Thursday, December 17, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree

This year, because we were sticking around for the holidays and Blake was supposedly old enough to not nock it over, we decided to get a real Christmas tree. We thought it would be fun to make an event of it, so I started looking around for different options. There were tree farms, tree lots, the over abundant parking lot lots, and even the store lots. Well, OK. Nothing too exciting there. Then I stumbled upon the National Forest Christmas tree cutting program.

Every year, the National Forests give out permits for people to come and cut down their own Christmas trees during the first full week of December.
To do so, you have to have either 4 wheel drive or snow chains, and you can only cut down trees in designated areas with trunks less then 6 inches in diameter. Oh, and chainsaws aren't allowed. But it's quite inexpensive (only $10 per tree), and you can feel good about helping to thin the forests to a healthier level.

I was thrilled. I knew we probably wouldn't get that wonderful of a tree. After all, it would be natural, not pruned to grow a certain way like all of the farmed ones (though I did hope for something better then the Charlie Brown variety). Still, to go into the mountains, cut our own tree, haul it home, and set it up as a reminder of our trip was something that seemed totally worth it. Besides, you couldn't beet the freshness.

So, the first Saturday of December, we all got dressed in thermals, snow pants, snow boots, hats, gloves, and coats, loaded a couple sleds, water bottles, lunch, saw, ax, rope, a book on CD, and ourselves into our SUV, and headed off for the mountains. The site we were going to was north of Fort Collins near the Boy Scout Camp, a good hour and a half drive.
Our kids are good travelers, so there wan't much hassle on the drive. They even let us listen to NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me program for the first half. Then we listened to Listen In Addition until we got there, eating lunch the last ten minutes or so of the drive.

At the "entrance" we were given a map of the cutting site, an activity book for the kids, and a chance to use the johns. Then we headed along the one way, snow packed road to find a likely spot for tree hunting.

There were a lot of people there, taking advantage of the warmer weather break between two ice storms. Site A was really crowded, and so was site B. We kept going to site C, where cars more spread out, found a small shoulder, and parked.

The kids were really excited. Once out of the car, they ran all over the place through the two foot deep snow. Bailey liked to be pulled on the sled I was dragging, but it was hard to maneuver due to all of the fallen logs and brush scattered all over. Eventually I just made her stay off. Blake and SIerra were running all over the place, getting stuck on occasion and having the time of their lives. It quickly became apparent that One of us would have to look for the tree while the other watched the kids. Guess who got which job.

Seth came back ten to fifteen minutes later with a few possible trees in mind, so we gathered up the kids and took a look. Most of the options were very bare on one side or more, or the wrong height. One had two trees growing from one trunk, which I really liked, but the base was too large to fit into our tree stand at home. There was one, however, that, though not perfect, we rather liked. It was about nine feet tall, relatively uniform in shape, and a softer pine variety. The kids were also starting to get tired and whiney, so we decided to claim it.

Seth took the ax to the base, which was only about two inches in diameter, and quickly cut it down while the kids sat close by to watch. Minutes later we were back at the car stripping off boots, coats, hats, and gloves, tying the tree to the the top of the car, and getting everyone situated. Then we followed the road to the exit where we once agin took a pit stop and payed for our tree.

Because it was our drowsy time of day, we put in a book on CD, The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker. Blake fell asleep quickly, but the book kept the rest of us suitably awake for the return drive.
We stopped at the McDonald's drive through in Fort Collins for an early dinner (Blake barely even twitching) and made it home close to 4pm.

We set up our tree soon after. After the lights and string of beads, we hung pine cones on it and simple plastic ornaments (though not too many). It's a bit sparse and has a bit of a figure 8 shape to it, but I like it a lot. I think it's grown on me. Now, if only I can remember to water it every day. . .

Happy 3rd Birthday Blake!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The New, Improved Battle Plans

Things have changed a bit since we started the school year, adding in things like swimming lessons, piano lessons, the Options program, and so forth, so I thought I would give an update on our daily routine. Hope it makes sense.

Mon. Tues. Wed. & Fri.
7:30 am- I go exercise for about 30-45 minutes rotating between swimming, jogging, and biking.

9:30 am-School begins. From here, we just keep going until we're done with the morning work.
Sierra & Bailey Step 1- Clean up time. Bailey usually takes longer on her chores, so they go at their own pace from here.
Sierra Step 2- 15 minutes piano practice, Alfred's Basic Piano Library A-1
Sierra Step 3- Math, Horrizons 2nd grade
Sierra Step 4- Zanner Blosser Handwriting, 2nd grade cursive
Sierra Step 5- Spelling Workout

Bailey Step 2- Math, Horrizons Kindergarden work
Bailey Step 3- Zanner Blosser Handwriting, Kindergarden printing and copy work
Bailey Step 4- Headsprout online reading program

Everyone, next Step:
Monday- Grocery Shopping
Tuesday- Swimming lessons by me at Rec. Center
Wednesday- Library
Friday- Homeschool Playgroup


2:00 pm Blake goes to bed
Monday- History
Tuesday- Science
Wednesday- Sierra Piano lessons

Thursday we have Options
8am- take Sierra up to Loveland (School starts at 8:30
10am- Play group with Church


2pm- Blake down (unless I have to take him with me at 3)
3pm- Leave to pick up Sierra (School gets out at 3:30)

Sierra and bailey will both be going to the Longmont Options next year, not the Loveland one. I Signed Sierra up too late for Longmont this year. It's a very popular program, and the Longmont one is run very well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Listen in Addition

I've been looking around at the multiplication CDs, trying to find something to help Sierra, but had yet to find something that didn't drive me crazy. Almost all of them are very monotonous with little more then repetition of numbers and equations. And while they will help you memorize the facts, it will drive you batty in the process.

