Sunday, August 31, 2008

Welcome to the world!

Kelly's baby has been born! Yay!
They are both stable but keep Momma in your prayers if you would. She isn't going to be out of the woods for a bit longer yet.

Friday, August 29, 2008

storming heaven

For Monkey number 6, being born a bit early tonight.
Please pray with me for a safe delivery and healthy baby.
Kelly has super complicated pregnancies and she and her husband have an amazing openess to life and God's providence.

I'm just going to throw up I'm so nervous for

Love it.

Running for Vice President.
With a baby in a sling.

So fabulous. I've been on cloud nine all day. :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

If it makes you feel any better....

I've read recently, and not for the first time, that people don't like to read homeschooling blogs because they make them feel inadequate with what they do in their own home. I think it's true that we do tend to post the best of what we do on our blogs, though I do honestly try to give a view of my "dark side" once in a while. :) But just to make sure you leave here feeling completely adequate...

----Sometimes I yell at my kids.

----Sometimes I yell at my husband.

----Sometimes I yell at the cats.

----My house is cluttered in a major way. Seriously. Come over, it'd make anyone feel better.

----My backyard is an overgrown amazon rainforest because neither I nor my husband have had time to do anything more than ride the mower around all summer.

----I have a package sitting on the counter to send to my mother in law for her birthday. Her birthday was last week.

----We're already behind where we are "supposed" to be on our syllabi.

----My living room is edged with a layer of popcorn because I didn't bother to break out the attachment on the vacuum to clean along the walls since I don't know when. Then the vacuum cleaner broke. That was two weeks ago.

---I haven't done "spring cleaning" since Jack was born. He'll be four in October.

---I didn't feel like cooking dinner tonight. So when I stopped at the store to get milk, I also got a package of buns and hot dogs. Not the healthy kind. The kind filled with nitrates and other carcinogens. I figured it was still healthier than McDonald's.

---Almost every morning, when I try to have my prayer time, I fall asleep.

---My favorite fantasy involves checking into a hotel room. Without my kids. And without my husband. Alone. Then I fall asleep, and sleep until I wake up all on my own, without being awakened by anyone. Then I get some awesome Mexican take-out, a bottle of Corona, and watch a whole movie without stopping once to chase a child back to bed or soak poo out of someone's pajama pants. And then I sleep some more.

---I really, really love my kids. I really, really love my husband. I love homeschooling. But I really butcher things up sometimes with all of them. Sometimes I do something stunningly well. And other times I really blow it. Most all of the time I'm somewhere in the middle. I bet you're the same way, huh?

Some of the blogs I read (like the ones listed on the right) do present life as pretty darned perfect. They inspire me though. There's something I identify with there. Other blogs I have read and they rubbed me the wrong way for one reason or another, so I quit going there. (This doesn't mean that if your blog isn't listed that I don't like your blog! It means I need to update my list!) Blogs seem to have personalities all their own, don't they? I doubt my blog would make anyone feel inferior. :) I do try really hard to show the "realness" here. And I'm not accomplishing any feats of greatness in homeschooling or anything else. But it's human nature to present our best I guess. So take my blog, and anyone else's, for what it is....sharing what works for us, what we enjoy, and know that for every great moment you read about on someone's blog there are likely a dozen not so shining ones they didn't share. If my blog makes you smile, then I am beyond honored. If reading blogs, even my blog, makes you feel inferior, then leave it. Find another way to connect, through yahoo groups or message boards, or if you are lucky enough, "real life friends", but don't do something that makes you feel discouraged, not for one minute longer! There's enough to discourage us out there without looking for actively looking for discouragement.
Being a good mother is HARD. Look for things that lift you up. God bless you!

Monday, August 18, 2008

It's not so bad....

It's not so bad, when dinner's late
At the end of a too-long day,
When the big kids are clamoring to eat,
And Cheerios crunch beneath your bare feet
As you impatiently wait for pasta to boil,
And the quiet, self-sufficient toddler
Helps himself to an unfinished bowl of popcorn on the table,
And his chair tips over and ends his quietness,
And as you hug him against your hip,
He spots the ancient marshmallows in the open cabinet,
And cries still more earnestly when you tell him no,
And the baby, patient no more,
Begins to desperately slurp her fingers,
So you dig out some long forgotten music,
The grown-up kind you never listen to anymore,
And you scoop up restless baby,
And squeeze close the unhappy toddler,
And dance in the kitchen while the pasta boils,
Swaying and circling to bluegrass tunes,
And singing still-remembered lyrics,
While the baby clutches your hair in sticky fists,
And the toddler grins and hangs on your hip,
And Cheerios crunch beneath your bare feet.
It's not so bad.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Feast of the Assumption

Kain- What church are we going to today?

