Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Misc. Updates

First off, my grandfather is actually improving. He is expected to go home from the hospital later in the week. He is breathing better, but a lung function test has determined that his lung function is below 20% now, down from 35% just over a year ago. His heart has been weakened by the arrhythmia, too fast heart rate, and the lack of oxygen caused by the emphysema. Even he says that he is getting to go home "for now." He knows the end is near - whether the end is next week or next month or in 6 months. But he has had 2 very close calls in less than a month, so I guess I am not expecting the end to be far off.

I don't think I am the only one, as both my sisters and their families were in this weekend, as well as all of Granddad's living siblings (5 - one brother and 4 sisters - one brother has already passed away) have been in to see him, one of my grandmother's brothers and another niece, my cousins have been down a couple of times as well as my aunt and uncle. And of course numerous members of their local church family. He was so touched and thrilled to see everyone over the past week or two.

And he is just the greatest testimony to everyone. He is still as friendly and lively as he ever was, pleasant to the nurses, and talkative to visitors. As much as he has suffered in the past couple of months, he has not let it turn him into a crotchety old man. :-)

School is going well. This is the first week we've been in full swing - history, science, foreign language, everything. I have tweaked quite a few things this year - some routines and some curriculum - and it has made a huge difference. I am still contemplating switching grammar books. The ones I am using are designed for private schools - which means there is too much busy work in them. So I am culling down assignments, which has been a big help.

I am still busier than I had been as I have a Kinder and a 1st grader, who need much more hands-on help than I have had to give in the last couple of years. But it has been going pretty well. Hailey is sounding out a few three letter words, with much giggling and inserting of um's that are not in the text, but I think she'll get there. Thursday we are starting science - astronomy! Wonder if I can figure out a way to hang a model solar system from the ceiling of our two-story entry way....

And, if you still have a recipe you feel inclined to send me, please do! I've received some good ones, so keep 'em coming!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Recipes, anyone?

My current method of menu planning, which has been in place for 2-3 years now, is to work off of a four week rotation of meals. In other words, I plan out four weeks worth of meals and then go through the same menu again. But I tweak it now and then, as meals go out of favor, or I get a new recipe that is an instant hit. I need to tweak mine again, and I have two meals I really need to replace.

So I'm asking, does anyone want to share a good family friendly recipe with me? I'm looking for every day kind of meals here - not the all-day feast fit only for company type meals. It's relative frugal-ness is a plus. It can be stove-top, oven required, crock-pot, anything goes here.

So please help me! If you'd rather email it to me, and you don't already have an email address for me, send it to: tcskrs at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Change of plans

So instead of going to the lake this weekend, we are going to Abilene to see my grandfather in the hospital. He's been very ill, and frankly the doctors have been quite befuddled. His family doctor was convinced it is his heart, the heart specialist was convinced it was his lungs, and no one is agreeing on anything.

Except his family has decided we all need to go up for a visit. I hate to think that this might be the last time, especially as the thought has been in the back of my mind every time I have seen him for the past 3 years. Both my sisters will be there with families in tow this weekend, my parents, and my aunt are there. My cousins were in to see him last weekend.

The news is better than it could have been. Last weekend I thought we might be traveling up this weekend for a funeral. And they are talking of plans for when he is released (and not if). He will be receiving home health care, probably for the rest of his life. But I hope this weekend brings him a lot of pleasure. It's been a long time since we were all together.

Besides, Kora, Aubrey, and I made him two different kinds of cookies today.

And in any case, if we had gone to the lake this weekend, it would probably just RAIN!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ode to Little Girls' Hair

When I first dreamed of motherhood, many years ago,
I dreamed of pigtails and curls,
Never really dreaming of what all
else came with these girls.

Bath nights are very fun indeed
with rats and tangles galore.
Brushing out each wet head
with cries and shouts of "No more!"

Each Sunday morning much, much time
is spent on all long tresses;
so much so that this chore takes much longer
than getting into dresses.

Speeches proceed from our mouths
that we never thought we'd make:
"Look, your hair is in your food!" or
"Get your hair out of your plate!"

