Life Skills – Traveling by Air

I am married to a man in the travel industry, so my kids and I travel A LOT. Well, not as much as we would all like, but by normal standards it’s a lot. I would say we average 4-5 airline trips a year, and we have since the kids were babies. Most of the trips I do solo with the kids, so we’ve developed some pretty sweet travel systems/games/distractions.

One I’d like to share is a game we have played since the kids were little – I’d say 6 or 7 at the oldest. When we arrive at the hub, I pretend that I’m lost. I would hand them the ticket (time permitting, of course), and let them figure out how to get us to the next gate. They have to figure out the destination, flight time (or flight number), read the departure information, find the proper terminal and gate information, figure out how to get to the next terminal, and then the next gate. Usually (we travel through Atlanta) they have to find the plane train to get us to the right terminal, the proper escalators for the direction of the train, etc. It’s not the easiest task in the world and I CANNOT describe the number of adults who are traveling and ask me how to manage all of this.

Some days I throw in a curve — “I need a Starbucks coffee”, or “Take me to Pei Wei and order me lunch” and I give them money to manage the whole transaction. They think it’s a BLAST and we take turns as to who “gets to navigate”. I really don’t have to do anything anymore with regards to transiting the airport – except to keep up with the kids. They manage everything, including telling me what my food options are, or letting me know where they have planned out for us to stop. When we land, they handle it all – from finding the proper baggage carousel, grabbing all the luggage, and locating any rental car kiosk/bus that we need. It’s absolutely fabulous. I am completely confident they will be able to travel safely, and with ease, when they make their first solo trip. I don’t doubt that they’ll also help a couple lost looking adults along the way.

Life Skills – Buying Stuff

I think one of the huge advantages of homeschooling my kids is that I get to teach them life skills. It’s not that “traditional” school kids don’t learn these, but homeschooling affords me the time and flexibility to teach these creatively and as a part of our lives.

Right now my kids are 11 and 12, but I started teaching them to “buy stuff” when they were little – about 5 or 6. Here are some of the progressions of how we teach “buying stuff”…

Ages 5-7 : Making change, basic ordering, adding up coins
Buy dessert at counter service places. Zaxby is my favorite place to buy bad-for-you fried chicken strips, so when we went there when the kids were little I would take a pile of change with me. A cookie at that time was $0.99, plus tax. It worked out to $1.08. If the kids wanted a cookie – which they always did – they’d have to count out the proper change. Not one to be easy, I would never have 4 quarters and pennies. It always required some thought and working through the change. Then, they’d have to walk up (with me watching from the table), order the cookie, and pay for it. We rehearsed it, and practiced looking the server in the eye, and proper manners. At first it was scary, but with more practice they got both the ordering, and the change part.

At this age we’d also play restaurant at home. I’d make up a play menu (you know – what I was making anyway) and the kids would “order” and “pay” from the change pile. Again – no easy adding or change making. They LOVED this. (I may reenact this one with checks now…)

Ages 8-10: Ordering, checking change, tax, tips
Once we master basic ordering, we move on to more complex stuff. I would have the kids politely order their own food, or mine, or all of ours. Then, they’d have to pay, and after getting the change they had to check to make sure it matched with the receipt. Sometimes they would catch errors – and either have to amend an overpayment, or ask for a more change.

At this point we would also work with discounts and taxes. “If it’s normally $10, but is 50% off, how much is it?” stuff. We’d also check whether 50% off was the same as 20% off and another 30% off. This was great after Christmas or other major holidays when they were trying to talk me into buying a treat! “Mom, it’s 60% off so it’s only…” I’m a sucker for good math!

I would also have the kids figure out change for tax. We’d buy the same cookie as before, but I’d have them buy it with exact change that they had to figure out how much that would be. If they were off – I’d get the cookie! (We’d do it beyond cookies, but that’s an easy example. Basically, any time they wanted to buy a treat out was a great time to practice money, and it lessens the guilt of the treat!)

At this age, we also started having “budgets” for certain things. At the base pool, they have a snack bar. The kids love to get treats there, so we started a weekly budget (with money they would have to earn at home). They would get the cash on Monday in the “pool pouch” and then they’d have to manage it throughout the week. If a friend came – they had to manage the treat cash, or make sure to pack stuff from home. It was a great training tool to see that money isn’t endless (and it makes a MUCH bigger impact when it’s cash out of “your” pocket).

