Friday, December 12, 2008

Brightest Full Moon of 2008 Tonight!!

Another great moon shot, taken from my beloved Olympus E500...

Science@NASA: Not all full Moons are the same. This Friday's is the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wii Love Our Wii

We've had our Wii for quite a while now and are just learning that there's a way you can go in and download (for a fee) the old 'classics' to play on the Wii. Games such as Zelda and PacMan and Galaga and Super Mario. The Wii comes with a built-in wireless network so it's pretty easy to get up and running. And if you have a husband who is in the computer security profession, it's even easier. ;)

As Hubby was setting up the optional router, he asked us what we should name it. Matthew replied, "Call it 'wii love our wii'!"
Hubby chuckled and said, "Well, that tells people what we are using the network for and we don't want to do that."
Matthew asked, "Why don't you want people to know what we're using it for?"
"Because people will snoop and some people will try to hack in and do bad things to our game and computers."
I added, "They already know we have computers just by our connection - we don't want to broadcast that we also have a Wii to strangers."
Matthew paused as he pondered that and then laughed said, "Mom, that's ridiculous - how would *anyone* live without a computer?"

Monday, November 24, 2008

Great Early Reader Chapter Books

Somewhere between picture books and chapter books, there is a category that's not totally named. If you go to your local bookstore, they probably have bright numbers on certain books like "Step 1 Reading" or the like. But I find that there are better ones out there. Here is a list of books and/or authors who have chapter books that are heavily illustrated so they're great for those kids who want to step out of picture books but find chapter books just a bit too daunting...

And as a side note, you might check your library for "Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook" - this is a book full of reviews about children's books. He reviews the storyline, tells you what age would like it, how it's illustrated, etc. I've gotten a lot of good ideas out of that one.

The Cynthia Rylant books (Mr. Putter and Tabby)
Zach's Alligator
Magic Tree House series
Beatrix Potter books
Alice in Wonderland (Try the one illustrated by Alison Jay, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.")
Marguerite Henry's books
Beverly Cleary books
Jigsaw Jones mysteries
Nate the Great series
Pixie Tricks series
Rainbow Fairies and Weather Fairies
Barbara Cooney books
Brian Wildsmith books
Horrible Harry
Ramona Quimby series
Bunnicula Tales (which is an early reader form of the Bunnicula books)
Amelia Bedelia books (for homeschoolers, this is heavily centered in school)
Junie B Jones books (for homeschoolers, this is heavily centered in school)
Little House books, I believe, have younger versions.
I've heard the Incredible Journey books are great - and just might spin you off into studying geography or history too. :)
The series by Gerinomo Stilton - I just found these myself and they're *very cute* and lots of colorful small pics throughout the books (20+). You can view a few pages on Amazon.

And don't forget comic books and graphic novels!!! Like Peanuts, Bone, Garfield, etc.

For a little bit older (or if you are reading to him/her), there's a really great series by Bill Myers (he co-wrote the McGee and Me series if you're familiar with that). It's very funny Christian stories for kids. Both my newly 8yr old son *and* I have been howling reading the series. We're on "My Life As Reindeer Roadkill" right now - a great Christmas story where the main character gets invited to Jesus' bday party by an angel in a dream. He spends a while trying to determine if it was real...and if it was, what in kind of a birthday gift could you get for the Son of God??? It's an older series but if you have a big church, it might be in their library.

I googled "early reader chapter books" and some good lists hanging around. You might try that too. Here's one that looked good

If you have any to add to my list, please add it in the comments!

Happy Reading!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christmas Conversations

Last Saturday, Hubby was gone hunting. So my mom and I decided to take the kids 'hunting' too. We hunted at that big store with lots of toys in it that has a famous giraffe on the logo. We were putting together their Christmas wish lists.

I'm one of those cheap thrifty frugal moms who refuses to purchase a toy for my kids on every shopping trip. First, I'd be flat broke in all of seven days because you know that with my scattered brain, I'm at Wallyworld at least 12,743 times a day. Second (and most important), I believe that if gifts are given *all* the time then they're never special. So in this house, gifts are saved for birthdays and holidays. Of course, Christmas is probably the biggest gift receiving event in our family. We know that the true reason to celebrate Christmas is to remember that God sent his son to Earth to die for our sins...the *ultimate* gift that could ever be received by anyone.

Our MOPS group made Advent candle wreaths today. I've never done Advent, unless you count the Santa-centric "25 days of chocolates" cheap cardboard thing, which I don't. They turned out beautifully. The youth pastor then talked to us about Advent and different ways to keep Christ in Christmas.

So when the kids were talking about what they wanted for Christmas this afternoon, I interjected with, "I can't wait until Jesus' birthday!" They all stopped mid-sentence as they pondered that for a moment. Rose was the first to break the silence as she asked with profound sincerity, "How old is he gonna be?"


Back to our hunting story...
Grammy arrived on Saturday morning and as we were excitedly getting our coats on, Matthew stepped forward, with a sad looking face and said, "Grammy, I'm sorry but I'm just afraid I won't get to buy anything today, what with the economy and the election and all." Classic. "Kids these days."

We get in the car and the three oldest kids are all chattering about making their Christmas lists. Even though I'm properly prepared (for once) with a notebook and pen, they've each brought something to write on (the back of an old Christmas card, a Hello Kitty mini-notepad and a piece of construction paper) and a writing utensil (a pink pen in the shape of some creature with rubber-band sprays of hair coming out the top, a teeny crayon stub and a watercolor pencil...I've learned not to ask and so should you).

Rose (5.5yrs) is reading signs outside and Matthew starts spelling them after she reads them. That's all it takes for Grammy (The Ever-Teacher) to ask.
"Matthew, can you spell Christmas?"
"Ummmmmmm...." he trails off.
"Just try it - I bet you can spell it!" she encourages.
"Well, it's just 'Christ' and 'mas' put together," he says.
I think that's a great answer. It probably also means he has a photographic memory like his mom does. But Ever-Teacher wasn't satisfied.
" how do you spell it?" she continues.
He reluctantly whines and says he can't do it. She sighs, guessing he probably can but just won't. I stifle a laugh to myself, knowing he probably can but just won't.
In the rear-view mirror, I see Rose whisper something to him (the two of them whispering is never good so I pay attention).
After a moment, he declares excitedly, "OK! I'll try it!"
Delighted, Ever-Teacher exclaims, "Great!"
I can see what's going on but I stay silent. I'm *almost* not sure that I'm correct in what I think is happening.
"C...h...........r...i......s..........t...............m...i........s," he slowly says.
Ever-Teacher gushes, "That was really good! It's actually m..a..s but you did a great job getting that close!"

At this point, I can't keep quiet anymore.
"Mom," I hysterically laughed out, trying to hold back the tears now streaming down my face, "Rose found the word written down on something back there and he was tricking you into believing that he was really sounding it out."
Grammy, humiliated that she was bested by an eight year old, said, "That wasn't very funny," despite the guffaws emanating from the van that proved otherwise.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


No matter how old I am, Mom can still 'make it all better'. When I was young, Mom was the one I went to when I forgot how to pedal backwards to stop my bike and instead, ran my out-of-control bicycle down the hill straight into a tree, giving myself a concussion. The time we were on vacation in Florida and the heavy hotel door slammed on my foot and I lost my toenail, Mom was the one I wanted. Even at the age of thirty-three, when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, my gut instinct screamed, “I want my mommy”.

What makes Mom so unique in her ability to comfort me? Perhaps, after thirty five years, she just knows me better than anyone. Perhaps I really am 'just like her' as I have heard often in my life. How is it that when things go wrong, I still yearn for her comfort first?

This is my third year in MOPS. I have four children ages one to eight, who I home school. My husband works from home as well so all six of us are here all the time. For the past two weeks, my group has been preparing for an early Holiday Bazaar. We invited vendors to come and sell their goods and donate a percentage back to us as a fund raiser for our group. I decided to make gifts in a jar. The $5 S'Mores Bar mix and scented bath salts sold like hotcakes last year so I thought it would work great again this year. I spent two weeks price shopping (with four kids), purchasing (with four kids), mixing (with four kids), filling (with four kids), decorating (with four kids), tagging (with four kids) and lugging jars to my van (with four kids). I also made items for the bake sale, crocheted bookmarks and made a display board as I'm the Publicity Coordinator for our group. My house was neglected, we ate prepared meals more often than usual and my patience level was lessening each day as I worried over the display board and measured more marshmallows than I ever want to again in my entire life. Finally, the big day was here.

