Monday, May 26, 2014

This Old (New) House

Almost three years ago we were blessed with a new house. We enjoyed the process of carefully selecting the floor plan. We watched the process of the foundation being poured, electrical and plumbing being put in. The walls went up and the beautiful stuff came. Granite counter tops, porcelain tile, a beautiful front porch, even a covered lanai (as we call them in FL). We splurged on a wood and iron staircase. It was the house of our dreams. Well for the most part. When you buy a house through a regular builder you get a builder grade house. Sure you pick a different color cabinet from your neighbor and maybe even splurge on a few extras but bottom line all the houses look the same.





So for the past three years I have been trying to make this house our style. I want to de-cookie cutter- ize it. I only have one problem. I like too many things! Why is it that someone can go to a home improvement store look at five thousand colors and just pick "the one"? I have picked about fifteen different versions of tan/khaki/beige. They all look wonderful on a tiny sample paper. Then I put it up on the wall and I hate it. It's too dark, too brown, not brown enough. If I like the color somehow I hate the paint quality. So right now I have three different tan/khaki/beige colors going on. One is a flat paint, the other two are egg shell but different brands. You can tell between the two which one saved me a whopping six dollars. It looks so cheap but the color is exactly what I was looking for. So I am going to try to match the color I like to the paint quality I want. I'm crossing my fingers it works. 

I pretty much know what I like when I see it, and I usually am looking for it on Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/venus615/), Pottery Barn, Ballard Design and Home Decorators. We love natural elements, rustic style with a modern twist. Kind of Tuscany meets Napa Valley meets NYC. If that even makes sense. I know for sure warm tones are the colors I tend to lean towards. So I have a plan in my head and on my boards. I see the finished product in my head, I just don't know how to get there. So as of right now I have started decorating every room in this house. Some are up to eighty percent done. Others more like five percent. I never finish a room in its entirety before I begin the next. Basically my new house looks like a really old house that has no flow, pattern or soul. I have a hodgepodge of things and a plethora of empty picture frames. But there is hope for me yet. I recently found a TV show on HGTV called Fixer Upper (http://www.hgtv.com/fixer-upper/show/index.html). It follows this wonderfully talented couple who flip homes. Their love and determination is very contagious. They have inspired me to keep working at making this house our home. I'm even going to involve the kids in a lot of what I have planned. Lucky for us one of my kids is an artist. I have commissioned her to paint some of her art on our walls. 

We love this house. It is our home. It is our safe place and our connecting place. We are comfortable here. I am looking forward to making memories with my children and my dear husband as we put our stamp in this place. Most of all I look forward to sharing this blessing with others. 




Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A few Reasons why our family Homeschools

Homeschool. The act of schooling at home. It used to be the way all children were educated at one point. It is the way many families still choose to teach their children. As a matter of fact over two million children in the United States were homeschooled in the 2012/2013 school year. That number continues to rise each year. Just six years ago that number was half of what it is today. Why do you suppose parents all over our nation are choosing to take their children's education into their own hands? I can think of many, many reasons. Here are a few why our family chose to homeschool.

#1 Education should not be limited.

As I recall from attending public and private Christian school all learning is the same. A teacher presents oral and written work to a class. It is discussed and some book work is assigned. Once they have covered the "necessary" information they move on to the next thing. If one child or several did not understand they have to move on anyway. Teachers cannot stay in one place too long because the "system" mandates them to move on. Also the child whose imagination and wonderment has been peaked cannot continue to study this subject with his peers or discuss it with his teacher due to the schedule they  have to follow. Every year it is the same. They revisit what they learned the year before and add a little more information to the subject. Nothing is ever learned in it's entirety. The children know a little bit about many things instead of knowing many things about a few subjects.

In a homeschool setting a child can learn about a subject at their own pace in their own learning style. We do not have to close the chapter on that very interesting thing we are learning about because we need to move on to the next thing. We do not have to leave a child confused and wondering how are they going to pass a test when they did not even grasp the work given to them. In a homeschool setting we can go beyond the textbook and oral lesson. For example when learning about a new country, we read about the country, we use Google maps and tour the country on our computer. We check out a couple of cookbooks from the library and make some of the dishes traditional to this country. We watch a movie from this country. If this country is represented in an art exhibit, play, Epcot country (we live in FL) we incorporate a field trip to learn as much as we can about this country. We can immerse ourselves in the subject.

#2 Schedules

We run on a different schedule in our home. My dear husband comes home between eight and nine at night. Having family dinners are very important to us. So we plan our meals and bedtimes accordingly. I remember the one year my two youngest children went to public school, my poor husband would sometimes not see the children for days. We were slaves to someone else's schedule and had to live our lives around that. The kids went to bed before their dad got home and they woke up and went to school before dad got up for work. It was a very sad situation to have everyone living in the same household and we were not having quality family time.

