We’ve Survived the Plague

Well, that was an interesting spring.  We took a family trip to the Mall of America for homeschool days at perhaps the worst possible time, just as Covid-19 was quietly invading the country.  We stayed in a hotel, went to IKEA and Trader Joe’s, took in all the sights at the MOA (Sea Life, mini golf, laser games!)…. and brought home more than the souvenirs we’d planned.

Jack got sick first, with a terrible cough, fever, fatigue, etc.  Coronavirus was barely on our radar at that point even though I had joked about “going to the biggest international tourist destination in the midwest at the start of a plague.”  Yeah, perhaps I shouldn’t have thumbed my nose quite so much at fate?  😉

Corona gives you very rosy cheeks

In any case, Alex got sick for about a minute and was better.  Fiona developed a high fever, stomach ache, sore throat, cough, etc. and was sick for about a week but never dangerously so.  Jack got better but had lingering fatigue and muscle weakness (especially in one leg) for literally months.  Rhia and Daryl didn’t really get sick at all, even though I was very worried about Daryl since he’s older and disabled.

And I… good grief did I get sick.  Wowza.  It pretty much leveled every system in my body.  I had so many weird side effects that it felt like it was gaslighting me, since the news certainly wasn’t reporting things like numb toes, bursting blood vessels in your legs, phantom heart attacks, tingling limbs, hypothermia (my body temp dropped to 93.7 twice) or your body inexplicably forgetting to breathe when you fall asleep, just to name a few of the weirder manifestations.

 

I spent over two months doing breathing exercises (I cannot recommend those enough to protect your lungs, prevent pneumonia, calm anxiety, decrease blood pressure, increase lung capacity and raise your oxygen levels), drinking massive amounts of water (ditto, cannot stress this one enough), taking hot steamy baths and medicating round-the-clock with kitchen/nature remedies that I used to manage and conquer the whack-a-mole of symptoms that is coronavirus.  Daryl foraged me nettles every morning for weeks to make me strong nettle tea and I also relied on fresh garlic (you must finely mince it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before taking it to activate the alicin, and then remember to take it 2-3 times a day just as you would meds), elderberry, ginger (a very potent antiviral that is also excellent for many of the parts of the body this attacks), apple cider vinegar, fermented foods and drinks like kombucha, etc.

Two months into my illness I finally was able to see my doctor and she told me to keep doing “exactly what you’re doing” because all of my levels were so high for things like iron and white blood cell counts.  Now three months from our initial sickness, Jack and I are still recovering (he is still weak and tires easily, I still have some numb toes and muscle/joint pain) but we’re firmly in the post-viral phase of recovery and long past the terrifying actual illness.

I have found a lot of ways to find the blessings this gave me.  I learned a lot about the honestly impressive power of affirmations, meditation and deep breathing, and the importance of finally prioritizing sleep, stress relief and real self care.  I spent time every day on our roof balcony doing light yoga and stretching and getting sunshine for vitamin D.  I went for walks and bike rides with the kids to make sure I got light exercise every day that I could (there’s about a month that’s pretty much a blur though). I’ve lost weight and toned my body.  I gave up coffee and lost my hot flashes in the process.  I gave up wine for a month or two but Daryl and Tiffany convinced me that it would be okay if I wanted to imbibe again and boy, did I want to after all that.  🙂  I spent my time doing things I enjoyed like reading and reviewing books, working in the garden, watching Netflix and Hulu with the kids, and spending quality time with Daryl.  And we all made it.

It was intense and there were some really terrifying times (I’m intentionally skipping over the scariest stuff).  Don’t underestimate this thing.  But boy do you appreciate the little things (like being alive) when life reminds you how lucky you are.

If you or someone you love is sick with Covid-19 and you want more detailed information on the best resources I’ve found, let me know.  I found that the media and most websites were really worthless for the most part, but there are a few helpful sites out there and I can round them all up if it’s helpful.

Stay well and hang in there.

(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.  🙂

 

 

 

A Happy Little June Update

I’ve decided to go back to blogging here even though I know that nobody really reads blogs (especially this one!) any more.  🙂  I love having the record of all that we did and all my wandering thoughts for all the years I kept it when the older kids were HSing, and I want that for the younger kids’ homeschool lives.

