Showing posts from July, 2014

Homeschool planning

My family wants me back. I want the family room end of my kitchen back. I want to be done planning this year's school work and I am so close to being done. Every year I mistakenly think that I can have the school planning done in a week and this year I won't let it take over my life. And every year I am wrong. Want to see how wrong?

This wrong. It's not a pretty sight and everyone, including myself, is pretty tired of the obstacle course. What you see here nearly every resource we (me and my 9 students) will be using for the next school year. We have kindergarten, we have grade school interest-based projects, we have art lessons, we have high school curricula. All in a nice neat pile. (cough)

Some of the things we will be studying are the human body, the middles ages, Lewis and Clark, bookbinding, nine picture books to use Five in a Row style, and lots and lots of art projects. P. will be working on the history of Japan and A. wants to study the history of police work. Oh,…

Another unexpected biology lesson

(Warning... this lesson did not have a happy ending. You have been forewarned.)
We are over run with rabbits in our neighborhood. They are everywhere. When I come back home in the early evening, it is not uncommon to find five rabbits sitting in my yard happily eating the hostas. They even have babies in a warren in the middle of my front yard. Nearly every year. The only house on the block that routinely has many children running around it. No one said they were bright.
This year we have had an uncommonly large number of little baby rabbits hopping about. They are cute, but... the children are in love with them. They want to hold them and love them and squeeze them and pat them on their cute little heads. TM really wanted to try to catch on and make it a pet. (Yes, I know that it doesn't work to try to make a pet a of wild bunny, but not everyone wants to hear that.) The bunnies are also very fast. They will let you get within a foot or so of them, and just when you think you co…

Another addition to the 'good books for boys' list

The boys and I finished reading another book last night and everyone loved it. It is Ali and the Golden Eagle by Wayne Grover. It is sadly out of print, but there are plenty of used copies for sale. (Just to remind everyone, if you buy something through one of my Amazon links, it helps us a little over here.) I happened to come across a description of it in the Rainbow Resources catalogue as I was reading it last month and thought it sounded interesting, and a change from the Three Investigators. (Yes, I read the giant 2000+ page homeschooling catalogue that arrives under my mailbox every year. It's a quirk, but it often pays off.)

What I hadn't realized when we started reading it is that it was a true story about an American who worked for an US oil company in Saudi Arabia in the 70's. In the course of his wanderings around the area where he lived he happened upon a remote village deep in a canyon and befriends the people who live there. They are excellent falconers and t…

Stonehenge in blocks

K. is continuing in his desire to recreate buildings and structures that he sees out of blocks. We have a postcard collection and I try to ask people to bring us a postcard if they think of it, when they go somewhere interesting. A friend of ours recently returned from England and she brought us a postcard of Stonehenge. (Thank you, Patti!) K. has been a wee bit obsessed with this postcard and every time he tried to build Stonehenge yesterday, Godzilla (aka HGbaby) would come along and knock it down. HG is out today so the coast was free and clear to construct Stonehenge.

Child collector

For those of you in the adoption world with more than the appropriate (ie under 6, though that might be a stretch) number of children, you read the title and your hackles are already up. But others of you might have never heard of, or at least thought about the term before. I personally find it vile and demeaning to the utmost.

What is it, you ask? It is a term bandied about that refers to people who adopt (collect) children, often in amounts larger than deemed acceptable. It has overtones of abuse and neglect and is pretty consistently used in regard to cases of adoption, abuse, and neglect. Can we just end the use of the term period, and call it what it is, which would be serial abuse? To call it 'child collecting' is to both minimize the abuse and demean the children involved to the status of thing. This is not the use of the term that has rankled me in recent days, though.

A few days ago I was reading a blog and was reading the comments when I came across a particularly di…

O glorious day

Yesterday morning was so beautiful here... deep blue sky, no humidity, temperatures in the upper 70's... that I decided we needed to go somewhere outside. So we made an impromptu picnic (and by we, I mean HG made the sandwiches and I took a shower) and set out for the Chicago Botanic Gardens. It was one of those perfect days where you could walk in the sunshine and not feel too hot, so it was wonderful to be able to walk around the gardens.

Some pictures from our outing:

Water lilies... I love water lilies
Most of the group
The waterfall... the place the children always want to visit and could stay at for hours
TM, D., G., L., K., and HG4
Beautiful day, isn't it?
D., K., and G.
D., TM, and P. (The little people were annoyed I didn't let them go down, too. Funny, I just didn't feel like fishing little people out of the water.)
A view of two of the Japanese island gardens
I've set a bad precedent, though. When today dawned as nice as yesterday, everyone inst…

Why I've stayed up far too late reading

I just finished reading Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis. They are sort of hard to classify as to what kind of books they are. The library classes them as science fiction since time travel plays a part in the plot, but they are also really excellent historical fiction. Hang in there with me if you heard science fiction and are ready to move on. I'll explain. The conceit of both books is that the year is 2060 and time travel has been invented (discovered?). The way time travel works is that anyone travelling back in time can do nothing to change history and the mechanism for time travel will not allow anyone through if there is a chance they could affect history. Thus, historians are the only ones who use the technology so that they can travel to a certain period, blend in with the people and observe history first hand.

