Monday, August 29, 2011

It's Your Kid Not a Gerbil by Dr. Kevin Leman

Dr. Kevin Leman has a new book called It's Your Kid Not a Gerbil.

If you have never read any of Dr. Leman's books, I can tell you they are full of humor and wit ("Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!").  In this new book Dr. Leman explores busy family schedules and offers helpful advice for restructuring priorities to bring peace and calm back to your home.  I haven't read it yet, but if it is like any of his other books I'm sure it is a great read!

Tyndale House Publishers is having a contest to celebrate the release of this new book.  Prizes include an iPod Touch, a prize pack of Kevin Leman books, and copies of this new book.  For more information and to enter to win, visit the contest page.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to School

Mitch heads back to school on Monday for a week of teacher workshops and to set up his classroom.  School officially starts Tuesday after Labor Day.  I decided that school would start for our kids this Monday as well.  We have had quite a long enough break! 

About a month ago I began preparing for the new school year in my "free time".  I got in a groove and sold many of our old books on ebay (ones that I'm sure we won't be using again).  I used this money to invest in some new/used books.  Here are what the kids are doing this year:

Zeke and Josh
Zeke will do 2nd grade and Josh will do 1st grade.
Phonics & Reading:  Josh is an excellent reader.  It just comes naturally.  For ease, I will teach them both phonics together on the 2nd grade level for at least the first couple months of school.  We are using A Beka Homeschool edition.  Josh will still use a 1st grade workbook (mainly because that's what I bought for him, and he will still find it challenging enough at times).  I will also have him read the 1st grade books.  Not because he can't read the 2nd grade books, but as a matter of protecting Zeke's self-esteem.  Josh reads enough on his own to be challenged to excel.  

Handwriting:  I have questioned Zeke many times if he would like to continue practicing cursive writing, or if he would like to switch to manuscript.  He really enjoys writing in cursive, so we will stick to that.  I am going to encourage Josh to learn manuscript.  He almost never writes in cursive and often writes in print.  I'm going to go with that bent, and work with him on improving.  He does not have the fine-motor control of his pencil that I expected him to have at this point.  So I'm going to try to relax my expectations and encourage him to keep practicing what feels comfortable.  We are using A Beka for handwriting also, even though I did spend time considering other curricula.

Arithmetic:  Both boys have not enjoyed A Beka Arithmetic this past year.  Getting Zeke to do his math sheet is about as much fun as getting him to pull out two baby teeth that are hanging on for dear life.  He just can't do it.  After spending a good amount of time researching and thinking and shopping (literally months), I have decided to teach using Math-U-See.  (I take math seriously.)  I am very excited about this.  I will do Beta with Zeke and Alpha with Josh.  Deciding what level to put them each on was the hardest.  I am confident about my decision.  I've been trying to generate excitement for them by talking about it in small chunks over the past couple weeks.

Extra stuff:  Science, history, social studies, etc, are all "fluff" subjects at this grade level.  I have some A Beka books that are incorporated into the boys' reading programs.

Micah, Eden, and Caleb
Micah is in 8th, Eden in 7th, and Caleb in 5th grade
Switched-On Schoolhouse:  All of these guys will do SOS for Language Arts, History, Science, and Elementary Spanish.  Eden and Caleb will also do Bible on SOS.  I am going to do some assigned reading for Micah for Bible (starting with How Do We Know the Bible is True?).

Arithmetic:  I felt from the beginning that SOS had a weak math program.  But I went with it, because arithmetic was one of the hardest things for me to grade (got to love automated grading!).  This summer I began digging up some more research and decided on Teaching Textbooks.  At first I was just going to do it for Micah and Eden.  I bought some used copies on ebay.  I assumed that they would not have automated grading.  I tried out Eden's (Grade 7) and it DID have automated grading.  I began to get excited.  Micah's (Pre-Algebra) didn't have automated grading, but the edition released this year would have it.  So I sold Micah's back on ebay for what I bought it for, and ordered the new edition--whoohoo!  And I ordered Grade 5 for Caleb. I created custom arithmetic subjects for each of the kids in SOS so I can easily track their arithmetic work along with everything else.

Writing:  Devona is going to teach the Excellence in Writing course this year.  Our kids will team up with the Emersons and the Loucks' to sharpen their writing skills.  To balance this with what they are doing in SOS, I removed some of the lessons in SOS that are covering the same topics (I love the flexibility of SOS).