By the time our first customer arrived, the bazaar was beautiful! Christmas tablecloths and decorations abounded, holiday music played in the back, the smell of hot cider hung in the air. Appetizers were warm and the bake sale was filled with goodies you can only dream about. We were ready to make some money for MOPS!

However, I'm sure in no small part to the current economy woes, we didn't have many shoppers that evening. In fact, I didn't sell one single jar. What was I going to do with these jars that I'd put so much money into? A friend told me about another local MOPS bazaar nearby for the following weekend. With a renewed zeal to get the jars sold, I signed up for a booth on Saturday. The booth cost $35 and I sold $27. Eight more dollars in the hole...and the worst part was coming home with all those jars to a house that needed cleaning, kids who needed their mom's attention back and a husband who'd been covering extra for me the last few weeks. Depressed and worried about how to sell the jars, I tried to vent to my husband. Bless his heart, he gave it a great shot but after about twenty minutes, his eyes started to glaze over. I called my coordinator but she was out of town. So I turned to Mom.

“Hey, are you busy?” I asked her on the phone.
“Well...I just walked in the house. Why?” she answered.
“Do you have time for a coffee?”
“Sure,” she said.

After we settled ourselves in the corner donut shop with a couple of coffees, I poured my heart out about my jars. I was beating myself up because I'd taken this risk with my money upfront and it hadn't worked out like I'd expected. Our bazaar hadn't turned out like we expected and I'd wasted my Saturday away digging myself deeper in debt at the second bazaar. Mom listened patiently and added empathy at just the right moments.

“So how many jars did you actually sell?” she asked.
“Only six S'mores, two salts and three bookmarks,” I replied sullenly. “And that was only after I lowered the prices down to two dollars on the salts!”
“But that doesn't equal twenty seven dollars.”

After replaying the day in my head, I realized I'd forgotten about a check someone had written me. When I recalculated, I had actually made four whole dollars for my Saturday efforts! Four dollars wasn't anywhere near what I'd spent making the jars but somehow, I felt better. She got our her checkbook and told me that she needed four jars for Christmas presents herself.

“There. Now you've made twenty-four dollars today!” she said. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, our conversation shifted for a few minutes. Then she casually asked me what I was serving for dinner. When I admitted that I hadn't even thought about it yet (and it was already 6pm), she said she had a frozen pizza that I should take home. I tried to refuse but Mom wouldn't let me. So when I dropped her off at home, she ran inside to get the pizza for me and returned with our prior MOPS fund raiser...frozen pizzas that we sold last month. Catching the look in my eyes, she said quickly, “I can't eat pizza anyway – it messes with my stomach. I really only bought it to support your group.”

On my way home, life seemed so much brighter in the dark skies of the evening. I had made twenty-four dollars back already. I had gotten my depressed thoughts off my chest over a good cup of coffee. I had a free dinner with me. And I had a mom who could *still* make it all better.

Monday, October 20, 2008

You had to be there...

After telling the docent at the zoo an earful until she looked at me bewildered and asked how old he was, Matthew told me enthusiastically on the way out, "Mom, all you have to do to be smart is just READ MORE! You can learn ANYTHING from books!"

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pictures of our Springfield trip

Sorry! Brain death has occurred here, I suppose. Here are the pictures that were supposed to accompany the below post (thanks, Pam!). ;)

The indoor New Salem pictures are much brighter (due to my flash) than they actually were. The interior of the buildings were so very dark and dim. I was amazed at how dark the school was - all they had for lighting was the fireplace, about 5 taper candles on the chandelier and the tiny row of windows you see. Since this was the only spot that had a desk type surface, I assume that was the only place they actually read and practiced writing. The rest of the class engaged in repeating their teacher. They called this a "blab" school. You can read more about the school here.

New Salem, Onstot Residence:

New Salem #2:

New Salem's school/church:

Lincoln's Home in Springfield:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fall is Officially HERE!!

Yippeeeeeeeeee! Did I tell you that this is my absolute FAVORITE season?? I can't pick a favorite fall activity (as I asked you to do in my last post) because I just love them all, though my fall allergies do make things like hay rides and bond fires a little less fun.

I know I've been quiet lately and I have lots of things to share so let's get started:
First, some housekeeping...I need to correct a couple things from the post about my grandfather. In WWII, he was actually in the Army. He didn't join the National Guard until he came home. Also (my mother was very quick to point out), his car of choice was ALWAYS a Chevy. I'm not sure why I put down 'Ford' except maybe that's what I used to drive?? Anyway, he was a genuine Chevy guy through-and-through.

So onto new business...
It's been a crazy busy month. Matthew turned eight years old in the beginning of September and I got into one of my crazy organizing moods. These moods don't strike often at all so I had to jump at the opportunity. So I was busy planning and organizing up to his birthday. Meanwhile, it struck me that Hubby was turning the big ol' 4-0 near the end of Sept and that I should do something a little extraordinary. At first, I was planning a surprise party but then remembered he didn't seem overly pleased with the one I threw for him at 35 so I scratched that idea after about a week. But what to do?? I still wanted something special and it slowly dawned on me that hey...for the first time in 9 years, I wasn't pregnant and/or nursing anyone! We could actually take a romantic trip...just the TWO of us! So I got busy coming up with ideas on places to go. We wanted to keep the trip semi-local for various reasons. Since we've both seen many places in Missouri, when the idea of Springfield, IL, came up, it seemed like a great idea.

Springfield, IL, is the hometown of Abraham Lincoln, mostly thought of as our 'best' President. He was born in Kentucky and spent most of his childhood moving around. His mother died when he was nine years old and his father re-married. It is thought that his step-mother was influential in prompting him to read but he did teach himself. At age 22, he left his family and set up near Springfield in the town of New Salem, IL. He was hired by a man to carry goods on a flatboat from New Salem down to New Orleans. Imagine the adventure he must have had! He tried out several different trades in New Salem including serving in the Black Hawk War (he saw no action), Postmaster of New Salem, running a store for a few years, surveyor, rail splitting (hence his nickname of "Rail Splitter"), helping at the mill, and running as a candidate for State Legislator (an election which he lost). His interest in the law (which started as a boy in Indiana), led him to start studying it more thoroughly. He worked up legal documents for friends and argued some cases. He traveled 20 miles to Springfield to borrow legal books from a friend's law office. In New Salem, he was granted his law license and granted admission to the bar.

What a great unschooling way of life! Trying your hand at many different careers, traveling to the deep south where the way of life was *much* different in that time, teaching yourself. He taught himself all he needed to know about law. He didn't have any formal law training. I know it was a simpler day back then but imagine so immersing yourself in something you loved that you could make a good living at it without colleges and loans you pay forever and dorms and all the extra headaches we have associated with it today. It's fascinating to think about.

After his roughly six years in New Salem, he saw the dying town for where it was headed and moved to Springfield. There he met his wife (who also has an interesting story herself), married, started a family and ran for more political positions. Twelve years later, running on a third-party ballot (yes, EVERY vote does count!), he was leaving for the White House lawn.

I've told you before that, in school, history was my most hated class. It was boring and just a memorization of dates, names, parties and wars. I understood the premise of learning from the past so you wouldn't repeat the same mistakes but history was taught in a very dead way to me. I did what I *had* to do to keep my mother happy content from raking me over the coals (I got C's in history classes) but I loathed history. In my lack of foresight, I took a history class as zero-hour one year in high school. [This was an optional class that ran an hour ahead of 'regular school' so that I could choose an additional elective class that was that important to me.] As you can imagine, an extra early class on a subject I loathed was not a good choice and I remember sleeping through quite a bit of class time (Mom, please don't yell at me now - there's no point. ;) ).

We toured the restored New Salem ghost town, we toured Lincoln's home in Springfield and we visited the *totally awesome* Lincoln Library and Museum (2005) in Springfield (which, unfortunately didn't allow photos). In the museum, they had amazing scene after scene of pieces of Lincolns life, from the White House bedroom scene of the death of one of their boys (they lost 3 out of 4), to the recreated Ford's Theater assassination. If you're ever driving through Springfield, it's definitely worth a few hours (though it took us five hours to get through it all - of course, we took our time).

Before this trip, I knew roughly what most other American's know about him...he was President during the Civil War, he ended slavery, he is revered as our 'best' President in most circles and he was one of two Presidents assassinated in office. But this weekend, Lincoln came alive to me and I doubt I'll ever think of him...or politics or slavery or life in the 1800's the same way again. I learned more about Lincoln and the Civil War during those five hours than I ever learned in school.

It was a great weekend and a great time for learning. I can't wait to take the kids! Maybe next spring??

