Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Well, I've been away so long I've been wondering how to gracefully start writing again. Then Kelly tagged me with the "8 Random Facts" meme, which is a great place to start, don't you think? So, as I sit here in our beautiful Georgia weather (waving to my mom&dad up in frigid, snowy Minnesota!), my tissues and tea at hand (having a really irritating cold right now), here are 8 Random facts about me:

1) I love hand crafts. Crochet, knitting, cross stitch and embroidery - love them all! I've done crochet and embroidery since I was about 7 years old, but I've only recently taught myself how to knit. Right now I'm obsessed with knitting socks. I've done a tiny little practice sock (to learn the technique, which, while not hard, isn't intuitive), which thrilled me to no end. I got about half-way done with my first "real" sock when I realized that not only was it was way too big for any human being, but I'd also dropped a stitch, tried to correct it and failed, and so I've pretty much given up on that one! I started another one (meant for dh, but so far it's looking like it might fit A2, lol! Gauge isn't my strong suit!), and I've almost got the cuff done. I'm not so good at finishing projects, but I sure do love to start them. I'm fascinated with crocheting lace (think snowflakes and doilies), and once I get more comfortable with knitting, one of my personal goals is to hand-knit myself my own lace veil for church.

2) Unfortunately, I can't sew - that would be such a useful skill! Straight seams and all that ironing really intimidate me, though. My grandmother used to do completely gorgeous quilts - I would love to do that someday. I'm kept a wee bit busy right now with my boys to try something that ambitious - I'll stick to socks for awhile! :-)

3) One week before I met my dh, I told my mom that I was never getting married, and it was just too bad that she hadn't had more kids (I'm an only child), because she wasn't getting any grandkids from me. Famous last words!

4) I don't ever remember the plots to books I read or movies I see. I will hand J1 a book and say, "Oh, I loved that book as a kid!" and he'll ask me what it's about - and I really can't say. I remember liking books, but the details just don't stick with me. Movies, however, tend to leave me completely. Dh laughs, because I often have no memory at all of movies we saw together early in our relationship. He says he likes it, because he can chose a movie for us to watch and he'll know that I will like it, and it will be as if I am seeing it for the first time. We caught half of the movie "Conspiracy Theory" this past weekend, and at the end I said to dh, "wow, that was pretty good, we should see the whole thing!" And dh just gave me this odd look and said that we had watched it together in the theater, I loved it and talked about how we should own it. I don't remember it at *all*. It was good movie, though!

5) I have a guilty pleasure that will probably shock those of you who know me IRL. I like to smoke cigars. Yes, it's true! They're not addictive, have much lower health risks associated with them than any other form of tobacco, and I actually have discovered that it helps my asthma and blood pressure (no kidding!) I find that a good cigar is like coffee - you have no idea why you like the taste, but it is very, very pleasant. Dh and I like to sit together on our front porch swing with a glass of wine and share a cigar - one of the best things ever! I will be very sad if we ever manage to get pregnant again and I have to give that up for a couple years. Well, not *that* sad! :-)

6) I was an undiagnosed anorexic in high school. Now I'm obese - go figure! I won't admit to the difference between what I weighed then and what I weigh now, but it's stunning, even to me. Not sure what that says about me, but there you have it.

7) I have a terribly conflicted personality at times - I'm analytical and organized, with a burning need for routine - and yet I'm also intuitive, artistic, and messy. I love purples and blues, but tend to decorate my environment in reds and yellows. I chose to pursue a scientific major in college, but I had great musical gifts that I have ignored for way too many years. I often tend to get stuck in my life, with these two sides of my personality at war - I analytically plan things, with great organization, but then can't implement said plans when my creative side rebels. Not sure what this says about me, either. But I'm actually a really rather well-adjusted, happy person!

8) I met my dh on a blind date, just before he deployed over to the first Gulf War. I was there on the tarmac, waiting for his plane, when he came home 8 months later - we have a picture of our first kiss!

There you have it - 8 random facts as I randomly start blogging again. Or, maybe start sporadically blogging again? I actually probably won't write regularly till after the holidays. Hope you all are having a lovely Advent and a beautiful Christmas season. If you want to share 8 random facts about you, consider yourself tagged!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Muffin Men

We haven't done formal, sit-down school in way too many weeks. But S3 and A2 are somehow reading more and more and more - I'm not really sure I can call them "non-readers" anymore, actually. We have extensive discussions about geography and history at the dinner table. (I highly recommend hanging maps in your dining room - great conversational spark! :-) We review our catechism every week for Sunday classes, though poor A2 isn't doing so well - he is just such a visual learner, simply trying to memorizing facts that we read to him leaves him terribly confused. This week we're trying something new. As we review, dh is pulling up pictures from Holy Cards on line to match the stories and information, and doing map studies of where everything happens. So far it seems to be helping quite a bit. Also, the kids have taken to watching Animal Planet obsessively and have learned all sorts of interesting facts about the natural world. I am continuously amazed at the knowledge all of them display, and to be honest, most of the time I don't even know how they know what they know!

I have a whole series of posts planned about my philosophy of education for my family - but they'll have to wait until after Thanksgiving, as my parents are visiting. They will be here tomorrow and I still have oodles and oodles of things to do to prepare for them! So for now, I want to just mention one touchstone that I use in our humble Academy. I see formal, sit-down academics as just one part of the education I want to give my kids. I not only want to see them leave my home with a solid foundation of basic and advanced knowledge, able to think and reason for themselves, but I also want more for them. Most importantly, I want them to grow to know and love our beautiful faith. My highest goal is to have them embrace their faith as young adults because they understand it and love it. They must know the facts, the reasoning, and the love behind what we believe. If I manage to do ONLY that I think I will have been a total success! Finally, though, I want them to be able to live independently, to be able to care for themselves completely when the time comes for them to be on their own. I want them to be able to do laundry, cook, clean, attend to their health, their finances - all those issues that you aren't born knowing or even wanting to know or realizing you need to know until it's critical!

To that end, yesterday J1 learned how to cook muffins. His first experience with baking. He can cook oatmeal, mac&cheese and scrambled eggs (sort of). Yesterday he made our "left-over oatmeal muffins" (which the boys inexplicably call "Muffin Men Muffins" LOL!)

Notice all the helpers he has? Can't really do much in my kitchen without having lots of helpers - I just love that! J1 did REALLY well making the muffins - to the point where I would now feel comfortable giving him the recipe and walking away. Wow, is he growing up!

It's so important, IMHO, to let kids practice in the kitchen. How can you know how to measure a cup of flour without actually DOING it? You have to experience it to gain the knowledge of what works and what doesn't. I kind of think all of learning is like that! :-)

I was so excited by how competent J1 seemed yesterday. I see a day in a couple of years where he will cook dinner one night a week for us. Oh, glorious day! :-) Especially since I am starting to see hints of that adolescent male hunger everyone talks about. J1 and A2 in particular are very preoccupied with When the Next Meal is Coming, lol! Already! Course, have I mentioned how much they're growing recently? I definitely get the sense that I need to teach all the boys how to cook before they're about 12, otherwise I will do nothing all day, every day, but slave in the kitchen. I feel sometimes like I do that already, so I'd best get busy training my helpers!

Sunday Church Picture

It's been awhile since I posted a picture of the boys all ready for church. They're being awfully silly here. They all have blankets to take with them because the heat in our car wasn't working (we were able to fix it ourselves, thank goodness!) And oops - shoulda ironed J1's pants the night before, huh?

They're all getting so bleedin' tall - could they slow down the growing thing??

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Whole-grain Crunchy

My friend Kelly posted this questionnaire on her blog today. Fascinating! I will say this, though - this is really mostly aimed at us "women of child-bearing age." If you want to skip this very long entry, it's OK!

Being away from the whole baby thing right now, I forget sometimes just how "crunchy" I really am, lol! IMO, there are less opportunities to be obviously "crunchy" when your kids are older (as witnessed by the fact that 11 out of these 15 questions are related to pregnancy or very young children and babies). Here are the questions, and my answers:

Do you have homebirths?
15 points for “yes” (unassisted)
10 points for “yes” (with a midwife in attendance)
5 points for alternative birthing center
2 points for “thinking about/would like homebirth”
0 for “no” (wouldn’t consider it).

