Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

We are officially on Spring Break, which is why there has been no blogging lately. I wanted to update, although I won't have any pictures until the weekend at earliest. We've been traveling and are at my parents' house visiting right now.

We celebrated Anna's 4th birthday at Bible study on Friday night. I made a "Sonya Lee" cake. For those of you not hip to the preschool scene, Sonya Lee is a Fisher Price Little People character.

Saturday we got packed up and drove to PA for another birthday celebration. This time is was for Bob's dad, who celebrated his 85th birthday on Saturday! Bob's sister Ann planned a lovely dinner for him at a local conference center. We've had other celebrations at this place. It's really nice because we have a room all to ourselves, so the kids can get down and walk around after they're done eating. Plus, the staff is always very nice.

We got there a little bit early Saturday evening, so we parked far away and let the kids play in a deserted part of the parking lot. We had brought the 3 ripsticks that we bought the kids for Christmas using the money Bob's folks gave, plus a basketball. It was good to let them all run off some steam after being cooped up in the van all afternoon! I very gingerly tried out the ripstick as well. I was not instantly successful, that is for sure. In fact, I only would move if Bob was holding my hand. Bob is always trying to get me to go dancing with him--who knew all it took was a ripstick?!

For the dinner, our family was split up, since we are too big for one table. Bob and the boys sat with his brother Paul and his son Brandon, and we 4 girls sat with Bob's sister Rose and her 2 daughters. There was a fruit cup on the table when we sat down, and then they brought out ceasar salads and bread for everyone. At that point, we went through a buffet line, which was set up outside a set of double doors (which were open). The girls, Caleb, and Jonathan all had kids' meals of chicken tenders and french fries, instead of the buffet.

After I was finished eating, I wandered over to the boys' table to see how they were doing. I was surprised to see that only one chicken tender was left out of the 6 from the 2 meals. It turned out Nathan had polished off Jonathan's meal, which surprised me, since there was plenty of food at the buffet. Then the server came around and said she was going to be taking away the cake to cut, so if we wanted pictures of the cake, we should take them now. We all went over there to take pictures, and Bob said, "So, usually before you have cake, you eat the main course . . ." We all thought he was being funny, since we were stuffed and were wondering how we were going to make room for the cake. But no! His table had completely missed the fact that everyone else was bringing back plates from the buffet and eating the main course! No wonder Nathan was so starved! We all had a good laugh about that, and they quickly filled their plates and ate while the cake was being cut. They had been wondering about the slow pace of the meal, LOL. Luke said that next time, he was sitting with me! It was funny.

Ann had put together a nice slide slow of pictures of their dad and his family that we all enjoyed seeing. Bob's cousin Peggy, who is the unofficial family historian, I think, was there to clarify who some relatives in some old pictures were. There were pictures of Bob's dad's mom as a little girl, all dressed up in Slovakian dress, along with her family. The pictures were taken before 1900, before they had come over to America (at least I think that's right). I love old pictures--so fascinating!

So we had a great time at the party. The nicest part was that all 6 siblings were again able to be together. It also happened last year in May, when we all met at Rose's house for her daughter's first communion. Twice in one year! That's a record!

Hopefully I will be able to post some pictures, both of Anna's cake, and of the party in PA, after we get home. We drove from PA over to OH Sunday afternoon to spend a few more days of Spring Break. The kids let us sleep in Monday morning, and then Bob and my dad took the kids, minus Faith, bowling at the base bowling alley. The boys love bowling. This was the first time for Anna and Grace, but they also had a grand time. The bowling alley not only has those lanes with the bumpers that eliminate gutter balls for kids, they also have this slide contraption where the child put the ball up on top, gives it a push, and then it rolls down onto the lane, hopefully gathering enough speed so as to not stop in the middle of the lane, which has happened to us before! It was a success!

