Tuesday, May 7, 2013

How to keep your home company ready, without stress

So today we're going to talk about how to keep your home ready for unexpected company. 

First thing in the morning you need to lock the children in their rooms.  Insert food through slots in doors.  Make sure you have a little potty seat in there for those times that they just have to go.  Voila.  Company ready home.

Seriously people, I clicked on a link on pinterest to a blog post titled how to keep your home company ready without the stress and well, we don't get unexpected company often but when we do you know it's at the worst possible moment.  So I'm ready for this stress free company ready plan.  I click on over there and begin to read.  The pictures look like they're from a magazine.  And ya know, that's great, I love beautiful magazine ready homes as much as the next person but the only magazine my home would ever consider being in is something along the lines of "toddlers live here today!" 

So I continue on, hoping that even though I am super skeptical THIS will finally be that one thing I've been missing all these years.

Guess what people??  Her secret?  She has NO toddlers.  In fact all of her kids are my oldest sons age and older.  Of course she can engage them to tidy the house and keep her own stress lower.  When my kids are those ages I should be able to as well.

I felt lied to people!!  There is no stress free way to keep your home company ready when you have young children.  Especially when you have young children AND you homeschool.  It's a deadly combination to the company ready concept.  If I have three days notice I can have my home in okish shape for visitors.  If you stop by unexpectedly then you get what you get. 

My key is only making friends with other moms.  Other moms have been there.  Other moms don't care what your house looks like.  At least I hope this is the case.  Of course other moms are also not terribly likely to drop by unexpectedly because they are busy being moms.  See?  Now THAT is the key.  And hey it's no stress too!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Winding down the school year and some new plans

So it's May 1st.  The end of our school year has been kinda blah.  Kayd finished his math curriculum in February and I had the epiphany that spelling is mostly pointless with him.  He inherited a natural spelling ability from both of his parents, poor kid.

So for the rest of the week and through next I plan to finish our read aloud unit of Charlotte's Web and continue letting the kids play with educational apps on my kindle.  And then we're calling the school year officially over.

We're going to be trying something new this year.  I have always liked the idea of year round schooling but we hadn't really had a reason to give it a go.  Until now.

You see come the end of September and what would for "normal" people be the end of the first month of school we will be welcoming a new student.  Of course our new student's coursework will look a lot like nursing and sleeping and numerous diaper changes.  But as anyone who has ever had a baby can attest they do take a bit of time to find their rhythm and routine in the family.

And so I thought it would probably be good if a portion of our school year were finished before the baby comes so that we can enjoy our new bundle stress free.

So the kids will have a four week break for "summer vacation" for most of May and the first week of June.  My overall intention was to do six weeks on and two weeks off but something came up for two weeks in July and so we'll do three weeks on, two weeks off, three weeks on, one week off, six weeks on, two weeks off, six weeks on, Thanksgiving holiday off, a special three week holiday unit, two weeks off for Christmas and New Years, six weeks on, two weeks off, six weeks on, two weeks off, six weeks on and ending the school year at the end of the first week in June.  That would make 39 weeks of school in total.  We generally do four days of school a week.  The built in time off allows for make up days if necessary and also allows me to do my lesson planning in three and six week chunks instead of trying to do a full year at once which frankly overwhelms me.

So we will give this a try for the 2013 to 2014 school year and see how we like it.

Kayden was definitely reluctant about it when I mentioned that we weren't having a full summer break this year but I showed him a calendar and how it would work with the intermittent weeks off and he seems pacified enough for now.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I LOVE my kindle!

I love my kindle, yes I do!  I love my kindle, how about you??

So first I finally got the kindle because I really wanted something more portable.  I use recipes and sewing tutorials from blogland a lot and having to print things off constantly was a real pain - not to mention a major cause of clutter.  And have I ever mentioned how disorganized I am with paper?  So I knew that the kindle would allow me to have my sewing tutorial open right next to my machine and my recipe open in the kitchen.  I also knew that I could have the fitness pal app and thought that it would be more convenient for tracking my food.  On top of that I thought it would be great for educational games and apps for the kids as well as e-readers.

Is it everything I thought it would be when I purchased it?  Oh so much more than I could have dreamed possible!

I've had it for one month now.  Now I got the regular kindle fire with the 7inch screen.  Nothing overly fancy here.  But it has been phenomenal.

I have my facebook, pinterest, and email accounts linked to it.  I found a great feature through flylady - the cozi family calendar, and since I created my account through flylady it has the daily zone tasks auto programmed into it which I LOVE.  I do have the fitness pal app but I'll be honest in that I don't use it.

I have downloaded a number of free apps and games and tried several list making apps, grocery shopping list apps etc.  I find that I prefer Cozi for pretty much all of that.  I can make unlimited lists on it and I like the way it works, it's really easy to use, in my opinion anyway.

And then today, today I did something that I had no idea my kindle could do.  Something that will completely revolutionize our homeschool.  My life has changed.  Today I found that I can in fact put pdf files on my kindle and read them!  This is amazing to me because several of my teacher manuals are pdf files on my computer and this means I can have my manual right there are the table as I teach!  I don't have to print it out and use all that ink and paper and I am in LOVE.

Oh and did I mention the freebies??  I have gotten so many free kindle books it's crazy. There are several bloggers out there that post freebies or low cost e-books.  The ones I read are geared towards homeschoolers and I've gotten a number of easy reader books to work with Colton with and that has been an amazing resource.  I've also gotten some free books for myself or books that I think we might use later as reference books. 

Seriously, if you have ever considered it I highly recommend a tablet of some kind.  We haven't once regretted our kindle purchase this past month and it has really streamlined a lot of stuff for me.

*This post is not sponsored in anyway.  I'm just a normal person who found a product she loves and is happy to tell people about it.*

Thursday, April 18, 2013

If you give a mom

If you give a mom a sense of discontentment about how cluttered her house always feels she will tell her sister about it hoping for some tips or input that has as yet escaped her.

