Thursday, March 15, 2018

Raising of a Large Family

Bandwagon, anyone?  So I haven't posted in a really, really long time.  My poor neglected blog really needs an update.  BUT, I've enjoyed reading posts from Kelly, Colleen, and Bonnie on how they "set up the pins and knock them down" at their houses.  This post will just end up serving as a snapshot of our current life, I did a similiar post a number of years ago here, but that was when the kids were younger.  Here's what life looks like in our family now...

1.  Laundry
Gertie sneaking in a
photo op with a load of whites!

There's not a set schedule to this one, I usually do one to two loads per day.  The two oldest do their own (game changer).  I put the younger kids together, Doug and mine, Doug's dress/work clothes, and a load of whites (which include the bath towels, which are also white).  The kids who are in school have uniforms, which actually makes my life much easier.  I just make sure to throw a load of uniforms in over the weekend and they have school clothes to wear all week.

I don't sort colors (except I occasionally do a pink/red load).  Instead everything gets washed on warm or cold.  The load of whites is the only one I do with hot water and occasionally bleach.  I pretty much fold and put everything away myself, sometimes the younger kids help if they're home from school.  Sheets only get done if someone is sick or they look like they need it.  I hate ironing so all of Doug's work clothes are wrinkle free, which I've found means you can only wash 4 or 5 shirts at a time and have them come out of the dryer actually wrinkle free.  So once I have 4 shirts I throw them in a small load and hang them up right out of the dryer.  The summer is a bit different because we swim almost every day.  I usually hang the swimsuits in the bathroom to dry overnight and throw the towels in the dryer.  Otherwise we have wet swim clothes laying all over the house.

Teaching the older kids to do their own laundry was a game changer, before that I felt like I was always falling behind on laundry.  This was especially useful when the oldest started scouts and Civil Air Patrol (which have uniforms that need to look presentable all the time).  He's responsible for his own uniforms, I occasionally will remind him about the meetings but he stays on top of it.  He learned how to iron so now he can iron his dress blues, one less thing I need to worry about.  Seriously, laundry is a life skill, one I learned as a teenager when my mom twisted her ankle and ended up on crutches (and our washer was in the basement).  I took over laundry duties for a couple months and after that I did my own.  One less thing to learn when they move away from home.

2.  Meal Planning

Crockpot Carnitas
This has evolved over the years.  I hate shopping, but I used to do it weekly out of necessity and drag the then little kids with me.  Doug, on the other hand, enjoys doing the shopping but doesn't really have time to do it.  So the compromise is what we call "shopping dates", on payday I drive over and pick Doug up for lunch and we do the grocery shopping together on his lunch hour.  Then I drop him back off and head home to unload and put away all the food (the homeschooled teenagers help).  Bonus for the kids is I usually pick up fast food on my way home, so it's the two days a month they get Jack In the Box or Wendy's.  Knowing they're going to get fast food those days has kept the kids from asking for it every time we drive by.  Having a large family means sacrificing going out to eat, just going out to McDonald's can costs us over $30.  We make almost all our meals at home and most of them are from scratch.  I do keep frozen ravioli, frozen pizzas, and boxed mac and cheese on hand for the kids.  Doug and I have been doing a ketogenic diet since last year (we've lost a combined 80 lbs and really improved our cholesterol and blood pressure), but the kids eat normal.  I cook meals for Doug and I and then add side dishes for the kids or vice versa.

We shop at four different stores, Aldi's by far is where we get most of our stuff.  Their quality has gone way up over the years, if you haven't checked them out recently I highly recommend you try it (don't forget to bring a quarter for the cart).  We shop Wal-Mart for the stuff we can't get at Aldi's and have some specialty stuff we grab from Schnucks down the street (like my coffee and white popcorn for the air popper).  We also like shopping at Fresh Thyme, their peppered bacon is awesome.  My MIL told me years ago that to save money on the grocery bill you really need to make up your menu by what is on sale at the meat counter.  She is correct, we save a lot on our bills by making up our menu based on what meat is on sale.  This is not something I would have been able to implement years ago when I didn't have as much variation in our menu.  I was more in survival mode when raising babies but now I'm a more experienced cook and have had more time to experiment in the kitchen with different types and cuts of meat.  I have an Instant Pot, a Ninja blender/food processor, and a double oven which makes cooking on a large scale a bit more managable.  Plus I'm not nursing a baby (why do they always need to nurse during the 4:00 witching hour)?!  I remember many a meal made holding a fussy 1 year old on my hip, which makes stirring mac and cheese an Olympic event.

