Tuesday, September 25, 2012

School Days, School Days...

I am having more fun than I imagined I would as a new homeschooler.  I worried about a lot of things when making the decision to do this, but I know it was the best choice for our family.  Technically only our oldest is in school, but his younger brother is joining in every day as well.  Pretty hard to keep him out of it even if I wanted to, so he does his own "school" with us.   Since he participates every day he has already learned all the letters of the alphabet and their sounds, and lots of other things too.  When big brother does math (working on addition and subtraction of simple numbers), little brother practices his number flashcards and counts (coins, cheerios, etc.)  He loves it!  And I feel good that I'm making time for him too.  When it was just big brother around we spent lots of time every day practicing things like that...abc's, numbers, colors, shapes; and so by the time little brother came around he already had a pretty solid foundation in things like that.  I didn't want to push it and if he didn't want to do it we would stop, but he was a little sponge and really wanted to learn new things.  With two of them it was a little harder to spend the same amount of time with little brother, and I didn't want him to be ignored.  Starting school has actually helped make time for him, and he's learned a TON at just 2 years old.

We are almost to the end of our kindergarden curriculum.  In only 6 weeks my oldest will be done with kindergarden and ready for first grade.  I had intended to do this as a preschool since he was so young and then do kindergarden again (maybe with a different curriculum) when he was done, but he definitely doesn't need that.  I've been trying to match up what we are doing with the state standards.  I've spent a lot of time lately on the Department of Education website to see what the kids in our state are supposed to have learned by the end of kindergarden and for the most part we've covered everything already.  The curriculum we have doesn't get all the standards, but by adding in just a very few things we will get everything in.  As a former elementary school teacher I spent way too many years focusing on those standards to just use a straight homeschool curriculum, even a good one.  I love having the freedom to do the things I think are best in conjunction with those standards though.  Now that we're almost done with kindergarden I have some decisions to make about where we go from here.  My son will be done well before his 5th birthday (which is normal for homeschoolers...we can go at the pace of the child and sometimes that's faster than in a regular classroom setting).  I don't want to move him ahead too fast, but I don't want to hold him back either.  He's ready for more though.  His reading and writing are right where they should be for the grade level he's in now so I don't feel any need to stay where we are.  Moving forward seems like the best option.  I just need to decide now if I'm going to stick with the same curriculum or try some other options.  There are a lot of choices and their price ranges vary a lot too.  Lots of decisions to make that I wouldn't have to if he were in public school.

I'm so proud of both my boys and am impressed with how much they're learning.  I can't wait to see what their little sister will be like.  It's going to change things a lot around here to be doing school with a 5 year old, a 3 year old and an infant when that day comes.  I look forward to it though and will continue trying to give all of my children the best education possible.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

School Stuff

We've been sounding out a lot of words in school lately, but the curriculum we use started to introduce the word "the" in with a few simple three letter words.  Of course this is a challenging concept for a kid who has been trying to hard to use those letter sounds to read words.  So a couple weeks ago I was sitting there and an idea popped into my head, and a poster was born.  I hadn't hung anything up on our walls yet.  I put all of his school work for the week on the side of the refrigerator, along with our calendar and hundred chart but haven't really put any permanent visual aids up so far.  I'm pretty excited about our first transformation of kitchen to classroom though.  I tried to explain that with certain words the letters actually don't help us out all that much and we need to just memorize them.  There are words that we see written all the time that we have to have in our mind and just know them without getting very many clues from the words themselves.  So we made this poster of some words we just have to know.  Hopefully this little visual will help him master these seemingly simple words that can actually be pretty tricky for a beginning reader.  He's still working on trying not to sound them out.  We're starting to refer to our poster during school and throughout the day, and maybe seeing the words over and over throughout the day will help trigger that memory so he can be on his way to becoming an independent reader.

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Crazy Kid

So I was thinking this morning as I got my littlest guy out of bed after he was calling "Mama, maaaaammmmaaaa!" (He can actually get out on his own, but always calls for someone to get him.  Both my boys did at this age.)  But moving on to what I was actually thinking about this morning...

Lately my youngest has been repeating the last sound of some of his words several times in a row.  Mostly words that end with "s" or "t".  For instance:

light becomes light-t-t-t

cars becomes cars-s-s-s

This is on my mind this morning because I was changing his diaper and said, "Your diaper is really wet today."  He replied "Ah, (that's what he says for yes, even though he can say yes if you tell him too, weird) mama wet-t-t-t."

