Saturday, January 30, 2016

Mercy Me

 Oh this child! The duplicate of my oldest sister. I text my sister often and refer to Mercy as her little "mini-me." One day soon I'm going to go dig out some pictures of my sister and compare the two.

She loved the baby Jesus doll we had and plopped herself right down in the manger.

She has some serious bed hair! It is hard to get the tangles out, and I've tried several different products. Even when I comb it in the morning, by the end of the day it is usually in knots again.
She loves to line up things...and put things back in their places.
One day she drew a picture on paper, then continued to draw off the paper as well...

Genna loves to play on the couch. If we take the cushions off, she can get up and down by herself. Mercy lined all her baby dolls up on the couch, and Genna thought it was open season. Mercy tried to keep Genna away...
...when she realized that she couldn't keep Genna from grabbing the dolls, Mercy gathered them all up into her arms.
I insisted that she share with her sister, so Mercy tossed her one of the smallest dolls. It was hilarious. Genna was not impressed. Selfishness is contagious!

If you are just checking in for the first time (today...or in the past couple weeks), I just finished writing 6 new blog posts. This was the 6th one. So keep reading to see what all you missed!


Our homeschool year is nearly halfway through. We are doing really well in some areas and lackluster in others. That's normal, right?

 We have a few kids who enjoy spelling. This year Josh was the bravest one of all and competed in the homeschool spelling bee. We didn't do a ton of practicing. We did watch a documentary that gave us a peek into the world of championship spellers. Josh did most of his practicing using In the bee, he made it to round 4. He was so upset when he got the word "median" wrong. He showed me that he spelled it correctly on his scratch paper, but he did, in fact, spell it wrong out loud. By round 5 the words were getting very difficult and by round 7 there was a clear winner. I don't know if he will want to try again next year, but I hope he will! He was the youngest person there this year. I'm sure he will get even better if he tries.

 Mostly I just took these pictures while I was playing around with my camera. I don't even remember what I was trying to do. :)

Malachi does good with all of his schoolwork. He is working hard on learning to write this year using IEW's Ancient History based writing lessons (alongside Zeke and Josh). I know that the long hours I put in now at his side helping him complete writing assignments will reap big rewards later. He is nowhere near an independent writer. I use a lot of prompts and suggestions and sometimes write for him. Model, model, model. It will come. By 6th grade, he will be working independently.

 Josh loves spelling and writing. Math? Not as much. But he does good at it, too. Some days Josh can complete his work efficiently and without much guidance. Other days he needs to be pushed.

 Tirzah is doing well in school, but I lack consistency with completing her checklist each day. If I could choose only one area to improve (in our homeschool) it would be this one--that I could spend more time with Tirzah each day. Sigh...

 Genna impresses us all with her pencil-holding abilities. Unfortunately, our walls bear some new marks thanks to her.

Not pictured:
Zeke is really good at math. He is also good at writing, although it depends on the day. I've read some of his work and almost accused him of plagiarism. It is surprisingly good. Other assignments it seems like he writes just the bare minimum. That's ok...the minimum gets raised nearly every week. :) Zeke doesn't like to practice typing, but he would rather type his work than write it. He isn't good at spelling, so writing in a word processor is a life-saver for him. It finds almost all his misspelled words!

Caleb hides in his room and works all day on his school, 7 days a week. No, I'm not a slave driver. He says his work takes that long to do. He has turned into such a teenager! I make up reasons to pop into his room on a regular basis. I feel like it's my duty as his mother. When I want to go over the problems he has missed on the latest math test (rare), he rolls his eyes at me. I insist that it is the highlight of my day, and it's ok to "let" me teach math once in a while. He is exasperated. :)

Eden is enrolled in her second semester at SCTCC. She tells me frequently that she wants to go back to being little when all she had to worry about was playing with barbies. Me too some days.

On that note...yes, when I look at the big picture of what all I'm doing and how much longer I will need to do it for, I am completely and utterly overwhelmed. When I'm having a bad day, it's enough to physically knock me down and keep me there. So I don't look. Not too often anyway. I try to stay focused on just what is in front of me. I borrowed that from one of Donita K. Paul's books recently, and I'm clinging to it.

Dentist Visits

 The kids love going to the dentist! We love getting to see Lori. Everyone had good reports and no one needed any additional work done this time. Mercy had her teeth cleaned for the first time. I did a bit of coaching in the days/weeks ahead of time, and she also got to sit and watch some of her siblings do it. Also, she can hardly resist getting a turn to play on the Kindle, so I used that as a bribe.