Even daily chores see the impact
of long and curly locks:
wads of hair pulled off the broom,
caught in all the towels and socks.

Perhaps to no other thing
could the girls' hair be meaner
than to the brush that needs cleaning out
EVERY WEEK in the vacuum cleaner.

So when you think of bows and ribbons,
lace, beads, and pearls,
remember what really goes on
in the house-full-of-girls!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Your strength shall equal your days (Deut. 33:25)

Every day the Lord himself is near me
with a special mercy for each hour;
all my cares he fain would bear, and cheer me,
he whose name is Counselor and Pow'r.
The protection of his child and treasure
is a charge that on himself he laid;
"As your days, your strength shall be in measure,"
this the pledge to me he made.

Help me then in every tribulation
so to trust your promises, O Lord,
that I lose not faith's sweet consolation
offered me within your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
e'er to take, as from a father's hand,
one by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
till I reach the promised land.

Day by Day and with Each Passing Moment by Carolina Berg

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I feel like I'm repeating myself

If I say that almost constant headaches have kept me from posting much this week, will I sound like a broken record? Wait, no one even has records anymore - in fact, my kids don't even know what they are - so do we have an equivalent modern expression for this? Anyway, I just haven't felt up to being very creative this week.

My grandfather's health continues to decline. They did determine this week that he is suffering from congestive heart failure. His blood pressure stays dangerously low and the fluid build up in his body is not going down. They altered his medicine last week, and told my grandmother and mother to call them back if he wasn't better by Monday. He's not getting better, so I am afraid he might have to be admitted this week. But if there is nothing they can do for him, I'm sure he'd rather stay home. I can't imagine how hard this is on my grandmother and mother. But I'm really proud of how my mom has stepped in to be there for them. If he continues to do so poorly, I'll probably be making another trip to Abilene soon.

School went reasonably well this week, especially considering the way I felt. This coming week we'll pick up where we left off in May. We'll talk about Rome falling and its aftermath. The question is around here, will it be raining while we are studying again this week? We have gotten several more inches over the last few days, though the sun is shining as I write. I'm convinced this must be the wettest and coolest summer on record in San Antonio, but I don't have statistics to bear me out on this.

If you know me at all very much, you know I love to read. I usually have 3-4 books I am reading at any one time, as well as one on tape/CD in the stereo in the workout room. (This is also why I don't keep up with listing my current reads - I'd have to change it several times a week.) I also tend to get on "kicks" - I'll read a book by a new author and then, if I like it, proceed to read all the books by that author I can lay my hands on. However, ever so often, I go back to some old favorites. Right now I'm on a Jane Austen kick. I love the subtle wit, dry humor, and - I'll admit it - the downright romance of an Austen novel. So if you need a good escape, read one. Or better yet listen to one or tape or CD. I love the British voices they always get to narrate them. They've made some pretty good movies out of some of them as well...

Well, gotta go, I have a copy of Emma I'm going to watch...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kindergarten at the Academy

This week marks the fourth of the girls who have started more or less official lessons. Although anyone who has homeschooled a child from the beginning, having never placed them in intitutionalized school, knows that often a bit of a misnomer. As all parents are teachers to their children, and most spend some of the pre-school years teaching numbers, letters, colors, shapes, etc. as well as things like how to tie a shoe or Bible stories, the transition to "school" is a gradual, very natural kind of thing.

In actuality, Hailey, my almost 5 year old, has been having phonics instruction for months. So even though I consider her as official now, in reality it is just a continuation of what has been happening since birth. But I am doing things on a little more of an intentional basis, making sure we have time for certain things every day.

Today we started with Bible devotional that includes all the children. To start the year we are going through Our 24 Family Ways by the Clarksons. Then while the older three start in on things they can do independently, Hailey and I sat on the sofa and had a 10-15 minute phonics lesson. She has learned all the letters and their sounds, but our long break has caused her to forget a couple of them, and not be as quick to remember others, so we are spending this first week in review. I am using The Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, which has a wonderful poem to help remember all the consonant sounds. So we recited that, and then played a game with index cards. Each card has one consonant on it, and she had to give me the correct card that matched the sound I made. When she gets far enough along that she can read simple books - like Bob Books - I'll have her read to me out of one after the daily phonics lesson. But we aren't there yet. :-)

When we finished that, we moved on to math. We got out the big bucket of Duplo sized Legos and dumped them out. Then we counted all the legos. Then I would give her a pile of less than 20 legos, and she counted those. She still gets a little mixed up in the "teens" in counting, so I was having her count up to these numbers a few times.

