Saturday, May 26, 2012

Homeschool Plans: Secondary Subjects

I just realized I never finished telling about my homeschool plans.  I was going to tell you what we’re doing for the subjects we work on all together: history, science, art, geography, and religion.

History: we’re going to start Volume 2 of Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer and I’m so excited!  I can’t wait to study the middle ages with my kids. 

Science: I have been using the Real Science 4 Kids series over the last couple of years and I have really liked it, though I don’t know if it is the best and most comprehensive choice.  But at the convention I found that they have an Astronomy volume now, and so I bought it.  We’re done with the pre-level 1s and ready to start working with the level 1 books.  We will see if we like them or if they start to get too technical.   The kids are excited to study astronomy.

Art: I bought the next volume of Artistic Pursuits, along with its accompanying art kit.  I love Artistic Pursuits.  The silly thing is, we still haven’t quite finished Volume 1, even though we’ve had it for 2 years.  I know that doesn’t make sense: we’re not doing it but I love it so much I bought more?  I am committing to actually DO it this year.  When I run out of gas as a homeschool teacher (which happens quickly when you’ve got a child with learning challenges) art is the first thing that gets dropped.  I just don’t have the mental energy to set everything out and supervise an art project on a day when the daily work has not gone smoothly.  But when we do work on art, everyone loves it, including me.  So perhaps my trying harder paired with the kids being older and better at working through their assignments…

Geography:  You know this is my favorite subject.  The problem is that I love it so much I want to instill the same sense of wonder and fascination that I feel into my children and I’ve had a hard time finding a curriculum that gets me excited.  It’s way too easy to make Geography dry and it shouldn’t be dry—it should be incredibly rich and engaging.  There should be lots and lots of pictures, for starters.  The internet can be a great resource, but it can be time-consuming to find them.  In the past I have tried to incorporate Geography into everything as we go along.  This year I bought an actual curriculum: Trail Guide toWorld Geography.  I got excited about it at the convention when I looked at it there, so I bought it, but when I got home and looked at it more closely I wasn’t so sure.  So I don’t know how this will go.  We may love it, we may hate it.  The great thing about homeschool is that you’re not locked in to anything.  A few days ago I put in an order to Rainbow Resource Center to fill in a few gaps and I bought a supplemental resource: Eat Your Way Around the World.  It looks really fun and engaging if I will just take the time to use it—the kind of fun thing that really makes homeschool special but is easy to get dropped if Mom is feeling worn-out.  Again, now that the kids are getting older…

Religion: All of the Christian homeschoolers have “Bible” as one of their daily subjects, and while we’ve always read and memorized scripture as part of our opening exercises, I decided to look into some kind of curriculum that would help kids learn the scriptures better.  Looking for specifically LDS materials, I found a company called Discover the Scriptures and I think I’m going to try one of their books.  I hope it will be fun. 

I hope all of this will be fun.  It’s supposed to be.  I try really hard to keep as much drudgery as possible out of my homeschool.  My kids don’t appreciate that, since they’ve never known anything different, but they do typically enjoy our secondary subjects.  I enjoy them too.  I’m looking forward to this year.

A Lovely Birthday

Thanks to my Badger, I recently had a very nice birthday. 

The poor Badger: he kept asking me what I wanted for my birthday and I kept wailing "I don't knoooooow!" because I was in a near-constant state of nausea and fatigue and absolutely nothing sounded fun or good.  I couldn't think of any presents I wanted, a special meal that sounded good, or even a flavor of birthday cake that was appealing.

But the Badger loves me, and he knows me well.  He got on my Amazon wishlist and bought me a bunch of things off it-- things both useful and fun.  Then he went to the store the night before and bought lots of food that he knows I like, even if I say I don't.

We abandoned plans to go on some sort of field trip or family outing and I spent most of the day in bed, as usual.  (But isn't that a nice thing to do on your birthday?)  Around mid-day the Badger coaxed me downstairs to eat my birthday lunch: lasagne, garlic bread, and macaroni and cheese for the kids.  Oh, and Sun Chips. I could eat Sun Chips all day when I am pregnant.  It all tasted great (food always does when it's in front of me, I just can't think about it beforehand.) 

The Badger was so excited about my cake.  He likes to get creative with desserts.

Chocolate brownie on the bottom, chocolate cake on the top, the whole thing infused with a special chocolate sauce and frosted with coconut pecan frosting. Yum!

I loved my presents from Amazon.  I'd picked out that apron back in January when I decided I was going to wear more aprons, but then I forgot about it.  It says, "Mom's a Peach."  Then I've been needing more dish towels, but it's hard to find the right colors of blue and white lately so I was really happy with these.  A Veggie Tales DVD just for fun (not pictured because the kids were watching it when we took this picture!)   A Paul Cardall CD  (I think this is my 3rd or 4th) and then that frog mug!!!!!  I don't know how he found that, but I absolutely adore it!!!  It was one of those delightful things you're not expecting that totally make you smile.  Thank you, thank you, Badger dear!