A few days after going to the dentist I caught her sitting quietly reading this book to herself. As soon as she knew I was taking pictures of her, she began telling me all about going to the dentist. Most of it I had no idea what she was saying, but she babbled on and on about opening her mouth and counting teeth. It was adorable!

This past week Micah had his wisdom teeth removed. I was glad I could be there with him. When he first woke up from anesthesia he was pretty loud and talkative. He kept his eyes closed and told me he was going to "fast" from seeing. Haha. He was in pain for a couple days. Today he still has some bruising and swelling, but things look pretty good inside his mouth and it sounds like he is eating normally. Exciting times!

Pit Crew

One morning a couple weeks ago Eden left for school but then called home just a few minutes later describing car trouble. She said the car was shaking and smelled really bad. Since she was so close to home, I suggested she come back home and take the van to school. As soon as she hopped out of the car at home, she knew exactly what was wrong--she had a flat tire. It was mutilated. A couple days later when Mitch had time, he and the boys changed the tire. He drove the car and had it inspected. All was fine. They make a good pit crew!

 She drove home on the rim!

It was sooooo cold outside!

Love from Germany

We love our German exchange students Patrick and Kathi so much. I am still amazed to reflect on that time of our lives and how blessed we were to have them. We got a beautiful letter from Kathi, updating us on all that she has been doing. Patrick's family sent us some packages with fun and special gifts. They added to our nativity, which has quickly become my favorite Christmas decoration. Their gifts are always so thoughtful and so appreciated.

 There were two boxes that arrived about a week apart. The top one apparently went to Canada. Is that the long way around or the short way around? :)


I replaced all our "meaningless" coffee mugs with our special new mugs from Germany. The kids have already enjoyed a few rounds of hot chocolate in their mugs.

Every year we say how much we hope to visit Germany soon and see Patrick and Kathi and their families. Mitch and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in January 2017, and we are beginning to give our dream a real foundation. For years I have thought about how we could make the 20th a "big" celebration. We would love to travel to Ukraine to visit our sister church, as well as to Germany. I hope so much that this will happen for real!

End of January update

Living in Minnesota, I'm not sad to see January come to a close. The amount of sunlight we get each day is increasing, and one cold month is down. By the time we get to the end of February, I'll be so ready for spring. This January has been uncharacteristically busy (or at least it seems it has been busier than normal...I've certainly been outside more than I wanted to be!). I have made a conscious effort to pick up my camera and take more photos this month, so I wanted to write an update. But now that I'm looking through all the pictures, I think I should break it up into several different posts. Sorry about that! So for this post, I'll write about what I've been up to and include random pictures.

Right around my birthday at the end of November my wrist started aching. After a week of that, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with tendinitis--or De Quervain's tenosynovitis--and given a spica wrist splint to wear until the inflammation went away. After 4 weeks of wearing the splint 24-hours a day with no improvement in pain, I gave up and asked Bonnie for advice (since hands are her husband's specialty). So in early January I visited his office and got a low-dose cotrisone shot. Within a few days I could go all day without wearing the splint during the day. After two weeks I was no longer wearing it at night. And now at the end of the month I noticed that the pain is gone, even at night. I am so relieved!! I have finally picked up my knitting again, and I've found that the biggest obstacle now is time. Haha. Just a little more to go and I'll have my first pair of socks finished. It's also nice to be working in the kitchen or doing laundry without the burden of my brace.

It's January, so I'm working on getting all our taxes together, reviewing our budget, and comparing income from previous years. It's all terribly boring to most, but I find satisfaction in crunching numbers and finding patterns. You could call it a hobby, but that makes me sound like a total weirdo. 2015 saw the final closing of Pampered Cheeks. ::cry:: I didn't let go of all my dreams, and I even have plans for making my patterns available (for free!) in 2016. I don't have plans for doing any diaper sewing, but I am patiently waiting for a different sewing opportunity. I do hope to remodel my sewing/crafting room. The space should be repurposed for the projects that I will be working on. Whatever those are. Ha!

I started a Bible reading plan at the beginning of January and I'm really enjoying my time reading. I also just finished reading through the Lord of the Rings again. I think this was my 4th time reading through the books. The insights that I gleamed from the exercise gave me renewed motivation for reading through the Bible. Last year I read the Bible slowly and tried to study more deeply. Now I want to cover more breadth, but I am still using study notes to help give some depth as time allows. I have just started researching ADHD and have a stack of books from the library on that topic. Otherwise I have a long list of books I want to read, but no specific goals in place. Mitch has been reading aloud to the boys at bedtime. He is working through the DragonKeeper Chronicles by Donita K. Paul. I remember why I love her!