My baby is growing up and talking so much, even if he does repeat a sound or two at the end of a word :)

He is also completely obsessed with Cabelas right now.  That goes for both my boys at actually.  He calls it the "fish store", a term he got from big brother.  Last night he kept saying, "Mom, fish store." and then going to the front door.  At dinner he repeated it over and over again.  "Fish store.  Fish store.  Fish store."  And then looking back and forth from mom to dad hoping someone would get the hint.  Anyone who knows my son knows he's very one track minded.  If he gets an idea in his head he keeps saying it over and over and over again.  If you're reading a book and he really likes the giraffe he will just say giraffe over and over again until he feels it's been properly acknowledged.

As I look at him right now exploring the room while I type I can't help but think how much I love this kid!

(FYI this has actually taken me a lot longer than it should have because his explorations resulted in me having to jump up and get him out of some potentially messy situations...several times)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blessings in Disguise

Back in January my husband and I found out I was pregnant with what would be our third child.  Things seemed normal except for the fact that I wasn't quite as sick as I normally am when I'm pregant.  I was still not well, and still having trouble with morning sickness but nothing like usual.  With my first two I had A LOT of trouble with feeling sick pretty much the entire pregnancy, and even needing medication to be able to keep any food or liquid down with my second.  I still felt sick though, and was just happy it wasn't as bad a usual.  I went in for my first ultrasound and they saw the baby didn't seem as far along as we thought.  No one was woried though because we just figured the dates were off and they wanted me to come back in for another ultrasound in a couple of weeks.

During this time I had been a little apprehensive about the next ultrasound just because I'd never been off on my dates like that before.  I waited anxiously for it because I knew I would feel better once I saw things were progressing.  The day of the next ultrasound came, and as the technician looked for the baby I immediately knew something was wrong.  She didn't say anything and was very kind and professional, but she couldn't locate the baby.  When she finally did it hadn't changed as much as it should have in that time and there was no heartbeat.  She left the room to find the doctor and the tears I had been holding in as she let me know what was going on could be held no longer.  I sat there waiting, and praying, and hoping that the tears would stop before she returned; they didn't.  I know they deal with these things all the time and thankfully the ultrasound technichian at my doctor's office is wonderful and she did her best to make me feel better.  The doctor didn't see me immediately that day, but had me do another blood test and scheduled an appointment for a week later.

So, I went home.

On the way I called my husband and at work and told him the news.  The tears that had dried before I left the office were back in full force.  Probably not the best idea to make that phone call while driving home on the freeway, but I wasn't thinking about that at the moment.  He tried his best to comfort me, and he did.  He reminded me that everything was in God's hands and whether the baby ended up being alright or not we would be ok.  I knew he was right, but it was still a hard day.  But from the moment my ultrasound ended I had begun praying, and didn't really stop.  We told a few close friends and family about what we were dealing with and I have no doubt they all began to pray for us immediately, and continued to until we knew for sure what was going on.

Over the next few days I met with my doctor several times and she let me know my pregnancy was not progressing normally.  My hormone levels weren't rising as quickly as they should be and there was still no heartbeat.  After a final blood test the results showed the hormone levels beginning to drop, and that along with no continued growth or heartbeat determined the fetus was not viable and I had had a miscarriage.  They told me to talk with my husband and decide which route we wanted to take...wait for the fetus to pass naturally, take medication that would cause my body to pass the fetus within a few days, or schedule a surgery to have everything removed.  We opted for the surgery.  I was still feeling very sick and it was much harder to deal with that when I knew it wasn't leading to a healthy baby, but was just my body's reaction to hormones that still remained.  We decided we just wanted to put everything behind us and not continue to wait for the fetus to pass on it's own; which could've taken anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to happen.  It had already been 10 weeks since I found out I was pregnant and continuing the process any longer would've been difficult.

You're probably reading this and thinking, "You titled this Blessings in Disguise??!"  But it's true, even though things didn't turn out the way I had hoped it was still a blessing, and God was still with us.  He deserves our praise when we get the answers we want and when we don't, and I don't want to deny Him that which He is worthy of.  There are some specific blessings we had during all of this though.

First of all, I decided to get a new doctor with this pregnancy.  I'd had the same one for my first two deliveries and although I didn't dislike my doctor I didn't really love him either.  So I looked for a new one.  I didn't want to ask any of my friends for recommendations because we weren't ready to share the news yet, so I did an online search and found a doctor with great reviews right near my house.  The reviews were right and she is wonderful.  I'm so glad I had her during this time instead of my old docotor, I just know he would not have had such a good bedside manner.