Now we make up weekly menus by looking at the ads and seeing what meat is on sale and what we have in our freezer.  Doug and I head over to Schnucks or Fresh Thyme and buy whatever looks good or is on sale.  We'll stock up in the freezer if it's a good special.  So when Boston Pork butts go on special we'll buy 4 or 5 of them and throw them in the freezer because we use them for a crock pot carnitas receipe.  If hamburger is on special we'll buy a ton, make half into hamburgers and freeze them with wax paper between them stacked four high.  The other half we freeze in 1.5 lb bags to use for tacos, meatloaf or chili.  Then I take them out to thaw (usually I thaw them in water an hour before I cook them).  We always have frozen chicken breasts on hand, and usually pork chops or pork steaks too.  Payday happens twice a month so we do two big shopping trips, but even with two refrigerators we can only hold so much.  Luckily Doug's office is right down the street from Aldi's so he will occasionally stop by after work and grab more milk or eggs if we need it.

3.  Dishes

Wine with groceries is
always a good combo...
All this cooking creates a lot of dishes!  Currently we have a chore chart that lists whose turn it is to do the dishes that day.  The older kids are paired with one of the younger and Doug and I take a turn on Sunday (although Doug states that this is unfair since we cook almost all the food we should be exempt from dish duty).  The way it stands today the kids are on dish duty every other day.  Now that the younger ones are old enough I'm getting ready to revise the dish duty chart so everyone takes one day by themselves and I'm thinking of leaving Doug and I and the youngest off the list.  Toddler Boy has the job of unloading the dishwasher.  Then the other four will rotate so you end up on dish duty about twice a week.  I really don't want to assign myself a day since I will be helping the younger ones on their day, but I haven't gotten it figured out yet.  We haven't implemented a really good dish system.  It used to be a consequence that if you didn't finish your dishes from the day before you got stuck on dish duty the following day.  But that led to arguments on whose dishes were whose and "when did we cook such and such" and it was a headache to enforce.  I like the idea of everyone having a certain day because we can schedule the teenagers' days around their work and activity schedule.  If I ever figure it out I'll have to report back, ideas welcome!

4.  General Cleaning

Everyone is responsible for their own rooms.  I take care of the master bath and the downstairs bathroom.  The living room, upstairs bathroom and hallway, entryway and stairs are assigned to the kids.  Sweeping the dining room and kitchen are assigned to the dish duty person.  I usually clean the bathrooms the same day I wash the towels, about once a week.  The other areas get swept weekly, sometime twice a week.  Firstborn takes care of the pets in the house, feeding and grooming.  He does this so well I don't ever have to think about it.  In fact, when he goes away on trips I have to write myself a note to feed the dogs or I might forget!  Soccer Boy mows the grass in the summer.  Firstborn or I will usually take over his inside area to compensate for the time he spends outside mowing.  Nobody gets paid for any of the maintence chores.  I do sometimes pay them money for extra stuff, like cleaning out the van or shoveling snow.  Both sets of grandparents live out in the country and usually have an abundance of outside work.  They often pay the kids to come help them out with their bigger jobs.

5.  Bill Paying

Here's the thing, I have a Bachelor's in Accounting and Doug has a Bachelor's in Finance plus an MBA and has worked in the banking industry for over two decades.  So if anyone should have their bills together it should be us.  I joke that all these degrees come in handy when filling out our taxes but taking control of your finances requires a fair amount of dicipline and communication (something which young newlyweds typically lack).  Many an argument we had over the bills, credit cards and balancing the checkbook!  Almost 20 years married has taught us a bit about how we manage our finances, and although there are some general rules (try to stay out of debt, pay your bills on time, etc), each couple is going to be unique on what system works for them.  When we were first married there was no internet banking, everything was paid by check.  So I kept a list when I paid the bills and went in every couple of weeks and balanced the checkbook and made sure everything cleared.  Now with online bill pay for virtually everything I write very few checks, it's all electronic.  Which makes balancing the checkbook a breese since so little is outstanding at any given time.  We usually sit down at the computer after putting the kids to bed and pay the bills together.  Then we can talk about that pay cycle, what extra expenses we might have coming up (birthdays, car oil changes, etc).  It used to be Doug or I doing the bills but by doing them together it keeps us both informed on what's going on with our finances.  That way if one of us is out of town the other person can easily pay the bills solo and nothing gets dropped or forgotten.  We've discovered when it's only one person's responsibility to pay the bills the other one quickly falls out of the loop.  Then it becomes difficult to discuss your finances together when the need arises to pay off or consolidate debt, the one taking the backseat has to play catch up.  If anything ever happened to one of us the other person is not left completely in the dark as to account balances, insurance policies, health insurance and the crazy amount of account numbers, login and password information you need to access anything.  Same idea for taxes, in the beginning of our marriage I did them, then when the oldest were babies Doug took over.  Now we do them together using TurboTax (I would like to point out when I did them it was all filled out by hand, multiple copies of everything because I had to file two state taxes, and mailed, ahem).