I had lots of phone calls from my family and messages from my friends.  It felt strange to be getting so much attention.  It was a lovely birthday.
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Friday, May 25, 2012

One and a Half

Peanut at one and a half is an absolutely delightful creature.  She is very happy and low-key.  She loves to snuggle both Mom and Dad.  She loves dolls and stuffed animals and hugs them to her very close.   She enjoys looking at books and has learned to be quite careful with them.  She is so happy whenever we let her go outside.  Her other favorite activity is playing "phone" with any object that bears even the slightest resemblence to a phone.  She doesn't have many words yet, mostly just Mom, Dad, Hi, and Hello, but she babbles a ton and is on the verge of explosive speech.  She responds to both Peanut and her real name.  The Rabbit has recently started calling her Peen-- I am not sure what I think about that.  She and the Rabbit have been playing together pretty well though, and I'm glad of that.

She eats a lot-- friends have remarked about how much food she can pack away.  She loves bananas, cheerios, blueberries, tomatoes, beans, peas... well, most things, actually.  She has a reaction to dairy products, so we don't let her have those, which is hard, since she especially loves cheese.  The goat milk doesn't seem to bother her, thank goodness.  One more reason to love our goats: now that she's weaned I am more concerned about her nutritional intake and the goat milk really helps with that. 

She has recently started sleeping through the night.  She has always been a pretty good sleeper, but she always had a midnight snack.  Things were a little rough for a couple weeks while we phased that out, but just the last few nights she has stopped waking up.   She kicks off any blanket you put on her during the night.  She doesn't like to go to bed as early as some of my kids, but she's usually one of the last ones up in the morning.  She takes a good nap every day starting anywwhere between 11 am and 1 pm.  When she wants to go to sleep she curls up and pulls a blanket or some kind of fabric up to her face.  She brings a hand up near her face and rubs the fabric between her fingers.  I'm not sure why she started doing that because she didn't really do that when she was nursing like some babies do.  But when she started transitioning away from nursing, that's what she started doing. 

I have just enjoyed every day with this little girl and I can't even begin to express how grateful I am to have her in our family.  She is so utterly lovable.  Everywhere we go everyone just adores her.  People just instantly sense how full of love she is and that makes them happy.  I know it sure makes me happy.
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Goat Update

The baby goats are getting big!  They are almost ready to wean, which means we will start milking twice a day instead of just once. 

It also means we will need to get rid of the bucklings within the next couple of weeks.  We actually ate one of them a couple of weeks ago.  It tasted fine, but it was kind of chewy.  We think we might be able to do a better job cooking the meat next time, but the Badger's not sure he wants to go through the process again for awhile.  Our friends the Beaver family eat their goats all the time and rave about the meat, but... I don't know... we're just not there yet. 

We probably shouldn't have named them.  :)

On the milking front, things seem to be going well.  The Badger is still getting used to the daily routine of milking and it seems to have been a little hard on him to add that demand to his day.  We are in the process of getting the boys trained to do the milking by themselves (the Beaver kids start at age 8).  The problem is the Badger bought this nifty milking device-- a hand suction pump thing-- and it's kind of hard for the boys to operate.  They could milk by hand, but the Badger thinks the suctioned milk is cleaner and tastes better.  So we're still figuring everything out. 

The kids love the milk.  They drink it all up very quickly if we let them.  I love it in smoothies, but my current state of nausea doesn't like plain milk of any kind.  I keep reading more and more about how good it is for you though, and I'm so glad we have it even if it is a ton of work.

Last night I made my first batch of goat cheese.  I used the "easy" method where you don't use any enzymes or rennet, you just use lemon juice or vinegar to curdle the warm milk.  The curds are small and dry and crumbly-- a lot like the feta you buy in the store.  It tasted delicious to me, though my friends say the rennet variety is even better and just as easy, once you buy the rennet, etc.  Mrs. Beaver says she makes cheddar with her goat milk, which I did not know was possible.  So we've got some really fun experimenting ahead of us!
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Picturesque Chickens

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In My Garden Today

I just went out and took these pictures so you could see what my garden looks like right now.  It looks so good!  It's deceptive though.  An Oklahoma garden always looks good at the end of May.  The real test will be if we actually get to eat anything out of it during the hot summer months. 


Fish is doing such a good job watering.  He really seems to have a knack for gardening. 

Here's my Rabbit showing off my herb and flower garden: blue flax, bee balm, chives, oregano, mint...

My tomato plants are growing so well!  I bought small cheap ones-- I figured they would transplant easier.  They are so green and healthy and pretty right now.  Now, if it doesn't get too hot like last year, we might actually get some tomatoes!
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In My Garden

I just pulled the pictures off my camera for the first time in forever and found these garden pictures that I took three or four weeks ago.  I haven't blogged about my garden in awhile, so I think I will do that now.

Whenever the goats escape their pen (usually because the Rabbit left the gate open), they head straight for my chard.  A couple days before this picture was taken, they decimated it pretty badly.  The Badger has since installed a spring latch on the gate.

