Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Grace- My Littlest Peanut

When the kids were coming along, and we were having ultrasounds constantly, we used to joke that they looked like little peanuts.  You know, before you could see all their tiny arms and legs, they were our sweet, tiny peanuts.

Grace is still my itty, bitty, little peanut.  She's taller now but not much bigger around.

She's my painfully shy girl, but in some ways, she's quite a free spirited little thing.  She's, also, quite the comedian and spent one Sunday morning drive to church imitating a radio commercial.  She used an incredibly exaggerated Southern accent to sell some Kias.

She is deathly afraid of spiders.  She can handle most other critters, but she will burst into uncontrollable tears at the sight of one.  She won't even come in the house if she sees a spider in her path.  She'll wait and let someone carry her.

She's a spunky, youngest child, and she unfortunately, seems to command attention from her siblings.  They give in to her whims too often.  I think we're creating a spoiled little monster.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daniel

To my sweet, adventurous, crazy, blonde-headed, blue-eyed, handsome boy on your 8th birthday,

Your changes this year have been a joy to behold.  You're one of the wittiest knuckleheads I know, and yet, you can be very sensitive.

There was a day last month that you were playing some sort of pirate adventure game in the backyard, and you were leading the way.  Grace couldn't make it up the hill, so you ran back to pick up your struggling comrade.  No one had to tell you that's what a big brother should do.  No one had to teach you a lesson that day.  It was a lesson you had, obviously, already learned.

You are a high energy kid who loves to get his school assignments done as soon as you possibly can.  Play time is, apparently, something you can never get back.

You have many of your daddy's traits.  You are a critical thinker, and if you think something is possible, you can think of a logical way to present your idea to me.  Even when your idea is crazy, you have a knack for presentation that keeps me from being able to rebut rationally.

I am thankful for you.  You keep me laughing.  You keep me on my toes.  You are a blessing.
I love you, dear boy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Girls' Night

The girls and I went to a wedding last weekend.  Hannah woke up at 6:30.  She laid her dress on the couch.  Brushed her teeth. She brushed her hair. She was ready and sorely disappointed when she found out the wedding wasn't until 6:00 p.m.!  

"There's gonna be cake and kissing and my favorite part where the princess walks to the front of the church!  It's gonna be great!"

We rode to my parents' house, and they let Deron and the boys hang out there while we, girls, had a girls' night at the wedding.  Daniel and Ethan were afraid it would be too loveish and that there might be too much kissing.  

It's been a long time since I've seen some of the guests, so it was really nice to catch up.  The wedding was beautiful.  The music was lovely.  I couldn't have asked for a better girls' night!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Fun Stuff: History, Art, Science

I just love studying the Middle Ages. This is our second run through of this time period since we switched our core curriculum to Sonlight a couple of years ago.   We're reading Robin Hood aloud, and Ethan is reading some fictional book about this time period for his literature.

I think this will be the core idea behind their fall project.  We'll brainstorm some great history projects today while we're picking up Deron from the airport.  Maybe they'll build a castle and create an information board.  Maybe we'll do some art and have a feast.  If there's food involved, the boys are in.  I can't imagine what it will be like when they're all teenagers.

I would really like to find accurate, church history for this time period. That would round out the study very nicely.

We're, also, wrapping up our first science unit of the year...Answers in Genesis: Our Universe.  Their books are amazing!  I can get all four children involved because it's a multilayered approach.  The girls are doing the same content, only a little more on their levels.  They're about to spend time building a solar system.

I love getting the art supplies out.  They will work very hard and really spend a good bit of time doing something if art is involved.  It's like they don't see it as work.  One of my pet peeves is doing the bare minimum.  I know, technically, the directions were followed, but I know what my kids are capable of.  I don't want to raise children to become adults who do the bare minimum.  Whatever they do, I want them doing it the best way they know how.

We're starting an Election 2012 Unit Study next week, and it will wrap up as they accompany us to the polls to vote in November.  We will definitely be covering the appropriate way to behave at the polls as it has certainly been an interesting couple of months in the realm of politics.

And we're doing language arts and math...every it or not.  I see improvement, but they don't get as interested in these subjects.  They do it because they have to.  And they're learning steadily, climbing upward, slowly but surely, one rung at the time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hoping It's Enough

My OCD side is stressing.  I'm trying desperately to have a great attitude, but this week seems full of "interruptions."  All good things, but I don't enjoy being overly busy.  I know some people thrive with a full plate and a full schedule.  Being busy motivates some people, but it does not motivate me. It stresses me out.