If a mom talks to her sister about how cluttered her house is it will cause her to think about how nice it would be for her oldest son to have his own room.

If a mom decides to give her oldest son his own room she will feel highly motivated to declutter the room he will be moving into.

If a mom begins decluttering the bedroom her son will be moving into she will realize she needs a new home for her craft stuff.

If a mom realizes she needs a new home for her craft stuff she will realize that she needs to move the tv off her desk upstairs and into the kids' room.

If a mom realizes she needs to move the tv she will realize that the stand is in corner not remotely close to a single outlet.

If a mom realizes that she needs to move the tv stand she will realize that with her oldest son getting his own bedroom there is room in the kids' bedroom to put their dresser.

If a mom realizes that she can move the dresser from the landing to the kids' room she will then realize that she can move her desk onto the landing creating a craft area for herself.

So here's a warning, if you are a mom, perhaps you should reconsider giving your oldest son his own room.  Otherwise you might feel a sudden undeniable urge to clean through EVERY room of the house.  Of course that could be a good thing.  I feel like a mouse with a cookie, only I don't have a cookie!  Bummer.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A discovery

This morning I made a horrible discovery.

Well I guess technically I made the discovery yesterday morning.  I woke up yesterday at 4:45.  I needed to pee.  Thanks fifth baby.  But once I was awake I had heartburn.  Then I had a few things on my mind and thought maybe if I jotted them on my to do list on my kindle that it would allow me to let it go and get back to sleep.  But alas, an hour later at 6:06 I was still awake and decided to just get up.  I promised myself a nap later.

See, I was excited about getting started on cleaning out our school room because we're transforming it into Kayd's bedroom.  Kayden, as a firstborn, is a little bit too much like his mama.  We need our alone time and our space of refuge.  Sharing a bedroom with your brothers and sister can make that hard to find.  I've struggled for a while considering that Kayd would probably do better with his own room because while *I* personally think our house is an adequate size for our family it can be hard to find space.  We homeschool here.  The kids and I are here nearly constantly through the week.  We have toys and school books and art supplies and the clothes that go with four children.  So I knew two things.  One, I NEEDED to be able to keep the bulk of our homeschooling stuff on the shelves in the school room and Kayd's desk needed to remain in there also.  Two, Kayden needed his own room.  I wouldn't normally say that a child NEEDS their own room.  I do think that in large part having your own room is a privilege and generally a want.  But I have the exact same personality and need for alone time.  I spent hours alone in my room as a child and so I do consider it a need for Kayden.  See the other three would be lost and despondent if I gave them all their own rooms.  They thrive on each others' company.  Kayden though has been sneaking away during their playtime to do his own thing upstairs in their bedroom.  Which is fine.  But I have a toy ban on their bedroom so I really cannot imagine what he's doing up there.

So I awoke yesterday with a plan of action for clearing the room of unnecessary clutter and couldn't get back to sleep.

Jay left early to go play basketball.  That's another conversation.  He lived through it so I guess it's ok.  So I was all alone in a quiet house at 6am.  Now my kids wake up anywhere between 6 and 7:30.  Sometimes they trickle down one at a time every fifteen minutes and others they wake up in bulk.  I decided to sort through the puzzles and kids games to pare them down.  I put on a show on netflix and began sorting.  At about 6:45 Colton came downstairs.  Thirty minutes later the other three joined us.  They helped me put together puzzles to see what was missing pieces.  It was a really nice way to start the day with my children.

Today I slept until my normalish 8:15.  I woke to my chocolate ice cream completely gone, unwashed strawberries being eaten by the two year old, and well it wasn't a nice way to start the day.

I discovered the benefit to waking up before the children.  In almost eight years of parenting I've NEVER seen any benefit to it but I get it now.  Of course if I'm going to make it a regular thing I'm going to have to go to bed at like nine at night but oh well.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The aftermath and a new normal

So when a couple gets married and starts a life together they have to find a new normal.  When a couple has a baby they have to find another new normal.  There are some things in life that happen that cause a family to have to find a new normal.

Almost three weeks ago Jay had a heart attack.  Add to that the fact that I was still stumbling through the first trimester of our fifth pregnancy and well here we are needing a new normal.

Pre-pregnancy we had a set school routine and I was doing a decent job keeping on top of housework and cooking dinner every night.  First trimester I was barely managing a school routine and thanking God daily that Kayd does most of his work independently and then we check it together.  I also couldn't stand the idea of food so making dinner - well any meal really - was excruciating to me.  Going grocery shopping was one of the hardest things to do the first 13 weeks.  So much food.  So much nausea.

Pre-heart attack I did my best to cook healthy meals but now I feel like there's so much more pressure to make sure their super healthy.

I am very happy to say that I am coming into less food aversion - though raw ground meat isn't something that I am currently able to make myself touch or even look at, and I'm finding more energy - though a daily nap still definitely appeals.  And I wish I could say that I'm super excited to be getting back into a hopping hands on school routine but the truth is the sun has been out the past two days and even though the temps haven't quite reached 50 yet all I want to do is call "SUMMER BREAK!".  Ahh if only.

One good thing that came out of Jay's heart attack is that my grandma's mind has apparently been changed about our homeschooling.  I wasn't sure I'd ever see the day but my great aunt watched the kids two of the days that Jay and I were out of town at the hospital and she bragged to my grandma about how smart and polite they are.  And I am so pleased that all of the kids did very well, all in all we were both gone from them for four whole days and four nights.  Once they saw that Daddy was ok on Sunday they thought that the rest of the time we were gone was one grand adventure, spending the day with this person and the night with that one.  It had been previously posited to me that my children wouldn't be able to be independent because they've been too sheltered never having gone to public school but I say with pride that my children all did well, they had never met my great aunt before the first morning that she watched them and my sister reported that they went right in without any hesitation.  I figure that my children knew that they could trust that we'd be home when we could be and that we love them enough to only let people who would be good to them care for them in our absence.

