Thursday, June 28, 2007

A lap full of learning

Yesterday I finished preparing a new tool I'm using in our homeschool this year. I bought a lapbook to use with my up-and-coming 1st grader, Brynna. Never heard of a lapbook? Well, I hadn't either until a couple of years ago, and even then I thought it was something that the moms had to design on their own. Well, I am not creative enough for that, but this year I bought one to go with Tapestry of Grace.

A lapbook is a book made out of file folders and mini-books glued inside them. They fold up flat, but when they open out, they have all sorts of little flaps, books, or mini-posters to record info, pictures, or whatever you desire. You can either make your own, buy them pre-assembled, or buy a cd with the mini-books ready to print. The latter is the option I chose (it's the more economical one of these last two; I already admitted I don't have the creative ability to do the first). Tapestry actually sells these to go with their curriculum, but they are designed by Cindy Kinney over at Knowledge Box Central. (If you've never been, hop on over to her site and check out all the options. She's got them for science, all different types of history topics, holidays, you name it!)

So Tuesday I ran off all sheets of paper. It was quite an impressive stack. I also folded the file folders and glued them together so they could dry overnight before complete assembly.
Yesterday I started cutting out the little booklets. Here they are after they are all cut out. As my lapbook has three folders within it, so I'm sorting the mini-books into three groups.
Then I started gluing the items to their proper place in the lapbook, again using rubber cement.
Viola, a complete lapbook.
If you can see from the pictures at all there are several items having to do with the Middle Ages, which we will be studying this fall. There are places to write about important people (e.g. John Wycliffe), vocabulary definitions, maps to label, amazing facts to record, pictures to color, dates to remember, and lots of flaps to flip and move. Brynna saw it yesterday and said, "that looks like fun." Many homeschoolers say that their kids are so fascinated with all the little flaps and things to mess with, that they can't help but read what they've recorded, and it helps them to retain a surprising amount at young ages. I just wanted to be a "fun mom" for once!
Another nice feature is that it folds completely flat when not in use.
This particular lapbook will take us through the first unit of Tapestry of Grace, year 2, which we will finish up sometime in October or November at the pace we'll be going. We are going to take our time going through the Middle Ages. There is just so much great stuff to study!

Hopefully Brynna will think so too! :-)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You might have a large(r) family if....

I'm sure most of you who have more than the average 1.7 children have seen lists like this before, but here is the official Smith list, all of which have happened to us at some point in the last several years. And for the record, I don't consider us a large family. I see us as a medium sized family, but I think the rest of my family would argue that point. Anyway, here goes:

You might have a large family if...

1. It feels really weird to be out with only one or two children. Even more weird to be at home with only that many.

2. When you go grocery shopping, you really need two carts, but instead you just over pile one cart so that you don't stick out. As much.

3. Your Sam's (or Costco) bill is as high as the regular grocer.

4. You laugh at the family packs of ground beef at Sam's, and opt instead to buy it by the case - 80 pounds worth.

5. You have seriously wondered about renting a pod storage unit just to store all the boxes of clothes your children are not wearing at the moment, but which are awaiting their next growth spurt.

6. You realize that you hardly ever make the recipe as is - it is nearly always doubled.

7. Your husband has seriously contemplated moving out of town so that you can raise your own chickens, milk your own cows, and have your own orchard and garden just to feed the kids - even though he has a city wife who wouldn't have a clue about how to do any of that.

8. You have wondered if a 15 passenger van would fit in your garage.

9. You live two blocks from a world famous theme park - but only go once every five years because of how much it costs times 7 people (or more).

10. You mark time by who you were pregnant with or who you were nursing at the time.

11. One of your greatest fantasies is having a second refrigerator.

12. Every time you go to the store with all your children, it is against the law for the clerk to fail to ask, "Are they all yours?" (I so want to say something like, "No this is only half, I left all the babies at home," or something else just as foolish as their questions.)

13. You have to start getting ready to go somewhere at least 30 minutes before you actually need to walk out the door, so that everyone has time to find their shoes, inform you that the shoes are too small, for you to find the right sized pair in the right shoe bucket, for everyone to go potty, to get on their shoes, to comb hair that was neglected this morning, and to put out the inevitable arguments that ensue.

14. When your minivan has four car seats in it - at the same time.

15. The washer and dryer never get a day off.

16. Your definition of a "full dishwasher" is not that all the space is taken up, but whether you can fit another meal's worth of dishes in it.