Since it was bolting pretty bad (chard bolts in cool weather) I pulled quite a lot of it out, but I still have some good chard plants producing well.  Can you believe I planted these last spring?

While I was working on the chard, I felt someting *plop* onto my foot.  I screamed and then I realized it was just a nice toad.   A very large one, at that.  We're glad to have him in our garden. 

Here is the boys' garden.  The back half is Fish's and the front half is Bean's.  This was taken right after we planted the $1 tomato plants and some inexpensive annual flowers I bought them at Walmart.  You can see that Bean only cleared out space for his plants, while Fish weeded his whole bed.  Bean has since removed all weeds from his bed and their tomato plants are growing extremely well.  I am, in fact, very pleased with how well the boys have been taking care of their gardens, especially Fish. 

Here are my pepper plants and one of my tomato plants shortly after I got them in the ground.  I was mad at myself for getting them in the ground so late-- it took me several weeks to feel well enough to drag myself to the store-- but at this point I'm just proud of myself for getting anything planted at all.  And they are growing marvelously so far.

On days when I am feeling slightly functional, I find that working in the garden is very soothing.  I am so happy with my raised beds that allow me to work sitting down and don't require lots of hoeing or other strenuous labor.  I sit and I pull weeds and I breathe fresh air and I soak up Vitamin D and I feel very happy.
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I say or think a thousand times a day how absolutely adorable my Peanut is in her chubby giggly toddler stage, but lately I haven't been taking very many pictures.  I have resolved to take more and to blog more. 
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Fun With CitiBlocs

Fish and Roo have been spending a lot of time with the CitiBlocs lately. 
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Homeschool Plans: Bean

I guess I've already talked about a lot of the stuff Bean is doing since it is the same stuff Fish is doing: Singapore Level 5, Life of Fred (he still hasn't quite finished the fractions volume, after which we'll do the decimals and percents.)  He's still working on his thinking skills book from Critical Thinking Company.  I am starting him on level 3 of Susan Wise Bauer's First Language Lessons for some grammar exposure.  I was able to look closely at my friend Andrea's copy and it seems Bean-friendly (it's hard to find things that are Bean-friendly...)  And we're still working through Lively Latin book 1.  He loves it but he moves through it v e r y s l o w.....but that's okay!  He would probably hate it if he was rushed through it.   There's a great deal of English grammar and vocabulary to learn when you study Latin so it helps him catch up on that as well.  I am really finding it to be a very worthwhile program. 
That just leaves us with Spelling.  Bean is the reason I am switching to All About Spelling.   We were doing Sequential Spelling last year and for quite a long time it was great.  By the end it wasn't great and Bean was miserable. 

I chose the program because it was supposed to be wonderful for kids with learning issues such as dyslexia.  The way the program works is that each day you go through a list of 25 words, asking the student to spell each word and then correct any mistakes before they move on.  The list is about the same each week: the 2nd day you do all the words plural, the next past-tense, etc. so there is some repetition, yet instead of memorizing a bunch of words for a test they learn the patterns.  The program groups words by patterns, so once they learn one word in the pattern they can spell all the other words in the pattern as well, supposedly.   The problem we found was that, especially towards the end of the book, the patterns weren't always very clear.  The words jumped around more and more.  One of Bean's touchy spots is that he hates making mistakes and having to correct them.  To some extent he got used to it during this program, but towards the end when he had a hard time following the patterns he was getting all these tricky words he had never spelled before thrown at him and he was spelling nearly every one wrong.  Always having to fix every single word was discouraging for him and it got to where spelling was a torturous ordeal and he begged me to never have to do it again once the book was over.

I was just talking to my friend Mrs. Beaver and she loves the program.  When I told her my frustrations, she recommended that I try it again, only go slower, repeat sections if necessary, and help Bean with the words the first time.  Helping would go against the rules of the method-- they're supposed to give it their best try first, but she said it wasn't hurting her kids any. 

I thought about that a bit, but I am still going to try All About Spelling.  One thing I like about it is that it teaches phonics and you can start your kids with it when they're just learning to read.  Roo is even going to be using it, whereas I don't think Fish is even now quite ready yet for Sequential Spelling: I think for that one they really have to be reading strongly and independently for it to work.  All About Spelling starts so basic that I think it's going to fill in a lot of gaps my kids have in their basic understandings of English.  They will very quickly be reading and spelling better. 

Every year Bean's attention and focus increases tremendously.  I think this will be a good year for him.  I am still worried about his "off" days, but he is having a lot fewer of them.  I am looking into getting some testing done for him to pinpoint some of his issues and give us more strategies for dealing with them.  But it is still very clear to me that he has done far better at home with me than he would have done in a regular classroom.  I am so grateful I can be his teacher!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Homeschool Plans: Rabbit

Even though the Rabbit is only four, she wants to be very involved in school.  She, like Roo, enjoys workbooks.  She just finished up a couple of activity books so I needed something new for her.  At Convention I saw a book on a rack called The Complete Book of Preschool and I thought, "that'll work!"  It's just a basic workbook covering stuff like colors, shapes, letters, counting... not exactly high-tech curriculum but she'll enjoy having something to do while the others do school.  I think most of it will be a review for her, but we'll make sure those bases are covered. 

