Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pregnancy Update #1 - The Back Story

I've decided that I'll share some irregular pregnancy update posts this time around. If you're not interested then you can safely skip these posts, I don't mind. They're as much for my own journaling as they are for others. I know that I love reading about other people's pregnancies and it is rare to find a large family mom blogging about pregnancy. I would love to read it if someone else wrote it, so I might as well share my own.

A bit of pregnancy background:

This is my 14th pregnancy. If all goes well we will welcome our 10th child next January. I have had 3 miscarriages and 1 ectopic/tubal pregnancy with an accompanying emergency surgery that left me with one less fallopian tube. These have been spread over the years as pregnancy number 2, 5, 8, and 12.

I have had morning sickness in every pregnancy. It lasts all day and usually begins around week 6. It ends between 16 and 20 weeks. Nothing gets rid of it. I've tried pretty much every suggestion out there over the years.

My first 6 babies were born in a hospital with a midwife. My body does not sustain contractions - so I've had Pitocin for some portion of every labor. An example, I had my water break with one baby and walked into the hospital dilated to a 7 - the part where you are supposed to be in the agony of transition - with no contractions. My body is weird and I just accept that. I haven't had an epidural - I would rather hurt than have a needle in my spinal column. Just a personal preference.

My 7th baby was a bit different. We knew during my pregnancy that he had serious medical needs (spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and more). It meant changes. No more midwife. I had specialists and many appointments. I was high risk. He had a delivery team. We had to deliver a bit early because of the fluid increasing on his brain. Because his spinal cord was open and outside his back we knew we would have a C-section and I had a spinal block for that. (He was my first breech baby as well).  Let me just say that recovery from surgery while you're in the NICU with a child who had his first surgery at 7 hours old and his second at 7 days old isn't fun.

My 8th and 9th babies left me with a dilemma. Did I want to continue to have C-sections now that I had one or did I want to find a doctor who is pro-VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean)? I spent a lot of time on the phone talking to doctors, nurses, hospitals, and friends to find a doctor and hospital that are truly VBAC friendly. I found my high-risk pro-VBAC doctor and hospital 45 minutes away from home. Baby #8 was a successful VBAC, and so was baby #9.

That brings you up to date. I'm doing things a little different this time around. I'm still planning to use the same doctor group and hospital, but I'm not going to begin appointments until close to the halfway mark of pregnancy. Baby #9 was the one after my ectopic pregnancy and emergency surgery so we had lots of early and frequent appointments to monitor things. I don't want to deal with that this time around, so I just won't contact my doctor until late this summer. They can't do anything for me anyway. The only thing I do need monitored is my thyroid levels because I am hypothyroid and my endocrinologist is doing that. I'm having blood work every 3-4 weeks so she can adjust my medication as needed.

How I'm Feeling:
Right now I feel fantastic. I think I am about 5ish weeks along. I'm not having any morning sickness yet. I'm exercising regularly, drinking lots of water, and eating well. I'm not starting this pregnancy off at a healthy weight, unfortunately. We've been dealing with my crazy thyroid for the last year trying to get my medication right - after 6 months of having my general practitioner mess with it the wrong way I finally got in with an endocrinologist. During all those medication changes I gained 20 lbs and am currently 200.8 lbs. It was really frustrating. It means that I will need to be especially consistent in my exercise and eating well to keep my pregnancy weight gain from going crazy.

 I'm excited to be adding another child to our family. I'm also always aware of the fact that things may not go as we hope. In the last 13 pregnancies I have only ended up with 9 babies to hold and raise. Four times I've had empty arms and tears. But God is good all the time! He has a plan for me and for these babies he sends. I try to enjoy every minute of pregnancy so that I have no regrets.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Break Week 2 - The One with Thanksgiving

We kicked off our second week of summer break with a Saturday Thanksgiving meal with family. My sister, her husband, and their 4 kids are still visiting from Germany so we decided to celebrate. I have to tell you, my house smelled so good with a turkey roasting! Yum. We shared some exciting news with family, which I also posted on the blog. Go ahead and read it, I'll wait. Yes, it's that exciting!

Sunday we had our usual Sabbath day with a quiet morning getting everyone awake, fed, and dressed for church, then church from 10am-1pm.The kids were excited that two of their cousins joined us for church. The afternoon and evening were restful. I even got a nap. Yes, that's an ideal Sunday afternoon!

