(Almost) 10 Ways We’ve Played and Learned Lately

I haven’t done one of these lists in so long, so I thought I’d try to do a quick one (like I have ever been able to in the past?!).

Here are a few ways we’ve played and learned here lately……

1. We went to Valleyfair, an amusement park in the Twin Cities, for their homeschool days.  I brought Fiona, Alex and their friend Cody.  It was a fantastic day!

2. I’ve been publishing a free printable nature magazine for kids this year, Wild Kids Magazine, and Fiona especially enjoys it.  I’ve had Alex and Jack write articles for it, too.  As soon as I print it, Fiona grabs it and sits to read through it.  It has nature journal pages where she can track the birds and animals she sees that month, color botanical coloring pages, keep track of the weather for each day of the month (coloring in a weather tree) and such.  She also loves that she often spots pictures of herself and her siblings in it.  🙂

3. It’s always been a struggle to get Jack to want to write, so we’ve compromised and I have him lead his younger siblings on D&D campaigns.  He writes out all the information, stats, maps, etc. on a giant whiteboard.  He also reluctantly keeps a private journal, just so he has a little bit of regular time writing and recording his days.

4. Fiona has been working on telling time, along with a.m. and p.m.  She has a little workbook I picked up at the dollar store that has you do things like put times in order from first to last, choose whether to use a.m. or p.m. and write in how many minutes past the hour it is and how many minutes to the next hour.

5. We went hiking with friends at a nearby park with a waterfall.  We try to go there a few times a year and it’s such a magical place.

(almost) 10 ways we learned and played lately6. We’ve spent a lot of days at the lake, especially with Rhia, Fiona and Moose.

7. Jack had a suspicious lump removed from his jaw by his parotid gland.  The doctor thought it was just a cyst but because of Toria’s parotid cancer in the same spot, we wanted to be especially cautious.  He had to be put under for the surgery but came through it well and the tests came back negative.  This wasn’t fun at all, of course, but it was educational and was a pretty big thing for Jack.


And as I was blogging this, Fiona came and asked me to go play in the rain with her.  I told everyone else to go play in the rain and Alex finally reluctantly went, and I realized that I never want to be the kind of mom who says I have to finish blogging instead of playing in the rain with my kids.

(No photo because I was playing, not taking pictures!)

So I left the blog and went and ran in puddles and played in the rain, and now we’re wet and I have hosed off a shrieking little girl in the shower and a grumpy 12 year old took his own shower to hose off the mud (meaning 5 minutes longer he had to wait before running outside to play with Cody) and I have to get supper on the table before they all leave for rehearsal, so you don’t get to know what 8, 9 and 10 would be.

Okay, I guess one of them would be that we played in the rain.  🙂




I Love This Kid

Someone commented on this video that she just wanted to share the gospel with this kid.

I know a lot of people have posted the whole “it gets better” thing for all the kids getting bullied.

But you know what?

Kids shouldn’t have to get enough religion that they can bear to stand their lives (or enough religion to change who they are so people won’t be horrible to them).

It shouldn’t have to get better in adulthood.

It just shouldn’t be okay for any people (little or big) to be violent or hateful to any other people (little or big), especially not to the extent that is ACCEPTABLE if it’s happening to kids.

You tell ’em, kid.

If a child is being bullied and it’s not getting better, the child deserves to learn/live/be somewhere better. That should be a basic human right.

Homeschooling is an option for any child.  Alternative schooling is an option.  There are lots of options besides letting children live through hell and calling it a normal part of childhood.

Of course, in a perfect world it’s the bullies who’d have to go find somewhere else to be.


Baby Preparations

Kara over at Simple Kids wrote recently about how their family was preparing for the baby coming soon.  She asked how others prepared for upcoming babies and it got me thinking.  Not that I haven’t already been thinking about the subject!  Fall is coming soon!

Many of the things that are normal for other people don’t apply in our case.  We don’t use a crib or babysitters, for instance.  I’ve never been one to collect a lot of baby gadgets like wipes warmers, changing tables or nursing pillows.

There are a few ways we do prepare when a new baby is coming around here, though.  Some of them are especially important because I must have C-sections and I do not recover very well from them.  I also know that sometimes things go wrong (with Jack’s delivery they accidentally cut my bladder and I had to also recover from emergency bladder surgery, for instance).  We also don’t really have people who come help out (most of our friends and family live a considerable distance away and visit for a day at best) and we’re largely on our own.

