This blog chronicles the miracles and struggles of our daughters, Emily and Olivia. Emily was born 15 weeks early and had many complications, but she continues to amaze us! Olivia, born in China with heart complications, is also beating the odds. She joined her forever family (us!) when she was four years old and has been doing wonderfully! UPDATE: We started homeschooling August 2009 :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Show Girls

When the girls have friends over one of their favorite pastimes is to create and perform shows on their little stage in the basement. On Friday, after their whole 15 minutes of swimming, they all went downstairs to choreograph a show for me. They really love the CD of patriotic songs that came with our curriculum so they popped that in and were ready perform in no time. After singing and parading around a little table to Yankee Doodle (and God Bless America and America, and...), they each took their turn basking in the spotlight. As you can see Olivia loves to dress up and quite enjoys being the center of attention! She also has quite the rhythm and grace and LOVES to dance (and pose!).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Baking bread

Yesterday the girls learned what it means to knead as we baked bread as part of our science lesson.

What fun to get messy and play with bread dough!

Yum! We got to eat our very warm bread with the butter they made earlier :) That sounds so domestic doesn't it?!

Today we had week #2 of Legacy Homeschool Co-op. The girls just love it and all the fun classes they get to participate in!! I especially like the sampling of the yummy stuff they make in their cooking class (thanks, Michele!)!!

After running around outside after co-op the girls were hot and begging to go in the pool. We invited some friends to swim and picked them up on our way home...but the swimming only lasted about 15 minutes. Not surprising since it's only about 76 degrees out. I now have a houseful of kids--no worries here about socialization of my homeschooled kids!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Making play dough

Yesterday, for science, the girls enjoyed making play dough. Tomorrow we'll make bread and they'll get to see what happens when we add yeast :) They already experimented with yeast and saw that when mixed with sugar--and NOT salt--the yeast/sugar solution caused a balloon to inflate...and tomorrow they'll get to see how yeast (and sugar!) will make gas bubbles and cause the dough to rise. As you can see they enjoy the hands-on projects!

We mixed flour, salt, warm water and oil...

...and eventually made play dough!

It was messy, but fun :)

AFTER it was all mixed up, the girls wanted to know if we could make it a pretty I added a little red food coloring to the dough and it ended up a neat marbled pink.

Making their masterpieces :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Last chance to enjoy summer weather!

We had a great time at our first ever homeschool co-op on Friday AND at our family camp over the weekend (I still have to sort through all the great pix!).  Today the girls finished their schooling early and they actually got in our pool for the first time in over a month!  It's been such a strange summer that we haven't gotten a whole lot of swimming when I saw the temperature was going to be 83 today I decided it was high time they they take advantage of the pool before it's too late!  We invited some other homeschool friends and they all jumped in :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Making butter!

As part of our study about early American pioneers, today we learned how to turn cream into butter. Of course we didn't have a cow to milk so we had to cheat a little bit by buying heavy whipping cream at the store, but it was still neat to see a liquid turn into a (semi) solid!

Shake, shake...shake it baby...

Mmmm....that tastes good!

Voila! Butter!!
Butter and crackers made for a nice after school treat!

In case you're wondering how to make butter and you don't happen to have a butter churn like the early can just shake heavy whipping cream back and forth for about 15 minutes :)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Homeschool hangout

Olivia, showing off her missing tooth :)

Hard at work! Or is that hardly working?

I'm glad to finally have a good use for some rooms in our house that we rarely used. We swapped our living and dining room furniture and added 12 feet of cabinets along the width of the room now known as the school or piano room.