Monday morning dawned early so I could get my exercise in before too many kids woke up. Of course, by 5:50am when I made it downstairs two kids were up. My early risers. They happily ate leftover cinnamon rolls from last night's dinner while I did my T-Tapp dvd (18 minutes) and 1 mile of a Walk Away the Pounds dvd. Before I was finished 3 more kids were awake. It wasn't even 7am. I then spent 2 1/2 hours driving and doing an appointment at the wheelchair vendor getting repairs done for Mason's wheelz. Mason wasn't needed so he stayed home and I listened to an audiobook for all that driving. Sometimes it is nice just to have a bit of mom time.

Monday afternoon was grocery shopping, which is always a lot of work. Keeping the 11 of us fed is a never-ending task but I am beyond blessed to have food in the house.

I also had to run to the hospital for thyroid bloodwork, which I'll do every month during pregnancy. I'm curious - would anyone be interested in reading blog posts chronicling my pregnancy? I'm debating on putting them here on the blog.

Monday evening was a family hot dog roast and smores. The weather was perfect - 72 F with the occasional breeze. We played Would You Rather after everyone had eaten. It's an informal game where people ask a question beginning with "Would you rather..." Some examples:
  • Would you rather live on a space ship or in a submarine?
  • Would you rather have a giant hamster or a tiny rhino?
  • Would you rather be invisible all the time or be able to read people's minds?
  • Would you rather live in a world with dinosaurs or dragons?
We also had some discussion about questions like these:
  • What book world would you love to live in for just one day?
  • What movie would you like to be in for 24 hours?
Tuesday started with my early morning exercise and then a surprise double dentist visit. Emma needed a baby tooth pulled that had wedged one root in and was bothering her. Caleb flossed his teeth after breakfast and then brought me a piece of filling that fell out. Nothing like keeping our days interesting! They were quickly finished and home again. Then I was able to pick some homeschool books from the shelves of a friend who is moving and had sold all she could a few weeks ago. She also had a few dvd sets from The Great Courses to pass along, so those are on my shelves ready to explore.

I started listening to the first Ranger's Apprentice book today. Joseph had encouraged me to begin and as I am between books it seemed a good time to begin. Well, it was so interesting that I found myself listening or reading (we have the audio book and a print copy) on and off all day between my usual mothering tasks. I finished it around 6:15pm. That's a good book!

Wednesday I did a 2 mile Walk Away the Pounds dvd to get my morning going. We had a relaxed morning (hello summertime!) with reading and play, dress up, sword fights, drawing, and disagreeing over Legos. My sister's family came for their last visit before they return to Germany. We had sad goodbyes with one child sobbing, but we know we will see them again in a few months.

Being Wednesday, our activity night, I had Cub Scouts to teach. We learned about fossils. I have a great book about Sue the t-rex that we worked through and discussed things like tools that would be used at a fossil dig, how fossils form, and just how big a t-rex was.  Then we made an edible fossil dig. Each boy had a small clear cup, animal crackers (our fossils), pudding, whipped cream, and crushed oreos to layer. We let these sit while we played our dinosaur memory match game we made last week. Then we ate our fossil dig and finished up the last few pages of the book about Sue.

Thursday was gray and rainy so we settled in for a slow summer morning doing chores, reading books, building amazing Lego creations, drawing, and reading more books. I finished the fourth book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. Yes, I read quickly. That was 4 books in 3 days. I don't often get to do that, but early summer is a great time. The only problem is that there are several books left in the series and I don't have them! I'm going to try and get to a Half Price Books store soon to see if I can find the rest of the series. That's where we got the first four books.

Thursday evening was Makayla's Track Banquet. We're officially finished with the track season. She had a great second year running on the local public high school team, improving her best times in each of her 3 events over the season.

It's Friday morning and I'm hoping to hammer out our yearly chore changes today. The kids have done well with their room assignments for the last year and it's time to move everyone to a new room for the next 12 months. The only other plan is to bake some banana bread and pumpkin bread today. Yum! Have a lovely weekend!

Fruit Report - Here's the fruit we ate this week:
  • 6 lbs apples (less than usual because we had so many other wonderful options in the fridge.)
  • 1 cantaloupe (we will probably eat the second one today)
  • 6 lbs grapes
  • 2 pineapples
  • 8 lbs strawberries
  • 1 watermelon
  • 1 container of blackberries
  • 6 kiwi
  • 18 bananas (8 were eaten and we'll use 10 in banana bread and pumpkin bread today)

{Linking here.}

Friday, May 19, 2017

First Week of Summer Break

Our first week of summer break slipped away quickly - I didn't even pick up my camera for most of it. We spent time outside. The weather was sunny, hot, and there were even a few thunderstorms. We had several visits with my sister and her family. It's is so wonderful to see cousins together! We will miss them when they fly back to Germany.

