Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Day in the Life ~ One Crazy, Busy Day

Now and again, I like to post a day in our lives so that I can remember what it was like when I am old and grey. I am frequently asked what a day really looks like around here. Well, each day looks different! Hopefully, they are all filled with love, learning, consistency, clean and well-fed children and parents who still feel sane at the end of the day. This was one of those days that looked feasible on paper, but was really difficult to get through. I did a whole lot of sighing throughout the day, and I am not sure how sane I was at the end of it. The kids were fed, clothed and loved! What they did for "school" is in bold.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

6:50 am ~ Yikes, I woke up late. But, I can still get the day on track, right? The next hour is filled with breakfast, making lunches for my husband and oldest son, and making sure that the boys get all of their morning supplements. Tom Sawyer takes supplements to help heal his gut and reduce his allergies and Tim takes supplements to reduce his anxiety and stress levels. Tim's newest supplement is Inositol. It seems to be helping more than other things we have tried.

7:40 am ~ Tom Sawyer (my early riser) has joined me and we are working out on the Wii. I have worked out for 20 minutes or more every day for the last week. Woo whoo!

8:20 am ~ Everyone is awake, dressed, fed and in full motion. Goldilocks is super chatty and loud this morning, which is not a good sign of how well she is going to function. I give her some Bach's Rescue Remedy with the hope that it will calm her nerves. It proves not to help much. The kids do their just five things (clean clothes on, brush hair and teeth, breakfast, make beds, and watch CNN Student News).

8:55 am ~ We are still running late. We head off to drop Tim (23) at his day program for brain injured individuals. This has been such a great program for him. He is enjoying all of the volunteer opportunities and field trips they attend. This week the participants went on a pumpkin picking field trip, worked at an animal shelter, attended a Halloween party and had a work day at their building, which included gardening, playing games and cooking class.

Boomer, my co-pilot
We listened to an audiobook, Centerburg Tales, (literature) most of the time we were in the car today. That was about 2 hours of literature.

9:20 am ~ Back home again ... We watched several clips from about the history of Halloween, witches, and how candy corn is made (which seemed totally gross to those of us who eat a healthy diet). Tom Sawyer said it was a relief he didn't have to eat those chemicals!! (history)

9:45 am ~ This is the point that we split up our learning. Tom Sawyer (11) and Little Red Riding Hood (10) stay with me and Goldilocks (12) goes to her room to learn. For the next two hours, Goldilocks will do her assignments in her room with me checking in on her 30 minutes or so. This morning she is listening to Sarah Plain and Tall (literature), doing worksheets from the Magic Tree House website from her reading of the book, Revolutionary War on Wednesday (language arts), doing multiplication worksheets (math), completing three pages of Draw Write Now (art and language arts), writing five spelling word sentences (language arts) and determining which clothes on her floor are clean/dirty (life skills).

Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood do a spelling lesson from All About Spelling (language arts). Then they listen to Your Story Hour ~ McKinley (history). By this point, I am looking at the rest of the day and think I may need help in the afternoon. So, I call my Mom and the kids start goofing off. Insert lots of mom sighing here...and whining from the kids. The kids take turns doing Teaching Textbooks (math) and workbook pages (language arts). Lastly, they read their books for 15 minutes (language arts).

12:00 pm ~ We are done with the core of our school for the day. The kids and I eat a quick lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches (grain-free bread for Tom Sawyer) and carrots. The kids have 30 minutes of free time before we head off for occupational therapy (OT).

1:00 pm ~ While Tom Sawyer is in OT, the girls and I go shopping at a nearby grocery store. On our way back, we discover a great park just a block from OT. That will be great in the future.

2:10 pm ~ We leave OT and head to pick up Tim. We are running late again!! We pick him up and go home.

2:30 pm ~ The kids have 45 minutes of free time and I go through email and phone messages. My husband calls to say he is feeling really sick but is finishing out the day at work. I am disappointed to realize that I am going to have to take everyone to dance in the evening. More sighing and worrying about how I am going to get through the rest of day. Grandma to the rescue. Grandma volunteers to come and make dinner for the guys and help Tim get his Halloween costume together for tomorrow.

3:15 pm ~ The kids and I do the most necessary chores (dishwasher, wipe down sinks, sweep kitchen and rotate laundry). We listen to songs on YouTube while we work (Mindcraft songs, The Piano Guys and My Fair Lady).