Today we spent the day over at Amy's house. The weather was beautiful, and the kids played outside a lot. We also ate spaghetti and had cupcakes and ice cream in honor of Zachary's 10th birthday. When we finally got back to my parents' house, showers were definitely in order, and the exhausted kids are all sleeping soundly. Hopefully they will let us sleep in again tomorrow! We are loving this relaxing Spring Break!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I finally took the girls to get pictures yesterday. I usually try to have pictures done of my babies before they are a year old. Well, Faith is now over 13 months old, so I figured I really had better get moving on this! I went to Portrait Innovations, and we had a VERY good experience there. I was very pleased. We used to go to Kiddie Kandids, but when I looked them up online to make an appointment, I discovered they had filed bankruptcy and gone out of business! Well, their loss was our gain, because Portrait Innovations was even better. I think Kiddie Kandids problem was that they had not gone digital. Portrait Innovations is all digital, so the photographer snapped a ton of pictures--115--with none of the "Well, you have to pick if you want this picture before we can move on, or it's lost forever". Also, the camera is a regular one that the photographer can move around, not like the old ones that hang from the ceiling. Maybe all the places are like this now--I really try to avoid portrait studios as a whole, so it's been over a year since I had pictures taken of the kids, LOL.

When I put Faith down on the backdrop thing, she immediately started crying and crawling away as fast as she could. I had flashbacks to a photo session at Pennys not long after we moved here. Jonathan was about 16 months. The very first picture the girl took was of Jonathan, and he looked like he was smiling, but actually he was gearing up to cry. Even with treats, he never smiled again, and I did not get a picture of all the boys together, which was incredibly frustrating. The girl was terrible, though. She had absolutely nothing in the way of tricks to jolly him out of his bad mood and scared-ness. This photographer was MUCH better, and he as well as another girl worked diligently to get Faith to smile. It worked! We got some really cute pictures of her.

Anna had almost the opposite problem. As soon as she was posed, she fixed this huge tight smile/grimace on her face, with her eyes all squinty, and nothing anyone could do or say made her relax it. Some of the pictures are hysterical! Nathan, Luke, Caleb, and I were totally cracking up when we were going over them after the session was over. I kept saying, "This really isn't how she smiles--although it's definitely how she looked today!" We tried to pick the best of the bunch. Oh well--it's just a phase. I remember my brother Dan going through a squinty smile phase!

So we got some good pictures, some of which I posted on Facebook. We will try to send some out soon, but I am not guaranteeing it being too soon, LOL. It was a very positive experience. I highly recommend Portrait Innovations!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Awww . . .

Luke pointed out once again that I have not blogged for a week. What can I say--well, not much, obviously, LOL. Today I was the character teacher for our co-op. This means that I am responsible for one grade of kids while the other grade in the tier is getting their actual teaching time. I was with the 5th and 6th grades. The unit we're studying right now is "Birds and Fish". While the kids are with me, we take prayer requests and pray, do a character study of some kind, have "read-n-tell", which is an oral book report, have game time, and eat lunch.

Today we also had to make a big card for the facility manager of the church where we meet. Byron has been there approximately forever, and he is retiring. I've always felt like he was a bit grumpy and hard to work with, but hey, I guess he was a known quantity. Anyhow, the card-making provided some interesting boy/girl observances. In both classes, I put the big sheet of paper on the table and asked if anyone had any markers or anything. Some colored writing utensils were produced, at which point the boys all sat in chairs around the perimeter of the room, while the girls clustered around the table and began discussing handwriting, particularly "bubble letters", flowers, smiley faces, and other adornments, all of which were soon decorating the cards. After much elaborate decoration, the boys made their way up to the table to write their names on the cards. The girls of course wrote messages, as if Byron was a close relative. Too funny!

