Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Prayerful Time

I was going to type about some homeschooling thoughts here today.  But my mind is more consumed with other things as I type.  A dear uncle of mine was just diagnosed with relapsed pancreatic cancer.  He lost half his pancrease, a portion of his stomach and part of his intestines about 8 years ago to this disease.  He is looking into a date for sugery for the newly appeared, 2" growth. 

He currently lives with my grandmother in Tennessee.  I worry about her through all this the most.  She has already lost 2 of her 6 adult children to other diseases.  My mother being one of them that has gone onto heaven before those of us here on Earth were ready.  I know my uncle is prepared for his eternal home if God should decide to call him there.  I also know my grandma knows this, but it must be hard to consider the possibility of burying yet another child. 

She will be 80 this year and tries to be strong for the rest of us.  Those of us close to her know her heart aches deeply though.  It is especially hard for me to 'watch' her bracing for this since my grandmother and I are very close.  She has helped raised me through various points in my life and has sort of stepped-in to fill my mother's place ever since she passed away 7 years ago.  I do wish I could be there with grandma now as she prepares to sit in hospitals and drive my uncle to and from doctors.  I pray the Lord gives her great strength.

I did talk to my uncle today and he is sounding ok.  I do hope his heart is strong and ready for what lies ahead.  The peace of mind comes in knowing that his soul is prepared.  I ask that, if it is put on your heart today and in the coming weeks, to pray for Mountain Mom's Uncle Tom and Grandma Dorothy.  HIS will be done in all this.

Blessings to you...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Animation Project

What do you get when you have an entire summer with 4 kids and a husband who is laid-off and in-between semesters of job-retraining at the college?

If you guessed a spaceship crashing on Earth as it was heading to the moon and a handful of aliens looking for the missing parts so they can resume their journey to the moon.... then you were right!

Yes, DH and the three youngest billy goats made their first ever claymation video this summer!  Thanks to an old family friend, we were inspired to load it onto YouTube where you can view it :-)  It is very short and rather cute and, yes, that is Bk's arm you see pop in for a split second about halfway through!  Kids built the set and characters and DH filmed and pieced it together.  The sound is a bit off and it was definately a learning project!  I hope you enjoy it as much as they enjoyed making it!

Montana Wildlife!

As I blogged yesterday, homeschooling has many perks!  Picnicing outside being a special bonus in nice weather (who wants to sit in a stinky, noisy, crowded lunch room on a sunny day?).  Another perk we enjoyed this week and last week was the wildlife.

No, no... not that kind of wildlife!  Although, Montana can be known for its dinosaurs.  We haven't had the chance to visit the Museum of the Rockies yet.

This kind of wildlife is more of what I was thinking:

Maybe it was Faline ;-)  We were doing math at the dining room table and one of the kids noticed movement out the back sliding door.  Upon checking we stood in awe for nearly 5 minutes as Doe and fawns grazed in our yard :-) 

Yesterday I began to wonder if it will be a hard winter.  Maybe the deer are filling up anywhere and everywhere to prepare for scarce supplements in a few short months.  As we prepared to sit in the living room and read about Ancient Greece, our attention was drawn out the front windows as a Buck and two very young bucks grazed in our front yard!  My husband snapped this picture from just outside our home-office door:

As I type this I am reminded of our trip to the Zoo when we were in Chicago a couple years ago.  I expected my kids to be ultra-excited at seeing such a managerie of animals.  They were impressed with the dolphins but everything else didn't seem to hold their attention as I expected.  Perhaps wild deer, bear, and mountain goats almost close enough to touch have inhibited any fascination for other caged beasts! 

The thought to leave here with?  If they had still been in public school, they would have missed the wonder and marvel of local wildlife.

Blessings to you this weekend.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I'm not suppose to be on here right now. Actually, I should be enjoying tallying up tackles completed by the Z-Attack! Stupid sore throat :-( I have been trying to hold back the bug all week but it is getting the best of me today. To that effect, I should be laying on the couch or in bed with a blanky and some honey tea. But here I sit. (Shhhh, don't tell, maybe no one will notice if I make it quick!)

We had our share of ups and downs this week. All-in-all it turned out well and I am glad it is Friday! (I am sure the bug has something to do with that as well!) I had to get on here, a sort of celebratory blog that we accomplished much and shed no tears :-)

I have no less than 3 bogs buzzing around my brain. However, I am going to drop this quick note instead....

Reason #374 why homeschooling is so wonderful:

Fall is due to set in here any day now. We were blessed with some lovely (and warm, summer-like) weather this week for which we just had to set up a picnic complete with dinosaurs on our back deck! What a nice breather to our homeschooling day :-)

I hope your homeschooling memories are blessed ones made daily :-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Loving my timer

Week three of our schedule is coming to a close. Last week wasn't the greatest... but it could have been worse! I would have loved to blog as I went... but my glitchy computer made that impossible. Body glitches have made it doubly-difficult to spread words on my page.

This week I have not spent every day with my timer on. On the days I have not turned it on, I am noticing a difference in productiveness and attitude... on all our parts... for the worse. It isn't horrible but it isn't as lovely as the timed schedule days are either.

I have also noticed, especially with B (my severely dyslexic/possibly APD kid) that if we do not start FIRST THING in the morning and use a timer, the day is far to scattered and he has difficulty staying on task. Frustration abounds on days like that, so what do I do?

Step 1 is... try to stay on task! We have a schedule and we need to stick to it whenever possible. This morning, as an example, I realized I forgot to print out a cursive copy page for Ash. The re-vamping of my hard drive this week wiped all my favorites, including the handy site I had for making handwriting sheets! I do have it backed up on an external hard drive but I was too lazy to go grab it in the other room and plug it in! Instead, I spent more than 30 minutes going in circles and still getting no where. Eventually, I just logged off and got a late start on our school work. My point? If I don't have it ready when it is time to start (and if it isn't crucial to our lessons) then I need to just let it go! (Easier said than done for most of us!)

Step 2 is... when goofed up schedules and late starts are just unavoidable: accommodate, be patient, be done with school "work" early if need be. Which is what we ended up doing today. We post-poned some science experiments and our writing project slotted for today and, instead, we explored some sign language videos and played a spelling game that they love so we could review their words before the test tomorrow. This very minute they are finishing watching Disney's, "Hercules" because we are studying Greece this week! Yes, I know, not quite as educational as other videos, but this has not been a conventional day!

Tomorrow? Well, we wrap up this wacky week with a surprise, get-to-stay-home day! Thought we would have to be gone and we don't. I am relieved since the science and writing that got bumped today can be done tomorrow at a more relaxed speed (and on schedule I hope!!) Oh, and I must remember my timer next week!

Happy schooling to you !

Computer glitch

I have had a computer glitch and unable to get on the net for very long for more than a week now :-( DH worked hard yesterday and seems to have restored most of the problems. Still more work to be done though. I hope to get some meaty updates going over the next few days... lots to report in the land of homeschool :-)

I hope your homeschool year has gotten off with a bang! Blessings to all....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Applying Our Schedule

I have so much to do I feel like doing nothing! Actually, it isn't that bad. What I have to do is not as urgent and pressing as organizing curriculum. It is nice to take a break from that urgency.

