Saturday, May 12, 2018

Breaking Radio Silence... Briefly

It's been a couple of weeks of radio silence here on the blog. I basically fell off the edge of the earth for a bit and into my crazy full life. All things are good here, just the usual busy of a large family. We had school, I had my 37th birthday, Rebekah turned 3 months old, hubby had a minor surgery, and we've been doing recovery and family fun while he is off work. We met friends for bowling, we went to the zoo with cousins and other extended family, and I braved taking 9 of the 10 kids to the science center alone while Daddy hung out at home resting with baby Rebekah as his company. Friday morning I gave haircuts to all 7 of my sons - one of these days my hair clippers will burn out, but for now they are going strong.

On the homeschool front things are winding down for the school year. It's a sweet time where we look back at what we have accomplished and forward at what comes next. I need to get each child's portfolio prepared for our evaluator and sent off. My goal is to have it ready to go in the mail June 1st.

As summer approaches I have started thinking of simple fun we can have as a family. One idea that came to mind is free and I thought other families might enjoy it as well, so I'm sharing it here. I started looking around and noticed all the board and card games in my home. We love games and have collected a lot. This week I made a list of ALL our games and printed it out. We have 83 games - not counting card games we can play with a regular deck of cards. My goal is to play every single game with the kids between now and the end of summer. As a game gets played we cross it off the list. Yesterday I played Uno Moo with some of my younger children. 82 games to go!

One other thing I'm working on is re-working our chore distribution. Each summer kids get a new chore room to be responsible for. The idea is that by the end of their time in our home they will have personally cared for each area of the home for a year, truly mastering the tasks for that area. It has worked well for several years. I am considering mixing things up a bit for the coming 6 months. We shall see!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Homeschool Notes Week 35

We started the week off on Monday with homeschool, a dentist appointment, a doctor appointment, lunch, and surprising the kids with a trip to the zoo in the afternoon for Family Home Evening. It turned out to be a bit rainy but we had fun and saw a lot of animals in the hour and a half we were there. A short list of animals we saw:
  •  sheep
  • goats
  • pigs
  • chickens
  • miniature horse
  • swans
  • elephants
  • rhinos
  • langur monkeys
  • sloth bear
  • python
  • two kinds of bats
  • water monitor
  • all the fish and sharks in the aquarium
  • manatees
  • pelicans
  • sting rays
  • the reptile house full of frogs, turtles, lizards, and snakes
  • alligator
  • flamingoes
Tuesday dawned with pouring rain and stayed gray and chilly all day. We read the last of Esperanza Rising aloud today. It was a good book, but not a happy one all the way through. We had a lot of things we could talk about during this read.

The kids were thrilled to see that our caterpillars were all beginning to hang upside down and make their chrysalises. In the afternoon was piano lessons. Evening had my sister and her kids coming for dinner (Taco Tuesday!) and visiting.

Wednesday held homeschool in the morning. I made a couple yarn dolls as examples for our Book Club craft this Friday. In the evening I went bowling with my Cub Scout pack. Those boys are a riot!

Thursday I was out of sorts and overwhelmed. I just woke up feeling off and it lasted all day. Let's face it, sometimes that is just life. I'm almost 3 months postpartum and hormones are still shifting as cycles come back. Add in mothering a large family with diverse ages and needs and some days are overwhelming.

Mason and I had a challenging day at physical therapy (hard work for both of us, in a good way) and he's got some things going on that are going to lead to another surgery. We see his full team of doctors and surgeons next month but probably won't schedule surgery until September so he can enjoy the summer without a cast.

Friday my hormones were on a more even keel. We spent the morning preparing for Homeschool Book Club. Two families came over which put us at 20 kids ranging from teens to almost 3 month old Rebekah. We talked about Esperanza Rising, a good book that not everyone liked, but that gave us lots to talk about. Then we had two activities. Kids could make yarn dolls, which played a role in the book. They also had two fleece blankets to cut and tie, that will be donated to Project Linus. As the crafting finished everyone ate together and visited for a while.

It is now Friday afternoon and I have a partial grocery list in front of me, I've made a few necessary phone calls, and have a few more to make. It's also time to check in with each child and see where they are in their year's school work and choose our last day of school. Over the summer the only 'school' we do is simple:
1. Keep reading great books as individuals and for Book Club. Our next title is The Happy Hollisters. 
2. Do math 2 days a week. This is really just to keep everyone from forgetting what they've worked on all year.

