Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Field Trip Season

October in Oklahoma is where you finally actually want to get out and go places and do stuff.  There are field trip opportunities galore.  I love taking my kids on outings to various museums, parks, etc. and I have a long list of places I want to see while we remain here.   This year, however, I can hardly get up and down the stairs, let alone take the kids to the zoo. 

I was feeling bad about this.  But then I realized something.  Every spare second they can, those urchins of mine are out playing in our spacious yard, getting lost in their imaginations, and having the time of their lives.  I remembered all those years we dreamed of having acreage so the kids could roam.  Well, we've spent a lot of time and money and effort getting to this point.  Having them spend day after day romping around the pasture playing with sticks and leaves was exactly the plan.  Okay, so I don't have the energy to load them all into the car and take them to see Thingamie Historical Marker.   It's okay.  Our property is a built-in field trip. 

The other day the Badger came home from work first thing in the morning and said "Let's cook breakfast over the campfire!"  The state-wide burn ban has finally been lifted, so we can use our fire pit again.  He had the boys make the fire and cook eggs with sausage.  Look!  They didn't burn them!  They were perfect!

Bean took this somewhat unflattering picture, but it's the best one I have so I'm posting it anyway.  There was a chilly breeze that morning, but it was such a beautiful day with that blue October sky.  And we all just felt so happy to be together on such a wonderful day.  I want to always remember it.

 There is so much to enjoy here on our property, especially at this magical time of year.  And with such great people to enjoy it with!
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I read Meridian Magazine, and they have a baking guy named Dennis Weaver who posts mouthwatering recipes.  He was recently talking about this incredible high-quality imported-from-France baking cocoa that just made things sing and I thought "I really have to try that."  So I visited the website of his baking supply company.  Everything looked so good!  I restrained myself quite a bit, but in addition to the cocoa I had to buy some of the Korintje cinnamon.  I'm still baffled as to how to pronounce "Korintje," but I've been seeing it around for years (Pampered Chef parties, etc.) and hearing how amazing it is, so I bought some. 

So then I had to make snickerdoodles again, darn it.  I just love making snickerdoodles with my girls!  Right now they are perfect for the Rabbit, whose ability to help in the kitchen has been curtailed by her injured arm.  She loves to be involved in cooking and it really upsets her that she can't do most things right now, including her favorite: cracking eggs.  But she can easily roll the balls in the cinnamon mixture and place them on the baking sheet with her right hand. 

Perfect, perfect cookies!  I could tell a difference with the fancy unpronouncable cinnamon, though it's hard to articulate exactly what it was... sweeter and fresher?  Anyway, I am a fan. 

Tomorrow I will bake brownies with my new Ramstadt-Breda cocoa powder!  I am excited!
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Grubby Cuteness

I used to think I didn't really like one-year-olds because they're so chaotic, but now I've had a few I've realized they're pretty awesome.  Dirty and crazy, yes, but also cute and happy and fun. 

I can't believe she's almost two.  She's falling in step behind her older siblings, rapidly learning to do exactly what they do.  Her babyhood is fading fast. 
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Homegrown Watermelon

This last Sunday was the perfect summer* day: temps in the high 80's... a little muggy... and the kids playing outside on the green grass.  The perfect day to cut open the one watermelon we grew that survived.  It was a little on the small side and we'd had to pick it a bit early because of that cold snap we had at the beginning of the month (light frost on the garden killed the melon plants).  But it was sweet in the middle and we ate it happily. 


*Never mind that it was the 21st of October...  July and August are so atrocious here that they don't deserve to be called summer.  We'll take summer days whenever they come!
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chocolate Milk

Whenever we get a backlog of goat milk in the fridge the Badger makes a batch of homemade chocolate syrup (using more natural/healthy ingredients than the chocolate syrup you buy at the store... we do try!)  The milk disappears extremely rapidly after that. 

We are still getting plenty of milk for our needs, though the supply is dwindling.  One of the goats has dried up altogether-- we think she may be expecting again (Brownie got out of his pen a few times.) 