So here’s a quick little June update, and I’ll try to keep things up and just come here to check in regularly again.

Toria (21) and Rhia (19) have graduated but both of them are still happily part of our days.  Toria and Gabe still live in their house (if you remember, I bought it for $4,000 cash a couple of years ago and they have been fixing it up and paying me $200 to pay it off).  It will be paid off in a few months and they will own their own home, debt free.  It’s tiny and a bit of a wreck, but it’s theirs and it’s on four lots.  We had hoped to get their first garden in this year but life got busy.  They have a walnut tree and a pear tree, though, so they will still have some bounties this year from those.

Rhia is still living at home and is working on getting her photography business established.  She has some regular clients who like to book her for fun shoots (she’s very inexpensive so it’s an affordable splurge) and she is working on expanding to new clients.

You can follow her on Instagram or Facebook if you want to show her some support.  She’s been traveling a lot, too, and has gone to Oregon twice in the last six months.

Jack (16), Alex (12) and Fiona (7) are all in the Wilder Pageant again this year, along with Daryl.  This makes something like 15 or 16 years straight that at least some of our family members have acted in the pageant.  It’s always a lot of work but they make great friends and are part of something really special.  Opening night is July 5.

Jack is planning on working on a nearby farm again this summer.  He worked there last fall but was 15 at the time and was not able to work much during school days because of labor laws (homeschool kids aren’t allowed to work during public school hours by law, even if they school at other times of day or on other schedules).  This year he’s 16 so he can have a more flexible schedule.  It’s hard work but good money, and he’s developed a wonderful work ethic that makes me proud.

Alex’s friend Cody is here for the summer again from Indiana (he spends summers with his aunt, our next door neighbor), which is great fun for him and for Fiona too.  We took the three of them to Valleyfair for their homeschool day and had a blast.

We also got a new dog!  We adopted Moose from a shelter in March.  He is a year old and is a black lab – English setter mix.  He’s smart, energetic, playful and never met a dog or person he didn’t love.

There’s so much more going on, but this is already less than quick.  🙂  More next time!

The Month of Winds and Magic

fiona butterfly

Daryl told me years ago that he read in a novel that September was “the month of winds and magic.”  That has always stuck with me and while I kind of hate September for signalling the end of summer, I kind of love September for a hundred other reasons.

(Of course, this year September has really been the month of winds, with the hurricanes and tornadoes.  Tornadoes even hit our area of Minnesota last night.  My heart goes out to everybody affected by the storms.)

We’ve been super busy with homesteading this month, as always.  September is a month where lots of garden goodies are ready to harvest and when we forage large amounts of some of our favorite wild foods like acorns and elderberries.  It’s also when we forage less than wild foods like apples and pears that are free for the picking, literally.  We have friends and neighbors who let us pick from their trees (we keep the ground underneath clean and often bring them goodies in thanks) and there are a lot of public places where we pick, too.

The nursing home in town has a huge pear tree that bears delicious fruit that they want no business with and also has a row of elderberry shrubs that are only there for a windbreak.  Daryl has permission to go picking there and we get gallons of elderberries and bushels of pears every year.  There’s also a pear tree at a rural park that bears delicious canning pears (too firm for fresh eating but perfect for canning).  You can always tell where homesteads were years ago because even though there is no sign of a house anymore you will find apple trees, pear trees, peonies and other long-lived plants that once blessed the people who lived there.

We’ve also been busy with Daryl’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.  As I’ve talked about before, we get married in a different way every year around our anniversary and this year we had our first back yard wedding.  We made it a zany theme with lots of color and silliness.  It was simple and fun.

And in other news, Jack (15) has his first job!  He was hired by a local farm family to help with the harvest.  He was originally hired to work 4-6 hours a day during the day just until the end of harvest season in October.  Then we found out that homeschoolers under 16 are not allowed to work during public school hours even if they homeschool during other times and they’re not allowed to work more than 3 hours on a public school day, so we’ve  had to change his schedule around.  He now works 3 hours “after school” most weekdays and longer on Saturdays.

