Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Newsletter -- Blast from the Past 2002

We've inconsistently sent out a Christmas letter through the years of the kids' growing up.  We were asked to repeat this oldie, but goodie from 2002.

Blessings to All,                                        December, 2002

            Life just gets crazier around the MacDonald house.  Last Christmas our present to ourselves was our new house.  I'm so thrilled with our new home.  It's beautiful (when it's clean which isn't very often), and spacious.  Except for a basement, it's everything we said we wanted.  Dave and the girls truly miss our first home and still speak of it often.  One family, one mission, and all of us are different people.  The pregnancy was a struggle for the whole family since I was put on partial bedrest from January until April.  Infections and fear, frustration and anxious test results plagued the first quarter of the year.  Friends and family were truly heaven-sent and provided help, meals, cleaning, babysitting, and lots of prayers.  To our relief, Peter Michael was born HAPPY and HEALTHY on May 2, 2002 at 8lbs and 12oz.  Finally a child who looks more like me than Dave.  His dark skin, eyes, and hair are a definite contrast to our hazel-eyed, blonde, fair group.  (Emmy has brown eyes, too!)  During this past spring Emmy had fallen off a patio table (that I'd told her not to stand on many times) and broken her collar bone (the opposite one that had been broken at birth).  Being on bedrest, it was hard to keep Drew from running and tackling Em as they as they often did to each other.  It took 3-4 weeks to heal up.

            Due to spring colds, I had gone into labor on little to no sleep from the previous two weeks.  Dave's parents (saints that they are), had all 3 children, (Kate was 6, Emmy was 4, and Drew was still under 2) overnight while Sweety-Petey and I were in the hospital.  To get some rest, I took my healthy, happy, big baby home before the 24 hours were up.  Dave's parents brought the kids home that evening.  Then life really got started.  As soon as Kate got home, she ran a fever.  For the next week and a half, she spiked temperatures of 104, had swelling throughout the glands in her neck, was in agonizing pain that the codeine didn't do much for, slept little, and cried all the time.  She threw up with the fever and the pain.  Kate and Peter were both in our room this week.  We went to the doctor's 3 times that week, and finally when Peter was 9 days old, the pediatrician admitted her to the hospital.  At just 9 days old, with NO sleep, I let a wonderful friend take my new baby home with her for the night with pumped milk, so I could sleep. 

            That first night in the hospital was horrible.  The pain medication and the antibiotics didn't seem to do much and in the middle of the night, though she was burning up to the touch and delirious, the nurses wouldn't believe me that the thermometer was broken when it continued to read 99.5.  I was too tired to argue and just fell in and out of sleep on the couch in her room with her cries.  At the morning shift change, when her fever felt like it had gone down quite a bit (by my touch), the new nurse found a new thermometer that measured 104.8.  She slowly got better and I kept the baby with me in the hospital most of the time.  Em was taken in by her Godparents, and Drew by my family.  They kept Kate in the hospital for 4 days and sent her home with lots of medication and still quite a bit of pain, but no more fever.  She'd had all the symptoms of West Nile, including the rash, but that was before anybody (including the doctor) knew what it was - lymph adonitis was the diagnosis.  Dave had been off work since the baby was born and had to go back to work the day we came home from the hospital.  I was scared to handle all those children on my own.  Exhausted, I prayed for life to get "normal".  God said, 'Not yet.'

            The next day, I had worked hard to get all the children down for a nap at the same time...I just had to get some sleep.  I fell asleep in my panties and bra after nursing Peter to sleep in my bed.  Hearing a scream, I thought Drew had climbed out of his bed and into Kate's top-bunk and was hurting her.  I scooched Peter to the middle of the bed and ran down the hall.  Passing the upstairs bathroom I saw the screen inside the house and the window wide open.  Praying that Drew hadn't fallen out of the window (how could the screen be on the inside, though, God?), I looked out.  Emmy was screaming on the ground 2 floors below me.  Running through the house (wishing I had some clothes to put on) I ran outside and brought her in.  Her foot was swollen up and she said she couldn't walk.  I called Dave and our lovely neighbors to see if someone could talk me through checking for broken bones.  Dave rushed home, the neighbor rushed over, and both Dave's parents came from work to help.  Em could put weight on her foot but her back hurt.  I couldn’t stop laughing – Dave wasn’t as amused.  Just a day after gettting out of the hospital we went back to X-ray Em.  Nothing broken and in 5 days she was wrestling with Drew again.  When asked why she did it, she said she knew she wasn't allowed to go out the door to play without asking, but no one said anything about the window.  My basic prayer for the rest of the summer was for God to please help me keep all these children alive.