In this pair of books, the Blitz in London is the main focus of the historians' study. I found the best part of the book to be the descriptions of what l…

A different biology lesson

I think we have solved at least one of the mysteries I wrote about over the weekend. All morning at Saturday various children kept staring at the monarch caterpillar trying to decide it if was really and truly dead. (It was, but hope springs eternal and no one seemed to believe me.) Thus it was that several children had front row seats to a very different biology lesson than watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly. Instead they received a lesson on...

Parasites of the Butterfly World.

And it was gross. As they were watching, they saw the back of the caterpillar split open and some sort of larva emerged from the caterpillar. It was light green and almost as big as the caterpillar. There was a general uproar and it took a minute for me to fully understand what many children had run to tell me. Seeing the larva out of the caterpillar was yucky enough, I was glad that I didn't see it emerge. Eeewww!

I did manage to find another monarch caterpillar who was very, very small. I am ho…

The mysteries of life

Aside from the perpetual question of what happens to single socks, why is it that...

Every single time I walk by the children's bathroom I must flush the toilet and turn out the lights... even if I walked by it just five minutes before?

I routinely pick up random nails and screws which appear on the ground?

There seems to be some force which repels game instructions from being placed inside the game box?

There are no pens in the drawer (or anywhere else) even though I buy them by the bucketful?

and related to that...

Why are there no erasers on the nearly new pencils?


What is going on with the monarch caterpillar who seems to be trying to turn into a chrysalis but, from experience, I know he is not nearly big enough?

I think he is dead. Perhaps he had secret hopes of joining L.'s pet collection. That makes us 0 for 2 in raising caterpillars this year, which is odd because we have raised them successfully (in the same way) many times in previous years.

Life with L.

Life with L. is never dull. She is currently sitting on my lap because her "pet" [read dead] moth has disappeared. She was happily playing with her pet and now he has vanished. It's terribly sad because now the moth cannot meet the "pet" [read dead] lady bug she keeps in her room. I think it would be an understatement to say that L. has an active imagination.

Two nights ago, as people were getting ready for bed, I noticed L. had found a small electronic game which she was using as a cell phone. She had it up to her and was pacing and talking and gesturing with her other hand. (I'm sure that reminds me of someone I know. M. claims it is me.) I just happened to overhear a brief part of her conversation. To listen to it, it sounded all the world like any other conversation you would overhear when an adult is talking on their phone.

L.: What the heck do you mean?!
(Pauses to listen to reply)
L..: I have two suggestions...

She then goes on to elaborate on these …

Unusually ordinary

The Hearts at Home link-up prompt today is "Loving your Ordinary," or something like that. This seems a perfect topic for me given the name of my blog and the number of times I've written about the topic. (Ordinary Times and Purpose in the Ordinary are two past posts from quite some time ago and you may not have seen them.) I actually wondered for a minute if I really had anything different to say after I went back and read those posts. They seem to pretty much cover it.

And then I got to thinking about some of the various comments I've heard over the past several years. Comments that would seem to imply that there is nothing ordinary about my life. There seems to be a tension there. Parts of my life seem terribly, terribly ordinary. I cook and go grocery shopping, do laundry, read stories to children, apply numerous band-aids, pick-up toys, pay bills, just like nearly every other mother around. It's not terribly exciting. Important, yes, but there's nothing …

Being a creative family

Our current lunch time read aloud is Applewhites at Wit's End by Stephanie Tolan. It is the sequel to Surviving the Applewhites which we have listened to more than once and all love. If you haven't read either of them, the first book has all the right components... bad boy makes good; large, crazy family; and let's put a show on in the barn... all rolled into one. An added bonus is that the Applewhites are homeschoolers and rarely have I seen such a realistic portrayal of homeschooling in main stream fiction. The sequel, which we are in the middle of has the Applewhites strapped for cash and so decide to run a camp for creative children. We are all enjoying it.

The reason they chose to run a creative camp is that every single one of the Applewhites is some sort of an artist. (Well, all but one, which is part of the plot of the first book.) This plays into my enjoyment of the book because I have always been a little obsessed with large families populated with creative peopl…

Summer homeschooling tasks

I realize that in a good year, there are certain things I do throughout the summer that makes the school year go more smoothly. Last year was not a good year and I had zero desire to do anything, much less think about school. Stress will do that to you. So, if you are feeling as though you are barely keeping your head above water because various of your children are going through a rougher patch than normal, just don't read this; you don't need more guilt. For you I would prescribe respite in any way you can get it and doing the much harder work of connecting with your child. Been there, done that, we're in a much better place this year.

I think because there has been such a difference between this year and last that I am more aware of what normal looks like, as opposed to just survival. I realized that there some important things I do now that makes for a smoother school year. Here is my short list.

1. I clean my house. Let's be honest and say that cleaning is rather …

Advocating again

The cousins leave today and I imagine everyone will be feeling a bit sad and at loose ends most of the day. It has been so fun to watch the cousins all play together. They are all in the same age range and get along terrifically. I must come up with a plan for when they pull out of the driveway.