As I write this, I am remembering that it's time for her to do the thinking skills workbooks I did with Roo at this age that I felt were quite valuable.  They're called Developing the Early Learner and they cover a lot of learning readiness skills: audio, visual, motor, memory, etc.  And speaking of thinking skills, she's still working through the beginner (green) volume of Building Thinking Skills.  She really loves it and always begs for one more page. 

I know that she's just going to charge ahead with everything.  I'll probably start her on Kindergarten books after Christmas. 

Preschool shouldn't be just workbooks though.  I try to do other stuff with them as well: art projects, field trips, and lots and lots of picture books read aloud.  A lot of this is just giving them an age-appropriate version of whatever the bigger kids are doing. 

As I write this it occurs to me what a silly name "PREschool" is in a homeschool setting.  Why call it preschool when it's really the beginning of her formal education?  It's not pre-anything, it's School.

Some homeschool families completely reject the traditional school grade labels.  I personally don't totally reject them because I find them a useful reference point when talking to non-homeschoolers and when looking at curriculum.  But I don't put much stock in them either: they're really not very applicable in a homeschool setting.  We work with each kid on the level they're at and they progress at their own rates.  And that's one of the best things about homeschooling!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Homeschool Plans: Fish

Unlike Roo, Fish does not really like to sit and do schoolwork.  However, he is really determined to get a good education and so he is willing to do what is necessary to achieve that aim. 


Sometimes he wanders off, quietly slipping away while I'm working with some other kid and finding some hiding place out of hollering range. 

But the older he gets, the more he is willing to do.  And I think this is going to be a really good year for him.  I don't follow grade levels too closely, but he will be approximately in third grade. 

He has already been working out of the Singapore Math 3rd grade book for quite some time now.  He got a bit bogged down because he needed to work on his multiplication table, but I didn't let that bother me because he wasn't behind.  So we'll keep working with that book and with getting the last of the multiplication tables memorized. 

My friend Andrea (who you begin to see has saved me hundreds of dollars) has been buying the Life of Fred elementary series books and we've been borrowing them.  I read them to Fish and Roo.  They both love it.  They are mostly too easy for Fish so far, but they give him things to think about.  If you've never seen the Life of Fred  math books they are really something.  They teach math through the context of events in the life of a character named Fred, who is a five-year-old math professor at a university in Kansas.  Yes, you read that right.  They are very silly.  Kids love them.  Some people use them as a full math curriculum, but I think they work better as a supplement. 

One of my impulse purchases at Convention was a math computer game called Amoeba Math.   My boys would play it all day if I'd let them.  It sneaks a lot of math drill into a fun video game.  I think it will help them solidify their math facts.  I am planning on using it as a reward during school when they get their other assignments done. 

I mentioned in the post about Roo that Roo and Fish have both been working through First Language Lessons for the Well-trained Mind.  Fish needs some remedial help with language skills, so this is working great for him.  I am also going to do All About Spelling with him, which will help him tremendously with both reading and spelling.  I think this will be enough language for him for now.  I don't feel he is ready for a writing program yet, though we will still be doing copywork and dictation in many of our other assignments so he can master the separate skills of writing.  He needs to get a firm handle on the basics and not rush into lengthy writing assignments before he is ready. 

The Badger sits down with Fish regularly and helps him read aloud.  They usually read from Thornton W. Burgess' Mother Westwind stories, which is what the Badger learned to read on when he was a kid.  Fish is still a bit late-blooming in the reading department, but he's making really good progress. 

Fish will continue to work through Volume 1 of Building Thinking Skills by the Critical Thinking Company. 

I think it's going to be a great year for Fish!

Homeschool Plans: Roo

I have decided I am going to tell you my plans for each child this coming school year.  I will start with Roo, age six, who is already partway into 1st grade stuff because she just blew through Kindergarten last year. 

Roo loves school.  She loves workbooks.  She happily does everything she's asked to do and then begs for more.  Even after I declared summer break, she keeps coming to me with her math book and saying, "can I do some more, please?" 

I am not used to this.  Not at all. 

Planning homeschool for Roo is really fun. 

At Convention I was looking at various math books trying to pick something for her and everything I looked at looked like it would be just fine for her.  That's never happened to me before.  I finally chose Horizons Math because I've heard it's a good program for kids who are a bit on the advanced side (first time I've ever been able to pick something for that reason!) and it looked colorful and fun.  She loves it already (she didn't want to wait to start it!) 

She has been working through Language Lessons for Little Ones by Sandi Queen and we've really liked it.  It is mostly learning to read, but it also has fine art to discuss and poems to read. 

At some point last year I borrowed First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind  by Jessie Wise from my friend Andrea and started running through it with both Roo and Fish.  The short daily lessons have introduced them to parts of speech, had them memorize a lot of little poems, and had some small amounts of copywork and narration.  It's been good.  At Convention I looked at the next volume of Sandi Queen and it seemed to be covering pretty much what we've been doing in this book, so I am not going to buy it.  First Language Lessons... covers both 1st and 2nd grades in one volume, so it will keep us busy for awhile. 