It started out warm, but the temperature dropped throughout the morning. We still had gametime outside for both grades, however. It wasn't too bad for the 6th graders, but for the 5th graders, it was FREEZING! They chose to play a long game of "capture the flag", which was not resolved to anyone's satisfaction, with accusations of "cheating!" abounding. Nathan went with us this morning, so he got to play the games too (and eat a doughnut. Ed brought doughnuts for the 6th grade to celebrate Amanda's upcoming birthday on Sunday, same day as Anna's).

Anyhow, I eventually went inside and watched them run around the parking lot through the door, since I was so cold. How nice to have my assistant Nathan to run the show for me outside, LOL! While I was standing there, the nursery kids were eating their lunch. Being able to go to co-op is a huge highlight for Anna and Grace, especially since I bought them each pink princess backpacks at a consignment sale in the fall. They each get to carry their own backpack, with their own lunch! Exciting times, indeed!

The nursery worker told me that she had asked Anna if she liked having all those older brothers. "Yes, said Anna, firmly. "Are they ever too rough with you?" she asked. "No!" replied Anna. "I love Nathan, and I love Luke, and I love Caleb, and I love Jonny!" Isn't that so sweet?! The girls are very fortunate to have such wonderful older brothers who love them and take such good care of them!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

They say Virginia is a southern state . . .

And it must be true, because here are two southern belles! Bob's sister Rose gave us dressup clothes from her girls back at Christmas, and Anna and Grace have LOVED them all. Grace's favorite is definitely this purple number, since she will tell you, purple is her favorite color. Anna likes any of the pink dresses. They don't usually wear the hats with them, though. That was a new touch. Sometimes they like to put on ballerina tutus (also from Rose) under these dresses, which makes a VERY big skirt. They love dressing up!
Here is a bonus picture of Faith, who is not a southern girl, but who does like being in pictures, LOL. Next year I think we'll have 3 in big pouffy dresses, though. She does like hats and shoes already!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Next Year Plans

Last year I posted back in April about our struggles with what to do with Nathan this year, as he began 7th grade. We ended up doing Classical Conversations for this year, but it was still sort of kicking the can down the road, because he didn't do their jr. high "challenge" program, since our campus was new and they didn't have one of those starting. Christine and I had tossed around starting the Challenge program up ourselves this coming up year, since her Isaac will be in 7th grade next year, but we both realized that there is no way we can devote the time needed for being Challenge tutors/directors, with so many little ones still at home. And there is absolutely no way we could afford CC without me being a tutor. So that is out, and in fact, we are not planning on any of us doing CC at a campus next year. I am planning on getting the memory work CD, however, and having them memorize the Cycle 2 stuff.

So, what are we doing next year? Well, we're starting a very small jr. high boys co-op. There is another family at our church who has 5 boys. Her oldest 2 will be in 9th grade and 7th grade. Nathan will be in 8th, and Isaac will be in 7th. Another family, who is in our Tuesday co-op, has only 1 son left at home, and he will be in 7th grade. They are also joining, and we have invited one other family with a 7th grade boy, who is also in the Tuesday co-op and Nathan's writing co-op, to join. So it looks like we'll have 6 boys, which is a perfect number. I definitely don't want this to be big, and we know all the families really well. Plus, there will be no extras, like preparing a family presentation or making a frozen meal, like we have had with CC this year.

We are planning on covering science, literature, history, writing, and possibly a foreign language. We will continue doing our own math, Latin, and logic at home, but we will have a group for these areas where it is nice to have discussion. We already have the use of our church building on Tuesdays from 9:30-4:00. That seems like a long day, but we are planning on giving the boys lots of breaks and time to run around. Maybe P.E. will be a part of this day too, LOL.

I will be teaching science. I'm planning on using the BJU 7th grade Life Science text. Angela wants her oldest son, the 9th grader, to take the SAT II biology test at the end of the year, so Jordan will be going through the BJU high school biology text at the same time, for a more in-depth coverage of the topics. I have compared the table of contents, and they match up pretty well, but we'll see how that works out. I think I'll do a lecture in the morning for like an hour, and then I'll have an hour of lab time in the afternoon.