#3 Sleep

I am a big believer that our bodies let us know when it needs something. Whether it's water or food or rest. I remember having to fight with my daughter to wake her up for school. She would literally cry each morning because she was not ready to wake up. This was the beginning of her day and it was a lousy one. Now that she schools at home I let her wake up when she is ready. Some days she needs more sleep than others. Her work gets done but not at the sacrifice or sleep.

#4 Car Lines

Okay this one is not a huge factor why we homeschool but I really detest car lines! It was added stress I did not need in my life.

#5 The Education System is Failing our Children

My youngest children went to our local "A" rated public school for one year. During this year my daughter was in the third grade and my son in the first grade. In FL there is a test given in the third grade called the FCAT. It is a multiple choice test that is actually used to measure the progress of the children in the public education system. First of all any multiple choice test does not really measure progress it just tells us whether or not someone filled in the correct bubble to a question. When given four choices you have a 25% chance of getting it right. A lot of these students just guess and fill any bubble at random. My daughter needed a 1200 to be at grade level. Well she scored in the 2000 range. That was the equivalent of a child leaving the fifth grade or entering the sixth grade. I asked her teacher if she could be given work to challenge her due to the fact that she already knew everything they were teaching. The teacher suggested I put her in the "gifted" program which consisted of a bus picking her up and taking her to a school across town one day per week. First of all my child is not riding a school bus alone or with a handful of children and a bus driver we do not know. Second of all what was one day per week going to do for her education. That meant for the next four days she finished her work in a few minutes and was put by the teacher to help other students. It was nice that my daughter got to help others but it was at the expense of her education. This was when I knew our education system had nothing to offer our family. I let them finish out the year and never looked back.

Now this is what was going on with my son in the first grade. My dear boy was smart as can be. He aced every test they gave him. However he had dexterity problems and could not write properly. He also had a hard time with sentence structure. He would start writing a sentence in the middle of the page and finish it at the top of the page. Sometimes he wrote in a circle. His handwriting was illegible. The teacher did not see a problem with this. She said he did well on the tests she gave him so he was okay to move up to the next grade. Talk about setting a kid up to fail! So if they do well on a test that is the only thing that determines if the child moves up or not. Children are not one dimensional. There are so many other factors that they need to look at. My son ended up doing Occupational Therapy. We used many tricks and tools to help with his grasping of a pencil. We still have to tell him to slow down and take his time so his writing is legible.

So what I am getting at is this, my children both did well on tests and were promoted accordingly. However the education they needed and the tools they needed was not given to them. Children are just passed on and held back not according to how they are doing in school. It is all based on passing tests. Both of my children needed more and our Public Education system could not provide what they needed.

I know that I am blessed to have the ability to stay home with them and take their education into my hands. I am blessed to have a husband who is on board 100%. I am blessed to live in a state where homeschooling is made possible and there are many support groups and educational co-ops. I am very blessed to have met so many other homeschooling and unschooling families and have them share their journeys with us. Most of all I am so blessed to be going on this journey with my children.
 This picture was taken at Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival. My children learned and watched the life-cycle of butterflies.
This was at the home of one of our homeschool families. My children learned a lesson on gravity and physics. They got to build their own catapults and test them out with giant Marshmallows. When he got home my dear son made Spiderman escape from the bad guys using this handy dandy device.
Here is my sweet girl in the middle of a science lesson. We planted different types of seeds and had to chart their progress.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Story of my life

I take a couple of moments out of my day to call or text my best friend, Her name is Diane. She lives in Arizona and I live in Florida. Even though we are so far away from one another it feels as if we live parallel lives. I guess being the mother of four children each can lead to some pretty funny scenarios. Over the years we have shared everything from poopie stories to heart breaks and our hopes and dreams.


Today, over text I was letting her know how I was very productive in my household chores yesterday but seemed lacking today. To which she responded that she was having a productive day today but had given herself more work because she started to clean her car and that lead to putting clothes to wash, which lead to going through clothes that didn't fit the kids anymore.

I recently visited Diane in Arizona and read If you Give a Pig a Party to her sweet little girl. Of course my brain being what it is one big jumbled up, non stop, amusement park, I got an idea. Our every day lives are like those sweet books written by Laura Numeroff. We start doing one thing which leads us to another and so on. So please enjoy this little parody.

If a Mom Starts to do the Laundry by Venus Rivera

If a mom starts to do the laundry, she will check the pockets

When she checks the pockets she will find some candy wrappers, Pokemon Cards and a nickel.