I'm excited they are doing Spanish!  Micah really wants to learn German.  I do too.  We'll get there.  Ok, I'm sure all of them want to learn German.  But I know Spanish, so that's an easy place to start.  There's no rule that says they can only learn one foreign language!

I would love to get the kids interested in Speech and Debate.  That's going to take a lot more planning and preparation.  I'm no where ready to dive into this.  I am going to work on laying a foundation for this throughout the school year (talking about what debate is, how it can be fun, why it is important, watching what some other homeschoolers do, etc), to see if there is an interest among the kids.  We'll go from there.  

Also since Micah is in 8th grade, I am constantly being asked if we will continue to homeschool through out high school.  I even had a clerk at Sam's Club outright tell me he disagrees with homeschooling throughout high school.  I really don't care what he thinks!  But I do realize this is a very important decision.  So through this year we have to make a final decision and a plan for 9th grade.  My "pat" answer is that it depends on Micah's desires, his level of maturity and responsibility, and what we think is best for him.  If you ask him today, he will tell you he wants to go to public school.  Whether he will be ready or not is another thought altogether.

Ok, this post has gone on about long enough.  And the flies are bothering me.  Time to get back to work!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reading List

I have a few books here that I'm reading that are really good.  I probably won't get a chance to write out a full review because my time is so limited right now.  Still, I would like to be one beggar showing another beggar where I found bread.  These are good books!

The Big What Now Book of Learning Styles by Carol Barnier.  I sought out some teaching tips for homeschooling a highly distractible (ADHD??) 8-year old boy.  One of the best sites I found (though lacking as far as web-design goes) was Carol's Web Corner.  I wanted more, and I found her books.  This book is full of hands-on tips to teach according to your child's learning style.  The tips are organized according to subject, so they are very easy to find.  I think I'm going to end up buying this one because I don't want to give it back.  I have a hold on another of her books at the library.

If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby? by Carol Barnier.  This book is one I bought because my library doesn't have it.  Back in the day when I only had a couple children, I didn't really classify myself as "highly distractible".  Unfortunately, I must admit that in this day and age I am just that.  I have only read the introduction, but this sentence got me pretty excited to read the rest:  Carol writes, "You'll learn the role that God designed you for."  Ohhhhh it's good.  I would quote more, but there's no time!  Moving on now...

Keeping our Children's Hearts by Steven and Teri Maxwell.  The Maxwells are those "other" parents...not the ones that would need to read the book immediately preceeding this one.  They are the organization gurus of large homeschooling families.  I'm not ready to buy "Managers of Their Homes" yet, but I have requested some of their books from the library.  This is the first one to arrive (it's always a good sign when there are holds on books that you want).  So far, I love it.  It is breaking me down and resetting me.  I swear I need a reset button weekly.

I'm not just reading, but I also have been getting books on c.d.  I think I may have overdone it there.  I think it's soooo easy to load them on my ipod, right?  Well, that was a nice plan when we were going on our trip.  Now I have more c.d.'s than one could possibly listen to in a reasonable amount of time.  I've requested anything by Chuck Black.  Wayne Thomas Batson also has a series I'm going to try out for the kids called The Door Within Trilogy.  Finally, I got Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers after reading rave reviews.  That one got me in trouble.  It is a 15-disc set, and somehow after I returned them to the library disc 1 and 2 are now missing.  Ouch.  I tried to keep a tight reign on those, but I think a preschooler or toddler helped them disappear.  Oh well, the kids are loading things onto their mp3 players and enjoying them, even if I don't have time.  Why oh why don't I have time?  We should have played some while we were up until 3 a.m. painting!  Wish I would have thought of that sooner...

Book Review: Route 66, A Crash Course in Navigating Life with the Bible

WOW!  Right from the first page I have been excited about Route 66 by Krish Kandiah.  This book grabbed me and pulled me in immediately.  What is it about and why am I so excited?  Read on!

When I was a young adult, I listed "reading" as one of my hobbies.  But let's be honest, just about anyone can suck down a good fiction novel in no time at all.  Real reading has been a new endeavor over the past year and a half.  I am hitting everything from fiction to non-fiction to biographies and research tools.  My reading level and comprehension have increased.  I have also increased my ability to focus on and recall information I have read.  I can read faster now than ever before.  Reading is definitely an honest hobby now.