Me- What do you mean? We're going to our regular church.

Kain- Is that where the feast is?

Me- What feast?

Kain- You said today was a feast day!

Me- Oh. Well, it doesn't mean we have a feast, Kain, it just means
it's a special day in the Church.

Kain, disgusted- So, basically a feast day just means we have to go
to mass then?

Me- Yep.

Well, that's not entirely true. They got the day off from doing
school work, and we had a nice dinner (though I wouldn't necessarily
call it a "feast"), especially for a Friday which is usually soup and
bread night, and a special dessert. We clipped some roses out of the
backyard for the altar. I was hoping to do an activity of some kind,
but we never got to it.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Take me out to the baaaaaaaallll game....

Today we all went to our first baseball game. Well, it wasn't John's first, he grew up going to Cardinal games, but for the rest of us....first game. We had so much fun! We're not big sports people, you know. But the kids got free tickets at the library to our new minor league team stadium, so we decided to take advantage of it. The freebies weren't really the great deal I thought they were, because it turns out the tickets are really cheap. We did, however, spend a small fortune in concessions and such. Still, the tickets saved us $18. Here's some pics....

Kain watching the game from our berm seats.

Kain rolling down the berm.

The big hit of the day, the giant inflatable slide.

Dirty, dirty Jack and his hot dog. Notice the bun is empty now. Just as I snapped this pic it slipped out onto the sidewalk. We dusted it off and put it back in the bun. God made dirt and dirt don't hurt. Dirt especially doesn't hurt a $4 hot dog.

It was very cloudy while we were there, which was great because it made it nice and cool. In the last couple of innings though, the drizzle finally started. But when the ushers opened up the good seats, that didn't stop my gang from going down for a good view of the game.

Or from running the bases after the game was over.

Coolest of all, one of the ball players gave Jack a ball from the game. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Kain and Maria, however, were not there, they had already bolted out to the field to run the bases. When Kain found out, he threw a raging fit in front of God and several hundred people leaving the stadium. Aces.

Still, it was a good day. It was surprisingly fun, surprisingly expensive, but fun and worth doing at least once a summer. Jack, especially, had such a good time and is so tickled with his ball.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

the new school year meal plan

Boring helps me to think "out loud" though...

It's not really much different from what we've been doing. Sorry to sound so impressive in the title. I did actually post some dinners for this week over on the right there for the first time in months. We are trying a few new things....

....pretty much the same breakfast every day, but a good one. The night before I put some bread in the breadmaker and Irish oats in the crock pot. I make hot cocoa ('s Ovaltine, really) in the morning and scramble some eggs. Everyone is loving the big, hot breakfast and it's been very easy to do.

...the fruit and veggie plate. I'd been wanting everyone to eat more fresh foods, but it was always such a pain trying to come up with enough variety to please some and still keep favorites for the picky ones. So I picked up a big divided platter at wally world and each morning after breakfast I fill it with a selection of whatever we have in the house...cucumber sticks, baby carrots, peach slices, strawberries... When winter comes and the selection is smaller, I'll probably also use some things like raisins, applesauce cups, pickles, olives, etc. I put the plate out at lunch time and everyone is expected to eat something off of it. I leave the plate out all afternoon and let everyone graze as they want to until dinner.

...watching the grocery budget. Who isn't? I have started trying to get some good, homemade bread or rolls on the table each night at dinner so that I can be stingier with more expensive meat. We are now having a soup and bread meal on Friday nights and we are still having "brinner", breakfast for dinner on Sunday nights. These two meals are pretty low-cost to make. And I've been rationing milk, which costs just about as much per gallon as gas now. The big kids get milk in their cocoa at breakfast and milk at dinner. I think this is plenty. We eat a lot of yogurt and cheese too, so I think they get enough calcium. They can have juice with lunch. Tea at tea time. Water the rest of the day. I buy fewer snack foods than ever. We usually have a homemade goodie for tea time, otherwise there's the fruit and veggie tray, string cheese, yogurt, popcorn, nuts, granola or cereal bars, tortillas with melted cheese or peanut butter, and any leftover rolls/muffins/homemade bread is up for snack grabs.

