Monday, July 22, 2013

A New Adventure

I have a lot of trouble keeping up with the blog. I am probably just not a very good blogger. Thankfully, this is mostly a record for my children anyways.

Things have been going decently over here. We are still doing some very very light school as we got behind in January. Most days consist of working through the math books that aren't finished yet. Every once in a while I will add in some reading as well, but because of summer and wanting to get a break in for myself, it is very easy to finish math and just be done for the day so that we can get in the pool or go play with friends or catch up on some much needed house cleaning.

The kids are having a pretty good summer. We get in our small pool often. I would like to see us on the bike path that we live near a bit more, but my bike trailer hasn't made it here to the new house yet and I don't really want to leave Simon home all alone with mom and dad in case he decides to climb out of his crib. He is a busy one and keeps us all on our toes for sure. I do not want to put them through that! LOL. He is "All boy". He does however have a baby doll that he likes to carry around. It was Sophie's but when Simon took such a strong liking to it, Sophie decided to give it to him. I encourage the play because I am using it to teach him how to be gentle with babies. He is so sweet with the doll. He holds it and strokes its face and kisses it and shares his pacifier with it. He loves babies and points and giggles whenever one comes on tv or he sees one in the store. I can hardly wait to see him with his baby brother or sister.

Dad continues to have good days and bad days, but for the most part, the days are steady at least. Dad tries to get outside for a walk a couple of times per day and he naps a lot. I think he is doing as well as he possibly can be doing for someone in the later stages of Parkinson's disease. The hardest part for sure is that it comes with Dementia, and while his is mostly well controlled with medication, there are some days that are harder than others. And the days that he realizes he is having a hard time are the hardest ones for him I think. Dementia is cruel.

I am now 15 and a half weeks pregnant and have just begun to feel the little butterfly wiggling around in there. I feel like the baby is a girl, but I also felt that way very strongly about Simon, and Simon is definitely a boy! The first trimester was tough on me as usual, with plenty of nausea and exhaustion and just not feeling like doing a whole lot of anything, but my energy is making a comeback now and for the most part I feel okay. We have to decided to not find out if this baby is a boy or a girl before he or she is born. It is going to be a long 25 weeks!  We have also decided to not share our name choices this time. I think that will be fun. We aren't even telling the kids, because we know our secret will not be a secret for very long if we do that. Rebecca thinks that if its a girl, we ought to name her "Elliott". I have not ever been much for gender neutral names for my own children, but I thought it was cute that she thought of that name on her own. Sophie thinks "Rosa" for a girl. She names her stuffed animals "Rosa" too. Andrew likes Joey for a boy and Matthew doesn't really have an opinion. Neither does Simon.  At least I don't think so. He doesn't talk yet though. LOL.

The biggest news of the day is that we have decided to send our children to school in the fall. Matthew, Andrew, Rebecca, and Sophie will be attending a small charter school in our community. It was a difficult decision with many factors involved, but the biggest one being that with my extra responsibilities, I am finding it increasingly difficult to sit down and teach academics every day. While I still have the time to homeschool (I am home everyday and dad doesn't need much daily care), I was finding that I just didn't have the mental strength to do it anymore. Homeschooling is certainly not easy. It takes a great deal of discipline and fortitude, and I was finding most days that it just wasn't in me. And I am not one to simplify and take it easy. That works for many homeschoolers when they run into rough seasons, but I know it wouldn't work for me. As it was, since moving here, we have simplified and gone down to basics, and even that was becoming too much for me.

The best decision for the upcoming school year is to send them. It is not a decision that I have made for the rest of their school career, and if things go wrong there, I won't hesitate to bring them back home, but for now I am looking forward to a release of pressure in this area of academics. I am looking forward to a hopefully more clean house. I am looking forward to one on one time with Simon and hours of holding a newborn without the pressure of knowing that school wasn't completed that day. While I believe it is the best decision for us, it was not an easy decision at all. I have wanted to homeschool my children pretty much since having children. Much of my identity was wrapped up in being a Homeschooling mom. I have loved spending every day with my kids.. lazy pancake breakfasts in the middle of the week. Comfy clothes all winter.. AVOIDING the cold of winter almost completely..  Just talking and being together with them every day.  Our daily "tea time" in the colder months.  This won't be an easy transition for me at all. I know I will miss them greatly. Probably more than I realize even now.  It is going to be so hard to not change my mind. I am committing until Christmas anyways.