17. Thus your dishwasher gets run more than once a day.

18. You refuse to keep baby books or scrap books because THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME IN THE WORLD to keep up with them all, and if you started, your load of guilt from not finishing or keeping them up would be multiplied by how many children you have.

19. You no longer sew the matching outfits for your children like you did when you only had 2 because, again, THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME IN THE WORLD.

20. You and your husband look in on the kids before retiring for the night and are just overwhelmed that God would entrust so many blessings into your care.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Look, Mama, I beautiful!

This, my friends, is "Rich Berry" nail polish from Mary Kay along with one two year old in some big trouble.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Life is full of both the good and the bad...

After a wonderful week with our friends, the Schneiders, full of trips to Sea World, Six Flags, the Alamo, the Riverwalk, etc., we had to say goodbye to them last Thursday. They boarded a plane to leave the "land of the available" as Vivian put it to go back to the land of castles, Celtic ruins, French wine. Hmmm. Not sure if that warrants sympathy or not. Nevertheless, we will miss them. Here are all nine of the children the morning Schneiders left.

Just a few hours after they left, I headed to Austin to work at the CHEACT homeschool conference and bookfair, representing Tapestry of Grace. I had a marvelous time. Fortunately for us, the authors of the program were the key speakers at the conference, so not only did we get some great insight from them, our booth was continually packed. I also want to thank Kelly's brother and his wife for lending me a place to sleep not too far away from the conference! What a blessing not to have to drive all the way home, or pay for a hotel!

Needless to say, by the time I returned home last night just before the girls headed to bed, I was quite tired and very short on sleep. After going hard for over a week, and then spending a couple of hard days working, and not being in my own bed, I have been in something of a fog today. But I am so grateful for both the Schneiders' visit and the opportunity at the conference this weekend. But the highlight of the weekend may have been when I got home and all the kids swarmed around me, and Lauryn places a hand on both cheeks and says, "Mama, I so glad you back!"

The downside to the weekend was when my grandfather in Abilene was rushed to the hospital by ambulance on Thursday evening. He'd been having problems with an intestinal blockage all week, and then his heart started acting up. The doctors think he may have had a heart attack. He's being treated for both conditions as well as for difficulty breathing and an infection they found. It was touch and go for a while, but he seems to be doing better today. Granddad is 89 years old, and his health has been deteriorating at a pretty scary rate in the last 4-5 years. He was a carpenter by trade and was always so strong and active that it is hard to see him like this. While it hurts all of us to see him struggle and be in pain, I am so grateful for the assurance that one day, my believing grandfather will be free from all the pain, all the breathing difficulties, and that any goodbye will only be temporary.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

We've been having heap-big fun around our house. The Schneiders arrived Wednesday night, and we were off to Sea World on Thursday. Friday, they took my older kids to the old missions around San Antonio while I kept their little ones and mine - they all needed good naps after Thursday. That evening we went to a fellowship at our pastor's house, where the kids got to play with lots of other short people, and Neal and Vivian got to visit with old acquaintances from when they used to live here.

Saturday saw Vivian and I doing some power shopping. Evidently there are quite a few things that she either cannot get in Germany, or that are quite a bit more expensive. It has been quite eye-opening for me. I guess I take alot of things for granted here in America. It was also an interesting shift in perspective as we would look at something I can get anytime I want, and Vivian says."wow, that's so cheap!" While we were gone the guys took the kids to the park. The kids have all done great at night - I think wearing them all out during the day helps tremendously. :)

This coming week will be very busy (read, I may not post much). We are planning on a trip to the Alamo and Six Flags. Thursday morning the Schneiders have to board a plane back to the land of nine month winter, a.k.a. Germany. I kid - the pictures they post on their blog are beautiful! ( I mean come on - Easter in Rome???)

Thursday I will also be going to Austin to work at the CHEACT homeschooling conference/bookfair. It should be a great one! Not only are Scott and Marcia Somerville guest speakers, but the list of vendors is quite impressive! Rainbow Resource, Children's Books, and of course, Tapestry of Grace, just to list a few. If you are up that way Friday and Saturday, come by the Tapestry booth and say hi to me!
This is my favorite picture from the week so far. This was taken Friday night at the pastor's house and is from left to right: Victoria (age 3), Abby (age 4), and Hailey(age 4.5). Victoria is an only girl with three brothers and Abby is an only girl with five brothers, so they hit it off from the get go. And then of course, there's my Hailey, who barely knows what a brother is. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

To Do: Play with kids

It was one of those mornings. I crawled out of bed a good two hours later than my normal up-and-at-'em time. "Really," I thought, "I will be so glad when the NBA finals are over. I can't stand these late nights!"

