Sunday, August 31, 2014

Our First Experiment With Cooking Doughnuts!

This past week, the 8yo begged for homemade donuts. I'm very new to deep-frying, but my nausea levels are finally down enough where I can handle bigger cooking projects. So... we gave it a go!

We used this donut recipe and this glaze recipe.

After rolling and cutting (next time I'm making them the old-fashioned way, without holes!):

The 2yo insisted on being in the middle of it all, and he was sooo helpful.

Thankfully the 8yo is finally starting to be a bit on the helpful side (instead of just asking which ingredients he can eat)!

Then - cooking time! This is where a super-expensive culinary degree obviously paid off:

That's right - burned beyond recognition. But let's blame the candy thermometer (which is obviously measuring low and is now in the trash!).

The not-too-burned ones were pretty good. I should know - I tried one and ended up spending the morning good and sick because of it! (Just can't handle the sugar.)

But it was a fun experiment, and I'm looking forward to trying again!

The best of the lot. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Week 28 Pregnancy Update

Howdy, folks!

As usual, we're nearing the 29-week mark as I write my 28-week update, so I'll have to hurry up to get this published on time! Who knew that I would have such a hard time posting pregnancy updates every four weeks?

In the big news...

We have hit the third trimester! Hurray! We're really in the home stretch!

It is my experience that pregnancy crawls through week 20, and then races by till the end. Before week 20, it's a matter of watching the seconds tick by ever... so... slowly. But after week 20, it becomes, "Ack! No! Slow down! I have so much to do!"

That's pretty much the state of things around here.

So here we go:

Pregnancy Health Update

Both baby and I are progressing exactly according to textbook measurements. No known issues of any kind, and all appointments have gone swimmingly.

Weeks 20-24 were a huge improvement in my nausea and energy levels, and weeks 25-27 were similarly another big improvement. The 20's are just a time of great improvement for me!

Third trimester aches and pains (and the good ol' pregnancy waddle!) are once again with us, but I'm definitely not complaining - anything is better than nausea!

Speaking of nausea! I am feeling anywhere from "moderately yucky" to "almost normal." Not bad, eh? I am still nauseated almost all of the time, but my nausea levels are often low enough for me to ignore completely, and they're almost always "comfortable" - if there's such a thing as being "comfortably nauseated."

Getting ready for baby:

  • Afterpains tincture - ordered! Hurray!
  • Calcium-Magnesium supplement (also for afterpain prevention) - starting this week!
  • Supplements for postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) prevention - alfalfa tablets (for Vitamin K) and Floradix (for iron) - in the process of getting these started!  
  • My birth supplies are gathered, sanitized, bagged in plastic, and ready to go!
  • The only thing left to do (beside finishing the spring cleaning) is to order my birth kit! 

A note on blood draws:

My pregnancies are usually needle-free, but thanks to various persons-who-shall-not-be-named in the state health department becoming a pain in the neck lately, I had to get several blood tests. (Thanks a bunch, guys.)

That was the BAD news. But the GOOD news was that Phoenix now has a brand-new technology whereby many standard blood tests can be done by finger-poke instead of the big-horrible-needle bit that can put me under the table faster than anything else. Local friends, if you're interested, check out Theranos for your blood work - good stuff!

Of course, I still did a good bit of inward panicking. However, I did make it out of the office without hitting the floor (always good), and discomfort was minimal.

The hilarious part was that my bottled-up panic decided to burst the bonds of my self-restraint some time later - in the middle of the night, as a matter of fact. I woke up at 2:00 a.m. totally stressed out about blood work: "Ack! Yuck! Ew! No! This is so disgusting!! Aaaaahhhhh!!!" I've never had a delayed reaction like that, and it was hilarious. In retrospect, at least.

Let's just say that needles (of any kind) and I don't mix well. Or rather, at all.

A later note:

The results of my blood test (CBC) were extremely good! Apparently the dessicated liver pills I've been taking for the past sixteen-odd weeks have really helped! Hurray!


Pregnancy What's-Going-On-Around-Here Update

Baby Names

Can you believe it? We still don't have baby names! We need to get moving!

Speaking of moving...

This past weekend we took a two-night trip north to visit DH's family. This is the first trip that we have made since this baby made his presence known, and I was thrilled that I was able to pull it off. Trips are stressful! A month ago I would not have been able to manage this.

