the most part, we’re still in pretty basic stuff right now.)

What are you doing to ‘homeschool yourself’?  Are you working on professional material?  Homeschooling parents, do read only books specifically for homeschooling, or do you, like me, enjoy books intended for traditional teachers?  Do any of you have education or homeschooling books you love and recommend? I would love to hear about them so I can place them on my ‘to-read’ list!


Before you clip that coupon…

There is ample couponing advice across the web.  If you want to learn about extreme couponing, visit The Krazy Coupon Lady.  That is not my niche, as I am not really a couponer.  On occassion, such as when I find a coupon in-store, I will use one.  But I rarely clip or print coupons.  So, before you start (or continue) couponing, I want to offer a few words of advice.  Er…a few questions with which to advise yourself? I always try to ask myself these questions before I give in to the urge to jump on the couponing bandwagon:

Is it worth my time?  My time is worth a certain amount of money. How much yours is worth depends upon what monetary value you place on it.  If you were getting paid per hour, how much would you expect?  And does the amount of time it takes to gather coupons, combined with the extra time spent  in the store equate with the amount of money you will save?  More importantly, is there something more beneficial that you could spend your time doing?  For example, I view cleaning as an investment in my family’s health and mental well-being.  Can you read a book and learn something new that you can apply to help your family or your career?  Does your house need a little bit of DIY love?  These, plus others, are all things I’ve found to be better uses of my time than is digging through coupons.

Are you cutting your time away?

Do you already use the item the coupon is for?  If not, is there a good reason for you to begin buying and using it now?  For example, if you can create a hamburger helper type meal from scratch, making it healthier and less expensive than the boxed stuff, is there really a need to buy that box?  And, chances are, the time it took you to find that coupon could have been using it to make that meal (or one similar, of course…but you get my drift, right?).

Is buying this item beneficial to me and my family?  Do I really need the bag of chips, that candy bar, or even the next fad diet bar?  Can I substitute healthier foods or cheaper foods?  Even if what I’m buying will save me money on my grocery bill, is it worth the money it could add to my health bill by perpetuating poor health?

Is “Brand X” really the best value, even with the coupon?  Before you just buy a product, compare.  I usually find that a comparable brand is cheaper overall, or that the value (health or otherwise) of my coupon product is lower than another product.  I have found that the best place to purchase our specific hygiene and beauty items, such as hair care, is online.  We love the Amazon.com Subscribe and Save Program for its great prices and convenience.

How do you get your coupons?  If you buy a Sunday newspaper just for the coupons, are you actually saving any money?  What about the deals you can get if you go to 10 different stores to stack coupons with their sales.  Is it really worth the hassle, the time, the gas, and the wear and tear on your vehicle?  For some of you, the answer to that question might be a resounding “yes,” especially if it is for items you use on a regular basis.  As a mom of four, my spare time needs to be smartly budgeted, and this generally doesn’t fit the bill. (Not to mention the fact that dragging my kids in and out of just 1 or 2 stores is difficult enough. I either spend extra time keeping them happy while I fit more shopping into one day, or I spend more money on other days taking extra trips…)

With all these questions, I usually find that coupons are not worth my time.  There are rare cases when I decide to splurge or when I luck upon a coupon for a product already on my list.  It feels nice when that happens.  One notable case was when Brown Cow Yogurt first came to my local military commissary, and there were coupons available both in-store and on the Brown Cow website.  My family adores their cream top yogurt.  I used a coupon every chance I could.  But now I don’t find their brand in the stores I shop in and thus I haven’t even looked for more coupons.  (I should make a special trip to find some as a treat. This would be a situation in which I would splurge with a coupon.)  Most of the time, I feed my family on a stricter shopping list than couponing allows.  Call me up when I can easily–the keyword here is easily–find coupons for produce and bagged rice and beans.