Friday, August 31, 2007

Today's little daily things

Today I:

Spent $324 at Sam's Club and $94 at Kroger.

Fed the 2yo a corn chips and cheese dip lunch while doing said shopping. Corn is a veggie, the chip part is a type of bread, the cheese counts for dairy, so that's 3 of the food groups, right?

Corrected the 3 older boys about 17 times while doing said shopping.

Took away 4 nickels because of the necessary correction while doing said shopping.

Put away $414 worth of groceries.

Baked bread.

Began contemplating the relationship between chest wall pain and stress.

Folded 6 loads of laundry.

Packed for 6 people to go away for the long weekend, while being thankful that our daughter can now pack her own things.

Realized (again!) how much work it is to get ready to go away.

Cancelled school.

Read books to the 2 year old.

Cleaned the kitchen. Twice.

Prayed popcorn prayers.

Left another message on someone's machine whom I'm desperately trying to get ahold of. Tried not to sound like a stalker.

Packed the van for our weekend trip to the cottage, our last big "hurrah" of the summer (followed closely by our first big hurrah of the fall - our upcoming trip to Jamestown and Williamsburg!).

Wondered if I should be concerned that when playing, one of my children always wants to be the bad guy.

Exercised in order to relieve all of the above stress.

Took a shower.

I think that's enough labor for one day, I plan to play the rest of the weekend! Have a great labor day weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mud-Daub Houses and The Pizza Palace

The children finished their mud-daub houses today. First they painted.

Then they covered the roofs with grass and straw.

And here is the finished product! This one belongs to our 8 year old son G. He is a lego fanatic so he added some lego figures to his house. In fact, the boys played house with these for much of the afternoon!

And here is the whole village.

We are the house of perpetual construction. Here is "The Pizza Palace" that was constructed today of legos. The large white square in the lower left corner is a drive through window that swings up and open. The worker in the red hat at the counter is taking an order from a customer in a black hat.

Here is the pizza chef, hard at work in his puffy white chef's hat! Notice all the pizza boxes stacked up in the lower right corner.

And here is the drink stand. You can slide your tray along the grey slats and select your drink of choice from the colored buttons above. I must admit, I was impressed! And once again, to my dear sister in CA, please show this to your son! My son G always asks that I send these pics to you, your son is his lego hero!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

First Day of School

We had a wonderful, fun first day of school today!! I decided a couple weeks ago to start with just history and science (why?? cuz they're FUN!) and add language arts and math next week. That turned out to be a great decision. We started our day with a new book that I'd purchased especially for our 5 year old son C. Curious George's first day of school. Everyone loved it.
Two year old A loved his new room time toy! A Fisher Price Little People garage.

While A was in room time, the rest of us made "Favorite Things" scrapbook pages with handprints on them. I wish I'd started this tradition sooner, but better late than never! We plan to do a new page each year from now on, and see how their favorite things, as well as their hand size, changes through the years.

Then I read the first few pages of our science text, "Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day". We are learning about classification of animals. The 3 older ones can all tell you what "Kings Play Chess On Fine Glass Sets" means! (hint: it's a mnemonic device). They are all looking forward to moving on to a study of insects, but we have to learn the classification system first. Here we are coloring the title page of our new science notebooks.

After this we had lunch and recess. During recess we rode our bikes/walked down the street to watch a cement mixer loading up a small site dumper over and over again. Our neighbors are getting a new patio in their backyard. We watched for nearly half an hour and it was very fun.

After A went down for his nap we moved on to history. I read them a book about the Jamestown Colony and then we made mud-daub houses out of shoeboxes and popsicle sticks. Tomorrow we will finish them with either brown paint or mud smeared over the "wood" to fill in the cracks, just as the colonists would have done. Weeds and grass will get glued on the top for the roofs. Our daughter G is already planning the furniture she will make for the inside! (not something I expect from everyone, just something she wants to do). Notice the smoke hole in the roof of the house.

After a couple hours of free time we ended our school day with dinner out at Denny's. A few years ago we started the tradition of going out for breakfast on the first day of school, but we switched it to dinner this year because kids can eat free there on Tuesday evenings. :-) Free is good!
It was a great first day!! This was one of those days where I absolutely LOVE homeschooling. There will be hard days, and days where I don't love it, but I'm so thankful that this was not one of them.
Now to get up and do it again tomorrow......