Bean does the morning milking and Fish the evening one.  Roo helps, usually at both.  They do a great job, though they do tend to dawdle getting out the door (kids...)  But we sure are grateful for our goat milk! 
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A Milestone in My Parenting Career

I have some friends who seem to be in the Emergency Room all the time with one of their kids or another. Stitches, broken bones, and other such injuries seem to be almost routine with them.

I am glad that has not been my experience.  I have only been to the ER three times with one of my kids in the last eleven years.  The first two times were not even really emergencies.  However, yesterday I experienced my first trip to the ER for a kid with a broken bone.

I remember so well the day I broke my own arm.  It was March of 1987 and I was playing with some friends on the school playground after lunch.  I was dangling myself head first off some playground equipment and I began to slip.  I thought to myself "Okay, I'll just fall down and then I'll get up and keep playing."  But when I came to after the fall I looked down at my left arm and said, "Uh oh..."  

After lunch yesterday the kids all ran outside to play.  A few minutes later Fish came in saying the Rabbit had hurt her am.  She had been horsey riding on Bean's back and took a big spill.  She came in crying and we looked at her arm, but it looked just fine.  I wasn't really sure what to do at that point.

My arm sure was at a funny angle.  I went over to Carol, the nice playground lady.  She took one look at my arm and hustled me straight to the nurse's office.  The nurse put a simple splint on it.  They called my mom, who was home, but she didn't have a car.  Mrs. Janovy, our super-wonderful principal, drove over to get her.  I remember laying on the cot in the nurse's office while waiting for my mom.  My second-grade teacher was sitting next to me, wiping my face with a cool cloth and telling me that I was a brave girl.  I thought that was strange.  I wasn't in any pain at all, so what was there to be brave about?  

Our family doctor's office was at lunch, so I called my brother Uncle Owl, MD to see if he could give me some advice on how seriously I should take this.  He started asking me questions like "can she move her fingers?" so I went to find her.  She had gone upstairs.  I thought I'd probably find her happily playing.  No, she was in my bed, cradling her arm, staring off into space and whimpering.  At that point I knew this was a bigger injury than anything I'd dealt with before.  We decided to take her to the ER.  

My mom arrived and we drove in Mrs. Janovy's car to Dr. Kutcher's office.  He used a pair of scissors to cut my sweatshirt sleeve so he could get a better look.  I was upset because it was my favorite sweatshirt... it was yellow and it had a line of cartoon ducks across the front with a goofy-looking frog sitting at the end of the line.  

My Rabbit fell asleep on the way to the ER.  Again I was wondering if we were just on a wild goose chase.  When the triage nurse asked her if her arm hurt she said "no."  But it was swollen and starting to bruise around the elbow.  They took us back to a cubicle and it wasn't long before the x-ray tech arrived and took an x-ray with a portable machine.  He came back a few minutes later and said, "there's no break visible on the x-ray, but when I picked up that elbow it felt broken to me, so I'm going to take a couple more pictures from different angles."

We next drove to the hospital on the other side of town.  That's probably where they did the x-ray, but I don't really remember that part.  I remember waiting quite awhile, but there was a TV so I didn't mind.  I probably watched all my usual after-school shows on Nickelodeon. 

After the tech left for the second time we sat there for a very long time.  The Rabbit was completely sucked in to Nickelodeon on TV, which was playing absolutely vile cartoons... it sure has changed from when I was a kid.  She was acting really mellow, but she said she wasn't in pain.  She would not move her left arm though.

They needed to put me to sleep to set the broken bone.  They told me they were going to put a mask on my face and I'd breathe some gas.  I was going to get really talkative and then I was going to fall asleep.  The last thing I remember before I went under was that I was telling the doctor all about the LDS church and he was saying "uh huh...  uh huh..."  

Finally the doctor came.  There was a fracture in the Rabbit's arm just above the elbow.  The orthopedic doctor had decided that it could be set without putting her under, but they would give her a inhaled anesthetic because it was going to hurt a bit.  When they gave it to her she got really chatty and the nurses thought she was really cute.  All through the whole ordeal she was brave and calm and strong.  I was so proud of her.

