Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

My kids love taking Christmas pictures, especially the silly type. It makes it hard to take the standard "good" picture, but we always seem to end up with a lot of fun ones.

Have a very Merry Christmas! See you next year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Letter 2011

Hey everyone,

Yet another year has come and gone, as they always seem to do. Unfortunately, this year had been a hard one for us, both financially and emotionally. However, there have been many rays of sunshine amidst the gloom, and family and friends have been a great help to us. We’ve really appreciated it, so thank you!

Seth has been hit the hardest around here. His bankruptcy practice has slowed down drastically over the past 12 months. Apparently, most people who can file have, and everyone else is so poor that bankruptcy actually won’t help. We are hoping that things will pick up once the economy does, but in the mean time, he is looking at additional sources of income, from expanding his practice to include consumer protection cases to doing Japanese translation for law firms and other legal contract work that’s available. Job aside, he has been able to spend a lot of time with the family.

Misty has had a full year. Along with homeschooling the kids, she was able to do seasonal, part time work grading statewide standardized tests for 3rd-11th grade reading comprehension and math. She also started working on finishing the basement. She has been able to complete enough to do some wall boarding and hopes to have the walls and ceilings done by next summer. Misty also discovered she was pregnant last June, then miscarried at 10 weeks along. A couple months later, she was pregnant again, this time with twins. Unfortunately, at 9 ½ weeks, she lost one. The surviving baby is alive and well, happily kicking and dancing away. He/she is expected to make an appearance around mid June next year.

Sierra, who is now 9 ½ and full of ideas, is doing well. She’s learning long multiplication and division in math, reading longer chapter books, and creating her own books on the computer. She is also taking, and doing very well in, Guitar and Musical Theatre at Options (once a week public school for the homeschooled). She will be performing the part of Toulouse, the little grey kitten from the Disney version, in their production of Aristocrats this coming spring.

Bailey is now 7 and has finally lost her first two teeth. She’s so proud! She has graduated to reading chapters, and is currently on the Disney Fairy books. Her artistic abilities have flourished in photography, drawing, and sculpting, and will soon be giving her older sister a run for her money. At Options, among other things, she has been learning Spanish and a lot about animals, weather, and cultures.

Blake, our 5 year-old giant, still maintains the cleanest room in the house. That boy likes things to be just so! He started doing preschool work this year and loves writing his letters and numbers, drawing shapes, and doing dot to dots and mazes. “Use your fingers, Blake, not your fist!” His imagination has flourished as well as he plays pretend with his sisters and toys, and he also seems to have an artistic streak along with his acute spatial awareness.

Casper, our cat, somehow hurt his hip earlier this year, but it is slowly healing. Lately, he has discovered that he doesn’t like snow, so to alleviate his boredom when he’s trapped inside, he will lie down in the middle of the hall or kitchen to bat at anything that crosses his path. What a silly cat!

Yes, we’ve had lots of sunshine amid the gloom. We hope that you’ve had sunshine too. Happy Holidays, and may your new year be bright!

Chocolate Mice

I can't really call this a "snack", but my kids love to make them, and they're pretty easy. Actually, the hardest part is by far finding maraschino cherries with stems. So, here's what you do:

Per mouse you will need:

1 marachino cherry with a stem
1 Hershey's Kiss
2 chocolate chips
melted dipping chocolate (almond bark)

First, dry the cherries off on a paper towel, unwrap the kisses, have the chocolate chips ready, and line a pan with waxed paper. Then melt the almond bark in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until smooth. (Be sure to stir, or the chocolate can burn.)

Pick up a cherry by the stem (it's tail), and dip it in the chocolate to coat. Scrape off any extra and place on the waxed paper with the "tail" off to one side. Place the kiss, flat side, against the cherry opposite the stem. The place the ears (chocolate chips), point side toward the cherry at the top of the kiss. Cool and enjoy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

During Tough Times, School Time is Tough

When I was still pregnant with twins and completely exhausted, it was hard to get homeschooling done. I would often stay in bed or lie on the couch and have the girls come to me if they had questions. We also sometimes cut down school to only math, Sierra's guitar, and Bailey's reading, but even that was hard to do some days. I'm so grateful my husband was around to help.