One day this week I got to meet another mother with a son who has Spina Bifida. We passed on a walker that was given to use last year while waiting for Mason's insurance approval for his own.

I spent some time working on portfolios for the kids. It is a lot of sorting through papers, typing up pages sharing an overview of the child's work done in each of the required by state law subjects, and reminiscing. I love the reminiscing part!

I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society this week just for me. This one just got added to the list of possibilities for Makayla's WWII reading. It was such an interesting book, written as letters between a variety of people on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel, to a writer, about the German occupation of their island during the war.

Cub Scouts this week focused on Digging in the Past. We did:
- Learning about dinosaurs - the boys already knew a good amount so they taught each other, discussed differences in information, and shared their favorite dinosaurs.
- Make your own new dino and tell others about it. They had been given a week to think about this, so today they drew their dinosaur and shared about it's features, habits, and diet.
- Create a dino game and play. I had printed dinosaur pictures and outlines. They colored, cut out, and created cards for a matching game, which we then played as a den.
- Make fossil casts with air dry clay. We discussed how fossils are formed and what we can learn from the impressions left behind. They were then able to make a disc of air dry clay and imprint it with various seashells and coral I brought with me.

There was book club and farewell to one book club family who is moving out of state. It's always hard to say goodbye to friends.

Friday is half over and tomorrow we're having a Thanksgiving dinner with family since my sister's family is still here. I need to go check my pantry to see if there is anything I need to pick up at the grocery store. Better do that now before I forget! Happy Friday to you all!

{Linking here}

Monday, May 15, 2017

Homeschool Freedom - School's out!

Friday evening we got the news that a member of the extended family had passed away (my brother-in-law's mother). Less than 48 hours later my sister, her husband, and their 4 children were arriving on U.S. soil from their overseas military base to stay for 2 weeks. It has been a year since we've seen them. I quickly realized that we were officially done with school. While I had 2 weeks on the calendar yet to go, we had more than passed the 900 hours required in Ohio (we don't have a number of days required, just a number of hours). School's out!

I'm thankful for the freedom and flexibility homeschooling gives our family. We choose our schedule and fit it around our real life. My children have learned that when they work consistently in the small everyday things it accomplishes large amounts. They see that sometimes they are doing school when the local public school friends are not, but that it works in reverse too, sometimes they are off when others are still working. It has been a glorious year of learning together!

Now we're on summer vacation and planning to soak in as much family time in these 2 weeks as we can. I'll spend some time pulling the kids portfolios together in the next few weeks. I'll update Makayla's transcripts.

Some things don't totally go away during the summer. After the first two weeks of total break my kids will still be reading books. They will also have some math review and math games a couple times a week to keep skills sharp. I'll have them journal or write twice a week - anything! It could be a blog post, a letter to a friend, an impassioned plea for yet another reptile pet, or even a complaint list.

We also do chore training boot camp each June. My kids get a new chore room and keep it for a year. We'll decide who is moving to which chore and train replacements. It has been one of the best things we ever chose to do with chores!

That's the plan, now I'm off to visit with family!

Friday, May 12, 2017

May Week - Hugging Friends, Being Consistent, Counting Down

Monday felt super spring-like with a cold morning and breezy afternoon. Kids were on autopilot for school because our routine is so engrained by the end of the school year. We've got 3 weeks before summer break. Most of the kids have already finished their math books and are just doing review pages.

Makayla, who by some crazy miracle enjoyed learning to do geometry proofs, did transformational geometry today. It's fun - translating, reflecting, rotating, and dilating lines and shapes on a coordinate plane. Lots of drawing.

Midmorning I ran to a local homeschool mom's house for a curriculum sale. They're moving and decided it's a perfect time to clear out books her kids have outgrown (she only has a 10th grader left!). She had fantastic prices and wonderful books. I came home with 97 books for $50. These books would have easily cost me more than $700 new, probably closer to $900. History books, science books, literature, art - wonderful books.

Other Monday highlights: We did dinner over the fire pit tonight. Yum! Then I got a message from a dear friend I've know for more than 10 years online. She and her girls were driving through Ohio, almost to the Columbus Ohio Temple. Were we up for a visit? Yes! At 8:00pm they arrived on our doorstep on their way to a hotel further across the state. Samuel missed the picture because he fell asleep right after they arrived. It was wonderful to hug, talk, laugh, and visit!

Tuesday I had to scrape frost off the van windows before driving Makayla to seminary in the early morning. Brr! A typical spring in Ohio - unpredictable. Our school morning was much more predictable as kids moved through their daily work. Joseph finished The Icebound Land (affiliate link)today. Caleb and Oliver took turns reading to me from their All About Reading levels. Everyone read books, did math, worked on writing assignments, and so on. It was just a regular day. I love regular days!

