Friday, February 29, 2008

What Happens...

when the teacher is sick and there is no substitute?

The feline family curls up on the sofa
A day spent chasing Carmen Sandiago though time

Hard core literature being read

I was just so happy when DH crossed the threshold last night. Amazingly, the children were all happy and sound, the house was in one piece - although admittedly the playroom was a disaster area. The big girls did make it to gymnastics, thanks to my MIL. We did okay.

My fever finally broke sometime during the night last night. So, I am feeling much more aware and awake today. Today, being "Leap Day" I had promised the girls a day off. Although, I should feel guilty considering they have had a couple days off now with me being sick, I don't. This only happens once every four years. I was going to take them to the History Museum as a special treat, but don't feel quite up to that. We are just going to hang out here.

What will you do with an extra day?


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Present from the Kids

The big girls got to go visit their grandmother yesterday afternoon while I tried to catch up on some sleep during nap time. They went off with a bag full of craft goodies and came home with these tissue paper flowers. Mary even added some of her g'mom's perfume (not that I can smell it right now).

Unfortunately, I'm still under the weather even this morning. DH came home and took over last night allowing me to sleep for 12 hours. Today I am swigging Tussin an OJ hoping that this will pass soon. We are trying to save DH's time off, so unless the dizziness of yesterday afternoon returns I'm going to try to sludge through today as best as I can. Movies anyone?


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Isn't that the way

It always seems that as soon as we get a good routine running and things are getting done, something happens to slow or stop us in our tracks. I know, I know - it is life. Thankfully, this time around it is only a cold and not the flu that so many are struggling with. By the middle of the day yesterday I was squinting through my runny eyes at what we had left on the 'To Do List' and wondering if it was worth it.

Mary and Katie seem okay - nothing ever seems to slow them down except for stomach bugs. Emily is cranky and spending a lot of time laying down with her blanket and whining for me to turn on Noggin for her. Robbie and I seem to be the two hardest hit. If I wasn't worn out by my own cold, Robbie would have done it. As it was he spiked another one of his absurdly high fevers last night so I laid awake most of the night checking and worrying about him.

Most of what was on our list yesterday didn't get done. The basics we did, but the extras and the history unit barely got touched. Instead the girls played a number of card games, colored their sheets for the Easter Coloring Contest at the local grocery store, "read" their magazines and played outside between rain showers. In our eclectic way, we will call that a fairly good and interesting day.

DH has taken on the task of encouraging Mary to do more reading by having the two of them read together every night. From the sounds of the laughter and giggles you wouldn't think they were doing very much. But wow, in a short period of time he has manage to get Mary to start slowing down and thinking about new words before blurting out just anything. After Mary reads to him then they read though one of his old "Garfield" collections together. If I had actually had the energy last night I would have tried to sneak a photo of them to share, but I didn't.

I have no big plans for today; the basics, maybe a little history reading, get Mary to piano... . I may call in some reinforcements to do something special with Mary and Katie in the afternoon so I can nap with the two little ones.



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fun & Games

Since I've decided to go in a more decidedly *whole-language/sight word approach for reading instruction I've had to come up with some fun ways to introduce words and to help imprint the words in their memories. We have the weekly word wall - a list of some 60 words (most of which Mary knows now, the list will get smaller as we come to more and more difficult words). Mary likes to challenge herself to see how many she knows or can decipher the very first day it goes up. To make it even more fun, I am picking out 20-30 of the words to make cards out of for games like Go Fish and Memory. Mary is having so much fun with these games that I have also made up math equation cards for us to play 'War' with. I hope that these will help her recall her Math facts quicker.

*I have not totally abandoned phonics, but it is so stressful for and not working very well for Mary that I have taken to implementing covert phonics instruction. For example, her typing program, that she really likes, does phonics enrichment while teaching typing.

In addition to the games we are playing, Mary and Katie have really been on a creative streak lately. They spent the afternoon putting together and decorating a box fort in our side yard. of course this is when they weren't digging their hole, a la the movie "Holes" in our backyard. And, last night Mary brought me "The Rainy Day Book" a craft booklet we got from a visit to Chick-fil-a asking to make the tissue paper flowers to use as spring decorations.

It feels so good to be having fun with learning again.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Geared up for another week

I woke up this morning feeling energetic and ready for this week. We have finally gotten the umph back into our days that have been missing for a few months. This Colonial/Revolutionary War impromptu unit study has been very invigorating for all of us.