I am going to be starting all the kids on All About Spelling this year.  I am really excited about that.  I know Roo will really take off with it. 

Roo wanted a thinking skills book.  I love the books from the Critical Thinking Company, but the purple volume of the Building Thinking Skills series, which would be Roo's level, is not as good as the other ones.  Fish and I dropped it after awhile.  So I bought her a book of Dr. Doo-Riddles  from the same company.  They're just short, simple riddles that get her brain going.  She loves them (again, we couldn't wait to start!) 

For science, history, geography, and art I am using the same curriculum for all the kids, so I will write about that in another post. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Summer Vacation

When I first started feeling icky,  I told the kids we would tone down school but that I still wanted to do a little each day, as much as I felt like I could do.

Ha!  That lasted maybe three days.  Then I declared Summer Break. 

The weather is great right now.  The weather in July and August will be nighmarishly hot.  We may as well take off now and enjoy the nice weather and then go back to the books when it's too hot to do anything else. 

One of the things I've been able to do since I've been lying in bed for hours every day is make a solid plan for the next school year.  I bought a homeschool planner at Convention and, by golly, I'm going to use it! 

The planner starts in July, so we'll start in July.  I should be feeling better in June, so I plan to use that time to tie up a few loose ends from this last school year. 

I've been thinking a lot about what worked and what didn't and how to make things run smoothly this year.  Roo and Fish and Rabbit should be easy to teach, but the snag I always run into is Bean.  And he's a little bit unpredictable.  But he gets better the older he gets, and having clear expectations helps.  I think the planner will help with that: it's a little more regimented than I am naturally inclined to be, but I think it will help Bean. 

This last year I had a folder for each of them to chart their progress.  At the end was a checkoff sheet that listed all the books they needed to get through to complete their "grade" and had little boxes for every section or chapter of that book.  Fill in the boxes and you've completed your grade.  (Everyone did, by March or April, with the exception of the boys' language arts books I dropped because I didn't like them and then never replaced.  We're going to do much better with language arts this year!) 

I then had weekly assignment checkoff charts for them that I drew up each Sunday evening based on what we had planned that week and what they needed to do to stay on track.  I thought they would enjoy checking things off.  Roo loved it (she cried if I checked something off for her) and Fish didn't mind it (though he usually had me check things off) but Bean... 

Bean's charts were a challenge for me.  On one hand, he needs structure and he likes to know exactly what to expect, so he always wanted to know what he had to do that day.  And sometimes saying
"you can do such and such on Saturday if you get your whole chart filled in" was very motivating to him.  But if he was having a bad day or week and just couldn't get his work done, it put me in an interesting position.  I would try to defend the validity of my charts and hold him to it-- maybe have him make up the work later-- but there were times he got so behind and so overwhelmed that it was just too much and it seemed the merciful thing to do was to let him off the hook.  I'm sure the unschoolers and other proponents of child-led learning would pat me on the back for that, but I have never felt that that level of educational freedom was the right thing for Bean.  But I also do not think too much regimentation and force is good for him either.  The balance is not easy to find, but I think he and I are getting better at it. 

This new planner gives me space to write daily assignments/lesson plans for each child in every subject.  I will do what I did before and fill out the coming week on Sunday night.  I will just be prepared for lots of flexibility with Bean.  I may do his plans day by day.  I am still trying to decide if I am going to still print out a checkoff sheet for each kid as well.  Maybe just for Roo. 

I am excited for the coming school year!  I will do some more posts over the next few days about the various curricula I have chosen as well as what I have axed.  The longer I do this the better I get at it and the more I feel like my children really are getting a good education. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Growing Bean

For the first time in my parenting career I have a child whose clothing size is bigger than their age. 

Bean needed new Sunday clothes.  Around Easter I bought him a size 12 shirt and pants.  I already thought this was crazy since he's only 10.  Well, they're already too tight and too short.  So are his jeans.

He's now wearing 14's.  I just can't understand how he got so big all of the sudden!  I never have had reason to believe that any of my kids were going to be particularly large as adults, but Bean right now looks like he's going to be a moose.

And shoes... he's wearing my shoe size.  Awhile back on Sunday morning he complained that his shoes were really tight.  So I went to my closet and got out my old black Doc Martens for him. 

Do you remember how Docs were the shoes to wear in the 1990's?  With their big thick soles?  They were so durable that they were even the shoe of choice for all the young LDS men outfitting themselves for their 2-year missions, which are notoriously hard on shoes.  They weren't cheap either.  I had two pairs.  My brown ones my parents bought me at the mall for 80 or 90 bucks.  My black ones I bought at a street market in Greenwich, England while I was over there on a study abroad program in college.  I was very pleased to get them for about 40 pounds, as I recall. 

I have very fond memories of my Docs and it seemed kind of strange to be shoving them at my 10-year-old on our way out the door to church as emergency fill-in footwear. 