I'll take a 10 on this one, I think. Like my friend, I would LOVE to have a homebirth, but high-risk pregnancies prevent me from even considering it. If I had uneventful, non-risky pregnancies, I would absolutely have a homebirth, and I'd be very tempted by an unassisted birth - I honestly don't need help to birth my babies, lol! I'd be the type of woman who would be perfectly happy to go about my normal business until the last hour or so, then head off to a cave all by myself (might want hubby there, I suppose ;-), and have the baby. I have used midwives for my last 3 births, with no pain meds, though they were at a hospital with an OB on call. I and my babies might unfortunately need the medical help, and I'm grateful it's available - but if I had my druthers, it would be just me and dh!

Will you circumcise future sons?
-5 points for “no”
-0 points for “yes”.

Absolutely not, never have, never will. I feel pretty strongly about it, actually, though I am not quite as militant about it as I used to be. These days I figure more that the decision should be totally up to the parents, and it's not for me to judge. But for my family - no way! We actually put very large signs in the hospital bassinets with all our boys stating our preferences. When J1 was a baby, we had one nurse try to come and whisk him out of the room, and she was half-way out the door with the baby before we stopped her to ask what she was doing. She made the comment it was "circ" time, and we said we did NOT want that done. She was shocked, and quickly left. We do exclusive room-ins with our babies after birth, but I'm still always terrified that someone's going to come take baby away and do the circ procedure without our permission! WIth my last baby I had nightmares for months about that! No one's going to cut off a part of my baby, thank you very much!

Do you use cloth diapers?
20 point if you do Elimination Communication (no diapers)
15 points if “yes” (wash and make your own)
10 points if “yes” (wash your own)
5 points if “yes” (diaper service)
2 points if “thinking about it”
0 points if “no” (wouldn’t consider it)

Hmm... I'll split the difference and give myself a 5 on this one. We used cloth with J1 for about a year - he got too big before he potty trained, there wasn't a cloth diaper on earth that could have kept him from leaking everywhere when he was going on 3 and the size of most 4 1/2 year olds! I used cloth with A2 for the first 7 months or so. Then I got pregnant with S3 and just couldn't keep up with the smell and the extra work of washing, and I never got back to it after that. If we are blessed with another baby, though, I definitely plan to go back to cloth. I'm one of those weird people who love cloth diapers - they're so soft, I love the process of washing them and folding them and, quite frankly, they look a lot more comfy to me than that elastic tape and plastic of the disposables! Not to mention - do I really want all those chemicals of uncertain origin right up next to my child's private parts???

Do you observe your fertility signals using Natural Family
Planning/Fertility Awareness and use that for birth control/trying to conceive?
10 points for “yes” (observe and use for birth control/ttc) or you use ecological
breastfeeding/lactational amnorrhea
5 points for “yes” (observe for trying to conceive)
2 points “thinking about it”
0 points for “no” (wouldn’t consider it)

Well, yeah - definitely a 10. I AM Catholic! :-) I'd like to think that even if we weren't, though, I'd have come around to using NFP. Such an elegant, simple way to track your fertility. We were in the middle of studying to become a teaching couple when dh got sick. Quite honestly, these days I have no idea why people with normal fertility and health use artificial birth control. I mean, back before I "reverted" to Catholicism in my late 20s, we did use ABC, so I understand how you just sort of use it and not think about it too much cuz that's just what people do. But if you do stop to think about it, especially if you're married (which obviously, I think you should be, lol!) - why would you do it? Why in the world would you take a pill that stops you from having normal periods (or prevents you from having periods for months on end - I'm sorry, that just *can't* be good for you!) and has all sorts of health risks attached it its use? Why would you want rubber between you and your loved one? Why sterilize/mutilate your own body for convenience sake?? NFP has no chemicals, no rubber, no artificial hormones, no risky surgeries - I use it because I'm a devout Catholic (and I won't even go into all the theological/moral reasons why contraception is evil), but I'm pretty sure I would have come around to this even if I wasn't.

Do you breastfeed exclusively for the first 6+ months?
10 points if “yes”
5 points for “no” (use occasional bottles of expressed breastmilk)
2 points for “no” (use occasional bottles of formula)
0 for “no” (don’t breastfeed by choice).

Absolutely! None of my babies have taken solids much before 7-8 months, and all of them hated a bottle (two of them never touched one).

Do you co-sleep/family bed?
10 points for “yes” (all night every night)
5 points for “yes” (part/all of most nights)
2 points for “thinking about it”
0 points for “no”.

Yup, with all of them. I think co-sleeping and nursing is the ultimate lazy way to parent, lol!

Do you use a sling/soft carrier?
5 points for “yes”
2 points for “thinking about it”
0 points for “no” (wouldn’t consider it).

Yes, I love my sling. I found it the other day when we were cleaning out our basement closet - I can't bear to give it away as we SO hope we have more babies someday. And now there are so many more kinds, I'd love to try them all! :-)

Do you believe in/practice child-led weaning
(even if that means breastfeeding for several years)?
15 points for “yes” (complete child-led weaning)
10 points for “yes” (up to 3 years)
5 points for “yes” (up to 2 years)
2 points for “thinking about it”
0 points for “no” (you’ll wean the baby at 1 year or earlier).

Hmm...I'll give myself a 12 for this one as idea-wise, I'm a 15, but on average, real age-wise, I'm more like a 7. I've run the gamut, really. I had to start A2 on formula when he was 9 1/2 months old because my milk ran out from S3's pregnancy (absolutely devastated me). N4, on the other hand, nursed until he was 4. The other two were somewhere in the middle, and definitely child-led, though influenced by my pregnancies, I'm sure (J1 at about 2 1/2, S3 at 20 months). Other than A2, I can honestly say that all our weanings were child-led.

Do you tandem nurse/nurse during your pregnancy?
10 points for “yes” (nurse during pgcy and tandem nurse)
5 points for “yes” (nurse during pgcy, but wean before birth)
2 points for “thinking about it”
0 points for “no”(wouldn’t consider it).

Another hmm....I think I'll have to give myself an 8? I've nursed through all my pregnancies (well, not the first, lol!) and would have tandem nursed if my kids had wanted to. J1 did just a bit. He cut way back on his nursing the last few months of my pregnancy, and when I got home from the hospital after having A2, he asked to nurse, then was shocked, "there's milk in there now, mom!" And, while he nursed a few more times after that, he was never really that interested again. He tells me now that he sort of remembers it, and just figured he needed to save the milk for the baby. So sweet! A2 was just too young when my milk went away due to pregnancy, he hadn't gotten to that "nurse for comfort" stage, so once he started getting a bottle, he didn't want to nurse anymore with nothing there. I was really hoping he'd remember how and I could nurse him again after I had S3 (A2 was just 15 months when S3 was born), but he never did. For about a year, though, he would ask to "nurse", and he'd just crawl up into my lap, snuggle, and rest his cheek on my breast. Aww...S3 just totally self-weaned when he was 20 months old and I was about 6 months pregnant with N4, and he never looked back - I really thought they would be the ones who nursed together, and I was kind of looking forward to it. I would definitely still consider tandem nursing if the situation ever comes up.

Do you eat organic/whole/natural foods and limit your meat?
15 points for “yes” (grow own/buy organic, shop only at health food store,
grind own wheat, vegetarian, etc.)
10 points for “yes” (grow some of own food, buy organic,
use whole wheat flour, bake own bread, eat some meat occasionally)
5 points for “yes” (try to buy natural, whole grain foods, etc.)
2 points for “thinking about it”
0 points for “no” (wouldn’t consider it

Well.. probably just a 5 here. I'd prefer to buy organic, but our financial situation prevents us, for the most part. We do use mostly whole grains, and I plan to grind my own wheat as soon as soon as we can afford the grinder. We have no place on our property for a garden, unfortunately (HOA prevents vegetable gardens in front of the house, and with all the woods behind our house there is very little sunlight in our back yard), though I would LOVE to grow a lot of my own food. I did go through a vegetarian/vegan phase - quite honestly, I think it ruined my health! Now we definitely eat meat, though - we're confirmed carnivores and truly believe that it's actually good for you (check out Weston A Price - they are near to what my "nutritional philosophy" is...). We do try to get locally grown, grass-fed beef as often as we can, and if I had the financial resources I'd be pretty picky about organic/grass fed/free range, etc, meat products, definitely!

