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!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Forewarned Is Fair Warned

Don't you love summer? Hikes. Bike rides. Playing at parks and splashing at splash pads. Lots and lots of outdoor play. I love letting my kids play around our yard, house, and neighborhood with their friends in the summer.

Cameron recently quadrupled the size of our sandbox and the kids have been having a blast. I love watching them play out there and seeing the castles they build. (I don't love sandy floors and muddy walls, but that's not the point of this post.)
Jake brought water out to fill his moat and topped the tower with a flag. It was pretty fun. 

Shortly after expanding our sandbox Cameron, Abby, Grace, Emma and I were out there playing together one evening. Cameron buried Abby in the sand, and she thought it was great.
After taking this picture Cameron said, "OK, Abby, now look really sad."

Abby: "Why?"

Cameron: "So we can show this picture to your friends who come over and tell them that's what we do to kids who aren't nice around here."
Forewarned is fair warned.

Monday, July 13, 2015

My Daily Job

Sometimes I start thinking that my daily to-do list looks something like this:
1. Help the kids with their schoolwork.
2. Keep the house reasonably clean.
3. Feed our family healthy meals.
4. Be kind and patient with our kids.
5. Spend quality time with Cameron.

Then every once in a while something will happen to remind me that I'm wrong. My daily to-do list should really look like this:
1. Love.
2. Teach.
3. Listen.
4. Love some more.

Recently I had one of those moments.

I had just gotten Emma down for a nap and snuck off to my room to study my scriptures and try to enjoy some quiet. Only a couple minutes had passed when Grace came running down the hall loudly demanding that I make her some orange juice. I started by offering to make orange juice after I studied for a half hour or so, but Grace wasn't going for that option. So I got some frozen OJ concentrate out of the freezer, got the pitcher down, and told her how to do it herself. ( I was a little worried that I would end up with a pitcher of OJ spilled on the floor, but at that moment peace was worth the gamble to me.)

Grace was delighted with the opportunity. Grabbing a stool and stepping up to get the water from the faucet she said, "Now when I'm grown and my kids need juice I'll know how to make it for them."
I headed back to my room a humbler mother. My daily job isn't to get housework and schoolwork and errands all done. My daily job is to love my children and help them develop the confidence and skills to carry them into adulthood. I might forget what my job is. But they know. And fortunately sometimes they are profound enough to remind me.