Thursday, February 18, 2016

I'm Moving!

That got your attention, I bet! No, I'm not physically moving blog is moving! I have grown weary of blogger for a few reasons and also, there's been a lot of changes since I first started this old blog back when the boys were little.

So hop on over to my NEW blog (where you'll still find all my posts, pictures, etc!) It's called has a new name! Don't worry, you'll get used to it quickly and I think it's a little easier to remember:)

See you there!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

100th Day of Homeschooling!

I have been wanting to do a homeschooling post for awhile, as we get asked often how it's going and today seems perfect since it's the 100th day!! (okay, I started this post yesterday~Monday it was yesterday!)

We are celebrating because it is a big accomplishment for all of us! We had smoothies and baked oatmeal this morning with "100" in berries on top:) We are doing little fun activities like filling out "100th Day Newspapers" and an estimation/actual sheet on activities done in 100 seconds. The kids are having fun!

Whenever people ask me how it's going, I have to think about it for a minute because it's hard to know what to say or what not to say. And I tend to babble a bit, afraid I am boring people! Homeschooling is going well overall. I don't always feel that way because just like most other people, we have good days and bad days.

It's been a big learning curve for us, figuring out how to work with each other in a small space five days a week! The kids can get snippy with each other and I'd be lying if I didn't mention that I can get snippy, too. Our days tend to go better when we start with a devotional and a little prayer:) We have to work hard on being respectful and NOT complaining!

How do we keep order?

Our four rules posted on the wall are:
1. NO complaining
2. Do your best work
3. Have a good attitude
4. Be respectful

Short and sweet! If they do not follow the rules, the consequences are:
1. You must leave the school room (it is a privilege to be in here!) and you will lose 5 points (we start with 100 points on Mondays)  and possibly gain an extra chore for the day.
2. Write 30+ times an apology for the offense. Lose 10+ points.
3. Lose extracurricular activity and/or privilege. Lose 30 points.

We haven't gotten to number 3 yet, thankfully! They rarely have to do number 2 (that's considered a bad day!) and they really hate to lose points. If they get below 85 by Friday, they are not allowed to have dessert that night or watch a movie/play a game with the family. If they end the week above 100, they get rewards!
What do they study?

Instead of investing in an already made up curriculum (which can cost up to $1,000 per child!), I did a ton of research and picked from several different things. Some are free and some I bought used on ebay. The biggest chunk of money I spent was on a new set of math books. The good part is that they will last for several years!

I am always looking for more things to add to our curriculum to make it more fun or to go more in depth. We get a LOT of books from the library! As in, we always have at least 30 or more checked out at a time. The library is an amazing resource! We even do their languages through a program at the library. Cool!

If you have any interest in knowing specifically what they study, I am more than happy to share. I just figured it would bore you!

Do we like homeschooling?

It was a huge adjustment for us. I knew it would be (because I was told it would be!) but that is different from experiencing it:) Samuel had the hardest time but finally around November, he told me he liked homeschooling. Zakkai has trouble focusing (which wasn't a surprise!) so we have tried to do a few things to help, such as diffusing some calming oils in the schoolroom and he got a portable CD player and good headphones for Christmas so he plays classical music to block out his siblings, which helps a lot! I also separate them when I can:)

I like homeschooling most days. I love that they don't have homework and we don't have to spend our afternoons battling with kids cranky from a whole day at school, hungry, tired, etc. We are done when we are done! I like the extra time with them (mostly) and the extra opportunity to be able to instill the values we want to in them, without constantly having to undo the damage caused at school. And believe me, there was damage! I really like organizing all of our work and doing research for it. I love the people we have been able to connect with this year and all the support from other homeschooling families!

What is tough is constantly trying to guard our schedule and often being made to feel like I am this mean old mom who forces who kids to work instead of having fun. I do take this seriously and I have a responsibility to make sure their work gets done and they are learning a lot! I also get very frustrated when the boys mess around and pick fights and have trouble concentrating. It makes the days soooooo much longer! I also feel frustrated with myself often, wondering if I am doing the best I can and feeling the pressure to juggle all three of them, in three different levels of school. Exhausting!

What about Eliana?

Eliana, I have to admit, has had it easy this year. It has been so challenging to just get the boys going that she has had several days where I don't make her do anything. I always feel guilty but it is what it is and I am trying to have some grace for myself!