4:00 pm ~ We drop off Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood at dance. Goldilocks and I go to the library.

5:00 pm ~ We are back at dance and Tom Sawyer's class is over. Little Red Riding Hood has another 1.5 hours to go. I am worn out and we decide to look at our new library books, hang out with friends and rest in the dance studio waiting room. Goldilocks makes several social skills mistakes (including jumping into a teenager's arms, which makes that girl drop what she was holding, and then insisting on being carried). When I correct her behavior, she gives me lots of sassy attitude.

6:30 pm ~ Tim is dropped off for fencing at the same dance studio and the rest of us head out for dinner. Tonight, I am feeding the kids at Subway. Usually, we would eat dinner at home or I would have packed a "picnic". I get Tom Sawyer a Subway salad since he can't eat the bread.

7:00 pm ~ We are finally home. The kids start taking baths and hearing stories from Dad. There is just one more trip out tonight. Tim needs to be picked up from his fencing class. We made it!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 25, 2013

Week 11 ~ One Year Anniversary in Our New Home

On My Mind ~ Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the purchase of our home. What a faith-filled adventure it was buying this home! We were not even looking to move in August of 2012. We figured we were stuck in our declining neighborhood because of the market and economy. Besides, we thought, who would want to buy our home and move into a neighborhood where the cars were broken into constantly, drugs were sold on the corner and police sirens were the norm 24 hours a day? (Fortunately, it turned out that the young twenty-something crowd did want our home.) But that month the home we had wanted for so many years in a different neighborhood went into foreclosure and so began our adventure in a leap of faith. Miraculously, we were approved for a double loan, our offer was accepted and our old home was put on the market. We bought this home and sold the old home in the span of 10 weeks! We even turned enough of a profit on the old home to be able to make some of the desperately needed repairs on our new home. I am still awestruck at how easily it all came together. Not that we didn't experience some swing this financially, we had to go down to using only one car that didn't fit our entire family for about 7 months and also go without a dryer for nearly a year. Those sacrifices were well worth the outcome of a fulfilled dream.
We just finished painting the front door a dark red. Now, we just have to pick a paint color for the shutters and walls.
Good bye, gray and black.

Front picture window and front porch

Front corner of the house and future flower bed

The backyard and back of house
So, here we are a year later. We have cut down by ourselves many trees that were blocking the view of the house. There are still several trees to bring down that need a professional's attention (in the front and back of the property). We are in the midst of clearing hundreds of pounds of vines, strange weeds, poison ivy, and Virginia Creeper. We have replaced a third of the windows, insulated the attic, refinished the bathtub, installed a new basement floor, added gutter guards, graded the front yard to stop the constant flooding into the house, repaired lots of minor plumbing, installed a new circuit breaker, installed lighting (the former owner had pulled all of the fixtures out of the house when she went into foreclosure) and a few other odds and ends. We still need a new roof (but the patch job held through our massive summer rains). As you can see from the pictures ~ there is still plenty of landscaping to do. We keep finding rocks all over the property and are making an outline for a flower bed next spring. As soon as we all stop passing the family cold around, we will get out there and rake like mad. Everywhere I look there are weeds and crazy vines. At least we have gotten almost all of the Virginia Creeper off the house.

In Our Homeschool ~ What a busy week. We did tons of learning although only about 50% of what I had planned actually got done. There was much hopping down rabbit trails this week. The kids are obsessed with The Voyage of the Mimi.  I just can't seem to say no to please, just one more episode each day. We finished Homer Price and the kids immediately wanted to start Centerburg Tales (the sequel to Homer Price). We haven't finished our activities for Homer Price because we are too busy listening to the latest great stories in Centerburg Tales. LOL! We also didn't get to a single spelling lesson because we were too busy having fun with Analogy Crosswords! Also, a little rascal (Tom Sawyer) saw one of his Christmas gifts and thought it was for now (the downfall of buying school books in little spurts is that they think all boxes arriving in the mail are new school material) and can't stop reading it to do my prepared lessons. The book is The Brick Bible: The New Testament. So, we are busy learning and living!