6.  Clothes

Still not got a handle on this one.  We used to shop yard sales and consignment when there were some good stores in the area.  But now we tend to shop the sales and buy ahead a season.  So we buy the kids' winter coats for next year when they go on sale in the Spring.  School uniforms are different, we buy those in the Fall right before school starts because that is when they are on sale.  When we had three little boys right in a row we kept stuff and passed it on to the next kid.  But I now find myself purging lots of clothes because there is just not enough room.  The boys are all different sizes and now that they are older they have different taste in clothes.  We always check out the sales racks to see what they have.  This is another area that Doug excels in, he loves finding deals (am I the only women alive who absolutely hates shopping)?  I love shopping solo at Target but hate getting drug around the Mall or Kohl's clothes shopping.  I avoid the Mall like the plague (although Macy's is there and they have really good deals too).  Old Navy isn't bad either.

7.  Scheduling

My happy place!
When I worked I kept multiple calendars, my work calendar at the office and our home calendar (which was a paper wall calendar).  Doug had his own work calendar and he would occasionally call and we would sync the stuff that needed it (like after hour business meetings and such).  As the kids have gotten older and we've added activities the calendar is what keeps the operation running.  A number of years ago when I was homeschooling all the kids I used a folder based calendar that I could carry around with me to work on in waiting rooms or at soccer practices.  I merged the homeschool assignments with my calendar to keep track of everything.  Now that I homeschool high schoolers they keep track of their own calendars (for the most part), I'm more hands off.  Now the calendar is more important for making sure people don't miss practices or meetings and I know who needs to go where, when.  I've started to make the switch to using a Google Calendar, so now I can use my phone to keep track and can access it when I'm on the go.  Bonus, it will send me push notification reminders so I don't forget important meetings.  I can also import other calendars (like my son's scout troop), so I know when campouts are being scheduled.  The younger kids in school are now being taught how to use agendas and calendars to keep track of their homework.  They start using agendas in 3rd grade.  I find this a bit odd, I don't remember being "taught" how to use a calendar in school.  But I recognize how important it is in today's fast paced society to know how to keep on top of your schedule.  The calendar also helps me block off free time, when I see the calendar starting to fill up I know that I need to start saying "no" to new items to keep from becoming overwhelmed.  The Mass I am going to attend is scheduled months in advance because I cantor and sing in the choir, so it is on the calendar (of course, it's not set in stone, if I need to I can trade days with someone).  I also schedule Reconciliation, Adoration and date nights, because if those things didn't make it on the calendar they might not happen.  I'm more intentional with my time and my calendar helps me prioritize what is important.  At the same time I try not to be a slave to my calendar.  I do have a lot of responsibilities and there are a lot of moving pieces with a larger than normal family, but I still want to leave room for God to operate in my life.  I strive to be God's instrument in this world and being a wife and mom is a part of that, but I would hope that if God had something He needed me to do I wouldn't ignore Him for the sake of the schedule!  The calendar is a tool to help me create the free space and quiet He needs to operate in my life.  Nothing more and nothing less.

There you have it, I'm linking up to Kelly on this not-so-quick post on how we do things around here.  Head over to her link up to find more Quick Takes...

Friday, December 2, 2016

SQT - Advent Arrives

1.  Advent is here!  Which means Christmas is around the corner, so I'm trying to stay ahead of the craziness.  I don't have our holiday letter done or the Christmas cards made out yet.  A bit behind because there have been years that was done before Thanksgiving...BUT I do have some of my gifts purchased.  So that's something.  Also, the tree made it up the weekend after Thanksgiving.  Having some technical problems...
1/2 colored, 1/2 white

1/2 white
We have one of those light strings that change from colored to white (on a separate circuit).  So when I plug the top "white light" only set into it they will only turn on if the colored button is switched.  I seem to recall having this issue before but can't quite remember how it was resolved.  I had to put the tree together twice this year.  I'll blame it on the younger kids because this is the first year I let them help with that part and we missed the very bottom row...which meant we had to take it completely apart and start over.  Maybe I should consider a real tree next year?

