Showing posts from January, 2015

Child sponsorship... or I should have been selling Skillet t-shirts

Last night, J. and I took P., H., TM, and D. to the Winter Jam concert. We got in free because we were volunteering with one of our adoption agencies, Holt International, who was sponsoring the concert. J. had P., TM, and D. with him inside the concert and passed out sponsorship folder during intermission and H. and I sat outside the concert at one of the child sponsorship tables. That was perfect for both of us. We could hear the music, but it wasn't quite so deafening. (I was also a little afraid of what the noise, lights, and over-stimulation would do to H. as far as seizures.) H. had a ball. She is such a people-person. She sat at the table and smiled and waved and said hello to everyone who passed by. At first I couldn't understand why people were coming up to us to say hello when they weren't greeting the other people working the table. Then I caught the Miss America waving and smiling going on and understood. I also bought us some pizza slices and sodas, thus H. dec…

My newest favorite cookbook

I like to add food into our learning whenever possible and studying the Silk Road seemed like a perfect fit. The first thing to do, of course, was to find a book. I had found one at the library and it was OK, but I wasn't wild about it. It was very glossy with lots of color pictures. I have found that while these books are beautiful to look at, their value as actual cookbooks isn't all that much. While doing a more intensive book search on Amazon, I found another book. (An aside... I always felt as though I were cheating a little bit when I used Amazon to search for titles and then looked for those specific titles in my library's catalogue. That is until a librarian was helping me find a book at one point and did the very same thing.) This book, though was not available at my library or any of the libraries in its inter-library loan group. The book looked so intriguing that I did something I rarely do and went ahead and bought it.

I am so glad I did! The book is The Silk R…

"But you asked for it"

This has been rolling around in my head for quite some time, but before I go on, I must write a disclaimer. We're fine. I have no trouble with telling people when life is hard or being truthful about what life looks like... and most of the time it actually looks pretty OK. So, if you read this and are suddenly concerned that it is a desperate, silent cry for help... it's not. Still, others don't quite feel as comfortable sharing when life is hard (often for a reason) and that is what I want to address.

I have contact with a lot of different people. It won't surprise you that many of them of mothers of large families, mothers of adopted children, or both. When more than a few of these mothers get together, there is often a common theme that arises in the discussion. That is, when they are with other people who 'get' them, there is a freedom to kvetch and share the hard stuff. Now I know that this is natural. When you are with a group of people who have the same …

Ideas for high school

A reader asked on my post about A. graduating from high school early what are some of the things we've done that haven't been exclusively text book based. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but here are some of the 'classes' my various high schoolers have done.

B. received a credit for Apiology (that would be bee keeping). He reads dozens of books and magazine, took a class offered by a local bee keeper's group, and built and kept his own hive.

All of my high schoolers have earned at least one credit in Sound Technology. That would be the live, hands-on working of how to run a sound board, do recordings, and run live sound for an event. It is a lot of practical experience learning from an adult who knows what they are doing. None of them have listened to things the same since having this experience.

We have made use of many of the Great Courses CD's to supplement various classes. M. did linguistics and B. did quite a few economics lectures. These would …

Learning through dissection

(Warning... I'm including pictures of what we were doing with our dissection projects. Please, DO NOT scroll down if this is a problem for you.)

Because you just never know what you are going to find when you visit here....

In my very informal and non-scientific poll on the Ordinary Time facebook page, some people indicated interest in seeing our dissection projects. We just finished the second one this morning.

We have studying the human body and the different body systems. Really, one of the very best ways to really see and understand body systems is through dissection. It helps that M. has always loved dissection and comes equipped with her own dissection tools. (It was a Christmas gift one year.)

 The first thing M. dissected with everyone was a pig heart.
(And now you're going to have to scroll down a little bit because I don't want anyone to accidentally see the pictures if they don't want to.)

She found a valve and everyone could see how it opens and closes.
I h…

Instant Wedding

What do you do when one of your best friends asks you to host her daughter's wedding at your house... in 24 hours? Say, yes, of course, and be thrilled that you can do this for a dear friend and an equally dear almost-daughter.

I love the fact that all my children will pitch-in and help when the situation calls for it. Between the efforts of the whole family, with some significant decorating help by M, A., and H. H-S, we were ready at 6 pm when the guests started to arrive.

The bride was P23 whom I've known since she was 4. (Sniff.) Her favorite color is yellow, so that's what we went with. It seems I have a lot of decorative-type stuff kicking around my house. I only had to make a run out to the store for yellow ribbon and yellow candles.

Welcome everyone! There's going to be a wedding!

We needed to come up with seating for 43 people.