That's it for our week! Happy Friday everyone!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Homeschool Notes Week 34 - Just the Highlights

Saturday's highlights started with a library book sale. Who doesn't love browsing books and coming away with an entire paper grocery bag full for just $5? We find a lot of fun books this way. Mid-morning was the weekly grocery shopping trip. It's always amazing to me just how much food I need to get to feed my family for a week.

Makayla and Colton
If you ask Makayla what Saturday's highlight was, she would say going to prom.

She found a great dress, a cute date, and they had dinner with friends and went dancing. How is my daughter already old enough for this?!

Sunday we started the day with church. That evening was the family birthday party for April. This month happens to be my husband and my birthdays. He turned 40 this week and at the end of the month I will be 37. We had chocolate ├ęclair, lemon ├ęclair and no bake cookies.

Monday the weather moved back to cold and snow. We hit the homeschool week hard and then had lunch a little early. Then we surprised the kids with a trip to the bowling alley at noon for Family Home Evening.

Today was the first day of their Kids Bowl Free program in our area. Every day between now and September our kids can bowl 2 games for free. We also paid for the family pass ($30) so that Jason and I, as well as Makayla, who is too old for the program, can bowl 2 games every day with the kids. The only cost is shoe rental, but we find it is much cheaper to just buy bowling shoes online and pass them down to younger kids as feet grow.

The day only got better because a surprise science kit arrived. It has been years since we have raised caterpillars and watched them change into butterflies. We've got 10 little caterpillars in the house now from Insect Lore.

Tuesday it was still cold and snowing off and on. It was a perfect day for a slow start to homeschool, lots of reading aloud (Esperanza Rising), and playing all sorts of board and card games.

Wednesday we rocked through homeschool before the kids insisted we open up our Art for Kids Hub membership and do some drawing tutorials. We had kids draw Black Panther, a scorpion, and pea shooter from Plants vs. Zombies. In the evening was the usual Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and youth group.

Oliver's current reading book.

Thursday I didn't get any notes written down. I know we had a pretty typical homeschool day. Mason had physical therapy. Oliver was telling me about the book he is currently reading while I made dinner. That's really all I remember!

Friday kicked off with a few kids sleeping in and others diving into school right away. Mason is working hard on his handwriting. He's had a lot of challenges with fine motor control that relate to his spina bifida and other diagnoses. When we started this school year he couldn't draw a circle or a straight line. Really. Everything was super wobbly and difficult. While he still has a ways to go, I was so proud of him today. This week he has been doing some drawing one on one with me, because it is another way to work on his fine motor control that doesn't feel like "we're doing handwriting' to him.

He's been fascinated with the circus ever since we say The Greatest Showman so today he requested we do a circus drawing. One thing I've learned is that you can't give him the option to erase! He needs to write or draw with pen, marker, or a pencil with no eraser. If erasing is an option he will erase over and over to get things just right. When he knows he can't erase, like with the markers he drew this tent with, he just does his best and accepts it.

Late in the morning Joseph started packing for his campout. He packed his food, including making 40 cinnamon rolls from scratch. We ate part of those for lunch today, he packed some for breakfast on the campout tomorrow, and the rest will be eaten as a snack by the family. Grandma came too visit in the afternoon. We had a lot of fun talking and laughing.

It is now nearly bedtime. Joseph is off to his campout. Makayla is out watching another play that two of her friends are in. We're heading into the weekend and it's time for some relaxing!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Homeschool Notes Week 33

I haven't been great at getting pictures but I'll sprinkle a few in with captions.

Mason peeling oranges as a lunch
helper one day this week.

We started the week out with Monday off of school. #perksofhomeschooling Jason had an appointment in the morning. Before he returned home Mason and I left Makayla in charge of the siblings and headed into the big city to visit the wheelchair vendor. We picked up a seat cover (warranty replacement) and he had the technician do a couple adjustments to his chair, including lowering the seat back.

In the afternoon we did some family projects organizing things (closets, laundry, a bit of the attic). For Family Home Evening we did round 2 of the General Conference Jeopardy game. This time I had Emma as my accomplice. She was tasked with passing out candy whenever an entire column/category was finished. We didn't explain to the rest of the family the key to getting candy passed out. It was a fun evening!

Rebekah is smiling and laughing now.

Tuesday I was up and exercising with my Fit2Be membership - I love their Roku channel. It makes my life easy. As kids got up and moving we did our homeschool work. Caleb was excited today to draw a porcupine. He really enjoys using Draw Write Now for his copywork. Each week he draws a picture from one of the books. Then on a different day or two he writes the four lines of copywork that go with that picture.

