After Church Shenanigans

We had some silly fun after church yesterday. I was taking pictures of the baby in her pretty dress – a simple white onesie with a homemade skirt sewn on. She was more interested in everything else, of course. Like climbing into the box of wipes in her closet.

Then we were joined by the 3 and 10 year olds. They, of course, added to the silliness.

Then we joined the older boys and Dad, who were making magic bars in the kitchen. Graham cracker crust, chocolate chips, coconut, drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. Bake for about 15 min at 350. Yum!

I may not have gotten the perfect picture of our baby in her dress, but we had a fun and relaxing Sunday! I’d like to get that picture, but making memories and enjoying time together as a family is more important ❤

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Changes

Change is part of life. It’s inevitable. Some changes are big, such as getting married, having a baby, moving, starting a new job, the loss of a loved one, or choosing to homeschool. We’ve experienced each of those, some multiple times.

Some changes are small, but even the small changes have an adjustment period, a time to recalibrate, a learning curve.

We’re in the midst of a few of these small changes now. My husband was recently released as a ward missionary at church and called as the cub master. Ironically, not long after I posted that we don’t really care about scouts…now I guess we kind of have to 😂

Although we’ll see how our 8 year old son responds to this change. He didn’t want to go to his dad’s first pack meeting as cub master. I’m not going to force the issue; it’s completely his choice.

When my husband got set apart last week, I got released as an activity days leader. It was officially announced today. I have mixed feelings about it. I loved being an activity days leader! It’s such a fun calling and I adore the girls. They are amazing girls. Planning and hosting activities for them was a joy. Having my own daughter in the group was fantastic.

But at the same time, I’m exhausted. I’m burned out. At present, I’m between callings. I don’t expect it to last long. They’ve already hinted as much. But I have no idea what I’ll get next, which kind of makes me a little nervous. Is it bad that I hope it’s not massive and time consuming? Or taking care of young children? Don’t get me wrong, I love children, but…I’m caring for and teaching my own children all day every day. Moms need breaks, too. I need time with other women, and church is really the only place I get it.

I have no idea what’s coming, but I believe it will be what I need and where someone else needs me. It’s interesting to note that I learned of my release the day after one of the girls moved. Maybe she needed me to be her leader? I don’t know, but the thought keeps coming back. Not in a prideful “I’m so wonderful” way, but in a ponderous one. Part of her life reminds me of my own childhood. Maybe she needed a leader with similar experiences?

Whatever I get called to next, I hope I have the faith to accept it and get to work. Not having a calling feels weird. It’s a sort of temporary displacement. But I wouldn’t mind a little break in between 😂

Lucky 7

Seven years (and one day) ago, a redheaded baby boy came into the world. From the very beginning, he has surprised us in so many ways: he’s our sooner-than-planned-for baby, our 6-days-early-after-2-due-date-babies baby, our in-labor-name-change baby, and the one and only redhead currently in all our extended family.  We have deceased redheads in the family, like my grandpa and my husband’s great uncle, but our middle son is the only living redhead in the bunch.

And oh does he have the personality to match! He was my easiest pregnancy (or should I say, the only one I didn’t have all day sickness with) and our easiest baby. But he more than made up for it as a toddler and beyond!

Like the time we were about to leave for church and found him sitting on the kitchen floor, eating chocolate pudding when he was 2.5. Naturally, his clothes were covered in it and we had to change him before we left. We were late as a result.

Or a few weeks before that, when he climbed to the top shelf of the boys’ closet and threw all the toys down. A wooden barn he threw hit his big brother in the head…a trip to the ER, glue, and steri-strips were required.

Or when he was running around on our bed at 3 and tripped over a pillow and hit his head on the nightstand. He got his own set of glue and steri-strips.

And many many more crazy stories of this child’s antics. Thankfully, those incidents have slowed down as he’s grown. He’s not as extreme in his mood changes as he used to be. Well, usually 😂. He certainly has his moments. But he’s mellowed out a lot in the last few years.

It’s hard to believe he’s 7 now. He’s an amazing kid. He’s sweet, funny, smart, and he adores his baby sister. He loves Legos, video games, swords, and building things. He says he wants to work for Nintendo when he grows up.

Learning to read is a longer journey with him than it was for his older siblings, but that’s OK. He’ll get there. Every kid is different and will learn at their own pace and in their own time.

He had a fun birthday – especially since we took the day off from school and chores 😂. We relaxed at home, played video games, went to the park, and celebrated his birthday with cupcakes and presents. We let the birthday person choose their birthday dinner. The kids always pick white cheddar mac and cheese!