It’s hard work but he is doing a great job and he got his first paycheck yesterday.  His boss also told him yesterday that he was his best worker and that he’d decided to give him a raise!  I could not be more proud of my boy.  🙂

The weather is turning cold and I’m doing my best to embrace it and not yearn for lake days and sprinkler weather.  Snow will be coming way too soon here in Minnesota but for the most part we’re too busy to focus on that anyway.

The rest of September and October will be very hectic.  I’m giving an acorn foraging presentation at a library by the Twin Cities in early October, then we have Fiona’s birthday and the week of History Fest, which is a crazy but wonderful time.  And then there’s processing hundreds of more pints and quarts of applesauce, pears, spaghetti sauce, salsa, and so on.

Oh yeah, and this homeschooling business.

 

10 Fun Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

It’s been a while since I posted one of these updates.  🙂 Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

1. Fiona has been doing lots of writing and copy work.  She loves writing and fills up page after page of dollar store handwriting and spelling workbooks.

2.  Rhia is learning to play the electric guitar.  She is already a wonderful acoustic guitar player and is now excited to get an electric guitar and learn that.  She’s been practicing on a guitar that Gabe (Toria’s fiance) has lent her.  I got her an amp for solstice and she is hoping to be able to buy the guitar by her (18th!) birthday at the end of the month.  She is not just a great guitar player but also a great song writer.  With her love of music and the connection she already has with small bands in around the country, I’m pretty sure her future will be in music in one way or another.

3.  And she’s still busy with photography… Speaking of Rhia’s music connections, she took some photos for a small Mankato area band last month and she’s done some concert photography for some bands at Minneapolis and Sioux Falls concerts.  I’m pretty sure photography will be in her future, too.  Here’s her photography page on Facebook.  she’d be thrilled if you liked it!

4.  Alex has been enjoying the snow.  It’s been bitterly cold, but any time it’s above zero he’s pretty happy to be making snow forts, building snow zombies and so on.

5.  Fiona learned to play happy birthday on the lap harp.  She and Alex also learned a bunch of other songs.

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❤️

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6.  Alex has been learning to cook more meals and treats.  His latest accomplishments are 2 minute microwave GF bread (which he made about 30 batches for family in the last month) and scrambled eggs.  He also helps me cook a lot, so he’s become a great sous chef for things like taquitos.

7.  Victoria and Gabe have been in their house for a month.  They got their first utility bill today!  Luckily the house is so small and they’re so frugal that it was a fraction of what ours is.  They come over for dinner just about every night but they are settling in well and finally have reliable heat (a big thing when it’s been 20 below zero!).

8.  We’ve been doing lots of visits to the Washington Pavilion science and art center.  I took advantage of a holiday special and renewed our membership, which Alex told me he really missed.  We try to visit every time we’re in Sioux Falls, which is often since Rhia’s BF lives there and it’s also where I do my bulk grocery shopping.

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#sciencefun #scienceforkids #realworldmath #homeschooling

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They have great science presentations and Alex and Fiona got to take part in one about physics.

And last time we headed over to the art center and the kids got to do some pretty cool spin art projects.  The only thing better than messy art is messy art you don’t have to set up yourself.  😉

9.  Jack is crazy about Hamilton and it’s led to all kinds of history education.  He knows all of the songs by heart and is really excited that the show is coming to Minnesota in 2018.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I could effortlessly teach him his entire high school curricula if I could find musicals for every subject.  😉

10. We’ve been doing tons of learning with Cuisenaire Rods and other hands-on math tools.

Alex and I even tried doing long division with Cuisenaire Roads, which is really tricky to wrap your brain around!

I also published another book (affiliate link: Acorn Foraging: Acorn Foraging: Everything You Need to Know to Harvest One of Autumn’s Best Wild Edible Foods, with Recipes, Photographs and Step-By-Step InstructionsEverything You Need to Know to Harvest One of Autumn’s Best Wild Edible Foods, with Recipes, Photographs and Step-By-Step Instructions) and we’ve been reading lots of books, playing with friends, going to movies (since Daryl and Rhia work for a local non-profit movie theater, our family can go at any hour and put on whatever movies we like, which makes for some pretty fun late-night excursions!), playing music, watching shows and the usual mayhem.

