Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Week, Briefly (Not a week off, exactly, but not a school week either)

The cousins arrived at 5:00 am.  Their daddy's surgery was scheduled for 7:30 am, and we live only 20 minutes from the surgery center.  It was a good day as the surgery went well; the cousins all had fun playing; cousin K14 attended early morning seminary with Rose Red and then came back to our house to be more helpful than any 14 year old boy as a right to be!  Even baby M1 was sweet, sweet, sweet all day long.

We rearranged the dining room to hold 20 of us for meals, we included the cousins in our usual morning meeting, and we made it to the library--just me and 3 of the older girls. 

We also learned about an amazing summer camp for teen girls that Rose Red had just enough time to apply for if we worked our tails off and found "teachers" to write recommendations for her.  We did it!  Even if she doesn't get in, it was a wonderful experience for her in filling out applications and essay writing.

My sister came back to our house after dinner to nurse baby M1 and get some rest after being awake since 2:00 am.  We got 3 babies, 4 preschoolers, and 3 elementary aged kids through baths that night (and that was after a bunch of older kids showered in the morning!) and settled in for story time.  It was a little noisier than usual, but we had a good time before tucking in everyone 10 and under while the 11-and-ups broke out a couple of DVDs to watch.  Harry Potter in the basement; Jurassic World in the living room.

I went to bed.

The cousins only spent a half day with us as their daddy was well enough for a morning discharge from the surgery center.  After they left--and we all wish they could have stayed longer--we had a "morning" meeting after lunch, and then re-organized the house.

Our enormous dining room table looks so small set only for 14 now! :)

In the evening Sir Walter Scott took the older 4 girls to New Beginnings at the church.  I'd have gone except I was still recovering from whatever illness had me in its grip that I didn't know was an illness at the time.  All I knew was that unless I had prescription levels of ibuprofen in my system I was shaking, weak, and in pain from head to toe.   The theme was based on this wonderful talk, and the girls came home shining with joyful light.

Mister Man woke up sick with what I'd had for the past 4 days.  I was feeling better.  I was actually relieved to find out it was an illness instead of a chronic condition of exhaustion.  But poor Mister Man was in bad shape--his axillary temps were reading over 103!  (I didn't run a fever, but all of our other symptoms were identical.)

Super Star also woke up feeling ill.  I gave her permission to take a sick day.  She gladly returned to bed with a stack of library books.

I ran Baymax to the doctor's office for a well-baby check and a couple of immunizations.  He's perfect. :)

We had a morning meeting in the afternoon again--minus Super Star and Mister Man.  We did some school (math, scriptures, The Good and Beautiful) and skipped some.  Sir Walter Scott and I worked on our taxes.  It was a kind of off day.

But it was really great to get the news that our brother-in-law and uncle is officially cancer free!  My sister explained, though, that this is only the conclusion of the first chapter.   His cancer is a dreadful type that comes back again and again.  They are studying everything they can get their hands on and making life changes that will help him stay cancer free as long as possible.

Mediation.  The kids' birthparents agreed to sign the consent for termination of parental rights in exchange for contact with the children.  I'm uncomfortable with the plan, but it is what it is.  The adoption is basically a sure thing now.  Instead of rejoicing, I feel tired.  While adoption itself is a happy thing, the road to adoption is anything but joyful.

I don't know how to write more fully about this right now.

The kids and I raced off to our first dance practice of the new semester.  Mister Man stayed home to nap with Sir Walter Scott, who had to go back to work that night.

We had another morning meeting in the late afternoon.  This is becoming a habit!  We began learning the second paragraph of The Family Proclamation.  We like the melody for this paragraph a lot!

For our evening reading we're working our way through some retellings of Greek mythology and V.M Hillyer's A Child's History of Art.  We probably won't get to finish the art book before it has to go back to the library (and it's borrowed via ILL, but we'll enjoy it while we can).

We had morning meeting in the morning!  But it felt weird to start a school week on a Friday, so we just did the essentials--scriptures, math, The Good and the Beautiful.  The day was April warm, so everyone except Mister Man (still sick) spent lots of time outside.

 I cut Brother's and Little Brother's hair. 

Super Star spent her independent study time making a triple chocolate cheesecake.  From terrified of the kitchen to proficient, this girl is really growing!

The oldest girls headed off to a homeschool teen event in the evening--Pancakes and Pajamas.  I'm thankful for our friend who gave the girls a ride there and back.

Nature Angel was my "right hand man" all evening, helping with the littles as she was the oldest kid at home.  She's only 8, so it was exhausting, but she was on her feet with a smile the whole time.  I don't know how to thank her adequately.