Since you can see our school rooms from the entry I wanted doors to contain our stuff so it wouldn't scream "SCHOOL!" I must thank my dear husband for helping me execute and assemble my plans! He's been a great support and thankfully hasn't balked at any of the expense (on top of some hefty taxes that pay for the public school we're no longer using!). Oh, and I love our cool picture frame doors that hide all kinds of stuff :)

Neatly behind closed doors, the girls each have a stack of nine workboxes (well, drawers actually) for the (mostly) independent portion of their school day. I try to stagger what goes in the boxes to give them some element of surprise as they work through them in order. One drawer may have a math or handwriting book, another might have a tag that says it's time for piano practice (Emily just started lessons!), or another might have a tag telling them to take a five minute break on the trampoline or whatever exercise de jour (which is usually accompanied by, "Mom, come watch me, come watch me!" ). Some drawers may have a note of encouragement or a game to play with Mom. It never ceases to amaze me how they get so excited when they find things in their workboxes that have been sitting unused for years. "LOOK, MOM, LOOK! I get to play with dominoes today!!" It's really cute when they tell me what they've found as if I had nothing to do with it :)
What was the seldom used dining room is now our cozy sitting area where we read our books (separately and together). We have a lot of fun "read alouds" scheduled and so far the girls are loving them. Last week we were reading Squanto: Friend of the Pilgrims and this week we're reading The Courage of Sarah Noble.

In addition to reading together, one of the daily workbox tasks for each girl is to spend 15 minutes browsing through the reading basket (reading &/or looking at pictures). The basket is loaded up each week with a new batch of books from the library that relate to the week's history topic. Last week the books were all about the Plymouth and the pilgrims...this week (#6) we're learning about the Dutch settling in New Amsterdam (New York City!). We just learned that the Dutch brought their cows to, on Thursday, we are going to make butter from cream :) Oh, and tomorrow, for our science experiment, we'll see how yeast can blow up a balloon!

Friday afternoon/evening we leave for homeschool family camp in Wisconsin. It's going to be a little hectic getting ready though because earlier that day, we'll start our weekly homeschool co-op where I'll be teaching Yearbook and a math class. The girls aren't nervous at all though and can't wait to see their new friends again! They're each in three classes and they're dying to see what they'll be making in their cooking class!

Topsy Turvy Tomatoes

For fun this year we bought a Topsy Turvy to try our hand(s) at growing tomatoes. I picked planted a Beef Steak variety, hoping for big slicing tomatoes, but most of ours have been pretty small. Never the less, it's been a lot of fun to watch them grow. The girls love to pick them off so we can eat them!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Millennium Park, Chicago

On our way home from a family reunion in Indiana a few weeks ago, we stopped in downtown Chicago to introduce the city to our niece who had never been. Here are a few pix from Millennium Park.

Cloud Gate, better known as "The Bean."

Everyone loves playing in the water here at the Crown Fountain where you just might get spit upon!

Of course the girls couldn't resist getting wet!

Loving and Losing

At age 15, I'm afraid our beloved dog, Chelsea, might be nearing her end :( Last night I didn't get to bed until 3 or 4:00 am because she was acting very strange and unable to get comfortable enough to lay down or sleep. She kept hunching over, as if she was getting ready to relieve herself, but then would pace panting in that position,with her back legs not quite in sync. Andy commented that she almost looked like she was in a very uncomfortable labor...only she's not pregnant. It was sad to see her so uncomfortable, pacing and panting for hours, unable to rest. At around 3 am, I gave her a sedative that we had on hand and she FINALLY laid down and fell asleep.

This morning she's still pretty groggy and dazed (from the sedative or ???) and has only gotten up a few times. Most of the time she seems to be sleeping peacefully now, but in the moments she is up her left eye doesn't seem to be tracking properly. Not sure what's going on, but it's so hard to see her sudden decline. We knew she was getting old, but up until yesterday she just seemed a little slower and a little arthritic, but no drastic changes. I had hoped not to be in the position of having to choose her fate, but I'm not sure what to do now...

The girls just see Chelsea sleeping a lot today and don't quite grasp why I'm teary-eyed. It's hard because she was our first "kid" and has been part of our family for so long. The girls have been to funerals, but have never been close to anyone who's died. Olivia cried for HOURS after she watched "Marley and Me," begging Chelsea not to die. Olivia is now running around happily this morning, but I'm pretty sure she won't take losing her friend very well. We've talked about it off and on this past year so they "know" it's inevitable, but without much experience with death, they can't really know. I don't want to shield them from the experience because I know death is an integral part of life, but still not looking forward it to. For them or me.