The airport is an hour or so away.  Deron is heading to Boca Raton for an award ceremony.  I'm excited for him winning in the category of Innovation.  Anyone who knows Deron knows he if there's a will, there's a way.  His award centers around his patent.  The idea behind the patent will actually save a company millions of dollars over the course of just a few years.   He is awesome.  I wish I could've gone with him.

We're taking him to the airport today (2 1/2 hours) and picking him up tomorrow (2 1/2 more hours). I guess we'll take our schoolwork in the van.  We have a pumpkin activity day with friends this afternoon, and we have company coming in tomorrow night through Saturday.  I'm looking forward to it, but I feel stretched as far as I can comfortably stretch.  They'll probably work ahead, so they won't have much to do Friday while we have company.

I don't like them doing their schoolwork while we have company.  They get distracted, and I think they feel like they're being inspected. I don't want them feeling like they have to "perform."  We may do extra today and tomorrow and focus on reading aloud, art, music, and typing on Friday.

Writing all this down helped me to think it out.  I'm feeling a little less stressed.

I had the comment made to me, recently, "I bet you're able get so much done since you're home and all..."  I had to fight the urge to roll my eyes.

Most school days, I am teaching one or more of them for seven to eight hours, and when I'm not with one of the kids, the others are living in the house, eating constantly, doing things that will eventually require work to clean up...It's like raking leaves on a windy day or shoveling snow in a snowstorm.  The other hours I'm trying to take care of the house, trying get meals and snacks on the table, and trying to take care of all the inanimate things that cry for my attention all day long.  I'm trying to take care of myself by writing in various locations and by working out almost every day.  (I let the girls "work out" with me, and that is adorable. Really.)

This is a very unique lifestyle I have found myself in.  One that I love, most of the time.  It just takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.  All day. Every day.  It's worth it, but you have to remind yourself of that often and get your husband to remind you too, especially if you don't have many people around you who understand the ins and outs of this particular lifestyle.  There's no one around to tell you you're doing a good job because most of the time, no one really notices.  They only notice if you're not doing a very good job...that's probably very true of most moms, homeschooling or not.

Deron is amazing for my self esteem.  Sometimes, I don't see the forest for the trees, and he reminds me how pretty the leaves are. Sometimes, all I see is work.  All I see is what we haven't done.  All I see is how far we have to go.  And then I'm reminded to look back and see how far we've come.  Sometimes, I have to adjust my view and see what all we've accomplished.

So for today and tomorrow, we'll grab our books and do "car school," and we'll finish at home.  And my prayer is that it will be enough.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A sick day

I'm afraid today may be one of "those" days. A sick day.  Grace was up late with a stomach bug.  I always feel so bad for her because she can barely wake up to be sick.  It's like she gets sick while she's still sleeping.

I have a feeling we'll do a lot of reading aloud today.  A lot of cuddling on the couch.  My little, blonde princess will do a lot of resting and hopefully, getting better.

I get a bit on edge when a stomach bug begins to rear its ugly head.  It never hits just one of us.

I feel the need to sanitize.

Friday, October 12, 2012

10 Ways We're Refueling This Fall

Sometimes, we need to switch things up a bit around the house when the weather gets a little cooler and the holidays start coming up over the horizon.  The kids and I get a little restless.  These are a few of the things I do to keep things calm.

1. I tweak our fall schedule.  I feel refreshed when I address the gaps in our scheduling.  I don't feel as overwhelmed when I need to go to Plan B because there is a Plan B more or less.

2. More art.  I love art lessons with the kids.  I forgot how much I loved art in middle/high school.  I forgot about creativity and losing yourself in your piece.  We do a lot of chalk pastel drawings because it's such a forgiving medium, and the kids can create some great stuff!  It's a bit messy, but it's lot of fun. During the fall, we'll create fallish masterpieces. My favorite pastel tutorial site is located at Hodgepodge.

3. Head to the corn maze.  Our local corn maze offers discounted pricing certain days during October. The kids love it.  I love it.  We all love being outside doing a little something different.  We don't really get into trick or treating. No one does it in our neighborhood.  It's not like it was when I was a kid.  We generally let the kids dress up and head to the Corn Maze so they don't miss out on dressing up.  Although, the girls and Daniel tend to dress up all year long, so I don't know why I worry about them missing out on it.