She will go to the kitchen to throw away the wrappers.

When she gets to the kitchen she will see crumbs on the floor.

She will sweep the floor and when she bends down to pick up the crumbs the nickel will fall out.

She will remember to put the nickel in the coin jar they keep in the office.

When she goes to the office she sees the wastebasket is full.

She will empty out the trash and decide to check all the rooms for trash.

When she gets to her son's room she remembers the Pokemon Cards.

When she places the cards on his nightstand she will notice the dirty sheets on the bed.

She will take the sheets to the laundry room.

When she shakes out the sheets to put them to wash, out will fall a marble, a sock, and some Pokemon Cards.


This ladies and gentlemen is why mothers spend all day long working and sometimes feeling like we didn't get anything done. Now to go finish my laundry.




Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I love Florida

After living in Florida for the last eighteen years I felt as if I needed change. I wanted seasons and a different landscape. I wanted to get away from the multitude of tourists that come each year to Orlando. I wanted to get away from the humidity that plagues me with hair that won't stop growing. I wanted to get away from five months of hot uncomfortable temperatures. Did I mention the never ending construction?

Well I got what I wanted. I booked us three weeks in beautiful Arizona. My dear daughter and grandchildren live out in Arizona. My best friend whom I love dearly and missed terribly also lives in Arizona. I couldn't wait to see the mountains and the different landscape. I couldn't wait for the dryness and what that meant to my hair. I couldn't wait to be out of Florida.

It is my fifteenth day here in Arizona. I have loved, loved, loved being with my daughter and grandchildren. I love that my bestie and I have had wonderful moments and gone down memory lane. I love that our children are bonding and becoming besties of their own. I don't love how DRY it is here. Goodness gracious, it is dry. I feel like there is not enough water in this world to quench my thirst. My dreams of perfect hair days did not go as planned. In Florida I can curl my hair and have beautiful beach waves all day long. Sometimes the curl lasts into the next day. Here in AZ my hair is flat. Shiny but flat. I curl my hair and with in the hour it is gone. My sinuses are out of control! I have been getting a nose bleed several times per week. My allergies are out of control. My right eye won't stop crying from the allergies. I must look like a drippy, scary Halloween character.

I never thought I would miss Florida but I really do. I miss the lakes( alligators not included), I miss my landscape. The beautiful lush trees that line every street. I miss the majesty of the tall oaks draping with Spanish Moss. I miss grass! Most of the houses in AZ have rocks in their gardens. I tried walking on them barefoot one day, not a good idea. I miss the architecture of the FL houses.

I can appreciate so many things about AZ but I can honestly say I can now appreciate where I live so much more. I am grateful that I didn't have to move out of FL to find this appreciation. Don't get me wrong AZ is wonderful and beautiful and has it's own list of amazing things to miss, but there is no place like home. For me that is Florida.
 Arizona living vs Florida living. Both beautiful in their own way. I am blessed to have known both.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Perfect Sunday

Sunday is  my favorite day of the week. On this day my dear husband and I spend the day together. We call it "Date Day".  Sure there are some Sundays where we bypass our date because of a holiday or a family commitment. However Date Day is a priority for us, so we try to stick to it.

The idea behind "Date Day" is to reconnect with one another and to do what we want to do. Having children can sometimes push your identity as husband and wife to the back burner. You forget how to be a couple because you are wearing your mom and dad hats all week. So on any given Sunday you will find us riding roller coasters at Disney World. Sometimes trying out a new restaurant where chicken fingers and cheeseburgers are not on the menu. Sitting on a bench at the park enjoying warm breezes and the beauty central Florida has to offer.

I remember one Sunday we went to the Animal Kingdom. We decided to go on Kali River Rapids. This is sort of a river raft ride. You get wet, very wet. It is the must go on ride in the summer here in Florida. After going on it twice we decided to ask what the record was for riding this ride. We were told there was no official record but rumor had it someone went on twenty-three times in a row. We decided to try and break that record. We made the line a total of eight times. After that the park was getting ready to close and the ride attendants were asking do you want to get off or stay on? Heck yeah we'll stay on! We rode a total of thirteen times that day. No where near the record but we had made our own record. We know the next time we attempt to do this we have to go on at least fourteen times. Funny thing about this story, the last three to four rides we stayed on with the same people. There was a couple from Japan, a mother and daughter from the U.S. and several other people that I cannot recall. We decided to take a picture to commemorate our adventure together. I still have that picture. Somewhere. If I find it I will put it up.