I went out and purchased a new tree topper since our angel one is not working.  Actually I lost misplaced the plug in adapter (details, details).  Considering moving the tree out of the window and to the corner.  I like the idea of the tree in front of the window but realistically our living room flows better if it is in the corner.

2.  I know, I know, it's Advent.  Catholics everywhere are groaning.  However, I was raised Protestant so I have no issues with putting a tree up before Christmas.  If the tree doesn't make it up after Thanksgiving it sometimes doesn't get done until right before December 25th (I understand that is the tradition in some families but it's just too late for me).  I am really enjoying all the Christmas music on the radio and the choir will soon start practicing the songs for the upcoming season.  Those songs are some of my all time favorite to play on the piano too.  I miss playing on a regular basis.  Maybe I should take lessons again (Christmas present to me).

3.  I'm reading Heidi Hess Saxton's new book Advent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta for my devotions.  I'm only a few days in, obviously, but liking it so far.

Speaking of books, we just finished The Adventures of Tom Sawyer during our Read Aloud time in the homeschool.  I finally started including the Read Aloud in our morning routine and it has really made a difference.  We've been doing Read Aloud time for years but I always had it on the schedule after lunch.  Frequently something would come up and we wouldn't get it in, which meant we couldn't get through as many books as I would have liked.  This year I moved it to our morning routine and that has worked out much, much better.  We just started The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is a shorter story so we'll be able to finish it before we break for the holiday.  I was considering doing Watership Down next but I think it is too long for Read Aloud.  If we do something with too many chapters the boys start losing interest before it's finished.

I'm sure most of my readers know all about this, but if not Sarah over at Read Aloud Revival has a great website with reading lists and lots of information.

4.  We are preparing to do a major kitchen renovation after the holidays.  The plan is to relocate the kitchen upstairs (it is currently downstairs).  It was originally upstairs when the house was built but the previous owners moved it.  Since we're doing a lot of the work ourselves it will be a major job but at least I won't be without a kitchen while we're in the process.  Years ago we did some work on our current kitchen which meant we were unable to use it for a few weeks (which felt like a month).  There was drywall dust everywhere.  I love the finished product but really hate the process.  Just watching Fixer Upper stresses me out.

5.  Did lots and lots of baking over Thanksgiving, my family rejoiced!  We still have two turkeys in our freezer.  I had some help with the pumpkin pies...
Mommy's helper!

Turkey, rolls, stuffing and twice baked potatoes

I ended up with white hand prints all over the cabinet and flour on the floor (how did that happen)?  I should have had my dear hubby do clean up because Princess came into the kitchen and told me "Dad said we should come down and help you make the pies".  So he could watch Netflix in peace (priorities).  But they are cute helpers so all is forgiven.

6.  I volunteered in our youngest's kindergarten class, the theme this week was The Gingerbread Man.  They made gingerbread houses...
Always a treat!
7.  Whipped up a batch of my oldest son's favorite holiday treat...

We'll be going to our friend's Christmas open house this weekend and the recipe is courtesy of her.  You can find it and more on Rhonda's website Christmas Notebook.  I know I've mentioned her before, she teaches a class every year through a yahoo group on how to prepare for the Christmas holiday.  The class starts Aug. 1 but you must join the group Feb - July.  She taught me how to set up my own Christmas notebook back when Firstborn was a baby and I continue to use it to this day to plan my holidays.

Candy Jumble

24 oz pkg. vanilla almond bark
2 c. mini marshmallows
2 c. Reese's Puffs cereal
2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
2 c. peanuts
12 oz pkg. M&M mini baking bits (or regular M&Ms work too)

Mix together the marshmallows, cereals, and nuts in a large bowl.  Melt the almond bark in the microwave at 50% power for about 3 minutes.  You'll need to check it with a fork and stir it because almond bark holds it's shape when melted.  Pour the melted almond bark over the cereal and mix (work quickly) then add the M&M's last and stir until just mixed.

Spread out flat on two pieces of aluminum foil to harden then break apart and eat or dump in a plastic bag to save for later.  Yum!!