4. If we need a change of scenery, I take the kids and their school work and go out to our church.  We may pack up and head to the library one day.  Sometimes, we get more done in less time when we switch up our schooling location.

5. Go outside.  Take a walk.  Have a picnic in the front yard and read the current read aloud during the kids' lunch.  I do this a lot, and I eat my lunch solo during the kids' quiet time.

6. Music.  Turn on some quiet music.  Sometimes, it distracts them from their need to be noisy.  Some days, it seems like they just need some sort of noise, and if there is none, they make their own.

7. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and watch the kids play outside.  Stop and pray for them.

8. Pick a project.  I'm planning to have the kids do a fall project.  Let them pick a topic, give them guidelines, and let them loose.

9. Have an apple or a pumpkin day. We read stories, do a craft or art project, and make some sort of goody in the kitchen.  The boys participate but I'm afraid their days of being interested in that sort of thing are coming to a close.  They still like the art and the food though.

10.  We'll have a game afternoon and a movie marathon at some point.  Popular games, at this point, are Phase 10, Checkers, and Uno.  They also like to hook my laptop up to the TV and take turns playing Angry Birds.  We may make smores and drink apple cider.

Traditions can be what makes memories.  I, intentionally, want to help my family make memories.  When they're grown, with a family of the own, I want them to look back and say with a smile, "Every fall, we would_______as a family."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What I Know Now

What do I know?

A whole lot less than I used to think I knew.  What's the poem about the wise old bird?

A wise old owl sat in an oak.
The more he heard, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why aren't we all like that wise, old bird?

Seriously, I think about that poem often.  I'm a mom with young children who are growing up quickly.  I know a few things, but not much.  I'm learning.  Always and constantly learning. Learning to study my children and look to the Lord for His direction. Learning that as soon as I know something about my kids, something changes.  They change.  They grow.  Circumstances change.  Their needs change.

I know that I have to pray more. Teach my children more.  Give them my time more.  Beg God for wisdom more.

Other than that, I'm not quite sure what I know.

*This afternoon, I decided to link up with Sarah Mae's What I Know Now!

Art: My New Favorite!

We did these last year when we were completing Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  Daniel did two because his first nest ended up looking like chocolate chip cookies.  He was going for speckled...

Can you guess whose nest is the pink one?  Hannah's (5yo) is the top left. Grace's (3yo at the time) is the middle left. We did fall trees yesterday.  That's Hannah with her fall tree masterpiece.

We'll be doing apple trees and pumpkin patches pretty soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ethan: Growth of an Oldest Child

Ethan is nine years old...nine and a half almost.  He's in this stage of really growing, and I'm not just talking about his height.

(Although the pediatrician said if he continues at the rate he's growing now, he'll be a good 6'3" or 6'4".  His feet are as big as mine, and I'm pretty sure he'll be one of the kids whose body will eventually have to catch up with his shoe size.)

But I'm talking about his person.  It seems like we've entered a stage where he is part boy turning into part young man.  I think it's hard on him.  He's my one who would much rather be where the adults are talking than where the kids are playing.  My sister-in-law told me not to worry.  He'd be an adult a lot longer than he'd be a kid.

He's my one with the idea that he can play around and pick on his siblings, but nobody else can.  He's my one who will drop everything to help his sister who is deathly afraid of spiders, all while trying not to laugh at her incessant, blood-curdling screams.

He's my one who works very methodically.  He does a great job at the things I ask him to do, but he takes his time.  That little trait sorta drives me batty, but I desperately want to be the mom he needs me to be.

So for now, as he grows, I purpose to:

Be there for him.

Listen to him.

Not compare him to anyone else.

Help him however I can.

Love him.

Pray for him. Always.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gently Moving Toward Independence: The Student Planner

We had an amazing summer.  We realized that we're in a brand new era.  All four kids are growing up. They sleep all night, most nights, in their own beds.  They are all potty trained (not a new thing, but still noteworthy). They can swim.  We were able to hit the pool and let them loose.  Of course, I made Grace wear her floaties, but she was very independent.  At home, I let her swim without them if I was with her, but she was swimming like a pro by the end of summer.

We're in an era of gently moving them forward, helping them find what they enjoy doing, helping them be the person God would have them to be.

This has become especially evident in the area of our homeschooling.  

