Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Anniversary to me!

I just realized that today marks the 4th year anniversary of my starting this blog! Wow, a lot has happened since then! Although I went back and reread my first and second posts and realized that not everything is different--the kids still don't like Halloween, and we are going back yet again to Chuck E. Cheese's with friends instead. In fact, it is marked as a red-letter day on the calendar for the boys, and time is marked by how close an event falls to "Chuck E. Cheese Day", as in "When will our last soccer game be?" "Saturday." "Is that before or after Chuck E. Cheese Day?"

I did have a bowl of ice cream tonight in celebration. Actually, it was just because it sounded good at the time, but it could have been in celebration!

A Cryptic Message

There is a puzzling message written in my mother's handwriting on a green sticky note next to my compter. It reads "Fat buffalo eat cheese". Hmmmmmm. What could this mean? Why would my mother write such a phrase? I asked her about it. She said that it was actually Jonathan's message. One night, he kept running back and forth between the study and the family room, asking her to spell various things. Finally she told him to just tell her everything he wanted her to spell, and she would write it on one piece of paper. "Fat buffalo eat cheese" was what he wanted spelled. Why? Who can know the mind of a 5 year old?

In other funny things, for English the other day, Luke had to think of 3 questions "that you might ask an older person about long-ago days" (this is Rod and Staff grammar). Here are Luke's questions:

1. Why was Satan evil?
2. Why did he go to hell?
3. Why were bugs created?

So, Grandma or Grandpa, would you like to take any of these? Or maybe we should just hunt up Adam to ask him. LOL!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Medieval Morning

This morning I taught the 4 and 5 year-olds at our homeschool co-op. We're in the middle of a medieval unit. That happened to be a very popular theme at our house a few years ago, and so we had many medieval things at home, including this mega-bloks castle. This was a very popular item today. Even the 6th graders thought it was "cool".

This is a picture of a little Down's Syndrome boy who is in Jonathan's K-5 class. He is really sweet, and I think it's great for the kids to have him there. He's the youngest of 6, and the fmaily has been in the area for a long time, so this little boy is really popular among all the older kids in the co-op. He's a neat little guy.
During the past 2 weeks, the class talked a lot about castles, so this week we talked about all the people who DIDN'T live in castles. Everyone agreed their mud and stick houses sounded cold and smelly, and non one wanted porridge and soup all the time to eat.
We also talked about knights, and the code of chivalry. Then the kids decorated shields, which they will carry for our big medieval feast in 2 more weeks. Some kids had elaborate designs, such as the one above, and other kids scribbled a few scribbles and that was that. Those kids just wanted to play.

I brought our Little People castle, and all the knights, royal figures, horses, etc. that go along with it. It was very popular. I also brought a bag of miscellaneous knight figures that we have lying around the house. These are pretty elaborately decorated, and they have lots of detailed weapons, shields, etc. The boys liked those.
Bob got to come as well, which was a big help in keeping especially the 4 year olds on track. They were like little pieces of popcorn, jumping in and out of their seats! Now I am exhausted and ready for an early night. Next week we'll talk more about the 3 stages of becoming a knight, and we'll make helmets to go along with the shields for the feast.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Last Fencing Class

Nathan and Luke had their last fencing class today. The best thing about it was that the 2 really young, out-of-control boys were not there! The instructor brought in the equipment for electric fencing, so they could keep score while they fenced each other. They had so much fun!
Here is Luke is lunging at Caleb McC. They had a sort of tournment, with Luke starting out fencing Daniel McC. Luke won that one, then again against Johnny (not our Jonny), and again against Caleb McC. Finally he lost to Isaac McC. Nathan lost to Isaac too. It was really fun to watch! They've learned so much over the past few weeks.

Here are Nathan and Luke fencing each other. The boys all got turns to fence each other, and the instructor even let the class run longer so there was more time.

This is Caleb, all suited up. He didn't even take the class, but during the regular class times, he, Jonathan, and Joel McC would do the same stuff with foam swords that the instructor also had. This time, the instructor even let them get all dressed up, which was very thrilling for them! Obviously Caleb has been observing, as you can see from his lunge!