Well, at the library yesterday, I cam across an addition CD called "Listen in Addition". It had a CD and board book together, and since my kids were busy playing on the library computer, I popped it into the library's CD player and listened in. I was surprised. It was actually fun! Julie Scott, the author, has a fun song to go along with each addition set. Half of the song is fun made up stuff, the other half is the addition facts, and it's repeated twice. The book also is nicely done, showing pictures to match the songs while presenting the addition facts. There are no words to clutter the pages, just the numbers and fun drawings. This really helps those audio-visual learners put the music facts on paper.

The first ten songs cover the addition problems from 1+0 to 10+9 (each set, 0-9, getting it's own song). The last two songs go on to the addition facts that add up to ten (such as 7+3 and 6+4) and doubles (6+6, 5+5, etc.). I'll admit, they're not the best songs in the world, but they're better then everything else I've come across. I'll be able to listen to them repetitively without going nuts. Check out the web link above to hear some samples. You can also check it out from your local library (although you living in the Longmont area will have to wait until I return it).

I was able to find the multiplication equivalent, Multiplication Sensation, on Amazon (our library doesn't carry it), and I'm excited to try it out. It also comes with a book to help the visual learners. They do skip counting as well as the multiplication tables, a very useful skill, and the book is paperback instead of a board book. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween

He's a Cowboy Blakie (aka Woodie from Toy Story)

Bailey is an Ice Princess.

Sierra is a Butterfly Farie

We started the evening by having a little Halloween Party at out place, then we went Trunk or Treating at our church.

Afterwards, the kids went trick or treating on our street, went home and watched It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and The Nightmare Before Christmas while eating their candy. I think they had a good day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Swimming Lessons

Last spring, when my girls were in swimming lessons, I noticed that they were not improving much. Sierra had reached the level (3 to be exact) where she needed a good teacher who pushed technique and distance (something that is in short supply until you reach swim team level). She swam on her back just fine, but on her front, she still doggie paddled. To make swim team, she has to be able to swim all the way across the pool on both her front and back. Bailey, however, was barely putting her face in and wouldn't float on her back at all. She was showing almost no improvement after four or more month long sessions. So, I decided to take things into my own hands.

I used to teach swimming lessons when I was in high school, so I figured I could teach my own kids. Plus, we have a family Rec. pass. Why not use it? But I needed a way to get Blake off of my hands while I taught the girls. He's a complete handful, not afraid of the water or anything. Luckily, there is a toddler swimming class that meets once a week where I don't have to get in with him, so that became our swim time. Ready, set, go!

It's only been a couple of months, totaling about 6 lessons, but there has been a vast improvement. I worked on Sierra's technique (breathing to the side, pointing her toes, long arms, straight legs, etc.) and she's looking a lot better. When she really tries, she can now swim 15 yards without stopping on her front. When she's tired though, all of her old habits resurface. The idea is to eventually get her ready for swim team, so we've still got work to do. But it's going quite well.

Bailey was actually a bit of a surprise. The first time I had her in the water, she was very reluctant to put her face in. I knew she could though, so I made her do it anyway. Now, she's doing glides out to me and even "swimming" a few feet with her face in. She can also do a back float all by herself!

The funny thing about it all is that I had previously decided that I would never teach my kids how to swim. Why? Because it was something I could pay someone else to do. That's got to sound really strange coming from a mother who homeschools, but it's what I thought. I'm still quite willing to hand them off to someone else (one less thing for me to worry about), but it's really hard watching when I know I could be doing a much better job for less money. I'm going to be teaching Sierra until she reaches swim team level. As for the other two, we'll have to wait and see.

I plan on having all my kids on swim team one day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pop Beads

Last week, while I was at Target with the kids, I saw some pop beads that I thought they might like. The kids held very little interest when I showed the beads to them and continued to play with the other toys at the store. OK. So they weren't interested. But I couldn't shrug the idea that they would really like them if they had them. Since Bailey's birthday was coming up, I thought it was the perfect opportunity. And, since Bailey loves figuring out shape puzzles and working with beads, i figured she should like playing with pop bead too, right?

So, with some trepidation, I got the beads for Bailey's birthday. Again, she wasn't too interested in comparison to her other gifts, until I had some of her friends show her how to play with them (I knew that they had the same beads at home, so enlisting their help was easy). From that point on, they've been the only toys my girls have really played with. Every day and all day long. I know they'll eventually loose interest, but they're having more fun then I even hoped for. Blake has even tried playing with them, but he has a hard time popping the beads together. So, instead, he just plays with the creations the girls have made. Sierra has been really creative, and Bailey happily copies her sister's creations. It's really cute.

On the down side, I'm already finding stray beads around the house, even though I'm constantly having the girls pick them all up when they're done playing with them. Oh well. It's something I don't mind putting up with. Not when they're enjoying them so much.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Bailey

Bailey had her 5th birthday this week. She got some presents in the mail from her grandparents. She got to go with Daddy to the store to pick out a present and have some ice cream. She got to pick a restaurant to go to dinner at (McDonald's, of course). And, the next day, she got to have a birthday party with her friends. I made her a present cake-my first time using fondant. We had some snack food. The kids played, opened presents and ate. Good times.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Neurology #2

I went in to see my neurologist again on Monday, and things went a lot more smoothly. I didn't get lost. I arrived with plenty of time to spare. My heart rate and blood pressure weren't skyrocketing. And I didn't cry, even once. In fact, except that I was tired (still getting over the swine flu), everything went perfectly.

Since the last time I saw the neurologist, most of my symptoms had gone away. In fact, before I came down with the flu, all I had was slight pressure in my pointer fingers and occasional hyper sensory in the abdomen (usually in conjunction with illness, stress, or anxiety). There were those occasional weirdnesses, like the corner eye sight in my right eye blurring for about twenty minutes and getting tiny muscle twinges all over my right leg for about a week, but other then that, things were looking good. When I came down with the flu, however, things started coming back. I now have spots of minor numbness in my right leg and the top of my right foot and my right hip is aching again. But the neurologist said that was nothing to worry about. It's normal to have reoccurrence with a big illness.