Now, I’ve promised a little girl that we’d do crafts so I should sign off.  I hope everything is wonderful in your corner of the world!

 

 

Fresh Homeschool Starts

2018 homeschool fresh startHappy New Year!

I am honestly so excited about 2018, as I’m thinking that after the epic awfulness of 2017 there’s nowhere to go but up!  🙂  I feel as if a light is being turned on again, or I’m making it turn on.  Things will turn around.  I just know it.

I’m not going to bother talking about the bad going on right now (see a previous entry if you want a taste of what has me up at 4:35 a.m. talking to you instead of sleeping!).  Enough with the bad.  It’ll go on whether I acknowledge it or not.  So let’s look at the good.

Fiona is in such a hurry to get to more homeschooling.  It makes me smile the way she nags me for more homeschool.

She has been playing like crazy with letter cubes, math manipulatives and pen and paper lately.  She happily made up words with letter dice yesterday, bringing me four cubes at a time for me to help her form words from them.  Her reading and spelling are coming along so fast now. I have promised her that we will get to lots of everyday homeschooling on Tuesday after the holiday.  We had a forced (by me) school break with everything else going on.  🙂

Santa gave Alex a 3-month Gamefly subscription for Christmas and as a result I have seen him far less than usual!  He and Jack have had so much fun playing together though, and it’s the dead of winter when it’s hard for him to get out and do as much as he’d like to.  It’s currently -20 F (no, that doesn’t factor in the wind chill and yes, it is really that cold) so he can’t even play in his beloved snow until it gets a bit less life-threatening out there — though this weather is good for the occasional quick outdoor science experiment like freezing bubbles and vaporizing hot water to make instant clouds.

cold weather homeschool science freezing bubblesJack, Alex and Fiona have all been having a ball with library books right now, too.  Toria has a weekly appointment in a city an hour away that turns out to have a fabulous library, so we go and stock up every couple of weeks.  The little ones love it and even Jack has discovered some beloved new book series.  I love the way he’ll say he has no interest in a book and then read the entire thing before we get home that day!

I have made all sorts of resolutions for this new year on every front there is — housekeeping, homeschooling, work, personal, health…  We’ll see how well they all work out but I am really excited about trying, which is a nice change.

Magic and Mayhem -- fresh homeschool startsI’ve been homeschooling for over 15 years now, with one child already completely done and one about to finish (Rhia will graduate in the spring!).  I don’t want to shortchange the younger kids with waning enthusiasm for it all, but it is hard to juggle the needs of so many different ages and stages — especially with Victoria’s scary health issues and now the issues with her new (old) house and all that it’s bringing into our lives (burst pipes and dead furnaces in 20 below weather anybody?).

But I’ve renewed our memberships to the science museum and the zoo, I’ve made up daily plans and I just have this faith that has been missing since the train wreck that was 2017 begun.  Hope, optimism, all that jazz.

I’m ready to blast through a hundred lesson plans, art projects, history games, math challenges and educational obstacles and make some magic again.

Happy 2018, all!  May it be a fantastic one for all of us.

 

(P.S.  Trying something new and linking up with Homeschool Highlights.)

A Little Jack Update

 

 

It’s only a matter of time before Jack asks me to quit writing about him online, so I’d better talk about him now while I can.  😉

Here’s a glimpse of our oldest baby boy, who turned 14 a little over a week ago.

That’s Jack at his birthday pool party, with a good friend, along with Fiona and Alex, and here with some other friends.

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Jack had such a good birthday 🎈🎈🎈

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And lest he looks like he’s all grown up and not a kid anymore, here’s another shot from his birthday party.

Jack is finishing 8th grade, though we don’t pay much attention to the numbers.

He is much taller than I am — though that’s not hard since I’m just under 5 feet tall!  🙂  He’s nearly as tall as his dad, though, and Daryl is just over 6 feet tall.

He’s a huge help to me around the house.  He is probably the biggest help of all of the kids, and I thank him for it often.  He helps with laundry, cooking, taking care of Fiona, garbage, yard work, you name it.

He even took care of my artichoke seedlings while I was in Nebraska for nearly two weeks.