Do you use herbal/homeopathic remedies?
10 points if “yes” (very rarely see a regular doctor)
5 points if “yes” (but use a doctor occasionally)
2 points if “thinking about it” (see a doc for now)
0 points for “no” (wouldn’t consider it).

I'll say 5, I think. We avoid the doctor as much as we can, but we do try to keep up a fairly regular schedule of well-child/preventative appointments with a regular doctor. I'm not too keen on herbal medicine - like Mel, I think herbs can be very powerful and I don't know enough about them to be able to use good judgment. I use a little bit of homeopathy, especially for my babies, but not so much, really. Mostly we just try to stay healthy and offer supportive care (steamy baths, chamomile tea, saline nose rinses, that sort of thing) when we're sick. I am very glad for modern medicine (saved my dh's life, after all!) but for the most part, for minor illness (and maybe some major ones), I think our beautifully created bodies can heal ourselves if we leave well enough alone.

Do you homeschool?
10 points if “yes” (currently homeschool)
5 points for “yes” (will homeschool)
2 points for “thinking about it”
0 points for “no” (wouldn’t consider it).

A full 10 points here! :-)

What's your take on childhood vaccinations?
15 points for no vaccines
10 for delayed, selective vaccination
5 points for selective, on schedule vaccination
2 points for thinking about not vaccinating
0 points for vaxing on schedule.

Hmm...I'll give myself a 2, though I might be edging up on a 5. I pretty much give the older 'standard' vaccines on-schedule (MMR, Hib, tetanus, etc), though if we have another baby I will consider selectively vaccinating based upon which vaccines come from aborted babies - I was unaware of that issue when my kids were babies. For now, I don't get any of the vaccines that aren't required by law, and we always seem to be late on the schedule after that first year. I rather think that a good many vaccines are not so good for us, though some are certainly important.

Would you/have you ever breastfeed/fed someone else's baby
or have someone else bf your child?
10 points if yes (have or someone has bf your baby)
5 points if yes (would)
2 points if maybe 0 if no (wouldn't consider it).

LOL! Definitely a 5. Only with someone I know well and gives their approval, too, of course. I never actually have, mostly because the opportunity never presented itself when I was nursing and was friends with someone who wouldn't mind, either. "Wet-nurses" have a long, long history, I just don't think it's that big a deal. Trust me, if I had been nursing when I watched my friend Kelly's little one and she was so sad, I would definitely have offered!!

Do you use cloth/re-usable products for mom?
10 points if yes (make own)
5 points if yes (buy own)
2 points if thinking about it
0 points if no.

A 2 here. I have looked at purchasing some, and I've seen some good, simple patterns on-line and thought of making some - just haven't taken that step yet, though.

Whew! Here's the scoring:

120 – 140 Super Nutty, Ultra-Crunchy Granola Earth Mama
90 – 119 Mmm! Love that whole-grain crunch!
60 – 89 Pretty Crispy
20 – 59 Sprinkled with Granola
5 – 19 Instant Oatmeal
0 - 4 Jell-O

My total score is 97. Definitely "whole-grain crunchy", lol! Like Kelly and her friend Mel, I have mellowed a bit since my oldest was young. I used to be quite judgmental, thinking my way was the only right way. I've come to believe that families need to make decisions for themselves. As long as those decisions are educated decisions and you are not unduly influenced by people around you - in other words, if you *honestly* decide what you believe is right for *your* family - then I'm ok with that. I think that God gives us the children that we are supposed to have, and He gives us the Grace to know what is best for our family if we listen to His voice. I no longer define myself by my "crunchiness", I define myself by my faith. But - I'm still pretty slightly crunchy, too! :-)

WAY too funny!

How about a little early hint of the Christmas season?


H/T to PistachioChocolateWife (who is a sweetheart IRL!) - her little elves are absolutely adorable! :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

First day!

Horray! It's the official first day of dh's new job. We are just SO thrilled. He's salaried, so as we speak, he's getting paid. Thank God!

Right now we're waiting for the FedEx guy to deliver his new company laptop and a big packet of HR paperwork (the Big Box arrived as I was writing this). The week after Thanksgiving he'll travel to San Diego for a few days to do some training, and then things should (hopefully!) settle down into some sort of routine. I am SO looking forward to having good routines again!

We'll spend a good portion of the next couple of weeks getting the home office area ready. Right now our basement is a disaster area - and we've got guests coming to stay in the spare room down there in 3 days - yikes! We've got two large closets down there. When we moved a year ago, boxes that we didn't immediately need were just sort of stuck haphazardly in the closets. Well, now we have to entirely clear out one closet so dh can use it for all his geeky, company provided, computer equipment. So I'm losing one big storage area. That hurts! But, we are so lucky in that we really have a perfect area in our basement for dh's techie home office.

I'm really contemplating and pondering what our life is going to be like. There are six of us (including 4 rapidly growing young men!) plus 2 cats and 2 dogs. We homeschool. Dh now has a home office. We live in a raised ranch, 3 bedroom (with one more non-standard bedroom in the basement area), 2 bathroom (with an additional full bath off of the basement spare room) home. Our house is approximately 1600 square feet on the main level, and about 500 more square feet of usable space in the basement. It's quite nice - I LOVE my home! But - with 6 of us living, working, learning, 24/7, we are packed pretty tightly.

I don't believe we need a huge house. I believe that in our very nice, yet modest home, we can live, work, learn and play very well, thank you. But, we are going to have to be VERY efficient in our use of space. I would love to share my ideas with all of you as we go along.

I sure am counting my blessings today. I'm going to go and help dh fill out HR paperwork now. Wow - real benefits. It's been SO long! We are truly, truly blessed.

Friday, November 09, 2007

It's official!

We got the email late this afternoon. Dh passed all pre-employment conditions (drug screen and background check) and his offer of employment is confirmed. He will be on the payroll as of next Wednesday.

I can feel the tension ooze from my body! Now we wait for that first paycheck in a couple of weeks, and for our health benefits to kick in the first of next month. It will take a month or two to recover, financially (and emotionally!) but the hard part is over! Thank you, God!

My parents are coming to visit for Thanksgiving, they'll arrive next weekend. Next week I'm going to focus on cleaning my house for our guests, and getting life organized again. I intend to thoroughly enjoy the holiday week with my parents, and I am looking forward to starting school in earnest after Thanksgiving.

My mind is going a mile a minute, thinking of how to integrate a home office into our homeschool here in our not-so-big home. I am so happy to be able to think about these sorts of things now! It's much more fun than trying to figure out how to pay bills and feed my family on nothing, and worrying about losing this precious home.

Now that we will have a "real" job again with a good income, I am bound and determined to really internalize and practice all these lessons I've learned from our years of meager means. I hope to share some of my thoughts and ideas with you all.

For now, though, I'm going to enjoy relaxing, and basking in gratitude for our good fortune! :-)


So, yesterday afternoon I took J1 out to get his allergy shots, and while I was gone dh installed the washer we got from our church a week or so ago. He later admitted to the following exchange with A2.

Dh was having a hard time moving our old, ancient, heavy wash machine outside into the garage and was using - ahem - rather colorful language. When he came back in, A2 met him on the stairs. "So, dad - did you get the f&$#@*g wash machine out?" Dh tried not to swallow his tongue or burst into completely inappropriate, hysterical laughter and gently told A2, "You're not supposed to say that word, A2. *I'm* not supposed to say that word, and I'm very sorry that I did." A2 calmly responded, "Oh, ok - it's one of *those* words, huh?"

Um, yeah. It is. *Someone's* got to clean up their act, huh? :-)

Reminds me of the time my dad was taking me to my grandma's house and we got delayed by the train. When we got to my grandma's house, I told her we were late because of the "g&$d#&n train". She laughed and laughed! Something grandmas can do, though us parents shouldn't!

Seriously. I've said it before and I'll say it again - sometimes one of the toughest things about being a parent is not laughing!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ad apology

Apparently I had some rather offensive ads pop up on my page recently - I've just deleted the ad widget to prevent that happening. Sorry about that! :-)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Playing with the camera...