So there's the update. I think I might have to change the name of my blog now.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Big Changes and Great Expectations

Well hello there. It has been months since my last entry. I am afraid I am not very good at this blogging thing, but even so, I am not ready to give up. A lot has gone on since my last entry at the end of October, so here are some updates.

A few years ago, my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. They began treatment, and life went on almost as normal for a long time. But as is always the case with Parkinson's disease, things began to go downhill and daily life was beginning to be more challenging for my parents. Then, this past December, things really went downhill. Dad got sick. Really sick. He was in and out of hospitals and rehab centers for about two months straight and on a couple of occasions I was convinced that he would not be around much longer. While in the hospital, he seemed to develop dementia, which sometimes comes with Parkinsonism. He also mostly lost the ability to walk. Things were not looking good. He would need a lot of care once he came home, so our family made some big changes.

In the middle of January, our family packed up and moved in with my mom and dad. They have a pretty big house, so we were able to create a little apartment for them with their own living room and bedroom and full bathroom. The doors are open a lot, but they also are free to close them to get away from the kids noise whenever they need.

There were a lot of adjustments at first for everyone involved, but sure enough we are figuring out our dance and how to combine these two households, and dad is a lot better than he was when he was in the hospital and rehab center. Dementia still visits us, but it is not to the degree that it was in the hospital. The Parkinsons has also improved since coming home. He is walking without a walker and doing things for himself that he had lost the ability to do  (like make his own coffee or toast). Last week he even got outside to do some minor yard work. He has always had beautiful flower beds in the front and back and he wants to keep those up. It makes me smile to see him working outside. How far he has come. Those scary days in the hospital are behind us for now.

Homeschooling has been going alright. It took a good long while to get back into a groove. We took a lot of time off in January and February because it was just too much to adjust and try and keep schedule. When we started back up, we did basics only and are pretty much still on basics with a few readings per week (instead of per day) added in.  I will slowly add in more over time. Because we took so much time off during the winter months, we will definitely be schooling throughout the summer.  Right now we are working on catching up on the 3 R's so that we will be at grade level in the fall.

Great Expectations! It looks as though we will be having a new baby this winter.  It was unexpected yet not surprising (as usual).  Of course, I will feel better once I have gotten to that magical 12 week mark where it is socially acceptable to let the news out, but we have told pretty much our entire inner circle. Whats a few more people going to hurt? I am hoping and believing for some wonderful brightness in the middle of the darkest month of the year.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lord have mercy on me, a sinner

I love my church.

Today our church was so bright and beautiful. We just put down this beautiful warm toned tile on the altar area and because it was Reformation Sunday, our liturgical color was red which always looks so warm to me. Those things along with the candles and the way the choir sounded with the new acoustics (thanks to the tile) just made the whole thing beautiful and peaceful and reverent. We sang "A Mighty Fortress is our God" and heard about what things were like in the church in Martin Luther's day and most importantly we heard about how the bible teaches us that we  justified by Christ alone for our sins, which is something I need to hear all the time, because without it, I would teeter between thinking I was a pretty good person and then realizing that my best works are really just filthy rags.

In church, I was looking at my beautifully well dressed, well behaving children and I had such wonderful thoughts about them. I thought about how wonderful it is that I am able to stay home with them and homeschool them. I thought about ways I would show my love to them this week. *I* would slow down. *I* would spend less time on the computer. *I* would keep the tv off and read more books. We would have tea together and play games together and *I* would be more patient during our classroom time. *I* would be great!

How vain. I am none of those things without Christ. I am especially not patient. And I am prone to turning on the tv in order to get some peace. And playing games? I usually do not want to because it takes more brain power than I have after parenting 5 kids all day. And I hate the mess that having 7 people living in a small house brings. I often feel swallowed by it while trying to keep on top of things. There is no physical rest.

To be sure, there is nothing wrong with those things that I aspire to do and we do enjoy those things together occasionally.  It is not easy for me though. I didn't take that into account when I was planning my own awesomeness this morning. How I need Christ.

Almost as soon as we got home, the chaos started. Barry had a gig today across town, and so he left and I was on my own. The children were not fighting or being unkind to each other, but it can be just sort of naturally loud in a home with 5 children, ages 9 and under and I am not a big fan of loud at all. It doesn't naturally bring out in me all of those qualities I was smugly planning on having while sitting in the peace and beauty of my church this morning. It's quite the opposite actually.

