Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hamster Woes

**WARNING : Graphic verbal images contained herein **

We've been having gruesome hamster issues. Maggie chewed on Eatey late this spring and she went blind in one eye. We woke up this Saturday morning to her other eye almost falling out of her head after an obvious fight with her sister in the cage. We separated them so now we have 2 cages on the buffet.
Ds#3 (who owns the hamsters) begged to call the vet. A $35 office visit didn't seem right for a free hamster, but it also didn't seem right to just let her suffer. On Monday, he asked if he could pay for the vet out of his allowance. We said, "yes" and got her in to the vet this morning (so much for school this morning). The Dr. handled her pretty roughly for her injured state and when we got home, her eye that went blind in spring time just fell out (I haven't told Drew, yet). So, $50 later, the Dr. gave us antibiotics to give her 2x/day with the warning that she may not make it through. I am quite rattled by it all. Drew is incredibly optimistic and appreciative that he was allowed to do all he could to care for his charge.
(A blind hamster with one eye that just fell out and the other swollen with puss & infection and my little boy praying so confidently) His prayers and optimism are almost heartbreaking considering what bad shape she is in. I keep thinking of all the suffering people in the world and the fact that my prayers are all for a hamster....

1st day of school, 2007

What a great start to the year...I'm sure this will be typical of our days!

We got up for morning Mass and everyone was good. Our priest gave us a blessing for our first day of school. We stopped at the store for eggs and came home to make pancakes, sausage and fruit for a big healthy breakfast. At 10am we started our full-day of school.

At 10:30 I woke up in my chair with the kids laughing at me that I couldn't stay awake. As I stumbled upstairs and mumbled something about them trying to do some independent work while I tried to take a nap...they were laughing at me, again.

Finally, at 12:45, I woke up (feeling SOOO guilty!) and the kids honestly had done much of their seat work (and a craft and a science movie from the library I had onhand). So, we had lunch and did some chores and started school at 2pm. We had to work until 7pm, but we got almost everything done for the day including our chores....whew!

I'd like to THINK that our days won't be that disjointed and I won't be out of commission that much...but we'll just have to wait and see. I think I need to read some more about homeschooling while pregnant. This is tough!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I cover this in-depth on the "schedule page of my website", somehow I can't get tables to bring well on this blog....(just putting the finishing touches on what we "should do" for tomorrow.) I think if you click on the link above, the schedule should be more readable on the website. This helps me "feel" organized and make sure I'm not trying to pack too much into my schedule (which obviously, I am). Remember, that we only do school 4 days a week, so I want those 4 days to really count for something. The kids laughed at me today and told me I'd do 2 days of school and be so tired from being pregnant that I'd give them a week off -- it's possible!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Last Day of Summer

We had a pow-wow. The kids like those. We make indian noises and everyone meets in the same room on the floor (well, I sit in a chair). The topic was what do for our last day of summer. Everyone suggested ideas and they got written on our list no matter how crazy or impossible - 16 ideas. Then we went through the list and eliminated the ones that were not going to work and we discussed which ones to keep on the list and why. We voted on the remaining 8, each kid got 3 votes and I could override all votes if I chose (I rarely do that -- I just don't call a pow-wow if I need something to happen in a certain way). That narrowed the list down to our top 5. We revoted and each kid got to vote for 2. The kids chose to have friends come over for the day. We voted on who. We called them, but they just had their 6th baby and the mom was on bedrest. So, I read to them and we cuddled the rest of the evening until we could try more friends tomorrow. By the end of the evening, all the kids revoted and asked if we could have a fun day at home with just us. This is what we chose to do with our last day of summer....

We cleaned our rooms...(mostly).

We read to the kids and let the kids read to us who needed to finish the library's summer reading program that ends today.

We made music.

We baked cookies and a cake, well Dd#2 baked it -- Ds#4 just made a mess.