So, she checked me out, though not in as much detail as last time. I got to have my eyes, reflexes, muscles, cognitive processes and sensories checked. Everything was normal, again. No anxiety this time. She was pleased to hear I was cross training again (though taking a break while recovering from the flu). We talked about my recurring symptoms, how nerves can take 6-12 months to heal (if my nerves were even damaged), and that, although my grandmother had MS, it's not really hereditary. She also said that an MRI isn't necessary. It would be nice, but probably wouldn't help much-definitely not worth shelling out $2000 from my own pocket. Really, all there is for me to do is wait and see what happens, contacting her if anything new/weird comes up.

That's it. That's all. Right now, and possibly forever, there's nothing to worry about. Definitely good to hear.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Swine Flu?!!

I'm really sorry if we got anyone sick. Really.

You see, after going to bed Friday night, I came down with the flu. At about 2 in the morning, I woke up with the chills. Luckily, my husband was in bed by then, so I snuggled in. That helped. Two hours later, I woke up feeling ill. Was the queasy stomach just my supposed ulcer acting up again, or what? I fell back asleep, waking around 6. It was freezing. I went to turn the house thermostat up. . . oops, I mean on. The house was at 60F. No wonder I was so cold! But I still felt awful. My head hurt, and I ached all over. I checked my temperature. 101.9!!!

Time for a hot bath.

I ended up staying there for over two hours. It was the only place where I wasn't shivering and my poor aching muscles could relax. I would have stayed longer if General Conference wasn't starting. We were watching it by internet in our family room, so I curled up on the couch, warmly dressed and generously blanketed to fall asleep after the first speaker. I might have heard a total of four talks that day. Maybe. I was out, hard.

Apparently, Bailey came down with the flu that day too. She curled up at my feet for Conference, copying my every word, and sleeping through the second session. After that, I checked her head. Yup. She had a fever, and now we were both coughing as well. Not the "tickle your throat" kind but the "rip your esophagus to shreds" kind that does nothing to nice to your headache. And our appetite, even with all of the treats that we'd gotten for Conference, was gone. I almost had to force-feed myself.

Sierra had slept through the second session as well. She's had a cough for a few days, but because she never had a fever or anything else, I had just thought that it was leftover from a cold. Nope. We'd gotten the flu from her-and I'd sent her to school on Thursday! Sorry!!!

So, I Tylenoled all three of us and told my husband to call his parents and tell them to not come visit as planned the following weekend. The boys had yet to get it, and I had honestly never remembered feeling so awful in my life. And, due to the severity and the season, I figured it was likely to be the Swine Flu that we had. My mother in law, who works under Utah County's Health Department in the Emergency Preparedness section, seconded the likelihood. Yay.

Well, Sunday was a little better. I was able to stay awake until the very end of the first session anyway, and I did get about half of the second. My fever was also slightly lower, and I no longer had the chills. Bailey was still going strong though. She seemed to be about half a day behind me. Sierra's cough was still there too, but it seemed to be getting better. To late, I started making Seth stay away from all of us. The last thing we needed was for him to get sick, though we pretty much assumed it to be inevitable.

Monday, Blake came down with the flu. Bailey was feeling a bit better, and so was I, though we both still had fevers. Sierra felt fine, except for her cough. Seth had a court hearing in Denver and a signing meeting that day. I made the girls do some schoolwork (there would be little else to do then watch movies all day, and since their brains weren't fried, just their bodies. . .) We spent the rest of the day veging in the family room in front of the screen. The kids watched their movies while I streamed ones for myself from Netflix onto the new laptop. (I love Netflix. It's helped me out a lot in times of need.)

This morning, Tuesday, Seth came down with the flu. Well, we were expecting it. Luckily, he has no out of home appointments today or tomorrow. He has a court hearing on Thursday though. Hopefully he'll be feeling well enough by then.

It's been four days for me, and I've still got occasional surges of cough and fever. Bailey's acting mostly normal with a very small fever. Blake is cranky and hot, and Sierra is just chilling while she waits for the rest of us to feel better. I told her we can't go anywhere until I haven't had a fever for a whole day. Bailey and Blake aren't leaving the house until their fevers have been gone for a day either.

Sierra's taken it well enough. I told her we'd get her a new Disney Fairy book when I'm better. She's read all of the ones we have already. That made her happy. Hopefully, that won't be too long from now.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

True Books

For science, we don't have any one book that we use. Instead, we pick general topics, then find books at the library about those topics. Last year, for example, we studied animals. So, we would go to the library and pick out books on, say, giraffes, bring them home, read them, write a short report, and color a picture about giraffes. The next week, we'd pick another animal, and so on. This year, we're studying earth science, and we've found books on volcanoes, mountains, oceans, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc.

With all of these books that we've gone through, I've come to really like one series in particular. They've got books on almost every subject (even if our library doesn't carry them all), and they're the perfect length for second through fifth graders (they can be a bit long for the attention span of a first grader). I've yet to find a series that I like as much.

They're called True Books. They've taught my family about tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, mountains, gemstones, dinosaurs, oceans, caves, volcanoes, and the list goes on. And you can find them on other subjects as well, like ecosystems, the solar system, different countries, various animals, etc. Luckily our local library caries a lot of them. They're very helpful and informative, with vocabulary words and often additional information. And best of all, they don't talk down. What more could you ask?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Back in the Saddle

I'm cross training again. I didn't realize how much I missed it until I was on the treadmill doing jog/walk intervals and watching the swimmers in the pool below. It felt good to be doing that again. I hadn't been jogging since all of my neurological stuff started happening three months ago. I hadn't been biking much either for the same reasons, but two weeks ago, I felt ready to try it again. Oh, I've been walking regularly and swimming on occasion, but I wanted to get back on the bike and go jogging. I think I got a little addicted to the speed, slow as I was.