Monday, August 27, 2007

Health Update

I saw my regular Dr this morning. She thinks the shoulder/chest/chest wall/armpit pain is muscular in nature, and she gave me some exercises to do. She did order 3 blood tests to check for something systemic, but if those are all negative we will operate under the assumption that it's muscle pain. I do not recall any type of injury or activity that would have strained those muscles, so this seems a little strange to me, but good! I'll take it!

FOUND: The sippie cup with fermenting juice!! The .25 cent reward was claimed by our 5 year old son C. I think I can salvage the cup.

OVERHEARD: Our 2 year old son A saying, "I don't want to be the president, I want to be a duck."

STARTING: School tomorrow!!!!!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Health, Fear, and Trust

In addition to my repeat mammo this past week, I also spent one night in the hospital with chest pain. I had been having moderate to severe pain all day in my left chest, and I began to worry when I experienced tingling in my jaw and shooting pains down my left arm. I have virtually no risk factors for heart disease so I was fairly sure I wasn't having a heart attack, but we couldn't afford to be wrong, so off to Urgent Care we went. Two tips: if you complain of chest pain it puts you on the fast track to being seen immediately, and if you ever have chest pain do NOT go to Urgent Care, go straight to the ER. That is where they said I needed to be, so they sent me off to the ER via ambulance.

After two EKG's, two blood tests, several baby aspirin, an IV, oxygen, an overnight stay and a stress test it was determined that I did not have a heart attack and they sent me home. No idea what is causing the pain (which I still have) or why it so closely mimiced what a heart attack "typically" feels like.

So it has been a bit of a stressful week. I am thankful that all the individual tests and procedures I had this week showed nothing wrong, but I still have several areas of unexplained pain. I do have an appt with my regular Dr tomorrow morning to discuss where we go from here. Is there an underlying cause for the pain? Something that's treatable? Is it normal aging? Just something to live with? Lots of questions as yet unanswered.

I was afraid the day of the chest pain. It took me by surprise. I had moments of fear leading up to my repeat mammo, but God gave incredible peace too. Since becoming a mother I have struggled at times with fear over the safety and welfare of my children. And I realized this week that that was the crux of the fear I was struggling with. I don't want to die, but I am not afraid to die. I am ready to die, I know where I'm going, and at times I can't wait to get there! But I am afraid for my children. What would happen to them if something happened to me? My husband is an amazing dad, but he's a DAD. Honestly, he would have a hard time being a mom too (as I would have a hard time being a dad if the opposite were to happen). God is sovereign, I believe that, and He can and does weave what we consider to be tragic into something beautiful that glorifies Him. But I began to wonder if I really trusted God totally and completely with my children. Do I only trust a little? Only when things are going well? When the rubber meets the road, do I trust Him utterly with my precious children? I know I want to.

I am still wrestling with and praying over these thoughts. I had to chew on this a bit before I was ready to share publicly. Pray for me, that I will learn what it is God is trying to teach me, and that I would rest completely in His love for not only me, but for the 5 beautiful souls He has entrusted to us.

Edited at 11:15 pm to say that our daughter G is home and tucked into her own bed right now. I am supremely happy.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Today's little daily things

Our 7 year old son L and I went out for breakfast this morning. Of all our children he is the one hardest for me to understand (at least so far!) so I relish every opportunity to know him better and connect with him. We talked about goals for second grade, had a really fun time and he loved his breakfast of french toast stix! He came home and told his dad he was "in heaven".

After this we picked up the rest of the family and went to Jungle Java for play time. Jungle Java is an indoor play facility for children with a coffee bar for the adults. My boys (even the 45 year old one) had a great time taking turns being the captive in the tubes and nets and letting the others rescue them. L was especially considerate of his 2 year old brother A, and we made a point of praising him for this.

We called our daughter at the cottage and she talked our ear off for half an hour. People at church would not believe this, but there is such a huge difference in her demeanor when she's with people she feels completely comfortable with.

I am re-reading a series of 3 books that I absolutely loved the first time. The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers. She is one of my favorite christian fiction authors. I am nearly done with the second book, and got to read alot today. Yay!

There is a sippie cup with a quarter inch of juice fermenting inside lost somewhere in our house. I posted a .25 cent reward for information leading to its whereabouts, but so far no-one has claimed the reward.