I have always struggled to read more than a chapter at a time of my Bible, and remember or comprehend even less afterward.  It can be frustrating.  I would go to church and listen to our pastor unpack a passage of scripture, tying it in to the bigger Gospel, making connections to other scripture, and I would just be in awe of how he was able to do that.  Maybe a little jealous of his ability to understand the Bible better than I do, and definitely discouraged thinking that I would never be able to unpack it on my own.  My inability to bring things together or understand the Bible makes it less interesting to read and, at times, downright boring.

Right off the bat, Krish says,

"God created the whole vast universe with a dozen words, and then put 800,000 more words into our hands.  Each word was chosen for a reason....As we look more closely at the beauty of the poetry, the precision of the laws, the passion of the prophets and much more, it is my prayer that our all-powerful God would reveal himself to us and work powerfully in us, so that we can live to please him in every way." (Route 66, p. 17)

It's not boring, it's the most important book that I can read!  And I have found an excellent tool for getting over my weakness in Route 66.  Let's face it, most of us are very busy.  We won't have time (in this life) to go to seminary and learn how to do what my pastor does so well.  Route 66 is a tool to help us understand the big picture of how scripture is divided up and ties back together.  It is a great place to start if you are like me and feel a little "lost" at times.  (Are you one of those people that fan open your Bible and read it wherever it lands?  You might need a road map.  Trust me.)

The over-arching theme of Route 66 is a "travel guide".  Many points are made using word-pictures that have to do with driving, cars, road trips, etc.  These form mental images that cement the information Krish presents and helps me remember it later.  The book is divided into a 8-week reading course, with 5 days of study plus 1 small-group study per week.  Each day ends with a "travel journal" section to put into practice what you have just read.  Don't miss this important part--skipping the response will mean that you lose the ability to let this sink in and change your Bible study habits.

While designed to be best used in a small-group setting, the book can also be used for an entire church, or individually.  I also think teens would enjoy doing a study with Route 66, whether on their own, for a home-school assignment, or in a small group.  If you are really adventurous, there is a guide provided for reading the Bible through in 8 weeks along with reading the book.  I don't think I could accomplish that task, but I would love to be involved with a small group reading this book.  I am buttering Micah up (14 years old, homeschooling 8th grade) to see if he will join me.

If you'd like more information about Route 66, please visit Krish's website here:  There you will find free audio downloads, a sample chapter, and more!

I received a complementary copy of this book for review from Kregel Publications.  I was not required to write a positive review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.  I'm very grateful for the opportunity to review it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Good news and bad news

We had a big storm overnight with some heavy rain.  When I got up this morning I inspected the floor and found it very wet around the same area where we spotted the mold.  Mitch cut away a large section of the subfloor by the back door.  The good news is the moisture had not spread beyond the subfloor of our home.

This kind of work on the main structure always makes me a little nervous.  But I'm glad he is handy and can do it!

We put down a mirror to check it all out.  There was some minor staining, but nothing that looked fresh and definitely no mold below the floor.  What a huge relief! 

We discovered that the wood in the subfloor and the door jamb has rotted away enough that it has to be replaced.  I paused to wonder, if we had not decided to replace the flooring in our home, how long would it have gone until we found this issue?  How bad would it be at that point?  Whenever I think about mold in my own home, my heart wants to skip a beat.  I immediately think of the Fabry family and all their struggles they have gone through.  I also think about full disclosure when selling a home and what that will mean for us.  We certainly are not professionals.  We didn't seal off the area when we pulled back the floor.  We did wet the area down to (hopefully) prevent spores from floating into the air.  Then Mitch carefully cleaned it with a solution to kill the mold.  It may not be enough, but I pray that it is.

We stuck a kid (or two) down in the hole for fun (of course, telling them to put their feet on the rafters, not the sheet rock below). Mitch went outside to look at something, then came in too quickly and fell in the hole.  Thankfully he didn't break anything, but it did hurt.

We used a water hose to find where the area is leaking.  It leaked perfectly at both lower corners of the door.  It's kind of hard to explain.  Since the wind usually blows the rain from the west, only the hinge side of the door is showing water damage inside.  The other corner is protected somewhat.  Part of the issue is how the door was made in the first place.  The weather stripping doesn't match up quite right.  Also the back door has virtually no protection from weather--when a storm hits, it hits up against the back of the house hard.  Because of the rotting wood, as well as some issues with the door, we have to replace the entire door.  Mitch's dad, Paul, suggested we also hang a storm door to help keep the water off the new door.

