Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which Rose Red Gets Stitches)

Our school week began on the weekend because Super Star made chicken noodle soup as part of her home economics class.  It was the first time she handled a whole raw chicken, and it rather grossed her out.

But she survived.

She also had to chop 2 onions, and that was a true problem for her as she is very sensitive to the onion fumes.  She wore a pair of swimming goggles, put a clothespin on her nose, sang songs of woe, and muttered, "I'm going to be rich when I grow up, and I'm going to eat pizza every day, and I will prosper, and I will never, ever chop onions again . . ."

I laughed so hard, I cried.

The soup was delicious.

The next lesson learned was a practical lesson for Rose Red.

Be careful when handling sharp tools.

She thought she'd be cool and slice up a pair of old jeans to look like designer ripped jeans.  She found an old utility razor blade (where?!?) and set to work.

She sliced her left index finger open necessitating 2 stitches and the purchase of a great deal of hydrogen peroxide to get the blood out of the carpet and the jeans and the towel . . .

There's no long term damage, and Sir Walter Scott can take the stitches out himself in a few days.

Be careful when handling sharp tools.

We let Rose Red's injury be an object lesson for the littles.

Lola wasn't as interested in sharp objects as she was playing with Super Star's pretty shoes.

We hunkered down and read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library for our cousins' book club meeting this week.

The whole thing in one day.

We took breaks for meals and baby care, and I sent everyone outside to enjoy the October sunshine in the late afternoon, but otherwise we read and read and read.  The littles listened to various portions of the story--as long as they could play quietly they could stay in the room with us--but mostly they played outside because they needed to wiggle and talk more than we could tolerate as we worked our way through 289 pages in a single day.

I think we found a good balance for everyone's happiness.

I did make Ladybug mad by not having quiet hour (I figured the quiet play they engaged in as they listened to me read sufficed in that department) or her school time, so while the dinner rolls were rising I took her reading and math outside to her and spent 15 minutes one-on-one.

She felt better after that.

It was a fun book.  We got something of a geeky thrill in recognizing book titles and putting clues together ourselves as we read along.

As they listened:
Pixie sewed Halloween costumes.
Super Star completed a 600 piece world map puzzle.
Belle embroidered an inspiring scripture quote for her Personal Progress project.
Nature Angel embroidered a Cinderella picture of her own design.
Little Princess embroidered a smiling sunshine.

Rose Red missed the first part of the story due to her Spanish class (she got 26/28 on her quiz!), and the rest of the day she curled up in a ball nursing her sore finger and sore shoulder (due to the Tdap booster I requested after she cut her finger).

I took the Littles' journals out to them in the late afternoon and had them narrate to me (finally) what they remembered about our pumpkin patch outing a couple of weeks ago.  They all grinned madly as they told me about climbing and jumping on giant bales of hay.

And we finally got training wheels for Mister Man's bike.  Being short one usable bike has been good for teaching kids patience and sharing, but has become rather a daunting challenge over time.  Mister Man was so, so, so happy to get to ride around the driveway with everyone else!  We'd tried teaching him to ride without training wheels, but he's just not ready for that yet.  The lovely part is that the training wheels have a special lever that allows them to be twisted up and out of the way without taking them completely off if someone doesn't need them.

In the morning we discussed the power of small, simple acts of obedience--how they add up to a lifetime of service to the Lord.  We also worked on learning the days of the week in Spanish, studied Pieter Bruegel's painting The Peasant Dance, and had a very interesting time studying the ancient Mayan civilization--we spent a long time looking at pictures of babies with boards strapped to their heads to change the shape of their skulls.  Pixie asked, "What happens to brain development when the skull is deformed like that?"

Good question.  I've spent some time researching, but I've not yet found a satisfying answer.

Pixie spent time editing photos for the upcoming YW in Excellence program and working on the Halloween costumes she's making.

Super Star worked on science.

Belle spent quite a bit of time on Latin.  I'm happy to report that she likes it and is doing quite well in her studies.

Mister Man finished reading Wild Places, and we're now trying to decide what science book he'll read next.  He also narrated a journal entry to me about his new training wheels and how it feels to ride a bike.