Wednesday Makayla officially got released from oversight by the orthodontist. She just checks back in if her retainers need replaced or stop fitting. When we got home from that appointment everyone got to work doing school and I started final preparations for my Cub Scout meeting. I'm a Wolf den leader and this month we're doing Adventures in Coins and Digging in the Past. We started today with Adventures in Coins. We learned about the parts of a coin, about the U.S. Mint, different coins from the penny to a dollar coin, and how to tell which mint the coin was made at. We did crayon rubbings of our favorite coins. Then I put coins into plastic eggs for a game. We needed to do a game that involved addition or subtraction so I made up coin war. The boys would go find 2 eggs and add up the amount of money inside, then compare their totals to see who had the most and won that round of war. This was repeated until we had used all the coins. We also did a couple other quick games.
  • Money memory - I laid out a small number of coins on the table and the boys looked at them before closing their eyes. I removed 1 coin and the boys opened their eyes. They figured out which coin was missing. Each round I pulled more coins away. They did great with this.
  • How many ways - In this game we started really simple. I asked the boys how many ways could they use our pile of coins to make 5 cents. (1 nickel or 5 pennies). Then I gave them bigger amounts. For 10 cents the discovered they could use 10 pennies or 2 nickels, 1 dime, or 1 nickel and five pennies.

Thursday was cool and rainy. While the dreary skies are not as cheery at sunshine the birds out my window did not seem to mind. We watched them flit around looking for worms. We read books. Kids did their assignments. My youngest boys pulled out our Mr. Potato Head toys to play with. Tobias used them in the typical way.

Mason and Samuel decided they were the potatoes and used the mouths on themselves. As you can see, Mason was also in the middle of playing with our dress up clothes. He needed to be a pirate after we read Pirasaurs by Josh Funk (affiliate link).

 I started a master class from my Read Aloud Revival membership - Ancients to Zoology: Teaching Through Story. I'm trying to work my way through the master classes and this was next on my list. I thought this would be a fun one to do while I'm counting down to the end of our school year. Once we reach that I get to change out books on my shelves for next year's topics. This master class will help me plot out some of those topics - like our science topics. Other master classes I have already tackled include Focus & Align (fantastic!) and then Find Your Personality's Superpower.

Joseph working on a writing assignment.
Friday has arrived and the kids were quick to get their formal school work done so they could move on to their own interests. The girls have been working on drawing and painting projects in their bedroom. The boys have happily done math games on and built Lego creations with the new bin of Legos we rotated out of the attic last night. Tobias is down for his daily nap so I'm going to spend a little bit of my afternoon working on my master class before the missionaries come to dinner. It has been a lovely week and we can officially say we only have 2 weeks of school left for the year. Hip, hip, hooray!

Also on the blog recently:

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What Planning Looks Like in My Head - The Arts and Science

Next year we will have six 6 week long terms with 1 week breaks between them, a Sabbath Week schedule. Well, technically one term is 5 weeks and the last term is 7 weeks due to the spring break scheduling we need for our high schooler, but you get the idea. I'm eclectic in the school resources we use which means some planning and organizing needs done. I thought I would share another peek at that process. Right now I'm contemplating what mix of artist/picture study, composer study, Shakespeare, poetry, and science topics to do. I need to choose who and what we will explore. Here are some of my thoughts on those:

Artist/Picture Study - Will we coordinate with our history time period? Who do I choose? Last year we focused on three specific artists for 10 weeks each (Bev Doolittle, Beatrix Potter, and John James Audubon) and looked at their work for an extended time while reading a book about them. this was outside our art class, where we had exposure to more artists and lots of technique. This year we could do that again, or we could have more variety. I picked up some fun art books that could have us following a topic such as landscape art, animals in art, or Early American art. Other books are a mix of artists without a unifying theme so I could do a different artist every week. Between the volumes I could even pull three or four pieces by an artist for a short focus on them (1 piece per week) and hit a series of 9-12 artists.

Composer study - Who will we study? Is there a biography to read about them? Will we coordinate with our history time period? How many pieces will we listen to and how often?

Shakespeare - How many of his plays will we study this year? Who will learn about them - with my variety of ages this could mean doing 1 play with everyone and another play or two with some of the older kids. There are children's retellings, the actual plays to read, and finding a performance or video to watch. Will we memorize any passages? Act some of it out in a reader's theater?

