Friday, February 27, 2015

See Me Homeschool {blog hop & link-up}

I kind of feel like I should call this "See Them Homeschool" because my homeschooled aged kids are all of the age and temperament that they can go about their day and accomplish their tasks without my direct interaction. Since I'm the last to post in this group, maybe what I'm really offering you mamas-of-all-those-little-ones is a little glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel. Please know that all your hard work is doing so much good. Someday, your kids will be doing their work on their own too, taking charge of their education and really embracing it as their own challenge (that is… if that's what you want them to do). You're helping create good habits now while they are young. Our days didn't always look like this… these days are the fruit of hard work and effort along with a healthy dose of discipline and a generous amount of fun. Hang in there. It's worth it!

I took these pictures last Thursday (February 19th) which I realized, after the fact, is the busiest day online for my high school kids. They each take two online classes and three of them are on Thursday. The Professor is taking Latin and Literature. Sunshine is taking Grammar and Composition. It was also the day before BigBoy's monthly book club so I was busy preparing for that when I wasn't tending to Cupcake's needs. As you take a peek at our day, please bear in mind, my kids are:

The Professor: 17 years old, high school junior
Sunshine: 15 years old, high school freshman
Rain: 14 years old, 8th grade
BigBoy: 10 years old, 5th grade
Cupcake: 3 years old with a mind of her own

Now the purpose of this project was to provide you with a photo essay of our homeschool days. (You can read my very wordy essay in the How I Homeschool Series here.) I will try to stick to that but a caption or two might break through my wordless resolve. Sorry. And, just as an aside, I am posting pictures of my older kids with their express permission. Privacy and respect is very important to teenagers and their preferences always come first.

Most days, by the time I come out from the shower or from taking care of/snuggling with Cupcake, my big kids have already had breakfast and are hitting the showers themselves or getting in a little exercise.
She can do it all by herself!
The hardest part of my day… keeping Cupcake busy!
In the meantime…
Lunch time!
(I get Cupcake's and mine. They get their own.)
The Professor emerges from his study desk in our bedroom for a well earned lunch and some personal reading time. Husband and I stay in touch via Gmail chat almost every day. During lunch, I like to check in with him. After lunch it's back to work checking math, practicing the piano, starting a new literature book (horsing around)… even Cupcake gets a little time to work on some phonics on the big computer. {Darn it… no more talking now.}
Exploding toilet… not a typical homeschooling activity. 
The end of the day included my teens making dinner together. Home Economics, Baby! It totally made up for the regurgitating toilet that everyone swears they didn't jinx.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Etsy shop open for Lent!

I am opening up my shop for Lent but I'm not sure I'm going to have any ready made dolls this year. My husband will be traveling and that's when I turn to crafts to keep me sane keep me busy but we'll just have to see how it goes. I am making kits for dolls. You can choose the pattern you want and I will transfer it to a piece of 100% cotton fabric with a temporary ink. My idea is that kids will use these kits to make their own saint dolls and explore a new handicraft. The temporary ink is so important for kids who might find it hard to stay on the line. When their doll is completed, the lines just wash away. But due to the temporary nature of the pattern, it is a little fragile. Environmental conditions and water of any kind can make it fade or wash it away so they should be used within a few months of being purchased.

Each Saints 'N Stitches Pillow Doll Kit comes with a saint pattern on pre-washed cotton fabric, a complimentary backing fabric, full skeins of DMC embroidery floss with enough thread to complete the design and a color chart. I don't provide line by line instructions for each individual design; instead I hope that your children will enjoy using their creativity to decide what to outline and what to fill and follow their own desire to learn new stitches. These kits can also be used by moms to make dolls for their kiddos or by siblings to make dolls for their little brothers and sisters, if they want to.  I am making a limited number of kits available for purchase today but will allow for more orders as I fill the ones ordered first.

Thanks to everyone who has enjoyed these dolls and kits! I hope your children love them.

Monday, February 16, 2015

See Me Homeschool {blog hop & link-up}

Just wanted to let you know about a fabulous little blog hop & link-up going on until the end of the month hosted by Theresa of Ordinary Lovely and Micaela of California to Korea. Micaela hosted the How I Homeschool series last year (you can find my link here) but Theresa's take on this one is a pictures only representation of a typical homeschool day. I will be posting my pictures on February 27th so stop back by then but in the meantime check out the other homeschool photo essays or post yours and share it via the link-up! If you don't have a blog, you can use #seemehomeschool on Instagram, Facebook, or wherever else hashtags are accepted.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Last minute valentines...