When I came to, there was a big white plaster cast on my arm.  I knew about casts from my brother's broken leg two years before.  I was excited that people were going to be able to write on it.  They gave me some Sprite to drink, which was a big treat for me.  Finally I was able to go home, quite late in the evening.

The ortho doctor was super nice. He, like everyone else, thought my Rabbit was just a really cool person. He put a purple splint on her arm (we have to go back next week for a permanent cast). She cried a bit when he set the bone, but she perked up right away afterwards when they brought her a purple popsicle. Then they did another x-ray to see if it was set properly. We finally left the ER four hours after we'd arrived. It was quite an adventure.  

The next day I stayed home from school. My arm was finally hurting. I mostly lay on the couch. My mom bought me a jigsaw puzzle. My class at school made me a get-well card. It was kind of fun to get so much attention. The whole ordeal wasn't really that major for me, or I should say it was more exciting than traumatic. I was surprised at how vividly it all came back to me yesterday.

The Rabbit was pretty chill yesterday evening. She had very little appetite. Finally at bedtime she complained of pain. I gave her some Motrin and after that she slept peacefully through the night. By the end of today she's pretty much back to her old Rabbit self. I wonder how much of all this she will remember.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sunday, October 14, 2012


My mom says she really likes it when I write posts about what we've been doing, so I will try to do that more often. 

The weather is warm again and we are running the AC, probably for at least the next 10 days.  Silly silly silly Oklahoma weather.  We had some awesome rain/thunderstorms over this weekend though. 

Despite the warmer weather, it IS October and the baking elves have come out and started whispering in my ear at night.  I can't resist them.  Between my Kitchenaid mixer, my stoneware, and my convection oven, my cookies are perfect.  It's really bad because it's hard not to eat lots of cookies when they are perfect.  My latest obsession is making snickerdoodles.  Roo and Rabbit love to help me roll the dough balls in cinnamon sugar.  I try to find excuses to make cookies to give to people so that I won't eat so many of them.  And that's a good thing because it gets me out of the house, reaching out to others, which is hard for me with my busy busy life.  So thank you, baking elves. 

We are starting to get a little bit of fall color.  I shall try to take some pictures soon.  I can't even begin to say how much I love fall.  My sisters in Utah have been taking pictures of their excursions up the canyons and posting them online for me to enjoy.  They make me so happy. 

We still have the pigs.  They make the weirdest noises and they get into a complete frenzy when you feed them.  It's cute when they're small, but I'm not sure how it will be when they are large. 

I am going to sew a maternity blouse for myself this week.  Somehow I am going to find the time, though I've been trying for months to find time to sew without any success.  But I have to because nothing fits and my shopping trips have been fruitless.  My friend Andrea gave me a big push in the right direction a few days ago by tracing me a pattern and giving me some beautiful fabric.  I really have to do this.  I'm nervous because it's not a simple project: collar, cuffs, button-down front... all that.  I did a shirt like that for my sewing class final, but that was six years ago.  Wish me luck!

The kids start a new gymnastics session this week.  Roo is moving up to a pre-competitive level 4 class, which I'm excited about.  Gymnastics is so good for them and so exactly what they need.  I honestly don't know how we do it.  We really can't afford it.  I just think we'll pay for it for as long as we can and just when I think we will probably have to take a break for a session the money somehow appears.   It's a sacrifice-- there are many other things we need that money for-- but I keep seeing more and more evidence of how much this is helping my kids.  I read recently that gymnastics is crazy good for kids with learning disabilities and I thought about how much we were driven to put Bean in even though we didn't know that at the time and I'm so grateful. 

Bean's Teaching Textbooks math book came a few days ago and he LOVES it.  Of course this is the honeymoon period and we'll see how it works long-term, but it's got a lot going for it, as far as Bean is concerned.  It was hard to say exactly what level Bean was on since he has had a lot of disruption and since I didn't want him to miss anything critical I bought him a Level 4.  It turns out to be really easy for him.  However, going through it is a good review and it's giving him confidence in working independently.  He should move through it pretty quickly. 