As I pulled on clothes and went out to start breakfast, I went through my mental list:

"Since I got up so late, I'm going to have to fit in a workout this afternoon. I hate it when I oversleep - just really gets me behind the rest of the day. Oh, and I need to go to Sam's and get more page protectors to put the new unit of Tapestry of Grace in - can't believe I ran out last night! We've got to get the house clean before the Schneiders get here. That means I'll also need to change the sheets on Brynna and Hailey's beds after they get up from nap, and move in the other beds for the other kids. I'll need to have Brynna and Hailey get their stuff out of that room and bathroom too. I need to make bread today for Kelly. What are we going to have for dinner tonight? Need to look at the menu and see what we aren't having when the Schneiders are here. I need to get the rest of the Tapestry unit in the protectors sometime and see if I can't work on some school planning - I'm way behind if I want to start in July. Will I have time to do any baking today, besides the bread? Probably not. But I really need to water the grass today - I know I'll forget while company is here. Oh, and we have several loads of laundry to get done today so we won't have so much the next few days. Hope the girls remember to bring their clothes down this morning."

You see, I have a couple of faults. I tend to let things get to me, and get stressed when I have a long list like this to do. And when I get like this, I become something out of a Marvel comic book: I transform from me to - da ta da da! - Sargent Mom! So after breakfast the orders started flying out of my mouth. "Kora, go upstairs and start vacuuming; Aubrey while she's doing that, you go clean the bathroom and then you do your vacuuming when she gets done. Brynna, grab the rag..." Well, you get the picture. While my girls are such a big help to me, and I don't know what I would do without them, sometimes they look at me when I get like this, and I can almost see their heads spinning.

Just when my girls thought they were getting a break after about an hour solid of cleaning, I announced that no, you may not play, we have to go to Sam's! And not only that, you WILL be on your best behavior.

As I was driving home, with rather limp girls in the suburban behind me, it struck me somehow that I was being a tad bit loco this morning. The girls had been working hard for weeks, and we hadn't done anything especially fun or different since we got back from our trip. After all, I had thought, we'll do all sorts of fun things once the Schneiders got here. But all of a sudden, I realized how I was letting my to do list run my family. Sure I had stuff that needed to get done, but I didn't have to be a stick in the mud about it.

So I decided to do something we hadn't done in a long time. We had a picnic for lunch.

And not only that, I got them pizza - something we hadn't done in months - and a soda and we took them out to our back porch and ate on our new patio set. We sat in the shade and enjoyed each other, without an agenda or a rush to finish a task. The girls were so excited and acted like they had been accorded a first rate treat.

And you know what? I was much calmer the rest of the day. Sure I was busy. But somehow the urgency and stress had died down. I didn't have this frantic need to check off my mental list. I think that, especially during the cooler months of the year, I need to do this with the girls - maybe not always getting pizza - much more often. I let my to do list rule my life way too much. And when I do take breaks, they are usually away from the kids. But today it struck me that sometimes a break with them can be just as good. And maybe, just maybe, something like a regular picnic with my precious girls will remind me of what's really important.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

100th blog entry!

Wow! This is my 100th blog entry. Who knew I could be so long winded? (OK, hush up, you guys! No smirking or laughing allowed!)

I've seen a tradition to post 100 things about yourself on this occasion. I had such trouble coming up with 7 Random Things lately, that I have decided to be a rebel and break with tradition. You know that I am really a rebel at heart, right? Actually, at first I did write out a blog entry, thinking I would write 100 things about our family and the various members thereof. However, I soon realized that (1.) I still couldn't come up with 100 things, and (2.) that no one would want to read such a boring list. Really, our lives are taken up with work, school lessons, friends, dolls, horses, books, etc. And while we enjoy it, it doesn't exactly make for scintillating reading. Really, anything that would be remotely interesting about us doesn't belong on a public blog! ;)

I have been making progress this week on school planning. I know once my friends from Germany get here later in the week (see my previous post), we will be on vacation, so to speak, from anything responsible like lesson plans. So I have been going over books lists this week to see what I can use from the San Antonio library and what I will need/want to buy for our history and literature needs this year. I was trying to whittle this last list down some, as I have three studying history this year on three different reading levels. And there are just too many good books! OK, so that's not possible, but I am trying NOT to give my husband a heart attack when he sees how much I am going to spend on books. :) So I am trying to concentrate my money on what we'd like to keep around the house and on holes from the library system (it seems to be a little lacking on certain aspects of history, especially those blatantly Christian like the Reformation). Personally, I don't care whether I have a book about Marco Polo around the house, so I am trying to use the library sources for those types of books.