It's a gorgeous day here in Georgia! The boys and I spent most of the afternoon outside while dh had a big phone presentation/final interview. I was feeling anxious about the interview, and trying to keep the boys occupied, so we all sat on the deck for awhile, trying to relax. I snapped pictures of my children while they just sat and talked with me. It was really neat! Seriously - you should try it! Just take your camera, talk with your kids, give them 95% of your attention (camera will need a bit of attending to, lol!) and snap a whole bunch of pictures.

Here's A1 playing bubbles with the dog...

Daisy is SUCH a sweet dog! She's trying to get me to pet her belly here - she LOVES a good belly-rub!

More of A2...

He talks so much with his hands, I'd never really realized that before!

Here's a cool "action shot" of J1 and N4...

Here's S3 - look at those big brown eyes! And that brand-new hint of a tooth!

If A2 talks with his hands, S3 talks with his facial expressions...

and BOY does he have dimples or what??

J1 is at an age where it's difficult to get a good picture of him - he's old enough to be self-conscious most of the time, ya know? It's so neat to see him teetering on the brink of being a young man, rather than a boy.

He sure does have some baby blues!

I had the most fun getting shots of N4. You can see such a range of expressions on his face, from pout-y-face

to that mischievous sparkle he gets in his eyes...

he's just always had such a beautiful face!

and speaking of mischievious sparkles!

All in all, I had so much fun this afternoon! Even though we STILL haven't heard about Rick's job yet!!! Arrrggghhhhh!!!!

Friday, November 02, 2007

A women among men...

So, J1 was watching the Food Channel with me *far too late* tonight (we are all SUCH night owls here at Aquinas Academy!) You can imagine the demographic for the Food Channel at 11pm, right? So there was an ad for Monistat...and J1 said, "Look at the size of those pills, can you believe that??" And, well - I don't hide things from my sons. J1 and all the boys have known from a fairly young age about femine hygiene products, a woman's cycle, that sort of thing. Not like details and specifics, but just the general information they need to live with a woman, ya know? So there's J1 tonight, horrifed by the size of the Monistat "pills". And I couldn't help it. "J1, those aren't pills that you swallow," I said. "What do you mean?" said J1, blankly. "Women sometimes get fungal infections in their vaginal tracts. It's a girl thing, you probably don't want to know." And the light dawns in my 10 year old's eyes. "I think I have a pretty good idea of what you're talking about, and I REALLY don't want to know! Curse you, mom!" he says in his Very Dramatic Voice.

I'd like to think he'll be a good husband someday. But for now, he's a rather traumatized 10 year old.

And I just can't stop giggling!

I'm boring...

Or so my going-on-11 year old tells me. When dh was gone yesterday, J1 told me late in the afternoon that he really missed dad. Apparently he's gotten used to having dad around lately, and was distressed to have him gone for a whole day. J1 told me that "things were boring when dad isn't around." I said, "Oh, so I'm boring, huh?" thinking it was a big joke. And then J1 said, "yeah" and my heart was kind of crushed. Dad talks with the boys about fun guy stuff like comic books, scary movies, and computer games. I make them do their math, clean their room, and eat their vegetables.

I guess I am boring. But no - I'm not! I'm a very interesting person! When I was not much older than J1, I toured Scandinavia with a concert band (and also traveled to Chicago with the local Youth Symphony). I play 4 musical instruments. I've traveled to New York City and San Diego with my dear friend, Jenn (and since I grew up in the middle of nowhere, midwest - that's saying something!) I went to one of the top colleges in the nation. I've studied the genetics of fruit flies (Ok, that IS boring!), extracted DNA and got the only A+ ever given on a lab report in one of the toughest courses at said college (Cell Biology). I gave a presentation at Woods Hole Institute. I was, briefly, a military wife (hardest thing I've ever done!) I made the Dean's List at another great college(and still have yet to finish my bachelor's degree!) I've worked at a pizza house, a lawyer's office (I was a notary public!) and a title company. I've been pregnant 7 times, birthed four children (3 without pain meds!), nursed 4 children (for a grand total of 9 years!), potty trained 4 children, tought 1 child to read and am well on my way to teaching the other 3. I've lived through the critical illness of a spouse, years of on again, off again (mostly on again) poverty. I can cook up a storm, I can crochet, knit, and embroider (though I have yet to master sewing). I've been married to the same man for 15 years (and *that's* saying something, lol!!) I've studied Japanese, Chinese, French, and I'm picking up on a bit of Latin while I teach my kids. The things I've done! The places I've been! The experiences I've had!

And my children think I'm boring. I guess that's a good thing. I think that moms - good moms - are meant to be boring. When I confronted J1 and said, "Oh, so you think *I'm* boring, huh?" he admitted, "Well - it's just that you're always there! Dad comes and goes, but you're just - always there." I said, "Oh, so you just take me for granted, then?" and J1's face brightened, and he said, "Yeah! That's it!'

And he was so glad about that that I couldn't help but be terribly happy myself. I'm so very glad to be a taken for granted kind of mom! I wouldn't want to be any other way! :-)

It's finally out!

The most stubborn baby tooth on the planet finally came out tonight - doesn't S3 look adorable?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Birthdays, Halloween, and interviews (not to mention Saints!)

What a week it's been! Dh has had multiple interviews this week, starting bright and early Monday morning, continuing with cross-country travel today, and still yet another meeting tomorrow afternoon. *I'm* exhausted by it all, I have no idea how dh is keeping up with everything. The good news is, he now has a job offer, and it looks like he'll get another one sometime on Monday. I do believe our days of unemployment are coming to an end. Thank God!

The offer that he hopes to get on Monday will involve him working from home, with very occasional business travel. As homeschoolers, adding a home office means our life will be VERY home-centered. We will all just love that! My mind is burgeoning with ideas for setting up and organizing everything. I'm trying to play it cool until we see what kind of offer is presented - but gosh, I'm excited!

We had a wonderful birthday party for S3 - I simply cannot believe that my little peanut is 7 years old!

Yes, he loves pink! He always asks for a strawberry cake with strawberry frosting. I think this is the last year he's going to get to make that choice, though, as all of us seem to have allergy issues with red food dye. And notice that front tooth is *still there*!!!

S3 wanted to go to Chuck E. Cheese's for his birthday, and since I had a coupon we went and hung out there for a couple hours. Not my favorite place, but the kids love it, so we try to take them once a year around the little ones' birthdays. For anyone who's ever been, you know they very carefully stamp your arms with matching numbers and won't let anyone leave without checking to make sure you all belong together. I really appreciate their concern for safety! It was SO funny when we left, though. We were all holding out our arms for the attendant to check, but he took one look at us and said, "Nah - go on through. I don't need to check - you all look exactly alike!"

We had fun yesterday for Halloween, even though we just stayed in. We watched some scary movies (original Dracula, that sort of thing...) and I made some fun Halloween snacks. I thought my spider cupcakes turned out really cute! J1 liked the "black dragon punch", and has asked me to make it every year. I tried to do "bloody eyeball deviled eggs", but they didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped since I used ketchup instead of red gel (per above mentioned food dye allergies).

Here's a close-up of my spider cupcakes - aren't they cute??

Later on, I made a dinner of Jack O Lantern tarts and "bloody worm sandwhiches". I thought the boys would like the worm sandwhiches - you just slice hotdogs into long strips, and when they boil they curl up. Add some ketchup and it turns kind of creepy - too creepy, apparently, as none of the boys would eat them!

Today we went to church and saw lots of kids dressed up in really adorable saint costumes for the All Saint's Day party our homeschool group holds. We didn't stay for the party - what with all the other stuff going on this week I'm just about completely spent!

I hope you all had a great All Hallow's Eve, and a very blessed All Saint's Day!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Happy Birthday to us!

Late October is a big birthday time here at Aquinas Academy. N4 starts things out - he turned 5 this year, which is just unbelievable to me.

Despite our financial difficulties, thanks to grandma and grandpa, and "Aunt Jenn" (my best friend from high school who lives just a couple miles away and is my kids unofficial "auntie"), N4 had a great birthday.