While there, we managed to pull off our once-a-year blackberry picking trip. Our total take was very low - we were a bit late in the season - but it's still my all-time favorite activity and my all-time favorite fruit. You may remember that blackberries were the one thing that sidetracked me from completing an entire year carb-free (only one week away from the finish line!). It's worth it.

This year, being pregnant and even more susceptible to nausea, I did my best to practice restraint. Sort of.

Actually, I did pretty well, all things considered, but I did indulge twice: (1) about one-third cup of blackberry cobbler, and (2) about a quarter cup of ice cream (on different days). Lesson learned - again - sugar is still evil. Very evil. Nausea levels increased each time.

But the cobbler was soooo delicious.

My mother-in-law is truly the best cook in the world. 
The kids had a great time swimming and indulging in forbidden-at-home activities (namely, television and junk food):

Meanwhile, on the home education front...

  • We are now done with one third of our school year. Wow, it's flown! Now to try to cram in another third before the little one makes his appearance. Can we make it? It all depends on how soon this little chap decides to join us! But the race is on!
  • About five YEARS after I should have started this, I have finally (after much prayer, blood, sweat, tears, etc.) managed to pull together chore charts and a chore system for the 8yo. Chores are so much work - for ME! Goodness! I'll post soon and share the journey we've been on with chore systems.
    • Okay, actually, in my defense, I actually started this process several years ago - it's just that now is the first time I feel that we're finally getting somewhere. But wow, is it hard!
  • I have made a mid-year decision to add composition to our daily to-do list for the 8yo. He does the composing, I write it down. We'll see how this goes. 
  • I am trying a trial program of eliminating our morning snack time. (Heresy!) But seriously, our mornings are so incredibly busy. Lately it's felt like I'm cleaning up breakfast in order to serve snack, and cleaning up snack in order to serve lunch. Pure exhaustion (and more mess!) on top of an already-busy schedule. So far, getting rid of morning snack has worked very well. It's less work for me, the children don't seem to notice, AND (best of all!) they are eating lunch much more enthusiastically (and with less pickiness). All around WIN!

"Spring" Cleaning

I am now two months into my "spring" cleaning project, working 30 minutes (sometimes more) per day (all days but Sunday). I estimate that I have about a month left before I finish.

Who knew this could take so long?

However, it's lovely to have things cleaner - even little things that I can't see!

Speaking of which, I finally got our couches cleaned! Yes! After meaning to do so for at least four years! And guess what?

They look just as bad as they did before we got them cleaned!

The technician who came to do our cleaning said that the basic cleaning (covered by our Groupon) would do some good, but that to truly resuscitate our couches we would have to add in an extra $250 "deep cleaning" fee. Um..... no.

So I take comfort in the fact that our couches *are* cleaner, even though they look just as awful as ever. That's just life with toddlers (especially one of whom who is a professional mess-maker).

Now onto the carpets!


And there you have it!

Life around here is insanely busy, but it's a good busy (though far too stressful at times). I find that I don't ever feel that I've "arrived" as a mother or homemaker or home educator - it's a constant (and usually steep) learning experience that involves mastering one step and then tackling the next. It never stops. I don't think it ever will.

But that's a good thing. And it certainly keeps me humble.

Have a wonderful week, dear friends! 

I'll leave you with this picture from the archives - DH at a much younger age. Local friends, do you even recognize him?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families - Crockpot Lasagna!

This is another one of those "I can't believe it's THIS easy" recipes. But seriously, it is. Ten minutes and an afternoon in the crockpot, and you're set. Unfortunately I can't eat this on my current diet, but it is an awesome family dish.


Slow Cooker Lasagna

8 lasagna noodles, uncooked
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
2 each 28 oz. jars spaghetti sauce
4 oz. can sliced mushrooms, optional
15 oz. ricotta cheese, or cottage cheese (my choice!), or cream cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Spread a bit of sauce on the bottom of a greased crockpot. Break noodles; Place half in bottom of slow cooker.

2. Brown ground beef in sauce pan, stir in Italian seasoning. Spread half over noodles in slow cooker.

3. Layer half of sauce, half of mushrooms (opt.), half of ricotta/cottage cheese, and half of mozzarella cheese over beef. Repeat layers.

4. Cover, cook on low 5 hours from fridge or 3-4 hours from prep (room temp).

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Benefits of (Too Much) Baby Stuff!

