Our Homeschool Plans for 2019-2020

I am so so so excited about what we’re planning for the next school year!  Each school year, we make some changes, whether it’s a change in curriculum, subjects studied, schedule rearrangement, or the number of official students.  For 2019-2020, we’re using the same curriculum (but progressing in levels etc), same schedule setup, and the same number of students.  Our subjects are mostly staying the same, except we’re doing something else for tech.

For language arts, handwriting, and history, we’ll continue using The Good and the Beautiful.  My kids are all mid-level at the moment.  When we start the new school year, we’ll pick up where we left off and start the next levels after we finish the current ones.  My oldest is a little over halfway through level 4, my second started level 3 in April, and my third is near the end of level K.  The levels are advanced compared to public school curriculum, so level K is more like typical first grade work – exactly where my upcoming 2nd grader should be.  I’m excited for the newly revamped level 1 to come out!  I’m waiting to place my order until then.  I absolutely love their history curriculum.  I look forward to exploring Year 2!  It’s my favorite subject they’ve released – and I have an English degree.  I’m also getting Pre-K for my 4 year old, to do casually when he wants to work on it.  He’s always asking to do school with the big kids, so this will give him something educational to do while they work.  But on his timeline; I don’t want to push it and destroy his love of learning.  He already asks to play the games, which we have from when his brother did Pre-K.

We love Math U See for our math curriculum.  We’ve used it from the beginning of our homeschooling journey.  It’s one of the few constants from year to  year.  It works great for us!  We’re mid-level here as well, so we’ll continue where we left off after our summer break.  My kids are currently in Delta, Gamma, and Alpha.  I plan to order Epsilon soon.  We learned last year that we like to supplement our math curriculum with logic puzzles, games, activities, and more.  That’s how we do math on our fun Fridays.  Thanks to our online charter, that is now feasible.

Here is where this year’s changes come into the picture.  Near the end of the school year, my boys were complaining about homeschool not being “fun.”  As I talked to them and learned more about what they meant, I realized that they need more hands-on activities.  It’s not always easy for me to do those with littles underfoot, but I’m hoping that it’ll be more doable this next year.  By the time the school year starts, my littles will be 4.5 and 2.  I don’t expect it to be easy to do more hands-on things with a 2 year old, but hopefully it’ll be more feasible than it’s been before.  We’ll see.  In that vein, our science for 2019-2020 will be less book reading and relevant coloring pages (which my boys are now tired of) and more experiments and activities.  Last year, we studied animals for most of the school year because that’s the topic my kids had wanted to learn about.  Now, they want to do other science topics.  I hope by doing so they will start to enjoy learning more.

I had to write a description for each of our custom-built classes for our charter.  Our reimbursements are based on those descriptions, so I like to be both vague and specific.  I leave it open-ended in order to get a variety of things covered, but I also list specific items we plan to purchase.  Once the descriptions are approved, it’s basically a green light to get reimbursed for those items.  Our descriptions have all been approved for next year.  Our science description is as follows:

“We will explore a variety of scientific topics in this course, such as geology, chemistry, physics, magnets, biology, and other topics as desired.  We will explore chemistry through cooking (parent-supplied ingredients).  We plan to purchase a Home Science Lab subscription, microscope, science books, and other science kits and supplies.  We also plan to go on field trips and utilize the free national park pass for 4th graders.”

I’m really excited about the Home Science Lab!  I researched several different science subscriptions (TinkerCrate, MEL Science, Spangler Science, Magic School Bus, and probably a few others I can’t recall right now) and felt like this one was the best bang for your buck.  It comes with 5 activities per month!  Most of the others only have 1-3 activities, so you run out of things to do long before the next kit comes.  It’s also more reasonably priced than many of the others.  The only caveat is that it’s only a 6 month subscription, because that’s how many different kits they’ve made.   However, with 5+ activities per box, we’ll still get at least 30 activities with a 6 month subscription.  We do science once a week, so that fills up most of the school year.  The rest we can fill up easily with other activities, experiments, and books.  I have several things already planned.  We’re going to get some geology kits on Amazon, where you get to break open a geode or do an archaeological dig.  It’s going to be a really fun year for science!