Our week went well... all considering. I have tried to bare a multitude of advice and previous years' experiences in mind as I step into this homeschooling year. The hard one has been to "Put your husband and his schedule first." I think that one came from Lorrie Flem of TEACH. It is a good one but I keep praying, "Lord, are you sure? Cause I think if I give my husband the firsts he will take it all!!" I realized the other day I need to be praying, "Lord, I want to be a good wife and give my husband the first, please put on his heart not to take it all"!

Seriously though. I am finding peace and some measure of balance in our homeschool with a husband who is going to school full time and has a goofy schedule this semester. He schools 2 evenings and 2 days and has Friday completely off (for now). Wednesday he wanted to chat with me about a few things that took until 10am. Our whole schedule that day was a little off but we managed. I kept my cool ((pat myself on the back)) and just enjoyed what we could get done.

The importance of a schedule is having a profound impact on me this year. I have always gauged my days with to-do lists and schedules. The difference this year is an article I read this summer assuring homeschool parents that keeping the schedule to a T every day isn't as important as just having one. I think of it as a compass. When you get lost in your day, you can re-orient to find your North. And if you can't find your North, then just pitch a tent and hope for better weather tomorrow!

In this regard I am also not using the clock as our guide but rather the timer. Neighborhood kids usually don't get home until 4pm by the time the bus drops them off and such. But even then... I am taking each subject, while set in a time slot, and setting the timer for that allotted time. We work until the timer goes off and then we are done with that particular area for the day. I am pleased, so far (after all, we have only finished week 1), with the kids' response to this and with the peace it is bringing to our schedule. It is a challenge at times though... when I want to just keep going!

I have noticed some areas this week that will require some tweaking. Ash is learning to type this year and 2 time slots of 20 minutes each is not enough to feel successful. I am also thinking we need a bit more time than 30 minutes for math success each day. I realized that early rise is going to be a necessity as well. By early I mean 7:30/8:00 for the kids. (I'm usually up before the sun!) Some days Ash isn't rolling out of bed until 8:30 or later! By the time breakfast is consumed and chores are completed, we are all falling behind. My rationalization is that, in the real world (with some exceptions) we have to be able to get up "early" for work or college... depending on your schedule. It is good practice to discipline oneself to such a schedule now (with weekends off of course).

I have also found getting up and having breakfast with my Sophomore public schooler is going to be a key part of my day (and our relationship) this year. We have time to chat, get a hold on our schedule, and just enjoy each other's company. I let that fall to the way-side last year when I lost my bearings. I thank my Heavenly Father for showing me this critical key to keeping the relationship with my oldest son open. I pray that the time we have enjoyed together so far in the wee small hours of the morning, will continue to become something special throughout the year, and in the few years he still has left here.

Lastly, on that note, is one of my philosophies with homeschool: If you can't use it in the "real" adult world, I don't see the point in teaching it. That isn't to say that if the kids want to learn about something irrelevant to life that I won't teach... I will. But when they want to know why they need to estimate math problems or spell or write stories explaining a given topic or ideas... that is when I explain how and where they need those skills in life.

I pray all of you are finding peace in this back-to-school season. A new year of teaching with fresh and exciting possibilities ahead!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

1st Day of School

We are over half-way through our "first week" of school. I started thinking about this blog on Monday, began writing it on Tuesday, and now I have about 15 minutes to finish it today!

All business aside, our first week is going well. Monday was a bit rough with B. All the work to prepare him for learning using the Davis method felt fruitless at first. I realized, about halfway through the day, that his APD was outweighing the Dyslexia at times and this had to be considered and accommodated for. After all, the first day "back" on schedule can be disorienting for anyone!

Day two blessed me with more progress where B was concerned. We went to do a writing project and I asked the kids, "What is the first step when you are going to write something?" and B instantly piped up with, "Find my orientation point!" lol He is such a sweety.

Today we are off to Homeschool Open House. This is my first year going. All the local homeschooling families are getting together at a church up in town to kick off the new school year. The kids and I are looking forward to it :-)

I pray your back to school planning/starting is finding you feeling blessed and thankful.

Happy schooling!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day four...

I feel challenged. Ugh. We have taken 2 steps forward and 1 step back. We will get there eventually though!

I may need to re-do orientation counseling... or at least a portion of it. I also realized, after our session today, that he may just need a break. We did review, read another page... he struggled more today with reading than he has in a while...???? We moved to character recognition (forming the letters of the alphabet with clay) and practicing touch-and-say both forward and backward. He did have fun with it though.

Time will tell. I felt like a failure for a while this morning though. Isn't that a common hymn among homeschool moms? Then, I had to remind myself, the 'enemy' wants me to feel like a failure and I don't want him to win. NO... I want to glorify my Heavenly Father. So, I will choose to focus on the positive :-)

He did read a bit better when I used paper to cover the lines not being read (a common recommendation for dyslexics when reading). He did better when I relaxed and worried less (I was patient with him the whole time, but I am sure he sensed my tension... some kids have a knack for that!). And, like I said, he did enjoy the character recognition. That gives us a base to start from.

Bk, who has decided to be difficult about learning anything actually participated as well and I saw her, when she thought I wasn't looking, putting herself through the recognition exercises I had put B through. Perhaps another good outcome is realizing Bk probably needs some one-on-one time with mom too.

Blessings to all this Thursday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Organizing My Back-to-School

It's "Back-to-School"! I do love this time of year. The smell of pencils, the bright rows of brand-new crayon boxes, and markers that actually work (because we can replenish our supply at such a great deal this time of year!) If I were alive 100+ years ago, I would have been a teacher in one of those one-room pioneer schools. Lighting fires of knowledge that would sweep the frontier! Instead, I teach in a 'one-room classroom' in my home to three rambunctious kiddos, lighting fires that I hope will one-day help to shape our world.

We are "officially" starting school on Monday, August 31st. It works around DH's schedule best and I have read a lot lately about how we should work our homeschooling around our hubby and other important portions of our days. I feel peace about this angle.

Planning that start date may have been a blessing in disguise. The local schools started today. My kids were asking to visit with friends this afternoon and seemed somewhat surprised when I pointed out that they started school today and won't be home until later! Perhaps, by next week, my children will feel so displaced without the neighborhood gang that our schooling will be a welcome reprieve!!

I am in the process of organizing the material I plan to use this year. Everything has been torn out and sorted into piles by subject and are just waiting to be put in their 'homes' for the year. We do unit studies because it is best for the types of learners I am raising. It is also a technique I am very familiar with from working with preschoolers for many years.

About 7 years ago I developed a system for organizing our unit studies. I have fine-tuned it since so that it could evolve for its application in the homeschool environment.