Did I mention our daughter G is coming home tomorrow??!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Boy Time

Some of you may be wondering what I ended up doing with the boys today. Well, it wasn't very exciting but at least we were together!! My mammo took up the entire morning, so when I got home it was time for lunch. We were out of bread and no time to make some, so off to the grocery store we went. After getting our groceries I let the boys ride 2 x 2 on the toy dump truck in Kroger's entryway. They always ask and I always say no, so this was a fun thing!

After lunch we drove to daddy's "new" office for the first time. My husband's company moved to new digs and had an open house this afternoon for all the other businesses in the building to come and meet them. It was really nice to see some of his colleagues again, talk to several of the spouses, and see my husband's daytime environment. The boys had a great time checking out every single chair in the entire office! They love to spin around in them. They did a good job keeping their hands off of everyone else's computer, so that was good. Two year old A was rather hyper since he was missing his nap (I let him walk around the office with his paci in which helped him be hyper rather than grumpy - definitely the lesser of two evils when in a group setting). On the short walk from the parking garage to my husband's office we stopped to watch some workmen filling in a huge hole in the sidewalk with wet cement where a new drain pipe had been put in. We were right up there at the edge looking in. Construction vehicles and equipment are fascinating to all our boys, so this was a very fun thing.

Then we came home and made pizzas for dinner and watched a western style movie. It was a good boy day!

Mammo Update

No lumps!! Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers! It hurt alot more than the first one, but it's over and it was good news, praise the Lord. Because the mammo showed nothing worrisome they canceled my breast u/s. I am still having discomfort/pain on that side (in the chest wall and armpit) but will follow up with my regular Dr next week concerning that.

Yippee, yippee, yippee!!! I had a wonderful time of praise and worship on the drive to the mammography center, and another time of thanksgiving on the way home. God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mother Daughter Date!

Our daughter left this afternoon to spend 4 days at the cottage with Grandma. I miss her already! She is such a joy to me and is so much fun. I'm glad that she has this opportunity to spend time with her Grandma though, and to have some special alone time at the cottage. When you are the oldest of five those times are extra special.

This morning before she left we were able to go out on a girl date. I left the boys at home with their favorite sitter and G and I headed out to a craft and antique mall. It's so much fun to window shop with our daughter! I love seeing what she likes and what she thinks is cute. I got several ideas for stocking stuffers. :-) She is interested in so many things and that makes her an interesting person. I already can't wait until she comes home!

Now I have to think of a few fun things to do with my boys while G is gone. Money is limited and it's extremely hot outside these days (read that: I don't really want to be out).....any ideas?? I do have a gift certificate to Jungle Java, maybe we'll check that out. It's our last weekend to "fling" before school starts on Monday! My husband and I are "flinging" every evening after the kids are in bed by watching "24" DVD's of season two. We started watching this show halfway through season 4 and so are we checking out past seasons from the library and trying to get caught up. I do love that show! Frivolous I know, but there you have it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Repeat Mammo and Ultrasound

At my mammo last month they found some dense tissue they want to take a closer look at, so this Friday I am having a repeat mammo and a breast ultrasound. I have had this appointment since shortly after my first one, but now that it's getting closer I thought I'd mention it on my blog and ask for prayer. It's probably a case of them not being familiar with my girls and needing to know what's normal for me, but I have also had quite a bit of discomfort on that same side during this past month and that is worrisome. Please pray that it will be nothing major.

Our pastor preached a wonderful sermon this past Sunday on how to keep puzzling times from ruining your soul, and as I listened I was thinking "is God trying to prepare me for something?" Well, of course He is preparing me for something, I just don't want that something to be breast cancer. Don't you sometimes want to choose your trials? I have even rated past trials in my mind! You know, "this was a lot harder than that, I don't ever want to go through this again" type of thing.

Once again the bottom line is God. He is. He knows. He is there. He is with me. He is at work. He is trustworthy. It's all about Him! Lord, help me to keep my focus on You, where it should be, and off of me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My "little" boys

By "little" I would be referring to the two youngest ones. A is 2 and C is 5. C would not consider himself "little" but you know what I mean.....

C had a hard day today. I have seen it coming for 2 days and tried to ward it off at the pass this morning by spending lots of time with him, cuddling and reading, but apparently it wasn't enough. He has taken on the job of correcting his younger brother at every. possible. opportunity. In a very loud voice. Think shouting. When he perceives that he's been wronged the shouting turns into wailing "ma, ma, ma, ma" over and over. Kindof like a 2 year old!