Saturday held a few chores and lots of running Little Princess to birthday parties.  At the last one of the day she got to have her face painted.

It's been a draining week.  Next week will have some challenging moments, but I think (hope) it will be less emotional than this one.

Just for fun, here we are at last week's homeschool winter family dance:

7 Princesses, 3 Knights, 1 Peacock, and 1 Troll--just what any proper castle needs!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#21)

Today is Friday.

It snowed all day yesterday, so we're taking a snow day.  Temperatures are low, but we have literally dozens of coats, hats, snow pants, boots, and other winter wear in our mudroom.  The kids will have a grand day.

And then Sir Walter Scott and I are going to the temple in the late afternoon.  The kids will stay home with popcorn and a movie.

This week SuperStar completed her Saxon 5/4 math book and started 6/5.  She's really happy to be completing math work . . . albeit remedial work . . . successfully.  She alternates between joyful expressions of triumph and worried questions about "ever catching up."

She works so hard at math!  I'm not worried about the "catching up" part.  I just want her to see that she can learn and that she is learning.

I just say, "Look at what you've done.  Look at what you can do."

SuperStar also checked out a bunch of learn-to-play-the-guitar books from the library.  With the help of a YouTube video she tuned Sir Walter Scott's old guitar and has learned 3 chords.  Her hands hurt, but she's really learning!  What fun it will be to do sing-alongs with her accompaniment!

Rose Red finished All About Spelling book 2 and is well into book 3 this week.  We had to return her chemistry book to the library, but we'll get it back next week.  She says she'll finish her history book next week.  I don't know how she feels, but I'm excited by all of this progress!

I'm working on turning all of Rose Red's art and music work into a high school fine arts credit.  I told her that between my instruction, her personal study, various field trips, and the time she spends sketching and playing the piano she has more than enough hours for a full credit.  However, I informed her, I want her to perform in public.  She was aghast, but I stood firm.  (I don't know if that's good or bad--only time will tell.)  I finally got her consent to sign her up for the homeschool talent show next month.  She'll play a song on the piano.  She picks out melodies by ear and then creates her own accompaniment, so she'll be playing a song written by someone else but arranged by her.  I love to listen to her play.  I hope a little public applause will fuel her fire.

Pixie spent the week immersed in Rick Riordan's latest release.  When she wasn't reading she was learning about natural hair/skin care.  She mixed up a homemade hair mask that made her hair very sleek and gorgeous.  It was messy, though, and she says the results weren't worth the work.  She'll try a different one next week.  After the treatment, she had me trim 5 inches off her hair to clean up split ends.  It still reaches her waist, but it feels short to her. :)

The ingredients
Wrapping the mask up so it can soak in.
Getting ready to shower
After the mask . . . before the trim
 She also did Belle's hair one afternoon and did a photo shoot with her.  Here are a few of the many pictures she took:

Belle's week was disappointing.  She was all set to attend the temple for the first time as a youth, but weather conditions being what they were, the trip was cancelled.  She grieved quietly but deeply.  The next trip isn't scheduled until May, so we're trying to figure out how to get her there with just a Dad-and-daughters date.

For her independent study, she's working her way through The Chronicles of Narnia.  She wasn't hip to start, but I think she's enjoying the stories now . . . at least that's what she says.  What she's really waiting for is for Pixie to finish the Rick Riordan book, so she can have a turn.

Nature Angel and Little Princess both worked with me out of The Good and Beautiful curriculum.  Nature Angel got to do some geography and picture studies.  She was also introduced to floor plans, and those are exciting to her.  Completing her own floor plan for her "dream school" was a long, satisfying project.  Little Princess has discovered that worksheets are fun!  She claps her hands with delight whenever there's a worksheet available. 

Funny girl! :)

Little Princess's crowning moment of the week was being needed by Pixie during the hair mask event.  "Mom!  I need to help!  [Pixie] needs me right now!" she crowed when I called her that afternoon. 

Big sisters rock.

Ladybug is having fun playing with a free trial of an online pre-reading tutorial. I don't love it, and I won't continue it when the trial is over, but she likes it, and I don't see any harm in using it while we've got it.  All of the littles gather around to watch her on the computer, so actually I think there's a whole lot of trickle-down learning going on.

Mister Man finished the Alphabetti books this week.  He's excited to move on to the phonics books produced by the same site.