I don't know how clear this will show on the net. Each month has 5 lines, 1 for each week (some months have 5 weeks). The small column on the left under each month is for the date range, ie: [August] 3 - 7. The pictures you see sloppily sketched on some weeks are holidays, observances, and family birthdays. I also note when there will be a Monday or Friday off during a week. This helps me to better plan around those events (or with them!)
This approach helps me to articulate focus for each week. I have taken some frequently read advice this year and tried to plan some down or gap weeks for overflow and breaks. Too much planned too closely together seems to overwhelm us and we end up having to drop various plans for lack of time or need of break! I wanted this year's schedule to be more realistic and attainable. After all, I am educating a middle-schooler this year! A task I do not take lightly :-)
Something new we are trying this year is an idea I developed by expanding a system I already used. In previous years I kept a hanging folder in my file drawer with manila files for "week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4". I also kept a hanging file titled, "next month". This system allowed me to file worksheets and other activity ideas according to when we planned to do them.
I still have the weekly folders, as you might be able to recognize in the picture below, but the files within them are labeled per child and are intended to be used for spelling, math, and individualized learning projects this year. Behind the weekly files are my unit study files. This is my new concept.
My plan is: when I come across ideas that I may want to use on a unit, I can pop them into their respective file and find them ready to use when the time comes. This coincides with a web system I have in my notebook behind the above lesson plan sheet. (one web per unit)

Don't my files look under-nourished? That is where the piles on my desk come in (and... shhhh... don't tell, but there are two boxes on the floor whose contents will be placed in these files before the week is out as well!!)
I have had so many disappointments in the past. We get done with a unit study and I go to put things away and find items we could have used but were forgotten because all unit possibilities were not in one place. I am excited to use this system this year!

For those of you following along from yesterday, when I posted pictures of the mess on my desk, the mess is still there!! But this... above... is what I did accomplish. I seem to work by the old adage that, 'it will get worse before it gets better'! I am off to make it get better today :-)
Happy schooling to all!

Day three...

Today wasn't as good as yesterday... but it wasn't as off-kilt as Monday! We did the orientation portion of the therapy and then proceeded to reading. Reading didn't go quite as well as yesterday nor did he retain as much as yesterday. However, there were more distractions today and to that effect, his APD symptoms surfaced.

Sisters found a caterpillar and I think the whole neighborhood became aware of it, then DH decided to cook eggs and we were working in the dining room (with only our counter separating the two rooms). I had to remind myself that, even in a perfect world, distractions will abound. I chose to use them as a factor in the session to try and mount and overcome. It beat being royally frustrated!

Tomorrow we will definitely start our session with "Review" and then we will start the symbol recognition portion of therapy. I plan to include the girls in that part. Bk can use it and Ash will still think it is fun :-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day two...

Day two with B went well. I did re-read a few chapters last night and found where I messed up a bit yesterday ((oops)) Ron Davis does say that you can not 'harm' a child by doing the counseling wrong. ((phew))

We did re-adjust his orientation point. I think we will do one more day of setting his orientation point and then spend subsequent sessions starting with "Review" as recommended by the book.
My one testimony so far is that, Ron Davis has done orientation counseling with high scholars (and older) and seen them (in some cases) have reading scores that improved 8 grade levels after just one session! B isn't old enough to see those kind of results, however, he is starting the "4th grade" this year and his reading is much closer to grade level after two sessions of counseling than it was before we started. But even more amazing than that is his comprehension. Today we read a full page in a 4th grade primer and he could actually tell me what he read... for the first time in his life!!!!

The flip side of day two is my 'experiment' with Ash to see if this counseling works for the symptoms of ADHD. The answer would be, "no". She could not complete one of the key steps to the therapy process (moving the mind's eye to various places). This is not uncommon if a person is not a candidate for orientation counseling. Apparently the info I saw on the Internet was not accurate... at least not for Ash.

We are going to try a different angle for her though. We talked about brick walls and tunnels for blocking out distractions. We discussed the idea of a trial-and-error process to attempt to head off some of her ADHD symptoms in situations were her focus is required. I pray it works.

With day two behind, I am off to organize the PILES of curriculum on my desk!

No, really, these piles are in 'order'. This one here is spelling worksheets I printed, that one there is rhymes I need to file, the one just next to it is math books and the other pile is math workbooks.... yah, I know, I do have a lot of work to do! lol

Trembling on a rock.

I must confide a Divine revelation before the pitter-patter of little (and big) feet take over my day...

I won't go into the historical details right now, but the base is this: My husband and I had a very rocky start to our marriage. It was through re-devoting my life to Christ and following Him that my marriage began to mend. I read books like, "The Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie Omartian (Which I HIGHLY recommend to EVERY wife or woman considering marriage). I have read, and enjoyed, 2 Corinthians along with other passages in scripture that define the roles husbands and wives play in their marriage... for the purpose of strengthening mine.

This last year, as I outlined briefly in my blog, Homeschool Convention or Bust, it was time to replant myself in the proper position for life's storms. So I bought the book, "A Woman After God's Own Heart" by Elizabeth George. I had heard good things about it and was hoping to rediscover the connection I felt was lost between me and my Heavenly Father.

As I am reading it in July, I find Mrs. George spending, what seemed to me, an exorbitant amount of time on the role wives play in their marriage and the effect that has on our relationship with God. I was becoming frustrated. Surely I have read enough about marriage to not have to keep learning about it... right? Never mind (and I wasn't thinking) that I was actually frustrated with my husband for suggesting the weight of a yard sale on my summer which was suppose to be my free time/new homeschool year prep-time. I felt frustrated and I put the book down.

This last week my attitude and my perceptions reached a pivotal low. I could have gone lower but I was at the point of realizing something had to be done. I stepped into the shower Saturday night and lifted it all in prayer. "God, please, show me why I can't seem to change my mood and perk up my attitude" and almost instantly, God showed me the above.

His voice seeped softly into my heart. He reminded me that, no matter where I am in my faith walk or my marriage, it is always nice to be reminded of the little things. And in this case, my husband had asked me to do something. He had even offered to help with the entire process. He looked after me while I worked and made sure I took care of my body so I wasn't in too much pain. My husband was a 2 Corinthians husband and I.... well, I only complained and moaned.

God does not want to hear us complain when we are called to serve. Whether we are serving a spouse, someone in need, our family, our church, or Him. Scriptures tell us to follow and obey.

I have asked forgiveness for my sin of disobedience and I am working, slowly, on pushing my attitude back into place. But one last thought.

I listen to Chuck Swindoll with Insight for Living on my local Christian radio station. I don't always get to hear him preach because of duties that call! So I subscribed to his newsletter.

Sitting here this morning and reading the lesson, Pastor Swindoll quoted an 'old country preacher' and I just had to share it with you:

"I may tremble on the rock, but the rock doesn't tremble under me."

Amen to that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day one...

Day one of the Davis counseling went.... ok. I am a bit confused though. I thought the point of orientation counseling was to bring the mind's eye into our center.... not out of it. I am going to re-read the chapters that surround this method... again!

All in all though, we did the first two phases of orientation counseling and then put them to the test. It was easy to tell when his orientation started to sway and it was nice to have a point to re-orient him to. It made reading much less painful!

When I was looking for some instruction videos last night I came across various info that suggested the use of this technique on ADHD and autistic children. My thoughts on the matter are... if you have a child that has difficulty focusing and keeping his/her mind from wandering, the orientation phase of this method may be very helpful.

