Thursday, December 22, 2011

Early Christmas

It felt a little strange to take the tree down before Christmas this year, but I didn't want to come home to the chore and a pile of needles.

I didn't have to ask Owen and the neighbor boy twice to drag the tree to the woods!  They had a great time with this little project.  I guess you get country quick around here!  

See, I really did decorate.  Sorta.

Sunday morning was fun, reintroducing Ben to presents, I think he forgot!

Also Sunday morning was first communion for Madeline, Marney, and Owen.

Have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cinnamon Ornaments

Owen and I had fun last week making these ornaments.  I did not use the oil, they are plenty fragrant without it.  They make the whole house smell wonderful.  Attempt number one failed because I learned the hard way that Owen is better with a rolling pin, and I forgot to put in the little hole at the top!

We finally got it right the second time around.

We are decorating them today using bells, buttons, wrapping paper and mod-podge.  I am hoping to use them as gift go-a-longs, so I won't show the finished product just yet.

We also decorated our gingerbread house.  This is something we normally get together and do with my sister and her family, so it was a little bitter sweet this year to be doing it alone.  

It turned out cute.  Notice all the missing candy?  Even after reminding everyone that I bought it on clearance after Christmas last year, (not exactly fresh!) they could not resist trying a few bites.  

We are busy preparing for an early Christmas this year.  We are celebrating on Sunday the 18th here at home, and then heading back to Michigan to spend Christmas with our families there.

Also happening Sunday is First Communion for the 3 big kids.  Our new church celebrates an open table, it's not tied to Confirmation like I am used to.  They have been taking classes in preparation, and are excited to be able to fully participate in the Lord's Supper.  On Saturday after class, they will be making bread to use during service on Sunday.  I thought that was a neat touch.

We are having a relaxing, but productive week.  Hope you are too!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vistors and a field Trip

Jim's parents and sister returned our girls!  We were so glad to see them all.   They spent a few days with us and are on their way home today.  While they were here, we did some shopping, played lot's of American Trivia, and took a trip to the local children's museum...  

She's not afraid of this tornado.

Ben banged out a few tunes.

53 inches!  He's getting so tall!

Scouting out some potential photo locations.  The architecture of this old tobacco factory was really cool.

Presidential fitness test anyone?  This girl blew the averages away, must be all that swimming. 

Oops!  Trying to sneak behind the ropes!

Hermit crabs!

One last shot.

We have been lucky to have so much family time lately even though we are so far away.  Only 16 more days until we head to MI for Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Our Week and Learning Spaces

What happens when I only have two kids for the week?  Not much!  
The girls were gone to Michigan for the week and are due home tonight, so it was just the boys and I for five days.  It's been pretty quiet around here, but we managed to have some fun anyway.

We did a little school, and lot's of playing.  Owen has been busy taking care of his hermit crab.  These are the perfect pet for our "no pets" family.  They are easy and fun, allergy and stink free!

Owen is a very attentive crab owner.

I had a little time to re-think the formal dining room layout.   We are not formal dining room people, and knew this space would be a dedicated office/learning space instead.  It's open on two sides, so it's been a challenge to get it right.  

If I knew we were going to stay here forever, I would close it in and hang these beauties on both sides!  But this is not likely to be our forever home.  We could have Carrie Underwood sing "This is Our Temporary Home" here, but I won't do that to you!  

I've been learning a little about how to integrate some Montessori principles into our education plan for Ben.  He is beginning to get to the "I want to do it myself" stage, and I want to support and empower him to do things for himself.  It's not always easy for me to do this.  I like a clean space.  I am hoping to show him how to do things himself, with self control and good habits.  i.e. do one thing at a time, clean up after yourself as you go.

We shall see!  He is a tornado! 

So, anyway, I tweaked a few things and hopefully made a more child friendly "can do" space, using things we already had on hand.   The three cheap Walmart rolling kitchen carts I bought 5 years ago have served us well, in many different capacities over the years.

I took the doors off my desk, and moved Owen's desk next to mine.  I eliminated all the loud toys from Ben's space, in hopes that we can all "work" together with fewer distractions.

I've been on a purge the plastic and electronics kick.  Back to basics here.

There are a couple storage closets off this room, they help control the clutter that comes along with homeschooling.  This house has turned out to be such a blessing for our family in this season of life.  It is so live-able, and fits our needs perfectly.  Really an answer to our prayers, right down to the smallest details.  We are grateful.

Speaking of obnoxious things, I wanted to get a Ben sized chair.  Walmart to the rescue again!  I don't usually care for character themed things, but the price was right!

He loves it!  Big stuff!

While we missed the girls very much, it was a nice change of pace for a few days.  I felt like I could finally take a deep breath and enjoy a slower pace, and I know the girls had a great time visiting in Michigan.   

I am working on some fun plans for Beyond Five in a Row for January.  We will be rowing Thomas Edison Young Inventor by Sue Guthridge.  I will be posting weekly wrap ups for that, including resources used.  Can't wait!