He loves gaming (video, board and role play), music, nature, animals and puns.  He also still loves doing crafts, particularly if he can invent them himself.  He collects and alters bottle caps, and loves all things weapon-related (from swords to nerf guns).  He’s rather introverted and very goofy when he feels comfortable enough to show his goofy side.  He is also the ultimate peace-maker, an important role for a kid in a family of 5 kids!  He would be well suited for any table at the UN with his skills at un-ruffling feathers and calming folks down!

He is still quite left-leaning.  This is a kid who happily pounded one of only two signs in our town that supported marriage equality into our front yard as a little boy, and he remains fiercely caring about the rights of women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ folks and other oppressed groups.

He is not sure what he wants to do with his life when he crosses that imaginary line into “grown up” but I suspect it might have to do with nature or science.  I could also see him as a writer, even though he still balks at any formal writing assignments.  He is so creative that I think he would do well as a writer or game designer.  I am guessing that he’ll come up with his own path that I’d never have seen coming, though.

He can be moody at times (what 14 year old isn’t?) but in general, he is my “easiest” teenager yet.  I have told him and Alex — often! — that they were so exhausting as young boys that they owe me easy teen years, and he seems to be keeping his end of the bargain!  😉

I could not be more proud of him than I am, especially of his soul.  He is so caring, so smart, so giving.  He is a wonderful brother, son and human being.

 

 

The Daily List is a Fun Way to Get Kids Writing

I’ve been working on getting Jack and Alex to do more writing lately.  Victoria and Rhiannon always loved writing and it was one way they quite naturally improved their handwriting, spelling and composition skills over the years.  Since the boys aren’t as keen to do it on their own, I’ve been finding fun ways to get them writing.

writing2

 

As long-time readers know, I’ve never been a fan of forced activities.  I want my kids to love to write (and read and learn in general), not to put up with it because they have to.  After all, I want them to be lifelong readers, writers and learners, and this only happens if they learn to love reading, writing and learning.  This has always worked for us, in part because we come up with ways to show them the joy of these things.

Daily lists are a fun and easy way to get this going with writing.

I gave Jack a notebook and asked him to make a list of any 20 things each day.  The list could be of things he wants for his birthday, jobs he might like to do when he grows up, birds he can ID, characters who annoy him on TV, things he likes about Minnesota… Anything.  I help brainstorm list ideas if he comes up blank, but he chooses what he wants to list.  Alex will be starting his own notebook this week, too.

They don’t have to list 20 things in one list if there aren’t that many things that apply.  They can do a couple of shorter lists, such as who their best friends are and who they’d like to get to know better, or states they’ve visited and states they’d like to visit.

 I shared this idea with a friend and she used it quite successfully with her son yesterday.  He has Downs Syndrome and tends to balk at writing.  She asked him to write a list of 10 things he likes on pizza (which he loves).  After he wrote his list, she sat and helped him correct the spelling and they talked about sounding out words and spelling rules.

One of the great things about this is that it works with any age and it can become a journal of sorts.  Keep all the lists in one notebook and have kids date them, and they can look back to see what their favorite books or songs were, what they considered their best qualities, and so on.  It also just helps get you into a creative mindset, and get thinking about those bigger topics like possible careers and things you’d like to get better at.

As always, it helps to have fun notebooks and pens to use, too.  Everything is more fun when you have cool materials to use.  😉

I’m thinking of making up a big list of lists now, and printing it up as books for the boys.  This is working really well for now, though, and I’m excited to get Alex started.

I kind of want to start my own list journal too!

 

 

10 Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

We’re 2 weeks into 2017 and hanging in there.  I had a birthday a week ago and Rhia has a birthday next week.  She’s turning 17 (how did that happen?) and I won’t tell you what age I turned.  😉

birthdayselfie

(Yes, our kitchen ceiling is completely covered with the children’s art!)

We had some more sadness, as my grandmother died right before the new year.  She was 93 and impatient to move on to her next adventure, but that doesn’t make it easier.  I am very glad that we made so many trips to Ohio for the kids to really get to know her, especially this year (3 trips in 6 months).