Brother has learned how to pick up a book and sit quietly looking at it on his own.  He's been able to do that for a while if I tell him to do so, but this week he's begun to choose this activity himself.  I've watched him work on learning to turn pages without hurting the book, and he's been asking in the past day or two which part of the book is the start.  It hurts my heart that a 4 year old boy has had so little experience with books that he has to ask these questions, but at least he's asking them.  I am heartened by these small-but-huge steps he's making toward healing and learning.

Little Brother is learning to use words instead of animal-ish grunts, squeals, and shrieks.  His speech is considered normal, but he rarely uses it unless prompted.  I'm prompting, prompting, prompting these days, and he's trying to remember.  He was especially proud of himself one day when I wiped his face after eating and he didn't squeal and push me away.  "I not hit," he said with a big smile.  I couldn't help but smile back.

The babies are into EVERYTHING!
 Powdered sugar in the cupboard?  Not anymore!
Computer charger on the table?  Not anymore!
Dirty diapers in the trash?  Not anymore!
Water in a cup?  Not anymore!
Books in a basket?  Not anymore!
Rubber bands in a drawer?  Not anymore!
Shoes in the closet?  Not anymore!

They are roly-poly, pell-mell, tumble-bumble lovable right now.

Two 1-year olds!

Such a busy, joyful, crazy time.

For our Family School we focused on Greek and Roman art.  Our main project of the week was making mosaics.

Super Star made a wave.
Rose Red's
Pixie's boat.
Nature Angel sat in on this project.  She said she started trying to make a sunset, but there weren't pink or orange tiles, so she just filled in with what made her happy.
What's funny is that as we completed our mosaics the kids found a bag of Melty Beads that had been given to us by a friend some months ago.  They were the highlight of the next 2 days!

 And we completed (or will complete in a couple of hours) 5 days of Morning Meeting again.  We added 1 new component of that meeting time--playing scripture mastery memorization games for the Old Testament.  First scripture?  Moses 1:39 (which isn't actually from the Old Testament, but complements Old Testament study).

No C25K this week--ice and snow were constant companions, so the roads were not safe!

Tomorrow night is the big homeschool Winter Family Dance.  The theme is Welcome to the Castle.  I think our van will be chock full of princesses and knights tomorrow night. 

Next week has so many activities, we may have to call it a vacation week--babysitting cousins while their dad has his big cancer surgery, therapy sessions, mediation with the "new" kids' dad to see if he can avoid going to trial, dance practice start up, church activities, homeschool teen activities, doctor's appointments--and that's just the stuff on the calendar!

We'll see how the days play out one by one.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Week, Briefly (#20)

This was a solidly productive week for us with many organizational improvements for my mental health.

Morning Meeting:
We completed 5 out of 5 this week!  I feel a grateful sense of accomplishment.  The littles memorized Baa Baa Black Sheep and recited it at our Poetry and Pie event on Wednesday.  The rest of our songs and memorization work are the same as last week and will remain the same for the rest of January.  I'm glad to report that everyone over the age of 5 has memorized the first part of The Family Proclamation; the littles are still working on it. :)

Bedtime Math is a fun addition to our day.  We've touched on everything from simple counting for the littles to advanced algebra for the bigs.

We didn't do much formal work, but we did watch a few letter "D" videos and a D is for doghouse craft.  The weather was too pretty on Thursday to stay inside (it's bitter cold now), so I sent everyone outside to play and play and play while we could.

Reading with Mister Man:
 Last week the site we're growing to love was down, but it was back up and running this week, so Mister Man and I read several Alphabetti books together.  He's really loving his reading.

Little Princess:
She was neglected a lot this week.  I'm not sure how to fix that.  I tried to knit with her, but she was usually playing when I was free, so she didn't want to sit and knit with me.  She did bring her knitting to me several times when I was either nursing or fixing a meal or helping another child, so our timing was off.  She read aloud to younger siblings a lot, and she participated in our morning meeting and evening reading.  

Nature Angel:
She worked independently all week, reading her nature books and writing down what was interesting to her.  She quite enjoys the Bedtime Math questions and stays up to listen to Pride and Prejudice even when she can barely keep her eyes open.  I wanted so badly to get in a couple of days of The Good and Beautiful with her--mostly just to spend time with her--but too many meetings/appointments kept that from happening.

LDS Family School:
We completed 3 art lessons focused on Ancient Egypt.  The girls produced some cool Egypt-inspired projects.  After the lesson content was finished, and they girls worked on their art, I read aloud from Herodotus.  Boring geographical descriptions and genealogies alternate with very interesting stories, and we're having fun with it!

Carving cartouches out of potatoes.

Rose Red's Egyptian inspired portrait (not of herself)
Super Star's
Making preliminary sketches for the metal relief project

Pixie's metal relief Egyptian god

Rose Red's
Super Star's
No lessons done as a family.