Our charter has a tech/entrepreneur requirement.  Neither my kids nor I are really interested in the entrepreneur part, but tech?  Oh, we love tech.  We did engineering/building last year, mostly with Legos, Magformers, and other blocks.  Our tech description for next year:

“In this course, we will learn about electricity and circuits.  We plan to purchase an educational Snap Circuits set, a subscription to EEME, the Lego Technic Power Functions Motor set, Circuit Maze, and Smart Circuits.  We will also use other electronic STEM tools and books as needed.  This is a combined course for 3 siblings.”

My boys are really excited about the Snap Circuits.  We have a Snap Circuit Jr set and they love playing with it.  They’re thrilled that we’ll be doing Snap Circuits for their tech class this year.  I remember playing with an old circuit board toy when I was around their age and it was so fun.  I learned about circuits, transistors, resistors, diodes…I loved it.  It wasn’t as cool as what is out these days, though.  Isn’t technology great?  I’m excited for my kids to explore circuitry as well.

Last but not least, my kids want to do art for their elective again.  I don’t see that changing any time soon, if at all.  But it’s really really easy to spend our $150 per kid class budgets on art supplies.  I didn’t think I could spend $450 on art supplies last year, but it proved much easier than I anticipated.  Art books, paper, pencils, crayons, markers, watercolors, specialty paper, items needed for specific projects…it adds up fast!

We will continue to do daily devotionals, where we read about 10 verses of scripture or watch a church video, say a prayer, and sing a hymn.  I’ve already planned out which hymns we’ll learn next year.  If you’re in the Facebook group TGTB for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Members, it’s in the files section as Hymns for Homeschool.  Feel free to use it in whatever way works for your family.  Not all of my children are thrilled about singing – they don’t all actually participate – but at the very least, they’ll be familiar with the hymns.  There is power in beautiful, spiritual, inspirational music.  I want that for my children – even if they aren’t interested in it for themselves!  I don’t expect all my children to aspire to be musicians like I am, but I hope someday they’ll at least appreciate it.  I have caught the non-participators singing/humming some of the songs on their own time, so I’ll call it a win.

My oldest is interested in learning the ukulele, thanks to a talented aunt who visited last summer and played each night.  So that’s on the tech allowance list for this year.  It’ll be on her own time, though.  Maybe I’ll learn, too.  They’ll be visiting again next month, so ideally I’ll buy it before their visit.  That way, she’ll be able to learn a bit from her aunt.

We recently got our kids an Amazon Fire, with FreeTime and the kid-safe case.  They love playing educational games on it.  Their favorite math game is Medieval Math Battle.  They also like Wordscapes, Stack the States, and Teach Your Monster to Read.  I have them doing something educational each Wednesday throughout the summer and that’s their favorite thing to do.  I don’t let them choose the tablet for their educational pick each week, though.  Otherwise, that’s all they’d pick!  I also want them to practice typing and increase reading skills for my reluctant reader 7 year old – the older 2 love to read.  This week, however, it’s church camps – but more on that later.  Probably tomorrow.

That, in a (very long) nutshell, are our plans for the 2019-2020 school year.  As always, we’ll make adjustments and changes as needed.  I don’t currently anticipate any changes, but you never know beforehand.  I’m really excited about everything we’ll be doing!  It should be a fantastic school year.


Beginning of Summer Break

Have we really been on summer break for almost 3 weeks? Crazy!  So far, we’ve mostly lounged around at home, doing chores and playing games.  I’m the mean mom who scheduled the kids for dental checkups on the first full weekday of summer vacation.  Two of them had cavities.  One of them already got his fillings and the other will get his tomorrow.

We had an orthopaedic appointment for my oldest because she has a mild curve in her spine.  It was her first appointment, and mostly just set up a base point.  We go back in 6 months to see if it’s better, worse, or stayed the same.  On the way out, we had an awkward moment.  It’s in the same building where my son had OT last summer.  Unfortunately, OT didn’t help him at all; it was more distressing to him than just dealing with his challenges on our own at home, so we quit.  But both offices are on the same floor, and the rehab center (OT location) is next to the elevators.  We saw the therapist calling in another patient on our way out…and she recognized us.  It took me a moment to recognize her, and by the time I did, my 4 year old was running off and I had to remind him to stay with us.  The moment to say hi in return passed before I could process it.  So…yeah.  Awkward.