Now for the bad news.  Mitch is out shopping right now.  There are no 6" deep doors in stock.  If we bought a door today, we would have to go with a wood frame, a conversion kit to make it fit our opening, and only a half window vs. the full one we have now.  But we could have it fixed relatively soon.  If we can wait on an order to come in, we can have a door hung on the right frame (no conversion).  We can get full glass, also.  We can pay (significantly) more money and order a door hung on a vinyl frame instead of wood.  We decided that since the door is so exposed, it makes sense to go with vinyl frame instead of wood, even though it is more money.  Also it is worth our time to wait for a door with full glass rather than half glass.  With only one other small window in the kitchen area, I was feeling sad about losing that light. Finally, it will just feel good to have the door hung correctly versus having a conversion kit.  One less issue to deal with in installation, and considering we are replacing it due to leaks, it is one less thing to worry about in the long term.  Unfortunately, it's going to take up to 2 weeks to get here.  We will have to patch the hole in the floor and wait.

The total cost of replacing our back door and adding a storm door is going to cost almost as much as our new flooring cost (a little over $500)!  Granted, we got a very good deal on the flooring and we're replacing the door because we have to.  But, still.  I know it could be much, much worse.  

We haven't used credit cards in 4 years.  God has brought us through very tough financial times.  He has blessed us with an emergency savings fund, but also with enough cash on hand to do these projects.  I am humbled at His provisions.  It is enough to have the food and clothing we need.  He has seen fit to protect us by helping us find an important problem with the structure of our home in a most creative way--by giving me something my heart desired for a very long time.  I don't understand why, because I know I don't deserve it.  But I am thankful.  I am so thankful.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Remodel day 4 and 5...finishing up!

Well we have pushed through and worked hard on this project!  I think we've gotten farther in 5 days than I ever imagined.  I keep wanting to pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming.  It feels like I moved into a whole new house!  I occasionally shut my eyes, try to picture my home like it was before, then open my eyes to enjoy the surprise all over again.  We still have a ways to go finishing up and putting back together, but that's just dessert.  The elephant is nearly gone.  (To borrow from the expression "How do you eat the elephant in the living room?  One bite at a time.")

 On Sunday after church Mitch began pulling out the old laminate floor from the kitchen.  This flooring has held up well over the past 8 years besides some installation issues, and that was a significant factor in us deciding to go with laminate for this project.

 We had been moving furniture around to get it "out of the way" as we worked, but we didn't move our couches and table out of the room altogether.  So earlier in the day I had been staring at this empty corner and the idea hit me that the dining room table would look really good there.  I know that it doesn't make much sense at first glance.  We will have to carry our food a long way from the kitchen to get to the table.  But the layout of the room is weird anyway, and I think that having the table over here actually opens up the room and is a better use of space.  I think we will get used to it.  It's worth a try!

 Sunday night we made good progress.  Mark came back over and helped, and later in the evening Kelly's hubby Tim joined us.  He and Mitch lost a good amount of time in the hallway.  Though they tried for a long time, they couldn't get the boards to go together.  Eventually I joined in the problem-solving.  We knew the floor was uneven, but thought it shouldn't be an issue.  We were more worried about making sure the boards were parallel as we joined them to the boards in the main room.  Finally Mitch grabbed me a long level and I laid it across the floor so we could measure the height difference.  I found the floor was bowed up in front of our room and caused a 3/8" difference!  The installation instructions recommend no more than a 3/16" difference.  Ouch.  We brainstormed some more, and Mitch ended up getting out his belt sander.  He sanded the sub-floor down to be level.  (It was actually really pretty, too, once sanded).  What a mess!

 We know it's "weird" according to what you would expect, but we love this layout.

 Today, Monday, we had daycare as usual, plus Mitch planned to spend the entire day finishing the flooring.  It was a great goal.  I am so impressed with what they got finished.  He had both Mark and Tim's help again most of the day.

 We had 3 butterflies come out of their chrysalises today!

