A Little Tribute to Amazon Prime

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This is what was delivered from Amazon today. I’ve been wearing out our sweet delivery guy since I started Christmas shopping last month.

Can I just take a moment to say: I LOVE AMAZON PRIME!!!

Seriously. I’m completely head over heels, infatuated, obsessed, and in love. I’ve had a membership since June and, every time I log in to Amazon, I fall more in love with Prime.

I know some people complain about the streaming video selection, but I originally got it for the free two day shipping, so the free instant video is just an added bonus for me. And what a fabulous bonus that is since it allowed me to discover Downton, the television love of my life!

So, why exactly do I love Amazon Prime?

  1. In general, Amazon is organized, reliable, and available to me 24/7.
  2. Two day shipping…and sometimes even faster! The Christmas presents I ordered LAST NIGHT at like 9:00 PM arrived on my doorstep TODAY around lunchtime.
  3. DOWNTON ABBEY!!!
  4. Free shipping. I seriously detest paying for shipping. That may be illogical or irrational or unfair, but it is what it is. If I can’t get free shipping, I’m probably going to go find the same product somewhere else. If you charge me shipping, you better have an absolutely unbeatable, rock-bottom price or offer me some amazing gift with purchase. Otherwise, I’m going somewhere else where my spoiled shipping desires will be accommodated.
  5. No games. I don’t have to mess with all of that price slashing, free gift stuff. Amazon is simple and straight-forward.
  6. Streaming videos through the Wii.
  7. Lots of free kiddie shows that keep my kiddos occupied when I desperately need to clean something, cook something, or take a shower.
  8. I don’t have to freak out when I forget to order my text books until the week before class starts. They’ll be here in 2 days!
  9. Earlier this year, I planned a lesson for our coop and decided to use a Dr. Seuss book that we didn’t already have. I could have loaded all the kids in the van, driven to Barnes and Noble, and wrestled with them in the store while they repeatedly said, “Mommy, look at this! Mommy, look at this! Mommy, can we get this??” But, instead, I jumped on Amazon, previewed the book to make sure it was actually going to meet my needs, ordered it, and it arrived in plenty of time before I was scheduled to teach.
  10. With the above coop lesson, I actually planned to use a different book, but, because I could see a preview, I realized I didn’t want that book, and chose the Dr. Seuss book, which couldn’t have been more perfect for the lesson.
  11. Amazon has everything. And usually for a really good price. I buy almost everything from Amazon these days: gifts, household items, school stuff, you name it. (The only thing I don’t regularly get from Amazon is clothes. Their clothes are rarely the best deal I can find.)
  12. The convenience of online shopping. Sure, this isn’t exclusive to Amazon, but I love shopping online. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if they weren’t an online retailer.
  13. Fun IMAX movies and other documentaries in their instant library. Andy’s been learning about the composition of the Earth. Today, after he finished his formal science lesson, he got to watch Ring of Fire, an IMAX documentary about volcanoes. He loved it, and it required no cost or effort on my part.
  14. I am completely finished with my Christmas shopping! I never had to set foot in a store, wait in line, and I feel extremely confident that I got great deals on everything I purchased. Now, I can sit back, enjoy Thanksgiving, and, then, have a joyous Advent, preparing my heart and home for the birth of the Savior. I credit Amazon (at least in part) for my ability to have a proper Advent, rather than rushing around getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of  material Christmas preparation.
  15. Amazon has never, ever let me down. My packages are never poorly packaged. They are always on time. They always under-promise and over-deliver.

Ok, so a lot of the reasons aren’t specific to Prime, they’re available to all Amazon customers. But, Amazon definitely knew what they were doing by offering Prime memberships. Since I got my membership, I use Amazon waaay more than I ever did in the past. I pay them for an annual membership that has led me to shop with them more. And I couldn’t be happier about it! Each time I shop with them, they impress me, which only solidifies my appreciation for and devotion to them. Way to go, Amazon. You’re brilliant and I love you!

Mass: It Fits in the Schedule!

massWhen I first imagined myself homeschooling, one of the perks was the ability to take my kids to daily Mass. Three years later, that is finally becoming a reality. As with so many other areas where I feel called to grow, I had a list of excuses of why it just couldn’t work. My most prominent excuse was our schedule.

If only Mass were earlier. Or later. Either would be more manageable. How could I possibly go to Mass at 9AM and have any semblance of a reasonable daily schedule? How would we ever get anything done?

While visiting with a friend recently, we were chatting about the unreasonable expectations we place on ourselves in the context of our homeschools. In the course of this conversation, I discovered that one of my unspoken expectations was that we must be done with our school day by lunch time. Why? I don’t really know. Other than for bragging rights. You know, something along the lines of, “Oh look how efficient and productive we are. We finish school by lunch and then have the whole day to play and enjoy childhood.”  Yup. That’s about how my thought process went.