We will be using Tapestry of Grace for the literature/history/writing part of the co-op. Theresa has taught literature and English, so she will be great at leading us through this. If the other family joins us, then Siri will hopefully teach the boys French. She is a trained interpreter/translater of French, so she will be a very valuable asset. Originally we had thought someone would be teaching Spanish, but it doesn't look like that will work out. It really doesn't matter to me what language they learn, as long as I don't have to teach it, LOL. Spoken languages--sooooo not my thing. French is what Bob and I both learned in high school (although he remembers it so much better than me!), so maybe we would be able to be of some assistance if Nathan needed help.

The beauty of doing this co-op on Tuesdays is that is the day when the younger kids have our other co-op. And the 2 churches are practically around the corner from each other! So during the morning, one of the moms not teaching will help with the 3 nursery age girls (Grace, Faith, and Elena). Then we will give the jr. high boys a break and even take them with us when we go pick up the younger kids because they like to play football in the parking lot for awhile after being released from their classes. Then we will all go back to our church to finish the day.

We haven't nailed down exactly what the younger kids will do in the afternoon while we are finishing up with the older ones, but it will most likely be some history and science memory work, like at CC, some geography (again, like CC!), maybe some art, and some writing for the 5th/6th graders. About 2 hours' worth of stuff. We have another planning meeting Sunday afternoon to keep working out these details.

So I am very excited! I love that it is small, and that we know everyone so well. We're all on the same page and have similar expectations. I hope the boys will foster really close friendships-that is another goal of ours. And I am insanely excited that it means we will only have to go out early, with lunches for everyone, one day a week next year!! Should be SO much less stressful!!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Homeschooling Update

I try to update every so often, mainly so I can look back at where we've been. Right now we are in that sweet spot where I no longer have a newborn, and I am not pregnant, so we have been getting a lot done! Also, I am not actively teaching anyone to read, so that has also freed up my time, LOL. It's so much nicer when they are reading well on their own, and don't need every single instruction read to them!

Nathan and Luke are working quite independently right now. I have given them what they need to accomplish each week, and they work to finish that however they want to break it up. For Luke, that means he gets up early and does as much as possible, so that he gives himself every Friday off. Nathan is not so much for the getting up early part, and he paces himself more through the week. They both are in writing co-ops, so they have their assignments for that as well. Nathan and Isaac McC are also doing Traditional Logic, put out by Memoria Press, each week. I bought the DVDs, so I am not even teaching that, which is nice. Both boys are finding that class interesting. We so need more logical thinkers in this country. Reading the paper everyday makes it obvious that many people missed out on logic growing up. So during the week, the boys do math (Saxon 1/2 for Nathan, Saxon 7/6 for Luke), English (Rod and Staff 7 for Nathan, and Rod and Staff 5 for Luke), science, spelling, and Latin (First Forms by Memoria Press). If they have questions, they ask me, but I'm not really actively "teaching" them all day.

I do more stuff directly with Caleb and Jonathan. They do First Language Lessons and Prima Latina orally together with me on the couch. Sometimes we read a Miller story or Leading Little Ones to God, although we haven't been as consistent with that this year. Next year, when I do more with Anna, that will back again. They pretty much do their math on their own (Saxon 3 for Caleb and Saxon 2 for Jonathan). They don't usually need help figuring out how to do it. I've started Caleb in Sequential Spelling, since I have had such success with Nathan using it. I'll start Jonathan on it next year, once he finishes up the Veritas Press Phonics Museum that I always use. I've been breaking down each day (25 words) into 2 days, either 12 or 13 words, and that has worked out really well. Both boys also have a Memoria Press copybook they do for handwriting (although I won't say any of my boys have particularly nice handwriting. It just isn't that important to me, LOL). Caleb does Explode the Code every day too, which Jonathan will start next year when he's done with the phonics program. Right now he just does his ETC book occasionally.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we all review CC stuff, and we listen to our CC audioCDs in the car whenever we're driving somewhere too. They definitely know their memory work! We also listen to Story of the World CDs in the car too. We're almost done with the Ancients again. We haven't done any extra activities with SOTW this year, since we're learning and doing other stuff at CC. The kids have really enjoyed the art and science projects at CC too. And of course we are still doing our other co-op, which has unit studies for different history, science, and other topics. So far this year they have covered first aid/safety, ancient Egypt, fine arts, Asia, economics (right now), and birds & fish is the last unit.