We had one not-so-fun surprise in our adventure.  The sight of this made me sick to my stomach.  A few weeks ago I noticed some black staining underneath our back door.  It smelled musty, so I suspected mold.  Once we got the floor up today, we found it.  I just don't even know what to say.  :(  Devona was here helping me with daycare, and she called her dad who builds houses.  I spoke with him on the phone and we brainstormed where the moisture could be coming from.  It's important for us to stop that first, for obvious reasons!  We decided to leave this portion of the floor unfinished until we can fix the issue.  I am tremendously relieved that it does not appear to have anything to do with the deck.  It is something to do with the back door.  I also checked the room directly under here and there is no obvious sign of mold.  The paint looks perfect, no weird colors, smells, etc.

 At one point I looked over to see Obadiah up on his elbows and knees.  Seriously?!  This kid is sooooo strong.  He's only 4.5 months old!  He looks like he is totally ready to crawl.  He may not crawl any sooner than the rest of my kids did, but he's certainly trying.

 He kicked so hard he flipped over.  :)

The guys brainstorming how to do these difficult angles in the hallway.  Be sure to oooh and ahhh over the finished product below.  This is hard "thinking" work!
 Tonight at supper Kelly's baby made a good mess all over the floor.  It's more fun to clean up food now--we can appreciate it so much more since we lived with a carpeted dining room for so long.

 Mitch finished putting all the trim back on tonight.  There are some pieces in the kitchen that we need to replace.  We also need to install new quarter round around some of the cabinet bases that didn't previously need it.  And transition pieces between the hallway and bedrooms.  Don't forget the piece at the top of the stairs, too.  He has a long shopping list.

 It looks so good!
Time to pack it up and enjoy our home!

I am utterly exhausted.  I know I should post some good "after" pics, but 1) I'm too tired to go take more and 2) They don't look that different than what I've posted and 3) It's not 100% complete because we still have to move things back into place and fix the moisture issue by the door.  While the flooring is on sale and we can get it, I think Mitch is planning to buy enough to do the bedrooms upstairs.  I'm excited about redoing the baby room.  I'm a little panicky about doing my sewing room.  I have a lot of stuff in here!  :) 

Now I have to catch up--laundry, preparing for school, book reviews, etc.  Yikes!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Remodel day 3 (Saturday)

Saturday was our day to really crank out the work in the morning.  When you stay up until 3 a.m., though, it's kind of hard to roll out of bed at 7 or even 8.  Good thing Jack's mom, Lori, showed up at 8:30 with her paint clothes and asking us to put her to work.  Yay!  She helped for a few hours.  We worked through lunch and finally at a few minutes after 2 we declared the painting completely done.  I jumped in the shower and we arrived late to a birthday party.  After the party, Obi and I went to Kelly's house for a girls' night out.  I got home a little after 9 pm to find Mark and Mitch laying the first bit of our new flooring.  It's SOOOO exciting!  After so many late nights, I was utterly exhausted.  Mitch and I both went to bed pretty close to 10 pm.

While Mitch and I shook the fog clear from our brains to get started, Lori took the yellow paint and did almost all the edgework within arms length of the floor.  Anna will tell you, that is a LOT.  

Lori is a good friend.  We met at Central MN Pediatric Dentists.  She was the first hygienist that Micah and Eden ever saw (and we've been going there ever since)!  She and her family also go to her church, and I've done daycare for her.  Since Jack just started school, he has graduated from daycare and moved into "friend" status.  :)

No Mark here today to hold the ladder.  Mitch made a good compromise.

Malachi was asking to help paint again today.  Without a big wall for him to help on, I wasn't sure where to have him.  So he helped me in the closet.  He was just so cute and sweet!  :)

While I finished up that last little bit of edgework, Mitch and the kids got the carpet ripped up and moved out of the house.  They are pulling up staples.

Caleb is on babysitting duty.  He had such a WONDERFUL attitude about it.  Never once did he come to me and say he was tired of watching Obi or ask me to take him.

My view from the ladder up in the entryway windows.  I thought it was a neat perspective of the carpet going out to the trailer.

The view behind me.  The color doesn't look quite so "yellow" in the daytime.  And now that all the "grey" color is gone, it looks really warm and inviting, just as I had hoped.

Now, this is just GROSS.  I'm really hating carpet at this point.

Holly and Obi
Our afternoon party was a nice break.  Mitch and I were just about falling asleep, though! 

My friend Karri with Ian, who is 4 days older than Obi.  He is taller and skinnier.  :)

And here's a sneak peak of the new flooring!!!

How do I have time to blog in the middle of this project?  Don't ask Mitch.  I have to go shower and get kids bathed and get ready for church.  :)