If I have you confused, please forgive me. As I get my bearings about this process, I will share greater detail. If you do know what I am talking about and have any tips... please let me know :-) For now.... I'm hoping for a great Day two! I plan to start with Ash tomorrow afternoon (B works with me in the morning on it) to see if we can help her focus through her ADHD. I will keep updating...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Seeking Glory Through Home Education

I have 262 messages in my email in-box and felt it was about time I went through them!! The yard sale made me do it!

I am currently an hour into checking out links through TOS's 2009 Homeschool Freebie Directory and I came across a website called Soli Deo Gloria Resources. The author explains the name as Latin for, "To God Alone The Glory". Amen to that.

As I am skimming through this website I came across this:

Why do we educate our children?
  • If we educate our children so that they will be intelligent and successful - we may be seeking THEIR glory.
  • If we educate our children so that they will impress our family, friends and neighbors - we may be seeing OUR OWN glory.
  • If we educate our children so that they can pour forth facts and figures accurately - we may be seeking the glory of KNOWLEDGE (and knowledge puffs up).
  • But if we educate our children so that they have a big view of God, are aware of their individuals giftings and seek to use them for the advancement of God's Kingdom around the world and in eternity - then we are seeking GOD's glory.

Wow. Do I feel humbled at His feet now.

When I first started homeschooling, my oldest was in 8th grade (as some of you already know, he still isn't homeschooled like his younger 3 siblings for complex reasons). If you factor in Kindergarten and preschool and all of the volunteer work I did through the years in district, that is over 9 years of publicly educated influences on my ideals of what school should be. Add to that a close and dear friend who is a retired elementary school teacher and the influences on my "teaching" techniques in home educating has been riddled with faulty indoctrination.

Among this indoctrination is the idea that children should be trained to recite, perform, and exhibit a general knowledge of facts based on local and federal mandates of what education looks like. Hmmm... this doesn't sound or look like a way to train up children for the Glory of God.

I spent 6 months out of the last 2 years unschooling my children. I had read early on that the best thing to do when you pull your children out of public school is nothing at all! Sound counter-productive? I thought so too. But it is like starting a good diet/eating habit. Sometimes you have to purge your system of all the toxins and chemicals that have polluted your body and created a cycle of unhealthy habits.

Children who have been in the public system first have been polluted with the unhealthy habits of what makes you "popular" in "normal" society. All of these habits have nothing to do with Glorifying our Heavenly Father.

As I gathered together our daily schedule and unit studies for this year I considered the necessity of keeping our focus on Him. Yes I want my kids to know their history, math, science, and language arts. They need those to function later in life and obtain degrees, jobs, and support families. But first and foremost, I want them to know the God that blesses these routes when we pursue all goals through His guidance and His grace.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" Matthew 6:33

We must seek to glorify God through all that we teach our children. After all, children are God's gift to us. They are not ours, but His. What better "thank you" can we express than to train them up...

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Back and beat

I am back and I fear I will have to hit the ground running! What an odd weekend we had. The long and short is this:

DH threw his back out about 2 weeks ago and it had gotten so bad he could barely move. Had to see the massage therapist. In the midst of all this I entered weekend TWO of Yard Sale attempts... this time clear skies and warm weather. Not as profitable as our rained out attempt last weekend... shockingly!

Because the yard sale was a small distance away at the in-law's, I spent Thursday night on a flat air mattress outside in our tent surrounded by 3 of my darling kids. No cartilage/disks in my lower spine made that a fun adventure... not! Friday night I had a lot more air... didn't find myself flat until about 4 a.m. with an hour left to sleep anyway and Bk, who was sharing the mattress with me, sleeping practically on me from our lopsided situation!! At least she is a good cuddler! (I did enjoy the 'camp out' with the kids though :-)

The pool was closed Friday, the hottest day of the week and family problems (a verrrry long story) after two weeks of being away from my home on this cash raising endeavor took its tole. All I can say is I am glad to be home!!!!!!!!!!

I plan to start B's therapy with the Davis Method on Monday. I pray it goes well. I am going to re-read the process tomorrow so my brain is freshly familiar with it. I did realize today that my stress over APD and Dyslexia and the sharing of knowledge has stemmed from an adult life unintentionally rooted in leading others. I realized today that I can step back and be the test subject, sharing what I learn, without being the tester! Realizing this has increased my excitement for sharing and I am looking forward to the interactive conversations with others on these subjects... and anything else we get to sharing about!!

Also, DH and I discussed other cash raising endeavours I have pursued in the past and I am going to be looking into them again. I am very excited (I use to make and sell craft items at craft shows).

I am glad the whole yard sale ordeal is over! I am looking forward to some new and revived/exciting things coming up!

Blessings to all this August weekend!

Monday, August 17, 2009

This last week of summer...

Oh boy, where do I start? What a weekend! It POURED rain on us Friday, off and on drizzled on Saturday. We did make some money on the yard sale, but I have to wonder if we would have made considerably more in better weather! DH wants to try one more weekend! The good news is that all things are priced and sorted (and dried out from all the wet!) so it would just be a matter of setting things out for browsers. I guess that is our intention... this Friday and Saturday... again.

I still do not have enough together to feel "ready" to start back to schooling with the kids. Am thinking of taking a different approach to my organizing. It is only Monday though. I am hoping for a more productive Tuesday in that area!

I have been considering a lot in regards to my blogs on these days of work and organization for the yard sale. I am becoming nervous about my posts regarding APD. Since my son does not have an official diagnoses and Dr. Bellis is animate about this in her book, When the Brain Can't Hear. I do not want to mislead anyone. Add to that apprehension the fact that there are many faces of APD and our situation is but one.

I am still thinking (and praying) on my direction here. I will share my discoveries and experiences but I am thinking I need to lean away from any indication that I am qualified to give information on APD as a reliable alternative to seeking advice from a specialist. I do presume most people visit blogs (like mine) as a means to see what other parents think and not as a source for professional info. I do have a tendency to want to help and I have, in the past, put myself out farther than I should! I guess I could be guilty of worse!

So... at this point in time... those who are waiting for the impending APD presentation, I will share what I can throughout my blogging. I do HIGHLY recommend the book, When the Brain Can't Hear by Teri James Bellis, PH.D. It is packed with invaluable information and resources that, if I were to repeat in full here, would take volumes and put me at risk for plagiarism!!!! Please, if you have an APD child, get this book, read it, and share what strikes you as profound and helpful.

... among a handful of others I did not know were out there. If you have read books other than the one by Dr. Bellis, let me know what you think of them, if they were helpful, and whether you would recommend them to me! I am always in search of more info :-)

Hopefully things will begin to smooth back out over the next few weeks... when DH and Z are back to school, out of the house, and me and the "kids" are back to our school year routine. Oh how I love our routines ;-) (yes, I know, I am a bit crazy!)

Best wishes to all.... I will check in as I can in this last crazy week of summer "vacation"! Message me... I love to hear from you :-)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Stepping out

I am stepping out for about a week and thought I would let everyone know. DH has insisted on a garage sale for more than a month now and the BIG weekend is coming up (8/14 - 8/15). With no jobs in site I feel DH's persistence is divinely inspired so I am going along.

We don't have a garage sale often so when we do, advertising "HUGE" is not an exaggeration! A lot of work ahead and I pray my body holds out.