            Dave planned out the landscaping in our new backyard over and over.  It was so nice working on something together that didn't involve the hospital.  During the pregnancy, Drew kept getting out of the yard and running toward the street.  I couldn’t catch him, so Kate had to.  The big accomplishment for the summer was getting our white vinyl fence installed.  Dave, some good friends, and wonderful family all worked their rear ends off to get it done...it's lovely.  Peter was baptized this summer and we had a big party with balloons flying off our new fence.  We've been discussing a brick patio and various beds for next summer, we'll just have to wait and see. 

            Our next interesting story is our lifestyle change...Kate is now homeschooling.  We prayed and talked and prayed and talked.  Everyone is happy with our new routine including Kate.  Dave was impressed with the opportunities in Fort Wayne for homeschool activities.  It's been a very easy transition.  This just seems to fit us and our family. About a month after we started to homeschool,  Child Protective Services of Allen County knocked on my door and demanded to see the children.  Someone had turned us in as endangering the children - taking Kate out of "school" was part of the report that was made, although it's completely legal.  The lady from CPS was very nice and said our children DID NOT look neglected or endangered.  It was scary at the time, and we'll be under investigation until April, but it seems to have come to nothing. (THANK GOD!!)   Em is still in preschool at St. Jude Catholic Church, but we're discussing bringing her home to homeschool for Kindergarten.  I'm a little anxious about homeschooling two kids with the boys underfoot, but God has time to prepare me. 

            Peter is a big, EASY baby.  He's so happy and rarely cries.  He's almost crawling at 7 months and gets into everything by scootching like a little commando.  We can barely keep him in baby food - he eats sooo much!  Drew is spoiled to the core.  He's just so cute, I can hardly stand to discipline him, so he's gotten to be somewhat of a terror - but so sweet and cute you want to melt.  If we could just get him to stop playing and wandering the house in the middle of the night, we'd be great.  Em's gotten to be such a terrific big sister.  Her favorite thing is to take care of the baby and except for being more precocious than I can quite keep up with, she's tried so hard to please us.  She's either hot or cold and sometimes both at the same time.  Kate is learning so much, she's such a joy to be around.  Sometimes she wants to please a little too much and we have to insist that she do what she wants, not someone else (including us).  She paves the way for her siblings and is a genuine leader.  Right now she's in love with the movie 'Grease'.  It's pretty bawdy for her, but she doesn't seem to get those parts.  She loves the music.

            The 2 big stressers this past year have been money (almost $10,000 out-of-pocket medical bills) and adjusting to (what seems to us) our very large family.  Our 2 big joys this year have been God keeping our family from those near-miss disasters (we're all still here and basically healthy) and God granting us one of his most precious gifts - our new baby.  Such is life - joy and sorrow mixed - we haven't gotten used to it.  Life has been challenging this year.  Wonderful, good, full of life, and challenging.  We trust that God will hold us up to the challenge.  I recall the year Em was born being a rough one , too.  Life gets easier ... please, please, please. 

            For Halloween Kate was the Statue of Liberty, Em was an American Flag, Drew was a fireman, and Peter was a dalmatian.  The next day was All Saints Day and the kids dressed up and I had their picture taken.  The others were the Holy Family, but Kate wanted to be St. Bernadette.  So... St. Bernadette and the Holy Family wish you a Blessed Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do you let your kids read Percy Jackson or 39 Clues series?

 I allow my 5th grade up crowd access to both series (39 Clues AND Percy Jackson). 

I have to explain that we do ALOT of discussion with our books and the kids are TAUGHT to analyze what they read. That being said, the middle school crowd are not the most analytical people I've ever met and they ususally need help. 

The gods in Percy Jackson, who do bad things, are presented as good people and the kids need help to see that their bad acts, no matter how funny & likable, makes them bad characters. The kids DO NOT see this on their own and argue vehemently that because they are likable, the gods are good characters.     

In 39 Clues the main characters (children) must do morally objectionable things (steal boats, even if it's from bad guys, tell lies) and it's all presented as very justifiable.  My kids need talked through each moral dilemma - they won't necessarily see that the kids in the story have a choice to do moral actions when the immoral actions are presented as so reasonable.      

As long as you talk through the issues in the books with the kids I see them as positive learning tools. (Which is NOT how I see those vampire books...)  Yes, the books are mainly for enjoyment and can ABSOLUTELY get a struggling reader (even an older one) hooked on reading.  But I completely agree with Martin Cothran - "Literature is dangerous—except when taken in large doses."  http://www.memoriapress.com/articles/harry-potter-and-attack-critics   The above series' are books my kids read during summer or a break from school.  Their minds are FILLED with historical characters or classic literature the majority of the year.  I feel like that helps protect them from the "twaddle".

