Archive for March 2009

March 2009 Reading List

March 31, 2009
  1. 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy:  I originally read this about two years ago, so I just kind of perused it this time.  I though that it had learning style quiz, but I must have confused it with another book.  I did get a few ideas, and I often check stuff out on the corresponding website.
  2. Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris:  Similar in style to her book The Cloister Walk, this big collection of short essays discusses her personal and academic experiences with various Christian terminology.
  3. 5-Minute Face by Carmindy:  As a fan of TLC’s What Not to Wear, I decided to check out this book of make-up tips from the show’s make-up stylist, Carmindy.  I need all the help I can get since I spend most of my time looking pasty and half-dead.
  4. For Better…Forever by Gregory K. Popcak:  Since hubby and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary this month, I figured that it never hurts to brush up on a few tips to keep love alive using this “Catholic Guide to Lifelong Marriage”.
  5. Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon by Jane Austen:  This volume contains three unpublished/unfinished works by Jane Austen.  Although Lady Susan is technically finished,  one can tell that Jane just kind of slapped an ending on it.  I wish that she had gone back to flesh it out more rather than just abandoning it.  It was a slap in the face when The Watsons ended so abruptly, as I was really getting into it.  Sanditon is a little different than Austen’s other works, perhaps because it was written while she was dying.  I don’t know that I particulalry recommend this particular edition, but I recommend that any Jane Austen fan read these stories and dream about what might have been.


March 19, 2009

About a month ago I decided to keep a food journal for at least one week.  I was having problems with headaches, shakiness, and fatigue.  I suspected that the culprits were low calorie in-take and sugar crashes.  My goal was to ingest a minimum of 2000 calories a day and decrease my sugar consumption.

2500 is the recommended calorie intake for nursing mothers.  My first day I consumed about 2440 calories.  The first thing I found about keeping the food journal was that it reminded me to take the time to do things like eat breakfast and an afternoon snack.  That’s about 400 calories a day I would have skipped in the hustle and bustle of taking care of the house and kids.

The real shocker to me was that I consumed 131 grams of sugar on a day in which I was consciously trying to cut back.  I looked up the recommended daily allowance and was even more dismayed to find that it is only 40 grams of sugar.  The biggest offenders that first day were a combo of 2 corn dogs with ketchup (16g), one can of decaffeinated Coke (39 g), a Snickers bar (16 g), and a fruit cup of peaches (16 g).   Now I usually only have a soda maybe once a week, but I started thinking about periods in my life when I would drink probably three to four a day in addition to all of the other sugars I was consuming.

In my search for low-sugar snacks (I eschew artificial sweeteners), I discovered things like crackers with peanut butter, crackers with cheddar cheese and pepperoni, and tortilla chips with salsa to be better alternatives.  I’m thinking that a salad with home-made dressing should fit the bill as well.  They are definitely healthier than the junk I was eating before.

I have to be realistic, though.  There is no chance of paring down to 40 grams of sugar a day.  Just the three servings of skim milk recommended by my midwife takes up 36 grams of the daily allowance.  At first, I thought I would try to limit myself to 80 grams of sugar a day, but that really led to a less varied diet and I found myself completely avoiding fruit.

Keeping the journal for  a week was really enlightening, and I highly recommend it.  I decided that my best plan of action would be to do things like cut down from three tea spoons of sugar in my morning coffee to two, 3/4 cup sugar in the pot of sweet tea instead of one whole cup, etc.  I am trying to limit myself to one high-sugar junk food a day (pack of cake rolls, candy bar, ice cream) and try to have it as late in the day as possible.  And I’m not going to worry about how much fruit I eat at this point, it’s usually only one serving a day anyway.

One other point of interest is that in order to figure out the number of calories and grams of sugar I really had to pay attention to portions.  I learned that one small scoop (about 1/2 cup) of vanilla ice cream with 1 Tbsp of chocolate syrup equals 50 grams of sugar.  Normally I would prepare two scoops with syrup for me and each of the kids.  If I didn’t need to eat 100 grams of sugar in one sitting, I began to realize that they certainly don’t either.  So, it’s also made me more aware of how much sugar they’ve been consuming, and I’ve been trying to make adjustments accordingly.

Since I’ve made these slight adjustments, I have been feeling quite a bit better overall.   I still get headaches from time to time, but I think they are mostly due to exhaustion rather than diet.  I’ve not had any shakes recently, and I’ve had more energy.  And I’m hoping that when I stop nursing in a few months I can start adding some weight back on (not to mention get more sleep) to feel even better.

I am in love with…

March 14, 2009

…my new Billy book case from IKEA in beech veneer.  I have a small office area in the alcove of our kitchen.  I do not have a “before” picture, but you’ll have to take my word that the new book case makes the whole area look much nicer.  So let me take you on a tour of my new and improved office space.


Starting on the left you see our two maps.  You can kind of see the various Major League Baseball logos affixed to the U.S. map.  I would say a good U.S. and a good World map are two must-have homeschooling tools.  Below the maps, you can see the very nice storage box I got when I bought Pull-Ups in bulk.