This time, though, I'm taking things slow. I was pushing myself a little too hard last time. I don't think that I was quite ready to do the triathlon, and with all of the outside pressures and stresses, I think I did a little too much.

Well, now I have a good 9+ months to get ready, and I've already built a small foundation. It's been a lot easier this past couple weeks starting up again then when I started almost a year ago. My body remembers things that it had to learn last time. (After all, you never do forget how to ride a bike.) So far, it's been really easy. And if all goes well, I'll be planning my triathlon debut next summer. Wish me luck.

And for those of you who are wondering, most of the neuropathy is gone now. I only notice it, very mildly, every now and again-it's almost like it isn't there any more. Hopefully it's going for good. I get to go in and see the neurologist in a couple of weeks, and I'll give you another update then.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Update on Options

Thursday was Sierra's third week of Public school, and things are going well. Almost as soon as I pulled up, she came bounding over to the car with news about her day. They had made "flubber" (a putty like substance that was supposed to bounce when I dried out completely) in science. They had made "gack" as well. It was "Topsy Turvie Day", so she also told me about some of the weird outfits the kids had been wearing. Sierra had put her own hair up into three ponytails and had her shirt on backwards. Some of the other kids had worn their shoes on the wrong feet, had their clothes inside out, and had their hair up in goofy styles. One girl had even colored her hair blue.

I had agreed to help with take down for the next six weeks, so we headed inside. (The kids have school at a church, so they needed help putting things back in order for the Sunday services.) We helped Mrs. Ford, the science/writing teacher, put away all of her chairs and tables and moved the couches back in place. She talked happily the whole time about the science projects the kids were doing and how the day had gone. Then we moved onto the other classrooms where the teachers had already left, and arranged the room according to instructions. Another mom and grandmother were helping while their little ones were running about. It was fun to socialize for a but, but then we were done, and it was time to head home.

On the drive home, Sierra happily munched on her leftover lunch and chattered away. I think she's going to have a great school year.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our System is Down

A number of days ago, I went to use my iBook laptop, opened it up, and it flashed blank, never to turn on again. The poor thing was getting close to four years old, which is a good long life for a heavily used laptop, and luckily, nothing of great importance was lost. But still... I never knew how much I used it! I've had to revert back to our six year old desk top PC, re-learn Windows, and re-find most of the web pages I had bookmarked (this one included). And really, I can get over the desktop's slowness, but I hate not being able to carry it around with me. I was so spoiled! And my husband, Seth, used to take it to his court hearings (he's an attorney) instead of lugging all of the printed out paperwork. Poor thing. He had to use paper like everyone else last week.

In any case, Seth, has been eying a new MacBook Pro for his home office because his PC laptop is getting ready to call it quits as well. What's nice is that all the new Macs can run Windows and Windows programs using its Intel chip and one of two software programs (Parallels or Fusion). Eventually we'll replace our old PC desktop with an iMac as well.

So, we went to the Mac store last week and were blown away at how big the screens have become. The smallest laptop has a screen the size of my PC monitor's, and the smallest desktop is four inches larger then Seth's 2 year old iMac! Geesh! Oh, and the Memory and Hard drive space on the lowest end computers were much larger then my old beefed up laptop. Go figgure.

We could upgrade major time! But for now, we're going to settle with getting a lower end MacBook Pro for Seth's office that I can snag every now and again.

Maybe next year we can get that iMac for the family room. . .

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fashion Show

My girls got into my fabric yesterday and made their own gowns all by themselves. I was surprised at how well they turned out, so I decided to do their hair and take pictures. Sierra looked like someone from Ancient Greece, and Bailey was a princess. I told Bailey she looked like a Roman Princess though that wasn't really the case. It pleased her though because the Romans conquered the Greeks.

So, Bailey proceeded to pretend a war with Sierra and started telling her what to do, because she conquered her and all. Sierra didn't like that at all, and told me what was going on. I had to remind Bailey that the Romans were good conquerors and not bad ones (Especially for those days), so she needed to be nice. If she wasn't, she'd be a bad conqueror. Well, she didn't want that, so she started being nice to her sister instead, asking Sierra what she would like to do, etc.

I just knew all of those lessons on history would come in handy some day.

First Day Drama

Poor Sierra. She was so excited about going to "real" school for her first time today. So excited, in fact, that she was bouncing up and down in her seat at the short assembly before the kids were to go off to their classes. When I left her, after seeing her to her first class, she seemed eager, shy, uncertain, and still excited.

Fast forward seven hours. When I came to pick her up, I had no idea where to find her. Was I supposed to wait for her to come find me, or go find her myself? After a few minutes, I decided to go find her. When I did, she was with Mrs. Gresham, the music/drama/math teacher, who was trying to calm her down. Then Sierra turned around and saw me, threw herself into my arms, and, burying her face, tried to hold back tears.

Mrs. Gresham explained what had happened, and soon Mrs. Ford, her science/writing teacher, came out and explained the rest. They could tell she'd never been to school before and promised to keep special watch on her next week. They were very nice about it really.

Turns out, Sierra had gone to the wrong class, twice. She mixed up her music and PE classes as well as her writing and science classes. It was also a lot longer of a day then she has ever experienced (her longest school day to date being a total of 2 1/2 hours). And to add insult to injury, she got hit in the head twice with a ball. Sierra had had enough. School hadn't turned out at all as perfect as she'd expected.

So, I held Sierra's hand as we walked to the car. She didn't want to talk. In the car, I babbled a bit, then asked her what she did in PE. No response. I asked again.

"We ran around the room," was all she said.

"Anything else?"

"We played with a bean bag."

Her sniffling was easing up, and she was starting to look a little better. Good. "What did you do in art?" I asked.

"I drew a picture."