And for this, I have Christ who forgives me and strengthens me and helps me keep going and doing good things when it is hard.

I want to put in a disclaimer that I love my job and I love motherhood. To me it is beautiful and sacred. I would do nothing different, and I would even welcome more children into our family. I believe truly that it is very good to do things that interfere with our self centeredness. These are the things that help us to grow. And nothing gives me more joy than being home with my children all day. I feel that I am truly blessed to be able to do so.  I am just not very awesome and could not do it on my own strength.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Story of the Rats

Rat hunting on a Saturday morning. That's normal, right?
If you are on my facebook, you have seen many posts about our new furry little guests. This has been by far one of the hardest few weeks of my life anxiety wise, and I thought I'd share the story.

We had heard that the city we live in was having a problem with rats, and that we needed to take the proper precautions. We bought new steel trash cans with good lids and made sure to keep Richards "bathroom" clean. (Richard is our dog). Over the summer, there were a handful of times that I would see a rat in my yard on garbage night, and while I thought it really creepy, I never imagined that they would actually get in our house. Still, we probably should have taken more precautions then, especially making sure that we had no holes in our roof or chimney, but we didn't. Our mistake.

Another mistake we made was to have a wood porch, but we just didn't think of it. Eventually we had planned to pour a new cement porch, but then we thought about moving and decided that it wasn't worth the expense, and so we didn't. We probably should have. Wood porches and decks attract rats.

So anyways, fast forward to about 3 weeks ago. Barry and I were laying down to go to bed. The house was quiet and all of a sudden we heard a rhythmic scratching sound in our bedroom. Richard has a paw that he likes to lick rhythmically and if he does it at the right spot in the house, it makes a scratching sound. I had heard this scratching sound a few other times that week and always assumed it was Richard and when I said "Richard stop" the sound stopped. This night however, when I said "Richard stop!", Richard came trotting into the bedroom from the living room. Barry said outloud "That wasn't Richard."

He immediately got up and went downstairs. I heard him from the basement say something, that isn't particularly nice, followed by "there's a rat down here!" He instructed me to go outside. He was going to try to scare the rat out of the basement and wanted to make sure he got out. The rat was standing in a spot by where the electrical wire for the airconditioning unit was coming in and the hole was just the size of a quarter-all they need to get in. (if you live in Warren or St. Clair Shores, check your houses). Instead of scaring the rat out, I heard Barry shout and then Barry came upstairs telling me that the rat bolted somewhere in the basement and he couldn't see where he was.

I don't remember exactly how we got back to sleep that night, but it was the first night of many with interrupted sleep. The next night, we had our niece's pellet gun in tow.

And the next night.

And the next night.


But the little rat is a very good hider. Several times we heard scratching below our bed, only to go downstairs and look everywhere only to find nothing.

We set up trap after trap after trap. Most of them were ignored, but the glue traps we set up got visibly moved out of their way, or they were very smart and loaded them up with insulation so that the trap wouldn't be a threat to them. Seriously, I had no idea rats were so smart. Every morning we woke up feeling defeated and every night we lost sleep. I finally just took to sleeping on the couch so that i couldn't hear him. They hadn't tried to come on the main level of the house.  I am assuming because of Richard. But maybe not. It doesn't really matter. it just matters that he hadn't, and we wanted to make sure that  he didn't.

We were fed up. We decided to take away any hiding spots the rat might have, so we emptied the entire contents of our basement out and put it in our garage and did some major cleaning up. Also that day, while I was away at my moms house, Barry pulled apart the front porch and made sport of rat hunting. He saw that they had burrowed under there and he took the hose and collapsed their little underground network, causing seven of them to rise up out of the muck. Barry shot them all with a pellet gun (very rewarding, btw)

We had hoped that that would be the end of it, but that night, the scratching was worse than ever. You can imagine how defeating that feels.

So. We decided to bring in Orkin. We weren't entirely sure what Orkin would do that we hadn't done, but we hoped maybe he would poison them somehow that we hadn't thought of. We had put out poison pellets, but the rats weren't interested in adding that to their diets. I heard there was a powder that rats breathe in that kills them. (there is, but it turns out that they never use it around kids or dogs because it is that deadly that you need to wear a respirator around it or you could end up dead)

The Orkin man walked around the property and found a few holes that he though were big enough to get in, and he set traps up all over the basement where we had heard him. He set up traditional traps and glue traps. Pretty much the same stuff we set up, only he set up a LOT more of them. He said it might take a a couple weeks to be able to trap them, as rats will not eat off of trap unless they are starving and have no other food source, and given the fact that he has ignored all of traps and poisons thus far, he must have another food source somewhere. A rats food source can even be dog poop, and while we religiously every single day clean up after Richard, we have neighbors that have a couple of dogs, and we can't speak for how often they clean up.

