Photos from Grandma

Mom sent me a few shots from her phone of the kids at the trampoline place, so I thought I’d share.


Funny story on Margaret’s socks. Knowing Mom planned to take them for an outing, I made sure each of the kids had a clean pair of socks packed. When the kids went to bed, Mom set out their clean clothes for the next morning, each with a pair of socks on top. In the morning, Margaret’s socks were gone and nowhere to be found. The room is pretty empty, so we’re having a hard time imagining where they could have gotten to. They stopped at the Dollar Store and picked up a package of socks, and Margaret is very pleased with them.


Run, Nathan, run! (Officially, Mom said there were signs that said no running. But there were only three or four other kids in the whole place, so Mom didn’t work too hard at enforcing.)


I’m not sure what happened here. Notice I put the kids in their matching-ish Fourth of July tie-dye to make them easier to keep track of in the “crowd.” Guess it wasn’t necessary, but they love those shirts anyway.


Flying Nathan!

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Dreams and aspirations

I mentioned yesterday that we’re starting school on Monday. It’s a little early, but I think we’re all ready for some more structure. Last year I tried to do a six weeks on, two weeks off schedule. I liked the theory, but it didn’t work out incredibly well in practice. This year we’re going to see about six weeks on, one week off. I think that break is important, but two weeks was too much. The 6/1 routine will allow us to take a long break around Thanksgiving and Christmas if we want, and then the month of July off before we start again next year. I’ve been working for the last month on getting everything together and, equally important, organized! I think things are in good shape, but we’ll see how it works out as we go along.

Just for fun, I thought I’d share a preview of my plans for the school year. Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. I’m hoping at the end of the year I can look back and see how reality compared to the plans.

One area we’re really stepping up this year is language arts. Because reading and handwriting were such struggles for Evan last year, I didn’t even try to add in things like grammar or composition. We did a little spelling, but even there we were limited. But his reading has really taken off, and I’d guess he’s at least at grade level. Nathan is also doing very well and can handle early reader books. So for language arts we’re planning on literature (books that I’ll read aloud), independent reading for Evan (during rest time), phonics practice for Nathan and independent reading as possible, handwriting for both of them, grammar using First Language Lessons, composition using Writing with Ease, and spelling using All About Spelling. Literature should be really fun this year, as we’re getting into the Middle Ages. Do you know what that means? Shakespeare! We have excellent children’s adaptations of a number of his plays, and I’m so looking forward to reading them. We also get Robin Hood and King Arthur and British and Norse mythology and folktales. Definitely a good year.

For math, we’ll be using Miquon combined with Xtra Math. Saxon was driving us crazy, and we’ll go back to it around 4th grade when the structure changes a little. Miquon is what my mom used for the first few years for each of us. I think it’s a better fit for the way the boys learn — a lot of problem-solving and learning to recognize the relationships between numbers and why they work the way they do. It’s more focused on those dynamics than on drill. I think that’s very useful for learning concepts, but I do also want the kids to know their math facts solidly. That’s where Xtra Math comes in. It’s a free online program that drills them in math facts, tracking their progress and adjusting difficulty as they get better. We’ll see how this year goes, but I think the combination will work well.

For history we’re continuing with Story of the World, and we’ll go from the fall of Rome to the beginning of the Renaissance. Ancients was fun, but I’m really looking forward to this year and next. We may have to build some catapults and trebuchets, and take field trips to Sherwood Forest Faire and the Renaissance festivals.

We’re also going to get serious about geography this year. I have a CD of geography songs that are obnoxiously catchy, and the kids mostly know them from last year. This year we’re going to really work at connecting the songs to the maps. I think by the time we get into more modern history, they’ll have a pretty good grasp of where things are.

We’ve got a fair bit of memory work lined up for this year, and we’ll see how it goes. I’d like them to finish memorizing the catechism for children, and of course they’ll have their AWANA books. I’ve also chosen some selections for Evan to memorize, mostly from Shakespeare. If it proves to be overly ambitious we’ll cut back, but I think Evan and possibly Nathan will be up for it.

The boys have been fascinated by the concept of Greek and Latin root words, so I went ahead and got English From the Roots Up. We’ll cover two or three Greek or Latin words each week, including their meanings and some English words they’re used in. If they stay interested we’ll stick with it, and if not we’ll put it away for the time being.

For P.E., we have tae kwon do twice and week and I’m planning for us to resume our mornings walks/bike rides. We were up to two miles a day before it got horribly hot and humid. Now I think we’ll start with one mile a day so we can get back home before it gets too miserable outside, and we’ll add distance as the weather improves in the fall.

