Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November School Days

School is still going strong (admittedly sometimes stronger than others, but still strong, nonetheless) and we are enjoying our fall-leading-to-winter here in the Weist home.  Our most exciting and challenging class by far has been the engineering class that is offered through our school co-operative, My Tech High.  They sent us the kit filled with all of the blocks and links and wheels and parts to create various simple machines.  The picture below is one of the machines we built-- a scale.  It looks a lot simpler than it is and it usually takes the 2 of us working together at least 2 hours to finish one of these.  It's actually great bonding time with my son and I love every minute of it.  He thinks it's pretty awesome once he's finished them, too.

My princess below is less embroiled in class work because she is only 4 and technically preschool age, but I have a few Kindergarten books that she has started and recently she has showed an interest in learning how to read (yay!) so we spend a lot of time each week going over letters and sounds and working through very simple words.  With most of "school" activities I like to be very involved but so far a more hands-off approach has worked for me with teaching reading.  I provide ample reading time, both separate and together, I involve them in games that use simple reading words (I made a set of small cards with words of 2, 3, or 4 letters that we use for matching and other fun games) and I give them challenges to read things to me when we are out shopping or running errands.  I know there are probably millions of dollars spent by parents across the country using phonics programs and reading curriculum, and I don't discount those by any means. But thus far I have found this simpler (and far less expensive) approach to work just as well.  Kids seem to naturally want to progress so if you give them opportunities to do so they'll grab it with both hands and take off.
Of course, this princess is still in the VERY early stages of showing interest and learning how to put sounds together.  Her older brother showed greater inclination and ability from an earlier age and is now reading several grade levels above his age-- I don't necessarily think Miss Em will exhibit that same ability, but it's still exciting watching the progress and it's one of the reasons I became interested in homeschooling in the first place.

This sweet little goober is so good to mostly play while the rest of us do school and he is thrilled to just sit at the table with his brother and sister and be given something to keep him occupied so that it seems like he's at school, too.  He likes "doing letters" (what we call Starfall) but is nowhere near recognizing them like his older brother was at this age.  But I'm not too worried.  I don't want him to grow up too fast.  Can you blame me?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What month is it again?

Phew!  Time is flying!  Can someone please explain to me how it got to be October already?  I swear it was just July, like yesterday.  Well we have a month of homeschool under our belt and I've got to say things are going well and I am pretty happy with our situation right now.  There are still plenty of set-backs (such as when one of my children, who shall remain nameless, decides to throw an absolute fit about having to do handwriting practice and throws us off schedule for a half hour while they pout and kick things in their room...fun!) but we also have the freedom to go to the zoo occasionally or have a playdate because we've accomplished all of our goals for the week.  This school year is going to fly by!

On another note, did I mention that I sang with the symphony???  Last month was one of the most stressful times for me (and I got the nasty canker sore to prove it) and those nightly rehearsals at the end were not helping, but IT WAS SO WORTH IT!  I couldn't believe I was up there singing in Abravanel Hall with the ACTUAL Utah Symphony.  Dream. Come. True.  And even when I go to our weekly rehearsals I will look around and listen and start grinning like an idiot because I can't believe I'm there.  We have started practicing for the Annual Messiah Sing-Along that happens after Thanksgiving and I tell you what it already got me in the mood for Christmas.  It is going to be FAB-U-LOUS, so I highly recommend you get tickets and get in on the action.  Although they won't be on sale for like another month.

Speaking of months I am halfway through my 5th month and getting ready to start month 6 of my pregnancy!  Things are going great as far as we can tell and aside from usual tiredness and occasional crazy hormones (sorry, family!) I am a happy camper.  I get a little stressed when I think about homeschooling and new baby and choir and dinners and laundry and general housekeeping...but then my sweet husband wraps his arms around me and lets me cry and tells me he's here and will help and that everything will be great.  I need that.  Thanks sweetheart.

And speaking of needing things I always need the jolt that accompanies General Conference weekend and this last week was no different.  I cried more than usual (is it just me or were there a lot of stories of suffering/dying children?) and I'm sure my hormones were no help, but it was still reassuring and uplifting and strengthening and all those things I need to sometimes just get through the week.  And it was all true, so that helps too.