I think Fish will be ready to start it after Christmas.  He's doing Horizons right now.  I really love Horizons (Roo especially is absolutely excelling with it and I intend to start Rabbit on it after Christmas) but what I think I am going to love most about Teaching Textbooks is that having the computer teaching them frees me up to work on other stuff with other kids.  I don't mind working on math with the kids at all, but it's not the most important subject for me to spend my precious one-on-one time with them on. Bean says the Teaching Textbooks guy explains things very clearly.  So if I can have both Bean and Fish in the program soon it will make a big difference for me. 

We are about to start our last six week term, which will take us right up to Thanksgiving, the new baby, and the Christmas season.  So after this term we will take a long break until January, giving the kids a chance to rest their brains and enjoy the holiday season.

So many wonderful things to look forward to!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Product Review: Discovering the Scriptures

In the Christian homeschooling world everyone has "Bible" as one of their daily subjects and I often hear that it's the part of their day they enjoy the most. 

We have always worked on memorizing a scripture as part of our morning devotional and we have always read the scriptures together as a family, but I got thinking that it would be nice to have a curriculum that helped us dig a little deeper and get a little bit more into it.  I wanted to have "Bible" as one of our daily subjects and not just something we brushed over on our way to supposedly weightier matters. 

There are all sorts of Bible curricula available.  I looked at several of them but it was too hard to tell what doctrinal angle they were coming from.  I wanted something that was designed for LDS people so I wouldn't have to risk it.  I found Discovering the Scriptures.

I bought the Discovering the New Testament, written for the younger grades, to try out their stuff.  At first I wasn't sure if I liked it, but now we're on the last week of it and I plan on buying another one.  I will tell you why.

What you get is a PDF download of their workbook that goes along with the illustrated scripture stories books the church produces.  You read a story or two each day from the book and then you have a couple of workbook pages to go along with it.  They are usually simple activities to check your comprehension of the story: matching exercises, simple crossword puzzles, fill-in-the-blank, etc.  Sometimes it's a coloring page or a certain scene they want you to draw.  Then they have short passages from the actual scriptures that they want you to read and then underline certain things.   Then there are verses to memorize.  Every now and then there is an activity they could present at Family Home Evening. 

So when we started I was thinking the exercises were too simple to be meaningful, coloring pages are just lame in general, we already memorize verses anyway, and what's the point of having them underline stuff?  Plus I wasn't sure how I felt about using the illustrated scripture stories book instead of the actual scriptures.  I thought it made everything way too watered down.  Wouldn't we be better off just reading the actual scriptures and discussing them?

But I was thinking like a grownup and not like a Fish/Roo/Rabbit. 

I pull out the binder and say "it's time for Discovering the Scriptures" and they say "YAAAAY!!!" and come running.  (I do NOT get that with most other homeschool subjects...)  If there's a coloring or drawing page I have to print 3 or they fight over it.  And they work hard on them. 

They love the stories and though the review questions are always easy for them (the Rabbit has started piping up with the correct answers before anyone else can say anything) they always get so excited if there's a crossword or some other fun puzzle. 

As for the underlining, as they all take turns doing that I have realized that underlining is a skill that takes practice.  I just assumed that everyone can underline, but my kids can't yet draw a straight line that stays neatly beneath the text.  Before I turn them loose with their own actual scriptures and a colored pencil it's good to have them practice in this workbook. 

I haven't stressed the memory verses too much but we do go over them and they are good ones to know even though they are short and simple. 

So I have realized that the program is really bringing the scriptures down to their level.  They are getting acquainted with the basic stories and important passages.  They are getting to be friends with the scriptures and I hope that will help the actual scriptures seem less boring to them both now and as they get older.  We're aiming for a life-long bond here. 