My dear husband and I though it would be cool if we could publish that photo on the Internet and find these random people who added so much laughter and joy to our special "Date Day". They say there is only six degrees of separation between any two people. I wonder if that Japanese couple ever tell their friends about their special Sunday in America. I wonder if they remember the couple who kept holding each other and huddling every time water came pouring down on them.

Sundays are my favorite day of the week. I get to make memories with the man I love.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Vegan Ways (or as close as I'm going to get)

I had been toying with the idea of becoming a Vegan. I had done it once before and I figured it would be a piece of cake. Little did I know the hold cheese had on me. It is amazing how much power food has over us. It is practically scary.

I did not have a choice in the matter of giving up cheese. In 2005 I started to develop an intolerance to dairy. First I gave up milk which was my drug of choice. I drank a cup of milk with every meal. There was something so refreshing and relaxing about a cold glass of milk. I thought I'd never be able to give it up, but I did. Slowly I replaced it with rice milk, then almond milk. Then went ice cream, yogurt, butter and finally cheese.

It took me about five years for the entire process from milk to cheese. During those years my intolerance became a horrid intolerance followed by full blown allergy to dairy. I remember during the last days of eating cheese or having a croissant I would enjoy the edible amazingness (not really a word) for maybe ten minutes and then I would suffer the consequences for the next five hours. I decided ten minutes of pleasure was not worth the five hours of hell I would go through afterwards.

I had to reinvent my diet. No more pizza, lasagna, ziti, tacos with sour cream and tons of cheese. It was a lot to deal with. I went through withdrawal. I missed eating cheese so much to the point that I would go in the room to cry because my family was having pizza and I couldn't. I know it sounds bizarre but I promise you cheese has that powerful of a hold on us. If you don't believe me I dare you to go without cheese or dairy for  just one month. Let me know how you do. After about a month I could tolerate being at a table with others eating cheese.

About six months into going dairy free I decided to be meat free as well. You could almost say that I am a vegan but I'm not. I still use honey in my tea and if something has eggs in it like bread or pasta, I'm okay with that. Maybe one day I will be a complete vegan as far as my diet is concerned but today is not that day. Being a dairy free vegetarian has opened up so many doors to so many different types of cuisines. I am really enjoying this new way of life. I feel healthier. I actually lost like ten pounds without even trying. I went down one size in clothes. All from eating fruits, vegetables, rice, beans and nuts.

I love being almost Vegan :) That should be the title of my new blog! LOL I actually have a board on my pinterest account dedicated to Vegan Cuisine. Check it out if you get a chance. Try some of the recipes out. You don't have to become a Vegan to enjoy some yummy vegan meals. You just have to be willing to try new things. Hope this link works. I am technologically challenged.

http://pinterest.com/venus615/

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Goodness We are Already in March

I can't believe I have not blogged since January. Time seems to be slipping by so quickly. I have been kind of in a funk lately. My sweet daughter, son in law, and two grand-babies moved out West. It was bittersweet to let her go. I am so happy that she is grown and has her own family. At the same time I always see her as my little girl and want to hold on to her and be there to fix every boo boo. Letting go is so hard. Especially when it is your first child and you don't know what to expect. We keep in touch through Skype.  My sweet monkey (my nickname for my grandson) knows how to use it and calls me all the time. We call each other daily and also leave messages on our Facebook walls. I miss my Josie so much but at the same time I am so blessed to have so many ways to communicate with her. I am also blessed to still have three children at home.

My daughter Josie and granddaughter Mya in AZ.


There is never a dull moment at Casa Velilla (the name of our house and this blog!) Just today my ten year old son Jaime comes to me with a piece of dental floss about three feet long. He tells me his sister Jade, she's 12, has decided they are going to pull out his last baby tooth by attaching one end of the dental floss to the bathroom door knob and the other end to his tooth. So of course I tie the floss around his tooth. As he goes to stand up he accidentally steps on the floss and out comes his tooth. Jade is bummed that her plan did not come to be. Jaime runs to the bathroom and runs out declaring part of his gum is missing and he has a ten percent chance of bleeding to death! Children are curious by nature but I think home-schooled children have double the curiosity about everything. They spend the next ten minutes studying the tooth and soaking it with Hydrogen Peroxide. They each have their own theory on how peroxide works and where it comes from. So needless to say we are going to study all about hydrogen peroxide for science this week.

I know one day they will grow up and I will remember all the wonderful memories we made. I know that day will be here sooner than I want it to be. Until then I will enjoy them each day. I will laugh and marvel at what their little minds think of doing and exploring. I thank God for letting me share this journey with them. I have always felt that my purpose in this life is to be a wife and a mother to the beautiful family I was blessed with. I am just happy that I get the chance to do just that.