We visited the midwife for a prenatal appointment (but all the kids know that this was really a play-date with the midwife's kids.)

We turned in our sheets at Barnes & Noble for their reading program.

We turned in our summer reading program sheets and books at the library -- and got more books!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Start School

We start school in 4 days!! Next Monday, in spite of a sleepless night, I plan on starting school. I'm a little anxious (I always am) and a little excited (each year I'm less excited, but after 6 years of the first day of homeschooling, I'm just thankful that I can still muster excitement each year -- I wonder what I'll be at my 16th year? That's a little daunting to think about.)

Taking the summer off does wonders for my eagerness to start school in the fall.

This year to start school, I :

  • bought new books
  • filled out the kids' new student planners
  • cleaned the schoolroom
  • got a new recliner to sit in (for me)
  • put up new posters (Astronomy -- I took down the Greek gods poster)
  • cleaned the house
  • bought a few new school supplies (we didn't need much)
  • had the kids clean out their desks

I wish I would have:

  • gotten a coat of paint in the room we'll do school in
  • did a 30-day cooking session
but, those things were not to be.
I think we'll go out for Pizza and do school in our pajamas the first day.

What do you do to make the start of school special?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Student Planners

As an update to my previous planner post, we found a new one this year.
This year, I'm switching to Good News Planners which are a Catholic student planner that has saints per day and a list on the last column of the week for spelling words (I LOVE that part!). It also reinforces the gospel for the week on "empty" days. I even ordered one for Ds#4, who keeps trying to take his off the shelf to start school. They have 3 versions - primary, elementary & jr. high. I ordered the elementary version for all 4 kids - it'll just work better for the way we do school.

The kids are getting more excited, so I think I'll try to start the first full week in August. I'm a little anxious, but also eager. (I love it when I've had enough of a break that I'm eager, again.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cleaning Day

Usually Saturday is our cleaning day, but we're having our priests and seminarian over for dinner tonight, so we're cleaning today. Everyone has been very helpful and are all earning alot for their allowance today. They're doing jobs like washing the dog, picking up the back yard, vacuuming & doing dishes. We've had to scrape dried cereal off diningroom chairs so grown-ups can sit on them, wash baseboards & walls & windows & doorknobs (always a sticky job).

Some kids are more excited about their individual jobs than others....
Pork Chops were on sale, so that's what we're having. Here's my recipe :
Pork Chops Use the following as a rub on the chops - 1tsp salt 1/2 tsp pepper 1/2 tsp sage 1/2 tsp thyme bay leaf pinch allspice 1 clove garlic, mashed then, for the crockpot add - 1/2 cup water Crockpot for 8 hours on low and enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cousins Picnic

Some of our cousins moved back east. We miss them. Due to a family illness, the kids are spending some time in town and we couldn't miss the opportunity to spend some time with them.

We wouldn't have thought some of those big kids would have been up for hide-and-seek ... and yet they all were! What wonderful fun in the park they all had.

Uncle Mike and Aunt Linda arranged for us all to get together -- the kids all had a blast -- especially my kids who have been missing their cousins!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Kids Chores

How do I get my kids to do their chores?

Well, I insist on it. I've seen parents that are afraid to act like the parent - I'm not. They don't do anything fun until they do their chores. If they fight me on it (yell and cry) they go to their room until they're ready to do it -- joyfully. In our house, we believe our children are each a gift from God to our family. We also believe kids are capable of much more than today's society gives them credit for. I also treat them like children in that I use tons of encouragement and am satisfied with their best effort -- EVEN WHEN IT DOESN'T MEET MY ADULT STANDARDS. I'm not a drill Sergeant in making them make their beds over and over until it's perfect. On the other hand, I may make them re-sweep the floor if there are glaring spots they've missed. BALANCE, is called for and not making chores something they hate (they'll complain enough without us, as parents, making it worse.)

If we're talking about a laziness issue -- that's a separate post.