So I've checked out or have on hold 30-40 books to peruse to see if I can use them instead of the recommended books in Tapestry. Unfortunately, some of the books I had hoped to use from the library aren't suitable. I checked out one book about the Mayflower, which was beautiful. The pictures were taken from the reproduction Mayflower II with actors dressed in period clothing, recreating many scenes we know happened from the many journals and records we have of the time. Unfortunately, it was more than a little slanted toward revisionist history: here the evil white people come to destroy the peace and balance of the natives who lived in harmony with the land for hundreds of years. Blah, blah, blah. Sigh. So we will not be using this book. I'd rather spend the money on a good book, than let them read garbage. But I do wish I could cut the pictures out and save them...

And a few quick updates: Brynna's leg is much better. She just a few more doses of medicine and then we are done. Lauryn was bitten yesterday by fire ants, but they don't appear to be doing the same thing, so I am relieved. Still not sure what bit Brynna - Kelly thinks it was a spider.

My MIL is doing very well. She is feeling good and has great range of motion. She continues to get stronger. Unfortunately, she still has one drain that is still collecting too much fluid. This means that it can't be removed yet, which means she can't drive yet or return to work.

My father has been having some trouble with his gall bladder in recent years, but it gotten so bad that the doctors believe he needs it removed. They expect to schedule a laparoscopic procedure after an ultrasound of it on Tuesday. We are just praying that he doesn't have an attack so acute that they have to cut it out sooner as this will be a much harder surgery to recover from.

May everyone have a blessed Sunday... unless you are a Cleveland Cavaliers fan! ;-)

Friday, June 8, 2007


We are definitely getting excited around our house - our friends, the Schneiders, are coming to our house next Wednesday and will be staying about a week until they return to Germany, where they are currently stationed. We'll be doing lots of catching up, going to Sea World and Six Flags while they are here, going shopping, maybe swimming too. I met Vivian when I was just weeks away from giving birth to Kora over 10 years ago. We were both stationed in Oklahoma City and then in San Antonio, so they have been dearly missed as they have lived in Hawaii and now Germany since they left. It will be so good to have them back for a few days!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Can't believe it! One of the few tv shows Kelly and I watched regularly this last season was Jericho, a show about the dreaded "what if?" What if we were attacked by nuclear bombs? How would we survive? How would we get information? How would we get food, fuel, clothing, etc. in this post-industrial age? It was a refreshing change from the normal tv show. It left us thinking nearly every week.

Which means, of course, that it was canceled, gone to tv-show heaven (i.e. DVD set to be released next year). We were quite disappointed.

Thankfully we weren't the only viewers disappointed. Not only has CBS been inundated with emails, petitions, and letters, they have received thousands of pounds of nuts in the mail. This is in reference to the season ending, when one of the characters of the show replied to the leader of an attacking militia leader's demand for surrender with, "Nuts!" (Extra point: this was in reference to a general in what war who replied the same way to a similar demand for surrender? Anyone know?) When word was released that the show had been cancelled a web campaign sprang up, and now CBS has thousands of pounds of nuts sitting in its headquarters.

I think they got the message. :) CBS has announced they are bringing it back mid-season next year for at least 7 more episodes. Hee hee.

Oh yeah, and CBS adds:

On behalf of everyone at CBS, thank you for expressing your support of “Jericho” in such an extraordinary manner. Your protest was creative, sustained and very thoughtful and respectful in tone. You made a difference.


Nina Tassler

President, CBS Entertainment

P.S. Please stop sending us nuts

Ya think? Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

And now on to some fun stuff

Now that the house has been dealt with, we have moved on to something a little more fun! Kora has been begging me to help her sew some clothes for her Violet doll - do you remember the old fashioned, er uh, vintage doll? Well I found some McCall's patterns for dolls with vintage designs.