One spiritual discipline that I want to cultivate this year is prayer.  I tried last year, but couldn't get much further than writing in a journal (other than quick prayers said throughout the day). My mom Janet sent me a book on prayer for my birthday which sparked this desire. So now I'm turning towards making prayer more intentional. One of my biggest goals is to have a written record of answered prayers...but to get there I have to have a written record of prayer requests, a time of prayer, etc. So I'm working on it. This week I'm really enjoying the PrayerMate app on my phone. Really it will just take time to see what works best for me. If possible, I may do some reading specifically on this topic.

One word for my life this year that I'm focusing on is "simplify." I have felt so overwhelmed and scatterbrained lately that I think I could diagnose myself with ADHD. Not really...but I definitely have some of the symptoms! We are always working to declutter our home, and while I think I still need to do more in that respect, I also need to declutter areas that are not physical brain, my to-do lists, etc. There are some awesome resources out there that would help with this goal, but I'm not at the place where I can handle one more book, website, podcast, or anything. I want to push back on those areas of my life that are excess and get my margin back. De-frag my brain. I can't do everything that I want to do, but I'm not sure the things that I do accomplish are the things I wanted to accomplish most.

Genna will be one year old in just a few days, so I'll write more about her then and post more pictures. Exactly one year ago today I did my regular meal-planning and grocery shopping, only I planned two weeks' worth of meals. I was SOOOOO pregnant and done. It was fun to be able to leave her at home today when I went shopping, though maybe she didn't think so. ;) As we head into Genna's second year outside the womb I'm sure that I will be able to get some more sleep, be a little more independent (of her), and that will help with my ability to be more focused and accomplish more tasks.

 A couple weeks ago Mitch took off work on a Friday because the kids had dentist appointments. My mind was swirling with all the things that I needed to get done, so I said to Eden, "Go to the board and make me a list." So smart as she is, she went to the board and made "A list." She gets it from her dad. He came right behind her and made "B list." ::swoon::

 Last night I was helping kids get ready for bed. Tirzah and Mercy had disappeared into Tirzah's room. I came in to find them having a little party--they both had clipboards and were drawing pictures in bed. It was so totally sweet. Of course, I couldn't get a picture fast enough before the little monkey was up and jumping around. After Mitch read to the boys and lights were out, he made one last round through the house checking on things. He opened Tirzah's door to find Tirzah and Mercy sleeping together. He said they were hunkered down like a couple of "squirrels." Mercy usually sleeps with Eden, but Eden was at dodgeball at church until late.

 Genna loves to clap and sing!

 Obi needs anger management intervention. We have nick-named this "dinosaur nose." Sometimes he gets it really wrinkled up good.

 Obi's eyes may not be blue...are they green? Or hazel?

Tirzah takes her fashion seriously!

Ok...more posts to come...

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Caleb is 15!

Caleb marked #15 last week, and I almost forgot to blog about it! Actually, I was hoping he would also get his driver's knowledge test taken and we would have two things to celebrate. But he wants a little more time to study and prepare.

Just a few years ago, Caleb was counting down the days until he would be 13 and could get a facebook account. Now he can't wait to be 16, have a driver's license, and get a "real" job. He babysits, but he "needs" more money. $$$$$$$$$ Ah, this started a bit too soon for him I think. Oh well.

Caleb has definitely adjusted to the role of teenager well. He
~is still fairly easy-going
~likes Mountain Dew (and Pepsi)
~is in 9th grade
~is taller than me
~loves hanging out with friends, going to youth group and small group
~seems to be working to make his faith his own

~enjoys playing Minecraft (more than any other video game) and has a few board games he likes (Munchkin is one)
~likes Doctor Who, Harry Potter (books and movies), books by Bryan Davis and Donita K. Paul, plus just about any of the Marvel or other super hero genre movies/tv shows (I can't even keep up...Avengers, Captain America, Iron Man, then there's Arrow, Flash...)

 ~is a fan of t-shirts and jeans, hoodies, or anything that used to belong to Patrick. ::grin::
~is also a fan of bow-ties (thanks to the Doctor)

 ~is protective of his baby sisters...must be all that time he spent walking them to sleep!

 ~took on the 5x5 cube like nobody's business. He mixed up the cube and solved it the first time in under 2 hours. He then says, "Well, that took an embarrassing amount of time." The next time he solved in under 15 minutes. Sheesh.

~is a "perfect Paula" in school. He's really good at his assignments, but I will say his discipline to get his work done in a timely fashion may be limited. ;) He says it's my fault. ;) Yeah...well...

Don't hurry, Caleb, you're growing fast enough. We love you!