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All in all, he had a wonderful 7th birthday.  Happy 7th to the cutest little redhead!

Our Homeschool Journey

One of the most frequently asked questions posed to homeschooling parents is, “why did you decide to homeschool?” Friends ask it.  Extended family asks it.  Public school teachers ask it.  Potential homeschoolers and long term homeschoolers ask it.  Strangers at the grocery store ask it.   Most of the time, a brief reply is sufficient.  But sometimes, a long, in-depth background story can be helpful to others considering a similar path.

My brief answer is simple and brooks no argument: “It’s what we feel is best for our family.”  Who can argue with that?  It’s short, sweet, and to the point.

But what brought us to this point, what started us on this amazing journey, is much more involved.  And long.  Very very long.  I had never planned to homeschool my children.  Even when I was in college, working toward my English degree, my plan was to write books while my kids were in school.

When our oldest was preschool age, we did a sort of co-op preschool with other families in our neighborhood.  We took turns teaching in our homes.  Every 6 weeks, it was my turn to teach these cute children for about 2.5 hours on Wednesday morning.  It was so much fun!  I enjoyed it far more than I anticipated.

But when it came time for kindergarten, I was a nervous wreck.  All the “what ifs” ran through my mind.  I considered sending her to a local charter school, but in the end decided the regular public school would be a better fit.  I didn’t even consider homeschooling.  I was pretty dead set against it.  It was ok for other families, but not for mine.  I didn’t think I could do it.  I thought I needed a break.  Although…I quickly found it’s not really a break when there are younger kids in the home.

Kindergarten was ok.  It wasn’t bad.  At the time, my husband was in grad school.  His last year of school was our daughter’s first year of school!  His classes at the time were in the afternoon, in the evening, or online.  This allowed me to volunteer in her classroom without taking her little brothers along.  While the school year itself wasn’t terrible, there were a lot of things that rubbed me the wrong way.  I saw too much attitude from so many of these little kindergartners.  They could be really snotty, and the teacher didn’t always see it.  How could she when there were 25 of them and 1 of her?  One of the snottiest kids was extra nice to the teacher, so she was one of her favorites.  But she was consistently downright rude to me.  Some of the kids even told me about playing M rated video games at home!  In kindergarten.  Granted, that’s more of a parenting thing than a public school thing, but it bothered me.  These were my daughter’s peers, the kids she theoretically “should” become friends with.  They were the “cool” kids, the popular ones.  And I didn’t like that one bit.

I also hated the homework.  I don’t think kindergartners should have homework.  Most of the time, it was easy and manageable, but sometimes she had a big fat math packet of common core nonsense that they didn’t get to in class, so they had to do it at home.  Um, no.  That’s not ok.  The early mornings were frustrating as well, but since I was able to walk her to the bus stop and leave my other children home with Dad, it was doable.  And the bus dropped her off right in front of our house each day.

We moved between K and 1st.  My husband got his post-grad school job that took us to another city 4 hours away.  Her first grade year was terrible.  My daughter was missing for about half an hour on the third day of school!  And they didn’t even know it.  Oh, I was livid when I found out.  The excuse?  “Oh, we knew someone was missing, but we didn’t know who.”  Excuse me?!  That’s when you take roll to find out who isn’t there and then send someone to FIND the missing child!  The teacher also placed the entire blame on my child.  Um, she was 6.  She didn’t come in when the bell rang.  She didn’t realize it was her bell.  Yes, she should have gone in.  But, it was a completely different set up than her previous school.  At her old school, she went to recess whenever her teacher felt like having one.  Her class was usually the only one out when they did, and the teacher called them back with a whistle and made sure each child was there.  Listening for a bell with tons of other kids on the playground was still new to her.  It was only the third day of school!!  She’s a very responsible, rule-abiding child.  She wouldn’t intentionally not come in.  But this teacher placed the entire blame squarely on a child who was still learning to adjust to a new environment.  I tried to get her put in a different class as a result.  That was the first time I considered homeschooling.  I even prayed about it.  But the answer was no.  It wasn’t the right time.  Much to my surprise, I was disappointed with that answer.  I was also pregnant with my now 3 year old, so I had very little energy for such a big lifestyle change.  We already were going through the post-school work transition and a pregnancy.