He's been wearing them every week since and every week he complains about how clunky and heavy they are.  The irony of it makes me smile.  He has no concept of how coveted they were, how durable they are, and how much walking I did in them-- all over England!  All he can see is what a bother Mom's weird old shoes are. 

The Badger took him clothes shopping recently and bought him a pair of summer sandals in the next size bigger than me.  So he won't be wearing my Docs much longer. 

Watch out Badger, he'll be wearing your clothes and shoes soon-- but he'll probably outgrow those too!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Two Angels Named Shannon

I have a new friend named Shannon who recently moved into my ward.  Knowing I haven't been feeling well lately, she said to let her know what she could do to help. 

It's hard to ask for help.  I feel especially funny about it right now because, even though I think I am a LOT sicker than a lot of women are at this stage of the game, there is nothing really wrong with me.  There is nothing life-threatening with this pregnancy.  I keep hearing about other pregnant women who are on total bedrest for months or who are in and out of the hospital for various complications-- those are the women that really need help!  I just feel really really nasty most of the time and I can't get anything done, but there's nothing life-threatening about having a really really messy house and having the kids eat mostly cereal and peanut butter sandwiches.  It's short-term.  We'll get through it. 

But still... I got thinking about the Badger's upcoming week of day shifts.  When he does day shifts he's gone for 13 hours a day or more for seven days in a row.  He gets up really early, milks the goats, and then leaves before I even wake up.  He comes home late in the evening after a long day at work and tries to catch up on as much of the dishes and the laundry as he can before he falls exhausted into bed.  As heroic as he is, he just cannot do it all. 

So I felt like a little bit of help would be good during this time.  I asked Shannon if she'd just come over Thursday during the day and hang out with me.  I said maybe if I was feeling really awful I'd ask her to do a few things, but mostly I just wanted company.  She readily agreed. 

Thursday morning my phone rang.  It was Shannon--my old friend Shannon who lives up in Kansas.  She said, "I know it's short notice, but my husband's coming down this weekend to do some business and I wondered if I could come over and hang out with you for the weekend.  I was thinking about how you haven't been feeling well, so I could do some cooking and cleaning and whatever other things you need help with." 

I am thinking, "Pinch me, I must be dreaming!  This sounds just like heaven!"

Just as I was finishing up my conversation with old friend Shannon, new friend Shannon showed up at my door.  She was dressed to get dirty and she had lots of bags with her.  "I've got lunch and dinner for you, and these are my cleaning supplies," she told me.  "Where do I start?" 

I don't know how to describe the gratitude and relief I felt at that moment.  I'm sure you've all experienced it.  But we forget so easily.  It wasn't that huge to her what she was doing-- a couple hours out of her day and some groceries-- but it was huge to me.  Why don't we do this for each other more?  We get so self-absorbed.  We forget the way acts of kindness and service are somehow magnified between us and a sincere recipient.  If we remembered that they are receiving far more than we think we are giving perhaps we would be more eager to reach out. 

Shannon ended up cleaning my bathrooms.  I will love her forever. 

It's amazing what a difference clean bathrooms make for your morale. 

Friday was bad.  I could hardly get out of bed all day.  But at least my bathrooms were clean.  And there were leftovers from Shannon that the kids could feed themselves so I didn't have to cook.

Saturday my old friend Shannon showed up, rounded up my kids, and made them clean the house.  (I know my kids could do more, but it's hard to ride herd on them when you're lying in bed all the time.  They get some stuff done, but not as much as they could.)  Shannon was right on top of them with high expectations (and promises of brownie sundaes) and they did amazing things.  Bean didn't dare put on his hypochondriac act with her.  He even washed kettles.  After each room was clean, Shannon vacuumed.  I don't know how long it's been since anyone's vacuumed...

Again, it was amazing how my spirits lifted as the nasty mess disappeared.   Having a dirty house may not be life-threatening, but it sure is depressing. 

Then Shannon grilled steak for dinner.  You see why I called her an angel?

But it gets better. 

I woke up Sunday morning, Mother's Day, to a clean house.  And Shannon was downstairs cooking breakfast!  The kids all burst into my room a few minutes later singing "Mother, I Love You" and carrying an unbelievable breakfast spread (bacon, sausage, eggs, English muffins, etc.).

A few days before, I had had absolutely no expectations for Mother's Day.  I knew the Badger would be gone.  I figured the house would be trashed.  I didn't even know if I would make it to church-- I didn't think I had it in me to get all of us dressed and out the door by myself.  I figured it was just going to be another day in bed and I just wouldn't think about it being Mother's Day.   Some Mother's Days are like that, and I'm okay with that. 

But that's not what I got this year!  With Shannon's help, we all got to church, where the kids made me absolutely fabulous cards.  And then, if you can believe this, after church Shannon made a huge lunch with enchiladas, rice, and beans.  AND CHEESECAKE.  HOMEMADE CHEESECAKE!!!!!!  IT WAS TO DIE FOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I really don't know what I did to deserve all this.  It was so wonderful, especially after all these dreary weeks of struggling to get through each day. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my two angels named Shannon!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Boat

For years, the Badger has been saying wistfully, “I sure would like to own a boat some day…”  to which I have always replied “Let’s just rent one sometimes, it’s much easier and cheaper.” 