Here are Jonathan, Joel, and Anna playing with the foam swords. It was so nice of the man to always let them play too. It definitely helped keep everyone happy and occupied while the older boys were having their class!
We didn't sign up for the next session of classes, because they run up to Christmas. We are planning to be gone for a few weeks around the holiday time, so we didn't want to miss classes. Hopefully they'll be able to take another session in the new year, though. Fencing so is great for coordination and mental accuity! Plus, it's fun to watch!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Stressful Time

Sorry about the lack of blogging lately. We're in the middle of a crisis that I can't really talk much about here. Suffice to say, it deals with health issues, and it will definitely impact our immediate future. My parents are here to help, and they have been absolute God-sends. I know I would not be coping even as well (?) as I am without their help. We should know more about the future in the next week or two. In the meantime, it's been very stressful. Thanks for praying with us.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Cooking Experiment

This afternoon our church had a little shower for those of us who are pregnant with not our first child. There are actually 6 of us in this situation, due from now until me in February, and at the shower we found out about another lady who is expecting her third child the end of May! We are on a real nursery growth explosion here. There is another woman who is expecting her first in December, and we've had 2 more new babies born over the summer.

Anyhow, the church had a "neccessities" shower for all of us, where we each got little things, like some diapers and a lullaby CD. Mainly we ate, talked, and prayed. It was so nice! I had volunteered to bring dessert. One of my friends, who is also pregnant, can't eat gluten during this pregnancy because it was giving her terrible skin problems. I wanted to make a dessert she could eat, so I decided to try a flourless chocolate cake. I had printed off a recipe someone had posted a long time ago on the old Well Trained Mind boards, but as I looked closer at it, it seemed a little intimidating. Also, even though it called for I think 7 eggs, you only baked it for 15 minutes! Then you just refrigerated it over night. With all these pregnant women, I didn't think that sounded all that good, so I googled. I found several possibilities, and I decided on this recipe from, mainly because it seemed easy and I had all the ingredients on hand.

I made it last night, and this morning I dipped the pan in hot water and inverted in onto the serving plate, just like the recipe said. Then I got the bright idea to drizzle white chocolate on top, which would have been a good idea, except my chocolate never really melted all that well, so it was really thick and didn't "drizzle" very well. I should have just dusted it with powdered sugar--note to self. I still wasn't sure what it would taste like, however, and I had actually made a second dessert last night to take as well, in case the cake totally flopped.

Well. It was absolutely delicious. Everyone raved about it, and people thought it was store-bought. It was like a fudgy truffle. Yummmmm. And it was so easy to make, I thought I'd share the recipe right here, in case any of you are too lazy to click on the link.

Flourless Chocolate Cake I

Submitted by: Maggie
Rated: 5 out of 5 by 213 members
Yields: 16 servings
"A dense chocolate cake for those of us who can't tolerate wheat or gluten."

1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup white sugar
18 (1 ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate (I used Baker's semi-sweet squares because that's what I had)
1 cup unsalted butter
6 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease one 10 inch round cake pan and set aside.

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the water, salt and sugar. Stir until completely dissolved and set aside.

3. Either in the top half of a double boiler or in a microwave oven melt the bittersweet chocolate. Pour the chocolate into the bowl of an electric mixer.

4. Cut the butter into pieces and beat the butter into the chocolate, 1 piece at a time. Beat in the hot sugar-water. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Have a pan larger than the cake pan ready, put the cake pan in the larger pan and fill the pan with boiling water halfway up the sides of the cake pan.

6. Bake cake in the water bath at 300 degrees F for 45 minutes. The center will still look wet. Chill cake overnight in the pan. To unmold, dip the bottom of the cake pan in hot water for 10 seconds and invert onto a serving plate.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Awwww, man . . .

. . . I lost one of the diamonds from my wedding band today. I have a solitaire for an engagement ring, and then the wedding band wrapped around that, with a triangular diamond on either side. I dropped off a bunch of clothes to try to sell at one of our big consignment sales around here before Bible study, and when I got to Bible study, I noticed the empty prongs. I think a prong must have caught on something there at the sale place, since I know the diamond was there earlier in the day.

I had been thinking that this might have to be the pregnancy where I get a cheap plain gold band, since I am already feeling like my rings are a bit tight. I guess that will happen sooner, rather than later, although I am not up to my 4th trip to Wal-Mart in one week, so I guess it won't be all that soon! Hopefully in the meantime no one will mistake me for a single mom, LOL.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Exercise in Futility

Wow, do you ever have days where you feel like everything you touch is not going to work out?! That's how I'm feeling today!

Today is our co-op day, and it was the day the kids were going to do the run for the Presidential Physical Fitness test. They would do the run during the non-teaching part of the morning for each of them, so for Nathan and Luke, that meant they ran first, then came back for teaching. So I decided the girls and I would go watch them run. They were running on a portion of a wide, nicely-paved bike trail (used to be train tracks) that's not too far from the church where we meet.