My husband and I like to make little valentine cards to celebrate the Feast of St. Valentine with our children. We usually go for something punny. Sometimes we have so much pun, we can't stop ourselves. It's a sickness, I know.

Here are some I made up tonight. If you have leftover chocolate coins from Christmas, you can use those. (Yeah… right.) Ok, so then check your local Hobby Lobby or World Market. Ours carry them year round. Heck… you could even put a handful of real coins in or go to the bank and get some shiny new quarters or fancy gold dollars! Always impressive to little ones and big ones too. 

If you want to surprise your kids with this valentine treat tomorrow, you can find the printable cards here. I printed mine on ivory card stock and glued it to pink card stock. Pop everything in a sandwich sized zip top baggie, cut off the zip top and tie it up with a ribbon. Easy peasy. I really like the way the joke sticks up above the coins and the sweet message is hidden below. 

{I also made a version that can be used by your kids to give to friends. It says, "I like you just the way you are." You can find that one here.}

Happy Feast of St. Valentine!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tolkien, Jackson and Hope

I am late to this party, I know, but I just saw the Battle of the Five Armies yesterday and it was such a good movie. It's been our tradition for the other two Hobbit films to let Sean take the three big kids to the movie theater and let me have a "date" with BigBoy watching them when they came out on DVD. This year, BigBoy thought he was ready to see it on the big screen with the teens and since we surprised everyone with a Hobbit Movie Marathon of all three movies back to back to back, he got to see the first two in the movie theater too! Not being one for battle scenes, I was content to stay home with Cupcake. But the four who made it through the marathon (with the company and moral support of some dear friends) really wanted to get to see it again and they wanted me to go with them. It was very important to them and I was so honored that they wanted to include me, I couldn't say no. I did make them promise to cover my eyes or at least warn me when any severed heads went flying.

So, that is what we did yesterday afternoon and I am so glad that I went! Not only was it a great time to get to spend with my big kids without any toddler tantrums, it was also an exceptional movie that I enjoyed discussing with them on the way home.

They asked me when I started to cry because, of course, I blubbered like a baby. For the record…it was when Bard was seeing his children being attacked in Dale and he couldn't defend them right away. That combination of a father not being able to reach his children coupled with the son who was trying to man-up and protect his sisters just did me in. Bard is my hero! He was always the first to lead but never gave in to the power that he could have wielded and his family always came first. I really loved the character and checked with The Professor many times to make sure he didn't ever die on screen (because I don't think I could handle seeing that).
Such a good leader, such a good daddy… except maybe that using your son as an arrow rest
and sight window thing, but I'll forgive you.
We talked about the instances and examples of fatherly love in the movie which led us to discuss Thranduil and Legolas' relationship. I know that Peter Jackson made more of that relationship than Tolkien ever did and that the character of Tauriel was completely made up, but I have to wonder if Tolkien wouldn't approve of the intimations Jackson made, given the chance, because here is what I got from them…

Thranduil's wife was killed in battle and you get the impression from his son, Legolas, that he never discusses it because he's kind of cold and aloof, being a snooty tooty Elf King. But when Tauriel says, "If this is love, I don't want it. Take it away from me, please! Why does it hurt so much?" and Thranduil responds, "Because it was real." I really got the sense that he actually loved his wife so much that losing her hurt him more than he could bear so he shut the door on his pain and all emotion, thereby shutting out his son too.
Kind of cold and seemingly aloof.
This led us to compare and contrast Thranduil and Elrond (who is a favorite character of The Professor's). I didn't know this, but my Tolkien scholar told me that Elrond's wife is still alive. I assumed that she was dead since we never see her. They said that she had been wounded and went to live in the West. So, Elrond knew he would see her again. He had the hope that people of faith have that someone who is gone is not gone for good and forever. Sometimes, that hope of seeing our loved ones again is what gets us through the unbearable pain of losing them. The power of hope...

Elrond was a more feeling father. OK… he didn't love the idea of his daughter marrying a mortal, but he still gave his consent. They had a closer, more loving relationship. I would even argue that Elrond's ability to love and care made him the wiser leader, too.
See! So much warmer and fuzzier.
Thranduil certainly felt for his people and tried to make decisions that protected and benefitted them, but Elrond was a leader who choose to see how the Elves fit into the grand scheme of the whole world and made decisions that benefitted everyone, not just his own kind. (Plus, there is that whole "lowly Silvan Elf" thing which makes me think that Thranduil had some issues or at the very least a serious class/rank thing which isn't the best quality in a leader.)

So, I'm not sure Peter Jackson intended to put all of that in there, but it really struck me as a striking contrast and was the beginning of a great conversation.