Speaking of the 2 year old, he decided not to sleep during his nap time this afternoon. When I went upstairs to get him, I found him sitting in a pile of tape that he'd pulled out of all the cassettes in his room. I was able to salvage all but one. And thankfully the CD's were still all in one piece! Note to self: the third shelf up is not high enough.

I am going to have to make a concerted effort to fill their emotional tanks every day and not let them get lost in the shuffle of their older siblings' school. Getting ready for school has been a focus for me this summer, but I need to remember that implementing school is a lot more than the maps I've copied, the new workbooks that are sitting in their school cubbies, and the great literature waiting on the shelf. It's loving, training, and spending time with those littlest "students" who are not yet officially in school. Lord, help me to be a wise and discerning mom, as well as a wise and discerning teacher. Without You I would fail miserably, with You I am more than a conqueror!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Happy Birthday Honey!!!

To my wonderful husband.....

I don't want to miss this opportunity to tell you how thankful I am for you and how glad I am that you were born! I am grateful for the upbringing you received, the values that were instilled over the years, the great teaching you received about living the christian life while in the Navs. I am so grateful that God brought us together despite living on different continents at the time! That despite the miles separating us and all the years that passed since first meeting, God saved us for each other. You are a tremendous blessing in my life. Your steadiness comforts me while your sense of humor helps me be not too serious. You are so. much. fun!! And you are MINE!

Thank you for being a safe harbor for me throughout the storms we have weathered together. I love you with all my heart. And I will always love you, no matter what. :-)
(and in case you're wondering.....each candle represents 3!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Today's little daily things

Today was a project day around our house. Two of the boys shook out all the rugs and swept the downstairs, one of the boys picked up the bulk of the legos that were littering our toyroom floor, our daughter G washed most of the downstairs windows (inside and out!), I scrubbed the downstairs bathroom and my husband mowed the lawn. Before our daughter set to work, she dressed her littlest brother up in this pioneer boy outfit. She dresses him up frequently and he lets her (he is super cute as an Egyptian!!).

My big project for the day was getting rid of the paper pile. Each item in the paper pile represented a task that took well more than a minute to complete (that's why there was a paper pile to begin with), so it literally took me all day, in small chunks, with many interruptions. If you receive a birthday card a couple months late, or pictures that were taken 2.5 years ago, or a 50th wedding anniversary memory page that was supposed to be mailed last summer, you are the blessed recipients of my hard work today!!! (yes, I am ashamed to admit that all of the aforementioned tasks are actual examples)

Here is the before picture......... (notice the open shade and the sunshine streaming in)

............and here is the after! (notice the closed shade - it was dark when I finished!)

I finally got rid of my big "Pam's Details" binder which frees up a lot of space. I really, really, really wanted the binder method to work for me. Really, I tried! There are so many websites with free downloadables of calendar pages, menu planning pages, address and phone number log pages, and pretty much any other kind of page you can imagine. But file folders just work better for me. It saves the step of having to open the binder in order to find something or put something away, and that one simple step makes a world of difference. So I have several new labeled file folders in the place of my binder. I still keep a Christmas binder (the one with the red plaid cover) and a recipe binder for all the recipes I print off the internet. Those binders do work well for me, but for daily use I'm a file girl! I'm going to go have a cup of tea in the kitchen now and enjoy my clutter free countertop for the rest of the evening (that's about how long it will remain clutter free!).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day at the Park

The children and I walked to our neighborhood commons area this morning and had a fun time playing. I don't play enough with the kids, so that's my goal for these last two weeks of summer before we start school. Here is our youngest:
Our 5 year old son C went ALL the way across the monkey bars by himself!!!!!
I got a workout pushing them on the merry go round!

We played "fish out of water" and a short game of baseball. It was a perfect day, not too hot. We need to do this more often!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

And now for something totally lighthearted

Today we celebrated the first birthday of our daughter's pet mouse, Max. We don't know his actual birthday of course, but since we got him in early October last year when he was approximately 6 weeks old, we set today as "the day". Our daughter has been making plans for Max's birthday for several weeks now. Here she is with her brother C icing the cupcakes.And here is the birthday mouse! Some of these pictures are a tad fuzzy as the birthday mouse was quite active.

The cupcakes we ate.......
And the cheeze-its that he ate.

After singing happy birthday and having the cupcakes/cheeze-its, it was time for Max to open his presents. First he got some hanging toys from his "uncle L".
Then he got a climbing tube from his 2 year old "uncle A".

And this wonderful jungle gym was a present from his "uncle C".