Ahh well, we'll find our new normal soon I think of course once we get used to that this fifth little baby will join our family and we will once again be looking for a new normal.  Now that I think of it, it seems like life is one long adventure of constantly trying to find our new normal.

I do hope to blog more again in my whole new normal of life.  I also hope to blog with some pictures of fun stuff with the kids and home projects.  Oh and sewing projects.  I have a few up my sleeve that I'm hoping to start working on next week.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Life changing moment

It is a life changing moment when your husband walks into the room clutching his chest out of breath and says that he is having chest pain.  It is a life changing moment when you decide that yes, you should call 911 because it's not going away.  It is a life changing moment when the paramedics tell you that he is having a heart attack and they are transporting him to the hospital an hour away where the heart specialists are.

My life was changed this past Saturday when my twenty eight year old husband had a heart attack.  I wanted nothing more than to climb into the back of the ambulance with him but I had our four children to take care of.  KOJ was life-flighted from our local hospital to the bigger hospital.  I had called my mom before the ambulance got there to arrange for her to watch the kids but when I realized they were taking him so far away a voice of wisdom told me that I needed to have someone go up with me.  Thanks Steve.  So I called her back and my sister said she'd keep the kids and then our new game plan was set.  We weren't at home when this emergency happened so we had to stop at home to get clothes and overnight stuff for the kids.  Kayd really stepped up to the plate.  He got clothes for him and his brothers and helped me gather loveys and I appreciated his help.  It felt like it took forever to get the kids to my sister's house.  Then it felt like it took forever to get up to my husband.  His flight only took 18 min.  He was probably at the hospital before I ever even left my sister's house to meet him there.

When I got to my sister's she hugged me and was amazed at my calm.  I didn't have a choice.  I had four kids who didn't need to be freaked out because their mama was.  Being anxious and upset wouldn't have helped Jay anyway.  I'm very logical like that.  It can be a blessing in a situation like this but it can make me seem heartless and emotionless at times too I think.  My mom gathered my four children, my sister's four children and my sister and I in a circle and we prayed for Jay before we took off.  A strand of 11 cords isn't easily broken right?

My mom talked mostly on the way to the hospital and I listened and I didn't think too much about the fact that I had NO idea how Jay was.  When I tried to fathom that he could die my brain wouldn't compute and absolutely refused to have that thought.  Finally we got to the hospital.  Finally we found Jay.  Finally I saw that he was alive, and he was a little bit loopy from various drugs.  I was so happy to see him.  Thinking about it now makes me want to cry but I did not cry that night.  I was just so happy.  We were updated on how he was and what had been done before we arrived.  He'd had a complete blockage in his main artery.  They put in a stint and things were much improved.

Someone told me that I saved his life.  I guess I know logically that if I hadn't called 911 and we ignored it that it could have been much worse, it could have meant death but it feels so dramatic to say that I saved his life because I just dialed a number that anyone else in my situation would have dialed.  It feels overwhelming, I think, to consider that if I hadn't known the signs could mean a heart attack, if we hadn't known that he had high blood pressure and cholesterol which we'd only learned about in the past two weeks, that I could have ignored what was happening and thought he'd be fine on his own.

Lots of people called, "How are you?" they'd ask.  "I'm good." I would say and genuinely mean it.  My husband is alive.  He will come home to our bed again.  He will be here to meet our fifth child.  I am not good, I am great and I am blessed and I give every glory in this situation to God.

I finally returned home Wednesday evening to be with our children and Jay should be able to come home this afternoon.  Friends and family took turns with our children and they had a blast.  Smart move on my part to leave my van with the kids.  That way whoever had them could have the van and all of their seats.  That worked out great.  We've seen God in so many people this week, we've been so blessed.  A friend of my sister, a person I'd never met before, welcomed me to her home down the street from the hospital to shower.  People were asking when they could bring meals.  The friends and family who watched the kids and loved on them while we were gone.  Some anonymous angels came and cleaned our home.  Another friend who had the kiddos cleaned our van.  The blessings have been amazing and so very appreciated.

My life changed on Saturday night.  I became the wife of a man who had a heart attack.  My children now have a father who had a heart attack.  But one thing didn't change.  God was with us.  He was with us in the weeks leading up to the heart attack.  He was with us during the heart attack.  He is with us now in this recovery process from the heart attack. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Random thoughts on life

Well, I thought I was home free until the icky blahs hit me at 6.5 weeks or so and now at about 8wks I wish I could feel normal again.  I'm thankful that my "morning sickness" doesn't involve throwing up but it does involve a lot of nausea and upset tummy, a LOT of thinking pretty much all food on earth sounds disgusting, and a lot of exhaustion.

I'm figuring out that if I stay fed I feel a little better than if I don't.  Also if I get enough sleep I feel better than when I'm not getting enough sleep.  Unfortunately "enough" sleep seems to be an amount I'm not able to attain on a daily basis.  I slept 8hrs Saturday night, took a 2.5hr nap yesterday afternoon, slept about 9hrs last night and FINALLY felt somewhat awake this morning.  I don't usually have the luxury of the nap though.

Having a bit more awakeness this morning it was nice to use some of that energy with Sierra and working on some tot school activities.  She's very into numbers and counting, we reviewed capital letters and their sounds, shapes and colors, and she got to put stickers on a do a dot number page I found here.  I'm so thankful for these other moms who put stuff together like this.  My kids love these things and I don't have the know how to create them myself.

Being able to give a little more energy and attention to the kids' school has been nice this morning.  Of course I'm starting to wane, my eyes are beginning to get droopy, my tummy is hungry, and school, thank goodness, is almost over for today.