That doesn’t mean homeschooling was happening, though.  Or magical moments.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

  1. Daryl has been doing “Teach Your Monster to Read” with Fiona just about every day.  She is beginning to get the hang of how phonics and words work, and she enjoys it.
  2. I got out an old science kit that I found at a thrift store years back, dusted it off, and started doing science experiments with Alex.  It contains a hand-held scope and lots of gadgets and chemicals.  We did things like examined different cloths under the scope, compared types of salt under magnification (black lava salt just looks dirty!) and did some simple experiments.  We’re going to try to finally start putting it to regular use.
  3. Daryl is acting in a winter play.  He has the lead in a community theater production in Worthington.  It’s a comedy and he plays a detective.  Rhia goes with him to rehearsals and all of the kids help him run his lines.
  4. Toria is working on getting our family Etsy store running.  She has some beautiful glass fox pendants that I got her for her birthday as a start to her own business (I purchased a large assortment wholesale for her to sell).  We are planning to sell a variety of things out of a family store.  Rhia creates elaborate zentangle-like artwork that she’d like to list and I have been creating magical homeschool sort of printables (such as colorful cards of hands-on ways to do all different subjects).  It has been a fun learning experience for all of us so far. Toria is taking pictures this week and then we should be able to finish creating the storefront.
  5. Rhia has been writing songs.  She is very talented on the guitar and writes amazing songs.  She wrote one last week that is quite feminist, and wrote another for a friend who needed cheering up.  She also has been learning how to cover other songs on the guitar.  Daryl and I heard a song I really liked during “Listen to Your Folks” on campus radio last week (Painting Houses) and she and Daryl learned to play it and performed it for me.
  6. I wrote a Kindle book.  I decided that it was time to start writing about the things that I am passionate about again, and that I finally needed to learn how to write Kindle books and give it a try.  There’s a steep learning curve but I got my first book written.  It is part of a series I’d like to write under the umbrella of “A Magical Homeschool.”  This one is A Magical Homeschool:  Nature Studies (52 Wonderful ways to use nature studies for science, math, art and more).  I am working on the cover today.
  7. Rhia is learning Spanish.  She has started doing Duolingo and has progressed quite far already.  Toria has been using Duolingo to master German for years, and Daryl does the free language app daily in German, French, Spanish, Norwegian and Swedish.
  8. Jack has been running D&D games for Alex.  This role playing game involves creating a world, drawing out maps, storytelling and running the game to create the adventure as the players go along.  Players roll dice to determine the outcome of decisions, battles, etc. and use miniatures to represent the players and the world.
  9. Alex, Fiona and I played a US states geography board game.  It involves drawing cards of states that you need to travel to and then answering questions about the states to move across the board and try to reach your state.  Once you visit all four of the states you’ve drawn (driving across the country in your car token), you win. A friend lent it to us and Alex really enjoys it.  Fiona doesn’t have to answer the questions.  We just let her roll the dice and travel across the country, and she is still picking up geography from the states she “visits.”
  10. Daryl and the kids have been shooting winter footage for a movie.  Daryl has a friend making a movie down south and she needs to incorporate footage of winter memories for the characters, who are supposed to be in Montana.  They have been shooting footage of snowy scenes and of the kids running in the snow and so on.  Daryl, Toria, Jack and Rhia have all shot footage, and Alex and Rhia have been in some of the scenes.

Of course, we’re doing all the usual homeschool stuff too — reading books, playing games, texting, blogging, using educational apps and shows, nature studies, cooking, chores, math pages and so on.

And now, I’m off to work on that cover and pretend I’m going to get housework done.

Okay, really try to at least get a little housework done….

Have a magical week!

Things Here…

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I’m just popping in for a long-overdue post and update.  I always say I’m going to get back to regular blogging but I’m really going to start making it a priority soon.  I miss this.  🙂

Things are as busy as usual here.  As an update on each of the members of our family…

Toria (18 now) is in North Carolina with my cousin Eddie and his wonderful family for the week, and visiting their home in Ohio as well.  They’ve rented a house in Nag’s Head on the coast and she’s hanging with her beloved second cousins and they’re wonderfully fun household.

