Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week 15 ~ What a Social Life

We have been going from one social event to another. Everyone keeps telling me that they dread the busyness of December, but I am looking forward to December. My calendar clears up considerably. Here is our week by events. (We got a good amount of school work done, too, but nothing super exciting.)

The Nutcracker ~ The Nutcracker is only a few weeks away. The kids are busy with hours of extra rehearsals. They look great! The show is really coming together. Little Red Riding Hood is a toy cat, candy cane and a guard. Tom Sawyer is a sailor on the Sugar Plum lake.
This girl is made out of a rubber band!
This is just part of their candy cane costumes.
My sailor lining up to dance
The Parade ~ Goldilocks participated in our city holiday parade with her special needs cheer leading squad. She had so much fun and got to wear green glitter eye shadow. She was over the moon about that. Dh went along as her chaperone. We enjoy living in a city that is large enough to have many amenities, but small enough that we know tons of people in the parade.

These were made completely out of plastic bags.

Two Plays ~ We won tickets to The Best Christmas Pageant Ever! This is one of my favorite Christmas plays. My mother and I took the girls to see it at the community theater. It was a wonderful production. We also had tickets this week to Shakespeare on Trial. This was part of our local theater's matinee school series. What a great introduction to four famous Shakespeare characters! We also watched Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth on YouTube. The Shakespeare animated tales are wonderful.

Lego Club ~ We finally got into a Lego club.We have been on the waiting list for nearly 4 years! The kids enjoyed the challenge and had lots of creative building time with about 20 other kids. We look forward to getting to know this new group of families.

Charity Shoe Boxes ~ We got together with another family to make shoe boxes for Operation Christmas child, Meals on Wheels and A missionary family in Mexico. The family in Mexico is still accepting boxes if you wish to send one. I have followed this family's blog for years. They are very devoted to their poverty stricken community. We completed nine boxes!

The Rest ~ In between all of this fun, our family was witness to a terrible tragedy this week. One of the families in our dance studio lost their father/husband. It was a very sudden and unexpected death. Our dance community is in shock. This family is extremely involved in our dance studio and are also homeschoolers. We have had many conversations about grief, death and how to be a friend to someone going through this tragedy. Our heart goes out to them during this very difficult time.

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Advent Books 2013

It is that time again! Wow, the days are long and the years are FAST. November is such a busy month for our family, and I look forward to the calmer Christmas season in December. We started the tradition of opening a new Christmas book each day of Advent a few years ago. It is a cherished family tradition now. We try to do an activity with each book. I have a few new books this year ~ thanks to some great finds at our local used book store.
  1. The Legend of the Christmas Tree ~ Buy and put up Christmas tree
  2. The Animals' Christmas Carol ~ Put up Nativity
  3. The Chanukkah Guest ~ Make latkes 
  4. The Legend of the Poinsettia ~ Deliver Christmas boxes for Meals on Wheels clients
  5. The Twelve Days of Christmas ~ Listen to Christmas Carols
  6. The Legend of St. Nicholas ~ Play Secret Santa to someone
  7. Find Scrooge in a Christmas Carol ~ Finish decking the halls
  8. Bear's First Christmas ~ go on winter nature walk
  9. Corduroy's Christmas Surprise ~ Do one of our charity activities
  10. The Dog Who Found Christmas ~ Do an animal charity
  11. Librarian's Night Before Christmas ~ Donate to the library book tree
  12. A Christmas Carol ~ Watch the movie and go to Return to Bethlehem reenactment 
  13. Too Many Tamales ~ Make a Mexican meal
  14. The Crippled Lamb ~ Attend our special needs support group's party
  15. Good King Wenceslas  ~ Donate food to the food bank
  16. The Baker's Dozen ~ Make and deliver cookies
  17. Christmas in the Trenches ~ Make Christmas cards for the Red Cross
  18. Christmas Tapestry ~ Watch Christmas movies
  19. North Country Christmas ~ Take a Christmas field trip
  20. Papa's Christmas Gift ~ Wrap family gifts
  21. The Steadfast Tin Soldier ~ Take a drive to look at Christmas lights
  22. Night Tree ~ Decorate a tree for the birds
  23. The Gift of the Magi ~ Hang stockings and final cleaning/purging of home
  24. An Irish Night Before Christmas ~ Church
Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week 14 ~ Our Week in Numbers and Triumphs

