Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking Care of Me

I started the summer with good intentions (don't we all?). Really, really good intentions. I was going to be full fledged running by the end of summer. And at least 1o pounds lighter. :-)

I was sidelined by severe heel pain before summer barely got started.

And that was tres discouraging.

I saw a podiatrist, was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, and purchased orthotics. I felt good about finally seeing the Dr, and finally doing something proactive to help my foot. Well, 6 visits and about $300 later, my orthotics still aren't perfect and I have not been overly thrilled with the care I've received. I still have a lot of pain and walking for exercise is among the last 1,000 things I have wanted to do.

So I got a second opinion this week. The second Dr concurred with the diagnosis but contradicted just about everything else the first Dr said. So, for now I am keeping the orthotics (I feel they are helping, just need a bit more tweaking) but doing several other things differently.

Last winter I injured the rotator cuff in my shoulder while shoveling snow, and it has been getting worse and worse. The pain has spread to my neck and has become constant. So I saw my Dr about that too. Since I have lost only minimal range of motion, my Dr recommended seeing a physical therapist and taking mega doses of ibuprofen for a week. I did not know that 400 mg doses or below are considered pain relief doses, while doses of 600 mg or higher are considered anti-inflammatory doses. And I need anti-inflammatory. It will help both my neck/shoulder and my heel. I was hesitant at first about taking so much, but it's only for a week.

Part of me feels guilty spending money on all these Dr visits for myself (we have no insurance at this time so are cash patients), but the truth is, it is very important to take care of myself!! My family needs me. I need to be the best I can be for them. And I tend to let things go too long before taking care of them. Bad, bad, bad.

I am learning how important it is to take care of myself, and to take charge of my own health. If I don't get answers from one Doctor, I need to find one who will give me the info I need. Sometimes the answer is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. You hunt and hunt for the one piece you need. And once you find it, it's up to YOU to put the whole thing together.

I am hopeful that one more piece of my health puzzle can be answered next week when I see a chiropractor again for the first time in several years. Specifically, I am seeking his opinion on whether or not one leg is truly shorter than the other. We shall see....

BUT, the upshot of all this is that I have recently begun walking again! They are very short walks, but compared to sitting or lying on the couch most of the time with my foot elevated, they demonstrate progress and are amazingly refreshing!! I am thankful!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Sumerian Writing Seals and a Ziggurat Cake

Last week we learned about Ancient Mesopotamia, and the civilizations that flourished there. One such civilization were the Sumerians. After learning about them we decided to make our own writing seals such as Sumerian scribes used long ago. We made them out of sculpey clay because it is bakeable and therefore becomes very hard. We wanted the best possible chance that our seals would make good impressions later.

Everyone started with a wax paper work surface, and two little piles of clay.

If you have never worked with sculpey clay, it takes quite a bit of kneading to make it soft and pliable. We had to stand up and really lean into it. Little Man (age 5) needed a bit of help, but not much. If you were doing this with children younger than 5 you would probably want to knead the clay ahead of time to reduce frustration. We all used the red clay to make cylinders, and the black clay to make designs to put around the cylinders.

We used a variety of tools for making our designs. Some small cookie cutters, shapes and letters made out of a clay "rope", and even forks and knives for cutting and shaping our own designs.

Our daughter, ever the ar-tist, chose to knead both colors together to get a marbled look. This would not make a difference in the impressions to be made later, but would look nice to the person using the seal!

Some of the children used a toothpick to poke small holes in their designs once they had put them on the cylinder.

Our daughter chose to put her name on her seal, so she rolled out a long clay rope and then cut it in pieces to form each letter of her name. It was tricky to figure out how to put the letters on the cylinders so that when it was rolled out later the name wouldn't be backwards, but she did it!