If you've seen the movie, what did you think? Anything you want to talk about even though the party is over and they're turning out the lights? Let's clean up some empty cups together and chat!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Oh, hello!

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stay away this long. I would say that "we've been busy" but it's really just that we've been doing "life". We celebrated ProLife Day (January 22nd) by celebrating 17 years of The Professor being in our life.
A cozy pair of hand knit fingerless gloves from Sunshine!

Reading a card from Rain
He's growing into such an amazing young man that we are honored to call our son . Shortly after our celebration, Sean headed off on a business trip to Boston. The Boston that was just shut down by record amounts of snow…
yeah, THAT Boston!

Before he left though, he built a new countertop for the dry bar. We have wanted to get rid of the white laminate countertops for a while and create something that would match the built-in side opposite it.
Before with the old white laminate tops… they were not always decorated with such pretty food.

...more during...

Done… just needs to be stained.
 I have discovered that I am not a staining kind of girl. It was terrible. It smelled. It seemed so arbitrary… what the color looked like in the can vs. what color it turned the wood. I had to mix stains to try to match the already stained side but then try to figure out number of coats. To condition or not to condition was another agonizing decision. And then don't even get me started on the oily polyurethane problem that had two master carpenters and the customer service rep at Minwax scratching their heads! It's done now and I have decided it will be a cold day in you-know-where before I willingly take on another staining project. Even though it turned out really nice! Home improvement projects should not be traumatic.

Both sides. There is one tiny piece of trim that needs to be put back on underneath the tall countertop. It had to be removed to get the old countertop off. 
Looking from the dining room into the dry bar. 
Since my husband still wasn't back after the third coat of poly dried, I painted these mason jars as therapy… to make up for the trauma of stain.
Ahhhhh… beautiful paint. So tidy, so predictable, so comforting. These are a set of ombre colored jars that I intended to use as vases on the new bar or just for fun because they are pretty. I used this tutorial if you want to paint some pretty jars too or if you need some paint therapy.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Austin, TX and My Good Buddy John

{Time traveling again! This happened waaaaaay back in December of 2014!}

John Flanagan, author of the Ranger's Apprentice series and the Brotherband Chronicles, is probably my children's favorite living author. His books are excellent adventure stories with endearing characters and frankly, just a lot of fun to read. He was so encouraging when I first emailed him (oh soooo many years ago!) about The Professor's Ranger's Apprentice-themed birthday party complete with cloak, pendants and oak leaf pancakes. We conversed back and forth a little via email. He even wrote The Professor the most awesome birthday email and was delighted at all the pictures we sent him of the big day. Well, his only flaw is that he lives in AUSTRALIA, not Texas, and Australia's only flaw is that it's half a world away from Texas! I guess maybe God realized you couldn't have that much awesome all on one side of the earth so He had to split it up. 

So, around the time Miss Cupcake made her appearance, Mr. Flanagan, or my "Good Buddy John", as I like to call him to tease the kids (because, you know… we were email buddies), was coming to our area for a book tour. There is some debate. My kids say he was coming to Oklahoma. I thought it was Austin. Anyway, I apparently made the comment in a daze of postpartum hormones and lack of sleep that if he ever come back on another book tour, we would go no matter what!

You know what happened, don't you.

He came back. 
Road trip!!!
But thankfully, Cupcake was no longer a babe in arms and my Good Buddy John did come to Austin which was close enough for us to drive to in an afternoon. So, after The Professor had finished up his online classes for the day, we kissed Sean and Cupcake goodbye and the big kids and I headed down to my dad's house the afternoon before the book signing. We had never seen my dad's new house and he was happy for us to come visit even if it was briefly. He took everyone out for some pretty awesome hamburgers and after that we promptly crashed in bed. We woke up super early the next morning to give ourselves time to get through Austin traffic (I hatehatehate driving through Austin!) and make it to the The Book People to pick up the books we had pre-ordered and our colored wrist tags. We wanted to be in the first wave of people through the line because we were planning to head back home that night. 

Second ones there! The first ones there were another homeschooling
family who lived in Austin so they didn't have as far to travel. 
This was taken at about 8:45am. See that sign above? The book signing wasn't until 6pm. We had approximately the entire day to kill in Austin. Austin? Ugh… not my favorite place. What is there to do in Austin? Well…plenty, thankfully. First stop… the Texas State Capital.

My Granny insists that our family is related to the big marble guy behind them (Sam Houston).
But so do most Texas grannies. Although, her mother's maiden name was Houston. Hmmmmm...