Around 10 I would start having the kids run into the donut store for me. It is a SUPER small store in a SUPER small town – but it was huge to the kids. I’d give them money and send them in to order donuts for the three of us. They knew to be polite or someone in there would call me! LOL!! Again, it was scary for them at first and they wanted to go together, but as they got used to it they’d ask to go solo. 🙂 Growth is cool!!

Sometimes this “send them in” taught really great lessons. One time I sent the kids in to buy a half dozen donuts and all I had was a $20. Little threw all the change into the tip jar, and Big almost collapsed. She came out in tears that they had “wasted” the money . To me it was $20 well spent on a great lesson on tips, etiquette, generosity, and wise spending. I’m sure my friends in the shop loved it, too!!

Ages 11-12: Working toward independence…
We’re at the stage now where ordering food is not a big deal. Change and handling money are easy-peasy. One place we’re focusing on now is the grocery store. We’ve talked prices, price per ounce, coupons, and sales for YEARS and both kids are pretty savvy shoppers. I don’t worry about them going crazy and buying a prime rib over flank steak or ground lamb for ground beef. 🙂

With the self check out it’s easy for the kids to practice checking, scanning, price checking, and paying for groceries. They have to deal with the quirkiness of those scanners, and they have to politely interact with the staff working the checkout. They also have to use the store loyalty cards, and pay with a debit card. It’s all excellent training for adult life. Right now I still go into the store with them, but for quick runs I’ll tell the kids what I need, send them off, watch them check out, and walk out with them. I really don’t do much of anything. It’s really amazing to see them grow and to have them catch deals and savings that I miss!

Bible Bee 2014

It’s summertime at our house, and other than spending too much time at the pool, it can only mean… BIBLE BEE!!

This is our second summer participating in the Bee and we absolutely love it. This summer we are studying Jonah – which completely shocked me. We had a guessing contest at home and after researching we all thought it would be a short NT book. But NO!! It’s Jonah and we’re all really enjoying it.

Some added bonuses for this summer…

DH is home for the summer so he’s joining us for the study. Last year his schedule didn’t allow for joining us on the scripture memory or daily workbook assignments, but this year he can and it’s been AWESOME having him.

Our church has fully joined in on the Bee! All of the families with kids (OK, it’s a small church, but still!!) are participating, and the church is studying Jonah as a congregation on Sunday mornings. It’s been awesome to see the kids light up and really participate on Sundays. All in all we have our family and 7 other local families participating. Not all are prepping for the test and doing all the scripture memory, which is totally fine. We’re encouraging each other to study and memorize God’s Word so I’ll call that a win!

We’ve had 2 fellowships with the local families and they went great!! Last week we rented a Dunk Tank and the kids took turns dunking and being dunked. They were encouraged to recite verses to get the balls to dunk – or to steal the verse to keep from being dunked! It was a ton of fun and just a lot of silliness. I think everyone left feeling encouraged, which was our goal!

We’re heading into Week 6 today and we’re on track with our study and scripture memorization!

The second year is definitely easier than the first. I honestly think the materials are easier this year, so that’s part of it, but having familiarity with the process is definitely a plus. So, if you’re reading this and a little overwhelmed – hang in there! It gets easier!

I’m still adjusting to the new processes. I’m still struggling with the 10 weeks versus 12 weeks, LOL!! I am also still needing to get the final test site organized and proctors for the orals. I’m 95% there, but I need to finalize details before we travel again.

There you have it! Half way through the 2014 Bee, and again, I cannot encourage you and your family to participate enough!! 🙂

Intentional

I am working on being a lot more intentional about things. One of those things is technology. I am like most middle class Americans – smart phone, tablet… and like many homeschoolers with classes, schedules, and other stuff on the computer. Technology can be a great thing, but it can also be an annoyance and a distraction. I realized recently I had gone from useful to distraction. During school time I was wasting time online, when I was in the bathroom (confesion time here) I was fooling with my phone. I read the news too much. I read message boards too much. I read Facebook WAY, way too much. Addicted? Maybe. Anyway, I was convicted it was time for a change so I devised a plan…

The Media Garage.