Rose Red and I worked on Spanish vocabulary--a review of verbs from the last chapter that she was starting to forget.

Ladybug finished her 3rd reader, was introduced to the "ck" phoneme, and reviewed sight words.

Nature Angel read a biography of the artist Raphael and practiced subtraction with regrouping.

Little Princess worked on her 7-year-old challenge, embroidered, and practiced counting money.

It was rather a productive morning!!

When cousins came for our book club meeting, we spent a couple of hours just enjoying the autumn sunshine and each other's company.   Then we played a game inspired by Mr. Lemoncello (or perhaps Ms. Zinchenko) during which the kids answered questions about books and then hunted for clues around the house.  The clues were rebus pictures that the kids then had to put together and solve in order to find a treat.

They did it!

(Your eyes are fine, it's the focus that's bad.  We still haven't replaced the lens that Lola broke some weeks ago.)
What a fun end to a great day.

A chilly drizzle kept us indoors in the morning.  We discussed putting on boots and coats and going outside anyway, but the littles have more and more been in the mood for Legos and blocks and other indoor pursuits, so we honored that and had a quiet morning.

Morning Meeting
Individual School
Therapy (Ladybug and Brother)
Symposium (we had an awesome time studying the Erie Canal!)
Babies' naps
More Individual School (Mister Man finished Can't You Make them Behave, King George?)

Then the sun was out and the ground was dry, so we headed outside for the afternoon.  Sir Walter Scott took Nature Angel, Little Princess, and Little Brother to the library for an hour or so.  Rose Red took Baymax on a walk in the woods.  Pixie did Lola's hair.  I studied toy catalogues and contemplated Christmas purchases while I sat on the front porch available to listen to the stories small people wanted to share with me about their accomplishments and outdoor discoveries.

We had dinner early so that the big girls could join the other church youth for a trip to the temple.

Sir Walter Scott was home with me, and he gave me the wonderful gift of an evening jog--I've been having a hard time getting out in the mornings lately due to Baymax's recent round of poor sleeping and avid nursing.

He read stories to Ladybug, Mister Man, and Brother while I was gone.  Then I read stories to Baymax and Lola when I got home.

Nature Angel and Little Princess dove into their library books and never came up for air until bedtime.

A good, good day.

This was an emotionally trying day.

We had a lovely morning doing our regular school routine, but then we headed off to dance practice.

Pixie had contacted some of the other mothers in advance organizing an after-practice practice session for the dancers in the dance she choreographed herself.  Just when it was time to get started one of the other mothers (with whom everyone in the group is having difficulties) tried to step in and take the time for her own daughter's dance.  Pixie stood up for herself and got her time; however, this mother again stepped in during the practice and tried to take over how to practice, how to teach, and how to re-choreograph the dance to her liking.  Pixie tried to hold her own, but this mother is very aggressive, and when it was over, she came outside (where I was watching the rest of the kids) crying and terribly upset.

After listening and asking questions, I determined that her long struggle with this mother was turning out to be too much for her to handle.  With a prayer in my heart, I went inside to quietly talk to this mother, asking her to let Pixie alone.

She refused at first.
She tried to draw other mothers into the discussion (they wisely stayed as far out of it as they could).
She demanded that I monitor the practices myself (this is a cooperative dance group--my role at practice is to run the nursery and teach the youngest dance class).

In the end I was very firm about her leaving Pixie's dance alone.  Our voices remained quiet, our tones respectful, but I was very firm.

It is exhausting to confront another person.

I got into the van quite wrung out and worked to comfort my also quite wrung out teenage daughters.

In addition, earlier in the day another mother came to me in tears and informed me that Super Star was the source of her tears.  It turns out that Super Star is being quite mouthy and disrespectful during practice.  This mother was rather embarrassed at needing to come to me, but I reassured her that I was grateful for the information.

Super Star and I had a long discussion that evening about respectful behavior and what is expected of her.  She was quite defensive at first, but I am so proud of her for finding her sense of humility and offering a sincere apology to the mother she offended.  She also promised to do her best to be a good example in the future.

I think she'll struggle, but I believe she'll really, truly try.