I have never used a kinder math curriculum. Instead, I have several activities which I call "Kinder math," most of which were inspired by Ruth Beechick's An Easy Start in Arithmetic. I'll document some of these as the year progresses. However, one of the bedrocks of my girls' Kinder year is the use of all sorts of "manipulatives" - a fancy educational-ese term for concrete objects used to illustrate mathematical problems. I don't buy packaged sets, but we'll use legos, paper clips, books, marks on a paper, I think I even used M&M's once (but only with the oldest one!). We'll count them, sort them, add them, subtract them, group them, etc. This is probably the best preparation for further math that my girls have had.

Finally, we started going through the Kindergarten handwriting book I am using. I have taught all the girls to write using the Italic Handwriting series. This series teaches printing in a way that minimizes the number of times the student picks up her pencil to form a letter. Then when cursive is introduced, it does not look like traditional cursive, but rather like joined printing. It is so much easier to learn than traditional cursive, where you basically have to learn an entire new alphabet. But this week, she is just beginning the first book. When she is finished with it in several weeks, she'll move on to copywork: she'll copy short sentences I've written out on Kindergarten sized lined paper.

In total, this took less than 45 minutes today. When the older girls start history, she'll listen in on the books I read to Brynna, and do some of the fun projects with her - coloring pages, making things. But other than reading books to her, she is done for the day. This is the pattern that all the other girls have followed in Kindergarten, and it has worked as a great foundational year. By the end of the year, the girls were reading well, had a good grasp of some basic mathematical concepts, and could write all their letters. Hopefully, this year will work as well for Hailey. I'd hate to have to reinvent the wheel.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Girls Only Club

The first day of school went very well yesterday. Yes, it took them longer to do math than normal, but I had anticipated that. That's one reason we ease into school somewhat. But we did get devotions, grammar, spelling, dictation, copywork, phonics, and math done yesterday. A pretty good day's work.

Today we are having our first break. No, normally one day of school is not enough to wear us out, but one of the girls' long time friends is in town this week visiting her grandparents. Molly used to live here but sadly moved to Virginia a year and a half ago. She flies back home to her parents tomorrow, so this was the only day she could come over and play. This is one of the beauties of homeschooling - its flexibility! When I went to pick up Molly this morning, I also picked up her cousin Abby, our Pastor's daughter, who is Hailey's and Brynna's friend. So our house is one big girl party today!
Hope they have a good time, 'cause tomorrow it'll be back to the books. :-) But for now it is a sweet time of dress up, make believe, and memories.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

OK, so is it summer yet?

I still can't get over the weather here this year. I'm not complaining, mind you, just still a little incredulous. After all, it is mid-July and we have not had very many days in the 90's! Usually we are counting how many days above 100 we have! Plus we got rain again last night. I have watered our yard once this whole year - and I really shouldn't have because it rained 2 days later. That'll teach me to not check the forecast! But I can't remember our yard - or all of San Antonio of that matter - being so green for so many months in a row. The only downside, according to the girls, is that "we never get to go swimming." We have, just not nearly as much as normal.

My beloved HP printer/scanner/copier/fax machine is showing signs of dying. I could just cry. So I have been online looking for a replacement. As much as I would LOVE a color laser all-in-one, I don't think it is going to be possible right now. But even a new ink jet will be better than running to Kinko's all the time. I don't see how those of you who homeschool without a home copier do it! I know, I'm spoiled. ;-)

Well, tomorrow's the day. Back to the old grindstone - I mean back to the joys of learning! Yeah, that's right. I'm sure the girls are thrilled. :-) My books are in place, the binders and notebooks ready, just need to sharpen pencils and we are ready. Uh oh, I think I forgot to stock up on Dr. Pepper and chocolate...