The kids and I now have a media garage. Part of my motivation was to control all the chargers (and the whining that goes with them being misplaced), and part of it was to just control the devices. The kids use their Kindles as metronomes, and piano timers, so they get used regularly. I think they’re great tools for those things, but I hate when they are used without permission, the chargers get lost, they get lost… You know the deal. So for the kids the garage serves as a storage and charging center. When the device isn’t in use, it’s in the garage. Period. If it leaves the garage, you have to have permission.

For me, the garage does the pretty much the same thing, but since I’m an “adult” it’s more of a self control tool. At any time I am not using (like ON A CALL) my phone, or deliberately using the internet (on my ipad) they are in the garage. No surfing while watching a show – I focus on the show… Or during school – I can focus more on school, or other more pressing tasks than seeing status updates… Yes, there is time for surfing and updates, but I needed less of it.

Another issue I had was falling asleep with my phone, or using it when I woke up in the middle of the night. Now – the electronics are in the garage at night. I’ll live. Yes, with this being about 5 days old I’ve had a little withdrawl on the no technology in the bedroom. We do have a TV, but since it only gets 3 channels it’s really not an awesome distraction, LOL!! I am also back to an old school-ish alarm clock (or rather a SWEET Lego Monster alarm with a glow int he dark head! YAY!). I think overall this will help my sleep and make me go back to sleep, or get up, when I have a weird wake up time.

The other thing I did that is supremely annoying, but is really helping, is I disabled the browser on my phone. It’s simple to restart it if I really want it, but 5 days in and I’m so glad it’s gone. I had considered turning off data, but I really like the maps, navigation, etc. that use data. So – safari and Facebook are gone. If I want to surf, I need to be deliberate. Like right now. Sunday afternoon, chilling on the porch in the beautiful fall afternoon. I don’t need the internet all the time… or every time a question pops into my head… or for every little thing I need to research. I can think about it. I can wait until later. I can see if I remember it later and if it’s really something worth my time. Life or death – I know the password. I’ll be fine.

There you go. Week 1. So far it feels like a diet. I hope it’s an easy one!

Home Ec – Wilton 1 Cake Decorating Class

Last night was the first night of the Wilton 1 Cake Decorating class that Big and I are taking. It was AWESOME!!! I’m so glad it worked out and that we had fun.

I was very worried the class would be a wreck after we had a bit of a scheduling issue. At 2 pm the day of the class, our instructor called (for a 6pm class) and informed me that our class was cancelled. Apparently one lady couldn’t make it until the following week… Someone else had to cancel.. Blah, blah. I tried to be polite but I was super irritated. It was already 2 pm, and we had already baked cupcakes and made frosting for the class, as well as having gathered a huge pile of supplies. Not to mention the class location is an hour and fifteen minutes away! I was fairly assertive in my refusal to reschedule – because we really couldn’t! The class is 4 Monday nights, and we have in our schedule.. 4 Monday nights. Not 5. 4. Which is why we were SO excited for the class.

Well, about 5 minutes after my assertive response, the instructor called and let me know the class was back on. Hobby Lobby management let it go based on our schedule issues (and I assume their class cancellation policy). YAY!!! Another reason to LOVE Hobby Lobby!!

Needless to say I thanked our instructor 100 times and gratefully didn’t have to inform Big we were cancelled. She was super excited about the class too. We took our giant box of stuff, cupcakes, and frosting and headed to Hobby Lobby!

20140708-071712.jpg

When you register for the class (our fee was a sale price of $22.50/person, plus the cost of the class kit which was $34.95 but we used 40% off coupons so they were $21) you get a book with the syllabus and the the lists of stuff you need for each class. Even if you have gear (and I have a TON), the kit is important. It has exactly what the instructor needs to show you (I think the syllabus is super standard and “canned” but I really liked it!) and the practice cards are used a lot. You could definitely borrow a used kit if someone has one – but make sure it has everything in it before you go to class.

20140708-071721.jpg

After learning some basics on bags, couplers, etc. we did a little field trip to check out the cake section of the Lobby. FUN!! (I spent too much money so their methods worked… LOL!!) Then we headed back and started working on practice cards with different tips….

20140708-071731.jpg

As I said, I have decorated quite a bit and would consider myself an advanced amateur and I learned a lot. It was a LOT of fun and our instructor was great. OH – and HUGE God blessing – the instructor is a lefty – as is Big – so she was able to show her all the lefty tricks!! Sweet!!!