And finally, in case you didn't know it, one of the sweetest things on earth is the face of a child who has just woken up from a nap and still has sleep in their eyes.  And I have one of those cuddled in my arms right now.  All is right with the world.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


For those of you who don't know I have been homeschooling my kids for the last year.  However, since my oldest was only in Kindergarten it hasn't been much of a big deal.  Our school was entirely informal and loosely scheduled.  We practiced reading, did handwriting drills, played math games and sometimes included the younger kids so things were always LOUD and wild and wonderful.
But this year is different!  We have a schedule!  We have various curriculum!  We have classes with subjects and textbooks!  We have a lot of exclamation points!!  I can't help it, I got so excited last night, our first night before school, that I couldn't sleep.

I was worried.

I was worried about it failing big-time.  I was worried about it being crazy.  I was worried about my kids not listening and absolutely hating it.  I was worried about being organized enough to make it happen.

I spent a while on my knees last night.
I think I'll be doing that every night for the whole school year.

But you know what?  It definitely helped me.  Things went more smoothly today than any other school day we've ever had.  Ever.  There were still a couple of hiccups, a couple of whining moments and "I'm not going to do that!" protests but they were short-lived and few in number.  In fact, our day started wonderfully with a fun music time where we listened to different genres of music and talked about their differences (including several dancing moments, of course) and I distinctly heard this surprising declaration: "I love school at our house!  It's so fun!!"

I died.

It may not always be perfect (or even work at all) but this was a wonderfully auspicious way to begin our school year.  I am hopeful.  I am tired.  I am thankful.  But most of all I love the decision I made to homeschool this year.  I still don't know how many years we'll try this but I am loving the journey while we're on it.

Look out for Miss Attitude on the right.  She didn't like that I told her to scoot in closer.

John, my big 1st grader!

A little less attitude.  She's technically in preschool but I'm starting her on John's old Kindergarten stuff.  We'll see how she does!

David is only 2 but loves joining in-- he's a great reminder for the other kids to behave because he copies EVERYTHING they do with this new "school" stuff.

Homeschooling, here we come!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Courage & darn-near disbelief

One of my friends posted a status on Facebook that quoted a line from the movie We Bought A Zoo..."All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, and I promise you something great will come of it."  I felt like a had a moment of insanity this past week which originally didn't feel like courage, just pure insanity.  However, something awesome came from it so whether it's insanity or courage, I'll take what I can get.

Last week I randomly discovered something called the Utah Symphony Chorus.  I never knew such a wonderful thing  even existed!  Apparently they sing a handful of times throughout the year with the Utah Symphony at...that's right, ABRAVANEL HALL!!!!!  Sorry, I had to shout that cause it's so exciting.  I thought it would be wonderfully fulfilling and exciting and pure awesome to be part of something like that and, as luck would have it, they were holding auditions this week.  So I signed up.  I told a few people I felt like Monica from 'Friends' when she had her identity stolen and ended up confronting her fears and taking a tap dance class when she had NO idea what she was doing...and as she waved her arms around erratically, being told she was "doing it wrong" she replied enthusiastically, "at least I'm doing it!!!"  I imagined myself a little like that.

So I got some tips from my awesome voice coach neighbor about auditioning and yesterday loaded the kids up in the car so I could drop them at Michael's work while I went to sing my heart out.  If I felt out of my league before it only increased a hundred-fold while I was waiting my turn and listened to other singers warming up.  These were majorly trained voices, people who could sing opera and sing it really well.  It made me feel about 12 years old.  But I decided to laugh it off and chalk it up to good experience and went in my audition with a big smile.  I told the auditioner that I felt out of my league but that I would LOVE to be in this chorus and what a wonderful opportunity it would be, then I did my thing and left feeling like I probably wouldn't make it because of the stiff competition but that I had done really well.  Yay for me.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got an email from them tonight saying "Congratulations, your audition was successful..." HUh?  Were you talking to me?  Seriously?!??  So apparently I get to sing with the Utah symphony.  In Abravanel Hall, a place I have revered since I was a very small person in awe of the gold and chandeliers and sounds of that amazing place.  And all because I had a few moments of courage.  What if I hadn't auditioned?  I never would have known.  Go seize the day!  I hope something great will come out of it for you.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers with heavy hearts