Here are all five cylinders ready to be baked. This picture may be too small for you to tell, but I found it really interesting how different each cylinder/seal was! Proof positive that each child is very unique!! It is very important to bake sculpey clay on top of foil. Do not set the clay directly in the pan. Set your oven for 275 degrees, and then bake for 15 minutes per 1/4" thickness. I ended up baking our seals for about 45-50 minutes, and then turning off the oven but leaving the seals in until the oven was cool. You want them to be rock hard, but you *can* overbake them and then they're ruined, so you just need to check frequently (every 10-15 minutes).

When they were sufficiently cooled we rolled them across playdough to test them out. They worked GREAT!

A very fun project!!

Next we turned our attention to making a cake ziggurat. We had learned about Mesopotamian ziggurats and compared them to Egyptian pyramids. Someone shared with me the idea of making a ziggurat out of cake rather than just stacking and painting boxes, which was my original plan. Anytime we can eat our creations that is just super fun, plus it means nothing to store later. Bonus! So we mixed two white cakes mixes together.

We baked them in two pans, and used the smaller of the two for the base of our ziggurat. We cut the remaining, larger cake in two pieces but not exactly in half.

Then we started frosting and stacking.

Ta-da!! A yummy ziggurat to eat and enjoy with daddy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010



If you are drinking something, swallow it completely before reading further.

I have a very dear friend, never married, who recently became engaged at the age of 49. The children are quite excited about "Aunt" Marcie getting married. AND, at the same time, we have had snippets of "The Talk" floating about our house. Hence this conversation the other day:

Little Man: "If Aunt Marcie has any children, will I be their uncle?"

Me: "No, if Aunt Marcie has any children you will be like their cousin. But I don't know if Aunt Marcie is going to have any children."

Little Man: "Because she has no more eggs and can't lay babies?"

Friday, September 24, 2010

This 'n That

I have posted almost exclusively about school lately. And certainly, school is a huge part of my/our lives. But there is always so much more going on in life and in my head. Lately I have felt like there is not enough time to just "be", so I need to find creative ways to work on that. This will be a random collection of thoughts mostly unrelated to school. It's a "stream of consciousness" thing, so be warned. :-)

The schoolroom has seen no more progress in the last two weeks, and won't until my husband reaches his deadline at work. I am thankful to have a kitchen eating area to school in. Thankful for the big window that gives us wonderful sunshine while we work! (something we are lacking in the basement) I am thankful I have children to teach, and thankful I can learn together with them at home. Thankful my husband currently has a job, even though he is super busy right now. Thankful that I know God will provide for us when this one ends in a week and a half. So very thankful for my husband!

I got to spend about four hours the other night with a young friend of mine who has recently graduated from college. She is beautiful and mature and has amazing insights. She is faithfully obeying God even though doing so is hard right now. I was so encouraged by our time together, and grateful to hear her perspective on so many things. Plus she is just plain FUN. I am really, really proud of her, and grateful to call her my friend. (love you E! And I am praying for you every day)

I learned today that my Uncle Ray passed away. I only found out yesterday that he was near death, though I knew he had been failing for a while. He is my dad's older brother and the first of my 3 aunts and uncles to die. I love him very much, and I am *so* thankful he has passed safely and peacefully from this life into heaven! He walked with God all his life, the last 10 years of which he suffered from speech aphasia and dementia. This was a hard blow to all of us at first, since for all his adult life he was a pastor and spoke many meaningful and thought provoking things. It was painful to watch him able to hear, but not able to participate in a conversation.

One of my first thoughts when I learned he was in heaven was, I wonder what his first words were?? What is he saying now? My mom shared with me the thought that for a christian death is just a doorway. I have been pondering that a lot today. Those of us on earth only see what is on this side of the door. We sadly and sometimes painfully lead our loved ones to the threshold, but we don't get to cross over it with them. We have to let them go. Others are on the other side, waiting to usher them in. What does an usher do? An usher greets you and helps you find your place. What ushers were waiting for my uncle? I can imagine that as soon as he crossed the threshold they were greeting him excitedly, showing him around and helping him find his "place". I know he is very much alive and more whole than he ever was on earth. But I will miss him. Death seems much closer now since it has taken one only one generation removed from myself. A reminder that death is the final destination for all of us. Am I ready? Are you?