But oh, that was a hard school year.  An overly strict teacher who really wasn’t the kind of nurturing teacher first graders need.  A snotty queen bee bully.  Homework after a full day of school and very little time to just be a kid.  The terrible morning routine of getting all the kids in the car to drop one off – while hugely pregnant and then with a tiny baby. School drop off and pick up lines.  Carpool options suddenly vanishing with little to no notice.  Having our entire lives rotate around this horrible schedule that we all hated.  We lived for school breaks and hated when they ended.  I also missed her like crazy.  She was gone for so much of the day!  And what little time we did have together was usually spent nagging and rushing out the door and fighting over homework.  We.  Were.  Miserable.

That spring, it was time to register my son for kindergarten.  I picked up the packet from the office…and it sat on my desk.  Every time I picked it up with the intention to work on it, I froze.  Every. Single. Time.  For a month.  It did not feel right.  Not at all.  I literally had a stupor of thought every time I tried to fill it out.  I tried picturing my son in kindergarten…and I couldn’t do it.  I know my son.  It would be a miserable experience for him.  How easily I could see him being bullied for being different.  How I could see him retreat into himself and hide from the class, from the teacher.  How he would fight everyone tooth and nail.  How easily he could be the child in those stories of teacher abuse.  How they wouldn’t really see him for the amazing kid he is.  And that’s all I could see.  This was before he was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder and anxiety.  I knew something was going on, but we didn’t have definitive answers yet.  But I knew that a classroom was the last place I could send him.  Public school would destroy him.

And so I considered homeschooling him.  At first, I thought of only homeschooling my son.  But all this was going on while my daughter was having a terrible year in first grade.  As I thought and prayed and thought and prayed some more, the answer was clear: homeschool both of them.  My emotions were all over the place.  Overwhelmed.  Excited.  Inadequate.  At peace.  But most importantly, I knew this was the direction we needed to go.  This was our new path.  It was undeniably right.

My husband was more hesitant.  Not that he didn’t trust me or think I lacked the capacity to educate our children – far from it.  But we were deviating from the norm.  We were breaking the mold.  We were moving into uncharted territory.  We were doing something different.  And that’s scary.  It’s a big pill to swallow.  It’s a major paradigm shift.  It takes time to adjust and re-calibrate.  I don’t remember which of us said it (I think it was him?), but somehow we came to the realization that it didn’t have to be a permanent decision.  We could take it one year at a time.  Knowing we could reevaluate each year helped soften the enormity of the commitment.  Now, 3.5 years later, I don’t see us ever going back.  And neither does he.  Aside from the decision to have each child, homeschooling is the best parenting decision we’ve ever made.  Ever.

But oh, how to start?!  How does one begin such a massive undertaking?  I reached out to 2 of my dear friends who happen to homeschool their children.  What an amazing support and resource they are!  They helped guide me to some fabulous curriculum and resources.  They encouraged me when I felt overwhelmed with inadequacy.  I attended a homeschool conference.  I learned from veteran homeschooling families.  I budgeted out our curriculum and school supplies.  I planned and organized, evaluated my efforts, and did it again.  So much prayer and pondering went into the planning.

And then I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.  Some things worked better than others.  Each year, we’ve made adjustments based on what works, what doesn’t, and the growing and changing needs of our family.  And that’s as it should be.  Homeschool looks a little bit different each year.  Some years, the changes are minimal.  Others, they’re quite drastic, like a change in curriculum or available resources.  And then there’s the impact of life changes, like moving, pregnancy, and a new baby.  We’ve experienced all of those during our 3 years of homeschooling.

This year, our 4th year, the changes are noticeable.  New history curriculum (which we absolutely love).  MTH and the amazing resources now available to us as a result.  Adding in tech.  Weekly learning logs.  Schedule shifts to make it flow better.  Fun, less work-intensive Fridays.But in many ways, we’re doing what we’ve done from the beginning of this journey.  We do math and language arts.  Science.  History.  Art.  Music.

As I look back on everything that brought us to where we are today, I can see how we’ve been shaped and molded toward this amazing journey we are now on.  If we hadn’t disliked our public school experiences so much, we might not have been led to this path.  If we didn’t have a child with significant social challenges, we may not have considered moving away from the norm.  If I didn’t have such amazing support and experience from my friends, I easily could have faltered under the pressures of my parents.   My mom worked as an aid in a public school for many years and she did not initially approve of our decision to homeschool.   Now, she sees it for the blessing it is.  I can see how the education and experience I’ve had in my life have prepared me to teach my children. This is my calling.

How grateful I am for this amazing, incredible, joyful journey!  I love homeschooling my babies.  I love having them home with me.  We love waking up naturally, doing our schoolwork and chores, and then having the rest of the day to relax and play.  I love that my kids are each others’ best friends.  That is one of the many blessings we’ve seen from homeschooling.  It certainly isn’t easy – there are moments where it is overwhelmingly hard and I hide in the bathroom or raid my chocolate stash more than I’d like to admit – but it is so so soooo worth it!  But is anything really worth it easy?  Probably not.