I am going to go out on a limb here and assume something for all parents.  It's a big assumption but I bet I'm pretty close.  I'm going to assume that, regardless of individual fears as we grow up (being afraid of the dark or afraid of bears or afraid of rejection), once someone becomes a parent there is ONE single, simple fear that shoots to the top of the list--losing a child.  I can't imagine a more terrifying thought to myself and for some reason that thought occurred to me tonight at the end of a wonderful, happy, satisfying Mothers Day.  I wanted to send out a tribute to all mothers (fathers too, actually) who have lost a child and who are most likely reminded of that event on this particular day.  I can't even begin to imagine how difficult something like that must be, how heart-breaking it must feel at times, I can only offer my heart in sympathy and my hope that you can see them again someday.  So, on what for some will be a bittersweet day, I wish a happy mother's day to those who've loved and lost.  Our thoughts are with you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Clean

A few weeks ago I undertook the task to unclog our bathroom tub drain in lieu of calling a plumber.  I didn't have any snaking tools do dig out nasty hair/grease balls so I took to the internet.  I found some great instructions for using baking soda and vinegar combinations and after 4 flushes of this wonderful stuff my bathtub drain was running free and clear.  I felt like Superwoman!!!  At my friend's house the next day I told her about my success and while we talked she ran 2 rounds of the miracle unclogger and it worked like magic.  She said they'd spent a bunch of money buying bottle after bottle of drain cleaner that never worked and we had it running free in just 15 minutes using stuff they already had in the cupboard.  (By the way, if you want to know how we did it there are instructions here: Homemade 'drain-o'...the only thing we did differently was to heat the vinegar in the microwave for about 45 seconds first.)

Something I read while figuring out how to clear that clog said that baking soda emulsifies grease and that's how it breaks down the clogs as it sits on them, eating it away.  I thought about that for a week or so, wondering what that would do on just the regular hair on my head.  With great faith in the power of baking soda after my triumphs I took to the internet again and found a surprising trend: a great number of people who clean their hair with baking soda instead of shampoo.  (They call it "no-poo" which I think is pretty gross so I'm going to think of something else for this post.)  I figured it had worked so well on my tub I would at least give it the benefit of the doubt and give it a test-run.  After a few days of this regimen my hair is still soft, not greasy and I haven't used a drop of shampoo.  I had a couple of people ask about how it works, what are the proportions, etc. so I'm writing this up for anyone who is interested.

I found this blog post very informative about the differences of hair care between shampoo and baking soda but here is the simple breakdown.

1-2 Tbsp. baking soda
Squeezy bottle for the shower, at least 8 oz.
Another bottle, at least 8 oz.
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Using a funnel dump 1-2 Tablespoons of baking soda in an 8 ounce bottle and fill the rest up with water.  The baking soda settles quickly so you will need to keep shaking it as you're applying.  Also take with you a cup or bottle with a solution of 1 Tbsp. of apple cider vinegar to 1 cup water.

After wetting your head in the shower start squeezing the soda solution on your scalp.  I start at the crown and work my way around the rest of the hair, focusing mostly on the scalp.  The scalp is where all the oil is produced so the  rest of the hair needs a little less.  It feels really weird because it's not sudsing up with bubbles and you realize you're just rubbing water around in your hair.  But keep scrubbing away, it's working!  Most of the sites I read said to just rinse it right off but I figure if it's working on the grease I'd like to let it do more work, so I leave it on while I do the rest of my cleaning up.  After everything else is done you can do 2 things: either rinse first with water and then rinse with the vinegar solution or slowly dump the vinegar solution all around your hair first (if you have longer hair you may need more, but mine is really short so I use a cup...just remember the proportions of 1 Tbsp. to 1 c.)  It's not a strong mix of baking soda and vinegar but I can still feel it bubbling on my scalp and I love it.

Finally, rinse well with water and you're done!

A couple of notes:  If you're worried about the vinegar smell, it still smells really strong when you dump it on your head but after you've rinsed it off you cannot smell a thing!  I even had Michael do a smell test and he couldn't detect any trace of it.  Also a lot of the sites I read about this hair-washing regimen suggested that it can take up to 2 weeks before the oil production in your hair will even out and get used to it, so you may have a while dealing with gross greasy hair.  If you really want to do it, don't give up!  Give it at least 2 weeks before you go back.  My hair is really short and I also think leaving it in longer helps, so I haven't had a single greasy day, but your experience may be different.  I'd love to know if anyone else has tried this, or if this post inspires you to try.  Please link back to your own blog and share your experiences!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Master of my Fate, Captain of my...Day

I am stealing this post from the book "Suzie Bitner was afraid of the Drain" by Barbara Vance.  Her poems are delightful and actually reminiscent of Shel Silverstein's work (who doesn't love Shel Silverstein???) but this one seemed corresponding to my mood and my feelings about life at the moment, especially after a great day of listening to General Conference and being inspired by the words of prophets.  I feel like I could do anything!  Unfortunately I have to go to sleep now and will probably be my usual, grumpy self in the morning.  So I thought I'd post Barbara Vance's poem and look at it tomorrow to remind me the kind of person I'd like to be.