And in the midst of these ponderings on death, life goes on. My husband took our son L on a date this week and had "The Talk" with him too. It was only a few weeks ago that he had this talk with our son G. L had a completely different reaction than G did, as I had inwardly predicted he would. He was very true to his personality. Let's just say he was pretty grossed out by the whole idea. His one big takeaway, however, upon learning that there are literally millions of possible egg/sperm pairings each time a husband and wife show love to each other in this way, was...."wow! I am soooo special! I could have been someone else!" And it's true! I love that he's getting a sense for how God made him to be HIM, and no-one else.

We have cautioned the older two boys not to discuss this with their younger brothers, or anyone else for that matter, though they are always welcome to talk to us about it at any time. Despite this admonition, snippets of the talk have been floating around our house all week. Little Man and son C have both asked me this week if it is possible for me to have any more babies, or if I have used up all my "dots"?

Son C is going to play in his soccer game tomorrow. His foot is getting better and better each day! He barely limps now.

My house is a mess, and it is not going to be as tidy as I want it until the schoolroom is finished and our piles of school things have a permanent home. But I'm thankful I have a house to get messy.

I was crying out to God the other day that I am overwhelmed with the different stages each of the five children are at, what their needs are and my own inadequacy to parent them well. I asked the Lord for grace and wisdom and opportunities to invest in them in ways that are unique to each child and where they are at the moment. When they were younger it was possible to parent them all pretty much the same, but now their needs are so vastly different.

I'm so thankful I can depend on the Lord! The very next day He gave me the energy at the end of the day to have a lovely tea party with our daughter. We used to have weekly teas and I'm ashamed to admit that it has been a few months since our last one. We talked and connected and had such a good time together. Our conversation ranged from body image and false messages we get through media, to how to share your faith with a buddhist. Yeah, pretty much all over the map! But it was great to just be together. I enjoy spending time with her SO much ~ she is a delightful young lady!

This stream of consciousness is long enough and my brain is tired. Hope you all have a weekend that is refreshing in just the ways you need.

Good night.

Excitement for Little Man!

At nearly six years old and just a shade under 4' tall, we finally decided it was time to move Little Man to a big boy twin bed!

He and G share the smallest bedroom so it was a tight squeeze to make everything fit, but I got creative with the dressers and it works! We weren't planning to put two twin mattresses in this room until they could go on a bunkbed, but we learned of an opportunity to bless someone else with his toddler bed, and we had the twin mattress ready and waiting, so we went for it! It is currently on a trundle bed frame in the down position.

He is very, very happy! (and he looks small again when I watch him sleep!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kindergarten - Week Four

Little Man and I are finally in a good routine with kindergarten I think. It has been challenging for me to add another child to the academic schedule, and organize myself in such a way as to spend focused time with each child each day. But I am getting there. With lots and lots of God's grace.

Each morning Little Man starts the day by listening to the Bible and drawing in his Bible journal, along with all his siblings. Every afternoon he has story time with mom and either history or science together with his brothers. In between he rotates through a variety of activities, as well as working in his math book, handwriting book, and a new phonics workbook (see below), though we don't do all three workbooks every day.

Here he is doing a new math activity with a book similar to this, and a tub of pattern blocks.

After he got the picture covered with pattern blocks, he took them off the paper and sorted each type of block into its own pile. Then we counted how many of each type he had used for that picture (the sort sheet below was for a different picture than "Arnold Alligator", for those of you looking closely). ;-)

After the "official" math activity was finished, he had fun building whatever he wanted out of pattern blocks!

The last new book we added to Little Man's seatwork is this "Get Ready for the Code" phonics workbook. He worked in this book about three times during the week.

It starts out very simply, identifying same and different.