When we got there, the lady in charge was giving instructions--the fourth graders had a choice. They could either run to the first lady and then turn around and run back (making 1/2 mile total) or run to the second lady, turn around, and run back (making 1 mile). The 6th graders all ahd to run the mile. This was explained several times for emphasis, and then they started off. Luke (4th grade) and his friend Caleb were #1 and #2 in the half mile, and everything seemed great. But there was starting to be a bit of a commotion with the timing people and the lady in charge, and when the first 6th graders crossed the line, those people started shouting at them to start running again--they needed to turn around and do it again! Keep running! It was very confusing, but they started off again, losing a bunch of time though. Nathan was 4th in the 6th grade group, and his time ended up being right around 8 minutes. He needed 7:32 to be presidential, however. But it was all very confusing, and I couldn't figure out what had happened. Obviously something was very wrong, though.

Then the girls and I left to go to Wal-Mart. I needed to buy a bunch of t-shirts (80 to be exact) to make tunics with for our medieval unit. Since we're associated with the church, we are allowed to use their tax-exempt number on purchases, so armed with that info, the girls and I set off. Of course, Wal-Mart had a terrible selection of boys t-shirts. They still hadn'[t restocked the boys extra-large ones of the cheap brand, so it took me forever as I tried to figure out what other sizes could work for the different grades. Finally I took my cart full of t-shrit packages up to the front to pay. When I said I had a tax-exempt number, the cashier wanted the actual paper from the church. I said I didn't have that--they told me I just needed the number, as well as the church's address and phone number. The lady tried to enter the number several times, but it always came back as invalid, so obviously something was wrong. Very frustrating! I ended up just paying for all the t-shirts, because I knew if I left them and came back later, they would probably all disappear, and I had taken all the packages of cheap t-shirts, so there weren't anymore on the shelves to get. All this took forever, though, and so we ran home, I threw together sandwiches for the girls and me, and we leaped back into the car to eat them because it was already time to pick up the boys. Whew!

Back at co-op, I got the piece of paper from the leader, so I decided we'd head back to Wal-Mart after leaving the church. We were already out, and we didn't have other plans or schoolwork this afternoon, so it just made sense.

I also discovered that Luke was out rerunning the half mile with Caleb McC and Craig, Caleb's dad. Odd, I thought. Plus, it was really hot out there--in the 80's. He had to run a second timed half-mile in less than 3 hours in the heat, and after eating lunch? And what was the deal with making the 6th graders go back again? Well, it turned out that the lady in charge had totally hosed up the distances (duh). She had originally thought that the little guys (1st-2nd), who only have to run 1/4 mile, were also going to run on the bike path, so she had measured out 1/8 mile, so they could just go there and back. Then the second line was actually 1/4 mile out. But somehow (? She is a mom of 9, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, but still . . . ) she forgot she ever did that, so she basically told the 4th graders to run 1/4 mile, and the 6th graders to run 1/2 mile. When Luke and the other 4th graders started crossing over, the timers realized the times were way off, and not 1/2 mile times, so they told the 6th graders to turn around and do it again, so they would have the right distance. Of course, when you think you are coming to the end and you start printing, then pull up, only to be told you are in actuality only halfway done and you need to start running again . . . . well, that's not really right. So no one in Nathan's class was Presidential in the run, which was very disappointing for people like Nathan, who pretty much just needed the run to be Presidential overall (and he still lacks the shuttle run).

When Luke came back, we all piled in the car, and Luke immediately started crying. He was so upset. His time was 3:48, and he needed 3:30, so he didn't make it. They told him he had "done it wrong" the first time and only gone 1/4 mile, so he needed to run it again. Well, that is true, and I know they said they TOLD him wrong, because the lady in charge was very clear that it was her fault, but he was still devastated. He was hot, tired, and full from lunch, and he didn't understand what had happened--he had done exactly what they told him to do, so how could he have done it wrong?! This is the only event Luke lacked to be a Presidential award winner, and he's a good runner, so he wasn't anticipating a problem.

They are trying to work out a time for Nathan's class to rerun the mile of they want to, and I am hoping they will let Luke try it again as well. I'm going to email the lady in charge, anyways. I hope she doesn't think that should be his only chance, when it was their fault. Anyhow, it was a frustrating day at co-op for Nathan and Luke, who had both been looking forward to the run, as well as training for it.