Because he works from home, and business is slow, he was able to homeschool the girls on the days when I was just to exhausted. Especially when I started working part time in the evenings. He would also clean up, make the kids clean, make dinner, and let me rest all day. True, his standards are lower then mine, but it was by far more then I was capable of doing at the time. And I really appreciated it. Especially the fact that, because of him, we are still on schedule to finish our school year before the baby is born.

Well, now that work is over and my energy is coming back, we're easing back into our normalish routine. The house is getting cleaner, our meals are getting better, the girls have music, math, writing, spelling, grammar, handwriting, etc., and Blake does his workbook pages. We haven't added back the afternoon routine yet, but I figure we can do that after Christmas break.

So I guess, when times are tough, do what you must, and eventually things will get better.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tree Time

Once again it was time for our yearly drive out to the Red Feather Lakes National Forest above Fort Collins where we chop down our Christmas tree each year. It's a good 2 hour drive, but luckily, our kids are good travelers. Turn on Christmas music, give them notebooks and drawing/coloring supplies, make sure they have snacks and water, and we're good to go.

Since we went on a weekday this year (there was a lot of snow and really cold temps on Saturday), we had to stop by the forest service station in Fort Collins for our $10 permit on our way up. Turns out we weren't the only ones who waited for better weather. I think we saw a good 20 or so other cars in the cutting areas.

Anyway, once we were there, the kids threw themselves into the snow. Literally. Then we hiked up a large hill to the back of a clump where we started looking around for our tree. I got tired very quickly, but the kids had a lot of fun. The snow was a couple feet deep.

Eventually, Seth found a tree that we decided was a keeper. It was noting too impressive, but trekking through that deep snow was tiring for all of us, and we wanted to end the search sooner then later, before the kids got too whiney and cranky.

Then, we headed back to the car. The hike down was a lot easier, and since we brought a sled, the kids got to take turns sliding down through the trench like tracks all the way to the parking area. Time to tie the tree down, load up the car, refill water bottles, and feed the masses.

The kids were a little bored on the way back, but cheeseburgers and fries along with more lively Christmas music helped to keep them from going nuts. The whole trip took us about 5 1/2 hours. Not bad, really.

Then we set the tree up. It is huge! The thing takes up a good large chunk of our living room this year, but it looks better then we thought. Hooray for us!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Testing, Testing, 1 2 3 , Grade!

I've been very occupied this last month grading k-12 standardized tests for the New England States. It's a part time, seasonal job I've picked up working 5 hour evenings Monday through Friday at a computer "lab" with hundreds of other people. During the spring, I graded New Mexico and Massachusetts tests for a few months. It's a lot of work, boring and tedious at times, but also a lot of fun.

This year, I got to grade 5th, 7th, and 8th grade reading comprehension where I learned a bit about Slinkies, Stonehenge, Anne of Green Gables, bees, Jane Austen, a number of folk tales, and other such things. It was very interesting to see the thought processes behind the kids answers, decipher different spellings and handwriting, and enjoy the quirks when we saw them. Some kids were very literal, while others were extremely conversational. A number of them wrote about personal opinions and experiences to make their points or relate to the story prompt. Some even made up their own stories and ignored the question/prompt all together. Occasionally, we even got a picture to look at.

I also got to grade 4th and 5th grade math. Apparently, you can tell a child's comprehension of math much better with an open, written answer then multiple choice. Often, you could see the thought process the child went through to get their answer, which was very interesting when a large number of kids got the same wrong answer to a question. We did fractions, estimation, number orders, graphs, place value, addition/multiplication sentences, dollar signs and decimal points, and so forth. I loved comparing where Sierra was to these kids, as she is currently doing 4th grade math.

So yah, that's what I've been up to of late. Glad it's over until next spring.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I got to experience what is apparently a common phenomena first hand this last week or so.

I am currently 10 1/2 weeks pregnant, and last Thursday (at 10 weeks) I got to see my baby happily dancing away with a very strong heartbeat by ultrasound. Why the ultrasound? Maybe I should start from the beginning.

This pregnancy has been different from all of my others. My symptoms were stronger. I actually had morning sickness, cramping, and food cravings. What's more, I was very easily tired, often to the point of exhaustion where I'd spend a day or more in bed to recuperate. I thought it was probably due to me getting older, but at 7 1/2 weeks, something made me think differently. My uterus decided that it should be the size of a 10 week pregnancy. Twins?