"What did you draw?"

"I don't know." Her lip started to tremble again. OK, steer away from that subject. (I later found out she'd simply forgotten what she'd drawn).

"Did you make any new friends? It's OK if you don't remember their names."


"Did you have fun?'

No answer.

"Did you eat lunch with all of the kids or just the younger ones?"

"They were all my age," she replied. Then, she finally started offering information. "They have lots of rules at lunch. Don't hit anybody. And I'm glad I didn't bring any peanuts. One kid forgot and had a peanut butter sandwich". There is a family who is VERY allergic to peanuts, so we were asked not to bring any.

"Do you remeber any more?" I asked, trying to keep the conversation going.

"No. They were just mostly about being nice to people." I nodded my head. She continued, "it's OK the first time, but if you do it twice, the call your mom. And if you do it three times, they have to sit with someone".

"Like having a time out", I commented.

"Mm hm. And there was this girl my age who had a little brother. He was mean. He threw the ball at my head on purpose".

"Are you sure it was on purpose. It could have been an accident".

"No. He tried to do it a second time, but he missed".

"I thought you got hit twice," I said.

"Yah. A older boy hit me. It was an accident. He didn't really mean to".

We were getting close to home at this point, so I just reminded her that next week would be much better because she would know what she was doing, and I wasn't going to let her stop going until she'd tried it out for a good couple months at least. She complained that she had never had a hard time in preschool, and I reminded her that yes, she had. On her first day she'd been scared stiff, even though Teacher Wilson is one of the nicest ladies I know. She didn't believe me, so I told her all about her first day of preschool. I think I was able to finally convince her.

When we got home, I pulled out her schedule and room map showing her where she's supposed to go when and for what. That seemed to reassure her. I think she'll be fine next week, and if it doesn't, then maybe the week after that. She'll eventually get the hang of it, and when she does, she'll really start enjoying it.

P.S. For those of you who are not aware, Sierra is going to a publicly funded Options school designed specifically for homeschoolers. They meet once a week and have things like group activities, arts, drama, PE, and so forth. The rest of the week she is still at home with me as her teacher. I like it because it gives her that social aspect of school in smaller doses, gives her the extracurriculars I don't teach, leaves me in charge of her main education, and has small class sizes (there are only about 13 second graders). And because it's through the school district, I don't have to pay for it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Back to the Land of the Living

August was one heck of a month. I think I did my darndest to hide from it. Stress, anxiety, depression, sickness, more neuropathy (thought that's getting much better, almost unnoticeable), an over busy and stresses/sleep deprived husband, and a trip to Utah spell out what August was to me.

Why all of the stress, anxiety, and depression, you ask? Turns out, I have way too many "pre conditions" to get better medical insurance. We got to pay all of those lovely medical bills from my trip to the emergency room. I've had to pick up the slack around the house because my husband has been going nuts with all of the work he has to do. The brakes on our car need to be fixed. The only vacations from school I had all summer were spent in Utah for weddings (nice and all, but not relaxing, meaning I was burnt out). I've come down with another sinus infection. . . I could go on, but I think you get the gist.

So what did I do to cope with everything? I started obsessively reading book after book. I think I read over 20 this last month. Some were good, a lot only OK, and even more I'm almost embarrassed to mention. The better ones were: Ella Enchanted, Princess Academy, the Percy Jackson series (Lightning Thief and all), Enna Burning, and two of my favorite repeats, the Witch of Blackbird Pond and Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

But, yesterday I had to teach a class on cupcake decorating for the women in my ward, so three days ago I had to pull my nose out of my books. It's almost a relief, I'd been obsessed so long. I cried the first day because all of the pent up emotions I'd been suppressing came flooding back, and I had to finally face them. Luckily, I'd actually been subconsciously processing them all along, so it wasn't as bad as I would have been if they were still raw. I'd also taken last week off of school, so burnout was at bay.

And today, I'm feeling fine. A little harassed from my kids, but that's normal-I really hate taking all three of them to the store now days.

Oh, and the cupcake thing went really well. Thank you Sarah. I just needed something positive to plan.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Timpanogos Caves

While we were in Utah recently, we took the chance to tour the inside of a cave.

For those of you who have never been there, Mt. Timpanogos is located just north of Provo Utah. A 30 minute drive from Brigham Young University will get you to one of the starting points to hike the mountain, and another twenty minutes along the alpine loop (fee applies) will take you to the back or north side of the mountain where the caves are located.

If you want to tour the caves, there is a reasonable fee that you pay at the base before heading up the steep 1.5 mile trail. Believe me, it's worth it.

We got there later in the day then hoped and had to wait a while before we were aloud to make the accent. While we waited, we put sun screen on, went to the bathroom, checked our food supply (you'll want snacks if you go), and made sure we had enough water. (Turns out we just barely had enough with half a gallon for six people-three of which were kids. Need to bring more next time.)

About an hour and a half before our tour time we started on the trail. An hour and a half to hike one and a half miles! No problem. Turns out it took us a little over an hour. It was a really steep climb, and we had a toddler and four year old with us. Occasionally, my husband or I would hoist one of them on our shoulders adding an extra 36 pounds of weight. Oi! Needless to say, we stopped a number of times to rest, wait for the laggers to catch up, let people pass, and drink some water. Grandma also liked to stop and look at the flowers and plants. (She's a botanist, you know).

I had Blake on a leash, and he pretended to be a puppy. It made it a lot easier to keep track of him, keep him moving, and ease our worry about him walking near the edge of the trail where there was often a nasty drop off. He didn't mind it much, as I tried to give him plenty of slack. It helped out a lot in the caves too. Blake made the majority of the hike on his own two legs. That leash was wonderful!

Bailey did a lot of the hiking herself too, for which I was very impressed. She's only four, and her legs are so short. Daddy carried her a good chunk of the way down though because she was literally getting exhausted.