Next we have his musical tower which was a gift from "uncle G".

His "grandparents" (me and my husband) gave him a tiny A-frame dollhouse, and his devoted owner gave him this wonderful playpen! (She actually made most of the gifts and then assigned them to us to give).

All the guests made merry, laughed gaily, and played heartily until it was time to put the tired birthday mouse to bed. The guests were encouraged to go to bed as well. :-) A good time was had by all!

Amendment to Grief and Gratitude

Just wanted to clarify something I said yesterday. In the next to last paragraph I said, "I have some longings that may never be fulfilled..." What I meant was that they may never be fulfilled here on earth. The Bible makes it pretty clear that once I reach heaven, all my longings will be completely, fully, permanently fulfilled because I will be in Jesus' presence. All questions answered (or erased), all strivings over, lacking nothing. At times I can hardly wait!! In the meantime He gives daily grace to live in a fallen world, and I am so thankful.

So that's my theology and I'm stickin' to it!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Grief and Gratitude

The children and I visited a cemetery today. It is where the baby of a dear friend is buried, who died at 18 weeks gestation. Less than a year later they moved out of state, so on the first anniversary of his birth/death we went to the cemetery in their stead. We placed flowers and a balloon on his grave, and sat in a circle around the marker and shared prayers. The children say such childlike prayers. It is very precious. Every year since then I have visited his grave on or near this date (the actual anniversary of his birth and death was yesterday but we couldn't go yesterday so we went today instead). Though we ourselves have no children buried there, it has become a time for me to remember our babies who died before they were born, and a place to pray for all those I know who have lost children.

If our twins had lived they would be 8 months old now and my life would be very different than it is. I miss them terribly. I am also grateful for the time I've had this summer to focus on each of our children's strengths and needs, to prepare for our school year and the excitement I feel at getting started again. I know that prep time would not have been available were the twins still with us. Such mixed emotions.

I am learning that a grand mixture of emotions can (and does!) co-exist at the same time surprisingly well. Sorrow and joy, pain and comfort, discontent and acceptance. In fact, sorrow makes the joy more intense, pain makes the comfort more genuine, and a feeling of discontent makes the acceptance that comes more meaningful. I have some longings that may never be fulfilled, but at the same time I have intense gratitude for my family and for each day of life that God grants us to enjoy one another. God is very gracious indeed, and so very patient. There is still so much I don't understand but I know that God is. And that's enough.

To my friend S, if you're reading this, I love you. I miss you. I am praying for you and thought of you especially yesterday and today. May God comfort all those with hurting hearts.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Today's little daily things

Our daughter G did 3 loads of laundry today almost by herself. Those of you with preschoolers, take heart! They will be good helpers one day! We are making use of those mesh lingerie bags, I put things in them that don't automatically go into the dryer. Today it was a shirt that had blood stains on it from a bloody nose. She checked it to make sure the stain was gone before throwing it into the dryer. She came to me all worried after starting the dryer because she had forgotton to throw a fabric softener sheet in and she didn't know how to turn the dryer off. So we went over that lesson. We also discovered a swim diaper that had gone through the wash. Fortunately it does not fall apart like a regular disposable diaper does!! I am hopeful that before long I can turn most of the laundry completely over to her.

Our 2 year old said "fortunately" today. He didn't use it correctly but his pronunciation was pretty good! One of his bedtime stories had a picture of a butterfly in it. He said, "I want to catch that butterfly when I go into the book." ??!!??

Our 7 year old son L finished another book today. That's his third one this summer. He is on the cusp of reading well and it's really exciting to watch!

A little girl in our neighborhood who has had trouble following the rules of our yard was very respectful to me this evening. Wow!! I had to tell her "no" and she said, "okay" without pouting or whining. I am so thankful.

Here is a dinosaur museum our children made out of legos this afternoon during quiet time. Everyone but the 2 year old worked together on it. Didn't they do a great job? You probably can't see too much detail, but they have teeth displays, and a workman is standing on a white ladder cleaning off the largest black dinosaur. Inside the building there is a ticket counter and a gift shop. I love how creative they can be.

To my sister D, our son G wants to be sure that your son N sees this, so please show him! Thanks.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

I had a hard moment today. I took the baby monitor out of our 2 year old's room. It has not been used in over a year, but it has been sitting in there looking like.....well, a BABY monitor. It's not like I'm longing to be pregnant again, but it's hard knowing that the baby season is very likely over for us. It's just so final. Contentment is coming in small measures, but at times my heart tires of the process and just wants to be at the end of this journey. That's the bad thing.