Discovering this was a major revelation for me and, best of all, released me from my scheduling hang up. Granted, it took me a few days to come to terms with this revelation, (Yes, I’m ever so graceful when it comes to change.) but once I did, our whole day opened up! I love our new schedule and the icing on the cake is: so far, we haven’t gone past lunch time with our book work! It is so true that when we make time for God, he allows everything else to fall in to place.

Just in case you’re curious, this is what our day looks like right now. I know my family well enough to know that there are many areas I can’t put tasks in order or schedule them into 15 minute increments. In these instances, I simply schedule blocks of time. The routine in that area may vary some each day, but I allot enough time for us to get it all done. This flexibility is also incredibly useful for the days when we’re not exactly “on schedule.”

6:00AM – Mommy’s alarm goes off. Ideally, I get up and exercise, but, unfortunately, I have a rather strong tendency towards sloth. Some Most days I just hit snooze.

6:30-8:30 AM – Everyone gets ready. We get dressed, I shower, nurse the baby, serve breakfast, etc.

9:00 AM – MASS!! Truly, the highlight of our day. Sometimes, thanks to my not-so-angelic children it’s also the low point. Thanks be to God, even when it’s the low point, it’s still the highlight!

10:30ish – We get home from Mass. It just depends on how long we chat afterwards.

10:30ish-12:00 – Formal lessons and bookwork.

12:00PM – We stop to pray the Angelus and sing the Salve Regina.

12:05 – 1:00PM – Lunch and free time.

1:00-3:00 PM – QUIET TIME! (It’s almost as good as Mass.) The little ones (and cranky ones) nap. Other options are reading, praying, or quietly working on a project that requires no assistance. No group activities allowed. In the future this will also be a great time for studying, test taking, researching, etc. (This concept may seem odd. One day I really will write a post about the value of silence to further explain why I find this so important!)

3:00PM – Those who are awake pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

3:15-5:30PM – Finish lessons (if needed), art or science projects, chores, free time.

5:30ish – Dinner.

6:00-9:00ish. Family time. Baths. Prayers. Goodnight!

9:00-10:30PM Mommy and Daddy time.

10:30PM – Lights out everywhere. Sweet dreams!

Despite having our day planned out, I am certainly not opposed to impromptu water gun fights or trips to the park or visits to/from friends. This flexibility is one of the many things I love about homeschooling and one of the reasons our family chooses to school year round. But that’s a topic for another time…

A Lonely Path

On facebook today a woman lamented, “*sigh* Second time this week I’ve been told I should write less. Great idea, guys! Shall I send you my mortgage bill, or will you be paying the bank directly?” She’s a blogger and a mommy of a large family. I don’t know her personally, but I think she has something like 9 kids. Clearly, she’s a busy woman with or without writing. I read the 50ish comments in response, as her commenters are often quite witty and enjoyably sarcastic, thinking it would be a slew of “what the world would be like without regular doses of Simcha Fisher available on the internet” type responses. What I stumbled across instead was another woman who can apparently see into my soul. “I think one of the worst things about this attitude,” she responded, “is that it makes those of us who are a bit overwhelmed by it all hesitant to say anything or look for the support we need because people will just start making uninformed suggestions about what we need to drop from our schedule.” A little further down the thread Simcha replied, “right, which is always just a hair away from ‘hm, whydja have so many kids, if you can’t take care of them?'”

I don’t quite know how to explain the flood of emotions that resulted from that exchange. (Granted, I’m 29 weeks pregnant. It doesn’t take much to unleash a flood of emotions. But this genuinely moved me.)

These two strangers gave me a sense of validation that I didn’t even realize I was looking for. I felt so heard, so understood. These women know what it often feels like to be me.

But immediately following that reaction, it just made me sad. Why are people, women especially, always so busy judging and trying to one-up the other? Why are we so full of ourselves that we think we can tell another person what’s best for them, despite not knowing anything about their life or circumstances? Why can’t we just support and encourage one another? Why can’t we do what we can to help each other out, even if all that means is telling a well-timed joke or offering a few words of encouragement?

I can’t tell you how many times I’m told (without ever expressing how overwhelmed I find myself from time to time, or in any way soliciting advice or an opinion) that I should cut work or school or something else out of my life because it’s just not possible for me to do it all. If I get regular comments like that just by walking out of my house, why on earth would I ever attempt to open up and express how truly difficult some days (some weeks, for that matter) can really be? Why would I ever admit I need help when the vultures are already circling, just waiting to attack me with their unfounded criticism and baseless concerns?

It leaves me strangely isolated despite being constantly surrounded by people.