Also in the January plans are working on the girls learning space upstairs, I will post picks after that is done.   Have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our Thanksgiving Week

We had some very special guests for Thanksgiving.  We did lots of....

Cooking (for 18 people all week!)...

Outdoor time (soccer, kickball, yoga, etc)...

scavenger hunting...

beach combing...

friend finding...

Sister time...

family time....

It was a great week, can't wait to do it again!  Thanks to all our guests for making our holiday much less lonely!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our Explosive Week

This week we took a break from the book work, and explored this amazing globe we call home.  It's been a while since we did a unit study, and some real hands on learning.  Owen has been a little bored with his current routine, so I thought we should spice things up with something a little more exciting.  We used this:

We really enjoyed our week.  Our days were full.  We cleaned out the library on everything volcano related and had lot's activities to choose from in this down load and go packet.

To wrap up our week, the kids woke up to Volcano pancakes.  We opted for the syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon vs. cheese option, yum!

The fun continued after Jim got home, with a volcano model.

Owen had been waiting for this all week!

Our dinner menu consisted of:

something spicy seemed appropriate.


Volcano cake for dessert!  We rarely have dessert, so this was a real treat.

In honor of Marney's announcement that she wants to be an oceanographer (I'm sure this has something to do with her current obsession with mermaids and the fact that she is spending roughly half her life in the pool with her swim team these days) our next unit study will be "Oceans."  Owen suggested a huge wave cake at the end on that week, yikes!  What have I started?  

We have a busy weekend planned.  The fall foliage is in full bloom and the weather has been beautiful.  Perfect setting for a family photo, I think!  First one in forever, I can't wait.  Also scheduled is acolyte training at church for the girls, quite a long "honey-do" list for Jim, and some fun preparations for some very special guests coming in just over a week.   A productive and fun weekend ahead, hope yours is wonderful too!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Year To Remember

A year ago today, we stepped off a plane and introduced Ben to his new family.


This has been a year of getting to know each other.  There were more changes in our family during Ben's first year home than I had hoped.  I specifically remember asking for a quiet year!  But, it is what it is.  Ben has rolled with the punches, and has adjusted amazingly well.  

When we started this journey to Ben, we didn't know exactly what to expect.  What will it really be like, day to day?  Are we really, truly crazy for doing this?  Books can only prepare you so much.  

FAITH=Fantastic Adventure In Trusting Him

  I can honestly say that having him home has put all of our fears to rest.  He felt like one of the family right away, and I just feel like his Mom.  A very lucky Mom.  My love for him vs. each of our biological children is no different.   Well, maybe I love them all differently.  They are, after all different  people, with different needs.  But, you can be sure they are all loved with the same intensity, the same ache in my heart.   He is not loved any more or any less because he was adopted.  

Now, I don't want to build him, or our experience up unrealistically.  Of course, there are times, days even, that are more challenging than others.  It's meant a lot of hard work for all of us, and been a daily practice in patience.  He is often loud, squirmy, and uncooperative.  I haven't always handled it with grace.  We are no longer an inconspicuous family.  For better or worse, we make a lasting impression where ever we go. :) Ben has received more than his "fair" share of our parental attention at times.  Despite all this, adopting Ben has exceeded our expectations by a mile.  The amount of joy he brings to our lives is beyond measure.  

Watching Madeline, Marney, and Owen welcome Ben into our lives with open arms has been a gift to all of us.  They are learning that we make adjustments for the special people in our lives.  It's not a sacrifice or an imposition, it's what we do for people that we love.  It's what we do for everyone at times when we all have special needs or concerns.  We all fall and need help getting back up.  They love him more that I could have ever hoped.  They do not resent his presence in our lives.  This little guy has no clue how deeply he has penetrated our hearts, and changed us all forever.

So, what has this little wonder been up to?

Gross motor-  Ben was crawling when he came home, now he is running, climbing, kicking a ball, and trying to jump!

Fine motor-  Still not using a pincer grasp, this is a goal for the next few months.  Doing great at stacking, shape sorting, and the like.  He loves to learn and be challenged.

Self care-  Self feeding, making good progress here.  Not completely independent, but progressing nicely.  He is biting and chewing well.  He can remove all his clothes independently :/  working on redressing!  Loves to "help" brush his teeth, learning to sit still for this process.  Loves the bath tub and everything that goes with it, does not love to get out!

Speech-  Since we started working on learning his ABC's and starting sight words and numbers, he is attempting to say lots of new words.  He uses about 10 signs regularly and appropriately.  His receptive language is better than he would like us to believe.  He understands everything!   

Social-  Does not need any encouragement in this area!  He is our little ambassador, making friends out of strangers where ever we go!  Sometimes needs a reminder to be gentle, and use a quiet voice.  Also working on, hugs are for family, high fives or hand shakes are for friends

Education-  Working on learning his ABC's and sight words.  Lot's of flash cards!  Lot's of reading and play time going on here too.


Ignore my closed eyes, I just love this shot of Ben!