While the kids did piano lessons I baked our extra large pizza pan full of oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough. It made the house smell delicious. It became our movie snack because today our dvd of The Greatest Showman arrived. We turned out the lights, closed the curtains, and dove in to the music and story.

My oldest daughter and oldest son.

Wednesday was a pretty typical day. Exercise at 6am. Homeschool all morning. Makayla worked 8 hours. People sang and danced along to The Greatest Showman - because it is that good. Food was prepared, eaten, and cleaned up. There was Cub Scouts and youth group.

When I have lots to do as a mom
I love bringing Rebekah along
in my Ergo baby carrier.
Thursday started at 4:45am when Rebekah woke up and decided it was a great time to poop, the silly baby. Once she was back to sleep at 5:30am I headed downstairs for some quiet exercise time. Makayla was on her way to Seminary already and it wasn't quite 6am when the other kids started waking up and trickling down the stairs for the day. Homeschool was off and running after breakfast. Makayla took Joseph to his orthodontist appointment instead of babysitting the rest of the kids, then they went to the grocery store and picked up a few things. This having teens and a teen with a driver's license is interesting and pretty great sometimes!

By lunch time it was heating up outside and by evening the temperatures were upper 70s inside and outside of the house. We set up fans and spent some time in the attic pulling out shorts and short sleeve shirts for everyone. The kids played outside after dinner.  Of course, we didn't put away all our winter clothes because it is supposed to snow again in a few days.

Friday the house was warm when we woke up and it just got hotter. Because of a medication Mason has to take for his neurogenic bladder his body doesn't sweat like it should and he can overheat easily. That means we had to turn the a/c on in the house today to cool it down a bit. (It also makes for a lot of challenges outside during spring/summer/fall when temperatures rise... )

Homeschool was pretty straightforward as usual. Makayla had an interesting chemistry experiment today. She's been learning stoichiometry (expressing the quantitative relationship between reactants and products in a chemical equation). Today she took copper sulfate, a vibrant blue crystalline compound, and heated it on her lab burner. It began to crackle and pop as water evaporated from the copper sulfate and turned white. She compared the mass in grams from before and after the heating to find out how many molecules of water were attached to the copper sulfate. Just before cleaning up her experiment she added drops of water back into the beaker and we watched as the white compound turned bright blue again.

Over the last few days the kids have been pulling out a lot of games to play again. They go in phases and this week they have played:
  •  Othello
  • Clue
  • Life
  • Labyrinth
  • Hi Ho Cherry O
  • Harry Potter Triwizard Maze
  • Life Junior
It is a lot of fun seeing them play and watching as they teach younger siblings how to play or let them be buddies to 'help' them play when a game is too old for them.

One last picture because this shows one thing I love doing every day: snuggling my baby!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Week 32 Homeschool Notes

Monday was full as usual. There were homeschool lessons to do. Daddy and Makayla had a visit to the dentist. Mommy had blood drawn for thyroid labs (everything looks good, no medication dose changes) and renewed her driver's license - between those two tasks I was gone for 3 hours because both places were very busy. Meals were done. Chores and car repairs happened. The list just keeps going.

Family Home Evening was General Conference Jeopardy. I think the absolute best part was hearing my children during our game. Children who I was pretty sure were listening as little as possible during the 8 hours of General Conference and were so excited to share answers. One child had spent the entire weekend saying Conference was boring as we watched each session. I knew they only stayed with the family because of the candy (anyone who is in the room for the talks can grab a piece of candy at the end of every talk from a large bin we fill up just for General Conference). When Jeopardy started this child looked at me and said, "This is boring. I'm not playing. I'll sit here but I don't want to play." I have been working a lot to have positive interactions with this particular child who tends to butt heads with me, so I just welcomed that child to stay on my team and we started playing. When it would be their turn to choose a category I always offered the turn, and for a while it was declined. About 1/3 of the way into our Jeopardy game we hit a question for our team that this child knew the answer to and cared enough about to speak up. From that point on they were in the game and it was obvious that they really had been listening to General Conference and thinking about the things they had heard. (happy mom sigh!)

Tuesday there was no running around to do. We had a great morning of homeschooling. We got back into reading Esperanza Rising aloud for book club. There were our usual piano lessons. Dinner. And then the tornado sirens started going off. We had a major storm come through with tornado warnings for almost an hour. That makes some of my kids very edgy and unhappy, but we got through it.

Wednesday and Thursday the only notes I have say school, Cub Scouts, physical therapy, and hives. Samuel is still getting a few hives randomly. Bodies are just weird.