With my husband and through prayer, I have carefully discerned that homeschooling, graduate school, and working for the Church are all things I’m supposed to be doing right now. Yet, those are the very things that people frequently tell me I should cut out of my life. Admittedly, if anyone had ever told me I’d be attempting to navigate all of those tasks simultaneously, I would have told them them… Well…let’s just say it’s not something I ever would have signed up for. Nevertheless, I do believe that all of these components of my life are meant to be components of my life at this time.

But just because something is meant to be a component of my life, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always going to be easy.

And that’s what friends, family, and whatever else makes up your support system exist for, right? To sit on the porch and have a glass of wine after a tough day, listening with a sympathetic ear. Or to say, “hey, why don’t you let the kids come over and play for an hour or two so you can get caught up on the housework/school work/church work?” Or to tell you that you’re absolutely crazy for being upset that one child covered the other from head to toe in lip gloss and glitter, when what you really should have done is run for the camera. Or to say, “hey, let’s get all the kids together tonight for some cheap pizza and let them run around the yard like fools, while we sit far enough away to actually have an adult conversation.”

If only that’s how it really were.

Instead I get unsolicited commentary informing me how my lifestyle choices have produced these awful consequences (or will produce an array of awful consequences in the future) and I should just change paths.

I don’t want to change paths.

I love the path I’m on.

I just wish there were people around who wanted to walk this path with me, not necessarily by making the same choices I have, but by supporting me through the challenges this path may produce.

Andy & Jack Signing at Lunch

The big boys have been really interested in signing ever since they saw the Duggar kids signing with Josie. The boys and I are learning some signs so we can teach Ben. It’s been a fun project. The boys really seem to enjoy that we’re all learning something new together. We were practicing over lunch today and recorded it to show my mom (Nonnie) who has taken several ASL classes recently. (Too bad I didn’t realize I needed to turn my phone sideways to video properly! Oops)


Moving at His Own Pace

One of the many things that appealed to me about homeschooling was the ability to progress at my kids’ own pace. Their studies will never have to move so quickly that they are left behind, and they won’t be forced to do busy work despite having already mastered a concept. I spent most of my academic career on either side of that fence. Mostly, I was bored to tears because we spent way to much time on concepts that I grasped quickly. This lead to complete apathy on my part. I never did any homework, always planning to complete it the class period prior to it being due, since I viewed my being in class a complete waste of my time. However, when I was younger, from about 5th – 7th grades, I was beyond lost in math. Ironically, this also lead to apathy, as it appeared, regardless of the effort I put in, I would never grasp those concepts. Thankfully, my mother got an incredible math tutor for me and she turned my math woes around. Knowing that neither position is one that ignites a love of learning, I am more than pleased to never have to put my children in either situation.

But there’s one little problem…

In our recent phonics studies, I’ve found that the pace at which I would like to move is much different from the pace at which Andy is prepared to move. This has led to more than a few tense moments of me pleading “sound it out” as he guesses through a string of words that we covered that day. It makes me crazy. But I just keep pushing. And then he gets frustrated. And wants to quit. Which also makes me crazy. I quickly developed a hatred for phonics, very seriously considered switching phonics programs, and then had the epiphany that neither phonics nor our curriculum was the problem. It’s me.

I have an agenda. I want to move through this a quickly as possible. I want him to be ahead of the pack. I want all our family and friends who are critical of our decision to homeschool to have to eat crow when they see him reading at a 6th grade reading level in 1st grade. (Ok…I’m not quite that crazy…but I’m not far off either.) I’m pushing him into one of the situations I hate most about a traditional classroom. But I’m even worse. I’m not pushing him forward or holding him back for the good of 20 other students, I’m doing for my own pride. My own sinful, selfish pride.

I wholeheartedly believe that we made the right decision when we chose to homeschool this year. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. But if I keep up like this I’m essentially self-sabotaging: He’s going to hate learning and I’m going to hate teaching. I’m just grateful I came to this realization early on. Now, knowing the issues I have with my pride, we’ll just have to see how many times I have to fight this battle with myself over the next 17+ years.

Say it with me: I will teach my children at their own pace. I will teach my children at their own pace. I will teach my children at their own pace…

I mean so what if he’s in 4th grade and is just finally learning to write his own name? This is about them, not me, right? (And for all my critics reading this: don’t worry, he already knows how to write his name. I’m just making a point.)

 

Morning Madness.

Over the past two weeks I discovered, firsthand, reason number 768 to homeschool my children: Having everyone dressed, fed, and out the door with all their belongings in tow at the crack of dawn is most definitely a torture derived right from one of the outer rings of hell. No joke. It is pure torture, chaos, and a much unneeded source of stress.