I could tell you that this was one of those weeks when life seemed like too much or that this was a week when raising so many special needs children left me overwhelmed and a bit heartbroken. There were those moments in this week. For the sake of keeping it real, yes, some days are really long and frustrating. Some days I spend too much time worrying that I am not doing enough or the right things to help my kids. Sometimes I even feel sorry for myself that nothing I am doing fixes a child! However, I like to think positively and remember my many blessings and triumphs. Our family is very blessed and we are not walking this path alone. A prayer my Mother taught me when I was very young comes to mind.
God is with me and
 only good shall come to me.

Also the Serenity Prayer is encouraging.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Here is my week (Sunday - Saturday) in numbers...
  • 596 miles driven ... Thankfully, all safely driven with a well running Honda Odyssey.
  • $262 spent on food ... Thankfully, the majority of that food I felt good about putting into my kids' stomachs.
  • 24 Advent books organized and wrapped, ready for December 1 ... I am thankful that the kids so enjoy this family tradition. (I will be listing our Christmas books in a post soon.)
  • 9 hours spent watching my kids dance ... I am so thankful for the joy that dance brings my kids. We love our dance studio and I am looking forward to seeing Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood in the Nutcracker for the fourth season soon.
  • 7 doctor and therapy appointments ... Thankfully, everyone is progressing; Timothy's heart and pacemaker are functioning well; and we have lots of support, plus health insurance.
  • 6 hours of wonderful educational play with WeDo Robotics ... I am so grateful we were able to afford Lego WeDo Robotics for Tom Sawyer. The joy when he received this addition to his curriculum was boundless.
  • 5 full days of homeschool lessons ... I am thankful for Grandma homeschooling the children one at a time in the car on our 8 hour round trip to Duke Medical Center.
  • 4 math lessons achieved ... I love Teaching Textbooks.
  • 1 special project completed ... For a year now, I have wanted to make memory rocks for a few veterans in our family. This Veterans Day we made one for my husband, Father-in-law and Great Uncle who fought in World War II. We placed them in the Warriors Cairn at the Veterans Hospital. My feelings are complicated about this subject. I hate war and feel that we get ourselves into so many unnecessary conflicts. I also think we do not do nearly enough to solve our world issues peacefully. However, I love my husband and relatives and respect that they were men willing to put themselves out there to protect us and others. 
  • 1 overnight at Ronald McDonald House ... I am thankful that RMH continues to host our family, even though Tim is now an adult. Since he must be followed by a particular pediatric cardiologist and we have so many young children, we fortunately fall into a nice little loophole for a few more years.

I am joining ~ 
Homegrown Learners

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Reasonably Clean House

So how do we keep a reasonably clean house in the midst of the "crazy busy" season? Well, I do have some techniques that, after much trial and error, work for us. Here is a list of things that help us.
Disclaimer ~ This is not a Martha Stewart Post!!

If you know the "crazy, busy" is approaching ~ Before the really busy season begins, give your home a little extra TLC.
  • When we know that the next month or so is going to be a rush of activity, we set aside a day to do a deeper clean than usual. Every room gets an extra 15 minutes.
  • Make a Goodwill run ~ Take a bag and go room to room and collect things that are no longer needed. Every item you have has to be maintained. The less you have, the less work is required for maintenance.
  • Make a few freezer meals or baking items that can be frozen for a busy morning or dinner later in the month.
  • Think about convenience foods you are willing to feed your family and purchase them on your next grocery trip. We all want to eat our healthiest all of the time, but sometimes that just isn't possible. Those store-bought, organic frozen waffles may be a step down from homemade, organic pancakes, but they are a huge step up from the fast food joint on the corner.
  • If you are like me and have "I am going to get to that" projects laying out in the open, put them away for the next little while. Just getting through the day to day rush will be enough. 
  • Organize your organizational area ~ for us that is a bulletin board and calendar. I made sure we weren't double booked for the whole month. This saves so much chaos when you are in the midst of the crazy, busy.