So we went off to Wal-Mart again, discussing the run over and over again until everyone understood what had happened. When we got there, I brought all the t-shirts back in to the return counter, where I proudly displayed my correct form from the church, and asked for have the tax taken off. Well, the lady said I needed to fill out another form to put it on file, and there was no one there who could help me with that--I needed to come back some morning. Really?! No one who could help with that?! Obviously the lady I was dealing with couldn't help me. She was one of the many non-native English speakers who work at returns, and it was hard to even get her to understand what I was talking about. But there was nothing I could do except turn around and head back out to the car with everyone in tow. And now I have yet a third trip to Wal-Mart to look forward to, this time during a morning when we should be doing school. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. So now I'm wondering what else I should attempt today, just to see if it turns out as poorly as everything else has.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Great Weekend With Amy!

We had such a wonderful time with Amy this weekend! Of course, it flew right by and wasn't nearly long enough, but it was still great!

Amy played Little People with the girls, and read them a bunch of books, including these Princess ones that she brought to give them. They were a very popular choice indeed!
She also gave books to the boys, including this Explorer book. She also gave them a Tom and Jerry DVD, and I think they would have watched that the entire weekend if I had let them! They think it is absolutely hilarious!
We ate a lot, stayed up late talking, and we even watched the movie Bella last night. It was good but sad. It wasn't all fun and games for Amy though. She mopped the kitchen and foyer, cleaned and mopped the main floor bathroom, cleaned the boys' 2 upstairs bathrooms, gave the girls their bath, helped get people ready for bed, wiped bottoms, emptied the little potty, changed diapers--she was amazing! It was just so great to have her here. I'm very thankful to Jason, who kindly let her come!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Special Visitor!!

I am so excited--tomorrow Amy is flying here to visit! She called Tuesday to say that she didn't want to invite herself, yada, yada, but she had found a great deal out here. As soon as she got those words out of her mouth, I was saying, "Come!!" The great thing is that I know I don't have to clean for her or entertain her, so I can just relax and look forward to the visit! I did buy Oreos and Grasshoppers (you know, the Keebler cookies that are like Girl Scout Thin Mints but better and cheaper) while we were at Target today. One does need to prepare the ESSENTIAL things, you know!

So don't expect much blogging over the weekend--I'll be busy staying up late and talking (and eating Oreos)! I can't wait!!

Monday, October 06, 2008


A few weeks ago, on Sept. 10, HSLDA sent out an email that I ignored for a few days. Its title was "Some Children Have to Work Too Hard to Learn", and well, that didn't seem to apply to me, so I didn't open it right away. After all, everyone seems to learn just fine, and Nathan and Luke have always been in the 97th percentile in their standardized tests, so no problem.

For some reason I did open the email a few days later, and it was very interesting. Here's an excerpt:

Writing Gate Blocked—When Copying Doesn’t Work

God designed our left brain hemisphere to concentrate on new tasks, such as driving a car, or riding a bike. After concentrated practice, that task is then transferred over the corpus callosum (the brain midline), to the right brain, which is responsible for automaticity of processes. If we imagine the left brain hemisphere as the “thinking (concentrating) brain” and the right hemisphere as the “doing (automatic) brain,” we can see how this transfer allows us to “think and do” at the same time. Then we can think and drive at the same time, or think and ride our bike at the same time.

Generally, when we teach a child how to write, after six months of practice that writing is expected to cross over from the “concentrating brain” to the “automatic brain” so the child can now “think and write” at the same time. For many children, this transfer does not easily occur. Thus, they have to give energy, or a level of concentration, to a task that other children do not have to do. Dr. Mel Levine, in his book One Mind At A Time, calls these blocks, “energy leaks.”
This often solves the mystery of why many children learn their spelling words easily by writing them in a workbook, or writing them five times each, while other children can write words hundreds of times and still not store the spelling word in their long-term memory. Now we realize that these struggling children have to use their “batteries” just for the writing process, so that the learning process cannot occur. Thus, the method of copying to learn is totally ineffective for these children. We need to help them open up their writing gates.

These children are very commonly thought of as “lazy, sloppy or unmotivated.” We, unknowingly, make them re-copy work that is sloppy, not realizing that they have a bona fide writing block. The majority of the time, when a child who loves to listen to mom read stories, but says that he doesn’t like or even “hates” schoolwork, he is struggling with a blocked writing gate.