For those of you waiting for the article on APD and others looking for more info on Dyslexia... hang in there. I will be getting those items posted the week following our sale. If you have the ability to use PowerPoint (free viewers can be downloaded from Microsoft) I do have an overview slide show of APD. Message me and let me know if you would like it emailed to you.

Blessings to all.... :-D

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Finding truth in the midst of lies.

My resolve is being put to test on my previous blog on family management. 15 years of sleepovers isn't easy to abolish! Even when friends can come HERE, it seems the ability to go THERE is more pressing! Lord, help me, guide me, strengthen me! Added to this stress is my confusion over Bible reading this morning in Mark 7:25 - 30 . I decided to do a search so I could understand this puzzling conversation between Jesus and a Syrophoenician woman.

My research kept leading me to websites that tried to say this passage could not possibly be authentic or that Jesus was all but referring to this woman as scum because of reference to dogs. My blood was boiling and I was in the midst of feeling betrayed by my Lord, by the Bible, by life in general (yes, I am dramatic today, aren't I?) All I could think was, "Lord, this can't be true, please, tell me this isn't true."

My husband and I have watched enough videos and read enough research to understand the validity of the King James Version and that this scripture is truly God breathed. Our Heavenly Father is not a racist nor would he turn his back on His people whether they be Jew or Gentile. So I pressed forward. I felt in my heart there was a better answer. Just after breathing my plea to God, I discovered Bella Online, the Voice of Women and this article by Lynne Chapman:

A Dialogue With God – Mark 7:25-30
In the Bible, in the book of Mark,
there is a brief story of a woman who interrupted Jesus in one of His private
times. It is said that Jesus was in the vicinity of Tyre – in Phoenicia, on the
Mediterranean - to privately minister to His disciples. He was not there to
teach publicly, but word always traveled fast when Jesus was in the area. It
wasn’t easy for Him to be alone and a desperate gentile woman found Him in one
of these rare moments.

She fell at His feet to make her request, telling Him that her daughter was
possessed by an evil spirit. She knew that Jesus had driven out demons before
and that He could heal her daughter. Jesus said an odd thing. It sounds
especially so to us, 2000 years later. He simply said that it was not right to
throw the children’s bread to the dogs. The term used here for “dogs” is the
word for household pets. He meant that at a family meal, one doesn’t give the
children’s food to the pets. The “children” were the apostles, who He had come
to teach. The “pets” were those who were not apostles. (Some commentators say
that the “children” meant the Jews and the “dogs” meant the gentiles.)

Whatever the exact meaning, this gentile woman didn’t give up. She could
have been insulted and refused to talk to Him. She could have been discouraged
and left His presence but she was not deterred. She used Jesus’ own analogy and
answered by saying that even the family pets ate the crumbs under the table. She
would be grateful for even a crumb from the Master. Jesus could see that she
truly believed and had faith in Him. The Bible says that by her answer, her
daughter was healed. Jesus didn’t have to touch the girl and He didn’t need to
say a word. The demon had left her.

In reading this story, I see that we must believe in God’s ability to heal
any situation, and we must believe in His love for us. We must STAY
in His presence
. Our prayer might require a dialog with God and we
must not give up easily.

In that quiet, personal time of desperation when it’s just you and God, ask
for what you need from Him. Talk to Him as though He is Jesus, the man, standing
there. Be assured that you are worth His answer and mercy. Know that the answer
to your prayer might come at any moment.

This article made more sense to me than all the other sites I visited combined. This seemed to show the true character of Jesus and the scriptures that portray His amazing life. Thank you, Lord, for leading me to TRUTH. I pray others will see through the lies I had to endure at first.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tips for working with the minds of dyslexia

I am working and working to get curriculum and thoughts in order. My brain is getting very cluttered! So I thought I would de-clutter one matter/ share some research here :-)

As you (and I) prepare our outlines for the coming school year I felt this info would be helpful to consider if you have, or suspect you have, a dyslexic child. These helpful tips are taken from an article by Maria Filomena Teixeira at Dyslexia Teacher.

- If your child asks how something works (that you are using) avoid the temptation to lecture about it. Instead, use it and say, "Watch!". Dyslexics learn more from watching and exploring than they do from listening to you explain it.

- "For these children, the brain is not neatly divided into two areas, which can separate and deal with stimuli. Mixed dominance is characteristic of dyslexia. For a person with mixed dominance, merely listening, reading and writing do not accomplish learning effectively."

- We must incorporate as many senses as possible when teaching any concept. Think tactile.

- Look for patterns and encourage self expression.

- "The process of learning is not just logical, it is sensual. It is up to us to see to it that the stimuli we present have personal meaning."

- Bring the real world into the classroom.

- "There is no love in workbooks and no personal meaning in a sentence made up by the teacher and copied off the chalkboard by the children. In essence, a holistic approach is needed to ensure that the best possible attempt has been made to ensure the fullest level of understanding." I find unit studies to be priceless in this regard.

- Dyslexia affects more than just reading. Be conscientious of this. Research and know what you can do to assist other weak areas.

- Know your child's learning style... this is true with all children and especially so with dyslexics.

- Teach them to use logic rather than rote memory. Short-term and long-term memory are areas of weakness for dyslexics. Most do have healthy intelligence so appeal to their logic side!

- Present material sequentially and build up slowly step by step.

- Dyslexics "remember best when facts and experiences are connected with one another and when the material is presented in small units. 'Less is better'"

- Encourage them to practice and every time you start a lesson (you) keep side notes to incorporate in a review. (I like to make small flash cards to be used in a homemade board game for review. If you want info on this, message and let me know!)

- Organization is NOT a strong suit of dyslexics. Keep this in mind, be sensitive to their emotional climate, and just take time to laugh and enjoy each other!

There is a lot of good information at this website I found these tips from. However, I do prefer the Davis Method for therapy and teaching techniques for their more thorough approach. You can purchase, The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis to get the step-by-step methods of this approach as well as some great info on Dyslexia (an in-depth article is coming soon!) Mnemonics work ok for mild to moderate dyslexics but not always well for the more severely diagnosed.

Most importantly, LDonline recommends that parents become experts on the gift of dyslexia. I have resources linked on my main page and I am continually reading books and searching out more information. Check back often and ask questions if you need or can't find something I will be happy to share what I know or help you find what I don't!

Happy teachings everyone!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Drawing the lines in family management

I was sitting down at the lake today with friends and talking about life and kids and the intertwining of the two. One mother of 8 (or is it 9) lamented to the fact they are rarely all together on one day anymore. This one goes to youth group there, the other is at a friends here.... etc. Her children range in age from 1 - 23 so her experiences in the matter go beyond my own as of yet.

However, her concerns are not uncommon of parents today, whether a family is large or small. My own family is barely medium size with just 4 children. But we have experienced our share of stretched out elastic. With Z in sports and public school, Ash did volleyball for a while and B enjoyed soccer for a season. Never mind my husband's schedule and my own when I was in school.