Poetry - How often will we read? Will it just be during Poetry Tea Times or will poetry be a part of every day? How often will we do poetry tea time? Will we read only one poet's work for a few weeks before moving to another poet or will we work our way through a poetry anthology? We've done both before and liked them.

Science - This is for everyone but the high schooler. We'll be doing a living book based science this year so I need to choose topics and gather books from my attic boxes and shelves for each topic. These will then be put away until we reach that topic. I want 1 broad topic per term (6 topics for the year). I also need to make notes of the experiments we will do for each topic. Oh, and this doesn't include our nature study and nature lore plans for the year. But I'm not thinking about those just yet.

As you can see, I have many things going through my mind right now in just these areas! We've got 2 weeks left of school after this week and then I will start pulling out resources for each subject area and making our plans. For now I just get to do a lot of daydreaming and jotting down my thoughts and ideas.

Are you in planning mode or waiting until the school year is over? Do you have more books than your shelves can hold? Have you catalogued all your books?

Friday, May 5, 2017

How We Choose Books + Our Next 6 Read Alouds

Choosing books for our Homeschool Book Club is something we've been doing since 2010. We have read more than 60 books for this book club since it began. We have wonderful memories and many hundreds of hours spent diving into new worlds together. We often choose several months worth of books at a time. For May we are reading our last selected book - The Wheel on the School. That means it is time to choose another round of books. The moms can all contribute ideas that fit within our group's guidelines.

I started with a list of books we've never read in the history of our book club:
  • 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson
  • Ember Falls by S.D. Smith
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
  • The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers
  • The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton
  • Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton
  • Begin: The Growly Books by Philip and Erin Ulrich
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
  • Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry
Then I pulled some more books we've never read from the list by The Good and the Beautiful:
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
  • Cinnabar, the One O'clock Fox
  • The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (some of my kids have read this several years ago, but we've not done it for book club).
I also pulled the lists of books we did in the early years of our book club because it might be fun to revisit some of the titles with older kids and younger ones who weren't even born when we first read these. (There are 27 books in the first 4 years, I'm not writing them all in this post. You can read them in THIS POST. )

I asked my kids if they had any suggestions. One did - "I want to do another poetry month! And another poetry tea time with the whole group." You can get a peek at the last time we did this with our book club here. Basically we read poetry all month, wrote poetry, and brought a poem to share at our tea time.

The next step has the moms narrowing the list down a bit. We got it down to 13 options. Then I make a survey online where each person (kids and moms individually) can sort the books from 1-13. Everyone's votes count and the computer does the work of figuring out percentages and letting me know what the top book selections are. I sat down to see the results today. Here are the top 6 winners (with amazon affiliate links):

  1. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
  2. Poetry month with a poetry tea time
  3. Ember Falls by S. D. Smith
  4. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (This is a reread - we read it in 2010, our very first book club year.)
  5. Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  6. Henry and the Chalk Dragon by Jennifer Trafton
It's going to be a fantastic rest of 2017 with these books! When I read the winners to my children today at lunch time they were excited and offering their suggestions of which should be first. We will do a mix of reading these aloud and listening to an audio book together as the year moves forward.

What is the last book you read aloud to your children?

Crayons and Birds and Rain

The week was rainy, stormy, windy, and sunny by turns, often all on the same day. We simply made the best of each moment. There were many board and card games, school work, driving practice, appointments, sports, scouts, and even Homeschool Book Club. It was a full week, but all weeks are full these days.

We started reading aloud our next book club title - The Wheel on the School(aff).So far everyone is enjoying this story of a small school with only 6 children who wear wooden shoes and live in Shorra, where there are no storks.

My middle sons worked together to make crayons in a muffin tin from our old, broken crayon pieces. It's a really easy project we do about once a year, or whenever the broken crayon bits add up. We even keep an old muffin tin just for this purpose. All you do is soak the crayons to help remove their papers, break the crayons, and sort them into a muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes at 250 F. Then carefully pull the pan out of the oven and let it cool until the crayons have hardened. Remember hot wax burns! This project requires adult supervision.

We did a lot of bird and squirrel watching this week too. I have zero pictures but decided to share our bird sighting list for the week.
  • house sparrows
  •  a pair of mourning doves
  • European starlings
  • a pair of cardinals
  • some blue jays
  • robins
  • Carolina chickadee

We ate a lot of fresh fruits and veggies thanks to some good sales at the grocery store: strawberries, apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, salad, peppers, cucumbers, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes (ok, we cooked the potatoes!). There was also some ice cream left over from my birthday on Sunday.

On the Blog this Week: How We Choose Books + Our Next 6 Read Alouds

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