Friday I giggled at my life a few times. I was sitting between Caleb and Mason, who were both reading aloud to me from their All About Reading lessons at the same time (different lessons, so I was listening to different stories simultaneously). At the same time I was helping Oliver, Joseph, and Emma with math problems when they had questions. There are days where it would really help to have three of me! The other big thing to note is that Rebekah is now 2 months old. She's adorable and I'll try to get a post up with pictures soon.

Saturday was prom dress shopping with Makayla, grocery shopping, going through clothing and taking a load of things to Goodwill, chores, family time, and lots of school work for Daddy. I had a very long to do list and there is still a lot on it that needs done. I'm hoping to tackle a lot of that on Monday after a 3 hour trip to the wheelchair vendor to get some adjustments on Mason's chair.

That's it for this week. It's Sunday evening and I have a sweet baby girl who is ready to snuggle.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Random notes from Week 30 and 31

Life in a large family is more fulfilling than I can express. It is also very full. I've not had time the last two weeks for daily notes but there are some things I want to record on the blog. Let the randomness commence!

Homeschooling trots right along. Nothing unexpected, no major struggles. We're in the home stretch of the school year with spring arriving and that means our goal is simply consistency. We keep moving forward. 

With spring also comes homeschool planning for fall. I will have 8 official students: Grade 12, 8, 7, 5, 4, 2, 1, K, plus a preschooler and a baby. With planning comes shopping and the first of our curriculum packages is due to arrive in the next week. I still have planning to finish so I won't share anything else about this until that is complete. 

Rebekah is 7 weeks old. She is smiling often, chubby, snuggly, and sleeps 7-8 hours in a row at night. She's awake more during the daytime. We have started pulling out 3-6 month size clothing and putting away most of her 0-3 month clothing. 

My 6 week postpartum checkup happened last week. My uterine prolapse has healed pretty well and I won't need surgery. This is a wonderful blessing. I'm not dealing with postpartum depression (which I have had with some babies and not with others). I do have low iron again. It isn't critically low and in need of iron infusions like I had in December. This time I'm trying something different. Instead of iron pills I'm taking 4 dessicated liver pills along with vitamin c each day. My doctor thinks my body will respond better to the iron in the liver because the fats and other vitamins/minerals in the liver help my body too. I hope he's right because these pills smell and taste like liver - disgusting. We will check things in 3 months. Next week I get a thyroid panel done for my endocrinologist to check my hypothyroidism and see if adjustments need made in that medication as well. 

Samuel got hives this week randomly. Several days of Benadryl around the clock have gotten them under control and currently they are gone. I know they can come back on and off for a while yet, but I hope that we're done with them.  

Mason had his physical therapy evaluation to get things started back up post-surgery and recovery. It's been 5 months since he has been able to do PT, get in his HKAFO braces, use his walker. Today he went right back to it like he had never stopped. It's crazy that he still has the upper body strength. There has been some weakening in his core again - but that is a never-ending battle. We are going to do PT weekly for a while to work on a couple goals.

This weekend is Easter and General Conference. It's the best possible combination of favorites and we have been counting down the days. You can watch General Conference online free. In preparation for Easter our Family Home Evening this week was Resurrection Eggs. We don't do the Easter Bunny (or Santa, or Halloween for that matter). Our plastic eggs were numbered 1-12. Inside were items and scriptures related to the last week of Christ's life, his Atonement, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

Pack meeting for my Cub Scouts was this week. It's the big meeting of the month where all the dens meet together for activities. After flag ceremony and awards a couple dens performed skits on stage. Then we did several acting games. It was a lot of fun to see the boys step out of their comfort zone and just enjoy trying something new.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Homeschool Notes Week 29

Monday, oh Monday, it felt like things were off all day. Three kids had dental cleanings, which Daddy was in charge of, while I was homeschooling the other kids. Then there were phone calls to make. I had to pick up a regular prescription for one child at the pharmacy, which turned into a mini-grocery trip. I got home in time to make lunch. Then I took a nap because Rebekah was up from 4:30am-6:30am. By the time she was back to sleep I had to be up getting kids ready for the dentist and missing that 2 hours of sleep. I can't wait to find out what is going on with my body (hypothyrodism and anemia)in the next couple weeks so that can hopefully be addressed. Who has time for naps?