So preparation is very important here.

1.  In the months leading up to the birth, I teach the children skills to help take over housekeeping jobs while I’m recovering.  Victoria learned to do the laundry when I had Alex, for instance.  I printed all the instructions and taped them up by the washer and dryer, and she did it with me until she was good enough to do it on her own.

2.  I am teaching each of the older kids how to prepare a few simple meals.  My plan for the upcoming months is to teach each of the girls how to make 3 of our standard suppers.  We have Mexican just about every week, for instance, and we can skip the made-from-scratch refried beans that need to soak and simmer from the night before but they can easily use canned beans and packaged tortillas to heat up our typical make-your-own spread with toppings.  Other meals I plan to teach them to make include stir-fries with rice, spaghetti and simple pasta dishes.  With Jack, I’ll help him get more proficient at simple lunch meals (yogurt parfaits, sandwiches, etc.).

3.  I have cloth diapers ready and flip-top garbage cans upstairs and down for diaper pails.  I’ll have cloth wipes in recycled plastic containers nearby.  I’ll go over the simple washing instructions with Victoria as the date approaches so she can help wash them in the early days.

4.  I’ll have the house stocked with healthy, easy to make snacks and light meals so the kids can be pretty self sufficient during the day.  I’ll make a couple of pans of mix-and-match quick bread and mix-and-match granola bars.  We’ll have lots of fruit on hand, along with oats and toppings for oatmeal, dried cereals, bagels and cream cheese, trail mix and yogurt.  This will also help keep me fed, as I’ve had problems in the past when Daryl took the older kids off for the day and I was stuck in bed with a C-section wound and a newborn and nothing to eat!

5.  There will be lots of good things to keep the kids busy and learning.  I’ll order lots of extra books from interlibrary loan for the kids to plow through, stock my iPod with educational and fun apps, strew some low-fuss new art activities and make sure we have lots of fun things like LEGOs, Duplos, blocks, race tracks, etc. for the boys.

6.  I have baby basics (a few clothes, my favorites slings, a thrifted stroller) but need to get a car seat!  I also need to find a snowsuit, since she’ll be coming as winter is approaching and it will probably get cold quickly.

7.  I’ll work extra hard to get the house in order before the baby comes, since I’ll be able to do so little once she (yes, she!) is here.  This also includes packing up lots of extra clothes and toys in storage so there’s less around to make messes with and pile up.

8.  I’ll write some extra articles and queue them up to publish in my Examiner.com columns, since I depend on that money and am supposed to publish a minimum of two articles per column per week.

9.  I’ll make sure to do any painting and bring in any new furniture or carpeting well before the month the baby comes, so there is not off-gassing going on when we bring her home.  Even low-VOC and no-VOC paint fumes have been found to release dangerous levels of chemicals into the air (especially for infants), so any painting we do will happen in the next month with all the windows open and me gone as much as possible and we won’t paint in our bedroom where the baby will be sleeping.  I have extra air-cleaning plants to help there, too.

10. We’ve talked to the kids about the baby and all that’s going on.  Daryl always does extra with the older kids when we have a new baby, and the girls are also very good little mothers to their younger brothers.  I’ll always be available for extra snuggling even on bedrest with our little one, and I’m sure there will generally be a pile of kids around me to keep me and the baby company (just as there always is now!).

I still have so much to do in terms of the house and meal preparations, but I feel very emotionally ready for our little one’s arrival.  I thought my days of welcoming new babies were over and especially thought my days of baby girls were long gone, so I’m more excited than anything.

I also have a real sense of calm.  I know from experience that babies really need so little besides mama’s milk, a blanket to wrap up in and arms to hold them.  And I do have an abundance of arms to hold our little one!  Everybody is excited about welcoming her, and Daryl is the best baby snuggler.  One nice thing about having a large family is that our babies never need to sleep in cribs or bassinets because someone is always more than willing to sit on a couch and read a book with a baby in their arms.  🙂

Now if we could just agree on her name….

Folktales, Freebies and more

Jason snatches the Golden Fleece. Greek Vase from the 5th century BCE (Metropolitan Museum, New York).