She has workbooks she has been working through, Pre-K and Kindergarten and she loves doing several pages a day in those. She has flashcards with sight words on them that we go through and I try to do a letter of the week with words to practice writing and an art craft! Unfortunately, it's a little slower than I was aiming for:)

 She also participates in our Road Trip USA history curriculum and loves learning the states/capitals and coloring a sheet for each state. She knows some of her stuff better than the boys! She also listens in on Spanish most of the time and recently I got her a special book to work on her reading and she loves our reading lessons! I will be working hard to develop a curriculum for her kindergarten year next year and really incorporate her into the school day more. I will definitely need some prayers for wisdom for that because it can be overwhelming!!

All in all, things are going well and we are all learning and growing together. Please feel free to ask any questions you have!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Oliver Twist!

 Warning! There is kitten cuteness overload ahead!!

Since Christmas, we have been anxiously awaiting our weekend of travel to get our new "baby," as we call him:) A week and a half ago, we hopped in the car after Ben got home from work and drove to Chicago. I think most people thought we were a little crazy driving so far for a cat but most people don't really understand what this kitten means to us. It's actually hard to put into words.

We started dreaming of him when things were falling apart in Chicago and we were making our choice to leave or stay. He became a goal for us, a sign of hope and healing, maybe. So we started our Kitty Jar and all five of us, and a few other people along the way, added to it little by little and it's hard to believe he's finally here!

We had another good reason for going to Chicago, too~we got to spend a little bit of time with our dear friends, whom we have missed so much! It was far too short of a time but we were able to get in a little play time with their adorable boys and catch up a little over some amazing flourless chocolate cake! (mmmm, my mouth is watering, remembering!

This was our first glimpse of our baby! The breeder brought him out and we all melted into a puddle and unanimously agreed that he was way cuter than we had hoped for:) He ended up in Ben's arms, purring, while I signed papers, etc. Darling!

Oliver is a Blue Minx Mitted Ragdoll. The Blue Mitted part means that he has gray ears, a tail and nose, and white "mitts" on his front paws and all white back paws. The minx part means that his fur is a blend of colors (cream, gray and a hint of a brownish-gray color) instead of being just cream (which it would be if he was only blue mitted.) And of course, his eyes are a beautiful blue, as Ragdolls are supposed to be!

He slept in his carrier almost the whole 7 hours home, except for a brief stint in my arms. I couldn't resist!!

Look at those baby blues!

He has quickly adjusted to his new home! His favorite place to sleep is behind my head on my pillow:)

After a few days, we let him check out our school room and he found a safe spot to nap!

He is a snuggle-bug! He loves to climb right up by my face and purr his little heart out and sleep! Sometimes he gets into such a deep sleep, he rolls down and I catch him in my hand and he stays asleep:)

Running up and down the stairs is exhausting!

He is everything we hoped for and dreamed of and we are all crazy about him! Welcome, Oliver Twist!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

2015 Rehash

I was thinking that before we got too far into 2016 (it's only 12 days in so that's okay, right?!), I should think about what happened in the past year and pick out some highlights.

Last Year:

*We started out the new year deathly ill with the real-deal influenza and still remember the horrors of it a year later!

*Last January, we finally felt settled enough to begin to get involved in things and come out of our Ohio shell-shock.

*Zakkai turned 8 last February and got to celebrate with his Lego party on a cold winter night:) It was lots of fun!

*Zakkai started Tae Kwon Do at the end of March and is now on his 5th belt! It has been SO good for him, in gaining confidence and learning to control his body. He was even brave enough to test by himself this last time which was a big deal!

*Samuel started baseball in the spring, having only done some recreation baseball at the Y in Chicago. Ben was his assistant coach in the spring and the fall and they really enjoyed it! Samuel definitely grew in his skills and learned to love pitching and first base. He wants to do it again this year!

*Challenged myself to a huge May Minimalist game and got rid of tons of stuff and had my first garage sale!

*Samuel turned the big 10 in July, double digits! He got to celebrate with a friend/cousin party at Magic Mountain. He has definitely matured a lot and we begin to see what the dreaded "P" word will look like with him. (hint: emotional!!!) He also has a great sense of humor!

*We had a rough year at school and in March, knew something had to change for the next year. After months of talking, praying, checking out options, we made our big decision in July to homeschool for 2015-2016. Wow, what a change that has been! It was a rough start the first few weeks, as we did and did not anticipate but we began to see a change for the better after the first month.

*And...right when we were starting to get into the swing of things, we moved! It has been a great change for us for the most part. We really love our new home. It has lots of great space for us and just feels a lot more like home. Everyone who comes in usually loves it, too:) It's also great for hosting parties, as we have found!

*We found a science co-op to attend, started this fall and it has made a world of difference in our homeschooling adventure. We have met the nicest families and have learned a lot. Glad we took the plunge on that one!