Second, I was administered to before I found out the end result of my pregnancy and I know I was immediately blessed.  I felt a peace I hadn't felt before and knew no matter what happened that everything was ok.  And after that I was willing to accept any answer God chose to give even if it meant the baby wasn't going to be ok.  My husband's grandfather was one of the ones who did the administration and he told me when it was done he didn't know what the Lord had done, but he had blessed me because he could feel it.  He was right.

Third, my surgery went very very well.  It was quick and simple with no complications.  I had been warned of possible pain and other side effects from it and I didn't have a single one.  I didn't need the pain prescription and never needed any pain medication at all.

Finally, I am so blessed to be surrounded by loving friends and family who were there to support us through it all.  God knows who we need in our lives and puts them in our path if we allow him to guide us.  I could not be more blessed with a caring husband and the best friends I could ever ask for.

These thoughts have been on my heart and mind today and I just felt I should share them with whoever might happen to stop by and read it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"O" is for Octopus

One of the most fun themes we've had in school so far is definitely the "O" is for octopus. Probably because the teacher learned as much as the student. I knew the basics...an octopus lives in water, it has 8 arms and no bones. But I guess I missed out on the marine biology lesson that taught about all the super cool other things that an octopus can do. So needless to say we watched A LOT of youtube videos about octopus camoflage!  (They were just so cool I couldn't stop!)

You must forgive my horrible photography skills here.  I have a point and shoot camera and kids who are trying to "help" me take pictures so I'm basically looking at them and aiming the camera somewhere at the table.  That being said even if they weren't there it probably wouldn't look any better.  But alas, I digress...I'll get back to the point.  This is a picture of a few of the things we did to help us learn more about the octopus as well as the letter "O".  Since you really can't see any of them up close I will try and explain them a bit.  Next time I will try and plan better and get some individual pictures up close to really show what he's learning.

We traced those cute little four year old hands to make an octopus and then found pictures of other sea creatures to make a collage.

The sheet with the letter O and picture of an octopus in the left corner is a sound discrimination worksheet.  Several pictures are given, some beginning with the "o" sound and some that don't. Circle the ones that do, x out the ones that don't.  I think this is incredibly boring, but this is always one of his favorite things to do each week.  He says the name of the picture and then "YES! it does!" and cirlces it.  Or, "NOOOOOO, it sure doesn't!" and x's it out with a big flourish!

One page is a math sheet where he chooses a number from a cup, writes it and then draws an object of his choosing that many times.  For example he picks the number 4:  He writes a 4 in the space provided and then draws 4 balloons.  During math we also do story problems.  I tell him a story and each time he hears a number he writes it down.  Then he solves the problem by drawing a picture.  (Seriously need pictures here instead of all these words!!)

The little yellow book you see there is the first book he read all by himself.  It's called "Pam", and has a total of five words.  He was SO proud! (And so was mom!)

We also made an octopus out of a paper plate and put an octopus fact on each arm, and did an octopus quiz.  I know I know, quizzes at only four years old?!  I'm quite the task master!  He loves it though.  He gets excited when I can't "trick" him.  If he gets an answer right I didn't trick him, he was too smart for me.  By the way the quiz was just YES/NO questions like:  An octopus lives on land.  YES   NO Then he circles the right answer.

I did get one photo up close, and yes another horrible picture.  Professional photography is not in my future!  Anyway...this worksheet is one of the begining reading activities in our curriculum.  He reads the words aloud without my help.  Each one he gets right on the first try he gets a sticker or a star.  (This week he couldn't decide if he wanted stickers or stars so we did both!)  He's doing so well with his reading.  He only missed one word, and that's because he read it doll-l-l (with the 2 "l" sounds separately at the end).  Then as soon as he finished he looked at me and said "That's not a word."  I told him the way he said it wasn't and that when two letters are together in a word you only say the sound once.  (We had never talked about double letters before that day.)  So he looked at it again and said "doll".  I should've given him a star, but since the rules of the game (we call it a game...pretty fun games we play at our house huh??) are you have to get it on the first try he didn't get the star this time. 

That's just a small look at our how school has been going so far this year.  It's been so much fun, and little brother likes to join in too.  He's learning a lot of his letters and numbers and likes to be a part of things as much as he can be.  As much as I loved (and sometimes didn't love so much) teaching as a career before I had my first son it can't even compare to teaching my own children.  I love watching them grow and learn.  I'm so thankful I have this opportunity to stay home with them so I don't miss a thing!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Another Birthday??!!