Not to mention that we all can feel that Spring is just around the corner. As I sat here this morning I heard the geese flying, a sound I haven't heard since last Fall. It might still be on the chilly side of things, but there are green things in my garden (that are not weeds) and birds all around. And, I received emails reminding me that I need to sign Mary up for Spring soccer. Each day we will be spending more and more time outside.

Last night I stayed up a little late putting together this week's lists and even going forward and making lists for projects for the next couple of weeks.

Our reading list for this week includes:
Sam The Minuteman Nathaniel Benchly
Meet Felicity Valerie Tipp
The American Revolution Bruce Bliven, Jr. (this book is being read only a few chapters a week so it will take us awhile)
Visiting a Village Bobbie Kalman
Food and Recipes of the Thirteen Colonies George Erdash
Paul Revere's Ride Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Patriots in Petticoats Shirley Raye Redmond
American Kids in History: Colonial Days David C. King
The Story of Clocks and Calendars: Marking a Millennium Betsy Maestro
Picasso and Minou P.I. Maltbie
Trouble on the Tracks Kathy Mallat
My Rows and Piles of Coins Tololwa M. Mollel
DK Eyewitness: Chemistry

Our projects for this week:
"Knowledge" web for what we have already learned on the Colonial/Revolutionary Period
Make Maple Sugar Candy
Learn how to play 'Jacks'

Can you tell I am having a lot of fun with this one. There are just so many hands-on activities and ideas I am finding. It just fits so well with us. By the time this unit is finished (we will be doing field trips in April) it will be time to look back outside for our next study.


Thursday, February 21, 2008


After I checked the weather on Wednesday I added to Mary's 'school' list "View Lunar Eclipse from 8:30-10:30". She saw it and went wild with the anticipation of finally being able to stay up late again, especially since I have become the bedtime Nazi over the last week. The weather yesterday was gorgeous!! It was clear right up to...7:30PM, then the clouds rolled in.

Ever the optimist, kept checking the local weather on the web. The girls kept running outside and giving me field weather reports. Finally pay dirt. At 9:45 the clouds broke up enough that we could see the moon. Although it became might cold with the passing cold front, we set up our lawn chairs in the neighbor's front yard (she had already given permission) and pulled out our cheap-o school telescope. After 30 minutes or so of fiddling we finally had that all set up. But, the girls were right it was more fun to roll around in the grass at 10:30 at night under a red moon.

It was a beautiful lunar eclipse, and we were the only ones in the neighborhood outside viewing it. It is not like it was at 2am, as some have been recently. But, then again I am able to let my kids sleep in a little this morning. They don't have to be at the bus stop at 7:05 in the morning, thank God!!

This is what homeschooling brings back into our lives. The ability to pause and appreciate the beauty of the natural world around us. The larger world that isn't run by time clocks and productivity measures. And the chance to celebrate lunar eclipses by rolling around in the cold grass and batting at balloons on the wind.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Lists and schedules, Oh My

OK, I am finally admitting it to myself that at least one of my children is most likely ADHD, and well their mother too. Last fall in my attempt at that time to get things under some sort of control I created a really good schedule for us and hung it on the wall in the kitchen. It makes a mighty nice wall decoration.

Anyway, we had a good fall. Lots of outside therapy and the diet seemed to be working. Hell, the stars and the moon had lots of alignments going on. Things just kind of flowed. We had issues, but they didn't seem like issues.

Fast forward to this winter...too many days inside the house, and well whatever. We are struggling. We are struggling with time management, discipline issues and even learning. I feel some days as if I have taken a step off the cliff into chaos. Since my surgery I have been absolutely exhausted. I don't have any back-up energy resources for this.

Last week it was finally time to step up and take charge. Mary was/is miserable most days about it. I was toast by the time DH got home and just haven't been up to keeping the house in any sort of order. Over the weekend I attacked the 'front room' in our house. The room that is our office/playroom and homeschool staging area. Piles everywhere, little hands had pulled things out and mixed them up. I cleaned, threw away, organized and straightened. That looked so nice I moved on to the family room, where we actually do most of our day-to-day studying. Piles of books were put away, table tops were cleared and I actually think I know where most of my materials are now.