The 12 and younger crowd were in the kitchen.

The living room where the ceremony took place.

Store-bought cake with decoration by AL H-…

Permission to talk

I've noticed something and I wonder if other people have as well. I don't sit and do nothing very well, and since I do a lot of waiting in doctor's offices, this is a constant challenge. My first line of defense is to always carry a book with me. The trouble is, I am often waiting in doctor's offices with a child and it seems a bit rude to bury my nose in a book and ignore him or her. So I have a knitting bag that always has a project in it and I drag around with me. I can knit, not have to sit and do nothing, and still pay attention to my child. It works. As a bonus, I have made a lot of small knitted projects over the past few months.

Now, when I have a book in my hands or (horror) don't have anything to do, no one approaches me. Everyone sits in their individual bubble and politely ignores each other. But, when I am knitting, it is another thing entirely. I would say that at least once (sometimes more) when I am knitting in a waiting room, someone will start a c…

Book Binding... or why I think I should get to go to bed now

It all started late this summer when I was planning school. At the library, I happened across the book, Handmade Book for Everyday Adventures by Erin Zamrzla. I have always been interested in making books, but it actually trying it just had never happened. Well, I opened the book and I was hooked. Hooked to the extent that I actually bought myself my own copy. There are all sorts of ideas for all sorts of different books and instructions for sewing them all together. Then, as I was planning thMap Art Lab:e last bit of our school year about maps, I came across Map Art Lab by Jill K. Berry and Linden McNeilly. What could be better than a book that combined maps and art projects? I bought that one as well.

Those books were percolating in the back of my head as I was planning our unit of Marco Polo and the Silk Road. And it all came together. I'm always looking for creative ways to document what we've learned. So, in the art book I had read about line maps (a sort of linear illust…

Teaching reading

For most children, teaching reading follows a similar pattern (and it starts earlier than you think.) First there is just the familiarity with print. Seeing it around, watching people use it, discovering that those marks mean something, learning that those marks can tell an interesting story. If a child is exposed to print in their environment and has been read to, they can usually tell which direction is right side up for most words, even if they can't read them. They get used to how the shapes look and they don't look right upside down. Once this familiarity is there, a child then wants to know what a letter is. They start learning each letter and the sound it makes. Then they need to start hearing those sounds in the words they use. First at the beginning, then the end, and finally the middle. If you can't sort out the individual sounds in a word there is no way you can sound a word out. Each step builds on another.

Once the letter sounds are learned and the idea that w…

Graduating early

Graduating from school early seems to be a theme for this school year. M. graduated from college a semester early this past December and A. plans on graduating from high school a year early this June. She is working on college applications and major test preparation.

Someone had asked about this, so I thought I would give it a brief mention.

A. has always been my eager over-achiever. She is the one who taught herself to read. She is the one who had HAD to do things the other bigger people were doing. She was tenacious and a bit precocious as a small child. (Those are nice words for extremely stubborn preschooler. Personality traits which work extremely well in an adult and not always quite so pretty in a small child.) She was always the one pushing me to get her textbooks and chafed a bit at our pretty loose version of school.

It didn't surprise me when she announced last summer that she wanted to take a college class this fall. By this time we knew the routine and J. helped to ge…

Choosing Joy

I was going to write a post about the beginnings of our unit study on Marco Polo and the Silk Road. I'll still do that, but today I want to share something else. My real-life friend wrote a very moving post describing her daughter's day. I've met this child. She is sweet and personable and you can't help falling in love with her. My heart aches for the pain she has endured... and still endures.

She is also a humbling reminder to me. Joy is a choice. We don't have to wait for perfect circumstances to choose to be joyful. In fact, if we were to wait, we would probably never get to experience joy. Please, even if you don't tend to click through to links, take the time to read this one. It's worth the effort.

Seriously Blessed: A Day in the Life of Jasmine


I've been on an organizing kick for the past two weeks. Sometimes your house just gets to a certain point that you can't stand it anymore and I reached that point. After stuff accumulating and not getting put away (or thrown away), it just becomes too much.