*Our Joy-Girl turned FIVE at the end of October, after eagerly anticipating it for at least 6 months:) She had a rockin' Ballerina party, complete with a surprise bouncy castle! Her emotions have been up and down since turning five but she is working on it and is still (mostly) as sweet as sugar:)

*I also entered the world of building furniture with my re-purposed entertainment center-turned-sewing desk and my new kitchen island. It's really fun and kind of addicting! I already have new ideas for the next project...:)

*We reconnected with a few old friends, made several new friends and at the very end of the year made a church switch (same church, new campus) and have enjoyed that change. It's been better for all of us.

And a few silly things:

*Favorite books read by me this year:
 "Seven" by Jen Hatmaker. Truly rocked my world. Loved it.

"The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo. Recommended to me by a few people. It's a Japanese style of approaching de-cluttering and it was really cool! Some parts were...interesting but a lot of it was great and I am using a lot of it in my house and my mom and I are helping other people, too!

"More Charlotte Mason Education"  by Catherine Levison. This was the book that finally made everything click about homeschooling for Ben and I and everything took off from there. It had some really great food for though about our children's education!

I read a lot more but those are three off the top of my head that really impacted me in different ways.

This year I am started off with favorite books on a totally different note as I research our family health and eating habits. My current favorites are:

"It Starts With Food" by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig

"The Whole30" also by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. We'll see what comes out of reading these but they are definitely giving me "food for thought." Pun intended, haha!

Favorite Movies of 2015:

"Inside Out" definitely! We've seen it 3 times!! Once in the movie theater in 3D (in which I discovered I should never ever see 3D movies!) and then on Redbox. It's worth owning so if you haven't seen it yet, do it!! (side note: after watching it again over New Year's break, our little family was talking about our emotions and who we think we are mostly "driven" by and it was such a fun conversation! We all agreed that Eliana is mostly driven by "Joy" and it comes to my mind often as I watch her sing and dance and just enjoy life!)

"Saving Mr. Banks" I know this wasn't a new movie but it was new for us! It's the story behind Mary Poppins and the author. It was so well-done, even better than we expected and we loved it!

"The Shop Around the Corner" It's the black-and-white, old version similar to "You've got mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I loooooved this movie and Ben did, too. We are suckers for old movies!!

I am not sure what to think yet about this new year in front of us. It will be filled with changes (as years always are) and I must admit I am gun-shy of changes after the last several years but I am hoping to approach a new year with a little more hopefulness and eyes opened to the ways in which God is working.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 I have finally figured out how to get pictures from my phone to  my computer, using the good old fashioned usb cord:) I think picture-less blog posts are so boring!

I made a new tree skirt this year for our tree!I got some fabric last year and never did anything with it (story of my busy life!) but finally decided to spruce up our tree:)

Funny...I never took a picture of the actual tree! It was pretty and very tall! The tallest tree we have had yet!

Eliana got shots a couple weeks before Christmas for her 5 year check-up and this was her reaction to the polio shot:( Poor baby!

Eliana and a couple classmates waiting for ballet class to begin:) So sweet!

Speaking of sweet.....Eliana had her first ballet recital just before Christmas! It was the casual Christmas recital (and SO cute!) and the fancy recital is in June. Eliana did a great job! Actually Eliana's class did the best out of most of the younger classes, if I don't say so myself:)

We made cookies over Christmas! Ben took the week off of work and we relaxed and hung out!

I was sick with a stomach bug on Christmas Eve so I felt pretty crummy on Christmas, unfortunately and had to take most of my Christmas pictures from the couch! The kids have really been into duct tape lately and they made each other (and us) lots of duct tape presents:) Samuel is holding his present from Zakkai~a printed picture of our family in a duct tape frame:)

Christmas morning at my mom's house. I barely made it but I so hated to miss out on all the fun! (Samuel is wearing his duct tape baseball hat:)

Eliana and Cousin Evy:)

The boys with some fun educational toys!

We also got money for a COSI membership (a really fun local scienc-y museum) so we went last week with a couple of friends. I haven't been since I was a little girl and since they built the new one so it was fun for all of us. Now we know what to do during winter!

And Zakkai belt-tested this week for his purple belt! For the first time, there was no one else in his group testing so he was all by himself. He was nervous but he did such a great job! We are proud of you, Mr Z!

We are so proud of him for all that he has learned and the confidence he is gaining!!

And THIS was our best Christmas surprise of all!!! It was a fun story how God worked it all out and we were able to surprise the kids on Christmas morning with the news that we will be headed to Chicago next weekend to pick up our new baby! (just one). We are so excited to meet our new addition!

Happy New Year!