As a budding minimalist (who still has way too much stuff), one of the hard parts about having little children running about is the fact that they come with... stuff. Lots of stuff. Toys, papers, clothing, you name it. Our house may or may not explode any day now.

But the good part about this is that my husband and I constantly have to ship more and more of our stuff out the door to Goodwill to make room for their stuff.

At the end of this parenting journey, we will have practically no stuff left!


Take my dresser for example.

Looking at it, you'd think, "Wow, she has a lot of stuff!"

Well, I used to. This thing used to be crammed full of all of my clothes.



These are the drawers that actually have my stuff in them...

And this is now what's in the other drawers:

Who knew that children could be such aids to minimalism?

I'll make that 100 Things Challenge yet!

(It's also really nice having so many fewer clothes!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families - Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls!

This recipe comes straight from one of my all-time-favorite blogs, Raising Arrows!

Recipe - Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Usually when I see recipes this easy, I tend to ignore them. I've learned (painfully) that recipes claiming "5 ingredients, 5 minutes!" usually have results somewhere in between "forgettable" and "abysmal."

But this recipe was different! It really was easy and fast, and it was delicious! For us, this was a definite keeper!

- For our family (five people), we made a half-recipe.

- It would be easy to stretch this further by increasing the vegetables - for example, by doubling the cabbage and/or the onion.

- My husband and the boys immediately transformed this dish into an Asian dinner with lots of Asian sauces. I preferred mine plain - but both versions were good!

- For the carb-eaters of the family, I served this over rice. For myself, I ate it without rice. An added bonus - it fits into my very-low-carb diet perfectly!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Enjoying the Thrill of the Hunt!

Many years ago, a college artist-friend of mine and I visited a used-book shop together. She immediately headed for the children's books and started flipping through them, remarking, "I always like to look for children's books that have good art, because most of the art in children's books is simply dreadful!"

At the time, I wondered greatly at her comment. Didn't she know how insanely difficult it was to get published as an author of children's books? How could any but the best be on the market? Having never considered the matter before, I was quite puzzled.

The truth of the matter didn't strike me until about ten years later, after I'd been knee-deep in children's books for a couple of years  - "Wow! Most children's books really are awful!"

And it's true - for whatever reason, and despite the fact that it is indeed difficult to get children's books published, a huge percentage of children's books out there are pretty bad quality - either in content, artistic quality, or both. (And this, of course, applies especially to mass-produced "grocery store" children's books and to books produced from children's television shows.)

However, I've spent the past eight years going through "good books" lists and seeing the best of what's out there in children's literature. Now, thankfully, I know what to look for in children's books, and - like my friend! - one of my greatest joys is hunting through thrift stores for the best of the best.

With that in mind, here are some of my latest finds! (Notes on books go from left to right, top to bottom.)

Thrift store trip #1:

  • Poppleton in Winter - We love Poppleton! So incredibly funny. I hope to collect the whole set.
  • Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm - Having just finished with our unit study on Germany, we have read many fairy tales - and the 8yo is thrilled to have his own volume to read!
  • Curious George Flies a Kite - We always love Curious George!
  • Desert Animals - I love collecting good-quality materials that apply to our local habitats. This one is excellent.
  • A Tree is Nice - Classic pre-school/kinder story. I'm so excited to have it!
  • Armies of Ants - This was a hit with our son when we read it a year or two back. I'm so happy to have our own! 

Thrift store trip #2:

  • Heidi (abridged) - We have "Robin Hood" in this version, and it is excellent. I'm thrilled to add "Heidi" to the collection!
  • The World of the Microscope by Usborne - Love (almost) anything by Usborne! I'm always on the lookout for these. 
  • Abe Lincoln and the Muddy Pig - A historical reader - always so fun. 
  • Sybil Ludington's Midnight Ride - Ditto. 
  • The Night Before Christmas (ill. Tomie de Paola) - We love Tomie de Paola! Two of his books - what a score! 
  • Quakes! - A science reader - children love these. 
  • Tomie dePaola's Rhyme Time - I'm always on the lookout for good poetry, having discovered the surprising fact that children actually love the stuff. This is now next on our list!
  • Atlas of United States History - This one was great and will be so handy for history studies!
  • Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia - More Usborne! Hurray! 
  • You Can Do It, Sam! - Wow! We love the "Sam" books, and I never expected to find one in a thrift store! Yum! 