He did say, that he didn't think they were actually nesting in our house, because he didn't see any of the normal signs. That was relieving.

Anyhow, long story short, it appears that they are gone. We did hear scratching for a couple nights, and I saw one outside in the backyard 2 nights ago, but we haven't heard anything in 3 nights, after we patched one last hole that we found near our chimney. I think they are finally gone and I will be able to sleep easy once more.  It may take a while as every sound you hear at night suddenly becomes suspect. I wonder how long that will last.

Anyhow, the rats are gone! We can get back to our regularly scheduled basement finishing. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Family Pizza Night

My husband makes great pizza. I don't know how he does it. Mine never comes out as good as his. It is good in it's own right of course, but it tastes like homemade pizza. My husband can make his taste like it came from a pizza place.  I can use the exact same dough recipe as him (high gluten flour and everything) and it will still not be as good as his.

That's okay, because it gives me a night off of coordinating dinner and I enjoy relaxing. I'll help him out by chopping up veggies for toppings and setting the table up, but my duties don't go much past that. I enjoy some time playing with the kids or holding the baby while my husband works his polka-star magic on the pizza. We like to call his pizza "Uncle Barry's Pizza" and the dream is that someday he will have his own place. In the meantime, he is perfecting his recipe and we as a family are reaping all the benefits.

Everyone loves Uncle Barry's Pizza nights.

We had so much fun tonight, and every night when we have pizza night. The only problem with pizza night is that my kitchen looks like this afterwards.

But after an hour and a half or so of hard work, it eventually looks like this again....
No empty sink. With 5 kids who stay home all day long everyday, my sink is almost never completely empty for more than 5 minutes..:)

Friday, June 22, 2012

I am still here

I am not a good blogger. I want to be. I think of all these wonderful topics when I am away from my computer, but when I sit down to write my thoughts, I just draw a blank. The words don't come in any sort of way that makes sense.

It has been a long time since my last blog post, so I thought I might post a little about what we have been up to lately.

We are still doing school and will continue to do so throughout the entire summer. I will probably take about a 2 week long break in September, when everyone else is going back. I believe I did that last year as well and it was actually kind of nice.  We are mostly done with the literature and readings portion of school and now are just going to spend the rest of the summer finishing up our book work. It makes for nice, short
days.  We tend to spend time outside in the mornings and evenings and head inside for chores and school during the middle of the day, when its so hot that its better to be inside anyways.

I want to change some things up as far as curriculum goes next year, though I will still be using Rod and Staff for language arts and I definitely plan on keeping with Math U See. It has been the only math curriculum that I have really really liked. I especially like that it teaches me. I have not really ever been good with math and while for the younger grades it is not a problem, I will certainly need a refresher when we get into more difficult math and so I like that this curriculum will teach me as I teach them. For literature, copywork and history, we used the book-list recommendations from and that has served us pretty well, but I did find some of the literature a bit difficult for me, and I consider myself to be pretty good at reading, so I am not entirely sure that the literature is accessible for my young children.  When reading up on the concept of Charlotte Mason, I discovered that they really thought that reading difficult literature and having them do narrarations on that literature is completely possible for young children, but not if the literature has to compete with the television, and well, my kids watch their share of television and I can see where it makes it difficult. Lately since the weather is nice, I have been a lot better keeping the tube put away, but in the winter it is a struggle. My kids seem to be able to understand some of the stories, but certainly they struggle with some of it, especially Shakespeare. I received many groans this year whenever I pulled out the mint green Shakespeare book-which was written FOR children!! I could barely understand it myself, but then, I have not ever really been a fan of Shakespeare unless it has been turned into a major motion picture. (and just what does that say about my ability to teach Shakespeare? Not much) And since I don't know too many adults dependent on knowing the works of William Shakespeare, I think I am okay with pulling that from our curriculum unless they get their own interest in it.
Next year, we also may do some kind of Unit Studies to make things interesting for them. I will be researching that idea very soon.