So Kora picked out a pretty purple fabric and is in the process of cutting out her first pattern. This morning I went over the sewing machine with her, showing her how to thread the machine and sew a straight line. This evening we cut out the pattern pieces, I showed her how to pin them, and she began cutting out the dress.

Aubrey is still hemming up a little dress I helped her cut out several weeks ago. This dress she has completely hand sewn, but when she completes it, I'll let her pick out a vintage-y dress and we'll get to cutting that one out as well. Don't know how much of the machine work she'll get to do though - I may have to help her a little more than I will Kora. :)

Aubrey is also starting her second crocheted doll blanket. She has really taken to the crocheting. I'm gonna have to brush up on my knitting so I can teach that too. If anyone knows how to "purl" let me know so I know who to ask for help!

Monday, June 4, 2007

3rd Anniversary

This past Sunday, June 3rd, our church celebrated its third anniversary. It's so hard to believe that almost four years has past since a small group of men began meetings of prayer, planning and discussion. Then on the first Sunday of June in 2004, we met for worship together for the first time, in a rented hotel meeting room. Since then, we have changed locations and several of our member families have moved away, but I am awe struck at the evidence of the faithfulness of God in our little church. We have truly been knit together in a community, or perhaps, even a family.

Speaking of family, my BIL E.J. was here over the weekend, and was able to spend part of Sunday with us. Here are some pics of him with the girls, who all love their Uncle E.J.
And there are also pictures from the cookout/swimming party we had celebrating our anniversary at one of our members' homes. Thank you, Cahoons, for opening up your house and pool to us!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Update on Brynna's leg

She is doing much better this evening. The clinic called this morning to check on her, and were concerned that the redness had extended beyond the ink circle the doctor had drawn around the affected area last night. We were told that if it hadn't gotten better after one more dose of antibiotics, to bring her in this afternoon for a check to see if she needed to be hospitalized. Fortunately by the time she got up from nap, the redness had receded quite a bit and the swelling had gone down even more. I expect it will look much better in the morning.

Do all families have a Brynna? It seems like if anything happens to a child in our family, a disproportionate amount of time, it happens to Brynna. Who was born with a birth defect requiring surgery? Brynna. Who broke her collar bone when she was 3? Brynna. Who got the chicken pox first when they had all been exposed and none of the others got it? Brynna. (She did then go on to share it with all her siblings. She's generous like that.) Who has tight tendons in her calf making her toe walk, requiring casts, braces, and stretching exercises? Brynna.

Fortunately she's such a cuddly teddy bear of a girl, that you can't help but feel for her. :)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Bits and Bites

Sorry Kim - I think you jinxed me! I have not had a spare moment in the last two days to blog, so I promise I wasn't trying to dodge the tag.

Just tonight I had to take Brynna to a Pediatric Urgent Care clinic because an insect bite she received in the last couple of days had obviously become infected. It had spread from about the size of a quarter at supper last night to 10 times that size, was red, hot, and swollen so much it hurt her to wear sandals. Thankfully the doctor believes we caught it in time before IV drugs were needed, although it is still a possibility if it get worse or she starts running a fever. We were sent home with a script for some really strong antibiotics, which the doc said tastes really bad. Thank the Lord for the flavors CVS will add for $2.99! Lora, I so understand better what happened to you a few months ago!

OK Kim, my five favorite restaurants are, in no particular order:

SONIC - Route 44 Dr. Pepper, easy ice. 'Nuff said.

GRINGO'S - family Mexican food place. If we take the family out, this is where we go. All seven of us can eat for around $30-$35.

PANDA EXPRESS - I LOVE their orange chicken. Stay away from the spring rolls though.

JOE'S CRAB SHACK - This has been Aubrey's (my friend, not my daughter) and my official girls-night-out restaurant. . . until last night. Last night Aub and I went out for the first time in a long time, only to find out that Joe's has done away with the twice baked potato! We both always order the coconut shrimp, twice baked potato and a salad. And Dr. Pepper of course. But Joe's has changed the menu and no longer has the potatoes. I tell you, we felt like crying. We also decided that the next GNO, we are going to Red Lobster, who now carries coconut shrimp as well. And if they don't have twice baked potatoes, then we won't care, because they have the best cheese garlic rolls ever. For those of you who know Aubrey you will understand how good those potatoes were: they were mixed with BACON and she still ate it and loved it! It was a sad turn of events indeed.


Because I think that every mommy of little ones I know would agree with me on this last one, I don't think I'll tag anyone this time.