And an added bonus: A free curriculum swap at which I obtained some of my favorite classics (for me as well as the children!):

  • Rod and Staff readers - I'm in loooovvveeee with Rod and Staff. Their stuff is just so sweet. I can't wait to use these with our little guy! 
  • Memorial Press Series Copybook - We will probably have to take a break from Handwriting Without Tears next year, and this is most likely going to fill the gap!
  • Keeping our Children's Hearts - I adore anything and everything by the Maxwell family. I never dreamed of getting one of their books for free!
  • Homeschooling With a Meek and Quiet Spirit - Neither did I dream of getting TWO of the Maxwell books for free, including this one - my ultimate favorite! 

Have I mentioned yet that I love searching thrift stores (and curriculum swaps!) for children's books?

If you're just beginning to learn about children's literature, here are some awesome resources to get started!
Many great blogs and website also have great reading lists - try these lists:

Enjoy, dear friends!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families - Mexican Mess!

I found this super-easy recipe several years ago on the blog Smockity Frocks, and it's become a staple at our house. Seriously - six ingredients and about five minutes of time invested. What's not to love? Especially when you're a homeschool mama, this recipe is an enormous blessing. Serve over chips or like chili with chips to dip.

Mexican Mess

(I call it Mexican Dip to make it go down a bit more easily with the family!)

An easy way to stretch this meal is simply to add more beans. I add two cans for our family, and it would be easy to keep adding - perhaps up to four or five cans.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your Toddler Might Be a Neat-Freak If....

You know your two-year-old is a neat-freak when...

... he throws a tantrum when you forget to have him help clean up the toys.

... he snatches toys away from other toddlers... in order to put them neatly in the box and put the box back on the shelf.

... his one ambition in life is to get the Windex when mama isn't looking and do some clandestine cleaning on his own.

Seriously, this child cracks me up. I have never run across this trait in a child before, and it's (mostly) adorable. I'm doing my best to encourage his neat habits rather than to shoo him out of the way (my natural instinct).

One of our favorite things is when this child discovers a mess of any kind. He will immediately run to me, highly alarmed, and say, "Mama! Mama! Oh, NO!" in the most mournful of tones. It's extremely adorable.

The 2yo and our eldest (the 8yo) simply couldn't be more different in this area. We could set a bomb off in our home and the 8yo would still say, "Mess? What mess? I don't see any mess." He may or may not take after a close-relative-who-will-not-be-named but who is similarly oblivious to messes.

It never ceases to amaze me how different children of the same parents can be!

Asleep with his beloved scrub brushes. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families - Italian Soup

I've decided to run a new series, dear friends! And here it is...

"Easy Dinners for Homeschool Families"

As a homeschooler, my days are FULL. And by "full," I mean that I hit the ground running and just go from morning till bedtime. Oftentimes, when it comes to making dinner, I'm exhausted and ready to stop for a break, not dive into another huge, messy project.

Thus, this series!

This is going to be a very low-tech series. It won't be regular, it won't be scheduled, and it won't have fancy pictures or step-by-step instructions. For that, you're on your own. I'm just going to post either the link or the typed recipe of any dinner dish I find that works well for a busy homeschool family (interpretation = it's easy to make!).

Our first dinner dish - Italian Soup! Enjoy!

Italian Soup

1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed if present
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
One 14 ½-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
½ tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
½ tsp. dried basil, crushed
¼ tsp. dried thyme, crushed
2 14-oz cans chicken broth, or equivalent of homemade

Saute sausage, onion, and garlic until sausage is brown. Combine with all other ingredients in crockpot.

LOW for 8-10 hours or HIGH for 4-5 hours.

If you want to add pasta: Add another can of chicken broth to the mix. At the very end turn to HIGH, add ½ cup dry orzo or broken cappellini pasta, and cook for 20 minutes.

Recommended topping: Parmesan cheese.

Good optional ingredients: Cooked green beans, some sort of green (kale or spinach), or cooked white beans.

My changes: I doubled the carrot and celery, and would add still more next time.

Monday, August 11, 2014

How to Pick Homeschool Curriculum!

I'm laughing as I write this post, because I myself (a veteran of only three years) have so much yet to learn in the arena of home education curriculum. It is a vast field that encompasses an enormous number of choices, and when combined with both your child's temperament and your family's personality, is one of the most complicated areas of home education. It is only the super-veterans (also known as IPGs, or Institutional Pillars of Greatness) who can speak with true authority on this subject.