I am enjoying the summer, spending my time in the mornings on my swing sipping coffee, reading, thinking, and just listening to the birds before all the children wake up. I have found that my days go much better if I have that quiet time in the morning. If my children end up being my alarm clock, the day just doesn't go as well. It's not always easy waking up that early though.

I am also enjoying these days of hanging clothes on the line. I just love seeing representations of my whole family hanging up there. It's beautiful to me, and if I can get them up early while I am sitting drinking my coffee on my swing, then it's even better. It's the small joys that I love so much.

Simon is getting bigger and cuter. He smiles and babbles and giggles and is just at that perfect quintessential cute baby stage. Soon he will most likely be crawling. I love that stage. I love all the baby stages really. The other day I had him sitting in our bay window watching the big kids play in the sprinkler. I wonder what he was thinking about. I bet he is making plans for when he gets to be a big kid too.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Week Traditions

I love Holy Week.

Growing up (Catholic), we kept Lent (minorly-I didn't really understand it. I bet my kids don't really understand it yet either) and I knew we went to church a lot in between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, but I really did not understand what what was going on. I am sad to say that I really didn't understand much of what was going on period. I didn't know about the church year, or liturgy, or the special feast days. I was vaguely aware that some of these things were going on around me, but I didn't know that they were cyclical....well, except Advent. I always loved Advent Wreaths and counting down the weeks until Christmas.

I do think it is safe to say that I liked church as a child though. I recognized that something important was happening, even if I was a little bored. I made a bathroom trip part of regular liturgy, if you know what I mean. I am very thankful that my dad made me go week after week though. I definitely think it makes a difference in my life now.

Anyhow, I do so love Holy Week. I love that we essentially go through that whole week as He did those two thousand years ago, beginning with Palm Sunday, when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem.

Then on Maundy Thursday, we go through the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples, and the institution of the sacrament. The service ends with the altar being  ceremonially stripped of all decor. I don't remember this from growing up, and the first time I saw this, 4 years ago now, it sent shivers down my spine. I did not realize that this was in preparation for Good Friday.

On Good Friday this year, our church had a Tenebrae service, in which we focused on the seven last words Jesus spoke on the cross.

  1. "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do"
  2. "Today you shall be with me in Paradise" 
  3. "Woman, behold your son! Behold your mother!"
  4. "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
  5. "I thirst"
  6. "It is finished"
  7. "Father, in Your hands, I commend My Spirit"
 The liturgical color is black. My Pastor wears a black  cassock and stole, and many of the elders and lay people also wear black. On the otherwise bare altar were 7 lit candles, and as each of the "7 words" were spoken (along with a verse of a  hymn and a very short sermon on each "word") one candle was extinguished until all of the candles were out. After all of the sections were complete and all of the candles were extinguished, my Pastor walked over to the lecturn and slammed the book shut which made a very loud BOOM...A very powerful non-verbal statement of "It is finished". At that same moment, all the lights in the church were turned off  and we sat in the darkness, with only one lonesome little candle lit in the front of the church lit. In the dim light, from the choir loft in the back of the church, the spiritual song "Were you there?" was sung by a woman with a very strong voice. The way her voice echoed in the darkness and nothing else was going on really caused us to focus on the words of the song. When the song was completed, my Pastor took the lonesome candle and walked to the back of the church. From the back of the church, in almost total darkness he recited First Corinthians 15:51-57

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed---in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on the incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality; so when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in Victory.' O Death, where is your sing? O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, Who gives us the Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Then a final benediction was read and everyone left the church in complete reverent silence.

I only had my sons with me last night, as the service is long and very serious and quiet, and we did not think we could handle it with Simon. Barry attended Maundy Thursday with the three older kids, and I attended Good Friday with my two older sons. They loved the service because of its uniqueness, and the "scary part" at the end (scary is the wrong word here, but it certainly would stun almost anyone to silence). I love that there is a special service that recognizes the graveness and seriousness of the crucifixion.

When we return to church on Easter morning, the contrast after leaving so quietly in the dark on Good Friday will be very obvious. The altar will be decked out with lilies and white. We will have a processional. Everything in there will be bright and joyous, and we will sing special songs focusing on the resurrection. We will bring back the special songs that we have stopped singing during Lent and we will go to the altar for the Lord's Supper. It is beautiful, it is happy. It is wonderful.

I really love Holy Week and am so happy to be back in a christian tradition that keeps it. Traditions of course in no way have any saving power, but they can be a powerful teaching tool and can be very good for helping us to focus on specific parts of what we believe.