I’m really excited about science this year: I’m not teaching it! Since Aaron has such a short commute now he has more time with the family in the evenings, and I asked him to consider teaching astronomy and earth science. He agreed, and I think he’ll do a terrific job.

textsecure-2015-07-28-140034It may not be a very exciting photos, but here’s the result of my organization attempts. The bottom shelf is the kids’ materials: a binder for each child, stacking trays with their math and handwriting books (they don’t stand up well on shelves), and paper with a box of coloring implements for each child. Above that is more paper (writing, drawing, and construction), coloring books, stickers, and extra crayons. The next shelf up is mine — various reference books for me, and some random supplies. Above that are other assorted materials: math manipulatives, flash cards, educational games, notepads, index cards, curricula not currently in use, etc. On the floor we’ve got extra reams of paper, random craft supplies (in the copy paper box), and my “daily use” box (the green thing). The door shelves contain pencils, rulers, markers, erasers, markers, thumbtacks, yarn, stencils, and any number of random small supplies.

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I don’t really have a coherent theme for today’s post, just a few photos to share.


Here’s Margaret after VBS on Tuesday. We packed our lunches and drove over to Mom’s house to eat with her, since she’s not far from the church. Margaret was my little fashionista most of the week, although Wednesday she wore clothes that could be accidentally dyed and Friday of course she wore her tie-dye. Margaret is very tough and capable, but she also loves her dresses, bows and frills.


On Saturday, we had an adventure. There was a new car wash opening just down the street, and they’re doing free “diamond” washes for the first 10 days. They’re also offering a discount on their monthly plans — you sign up during grand opening and you keep your special rate until you cancel your membership. We had talked about it ahead of time and decided it would probably be worth it: we’re not allowed to wash our cars at home (water restrictions due to drought), and the discount membership rate is close to what we’d pay for one good car wash per month. This way, we can wash the cars up to once a day and we also get access to some very nice vacuums. Anyway, we went through the wash and concluded that it did an admirable job on my very grimy van, so we signed up for a membership. Then we went home, moved the car seats into Aaron’s car (no small feat!), and took his car through and signed him up for a membership too (especially now that he doesn’t get covered parking at work). Then I headed up to Waco for a baby shower and returned in the late afternoon.


Do you think VBS week wore the kids out just a little? This is what I found on Sunday afternoon when I went to get Nathan from his quiet rest time. Usually he looks at books and plays with toys but doesn’t sleep. I think he started out with books, but apparently he was too tired to make it into his bed.


Yesterday, I thought I would be having a minor surgical procedure done. I had seen a doctor for a pain in my leg which he said was related to a fatty lipoma and that I should have the lipoma removed. So I scheduled what I thought was a procedure, but the surgeon took a look and said he didn’t think there was any point in removing it except to make him richer and me poorer. Fair enough. Expecting me to have surgery, my mom had taken the kids Monday night and planned to bring them back Tuesday afternoon, giving me time to get to my appointment and recover a little (it was going to be done under local anesthetic, so nothing serious). Since I didn’t have anything to recover from, I spent the morning preparing for our upcoming school year instead. I think I got everything done yesterday that I had hoped to accomplished by the end of the week, so the time was certainly not wasted. While I was making copies and organizing binders and tidying shelves, Mom had taken the kids to a trampoline park for the morning. They had a blast and still haven’t stopped talking about it. She then took them to their tae kwon do lessons, then brought them home. I sent the younger two kids upstairs for quiet rest time and finally woke them up around 5. I think they were a little tired! They settled down pretty quickly at bedtime, too, and I still haven’t heard a peep from them this morning.

Today is grocery-shopping-and-library day, but otherwise I plan to take it easy. I want them well-rested going into next week, because we start school on Monday!

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William’s misadventure

Yesterday I took William in to get his stitches removed from his surgery a couple of weeks ago. He also had a post-surgical check-up last week. At both appointments everything looked good — William is well on his way to complete recovery. I asked Dr. Naylor when it would be safe to say that William is absolutely, positively, 100% beyond a doubt feeling normal again and with no lingering discomfort or issues from the surgery. He said definitely by a month out, so we’re about halfway there. By all external appearances, William is already recovered. He’s eating well, even as Mooch glares at him hoping to scare him away from the last of his food. He’s playing, running, jumping, meowing, purring, and lounging like normal.

When we went in for the post-surgical check-up, Dr. Naylor and his staff had something for me: photos of what they removed from William’s stomach! Since Aaron wasn’t there I had to ask them to send me the photos so he could see too, and since I have them I figured I’d share them here too. Don’t worry –everything was cleaned up before they took pictures.


Isn’t that beautiful? They said they counted six of these things in there. No one thinks William gathered up a pile of six of these things and ate them in one sitting, so our guess is that he swallowed one here and one there over a span of time (possibly even years) and eventually either he ate one too many or something shifted so that suddenly they were causing him problems.


No, my hairbands aren’t really that long (5″). This is another reason they think these were in his stomach for quite some time: the elastic material was significantly degraded, probably eaten at by digestive juices.


Appetizing, isn’t it? No wonder poor William was feeling so badly… and no wonder he feels so much better with that mess out!


And just to finish this off with more pleasant viewing material — here’s William in his traditional spot while I’m reading on the couch. It was good to have him back where he belonged!

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We’re still alive!