Once you are in the busy season...
  • Give yourself a break ~ your kids aren't going to remember if the counter was scrubbed to perfection or what it looks like under the bed. But they will remember a completely stressed out, yelling Mommy.
  • Stay on top of your most critical list of cleanliness. For me, that is a clean kitchen, clean toilets, clean clothes to wear and being able to walk through the main traffic areas. I really don't mind a bit of dust on the bookcases or a few piles of things around the edges of the room. My husband would add that he really like the beds made, so I put in extra effort to make sure that happens.
  • Get the kids on board. We do a several song sweep and critical chore time each day. Each person gets to choose a song on YouTube and we do our chores while we dance along. Some days we only have time for three songs and other times we do eight songs. It is a nice routine that can be stretched or shrunk as needed. The kids look forward to choosing the song(s) at chore time.
  • Make all of those convenience machines work for you every day. One of the first things I do each morning is start the dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer. If nothing else, we will have clean dishes, clean clothes and more clothes on the way! 
  • Having a life skills day here and there can count as a school day. There is nothing wrong with doing chores and cooking for school occasionally. Those life skills will have a larger impact on your child's future than missing one poetry study or science lesson.

Lastly, go to bed. A good night sleep is more important than trying to put the house to perfection after the kids are in bed.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 8, 2013

Week 13 ~ Homeschooling Through Our Busy Season

I started feeling that crazy busy season coming on a week or so ago and it is here full force now. The November calendar is full to busting with 51 commitments written down. One of those commitments is a 36 hour quick round trip to Duke for our oldest son's pacemaker appointment. Then there are all of those Nutcracker rehearsals.... Yep, I am one busy Mama! So, I am all about priorities. You might think that my priorities would be the 3 R's. Those are important to me and totally on my radar screen, but they are not my top goals. My priorities this month are calm children, calm parents, joy and laughter, a reasonably clean house and living frugally...which means eating our meals at home. Here is a look at our week staying calm in a very busy world.

Monday ~ Goldilocks is now the proud owner of her second pair of braces. She went through round one when she was nine. Her adult teeth were sideways up in the gum line; her little mouth was so crowded. Now the orthodontist is trying to turn several teeth around and stretch one side of her jaw to allow more teeth to work their way into their proper position. I am so grateful that Goldilocks is a brave medical trooper. There were no tears on Monday, despite the orthodontist working on her mouth for 2 hours.

We also managed to do the 3 R's, go to the library and take two kids to dance classes.

Tuesday ~ We went on a field trip to the Arboretum to see a Lego exhibit by the artist, Sean Kenney. It was amazing. We all really enjoyed learning more about Sean Kenney, who proclaims himself to be a professional kid. Now there is a job title my kids could get into!

We also made it to math tutoring and our special needs family support group. The support group was huge this time and our family split up into our different age groups. Everyone did projects and talked about gratitude. This was a nice blessing for me to think about all that I am grateful. The list is so long.

Wednesday ~ We were home in the morning and enjoyed 3 hours of uninterrupted lessons. We even managed to do our poetry tea with Casey at Bat. Then it was off to occupational therapy for two kids and 3 hours of dance for Little Red Riding Hood. We even managed to make an impact on the laundry.

Thursday ~ Our Goldilocks had a psychological intake this morning. We are hoping to find her a female therapist who can work with low IQ teenagers and understands all of her emotional issues. The intake worker felt strongly that she needed an updated psychological evaluation, a new therapist and perhaps a medicine review with a psychiatrist. I am so relieved that we are getting some well needed support. She has really had a rough time the last year (it has been rough since the day we got her, but rougher the last year than in recent years). All of this should start falling into place over the next few weeks...which means...more appointments!

Grandma came over to babysit Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood. She did a 2 hour tree study and made such nice books with them. Then she did the project all over again when Goldilocks got home from her appointment.

Lastly, we went to the first extra rehearsal of the Nutcracker. Little Red Riding Hood is a guard who must capture baby mice in one of her three dances. The mice were all 4 to 6 years old and so cute.

Friday and the Weekend ~ So here we are on Friday. Three kids have doctor/OT appointments today. We also have a "surprise" visit this afternoon from Grandpa who is traveling through on his way to Florida. He will spend a few hours with us, eat dinner and get some sleep before heading on down the road. The rest of the weekend is loaded up with a birthday party, gymnastics, church and cheerleading.