Tom Sawyer's New Adventure ~ Tom Sawyer is now in occupational therapy (OT) two times a week. They are doing some really neat stuff with him. I am glad to see he is really enjoying it, and he doesn't even know that he is having lots of writing therapy. They are also doing lots of sensory work. They call it really cool things like astronaut training ~ LOL! They say that his vestibular system is severely overreactive. That really isn't a surprise. I am hoping that this more intensive approach for a short period of time will help him start building a more successful experience with writing. Goldilocks is being evaluated for OT on Monday. I would be shocked if she doesn't qualify with huge sensory issues. It looks like I will be spending a fair amount of time in the OT office waiting room soon. Thankfully, my kids are experienced waiting room schoolers....

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 18, 2013

Week 10 ~ Cheerleading, Birthdays, and Lots of Learning

This week was filled to the brim with fun and exciting events. Between cheerleading, three birthdays and a return to our regular schedule ~ we were a very busy crew. We got lots of learning in, too. Of course, learning is happening all of the time.

Cheerleading ~ Goldilocks is on a special needs cheerleading squad. This week they cheered and participated in our local Buddy Walk for Down Syndrome. There are at least five girls with Down Syndrome in her squad. Goldilocks did great. She is learning the routine and got several compliments for being a good team member. I love it when she does well and gets positive responses!

Birthday Week ~ Our week started off with a Teddy Bear birthday party for Little Red Riding Hood on Sunday afternoon. She turned 10!! October is such a busy month for people. Our turnout was small, but she really enjoyed the five friends that were able to make it. To read more about it, go here.

The middle of the week found us celebrating Boomer's 3rd birthday. We aren't really sure when he was born since he was a rescue dog, so we celebrate the date that is 5 months earlier than the day we got him. He supposedly was 5 months old when we got him. I am so glad his puppy years are over. He is a wonderful dog and is the most well-trained dog we have ever had.

The end of the week was my husband's birthday. We surprised him by reorganizing his entire tool area. I am afraid it had become the dumping ground for everything that did not have a home. Incredibly, the "before" picture was taken after we had been working on the workbench for an hour!!! There is still work to do. However, I am so glad I got it this far!

Our Learning ~ Besides all of the great learning gleaned from all of the events in our week, we did lots of book learning, too. We did the 3 R's each day.

  • We are working our way through the Beyond Five in a Row book, Homer Price. We are loving this book and the great Beyond FIAR activities.
  • We also finished The Island of the Blue Dolphin this week. Goldilocks will be doing some activities associated with this book next week. We are also watching The Voyage of the Mimi on YouTube. This was one of my favorite PBS shows when I was a kid. It is about humpback whales and a grandfather and grandson that get lost at sea for a little while. It sneaks in all kinds of science and math!
  • We also did art with Grandma. We learned about Jacob Lawrence with Meet the Masters and then Grandma led the kids through making a city skyline with tissue paper and liquid starch.
Tom Sawyer
Little Red Riding Hood

  • We got in the mail an advertisement that happened to have stickers of different countries attached. I decided to have the kids find the countries on our world map and then figure out which continent each country belonged to. Then the kids added the stickers to our continent boxes. This led to much exploration of our continent boxes which we hadn't looked at in several months.

My kids continue to love to learn in stairwells. They did a lot of learning in stairwells at our old home and tend to migrate to our stairwell here in our new home as well. I am not sure what that is all about. However, I love the learning wherever it takes place.

Homegrown Learners

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

10 Frugal Ideas for a Teddy Bear Birthday Party

My youngest turned TEN this week. Oh, my!! Little Red Riding Hood wanted a teddy bear birthday party. She loves all things teddy bear and has a huge collection of them. Here are the ideas we came up with to make her party a dream come true.

1)  We strew her Teddy bear collection all over the house and the house was instantly decorated.

2) We picked solid color plates, napkins, and tablecloth from the dollar section of our local store. She picked brown ~ for teddy bear!

3) We gave the kids juice boxes instead of cups. Then each kid's juice box was marked with their name so they could easy take it home if they didn't finish it. This decreased the waste of juice left behind. 

4) We chose a seasonal item and made a teddy bear out of it for our centerpiece. We bought our pumpkins at the grocery store for $3 for the big ones and the bag of little pumpkins totaled $4. We painted the pumpkins with brown tempera paint and made the face out of felt and wiggly eyes we had around the house. We attached the pumpkins together with Gorilla Glue (which took a long time of holding it while it dried ~ but worked great).

5) The children did  most of the decorating. They learned how to make teddy bear paper chains. 

6) We thought about bear themed food for  the snacks. We had raspberries, Post Honey-Comb Cereal, and Teddy Grahams for the snack food. 