The coolest present he got was a kids' digital camera. Or maybe it was the really neat bug stuff (house and a vacuum thing to suck up the bugs to study - now *that* I've gotta love! :-) The kids spent days catching moths, beetles, and a lizard. They cried when we let the lizard go! But I have to say - it's just so interesting to look at the things a 5 year old takes pictures of! Almost every picture he takes of me or dh is from an angle we've never seen before - looking up from about waist level! Lots of pictures of his bears, the furniture, the inside of his brother's mouths or their ears or... I will post some of N4's pictures soon - some of them are quite good!

Next was my birthday. I'm now officially in my "late" 30s, as opposed to "mid" 30s. Not so sure how I feel about that, but I had a great day. I did get one present - a bookstore gift card from the aforementioned "Aunt Jenn" - I can't wait to use it!! My other friend and my dh conspired to give me a mini-surprise party. We had a great time! I got beautiful flowers from "Monkey1",

plus a fun pizza dinner and my very own cake. When I had 9 young children singing me Happy Birthday, along with my husband and great friend, I felt like the luckiest, most blessed woman on earth!

This week, S3 wil turn 7. My head spins, wondering how in the world my tiny little babe got to be 7 years old! I'm really wondering if he'll have front teeth on his birthday. I took this picture a month ago when we realized his two front teeth were almost ready to come out.

But they're still there! One tooth in particular is just hanging there, but that last root will just NOT break. I told dh he just has to get it out before he goes out of town - I just do NOT do the tooth thing! S3 is going to look so cute with no front teeth!

Where chaos reigns...

October has been an absolute total wash here at Aquinas Academy. We really haven't lifted a pencil all month - thank goodness it's only our second official month of school and we have plenty of time to catch up.

Dh's continued unemployment has really thrown me for a loop so far this year. I just don't handle stress well anymore. I think I used to be better, but years of critical illness, job loss, poverty, several moves, and wild uncertainty have really used up my emotional reserves.

I have spent most of the month berating myself for not sucking it up and getting things done, regardless of our circumstances. You'd think with all the practice I've had, living with unemployment and financial hardship, I'd be better at it. Ah, well. Can't change what I've done or not done this month, but we can move forward.

The good news is, dh has two major interviews this week that we're hoping and praying result in very good job offers. Next week, if needed, dh has an interview in Phoenix, AZ. I don't want to move! While I don't love Atlanta traffic, I do love my friends, the community I have here, I love my house, and I really, *really* love my church. The only real plus about Phoenix is that they have a more reliable water supply than we do here in the drought-striken southeast - and I can't believe I'm saying that! I so hope that it doesn't come down to us having to move. At any rate, hopefully, God willing, this time of unemployment and pending financial doom will be over with soon!

My plans for me, the kids and school is still a bit nebulous. Quite honestly, I think I'm going to take a different approach for a month or two. We're going to give this week a total miss - we've got a huge interview for dh on Monday (I get too nervous when he's interviewing to do anything but bite my fingernails!), a birthday on Tuesday, Halloween (though sadly, we can't afford costumes or candy, so the plan is just to have cookies and popcorn and watch scary movies all day), All Saint's Day, and dh is also travelling to Chicago for an interview on Thursday (it's a local job, he's just meeting people from the national office there). So, it's going to be a busy week and I won't set us up to fail by setting up big plans. Next week, however, I do want to get back to a bit more active learning. I think I'm going to save the really formal lessons till after the Christmas season, but we do need more structure in our day, more opportunities to learn and grow. I'm actually excited about this. I will post my ideas on what we'll do as the weeks progresses. I'm thinking along the lines of art and music study, perhaps a poetry unit, math games, puzzles, memorization, read-a-louds, nature study, some informal, kid-friendly science experiments. Basically, I think we'll just do a lot of learning activites that I find fun! I'll still do math and reading with the younger three, and J1 can do his math and whatever else interests him if he wants to. But, for the most part, I just want us all to get into a rhythm of enjoying learning together!

I will definitely keep you all posted on how things go! I really hope to get back to regular blogging, I really do miss writing about our days. I'm actually toying with the idea of starting another blog or two. I'll keep Aquinas Academy about our school and kid-related stuff. I'm thinking of some sort of "home" blog, too. I've learned so many lessons about being frugal that I'd love to share, plus I love to cook and plan and dream of decorating my home. I'm also thinking of another blog about my faith, a little politics, a little ethics and molity and philosophical musings. I'm debating keeping this blog, or creating a new one and just putting everything in one spot. I'm not completely sure what to do, quite honestly - any thoughts from my regular readers? :-)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Fruits of Home Schooling...

Every once in awhile I manage to have an "ah ha!" moment, where I realize, despite all my self-doubts, that these children really are learning. Oftentimes these moments are fleeting, and I barely acknowledge it to myself, let alone write about it here. But just now, I noticed the following exchange between J1 (oldest) and N4 (youngest).

The two of them were off playing some Age of Empires type computer game, when all of a sudden they walk down the hall together, and J1 tells me, "N wants to know what a river delta is..." and they go over to the maps we have on our dining room wall. J1 says, "Hmm...let's see. Oh yeah - Egypt! Look there - see? That's the Nile River. And do you see those blue streaks there at the top? That's where the Nile breaks up into lots of smaller rivers, and that area is the river delta. It floods now and then, so it's got really good soil, and there's lots of farming there. And, especially in the ancient world, where there was good farming, there were cities..." And N4 follows J1 back to our computer room with a definite sense of worship, lol!

It's so cool to see it when they teach each other, especially when they're just having fun, and it's all a natural part of their lives. I just love that!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Thank goodness!

Thank goodness it's the beginning of the year. I have plenty of time to make up/catch up with all that we're NOT doing right now!

We had a really good first three weeks. Things went well, and we had a nice rhythm and routine. And then, the end of the third week, I fell behind in my planning and organizing. Somehow, last week went by without anything getting done. I thought that would be ok, because year round school works better for us anyway, always has, and this weekend I worked out a nice schedule of 3-4 weeks "on" school, 1-2 weeks "off". But I didn't get to that planning stuff again. And yesterday went by without me having a chance to get to it. And this morning, when I went to correct J1's work and get him set up for the rest of the week, I couldn't find the books and materials I needed. I realized that I have become completely, hopelessly disorganized.

The stress and uncertainty of dh's continued unemployment is really taking a toll. I do NOT deal with this well at all. So, I talked it over with dh, and we've decided we will give formal school a miss the rest of this week. We are going to spend the next few days (in addition to dh continuing to look for work, of course!) cleaning and organizing. Taking this time to hard-core clean will keep me actively busy, and that always helps me deal with stress. Getting better organized will make all the things I need to do during school time easier. And it will just flat-out make me feel better - for me (not so much for the men in my life, unfortunately!) living in chaos makes it that much harder to deal with the stress in my life.

So, even though I feel bad about not doing much formal school work last week and this week, I know I will feel better if I get my home under control. To make it more fun, I will try to post some "before" and "after" pictures. Check back later today to see what I do with my kitchen/dining room areas!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flight of the Bumblebee

This morning we somehow brought up "Flight of the Bumblebee" - I think dh was talking to J1 about The Green Hornet, and mentioned he heard someone play "Flight of the Bumblebee" on the trumpet, and wouldn't that be really hard? I agreed, and J1 asked what "Flight" was. I did a bit of searching, and came to one of my favorite music resources here in our homeschool, Classics for Kids. They've got fabulous information about the instruments of the orchestra, music games (including a very nice "note name game" for those learning music...), and flash versions of a lot of famous classical pieces. For some reason, though, I couldn't get the music to play there this morning, so I jumped to Wikipedia's entry, which led me to this awesome video. If you want to watch something truly funny, and admire someone's incredible talent at the same time, all while reminiscing over how "they just don't make entertainment the way they used to", please watch it! Gave me a hearty laugh this morning! In fact, let me experiment and see if I can embed this video here in my blog!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

So far, so good!

The uncertainty and stress continues in our life, with dh still unemployed and our financial situation rapidly deteriorating. (Though dh is VERY busy as he looks for work - with all the people he's talking to I have to believe something's going to come through soon.)