I know there was a long silence last week, but it was for good reason: it was VBS week, and in order to get to the church on time I had to blast the kids out of bed half an hour early every morning. That cut into my quiet morning time, so blogging seemed like the thing to drop. Last year was our first time doing VBS at Redeemer and the boys loved it. They came home telling me Bible stories and verses and singing the songs they’d learned. I helped with crafts a couple of days, spent one day grocery shopping, and took Margaret to the toddler program at the children’s museum on another. This year they asked if I’d be available to help as a shepherd for the whole week, and I said yes.

A shepherd does exactly what it sounds like — I had a group of eight 6-year-olds and my job was to herd them from activity to activity, making sure not to lose any of them. I had a wonderful teenaged helper, too. We had a pretty good mix of girls and boys in our group, and they were really sweet kids. VBS is for kids 4 and up, so Margaret was still officially nursery-aged. On Monday she did go to the nursery for the day, but on Tuesday she told me she wanted to come to my class (I had told her that was an option). She tagged along with us all day Tuesday and did a pretty good job of keeping up and staying out of trouble. Wednesday was a little interesting, because I had been recruited to help with the day’s craft: tie-dye! Fortunately we were set up near the playground, so Margaret went back and forth between playing and hanging around watching us. She stayed out of trouble, and she actually did join her nursery class briefly when they went out to the playground. She went in with them for a while, then apparently told them she wanted to come back so they sent a helper to deliver to her to me. Thursday and Friday she stayed with my class again. My class was paired for activities with the other 6-year-old class, so we’d add up our total number of kids for headcounts. By Thursday, it went like this: “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, and Margaret. All here!”

The boys seemed to really enjoy their classes as well. I understand from Evan that he enjoyed spending his time with his friends William and Julian. Nathan didn’t mention any specific friends, but his shepherd told me he was “so sweet” and “very enthusiastic.” His group was with mine for group story time, and I had to remind him after the first day that he should only talk when it was his turn. After that he did spectacularly, as far as I saw.

Our final day of VBS was on Friday, and on Friday everybody wore their tie-dye shirts. It was very colorful! I’m not going to post a group photo just in case of privacy issues, but here are a couple of our own.


Looks like I need a little practice at this selfie thing, don’t I?


This is a little better.


Bonus picture of that aftermath of a week of early rising: Nathan was NOT tired on Sunday afternoon and did NOT need a nap.

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Ah, pets

This has been an interesting week as far as our pets are concerned. No, it’s not the guppies causing trouble. This time it was William (one of the cats). William started acting sick over the weekend, and when he wasn’t doing any better by Monday morning we called the vet. They didn’t have an appointments until late in the day, but said that if I dropped him off they’d take a look at him between other clients as soon as possible. I got the kids up early and we all piled into the car to drop William off. They decided to put him on IV fluids and do some x-rays and keep him overnight. Follow-up x-rays on Tuesday showed a possible object in the same place they thought they might have seen something Monday, which seemed to confirm our suspicion that he had swallowed some rubber bands or another foreign object. They started him on a hairball remedy in hopes that it would get things moving one way or the other, and we brought him home for the night.
Unfortunately he didn’t do well overnight, so we had a decision to make: surgery, or… well, we could keep him on fluids, but ultimately it wasn’t looking promising that anything would resolve on its own, and he couldn’t keep food down, so option B was not a pretty one. Aaron graciously decided that although the cost of surgery for a cat is prohibitive, we’d go ahead with it. William is only 5 years old, so odds are good he has at least 10 more years of good health ahead of him. Aside from the risk of complications from surgery, this is a pretty sure thing to resolve the problem completely. We both really like him and we’d miss him if something happened to him — he’s a good cat. And if you’re a Dave Ramsey fan, you know that Dave jokes about how some completely illogical expenses make it into their budget under the “Sharon Wants It” category, and that’s ok. Well, “Robyn Wants It” may have been a factor here as well (it wasn’t the only reason, but it added some weight to the arguments in favor of William).
All that said, William went into surgery yesterday afternoon. They successfully removed six objects we think may have been elastic hair ties. (I would love to know where he found six of them, since I can never find one!) Everything went smoothly, so now we’re just hoping the recovery period goes well. He spent the night at the vet’s office on fluids, and they’ll probably start offering him something to eat later today. Hopefully he’ll be able to come home this evening. In the meantime, I have placed a bounty on anything that resembles a rubber band and instructed the children to bring me anything they find so it can be thrown away or locked up. I also recently switched to a different type of hairband, more like a scrunchie (fabric-covered), so that William will be unable to consume them. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep him safe from himself in the future!

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Cow Appreciation Day

Every year, Chick-fil-a hosts Cow Appreciation Day. If you dress up like a cow, you get free food. A partial costume gets you an entree; a full costume gets you a meal. Having concluded that free food is worth a little loss of dignity, we dress up for a free meal every year. The first few years we did construction-paperĀ  spots taped to white clothing, but a couple of years ago we stepped it up a notch with cow-print fabric.


While we were waiting in line, Nathan and Margaret discovered the photo booth.


Aaron had the sun in his eyes, but he makes a pretty good-looking cow if you ask me.


Evan and Nathan. Nathan’s ears got lost sometime this year, so I need to make him a new set.


And here’s Margaret, posing for the camera as usual.

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