But what do we do to stop the marry-go-round spinning? This conversation gave me cause to reflect on some tidbits I have heard here and there. The first one was from Lorrie Flem of TEACH magazine. She spoke at our homeschooling convention back in May. Her 9 kids have always had the rule of no sleep-overs away from the house.... ever. She simply pointed out that they were a family, they were to sleep at home. Not that her children don't enjoy friendships and family trips to sleep elsewhere.... but the children off alone, no way.

I have given a lot of thought to Lorrie's confession. I have considered adopting it myself but have been reluctant.
Then there was my friend's admission to multiple youth groups and such. This brought up another parent's sharing in the book, Real Life Homeschooling by Rhonda Barfield. Again, they were a large family. The father suggested that anything done outside of schoolwork was done as a family or not done at all. Specifically, one child does not play soccer while another plays baseball. He explains the chaos that would ensue if they had to shuttle this one here and that one there...

Where do we draw the line? Are we unfair to adopt such policies as no sleep-overs and no extracurricular? Are we crazy?

After chatting with the ladies today it all became clear: No. We are not absurd to draw our children in. I don't want our family time robbed by their social extras. We have neighborhood kids they play with some days. We go places as a family where they engage their peers. I am stuck with football and Z because of school and forces beyond my control (I must admit, though, I do enjoy watching him play football!). However, there is much I can do to sway the happenings of my younger three. My friend's scenario woke me up to the need to be proactive in these little extras.

This may not work for everyone. But I think we may try it for us. If one does AWANAS they all do AWANAS or none do it. If one does 4H they all do 4H, or none. Both clubs have intrigued all my children. Neither is vital but both are fruitful. I had considered B in AWANAS again this year and starting Ash in 4H and Bk in???
I have been praying for God's guidance in the decision process. Perhaps my ponderings on this matter are His message to me. My interactions at the lake today were His vehicle for this thought process.
As if we weren't already off the mainstream... we may veer even farther off the beaten path! His will and His purpose always lead to greener pastures.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Any questions?

Company headed down the road this morning. Our house seems quiet and somewhat less than whole now that they are gone! Time to re-coup and get back into daily life.

I am going to start in on my boxes of curriculum prospects now. I am considering combining a few spelling programs I have for my kids this year. I'm still debating how we will tackle math. My question for you, the followers of this blog, is: Do you have any facets of ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, or Auditory Processing Delay that you would like more insight on as you prepare for your homeschooling year? Please let me know and I will do what I can.

In the meantime, I will keep updating on what we are doing on this end ;-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


My company has made it (and are currently sleeping.... I think!) and all has gone well.... mostly! My house looks cozy and I think the whole family did a great job pitching in and preparing. DH has been a sweety helping me with meals and clean-up as well. I feel blessed.

But in all this visiting I am truly struck buy something: cell phones. Or is it I-Phones? We see my (young) sis-in-laws once every few years. They live in Portland area and are product of a late-in-life second marriage on my father in-law's part. Youngest is my oldest's age (15). The other sis is 18 and just graduated. They are both sweet girls and I do enjoy their company.... but those crazy phones!

I think we are breading a generation that will end up cross-eyed or socially mal-adjusted to "real" people because of their insane addiction to these gadgets. I tried to seek engagement via "The UnGame" last night but I did not get a popular response. We ended up playing poker with penny anties and the girls played in for a bit. It was nice to see their shining eyes. However, when the phone buzzed, they responded. All conversation during this visit has seen them sitting among the rest of us, with their eyes mostly glued to the phones with few breaks.

I am thankful that we do not buy into the cell technology with our kids. We have ONE pay-as-you-go for DH and I and only for emergencies. Coming home from football camp Monday I told Z rumor had it ALL cell use, even hands free, would be banned while driving before long. His comment? "But some people HAVE to be able to use it in the car, that is how they conduct their business"!!!! I ask you.... what did society do before cell phones? Well, parents knew their kids better and relationships on a whole were more genuine. It really wasn't all that long ago that people lived without these devices.

Nope, there will be no cell phones in this house.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Process of Being Organized, Part 2 Spreading Out

Are you wondering how my organizing is coming? After my declarations in The Process of Being Organized, I began thinking about one of the blogs I follow, Catholic Christian Homeschooling. I may not be catholic, but I do enjoy the things SAHMinIL blogs about. She is very down-to-Earth and a good deal of fun to read :-) Aaaand, she is from the region I grew up in! Definitely... groooovy ;-)

At any rate... to get back on track: She posted a blog a few weeks back called Instant School Room. It contains a video clip from a CBS segment showing how to convert a dining room into an instant office. SAHMinIL made the correlation to using this concept for families who do not have a "classroom" and needed ideas for doing school in their dining room without all the clutter.

I do have a "classroom" but as I have said before, it is in a dark corner of our daylight basement... getting NO daylight! I know... beggars can't be choosers! But we do always end up upstairs. I discussed this situation with my husband and his response made me feel like, 'Well, duh, why didn't I think of that!' He suggested I move math, reading, and language arts upstairs to the dining room and then relegate the other subjects to the rec room and the craft table there-in.

Enter SAHMinIL's blog and video. I could convert a portion of my buffet into storage for our supplies. The buffet....

... now serves two purposes! One side has my serving platters and the other side is housing the needed school supplies :-) No longer will I need to cart these things up and down the stairs for our work (though I could use that exercise!)

I will be using one of the drawers to keep the kids' folders and pencil boxes in.

In all the re-arranging/organizing I have done in the last few days I even cleared the craft table and SCRUBBED it shiny clean (it usually has tons of paint, marker, and tape marks on it!)

... aaand... because I am splitting the work spaces, I moved our paper sorter (which we use as a storage sorting shelf) so that the craft table above has more space to spread out on! Now when we do time lines and large posters, we won't have to maneuver around so much stuff! (This sorter was sitting at the end of the craft table, up against the wall)
I am pleased with the progress. The curriculum is sorted into subject relative boxes and I will begin the process of going through that after the in-laws leave next week. Still more cleaning to be done but at least our HOME(school) is steaming down the track to being in order!

In the mean time... check out Catholic Christian Homeschooling and SAHMinIL's blog, Instant School Room, and be inspired like I was!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Checking in

I am still here for anyone who thinks I snuck out again! Am working hard to get the house in order for family visiting next week. I was on the edge of overwhelmed thinking of homeschool organizing needing done, garage sale round up I need to do (my husband petitioned me for one next month!), and deep cleaning for family. Never mind the round-up I need to do on curriculum to prepare for our new school year starting in one month!

I know I should not worry about any of this. Where the school things are concerned, yet another beauty of homeschool is having our first day whenever we want! Hmmmmm, I will have to pray on that one! As far as the tidy place for family.... I usually abide by the adage that family visits us not our house! But DH and I agree that this brand of family might be more comfortable with a higher level of clean than we usually hold ourselves to. After all, 4 kids is not conducive to deep clean!

Sure we pick up, keep our kitchen clean, vacuum as needed, dust when the bunnies start to multiply and so on. But I am talking; clean inside and outside of cabinets, carpet cleaning, bring-the-old-toothbrushes-out-to-get-the-cracks kind of cleaning. Who knows, though. This branch of family may someday read this blog and roll their eyes or shake their heads and think.... 'What were they so worried about? We were just there to visit! Not do a white-glove inspection.'