Anna and Grace are really good to amuse themselves while we are doing school. They play Little People or sometimes watch a video. Faith wanders around and tries to get up on the table if no one is watching her. That is definitely her new trick, so we have to be on our toes. Many water cups and cereal boxes have been spilled when we aren't paying attention. Next year I'll do more with Anna, and probably, by extension, Grace. Anna is working on recognizing letters. She can write her name, but lately she has been modifying it to make it more efficient--"AANN". Just write the same letters at the same time! Much better! LOL, so she has obviously not gotten the whole concept of each letter saying a sound in a word or anything. I'm not in any hurry for her to learn. In fact, I am hopeful that I will be able to teach both her and Grace to read at the same time, so I'm willing to wait even longer for that to happen!

So that's where we are. I think we know what we are doing next year, but I am going to put that in a different post. I'm excited though!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

New Week?!

Whew, is it a new week? I am very ready for it to be! Last week was a bit hectic and chaotic. It started Monday night, when I found myself volunteering to teach the orchestra unit for all of our Classical Conversations group. (Did I learn NOTHING from the tin whistle unit?!) So Nathan and I spent a good long time making up a CD of music clips highlighting the instruments of the orchestra, using my Story of the Orchestra book, as well as my Beethoven's Wig 3 CD. It all went over quite well, but now I should be working on Handel. Instead, I am blogging. Hmmm.

Well, before CC on Thursday, we had an unpleasant flood in our laundry room on Wednesday. Our washer does this occasionally when I put in a big puffy load. This time it was a twin comforter and a pillow. It didn't get unbalanced, but somehow it spilled water all over the floor. We found out about it because Anna slipped in the water and got soaking wet. When I went to investigate the "spill" by the shoes, I found standing water. Uh oh! I spent quite awhile mopping up the floor of the laundry room all the way into the kitchen. The water had gotten all the way into our pantry, so I had to take everything out of the bottom of that, and put all the cereal and oatmeal there into ziploc bags because the boxes were all wet. We also had to take everything out of the new cabinet in the laundry room so we could tip it up and put towels under it. I didn't want the veneer finish to warp all around the bottom.

Thursday night found us moving all the furniture out of the family room again. Ugh! A few weeks ago when vacuuming, the seam of carpet started coming up and got sucked into the vacuum. Obviously for berber carpet, that's a bad thing! So there was a line partay across the family room. A man came out to fix it, but really all he did was make the line longer. Definitely no improvement. So Bob complained again, and the company sent another man out. This man was much more knowledgeable, and he discovered that the reason it had pulled out so easily was because the seam tape hadn't been applied correctly. So he came back Friday to pull up the carpet and seal the seam again. It looks tons better but gah, if I have to move those books in that bookshelf again, I am not going to be a happy camper! At least Bob had the brilliant idea to put masking tape marking where the shelves go.

Friday morning, as we were waiting for the capet man to get here, Bob called to say that our faithful Honda Odyssey, our 10 year old Ody, was not doing so well. Its transmission had given up the ghost. He barely got it home, and now we are trying to decide whether or not we should shell out over $3000 to fix that. It is very nice to have a second minivan. In fact, just Wednesday night, Bob and I drove to a coworker's house and bought a very nice TV armoire. It fit a 37 inch TV, but the got a new flat screen one and didn't need it. We don't need it for a TV, but it is ncie storage with DOORS that I can close to hide junk!! I was very excited. It is quite a large piece of furniture (heavy too--Ed and Zachary both had to come over to help Bob get it in!), but all we did was take out the back seats, and it fit in the Ody. So we're still weighing our options. In the meantime, I guess I'll be driving the big van more.