The good part about taking the baby monitor out is that it was part of a larger project, cleaning and rearranging his room. Since we took the crib down a couple months ago his rocking chair has been at an odd angle kindof sticking out into the room. So I moved some things around, switched his books and toys to the opposite bookcase, and thoroughly cleaned. Now his rocking chair is in a corner and he is excited to have a "new" room! That's the good thing.

Then we decided to have a wonderful homeschool moment and go see the Perseid meteor shower. So we put the kids' pajamas on and set out at 10:00 PM to find a dark field somewhere where we could lie on a blanket and watch the show. Our son C fell asleep after about 2 minutes of driving. The 7 year old and 8 year old kept making Star Wars noises in the back seat which were extremely annoying. As we were driving the cloud cover began rolling in (it's supposed to rain tonight) and by the time we were a half hour out in the country you couldn't see a single star. So we turned around and came home and all the children went to bed late, grumpy, and disappointed (except for C who slept through the whole drive). That's the ugly thing.

I am going to bed now too, also grumpy and disappointed. I'm so glad God loves me anyway.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today's snapshots

Two pictures taken by our daughter G. She had the camera for about an hour and many of her shots are quite "interesting". :-)

And by request, a picture of our 2.5 year old when he was about 20 months old. He figured out that if he stood on the open door of our dishwasher, he could reach the COOKIES!!!!

I finally finished the last of the canning today so I have my kitchen counter back!!! And I completely finished the paver walkway down the middle of our vegetable garden. Whooo-Hoooo!! I am tired but happy.


This is the fine print to the last two entries about getting ready for school:

* I do not claim that my children will be smarter, get higher test scores, or be more godly for being homeschooled.

* I do not claim to be an expert in educational theory, methods, learning styles or curriculum. Just an expert in my own kids.

* I do not claim to be a better mom, a more committed mom, or in any way, shape or form supermom, for homeschooling. Just a mom trying to be obedient and doing the best that she can.

* I do not claim that my children will never run in church, never lie, hit, kick or scream, or never run past you without saying hello (in fact I can pretty much guarantee that they will do all of the above).

* I do not claim to be an expert in anything food related, including bread making. Just familiar with my own experiences.

* I most definitely do NOT claim to be an expert in potty training. I do have an opinion that has been formed as the result of numerous failures.

* I do not claim to be an organizational guru, or a scheduling expert. But I love to try!! :-)

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Getting Ready for School - Part 2

This entry may be MEGO inducing for you non-homeschoolers (My Eyes Glaze Over), but for the homeschoolers amongst us, as well as the grandparents and other interested parties in-how-well-our-children-are-being-educated (!) I wanted to share some of the other preparations I have made for our school year.

In many ways this preparation has taken much more time, thought and effort than the organizing. It started and continues with much, much prayer. Prayer is the foundation of all that we, as a homeschool family, strive to accomplish. Prayer for the character development of each of our children (and the teacher!), for insight and discernment into their unique learning styles, for wisdom in choosing curriculum that is best suited to each child, for strength and patience for the teacher and principal, for courage and hope on the dark days, for humility on the good days. I continually marvel that as a child of God I have such immediate access to the King of Kings, and I am continually blessed by the privilege that it is to pray so intently for my children. I am confident that no matter what other teachers my kids may have, none of them will bathe our children in as much prayer. It's one of my greatest joys as a parent!

During my prayer times for our homeschool this spring and summer, the Lord directed me to find ways to streamline the school process as much as possible so as not to exasperate our children (Eph. 6:4) and to help me avoid burnout. To that end we are eliminating several subjects for our younger students and combining them all into two practices called copywork and dictation. Dictation is writing down the words or sentences that your teacher quotes to you, and copywork is the natural extension of that, copying appropriate passages into a notebook. Both copywork and dictation, when done properly, cover spelling, penmanship, grammar/english, and listening skills.

I purchased the following copybook (e-book format) from that is filled with quotes from Benjamin Franklin. We will be studying early American history this year so it fits perfectly! I printed out all the pages of the e-book and our daughter G put them into a 3 pronged folder.

This quote from the copybook was rather convicting, as I have been sleeping in a lot this summer and letting the children wake me up!!