The world may never know... or maybe they will. This body of mine is worn down and I am BEAT! My mood is beginning to suffer as well. However, I need to look at the bright side: I have focused my efforts on cleaning via homeschool organizing. After all, our 'school' is our home and where we learn seems to leak into every facet of our house! With that approach I have managed some revamping in some poorly laid-out but well used sections of our HOMEschool and I am growing excited to use these 'new' spaces!

So, to all of you chasing dust bunnies or wrecking spider homes this month... WE WILL PREVAIL! And to the rest of you enjoying your 'vacation' from teaching/learning... ahhhhh, enjoy some sun for me ;-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quotable Quotes

One of the books I am reading right now is, A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. It was a purchase I made at the Homeschooling Convention in May. I am enjoying Mrs. George's insight and have found inspiration in her words.

For those who don't know, I am an avid quote collector. On page 72, when she is discussing actions that can help/hinder her husband, she quotes Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham:

We have to learn to make the least of all that goes and the most of all
that comes.

How simple but yet profound! This one is definitely entering my collection.

Definitely feeling feminine

As I mentioned in "All the ways NOT to make a skirt!", I have decided to take the one week of skirts challenge that Fellin' Feminine offers. They welcome photo sharing but I can't find anywhere to post and I really don't like pictures of myself (I am definitely not pleased with the one of me in the above mentioned article!). I did want to share my progress here though. I decided to try something different. In the lovely summer weather I have been hanging my clothes out to dry. When I washed last week's worth of skirts I decided to take a picture :-)

I am two weeks and running on this challenge and truly enjoying it. I definitely feel more feminine! I have even been able to match some interesting hats from my collection... something that never really worked well with jeans/pants!

Friday, July 17, 2009

This is the tale of a mom, some kids, a book, and a movie...

My daughters LOVE the various Barbie movies. We recently watched Barbie's Thumbalina and found ourselves intrigued by a movie called, The Tale of Despereaux. We subscribe to Netflix and decided to reserve this DVD in our queue.

Now, Barbie only goes so far with my youngest son. He is a good sport. But the one thing that draws all the children in is movies and stories about animals. After all, we have a small farm in our house (1 rabbit, 2 guinea pigs, a parakeet, and 4 fish). So when I discovered that The Tale of Despereaux was based on a book by Kate DiCamillo (author of Because of Winn Dixie), I got online with my local library and ordered it from another branch so that we might devour this tale together.
The rule I have is that, if we discover a good book-to-movie, we have to read the book first and then my children are allowed to watch the movie. I have never had trouble with this stipulation and The Tale of Despereaux: Being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread, was not a disappointment.
Ms. DiCamillo has woven a magnificent tapestry of syntax. Her method of story telling is enchanting. All of my children (and even myself) were captivated by this narrative. Once opening the pages of this book, prepare to be inspired and challenged and know that bravery is not found easily. Some issues may be hard for younger children to understand (such as a young girl who is physically abused, though those instances are not graphic, and a dungeon full of rats who, at one point in the story, are anxious to devour a certain mouse). However, the testament of sacrifice for truth, forgiveness and hope that transcend these pages is well worth the instances of hard life truths this author delicately shares with her young readers.
The Tale of Despereaux was an easy read for younger children and yet compelling enough to appeal to older ones. Enough wonderful things can not be said about this book and this author's gift for sharing such a special adventure. Perhaps the Newbery Honor she received for this book is just one testament to her timeless gift.
The movie was not as good as the book (in our opinion anyway). But The Tale of Despereaux is a must have for any homeschool bookshelf as an exemplary piece of great literature!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Confessions of a curriculum addict

I have a confession to make: I have begun throwing away every single curriculum and school supply catalog that comes into my house.... without even looking at them! What's more... it has been rather liberating!

The other day I spoke about the organizing quandary I am currently praying through. I have been collecting items for many, many years in the hopes of using them in my own classroom someday (not realizing it would be a homeschool classroom!). Staring at the boxes and piles I have pulled and sorted from beyond many nooks and crannies I thought I would never decide on a direction. However, upon putting it into prayer, God revealed the first step to me: DON'T BUY ANYTHING ELSE! Ohhhhh how hard that is though! The catalogs have the neatest doo-dads in them and teaching would be soooo much more fun if I had this or that or.....

But God said "NO". (He says that a lot to me!)

So I have been throwing the catalogs out. It has been hard, but I am being quite strict with myself on the matter. God has spoken and I do wish to obey. I do have A LOT of stuff that the kids and I are blessed to work with. I am stepping out in trust that He will continue to reveal more steps in this process of sorting and determining.... some commands have been slowly coming to light.

Now as far as the piles around my desk right now........ God??

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The process of being organized.

It has been 15 years since I was a childless woman (16 if you count pregnancy). I have come to look back on my life in two separate eras: BC (Before Children) and CE (Children Everywhere)! You might hear me say, 'I use to be a very organized person, BC. But now, CE, I can't find anything!'

It isn't even that my house is a mess... it usually isn't, beyond the toys and stuffed animals my little darlings like to leave everywhere. It is just that I can't keep track of my thoughts! Sometimes it can be because one of my sweeties thought they had a better place for something that I did know where it was (before they moved it)!

My mom used to say that for every child you have, you loose 20% of your mind. I personally think hubbies should absorb 20% as well. At least it would explain why I feel brain-fried most the time. Either way you look at it, the operating capacity of my mind has reached near operational overload!

I did use to know when someone was running out of something. Even with just one or two children in tow, I could forecast the need for more of my husband's deodorant, more of the children's milk (I drink non-fat) was always purchased before it ran out, laundry was washed-folded-put away before drawers ran empty, and I could always find the payment coupon for the water company! All of these things are a struggle C.E. I do try though.

What's more is my need to begin organizing thoughts on homeschooling for the coming school year. As if I didn't have enough in my house to muddle through.... now I have boxes of homeschooling supplies, books, and articles to discern and decide what I will/won't use! Talk about mind boggling!

I know, I know... I am preaching to the choir here. And what a joyful choir we are. Despite all these scattered thoughts and good intentions gone arye I wouldn't trade it for anything, would you? I am learning that, in the midst of this 'noise', I must take time to be quiet.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33

It is easy to loose ourselves in all this stuff, in all the "Mooom... ", and in all that you hope and expect of yourself and your children. We must make that time for our Heavenly Father each day. We need to kneel before Him, give it all to Him, ask His guidance, and listen to His answers. When we do this, the mangled mess in our midst will begin to seem less like Mt. Everest and more like the foothills.

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
Isaiah 41:13

Monday, July 13, 2009

Rain, rain, don't go away

It is raining in Montana today. This is how dark my kitchen was at 9:30 this morning (the sun rose around 5:45 this morning).

Growing up in the Midwest, I loved, and anticipated, the storms we would have each summer. Thunder, lighting, and torrential downpours always thrilled me! In Montana, however, these tantrums of nature are rare occurrences.... until this year.

We have actually enjoyed a cool summer and more precipitation (and storms) than I have seen in the 12 years I have lived in this area. While most of my neighbors groan when the clouds issue forth their torrents, I celebrate! Not just because I love the rain (though that is a big part of it) but also because the more rain we have, the less fires we endure.

