Thursday, August 29, 2013

Auto Mechanic

I'm so proud of my hubby. With a little help and advice he has done quite a bit of work on the Camry over the past few weeks. He replaced the drivers side door handle, replaced the window mechanism in the back (broken for 3+ years), replaced a missing mirror, and today he removed the ignition lock, took it in for repair, and reinstalled it. I'm probably forgetting a bit but man, I'm impressed!  We drive old cars with high miles, but we own them...and that is a nice feeling. Being able to fix them ourselves brings a whole new feeling of accomplishment. <3

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to school...

We are working our way back to school here.  I can't believe the summer is gone already.  :(  I wanted to update many times on how things went last year, and give a little review of the curricula we used, but I just haven't found the time.  I thought for sure I would have time this summer, but here it is the end of August and I didn't.  Couldn't we just have another month of summer?  Could we roll back time to the middle of July? Please?  No??

When I say we are "working our way back to school" what I mean is I am easing in to it.  Instead of having one grand start date to school, we are adding a little bit every couple days or so until hopefully next week we'll be running at full steam.  This has been SO much better than other years.  And actually, Zeke, Josh, and Malachi never actually stopped doing school.  We kept on doing math, reading, and science all through the summer...not necessarily on a regular schedule, but enough to feel like we never had a break.  So now we are up to a full schedule, and I'm adding in Micah, Eden, and Caleb as we go along.  We are all getting used to a new "schedule" and routine and list of chores, and I must say I am surprised.

Speaking of schedules, I often try and fail at them.  I tell people that around here our schedule consists of eating at about the same times every day, and we plan everything else around that.  Whew.  And that's not far from the truth because eating requires a lot of work--as far as preparation, serving, and clean up goes.  I have expanded the idea of my mealtime helpers to include a whole work crew of olders training youngers and things are actually getting done.  This is good.  Our schedule is still a skeleton more-or-less so that I could leave room to change things up and iron out kinks, but it does have a bit more muscle to it than just mealtimes.  We are studying more together and I am working with our buddy system a little more to get some school help for the younger boys.  I have no idea what a school day in a one-room schoolhouse looked like, but the same sort of idea has been around for centuries and other families have figured it out, so we will too.  So far I don't have that familiar feel of anxiety or the sore, knotted stomach muscles at the end of the day from trying to keep up with an impossibly-difficult schedule.  Someone pinch me, I think this might actually be working and that must mean I am dreaming.  Maybe I am less of a control-freak perfectionist than I was 6 years ago when we started this crazy homeschool journey.

Here is the run down of what curricula we are using this year (with no time to post links):

Micah and Eden (10th grade and 9th grade respectively):
Saxon Algebra II (the second edition with geometry integrated)
Windows to the World (the Institute for Excellence in writing, using the syllabus by Jill Pike to round out the literature curriculum.  From what I have read so far of this--trying to read it all ahead of time before digging in--I can see right now that I will be learning right along with the kids.  I thought that I was "good" at literature when I was in school, being in Honors English class and all, but I am about to learn a whole lot more.)
Fix-it! Grammar (IEW)
Exploring Creation through Biology (Apologia)
Bob Jones World History (using an older edition...I loved TruthQuest History last year, but Micah and Eden wanted something a little more traditional.  I think they are changing their minds again, though.)
Switched-On Schoolhouse High School Health (hmmm...yeah, I took the easy way out)
Rosetta Stone German (they only made it through 1/2 a year, so I'm hoping they will pick up a full year this  year)

Caleb (7th grade):
Saxon Algebra 1/2 ("pre-algebra")
Finding Narnia (the Institute for Excellence in Writing), plus some other reading chosen from Teaching the Classics or things I just want him to read from my own shelves
Exploring Creation with General Science (Apologia)
Fix-it! Grammar (IEW)
Bob Jones World Studies History (another older edition)
A little spelling thrown in just for fun using free lists on

Zeke and Josh (4th and 3rd grades):
Math-U-See Delta (Zeke) and Gamma (Josh)
All Things Fun and Fascinating (IEW)
Finishing up a 3rd grade grammar book by Evan Moore, but then we'll move on to Daily Oral Language
Our reading program is a list of books I made up using several popular booklists.  I chose what I did to coordinate with the time period we'll focus on in history this year: Hope in My Heart, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremain, Freedom Train, Shades of Gray, Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House in the Big Woods, etc.  I plan to read about 10 pages a day aloud to them.  They do plenty of reading on their own, and occasionally I ask them to read aloud from many sources.
Handwriting in some reproducible books I got from Scholastic that have jokes...lightweight, but hopefully more effective than just doing nothing.
Zeke is going through some (remedial) spelling using All About Spelling.  I assigned Josh some lists on Spelling City to see how he does on his own.  Some kids are just "natural" spellers.  Some do better with rules.  I'm trying to cater to each.