On top of the teenage emotional stuff, Little Brother had a breakdown during his own dance practice.  He was leaning against the wall instead of standing up, and didn't listen to me invite him to take his place in line.  When I took his arm (gently) to lead him into place with the other children, he decided to scream that I was hurting him and to throw himself into a tantrum.  I led him aside to finish his outburst safely elsewhere, and while I was distracted, he removed his diaper (he's potty-trained, but he urinates whenever he's mad, so he's back in diapers simply to contain his intentional messes--this is the first time he's figured out he can take the diaper off) and urinated all over himself and the church carpet.

I took him into the bathroom to clean him up, and while I was conferring with the mother whose church it was about where to find carpet cleaner, he urinated all over the bathroom floor.  I cleaned up the messes.

He tantrumed for another half hour.

Eventually he calmed down, but I didn't have a dry pair of pants for him to wear because his messes are usually contained by his diaper, so he wore nothing but a shirt, diaper, and shoes for the remaining time.

Oh, and Lola's nap was only 40 minutes long, and Baymax never got a nap at all.

Tired, tired babies!

I was so grateful that dinner was in the crockpot that night . . . all cooked and delicious when we finally got home.

Dinner, pajamas, evening read alouds.

A soothing routine for us all.

(But I still ate a bowl of ice cream before going to bed.)

After morning meeting, we turned our day inside out and upside down in order to take advantage of a truly gorgeous day and go hiking.  We got a little bit lost, but then we found our way back and celebrated with cold water and apple slices as we sat on the shore of a small but lovely lake.

We forgot the second baby backpack, so we improvised--Pixie borrowed my jacked and zipped Lola into it!

Sometimes we could convince the babies to walk with us.

Pixie selfie

Sometimes nothing would do but for me to carry both babies.  That's about 55 lbs total weight I'm hauling along the trail!
Poor Mister Man--his shoe had fallen off, and he was tired and thirsty and lonely . . . we fixed him up

 . . . only to find him sitting alone on the trail again a couple of hundred yards later!  This time he was happy, contemplating leaves he'd found.

And then we found him again--shortly after we'd gotten lost and had to follow this road back to the lake and our van.  He was tired of the whole adventure, but he sure was happy to discover that our van was just around the corner!

We came home to put babies down for naps (looong naps this time!), eat lunch, and have quiet time.  I had time to read with Mister Man (he started And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? and One Day in the Woods).  Ladybug and I worked on her sight words, some phonics and reading comprehension; we also practiced the concept of number order by finding what number comes between.

After quiet time, I pulled out the puppet kits we brought home from last week's puppet show, and we made half a dozen ghost puppets.  We also wrote a thank you letter to our friend who gave us the kits and made the trip possible.

Pixie finished up the Halloween costumes she's been making.

Belle finished embroidering one of the panels of the decorative quilt she's making.

This week's preschool read aloud was Andy and the Lion.

We're almost done with The Green Ember.  The kids (and I) make fun of it because of the looseness of the editing, but it has sparked lots and lots of laughter and conversation.

Tomorrow night is our church trunk or treat.

(Linking here

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Find Joy in Returning to School)

We dove back into our school schedule and gasped in shock.

The previous two weeks were really pleasant.

I pondered quite seriously the idea of throwing out our plans for the year and continuing to alternate reading great books with having out-of-doors experiences.  I know that a truly wonderful education could be achieved that way.

But it was the littles that convinced me to resume our regular schedule.

"When do I get to do my school?"

"What happened to my school?"

"Can I do my school just for a few minutes, Mom?"

The question came with increasing frequency over the course of the second week.  I looked at why.  Our days were so full of really good educational experiences;  why were the little ones asking for their book work?

One-on-one time.

In a family as big as ours, it is easy to get lost in the shuffle.  The littles like our usual routine because it includes one-on-one time with Mom.  They like drilling math facts or reading history books or diagramming sentences or narrating journal entries because they are done individually with eye contact and smiles and words of encouragement from Mom. Sometimes school time even includes time on Mom's lap.

So, I realize that my long, prayerful summer planning this year and our schedule was neither wasted nor foolish.  It is exactly what we need.

It's just a lot of hard work. :)

In Morning Meeting we've been reading about Elisha from our Bible story book and the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon.  We're memorizing James 1:5 and John 14:15.  We're already working on memorizing the 4th and 5th paragraphs of The Living Christ.