Here’s a round-up of stuff I’ve been meaning to share…

Fairy Tales, Folktales, Fables, and Folklore

This great web site contains hundreds of stories from mythologies around the world.  From Finnish folk tales to Anderson fairy tales to parables of Buddhism, there’s something for everyone.  This would be great to combine with studies of countries or family heritage.

70% of science fair winners are children of immigrants

Only 12 percent of Americans are foreign-born, the NFAP report says. Even so, children of immigrants took 70 percent of the finalist slots in the 2011 Intel Science Talent Search Competition, an original-research competition for high school seniors.
Of the 40 finalists, 28 had parents born in other countries: 16 from China, 10 from India, one from South Korea and one from Iran.
“In proportion to their presence in the U.S. population, one would expect only one child of an Indian (or Chinese) immigrant parent every two and a half years to be an Intel Science Search finalist, not 10 in a year,” wrote the report’s author, NFAP director Stuart Anderson.
…”Our parents brought us up with love of science as a value,” David Kenneth Tang-Quan, whose parents emigrated from China to California, told Anderson, according to the report.
Pinterest pages
I’ve heard about Pinterest, where you “pin” web sites you like and can see what others pin, but I wasn’t all that interested.  Until I saw this mom’s homeschool pins and realized what fun this site could be.  I could lose a lot of time here!
Newest homeschool writings
Here’s what I’ve been churning out in the HS front lately at the examiner, on everything from free transcript templates to how Montessori changes from middle school to high school years…

And here’s the latest in other subjects…

And a little sap…  🙂

The Never-Ending Parent

On the personal front, the baby is now very, very wiggly.  He/she doesn’t have a certain time of day or night to bounce around.  It seems to be most of the time!  Hopefully we’ll get an ultrasound next month and finally get to know whether it’s a girl or boy.  I’m so impatient to know.

Victoria is visiting homeschool friends a few hours away this week.  I’m impatient for her to come home, even though I’m sure she’s having a blast.

Anna is taking Irish step dancing lessons for a performance she’ll be doing with a small group of girls in the pageant this year.  The teachers are local homeschool graduates who taught themselves to do Irish step dancing years ago and have performed all over through the years.

Jack and Alex are currently helping Daddy at the cabin and museum.  They’ve been spending much of their time outside and generally end each day covered in mud, sand, scrapes and who knows what else.  I do like summer!


On the Agenda: Plan, Party, Fight, Play, Plant, ID, Clean

On my agenda for the next week:

  1. Plan Jack, Alex and Victoria’s birthdays (Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday), throw one party, host one soiree, make three cakes, buy presents, survive.
  2. Take the kids to see the CSI director, who’s in our little town again, and perhaps fight with him again.  Last time, he told me I shouldn’t bring children.  Pfft.  In the first place, he doesn’t know my children.  In the second place, I would consider it nearly criminal to have a CSI director come and talk for free to a room full of people, give inside secrets, explain how special effects are done, and NOT bring my children.  In the third place, my kids loved it.  Okay, Anna fell asleep, but Victoria loved it.  🙂
  3. Have the kids try and play some educational games.  BTW, here’s ten educational apps that are free right now.  I also want to try this math game.  Oh yeah, and I want to print out this chemistry card game from the fabulous Ellen McHenry site.
  4. Plant some flowers to cook with. Here’s a list of 10 edible flowers I posted yesterday.  I’m planning on writing up a page of recipes for each flower and trying as many as possible this summer.
  5. Do some wildflower ID’ing with this wonderful Minnesota wildflower site.
  6. Magically clean my house. A lot.

In other news…

I am just too sick and overwhelmed right now to do anything this ambitious right now, but this homeschool mom blogged some great rock and mineral projects for younger kids.

I wrote up articles on Homeschooling through the seasons, 40 Ways to calm a fussy baby, and Homeschool 101: Where can I find standards and skills lists for every grade, among others.

And the morning/afternoon/evening sickness is still… making life interesting.   I am mystified as to how I can get sick this often and still have a belly this big.

Okay, the continous supply of chocolate truffles might have something to do with it.  😉



What Does April Snow Bring?

Well, spring was nice.  Apparently it’s over though. We woke to snow on the lawn today and it’s been dreary and cold for a week.  The weather forecast is more of the same as far into the future as they’ll tell us.  Sigh.