When I'm in an organizing phase, I tend to want to read organizing books. I had heard about one mentioned that sounded intriguing, so I checked it out of the library. It was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering by Marie Kondo. It sounded promising and I was looking forward to reading it. Well, it was interesting in an unexpected way. That is, the author is a little bit nutty, in my humble opinion and I had to read certain parts more than once to be sure what I read was really what I read. No, I'm sorry, I don't think I'm going to take the time to thank my purse and shoes and clothes for their work for me at the end of each day. Nor am I going to stop turning the tops of my …

Adventures at the grocery store

Sometimes you just have to take your adventures where you can find them. I do love the little grocery store where I shop. It's in the next town over which is one of the most diverse cities in Illinois; a town where more than 100 languages are spoken at home. As a result, the grocery store where I shop caters to a very diverse audience... I can find fruits, vegetables, and groceries there that I just can't find in a more traditional American grocery store. I feel a little spoiled and a friend and I have entire conversations about what we would stock up on if we ever moved away to a less diverse area. It's so diverse that if you covered up the English signs and just set someone down in the middle of the store, I imagine they would be hard-pressed to figure out what country they were in. Bhangra music often plays on the music system (which is actually quite fun to shop to) and it is possible to hear multiple languages as you walk up and down the aisles.

I mentioned that I can…

Back to Ordinary Time

We are now in the second week of Ordinary Time according to the church liturgical calendar. It's not a surprise that I named this blog after the two seasons of non-holiday time in the church calendar. I both love Ordinary Time and find it extremely challenging. With the other seasons... Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter... there is a goal, special occasions, celebrations that set-aside those seasons as something special. We love holidays, but they can sometimes be exhausting and it feels good to get back to normal. Holidays can also help us to forget briefly the challenging parts of our everyday lives. This is why Ordinary Time can be both wonderful and hard. It is nice to go back to some semblance of a schedule, to a routine, but it is also hard because we are not good at the ordinary and everyday.

I know for myself, in calm seasons of life, I can chafe at the everyday and ordinary, at the routine of making dinner and cleaning and caring for children. I sometimes long for greater a…

Books, books, books

We have just returned from a rather whirlwind trip to the library. For December, I return all of our library books so as to make room for all of our Christmas books which come out for the month. Well, those all went away last week when I put Christmas away and our kitchen bookshelf was looking rather bereft. The children were also feeling the need for new reading material and were resorting to bringing me books that I wasn't terribly excited to read. As we were getting in the car at the stable after riding lessons, I realized that I had them strapped in, there was nothing on the calendar for the rest of the afternoon, and it would be the perfect time for a swing by the library. We managed to do it in about 40 minutes, which for us is pretty darn speedy. Right now I have many children sitting in piles of books as they look at them. It always takes a while for the books to make it onto the shelves. (TM and P. have taken themselves and their books upstairs to their rooms.)

See the pi…

Some days are like that

It never fails, you tell people about how wonderful something is and the next moment, it doesn't seem so wonderful anymore. I should have guessed that after yesterday's post about the glories of homeschooling that today would not be quite so glorious. So in a continuing effort to portray a realistic view of life, I'll share the less complimentary side of homeschooling.

In homeschooling a lot depends on the parent. So if that parent gets up a little later than she should have it throws everything off. And if that parent has to spend more time than seems necessary on the phone making a doctor's appointment (something I should really, really excel at by now) in order to be a step closer to finishing the homestudy, then that throws everything off as well. And if that parent has very little tolerance for adoption paperwork and is worried about how to get everything done in a timely manner, and if that new doctor's appointment conflicts with something else that needs to …

The difference between homework and homeschooling

You would think they would be pretty much the same, wouldn't you? Both involve academic schoolwork type activities, both are done at home, both sometimes require the help of a parent... not much difference between them it would seem. Yet, if homeschooling were even remotely like helping with homework, I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be homeschooling... especially with 6+ children.

You see, despite the seeming surface similarities, they are really very different things. (Thank goodness!) Let's take a look at each one. Homework is something sent home from school by the teacher. (Though I'll show my age and point out that when I was in school, homework was something you took home because you didn't finish your work in class. I'm pretty sure I never had specifically assigned homework before junior high.) It also means that it needs to be done after a child has already spent 6+ hours in school. I think it's pretty safe to say they are not at their peak at this p…

It's 2 degrees outside, what else to you have to do?

This post is really directed at anyone who happens to live near me. A. is in her final show with Thin Ice Theater this weekend (she will be graduating high school early) and is appearing as one of the Dromios in The Comedy of Errors. I took some children last night to the opening and it is a terrific show. Funny, well done, easily understood, funny, and has a terrific set (more on that in a minute). You should go see it.


I'll show you some pictures from it. (Now, I admit that the ones I've bothered to upload all have A. in them... there really are other people in the cast. If you want to see all 76 show photos, you can go to the Thin Ice Theater facebook page and take a look.)

Do you know the plot? It's a little silly. Two sets of twins were born, one set to a wealthy woman, one set to a poor woman. The poor woman's children (the Dromios) were given to the rich woman to be servants/companions to the rich boys (the Antipholuses) . As infants they were all involv…