I got a call from my mom this afternoon. My grandfather is still doing poorly. He's been on oxygen 24 hours a day for a week now, his ankles are swelling due to lack of oxygen, and he continues to weaken. My mom had called my grandmother this morning to check on them, and my sweet grandmother actually asked my mom for help - a sure sign that things are bad. It seems to be a family trait to refuse to ask for help even when it is desperately needed. I feel so helpless not being able to do anything for him, for my grandmother, or my mom. I'm grateful I got to go see him not too long ago. This is very hard. Thank the Lord that we don't look ahead to the future "as those who have no hope."

Now I am not holding my breath, but there is a chance that Kelly will be going on a two week business trip to Hawaii in September. But I am trying not to get my hopes up that it will work out for me to go. Really, I'm not. Honestly.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Are the cows on strike?

So does anyone know what's up with the price of milk? I went to Wal-mart today, and a gallon of the store brand milk was just under $4.50 a gallon! I held off, and went to HEB, where it was only $3.30 or so a gallon. Are Wal-mart cows in negotiations for a higher salary? I about choked. When your family goes through about 4 gallons a week, that's quite a good chunk of change out of the grocery budget!

Maybe my husband's idea about getting a farm with a couple of cows isn't so bad... Think my breast pump would work on them? ;-)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sea of Pain

In case you are wondering about the lack of posts this week, I have been having a bad attack of migraine headaches. Or rather headache, since it started Sunday a lunch time and is still going on. After the pain keeping me awake till nearly 3 am yesterday morning, Kelly stayed home from work yesterday long enough to take me to the doctor. After that I've been much better, but still have a low grade headache.

So I have not done near as much on my to-do list this week. In fact, I haven't done much of anything except lay on the couch. I am better today, and hopeful that the last vestiges of this pain will go away soon.

Come back in a day or two and I'll be back to my normally chatty self. :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

You're a little young to be worrying about wrinkles...

Tonight after Kelly gave Lauryn (2.5 yrs) a bath, he lifted her out of the tub and started drying her off. She looks down at her hands and then holds them out to Kelly.

L: "Daddy, whas wong with dem?" (translation: What's wrong with them?)

K: "Nothing honey, they just get like that when they are wet."

L: "Why?"

K: "They just do. Everybody's does when they get wet.

She was relieved to find out they would go back to normal when she got all dried off. :-)

Monday, July 9, 2007


So this is the last week before our school year begins. I'm making final preparations, making sure notebooks are all set up, plans are made, books in hand. Actually, I should be getting my big book order on Thursday, just in time to get them on the shelves.

When I first began homeschooling, a friend of mine gave me a tip that really does help get started back after any kind of long break. The first week back we only do math and language arts (grammar, spelling, and a little writing). The next week I add in something else, this year history and literature. The next week we'll start science and foreign languages. This gives everyone time to ramp up and get used to the load. Math always seems to take twice as long after a break, even though I have had them do some math in the last two months. It just isn't that same.

I have enjoyed the time off, even though I don't feel like I've had much of a break myself. I've had a good time though, especially when our friends, the Schneiders, were here. But it will be good to get back to the structure the school routine affords.

Anyone else starting soon?

Saturday, July 7, 2007

This week's project: hanging shelves

This week, Kelly and I have been installing these cool shelving units in our garage.
We bought three of them and they hang from from ceiling joists in places like garages, basements, etc. where you have wasted space above. Our attic is small, so we are utilizing the space above our garage door. These are available from Lowe's, hold up to 250 pounds, and are a great storage solution.
We were able to really clean out the garage, getting rid of some things we never use, and putting up these shelves. We are putting things up there that we don't use very often like the camping gear, Kelly's golf clubs, baby stuff not currently in use.

Our next step, in a few months, will be to get some tool storage for all Kelly's tools. But it is so nice to have such a large portion of a major project like this behind us!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Lunch Idea

Any mommies out there looking for a delicious, quick, low-cal idea for lunch?