Well, he called me on it while we were in Branson.  He suggested we rent a motorboat for a couple of hours and go out on Table Rock Lake.  I think he was expecting me to say we couldn’t afford it (I’m good at that!)  But I knew how much it meant to him, so I readily agreed. 

Here’s our boat:

And my happy Badger:


I even drove.  Not something I ever pictured myself doing, but it was fun. 


We rented a tube to go with it.  Fish didn’t like it much and Roo and Rabbit (held safely by Daddy) only liked it when we went really really slow, but Bean ate it up.  The faster we went the bigger he smiled. 

The Badger enjoyed it too.  Said he’d never been able to do anything like it before in his life. 


I must admit I didn’t try it.  I am not much of a water person.  But I was glad to help with the whole operation.

We had some minor trouble with motion sickness, but overall the boat rental was a huge success.  And I don’t think there was ever a prettier day at a prettier lake.  Another fun memory to go in our family archives….

Monday, May 7, 2012

If You Want to See Something Impressive...

Recently I spent a very happy day shopping the vendor hall at the Oklahoma homeschool convention.  One of the things that I like about these conventions is the people there.  Short of attending general conference, you won't find a more wholesome, well-behaved crowd anywhere. 

The Oklahoma homeschool conventions do something that I think is really amazing: they have a section set up in the vendor hall for young entrepreneurs.  Homeschooled youth ages 10-18 can apply to set up a booth where they can sell their own products that they made themselves. 

Let me tell you, if you want to be impressed, visit these booths!  You will be looked in the eye and greeted warmly by well-groomed, friendly and articulate young people.  They will talk knowledgeably about their products, which are well-made and appealing.  You can buy jewelry, hair bows, sewn and knitted clothing items, bird houses, tomato seedlings, and much more.  Their booths are neat and well laid-out.  They have nice readable homemade signs and sometimes real printed business cards.  And these kids know all about how to run a business--- sales tax and everything. 

If you know anyone who still thinks that all homeschooled kids are ill-groomed and "unsocialized," send them my way next spring.  We'll take a field trip to the homeschool convention and knock that silly outdated notion clear out of the ballpark.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Couvade Syndrome

Years ago I learned about couvade syndrome, where the husband experiences some of the same symptoms as his pregnant wife.  The Badger has occasionally experienced a little bit of this over the years, but this pregnancy is the first time I've realized that one of my kids could experience couvade. 

Bean has been going through a phase for the last several months where he magnifies every little physical complaint he has: growing pains, being too hot or too cold, minor headaches or muscle aches etc.  I remember going through the same thing when I was about his age: I was finally becoming aware that my body could hurt or ache or be sick (when I was younger than about nine sickness and pain weren't all that big a deal to me).  I seemed to catch everything that was going around-- at one point I remember being out of school because both ears and both eyes were infected and I had strep throat, and that was right after I'd had mono.  For the first time, all this really seemed to affect my life and I made a big deal out of it. 

So I've seen Bean doing this lately, and I've remembered, and I've tried to be patient with him (though he always seems to have some excuse as to why he doesn't feel well enough to do school!)  Now that I'm pregnant, however, it's just gotten worse and lately I've been hearing "I feel like I'm going to throw up" from him almost as often as from me. 

Now, I am a very observant parent (and I am with these kids all the time!) and I really do not think there is anything wrong with Bean.  I truly think he is feeding off my pregnancy symptoms.  I do think there is something to couvade syndrome and I think Bean's got it. 

I had hoped that my being so sick would elicit some sympathy from my children, but I haven't gotten much. Being healthy little people, I don't think they can even begin to comprehend what I am going through.  As a child I remember being very afraid when my normally-healthy mother was sick in bed, even with just a cold, but my kids don't seem to be afraid either.  If anything, there is way too much modeling of my behavior: such as lying around and not doing their chores.  A couple of times now I have heard my Rabbit mimic my "Oh, I feel sick..."

This wasn't exactly the example I wanted to set for my children and I hope I can undo any damage when I'm back to my normal active self again.  I also hope that someday after they've experienced real sickness themselves they will be able to look back at this time and finally be able to process it correctly.  At that point they should be very grateful that I was willing to go through this for each of them!  :)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Thank You, Groupon!