8.  Bonus Take!!

Because the trailer for the upcoming movie The Shack came out this week!  Super excited to see it in March.  I would rate this book as one of my top 10 books of all time.  One of those books you can come back to and reread and discover more there than the first time you read it.  There's a lot of depth to it.  Caution, the story, in part, revolves around an abducted child so it is not an easy read.  But it is very good.  I would argue that the book has to take you into the depths of the characters' pain in order to reveal truths about God and in part answer the question "why does God allow suffering in the world".  It's about forgiveness and redemption.  The book was written with the screenplay in mind, I can't wait to see how God will use it to transform people's hearts.  Here's the trailer...

Enjoy your weekend!!  Much thanks, as always, to Kelly @ This Ain't the Lyceum for hosting.  Click over to check out more 7 Quick Takes.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How We Homeschool - High School Edition

I was looking back over old posts and realized it's been a while since I've done one of these homeschooling posts.  When I was in the trenches of teaching only elementary kids I recall dreaming about the days when homeschooling would be "easier".  When I didn't have little kids running underfoot, toddlers to entertain, babies to nurse and nap times to arrange.  When the older kids could be more independent learners...

I hate to burst any bubbles but the reality of homeschooling middle and high school is not exactly what I envisioned.  Life never is, right?  This is a long post, but it's also real.  I don't want to sugar coat homeschooling, it is an educational choice and one that works for our family.  But for transparency sake I wanted to share what our days look like now that we have two high schoolers in the mix, the good and the struggle.  Homeschooling isn't necessarily "easier", it's just different.

First off, I'm still facing a learning curve myself.  I've taken Chemistry, but it's been quite a few years.  I don't tend to use that stuff in my everyday life.  Teaching at the high school level is like taking a refresher course on everything I've forgotten since college.  Teaching phonics to a first grader takes patience.  Teaching chemistry to a high schooler takes patience and a bit of review.  Not that I have to be an expert in all the subjects but when my kids have questions I have to know where to direct them to find the answers.

Speaking of those high school subjects...gone are the days that we could get up early and fit all our schooling in before lunch.  My older kids are studying four to five hours a day.  Sure, if they could go hard core four straight hours and didn't need my input on anything we could pull it off.  But that's not realistic.  On a day we have something going on (like next week when we'll spend a couple hours at the trampoline park with some other area homeschoolers), we'll need to plan ahead to stay on track.  That means the schoolwork for that afternoon will need to be done the day before/after or over the weekend.  If there is a day I'm out (like going on a field trip with my younger kids) then the older ones have assignments while I'm gone and we have to work in time for me to go over them when I get home.  I'm finding it requires all of us to be more diligent and disciplined about our schedules (which is not a bad skill to learn, something they will need in their adult life).

Speaking of field trips, we haven't been on one in ages.  Again it is because of the academic schedule.  My kids like having the summer break.  They use it for camping, swimming, working and spending time with their friends.  They don't like doing math all summer because they didn't get it finished during the school year.  We tend to save the trips to the zoo, museum, theater, etc. for the weekends when the whole family can attend.

Things my kids like to do during the summer besides math...

Tree swing at Cider Fest 2016

Visit Zoo with cousins

Play at the park

Watch Cardinals Baseball!!

Eat fried chicken (Cider Fest 2015)

More swinging (Cider Fest 2015)

Our two youngest family members are still in the public school so that means our homeschool sort of revolves around that schedule.  This helps to keep me a bit more sane.  If the younger kids are off school I tend to give the homeschoolers the day off too.  My kids can rejoice that they will finally get snow days!  Seriously, I use those break days to get stuff caught up around the house and try to take a break from teaching if I can.  When the younger ones are home they want my attention and I am more than happy to accommodate since I don't get to spend as much time with them during the school year.  I truly do miss them when they are gone most of the day.

So it appears that this whole post is negative, negative, and more negative.  There are some awesome positives to homeschooling high school.  We have great discussions, I love debating classic literature or getting to reread some of my favorite books with my kids.  Since I'm the teacher I can choose which books they read.  Yes, they are more independent, so that means I can assign them work and they don't need me to be right there beside them to do it.  Sometimes they have other teachers assign them work.  For example, they take their science classes with a homeschool lyceum group.  That takes some of my workload off, their schedule and labs are already set, I just do the grading.  They also do some of their schoolwork on-line and I monitor their progress on the computer.  At this stage much of my job is monitoring to make sure they're staying on top of their work.