I’m still in a bit of a pregnant fog.  The morning sickness (they really must come up with a better name for that, since it’s day and night!) is getting a little bit better.  I am still prone to holding my belly and cursing the heavens, but without quite the same level of ferocity.  😉  I’m not exactly peppy though, and tend to get about as much done per day as your average ball of lint.

Tonight I gave each of the “big three” kids a list of 10 chores to do in exchange for a Kit Kat bar.  They don’t get candy bars often and they pretty much raced through their lists.  I’m thinking chocolate will play a big part in my housekeeping routine in the upcoming months.

In two weeks we have our annual frantic birthday marathon.  Jack will turn 8 on April 30, then Victoria will 13 on May 1, then we’ll have a day off and then Alex will turn 4 on May 3.  I am not ready for this.   I want to find a way to make it all magical for the three of them.  On May 4, I’m totally collapsing.

Daryl took Anna, Victoria and Jack to the auditions for the Wilder Pageant on Friday.  Jack tried out for the first time and I hear he rocked it (he even sang!).  This will make the girls’ 7th year and Daryl’s 6th I think.  Anna started acting in it when she was four!   I’m excited about another year starting up, even though it’s so much time and work for everybody (even me and Alex, who have long nights alone for two months!).

Her’s a bit of what I’ve been yapping about online lately…

On the homeschooling front:

Science freebie roundup — 23 free magazines, curricula, classes, DVD’s and more

My Science Box offers free science curriculum

On the parenting front:

Artisan’s Closet holding art contest to win up to $40 worth of art supplies

Attachment Parenting 101: How can I parent without punishment?

Review: Amanda Soule’s “The Rhythm of Family”

On the Green front:

Get free glass reusable straws for taking a stand against plastic

29 Reasons to hang out your laundry

And with that, I’m off to finish my own list of 10 chores.  And moan a little.  It’s what I do!  🙂




I am a terrible blogger lately. I am also a terrible house cleaner, homeschooler, bedtime book reader, writer and general person.

I mostly hold my belly and groan.

Hopefully I’ll be done with my progesterone soon and perhaps that will help.  Next week I have my first prenatal appointment (the doctor won’t see me until I’m done with the first trimester) and if all looks good I should be able to stop the supplements.  Actually, if it’s all bad then I’d be able to stop the supplements too, so either way I should be done with those soon!

I’m trying so hard to do good mama things.  I’m just so sick and so tired and so weak, I’m not that good at it!  🙂

Here’s some writing elsewhere to make up for my quiet here…

Easy ways to give kids the gift of good handwriting

Sure, you could have your kids do endless copywork and penmanship lessons, but for many kids that’s about as fun as watching paint dry.  Luckily for parents, there are lots of sneaky ways to improve their handwriting that they’ll…

Free lapbook and lesson plans to teach children about Japan

In the wake of the tragedy in Japan last week, many families are focused on the country.  If you’d like to do a unit study on Japan, here are some great resources around the web.  Lapbook Lessons has a wonderful free lapbook on the country with…

Happy Saint Urho Day!

Sure, much of the world will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow, but how about joining in with the Minnesota-born Finnish-American festivities of St. Urho Day today?  St. Urho is a mythical Finnish hero who was created by imaginative…

Review: iHomeEducator’s Wonders of Old Ancient Timeline app

iHomeEducator has teamed up with Knowledge Quest to present Wonders of Old: Ancient Timeline, a unique educational app that uses photos, links and facts to create a new kind of timeline…

Researchers find that attached babies grow up to be better partners

A new University of Minnesota study shows that attachment parenting doesn’t just help children in the short term, but also helps them in their romantic relationships when they are grown up.  Researchers found that young adults who had been…

12 Great sources of natural mulch for your vegetable gardens

Do you mulch your vegetable gardens?  If you don’t, you should.  The right mulch helps retain moisture, prevents weeds from getting a foothold and even enriches the soil as it breaks down.  Here’s 12 great sources of natural mulch …

Anti-GMO groups call for boycott of Land O’Lakes for secret GM seed company

Minnesota-based dairy giant Land O’Lakes has quietly created a company to team up with Monsanto and produce genetically modified alfalfa, leading sustainable farming advocates and anti-GMO organizations around the country to call for a boycott…

Review: Thugs, Drugs and the War on Bugs

Every once in a while, you come across a book that makes you question everything you thought you knew…