Monday, December 09, 2013

Something Greater CD Funding -- YOU DID IT!!



"I'm so overjoyed that my goal on Kickstarter was reached!! Praise Jesus! Thank you again to everyone who was such great support in so many ways!!" - Emma MacDonald

Friday, November 22, 2013

Mother Colette's first vows

This was such a tender moment to be part of. I was so touched as the brothers so gently and lovingly put Mother Colette's new black veil on her and took off the white one. It was as reverent and sweet as a moment could be. Mother was almost dancing person to person to get her hugs. Mother, you are such a wonderful gift from God for our family and we are honored to be a part of your life!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

This is what volunteering looks like

February & November trips to St. Vincent de Paul store in Decatur to volunteer and help organize the store.  Our crews do a great job!! 

The Kates look snookered -- I'm happy to report that they weren't!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Writing Expectations

This is one of those homeschooling walls I hit my head on over and over until I figured out what worked for our family. Amazing what you can figure out in 12 years. I'm just glad we have younger kids so I can apply my knowledge to the other kids.

For 1-2 grade, they do narrations that I type up.  For 3-4th grade, they do narrations that I type up (~ 1 paragraph).  The 3rd graders use half of the narration for copywork (and we paste the other half onto the paper.  The 4th graders start with the full narration as copywork and work into writing out their own narrations through the year.

For 4-6th, I expect 1 paragraph once a week in history.  We don't do any re-writing, but I will show them 1 major editing thing that I'd like them work on for the next week. 

For 7-8, I expect 2-3 paragraphs once a week, with the student starting to type them. I have them submit it to me half-way through the week, we edit it together and they have to rewrite it to submit it by the end of the week.

 For High School, I ask for 4 - 2page papers, double-spaced & footnoted per semester plus one 4-6 page mini-research paper, double spaced & footnoted per semester.  The mini-research paper has to have at least 3 sources and one of the sources must be from a print book (not a webpage). 

The high school grade divisions don't come in paper length, but in expectation.  I may let a 9th grader off the hook for research papers & footnotes.  I may let a 10th grader off the hook for research papers.  I'm more picky grading 11th & 12th grade papers and they don't get out of anything. 

Often, I will alternate expecting a history paper every other week with expecting a literature paper every other week.  More academic-minded kids will have more than one paper assigned per week - but that depends on the kid and is the exception, not the rule.

(Only in my dreams do I get all this done with all 5 kids each week.  I'm much better at holding the older kids accountable and hit or miss on the younger kids.)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween 2013

Everyone got soaked and cold, but it started well...
All Hallow's Eve with the Hollys.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Teaching Test Taking Skills

Today my least favorite part of homeschooling is studying for tests. Studying for a test yourself is waaaay easier than trying to teach someone else to study for a test. It's an agonizingly long and arduous process. However, it must be done. My oldest suffered through my lack of knowledge in teaching her how to do this before she got to high school. Those middle school boys benefit from her pain. 

So, today we're all in pain together. Isn't that what homeschooling is about??

 I use textbook science books to teach studying in middle school. Text has clear colored/bolded headers for each topic, bolded vocabulary words and bolded key concepts. The headers and paragraphs length themselves to easy outlining and the pre-chapter and post chapter questions assist in knowing what will be on the test. 

Right now I have the boys read and outline the chapter over the course of 3-4 days. 

     I ease them into this over the course of a year. This is not a skill the kids innately know and we have to teach them how to do this. We have the book in front of us and read through it together.  For each paragraph and every key concept and vocabulary word, I write what notes they'll need to study for the test on a wipe-off board.  They duplicate it with me in their notebook. I wait for them and they wait for me to finish writing.  Then we read the next paragraph together.  
     By the end of the year, I have weaned them off me doing all of the summarizing for them.  I'll write a few things on the board, like the heading of that section, but as we read together, they have to summarize paragraphs and take their own notes.  First they'll summarize it orally to see if they've got the idea and then they'll put it in their notebooks.  When they're done, we read the next paragraph together.  By the next year, I just assign them to read the chapter and take notes, looking over their notes at the end of the week to make sure they did a good job.