However, in three or four years, I have learned quite a bit! Each year has added greatly to my knowledge, and while I'm far from curriculum fluency, I am starting to find my feet. Thus, from one newbie to another, here are a few "do and don't" statements about homeschool curriculum.

(1) DO expect to be confused and overwhelmed.

If you get to listen to a homeschooling mother describe her curriculum choices, you'll hear something like this:
"Well, for child one-of-ten, I'm using Tapestry of Grace for history. But we're adding some of the activities from My Father's World, as well as some of Story of the World and Mystery of History. Then we're going to add in the read-alouds from Sonlight, the recipes from Galloping the Globe, and substitute writing assignments with Institute for Excellence in Writing, all while utilizing a Charlotte Mason notebooking-journaling approach."
That's for one subject for one child. And yes, they really do sound like that. And that, my friends, was one of the main reasons why we quit homeschooling very shortly after we started - because I was completely confused and overwhelmed by curriculum choices and the complexity of what other more established mothers were doing. Not only did I not know which way to turn, I couldn't even understand the vocabulary of the conversation! It looked and felt completely hopeless.

It still feels that way sometimes.

But the truth is that one does learn. One really spends the first year or two of home education just learning the lingo and learning more about all the curriculum choices out there. Now I can discuss history choices with some fluency (ditto with other subjects), even though I have a long way to go. It's not nearly as intimidating as it was four years ago.

Additionally, I find myself to be a homeschool minimalist. My history plan will never look like the above, because I cannot deal with that level of complexity. When asked about history, I can say, "We use Galloping the Globe." I tend to keep things as simple as possible, so I've stopped trying to reach for levels of curriculum awesomeness like that achieved by others.

(2) DO expect to spend lots of money on a curriculum you don't end up using.

A friend told me about this phenomenon, so I was prepared - and determined not to fall into the same trap. I researched extensively, spent quite a bit of time talking to other mothers, and made sure before ordering. And guess what? We didn't end up using it. (Goodbye, $400!)

Just accept the fact that you are, indeed, going to buy curriculum that you don't end up using. Why? Because buying curriculum is like buying a piece of clothing that you haven't tried on. Sometimes it's a great fit, and sometimes... well, sometimes it looked better on the hanger.

Oftentimes our ideals of what we think will work for our families (or what we want to work for our families) are quite different from the harsh reality of what actually will work for our families. And you can only learn those realities through trial and error.

And that's okay. It's part of the process. Additionally....

(3) DON'T worry when a curriculum doesn't work out for you.

Having a curriculum not work out is not a tragedy. It can actually be a huge blessing. Why? Simply because you will learn so much about yourself and your family by experiencing what doesn't work for you - as much or more than you will learn from a curriculum that does work.

When our first curriculum didn't work out, I learned a ton about our family. I learned that our son is not an advanced reader. I learned that girl-type books do not work for him. I learned that we needed to do history and science as a family, not on individual levels. I learned that I have a passionate loathing for all comprehension-type questions. I learned that I want to wait to introduce adult themes until our children are older. And on, and on, and on. Going through that curriculum was a huge benefit to our family, and it helped to guide future decisions and build my knowledge base of curriculum types. I wouldn't change a thing (except for the $400 bit).

Don't worry when "the perfect curriculum" turns out to be a bust for your family. It happens to everyone, and you'll learn a lot in the process.

This is the picture to cheer you up after you blow that $400 on a dud curriculum. 

(4) DON'T expect a curriculum to fit your family just because it works for your best friend.

When people begin to homeschool, the most natural place to turn for curriculum advice is to homeschooling friends. And that's a great place to go. I do it all the time. But do not assume that just because a curriculum works for your best friend (or any friend!) that it will work for you. Families are different, and a perfect fit for her family may be a terrible fit for yours.

This has happened several times to us! On one occasion, a certain curriculum was recommended strongly to us by several close friends. For them, it was brilliance incarnate. For us, it was a complete and total disaster that brought me to the point of despair at the thought of having to endure it for another year.

Not everything works for every family. And that's okay.

(5) DON'T choose a curriculum out of guilt.

At this past year's homeschool convention, I came very close to making a curriculum purchase. I can't say that it was something I really wanted, but I was extremely tempted... because it was a curriculum choice made by a blogger whom I really admire. And that was enough to push me toward buying it.