Homeschooling is still flexible for the older kids.  Normally you would take government as a Senior but I'm teaching it this semester because it is an election year.  We can watch debates and talk about election coverage while it is happening.  I can have them take their history, health and PE classes together.  I do read alouds with my middle schooler and the older ones sit in too.  In fact, this is part of our morning routine.  I take my younger kids to school at 9:00 and when I return home the older kids are up and dressed and usually eating breakfast so we pray together and then start with a read aloud (currently we're reading Tuck Everlasting and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).  Then we break off, I usually work with the middle schooler while the high schoolers do their own work.  I just rotate through with each of them, break for lunch, then finish up the middle schooler's work followed by the remaining high school lessons.  On a good day we're done by 3:00, most days we're wrapping up around 3:30.  I always end our day by 4:00 because the bus drops the younger ones off around then and I shift gears to help them with their homework and start supper.

Another benefit...the older kids don't have homework at night.  They normally get all of their work done during the day so after supper is completely free.  That learning curve I mentioned earlier?  Teaching Chemistry is tricky this year because it's new to me.  But when I teach it again in a couple years it will be easier.
Required Kindergarten eye exam

Sick days are easier to manage too.  If they're not up to a full day of work I can adjust their lessons to compensate.  Maybe they'll break after lunch to take a nap.  If they're sick for more than three school days I don't need to call the doctor to get an excuse.  We schedule their annual physicals for September/October because that is when the doctor's office is not super busy (and any camp forms we fill out now can be carried over until next summer).  I always hated trying to schedule their annual exams in the Spring when we were so busy with birthdays.  This past week I had to take the 6th grader in for a tetanus booster (he stepped on a nail).  When I called the doctor they were surprised he hadn't gotten it yet because in our state the DTap booster is one of the required immunizations for 6th grade and a majority of kids had to get it over the summer in order to attend school.  I reminded them that he is homeschooled and isn't due for his annual check-up yet.

Last but not least, one of the best benefits of having older homeschoolers is that you don't need babysitters!  If I need to run an errand or go out on a lunch date with my husband I can safely leave the teenagers at home without worry.  Someone saw me out at lunch with Doug last week and commented "don't you homeschool anymore"?  To which I replied "I'm on lunch break".  Seriously, last I checked even the public school teachers got a lunch hour.  She then asked what the kids were up to while I was gone.  I replied they were eating lunch too and that 16 year olds are perfectly capable of eating lunch by themselves.  I suppose you can't keep everyone happy!  Homeschooling still requires a bit of a thick skin, even though I've been doing this for 9 years I still get the occasional odd comment.

Curriculum...if you've made it this far here's the breakdown and links (not affiliated)...

Apologia for science, Saxon for math, we use the Omnibus series from Veritas Press for literature/theology/history although I do additional stuff for history too.  Their theology is very Protestant and can occasionally come off anti-Catholic so I watch for that and try to provide a bit more balanced approach.  We're trying out Reading Horizons this year for additional vocabulary and spelling, so far we like it (we use their "at home" program).  Last year we did some videos through The Great Courses for some history add on and this year we're using a nutrition video series as part of our health class.  In the younger grades we use All About Learning for reading and spelling, great for dyslexics and struggling readers.  This is not all inclusive, just hitting the major stuff.

It's still a bit surreal to me that next year will be my 10th year teaching and our oldest child will be (hopefully) graduating our school!  I still remember teaching him 3rd grade phonics and now he's driving and preparing to go to college.  By far the biggest benefit of homeschooling is getting the privilege of being my children's primary educator.  My kid's number one social network is their family, their brothers and sister are their best friends.  (Not to worry, they do have other friends, they are not social hermits).  The homeschool community is really a great place to raise kids.  As a general rule homeschool kids are a pretty good bunch, I don't worry too much about bullying and negative peer pressure.  If I had the decision to make all over again I would still choose this path, the benefits have far outweighed the costs for our family.  So if you're reading this posts because you're trying to decide if you want to homeschool high school I would encourage you to try it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Why We Don't Do Family Photos

In case you're wondering, here's our photo shoot from last weekend...

There's always one monkey in the bunch!  Hoping you all had a fun Thanksgiving weekend!!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Boundary Waters & Back to School!!