Math-U-See Primer and Alpha (we didn't finish Primer yet, but he's sailing through it as quickly as I can give him pages and get him to sit still for a minute.  He doesn't *quite* get place value, but I think it's because he's just bored with my droning on and on about it.)
Primary Arts of Language Reading and Writing (IEW)...still plugging along.  Again, I think I was moving too slowly and he was bored out of his mind.  Now that I've stepped up the pace and been more consistent with teaching, he is responding much differently.  I like this program more now that I'm getting used to it.  I should have read through the entire thing before I ever started.  Who has time for that??

On one of our first "real" days of school, I held out my hands cupped in front of the boys.  I said, "Imagine that I'm holding a heaping amount of gold in my hands.  It is a treasure I want to give you to, but I'm only going to give you one small piece at a time.  At the end of the school year, it will all be yours.  That is what learning is all about.  Each day you will learn a small piece more and more.  It doesn't come all at once.  You have to be patient, but look ahead to see what will be yours!"  We also made a huge decision to get rid of screen time.  I don't mean just during the week, during the school year, for a few months, or only some screens, but all of it.  Wii, xbox, ipods, computer games, netflix...all of it.  Wow, it feels amazing to be free from those burdens!  I'm checking my email less, and I don't feel that pull of needing to be on Facebook.  I have a cell phone that I can text from, but I don't very often.  My kids get hyper, "Mom, you have a text!", when I don't look at it immediately.  I try to own the phone, and not let it own me.  I don't have gobs of lost time, and I feel more focused.  My kids haven't miraculously changed and turned into little angels.  But I am also seeking after a treasure.  One that I believe God is giving to me in small bits, one day at a time.  So as I head into a new school year, I revisited our vision and goals for our family.  I want those more now than even last year.  The race is on!!

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I have one! Not enough to fry, but my plants are looking healthy and there's promise of more to come. I am determined to harvest on time this year. :) 

All I want is enough for one meal. I think it might happen. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mercy is 5 months old!

Mercy was 5 months old on Saturday!  Here are some pictures:

 {At the Mall of America}

 {Loves to sit in a high chair at the table with the rest of us}

{Seriously loves to stand}

At 5 months old, Mercy
~is a pretty sweet and content, making her an easy baby compared to some others
~still loves to go to sleep on Caleb
~tries to grab everything, and puts everything in her mouth
~has a super grip--she left a bruise when she grabbed the underside of Kathi's arm last night!
~loves to stand and jump and bounce, and play in an exersaucer
~can sit up really well, and surprised me by balancing forward on her hands all alone
~only breastfeeds still...never had a bottle yet, but has tasted a cracker recently and always wants our food (stares us down)
~sleeps really well at night--usually 7 hours straight
~seems like she might be getting longer and spreading out some of the chub...I'm going to have to change the one-size diapers to a longer rise
~has much lighter hair now, and most of her long hair has fallen out
~can roll over both ways, and scoots along the floor a couple inches at a time by pulling herself with her arms (but she also did do an army pushup on her toes last night while I was videoing!!)
~wiggles and squirms to try to get anywhere--even out of your arms
~seems to think she can do things that she can't
~loves to grab and pull hair
~loves to be tickled
~is learning to balance sitting up on Mitch's hand
~sometimes laughs and cries at the same time
~still wears size 3-6 mo clothing, but I've pulled out some 6-9 mo things now, I just don't have many summer items in size 6-9 mo and it's still pretty hot
~can grab her feet and suck on her toes
~is very, very tolerant of all her siblings (especially the younger ones) being in her face all the time
~gets LOTS of hugs and cuddles and kisses from everyone
~and yes, she still spits up all the time

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Garden Update

My garden is growing!  We are in the countdown before the first frost, however, and I'm worried it will be race to see which will come first...harvest or freeze.

There is some hope, though!

Sunflower on Sunday (the bees didn't take a Sabbath rest, but I suppose their rest is coming much sooner than mine):
 Sunflower today:
 I thought the change in the sunflower over just 3 days was really neat.  Today it's head is hung so low that I had to get on the ground to photograph it.  Out of curiosity especially to how the center is changing, I looked up a time lapse video.  While this is a different breed of flower, it is still very similar and shows what is happening to our flower:

Our cucumber is producing enough now that we should have a steady harvest:

The garden as a whole.  I have some pepper plants that probably will not have time to produce before the freeze.  We purchased two of them, and they already had peppers growing.  Those turned out very well.  The plants I started from seeds, however, are just now working on their first blooms.  I don't think there will be enough time.  The cauliflower plants are HUGE.  I am surprised by the thickness of the leaf and how big and sturdy they are.  Today a cardinal landed on one, but flew away before I could get my camera.  When I peek inside the plants I can see tiny heads of cauliflower growing.  Maybe they will grow fast...  I also have two smaller sunflower plants I grew from seeds planted directly in the soil in June.  One of them will probably make it.  The other is in the shade of the big sunflower and doesn't look like he's getting enough nutrients.  The big sunflower that has already flowered was a volunteer growing from last year's seeds.  :)  I also have 3 flowers that came up...I can't remember what kind they are, but I remember that last year they took to actually make a flower.  They are not even half as tall as they were last year when they finally flowered, so we'll see on those, too.
Some of my okra looks really bad with brown spots on the leaves.  If I had to guess, I might say it was not enough water.  Or maybe water got on the leaves during a really hot time of day and burned them?  Not sure.