A couple of weeks ago my oldest turned four years old.  I know I say it over and over again, but I can't believe how quickly these four years have gone by.  Recently I was looking at pictures of the day he was born and now here he is far from that tiny bundle I held in my arms that day.

Here he sits with little brother anxiously awaiting the "singing" candle; a family tradition my mother began that my husband will never let die!  The only thing better about this photo would be if they were looking at the camera.  I love how they're sitting together sharing the same chair.  Brothers and best friends!

Even though he isn't the birthday boy this picture was just too cute not to share.  The cupcakes apparently passed the taste test!

For months my son told me he wanted a baseball hat cake for his birthday.  Two days before the party he tells me he decided he wants a sword birthday cake instead.  Too bad kiddo I already bought the stuff for a baseball theme this year and your "frugal" mama (we won't say cheap, although it's totally true!) isn't about to go out and buy whatever it might take to make a sword cake.  There's always next year!

So here is my attempt at making a baseball hat cake.  I love making birthday cakes for my kid's birthdays but I am far from artistic and cakes require a little of that to turn out just right.  So mine are personalized with imperfections but that's what makes them special right?  So far my attempts have included a police car, airplane, lion, and frog.  But this cake was by far the easiest one I've ever made. 

For the cake I put 1 1/2 cake mixes in a 3 quart round oven safe bowl and added extra time to cook it all the way through.  Mine ended up baking up nice and flat without the usual semi rounded top that usually occurs on cakes that you have to cut off to make flat for decorating.  Not sure how that happened, but won't complain about something that makes my cake making attempts easier.  Cake cooled and removed from bowl and ta da, the beginings of a hat.  I baked the remaining 1/2 of the cake mix in an 8in round cake pan and used that for brim of the hat.  This unfortunately did have a rounded top that had to be cut flat, oh well you can't win them all.  I cut about half of it away to form the shape of the brim and much to my surprise and delight it fit perfectly around the rest of the cap.  Cover with frosting and a hat begins to appear.  I used red Twizzlers pull and peel pieces to make the stripes and red M & M's for the center of the hat and the letter E.  Easy as pie, only it was a cake! 

The cupcakes were a little more labor intensive, but still super easy. After they were frosted with white frosting I used more of the pull and peel pieces to make the seams of the baseball.  Even though it probably took longer than just using red frosting it was less intimidating to me.  Frosting and I are not friends when it comes to drawing straight even lines.  They always end up looking like they were made by a kindergardener; all wavy and thick on one end, thin on the other.  No offense to kindergardeners out there, who are probably much better at decorating cakes than I! 

The best part of all though was when my son, who had wanted a sword cake, saw what I had made and said, "Wow!  That's really cool!"  And for that son, I will make you another cake next year.   Maybe even a sword!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Because a Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart"

I've been thinking today about how thankful I am for the things I've been given in my life.  For those who know what kind of day this has actually been you may be surprised to read that.  But today my heart is not filled with sadness, but with joy.  I'm thankful for the opportunity I have to live in a country with heathcare that I can take advantage of.  I'm thankful for a husband who is employed and can care for our needs when so many families are without that.  I'm thankful for a God who sees me and hears my prayers.  I'm thankful for two healthy and wonderful children.  It's amazing to actually see them learning everyday.  Each day they discover something new, or master something they used to struggle with.  I see my almost 4 year old (only a few days left of being 3!!) sounding out words and starting to spell.  How did that happen so fast?   My nearly 2 year old (still have a couple months to go for that one at least!) putting together sentences and saying so many new words.  I watch him mimic everything his older brother does and love to see how they play and grow together.  How did I get blessed to have such awesome kids?  I  have a supportive and loving husband who cares for me more than I think I even realize sometimes.  He sacrifices his time, energy, and heart not only for our family but for others.  What better example could I have for my sons to look up to?  So today I say God is good.  I thank Him today for all He has given me.  And if I never have another thing, I have enough.  If I never have a bigger house, a newer car, more stuff, it will be enough.  I pray that in my heart I always know that the gift and sacrifice of Jesus and my relationship with him ins enough.