We absolutely love the changes homeschooling has wrought in our lives.  I am excited for all the amazing adventures and experiences we’ll have in the future!  It truly is a wonderful, beautiful, joyful journey.  It may not be what I initially pictured this stage of my life to look like, but oh, it is soooo much better!!

Goals and Projects

Sometimes I have big, lofty, ambitious goals – like writing a book (or several).  Those massive goals will take a long time to achieve.  Some, like writing, the timing simply isn’t right.  I rarely have the mental stamina or the time for creative writing on that scale.  I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted by the time all the kids are in bed.  As such, it’s a back burner goal for now.

Sometimes I have household project goals that feel like they’ll take forever, such as cleaning, rearranging, and reorganizing the boys’ room.  It’s currently an embarrassing disaster zone.  It’s next in line for household projects…but we haven’t started to work on it yet.  I’ve planned out where to put everything; I measured the room and all the furniture to see what works best where.  We meant to start it last weekend…we really need to get cracking on it sometime today.  *sigh* But it takes sooo much energy!  Every time I walk in their room, I get discouraged by how much work it will be.  It looks like 2 little tornadoes ripped the room apart.  It really is that bad.  I know it’s a relatively short term goal, and we’ll make a lot of progress once we get started on it, but…the hard part is starting it!

Some are projects are bigger (and more expensive!) than others.  They all start with a goal, a vision.  In the spring, we revamped our family room.  I called it Family Room Revival.  I researched for months in advance.  The project sounds much simpler than it actually was.  New paint, new furniture.  Sounds easy, right?  Nope!  There’s a lot of work that goes into it.  Like, assembling almost all the furniture.  And the family room has both a hallway and a stairway attached to it.  All 3 areas needed new paint.  But first, we had to pull the wallpaper off the walls in the stairwell.  We picked a pretty light green (Behr’s gingko) for the paint.  It took 3 gallons to paint the family room, the hall, and the stairwell.  Oh, and some white paint for the trim.  Painting trim takes forever!

We looked at lots of furniture options.  We made some changes to our plans, particularly with the couch.  We ended up getting a much nicer (and more expensive) couch than we initially planned on.  It was totally worth it!  There were so many headaches along the way: drama with the couch we originally planned on, broken pieces for our new desks, and the sudden need to replace our furnace.  We literally got home from buying our new couch (and finally had all that drama behind us) to find our furnace had gone out.

Just for fun, here are some before and after pictures from our Family Room Revival.  Before:

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Our poor old couch!  We bought it secondhand in 2007…it’s definitely seen better days!  My husband’s old desk is now in our 10 year old’s room and my old desk (the larger one) and that bookcase will go in the older boys’ room once we get it cleaned up.  It will be the perfect place for all their Lego creations!  (Which are currently all over the floor…)  Basically, the only furniture in that room that stayed the same are the desk chairs.  And that poor, ugly, unframed window got a bit of love.  We also put in new light fixtures since one of them didn’t have a cover when we bought the house.  After:

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It was a big, time-consuming and expensive project, but well worth it!  We absolutely love our family room now.  In fact, 4 out of 7 of us are currently in the family room.  We hardly spent any time in this room before.  Now, it’s one of the most used areas of our home.  100% worth all the hassle, stress, and money!

And then sometimes, I have simple, easy goals.  We had a really busy week this week, so my biggest goal yesterday was to not go anywhere.  It was so nice to just stay home, do our schoolwork, and relax.  No activities, no meetings, no errands.  So.  Nice.  Honestly, most days are like that, which I love.  My kids prefer it that way, too!  But after 3 consecutive days of leave-the-house busyness, I needed a stay-at-home day.  And last night, my husband and I finally got to finish that movie we were in the middle of.