As a tool that teaches to the heart, I've found that firm, but unemotional discipline coupled with loving times (pats, glances, chats) to be fantastic. We made this Virtue-Vice Chart as a tool that slows down the discipline process and allows me time to think how I want to react rather than having to react immediately when I'm angry and can't think.

Basically, I'm the parent and since I believe chores are GOOD for my children, I make them. Some children naturally respond to this better than others. Do I allow them to go outside without their coat in winter -- even if they want to ? Nope. And I don't allow them to shirk their responsibilities to each other by not doing their chores.

What ages should I start chores?
My toddlers ALWAYS want to help. It's the hassle of my life (along with car seats). Even so, I let them help me. I give them a hand towel to carry while I carry the rest of the laundry. I pick up their doll and have them put it away. We make a game of picking up their blocks and toys. I reward them for their efforts, even when it's less than adult standards.

By the time they're in preschool (ages 3 or 4) they have their own daily chore (helping set the table) and are expected to pick up their own toys, sometimes with help.

What chores are appropriate for what ages?
There is lots of information on this online.
The chores my kids have this year, are
5yr old : sweep kitchen daily
7yr old : empty dishwasher daily
9yr old : clean 1 bathroom per day, mop floor once a week & take out trash once a week
11yr old : do dishes daily

They keep their daily jobs for a year and then we switch. We cross-train in the spring when school has ended for the jobs they'll have for the next year. That way they have all summer for me to follow-up on them and remind/retrain on the right way to do their job before they're just expected to do it on their own when school comes in the fall. I try really hard to make the retraining part not be a time when I'm frustrated and yelling at them for what they're not doing right. I want to empower them to do it, not frustrate them into discouragement.

They also have to clean their rooms (no allowance for that -- it's just an expectation), clean up after themselves, and whatever chores I ask them to do during the day. If they do them joyfully, they get an allowance.

My long-term goal is that they'll know how to do just about everything in the house by the time they're 13. Then, in the teen years, I'll teach them to juggle and multi-task to pull it all together. So far, we're mostly on track!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Homeschooling In the News

This piece in the Washington Times about the Supreme Court saying that homeschooling is a viable educational option is gratifying.

Especially after Amy's disturbing find about eroding parental rights.


This program has been talked about quite a bit on the message boards I frequent. It's one that has helped out school tremendously. The Decimal Street post I did March 2007, has been getting some action. First of all, Ethan Demme blogged about my blog, as well as posting comments. Then, Jodi commented on the post as well.... I feel so special to be noticed.

Really, I'm just a little lazy. It's so much easier to teach using MUS than any of the 4 programs I tried before. It's also easier to teach with materials that suit the child's needs, the way Decimal Street has done for us. BTW...Ethan said you'd need a lot of blocks to make a Decimal Street number in the thousands, but at that stage of the game, we use number cards first, then we'll use the blocks and I choose numbers that are little (in the trillions). 1,023,131,242 isn't so tough to build with the starter set of blocks and the completer set of blocks and still have blocks left over.

MUS really was the trigger for us. My dd is easily distractable, but would willing do her other school work. However, she would cry and avoid math like the plague. I switched in Oct of her 4th grade year. I found that free evaluation test really helpful. I found that while she could do all the problems, when it came to understanding them (story problems) she couldn't do it. So, I put her back a year to start MUS. Switching mid-year is perfectly acceptable as MUS allows the child to work at their own pace. Dd has gone through 2 grades of MUS in roughly a year and a half and is really understanding what she's doing. It turned our math class around.

Monday, July 09, 2007

How Do I Homeschool with a Toddler?

Toddlers are a force to be reckoned with -- especially, when you're trying to homeschool their bigger siblings.

My solution :

  1. A firm "NO" with eye contact
  2. Followed by a short (1 minute) time-out if they don't respect the 'no'.
  3. If they won't stay in time-out or are showing other flagrant acts of defiance, a small "smack" on the back of their hands (it always breaks my heart to do anything but kiss those sweet pudgy hands, but they have to learn.)