Ethan is reading independently, so he doesn't need me to sit by him and listen anymore.  He doesn't need help with several of his language arts assignments.  He works independently and asks questions when he doesn't understand something or if a new concept is confusing him.  He does the same with his math.  He uses a planner where I list all of his assignments.  He checks them off as he goes.

Daniel does the same thing, although he's not an independent reader, yet.  I still make him read aloud to me.  We tried to let him do some of his assignment reading on his own, but his nature would tend to read quickly, not comprehend what he read, and check it off his list.  I stay close by while he works, and he reads a book of his choosing for independent reading.  He loves his list.  He works well, and he works quickly.  He wants to get done with his morning school time as quickly as possible.

The boys do writing together. They write a paragraph every week of some form or fashion. They outline a model paragraph, write it in their own words, edit, and rewrite every week.  Ethan's final draft looks like that of a fourth grader and Daniel's looks like a second grader's.  The differences between the two final drafts are interesting.  Ethan's has a little more complicated sentence structure and vocabulary, but the content is the same. They're getting the hang of it. 

Hannah has a planner, too.  I wanted to include her since she's doing a lot more formal stuff this year.  Although I do sit beside her through all her assignments, she enjoys being able to check off her list.

Grace has her time with me as well, but she doesn't have a planner.  

We do language arts, math, and our K/PreK things in the mornings.  The kids get a break, lunch, and quiet time.  Then, we do science, history, geography, art, and music together in the afternoons.  Not every thing, every afternoon, but science and history and one of the other things most afternoons.  The girls participate in assignments occasionally, but they prefer arts, crafts, and science experiments.  They listen in to any reading aloud that I do.  We try to do as much together as we can.  Then, we split into level appropriate assignments regarding the same content.

I list whatever subjects we're doing that day so they can check those off as well.

The planners have helped tremendously.  I love to see them feel a sense of accomplishment when they know they're finished for the day.  Each day seems to move them into learning independently and being responsible for completing their own assignments.

Monday, October 8, 2012


Thirty years old.  I don’t feel thirty, and in my own mind, I don’t think I look like the thirty-year-old “old person” that I envisioned myself being when I was younger. 

Thirty is not old.  And I’m pretty sure old is a state of mind, anyway.

When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who gave us what I thought was an odd writing assignment.  We had to write our own obituary.  Creepy.

I decided to take a comical approach.  I decided to be the grandma who got ran over by a reindeer on Christmas Eve.  I had kids and grandkids and great-grandkids at my house singing and playing in the yard.  Little did I know how often I would think of this assignment.  I think we were supposed to think about our futures and what would really matter when we were at the end of our lives.  What did we want to have accomplished?  Where did we want our futures to take us?  We needed to check into our priorities.  Who did we want to become? What kind of person did we want to be?

I wanted a family.  A big family who wanted to be together, singing, playing, drinking hot chocolate, and roasting marshmallows.  I wanted peaceful togetherness.  I don't remember if my career choice was even mentioned in my paper.  There was definitely no fame or fortune.

I didn't know the point of the exercise until years later.  I didn't realize that I really did write about my future self.  I wrote my dreams out in the form of my obituary.

The other day, I drove up to the store and the clerk was walking an elderly woman outside.  I waved since I recognized the clerk, but I didn't realize the elderly woman thought I was there to pick her up.  She came walking over to the van and belted out laughter when she saw that I wasn’t her ride.

“I can’t see anymore,” she said.  She just laughed and laughed because she was just about sitting in my front seat before she realized I wasn't who she thought I was. I wasn't sure what to do except insist that I have a very common van and help her back inside until her ride did, indeed, arrive.

I hope I can laugh at myself when I get to be her age.  I probably won’t be able to see, either. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

From the Old SC Lady

sunset outside our cabin in CO

I know you will never remember my name, but you will remember someone sat by me when I was going to Cal. on June 10, 2012, and she really was different. (That is a nice way to think of me.)  This is something I would like for you and your wife to remember about married life.

How to Make a Beautiful Life Together.

-Let love be your shelter. The world is noisy and confusing at times, so make a home that is a haven, a peaceful place where you can listen to your hearts and savor the comfortable closeness you share.

-No matter how busy you are, make time for yourselves. Hold hands. Unwind. Surprise each other. Find little chances every day to show you’re grateful to be partners, to be friends, to be married.

-Life is not perfect. You will make mistakes, but each time you meet life’s challenges together, you will grow wiser, stronger, surer of your love.