So with chaos confronted, it was time to come up with a gameplan to prevent our downfall again. I still like our schedule, but need something to reinforce it (for all of us - remember I am just as guilty as my kids). Mary loves her checklists. She likes to count how many things she has to do and she likes to physically mark off her accomplishments. So using that I now have a daily checkoff list for her. From waking up, to brushing her hair, doing schoolwork and chores, and even going to bed at night.

And, since we are adding things anyway, they now have two chores each to do daily on a rotation. Mary & Katie are also trading off kitchen duties (fixing vs. clean up) for the three daily meals. They have had way too much free time for getting into trouble.

Everything went into place as of this morning. Everyone now has a wake-up time and something to keep them busy for most of the day. The plan seems to have gotten favorable reviews. The biggest complaint is the wake-up time and bedtime. Chores have never really been an issue, it is more that I don't let them do a whole lot because it takes me a lot less time. So, I am teaching them how to do them. Today the family room was vacuumed, kitchen floor swept, kitchen cabinets wiped down and Mary did an awesome job on the bathroom - even cleaning the toilet.

It will take us some time to get used to it, and I'm sure a certain amount of patience before it is all routine for us. But, if *I* can just stick with it I really think the kids will be behind me. It may be time for me to dust off my daily to-do list.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beginnings of the Garden

Since it is the middle of February it is time to get the cold weather crops in the ground. Last year I waited until March like the seed packs said, but then I didn't get much before all the warm weather set in. When I was talking with a gentleman at the local farmer's market about my lack of lettuce and broccoli, he said, "Honey," (the older ones always say honey around here) "those crops need to be in by middle of February 'round here."

So, here it goes:

DH and Emily enlarging the bed last weekend
The garden bed's squares all laid out. I have 50 sq. feet this year in the raised bed. There are also some other containers I will be using.

No, I didn't use miracle seeds. Mary and I stopped by the garden shop today to get twine and they had flats of baby lettuce and broccoli. I decided to try them out along with some seeds so I can have a continuous harvest for as long as I can.

Today I planted red-tipped lettuce, buttercrisp bibb lettuce, lettuce 'mix' of seeds, broccoli (both transplants & seeds) and spinach seeds. I can already taste the fresh salads....

While we are talking food; we had the best dinner last night if I do say so myself. One of our goals this year is to add more fish to our diet. I grew up on the coast, and like a lot of my friends that grew up down there we are not really fish people. It just always tastes and smells 'fishy' to me (go figure).

I picked up some frozen salmon fillets this week at the grocery store while they were on sale. We baked them last night with a little lemon juice/olive oil marinade. I also made homemade roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli. If it wasn't for the kids swinging from the chandeliers I could have closed my eyes and imagined us at a restaurant for dinner.


Friday, February 15, 2008

The Days that flew

Where has my week gone? It should only be Wednesday, but no my calender says Friday. I think it has something to do with the holiday that really isn't a holiday. Our last two days have been spent on Valentine's Day. Which means in the scope of our life, almost nothing else got done. How does this always happen to us?

Wednesday we had errands to run for all those last minute "holiday" things. The first stop was to Dollar Tree. In our family a trip to any store, no matter the proximity, isn't a hop in the car and go around the corner type of trip. There is the hour beforehand getting everyone motivated, dressed (in something somewhat appropriate) and referring the squabbles over this and that. Then having to change the diaper that suddenly needs changing as we walk out the door.

We walk into Dollar Tree to find that someone has gotten a little happy with the helium tank and there are balloons floating everywhere throughout the store. All with strings hanging down at my shoulder level. Perfect for little hands in shopping carts to pull at as we go.

We got some of our supplies, but not all. So we also had to go to the grocery store to finish picking up baking supplies. While we were there I figured we should pick up a few groceries we needed to save me the extra trip later this week. I won't go into any details, but lets just say that I was constantly sidetracked by one issue or another and totally lost my concentration several times. I ended up driving away from the store while my really good, local, organic and somewhat pricey milk sat in the cart in the cart return. Of course I didn't remember this until I was home unloading the car.

This little excursion was so exhausting for all of us that once we were home, Emily grabbed her blanket told me she was taking a nap and went to her bedroom. I checked 5 minutes later and she really was asleep. With both the little ones napping it was safe enough to give the big girls the construction paper, craft scissors, glue and markers while I had "quiet time" on the sofa. The next thing I know it was 3:00 and the two big girls had finished their valentines, put a movie on and joined me on the sofa.