Other than that, things are about the same. I'm using the seasonal dinner meals I gathered last year, though now I'm started to round them out with some better side dishes. We still have a lunch's embarrassingly easy. Lunch has to be quick to put together around here, but I try not to use too many convenience foods. We do use some though.

Sunday- macaroni and cheese

Monday- sandwiches (turkey, tuna fish, peanut butter)

Tuesday- snack lunch---popcorn, crackers and cheese, peanut butter celery, maybe some hummus or other kind of dip

Wednesday- nachos (just taco chips with beans or leftover chicken or something, cheese melted on top, lettuce, tomato, black olives, maybe avacado)

Thursday- frozen burritos

Friday- veggie burgers, fries

Saturday- salad bar- all the salad fixings I can dig up

Ok, I gotta run. We are watching a grown up movie tonight, woohoo!

Friday, August 08, 2008

I Will Survive---teehee

I Will Survive (the first year of homeschooling)
Originally written and produced by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Originally performed by Gloria Gaynor
Mercilessly altered with apologies by Natalie Criss


First I was afraid
I was petrified.
Kept thinking I could never teach
'Cause I'm not certified.
But we spent so many nights
Reteaching homework that was wrong.
I grew strong,
so now I teach my kids at home!
We study math
and outer space.
I just kept on despite the fear
with a big smile across my face.
I bought a set of Base Ten blocks.
I bought books with answer keys.
My parents think we're nuts,
but they don't even bother me

Come on, let's go walk out the door.
We're on the road now,
'cause we're not home much anymore
My friends would laugh and say we'd be unsocialized.
I heard one mumble
that I'd give up by July.
Oh no, not I!
I will survive!
As long as I know how to read
I know we'll be alright.
I've got all my life to learn.
I've got energy to burn.
and I'll survive.
I will survive.

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart.
Decided to attend
a play date at the local park,
and I met oh so many moms
who offered eagerly to help.
They used to cry.
Now they hold their heads up high,
and so do we!
My kids are cool!
They're not those chained up little people
stuck inside at school.
So if you feel like dropping by
and just expect us to be free
you'd better call ahead first
'cause we're probably busy

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We don't need no stinkin' grammar.

On the homeschool waiver form we have to fill out for our school district every year....

"Please print clearly and legible."

Our first day of school

I've been trying to post these all week, but my camera disappeared on me and then mysteriously turned up in the diaper bag last night.

Here's how our days seem to be unfolding this year.

I get up at 6 and brew coffee and have my prayer time. I *love* this time of the day, that's the only reason I would get up so early. I find I start the day in a foul mood if I don't beat the kids out of bed. Some mornings it doesn't work. This particular morning both Jack and Tess joined me almost immediately, and some time later so did Kain. But I try, and most mornings it works. Don't be impressed that I get up early when I don't have to. I have become a morning person in my old age. By 5pm my brain is mush and I am useless for anything. At 7, I put out hot cocoa and breakfast and wake up anyone still asleep (often Kain, almost always Maria). We eat and get dressed and do a few chores.

We start school at 8:30. I work with Kain for an hour starting with math because it takes the longest. Maria entertains Jack for half an hour and then works on her schoolwork independently. After Kain's hour, I "do school" with Jack for an hour. Mostly this means playtime. I usually choose the first activity, maybe a new learning activity or puzzle he can't do on his own, something like that. We do that for as long as his attention holds and then we just play whatever he wants for a bit. Then we finish up with reading some picture books. Tess usually wants to nurse at some point during all of this. Around 10, I give a morning snack to anyone interested and Maria works for 30 minutes on either typing, music, or art. Jack plays on his own while I finish up school with Kain. Once math is done it moves pretty quickly. Then I work with Maria for an hour, starting with Latin because that's what usually takes the longest. Kain is assigned to keep Jack entertained for half an hour during this time, and then he works on his independent schoolwork. Usually this is a math worksheet and either a music worksheet or map skills. At noon, Maria returns to her independent work, Kain and Jack play whatever, and I get lunch together and do a few chores.

At 12:30 we have lunch and then at 1pm we have an hour of reading and rest time. That's when I usually have my computer time, if Tess will cooperate. After rest time, I sit and read with Kain for science or history and a chapter out of our current read aloud. Jack plays or colors and listens. Maria finishes up any schoolwork. At 2:30 we have tea time. Sometimes this actually involves tea. :) Mostly it means a goodie of some kind and a read aloud to do with the liturgical year or some other kind of devotional book. On our first day of school, we read Juanita and the Angels. After tea time, we are supposed to all go outside for an hour, though I've been wimping out on this because of the extreme hotness. Today we watched The Waterhorse instead.