Oh one more thing, yesterday my oldest son Kayden got baptized.  Now that alone is pretty great but even greater was that he asked his Daddy to do the honors.  Talk about an emotional mama.  We had a really great get together with a few friends and grammy afterwards and that was followed by my amazing nap.

Also it must be said that Jay is being great.  He's run to the store more in the past two weeks than probably the past whole year previously.  He's been really great about helping get the house cleaned up for yesterday's get together.  I really appreciate that he's been so helpful. 

And one last word, I don't know how consistent this blog will be for the next few weeks.  I have lots of fun things I want to do with the kids and post about but with my icky blahs I'm just not often up to messing with getting a post together.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A little bit sticks with you

I'm a reader.  I've always been a reader.  In middle school you'd rarely catch me walking down the hallway from class to class without an open book in my hand.  I would stay up late at night with a flashlight and struggle to stay awake in my first class of the following day.  Reading allowed me to go into a world that I would never otherwise be able to go into and have adventures that as a normal person in small town MI I would never have otherwise had.  I still love reading.

As a parent the function of reading has often been different than before.  Now, I often reach for a book hoping to glean that magic piece of parenting wisdom that I feel so desperate for.  I don't read too many parenting books, or don't finish them at any rate because I tend to lay them aside to deal with the children I'm seeking help with.  Isn't that just always the way?  The true irony of parenting books is that you really only have time to read them BEFORE you are a parent.  But still I've realized recently that a little bit sticks with you.

I read a great book when my older two were little and I was probably pregnant with my 3rd.  The author encouraged allowing the children to do things that conventional parenting said they weren't really old enough for.  It talked a lot about gearing the home environment to where the kids could do a lot for themselves without a ton of parental interference.  And while I certainly don't do half the stuff the author encouraged in the book, a little bit did stick.

Because of that book the children's dishes are in a low cabinet where they can get them out themselves and put them away out of the dishwasher themselves.  Even Sierra at 2 has no trouble doing either of these things.  Because of that book I have tried over the past years to encourage my children to do as much for themselves as possible.  I suppose some could look at it as me being lazy, but really there are times when I find I have a HUGE advantage that my children can follow some basic directions given from a mom laying on the couch and function on a basic level without my constant interference.  If necessary Kayden and Colton could make pb&j without any assistance, even Sierra can peel her own clementines (once I've started it a tiny bit - but again a brother could help with that), Kayd has been known to serve breakfast completely on his own.  And I will tell you that since becoming pregnant with our fifth blessing (which the kids share their excitement about nearly every day) there have been several occasions where I have been thankful that I read that book and that a little bit stuck.  It's super beneficial to me now in this season and I know that in the future the sense of independence we're giving our kids will be beneficial to them as they continue to grow.

So even if you can't make it through an entire parenting book, be encourage that usually, from whatever you are able to read, a little bit does stick.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Letting Go

I won't lie.  One of my favorite things about homeschooling my children is that I don't have to let them go as much.  I have at least a bit more of a sense of control over things even if the control isn't real.  This past summer, at the encouragement of a few friends from church  and the excitement from Kayd after reading the brochure, we allowed Kayden to attend a Christian day camp for a week.  He had several friends from church in his little group and he had a blast.  He went in the morning and came home for dinner at night.  The last night the campers had the option to spend the night to get a taste of what overnight camp is like and we let him do that too.

Kayd had a blast.  He loved it and is still bummed that not having two vehicles means that he won't be able to go this summer.  However, I received a brochure for a one night overnight winter camp.  For some reason I thought it was a great idea to let him go.  The timing worked out to get him there and pick him up on time and I know he'll have a lot of fun.

But it's so very hard to let go.  If his socks get wet will he remember to change them?  Will he remember to wear his hat and dry  mittens every time they do an outdoor activity?  I won't be there to remind him.  I won't be there to check on him.  And it occurred to me yesterday that I don't actually know any of the adults who will be responsible for my child for a 14hr period of time from tonight until tomorrow night.  Panic began to set in.

And then I prayed.  Because really even though I feel like I have some sense of control in my home, it's mostly an illusion.  God, really, is in control and He is with Kayd whether Kayd is under this roof or the roof of the camp chapel.  I think that letting go is one of the hardest parts of parenting but it's also essential.  Kayd's confidence grew leaps and bounds when I let go last summer and I trust that he will have a great experience this weekend too that will grow him into what I hope is a strong, independent, and responsible person.  So much of our job as parents is to prepare our children for the final letting go.  Oh what a heart wrenching job this can be.  But for today I will let him go for one overnight and fun filled day tomorrow.  One small letting go opportunity at a time will hopefully prepare my heart for the final letting go when he's ready to go out on his own which I know will happen all too soon.  God will have to help when it's time to really let go.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A story about a bat


Flying bat.

There was a flying bat in my house last night.

About ten minutes after KOJ pulled out of the driveway with all three boys, leaving me alone with Sierra, a bat came swooping out of my kitchen into the dining room.

Sierra was obliviously watching Dora.  She was also nekid.  Yeah, that's right.  Nekid.  I wasn't in any suitable shape for leaving the house either. 

It has been a VERY long time since I've encountered a bat in my living space.  My poor throat was so sore from screaming at the bat.  What few brain cells I may have had left flew away with the bat.

A few fun facts.  We only have one vehicle.  It was at church with Jay.  It was pouring rain outside.  Jay does not have a cell phone and I had NO way to get a hold of him to come rescue us.  My own phone was three rooms away on the kitchen counter.