I have a long list of projects and such to work on, but I haven’t really tackled anything yet.  Mostly, I’ve been relaxing and playing games on my phone or browsing Facebook.  Not very productive, I know.  But I think I needed the rest before diving into my projects.  Now I’m ready to get started!

I’ve started buying things for the next school year.  I haven’t bought much yet, but I’ve planned out a lot.  I’ve even planned out when I’m buying most of it, for the sake of our budget.  We’ll get reimbursed, but not until fall.  I’m so excited about what we’ll be doing!  I have my new Plum Paper Homeschool planner and love it!  It’s so pretty.  They come with stickers now, so that’s a fun addition.  I wrote out when we’re taking our breaks and other days we’re taking off.  We always take off birthdays, Halloween, Veteran’s Day, and Valentine’s Day.  We make those special days, in honor of what we’re celebrating.

I planned out which hymns we’ll be learning next school year.  My boys may not be excited about it – they never join in when we sing – but I feel compelled to teach my children beautiful, spiritual music.  Even if they don’t sing along, they’ll still learn the good messages, which will help them remember what they learned when they need it.

We also got our kids an Amazon Fire to share.  The main reason is so they can play educational games on it, but they play other games as well.  So far, the educational games they like are Medieval Math Battle and Wordscapes.  In order to prevent regression, I have them doing something educational each Wednesday throughout the summer.  Sometimes it’s educational games on the tablet, reading, or typing.  It could be other things, too, but that’s what we’ve done so far.

One of our nieces graduated from an online high school and since we live nearish, we were able to attend her graduation.  Then we went to their house for a combined graduation and birthday party.  My brother’s daughters are graduating from high school and college this year as well, but they live too far away for us to go.  What an exciting time in these girls’ lives!


The End of the 2018-2019 School Year

There is so much I could put in this post.  We did so many things this year!

We learned about animals, where they lived, how they interact with each other and their environments. We went to the aquarium.  We did a butterfly habitat and a ladybug one.  One of the butterflies emerged with severely deformed wings and died before we released them.  They were the laziest butterflies; only one of them flew away when we opened the habitat.  We attached it to our fence to let them come out on their own.  Eventually, all but one flew off.  Another died.  I’m pretty sure all the ladybugs survived before we released them.  They were fun!  We went to Baby Animal Days and got to see lots of farm animals.  We even got to pet or hold some and ride horses!  We also learned about plants and how they grow.  We spent most of the year learning about animals and only got to plants in the last few weeks, so we’ll pick up where we left off at the start of next year.

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We learned about various eras in history: Ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Revolutionary War, and the Cold War.  I absolutely loved our history curriculum this year and plan to use Year 2 next year.  I think it was my favorite subject we did. We read a historical fiction book to go with each unit.  Well…mostly.  In the Revolutionary War unit, we ended up reading a nonfiction book because that’s the only recommended one our library had.  Next year, we’ll buy the book pack to go with the curriculum.

We learned about building and engineering (mostly with Legos, Magformers, and other blocks LOL).  We built simple machines and explored how they work. We built fun 3D puzzles of a castle and a pirate ship.  We built a DYI drone and flew it around.  We learned about architecture and floor plans.  The kids came up with a list of features for their dream house.  Then, I built it for them in Sims 2, just for fun.  It’s an amazing massive castle-like dream house that we’ll never be able to afford 😉

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We learned about various artists and did so many different art projects.  That’s my kids’ favorite subject.  It’s not mine because it’s more work for me, but they love it.  My oldest is an amazingly talented artist and I’m learning that my boys like more hands on type of things, so it’s good for them.

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We tackled long division, multiplication, addition, subtraction, story problems, area, perimeter, charts, solving for the unknown, parallel vs perpendicular, logic skills, and more. We played a variety of math games like Money Money and Sums in Space.