Sierra made the whole thing on her own, and loved to stop and read the map to find out where we were.

Close to the top was a rest room for anyone who needed it, and once we got to the top, there was a rest area carved from the side of the mountain to sit in out of the hot sun. We only had about twenty minutes to wait before our tour started. Just long enough to eat.

Once inside, we were put out sweaters on. It was close to 50 degrees, not freezing, but definitely cool after the heat on the trail. We were also told to wear our backpacks to the front and not to touch anything except for the floor, as the oils from our hands could ruin the rock formations. Good thing Blake was on the leash! I used it a number of times to keep him from touching things.

There was a lot to see. Stalactites and stalagmites were all over the place. There were small lakes, curly straw-like rock formations, and vivid colored rocks from the nickel and iron deposits. We got to see the famous Heart of Timpanogos (picture at top) and hear how the caves were discovered. They no longer have the "salt and pepper shakers"for people to touch though. That was sad.

Our tour lasted around 45 minutes, but it seemed much shorter. The kids really enjoyed it, even though they were getting tired. It took only about half an hour to get down the mountain, and by the end, Blake was ready to pass out. It took him less then three minutes to fall asleep in the car once the engine was turned on. Poor thing. It was past his nap time, and he's had a major workout. Oh well. It was worth it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Child Comparisons

I know that you shouldn't judge one child against another, but sometimes it simply stares you in the face demanding an acknowledgment. Well, it would seem that my second child is MUCH easier to teach then my first, and it's not just because I've learned from my first.

I should have guessed it though. Bailey was also a MUCH easier baby. She's more laid back, logical, not prone to anxiety, definitely not a perfectionist, and loves to show up her sister whenever the opportunity presents itself. What's more, her brain works a lot like mine. So, as long as she wants to do school, she should be really easy. She already does her work in less then half the time that it used to take Sierra to do the same thing back in kindergarten, and there have been no blow-ups, yet.

Sierra, however, has decided that she knows better then I do how to do things. She will refuse to listen when I try to explain things, tell me I'm wrong, and throw a fit if I make her do something "unfamiliar". When I do explain "difficult concepts" to her (in her mind anyway-which is what matters, I know), she incorporates it only long enough to figure out her own method of solving the problems, then forgets it, thinking her method is superior, because it's "easier". For this reason, I have had to explain place value (one's, tens, hundreds, etc) a number of times, each time with a tantrum and struggle. It also makes me dread showing her anything new or unusual. Very annoying.

Sigh. It makes me wonder what my youngest is going to be like. He's shown signs of being more like his oldest sister, and that's not a happy thought as far as school goes. Oh well, at least I'll know better how to handle him.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I went in to see a neurologist today for all of the weird symptoms I've been having.

Well, after showing up five minutes late because I got lost (apparently a lot of people do trying to find the place), I skipped the check in process (which had a 50 person line up) and went straight to the neurology department. The lady at the desk understood my plight and let me in, telling me to check in after my appointment. Whew!

She took my weight and checked my blood pressure and heart rate, which of course were high because of being both lost and late to my appointment. She understood and said she'd check me again after my appointment.

She lead me to a room where I got to change into a lovely hospital gown. They let me keep my underwear on though, so that was nice. I sat down and did a bit of Sudoku while I waited, trying to calm my nerves.

Not long after, the neurologist showed up. She was really nice. She pulled up my records, asked standard questions about my family and general health, then asked about my symptoms. I'd written up a paper with all of them, but she wanted to hear it from me, so I waded in.

For those of you who are not aware, I've been having strange sensations throughout my body these last four weeks, from tingling in my hands and feet to tingling in my face, lips, and the crown of my head, to cold sensations down my spine, in my hip, and across my abdomen, to the feeling of raw nerves all over, and so forth. A lot of weird stuff.

Anyway, after all of the interrogations, we started the physical exam. She asked a lot of basic questions like "What day is it?", "What year is it?", "Who is the current US President?", "Who were the last two presidents?", "How many nickels are in a dollar?, and "how many nickels are in three dollars?". Then she had me spell "earth" backwards and told me to remember the words "balloon, umbrella, and pineapple" to see if I could remember them five minutes later.

After that, she checked my heart, my reflexes, my coordination, my blind spots, my sense of coldness in various areas, and tickled my feet. She also checked my eyes, looking back at the retina, I think. I got to get up and walk across the room, on regular feet, on my tip toes, and on the heals of my feet. And she also took a look at my spine because I had told her I have mild scoliosis.

After all was said and done, she said she didn't think that I had MS, but she wasn't willing to commit to anything. Her guess was that it was some viral or other such passing illness. Even so, she would really like to have an MRI done to know better what's going on. She also ordered a few more blood tests for me. She said that I should let her know if anything else comes up and that she wanted to see me again in three months.

By that time, I was crying. Stress, anxiety, PMS, and stress relief all pulled together, and I couldn't help it. She understood.

After she left the room, I took some time to calm down, then I went out to the front desk to set up my next appointment and get my blood pressure and heart rate re-checked. They were really good this time around.

Then I went back down stairs to check in and have my blood drawn. That made me mildly faint (I've never been good with needles). I didn't faint or anything though, so that was good.

Now we get to just wait and see what time and the test results say, and try to find a way to pay for an MRI.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Have you ever tried to get up very early while on vacation? Well, if you're ever visiting Provo, UT during the 4th of July, I highly recommend it. Provo holds their Freedom Festival every year. It's a week long celebration full of fun. There are multiple parades, multiple balloon launches, fairs, fireworks displays, 5 and 10K runs, and more.

This year we got to participate in a bit of it.

Dark and early Saturday morning, we got ourselves up to see the Balloon Launch. The launch started at 6:30 am, so we wanted to be there by 6. Amazingly, we made it. We brought a sleeping bag to sit on, and a blanket to cuddle in and sat ourselves down while the hot air balloons were being laid out on the field. Soon enough, we were allowed to walk among the balloons as they were filled with hot air. The noise was really loud, but it was really neat to watch.