Rose Red:
She got her act together and completed Math, Spelling, Vocabulary, Chemistry, and History work on her own this week in addition to the family school lessons that I lead.  She even did 2 days' worth of work in one on Thursday so that she could have the privilege of going out with some girlfriends on Friday.  And she cleaned out the van from top to bottom in preparation for an activity on Saturday.  She impressed herself with her own abilities to work and stay focused.

I hope the sense of accomplishment stays with her and keeps her going.

Family Reading:
We finished An Elephant in the Garden--oh! we did love this book!  And we both started and finished Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Roald Dahl is forever and always a winner for us. :)

The older kids only ran once--on Monday.  Colds got them down the rest of the week.  I went ahead and ran two more times alone. 

**Monday is now our library and getting organized for the week day.  I've finally admitted that going to the library and sitting around for the rest of the day reading/browsing/perusing the books we've brought home is just as educational for the older kids as it is for the littles.  It is not lost time--it is the best time.

It is also good learning for the littles to practice being in public.  One little boy threw a book within minutes of being there and had to sit on a chair for the duration.  Another stepped on a book and threw a tantrum when I told him to pick it up.  I hurried him out to the vestibule to finish his tantrum, and when he was done, he picked up the book and sat in a chair, too.  After a few minutes I called them both over to a couch and read them a story.

I laughed when the librarian complimented me on having such well-behaved children!

We brought home 63 new books on Monday.  It has been a happy week of reading for us all.

**We also went to the zoo Monday afternoon.  Dad was with us!  He kept the littles while the older girls and I did a C25K workout, and then we all enjoyed the zoo for another hour together.  Taking Mondays for organizing and getting out is a blessing so far!

**I conducted our first round of interviews for the older girls' assignments for self-directed learning.  They made lists of potential study topics, and I helped them set some goals.  My goal is to interview them each Monday to review what they've learned and set new goals each week.

Pixie is learning to do fancy manicures.
 **Our first Poetry and Pie event was Wednesday.  We spent the morning baking 3 pies and getting the house company ready.  In the afternoon, 5 of our teen friends and their moms came over, bringing their own pies and their poems.  We all took turns reciting our poems (youngest to oldest), then we ate!  A lot!  I had some paper bag books, glue sticks, poetry clip art, and copies of all of the poems out on the kitchen table for the kids to make their own poetry books with the day's poems.  Though the teen boys didn't make any, they happily gathered in the kitchen to talk with the girls while they made books, and the older girls helped the little ones make books.   When all of that was done, the older kids played board games while the littles just played and the moms chatted.

It was a lovely day.

The babies like poetry, too
 **On Thursday night Nature Angel and I went to the ballet.  The Russian National Ballet was in town performing Cinderella.  When a half-price ticket deal appeared in my inbox in early December, I knew it was the perfect gift for my 8 year old girl.  In spite of lots of challenges in the day, we did leave together and had a joyful mother-daughter date.  We rarely see theater performances of this caliber, and it knocked our socks off!  She's been leading her little sisters in ballerina play ever since. :)

**Rose Red spent a long time organizing her girlfriends into a surprise party to get dressed together for the big church formal dance.  The party was for one of the girls who had recently turned 16.  In spite of several positive RSVPs, no one showed. :(  Rose Red and her birthday friend had a grand time getting ready together though--make up, hair, dresses, the works.  And the dance turned out to be really fun!  (A number of boys had planned not to attend--organizing their own counter-dance activity, but I guess their parents squashed the rebellion, and the boys attended the dance after all.)

**We had therapy sessions, trips to the pharmacy to pick up meds (we have pink eye--again!), a WIC appointment (how I wish I could afford to skip these!  The nutritionist told me that Little Brother is overweight.  I said, "But look at him!  He's not at all!"  She answered, "I know how he looks, but he's overweight.  Even very thin people can be overweight."  Aaargh!!!!), a visit from the CASAs, emails from the social worker, and a number of sleepless nights with sick babies.  I was shaking with exhaustion by the end of the week, and couldn't function on Sunday.

I had to take a sick day. (It was just as well--we couldn't take the sick kids to church anyway.)

It's Monday again.  I'm better than I was this weekend and I think we can take this week ahead!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Week, Briefly, (#19)

As the new year approached I found myself freaking out on the inside, "We're not ready!  I can't do this!"

Then one day it occurred to me that I didn't have to be ready on a certain date.  Yes, I needed to set a start date, but I certainly didn't have to follow the calendar that everyone else was following.

So I didn't.