Forest fires have been the staple of many summers here in this state. A few summers were so bad I could not even let my children play outside because the smoke was so thick and stifling. We all had to wear face masks.

This is not taken through a screen, the rain is really that heavy! My neighbors probably don't delight in heavy rain because, as you can see here, living on a mountain side our driveway acts as a canal through which all the rain uphill likes to drain.... right down into the neighbor's driveway! I am actually considering giving the men in my house a task: to build some sort of natural damn that can divert this flow of water and possibly save the neighbors from the pile up of sludge they get! (Yes, watering our lawn does the same thing to them.

Here you can barely see the ridge to the north of us! But doesn't my garden look happy to be getting so much attention?! Yes, bring on the rain :-)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm trying not to procrastinate... stinking technical glitches!

No matter how hard I try I can't seem to edit my Garden post from today so the words won't look like run-on sentences :-( Oh well....

I read recently that the key to a good blog is to include pictures whenever possible. Hopefully I don't go overboard! However, here is something short and sweet and the picture says it all:

The ART of Secret Gardens

Last month the kids and I wrapped up a group reading of the book, The Secret Garden. When the garden in our story began to bloom, I really wanted them to have a feel for what it must have been like for the main character, Mary.

We set out in search of a place called, Gatiss Gardens, but must have over-shot it because I never found it! We ended up going to a park in the main town north of where we live instead. We were able to spot climbing roses.... and a lot of roses in general... along with trellises and other lovely flowers everywhere.

I had them bring their backpacks and sketch books. I wanted the children to articulate detail in a flower of their choice and try to draw it. I will be honest and say I didn't really expect them to spend much time at this task. But I was amazed at the intensity of their focus and the time they took and detials they sketched. I found myself waiting on them for a change!

Bk found some rose petals on the ground and laid them on her sketch pad so she could trace them and color to match them! We did end up taking these little finds and putting them in the flower press at home.

There are two large gardens at the park we went to. We started first in the rose garden and ended in the annuals garden.

With all the extra time to just relax, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself! So I sketched too and decided to get creative with my camera ;-) Here you can see me and Bk's feet... she was hunting for daisies, her favorite! Yes, I am wearing my favorite floppy hat.
Bk and I are comparing our renderings of the pink flower you see top left. (My husband hijacked the close-up!) I am bad at names, whether it is people or flowers, but these had petals shaped like little hearts! Bk and I both wanted to sketch their delicate beauty. It was simply lovely sitting next to my youngest and sharing this experience!

We both sketched the one on the left as well, the stamen are shaped like stars!

Our field trip was amazing. I was actually glad we had not found Gatiss Gardens since I don't think we could have sprawled out quite like we did at Woodland! I already have our return trip planned; The gazebo here is covered with tiles textured with sayings and pictures (such as the one at the beginning of this blog). I want to bring some good rubbing paper and charcoal and crayons... won't that be another great tactile trip?!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ducks in a row...

I have been blessed with four lovely children. I had hoped to have more, but God said, "No." Still, I look for the simple joys of my little family and I strive for ways to let them know they are loved and dear to me.

I know that we do not have as many children as some (and yet we do have more than others) but no matter how you look at it, when we are out at a store and walking down an isle, they tend to fannnnn out and take up a lot of room! I feel bad because we can take up a whole isle (wide) and then some! I started telling my children that we all need to get in a row... like ducks in a row and out for a waddle. "Come on guys, ducks in a row" is what I often say when we are trying to make our way through a busy store or crowd.

Apparently my term has become endearing to my children. My oldest daughter recently spotted a goose family while we were at the park. They were adorable! As we watched, the geese began to coral their goslings so they might proceed to another end of the pond. Ash pointed and commented, "Hey mom, like ducks in a row!", indicating that it was like us when we are at the store!
So, as silly as I might be, and even though these are geese (and not ducks) it is still sweet and makes me think of my little flock and how blessed I am :-)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A cake, by any other name, is just a cake!

I am hoping to inspire those who have not done this before...

Birthdays in our house are extra-special occasions. The lucky birthday person gets to pick their breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well as request their favorite cake (and ice-cream). We have 3 birthday "children" in June in our house. I often refer to it as our second Christmas! However, it is imperative to me that they each have their own special day (even though B's is the 6th and Z's is the 8th!) Each his (or her) own cake and attention.

Here are the individual cakes (Z's is not pictured because he requested apple crisp and there isn't much to look at with pie!) I like to get creative and, while I will admit there is plenty of room for me to try improvement, I am getting better!

B, turned 9, still gets excited with monster trucks, though he spends most of his time playing Legos! His request.... obvious, right? Not my best but still fun. Yes, that is Yoda in the stands. A last minute add to the cake, I had Ash grab me all the Lego guys she could find so the rally could have proper spectators!

Ash, turned 11, LOVES horses. She requested horses running in the ocean! I felt the need for a beach front for them to be running off of... she loved it. I can say that I am not happy with the squishy-tube icing you can find in the baking isle at the store. Not the old regular tubes... but the new 'squishy' ones (sorry I can't be more technical than that!). The icing does not do what you want and, as seen here, my green grass, which is suppose to be rising from the 'sand' looks more like green goo running all over it! (yes, the cake was cooled when I frosted it.

This year we also had a joint party for the family to come over... it can be tiring to make the drive to our house THREE times in one month for the purpose of birthdays... and twice in one week! We don't' always have a party, because of the three in one month situation, but this year we went all out and had some fun!

The three youngest were getting much needed new bikes (even though Bk's birthday is in January, she got to partake in the birthday fun this year!) Using these gifts as a springboard I set up our theme: Mountain Biking! The downside is, after looking in every possible store in the valley (there aren't that many) and even searching the web I could NOT find bikes for the top of our cake. I did, however, find pine trees which the baker at our local grocery store was kind enough to give me for a steal!

The kids got excited as I began to describe my cake plans on birthday party morning and brought out all sorts of tid-bits to add to our cake. I only used the Lincoln logs and the bear (he is hiding in the bunch of trees on the lower right side of the cake). Afterwards I realized, a Twix bar would have made a GREAT log bridge! Ash had the idea for the river. The rocks are candy rocks (that look like real ones) I picked up at the candy store. The 'trail' is vanilla wafers that have been put through the food processor.

This is, by far, my favorite cake yet. Even better than B's bee he had on his first birthday and Bk's flower cake for her first! I told B that the "9" was on the other side of the foot bridge because it is on the single-digit side of the river! I explained that next year, he gets to cross the bridge and become a two-digit number!! He liked that idea :-)

The whole party was fun. I set up our tent in the back yard (yes we live on a 'hill'/mountain side so our yard is sloped). We used the tent for gifts/opening presents... which all the kids really enjoyed (even my 15 year old seemed to have fun!)

I also couldn't help myself where the table was concerned. When my daughter asked why I was putting all of the plates and utensils in a picnic basket the only reply I had was, "Why not?" Isn't it more fun to get your dinnerware out of a picnic basket than just straight off the table?!

All the birthdays were great and I hope I am up for the challenge again nest year!