A Good Day
“Today will be a good day,
And I will make it so–
I cannot make the sun come out;
I cannot make the flowers sprout;
I cannot make the fishes bite,
Nor blow the wind beneath my kite.
But I can wear a friendly smile
And listen to the trees a while
And laugh real loud and run real fast
And make each moment such a blast.
I can sing though skies be gray,
‘Cause I am captain of my day.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting facts straight, aka Me On a Soapbox

If you live in Utah you have probably been reading a lot about the debate about Sexual Education for minors in public school.  Do we teach them about condoms?  Abstinence?  Genital warts?  None of the above?  What?  I am not posting what I think about the Sex-Ed debate.  I am taking issue with a comment that is made over and over as part of the argument.  A "statistic" that I have heard for YEARS surrounding this and other issues dealing with sexual morality among teenagers.  A comment/statistic that has never made sense to me.  Here's the general gist of the statement:  Utah has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the country.

That's it.  That comment is touted constantly by people on both sides of the issue, but particularly when someone wants to point out that teaching abstinence (which is apparently all we do in Utah) doesn't work, or that Mormons are a bunch of hypocritical losers, or a variety of other things.  I was thinking about it tonight because one of my seriously awesome friends posted that statement on her blog as she was sharing her thoughts about this hot-button issue.  I don't take issue with her opinions or those of most other people, in fact I appreciate that we can flesh out an issue and let everyone's opinions be heard, but this comment gets under my skin, like seeing spelling or grammar mistakes on retail products or on a company website.  (It's the English major in me, I guess, I can't help it.  But seriously, could you pay somebody to proofread your stuff??  Could you pay ME?  I'd be more than happy to do it!  Sheesh.)

Back to the point.  This statement that is thrown around about Utah having the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country was getting under my skin.  So I did a Google search.  It took me all of 5 seconds.  It took me longer than that to read some of my findings but they were quite illuminating.  The first one was from the Guttmacher Institute, which I confess I'd never heard of, but their website banner declares that they are "Advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide through research, policy analysis and public education."  Well, since they are all about educating the public, that's what I'd like to do (if, in this instance, "public" means all 10 of you who read my blog).  The link to their study is here: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf

There was a lot of interesting information but the most pertinent I found was that in 2005 Utah ranked #45 in the nation in rate of pregnancy for teens aged 15-19.  (page 13)  There are other pages that show rates for teens younger than 15 is low in the country as well.  That means there are 44 other states with higher teen pregnancy rates than Utah.  That doesn't sound like a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country to me.

Here was another one by a group you may have heard of:  the CDC.  This one deals mostly with different teen pregnancy rates among different races but the information I wanted was on the first page: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db46.pdf

The map on the first page shows "Teenage birth rates for 15-19 year olds by State, 2008" and if I'm not color blind I believe it shows that Utah ranks "Significantly lower than the US rate."  That doesn't sound like a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country to me, either.

I think it is one of the great blessings of living in the United States that we can have public discourse about issues that people think are important, that we can work to change policy, and that we have the means and technology to do so.  What I think needs to change is correcting false rhetoric that is used by one side or the other simply to support their ideology.  Public discourse needs to be honest, open-minded and correctly informed, otherwise we're just kids on a playground shouting "yes, it is! no, it isn't! yes, it is! no, it isn't!" back and forth at each other without ever actually accomplishing anything.  So next time you hear or read something making a gross generalization in order to support a claim, please ask for the person's reference.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I'm going to go out on a limb and say that probably every parent's favorite part of having a baby in diapers is that moment where you stick your finger 1 or 2 inches down the back of the diaper to pull it out from the baby's body to see if there's a mess in there and you realize too late that there IS a mess...and that it goes up about 1/2 inch away from the top.