I was hoping for something that would take about 15 minutes each morning.  Usually that's about all we need, but sometimes it takes a lot longer, especially if there's a drawing page and Fish really gets into it.  I would find myself saying "come on, hurry up, we need to have time for your math!" and then I realized what I was saying.  One of the main reasons I homeschool is so I can give my kids a strong foundation in the Gospel and ultimately that is more important to me than academics (and academics are really important to me).   If we want to get lost in the stories of the scriptures some mornings then that is better than okay, it's wonderful!

Next I'm buying the Old Testament volume.  I'm really looking forward to it. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Walrus Thoughts

I'm sitting here at the computer eating my late night snack.  I am embarrassed to tell you what it is.  All I will say is that it involves cheese.  Of course. 

I usually eat a late night snack after the kids go to bed.  In the early part of my pregnancy it was because I was ravenously hungry every two hours.  Now, my appetite has plummeted.  There's not much room in my stomach and I don't eat much at meals.  I am never very hungry at dinnertime lately (for some reason the kids still think they need to eat...???  Go have some cereal, kids.) but late in the evening I get a little bit of my appetite back and so I do these late-evening computer sessions with my plate of... something with cheese.  Can't let my weight gain slow down too much, you know.  I absolutely must achieve walrusness with each pregnancy. 

I had to go back this evening and read my post from two years ago when I was pregnant with Peanut where I wrote that I was a nauseated walrus with asthma.  That's where I am again.  The asthma has flared back up just in the last couple of weeks.  I am really reluctant to go back on the steroid inhaler but I need to.  Being able to breathe properly will help so much. 

Usually I only get third-trimester nausea with my girls.  But from mid-afternoon to late evening lately I feel nasty and nauseated.  That's probably a big part of why I have no appetite for dinner (go have some cereal, kids.) 

My mornings are usually pretty good though and I'm grateful for that.  I often make a really nice lunch to compensate for the help-yourself dinners.  I even put lots of vegetables in it (thank you, Bountiful Baskets!)

But, as I said before, there are much worse fates than being a nauseated walrus with asthma.  We can get through this.  It's going to be wonderful in the end, even more than I can comprehend.  I look at Peanut and think about how during her pregnancy I wondered how she would fit into our family and that thought just seems so ridiculous now.  And when she was born I had the feeling that she was part of a matched set-- she went with someone and they needed to be together.  I am excited to be able to see them together and watch them grow. 

Toddlers in Sleepers

Nothin' cuter...


(Even if they won't hold still for pictures!)
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Friday, October 5, 2012

Today at Toad Hall

The weather has turned and it's downright nippy out.  I love it.  I love the feeling of turning inward and the promise of warm cinnamony things to come.  And I love how unfathomably cute toddlers look in sleepers.

The kids played outside in the pasture every spare minute of the day today, with jackets on, and complained loudly every time I made them come in to do anything else.

We had soup for dinner: potato and sausage and vegetables that needed to be eaten.  I think we will probably eat a lot of soup this winter.  

The pigs are still here so far and they seem very happy. 

I am in the process of going through all the clothes and getting out what everyone needs for fall.  The more kids I have the bigger this project is and it's hard to find time for it, so we've been tripping over numerous plastic storage tubs in my bedroom for the last couple days.  (Badger, I am so sorry!)  I hope to finish it all up tomorrow, since it's Saturday and I don't have to teach school.

We got nearly everything done for school this week.  Fish didn't finish his Geography mapping, but otherwise all the little boxes in my homeschool planner are neatly checked off.  I love checked-off planner boxes.

I worked with Bean two mornings this week on spelling and grammar and Latin.  He read some books I checked out for him at the library and he read his scriptures.  He participated in our history, art, and geography lessons.  And of course he practiced his trumpet and went to gymnastics.  It's progress, though he needs to be doing more.  A couple days ago I ordered him a Teaching Textbooks math curriculum.  I think it will suit him.  From what I understand he will watch a video lecture, work the problems in a paper workbook, then enter his answers into the computer.  The computer will score everything and track his progress. 