1.  Two of our family members just got back from a week long canoe trek in the Boundary Waters (Minnesota / Canada).  Confession:  they actually returned August 6th but it has taken this long to download/edit pictures.  Plus I may have been a wee bit busy getting the younger kids ready to head back to school (see Take #7), so there's that.  Continuing on...they paddled 57.45 miles in 6 days and even made a brief trip into Canada.  Pictures!!
On their way out

Blessed 4 way medals I gave them
(because I'm Catholic)



Finally Home!!
(ignore child eating Krispy Kreme donut)

2.  While they were gone I held down the fort at home.  No major house renovations, unless you count painting and hanging a re-purposed coat rack for the entryway.  Technically, I did not actually hang it myself (thank you Dad).  I do hang lots of stuff but this one required hitting studs so I decided to call in the expert.  But it turned out great and makes me so happy, this will make getting the kids out the door in the morning so.much.easier and will also give them a place to hang all their stuff when they walk in the door.  I was going to put a nice smelling candle on the shelf but then decided the odds of a heavy candle falling on someone's head if the front door is slammed is just too risky for our household.

3.  Although they were only off the radar for 6 days the total time they were gone for the trip was almost two weeks.  So to say we missed them is a bit of an understatement.  I did take the other kids on a few day trips while they were gone...

No we did not see Ghostbusters, he's just fascinated with the sign!  We were actually there to see the new Ice Age movie.  We also rented quite a few movies from the video store because it was too hot for them to play outside much and I needed to get some decluttering done and curriculum put together for the upcoming year.

4.  Speaking of that...we now have two high schoolers in the homeschool!  I won't lie, I'm not particularly looking forward to getting the school year started.  Mostly because I remember it is just a lot of work to get everyone (including myself) going.  We start slow and don't throw in all the subjects for the first couple of weeks.  The goal is trying to get everyone into the new routine.  It probably takes about a month before things start running smoothly.  A month of ordered chaos where the house sort of falls apart and the meals are bare bones as all my energy is diverted to getting the homeschooling up and running.  I'm a bit exhausted just thinking about it.  Received an e-mail from Firstborn's Chemistry teacher who mentioned classwork would start up soon.  I think I heard an expletive cross through my mind when I saw it.  So here we go...

5.  Am I the only one who sees pinterest projects come across my screen and think "that is a whole heck of a lot of work...who has time for that".  For example, a cute back to school cardboard picture frame you can make after you spend what looks like 30 minutes cutting it out to look like a school bus, then painting it yellow, then painting their name, then adding chalkboard paint so you can write their grade on it (I'm assuming because it looks cute and not because you're planning on reusing it next year because cardboard projects do not survive 365 days in our casa...that's if I remember where I put it...a big IF).  Add lots of tape and shazam!  You have them hold it up so you can take their picture.

Right.  I'll get right on that.  Honestly I'm lucky I get a picture uploaded to Facebook.  #notasocialmediaexpert

6.  Had to call the pediatrician today and ask for a favor so our kindergartner wouldn't miss his first day of school.  I hate when stuff slips through the cracks like that on my watch.  I swear the amount of forms our doctor has to fill out for the kids annual check-ups is mind blowing.  Seriously, I come in with a file folder full of stuff I pre-filled out for camps, scouts, sports, you name it someone has a form that needs signing.  I thought I had gotten his check-up back in March because that was when kindergarten pre-registration is for our school.  But no, as I was looking at my calendar today I realized I did not because it was a few weeks too early and the insurance would not have paid for it.  At the summer registration (yes, I went through 2 registration processes for the same school) I asked the nurse if she had everything for him and she thought she did but was going to check her files and call if she was missing anything.  I didn't get a call but last week I had this nagging feeling that I was missing something so I checked my calendar and called the doctor and sure enough...
This is before he had to get 3 shots...

7.  The two younger ones headed off to school this week...

All smiles for first day of school

The house has seemed eerily quite with them gone.  There are still 4 people in the house all day but anytime more than one person is gone you can really tell the difference.  Except for a slight bus mishap on the return home yesterday (he fell asleep and missed his stop) everything went well.  My older ones warned Princess that 2nd grade is when school becomes "hard" I'm guessing everything before that is just "fun"?  Hard to say, but it is funny what kids remember.  The rest of the gang is still homeschooling and school officially began last week.

8.  Bonus Take!!  Because I just ran across this video on Facebook (from 2012) and thought it was excellent, especially for those of us parents in the trenches with struggling readers and/or writers.  I wish I could have watched this years ago when my older ones were slogging through it.  So I thought I would link this up for anyone else who'd like to watch it.  I know it's a bit lengthy but I think it really does a good job summarizing many of the different issues kids can get tripped up on when learning to read and some of the ways to help them get through it.  Lots of good suggestions.