I learned so much just from printing these pages out! For instance, I'm sure you've heard of that saying, "there's nothing certain in this life but death and taxes" but did you know that it is really part of this larger quote from Ben Franklin?
This copybook will be for our daughter, a fifth grader. She will copy the quote in her best cursive writing and then write what she thinks it means. Our third grade son is also using a copybook, and our second grade son and kindergarten son will be doing dictation with me.

Something we are adding this year just for our fifth grader is a notebook timeline. I purchased this "Book of the Centuries" from
We will be skipping ahead to the 1600 page since that is where we are starting in history this year, but Lord willing our daughter will get to fill in the previous pages when we do our next history rotation! I purchased this CD of timeline figures to print out from

My friend and fellow TOGGER (user of Tapestry Of Grace) Beth shared with me that children need about 2/3 input for 1/3 output. In other words, they need to take in information twice for every time they spit it back out (did I get that right Beth?). Our second grade son L is still struggling to learn his math facts, so using this information from Beth, I made a custom set of flashcards for him that has the answer written on every card (it's impossible to find commercial flashcards that have the answers on the front!). He will say the whole problem outloud, with answer, several times before I cover up the answer with my finger and expect him to recall it. Hopefully this will prove a useful tool for us this year!

I have read, re-read, and re-re-read the teacher's notes in our history notebook. Some of my fellow TOGGER's may be aghast to learn that I do write all over my pages! (insert audible gasp here) I have thoroughly enjoyed preparing for our history studies and can hardly wait to start. We will be doing lots of fun hands on things this year, as well as taking a week long educational field trip/vacation to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown!! More on that later.

I still need to gather everything we need to put together our science notebooks, but that should be quick and easy. Once I have the materials, each of the children will make their own notebook. This is our first year to do "formal" science and we are really excited. We will be learning about birds and insects (Apologia's elementary series, Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day).

We have also done some fascinating research into how the brain stores information, and the subsequent implications for our homeschool, but I'll save that for another post as this one is already a novel!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Getting Ready for School - Part 1

I have spent hours and hours and hours this summer preparing for our upcoming school year. Don't worry, I have taken some weeks completely off where I did nothing remotely resembling home or school organization, but let's face it....when you spend several hours each day teaching your children there are just lots of other little things that don't get done.

I decided to tackle the school prep on two fronts: home/physical organization and mental/school preparation. I will write about the second one in another post. To help me out with all this preparation I hired a mother's helper for the summer. He comes once a week for several hours and entertains the children while I clean, organize, read and think. What a blessing he has been! (thank you so much P!!!)

First I mopped the kitchen floor because life is just better with a non-sticky floor. Then I bought this bookcase from IKEA and organized all our books for the upcoming year. The bottom row of cubicles is reserved for toys for our 2 year old (it has been better organized since this picture was taken).

We school in our kitchen eating area, pictured below. I cleaned out all of last year's stuff from the school cubbies and put in this year's stuff. Each school aged child has their own color coded cubbie to keep their school things in. Currently the top and bottom cubbies on the far left are mine, but eventually I will have to give one to the 2 year old. My cubbies are colored "plum for mum." Our children came up with a little rhyme to remember what everyone's color is!

We also bought another bookcase from IKEA (I do not care for most of their modern line of furniture, but I love, love, love their bookcases!!) and put it down in our basement for school books that we are not currently using. I have a bit more organization to do with this bookcase, but it's a start. I painted the wall behind the bookcase a bright flaming red and I just love how vibrant it looks down there now!

I have a few "hot spots" to de-clutter and the 2 year old's new "room time" toy to buy, but we are pretty much physically ready for the school year. I always get so excited to start a new school year, it's hard to wait until Labor Day!

Another Peach Picture

This was my husband's peach-pancake-powdered sugar creation at dinner the other night!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Peaches anyone?

This is peach season around here. Yum, yum, yum!! We got a bushel of peaches intending to can most of them, but we have been eating so many fresh ones I may only get 2 batches (14 quarts) of canned ones! Either way, they are soooo delicious! Wanna come over for some ice cream topped with fresh peaches?

Monday, August 6, 2007

Rain Dance

Our state has had very little rainfall this summer. We have been *inches* below normal. But a sure way to make it rain is to.....wash your car!!! Yep, about 2 hours after this picture was taken it began to pour. (and no, we did not acquire another child overnight, this pic shows our 4 older children plus 2 neighbor kids) So the next time the farmers around here are pining for rain I'm going to send my kids outside to wash the van!