Then our school day is officially over. As you can see, though, there're a lot of breaks. Kain probably spends 2-3 hours with actual schoolwork, and Maria 3-4 hours. At this point, I work on chores, my to-do list, getting dinner together, etc. I like to leave plenty of time for that because Tess will interrupt and often Jack will too. Kain and Maria pick up their "zones", pick up their bedrooms, and then have a couple hours of freetime. We have dinner at 6, then baths for little people (Maria now showers in the morning), stories (this time of their choosing, unlike the reading during the day that I usually pick), prayers, and bedtime at 8. Maria stays up until 9 or so and I often do a read aloud with her after the boys are in bed. Right now we are still working our way through the Narnia series. I stay up until 10 or so, finishing up some things if I have the energy, maybe watching a movie with John or having some computer time if I don't.

I do make up a paper schedule for the day, but of course this is just an "ideal" to shoot for. The first day actually came pretty close. The second day was much harder...Kain was in one of his moods and I fought tooth and nail with him all day long. Today has been better. I try not to fall apart when things don't go according to plan, because they often don't.

Ok, now for those first day pics...

I always get a few fun things for the school year and set them up on the table the night before our first day. Everyone got new puzzles this year, and a Mille Borne game for us all. They always get new placemats from Rainbow Resource Center too. Some years we have done art supplies, or new backpacks and lunchbags to take to co-op days.

Our whiteboard.

School books for this year. Up on the very top is a cd player, a bunch of music, and my paper files for the current school year. The top shelf is mine, the second is Maria's, then Kain's, the Math U See blocks and a few workbook-y type things for Jack for when he wants to "do school", and the bottom shelf has a set of World Books recently given to us by a sweet homeschooling friend who's youngest student has outgrown them.

Some people want to know what Jack does while we are doing school...he has his own work to do too. I set up a couple of shelves with Montessori type activities,

And when he tires of that he just generally brings out every toy he can find and trashes them room.

A cute pic of Kain and Tess. Tess just gets toted around with me when she's not sleeping,,,and sometimes when she is. We have a portacrib next to the school table with her playgym in it, but that'll only buy me 10 minutes or so.

Kain's new obsession, Pokemon coloring pages. He made himself a book of them while listening to this week's music appreciation. Pokemon and Tchaikovsky...what a combo.

Maria at lunch. The first day was tiring. Our brain's were fried by this point.

ABC brownies. Monday was also Jack's name day, so we needed a special dessert for tea time to celebrate. Brownies are his absolute favorite.

Pizza for dinner, also for Jack's name day.

Our August altar. It's a Marian one, obviously, August being the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a few feast days as well.

There's no pics of them doing actual schoolwork because our school table is in front of a window and the lighting came out all weird. Anyway, that's a peek into school around here. I'll do a day in the life post again soon I think.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


We are starting our new school year on Monday.
Ask me if I'm ready....

This is earlier than usual,,,in the past we have started after Labor Day. But we haven't done school since Tess was born, and I've had all the vacation I can stand. We still plan to school more or less year round. We will break for Christmas when we finish week 16 of our syllabus, or not until Christmas Eve if life should intervene too much. We'll take off until after Epiphany, then work until we finish week 24, or not until the start of Holy Week if life intervenes too much. And then we'll start up after the first week of Easter and work until we finish the syllabus. Or until July 4th, if life intervenes too much. Sensing a pattern? Life does intervene. Being able to handle that is part of homeschooling. So far we have homeschooled through moves, hospitalizations of myself and extended family, an extended illness and death in the family, and two pregnancies/births. Life does often intervene. Having such a loose schedule works better for us in other ways too. The kids don't handle long breaks well, and neither do I. I can, and do, often call off school to go do something fun, and I don't think twice about it because I know I have a lot of wiggle room. With our scheduled breaks at Christmas, Easter, and summer, we still have 44 weeks left to complete a 32 week syllabus. If life does intervene and the timing gets too tight, I am less likely to take the opportunities, but in less chaotic years we have lots of small breaks through the year for different opportunities that come up. In very chaotic years we end up behind when the end of June approaches, and I nip and tuck and do what I can with a promise to myself to make up for it next year.