The tomatoes, as tomatoes do, are going crazy.  Lots of tomatoes everywhere and my plants are quite wild and unruly.  I fully expect those to ripen before we get a freeze.

In the meantime, the growing is the fun part, regardless of what we get out of it.  And we are thankful for that.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Kathi's Birthday!

When Kathi first came, she came just a few days after her 16th birthday.  She left just a few days before her 17th birthday.  But now, at 19, we finally caught one!!

{ice cream butter}

{Can I just say that wow, I look old???  Ugh...time for a makeover!}

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Ok, this is the last camping post...

Mostly I just want to add pictures...

This is one photo I wanted to take...a remake of our family picture 6 years ago...

And now, the add-ons...

Here are some leftover "artsy" pics Eden and I took while camping:

You may have to enlarge this ^ photo to see it, but there is a mosquito on the right hovering near the if the bites aren't proof enough, there you have it...there ARE mosquitoes (at times) in the park.  Oh well, we went 5 days camping in the woods and didn't use bug spray one single time.  I'd say that's pretty awesome.

Camping Day 5

Ahhh...Wednesday was finally time to take down camp and think about heading home.  We had planned to swim this day because it was supposed to be the warmest day yet.  Unfortunately, the wind had returned and had quite a nip to it.  It turns out that we missed our best swimming day (it would have been Monday).

I had planned pop-tarts for the kids for breakfast.  They were beyond ecstatic.  I enjoyed a bagel instead...silly kids.

 {It's nearly a buffet!}

 {Obi did a little dance with his pop-tart for our entertainment}

After breakfast it took 2 hours to take down camp and pack everything up.  We then decided on a hike and lunch.  We chose to hike to inspiration point.  The trail branched off of a guided trail, so it was fun to do another of those.

 At the first point, we learned that we were standing within the boundaries of what used to be a German prisoner of war camp from World War II.

 NOW we find the trout!!!

 More stairs meant that Grandma and Grandpa decided to stay on the flat trail while we hiked up to inspiration point.  Feel the calf muscles are like rock!

 Pictures do not do the sheer drop off justice.  We carefully led kids out one at a time, keeping eyes on everyone constantly.  Everyone had a turn to look.

 I had other pictures of Caleb, but I thought this one was looks like he's contemplating throwing my camera bag off the cliff and picking it up again at the bottom.

We had to stop and get family pictures for real (those are coming up in the next post).  Then we stopped for a late lunch.  We love to add a little flare to our camping experience--lunch today was grilled cheese or grilled peanut butter sandwiches at a park.  I even had tuna salad for tuna melts.  We ate up lots of leftover food (usually we over pack on food, but I found that this time I wished I had brought a little more).  By the time we got on the road, we got into the cities just in time for rush hour.  Lovely.  We didn't get home until 7 pm.  It's been crazy trying to clean up, do laundry, put everything away...but we have certainly enjoyed ourselves.

Camping Day 4

On Tuesday we hoped to get in some fishing and hiking...the weather was overcast.  While at times I was a bit chilled, it was never too hot.  It was a blessing to those in our group who sunburn easily.  No chance of that on this day! 

We headed into St. Charles to a park with a stocked pond.  I don't think they caught anything there, either, but some boys fishing by the shore pulled in a couple of tiny fish.

After fishing, the kiddos (including Micah and Kathi) took on a game of frisbee golf. 

Then we drove to the other side of the park to Elba, MN to take on the fire tower.  At the bottom of the "hill" we fueled up with sandwiches.  Last time we were here, I made it about 1/4th of the way up the hill.  This time I went all the way to the top (about 600 steps?), but that was it.  I was NOT going to do the tower.  But the kids did.  Mitch too.

 I was impressed that Tirzah walked all the way up the hill, and up to the top of the fire tower.  Then she walked all the way down again.  You rock, girl!

We rushed back to the park for another program.  By this point, Josh was working on his Junior Ranger book and needed one more program to get his book complete.  We went to the "fish painting" class.  The kids painted stamps, and pressed them on paper.  They also had a fish classification exercise...that was pretty neat.  (Laying foundation for future science work...yay for MORE school!!)