But, despite all that, we've gotten off to our best start ever here at Aquinas Academy! We began everything slowly, and I really think it's been to our benefit. I realized, with all the extra stress, things would never be perfect - so I relaxed and resolved to just do the best I could with the situation and materials I'd been given. Anyone who knows me well knows what a leap that was for me, lol!

At some point this week, I hope to list all of our materials, our routines, just to get it all down on "paper" for my own records. But for now, here's an overview of how the guys are doing...

J1 continues to do quite well. He's flying through pre-Algebra, I'm actually thinking about letting him accelerate a bit more. It can be hard to know when to let him push ahead and when to hold him back a bit. We'll see how next week goes, how he's feeling, and decide from there. Teaching a gifted child is such an intricate dance! He's doing pretty good in grammar, and he's really having fun and doing well in the writing assignments I've given him! We've started slowly in history, though it's still one of J1's favorite subjects and he's itching to fly. Sometimes I think I should just give him free reign in history, see what he does with it. Something to consider, definitely. He's loving his science this year, though convincing him to write neat, comprehensive lab reports is kind of a challenge. That's ok - he is just 10, after all! He's also suddenly doing really, really well in his piano lessons. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to look for an outside teacher next year - he really enjoys it, and is quite good. That's really fun for me, too, music geek that I am!

A2 is doing really, really well. Unlike his brothers, school doesn't seem to come "naturally" to him, he's a visual learner and slow to mature. But I can see a glimmer - he's finally starting to get it, he really is. He's really willing to try and work, and I just can't even begin to tell you how pleased I am with his progress so far this year. He's about 1/2 way through 100 EZ lessons, and he's finally, finally starting to really read. He isn't fluent yet, but he's actually reading the stories in 100EZ lessons with very, very little prompting from me - it is just so neat to see the light dawn with him! We've started Math-U-See with both him and S3, and at first I was concerned. A2 just didn't seem to "get" it, and given that MUS is supposed to be one of the best programs out there for visual learners, I was concerned. But, it took just two days for him to figure out what the program was asking of him, and now he's taking off. I'm so proud of him!

S3 is amazing - he just flies through his work. He is getting started on 100EZ lessons and is pretty bored - I wish I could figure out how to accelerate through that book a bit. He's almost figured out reading all on his own, he just has to make the connection between what he already knows and "sounding out" the words. Once decoding 'clicks' with S3, he'll be reading fluently - he is SO close. He LOVES Math-U-See, thinks it's the most fun thing ever and gets each lessons right away. School seems to come easily to S3, and it's great to watch him grow.

N4 is right in the thick of things - even though he's technically not even in Kindergarten yet, he's well able to handle K work and he's blazing through basic math, handwriting, and phonics. I'm about to try to start him on 100EZ lessons, because I think he might be ready. Again, school comes easily to him. He just LOVES to sit with me and work on things - he would spend hours working with me if I had the time!

We haven't really gotten off the ground with history yet, I'm tossing around some ideas in that regard - mostly that involve letting the kids just follow their interests and using a big time line to tie everything together. I'll keep you posted on what I decide - no matter what, it promises to be another great adventure!

Really, everything's going well. We have a nice, relaxed rhythm to our days, and life, despite it's stresses, is Good!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Ember Days

Now that we've been attending our traditional Latin Mass parish (run by the FSSP) for a full year, we're delving a bit more deeply into the traditional church calender. Today marks the beginning of the autumn Ember Days. These days, set aside for fasting, abstinence, and prayer, are set in the early part of each of the four seasons. Please do visit this page for an awesome summary of what Ember Days are all about:


and here is a good page with pictures, poems, and fun things to do with your kids during this autumn "Michaelmas Ember Days".


Today we'll read some autumn themed poems, draw some fall-ish pictures, and talk about how things are changing this season. I will show my kids the awesome picture over here - isn't that cool? (I wanted to insert the picture itself, but I'm having some blogger trouble - I'll try again later!) I'm also particular fascinated with the folk lore that each day of Embertide can predict the general weather of each month of the year. We are going to keep track and see if the folk tales are true this year!

I'll leave you with these words of Blessed Jacopo de Voragine (AD 1230-1298), which I found at the main Ember Days page at www.fisheaters.com. How wise our Saints and Blesseds are!

The fasting of the Quatretemps, called in English Ember days, the Pope Calixtus ordained them. And this fast is kept four times in the year, and for divers reasons.

For the first time, which is in March, is hot and moist. The second, in summer, is hot and dry. The third, in harvest, is cold and dry. The fourth in winter is cold and moist. Then let us fast in March which is printemps for to repress the heat of the flesh boiling, and to quench luxury or to temper it. In summer we ought to fast to the end that we chastise the burning and ardour of avarice. In harvest for to repress the drought of pride, and in winter for to chastise the coldness of untruth and of malice.

The second reason why we fast four times; for these fastings here begin in March in the first week of the Lent, to the end that vices wax dry in us, for they may not all be quenched; or because that we cast them away, and the boughs and herbs of virtues may grow in us. And in summer also, in the Whitsun week, for then cometh the Holy Ghost, and therefore we ought to be fervent and esprised in the love of the Holy Ghost. They be fasted also in September tofore Michaelmas, and these be the third fastings, because that in this time the fruits be gathered and we should render to God the fruits of good works. In December they be also, and they be the fourth fastings, and in this time the herbs die, and we ought to be mortified to the world.

The third reason is for to ensue the Jews. For the Jews fasted four times in the year, that is to wit, tofore Easter, tofore Whitsunside, tofore the setting of the tabernacle in the temple in September, and tofore the dedication of the temple in December.

The fourth reason is because the man is composed of four elements touching the body, and of three virtues or powers in his soul: that is to wit, the understanding, the will, and the mind. To this then that this fasting may attemper in us four times in the year, at each time we fast three days, to the end that the number of four may be reported to the body, and the number of three to the soul. These be the reasons of Master Beleth.

The fifth reason, as saith John Damascenus: in March and in printemps the blood groweth and augmenteth, and in summer coler, in September melancholy, and in winter phlegm. Then we fast in March for to attemper and depress the blood of concupiscence disordinate, for sanguine of his nature is full of fleshly concupiscence. In summer we fast because that coler should be lessened and refrained, of which cometh wrath. And then is he full naturally of ire. In harvest we fast for to refrain melancholy. The melancholious man naturally is cold, covetous and heavy. In winter we fast for to daunt and to make feeble the phlegm of lightness and forgetting, for such is he that is phlegmatic.

The sixth reason is for the printemps is likened to the air, the summer to fire, harvest to the earth, and the winter to water. Then we fast in March to the end that the air of pride be attempered to us. In summer the fire of concupiscence and of avarice. In September the earth of coldness and of the darkness of ignorance. In winter the water of lightness and inconstancy.

The seventh reason is because that March is reported to infancy, summer to youth, September to steadfast age and virtuous, and winter to ancienty or old age. We fast then in March that we may be in the infancy of innocency. In summer for to be young by virtue and constancy. In harvest that we may be ripe by attemperance. In winter that we may be ancient and old by prudence and honest life, or at least that we may be satisfied to God of that which in these four seasons we have offended him.

The eighth reason is of Master William of Auxerre. We fast, saith he, in these four times of the year to the end that we make amends for all that we have failed in all these four times, and they be done in three days each time, to the end that we satisfy in one day that which we have failed in a month; and that which is the fourth day, that is Wednesday, is the day in which our Lord was betrayed of Judas; and the Friday because our Lord was crucified; and the Saturday because he lay in the sepulchre, and the apostles were sore of heart and in great sorrow.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

We have one, too!

Horray? Or not!! I've been horrifically fascinated with these pictures over at Deogratias (she takes far better pictures than I do!) We live in the same general area, and since we've had lots of spiders over at our house, I was kinda wondering if we'd see one of these lovely (!?) yellow creatures here a the AAA house. Well, wonder no longer, because this is what we saw today!

While it WAS kinda cool to see this large, brilliantly colored spider build her very cool web, my feelings can be perfectly seen in the expression on my eldest son's face!