Thankfully I came to my senses before shelling out the cash, because I think it would have been a fairly poor fit for my family - it would have come under the subtitle of "yet another workbook with which to torture our son." But I was really, really tempted - again, out of sheer admiration and/or guilt.

Just don't do it. Look to your family, look to your husband, look to the Lord to find out which curricula you should choose - but don't choose something simply because you feel guilty that so-and-so is using it and you are feeling the burden of "she-is-so-I-should-too."

(6) DO look at a curriculum (preferably physically, or at least online) before choosing. You can tell a lot by your reactions.

Reading reviews will tell you a lot... but it won't tell you everything. One of the best ways to tell if a curriculum is a good fit for your family (besides spending hundreds of dollars on purchasing it and then using it for a few months!) is to take the time to look at the curriculum - either online (most websites have samples online) or, preferably, in person at a convention or exhibition.

Sometimes you will open a curriculum notebook and know immediately that it is not your style. There is simply an inexplicably negative reaction that is an extremely reliable predictor of curriculum non-success. You will know.

Other times, you'll open a notebook and find that - regardless of whether or not you like the ideas - just looking at the curriculum makes you want to explode with panic and/or stress. Yet another good sign that this curriculum is not for you. I have this reaction every time I try to crack open a book from KONOS or Tapestry of Grace. Both are among la creme de la creme of homeschool history curricula, but neither works for us. And looking at materials is a great way to rule out non-possibilities before you spend the money based on good reviews.

(7) DON'T choose a time-consuming curriculum.

This came straight from an experienced homeschooling mama-friend: "Don't choose a time-consuming curriculum. It will destroy your family."

There may be some who disagree here, but I have found this to be true. One of the beauties of home education is that it does not take eight hours a day. Rather, home education leaves time for play, for unstructured free time, for personal projects, for life - without strapping a child to a desk with endless busy work. However, there are curricula out there that are filled to the brim with busy work and will attempt to make your home into a school-at-home. Especially with active boys, this is asking for misery.

To put the above prohibition into a positive form, I would say that if you do choose a time-consuming curriculum, make sure that it is because you and your family thrive on it and it brings you joy. Don't do it out of guilt or because you have believe you need to.

(8) DON'T think that kindergartners need a full curriculum package.

When I started our little guy into kindergarten, I believed that we had to have a full curriculum package that included reading, writing, math, language arts, history, science, Bible, and whatever else could be crammed in. Most beginning homeschoolers share this (mis)conception, and nothing could be farther from the truth.

If you want to do a full package, and your student enjoys it, fine! Have fun! But for those of us who have little people who are not yet ready for seat work and concentrated academics, take heart. Kindergarten can be as easy and simple as you want to make it. Remember that the original kindergarten was basically play time to let children adjust to being in school - not the accelerated programs of today (which have no statistical support to back them up - quite the contrary).

Try some of these simplified programs on for size:

Kindergarten = Phonics + Handwriting + Math

This is what we started with, and next time I'd probably do:

Kindergarten = Phonics + Math

If you truly want to keep it simple, try:

Kindergarten = Phonics

Or even:

Kindergarten = LEGO's + play time + read-alouds + playing in dirt and being a child!

Don't feel pressured to take kindergarten further or faster than you or your child can handle. It really does come more easily at a later age.

Ditto for preschool.

(Some kids love seat work and are begging for it even before kindergarten age. If so, go for it! The moral of the story is to go at a guilt-free pace that gives joy to you and your child.)

(9) DO realize that it takes a minimum of three years to feel comfortable in home education - and that includes curriculum choices. 

This article really helped me to feel more relaxed in those stressful first few years when I felt that I knew nothing, could do nothing, and would never learn. "I can hang on for three years." 

And guess what? The author was right! Now that I've completed our third year of home education, I feel much more at home in my chosen vocation. I can speak the language (at least a little bit!). I know the key words. I can dive into discussions comparing math curricula and approaches to teaching history. I've learned a ton about what works and doesn't work for me, my family, and my student(s).

I am still learning, and will be for many more years. But there really is an initial learning curve that peaks at about the three year mark when one can say, "Ah... I feel better now. It's not hopeless after all."

If you feel at sea with regard to curriculum choices, hang on. Keep reading, keep learning, keep absorbing information. Eventually it starts to make sense.

(10) DO pray over your choices. 