Now all I could recall from being a child and having a bat in our house was my mom insisting that we put underwear on our heads.  As an adult I didn't really think that was a sane idea.  So instead I grabbed the fleece tie blanket my mom made me for my birthday, jumped onto the couch next to Sierra and threw the blanket over us.  When I peeked out and could no longer see the bat flying around I asked Sierra to go in the kitchen and get my phone.  Do you know that this child looked straight at me and said "No, scared." and went back to watching Dora??  Finally, after a few minutes of no bat activity I did a slumped over tip toe to the kitchen to retrieve my phone.

I called my mom first and got her voice mail.  I left rather a desperate message.  I called several of Jay's friends hoping they were also at church and could get my message to him but I got no help there.

While waiting for Dora to finish I grabbed the clothes Sierra got out for herself earlier but never bothered to put on and got her dressed in case we had opportunity to leave our bat infested house.

Finally, Dora got over and Sierra was then willing to come upstairs with me so that we could lock ourselves in my bedroom.  Shortly after getting up there my mom called me back.  She came over with her broom, turned on EVERY light, looked in every nook and cranny and could not find the bat.  She did leave the front door open while looking though so it's possible the bat flew back outside while she was in another room.  We did not have another sighting of the bat again so we are fairly sure that's what happened.

The end.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kindergarten has evolved

I do a very informal kindergarten.  I did it with Kayd and I've done it with Colton.  I have felt a bit more pressure with Colton though because with him I have had the task of teaching reading.  Kayd played on starfall and watched the original leap frog videos and mostly taught himself to read.

Colton though was a bit tougher.  Part of it I think is just that I had never taught anyone to read before so we were both inexperienced in this journey.  I tried ordinary parents guide to teaching reading - which I like and I suspect will work great with Sierra when the time comes.  But poor Colton just had a block when it came to blending.  So we tried just reading together with BOB books.  But again he just had a block.  I think part of it was confidence honestly.

A couple of months ago I happened upon a recommendation for Easy Peasy - all in one curriculum.  It's right online and it's all inclusive.  I began at the lesson they suggested for learning to read.  It was a system that honestly never occurred to me.  My brain thinks learning to read should be phonetic, but this system uses memorization.  Each day the child would look at digital flashcards of the few words their short three or four sentence story would include.  They see and hear the words three times a day and then read the story at the end of the third time.  This WORKED!  He was able to memorize the words by looking at them three times a day and thereby able to read the short stories each day.  His confidence grew and now he's able to read books outside of this computer curriculum.

We recently got him the first book in the Explode the Code series and he's begun working through that excitedly.  I'm thrilled with the progress he's made and excited that he's really starting to enjoy being able to read.

I really encourage you, esp in these early years, if something isn't clicking with your child seek out something else.  Each of our children just learns so differently and I have to remind myself that it's the one size fits all approach in our public school systems that annoys me so much and therefore it's silly for me to think it should work in our home.

So now Colton's kindergarten day looks like this:

two or three pages of explode the code
reading a short story aloud to/with me
math notebooking and living math activities

Short, simple, sweet and we're covering the three R's.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

a new plan

I love homeschooling.  I know I mentioned that recently.  But I have more reasons I love homeschooling right now than I posted about then.

Homeschooling can be flexible.  It can be easily changed when it needs to be.

For example I have planned to finish this school year in mid June and start back up in mid August.  That's going to change. 

Kayd is going to finish his 2nd grade math curriculum by the end of February - and that is if we really draw it out.  He's going to finish his 2nd grade spelling by the end of March.  This is actually really great for our family right now.

We're going to move into math notebooking and living math activities until I can get his third grade math curriculum in May or June.  I think that he'll enjoy the break from the formal math and honestly the ideas I'm coming across for living math and math notebooking look fun! 

We will continue on with our planned social studies/history schedule of Magic Tree House books and various topics.  This we will finish in June.  We will probably take a week or two off in July but we're not going to take a big summer break this year.

We're going to want to get started on our next school year early because come the end of September we're going to want to take a bit of a break from formal school work.  We will want to spend time loving on and getting to know the newest member of our family who will be arriving about then.  That's right, this jungle is getting a new monkey.  We're all very excited.  The kids are beyond thrilled and that alone makes me beyond thrilled - though I was pretty happy anyway.

For science the next several months I plan to have the kids learn about the weekly developments of our newest family member.  I love that we homeschool and that affords ALL of the kids to spend time in the babies first weeks with the baby and welcoming him or her into our home and family and daily life.

And so here I sit making a new plan.  And for once I'm not frustrated at all at the need for a new plan.  It's such a great reason to need a new plan.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Today is 8 years

Today is eight years. 

Eight years since I turned 23 (yes that means I'm 31 today) eek!!
Eight years since I woke up in a hotel room with my sisters and little brother. 
Eight years since my bonus mom made our beautiful bouquets.
 Eight years since I walked down the aisle on my father's arm.
Eight years ago our parents were there.

 Eight years since I married the love of my life.
In the past eight years we've moved a few times.  Had four babies together.  Yelled at each other.  Loved each other.  Supported each other.  I've spent the past eight years with the same man.  Day in and day out, and I've loved him more and more over those eight years.  And I plan to spend many many many more years with him.

Thanks darling for being the King of our jungle!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Sew Saturday: a quiet book

For Christmas one of Sierra's gifts was a quiet book.  She's the perfect age for it and I found so many awesome ideas for pages all over the internet.  So I set to work on it in September.  I finished it about two days before Christmas.  Mostly. 

Long story short, it was a LOT of work.  I did a LOT of the sewing by hand rather than machine because I began the project and had it about 3/4 of the way done before I became more comfortable with using a sewing machine.  I just used basic felt for the back pieces of each page and cut the other pieces out of felt.  The felt flowers on the tree page are actually buttons I found at walmart.  The potato head does have some pieces that she can play with and the barn has three finger puppets that go in the little doors.  Her favorite pages are the ladybug and the bead abacus.  It's been a big hit though I have found a few flaws with it. 