The man in the picture above BigBoy was James "Jim" Ferguson. My grandfather's name was not Jim, it was Vaclav, but he was called Jim for most of his life thanks to this man. He was not the best governor and not even in office when my grandfather was given his name. The story goes that one day, his school took a trip to the state capital and my grandfather (whether intentionally or not he never admitted) got separated from the group. When he was caught later and returned to his group, the person who found him apparently said, "He was just wandering around like he owned the place…like he was Jim Ferguson!" Ever since then, he was called "Jim".

Down below the capital, there is a permanent memorial to Texas recipients of the Medal of Honor and another space for temporary memorials and exhibits. When we were there, the Texas Funeral Directors Association had put together a "Remembering Our Fallen" exhibit honoring Texas soldiers who had died in battle. It was really moving. Family and friends had come to add mementos and notes to their loved one's pictures. 

Afterwards, we headed outside for some fresh air and to burn through time on the parking meter. 
This statue in particular fascinated everyone. It's a memorial to the Eighth Texas Calvary also known as "Terry's Texas Rangers". The statue was impressive but the plaques on the side made their day, considering we were there to see the author of the Ranger's Apprentice series...
"There is no danger of a surprise when the Rangers are between us and the enemy."

"I always feel safe when the Rangers are in front."
We also had fun taking goofy pictures with the cannons on the lawn. 

After touring the capital, we made a trip to the Texas State Cemetery to visit my Pawpaw's grave. "Just blocks east of the State Capitol, the Cemetery is the final resting place of Governors, Senators, Legislators, Congressmen, Judges and other legendary Texans who have made the state what it is today." There are some very important people buried there, but he's the most important one to me.
It's 14 years that he's been gone and I still miss him so much. 

Afterwards, we went to boost our spirits and stave off fatigue with a little lunch and then made our way over to the O. Henry Museum. Well, they call it a museum, but really it's just a house that he and his family once lived in that still has some of his stuff. So, yeah… I guess that's a museum. Every year, they host a pun-off. The O. Henry Pun-Off World Championship in fact. For the past 37 years, they have been trying "to a-maize people with wacky wordplay and home groan wit from powerful punsters who are out standing in their field." Yeah. We are never letting my husband near that place. 

The first publication of Gifts of the Magi in The New York Sunday World on December  10, 1905.

O. Henry's pen and ink set
And after that, we walked right next door to the Susanna Dickinson Museum, but I was tired of taking pictures by that point, except for this one…
Sorry. Did that just up the PG rating on my blog? I didn't say it. Davy Crockett did!

Done with museums and with the time getting closer to 6pm, we headed back to The Book People to hang out in their coffee bar, warm up a little with some tasty beverages and use the free wi-fi.
See this hat? I'm going to come back to it in a second.
We waited and waited and waited. 6pm came and went and still my Good Buddy John did not show up. I guess he was running a little late. I don't know why. He wasn't taking my calls.
Sad empty podium. 
But when he finally showed up… there was rejoicing!

Let me tell you, my Good Buddy John is exactly the kind of guy you'd think he'd be. He's the kind of guy you'd want to sit with in front of the fire with a giant pot of coffee and listen to him tell stories all night long. He's personable. He's friendly. He loves his fans. He loves his characters. He loves stories and you can tell, he's got a million of them to share. My kids adored him. They could. not. stop grinning. He talked for about an hour and then took time to answer questions and everyone was excited to hear his answers. No spoilers but he did mention that in the next Brotherband book, the crew of the Heron might travel to an America-like land. And he talked about a series that he's writing about Halt's early days… think Halt as a teenage boy instead of Will. He mentioned that right before he came to the US he had written the scene where Halt meets Lady Pauline for the first time. Awwwwwww! There was also talk about Ranger's Apprentice finally being turned into a movie! I can still hear the squeals of delight. In fact, I'm pretty sure those squeals did some permanent hearing damage.

Finally, when everything was said and done… they each got to meet him.
Sunshine had knitted two watch caps like the ones Edvin made in the 3rd Brotherband book. I embroidered a heron and we turned it into a badge for the cap. She gave one to him and kept one for herself. He said it was far superior to some other ones he'd seen mocked up. And he also wore it for the rest of the book signing!
Rain borrowed The Professor's Ranger cloak since he'd outgrown it many years ago and John called her "Ranger Girl" which made her blush and giggle like I've never seen before. She is not my giggle prone girl. Fangirl moment! He also remembered The Professor's birthday post and the oak leaf pancakes! Ok… it was my turn to blush and giggle then. Mommy fangirl moment! 
"Everybody lean in!" Not the best picture taking advice.
The excitement didn't wear off until we reached home about 4 hours later that night. It was a really long day and everyone took a couple of days to fully recover but they all said it was totally worth it.