Every family is unique, and the Lord has a unique plan for your family's home education program. We can learn a lot from our friends (mine are probably tired of the constant barrage of questions), but only God can reveal to us His plan for our family and our curriculum choices.

Sometimes a curriculum choice is easy and clear-cut. In our family, Handwriting Without Tears has been an easy call that required little to no discussion or mental angst.

But in many curriculum-choice situations, I find that I am simply torn several different ways, and am unable to make a decision despite hours of research and talking with friends. In those situations, the answer is prayer - and in each situation, the Lord has been faithful to reveal His will and lead me in situations in which my own tired brain simply cannot make headway. I am so thankful for this. When you need guidance in curriculum choices, remember to pray - preferably before you spend $400 on a curriculum that you end up giving away on Freecycle.

Seasoned veterans in the crowd, what would you add to the above tips? I'd love to hear your wisdom!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Week 24 Pregnancy Update

Actually, I'm writing this during week 25 (almost 26), but just humor me and pretend that this post is on time! I'm running late (on many things!) around here.

Life has been super-busy here for the past few weeks as I run frantically about trying to get my life together again. Routines! School! Chores! Housekeeping! Planning! Cooking! You get the point. There just hasn't been a lot of time for writing.

But the list of blog topics is building up in my mind, and I need to set aside some time for writing. Thus, I start with that which I have most neglected - a pregnancy update.

I have been meaning to write a pregnancy health update, and also a pregnancy what's-been-going-on-around-here update. This post will have to combine both. So here goes! Let's start with what's happened lately with pregnancy, nausea, the very-low-carb diet, and all of that:

Pregnancy Health Update

The Very Low Carb Diet

I have gradually added some "low-carb but not very-low-carb" foods into my diet, starting at around week 16-18. The end result is that I have gradually travelled from deep ketosis through mild ketosis and am (I suspect) no longer in ketosis at all (I will find out officially tomorrow, but I suspect that I left ketosis at about week 22).

I am actually a bit disappointed with this. After all of the research that I've done into ketosis, I now consider ketosis to be an extremely healthy state, and I'd rather be in than out. However, that's life! And it is nice to have some more food variety available to me. Foods that I've added include:
  • Small amounts of low-glycemic index fruits, such as apple and berries
  • Full-fat cottage cheese
  • Full-fat plain yogurt (watch the brand - for example, Mountain High has nearly twice the carbs that Dannon has)
I've also indulged in various "bites here, bites there" of totally off-plan foods, as well as a few meals that were 100% cheating (chicken with corn and beans, lasagna). While it's been awesome to have foods that I haven't had in several years, I can say with confidence that every indulgence in carbs has made me feel yucky. In fact, one of the closest times that I came to throwing up was at 23w0d after eating the chicken/corn/bean dish. Yikes. And it doesn't matter whether the carbs are "good" carbs or "bad" carbs - my body doesn't really care. For right now, carbs are just not my friend. Too bad. I'd looked forward to spending the second half of my pregnancy being able to eat the foods that I haven't eaten in so long, but it looks like my vulnerability to post-carb blood sugar crashes is going to stay with me. I'll have to cram a whole lot of cheating into the immediate postpartum. Christmas cookies, anyone? 

As a matter of fact, I'd probably be doing much better if I was still strictly on the VLC diet with no cheats (even the low-carb cheats). However, now that I'm not as vulnerable to nausea and am able to handle them better, it is nice to have those foods. 

How I'm Feeling

Right now I feel anywhere from "okay-ish" to "yuck." Nausea is still present around the clock, but it's only troublesome at various points during the day. I still have not thrown up (YAY!) or taken any medication stronger than a half-tab of Unisom. 

Weeks 20-24 were a time of great improvement, in terms of levels of fatigue and nausea. I'm still nauseated, and I'm still tired, but I'm doing so much better than I was a month ago. I'm back at church, I'm back to doing most of my household responsibilities, and tomorrow I'm going to do my best to take the children to our first park day since March. (Or rather, my first park day since March - DH has kindly taken them to their park days while I've been out of commission.)

How Baby's Doing

Baby finally has a nickname - Thumper! He is such a little wiggleworm - a very active and enthusiastic little chap. I enjoy his in-utero gymnastics very much! 

We do not do routine ultrasounds, so I cannot give any *definites* on baby's health. However, every single prenatal marker for baby (fundal height, heart tones, etc.) has been exactly spot-on, and all of my checks (weight, blood pressure, etc.) have been normal. So far, this pregnancy is proceeding according to textbook measurements. 