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We practiced grammar, phonics, reading, writing, and other language skills.  We read a lot of books and poetry together.  My reluctant reader 7 year old made so much progress on learning to read.  The process has been slower with him than my older kids. I’m learning to be more patient with him.  He’s learning by leaps and bounds, but he either doesn’t recognize it or doesn’t want to acknowledge it.  Maybe a combination of the two.

We read scriptures or watched church videos for a devotional each day.  We sang a new hymn each week.  In the evenings as a family, we studied Come, Follow Me.  Sometimes the “study” was short and filled with interruptions, but that’s life with 5 kids.  In my personal study, I try to at least finish reading each lesson and all the included scriptures and talks by the end of the week.  I’m usually successful, but sometimes I miss a day or don’t quite finish.  I’m trying.  And that’s enough.

We played outside, especially as the weather warmed up this spring.  We made and ate delicious food.  We celebrated holidays and birthdays.  We played epic April Fools pranks, like filling up an empty cranberry juice bottle with water, food coloring, and peppermint extract.  We lost teeth – and put marshmallows in their place.  We went to the park.  We went to our neighborhood Easter egg hunt.  We tried to take family photos…  We played.  We worked.  We fought.  We loved.  We lived. And we learned.

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It’s amazing to think that we have yet another year of homeschool in the books.  We’re 4 years in to this incredible journey.  I’m so excited to prep for year 5!

Status Update

I know, I know; my post earlier didn’t say much of what we’ve been doing for the last nearly 6 months.  It would take entirely too long to write – and read – a full life update.  So, here are a few basics.

Most of our household birthdays are November- January.  Our anniversary and Christmas are shoved into that timeframe as well, so it makes for a busy and expensive time of year.  Our oldest turned 11 at the end of November.  Two weeks after her birthday, our church announced that youth will move up to Young Women’s or Young Men’s in January of the year they turn 12, instead of on their 12th birthdays.  For us, that meant our daughter who had literally just turned 11 would be moving up nearly 11 months early!  It’s taken awhile for me to wrap my head around it.  After all, 11 feels so young and I wasn’t really ready for her to grow up that much.  But, it’s been great.  She has amazing leaders and the older girls are so sweet with the younger ones.  I knew it was the right call, but as a mom, it was hard for me.  I’m nervous about her going to girl’s camp next month, but I know she’ll love it and it will be an amazing experience for her.  But I’m still apprehensive because I’ve never been away from her for that long.  I know she’ll be fine, but I’m not sure if I will be!

I’ve mentioned previously that 2018 was financially a difficult year.  And oh, it was.  Furnaces are not cheap!  But oh how blessed we were!  Someone did the 12 days of Christmas for our family and they went above and beyond.  They had a theme for each day.  Kitchen gadgets one day, groceries another, cleaning supplies, scarves and hats, and more.  They probably spent over $100 each day.  Christmas Eve brought even more gifts, including gift cards for my husband and I to go on a date (which we still need to do…).  We never officially found out who they were, despite my boys trying to spy.  I have a pretty solid theory, but I won’t say who I suspect was behind all that kindness and generosity.  On top of that, our church family brought us a ton of gifts: toys, clothing, shoes, treats, and more.  My heart was so full.  It still is every time I think of the love, kindness, and generosity of those around us.  Someday, I hope we can be in a position to do the same for someone else.

We also had my husband’s birthday and our 12th anniversary in December.  Two of our boys have birthdays in January.  They are now 9 and 4.  It’s amazing how quickly time goes by.  My youngest boy is 4!  I’ll never have a 3 year old son again.  It’s a bit surreal, but I know our family is complete with 5 kids.  It’ll hit me harder with our baby girl’s birthdays because she’s our last.  And since we share a birthday and I’ll always remember our NICU experience, we’ll have very emotional birthdays in the middle of August.

January brought us colds.  Yuck.  We were sick almost all month.  Mine turned into a sinus infection, so I had to get on antibiotics.  And it looks like some of us are getting sick again now.  Not the best start for summer vacation, but it is what it is.