Hopefully now that life has resumed to somewhat 'normal', I'll be blogging a bit more. Though, it *is* costume-making season. And I have lots of 'field trips' in store - apple picking and farm visiting and fall craft making and that leads us right into hunting season (for Hubby, not me) and Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wow, is it really almost here? It was a chilly 65 degrees in the house this morning - I guess it's time for the heater and long pants and jackets...I can hardly wait!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fun Fall Activities

I LOVE Fall!! The dark rainy skies, the crunching leaves, the smell of burning wood in the air. It all transports me back to my childhood...and my grandpa's house. He lived in a wooded resort area, just off of a few huge lakes. I remember taking hikes with his daughter (my half-aunt, who is a year younger than me), my brothers, Grandpa and his dogs, Snoopy and Gi-Gi. In the summertime, we caught catfish in the lake but come fall, we opted for nature hikes with his big walking stick, his wood fireplace, and apple and pumpkin pie.

Grandpa loved to entertain. When we stayed overnight, he'd be up before the crack of dawn making a breakfast buffet that would put *any* five star restaurant to shame. Of course he had eggs any way you liked them, bacon, sausage, toast, etc. but his specialty that none of us have forgotten were the biscuits and gravy from scratch. And it wasn't this yucky sausage gravy that everyone serves - it was made from bacon grease. Y.U.M.

We'd wake up in his old down sleeping bags to the most wonderful of smells and have a long breakfast while visiting...and I never wanted to leave. Most would say it was because my half-aunt, Pattie, was the sister I never had but I think it was just that friendly, warm, inviting, happy family feeling.

I am always reminded of him more at this time of year than at any other. Though he died when I was ten and his family moved a few years later, I always have an urge to drive down and peek at the old house this time of year.

He fought in France during WWII in the National Guard. He loved to fish. I can still remember his deep husky voice to this day. He liked to wear cowboy style hats and drove an old yellow Ford pickup. I remember his smile and the love I felt. Happy Fall, Grandpa!

Grandpa's Biscuits and Gravy
1. Fry up some bacon till you have a lot of grease, remove bacon
2. Add enough flour to the grease to make a paste and let it cook for a minute to get the raw flour taste out.
3. Slowly pour in milk, a little a time, and whisk (or use the back of a fork like he did) until desired consistency. Go slowly because once you add too much, you can't really go back.

So while I enjoy my walk down memory lane, I'll ask something from you...

What are your favorite Fall activities? (you can choose more than one)

o Pumpkin Patch
o Hayrides
o Apple picking
o Shopping for/making costumes
o Decorating your house for Fall/Halloween
o Nature walks in jeans and jackets
o Closing down your garden for the coming winter
o Getting out the winter clothes from storage
o Taking a drive just to see the changing leaves
o Thinking about fireplaces and early Christmas shopping
o Baking breads and pies
o Making fall crafts (with or without your kids)
o Raking leaves into a pile for jumping in
o Planting
o Carving pumpkins
o Trick-Or-Treating
o Watch Fall/Halloween theme movies like "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie
Brown" or "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" or "Nightmare Before Christmas"
o Watch or play football games
o Build (or go to) a bondfire
o Go camping

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Down on the Farm

Jade has a recent penchant for pony tails. So this morning, on a lazy Saturday, she said, "Mom, you make me a pony?" I made her a pony. A while later, I got to playing with her hair. "Would you like a piggy?" "A piggy?" "Yes, a pig tail!" Squealing with glee, she vigorously shook her head yes. So I did a braid and showed her the 'piggy'. She was quite happy with that.

About 30 minutes later, she came back to me. "I can't like this piggy." This is also her favorite phrase. It's not 'I don't like this delicious dinner you've prepared', it's 'I can't like this delicious dinner you've prepared.' So after a bit of whining about not being able to like her piggy, I started to take it out. She said, "I want a sheep!" baaaaa

So I made her a bun and said, "There. There's your sheep." "Bink oo, Maw-ee!" (thank you, mommy) She went to show it to Matthew. "Look, my sheep!" After turning her around to see it, Matthew said, "It looks more like a bunny tail to me".

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wii've been busy!!

Yes, Wii have. ;) And today, I found a Wii Fit. I may not be blogging for a while. Teehee.

I think wii have a virus going around here. Rose is running a fever and everyone is quite sluggish. Matthew's Star Wars: Return of the Jedi birthday party is on Sunday though, so I'm hoping wii are better very quickly.

But, while wii are having fun, I leave you with that horrible H word (homework):
I ran across a really superb article by one of my favorite relaxed-learning-style champions, John Taylor Gatto. His article, The Exhausted School, is located here. It's not a quick read so allow some time or read it in chunks. So many great points in favor of relaxed learning or unschooling or child-led learning or whatever you want to call it. I say we put all these labels into one like, "Life Learning". I'm sure someone who is better at catchy terms could do better than that but there's my five second contribution. ;) But I digress...

An excerpt from that article:
Much daily misery around us is caused by the fact our schools force children to grow up absurd. Any reform in schooling must deal with its absurdi-ties: it is absurd and antilife to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from information you need to be sane, and cuts you off from your own past and future. It seals you into a continuous present much the same way television does. It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system compelling you to listen to a stranger read poetry when you ache to learn to construct buildings; it is absurd and anti-life to sit with a stranger discussing the construction of buildings when the rush of language inside you makes you want to write a poem.

Your homework?? Read the article and tell me what you think. My sitemeter tells me that there are routinely 100 readers each week. I only average about one comment per there are LOTS of you lurking...and you don't want to be a lurker, do you?? Tell me honestly (but nicely, please - my kids read my blog) what you think of the article, and if it's your first comment here, tell me why you're interested in my blog. Do you homeschool? Are you looking at options? Maybe you don't homeschool and just want to find out if wii are all as strange as you think. ;) I'm interested in you too!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fun Discipline

Even with unschooling, discipline can be fun.

Rose has started holding her bedroom door over everyone. She locks her siblings out, she slams it when she's mad, she's not quiet coming in and out at naptime when I've asked her repeatedly. So this morning there were lots of slams and siblings banging on the door and Jade crying to be let in (after all, they do SHARE the room now). I decided that perhaps Rose needed to live without a doorknob for a few days to fully appreciate it. So I removed the handle and explained why. She seemed undaunted, as she always does when punished.

Thirty minutes later, Matthew and Rose come bounding downstairs and ask me if they can have the "big American flag towel" from the bathroom closet. I agreed but was curious and asked them why.

"Well, Mom," Matthew started. Talking fast and excited, he explained, "We're putting on a bit of a show and we need the towel for our flag. Rose is going to cut out circles from brown paper and make coins and since she has that hole in her door now, we can use it to sell tickets through!"
[Somehow, I feel that the punishment has become something fun.]

Rose continued, "Yeah, and we're going to do the show about the Presidents!"

Matthew is my instigator. He comes up with grand plans and starts to organize the other kids around him into getting the plan accomplished. He isn't a big do-er, he's more of the director who doesn't dirty his hands. ;) My (first-born) brother would probably say it's a first-born thing but whatever the reason, that's how Matthew is. So he wanted to learn about the Presidents a while back and we started on Washington and that was fun. Then came Adams and let me just save you the time - there *is* no entertaining book about John Adams out there for children to read. Believe me, I've scoured the library and Amazon. It's just not there. Sad but true. So we kinda got stopped dead in our tracks. But with Hubby out of town this week, I was reading bedtime stories in his absence and Matthew picked out the Jefferson book. MUCH better reading. I guess history just knows more about Jefferson's life. After we finished it, he asked me to read it again. So I suppose this is where the grand plan came from.

Another grand plan he's working on is one he came up with purely on his own. The neighbor's grandson has spent a lot of time at her house this summer so all the kids played together a lot. For the past month, Matthew and Jacob have been trying to figure out how to make money selling stuff. First it was going to be a garage sale. I decided that would involve too much of me making sure they didn't have price tags on, say, our new TV and with my back issues, I nixed that. So then they decided to make a Koolaid stand. They made signs and taped them to the outside of the house, they attempted to color the entire driveway in different swatches of color, they sat outside yelling at people walking their dogs to come and have Koolaid. The only problem with the plan was the lack of Koolaid. Hmmm... He decided that they needed a better "draw" and asked me again about having a garage sale. It was at this point that I realized he was very determined about this idea.

"Honey, why do you want to have a sale? What toy are you trying to purchase now?? The new set of Bionicles you've been drooling over, I guess?" He looked up at me with those sweeter-than-sweet baby blues and said, quite irritated, "No, Moooom, we're going to donate all the money we make to people who don't have any money."