1. She does not understand the concept of quiet.
2. She is absolutely certain that she must have an adult accompany her in playing with it.
3. The little pieces don't always stay in the book very well and I occassionally find them around the house.

But she does love it and I'm very glad.  I do have a quiet book pinterest board if you want to see some of my inspiration.

Thanks for stopping by to check out my sew Saturday.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Counting the blessings

Sometimes I find myself stuck in a rut.  Sometimes I find myself seeing a blessing in every little thing.  Today it's a blessing in every little thing sort of day.

Sierra is talking more in complete thoughts and it's so cute.  Even though most of the time "me first" and "I had it first" and many other things she says aren't necessarily what I would prefer to hear, I love hearing her little voice and the sincerity with which she says the words.  She means what she says.  With all of her being and it shows on her face when she speaks and I adore it.  And she is so patient with me when I struggle to understand sometimes the thought that she is trying to convey.  She rarely loses her patience with me as I guess over and over again.  She'll be a great mommy some day.

Kayden has been doing great with his school this week.  He wanted to have an attitude the other day and I cut him off at the pass and despite his initial reluctance to do school he's doing his best at his work anyway and THAT is a HUGE improvement.  His writing has improved by leaps and bounds and I'm so thankful that I decided not to push him in that area.  He's getting there on his own.  He's also found a LOVE of reading the past month or so and I'm so thrilled.

Colton has made huge improvements in learning to read.  I am so thankful that someone somewhere recommended the Easy Peasy all in one website.  The learning to read lessons on there built his confidence and have seemed to have broken through the block he was struggling with most of this school year so far.  Today he read two stories to me in an early reader school book I picked up at the Salvation army.  I'm so proud of him.  He's also initiating reading to Sierra and that's adorable.  He doesn't always read the actual words but I personally think it's an important step to be able to look at the pictures and create your own story anyway so I definitely encourage it.

Sawyer is still Sawyer.  We're working on obeying and that's apparently a really hard thing for him to learn.  He's got his own mind and his own will and his own way of wanting things done.  I try to remember to only argue with him when it's truly important because otherwise he and I will spend the rest of our lives arguing with one another and destroying our relationship.  Sawyer is teaching me patience and reliance on God.  He's the one child where I feel like he doesn't truly receive my instruction.  So I have to trust God to get to his heart without much help from me.  Other than prayer.  Sawyer also teaches me prayer.  He's also been a good source of communication between Jay and I.  It often goes "I just don't know what to do with him anymore!" sob.  "Me neither." sigh.  Sawyer, God definitely gave him to us to teach us something.  He's also very snuggly.  Touch is definitely his love language and unfortunately he doesn't believe in personal space.  Academically he's smart as a whip and just going along with preschool level activities.  He'll be more than ready for kindergarten this coming fall.

And quiet time.  Quiet time is a new favorite blessing of mine.  Sierra only naps sporadically and when she does she doesn't want to go to bed on time that night and then she becomes over tired and it's a vicious cycle.  So I've read numerous places on other mommy blogs about quiet time.  The whole family participates and it lasts for varied amounts of time in different households.  This week we began with 20 minutes.  I have the boys sit on their own beds with books.  I put Sierra in my room with me on the little toddler couch with some board books.  She doesn't quite get the quiet part of quiet time but I think that the intentional rest is really good for everyone.  We do it shortly after lunch.  Probably midweek next week I'll increase it to 30 minutes and eventually my goal is for a full hour.  Today I read my bible during quiet time and I think that would be an excellent habit to get into. 

Polar bear snacks.  We're learning about polar bears and the arctic in school this week and next and these polar bear faces were fun little snacks.  Poor Colton thought that the base was a rice crispy treat but it was in fact a rice cake.  Two VERY different things.  Unmet expectations right there. lol

And so those are a few of the blessings I can count today.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Making hard choices

We've made choices in our lives.  Before we met we each made choices.  After we met we've each made choices.  Since our marriage we have together made many many choices.  Some really bad ones.  Some super good ones such as four monkeys and moving back to my hometown with them.

While doing our budget for the new year this past week we had to make some choices.  Well mostly I make the choices, I convey what I'm thinking to KOJ and he generally agrees with me.  If he doesn't agree he says so and then I sometimes agree with him.  It's not an argumentative subject for us.  I mean I totally see where money can be a problematic subject in marriages but it's really not in ours.  It's not more important than loving one another or loving God.

So back to the choices.  Perhaps I should mention here that we are down to one vehicle and have been since about last August or September.  It's a real bummer.  BUT I've gotten mostly used to being back to one vehicle.  Our insurance costs are less on one vehicle.  The kids and I didn't do a ton outside of the house during the weekdays anyway.  There are times it's inconvenient but really having a vehicle at all is a luxury to most of the world.

The library and two parks as well as the local fountains are within easy walking distance from our home for summer activities.  There's a river walk in close proximity too that the kids love to walk to.  We can see the train tracks from the end of our block.  I prefer to shop on the weekends without the kids in tow anyhow.

So we had to make a decision.  A few actually.  The first decision was about replacing our second vehicle.  We have been planning to use tax return money to do so.  We are still planning on that.  However my dad advises us that tax time is THE WORST time to buy a car.  Waiting until fall will get you more car for the same money.  So we had to decide to wait or buy once the money is in.  We have decided to wait.  We will wait until September/October and hopefully get a really good deal on a very fuel efficient vehicle.

Deciding to wait on the second car forced us to make other decisions regarding the children's summer activities.  The past two years Kayd has played little league ball, last year Colton was able to play also.  Not having a second vehicle would make it pretty much impossible to get to all the games on time so we had to decide to forgo baseball this summer.  Last year Kayd was super blessed to get to go to daycamp with a ton of our church friends but without a second vehicle I have no way to get him there this year and so we had to choose to forgo daycamp.  Colton is old enough for daycamp this year too so it's even more of a bummer.