Thanks to our tax return, we were able to pay off the remaining balance on our furnace, my emergency dental work, and one of our credit cards.  We’d planned to pay off both cards, but both our vehicles needed some TLC.  Between the car and the van, we spent about $2500.  Ouch.  And we didn’t even do all the repairs we “should” have!  But we did the essential things, like new tires for both, alignment for both, replacing the car’s windshield (it was badly cracked in 2 places), flushing the van’s transmission…and lots of other repairs to add up to that balance.  All the same, our finances are in much better shape.  They’re not perfect, but certainly better than they were a year ago.  Progress, right?  Now, we’re budgeting for the upcoming school year’s expenses.  And girl’s camp and scout day camp x2.  Most of the school expenses will be reimbursed through our online charter school, but reimbursements don’t open up until September, so we have to buy bits and pieces of what we need between now and then.  I’ve planned it all out in my spreadsheet (more on that in another post).

I think I covered the main things.  I’ll write more about the rest of our homeschool year in a separate post.  I will also post about next year’s plans in yet another post.  I’m so excited about them!

You know, this 6 month blogging hiatus and then explosion of posts is very much a me thing to do.  At least I’m consistent in the things that really matter, right?  Or at least, I try to be, to varying degrees of success.

Overall, life is going pretty well for us.  It will always have its challenges.  Right now, those include trying to get adequate sleep with an anti-sleep toddler.  Most of the hard things currently are day-to-day kind of trials.  Like the, “I’m too tired from teaching bigs and caring for littles on 4 hours of sleep to cook dinner” kind of days.  That happens probably more often than not.  We have more of the “choose your own dinner” nights than cooked meals right now, and that’s ok.  We’re doing the best we can.  And some days, that means my kids make their own sandwiches, ramen, or frozen chicken nuggets for dinner.  Last night, we celebrated the last day of school with free pizza, thanks to Pizza Hut’s Book It program.  Perfect way to end the school year!

Last Day of School

Yesterday was our last day of school!!  We turned in the last of our learning logs and even submitted next year’s schedules for our online charter school.  All our classes are custom built, so we do what we want for each class.  However, our reimbursements are based on our class descriptions, so it’s a balancing act of specifics and open ended-ness.  I’m already getting excited about what we’re doing next year, and this year just barely ended!

Overall, we’ve had a fantastic school year!  We learned a lot of great things and had some fun along the way.  That’s not to say we didn’t have hard days.  Oh, we did.  Teething toddler, tantrums, kids wanting to play instead of work, sicknesses…mostly just everyday stuff.  We were sick most of January, so that was rough.  But if I look at the big picture and see the progress we’ve made and the good, joyful moments, they outweigh all the challenges.  Homeschooling isn’t easy by any means, but it is 100% worth it.  I’m so grateful that I’m able to stay home and teach my kids.  I love spending every single day with them!  LOL, mostly 😉

As wonderful as it’s been, we’re ready for a break.  Bring on summer vacation!  And summer projects.  Haha, I’ve already got a loooong list of things to do this summer while I’m not teaching my kids.  Mostly it’s things like organizing the storage rooms and bookshelves, learning how to use my Silhouette, purchasing curriculum and supplies for next school year, weaning the toddler, potty training the preschooler, convincing the toddler to sleep in her own bed, exercising, eating healthier, catching up on housework, doing more fun activities as a family…  I don’t know how much progress I’ll make on any of those, but I’ll do my best.  Life happens.  If all I do is buy school items and get the littles weaned, potty trained, and sleeping in their own beds, I’ll consider it a success.  And even if I don’t, it’s ok.

Speaking of weaning…my 21 month old just woke up…and wants to nurse, of course.  She doesn’t want to stop!  It’s hard to believe she’ll be 2 in 3 months!  More details to come.  My poor neglected blog needs some love.  But right now, my baby needs me more.

Highlight Reel Catch Up: Thanksgiving

We were going to go to a church turkey bowl on Thanksgiving. We were told there would be donuts, hot chocolate, and activities for all ages. But when we got there, it was just  flag football. Miscommunication, perhaps? So…we went to Krispy Kreme instead 😂. As we parked the van, I said, “I think we just started a new tradition.” My husband replied, “heck yeah we did!” I doubt we’ll have any objections 😂. It was such a fun way to start the holiday!