By 9 weeks, it was the size it should be at 14-16 weeks and contained two separate, firm little lumps, one high and the other low. What's more, at 9 1/2 weeks, I started feeling fetal movement. Yes, that's early. Way early!!! I normally feel it at 12 weeks, which is still very early, but this . . . it seems impossibly early. Even so, I was definitely feeling it, loud and clear. I was having twins! I was sure of it.

Then the cramping started. Hard. No blood, but it felt just like labor. And it took hours to go away. I would have been very concerned if I couldn't feel the babies moving. As it was, it was past hours at the doctor's office on a Friday evening, and I knew from past experience, if I was miscarrying, there wasn't much that would or even could be done about it. There was no hemorrhaging, no blood at all, so there was no emergency. Rest and water. Eventually it went away. And since I still felt very pregnant, and the babies were moving, I let it go.

Come Tuesday morning, there was spotting. Very light and brown. Most likely from the cramping on Friday. I finally called the doctor, but again, I felt quite pregnant, so I wasn't too concerned. I'd come in if there was any more bleeding or cramping. I had a doctor' appointment in a week after all.

Wednesday, I started cramping again, not as bad, but bad enough. Now I was worried. Really worried. Was I going to loose the twins? My husband gave me a blessing, assuring me of a healthy pregnancy. That helped, but my anxiety wouldn't fully go away.

Thursday morning, I called the doctor and got an ultrasound appointment set up for early afternoon. Then it hit me. I was loosing/had lost one of the twins. My pregnancy symptoms were still there, but they wen't as strong. I had energy! I checked my uterus, and it was smaller then before. The lump on top had become hard. The bottom lump was busy buzzing away at my cervix. I had lost the top twin. Now to confirm it.

It was a relief to see my baby on the screen, kicking and dancing away. But there was no second baby. What there was, however, was a solid mass of . . . something. . . at the top of my uterus. Right where the other "twin" had been. I had experience what is called "vanishing twin syndrome". I had lost a twin.

Someone said it's like having a funeral and a birthday at the same time. It's so true. I'm very grateful for the dancing baby in my belly, but it hurts that the other was lost. A lot. A whole lot. I've wanted twins my entire life, and I'd been getting so excited anticipating it. All of it. Both the fun and the hard stuff. And then it was gone. I may never have the chance again. It's heartbreaking really. And then I feel my little one kicking, and I have to remember I haven't lost everything. I have a healthy baby on it's way, so why am I crying? I should be happy right? I am, and I will be eventually. Just give me time. But for now, I'm grieving.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Piece By Piece

Yes. It's coming. Together. Slowly.

Slowly, but surely my basement is getting there. I thought you might like to see the progress so far. . .

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall Festival

This year, I decided to do a farm share with Miller Farms just outside of Longmont. I got to go fill a bushel sized basket every week from their farm stand at our farmer's market, choosing whatever I wanted from things like peas, rhubarb, asparagus, red peppers, watermelon, egg plant, basil, green beans, lettuce, hot peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, onions, corn, carrots, gourds, turnips, sweet potatoes, honeydew melons, garlic, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, and so forth. I've absolutely loved it, and we plan on doing it again.

In any case, as a part of out farm share, we got a free pass to Miller Farm's Fall Festival. The idea is, you go out to their farm, just miles down Hwy 66 from Longmont, play in their play area, go through the corn maze, take a hay ride, and pick your own vegetables. Sounds simple enough, but it was a lot of fun. I think our visit was over 3 hours long!

First off, their play area has a mountain of hay to climb,

Along with lots of other fun stuff.

There was a huge, inflated jumping pillow.

And you can't forget the chickens and goats,

Or the go-car track.

They even liked the corn maze, though they got tired of it toward the end, it was so big.

Finally, there was the hay ride and the vegetable picking. (We were allowed to pick 5 bags per person!)

I think we came home with 8 jack-o-lantern pumpkins, two bags of pie pumpkins, three bags of new potatoes, three bags of carrots, a bag of cabbage, two bags of onions (red, yellow and white), and a bag of popping corn. Quite the haul if you ask me.

The kids had a blast.

And yes, we'll definitely be doing it again!