The kids were in VBS last week and I was all kinds of excited about this 3 hours of free time, but it wasn't the boon I expected. First of all, I had to stay with Jack during the first 30 minutes until they finished their opening stuff and moved into classrooms because of Jack's tendency, as one woman in the parish put it, to "go on walkabout". Then I would come home, nurse Tess and get her down to sleep, and if I was lucky I'd have two of the three hours left to do some work before I had to leave to pick everyone up. It helped, don't get me wrong. I was able to do some things like cleaning and organizing the play/school room and the big walk-in closet that stores toys...I can never do stuff like that with Jack around as he takes offense at having his toys where he can't see them. I also was able to go through and do a lot towards getting our new materials ready to go. But I have plenty left to do this weekend, that's for sure!

This year Maria will be in sixth grade and Kain will be making a jump over second grade into third, where he is "supposed" to be. Kain will be nine in February and he's behind a grade because no one enrolled him in kindergarten the year before he came to live with us. It really bothers him to be a year behind, even when homeschooling. There are plenty of places (like VBS) where kids are divided by grade level, and he is always much older and bigger than anyone else. He did really well last year with his schoolwork. His reading ability is awesome. So, we are jumping as far as our curriculum is concerned. "Officially", though, he will be a second grader. Third graders have to start standardized testing in our state, and I don't want to have to worry about that with him this year. If the transition goes well, then I'll register him as a fourth grader next year. He will still be a second grader in our parish as well because he will be receiving his first communion this year!!!! Woohoo!

We are pretty much following the Mother of Divine Grace syllabi completely this year, though there are a couple of modifications for Maria. She will continue to use Math U See instead of the recommended Saxon. She loves Math U See, but I'd like her to be in Saxon for the upper level maths....we'll see. I'm hoping to have her finish Math U See Zeta in time to start Saxon 87 next year. She will also be using Calculadder for drill. She will be using Phonetic Zoo again for spelling. She loves this program and it seems to be working for her as well as anything can. Maria, for the uninformed, has some visual learning issues that give her dyslexic-type symptoms and make reading, spelling and writing especially difficult, though she does now perform on grade level for everything but spelling. Spelling as always been the most difficult subject for her. Phonetic Zoo is an auditory program and works much better for her than workbooks. This year will be a big jump for her too. I have always heavily modified the syllabus for her, but now that she is done with vision therapy I would like to try to follow it as is as much as possible and see how she can handle it.

Kain should be able to work right along the MODG 3rd grade syllabus. He will be using Saxon 3 for math though, and we will have to progress carefully through it to make sure he handles skipping a grade ok. MODG recommends Abeka math for 1st-3rd grades, mostly because Saxon is so mom-intensive, but I already have the Saxon materials and Kain likes Saxon for all the fun manipulative stuff. I can see how Saxon, in the early grades at least, wouldn't work if you were homeschooling several young ones though. Kain will also need to use Handwriting Without Tears. He has small motor skill issues that he is in occupational therapy for, and writing is *very tedious* and slow for slow that he is still finishing the HWT first grade book, which is just as well because he will not be ready to start cursive anytime soon. I am going to try to do the written work suggested in different subjects in the 3rd grade syllabus, but we may need to adjust this for him and do some orally. We'll see.

Jack...Jack will be four in October. I had intended to start the Little Saints curriculum with him and do it over two years, but I think we will just wait and do it next year. I have quite a bit of Montessori-type materials for him to use, and geez, he already knows all of his letters and numbers, etc. With Tess, and with the big jump Kain and Maria are making this year, and Kain's three hours of therapy a week, I just think I will have my hands full enough. I do have some Kumon workbooks and that kind of thing and have put together his own school notebook like the big kids have, but this is mostly just so he can have something to do when he wants to sit at the table with us and "do school". His motor skills are not great, and I think he will benefit from the Montessori stuff more than anything. He is super advanced as far as pre-kinder skills go, recognizes all his upper and lowercase letters, knows the sounds they make, words that start with each letter, counts and recognizes numbers up to 30, etc., so I'm not worried about that. But he can't do more than scribble with a crayon! A little lop-sided, this one.

Tess, of course, will not be hitting the books or anything quite yet. :) I will be playing with her using Slow and Steady Get Me Ready, a great little book with weekly learning ideas for newborns to 5 year olds. I still use this great resource with Jack too.

I'd like to post some pictures of our schoolroom, but we *still* haven't painted...that was supposed to happen while the kids were in VBS, but the gallbladder surgery threw everything off and left me behind getting my materials ready so I had to do that instead. I'm hoping to do that one weekend soon though. We have some new organizational ideas we are trying out this year, including Avilian notebooks...more on that to come! Now, I'm off to work....