He is having fun in kindergarten, and so am I! I had forgotten how much mental work it is though. He is very tired at the end of the day.

(aren't we all???)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Says You Can't Play Soccer with Crutches?

Soccer Season Has Begun!

This year Little Man's bff is playing with him on the same soccer team!! It is super fun to get to see his family every Friday (for co-op) AND Saturday (for soccer). :-) Their group of 4-6 year olds is slowly learning to function together as a team, and they are fun to watch.

Opening day of soccer was a gray, rainy day. G and L got soaked during their game! But they say it was worth it because they won! They did not win a single game during spring season, so it was a very good feeling for them to experience a win.

The second Saturday of soccer play was also rainy (beautiful weather during the week, and rainy on soccer day....go figure!). Little Man played goalie for the first time.

And during the older boys' game, son G played goalie as well! He did not allow a single goal against a very experienced team ~ we were so proud of him! Here he is blocking a penalty kick from the other team's top scorer.

Our son L scored the one goal of the game, giving his team the victory! Alas, I did not have my camera ready so didn't get a shot of that, but we were super proud of him too. I don't want to have an over-emphasis on performance, but after being a soccer mom for several years it is really gratifying to see my children trying their hardest and experiencing honest to goodness improvement!!

Son C had to sit out his game, since his foot is still healing. He had a very hard time with that, as he desperately wanted to play. Lord willing, he will be able to play next week.

FIAR Co-op - The Story About Ping, Part 2

For our second week of Ping, we worked on mini books to put inside our FIAR notebooks. This was perfect for the 7 and 8 year olds, a wee bit much for the 5 and 6 year olds, and way too much for the 3 year old (but he got all my examples that I'd done ahead of time, so he didn't really have to do much!).

Before this however, we read the story together again and the children took turns once more re-telling the story using picture cards in sequence.

In the future I will plan to not do quite so much coloring and cutting in one day. But all in all, it was fun and the children did enjoy seeing their mini books take shape! We colored in the country of China on a small world map, to see where in the world China was located, since that is where the story of Ping takes place.

We also colored a small flag of China, and labeled the Yangtze River on a map of China.

For our snack we ate rice.......with chopsticks!!

Before going outside to play (and pretend to be Ping!), we finished our morning inside with one more hands on activity, and that was making a food wheel to show the types of things Ping ate. The book mentioned several.

We glued the 3 small books on the front of a sheet of cardstock, and the food wheel on the back. The older children had fun right away flipping open their mini books and admiring their handiwork!

All of the Ping mini books were printed off of this website. Other ideas for Ping activities came from either the FIAR teacher's book, or other websites that came up when I googled Ping.

Friday, September 17, 2010

FIAR Co-op - The Story About Ping, Part 1

Our real life co-op met for the first time last Friday, and it was sooooo great to be together again! We very much missed Angela and her children (in our co-op last year) since they moved away. We didn't seem quite complete. :-( But it was still great to be with one another, and to have fun learning together. Here we are, 11 children representing 3 families.

We decided that this year while the writer's class is continuing to learn how to write well, we will have a Five In A Row (FIAR) class for the younger children. The concept behind FIAR is that you read the same book at home once each day for five days in a row, and then when we meet on Fridays we will do a variety of activities based on the book. For our first book we chose The Story About Ping ~ one of my favorites!

After reading the story all together, the children took turns arranging picture cards in sequential order and re-telling the story.

Then we did a science activity based on buoyancy. There is a Chinese boat boy in the story who is tied to a barrel to make him float. We looked at a variety of objects and predicted whether they would float or sink.

After we all made our predictions we went outside and set each object one at a time in a bucket of water in order to test our predictions.

We made a mark in the appropriate "sink" or "float" column and compared the actual results with our predictions.

Then we made pictures of the wise eyed boat which was Ping's home, and a few brave souls even colored, cut out, and glued down ALL Ping's relatives ~ which amounted to 68 ducks! We counted while we worked.

It was a marvelous first day back at co-op!