My heart melted, as would anyone who heard that from her child. And I felt a little shamed that I hadn't helped him more with his quest of such noble intentions. So we put our heads together and started to think of how he could accomplish this feat and came up with an idea. Our homeschooling group has been wanting to have a garage sale in which we would donate the money to a local humane society. Perhaps they would allow him to set up a Koolaid stand at the garage sale with his proceeds being donated to Feed The Children or a similar charity.

He's very excited at the prospect. He informed me yesterday that Jacob told him that he just has to get the Koolaid Blast flavors because they're MUCH better than regular Koolaid...and people would be willing to pay more money for it. He's talking about signs to make and donation jars to decorate and making a stand. He can't wait to get started.

He and Rose constantly are having new ideas about the house they're going to live in together when they grow up. How they'll work out two families in one house and who can paint and who can cook and who can mow the lawn. Of course, even so, Matthew is still the director and Rose is more the do-er. But it works well for their relationship.

In conclusion, I'm not sure that *my* point was made about the door handle but I'm fairly certain they each learned something about it anyway.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils

A few lines from 'You've Got Mail':
Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.

Public school started here this week. Traffic has gotten horrendous, once again, and I'm starting to get "the stares" when I take the kids to the store during the day. I'm usually very confident about our decision to homeschool and our method of homeschooling called unschooling (or interest-driven learning or eclectic learning or relaxed homeschooling or whatever you'd like to call it). But for the first few weeks of public school in the fall, I do wonder. I see the young elementary kids happily standing at the bus stops, shiny new backpacks in hand and expectation on their faces and I get a twinge of...doubt.

Are my kids missing out? Would they like school? Most of my questions are social in nature...questions about making new friends and listening to another adult, following directions, etc. Then I realize that those thoughts are from the public schooled kid inside me.

When my big picture comes back in focus, the reality is that I don't really think those things are important. Would they like school? They might...for a week...or maybe even a year. But most kids that I see, somewhere around 3rd - 4th grade, lose that excitement and happiness about going to school that you see on the 1st graders. I'm not sure exactly why or how it happens but it does wane around that age.

Do they need to listen to another adult? I know people think that's important but really, why? I teach my kids to submit to authority. Why is it important that they practice it with someone else? And if is indeed important, they have Sunday School teachers and extra-curricular teachers and babysitters and grandparents where they can get their practice in.

Following directions occurs naturally in life, non-stop, and that's a very silly reason to send someone off to school. Where do these thoughts come from? Just yesterday I was showing Matthew how to load the dishwasher. Directions. I've been teaching Rose how to clean the bathroom and Jade how to help with laundry. Directions. When Matthew gets a new box of Legos or Bionicles, they include directions that he must follow or it won't look like the creation on the box. Their computer games have directions. Everywhere you go in life, there are directions. Park here. Stand in line here. Use this bathroom. Swipe your card here. Stop at this red light. Drive from here to there.

As for friends, we have homeschooled friends. We also have MOPS friends and church friends and neighbors...and they have their other siblings as well. Probably the very best friends they'll ever have are their siblings and they are all truly the best of friends. They have their moments, obviously, but they get along a million times better than my brothers and I did. It warms my heart to see how much fun they have together.

Then again, I've always had the impression that doubts were bad. But somewhere along the line, I've changed my stance and now believe that doubts are quite healthy. Doubts stretch us and make us re-evaluate our beliefs/thoughts/feelings. If we didn't have doubts, we might never discover anything in life. Doubts also teach us about ourselves. This process I seem to go through each fall only helps, in the end, to strengthen my resolve to continue on this path.

I think about what we've been learning lately. Rose is writing stories (which I must post for you) and Matthew is studying the presidents and learning to type (and working on spelling at the same time). We're all learning about being in a large family and helping out with chores. Jade is asking many questions about reading lately. "How do you read that?" "What sound does that make?" She's well on her way to being an early reader like her siblings. I've always felt inadequate in geography and recently found a great tool to improve my skills on it via a friend's blog. Last night, I memorized the European countries. Perhaps my interest will stir something in them as well.

So I might just give in to the urge to buy a bouquet of sharpened pencils for my table centerpiece. It might be a good reminder of this time of growth in my homeschooling experience.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Jewelry Give-Away

A blog I read is having a jewelry give-away. And if you post about it on your own blog, you get an extra entry. I'm not one to typically wear jewelry (and allergies make flowers impossible for Hubby to give me), so this is a very unique request from me. But I truly LOVE this piece and would love to have it so I'm blogging for my extra entry. Check it out! :) Jewelry Give-Away

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Don't Shoot Me

Nope, not another catchy blog title about my injections. This one is B.I.G.

A friend called me up today and said, "Hey 80's music lover...I have tickets to the Poison concert this weekend. And I get a tour of the tour bus. And, I get to ride IN THE BUS to the concert." I was speechless.

"Wanna come with?"

Wow. I have to say, my first thought was, 'Poison...yeah, I know they were big...what did they specifically sing?' [insert blog title here] So I quickly threw some Teddy Grahams at the screaming hungry baby and got on youtube. I found their Rose song. Awww...I **LOVED** that one. Something in me just loved it when those hard rock bands would do a mellow song. The Rose song has such great harmonization! Then I found "Talk Dirty To Me". I wasn't ever a fan of that song but it brought back lots of memories. We had a juke box in our high school cafeteria. I'm 99% sure that song was one that I heard over and over and over and over during lunch....daily....for four years (reason #732 to homeschool, but that's another post).

But then I tried to imagine myself in Poison's bus. I just couldn't. What would a person even wear to such a thing?? Would I need to dig up some painters pants and a big over sized shirt with a standing collar and a big chunky belt? Slouch boots? I don't have enough hair anymore to do a side ponytail! I just could not picture mommyfied-me doing something like that, though I know there are many, many who would give their eye teeth for that opportunity, and still more who would gladly don the appropriate 80's garb.

Still, the experience itself would be SUCH an experience! And isn't that the great part of life (and one of the core ideas behind unschooling)...the experiences?? How would that experience change my ideas, images, thoughts, etc.? I was so tempted to go just because of the life-learning experience I could obtain.

But [insert blog title here], the kids have a birthday party. And we have another family birthday party at the same time that I was planning to rush off to after the first was over. It's a busy night. And Hubby is out of town next week. I decided to forgo the experience for my kiddos. Now, if the same experience was offered with Amy Grant, I'd move Heaven and earth to make that one happen, no doubt about it. My inner child would finally be at peace if I were to experience that.

In the end, I feel ok about my decision...I think. I'm cracking jokes with Hubby like, "If I'm ever gonna try pot, I don't want it to be second-hand smoke in a musty tour bus anyway" and "My ears can hardly handle the four kids - I'd never be able to handle front row seats at a rock concert".

And, if my kids ever become fans of the group, I'll just have to say, "[insert blog title here]".

Friday, August 08, 2008

Absurd inventions, towels and weather

It's the little things in life that drive me nuts. Check out this new product that I ran across today:

It's called "Squirt Baby Food Dispenser". First off, any seasoned mom will avoid ANY product that even hints of squirting, much less by placing it on the title. And any new mom should at least see that this starts out "squirt baby". I'm guessing a more appropriate name would be "Squirt Mom, Baby Food Dispenser". As if moms aren't squirted enough with baby food, they had to go and create an object that adds to the mess. How lovely.

Come on, invent something useful. Like a device that makes it impossible for a 16 month old to yank the hand towel off the bar for the 175,463rd time in the same day. I'm thinking one of those plastic baggie clips but only know, towel sized...would do nicely.

They're so close right now...clips and towels in the same photo. WHY hasn't anyone come up with that yet?

So, your mission this weekend is to scour every store you enter for a device that will accomplish my goal. I know, it's school shopping season and everyone will be out if they have the pretty weather we do. 81F for a high today!!! Usually it's 100 or more this time of year. For the next week, it's all temps in the 80's. Must be all that global warming I keep hearing about. Anyway, if you find a device that's meant to keep my children from leaving the towels on the bathroom floor (apart from electroshock gadgets), I'd be willing to do something big. B-I-G big. I know I've seen one out there at some point but alas, my googling skills are shoddy today.

Have a great weekend and keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Update on Sickly

So on top of her nasty cold and eczema and cutting those darned incisors (which I swear are *the* most painful for all my kids) and her foot massacre and subsequent sewing up last night, she had two shots today. She needed her tetanus booster and while we were getting one, we decided to get another one caught up also so she got her #3 Hep B too. Poor thing has every reason to cry and fuss and whine and want to do nothing but have a cuddle.

But she's not. She's even smiling and pulling herself up to stand on that poor foot. She does NOT want to be constrained in the high chair and my ped said it's probably ok to let her stand on it a bit since she's not fully walking or running yet. It'll be my luck that she'll do it today, the day she really "shouldn't" learn.