Memorizing with music is such a treat.

Summer came back for a visit on this day.  Shorts, t-shirts, bare feet, mud, and water play were the order of the day . . .

Lola and Baymax enjoy a snack before dinner.

 . . . after school work was done.

We slid back into daily symposiums with singing, poetry (still working on Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers"), Spanish (we're trying out songs from this site), art appreciation (almost done with this book about Pieter Breughel), history, and geography.

Kids worked faithfully on their individual studies--the little ones loving every minute of their individual time with Mom.

And, honestly, Mom enjoyed the individual time with kids.

This was a challenging day.  I spent most of the day repeating in my mind--and even aloud sometimes--"Interruptions are my real life," and "My plans are not God's plans."

Both mantras are taken from this inspiring quote:

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day.”

--CS Lewis 

Babies with colds, a recalcitrant (more recalcitrant than usual) preschooler, hormonal teens, kids with owies and shoes that wouldn't stay tied and bike helmets that needed adjusting, light bulbs that blew out, a dishwasher that broke, beans I forgot to cook, pencils and scissors and craft supplies gone AWOL . . .

The day was long.  Along the way we did the best we could.

And it was good enough.

(Oh!  How grateful I am to be able to say that and believe it is true!!!!)

Another long, long homeschool day.  I am ever so grateful for my happy kitchen helpers Little Princess and Mister Man who scrubbed 10 pounds of potatoes to bake for dinner.  I am also very grateful to Super Star for wrapping that same 10 pounds of potatoes in foil before they went into the oven.

What was I doing while they scrubbed and wrapped?

Working one-on-one with Rose Red in math and Spanish.

My school day ended at 5:30 pm.

I was tired, tired, tired of school by then, but I must say that the middle of it was just a treat.  We made African-inspired masks after studying masks from 4 regions of Africa, and the creative process was a joy.


Little Brother

Mister Man

Nature Angel

Little Princess

Super Star


Nature Angel had to do some research about optimism for an essay she's writing, and it was a sweet experience for me to work with her in that way.

Little Princess focused on geography during her school time, and I felt joy in watching her enjoy her own success in memorizing continents and countries.

Ladybug is having a more peaceful emotional season, so we're getting to have our one-on-one school time together.  She's reviewing her phonics skills, and I'm seeing true growth in her reading fluency.  She also has beautiful handwriting.

Mister Man and I had a lovely half hour reading together.

Pixie is finding her way in her own essay writing adventures.  I could see growth in her ability to incorporate quotes from the book to prove her point even in just the 2 days since our first conversations about that skill on Monday.

And, as always, in writing I find clarity . . . I can see that Belle and Super Star have been left out.  They will be the focus of my personal attention in the days to come.

Dance day.  We had our usual morning activities, preschool story time, morning meeting, some individual studies, symposium (focused on a history review lesson--none of us could remember who Eleazar Ben Yair was, but we remembered all of the other figures in the lesson!  And we looked him up to be reminded that he was a Jewish leader at the tragedy of Masada.  "Oh yeah!" we all exclaimed, "How could we have forgotten!?!")

Little Princess had a particularly fun math activity about fractions during which she got to make a "fractions picture."

In the afternoon at practice, we danced and sang.

Only 2 more practices before our 2 autumn shows.

Then I made dinner while I worked with Rose Red on her Spanish vocabulary.

The littles rode bikes and climbed the apple tree in the autumn sunshine.

We're the blessed recipients of tickets to see a local puppetry arts institute production of Georgie and the Noisy Ghost.  We spent some time on Thursday watching the story be read to us online so that we'd be familiar with the story and not afraid at any hooting or howling that might go on during the production.  (I used to own a copy of this book when I was a little girl, and I quite like the sweet story.)  Nature Angel thought it was charming, and all of the littles said they will not be frightened in the theater now that they know all about Georgie and Captain Hooper.

Off to the theater we went as soon as Morning Meeting was done.

Baymax wanted to help drive us to the theater.
Waiting for the show to begin.
 The production was marvelous!  The writers/producers included perfect humor for both kids and adults and kept us enthralled for every minute of the show.