Also Friday morning, Nathan made the unhappy discovery that some of the boxes down in our storage room, which happens to be right below the kitchen and laundry room, were quite wet . . . Ack! So I had to go empty out a bunch of boxes. Thankfully there were no books, but still, what a hassle. Thar reminds me that I just left everything out sort of draped across other boxes to dry. I need to tape up some new boxes. At least Nathan found the wetness before mold set in. We had to pull up the area rug we have down there too.

Yesterday I worked at a large area consignment sale. I shopped in the morning, and then I worked from 1-5 so I get a bigger percentage of my total. I was so tired after being on my feet for those 4 hours! I don't know how people like Melinda, my sister-in-law, who are nurses and are on their feet for 12 hours a day, do it! Amazing!! Since we had our church small group over at our house this evening (Sunday), I really needed to work on getting all the books back in the bookcase, but I just ran out of energy. We had to rush home from church today to finish getting everything back to normal.

So this week I am hoping for a week with no boxes, LOL. And one with no new car problems . . .

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Bare Walls

This vast, empty expanse of wall space is where our maps used to hang. We had one of the world, with all the countries' flags along the bottom, and one of the United States. Before the kids and I left for Ohio, we took the maps down, in preparation from painting, and we put them on our kitchen table, under the plastic cover we use as a tablecloth.

Putting the maps on the table has actually awakened a remarkable interest in geography! We had never formally memorized state capitals, but after several weeks of people asking each other over meals what the capitols of the different states they could see while eating has made the boys much more familiar! And since I did have to memorize them as a girl, it has provided me a stellar opportunity to show off, LOL. The ones I didn't remember right away were Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Maine. (Ask me them now though--I've learned!)

The US map is at one end of the table, and the world map is at the other. One day as I was eating lunch at the world map end, I happened to notice that South Africa has 2 capitol cities marked with a star on our map! Upon further research, we learned that in fact, South Africa has 3 capital cities! Cape Town is the legislative capital, Pretoria is the administrative capital, and Bloemfontein, which isn't even marked as a capital on our map, is the judicial capital. Interesting! I wonder how efficient it can possibly be to have all these areas of government in separate areas, but then again, ours are all together, and they certainly are not efficient in the slightest. So maybe it doesn't make a difference at all!

Then, just last night, Caleb noticed that Bolivia ALSO had 2 cities marked with a star, La Paz and Sucre. Now that really struck me as odd. I happened to study South America in 6th grade, even doing a detailed salt dough map, LOL, and I totally have only heard of La Paz as the capitol. So we looked that up as well, and it turns out that, similar to South Africa, Sucre is the Consitutional capital (where the judical branch is), while La Paz is the administrative capital, home of the president and congress. And actually Sucre was the original capital. It was the seat of the Conservative party, who were financed and supported by the silver mines, which were around Sucre. Then in 1899 the Liberal party overthrew the Conservatives, and they were supported and financed by the tin mining industry, which was centered around La Paz. They wanted to move the capital city to where their supporters were, but they were only partially successful. The president and congress moved, but the Supreme Court stayed in Sucre. There have been recent efforts to move the entire thing back to Sucre, but so far, things are staying the same, with Sucre the "capital of Bolivia" (this is actually stated in their Constitution) and with La Paz the "seat of government". Boy, the things you are totally oblivious to . . .

I do miss having the maps on the wall. Whenever I am planning a trip, or when I am on the phone and someone mentions a location, I love being able to just turn my head and see it on a map! So now I'm thinking that what we really need is another set of maps. I just really like maps . . .