When looking into making this trip to Kansas City, it occurred to me that this might finally be our chance to go to Branson.  I’ve been trying to get there for years.  Since I moved out here it hasn’t really been that far away, it was just a matter of everything falling into place.  It finally did. 
Last winter I started noticing that there were quite a few Groupons for Branson hotels in the off season.  One day there was a Groupon for a “Luxury 2 bedroom lakeview condo that sleeps eight” for $150 for two nights.  Now, I have paid $75 a night for a tiny room in an old highway-side motel in the middle of nowhere on some of our long car trips in recent years.  I didn’t know what to expect from the word “Luxury” but I figured that just to have a place big enough to comfortably sleep all of us for $75 a night would be worth it.  It’s getting really uncomfortable to try and squeeze this crew into a regular hotel room!  And two nights was the perfect stay for what we wanted to do in Branson and what we could afford. 
Well, we really landed on our feet with this Groupon, folks.  I’ve had several good experiences with Groupon at this point, but this one really topped them all. 
Full kitchen!  With a washer and dryer!  A family of seven at the lake really kept that washer and dryer busy, let me tell you!
A living room with a fireplace! 
A patio overlooking the marina… okay, so the view was a little bit blocked by a tree.  Well, it was an oak tree.  I have this thing about oak trees.  I could look at them happily all day long. 
One bedroom had two queen beds and an attached full bath—we piled all the kids in this one.  The other bedroom had a king-sized bed (yaaaay!) and this
To me, this was luxury!  I currently do not have a bathtub that I can really relax and soak in.  Most of the time I don’t miss it, since my kids don’t take kindly to my trying to soak in the bathtub.  But I was pretty happy about that thar tub.  It was a real treat. 
And that was just the beginning!  The resort itself had all kinds of amenities—I only wish we could have gotten around to using more of them!  It was a large resort, with lots of different buildings with various sizes of rooms as well as houses to rent.   There were pools with waterslides, a playground, nature trails with free bikes, and then down at the lake there were free kayaks, paddleboats, and fishing poles for the kids.  The whole thing was way more than what I imagined a big family on our budget would normally be able to afford.  We felt like spoiled rich people.  :)
Of course, we made a beeline for the lake first thing in the morning…
The BEST thing about the whole experience was that this was a week day in the off season and there were very few people there.  The resort felt sleepy and calm and we had the marina to ourselves.  Even better, the weather was perfect: sunny and high-70’s.  Table Rock Lake is gorgeous in late April. 
This was one of those times when I was so grateful we homeschool.  It can be really hard at times, but there are other times like these where I am so grateful we are out of the box and off everyone else’s schedule.  More than that, we’ve had several experiences now where we’ve gone on these little trips and just had these absolutely perfect days.  I feel like they are a gift from God.  He knows the exhaustion I often face and so He gives me these little opportunities to recharge and He arranges for just the right weather and everything. 
The resort was called Stillwaters and I highly recommend it if ever you are in Branson.  And I really really hope they do another Groupon next fall.  I really want to go back.  Can you imagine being out on that lake with all the trees red and orange and gold?  Delicious. 

Hooray for May!

I finally dragged myself to the store today and replenished my supply of club soda, which is one of the very few things that actually helps with my morning sickness.  All who know me have probably heard me get on my soap box about carbonated beverages and how bad they are for you and how I have no interest in drinking them.  So I think it’s kind of funny that I am now a club soda junkie.  At least it is sweetener- and caffeine-free.  I started out drinking it with 100% fruit juice, but try keeping a pitcher of juice always on hand in a family with five young children!  I quickly discovered that I like it just fine plain.  It’s not tasty, but it’s cold and it settles my stomach.  I don’t know if it’s because of the bubbles or the baking soda, but it works like nothing else.

With my glass of club soda in hand, I find I am actually feeling well enough for once to stay up a little after the kids have gone to bed and get on the computer.  You know I’m feeling really sick when I can’t even get myself to sit down at the computer!  Sometimes I am so sick I can’t even sleep.  That is most unfortunate because sleep is the blissful time of day when I feel just fine.  (And I always have the most vivid and interesting dreams when I am pregnant!)

Yes, these little forest babies of Birrd and Badger do not come easily.  But they are worth it.  The certainty that I feel in my heart that Heavenly Father has always intended this child to join our family is the only thing that would induce me to go through this again.  I love this kid, and I need them here with us.  I will always be grateful I did this, even if I go through a couple of extremely difficult months. 

I actually rather like being pregnant after the first trimester.  And I made it through April, which means hopefully I only have May to get through now.  I think that by the first of June I will be able to manage my life again.  I may even get caught up on the laundry!

I must take a moment to sing the praises of my Badger.  What a hero!  He shops, he cooks, he marshals the ranks to pick up toys, he starts the laundry, and he washes piles and piles and piles of dishes.   I know he has other things he needs to do or would like to do, but he hasn’t complained…. well, at least not about me being pregnant.  He’s as thrilled about that as I am.  He has said, “Great snakes, I can’t believe how fast these kids make messes and how hard it is to get them to clean up!  And how many dishes our family generates in just one simple meal!”  to which I smile and nod and say, “Yes, dear, I know!” and secretly think that I am glad he now knows too. 

The Badger also keeps telling me how beautiful I am, more than he usually does.  He must know I need to hear it really bad right now.  When I am pregnant and sick and gaining weight fast I feel like The Blob.  I don’t even feel human, let alone feminine and attractive.  Hearing him say that he’s enjoying just looking at me is like, “Wow, how did I get so lucky?” 

I am so lucky!