(There was not one scary moment the whole way through--thank goodness!)

How grateful we are to our good friend who made this experience possible!

And it was double fun to have 2 of our homeschool friends "in" the show (working behind the scenes) and to get to visit with them afterwards, telling them what a great job they did.

Our afternoon was free and peaceful.

Bike riding
Novel reading
Costume designing
Tree climbing
Rope swinging
Ball kicking

I paused to offer a prayer of gratitude for the sweetness of the quiet afternoon.

We had pizza and stories and went to bed early.

In General
Here are the three oldest in the costumes they wore to the church Halloween dance last Saturday:
Rose Red--you can't see her awesome make up in this picture, and I didn't get a close-up--too bad!  She looked great!
I was glad to see Super Star get more than one wearing out of her costume.  She received many compliments.
This is Pixie dressed up as a doll for this dance.  She designed and sewed this costume herself.  The cool part is that the red shirt will be usable as a regular shirt again because she only basted the sleeves on.  Clever girl!

Our preschool book of the week was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

We're half way through The Green Ember as our current read aloud.  We can't decide if we love it or not (it definitely needed tighter editing), but we're interested enough to keep reading. 

(linking here)

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Visit a Pumpkin Patch)

With the pressure of a mid-week call to jury duty heavy on my mind, I decided that we would not dive back into traditional school only to be interrupted after 2 days.  Instead we began a David Copperfield marathon.

As part of our Morning Meeting (which happens every day whether we have school or not), I discussed the importance of civic responsibilities such as jury duty and motherhood.  The older kids were quite intrigued about serving on a jury, but we all agreed that a mother at home is far more important than a mother on a jury.  I've been praying fervently for several weeks (after my personal efforts were all denied) to be excused from jury duty so that I can be home to care for my family, but I got the kids to commit to praying as well.

For the main part of our morning, we put together a bunch of snacks, and the oldest 6 girls and I headed to the basement for 2 hours of David Copperfield while Sir Walter Scott watched the youngest 6.  We read and ate and ate and read until it was time for the babies to nap and the littles to have lunch.

In the afternoon, Pixie finished the play mat quilt she's been working on for one of her church leaders who just had her 5th baby, most of the other older girls read library books, and the littles rode bikes and played in the mud while Sir Walter Scott spent 5 hours mowing the lawn of an ill member of our church congregation.

It is an unfortunately blurry picture (the focus is getting harder and harder to work with).  The red squares make crinkly noises, and there are textured ribbon loops for Baby to play with.  Pixie even attached some plastic teething loop toys to it.  Each fabric has a different texture, and some of the squares are actually knitted in various patterns for even more texture.
I did laundry and kept a prayer in my heart.

In our Morning Meeting we talked again about the power of prayer.  We reviewed that Heavenly Father always hears us, even when He answers us in a way different from what we want.  We continued praying in faith.

Sir Walter Scott had to work, so we set up our reading camp in the main living room of the house with plenty of creative toys for the babies and pulled out a bunch of favorite building toys for the other littles to play with in Mister Man's bedroom.  We successfully read for over 2 hours (with interruptions) and sighed with happiness at many of the plot threads that are being tied up in satisfying ways.  Though we quite love the Micawbers, Mr. Micawber's bombastic speaking style makes his chapters harder to enjoy than the chapters about Little Em'ly and Dora and the Wickfields.

Little Princess enjoyed playing with the pegs while she listened to me read aloud.
 After lunch we headed north to our favorite pumpkin patch and spent several happy hours petting kittens, climbing hay bales, exploring the corn maze, and choosing an enormous pumpkin for our front porch (though it looks so small now that it is on our porch!).

While the other kids snacked and played, Rose Red and I spent an hour or so in the sunshine reviewing verb conjugations and vocabulary words for her Spanish test on Wednesday morning.

We arrived home in time for me to call the jury information line.  I'd spent the whole drive home trying to settle the butterflies in my stomach by reminding myself that whatever would happen God hears and answers prayers according to His wisdom.

The recorded voice informed me that I did not have to report the next day, that I could consider my duty served, and that I am now excused from jury duty for the next 3 years.

I almost cried.

I was so relieved.