20140708-071702.jpg

By the end of the class we had covered a LOT of ground. We used a bunch of tips (small/large dot, star tip, leaf tip, different large cupcake tips), learned to make good stars and rosettes, colored frosting, tried various frosting color tricks, and more. It was such a worthwhile investment of time and money.

But, as a good home decorator – would you need to take the class?

Yes and No. Yes, it’s a little costly. Or a lot depending on your budget. For me, I do MUCH better learning something in a class with deadlines. Yes, I can learn buttercream skills and stuff at home. I can make cupcakes and practice. But do I? Rarely. But, if I have a deadline of “make x amount of frosting and y amount of cupcakes for 6pm on Monday night”, then I’m good. It’s pretty lame, but it’s me. The deadlines, accountability and structure are all very good for me. Also, I have found that no matter how much I know on a subject — a few tips and tricks from a pro are almost ALWAYS worth the price of the class. So far, our instructor has totally proven that!

Lastly, both Big and I have piped, used buttercream, and decorated, but I wanted the class to be something “real” and “adult” for her. Learning to decorate from your mom is one thing… having your own class kit and being part of an adult class as a legitimate student is something totally different. It was fun doing it TOGETHER instead of her being my student. She did GREAT and really shocked the instructor. So, our time at home had paid off, but our time at our first Wilton class paid off in a different and totally fabulous way!!!

How I lost 100 friends in one night

Don’t you just love this title?!?! 🙂

Last week I went through one of those unfortunate Facebook events – where someone “randomly” vents about something, but you’re left about 99.99% sure it’s about you (or your family). It was hugely ironic because what the person complained about I have done in the past, and in this case was supremely specific to not do it again. It required all the self control I had, so when she railed about “someone” doing “something” I was pretty sure it was me. Or DH. Either way it didn’t matter.

The damage was done.

Our friendship was hurt.

Did it need to be? Was I jumping to conclusions?

Maybe. DH was also sure based on this person’s patterns that it was us. He also didn’t remember making the offending remark, but we were sure it was us.

And it hurt me. A lot.

So, I prayed a lot. I whined to DH a little tiny bit. (OK, maybe a little more than that.) And I prayed more. I prayed about how I was to use Facebook in my life. I prayed about how to deal with this person and their family. I prayed a lot.

And one thing I was very convicted about was what role Facebook should haven my life.

I have taken FB breaks before, and I’ve hidden a lot of people, but I just felt that I really needed to look at why I use FB. What it boiled down to for me was that I love FB for keeping in touch with family that’s far away, my high school and college friends (I went to boarding school for high school and a military academy for college, so our ties are tighter than normal), and friends who have moved away from us or vise versa.

I also thought a lot about why I don’t like FB, and it boiled down to often feeling left out of local events, my kids being left out, wondering if I did something to offend someone and lead them to rant (oh yeah!), and petty things which local friends post that annoy me now – but wouldn’t if I lived 200 miles away and saw them rarely. Just being real here – ugliness and all…

So, I made a final warning post, gave it 12 hours, and then deleted nearly everyone who lives within 100 miles of me.

Who got kept? 2 dear, dear, dear lifelong friends of my inner circle who almost never post. That’s it. Everyone else was deleted. Not hidden.

Gone.

And you know what?!

I FEEL AMAZING!!!! I enjoy FB again. It takes a fraction of the time to read and check the updates. It’s fun again. I see old friends and retirements, and my classmate’s kids starting college. I love it. I don’t lose any connectedness with old friends I don’t wasn’t to lose track of – and I don’t have any issues with offending anyone. I plan on SEEING and TALKING with local friends – and updating my status that way. I want to practice hospitality and work on relationships, not think I know what’s going on in someone’s life because of some FB posts. I want to be connected – for real. For me, FB is good for that in my long distance relationships, but I need to invest more in those local to me.

So, how do I handle the local situation that started all this? Well, with this event I am choosing to regard people by how they treat me in real life. I will be kind. I will be welcoming. I will keep a short record of wrongs. And if I am offended, I’ll either chalk it up to forbearance or approach it as Matthew 18 instructs. ANY other way is hurtful and counterproductive and this experience just reinforced that to me. And if anyone wants to vent about me – I won’t be able to read it anyway and I can move on without any offense ever having been taken. 🙂