Soaring not Stumbling, Teaching Struggling Readers and Spellers:

That's it for now.  It actually took me three weeks to put together one Quick Take, but I'm blaming the photo uploading and life in general.  Probably why I don't blog for a living!  Of course much thanks to Kelly @ This Ain't the Lyceum for hosting, head over and click away...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Back to Blogging!!

1. has been too many months since I last posted, almost a year has passed.  What can I say?  It's been a season of silence and prayer.  We attended too many funerals, one of which was a teenage friend of my older kids.  I lost a friend when I was their age, so this had me reliving the experience as a parent.  In some ways I think it was more difficult walking with them through the grief process than it was going through it myself so many years ago.

Although my blog was silent I was still reading and keeping up with many of yours (thank you Bloglovin).

2.  It is hot outside!!  Hot, hot, and more hot...

We are currently in an "excessive heat warning".  I see people taking their kids to the area parks and zoo and I think are you crazy??!!  I, obviously, appreciate air conditioning a bit too much.  The high humidity outside just zaps my energy so we've been doing indoor projects with a late day trip to the pool thrown in.  Last week we had storms roll through that took out lots of branches and uprooted trees in the neighborhood.  When I took the kids out the next day they commented "why did all the neighbors decide to trim their trees at the same time"?  We were blessed that our power was not out all night, some places in town lost it for days.

3.  Our air conditioner on the van went out again last week.  It went out a couple weeks ago and they recharged it and added a dye so they could find the leak.  Did I mention how hot it is?

Great timing.  We also found out it is a $2,000 fix if we want to keep the rear air vents going in the back of the van.  In comparison, we're looking at $200 for a cheaper fix but we'll lose the back air vents.  Really thinking the rear vents are not worth the additional $1,800 (granted, I don't ride in the back of the van that often).  The kids may have a different opinion but they're not the ones paying for it.  When I was young enough to ride in the back of a van the "rear air vents" were called "windows".   Doug recalls their family always drove with the windows down and rarely ran the AC.  In fact, when we were dating he preferred riding with the windows down.  Nostalgic!  He mentioned to me yesterday that he is almost getting used to not having AC again...which is my signal to get it fixed ASAP before he relapses into the 90's.

4.  That sinking feeling you get when the kids ask if you purchased a "Big Hero 6" blu-ray.  Um, no, why do you ask?  Then they bring you a video rented from the video store two or three weeks ago that was not returned because it was mistakenly placed in our personal video collection.  I know we've been to that store at least once or twice since then and they never mentioned the outstanding video!  Sigh... (Update, it only cost me $2, hallelujah)!

Speaking of overdue fees, our library card is up for renewal and I'm considering asking if we can just get a free year because we probably paid more in overdue fees/lost item replacements last year than the actual cost of the card.  I'm sure they just love us.  When you have 5 kids and you're checking out the number of items we do being one day late costs us $2.00 (at the rate of 10 cents per item per day).  No excuses since I can do the renewals on-line.

5.  I just started reading this book...

I'm still in the first week of it, but so far I like it.  A study on Divine Mercy according to the teachings of Doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Lisieux (the Little Flower).  Great reading material for this Jubilee Year of Mercy.  I read Michael E. Gaitley's previous book, 33 Days to Morning Glory about this time last year.
Throwback pic from last Fall,
note pumpkin flavored coffee with whipping cream
Really great stuff.  The hardest part for me is only reading one page a day, I'm the type of reader who wants to devour the whole book at once and then go back over it and reflect piece by piece.  Only reading and digesting a little at a time kills me.

6.  My youngest did some artwork in his Sunday school class this weekend...

Me:  Who did you draw
Youngest:  That's you and that's me
Me:  ???
Youngest:  I forgive you for last week when you dropped me off at class and told me you'd be right back but you didn't come back!
Me:  I did come back to get you.
Youngest:  You weren't very fast...

I'm glad he's paying attention in class but I think a 5 year old's version of time might be a bit different than mine.  I did promise that I would not use the words "right back" anymore and let him know I would pick him up after class instead.  At least I'm forgiven!

7.  A picture from the pool...

Thanks to the awesome Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum for hosting the 7 Quick Takes, click over to read blogs of people who post more than once a year!