But there's that sweet angelic smile staring up at me with those big blue eyes. She's even feeling well enough to do her familiar head-bonks...and hard enough to cause me to yell 'owwww', to which she laughs. What a trooper!

Matthew is a sensitive soul, as I've said before. After we left for the hospital last night, Grammy found him in his room, "just bawling his eyes out". He blubbered out, "I just didn't expect it to happen to her at such a young age!" She talked him down after a bit, telling him again that Linnae was going to be just fine. After he calmed down, he decided that he wanted to clean the kitchen for me. So he set out unloading and reloading the dishwasher and then grabbed the vacuum. Grammy worked on the kitchen counters and put dinner away. Rose grabbed the duster and broom while Jade cleaned the dinner table off. What a sweet surprise greeted us at 12:30a when we finally made it home!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Apparently the Pen *IS* Mightier Than the Sword

Linnae proved it tonight. At 16 months (and still refusing to walk without holding something), she's using anything and everything to pull herself up these days. This evening, she made a bad choice. She chose the electric pencil sharpener cord. She was sitting on her knees with her feet bent behind herself and the pencil sharpener hit her just right apparently. Blood gushing everywhere. We applied pressure for a good while, Hubby washed with alcohol and applied a firm bandage. Still bleeding. So we called Grammy over to watch the other three while we took Linnae to the ER.

We had a medical student in training so aside from telling the receptionist, two nurses, the billing lady, the doctor and I'm sure several others, we also had to tell her the story. They looked at it (and it was still bleeding good) and determined that stitches would indeed be needed.

So they brought in iodine first and had us hold her foot in it "for 10 minutes. I'll watch the clock because it's exactly on time with my watch". After forty-five minutes of crying and screaming and pure exhaustion, they came in and took her foot out of the bath.

The nurse laid Linnae on her belly on the nurse's lap and they put two stitches in. It was still bleeding pretty well so they wrapped it up tight for 20 minutes.

Then they came in and loosened the bandage and sent us to Walgreens for antibiotics. I need to see if she's had her 12 month tetanus shot tomorrow (we're a little behind on a couple because we switched pediatricians).

I only had my camera phone but it's better for posterity than nothing. ;) All in all, she was a trooper. She really let it out while they were doing the stitches but other than that, most of her crying was just being super over-tired. And, as you can see from the pictures, she was quite calm at times.

So I get to spend a week "keeping her foot elevated and try to keep her from putting too much pressure on it". Yeah. OK. At least it's on the underside of her foot...only her pedicurist ever need know. ;)

She's baaaaaaack

Big Bertha kicked my rear last night. Took forever to fall asleep, then I was really hot then chills for several hours, waking repeatedly. I was actually happy to see the sun this morning. Every muscle in my body is sore like I have the flu. Good thing dinner's also being provided.

My MOPS group got wind of my shot experience and decided to put me on the Meals For Moms list this week. It's a very sweet gesture though last week, when I was doing ok on the lower dose, it seemed a little unnecessary. But they wouldn't take no for an answer and today, I have to say, "Hallelujah!" Sometimes I just try to do too much and not accept help from others. I'm so glad God found a way around my stubbornness to provide dinners this week because apparently I'll need an extra hand or two.

In other news, I have a new nephew. Yes, it seems the family is reproducing like bunnies. He's out of state so I'll post pictures when I get them. :)

The kids dug out Matthew's box of Transformers from the basement yesterday. When he got his new bed last spring, we cleaned out his room and downsized the toys. He wasn't playing much with his Transformers anymore but he wasn't quite ready to give them up completely. So we put them in a labeled box downstairs in storage and I hadn't heard another word about them. Until yesterday. He and Rose, mostly, are having a blast with them - like brand-new toys. I'm glad they're getting more use out of them. After all, there's a small fortune worth of Transformers here, certainly more than meets the eye. ;)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

You may not see me for a while

I just discovered digital scrapping. I know, I'm LATE to the game...very late. I fought against it, I ignored it, I thought I needed expensive programs for it and I was wrong. There, I said it. Wrong-o = me. May I present to you, my first ever digital scrapbook page....

Easy peasy!! You know how much I love my free source Photoshop look-alike, GIMP!! It was all done with my dig camera, GIMP and some free digital scrapping papers/embellishments, etc. WOW. I'm gonna have fun with this. :)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My 365's Finally Updated

I've finally taken the time to update my 365 blog. Almost a month of entries but it's current now. So wander on over there and check it out. ;)

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A request...

To whoever was praying for me a half hour ago: Bless you, bless you. And can you set a reminder for yourself to pray for me at 6pm every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from now until...well, until they come out with an approved oral med (my neurologist hopes it'll be out in 2010 - it's currently in trials and doing very well so far!)?

I picked the hip. I figured it this way: The thighs are worst, closely followed by the hips (which makes me feel even worse when my baby has to get her immunizations). So I'm doing a hard-easy-hard-easy pattern. So I did thighs first, then arms and it was time for my next hard spot. Believe it or not, yes, the stomach is considered easy. They say it's because the stomach doesn't have lots of nerves there so that makes sense to me. Apparently, your hip and thighs have LOTS of nerves. But, sweet Prayer Warrior, Big Bertha went easy on me tonight and I thank you from the bottom of my....errr....hip. ;) She hurt me but not as bad as some of the lower dose shots. I did get my headache faster tonight but maybe I'll get lucky and it'll go away faster too. The original dose was 8.8 mcgs, then I went to 22mcgs and Big Bertha was 44mcgs. Hopefully the side effects are as tolerable as the last two dosages.

Matthew, quietly making his lunch, announces, "Mom, 10 times 3 is 30!" "Yep," I said, in unschooling fashion, not immediately quizzing him on other problems he can solve. He continued, "Because 10 plus 10 plus 10 is 30!" "Yep," I answered again.

Just now, I asked him what made him think of that this afternoon. Was he counting something? "No, just sometimes my mind starts thinking about numbers and I think about them...and then my mind thinks about something else".

I was recently talking to a friend who wanted to know how to answer strangers when they asked about what kind of schooling they do at home. My answers are different depending on who we're talking to. If it's a grocery store check-out lady, I just say that "we homeschool". If it's a neighbor or friend, I might go into the concept of unschooling or 'child-led interests' or 'relaxed homeschooling' or 'delight-driven learning' (most of these are roughly the same concept). I told her that the first question people invariably ask is, "But what if they don't want to learn xxx subject?" Usually that subject is math. I'd say nine out of ten times, it's math (and the other 10% is science). My answer is usually, "How can they *not* learn math? It's everywhere. It's in cooking, in drawing maps, in spending their money on items at the store, in helping Hubby build something for the yard, in calculating square footage for painting a room with Mom. You can't escape math just because you don't like to sit in a stuffy classroom with some old man (all my math teachers were old men who couldn't relate to me) spouting theorems at you and forcing you to recite the times tables. And sometimes, math just pops into your head and you think about it for a while and then, you think about something else.

Big Bertha

Yep, tonight's the night. Big Bertha. The whole shabang. I take my shots up to full dosage in about 20 minutes. Wish me luck.

The only question I have to answer now is...stomach or hip?? The ponderings of a madwoman. I suppose, since my hips are sore anyway what with all the chiro work, maybe I should let them rest. Or, maybe I should go for it since they already hurt, just make one part of my body hurt?? Hmmm...decisions, decisions...

'Course you know where I *really* wish I could stick Big Bertha. ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I survived!

Yep, I survived the chiro! It really was not bad at all. My right hip was twisted back so he gently put it back into place. It didn't hurt but in truth, my hip joints are tender and a little sore - but if you've been walking around that long out of place, yeah, it's gonna hurt a little when you right it. I also feel like one leg is long than the other; I guess I'm going to have to learn to walk again. Do you think I'll learn before Linnae does??

I haven't blogged much - we've had company. Two weeks ago, I had one of my favorite nieces stay with me and the following week, I had one of my other favorites nieces stay with me. We had SO. MUCH. FUN. During the first week, Shopper and I cleaned up a HUGE portion of the basement while Hubby was out of town on business. I'm still amazed at how much we accomplished in less than two days. Then Shopper and I went shopping. Did I say she loves to shop?? We hit this mall and that mall and Target and Walmart and by the end of the week, I was exhausted. It was a wonderful I've-been-busy-having-fun exhaustion but exhaustion nonetheless. She watched me up triple the doseage of my shots and live to tell the tale. She even watched me give myself a stomach shot in the parking lot of a scrapbooking going-out-of-business sale. The kids were in evening VBS that week so Shopper and I got quite a bit of time in the evenings to just us and baby Linnae.