She is taking a gap year this year, having officially graduated homeschool this spring.  She’ll be spending this year focusing on travel, volunteer work and finalizing her thoughts on which passion to follow first in terms of college and career.  She has already traveled to visit friends in Oregon this spring, then Ohio, and now North Carolina and Ohio.  We’ll be going to see Tiffany in Nebraska for a while after we come back from getting her, and our family friend Val (whom I’ve known since high school and is like family to me and to the kids) is planning to take her to Europe sometime this year.

She is also starting up her own little shop, selling whimsical glass jewelry.  Once she has it established, I’ll post a link!

Rhia (16 now) will be officially starting her new job next month, taking over Toria’s old gig since Toria aged out (it’s only for teens under 18).  It’s a fantastic job with good pay and pretty cool experiences.  She did all the training for it this spring and got her feet wet, but they have to wait until the new fiscal year starts in August to jump back in.  That’s about all I can say in a public forum. 🙂

She just celebrated her 11 month anniversary with her boyfriend, Tyler.  He is such a great guy and we all really adore him. She’s made some new friends that she really enjoys, and has been having a lot of fun playing with fashion and hair choices.  Her hair is currently green and yellow ombre with a partly shaved side.  She is one of the only people I’ve ever known who can look good with something like that!

She’s doing the hair and makeup for the Wilder Pageant, but otherwise just enjoying the summer off.  She has been going to quite a few cool concerts with Ty, his sister and friends, and she’ll be going to the Warped Tour soon.

Jack (13) is in the Wilder Pageant again this summer.  I forget how many years he’s been in it now.  Maybe six?  He’s suddenly growing like a weed, and is now quite a bit taller than I am (though that’s not hard as I’m only 4’11”!).  His voice is now deep enough that whenever I’m on the phone with Tiffany she says, “That can’t be Jack talking!”.  🙂  His blond hair has gone quite curly from the summer humidity and it’s so thick and full that I think it adds another few inches.

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He’s been getting into Manga books and fell in love with a series I brought home from a thrift store yesterday.  He is also quite a fan of Nerf guns and we’ve amassed a massive cache of them from thrift stores since most of the other kids have caught the fever too.  I’m not a fan of guns or the mayhem that ensues in their Nerf battles.  One such battle accidentally landed Alex in the ER and required an eye patch for a week, so protective eye gear is now a rule in our house.  But I also try to bite my tongue and let him do the things that bring him joy.

He’s one of my biggest helpers around the house these days and I don’t know what I’d do without him.  He helps a lot with laundry, Fiona, the pets and occasional cooking.  He is the one I rely on the most for little odd jobs throughout the day — putting canned goods away in the basement pantry, hanging clothes on the line, grinding a batch of millet or brown rice flour in the Vitamix, setting up Fiona with something fun so I can fix dinner, and so on.

Alex (9) has a temporary best friend next door.  Our new neighbor has her nephew with her every summer, and he is Alex’s age and a fabulous fit for him. They play a lot of Minecraft together and we bring him with us when we do some fun things like head to the lake.

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We went to Sioux Falls yesterday for much-needed shopping, and we worked a visit to the zoo into it and brought the neighbor boy along.  We have memberships to the zoo and children’s museum in Sioux Falls, and try to make time for something fun for the kids every time we head there for the boring necessities like groceries since I stock up on better deals at places like Costco and Aldi once or twice a month to help keep our food budget frugal.  It was fun (and noisy) having an extra small Alex-like boy with us all day!

Alex in the Wilder Pageant again, too.  I think this is about his 3rd year, but I’m not sure.  He has a lot of fun in it and does well.  He is still a super active kid.  He loves riding his bike and playing outside, and he’s got endless energy.  He is slightly less exhausting as he ages, and he is constantly making me smile.  He continues to be fascinating with anything scientific, and soaks up scientific information like a sponge.  I was trying not to grin last week when he had a new friend in the back yard who was listening rather glassy-eyed as Alex explained in depth how to make a still.

Fiona (4) is in the Wilder Pageant for her second year.  She loves it, and looks adorable in her long braids and prairie dress.  She is quite the actress already and she’s learned most of the lines for the other actors.  She sometimes quotes them to me and then expects me to know how I’m supposed to answer.  She particularly likes quoting the little girl in the grasshopper scene (“Mama, mama, I can’t sleep.  I keep dreaming about grasshoppers.  They’re in the house and in my hair and everywhere!”… Or something like that — she could tell you exactly!).  Then I answer with a silly answer that’s not quite what the mama is supposed to say and she grins and corrects me with my proper line.