I am looking forward very much to General Conference tomorrow.  I never get to watch it all with a house full of small kids and I get far more out of it when I read it later, but it's always exciting when it's happening.  I told the kids I'd bake an apple pie in honor of the occasion: IF we can get the house cleaned up.  At the moment the downstairs is fairly tidy but needs some sweeping/vacuuming and the upstairs is a horrifying disaster.  Much of that has to do with my clothes tubs and the fact that my gpulling them out allowed the girls to get far more toys out of their usually-locked closet than I normally allow at one time.

And then there's the bathroom.  But let's not talk about the bathroom.

My baby is wiggling, and that is such a surreal and wonderful feeling.  My energy levels go up and down (mostly down) and moving around is getting more and more awkward, so I must admit I am counting down the weeks with great anticipation (eight left).  In my heart I know it is a great honor to be pregnant, but nearing the end of my sixth time through I don't think there is anything wrong with admitting than I am weary.  I know that once I see that baby I will love him beyond comprehension and wonder how I ever lived without him and admit immediately that every bit of this was worth it, so I am really looking forward to seeing him. 

I love this rare time when the house is so quiet and I never want to go to bed and have it end.  However, the more I ponder my the runaway freight train that is my life, the more I realize that it is absolutely imperative that I get up earlier so I can at least start the day ahead of the curve.  This is hard for me.  After I quit working when I was expecting Bean, I was so thrilled to throw off the shackles of so many years of having to drag myself out of bed too early for school and work.  I reveled in being able to make my own schedule and start the day when I woke up naturally.  That part of me that's running around saying "Free!  I'm free!"  doesn't want to go back to the tyranny of the alarm clock, but it simply must be done if I am going to meet my goals as a homeschooling mother of a large family.  And so, I will now sign off and go to bed.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Joining the Band

I mentioned music recently, and how it is part of my plan to help Bean with his learning disability.  I really wanted to get him some private music lessons somehow, but it was really going to be a stretch to fit it into our budget and schedule. 

But then my friend convinced us to join the homeschool band.  Oklahoma has a strong homeschool band program, with small chapters all over the state.  It's not hard to find one nearby, and they keep the prices very affordable. 

I still wasn't sure if I wanted to do it, because I just didn't know if I could handle one more commitment.  Even the night before we were supposed to show up I was thinking of calling and bailing on her.  But I decided to just go once and see what it was like. 

The way it ended up, my friend picked the boys up and took them to the practice and I met them there 15 minutes or so later.  During that time it was determined that Fish was also just barely old enough to join the band (which I hadn't expected) and both of them tried out all the instruments.  When I walked into the room, Bean was sitting there holding a trumpet and Fish was holding a clarinet. 

There have been just a few times in my mothering career where I have been struck with this sudden sense of rightness, that something is exactly the way it is supposed to be and that my kids have been set on a path which was meant for them.  This was one of those moments. 

It's been a couple of weeks now and so far it's been wonderful.  Fish caught on so fast it made my head spin.  Bean isn't far behind; it's just a little trickier at first to get the hang of the trumpet but he's doing extremely well.  I love listening to them play. 

I am so grateful for music, and for this opportunity to affordably provide musical training for my boys.  I also love that it gives them the chance to learn to play together with a group, following a conductor.  For homeschool kids, that's a really good thing.  Thank you, Oklahoma Homeschool Band!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Three Little Pigs

The three little pigs set off to seek their fortune one beautiful autumn day.  As they were walking along a lovely country road, oblivious to all the surrounding dangers, a nearby farmer rescued them and brought them home to his ample pasture where they began to dig about happily in the dirt, presumably looking for gold doubloons. 

In other words, our neighbor Bob was driving along the road that leads to our neighborhood today when he saw these little guys in the grass next to the road.  They weren't near any particular property, so there was no way to tell where they came from.  He called the Badger, who came over and saved them from death by car or coyote. 

So now they are in our pasture and we really like their little pink snorty cuteness.  We figure their owner will probably be worried and we hope we can return them to their rightful home.  However, if no one claims them they will stay here.  Easter ham, people.  I'm kind of hoping.....

Sometimes I look at all this and think "how in the world did I end up here????"

And I love it!
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