Next we have our storage cart.  Before moving it to its current position, I cleaned it out and reorganized it.  The top drawer includes googly eyes and other items to glue on paper.  The second drawer has stencils and stampers.  The third drawer holds our math manipulatives:  rulers, movable clock face, and 1cm connecting blocks.  Fourth we have white computer paper; the fifth drawer if full of colored paper.  Sixth we have our scale.  And the bottom drawer holds our greeting card envelopes and some Montessori-esque materials.  I just have to be careful that the top of the cart doesn’t become too big of a clutter spot.

Then we have my beautiful, new Billy-style bookcase.  Not pictured is the third basket that holds the controls, nunchuks, and other things for our brand new Wii.  The other two baskets hold health/hygiene products (band-aids, cotton swabs, nail trimmers) and office supplies respectively.  The second is where I keep my monthly bills to be processed.  The black binder is homeschooling information.  The white binder contains often-used recipes and meal plans.  Then we have my Betty Crocker cookbook, best wedding present ever!

Do you see that third shelf?  That has books that only belong to ME.  True it is only a small fraction of my book collection, but it some of my best loved ones.  The fourth shelf holds the crayon box, computer games/attachments for the kids, and some Brain Quest.

On the fifth shelf is our Harcourt Science text book that we use for reference.  The first magazine holder has issues of Highlights magazine, Mad Libs Jr. books, DD#1′ Singapore math books, and the folder with her reading worksheets.  The second magazine box I made myself.  It holds Highlights High Five magazines, DD#2’s Kumon workbook, and Parks District catalogues.  The bottom shelf has our coloring book crate, phone books, and various reference books from cooking, to homeschooling, to home repair, and the dictionary.

As you can see there is still room on the second and fifth shelf to bring more of my books out of storage.  I just need to decide which ones.  Right now I’m using the extra space on the fifth shelf to hold library materials.  The girls like that the crayon box is more accessible these days, but they’ve been warned that misuse will lead to the crayons being moved out of reach on the top.

Next is my file cabinet and printer, which used to be right next to the computer.  Then there’s my cork board on the wall with my Catholic calendar.  Next to my cork board is my beautiful liturgical year calendar, just above my computer desk.  Notice the wallpaper on my computer?  That’s Western Kentucky University’s Cherry Hall, my favorite building on campus.

As you can tell, I’m really excited by this very simple home improvement.  I long for the day when the rest of the alcove will look this nice, without two baskets of diapers (cloth and disposable) taking up so much space.  And maybe someday I might have the space to get a second Billy bookcase at IKEA or the money to get a matching a computer desk that has an intact keyboard shelf.  A girl can dream…

February 2009 Reading List

March 2, 2009

1.   The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling by Barbara Frank:  I like that this book wasn’t the usual “introduction to homeschooling” book.  This one offers more tips for the established homeschooler.  I’m intrigued by a problem solving workbook she recommends and the “life skills” curriculum she developed for her teens.

2.  Faiths of the Founding Fathers by David L. Holmes:  This book examines the religious beliefs of a handful of founding fathers (Franklin, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe) and how they fit on the Christian and Deist spectrums of the time.  At times I wasn’t sure if his over-simplification of some Christian doctrines held my some churches was to avoid getting bogged down into the detail or because he personally didn’t adhere to those doctrines.  I wish he could have broken down a large group, perhaps all the signers of the Declaration of Independence by faith.  The last chapter on the beliefs of recent presidents was interesting but seemed slightly out of place.  I would have been much more interested if the author had noted a connection between the Deism of the founding fathers and the recent development of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

3.  Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin:  As much as I mistrust the underlying flaws of schools in general, this chronicle of Greg Mortenson’s work building schools, fighting poverty, and setting the foundations for peace in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan made me appreciate living in a country that has a school system that does at least meet basic educational needs for most kids even if I think my kids still deserve something better.

4.   Meditations on Mary by Kathleen Norris:  This would make a great coffee table book with its  beautiful and classic artwork of the Virgin Mary.  And for fans of Kathleen Norris’ writing, the handful of essays are in keeping with her unusual religious perspective.

5.  Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon:  I found this book very depressing and mostly useless to me.  Foodies would love it, though.

6.  In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden:  Delightful book about a fictional middle-aged career woman who decides to become a Benedictine nun in Britain in the mid-1950’s.  It gives an interesting view of a pre-Vatican II convent, yet it’s very reminiscent of Kathleen Norris’s descriptions of religious life in her book The Cloister Walk.

7.  The Duggars:  20 and Counting! by Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar:  The Duggars answer many questions about their life with their 18 (and counting) children.  I gleaned a few ideas from their vast experience, a few recipes (that I need to downsize), and a few new reading resources to check out.

8. Fathers of the Church by Donald W. Wuerl:  This booklet running 144 pages is a book written for Catholics by Catholics.  It gives a short overview of 17 “Fathers” of the early church.  It had a slight apologetic tone and did not have a bibliography of works cited.

9.  My Grandfather’s Son by Clarence Thomas:  I don’t always agree with  Thomas’ perspective, but I believe the book aptly describes where he gets it from.

10.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley:  I first read this book about twelve years ago, and it totally shifted my view of the world.  Rereading it after all these years, parts of it horrified me in ways my teenage self couldn’t comprehend.  If you read John Taylor Gatto’s article “Against School” from 2003, you realize that Huxley wasn’t that far off the mark when he created his fictional dystopia in 1931.  I highly recommend reading this book and then reading any commentary on it you can find, even if it’s just the Wikipedia page.