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Everyone loves watching the donuts!  Even our littlest.  She kept reaching toward them excitedly 😂

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We took our donuts home and ate them with hot chocolate or chocolate milk.

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I  had a maple bar, custard filled, and peppermint hot chocolate.  Perfect start to any holiday!

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Most of our extended family lives in other states, but one of my husband’s sisters and her family live about an hour away. We went over to their new house for Thanksgiving dinner. We split the cooking in half.  Our portion of the food:

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We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with them!

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So. Much. Delicious. Food!

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And the baby was mostly interested in their dog’s water dish 😂

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We took all of Thanksgiving week off from school. It was great! We needed the break. Parts of it were really stressful, but we also spent a lot of time relaxing together as a family.

We got our first snow of the season on Saturday.  We had a blast playing in the snow!  We decked the halls with our Christmas decor last night. We were missing a box, which we found later. We’ll decorate with the items in that box soon, but I love how it’s coming together so far!  Pics of snow and decor coming in a separate post; plus, they’re on my phone and I’m on my computer right now.

Today is very much the Monday after a break. Getting back into the school routine was a complete battle with my SPD 8.5 year old. And most of this week will be abnormal because my oldest’s birthday is tomorrow, my middle is getting cavities filled on Wed, and I’m helping decorate for our Relief Society (women at church) Christmas party on Thursday during the day. I have to take the kids along. We’ll see how that goes! 😂😂😂

I keep trying to slow down, and my body is telling me to do just that by giving me cold symptoms, but I have too many commitments this month that have to be addressed. I’m ready for November to end 😂😂😂.  We’ve had ups and downs, but it’s been a very busy month.  Even so, we are so blessed and have much – more than much – to be grateful for.

Highlight Reel Catch Up: Appointments, Party, and Fraud

November has been full of appointments. Oh so many appointments! Mostly dental. And we’re not done with them yet! All the kids, besides the baby, had dental check ups. Two of them need fillings. That same day, I had an emergency dental appointment right after the kids’ check ups. I literally left their pediatric dentist’s office to go to my appointment. My husband met us at the kids’ dentist and took the kids home while I went in for my appointment.

The kids’ dentist has a fantastic play area!  The baby kept going up and down the slide.  She loved it!

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And the big kids mostly played on the tablets 😂

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One of my premolars broke during dinner 2 nights before, so I had to get it taken care of ASAP. Even if it meant spending over 5 hours at one dentist or another (mine and the kids’). Of course, it was more complicated and expensive (even after insurance) than anticipated. C’est la vie. An extraction and temp bridge later…

My littlest turned 15 months! She had her well check and she’s doing great! She weighs 20 lbs and is 30″ tall now.  She has a molar coming in, so she’s been extra clingy and fussy.  She woke up with some serious bedhead that morning.

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We were invited to our nephew’s birthday party at a trampoline park. It was fun! At first, I didn’t want to go because I’d had a really really hard day. I’m glad I did, though. We had a great time and it was just the sort of lighthearted fun we needed.

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We got to do the obstacle course with our big kids.  So fun!

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I got my permanent bridge right before Thanksgiving. I’m still having some pain from it. Ibuprofen is my friend these days.

While I was at my bridge seating appointment, my husband called me to inform me that there was fraud on our bank account. Because, you know, life isn’t hard enough, right? We got it resolved, cancelled his debit card, changed the password for the store site that got hacked, etc. We thought it was done. But no. Last night, my card got fraud, too. We’re in the process of fixing it. We’ve done our part; we’re now waiting for our bank to give our money back. And I’m changing passwords everywhere. I know it’ll work out, but it’s still so stressful! I really don’t understand how anyone can do things like that to others. And unfortunately, it’s extra prevalent at this time of year. Also, none of those charges can actually clear because they’re for more than our current balance.  So, nice try, thieves?

I have some cavities to fill as well, and one tooth still needs a crown, so I get to go back right before Christmas.  Yay?  At least it’s getting taken care of, right?  Plus the kids who need to get fillings.  Three more dental visits between now and Christmas.  So.  Many.  Appointments.  Thank goodness for insurance!