I spent the last two weeks facilitating a program for my middle school youth. It was phenomenal – such a great experience. Everyone involved seemed to get something out of it, kids and volunteers alike. My boys simultaneously went to VBS. It was their first time and they LOVED it. The stories they would tell and the songs they would sing when I picked them up every day were absolutely adorable. But trying to get to church each day was enough to make me wonder why I even had kids. It was enough to make me wonder if I could just drop them off at VBS and forget to pick them up. It was enough to… ok…I’ll just stop before I actually put that in writing.

Getting up at 5 every day to be out the door by 7 and still scrambling to get it done in time was absolutely ludicrous. And silly me – I thought it would get easier as the days went on. I thought we’d develop a routine, get in the swing of things….WRONG. As the week went on, the kids just got tired. By the end of the first week I was dragging them out of bed, pleading with them to stand on their own two feet, and, eventually, carrying each child, and all of their necessary belongings, out of the house one. by. one. It was madness, I tell you. Pure madness.

That is most definitely not the way I want to spend at least 180 days of my year. I think I’d go insane. I don’t want the majority of the interactions I have with my kids on a given weekday to involve me teetering on the brink of insanity.

So there you have it. While it may be trivial, I’m thrilled that this is something I will only have to put up with for two weeks in the summer and not 9 months out of the year! Life is about the little things, right? This is definitely one little thing that will make a big difference in our family.

Quick Takes: A Family Update

Once again, I’ve neglected and abandoned my blog. It’s a good think I don’t treat our gardens the same way I do my little space on the web.  Both for the sake of time and for lack of anything important or interesting to say, I thought I’d do my first ever “quick takes” entry.

1. After a lengthy hiatus, we’re back on the DIY/home improvement bandwagon. I, for one, am thrilled. I just can’t get enough of working in the yard. Sadly, our yard is small, and most projects are quickly completed. I desperately want to extend our patio and add some stone retaining walls to our beds, but I don’t yet have the confidence to tackle those projects myself or the budget to hire them out. Alas, I stick to simple gardening and the likes. Inside, I just bought new paint to cover the “turkey puke” I pasted all over our living room and foyer. While I can’t wait to get the new paint on the walls, neither my hubby nor I are thrilled about painting. It’s definitely not a project that either of us enjoy.

2. We’ve officially made the decision to homeschool and we’re not turning back. I’ve been waffling back and forth for over a year now. Laughably, one of my biggest fears all along was what people would think/say when they found out. I felt like so much about our little family was already off the beaten path, and I knew that announcing we were homeschooling would officially make us weirdos. I’m finally getting a little more confident about sharing this information, as evidenced by this public announcement. Weirdos or not, this is what we believe is best for our family.

3. Despite my dislike and distrust of too much tv time, the addition of a DVR in our home has resulted in some new tv addictions on my part. Some are embarrassing, like American Idol and Teen Mom 2, some are late, like The Office, and some are just hysterical like Police Women of ___________. Luckily, Josh has never taken issue with vegging out in front of the idiot box, so he’s happy to accommodate my new-found fascinations in the evening.

4. I’m in love with my job, but I literally don’t have time to breathe. And adjusting to both parents working is a topic for another entry. Maybe even a series of them. Being a mom that works outside of the home, I am now more convinced than ever that the ideal situation is for mom to be at home with the kids. But, for whatever reason, Josh and I are both wholeheartedly convinced that the Lord put me in this position and would like me to stay there for the time being. We’re both curious to see just how long the “time being” actually is.

5. Ben is ENORMOUS! He’s nearly 10 months old! I truly don’t know where the time has gone. He got his fourth tooth today, but only having four doesn’t slow him down at all. He will literally eat anything I eat. Of course, most of it requires a little modification to make it safe for him, but he inhales it all. Despite the fact that he routinely out-eats me, he’s only in the tenth percentile for weight. The doctor doesn’t like that at all, but I could care less. He’s happy, healthy and meeting his developmental milestones. Who cares how he stacks up against the other kids his age? That being said, he’s in the 95 percentile for height. Maybe we’ll be traveling to watch him play in the Final Four one day!

6. Speaking of Final Fours, this year was such a waste! Worst. Game. Ever.

7. I’ve been a total slacker this Lent. I chose my Lenten sacrifice and I’ve stuck with it, but I haven’t really opened myself up to big spiritual growth like I did last year. There’s sill time to though…and it’s not like Lent is the only time to grow spiritually… I don’t mean to sound nonchalant, because I’m not at all. As I so often do, I’m just rationalizing my shortcomings. It’s easier to deal with that way, right?

8. I’ve been on the hunt for cute, modest, flattering swimwear. It’s impossible! I have no desire to be covered completely from neck to knee on the beach, but I also have no desire to be fully revealed either. Surely there must be another option besides being naked, wearing the same bathing suit as my grandmother, and swimming in sweatsuits??

Well, things are beginning to unravel here, a clear sign that Mommy’s attention has been diverted for a few minutes too long, so that’s it for now. Have a great weekend everyone!