In the meantime, I will remind you about two little girls who still need families.

First is Grace. She has a repaired heart defect and has waited so long for a family. Why has no one chosen her?

Second is Ting. I am fairly certain that she share the same genetic condition as H. She needs a family. Are you her family.

If anyone is interested in adopting either of these two little girls, please contact me. I can put you in touch with the people you need to talk to.

And I leave you with an article to ponder about When Enough is Enough.

A month o' cousins

We currently have 19 people living in the Big Ugly House. J's brother and his family are staying with us for a few days and it's been great to catch up and let cousins get reacquainted. There has a been a lot of playing and a lot of over-tired children. Last night we had a big family reunion with all of J.'s siblings and their families... with still more cousins and still more playing and still more over-tired children. 
My children are blessed with an abundance of cousins. Between both sides of the family, there are 14 first cousins and they are all in the same age range as mine. Since I only had one brother and no cousins growing up, this makes me so happy. 
Lots of aunts and uncles... lots of cousins (of all sorts, first cousins, first cousins-once-removed, and second cousins) all of whom we see on a fairly regular basis. It is an embarrassment of riches. 
Now, back to the fun.

What changed your mind?

A friend of mine wrote a post asking this question and I've been thinking about my answer to it every since. First some context. That would be changing your mind about pursuing adoption. What pushes a person into action? What moves someone from thinking that something is a good idea in the abstract and pushes them into action? So I've been wondering what was it that did it for me.

I usually tell people that I'd always been interested in adopting, but that is sort of a vague statement and doesn't really describe why it had even occurred to me to think about. After a little pondering, I remembered by obsession with the DeBolts. Many of you probably remember the made-for-TV documentary called, Who are the DeBolts and Where did they get 19 Kids? I loved it. It fascinated me and fed my desire as a child to live in a large family. The fact that it was a multi-racial family and many of the children had disabilities added to its appeal. As I grew up, the TV show faded in my me…

Ending the freak show mentality

I have been doing some research into resources for families with children with facial differences and I have discovered two things. First, the reasons for having or developing a facial difference are many and varied. It is such an unique problem for each individual. There are some syndromes which are more common than others and present with pretty much the same issues, but common is a relative word and for the most part these syndromes are fairly rare.

The second thing I've discovered is that it is something that is very seldom talked about... at least based on my cursory search. If you Google blogs about raising a child with cerebral palsy or cleft lip and palate or spina bifida or limb differences, you immediately get dozens of helpful articles and blogs by parents travelling this road with their children. If you Google blogs about raising a child with a facial deformity, well you get the modern version of the circus sideshow. There's not a lot that's helpful or supporti…

More laminator love

A couple of weeks ago I spent some quality time with my laminator. I had purchased a Kumon book a while back thinking it would be good for some of my people working on learning their numbers. And I was right, it is. I really like some of the Kumon stuff. It's on good, heavy paper, the graphics are appealing, and they do some good incremental review that isn't found in regular math texts. All of this good stuff comes with a price and I needed four of them. Plus, my crew needed even more repetition than doing a page just once would give. The little girls tear through workbooks like they are candy, sometimes with about as much thought. H. and K. could use some significant repetition. I liked the book, but didn't want to keep buying more and more copies of it. 
Enter the laminator. I took the book apart and laminated each page, then hole punched them and put them in a binder. (Thus giving me the double satisfaction of using the laminator and putting things in binders. Bliss.)

Making progress

M. has finished painting the walls of the boys' room and is now working on the Bible verses which will go up on their walls. Yes, she is doing this freehand.

More soggy camping

We spent the holiday weekend in Iowa with my brother and his family. My parents were also there, so it was a great big family reunion. Minus M....  sniff.

We camped because my brother's house is not huge and certainly not big enough to house 14 extra people. Plus, we're cheap and didn't want to spend money on hotel rooms, so we camped on his lawn. Here is our little tent city we set-up. Look carefully, there are four tents out there.

We helped do some work around the property.

Cousins did a lot of this,

And this....

And we did some more work. (This is A.)

There are great trees to climb.

More cousin bonding. This is B. and his same-age cousin.

J. helped to put up a tire swing. I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures of my husband and brother throwing the croquet ball up into the tree to get the rope around the very high branch. A video would have been even better.

All of my parents' grandchildren. (Minus M.... sniff.... sense a theme?)

(Almost) the…

Simplicity 4927

I've been doing just a little bit of sewing, despite the fact I have several things cut out and sitting on my sewing table. Here are a pair of dresses I did get done. It's a very simple pattern, yet because I've been enjoying the nice weather just a bit too much, it took me a month. After I made them, I discovered a bonus. They are big enough and the style and color of the dresses is just right to put over longer layers in the fall and keep using them. I love that.

My two little models were feeling cooperative when I took pictures of them in their dresses. G. has a pair of pink sandals that match L.'s purple ones, but they must have been kicked off when she came in from church. J. and I think they are not looking quite so look-alike in these pictures... or is it just us?

(L. on left and G. on right)

And as a bonus, I was able to use some of my grandmother's antique buttons for the fasteners. You gotta love dresses without zippers of button holes (these use elastic …