Beyond those discipline items in place --

  1. Keen observation, every second of every moment of the day. Since that is physcially IMPOSSIBLE (although as moms we make a valiant attempt)...
  2. I keep my toddlers with me at almost all times. I'm so much more likely to see what's going on, if they don't escape from me (which they have a tendency to do).
  3. PREPARATION - This includes activites, toys and as many saftey measures as you can think of.
  4. *DISTRACTION* - This is the name of the game in the toddler years. I try and anticipate what my toddler is about to do (like pull 25 books off the shelves) and keep them from doing it by giving them something more attractive to do. Toddlers are GREAT to distract, because most distract fairly easily. They also want something just because someone else has it, so me showing them something I have and acting like it's cool to play with, is usually enough to distract them.
Of course the picture is how we all WISH we could school (during their naps), is doesn't always work.

See my Toddler page for ideas on handling a toddler during school time. It mostly consists of they hows & whys of keeping your toddler with you while you school the other(s).

There are also 50 activities to do with your toddler while you school.

Thomas Edison

This family took a field trip and discovered quite a bit of information!! I do have to wonder how much of what they were told is arbitrary truth - sometimes one version of an event can be different from another -- and both are right.

I found it fascinating!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

4th of July

Our 4th of July party is coming together.
This website helped get my juices flowing.

#1 on my "smart idea" list : We've invited friends who don't care how the house looks.

The house actually looks fairly decent, but I'd feel obligated to make it look great if we had a different crowd of people coming. Dave did TONS of yardwork last night. I think he was out there past dark! It needed done soooo badly. I'm just no help at all this summer. He said he only got about 20% of it done. I'm so thrilled for what he got accomplished, though.

We've got flags out everywhere. The dollar store was sold out when I checked, but Wal-mart had a good price on them (2/$1.86) for the hand-held ones.

A few activities for the kids planned (3-legged race, water balloons, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, sparklers). On the 3rd, I had them take the black styrofoam trays from the trayed corn on the cob and make fireworks by blowing red, white & blue paint through a straw. We hung them on the bathroom door. There's really no point in over planning -- they'll just want to run through the house screaming and chasing each other all day, anyway.

I thought I'd have them watch the America Rock portion of Schoolhouse Rock. That set of 20 minutes worth of cartoon songs tells the story as succinctly and memorably as about anything I can think of..."and the shot heard round the world, was the start of the revolution..."

The food is bought and prepped, including the Rocket Popsicles we made last night with Jello & Whipped Cream. I've come to LOVE Aldi's supermarket.

If we can stay awake that long, we're going to try and take the kids to the fireworks. Believe it or not, we've never made it to watch the fireworks since we've had kids.

It should be a relaxing, easy-going, flag waving, Sousa-playing day...of course, I'm awake at 4:30am, so I may be a tad-bit tired for 9am Mass on the 4th. It sounds rediculous, but I'll just go upstairs and take a short nap while our friends are here ... ANOTHER advantage to celebrating with good friends.

I pray for America that we may be made worthy to live out the freedoms and responsibilities we've been granted by God.

Pasta Salad

Do you know I can't make a decent pasta salad to save my life? The ones from the box come out just fine. I can make a homemade one "look" like a pretty pasta salad. It sure doesn't taste like one.
I've tried recipe after recipe -- and I can't come up with one that tastes right. My problem is that no matter how much italian dressing I put in, after a few hours it tastes like...oil...tasteless. Even when I put more italian dressing in a second time ... after a few hours it tastes really oily. I don't know how to get the taste to stay.
How hard can this be??

I need to put this one under "cooking failure" (except that I don't have a category for that and I'm hoping not to have tooooo many cooking failures).

There's a trick I'm not privy to...

Does your pasta salad turn out?