Day 5, they have to write separate vocabulary and key concepts on index cards. 
Day6 they have to answer the questions in the back of the chapter without going back into the chapter. 
Day7, I grade it and they mark in their notes and on their vocabulary cards concepts they missed. Then, they go back into the chapter to find the answers to the missed questions. 
Day 8, I regrade and we discuss any concepts they still don't get. 
Day 9 I give an oral pretest from the actual written test, changing some of the phrasing. At that point I'm able to see their notes and their vocabulary cards and see what problems they're having outlining or keeping track of their own mistakes. We use highlighter markers for mistakes in their notes and on the vocabulary cards and they have to quiz their missed concepts until they have them memorized the day before the test.
Day 10 Test day.  If they haven't done well on the test, I let them use their book & notes to re-answer their missed questions and give them half credit for them.  I want them to see that doing well on a test is worth their while.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

First day of school exhaustion

First day of school. Check.
Finished up last minute details. Checked enough.
Work graded. Check.

Oh bed, my love, where art thou?? How long doth my eyes weary waiting to close upon thy sheets.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

gf, df, sf pizza

Her first gf, df, sf pizza and she's sooo happy!! Thanks for the use of your oven, Katie Katie Woolsey!! You're a wonderful neighbor!

In place of cheese, she used Go Veggie - it's a brand of fake mozzarella (vegetable based) - not yummy, but the right cheese texture when melted.

Bob's Red Mill GF Pizza Crust mix, Go Veggie mozzarella & homemade pizza sauce from this recipe http://livesimply.me/.../perfect-homemade-pizza-and-sauce/ with additions of basil & lemon juice boiled until thick.

SF is sugar free.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Always Forward @ F3

The Always Forward Band
teens are getting ready for F3 Festival opening tonight @6pm with Mass with Bishop Rhoades @ Cathedral and a procession after to Headwaters Park!!


Monday, August 05, 2013

Creeper In My Life

I want the WORLD to know that THIS is my !*FAVORITE*! Emma MacDonald song!!!!!
She doesn't have this one on youtube, just facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=206154596210818

Thursday, August 01, 2013

GF, DF, SF, etc.

So the girls are now Gluten Free & Dairy Free.  They're supposed to be Sugar Free, but we're not doing as fantastic a job at that part of it.  I'm allowing fruit & local honey -- but sometimes the sugar just seeps its way into their diet.

They're both doing sooooo much better on this diet than on anything else we've tried.  They are on the same diet for different reasons.

Em's (Dd#2) ADHD is doing so much better off sugar.  I think the GF & DF, just regulates more of the sugar and when she's already consuming sugar (in honey & fruit), the carbohydrates just turn to sugar in her body and make things worse.  She's got a few more weeks on this diet to see if it helps her tummy issues she's had since she was 4.

Kate's (Dd#1) body struggles to filter the toxins in our food and environment.  She spent her ENTIRE high school years very sick. It came on gradually since she was 13, but by the time she was 15 we knew she had a major problem that no doctor/specialist we saw could diagnose.  She had chronic fatigue to the extreme, major headaches, debilitating back aches, brain fogginess, personality changes, new allergies to soaps & mold -- the biggest symptom was her immune system was completely incapacitated -- and she was SUFFERING. As it's turned out, the sugars in our regular American diet, plus the GMO from gluten and the lack of live enzymes in pasteurized, homogenized dairy plus the chemicals in city water are not things her body can process. She also struggles to handle mold.  She's been DF for ~ 1 1/2 years, GF for ~6mo.  Now, we've taken her off EVERYTHING -- she's eating filtered water, nuts, vegetables & poultry -- that's it.  And for the first time in 4 years, she's starting to feel better.

Highland Dove Homeschool Co-op Classes for Year 4: American History, American Literature, American Government, Economics, Catholic Moral Theology

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Weekend of Catharsis

Morning prayer in the nicest places - this morning's hymn as I look out Lake Erie with the wind rushing across the island:
 "From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in that countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!" 

It seemed to fit my surroundings. A friend decided I needed a respite away and she and I sought to elude our regular lives for a couple of days. It's the first time away from my family in 19 years.

We posed the question to each other: if you weren't a mom, what would you be? Honestly, I'd be a mom in some fashion - maybe a teacher or caring for needy babies - but a mom. I love my job (however, this is lovely, too.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mosquito Bites

The boys are home from Scout Camp and one counted 154 mosquito bites...we've tried heat (thanks, Ursula), baking soda (bummer when you forget it's on and put your hand in your mouth), banana peel (the dog especially liked that one) and apple cider vinegar. They all agree that the apple cider vinegar hurts waaaay more than the others going on, but does the trick completely taking away the itch for a few hours.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Wisdom Teeth

She had her wisdom teeth removed, got dry socket, then had a gum infection.  Inevitably the loss of time from her job led to the loss of her job.  Tough summer for a tough girl.  (12/13 edit: To date she can't stand the taste of cloves.)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hulk No Like

THANK YOU Emily Warren for taking babysitting Katie all afternoon immediately following her surgery while I was otherwise occupied!