To add to the dilemma, in three days we're supposed to leave for a weekend homeschool family camp in WI...and we have a neighborhood teenager lined up to dog sit. Depending on how Chelsea's doing, I'm not sure how that's all going to play out... Don't really want to traumatize the neighbor kids if Chelsea has another episode or worse...

Now Chelsea is up and eating with no pacing or hunching over. Still slow and groggy, but otherwise seemingly "normal." Her eye even seems more normal, so who knows?? Maybe her back was just having spasms last night?? Does arthritis spasm?? But even if she rallies, at 15, her days are numbered :( Ugh.

A groggy Chelsea with Olivia this morning.

Good friends.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

My Little learners

Below is a mix of pix from the last few weeks of our adventures in homeschooling. It really has been much more enjoyable than I ever expected! I'd always known one-on-one learning would be beneficial for my kids, but honestly homeschooling did NOT appeal to me at all! The idea was daunting and I was sure I didn't have the patience. Besides, the girls were both in school all day long and I was finally free to do whatever I wanted from 9-3:30. Okay, well, I still had to fit in laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping somewhere, but basically I was free to go out to lunch, scrapbook, or just plain veg. Why in the world would I want to mess with a good thing?! I have friends who homeschooled, but I pushed off the idea, saying I'd only do it as a last resort if I had to.

Well, the strangest things happen when you pray. Seriously. The short version is that in March I prayed that IF He wanted me to homeschool, would He please change my heart and mind about it. Sure, it'd be good for my kids to go at their pace and gain mastery rather than always rushing to play catch-up and leaving learning gaps in their wake. Yes, it'd be great to master skills before plowing on to the next. But I knew that if my heart wasn't in it, it'd feel like a burden and it'd be a disaster. Well, I asked and He answered! After YEARS of resistance, within a week of that prayer, I not only warmed up to the idea, I was really excited about it! No more dragging my feet. No more fear of failure. No overwhelm. It was definitely a God thing, because I could never have done a 180 that quickly on my own. I now have NO doubt that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

Now I-- and I daresay, my whole household--think homeschooling is the best thing since sliced bread! Instead of feeling saddled with a weighty, unwanted responsibility, I actually feel kind of sad that everyone else isn't also enjoying this wonderful discovery. That doesn't mean that every day is perfect, but I have a greater appreciation for the fact that these precious kids grow up SO fast and I'm so glad I'm not missing this opportunity with them. I know it doesn't appeal to everyone (me included not so long ago!), but after my sudden change of heart, I feel so blessed and thankful. Thankful for my family, and thankful that we serve a God who still listens and still answers prayer. Could someone please occasionally remind me of that simple fact? Unfortunately I'm often too quick to forget.

My cute little toothless wonder donning a bonnet at Naper Settlement today!

Hard at work, wearing a yoke to collect water!
Drying off and sketching after a nature walk which turned into exploring/playing IN the creek.

Break time! Goofing off on the trampoline.

Very proud of their country and their creation!
During a science experiment the girls learned that an egg can float after adding salt to the water!

Sailing our Nina, Pinta & Santa Maria to the New World!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Top 10 reasons I've been MIA

  1. Decided I should spend more time with the kids and less on the 'puter.
  2. Mulled over the idea of homeschooling.
  3. Researched the idea of homeschooling.
  4. Reorganized our home to turn our living & dining rooms into school rooms.
  5. Researched homeschool curriculum options.
  6. Started dabbling with homeschooling in June.
  7. Picked a homeschool curriculum (Adventures in My Father's World, studying early American history).
  8. Started our new curriculum August 3.
  9. Continued homeschooling.
  10. Love homeschooling! And the girls do too :)

Now that I'm getting the hang of this whole homeschooling thing (just finished week #5), I'm feeling a little more relaxed and hope to get back to blogging occasionally. Sorry for the long break. If anyone is still following, I'd love to hear from you!

The girls each lost teeth this week so I'll have to get some of their cute toothless smiles posted soon :)