Get a package of "Flat Out Multi Grain Wraps" (I haven't seen these at HEB, only Wal-mart). 100 calories each but with a yummy, nutty flavor.

Get a package of cream cheese (I get fat-free) and make a spread out if it. I add 2 Tbsp dijon mustard and 1 Tbsp honey to 1 package cream cheese. This keeps in a plastic container in the fridge for a while. (BTW, I borrowed this idea from a Pampered Chef recipe card I've had for years.)

After spreading the wrap with the cream cheese mixture, add lean lunch meat. My current favorites are rotisserie chicken and smoked turkey breast.

Top with a large handful or two of either lettuce or, like me, just grab out of the bagged salad I always keep in the fridge. Roll it up and you have a filling wrap with lean protein and the equivalent of a large salad with less that 300 calories. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

An Epoch in our Lives - UPDATED

UPDATE: Those dark clouds off to the west? Well they did put a slight damper on the outing. The girls did get to ride, but only for 30 minutes instead of the full hour as planned. While it only lightly rained, there was thunder and lightening near-by, which can spook horses. In spite of this, the girls had a wonderful time!

As I am typing this, Kora and Aubrey are at a ranch west of town with a group of 8-14 year old girls from church horseback riding. Yes, my horse-crazed girls are "finally" (their words, not mine) getting to ride a horse again. Hopefully I'll get pictures of the ride itself later from the parents who went with them.
It was an excited group that gathered this morning.
The only thing that could dampen their enthusiasm might be the dark clouds off to the west.

So what do those girls too young for the excursion do? I promised them a morning date with play-doh, a rare treat indeed! The reason Lauryn isn't in this picture is that she lost getting to play with the play-doh because she kept eating it.
I also think another picnic will be involved, as long as the back porch is dry. :)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The past is always with us

Yesterday I made a flying trip to see my grandfather and had a very good visit. As I mentioned in a previous post, my grandfather was rushed to the hospital a week ago on Thursday with complications from his COPD which at the time seemed to be a heart attack. After a week in the hospital he is now at home and so I wanted to go for a visit. We were afraid that all the kiddos might be too much for him if he wasn't feeling well, plus it would probably make more work for my grandmother, so Kelly stayed here to keep them and I made a day trip to Abilene.

It was a good visit which I enjoyed very much. But it was also very hard to see one of the strongest men I have ever known wasting away before my eyes. But yesterday was also a day that remain in my memory a long time as I heard him talk about times we've shared as a family, times before I (or my mom) was even thought of, and about his deep faith in the Lord. He even teared up a few times, especially as he talked about how the family has been around him, helping him in the last couple of weeks.

I usually keep books on tape or cd in the house, as I listen to them as I run on our elliptical machine. I've been listening to A Tale of Two Cities and I took it with me yesterday on the drive to and from Abilene. I finished it today (in fact I wasn't quite through when I got done with my workout, so I sewed on Aubrey's doll dress so I could stay in the room to finish it). All I can say is WOW. I had never read this before; but, in spite of a very mediocre narrator, I completely understand why it is considered a classic. Even though it is set in the French Revolution over two hundred years ago, it is such a powerful tale that will continue to resonate as long as the English language lasts.
This last week I got much accomplished in the school planning area. I got science planned out until the Christmas break. I have Tapestry as planned out as I can get until I get my map cd and my books. I'll be placing my big book order this week, with proceeds from the conference I worked last week. I also have our devotional planned out for several months and I'm working on a new chore chart. I have to tweak it every once in a while as the girls grow up and I can spread the duties out to other girls, or as our schedule changes I will shift chores to less busy days.

I still need to finesse a few final things. When I added Brynna to the "Academy" last year, it turned out to be not a very big deal as Kora and Aubrey's independence in several areas has greatly increased in the last year or two. However, this year I'll have a Kinder and a 1st grader who won't be as independent, so I'm sure I'll be tweaking the order we do things as we go along. But I'm looking forward to it.

Here's one final shot of me with my grandparents: Marvin Adams, Staff Sargent in the China-Burma-India theater of WWII, elder of his church for over 30 years, married for 64 years to Bonita Woods Adams.