There were a lot of fun balloons to see. There was Smokey the Bear, Toni the Tiger, a piggy bank, a dinosaur, a few patriotic balloons, lots of fun colored ones, and even a fall themed balloon. My guess is that there were somewhere between twenty and thirty balloons participating.

The hot air balloons have a contest each day that they can participate in. On the 4th, they were to launch, catch the high wind, float north, descend to the low wind and come back south. When they reached the field on their return, there were stationed helium balloons that they were supposed to try and pop.

After they launched the first time, we headed over to the adjacent McDonalds for breakfast. I sat outside with the kids watching the balloons as they did their rounds while Seth got the food. My brother's family joined us there, and soon after we headed to the parade route.

My sister had gotten up before 5 am to secure us seating for the parade. When she got there (at 5:10 am), there was only a small sliver left. Luckily, it was in the shade and stretched 15 feet from the road to the sidewalk. Turns out it was a really good spot. There are a lot of people who camp over night to get good spots for the parade. By the time the parade starts, it's practically standing room only.

We were stationed at the end of the parade route, so for us, the parade started at about 10 am. There was a pre-parade though that was fun. Some small groups came along breaking up the silence while we waited for the big event. And boy was it big. By 11 am, we'd had enough, and it was still going. There were floats, marching bands, dancing groups, political cars, balloon characters, police groups, and everything else that you see at parades. I think that the parade was about an hour and a half long. Parking was crazy too, and even though we left early, it took a while getting back to the folks' house.

After that, I took a shower, put the kids down, and took a nap. My husband went out to lunch with a friend that was also in town.

Sometime around 5 pm, I was woken up for the BarBQ. Fireworks for the kids started around 8 pm, and around 10 pm, the Stadium of Fire fireworks display began.

It was a VERY long day, but we had a lot of fun.

Friday, June 19, 2009

More Then I Can Chew

It all started on a beautiful Monday morning by the lake. . . 

I was jogging along, happy as can be, when I got a pain in my right leg and my foot started to tingle. OK. Nothing new there.  It was just like my shin splints that I'd had a week before.  I kept jogging.

Then my right arm had a pain in it, and my hand started to tingle. That was new! I stopped jogging and walked the rest of the way back to the car.  The pain and the tingling disappeared on my way.

When I got home, I e-mailed my father in law (a family doctor) to see what he thought about it. While waiting for his reply, I set up an appointment with my doctor and went on with my day. Not long after, my hand started tingling again, and it didn't stop. The pins and needles spread up my arm as well, and occasionally it was back in my foot too. Nothing too painful, just annoying. 

My father in law thought that it was just over use type injuries. I hadn't told him about the persistent tingling. I thought I would just sleep on it and see if it went away. Other then the pins and needles, I felt perfectly fine. It even subsided during the night. 

Tuesday morning, I decided to go swimming. I wasn't likely to have any over-use symptoms there. I've been swimming for years, after all.  Well, turns out the elevation in my heart rate set the pins and needles going stronger. 

I was getting worried. I called up my doctor's office to see if I could get an earlier appointment. When the receptionist found out why, she put me on the line with a nurse. When the nurse found out that my Mom had heart surgery at a "young age", she told me to go to the ER, and not to drive myself. 

Panic attack! When I was done crying, Seth and I took our kids over to a friend's house and went to the hospital. They checked me for a heart attack. None. Pregnancy? None. Stroke? None. My physical came out all clear. They couldn't find out what was wrong with me, so I got to go home and was told to come back if it got worse. 

Things seemed to be getting better, but Wednesday night I figured my father in law ought to be told what was happening. His response, go see a neurologist. My doctor concurred. So, now I get to go in for an MRI, have more blood work done, and talk to a neurologist to see if they can figure it all out. It will take about a month to go through all of these steps. Hopefully, it's just a one time trauma.

In the mean time, I still have homeschooling with my kids, something that's not easy to do when I'm stressing out.  Sierra knows something is going on that's making me stressed, and it stresses her, sending her into unnecessary panic attacks.  We both had a total melt down yesterday.  Bailey only finished half of her school work before I called it quits.  Sierra, bless her, stuck it out and finished her morning work while I cried my eyes out in my room.  

I'm slowly feeling better though.  I've been taking it "easy" for the last few days, and my symptoms are almost unnoticeable now.  Today we took off of school, and we cleaned up the house.  Cleaning always makes me feel better.  I should be able to cope with school by Monday, and then we leave for vacation on Friday.  Life will go on.

But, I'm afraid to go running again.  I don't want to cause another episode.  I'm even leery of biking because I've put my foot to sleep while peddling and have even tweaked my wrist before.   So much for my Triathlon Training!  I've decided to pull out of the competition.  I only had a little over a month to finish getting ready, and it will be a few weeks before I have any firm idea as to what's going on.  The worry would stress me out too much.  I'm getting close to my limit.

All is not lost, however.  Walking and swimming I'm OK with.  I've been doing those for years, and the ER doctor told me to keep exercising.  I just need to keep it low key for now.  One step at a time.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Battle Plan

We've just about finished our first week of our new school year, and things seem to be settling down into a workable schedule. Sierra is now doing second grade work, and Bailey is doing Kindergarden. Blake, he gets to entertain himself while we work.  Here's a quick run down:

Step 1: Clean up and snack. Anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on the mess, our moods, and the day.

Step 2: I help Sierra with her grammar for about 5-10 minutes.

Step 3: Sierra goes off and reads a book to Blake while Bailey reads a Bob Book to me. About 5-15 minutes.

Step 4: Sierra does Math while I help Bailey with her Math, Handwriting, and Reading lessons. About 30 minutes.