It hurts my mama heart to not be able to give my kids the entire world on a platter.  But I know deep down that they're lives aren't going to be ruined by one summer of less running around and fewer activities.  Daycamp and little league ball are optional activities.  My children have a home, they have plenty of food in their bellies, they have parents who love each other and them, they have God.  My children really don't lack for what's important in life and I think that I would do well to remember that. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Homeschooling is FUN!

Oh I've just been so excited about homeschooling.  I get to do a few fun posts in August/September for the Not Back to School blog hop.  And sometimes I manage to get a post up of what the kids have been doing and include some pictures.  But I found in the first half of our school year this year that I was too busy doing school with the kids to really take many pictures of what we were doing.  Imagine that.  Shocker I know.

It occurs to me though that I could chat about how our homeschooling is going without any pictures if I want to.  It is my blog.  Duh.  Yeah I'm not always too quick thinking.

So how is it going?  Well we took off the last half of November and all of December from formal school.  Our days were filled with "socializing" with siblings and learning skills like sharing and not driving mommy crazy (they haven't quite mastered that one yet but some days I see improvements) and occassional Christmas activities.  But January 2nd we were back at it.  I used some time in December to start planning ahead for what we would learn about in January, I even created a pinterest board for our January subjects and set about to pinning.  I also set about to printing off stuff for our notebooking (which we're not very good at but we keep trying anyway).

Kayd is still working through his MUS - tomorrow he'll start lesson 25 out of 30.  I don't think it's going to last the entire school year.  Guess I might want to look into purchasing the gamma set soon. 

He's still working through the Scott Foresman free grammar.  We stumbled onto this last year about 3/4 of the way through the year and he's almost done with the 1st grade level.  We'll just keep working through this for the remainder of the school year and pick back up wherever he leaves off in the fall.  I want to mention that it seems like we're "behind" but Kayd is easily picking up the concepts being taught and won't have any problem getting up to speed by the end of 3rd grade next year.  If we had found this curriculum earlier last school year he would be much further along in.  We don't play catch up.  We go at the pace we go and get done when we get done.  This is one of the things I appreciate about home schooling.

We're still using AAS, though I will be honest and admit we haven't actually done a lesson yet since returning from break.  We're on lesson 13 out of 25 whenever we do return to it and will easily finish before the end of Kayd's 2nd grade school year.  No worries though because I already have level 3 and 4 sitting on my teacher shelves.  We'll just move on when we need to.

For some handwriting practice I have Kayd doing a calendar notebook each day.  In it he marks down what day of school we're on, the date on a calendar page, and then he writes out the date in words.  He also gets some handwriting with his grammar pages.  Most of his handwriting practice comes when we work on our Social studies subject though.

And that brings me to what we're doing for social studies/history/geography.  I'm actually really excited about how this shaped up, what he's learning, and how much fun it is for him and the rest of us.  He found early on in the school year he loved Magic Tree House books.  I found that these books have new Fact Tracker companions - not all but a decent number of them. 

He instigated by reading the one about mummies and we did a study on Egypt, mummies, heiroglyphs etc.  His primary reading is the Magic Tree House book and it's fact tracker.  We do pick up additional books on the topics we're learning about though for more fact checking.  I have him read the fiction story first.  We follow that up with the fact tracker.  Yesterday, he finished Polar Bears Past Bedtime.  I was able to find a free comprehension question pack to use with this book and did so.  I plan to find these to use with the rest of our books for the year also because it ensures me that he's soaking up what he's reading.  Today he began reading the fact tracker Polar Bears and the Arctic.  He gets so excited about these.  I think non-fiction is his favorite reading. lol  He excitedly showed me the arctic circle in his book.  And there he marked off a geography lesson.  I love doing the units like this for a few reasons.  One is that he reads the material himself, so I'm not having to teach to him, I'm not very good at teaching to him, so it's a relief that this works well for him.  Two is that he reads the material for himself and it frees up the time he's reading for me to work with the younger crew.  Now the younger crew learns about the same topic as Kayd. I seek out books at the library on the same topic but that are age appropriate picture books.  We've been reading books involving the arctic and polar bears this week.  They learn a few facts along the way, and enjoy some reading time with mom.  The third reason is that it is flexible.  We can focus on polar bears, focus on the arctic region, explore other animals that live there, or even research the explorers who have gone to the arctic region.  It encompasses for Kayd: reading, reading comprehension, geography, science, social studies, and often writing.  I cannot see us ever moving away from a literary based unit approach of learning.  It works very well for us.

I can't believe how intimidated I was and still sometimes get at this homeschooling thing.  It's so fun!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Compromise and balance are important

Sometimes I think I get so wrapped up in my to do lists.  The things surrounding me that must be done.  Let's face it.  There will ALWAYS be something more to do.  ALWAYS.  My husband accused me of never making time for fun.  I, in return, accused him of never making time for responsibilities.  We've reached a cross roads.  One in which we are both going to have to make a concerted effort to go against our own natural instincts.  Mine to forge on doing things that MUST be done, and his to forge on ignoring responsibilities in favor of fun times.  We both have to move on this.  I could decide to "schedule" fun and do things with him and the kids on purpose to ensure that our lives aren't drained of all fun things.  But if he doesn't in return schedule time to be responsible eventually I'll just resent him.  See, if he helps with the things that I feel are forefront on the responsibilities list then we can get 1.5 times as much done (yes, 1.5 because, lets be honest here, men work more slowly on housekeeping stuff than women who have far more practice - at least my man does) and having the responsibilities done to a certain point will allow me to feel free to enjoy fun times with my family. 