Since this spider is (so far) on the outside of our house, we will leave it in peace, and I will squelch my need for chemicals! We might even try to get outside to do some nature journaling of all the various spiders around our house this week - as long as dad's home! :-)

My monkey boy

Not to be confused with my favorite Monkey Children (and say a prayer for them while you're over there, they really need it!), but we've always referred to our #3 son as our "Monkey boy". And yes, there's a reason for that. Way back when, when he was not yet 2 1/2, we got great chuckles out of him climbing our fridge.

A couple of years ago, when we lived in an apartment, he often climbed the doorframes - I thought I had a picture of that, but can't find it, sad to say.

Now, though, he gets taller and taller every day. And of late, he has discovered, he's tall enough to do this:

Yes, S3 got almost up to the ceiling all by himself, no A2 is not holding him up, just pretending to! What an amazingly athletic child! I can't decide if it's a good thing, or a bad thing, that we've never had money for martial arts or gymanstics training! I shudder to think of what he might do with a little knowledge, lol!

Friday, September 14, 2007

My "fifth son"

My dog thinks he's one of the boys. For instance, the boys have a game where they call for a "super hug". They all come and hug me both individually and finally as a big group, before pulling apart and tumbling everywhere as they yell, "Atomic Boy Bomb!" (they are SUCH boys!) Biscuit will usually come over and try to "hug" me, too - one time actually jumping up and putting his paws on my shoulders. Very sweet! Until recently, it was kind of a joke about how much Biscuit wants to be "one of the boys" - but then I saw this picture, and I'm starting to think he really believes he's a Real Boy!

Biscuit sleeps on the couch at night, but the minute someone leaves their bed space, he crawls in their place. Used to be, when dh left for work early, the dog would wait till the garage door opened as dh left, then hop up into bed with me. Sometimes, though, if N4 has ended up in bed with mom & dad for some reason, Biscuit likes to jump into the boys' bed and sleep with S3.

The other morning, dh woke up early and took a picture of this scene in the boy's (messy) room:

The dog with his head on the pillow is just TOO funny - the sleeping boys are pretty cute, too! :-)

My studious children...

Too bad this one's blurry - J1 looks so serious as he works on his first lab report...

And my younger guys looked so cute today, all working on their handwriting at the table. Awww...

It wasn't all perfectly studious all the time around here, that's for sure, but we've had a good week. I'll try to post more details tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where were you??

It's 9/11 - wow! Can you believe it's been 6 years since the terrorist attacks? I just can't fathom it. We've been watching some shows on the History Channel tonight about that day. And I remember, so vividly, what it was like. I thought I'd share - and I'd love to hear what you were doing that day...

We lived in St. Paul, MN at the time, and we had 3 children under 5 years old then. When I first became aware of what was happening, I was in our dining room, feeding my children breakfast - it was oatmeal, I remember so clearly! Around 9am, my mom called me, "Have you heard? A plane flew into the World Trade Center in NYC!" I turned on the radio - the big Christian radio station in the Twin Cities - just in time to hear the second plane hit the towers. I listened to the news on the radio, and once the kids were done with breakfast, we went downstairs into our basement, where we kept our only TV. I turned on CNN, and I remember being absolutely hysterical as I watched the news coverage. I vividly remember looking at J1, my oldest, who was just 4.5 at the time (younger than my youngest now!) and I told him, "We have to pray. We have to pray really hard. You need to try to remember this, because this is just terrible and will be remembered forever. We need to pray, there's nothing else we can do." I remember A2, just 2 years old, with his big dark eyes, so aware of my stress, and S1, not quite a year old yet, being his normal, happy self. I called my dh, who at the time was a manager with a large computer firm that did computer back-ups and storage. He knew many people who were either travelling in the air or were in NYC at the time. I talked more with my mom, and called a friend here in Atlanta - her father worked in Washington DC (thankfully, he was fine). I watched the towers fall, and just cried. My husband had had a massive stroke less than 6 months earlier. He was still very sick and very weak. I remember thinking, "If it's really bad, and we have to evacuate or something - what will we do? I can't carry all 3 children by myself, and my husband can't help me - what will I do??" It was so confusing for those first few hours, as a plane hit the Pentagon, and another one went down in PA. Not knowing what would come next...It was a very vulnerable time for me, for all of us, and just such a horrific tragedy. I finally turned off the news, because the kids were so upset...And then I remember, later that day, after my dh came home, and we went outside - how quiet it was. We lived over a flight path to the airport, and with all the planes grounded, it was just so darn quiet, so eerie...

I still can't believe it happened. Can't believe it's been 6 years. My prayers are with all the victims, and the survivors, of that day. May we never forget!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Still stressed - another silly quiz!

You Are a Red Crayon

Your world is colored with bright, vivid, wild colors.
You have a deep, complex personality - and you are always expressing something about yourself.
Bold and dominant, you are a natural leader. You have an energy that is intense... and sometimes overwhelming.
Your reaction to everything tends to be strong. You are the master of love-hate relationships.

Your color wheel opposite is green. Green people are way too mellow to understand what drives your energy.

I just don't think this sounds like me, though the men in my life (dh, oldest son) say it is!

h/t Lapaz Home Learning - though she's a green, to my red, I promise to try not to "shake things up"!! :-)

Stressed out, so why not take a silly quiz?

NerdTests.com says I'm an Uber Cool High Nerd.  What are you?  Click here!

For more fun, somewhat more related to school stuff, see this: The Apostrophe Protection Society. Isn't that totally cool? (Now I *know* I'm a nerd! ;-)

h/t to my friend, Rational Jenn! Thanks for the laundry distraction, Jenn!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Poor Daisy!

Our poor pup - she was spayed on Tuesday, and is miserable with stitches and a big cone collar. She obviously feels fine, wants to jump and play and run, and is so upset that we're not letting her. A couple more days and she should be good. I had a Traumatic Childhood Moment when I was around 4, and my dog split her stitches after her surgery, so I'm a little bit extra cautious!

Our puppy's plight provided rich fodder for our paragraph writing exercise this week with J1. We started out by picking a topic. I asked questions such as: what are you interested in, what has happened lately in your life, what about the weather, or your favorite book...He immediately talked about Daisy and her cone. So, I asked him to talk about it a bit, and I wrote down the sentences for him. After we got those ideas down on paper, he put them in a somewhat more appropriate order, like this:

3. Cone is funny!
5. Daisy thinks it's a creature.
4. Biscuit is confused.
1. Daisy had to go to the vet.
2. She had to get spayed.
3. She shouldn't nip at her stitches.

Next, he took those sentences and wrote a rough draft on his own. (I made no editing corrections or suggestions to this first draft.)

"Yesterday Daisy went to the vet, I wasn't awake for it but dad brought her home today. Daisy went to the vet for surgery so she couldn't have puppies. Daisy started nipping her stitches at the vets'. They gave her a cone, it's very funny how she keeps slipping. Biscuit does not know what it is and is having trouble figuring it out. Daisy is also confused, she thinks it's a creature trying to dominate her."

Then, we talked about how it might be a stranger reading this, and they might have questions, like - who is Daisy? Who is Biscuit? What kind of cone? We also talked a bit about run-on sentences, and proper tenses, etc. I wrote for him for this last draft (he talked, I wrote - good for handwriting-challenged, yet verbal, children!), and offered a few prompts as to how to make things clearer. This is the second draft.

"Daisy is our 7 month black lab puppy. She had to go to the vet yesterday. She had to have surgery so she can't have puppies. Daisy started nipping her stitches at the vet's. They gave her a cone collar, and it's very funny how she keeps slipping over the collar. Our older dog, an English Pointer with lots of brown spots named Biscuit, is confused. He doesn't know what the cone is and is having trouble figuring it out. Daisy is also confused. She's acting like it's a creature trying to dominate her!"

Next week we'll talk about more descriptive, vivid language, and a strong opening sentence. I'll also have J1 copy it and correct his grammar and punctuation. I feel much better now that we're addressing his writing skills.

If only Daisy felt better!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First day...

I'll post pictures soon, though probably not till this weekend!