From Wednesday evening through Thursday afternoon we have been baking and decorating, and me - cleaning. They made valentine cupcakes (in heart-shaped tins) for their friends at gymnastics, their friends in the neighborhood and the friends we saw at the get-to-gather Thursday afternoon.

For me, coming home to dinner (cooked by DH) last night was the best gift after the racing around and disjointedness of the last couple of days.

And school - well CD players are a wonderful invention in a car.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I came home from a meeting this evening, opened the internet and clicked on "Bookmarks" and it was EMPTY!!! Nada, nothing there. Definitely not my YEARS worth of bookmarked materials. I could have started crying right there. Then I remembered that I do have a back-up from where we had to transfer the bookmarks when we got the new computer. So, I only lost a year's worth of additions.
A few things come to mind:

(1) My bookmarks are some of the most important files I have, I should have a better back-up system
(2) Which child of mine is the hacker-to-be?



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dinosaur Exhibit and Getting Ready for Spring

We have spent the last week since returning from the mountains trying to buckle down and focus on our studies. Boy has it been difficult. The weather this week has been so wonderful. Temps in the '70s and clear. I did have the advantage though of a trip to the Museum of Natural Science on Friday with their friends. If we couldn't get our schoolwork done there would be no trip this week.

Public schools had a half-day on Friday so we went with some neighborhood friends and had a great time at the museum. The special exhibit they have right now is on Dinosaurs.

Since most of the other children had never visited the museum we also went through all the other exhibits. Mary and Katie really enjoyed showing off one of their favorite places to their friends.

This week we also got our income tax refund, and after paying some bills and socking away a lot in savings, I was able to take a small amount and do some special shopping for me. I am trying to teach myself how to knot socks and needed some supplies. I've been really good this winter staying away from the craft stores. Boy, it felt great to splurge and I did find a really good deal on some fancy yarns for only $1 (normally priced $6). I did pick up a book on knitting socks, some more double-pointed needles, and some beautiful sock yarns to make house socks for all of us.

And, since the weather has been so spring-like these last few days, it has made me start to think about the garden. It is actually about time to begin planting our cool-weather crops. I stopped by the garden store to pick up some more compost and some seeds (lettuces, spinach & broccoli). I was also able to get two more blueberry bushes, raspberry bush and blackberry. It will still be a couple more years until we will have fruit - but yum, yum!

Today, DH is out expanding our garden bed about another 20 sq. ft. Later this week we will plant our first crops for 2008. Then we need to plan on what we will have for our summer garden and how we will fill our extra space. It probably won't be that hard.



Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ski Weekend

This past weekend I did something new and fairly exciting. No, not skiing, packing up a car for a trip that didn't include diapers, wipes and sippy cups. Each year my SILs take their nieces and nephews over age 5 on a weekend ski trip. Since this was Katie's first year and the number of kids had bloomed to 5 I decided to tag along. DH's other sister also came which gave us a 5 kids-4adult ratio, not too bad. Emily and Robbie were left behind to have an exciting weekend with their daddy.

The weekend was AWESOME!! I have not skied in 10 years and was worried about how I would do. But, apparently, it is like riding a bike. I strapped on the skis and my instincts just took over. Not only did I amaze myself, but Katie also amazed me. I was apprehensive about Katie as she doesn't tend to be the most graceful and doesn't like it to be cold and wet. But, wow! She took to skiing like she was born to it. A few trips down the bunny slope and she was telling me to back off and leave her alone. She skied from 9:30am until 3:30pm, with me basically dragging her in to take breaks and eat lunch.



This was Mary's third year skiing. She was so thrilled to be there with her two older boy cousins. They spent the day racing each other down the intermediate and advance slopes.

We've already decided that we are all going to have to go again next winter. And, if I can I want to get the girls back up there one other time during the winter.

On the way home Monday we interrupted the school day lessons at Melora's, Accidental Blogger, for a quick visit. She thinks she talked my ear off, but that is untrue. It was so pleasant to sit and talk 'shop' with someone and not having to jump up every 5 minutes to chase a toddler down, that nearly three hours passed before I realized we had to get on the road again. Her family is truly a joy to visit. Thank you so much for letting us intrude and for feeding us lunch.

It was a nice little early February break. Now we have to buckle down to get our Spring quarter in. I've got my lists and am geared up to get things done. Of course the last couple of days being in the '70s have been so very tempting...


A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.