Likewise I have to remember, even during the week days while he is not here, to balance the never ending to do's with having fun with my kids. I  have to remember that the laundry can wait 15 min while I read books with Sierra.  I have to remember that I have an opportunity right now as a mama to teach my boys to schedule time for responsibility as well as for fun and I have an opportunity to teach my daughter to make time for fun and not get too lost in the responsibilities of life.  I have an opportunity to teach them a balance that my husband and I have to work hard to achieve and often we get derailed at remembering to compromise.

So here's to hoping that we can compromise, that my to do lists can get done, that fun can be had, that peace can exist somewhere in our rowdy home.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sew Saturday: It's a dress, or two, or three, or four

So I did a LOT of sewing in December.  My lovely new Janome sewing machine has definitely been put to a decent amount of work in the first month and a half of living in my home.

Today I want to showcase the dresses that I made for my nieces, my daughter, and my sister. 

I used the same pattern for the top of all four of the bigger girls' dresses, my daughter's used the 2t size and the other three used the 4-7 size.  I got the pattern here at Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom and I stumbled across it through pinterest of course!

I did three different sleeve styles.  For my nieces I just hemmed the sleeves.  My sister told me just before I was about to add elastic that her girls hate elastic so I left it out and called it good.  I put elastic in the hem casing on Sierra's dress and for my sister I took super thin elastic and sewed it about an inch above the hem to create a ruffled look.  I don't think I took any pictures of my sister's dress.  Grr.  Maybe I'll get one of her in it and share it in the future.

For the skirts on Sierra's dress and the dresses I made my nieces I created a ruffle layer skirt.  I found the tutorial for that here at Family Friendly Frugality.  I read through that and the links she linked to for tips on doing this and then I just kinda set to work.  The dress flows really nicely on Sierra though I had initially envisioned more ruffle to the layers than I ended up with.

I do not have a ruffle foot for my machine - though I may see if I can get one sooner than later because I like sewing ruffle things for girlies.  So I just sewed the loosest straight stitch possible and pulled the bobbin thread to create the ruffles.

My sister's dress is full length the patterned material with white sleeves and a white ruffle at the bottom.  I made her bottom ruffle very full and did like it a lot.

I also used this same pattern to create a nightgown out of flannel for my sister.  I left the sleeves on it just simply hemmed and I really liked how cute and simple it looked.  I plan to put one together for Sierra in the VERY near future.

Hope you enjoyed seeing my latest sewing adventures.

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year, same old goals

It came to my attention last night that some of my older posts no longer have the pictures I put in them.  I have NO idea why.  If anyone reading has any tips on getting my pictures back please do comment.  Putting pictures in my posts is part of why I don't blog as often as I want because it takes a bit of time to get the pics on here and where I want them etc.

So I didn't really post about New Year's resolutions (I don't think, I haven't reread my most recent posts so I could have and not remembered it) so this is that post.

I'm really bad at follow through.  Especially when I put it out there in a public forum.  But this year I've been bad at follow through and I haven't written it all out yet so I thought maybe just maybe this time the follow through will come with the writing it out and sharing it part.  We'll see I suppose.

New Year's resolutions when I was a young girl were fun and exciting and ever attainable.  I did not at the age of 16 understand why so many adults were more cynical about them.  Now I am thirty and I understand.  Life as a teen is so much more simple than life as a mom to four kids.  My time was MINE back then.  Now it is my children's and my husband's time.  But still I push on.  My kids are getting to ages where they can be more helpful, and also where they can at least go play and occupy themselves and each other while I accomplish the things I want to accomplish.

I want to keep my goals real and attainable.  My goals are things that I feel are important at this time for me, for my family.  They also reflect in part that we are a homeschooling family.

My Goals for 2013:

For me:
1. Be more consistent with one on one time with the kids - actually being present with them a bit each day.
2. Workout more consistently.
3. Daily devotions

For my home:
1. Dishwasher - empty 1st thing in the morning and run EVERY night, full or not.
2. Spend time each day working on an organizing task/cleaning project.
3. Find a routine that works for us and stick to it.

So I'm going to start with this.  One step in the right direction is still an improvement right?  RIGHT! 

Come back tomorrow to see what I have to share for my Sew Saturday post!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year and a reorganized closet

It is a new year.  A new day.  I took the opportunity on January 1st 2013 to do a small reorganization project.  One that I decided I wanted to do a couple days before the new year but didn't have the time to tackle.  See I wanted the big brown shelf out of the bathroom closet for my craft room to organize my fabric onto.  I was also quite tired of how my bathroom closet looked.  It was time for a change.

 So first I took the broken door off the doorway.  I plan to replace it with a brightly colored curtain soon.  Then I threw out anything that was expired.  I brought the set of plastic drawers in out of my craft room.  I was able to move most of what was on that brown shelf into the drawers. 


I didn't want to put the pump top items in the drawers though because they were too tall to stand in the drawers and I was afraid that having them lying down would cause leakage.  So I moved my stuff out of the white baskets on the top shelf and re-purposed them.  The bottom one has travel sized bathroom stuff and the top has all the pump top stuff and Sierra's hair spray - it keeps her baby fine hair in her braids. 

I also moved the toilet paper up off the floor.  I did that for two reasons. One is that the kids are constantly wasting toilet paper by unrolling them about the house - this is mainly Sierra but sometimes Sawyer or Colton as well.  The second is that the kids are constantly flooding the floor whether playing in the sink when they shouldn't or splashing too much at bath time.  This will keep the toilet paper safe.  I did leave one roll of toilet paper in the black metal toilet paper holder to the left of the plastic drawers so that the kids could get it if they run out. 

Other than the curtain and rod I plan to install soon I didn't spend a dime to reorganize this closet.  I already had the towel baskets on hand, traded out the main piece of furniture for a different one in another space etc.  It really feels much cleaner and brighter and more open now that I have taken the time to pare things down and organize it nicely in there.

I'm linking up today with One Project At a Time sponsored by A Bowl Full of Lemons.  Go check out the other great projects other people in blogland have done!