That Saturday, her sister came up and the three of us went to see Little Women: The Musical, performed by some college kids nearby. It was a good show and fun to dress up and be girly instead of mommyfied, for a change. Shopper went home on Saturday.

Last week was much different. Freshman and I (wow, I still can't believe it!) slowed down. She's more into talking and 'hanging' and after my busy shopping week, I was happy to indulge. We got out and did some shopping and ate out a few times - it was a fun week. When I hurt my back on Friday, I was all the more glad she was here to help out with the kiddos. It was so sad to see them leave but I hope to see them again before school starts.

I can't even write what it meant to have them up here all to myself. SIL has 4 kiddos and I have 4 and when we're together, it's 10 or 12 people and we're all so excited to see each other and you feel like you get to see them but not SEE them, you know?? It was such a joy for me to have them here. I got a glimpse into my teen years again and felt quite young-at-heart. I can hardly wait for next summer when they visit again! Until then, Facebook will have to suffice.

For those who are asking about my shots - they're going well. I have gotten over the deep exhaustion I had the first couple of weeks and the other side effects (nausea, fevers, chills, body aches, etc) are completely gone. I do typically get a headache about an hour after the injection but it's tolerable and, other than that, if it weren't for the actual injection site, I probably wouldn't know I'm taking anything. The medium (liquid) they place the medicine in stings like you wouldn't believe. But, at least if it's furious, it's also fast. The sting is mostly gone in two or three minutes. But it *is* a doozy.

Matthew just ran downstairs to show me an origami elephant. "Mom, aren't you surprised? After a year, I can still do it! Of course, I had to use the book...I find that it gives better directions than my mind remembers." ;) Welcome to my world, son.

So for now, I'm getting used to my "new" hips and trying to take it easy and not re-injure myself. I'm so fortunate to have a loving husband who can cook and clean...and who does cook and clean, without me asking. In fact, he honestly does a better job than I do in the cleaning department! The kids are dancing upstairs to their VBS music, I can hear Hubby finishing up his job related work downstairs and I'm sitting in a nice air conditioned home while it burns up at 104F outside. Life is good.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My body is falling apart

I was getting out of the van (was taking the kids bowling for the first time) on Friday morning and felt shooting sharp pains in my lower back so bad that it took me to the ground. Fortunately the van door was open and I got to sit on the floor boards instead. I found a chiro and he said I've strained/sprained my lower back muscles, probably due to an underlying misalignment of joints. I still have that rib pain that I had all last winter too - it's better, but never fixed, you know? I suppose that is probably related to this.

So I'm going to conquer my fear of chiros and just do it. Anything at this point to have a fully functioning body again...well, as functioning as it can be anyway. The chiro put me on a stim machine (to promote healing) and sent me home with a portable stim machine (for pain relief - kinda numbs the area) and strict "rest" instructions for the weekend. I'm definitely doing better but still have a way to go. I have another appt with him on Monday afternoon, probably for an actual adjustment. eeek. I just hope he doesn't make it worse.

Your mission? Post a comment on how WONDERFUL you feel after you visit the chiro. Geez - I have had a drug-free childbirth, I give myself shots 3 times a week that sting like the dickens (yes, the higher doseage does REALLY sting) and I'm STILL scared to death of the chiropractor. Insane, I know, but there it is.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Educational Reform

"Sir Ken Robinson is author of Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, and a leading expert on innovation and human resources. In this talk, he makes an entertaining (and profoundly moving) case for creating an education system that nurtures creativity, rather than undermining it. (Recorded February, 2006 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 20:02)" -

In my wandering aimlessly on the internet today, I came across this video in one of my homeschooling groups. While I don't think Ken is pro-homeschool per se, he talks about education reform in the truest sense of the words. I really like what he has to say here and my experience in public school was much as he describes. Even in art and music classes, we were doing it right or wrong. I love that line from Little Women when Laurie says, "My music is like your paintings: a mediocre copy of another man's genius." This is what "art" and "music" classes were like for me in school. Either I painted the apple "right" or I "could have done it better" - like there was a minimum standard in ART. Isn't ART someone's impression, someone's feelings/thoughts on something? How can you put a standard on it, for each person will have his or her own standard. Music is a little more concrete - you follow the music and play it as written. However when, through 10+ years of flute instruction, did anyone ask me to play something from my heart? Something that wasn't music I'd already heard or seen? Something that was truly *my* art, and not just my rendition of someone else's genius. I'm not sure that I can call myself artsy just because I can play the flute and guitar and read music and sing well and am slowly learning piano. I'm learning how to play instruments and read and play music but am I actually ARTSY? No, I think not.

Interesting speech - listen to it if you have the 20 minutes. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I'm not so sure...


As a 1930s wife, I am

Take the test!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Girly Girl

In Rose's room, you will find everything befitting a girly girl.

Tons of stuffed animals:

More stuffed animals:

Hard animals galore (how they all get along in that box, I have no idea):

Littlest Pet Shop extravaganza:

A well-used art desk:

Lots of recently weeded out books:

Books (and some music) on cds and tapes:

And two dinosaurs. Big T is her *prized* possession...that she begged and begged and begged Grammy for at Christmas. Then my girly girl actually cried when she opened him. Maybe she's a tomboy after all. Though, Big T can usually be seen wearing a pink t-shirt or a feather boa or a green glittery scarf. Don't ask me, I just work here.

To be fair...

Since I did a blog post several weeks ago about the Subway contest excluding homeschoolers, I feel it's my duty to announce that they've changed the contest a little and homeschoolers are now included. Here's the link to the new contest, open to all kids pre-K - 6. (and apparently they have a proofreader now, who can actually spell...or at least knows how to use spell check.)

It doesn't affect our eating habits because, as I said before, we don't buy sub sandwiches if we're going to eat out - we like hot meals. ;) But I'm glad they chose to change the exclusivity of the contest.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


NO, not mine!! I'm DONE, for the love of Pete! ;)

My niece had a baby yesterday. I'm officially a Great Aunt. Now if that doesn't make me feel old, I'm not sure what will. At least I can't say, as Hubby can, that my sister is a Grandma. Teeheehee...anything to keep a few years on him. lol But I digress.

Her baby is just beautiful! Full head of the softest black hair ever. Darker complexion that she'll grow to love when she realizes she doesn't have to ponder tanning alternatives. Very alert and just taking the world in. Her name is Ariel, meaning 'lion of God'. I didn't hear her lungs so I can't testify to the lion part but I pray she live up to (at least the other part of!) her name. :) She's not a mermaid (as the girls asked) but she's definitely a beautiful princess! Pictures coming hopefully soon (dummy me forgot my camera!).

And speaking of babies, I've started a 365 project. It's a separate blog where you take a photo every day for a year and post it. I will likely save several days' posts and then just do the actual photo uploading and posting at one time but I *will* take a photo every day. If you're interested in following along, here it is:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

If These Walls Could Speak

Rose: Can you warm up my lunch for me?
Matthew (in a very sweet tone): Rose, you can do it yourself. God doesn't want you to be helpless!

While the older two were at VBS today, I took Linnae and Jade to WallyWorld and saw their 'school supplies' were on sale. I grabbed tons of crayons, colored pencils and .05 notebooks. While standing in the checkout line, Jade was eyeing her new finds and exclaimed, "You got new crayons for meeee??" Then, her excitement immediately changed and she got a super serious look on her face as she held out her hand in a talk to the hand way, "only. on. paper."

Monday, July 07, 2008

Confessions of an Unschooler

Dropped Matthew and Rose off at VBS this morning. I took my 2nd shot last night and though I was worried that I was sugar-coating my memory of it, I realized that I truly wasn't. It really wasn't bad; it felt more like a mosquito bite than a 'shot'. I have to massage it for 2 minutes to help the medicine dissipate and while the medicine is dissipating, it does sting a bit but the needle, which was my main fear, is really nothing. I took it at 6pm and went to bed at 10p, asking God to allow my body to accept the meds without major hurdles. Hubby woke me around 12:45a for more Ibuprofen and I slept MUCH better than I did the first night. I feel a little 'sloshy' - not seasick, not dizzy, but things in my line of sight just seem to move a bit too easily, you know? So with all those kids jumping all over church this morning with VBS excitement, I had to go lean against the wall and close my eyes for a few minutes until I could leave my kids with their class. And I feel a tad bit achy but the Ibuprofen is taking care of that. All in all, not too bad. I'll do this dosage for the next 4 shots and then almost triple it. Thank you for all the comments and emails and kind words and prayers. They're sincerely appreciated.