Step 5: Sierra does her Handwriting and Spelling.  About 15-20 minutes. (Monday and Friday have Spelling Tests.)

Step 6: Monday=Library.  Tuesday=swimming/shopping/errands.  Wednesday=Church Play Group.  Thursday=swimming/shopping/errands.  Friday=Homeschool Play Group.  Anywhere from 1 to three hours.

Step 7: Lunch/Break

Step 8: Blake goes down for a nap.  Monday & Wednesday=History.  Tuesday=Science.  Thursday=experiments/projects.  Friday=Free Day.  About 1 hour.

Step 9: Quiet/Rest Time.  Decompression.

We just move from one step to the next until we are done.  Typically, we'll start the whole process around 9 am.  Rest Time starts around 3 pm.  It's busy, but not half as crazy as I was afraid it would be.  Only about 2 to 2 1/2 hours are actual class time.  The rest is fun stuff and errands.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sierra’s Reading Chapter Books!!!

I used to wonder if this day would ever come. There were times when it was literally like pulling teeth to get my daughter to read. She would look at a word, realize she didn’t know it by sight, and start hollering that she couldn’t read it. Words like "get", and later words like “print” would send her into a total melt down. We’re not talking that long ago either.

Only a year ago, she would agonize over reading a simple book like “Hop on Pop”. We’d been using “The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading”, and she would sulk every time I brought it out. It was dry (no pictures) and put a lot of pressure on her to perform. We kept at it anyway. I didn’t know what else to do.

Last fall, however, my sister who works at an elementary school offered to let us use an on-line reading program through her school for free. I jumped at the chance. Headspreout turned out to be a lifesaver. Sierra was able to review all that she knew in a non-pressure environment and even go on to learn things she didn’t already know. She played games that helped her sound out words, taught her a number of sight words, and took her through sentence structure and reading comprehension. In a matter of weeks, she went from hating reading and thinking that she couldn’t read to actually enjoying herself. She flew through the program, completing it in just a couple months.

Sierra was now at a second grade reading level, but she was still lacking in confidence and fluency. I still worked with our old book (which she now accepted and sometimes wanted to do), but it wasn’t enough. I started having her read a book a day. “Hop on Pop” was a good start. So was “Ten Apples up on Top”. She knew these books well because her Daddy had read them to her a number of times. The hard part at first was making her actually read instead of reciting from memory.

I eventually dropped the reading primer when it started teaching all of the strange words in our language that we borrowed from other languages. At that point, it started to feel more like memorization work, and I was bored with it. Instead, we focused more on her book a day. Sierra was getting braver and reading longer and more complex books of her own choosing. Again, she would read books that Daddy had read to her, so they weren’t scary. She was learning fluency, which is all I was asking for at that point.

During Math and Spelling, I would make her read the instructions. She hated this at first, especially when I made her sound out a word that she didn’t recognize, but now she does it routinely. She’ll even read the word problems on her own without asking for help more often then not now. Occasionally, she would branch out and read short stories that she hadn’t read before. I also stated pointing out to her how well she could read and what she could do with a little more practice.

Well, it worked. Daddy has been reading the Tinker Bell books to the girls at night, and I’ve been telling Sierra that she could probably read them if she wanted. They’re just longer then the books she’s used to reading. That’s all.

She took my word for it, and last night, all on her own, she got out and started reading one of the Tinker Bell books. She’s read three chapters already, putting it down when she’s had enough, and picking it up again later. Daddy and I are thrilled, and that makes her want to read more.

We’ll still continue reading a book a day. It’s just good practice, but seriously, she made my year. All of my hard work hasn’t been for nothing. That’s good to know.

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Son Wants to Be an Arborist

Our neighbor had his old, dead cottonwood tree cut down today. It was really fun to watch. They had a big crane-like claw attached to a huge dump truck and another truck with a crane arm ending in a bucket. They used the claw to grab the branches while the man in the bucket chain-sawed his way through the dead wood. It only took them about 2 hours to cut down a seventy foot tall cottonwood and haul off the waste.

We all sat in out backyard to watch as they worked. The kids were mesmerized, especially Blake. At one point, he was sitting in my lap watching, and I asked him if he wanted to be an arborist and do what those guys were doing. He paused, thought, and said matter-of-factly, "Yep."

My husband came home while they were in operation, and we decided to ask if they would haul away all of the branches and stump pieces we had piled up from our two cottonwoods that had been cut down last winter. They were happy to oblige, with pay of course, and they cleared off all of the wood in our side yard in a matter of 20 minutes. (It would have taken us hours.) Again, Blake stared and watched from our front window as the claw lifted and dropped the stumps and branches into the back of the dump truck. He wanted to go outside to watch, but we wouldn't let him.

Arborist, a boy's dream job! They get to work with trucks, cranes, claws, trees, and chain saws and get paid for it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Preschool Graduation

My four year old graduated from preschool last week. Her class had a little ceremony where they sang songs, danced a little, and paraded around wearing graduation caps. They even got a little diploma. It was really cute! Their teacher does an absolutely wonderful job. I honestly don't think I could have found a better preschool.

Even so, I'm glad it's over. I'm such a snot. I like doing things on my own time frame, and I really got annoyed at having to plan my day around drop-off and pick-up times. If Sierra got her school work done fast, we'd be sitting around for a half an hour with nothing to do. Sometimes Sierra took too long and she wasn't done by the time we had to get Bailey. Then we'd have to break off and pick it up again later. Not as easy as it sounds. Then there were those days where Bailey had preschool and we didn't have school at home. A couple of times I just kept her home.

Really though, I'm glad Bailey got to have the experience. She got to make her own friends away from her sister, explore, have fun, learn songs and do projects. Best of all, Teacher Wilson worked her though the beginnings of handwriting, counting, cutting, pasting, and so forth, and Bailey always came home with a huge smile.

It was a good year, but it's time to move on.

Thank you Marilyn.