Sixteen ways to save money on organic foods

Yes, organic foods do often come with a higher price tag.  The more you’re willing to work and be creative, the lower that price can get.  Use these strategies and you can eat delicious organic meals at less than your neighbors spend on drive-through…
Goals for tomorrow:
  • Get outside and puddle stomp with the kids.
  • Do a fun craft.
  • Order neat sounding books through interlibrary loan for Daryl to pick up, so I can still read buckets of books to the kids.
  • More laundry
  • Finally remember to get the beans soaking in the morning so we can have Mexican for supper (I may be unable to stand up, but I’m still going to make refried organic black beans from scratch for our burritos!) .  😉
  • More writing.
  • Brainstorm creative HS assignments and projects to throw at the kids.
  • Serve some green things!
  • Be gentle with myself, no matter how much I get done.
  • If all else fails, lots of snuggling.

Wish me luck!

Motrin Ad Makes Fun of Moms

Motrin has a new ad campaign about mothers who carry their babies in slings.  In it, they talk about the new “trend” (that’s been around as long as there have been mothers, actually) of carrying babies in slings, pouches and such.  They talk about how it makes us  “tired and crazy” and causes all sorts of pain, but we’ll do it anyway because it makes us seem like good moms.

They want us to know they feel our pain as we do our silly, self-sacrificing rituals.

How big of them.

The ad just puts me off, and puts off most of the mothers I’ve talked to about it.

First off, there are so many types of slings and pouches that most mothers can find one that does not cause pain.  They’ve come a long way since those early Baby Bjorn contraptions, and women around the world have been using better types of slings for thousands of years.  My personal favorite is the Kangaroo Korner pouch and just about every AP mama I know has her own sling that she swears by.

That said, slings and pouches do hurt my neck and shoulders.  I have an injured neck from a car accident 9 years ago and have been told my neck will never be normal again.  So yeah, I know what it’s like to use a sling and have your neck or shoulders be on fire.

But there’s something about the ad that makes it quite clear that it’s not really written by anyone who’s ever carried a baby in a sling or even really agrees with the practice.  It’s condescending and fake.  The ad pretends to be one of us so it can make fun of us.  That’s not cute.  It’s rude.

All sorts of AP, pro-baby messages could have been in there somehow without sending the message that we’re somehow idiots who are damaging ourselves and causing ourselves pain because of a fashion, a whim, overindulged babies and trendy advice.

My neck and shoulder hurt today, just like pretty much every day.  I haven’t used a sling in a long time but I carry my toddler on my hip.  That hurts me just as much (even though it’s probably not as easy to make fun of in commercials).

I didn’t take any Motrin.  I soaked in an epsom salt bath, had two of my kids take turns pounding on my shoulder and then got a Tonka massage.  That’s where you let your kids drive on your back with toy trucks.  🙂

Sometimes parenting is a pain in the neck– or back, or shoulders.  It’s great if the drug companies want to capitalize on that, but next time they should try doing it without mocking us.

We mothers are a pretty great bunch.  We’re smart, we’re caring, we’re educated, we’re loving and we do a great job of meeting our babies’ needs, even when it’s harder on ourselves sometimes.  Personally, I think they’d sell a lot more painkillers if they’d say that.

"To My Grown-up Son"

Attachment Parenting International is hosting a Carnival of Presence all month long. I had already blogged about being present before finding out but I think it’s a good theme to revisit. Here’s a poem that always reminds me of how important it is to be there for my kids now while I can.  



To My Grown-up Son

My hands were busy through the day
I didn’t have much time to play
The little games you asked me to.
I didn’t have much time for you.

I’d wash your clothes, I’d sew and cook,
But when you’d bring your picture book
And ask me, please, to share your fun,
I’d say, ‘A little later, son.’

I’d tuck you in all safe at night,
And hear your prayers, turn out the light,
Then tiptoe softly to the door.
I wish I’d stayed a minute more.

For life is short, and years rush past,
A little boy grows up so fast.
No longer is he at your side.
His precious secrets to confide.

The picture books are put away,
There are no children’s games to play,
No good night kiss, no prayers to hear.
That all belongs to yesteryear.

My hands once busy, now lie still
The days are long and hard to fill.
I wish I might go back and do
The little things you asked me to.

Alice E. Chase

(thanks Melissa for letting me know the author!)