Now for the confessions...
I worry when I drop my kids off for a program without me. Not that they'll get hurt or be abducted or anything like that (well, nothing more than normal mom worry, that is). I worry because they're homeschoolers and they don't know the (what I like to call) school-setting-etiquette. You know, the raising hands to answer questions, asking to go to the bathroom or for a drink of water, etc. I could see them totally forgetting to ask permission and just run out of class yelling, "PAUSE THE STORY - I HAVE TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!" as is customary in our home. ;) But the more programs they're involved in, the better they get at remembering the rules so that's not a huge concern. The biggie is this: I worry about how my kids answer questions. For a school setting, teacher asks a pointed question, expecting a specific answer. Kid answers with the response they think the teacher is waiting for. But here at home, we just talk to each other. If I ask him a question, I encourage him to really think about it and to expand his range of thoughts into more questions. Now I realize that for the sake of practicality, you just can't do that in a classroom where you have 45 minutes to get just a few concepts into those 25 minds. But I do worry about Matthew seeming to 'take over the class' just from the way that he's used to talking and answering questions and exploring ideas.

I also worry because those two in particular have seemed quite restless (and in a trouble-making mood, if I can be so bold) the last few weeks. It could be they've been working off of my shot anxiety or that I was sick for a good portion of June or that it's summer or that the tags in their clothes are driving them nuts (lol) or any number of things. But they've been restless nonetheless and I just hope they behave themselves and have fun learning more about God. Maybe just a break from the house will cure their restlessness. ;)

Friday, July 04, 2008

The best laid plans

Our 4th pictures:

Rose runs up to me with a blank piece of paper and a pen. She says, "Mom, write, 'may I please have Indy's hat?' on here." Eyeing her suspiciously, I begin to write. Matthew says to her in a hushed whisper, "Give it to me!" Not putting two and two together, I keep writing. Thanking me, she turns and hands the paper to Matthew and says, "There. Now give it to me." He sighs, hands the paper straight back to her and she immediately opens her hand to reveal the hidden Lego Indiana Jones hat.

Reason To Homeschool #532:
Matthew, in an effort to be sweet and sympathetic to his not-feeling-so-great mom, was giving me a back rub. I was thoroughly relaxing at his soft fingers when he said quietly, "You know, I think homeschooling moms get more massaging because their kids stay at home more often." My shoulders started shaking, breaking the relaxation, just before the fits of laughter encompassed us all.

The Price

literature = free

medicine filled needles = $125/month copay

needle auto-injector = months of the five stages of grief (well, maybe four - I'm not sure 'acceptance' has set in yet), followed by weeks of worry and anxiety and fear

travel bag for the auto-injector and medicated needles = free

plate of milk and cookies to reward yourself for pressing the button on the auto-injector yourself = priceless

Though I really had to fight the urge to crawl under the table (and my dining table is quite tall and would have worked well for me), I persevered and stared that needle straight in the eye. I put the auto-injector on my thigh and it only took me about 5-10 seconds (after eyeing Hubby for one last encouraging look) for me to press the button. I was pleasantly surprised. The needle is very small (the smallest on the market for MS medications) and it's a subcutaneous injection so it doesn't have to go in too deep. The needle didn't hurt much at all...much like a mosquito bite. It certainly was much less painful than the 4x daily finger pricks for the gestational diabetes blood sugar tests! The medicine, on the other hand, did sting a bit but it also wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. Holding the button down for a ten-count wasn't too horrible either. All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. This was the smallest dose (I'll be getting about five times this much in another month) and the amount of fluid to be injected will double as well. But I'm trying not to think about that (denial is the first stage).

As for the side-effects, they weren't great but not as bad as they could have been. It can take a good six months for my body to "get used" to the medication until I'm seeing slight (or no) effects (and hopefully I'm not one of those who never gets used to them). About 4 hours after I took the shot, pure and utter exhaustion set in. It felt like I'd taken about 4 Benadryl's on top of the other. I could barely keep my eyes open to finish cooking dinner. Kids got down to bed late and I finally crawled to my own bed around 9pm, very early for me. Though I was already on Ibuprofen, I was still running a fever when I went to bed. Sleep was very restless and I woke repeatedly all night long with the fever. I feel groggy and sleepy this morning but nothing I can't handle. I do expect the side effects to keep worsening as I go along (they warn of flu-like symptoms with fever, chills, nausea, muscle-aches, tiredness). The injection site looks like a mosquito bite with a large (quarter-sized) red circle around it. I'd show you a picture of that but hey, it's my thigh! ;)

I'm actually on an introductory program for the medication so it's only $50/month for a year for the medication. In the grand scheme of things, $125 isn't bad considering that, without insurance, it's over $2K a month...and if you look at it that way, Hubby just got about a $24K raise. lol

Keep MS research in your prayers. They're currently working on oral trials of this medication and my doctor is hopeful that it might be out in 2010. I know there are many MSers who are so scared of needles that they simply won't go on the medicine so please keep this medical research on your prayer list. And if you want to pray for me, pray for continued courage, understanding kids and mild, quick side effects.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Ten Things About Me/Us

First, an announcement: I'm getting old.
Symptoms: I turned the big ol' 3-5 a few months back. I had to downgrade the resolution on my laptop so I don't squint all the time. I *cannot* get used to using only ONE space after periods when typing so I have truly become the epitome of "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". I force my kids to drink from a lowly water fountain because I remember when "you could buy a bottle of water for .50 and I refuse to pay $3.00 for it now" (plus if the garden hose, transporting water from the WELL, that filled the horse's water trough, was good enough for me...). And a morning at the zoo totally tuckers me out. (But that might actually reflect on another aspect of my life, saved for a bit later.)
Solution: Do what you can with what you have. If you're old, make accommodations as best as you can and deal with the rest as is.

I have so much to update you on that this could be a two or three parter. I'll try to shorten it to mostly highlights...but I'll warn you that it's truly very hard for me to say something without the back-story!! If you want to know more about any of the topics, feel free to email me or ask in the comments. I am good about answering questions. :)

1. My aforementioned sinus pressure tales could be a really long, really sad anecdote about the incompetence of the medical system in the US but I'm sure you've already heard too many of those. So I'll shorten the tale to one sentence: I've found a 'work-around', for the most part, on my own, after spending gobs of [time and money and more pain and energy and worry] asking doctors to figure it out for me.

2. We had a lovely Flag Day celebration with our local homeschool group. The kids learned about the Olympic flag and the American flag, discussed flag symbols, created their own flags, participated in a flag parade (around the subdivision) and played a Memory-type game with flags from many different countries. The memory game was a great idea though if you have very small children, I'd suggest a smaller sampling of flags - maybe ten flags - to start with and go up from there. This would be a great game for this weekend and easy to make yourself by printing them on the computer (just google various country flags) - you can even cover them in contact paper to make a game that lasts longer than a weekend! :) It would be neat to put magnets on the back of them when you're done to display on the fridge. You never just might lead to an impromptu study on Japan, which might lead to building a volcano model, which might lead to a documentary on Mount St. Helens, which might lead to drawing a map of California (or a road trip to CA!), which might lead to discovering the funny city of Ukiah, CA, which might lead to finding this site which tells of a Haiku festival in Ukiah (that's haiku spelled backwards), which might lead to just having to make some haikus of your own...and haiku takes you right back to Japan again, but to explore maybe their culture instead of their landscape. ;) Ahhhh...unschooling at its finest.

3. I found *THE* neatest thing online the other day. Librivox is a community of volunteers who audio record themselves reading books to store in a digital (mp3 and such) formats. These are all public domain books (books published before 1923) so Harry Potter isn't there but there are so many classics (and poems) that are! I love this idea and I'm soooo happy it's out there. Even if you don't want to volunteer, check out your favorite poem or story - download the audio version for free on their site. Little Women, The Road Not Taken, Shakespeare, Moby Dick and even the Bible are just a very small sampling of audio recordings available. Lend your hand...err, the project (it's actually very simple and if you have a microphone for your computer, it can be totally accomplished with freeware programs too!). :)

4. I held the Creative Activities position for our MOPS group last year. While I enjoyed the creative outlet and really did like it, it ended up being a bad year for me with the new baby and all my unforeseen back/rib issues. So I decided to slow things up a bit and do Publicity this year. Basically, I update the website (I can obviously handle that...teehee), handle flyers and a display for MOPS Sunday (when we do our big plug for moms in the church to join/help our group) and do the monthly newsletter. When Matthew was a baby, several of us in the local La Leche League meetings decided to start a playgroup. After it got rolling, I put together a monthly newsletter and *really* *loved* doing it. So I'm very excited about doing it for MOPS this year. I was originally going to do it along with the lady who did the position last year but she emailed today and said that she feels pulled to do Creative Activities this year. So it looks like we traded positions and will be picking each others brains.