Monday was for phone calls and errands and sitting down with Sir Walter Scott and the big girls for some basic calendaring.

Tuesday was supposed to be for organizing, but it turned out to be for taking kids to the doctor and therapist and for meeting with the nurse case manager.

I began to panic.  I still hadn't done what I wanted to do.

So I took a deep breath . . .

and let it all go.

I had a sketchy, inspired plan in my head for how to adjust our days so they were more functional for us and would leave me less pressured and panicked.  I had nothing on paper, no schedule, no post-it notes full of plans that I could arrange an rearrange the way I liked.

I had an idea and some untidy shelves.

On Wednesday we began.

Everything was fine.

Yes, we left out Bedtime Math on Wednesday.  I also forgot to read Herodotus on Friday.  And my notebook "brain" went missing after only one day.

But we were fine.

The older girls and I completed 3 art lessons in our curriculum--Mesopotamian art history, form drawing and simple clay sculptures.  They also completed 3 days worth of math, scriptures, and self-study (reading and studying on their own).

The underside of SuperStar's empty tomb sculpture with name and date inscribed.

Pixie's lamb--their assignment was to sculpt something symbolic of the Savior.

Belle's empty tomb--if you look carefully inside you'll even see the folded linen that the risen Christ left behind, symbolic of the fact that He will come again.
(Rose Red sculpted an earth and moon, symbolic of Christ as Creator, but she forgot to photograph it for her notebook.)

Rose Red is still working her way through her history book, The Disappearing Spoon (chemistry), Vocabulary, and Spelling.

We did not complete any lessons out of our God's Design for Chemistry text.

Pixie finished reading and journaling The Book of Mormon for her Virtue value project for Personal Progress.  Only 3 value projects to go and she's earned her medallion!

I've dropped blanket time in favor of a whole family "morning meeting."  During this 10-15 minute time we sing, pray, work on memorizing poems and scriptures, and do a bit of Bedtime Math.  Once that is done, the littles are excused--and I've begun to include Nature Angel and Little Princess as littles so that they can have some free time and I can give them each one-on-one time later in the day.

Mister Man began reading over the Christmas break, so he doesn't really do preK anymore.  Instead I give him 15 minutes of time on my lap with some early readers.  If he wants to do a craft or watch a preK video, he can join with Ladybug, which he often does.

Ladybug is happily engaged in practicing phonetic sounds, coloring, doing crafts, and practicing writing letters.  We'll keep this up until she seems ready to sound out words.  (I've tried it out with her, and she cannot yet make sense that the sounds combine to make words.  That's okay.)  One thing she loves to do is take our base 10 blocks and use them as letter builders to spell out the names of our family members.  I think it is rather impressive that she actually knows many of the letters belonging to each of our 14 names!

I never did any "school" with Little Princess this week.  She reads voraciously, though, so she did lots of that on her own.  I sat down with her to practice her knitting.  And she participated in morning meeting and evening reading.  In between she engaged in lots of creative play, and I felt as though her week was just right.

Nature Angel has set the personal goal of 1 hour of personal study time each day.  She scrupulously keeps a journal of her accumulated minutes and brings it to me to help her add up the columns of numbers to track when she reaches an hour.  After that she transfers what she's read into a gorgeous poster she's making.  Her current studies are about nature--animals in particular.  We've also worked together out of her Good and Beautiful curriculum, and she likes to sit in on the big girls' school.  She spends a lot of time engaged in self-motivated learning.  And then she creates wonderful creative play scenes for the littler kids.

Belle baked 2 very lovely loaves of cranberry bread for us on Friday afternoon.  She is becoming quite the adept baker.

We got 2 of 3 days of our Couch to 5K training in--the big girls and me.  One day of snow knocked us off schedule and then the extreme cold and a funeral to attend knocked even our adjusted schedule out of my head until the week was over.

Nature Angel took this picture of the frost on an upstairs bedroom window--brrr!
 We'll sneak that lost day in somewhere.

It is terribly fun to go "running" with my girls.  Sir Walter Scott keeps the littles for us, and we are only gone for 30 minutes.  It feels like a tremendous luxury to leave the house and indulge in something so personal, but it is helping me so very much!

He takes good care of our babies.
 The older girls and I finished The Screwtape Letters and began Pride and Prejudice.  When Nature Angel found out what we are reading, she grinned and asked to be allowed to stay up to listen. 

Who am I to say no to that? :)

I read for a full hour last night, and still the girls groaned in disappointment when I closed the book. 

Reading aloud together is one of the great highlights of my life with my children.

Today is Monday--a new week.  I think I can handle it.

I think.