Hmmm. This actually sounds a lot like Nathan. I kept reading, and here are some characteristics for this "blocked writing gate":

--Frequent or occasional reversals in letters or numbers (after age 7)
--Letters made from bottom to top (vertical reversals)
--Writing is very labor intensive
--Copying takes a long time
--Math problems solved mentally to avoid writing them down
--Writing appears sloppy and child is often considered lazy
--Oral recitation of stories is excellent, but writing is minimal
--Capital and small letters mixed in writing
--In math, lining up numbers in multiplication or division is difficult

Well! Nathan doesn't reverse letters and numbers much anymore, but he used to a lot. And pretty much everything else describes him completely. In fact, the next paragraph in the article could have been written just for him:

No child has all of these characteristics, but if your child has several, you may consider this an area he or she is struggling in. If a child has many of the characteristics, or is over age 9 and still writes reversals, they may be labeled with dysgraphia. Many times these children are considered “gifted with a glitch.” They are excellent in verbal expression, but way behind in written expression. Writing paragraphs and longer papers are something that they take great pains to avoid. They give one-word answers whenever possible.

This is so Nathan. He is excellent at oral narrations, and he remembers what he reads or hears very well, reciting it back in great detail. But try to get him to write about it, and it's like nothing is there. I have Nathan and Luke write a paragraph every morning on some subject I think of (what they learned in co-op, what we talked about in history, where they'd like to vacation--any random thing). Even if it was something described in great and exciting detail (their campout with Bob, for example), I get the most simple, short paragraph possible from Nathan, and a long newsy one from Luke. Or take sermon notes, for example. If Nathan just listens to a sermon, he will remember it all in great detail, but if I make him take notes on it, he remembers next to nothing about it, because he has to concentrate so hard to write anything down.

What was especially interesting is that the next paragraph dealt with things you can to do help them compensate, and I found that we were already doing most of these already:

--Reduce the amount of writing a child needs to do during the day. Do more answers for chapter questions orally. Limit the amount of writing in workbooks.
--Reduce or eliminate copying for 3-6 months. Save the child’s “battery energy” for writing paragraphs, or a paper once a week.
--Use another method of learning spelling words that does not include writing multiple times. Resources include
Sequential Spelling or Right Brain Spelling. [We have seen amazing spelling success that I didn't think was possible since we started Sequential Spelling last year.]
--Teach the child keyboarding for some writing projects (However, most children who have dysgraphia, or a writing glitch, also find keyboarding quite labor-intensive also.)

The article also talked about how to correct this glitch, and one thing it mentioned was a book by Dianne Craft. I remembered that Christine McC had gone to a HEAV convention workshop back in June by Dianne Craft, and she had come back talking about something that had sounded very similar to this. I remembered thinking that it sounded a lot like Nathan, in fact. Christine had some exercises for her child to do, so she gave those to me. We're going to try them for awhile--I think it says 6 months--and we'll see what happens. I have occasionally worried about Nathan going off to college and not being able to easily take notes. He has started talking a lot about going to the Academy, and I know something like this would be a huge obstacle to success at a place like that, so it would be absolutely wonderful if we could blow this "writing gate" open!

And now I try to open all my HSLDA emails, LOL.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Anna's New Obsession . . .

. . . Pigtails!! You might be thinking that it must be hard to get such fine, short hair to even stay in any sort of holder. Well, you'd be exactly right. But Anna is determined.

These particular pigtails were put in by her patient and ever-loving biggest brother Nathan. He is going to be an excellent daddy, I'm telling you!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ultrasound Results . . .

. . . It's a GIRL! It looked fairly clear, and we've never had a wrong ultrasound before, so I think we can be pretty confidant! Also, everything else looked healthy, so that's a big praise.

I could tell we were back at a military hospital again, unlike the ultrasounds I had with Anna and Grace. The policy at Bethesda is, they do the scan and take all their pictures, and no one can be with you during that time. Then they call back your (1) support person, and they will go through the ultrasound with you again quickly. The lady was nice and friendly, but the whole first part of the ultrasound (almost an hour because the baby was very active, and the girl had a hard time getting all the required shots) was done in almost complete silence. I dozed off a couple of times! Finally Bob could come back, and she talked through all the parts, starting with the gender.

So now we just need to come up with a name. You may remember our parameters: Bible name for the first name, and we don't repeat initials, so names starting with A, C, G, J, L, and N are out. We're obviously open to "virtue" names, LOL. I already know that I want the middle name to be "Amy", which is tricky for a middle name, but that's okay--this might be our last girl, and I want her to have the name of my best friend, who's been like a sister to me for many, many years!