Speaking of goals…we should probably get started on the boys’ room.  It’s not going to clean and rearrange itself!  I’ll post before and after pictures when we finish.  I have before pictures, but…I’d rather wait till it’s clean again to post them!  It’s entirely too messy to share solo.  Now to get started on it…

Reality Check: After the Fun

On the off chance anyone thinks our lives are all sunshine and rainbows, here’s a small dose of reality. Often, these realities hit after doing something fun. Tonight is no exception. Quick run down:

  • One of the children threw up. In the bathroom sink. Of course, it’s the sink that doesn’t drain well…🤢
  • One child often wets the bed. This child fell asleep on the couch this evening…you can see where this is going, right? I sat down on the couch in front of the sleeping child to nurse the baby after my shower. And yes, pee happened while I was there. Did I mention I’d just showered? 😒
  • The sleep-deprived 3 year old is going completely ballistic tonight, despite taking a decent nap today.😢
  • The baby can now open the gate at the top of the stairs by jiggling it…a feat she learned from watching her 3 year old brother. 😠

My husband and I want to finish the movie we started 2-3 days ago. We’ll see if our kids will let us! 😭

And this, my friends, is why we don’t do fun things very often. The aftermath is exhausting. Sometimes it feels like the aftermath negates the fun. The fun things are still worth it, but…there’s only so much aftermath we can take! Hence why we only do big fun things on occasion. But there are lots of little joyful moments mixed in – even on the craziest days.

Camping in Our Backyard

Our kids have been asking to go camping again. It’s…been a few years. We were a lot braver about these things when we only had 2 or 3 kids! Between pregnancies, babies, moves, finances, homeschooling, and just life, camping hasn’t been a priority.

Our 10 year old suggested to camp in our backyard. We had to plan it for a weekend that didn’t have anything else on the calendar. And so, last night, we camped in our backyard! Camping in the backyard is fantastic for so many reasons:

  • Free! No campsite fees!
  • No searching for the perfect campsite.
  • All the comforts of home – literally! Bathroom? Go inside. Food? Go inside. Need another blanket? Go inside!
  • No packing up all our stuff and hauling it in and out of the van.
  • No driving!! That’s a fantastic plus with littles who hate long car rides.
  • If you can’t sleep, you can go inside to your real bed.

We took a ton of photos and I’m only sharing a small percentage of them. Still, this is a pic-heavy post. You have been warned 😂

The kids and I played while my husband got the tent out. Our baby is walking all over the place now!

Getting things out of the shed to prep for our campout.

Little miss was fascinated by the big kids in the tree!

Our backyard. I love our little corner of the world!

We put the baby in her swing so we could put up the tent. We had lots of helpers!

We decided our tent looks like Darth Vader’s mask 😂

There’s a little luggage storage area in our tent, which of course the kids loved climbing in.

Once the tent was assembled, we pulled out the fire pit.

Look who fell asleep while we worked ❤

Learning about fire safety while lighting the fire. Lots of helpers! My mom will freak out when she sees this.

We had hot dogs, baked beans, chips, and smores. Roasting marshmallows ❤

We enjoyed the fire for awhile, then got ready for bed. We read scriptures and a fun book together in the tent. It was so much fun!

Sleep, however…well, I don’t think I ever fell asleep in the tent last night. At 2:30 AM, our 3 year old woke up screaming and thrashing, so I took him inside. It took another 2 hours to get him to calm down and fall back to sleep. It only took 4 episodes of Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir 😂. I finally crawled into MY bed at 4:40…and woke up around 8:20. Haha, so, what, 3.5 hours of sleep? It’s a good thing we don’t really have to go anywhere today!

Morning in the tent. We’re either dealing with allergies or mild colds because there’s a lot of sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and puffy eyes.

Dad had a fun surprise for everyone! Breakfast of champions?

And chips. Because we’re awesome like that 😂

More luggage storage fun.

I love this cute face! She loved being in the tent.

We listened to a bird in the tree. It’s camouflaged somewhere in this picture. I took the picture and I can’t even find it!

Playing on Dad’s phone…

A flock of geese flying in formation overhead.

3 cute boys under a tree. Our neighbor grows grapes all along the fence. It smells very sweet.

Bookworm in the tent ❤

Little mischievous daredevil! She’s going to be the death of me.

Littles at the little picnic table 😍

A much healthier second breakfast. We’re hobbits today!

Unfortunately, the wasps wanted it, too! Apparently they really like sausage. We kept swatting them away and I accidentally knocked 2 pieces of sausage to the ground. We then moved the food to the tent instead.

We ate and played outside a bit longer, but it started to get hot. We’re now enjoying our air conditioning inside. The tent is still up, so we may play out there again before the weekend is over! I doubt we’ll sleep out there again right now, though. If you can call tossing and turning sleep.

Overall, I’d say camping in our backyard was a huge success! Even if we didn’t really sleep much. Well, the adults didn’t, anyway. Some of the kids slept great. Others…not so much. But it was a fun adventure, one we plan on making a family tradition. Probably every Labor Day weekend. Possibly more throughout the summer – when it isn’t burninatingly too hot.