Monday, February 06, 2012


This morning's post is dedicated to All-American Rejects.  I had just decided I didn't have any more to give to my morning run when this song came on my ipod.  I couldn't help it-- I dead sprinted an extra 4 laps on the track until it finished.  Thanks, guys.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Etsy Fever

Just wanted to...ahem...point out the new widget on the sidebar over there ------------>

I'm selling bracelets on Etsy!  They're a little kitschy and a little cute and a little adolescent (the teenagers in my neighborhood love them) and also a little fun.  You're certainly welcome to buy one, even if you're 50.  It'll make the cool kids *jealous.  
(*Disclaimer: I have never been cool so any claim to know what will make cool kids jealous is totally fabricated and clearly says I have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bring it on 2012

I feel bad when I don't blog.  The neglect of the blog sits like a brooding animal at the back of my mind, nibbling at my conscience until I convince myself it's been too long since I last blogged and I may as well just shut it down all together.  So I get on Blogger, sift through the links, peruse past posts, chuckle over the comments of my friends (some of you are hilarious, by the way) and then fall in love all over again with blogging.

I guess I did that tonight.

I also take pictures, dozens and dozens of pictures each month.  They are carefully stored on my computer and there they sit.  Doing nothing.
Does anyone out there scrapbook?  I can't bring myself to do all the froofy cri-cut stuff where you have all these paper accoutrements in awesome layers angled around each other on the page...with one picture.  But I can handle it if it's just cutting and pasting and writing cute stuff and adding some fun paper with stickers or something.  And yes, I'm 12.
But I have NO scrapbooks of my children, just boxes and folders and computer files full of mementos.  Will someone please come and organize me so I can make scrapbooks for my children?  (Yes, mom, I agree, we need to get my craft room in order so I have a place to work.  Will you come over one night after the kids are in bed and do it with me?  Will my neighbors too?  That'd be great. Thanks.)

What other random thing can I bore readers with....food?  My kids love barbecue sauce.  Which is why, every day that I teach piano lessons and I finish right at dinner with no time to prepare anything we eat quesadillas with some kind of meat and barbecue sauce.  Doesn't matter what else is in it, they'll eat it if there's barbecue sauce.  Come to think of it, I'm kind of like that with chocolate sauce.  Or Nutella.  I've eaten that on tortillas before.  I guess it's true about apples and trees and all that.
(Speaking of which...about piano lessons, not about barbecue or chocolate sauces or Nutella or even apples...if anyone's interested I'm teaching piano again...)

See, this is why I don't blog more.  I could bore anyone to tears without even trying.  

I'm trying to declutter.  I got this burst of energy the last 10 days or so that translated in my brain as "you have too much stuff and your house is messy and unorganized and cluttered and wouldn't you like to live in a place that looked like it belonged in a magazine with only a few tastefully selected items on each surface and all color coordinating and bringing life and energy into your living space?"  My head voices are long-winded like that.  Of course, I can declutter all I want.  I will never be able to make a house look like it belongs in a magazine.  I need to bring in some talent for that.  One thing at a time...first I have to convince my husband that it's OK to throw things away.  The stories I could tell of the things he keeps ("we could totally use that!") and after months of sitting on a desk, the floor, a bookshelf, it hasn't been touched and I just throw it away.  See?  He never even misses it.  (Except that he does occasionally check on this blog and might actually KNOW that I do that stuff now.  I love you sweetie!  Let's go watch 'Hoarders' k?)  Just trying to do my part for our family.  Keeping my sanity, that's what's good for our family.  (On a related note, I found a website that is currently my inspiration: Discardia.  If any of this un-cluttering nonsense appeals to you, check it out.  It made me happy.)

There is quite a list of things that I'd like to work on, improve, change as this year begins.  I never actually made a list of resolutions or anything like that, it's more like just a feeling of things changing or getting ready to change, of wanting to be different somehow.  Better different.  That obnoxious, talkative burst of energy that pushes me to become more how I envision myself and less how I apathetically settle into life.  Does that make sense?
However, it is 9:00 and I'm feeling more settle-ish than energy-ish so I'm settling in for the night to watch (again) "Once Upon a Time" from this week. *excited giggle*

What about you?  How do you make changes to yourself or your life, especially on those long days where all you want to do is put in a movie and fade into oblivion???