Then I went to the tax preparer's office only to find out the appointment I schedule online (and had an email confirmation for) had been recorded as an hour later in their office. I handed over paperwork and rescheduled to come back 2 hours later with my husband in tow - because they also hadn't told me ahead of time that he needs to be there too. Back home I went for a while before hubby and I went back to the tax office.

We finally came home and I was so glad I had prepared Family Home Evening ahead of time so we could get right to that. I pulled several things from the Peer Pressure lesson at A Year of FHE. I adjusted one of the games (the yes/no signs game). I printed one of each sign and hung them up on opposite sides of the room. When each situation was read the family ran to stand by the sign they thought was the best answer of what to do.

Tuesday I took advantage of the flexibility of homeschooling. Two kids had dental cleanings in the morning. I took them and brought Rebekah along with me while Makayla watched the kids left behind. Nobody did school until I returned home. They started the morning with a movie together instead. School found me doing math with a couple kids, reading lessons with three, discussing the Latin plan and working on balancing chemical equations with Makayla, and chatting about writing ideas with a few others. One child worked on manga drawings of a current favorite superhero. Our piano teacher arrived and there were many lessons.

In the evening I worked my mommy magic on Rebekah. A few minutes walking around with her in the Ergo carrier and she went from grumpy to sleeping. A sweet friend gave me this Ergo several years and several babies ago and I love it! It is comfortable for me to carry babies from tiny to 40 lbs. I can still carry Mason, Samuel, and Tobias on my back with it.

Wednesday we had no appointments. I was so glad! I started my morning by doing something new for me - exercise. I'm 5 weeks postpartum and starting super extra light. I actually bought a year membership to Fit2Be. It's an online website with more than 200 workout videos and more added each month. The exciting part is their focus on "Tummy Safe Workouts" for people who are healing diastasis recti (split abdominals - that would be what I have!). They offer classes you can buy individually that have a series of videos with a common focus, or membership options. I chose to do the premium membership because it includes everything. In other words, I have options galore from just barely postpartum to beginner to more advanced workouts. There are even a couple videos for kids (great way to get energy out when weather is yucky) and a few yoga for tweens/teens videos. I started a class series today (Foundational 5 Plus). My goal is to make time 6 days a week for a Fit2Be workout. They even have a Roku channel with most of their videos uploaded (new ones appear every few weeks) that is included in my membership. I had a coupon code and got $53 off my year membership. Breaking down my cost, it works out to about $10.50 a month, from the comfort and convenience of home. I'm excited to get my body strengthened after all these sweet babies.

Wednesday was also Pi day (3.14 - March 14th). We made a peanut butter pie to celebrate. Homeschool happened as usual - the first day this week that every did school because there were not dentist appointments.

Thursday we were back to the dentist grind. It takes so many visits to get cleanings done in a large family and then there are the follow ups for cavities or loose fillings. It takes over our schedule for a couple weeks. I took 4 boys to the dentist.

Everyone else did school and hung out at home with big sister Makayla, who loves getting paid and generally doesn't mind babysitting. How can she be turning 17 this summer? It seems like not very long ago she was the tiny baby I was carrying around... sigh. Our day was pretty normal after the dentist. Just following routines. Daddy got home late in the afternoon and right after dinner I headed to bed for a nap because I was so tired.

One thing that made me smile today was Emma. She has fallen head over heels into the superhero multiverse in the last two months. She draws superheroes, she watches superhero shows, she takes notes on the characters, she talks superheroes, and most recently she writes fan fiction. She is writing nonstop. Her obsession with superheroes is driving Makayla crazy but I love that she's dived in and it's pulling her to do so much learning and creating for fun.

Rebekah is smiling a lot
but it is really hard to 
catch it on camera. 
Oh well!

Friday the morning was homeschool work until about 11am, when we were back to the dentist for two kids who had a cavity on the exact same tooth. Weird, but true. In the afternoon I started watching my first class from the Teaching Saints Virtual Summit. It is a free summit (sign up here) but you only have access to the videos from each day for about 24 hours, then new ones appear on the website for the next day. It started yesterday (the 15th) and goes through March 24th. There is an all access pass you can buy where you can keep access to the videos plus get the audio download, slides, and written transcripts, and a private Facebook group. I was able to earn an all access pass free when a couple people signed up for the free option with the link I shared and I'm so glad! There is no way I could watch these each day in the 24 hours they are free without feeling like I'm being flooded with ideas and information.

Rebekah is sleeping at the moment so I'm going to take advantage of that to finish preparations for next week's Family Home Evening. We'll be using a lot of paperclips. The kids saw me put them in a bin and are dying to know what we're going to do with paperclips.