THANK YOU Katie Woolsey for being the kind of woman to drop EVERYTHING the day of Grace's graduation with relatives from out of town to sit with Will and so accurately assess his wounds while you waited for me to get back from the pharmacy. 

THANK YOU Meredith Woolsey for being the kind of girl that boys want to be the Hulk for and then taking such good care of them after their antics lead to injury.

Will (5) was Trying to be the Hulk For the babysitter this morning and picked up the couch and dropped it on his toe. ~8 stitches, not broken. He "blew out" the toe. He'll be excited to get to wear flip flops to Mass this weekend. #Whenittrains…

A friend responded "Hulk no like!"

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My lovely daughter...and her dog. Both are such fashionistas.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Stairs Re-do

We took the carpet off, the kids' co-op class stripped and sanded the stairs for us. 

5 kids' + 2 adults' stuff (cothes, bedding, toiletries) brought downstairs to camp out in the livingroom for the weekend. Check. Wood putty stained, in, and sanded. Check. Caulked the gaps between stairs. Check. Stairs wiped down. Check. Now for the risky part - stain opened and being applied...

This is what WE do at 11pm at night when Dave is out of town.  Done with stain. Poly and paint left. 

We were going to sleep downstairs, but one of my BRILLIANT children (Em)

thought we could climb the ladder at midnight and slip in an open second story window. (Although in my case there was more scraping than slipping.) So that's what I did and I slept in my own bed last night. Our old dog couldn't stand it and broke through the barrier to come upstairs to sleep, but the stairs don't seem any worse for the wear.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Expanding the garden -- ultimate money savings

Thus morning Drew and I put up the Mother's Day present from Dave - bunny fencing for my extended vegetable garden. Then Pete and I planted it. Thank you Shannon & Christie for the MANY plants you gifted me with! The boys and I spent all this week planting the existing garden & clearing that bed to ready it for my new veg's!!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Pete's 11th b-day

 We packed a picnic dinner of pigs-in-a-blanket and Boston creme cupcakes, chips & pop (Pete's a health food nut) and had a screamingly cold swim in Lake James for the evening. The highlight of the evening was listening to 39 Clues on CD and putting the van in neutral at the top of a hill to see how far it would coast up the next hill before gravity took over. Will said, "I LOVE neutral," as if it were a ride on a roller coaster.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It's our 19th anniversary.

  This picture was taken when we were engaged and in my brother's wedding.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Jenn's B-day note

Will just wrote me a note (he keeps mixing up all his 'b's and 'd's): "Mom wut slub i dr uu beswa" -- when he translated it said "Mom, what should I bring you beeswax?" -- Em gave me 2 tiny cacti and grapefruit Burt's Beeswax for my birthday this morning.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My Easter bunny

 All my kids eat salad, but this is the only one who snacks on lettuce with no dressing! We have to throw him out of the kitchen when we're making salad or he steals the lettuce.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

College Visits

We made our first road trip college visit. Katie MacDonald was inspired, Emily Warren was very interested and Cari Warren drove 10 hrs in one day! All in all a great experience at the University of Evansville. We were HIGHLY impressed by their Archeology Department!! 
It's VERY surreal taking this step with my oldest. I still see her as 2 years old! *tear*

More college visits - this one to Franciscan University in Ohio with K.K. & Brenners.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The 5 Year Old's Questions

Will is 5 and is desperately trying to figure life out. My mom is getting her marriage validated in the Church this weekend and Will has asked -- "If they're getting married on Sunday, what were they before?", "So now Grandma will be Catholic?", "How long after they're married will they start having kids?". When we told him all our family were coming to the Church he said, "The Pope is our family. Will he come to Grandma's wedding?"

Another day
 during Mass:

"How can He be the LAMB of God if He IS God?"
"What do the palms mean and why do WE wave them?"
"Why did the people change their minds about saying 'Hosana' and switch to 'Crucify Him'?"

...and then answer those questions with 5 year old vocabulary!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A day in the life

Forcing an unmotivated kid to do school, helping a struggling learner, keeping track of a kid whose a great learner but can fly under the radar unnoticed if I'm not careful, keeping a quiet non-squeaky wheel in my sights no matter how loud the other ones squeak - whew - some days remind me that no matter how long I've been at this job, it's still heck-of-a-lot of hard work!!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Kate's 17th B-day

Happy 17th birthday, Katie in San Jose.  She had a plate of watermelon with a candle since she's gluten & dairy free.