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She is learning to spell and read a few new words, and is impatient to learn to read.  I’ve told her that she’ll learn soon.  By child #5, I can tell how close she is to having it all click into place, and I have a lot of tools in my tool chest to help that happen soon for her.  It’s a goal for me to do something fun in reading readiness every day this summer, and then step it up a bit in the fall if she wants.  Of course, we read together every night and that’s probably the single best way to get children ready to read.

She still loves doing art, too, and it’s a huge part of her day.  I love her drawings and paintings.  Toria has been a big influence for her there.  That really helps her writing, too, since it gives her the fine motor control to make it easy.

Daryl is in the Wilder Pageant for his 11th (?) year, playing Mr. Kennedy this year.  He has also been busy with loads of other things, most of them volunteer-based.  And he was in a movie this week!  He got to be an extra for the movie “Hap and Ashley” that’s filming about an hour away.  He helped them as a reader when they were casting in another city a few months ago.  He even got a line!  He got to be the guy at the pot luck who shouts out, “Someone call Hank!  We’re gonna need an ambulance.”  🙂

He’s also been doing quite a lot of foraging with the kids.  He and the kids (mostly Toria) gathered over 60 pounds of wild asparagus this spring that’s in our freezer for the winter now.  He’s also gathered black raspberries (several gallons), mulberries and now bush cherries.  We transplanted a few black raspberry bushes from the wild a few years ago and they happily took over a section of our back yard, so it’s questionable if that counts as foraging or not.  I’m glad we did, as the county mowed down all the raspberry plants and cut down the mulberry trees last summer.  I wish there was less focus on making nature look tidy and empty.  I know we were hardly the only family who gathered those delicious fruits every summer.

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I have been extremely busy,  even compared to my normal level of mayhem.  Examiner notified all of its writers on July 1st that it would be taking down the website around July 10th, and I had to move thousands of articles to a safe place to keep them.  I am starting several new websites where I’m reposting those articles.  It will be better for my readers, since they won’t have to put up with those annoying pop-up ads and sometimes-horrifying “trending stories” that adorned the sidelines.  It’s not so good for us, though, as I’m out that paycheck!  I’m putting Amazon affiliate links on the sites and asking people who wish to support us to click through for any shopping they wish to do, hoping that helps a bit in making up for that loss of income.  I am choosing to look at it as a blessing, since it will give me that push off the proverbial cliff in to new directions and new beginnings, like it or not!

Our house is currently brimming with kittens and cats, and I’m working to get that down to a calm roar.  I rescued a beautiful feral female last winter and it turned out she was pregnant, so I had to find homes for her 4 kittens (3 down, one to go).  Then another feral cat moved her kittens into our garage. The mama was very wild and the kittens were already becoming as wild as mama, and I knew that they could never be adopted if I couldn’t tame them soon.  They were too young to be weaned though, so I tried a desperate experiment and caught one and brought him up to our feral (now tame) rescue mama inside.  She sniffed him, licked him and proceeded to nurse him, and I caught the other babies and she adopted them immediately as her own.

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Now they are old enough to be weaned and move on to new homes.  They have become friendly, social, loving and litter trained.  My neighbor has agreed to take one (a black kitten she’s named Zeus) but there are three left to place.  In the meantime, our old cats are doing a fairly good job of being overrun by all of these manic kittens!

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We managed to catch that feral mama, brought her in to the local vet to be spayed (courtesy of a wonderful county rescue organization) and released her again.  She has adopted me as the only human she will let pet her, and she is slowly becoming trusting and very loving.

In addition, we’re having a ton of much-needed renovations done to the house over the next month, and it will require pretty much emptying our entire downstairs and work done on all four floors (main, upstairs, basement and attic!).  I am completely overwhelmed by all that has to be done, but it’s another thing that will ultimately be a huge blessing when it’s done.

That’s just a fraction of what’s been going on here!  I will try to start popping in more regularly so I don’t have to do massive updates like this every time.  Hope your summer is going well!