I called the children together and told them that our prayers were answered in the affirmative, that we must consider my release a miracle in our lives, and that prayers of gratitude were in order.  The older girls breathed a sigh of relief (except Super Star, who didn't realize that jury duty was far more than a 1 day commitment and who thought a day without Mom would be a nice break), and the littles grinned and cheered and promised to remember to be thankful in their prayers.

They kept their promises.

I woke to lightning flashes in the sky and the growl of thunder.

Oh!  How I love a thunderstorm!

I woke joyfully, knowing that I have the privilege of spending time with my family--my messy, demanding, frustrating, and wonderful family.  If anything, this threat of being forcefully pulled away from home, has reaffirmed to my mind and heart just how deeply I love and appreciate my role as mother and manager of our home.

Oh!  How I love being a mother!

I made pumpkin pie oatmeal for breakfast and got organized for a spur-of-the-moment celebratory trip to the temple with Sir Walter Scott.  The kids rallied to the cause and helped us out the door.

We were home in time for lunch and to put Baymax down for a nap (Lola was already asleep).  I gathered the older girls together to read David Copperfield for an hour and a half while the littles had their quiet time and Sir Walter Scott looked up family names to take back to the temple with our teens in the late afternoon.

I took everyone under 12 with me to our favorite nature park for a little walk in the brisk autumn air.  As we turned in the path to head back to the van I said, "Each one of you gets to find a beautiful red leaf, a beautiful orange leaf, and a beautiful yellow leaf!"  The kids scurried around to find and show me their treasures.

We collected far more than 3 leaves per child.

We noticed gorgeous orange leaves falling from a tree.  They twirled and fluttered in the breeze, and I called, "Oh!  Look!  Go catch them!"  The kids danced in the path as they chased and caught the leaves.

When they brought their treasures to me and I got a closer look, I suddenly felt ill.  The shape . . . it couldn't be . . . I looked more closely at the tree . . . tree? . . . vine? . . . it was!

Poison Ivy!!!!!!

That was the end of our outing.

We put the leaves down, held our hands away from our bodies, and raced to the pond where we rinsed off as best we could before heading home for another half hour of rinsing and washing.

We're okay.

But we won't be collecting leaves again anytime soon. :)

We finished David Copperfield!!!!

It took such a long, long, long time, but I will tell you that when we got to each of the various climaxes of the several threads of the story, the tension and attention in the room was palpable.  Several time I was moved to tears as I read.

And the main climax?

The really, really good one?

It was really. really. good.

We had girls squealing, groaning, sighing, clutching pillows, jumping, rolling on the floor, and nearly crying in anguish as we worked our way through the final chapters.

It was awesome!

That Charles Dickens . . .

He's a keeper.

Or a classic.

A classic worth keeping. :)

We were at loose ends on Friday--done with David Copperfield, not ready to do regular school, unable to go on an outing because of Rose Red's class and Super Star's appointment with a podiatrist.  The littles rode bikes; Pixie designed and sewed another Halloween costume (using fabric scraps we had on hand--free costume!); I did laundry and dishes and made a grocery list; Belle read books (Oh my!  I'm reading them, too, and they are wonderful!  I highly recommend them.)  Sir Walter Scott took Baymax (and then the rest of the kids) across the street to the high school soccer tournament and spent some time watching the games.

In General
Here are pictures of the girls before the homeschool Halloween dance last Saturday.  Pixie designed and sewed her costume (she's the wolf), and Super Star's (Red Riding Hood).  Belle (the huntsman) purchased her shirt for $.50 at a thrift store and made her own axe.

They won the prize for best group costume.

(Rose Red was grounded--she stayed home with me and helped put the littles to bed.  Sir Walter Scott chaperoned at the dance.)

Our preschool book of the week was The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall.

Every day someone did some sort of jigsaw puzzle.

And Legos got a lot of use, too.

The mornings are darker and colder.  I can't quite bring myself to send the littles outside first thing, so I've been setting out activities to help them get focused as the day begins.  Play dough ruled the mornings this week.

Warm temperatures are expected to return this weekend . . . I don't know that I can bring myself to return to "regular" school.

But then I don't know what to read next either.

So I have some searching to do this weekend:  for motivation and a great read aloud.

(linking here)