So many times we focus on the sadness we see in this world, and forget to look at the beauty that still remains.  This is a broken world, and will continue to be until Christ returns and makes it right again.  Until that day, I hold onto the knowledge that even though I may not see His face God is there.  He is a part of my life, and he cares for each of us idividually and knows us, even me.  So today I want to praise Him for He is worthy to be praised.  And as I do I hum this little Veggie Tales tune in my head and know the words are so very true...a thankful heart is a happy heart!    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvPmCaRhDWo&feature=related

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Origins of Grandma Salad

I mentioned today that I wanted to make some Grandma Salad, and had someone asked me if it was made with kleenex, peppermints and overpowering perfume.  I laughed.  Then I realized that Grandma Salad needs a little explaining.  Since getting too long winded on Facebook is frowned upon I figured I would use this handy dandy blog here to share my thoughts on Grandma Salad.

First of all let it be known that I am opposed to almost all forms of what I consider "midwestern jellowy-ish salads".  You know the type; the ones that use various combinations of jello, pudding, cool whip, cottage cheese, nuts, and various fruits and vegetables.  Oh and don't forget the marshmallows!  For all my midwestern friends who make or like these particular concoctions, and for those from anywhere else who also like these I know you are not alone.  I'm often in the minority when it comes to my opposition to such foods, although I honestly can't understand it.  FYI I have tried many of these salads over the years just to make sure I still don't like them...I don't.  But I don't want it to be said that I'm not giving food a chance.  Just for fun I looked up some jello salad recipes online and came up with such fabulous ones as these..."Cucumber Lime Salad" in which lime jello, mayonaise, and cucumbers are combined (gag!), or how about this delicious little number..."Green Olive and Lemon Jello Salad" where you put lemon jello, onions, green olives, mayo, and the all important cottage cheese all in the same bowl!! (seriously disgusting!)  These are the actual names of the recipes by the way...who would read those titles and think,  hmm that sounds good?  And what's with mixing mayonaise into everything?  I just don't get it.  I thought I should also add that I found these recipes under the title "POTLUCK FAVORITES".  What does that say about the other food being served at these potlucks if these things are favorite items?

But moving on to more important things like Grandma Salad.  Grandma Salad is one of those things that if I saw it at a potluck before I had tried it I wouldn't have touched it.  It looks like one of "those" salads, a salad a grandma would make.  Not my grandma of course, my grandma's culunary delights included Little Debbie's oatmeal cream pies and microwave mac 'n cheese.  My grandma wasn't a cook, but she was amazingly wonderful in many other ways.  Anyway, Grandma Salad as I began calling it, is actually a recipe from the old Church of Christ cookbook that my mom decided to try.  Which is surprising since I grew up in a house that remained mostly unscathed by such types of foods.  Anyway, she made it and I immediately told her something along the lines of..."Ick why did you make that?"  or something equally as kind.  She told me just to try it because it was really good.  After doing a thorough check to make sure no cottage cheese or vegetables were hiding anywhere (I draw the line and those two items mixed with pudding or jello) I decided to try it.  And to my surprise my mother was right.  Who knew that when you take vanilla pudding, cool whip, pineapple, fruit cocktail, mandarin oranges, buttermilk, and fudge stripe cookies and mix them together the result would be such deliciousness?!  I for one did not, but after one bite I was hooked.  And now it has become one of my "potluck favorites".  So now you know everything you ever wanted to know (and so much more!) about Grandma Salad.  Which I think is actually called Fudge Cookie Salad and was a recipe by Dianne Brockman.  I want to give credit where credit is due because it is seriously yummy and it's always gone at any of our church potlucks before the last person in line goes through!

Friday, March 2, 2012

School uniform: Not exactly...

As superintendant, principal, and teacher for my son's school I am lucky enough to choose our dress code.  I do not let him wear his pajamas, I want us to be dressed for school even if we are at home.  Although today I was in my sweats...not exactly professional, but we'll keep this between the three of us (the number of my readers and myself...hee hee) and hardly anyone will know.  But today this is what my son chose to wear.  Meet Robin Hood :)  No worries he still got all his work done in spite of his outfit!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Footie Pajamas

What is it about footie pajamas that is so adorable?  Is it the the fact that the entire outfit is one piece?  Is it that you can't see their feet, because those are actually quite adorable themselves?  I don't know what it is but every kid looks cute in footie pajamas.  Take an average looking kid, put them in a pair of footie pj's and instantly transformed into cuteness.  Put an already cute kid in them and the result is just downright irresistable.  I can't put my finger on it, but I love footie pajamas.  It's rarely ever cold enough to wear them here, but I still have to find one or two opportunites a year to bundle my baby up in a pair.  And there you go...adorable!  Am I right or am I right?