So what happened to schooling? ~ Well, this is where the unschooler in me pushes to the surface just a little. Just looking at the events of the week we can count ~ science, art, writing, lots of social time, P.E., math, and music. If we had done nothing else but the events in the week, it would have been enough. However, the Charlotte Mason literature/history-based follower that I am needed to fill some of the kids' spare time with language arts, history and literature. Thanks to workbooks, audio books in the car and educational videos on the computer, we squeezed in all of our lessons for the week.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Poetry Tea ~ Casey at Bat

The kids and I really enjoy our poetry teas. This week we did Casey at Bat by Earnest Thayer. What a great baseball poem and fable. Casey is so overconfident that he doesn't even bother to swing at the first two pitches. Boy, what a mistake! He swings and misses the last pitch completely. The famous Casey strikes out! I read the poem to the kids and then we listened to James Earl Jones reading it. We then watched a Disney mini episode of Casey at Bat. Why do the cartoons seem so much more educational from the 1940's and 1950's? I guess it is just another example of the dumbing down of America.
Having a poetry tea doesn't have to be an elaborate affair. A few snack or breakfast foods, a tea or two, and maybe some fun tea cups is all you need. I find that feeding their bodies and minds at the same time is a fun and efficient way of homeschooling. On this day we had bananas, raisins, fruit leather, cheddar bunnies, yogurt, blackberries, baked beans, Irish breakfast tea and tropical herbal tea. I did some quick theme decorating with patriotic dishes (baseball is an All-American sport, after all), a baseball, and helmet.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, November 1, 2013

Week 12 ~ Halloween Edition

What a busy week! We managed to get through all of our classes and appointments (so far). We have three more doctor appointments today. It is a busy season around here. My Mother, who is currently editing my blog back in 2009, would tell you it has been a busy season for a long time in my household! We are trying to put my blog into book form this year. We have 3 years done, and it is so much fun reading it with the children. I'm glad I have kept this "journal" for them.

Books we read/listened to this week ~ 
  • Canterville Ghost
  • Centerburg Tales
  • Sarah Plain and Tall
  • Kit Kittredge book 1
  • Big Nate
Movies we watched ~ 
  • First Position ~ What a great movie about what it takes to have a career in dance. This movie follows a half dozen kids through the months leading up to the largest dance competition in the world. 
  • It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
  • The Second Voyage of the Mimi ~ This is on YouTube and is the sequel to They Voyage of the Mimi. This series finds CT and his Grandfather exploring Mexico and Mayan ruins.
Halloween Happenings ~ What a fun Halloween! We didn't spend one red cent on Halloween this year. We had a left over pumpkin from Little Red Riding Hood's party that we carved. The costumes were all homemade or found in our dress up box. Having checked it out, I found that no one seems to trick or treat in our neighborhood, so we didn't buy any candy either. We went to a neighborhood on the other side of town that was closing the street for Halloween. This neighborhood really goes all out and never disappoints. Everyone dresses up and several of the homes put on puppet shows, shadow shows and street performances. The fire department blocked the long street so everyone was safe from moving cars. To my shock, the kids got tons of higher end chocolate candy. I thought with 800+ trick or treaters coming to each house, the candy would be lollipops and hard candy. I told the kids we were collecting candy for a mission family in Mexico who does a Christmas shoebox program. They do not accept chocolate, so now I have to hit the after Halloween candy sales for the hard candy that can be enclosed in the shoeboxes. My husband got lots of attention for his costume. I think only one person figured out his costume. The news station even took pictures of him. Can you figure out what he is? The poor man looks like he is about to fall asleep. He has a nasty sinus infection, but we dragged him out into the night anyway.
The bread winner
Boomer was a puppy that wants milk ~ He is always nursing on things.
Goldilocks was a 1950's girl.
Tom Sawyer was the Grim Reaper and Little Red Riding Hood was a baby.
No one took a picture of my costume. I was a follower/fan of Michael Jackson in my red leather jacket.

American Girl Doll Club ~ We started the 1930's in our American Girl Doll club this week. The girls are studying the Great Depression with the doll, Kit Kittredge. They watched about half of the Kit Kittredge movie and then did a bit more crocheting. Then they watched how to make pasta and peas on Depression cooking with Clara on YouTube. We just love Clara. She tells a lot about growing up in the Great Depression while teaching how to cook frugal meals. Clara is delightful!

Another busy week down.

Blessings, Dawn