Monday, September 28, 2015

Bugs Beware

It all started out in the beginning of the summer when Abby and Grace were catching whatever roly poly potato bug they could get their hot little hands on. Then they started catching grasshoppers, building homes for them, and naming them. Life hasn't been the same since.

Recently Cameron helped Abby start a bug collection. Some of the bugs she has caught around our yard or house. One of the bugs Cameron found in his parking lot at work and brought home for her. Abby has learned the intricate process of catching bugs, putting them in an asphyxiation jar, and waiting a day or two. (Careful! If you don't leave them in long enough, the fresh air that rushes in when you lift that lid will wake them right up.) Then they pin those little buggers and label them.

All of this bug cataloging activity has been closely followed by Cameron helping Abby put holds on all kinds of bug encyclopedias from the library.
At night sometimes I find them snuggled on the couch reading about some pretty gross bugs and looking at pictures that would give most kids her age nightmares. (I think they actually do give Grace nightmares.)

Then Abby and Dad went to the store for a net to catch more bugs for her collection. Now on the weekends Abby will beg Cameron to help her catch more bugs.
Bugs beware. If the looming cold weather doesn't catch them, Abby will.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Quiet Milestones

Milestones constantly whiz past us as mothers, don't they? Some are momentous, like a baby's first steps, first words, or first time to sleep through the night. Others tiptoe past us so quietly we might miss them. We had one of those recently.

It was a lovely, late-summer morning, and Grace and Abby had set up kiddie tents, blankets, and dolls in the backyard to pretend they were on a camp out. Jake was at a friend's house, and I was puttering around the kitchen trying to get a few things done. After a minute I started to wonder where Emma was. I looked outside and found this.
My sweet little toddler with glaucoma (and extreme light sensitivity) had wandered outside without sunglasses, without being carried, and without burying her head in my shoulder. This was a milestone that I wondered when we would ever reach, and I wanted to capture the moment forever in my heart. Thank goodness for cameras (and blogs) that make such things possible.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lessons Learned from Emma

My baby girl just turned two, and I can't believe it. The journey from here...
When we brought Emma home from the hospital Grace ran to get these toys to share with her.
to here...
was at times record-fast and at other times incredibly slow. I have learned a few things from this delightful little person who has had a few extra needs.

1. We are always learning. When I was pregnant with Emma I figured I knew how to take care of babies and that baby number four would just blend in with the others in our home of mostly happy chaos. Cameron was halfway through his masters degree and always busy when she was born. I had four kids under the age of six and was always busy in different ways. Over time it became clear that Emma was not going to just blend in like the others did. She has had different needs and we are constantly learning and searching for how to best help her. Life is about learning--learning helps us grow, and learning is good. (But sometimes it's still hard.)

2. God prepares us for our challenges. When the doctor told us Emma had glaucoma he was very sympathetic and explained that this presented an uncertain and difficult future. After dealing with eye cancer, an eye problem that would result in possible blindness instead of possible death was much easier to handle. We have marveled as we have seen all the ways that my cancer paved the way for us to understand and assist Emma with her eye challenges. God knows the end from the beginning, and He prepares us for our challenges. Thank goodness I can trust His hand in my life!

3. There are angels all around us. We were humbled and carried by so many people who helped us through the difficult weeks surrounding all of Emma's surgeries last year. I am always inspired by the goodness of others who reach out when they see needs. I want to be as good to others as so many people have been to us!

4. Good things come in all kinds of packages. Having Emma in our family has introduced us to lots of other families with special-needs children, and boy has that been an eye-opening experience! I marvel at the parents of children who have no diagnosis or whose needs and developmental delays are so difficult and consuming. Inside these different-looking bodies are some amazing little people who God sends to some pretty incredible parents and families. It is a privilege to rub shoulders with them.

I never knew I wanted a baby with extra needs, but I did. Emma has taught us more about patience, compassion, service, love, and joy than we knew before. I sure love our little girl!

Monday, August 17, 2015

What It's Like to Be Four

Do you ever stop and wonder what it's like in your child's shoes? I'm pretty sure I don't think about this nearly enough. I'm also sure that if I did I would be an even better parent.