7) We decided to have a few games on hand for the kids. We weren't sure if a bunch of 9 and 10 year old girls would want to stay in dd's bedroom and play or if they would want to do party games. We tried to think up easy and inexpensive games if they chose to just play independently. As it turned out, the kids wanted to play games. We played "Pin the Nose on the Teddy" (very popular ~ they lined up twice), Musical Teddies (same as musical chairs), and face painting by Grandma. They chose prizes of either bear stickers, tiny 30 cent bears from the craft store, or candy. The kids added their treats to their take home bag as they won them.

8) Our big expenditure was a pinata. We usually make our own but with my bad cold ~ it just wasn't happening. We ended up buying a Winnie the Pooh head. We filled it with organic gummy bears and Sun Drops wrapped in aluminum foil, nickels and pennies. I made the pinata stick from a fallen branch off a tree wrapped with crepe paper streamers. I couldn't believe how much the party store was asking for their pinata sticks!

9) We made layered teddy bear cookies as the main party favor. The kids also had their bag of treats from the games and pinata to take home. 

10) Little Red Riding Hood matched the theme in her new teddy bear dress and teddy bear socks from Grandma. 

It was a great party. What fun the kids all had planning it. Tom Sawyer came up with this adorable idea ~ Yogi the Bear eating out of a picnic basket. LOL

Little Red Riding Hood enjoyed her brownie "cake" and opening presents with some of her friends. The Lego set is a combined gift from all of her siblings. (The children are wet because I couldn't get them off the trampoline even after it started raining ~ LOL).

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, October 11, 2013

Vacation Day 6 ~ Frontier Culture Museum and Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library

Our last day of vacation found us 3 hours south of Washington, D.C. in Staunton, Virginia. We came in the night before and stayed in a motel. Our Washingtonian grandparents followed us down so they could spend the last day with us.

We visited the Frontier Culture Museum. I visited this museum as a child when it was still under construction. It is complete and even more wonderful than I had remembered. You "travel through" old world Europe and West Africa. After seeing how people lived in these different places in the late 1600's and 1700's, you immigrate to the New World.  Then you visit the American Frontier and see how the people are living in their new home.

First up ~ West Africa to learn about how the people were living there before being kidnapped and sent to America as slaves. It was really impressive to see how much cooler it was inside the hut. Those thick clay walls made a huge difference. In each home an interpreter was available to answer questions and show a skill of some sort. At the time of our visit, the interpreter in West Africa was making water jugs out of gourds.

We then moved on to see an upper middle class English home in the late 1600's. As with most of the farms at the Frontier Museum, this home was actually moved here from its site in England, so it's the actual home that people lived in. They really lived pretty comfortably. The kids tried to visit with the cow (who still had her horns), but she chased them off. She charged them as if she were a bull!! I'm glad she was tied to a tree. In England the children had an opportunity to stir a pot over a fire and help make cheese.

Next, we visited Ireland. This stop was lovely to me. I love the whitewashed walls of old Irish homes. The kids were completely enamored with the pigs at this stop. We also enjoyed visiting the forge and watching the blacksmith make spoons and pokers.

Our last stop in Old Europe was Germany. This was the kids favorite stop because there were so many things of leisure to do. The kids tried their hands at playing musical instruments, bowling, feeding chickens, drawing well water, wearing wooden shoes, dancing around a maypole and dressing up in native costumes.

We then "immigrated" to America. We saw a one room school house, a small starter home and a much more glamorous frontier home complete with a spring house. The kids played checkers for a long time at this stop.

We finished our tour of this museum with a visit to a Native American Indian village.

The kids worked on a dug out canoe for a few moments. Overall, it was a great experience for them.
My Dad was with us and as always was behind his camera. I caught him taking a picture of me behind my camera. LOL!

After lunch we drove into the town of Staunton and visited the Woodrow Wilson Museum and Presidential Library. The main goal here was to learn a bit more about WWI history. The kids really liked the scavenger hunt and the WWI trenches exhibit.


What an awesome vacation! We drove into the night and arrived home shortly before 11 pm. We had a great trip, but really wore ourselves out. I got a nasty cold promptly after arriving home. We have slowly worked our way through this week. I am glad I didn't schedule us to start our new quarter until next Monday. We needed a slow move back into our full routine from our adventure.

Blessings, Dawn