Pregnancy Weight Gain

Speaking of textbook pregnancy measurements, one added benefit (of many!) of the VLC diet has been a more normal pregnancy weight gain. As of my 21 week appointment, I had gained only 19 pounds, which is extremely low for me. During my other pregnancies - most likely due to the constant high-carb eating to fend off nausea - I gained weight at an incredible pace, for a total of something like 80 pounds or more. (Even during my active-HG pregnancy I managed to gain a net 25 lbs.) Very hard for mobility, very difficult to lose in the postpartum. I'm thrilled to be gaining a more reasonable amount of weight this time. 

Pregnancy What's-Going-On-Around-Here Update!

It's Nesting Time!

I have been having great fun with a new project - making comprehensive checklists for spring and fall cleaning! While I love having a clean house, in the past I've had to rely simply on my obsessive-compulsive cleaning habits rather than any type of regular schedule. With these lists, I can simply move from one project to the next without having to rack my brain trying to figure out where I should focus next.

Yes, I really did remove every single item and dust/wash the entire thing! One of my bigger projects so far.  

Only problem? Having worked thirty minutes a day on these projects for two months now, it now appears that "spring cleaning" is going to take me approximately... the entire year. Seriously, do you realize how much work there is in thoroughly cleaning a house? It's incredible! At this rate, I'm hoping to finish up working through the lists once before baby makes his appearance. And I'm not even moving furniture to vacuum! (Deep cleaning is one thing. Moving furniture is another.)


I'm also working on another fun project, simply for the pure joy of it, which I will announce... when it's finished! How's that for giving lots of detail?

Back to housecleaning...

I managed to jump one of my mental blocks last week - I used some Groupon Bucks to order a couch cleaning! It's tomorrow! Now let's see if I can soldier on and manage to do the same with a carpet cleaning! Seriously, these things make me a total nervous wreck. I despise ordering services of any kind. But they do need to be done, and I'm doing my best to make them happen! 

Homeschool Diaries

We are now more than one-quarter of the way through our school year, which is a source of great encouragement to me. It's gone so quickly! I am pressing ahead ruthlessly, knowing that baby is not going to wait for us to finish up our work before putting in an appearance! That means Saturday school when math doesn't get done, but thankfully, we've managed to put in full weeks almost all of the time. 

I'm also starting to work on curriculum choices for next year. Some looming questions include:
  • Which Language Arts program will we choose?
  • How will we choose to teach history over the long-term?
  • Which add-ins will we choose for next year (Spanish, piano, etc.)?
The work never stops. 

Speaking of work, we very recently (as in yesterday) decided to give me an hour or two on Sunday evenings for lesson planning. This includes:
  • Printing planning pages and filling them out
  • Printing craft and science experiment directions and making shopping lists for ingredients
  • Filing
  • Researching, printing, communications, scheduling, etc. 
It worked beautifully this week but for one thing - one hour wasn't long enough! Hopefully we can swing two hours next week, and that will be a big help.

Birth Prep

I have started gathering birth supplies (hurray!) and last night finally broke out the Hypnobabies CD. Still to go - ordering my birth kit, mail-ordering my afterpains tincture, and finishing the work on my before-baby to-do list

Life in General

As I've mentioned before, I spend a lot of post-morning-sickness time just trying to work back into real life. I don't know how a four-month hiatus manages to wreak such havoc, but it really is hard remembering how to do life again - how to regain routines, how to plan meals, how to get the children back into a structured existence, etc. Every time, I have a very difficult time getting back to normal. It's not an easy transition - it's very time-consuming, confusing, and stressful. However, I am happy to say that we are indeed working back toward normalcy, and the past few weeks have seen great progress. I can say now that we are mostly back to normal around here, although there's still quite a ways to go. But honestly, "normal" is a fleeting state around here. Perhaps I should simply adjust to a new normal, as a wise fellow blogger once put it.
"I clearly remember praying one day, 'Lord!  I just want to be hormonally and physically normal for a while!'  And He very quietly and lovingly said, 'This is the new you need to adjust.'"
That's what my life feels like, for sure!

In the meantime, life is super-busy with spring cleaning, school work, and all of the insanity that comes from having young children around 24-7. 

I'll try to get some of my post-ideas down on this blog soon! In the meantime, love to all!