We had a good first day. Dad got donuts to start the morning, which was a big hit. J1 admitted that it was very "relaxing" to go on a break, but it was also nice to come back and start work again. So, he's ready for school, and did quite well his first day. He flew through the first lesson in pre-algebra (a side note: I simply can't believe I'm mentioning "algebra" and my child in the same sentence!), his handwriting is, well, the same messy 10 year old boy handwriting, and his weakest subject is still English grammar (which still cracks me up, because he's one of the most verbal children I've ever met, always has been - how can he struggle with grammar when he has such a facility with the spoken language??) Our focus this year is going to be on English grammar and composition. He's at ease in all other subjects, and while he doesn't do badly in Language Arts by any means (I have him working in a 7th grade text, 2 grades "above" his age level...) he just doesn't have the ease that he does in all other subjects. My goal, in particular, this year, is to work on his writing and communication skills. As grandma and grandpa, who on rare occassions receive emails from their oldest grandson, can attest - his writing needs a bit of work, lol!

J1 was disappointed that we're not starting science and history for another week or two, so I pulled out his science books and stuff to give him a bit of a preview. Which led to the memorable quote of the day. We were looking at the equipment lists for his science experiments:

"Eye protection? That's disturbing!"

LOL! He's going to love it!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Getting Ready...

Tomorrow's the day! I'm still not ready, but that's ok. We're going to have a nice, slow, "rolling" start. This first week, a short one anyway, we'll start with Religion, Math, English (includes grammar/phonics, spelling, and composition), Handwriting, Music, and Physical Education. Next week we'll add in Latin and Science, and finally, in the third week, History. Tomorrow I'll get J1 started, the next day add in A2, then Thursday S3 will join in, and finally, on Friday, N4 will get his start.

I've pretty much got everything all set to go for J1, and a great deal of my own organizational stuff is done. I've got a very nice binder for my own school stuff, I'll post pictures tomorrow! Speaking of pictures, we took "school pictures" today.

Our students...

J1, age 10.5, "5th" grade:

A2, age 8, "2nd" grade:

S3, age 6.5, "1st" grade:

N4, age 4.5, "PreK"

I have to say - even though I am feeling pretty stressed out, and mostly unready for school this year...I just love all the organizing and planning, the excitement of the kids, the anticipation of a new year. I am so very, very happy and blessed to be able to homeschool my beautiful, wonderful children!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Who knew??

So I made a list today of all that I have to do to get ready for school. It's already up to 20 items, and about half of those things need to be subdivided into steps, so it's probably easily 3 times that many things. This year is the year I decided to go truly out on my own, I have no pre-packaged lesson plans. I never used them directly (we used a combo of CHC and Sonlight), but it was nice to crib from them to make my own schedule. Being on my own is partly exciting, and partly terrifying. I feel like I did when I went from elementary school, with the nice, safe, one or two classrooms and teachers to deal with, to middle school, where we changed classes every hour and had lockers and stuff. It was exciting, and it felt "grown-up", but also absolutely terrifying and overwhelming. For some reason, that's how I feel this year.

And I'm just not ready, as I mentioned before! I have lots of great ideas, lots of notes scribbled here and there, tentative lesson plans for at least the first 6 weeks in most subjects. But, how to organize it all? I know I'll make more binders for the kids, but I'm currently without a planning system of my own. I've used a Franklin Covey Monarch planner for years, but lately I've decided it's just too big, bulky, and heavy. I have a PDA, which I love for basic calender functions (and ebook reading!), but it doesn't help me with lesson plans, household management stuff, etc. Also, as I've experimented with electronic stuff, I've come to realize that I'm a very visual, tactile sort of person, and I need stuff Written Down. Preferably someplace pretty and clean and organized.

So, in a great confluence of events, I came across Lissa's Planning Post. It led me on great rabbit-trails! I have not researched planners in quite some time, and boy oh boy is there lots of cool stuff out there. There's all the ones in Lissa's post, plus this looks like a place where I could really drop a lot of cash (if I had it, of course), as does this. This is a great article, and so is this. And wow! Who knew? An entire e-store devoted to all things planners?

The mind boggles with all this great stuff and ideas. It's probably a good thing our finances are in such a bind, otherwise I'd be spending it all on planners! Instead, I will use the wonderful ideas I'm coming across and utilize what I have.

I'm considering just making a whole bunch of binders. I can decorate them prettily, like Kim did with her household management notebook last year. I used to think that I wanted one binder with everything in it, which is what I tried to do with my big Franklin Monarch planner, but it just isn't usable. I'm thinking about creating several - an education binder, a household management binder, a personal binder (with my journal and prayer journal, stuff like that pertaining just to me), in addition to revising my kitchen binder a bit.

Hmmm...lots to think about and ponder. I really wish I could have all my Systems down before school starts, that was the original plan. However, life intervened, and I'm afraid I'll be thinking about this for months. And that's ok, cuz for a planning kind of person like me, it's kind of fun! :-)

I'm just not ready!!

A week from today is when we'll officially "start school" for the year. I am in a mild panic, because I am so far from being ready it's not even amusing. There's lots of reasons, of course...

Having our AC out for almost 6 days in the last 3 weeks has thrown me for a loop, cuz when it's one of the hottest months in years here in north Georgia and your AC is out, about all you can do is lie around, panting, begging for the repairman to come. No cooking, no cleaning, no planning, no organizing is possible. Not for me, at least, spoiled that I am by modern technology.

The last 10 days I've had a monster of a cold - I'm only now, as I start to recover, realizing how very awful I've felt the last week or two - no wonder I have felt like doing nothing remotely productive! (the 4 day fever should have clued me in, I suppose...)

Having dh home the last couple of weeks has been stressful - not because of having him here, which we actually enjoy, but the specter of unemployment and financial ruin has caused me a Great Deal of Stress. Plus, there's all this uncertainty - what will he be doing next week? Still looking for work? Going across town during normal business hours for a 9-5 job? Starting a work from home job? Working nights at the grocery store down the street to keep some cash coming in while he continues to look? We just don't know!! And how will dh's schedule impact our schedule? If he commutes to a 9-5 job in the metro area, he might not be home until 7pm each night. If he works from home, will he take over my school room, or will he move into the basement spare room? When and how will we set up the basement area, and what will that do to my schoolroom supplies? If he's still looking, and/or working nights, that will impact what we do, how loud we can be, where we do things, etc. It's just maddening to me! I am a creature of routine and habit. I truly don't deal well with uncertainty and change. Sigh...

And these people! All these people in the blogosphere, oh my goodness! Homeschooling moms are some of the most amazing, creative, dedicated people in the world, they really are. Check out this Carnival, the Loveliness of Back to School. Check out Lapaz Home Learning and By Sun and Candlelight, just to name a couple of examples of "Wow! These moms have it TOGETHER!" kind of blogs.

And that's just not me! One of my email lists had a post today from someone talking about how everyone seemed so "perfect" and she felt rather intimidated, and oh, how I can agree with her sometimes! So, I am here to announce to all my readers (all 4 of you! :-) that I am NOT perfect. My schoolroom's a mess, my desk is a disaster, my life is in turmoil, and I'm just not ready!

And you know what? That's ok. The Lord has given me this precious family and this crazy life, and I am certain He knows what He's doing. This is where I'm at right now. Others are in different places. We all do the best that we can, and for some people, some years, that best looks AMAZING. Some of us, in some years, their best is more subtle, more cluttered. I am confident that my children are learning ALL THE TIME, not just when they're sitting down with me Doing Something. I will do my best with what I've got, I will get as much ready as I can, and next week, we'll start slowly with just some basics (reading and math, some art and religion projects, some read a louds). I think perhaps what I'm meant to learn from this is that it's not about the Lesson Plans. I just dearly love to plan, and think about organizing (the actually doing of it, not so much ! ;-) and I can totally get carried away with it all. I don't need to have each and every minute of every day planned out, cuz with my kids, that will Just Never Work.

When I think about my "style" of homeschooling, I think the word that fits the best is not unschooling, not eclectic, not classical or Charlotte Mason or anything like that. I think I've decided that I"m a "stretchy" homeschooler. My life twists and bends, we pull things tight and work really hard for awhile, but we can't do that too long or we'll become brittle and break. We'll relax back down and be flexible and comfortable before we stretch a bit again. This year, I need to start out slowly and carefully, without pulling too tightly too quickly, because we're a little bit bent right now.

Stretchy. I like that! Maybe I'm ready after all! :-)