-Cherish your yesterdays. They are irreplaceable, souvenirs of your journey through life.  Make memories that will bring smiles and sighs whenever you look back. (Look back often.)

-Look forward too.  Dream together. Plan together.  Make promises to keep.  Believe in your tomorrows because tomorrows are what forever is made of.

-To make love last, put each other first.  That is the way to make a beautiful life together, the kind of life you both deserve so much.

I know this sounds a little off the wall but, as I told you, my son just got married yesterday, and this is what I found to send him. You have been so kind to me, and your wife and kids are lucky to have you.  I just wanted to wish this life for you and the ones you love.

Just remember the lady from South Carolina that sat by you for four hours.  And at the end of our trip felt blessed by God that he put you in my life for even this short time.

Be Blessed. Be Safe. And Be Happy.
“one old SC Lady”

*I think I would have liked her!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Altitude Sickness

So- the altitude really does have a wide range of symptoms

I looked so sleepy.  The altitude didn't get to me except through an occasional headache, fatigue, and shortness of breath, although I didn't have to use my inhaler.  

Daniel and Deron had bad reactions.  Deron had major fatigue, and Daniel did okay for a short while, but by the middle of the afternoon on the first day, he was suffering from a terrible headache.  Then, all afternoon and evening, he felt nauseous.  In the middle of the night, he came into our room sick with a fever.  

We ended up giving him motion sickness medicine every time we were going to change our elevation drastically, and that helped more than anything else.  We all drank a lot of water, too.

Ethan and Grace never had any trouble other than a headache.  Hannah did fine until we got to the top of Pike's Peak.  She pretended to feel okay and then, told us she felt terrible on the way down.  And she put herself to sleep a few feet down from the top (14,110 ft). Sweet little girl.  She wanted the donuts from the top as much as the others.

They were really good donuts.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Plan A...B, C, or D- Joyfully Flexible

Wow. Ain't that the truth?!
At the beginning of every school year (and every other month or so, it seems), I make a master schedule.  A master routine.  It's nice to have an example of my perfect day.  It's my Plan A.

We almost always run into B, C, or D depending on what is going on in the real world, and you can't have a B if you don't have an A.  Somebody told me that years ago...before I was ever attempting the task of educating my children.    Homeschooling is part of our lives.  It meshes with everything else.  Somehow, it blends together.  I, desperately, want it to blend, and I have to keep the type A part of my personality in check over it.  She wants Plan A, every day, all the time, with a smile. Period.

However, life is rarely Plan A.  And there is a lot our children can learn from our reactions to the derailment of all our plans.  Those life lessons are more important than any math or phonics lesson you could dream up.  I know precious people who are nearing the end of a quite lengthy and trying situation concerning one of their children.  And I'm telling you, the lessons in faith and perseverance that their other children are learning are priceless.

That's not to say we don't need math or phonics lessons, but those are not the bone structure, not the meat, of home education.  Those things don't hold everything together.  Those are not the point.  Not a single mother I know would tell you that they educate their children at home, so they can be the one to teach the three Rs to their kids.  Not one.

One of the main lessons I want my kids to learn is to be joyfully flexible. Things come up. Kids get sick. Someone needs a favor.  Someone needs help with a meal or childcare while mom goes to the doctor.  Various life experiences come up all day long. I want them to be ready to manage their attitudes and their time as things come up to alter our schedule.

A couple of weeks before we left for CO, Grace caught a viral bug of some sort and literally, fell asleep on the floor in the middle of the living room one morning.  Hannah stepped away from the table and her math lesson, went to get a blanket, a pillow, and Grace's stuffed puppy in order to take care of her sick sister.  She also filled a cup with juice and placed it beside her.  I think the main lesson she learned that day was a lesson in kindness, a lesson in putting someone else ahead of yourself.

So when my Plan A makes a stop, my purpose is to look at the bigger picture and remember that we can get back to it after we take care of our derailment.  My attitude is everything in those instances.  My children can either learn that math is more important than their sick sibling or that math will still be math after you do what you need to do. (And I was going to move Grace, but I let Hannah handle it that day.)

They need learn that schedules are gentle guides not rigid rule books.  Children need to learn time management, too.  If their schedule is always perfect, there are no lessons learned.  No need for time management.  However, my kids and I do need structure.  We all need a plan.  But that plan needs to be adaptable. And we, moms, need to be flexible, joyfully flexible.  Like the saying goes our kids will remember what we did long after they've forgotten what we said...