What is it like to be four? Well, at our house it means waking up in the morning and spending some time playing house with your sisters and a large assortment of dolls and stuffed animals. (Our girls usually like to tell me how old their "kids" are. Often one of them is the mother to at least one set of twins.)
After that you probably spend some time riding your bike around the neighborhood, swinging on the swings, digging in the sandbox, or catching insects to temporarily adopt as pets.
By lunchtime you are starting to feel worn out from so many hours of fun, but it's hard to stop now, right? After catching a quick meal on the run, you head out for more outside time with your siblings and neighborhood friends.

This means that shortly before dinner you are so exhausted from all of this wonderful playtime that you collapse on the couch in whatever clothes, dress-up outfit, or swimsuit you are currently wearing.
Grace has actually slept through dinner a couple times this way. Once we moved her to bed and she slept through the night. 

What's it like to be four? I can't really say, but from a bird's eye view it seems like a pretty good deal.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Good Things to Come

I love homeschool. I also love summer break. For me it has been a time to reorganize closets, repaint rooms, clean, declutter, and take a few minutes to breathe and think. It's been glorious.
The kids' rooms got new curtains and decorations and fresh paint.
Now another homeschool year is looming on the horizon, and I can't wait. Packages have been arriving in the mail.
Stacks of books are waiting to be devoured.
And I have been burning up my sewing machine making history costumes for the kids. (We'll be studying the medieval and Renaissance time periods, in case you couldn't tell.)

For me there is a delicious sense of anticipation. I can't wait to teach my kids such wonderful things, learn together, make new discoveries, and have delightful new experiences. It is a season of good things to come, and I can't wait.

In the mean time, I better go make some freezer meals while I still have time to cook.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Proper Care and Feeding of Your Insect

Right now my girls are a delightful mix of princess and tomboy, and I love it. They love to dress up and care for their dolls.
And they also love to gather bugs outside. Recently Cameron caught a grasshopper for Abby, and Abby proudly brought it in to show me.

"We named her Rosie because she might be a girl," Abby said.

We chatted a couple minutes about her lovely new pet, then Abby said, "Maybe I should read The Grasshopper and the Ant to her before I set her free." She then skipped out to get some grass to feed her little friend.
Food. Fine literature. All part of the proper care and feeding of your insect.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Homeschool Elementary Anatomy Unit

We just finished our first year of homeschool a couple months ago and I have to say I absolutely loved it. I have been reading and researching and planning next year and getting really, really excited. So today I'm going to post our human body unit that we did. If you want to use my ideas, here they are. Keep in mind that this was geared at an early elementary school audience, and feel free to adjust to your family's needs.

Last year when I was planning our coursework for this year I came across this awesome book.
And I knew that's what I wanted to use to teach my kids anatomy this year. It has lots of fun, hands-on models and examples, and we have had fun using them.

We've also used a few ideas from this book. But I think some of their models are more complex than they need to be.
I bought a skeleton shower curtain and we named him Mr. Bones and hung him up in our homeschooling room. We have enjoyed adding his organs, veins, and arteries.
I have loved seeing my kids learn about themselves and their bodies. And I have loved hearing the things they say. Perhaps Abby, finishing up kindergarten, has had the best quotes here. Recently Grace scraped her leg and Cameron was applying a bandage. "Look, Grace! Platelets!" Abby squealed.

Another day Abby was explaining why she had to go to the bathroom when she was supposed to be helping to clean the kitchen (and hadn't needed to go any earlier). "My kidneys weren't done putting it all in before," she protested.

Grace hasn't perfectly mastered all of her letters. But she does know that red blood cells carry oxygen all over her body.

Jake's favorite parts have probably been the models and experiments that involved food. One exception might be when we made a model tongue complete with labeled taste buds so the kids could learn which parts of their tongues identify tastes that are sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. For the bitter test I gave them each a tiny taste of baking cocoa. Jake went to wash his mouth out in the sink afterwards.

Emma has enjoyed the food experiments and coloring on any available surface (including herself) while the rest of us explored. It's hard to know what else she's learned. Maybe in a couple years she'll tell us.
You can click here for my lesson plans. Happy homeschooling!