5. My old time readers should know but I haven't talked about this in a long time, for you newbies. I was diagnosed with MS in January 2006. (In my prologue (LOL), I mentioned tiredness - fatigue is the #1 complaint of people with MS). At the time, we were planning on having another baby and it wouldn't have done much good for me to be on medication for six months so I decided to wait. Well, I made it through the pregnancy very well. It's common for women with MS to have a great pregnancy (the disease sort of goes dormant) and then have a relapse between 3-6 months after delivery. I've done great - no relapses since my actual diagnosis. I've had some symptoms here and there but no acute took lots of prayers by us and family/friends but I was able to make the "at least one year of breastfeeding" that I felt was really important for Linnae. But she's weaned now and it's time for me to buck up and start the meds.
There is no cure for MS but the medication will reduce my risk of developing more lesions by 33%. 33% might not sound that great but when you realize that you're talking about lowering your chance of paralysis or similarly terrifying fates by 33%, you decide that it's worth the trouble. ;)
The medicine is a hard pill to swallow though. Actually, it's not a pill at's a self-inflicted (or husband-inflicted) shot, three times a week. And has the potential to make me feel pretty cruddy (flu-like) for a few months until my body gets used to it. I've come a long way from my days of hiding underneath the pediatrician's table, forcing nurses, much to my mother's chagrin, to pull me out for my immunizations. I remember that my first few lab pregnancy tests were a huge deal for me. In fact, I remember one nurse in particular saying, "Honey, you'd better HOPE you're not pregnant if this is how you react to needles!!" Then I went through infertility and lots of needles, then hyperemesis with pregnancy #1 (and more needles), then gallbladder attacks all through pregnancy #2 (and surgery to remove the gallbladder after pgcy...more needles), then gestational diabetes with #3 and #4 pgcys along with those four-times-daily needle blood sugar levels...and let's not talk about that 10 inch epidural needle I had three times (yeah, only badge of honor...teehee). After all of this, I'm a LOT better about needles than I was as a child; however, every time I see one come at me, my inner child wants to head for the nearest table and camp out under it for the rest of my life. So if you would send some prayers/positive thoughts my way on Thursday afternoon, that will be the day that I'm acquainted with my spiffy needle injecting device...and I'd appreciate some extra strength and courage that day.

6. Both Matthew and Rose have had separate classes at the Zoo in the past few weeks. I didn't get to attend either class with them but they seemed to have a really good time. Matthew's class was all about animal tracks - the kinds of footprints different animals leave and how to track animals in the woods. Rose's class was for the pre-K crowd and was more of an arts and crafts class. They sang animal songs and did some fingerplays and a few crafts. Nothing extraordinary but she did seem to really like it. Plus, she got to pet an OPOSSUM!! Pretty. Cool. (soooooooooo glad I wasn't there! I still shiver when Hubby tells the story of falling asleep in the tree while hunting to wake up with one staring him in the face. uuuuugh I would have been down that tree faster than a speeding bullet...or, on second thought, I probably would have just shot it, that is, if I actually shot things. shiver.)

7. My brother recommended a graphic novel (known to us old people as a "comic book" series bound together into a book) for Matthew. It's called Tintin and something he recently started reading himself. He already has our nephews hooked and if his own daughter was old enough to read, I bet she'd be loving it too. I picked up the first book of seven the other day at the library and it landed on the couch. Ten minutes later, I heard Matthew say to no one in particular, "What's this?" and for the next 45 minutes, all I saw was this:

He stopped only when I told him it was time for dinner, and went straight back to it. The following morning, he finished it up and asked for the second book. I was a bit shocked. He *does* have an affinity for Garfield and Peanuts strips (and even Dilbert) but Tintin was written by a Belgian. It has *gasp* pictures of men smoking cigars, for crying out loud! LOL It was published in various countries in Europe so some of the terminology used is unfamiliar to him, as well as 1954 lango. But he was, as you can see, thoroughly entranced. Apparently Steven Spielberg was also entranced by it as he's working on a Tintin movie, scheduled to film in September.

8. We had some friends in town early in June (miss you already Mike and Jen!!) (loved seeing you Christie and Ryan and R&D!) and then I had checkups with all of my doctors in a two week span, along with a few kid visits to the pediatrician. I then spent the next week seeing my primary dr and urgent care and ENT for my sinus issues. June flew past us.
(for you non-budding-astronomers, this is a picture of the June night sky)

9. July promises to be super busy as well. Hubby is on business travel for part of this week and then there is, of course, the holiday weekend. Next week, Grammy is on vacation while Matthew and Rose are attending VBS...but I'm sure we'll still find something to get us into trouble. The third week, my niece is staying with us and the kids have another, evening-style, VBS. The fourth week, my other niece in that family is staying with us. And Hubby will have some more traveling this month as well. Then it'll be crunch time for the August MOPS newsletter.
(I have no idea what this musical is about but the picture seemed to sum up July)

10. I'm spoiled. We went to the zoo today with friends. Yesterday's overcast upper 70's breezy beauuuuuuutiful day apparently fooled many of us and we all headed to the zoo today. It was sunny, 84 and not very breezy. Not horrible, indeed, but it was hotter than I prefer. There were GOBS of people there. On the way out, there was probably at least a half-mile line just to park vehicles. I had gotten a pretty good free spot and as someone decided to jam up traffic to wait for me to unload the stroller and get everyone packed into their car seats, I felt the pressure rising every second. I'm no novice at getting stuff shoved away but I got really stressed out when a quarter of a mile of cars started honking. I realize they were honking at the guy who stopped, and not me, but *I* was the one he was waiting on and it took me quite a while to de-stress from the situation.
I forget sometimes how spoiled I am, being a homeschooler. We usually visit the zoo in the cooler weather in the spring and fall, simply because of our own weather tastes, so we usually go when most other kids are in school during the week. But today, we met up with friends and were shoving the strollers through the Herpetarium with all the other kids who are trying to get the most bang for their summer buck, so to speak. If that was the only way I ever got to see the zoo, I'd be one of those moms who hates to go there too.
They did have a neat robotic, life-sized dinosaur exhibit. The exhibit was buried deep along the dreaded elephant trail. The trail itself is neat the first time or two...or maybe three times you do it. If you click on that link, you'll see a map of the trail and you can see it's a neat idea. The path winds you through South America, Africa, Asia and North America...on ten acres...and you see various animals relating to each section. For instance, in Africa, you see our two hippos (who were in really bad moods today). But this is where ideas and practicality don't mesh very well, in my opinion. It soon becomes the never-ending, can't-get-out-if-you-wanted-to trail. Especially when they're cleaning the elephant paddocks and the only animals to watch are the Sweaty Zookeepers. Or when you've been on the stinkin' trail at least a hundred times and *still* have yet to actually SEE the reported Black Rhino. There's no way to walk up, see there are no elephants and walk away to see the lions. This is a looooong winding trail that has a few other animals along it but when you reach the middle and decide that 'going to see the elephants' wasn't as big a priority as you initially thought, you're stuck on the trail anyway. No turning around, no short cuts. Yes, I am complaining...but with a purpose. You need the mood and the back story. Hot, tons of people, very long walk that you can't get out of, looking for reported 'dinosaur exhibit'. Rose, looking at yet another empty paddock, sighs and says, "It sure is a long way to walk to see those dinosaurs." I retorted, quick on my feet, "You DO have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right?" My children looked at me oddly and said nothing. I continued in Ian Malcolm style, "Hello? Helloooooo?" Not even a giggle or a smirk for my really great reference to the best line in Jurrasic Park. Nada. Further proof that I'm old.
But I digress. Back to Dinos...
Somewhere between Africa and Asia, they placed the dinosaur exhibit. The dinos roared at us while moving their front legs and heads around and the Dilophosaurus even sprayed a mist of water, causing me to feel a tad bit sorry for Dennis Nedry. At the end of the exhibit, there was a cast of a dinosaur skeleton for the kids to 'dig up'. (Note what highly useful archaeological tools they handed my kids...and the great shape they're in! Matthew and Rose wanted to know where the trowels and "real tools" were).
Regardless of my spoiled state (and tongue-in-cheek complaining), I really do love our zoo. I know it's one of the best in the US and what's more - it's free! We also loved meeting up with our friends at the zoo, even if it was a short morning.

The 'spitting' dilophosaurus:

Fighting Hippos Mere Inches Away!