Monday, April 25, 2011

Weekly Report: April 18-22, 2011
Picture Post

It was a rather successful week.  We bulldozed through some history and got caught up in various subjects in which we were running behind schedule.  We also began working with a new piece of scientific equipment, which was very interesting to Bluebird, my little scientist-in-training.

However, I am late in posting this and don't have any time really scheduled for writing it it's going to mostly be a picture post!  Enjoy...

3 R's:

Bluebird began her new penmanship book.

Penguin worked on making pattern towers in Math.

Bluebird worked hard on her penmanship this week.
I told her that once she finishes this book that she'll be done with penmanship
until we begin our next school year.
She completed two weeks' worth of work in three days.
History & Literature:
We went through a lot of history this week.  We covered Alexander the Great on was a sunny day and I offered to read it to Bluebird on a picnic blanket in our front yard.  Sweet.  On Monday, we read about various ancient South American cultures:  the Nazca drawings and the Heads of the Olmecs.  The original plan was to only go that far, but Bluebird wanted to keep going so we started our study of Ancient Rome on Wednesday and also read the story of Romulus and Remus.

One of the books we read was Jabuti the Tortoise: A Trickster Tale from the Amazon.

All three of the girls love the "Trickster" stories, so Penguin and Junebug were on-hand to listen.
Penguin made her own narration page when we finished reading.


That new piece of scientific equipment is our very first microscope!
Michael and I spent some time on Saturday teaching Bluebird how to use it.

She picked it up pretty quick.
However, she needs to use one hand to keep her other eyelid shut,
so adjusting the focus is a bit of a challenge for her.
I grew pond scum this week.  On purpose.

The pond scum was for our experiment, in which we looked for Protozoa.
We managed to find a few,
but they moved too quickly for Bluebird to identify what kind of Protozoa they were.
We've officially entered the "I can't wait until we're done with this school year" mentality.  Once Bluebird finishes her current penmanship book, writing book and history curriculum...we can be done until August!  Motivation to keep pushing forward is high, as we're quite behind our preferred ending date due to having to start the school year late.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stop Planning and Complaining...and Just DO!

(In which I give myself a "stern talking-to"...)

There just comes a point where you realize that you have read everything on the subject, planned everything to work in your situation, and yet nothing is happening.  Sensing that "something is missing," you push forward in trying to find more information, more "been there, done that" accounts of encouragment and you still walk away from all that research feeling unfulfilled.

It's because we've been created to work, not just think about working.

Nothing gets done until you do it.

So if you're feeling overwhelmed by life and no "how-to" guide or advice seems to be helping you cope, perhaps stop looking for advice and simply apply some labor.  The physical action of working does wonders to clear one's head, lift the spirits and actually get something done.

In this Age of Information, there will always be more opinions and facts to digest than time to put them into use.  Don't waste days in reading and analyzing every possible nuance on a subject!  Learn the basics and then get out there and DO.  When you come to the point where "the basics" are no longer allowing you to progress, then do a little more research on the intermediate level of the skill you're learning.  Then go DO again.  Don't bog yourself down in the advanced section when you're not ready for it because then you're just wasting your time--you're going to forget all that information before you get anywhere near that level and have to re-read it anyway.

Life isn't perfect.  Just because a person decides that they're going to pursue a goal doesn't mean that everything on Earth is going to instantly re-arrange itself in order to accomodate that person's desires.  Children will still get sick, things will wear out and break, the weather will be un-cooperative...if you're really committed to something, you'll find a way to keep pushing forward anyway.

If you want to do something just because it's trendy, or you're following the crowd or you simply think it's the way you should be doing it...bumps in the road will de-rail you.  Stop wasting your precious time chasing things that you're not really interested in to begin with.  All the time we waste in researching and planning for something, only to quit when the first sign of obstacles appears...that's time out of an already too-short mortal existence that was wasted.  (All the time we waste in beating ourselves up over failed endeavors is wasted time as well...what other more important things could we have spent that energy on?)

There are things we must do that aren't fun--boring jobs, cleaning up messes, organizing our finances.  But they must be done first in order to allow us to move onto the fun things in life.  We need the self-discipline to complete our work before we play.  We need the Herculean self-discipline and patience to teach our own children to finish their work before they can play.  We cannot allow our frustration to take over and announce that we've "earned" some free time when, honestly, we've simply become bored with the task at hand and want to do something more enjoyable.

The purpose of childhood isn't to find amusement; it's a special, protected time of a person's life in which they are to be trained to become an adult of integrity.  Obviously, the purpose of adulthood isn't the pursuit of amusement either--it's the time we shoulder our share of the workload of improving the human condition and get it done. 

Retirement is the time for the "play" after the work.  After a lifetime of labor and service, we can say to ourselves that we have earned some time to spend our days in the pursuit of our interests.  Seeing as I am not of retirement-age, I can only venture to suppose that one's retirement would be a peaceful time filled the sweet satisfaction of a job well-done--if, and only if, one spent the "work years" working on the things that needed their efforts:  an honest career; a healthy, loving family; and other wholesome pursuits.  I would hate to be the person who approaches retirement age and can only look back on a lifetime filled with regrets because they spent the prime of their working years pursuing things of no consequence at the expense of a stable family and secure future.  I'm not going to live my "golden years" wishing I had done a better job with my children or my life.  I'm going to DO a good job NOW so I can look back on it all and honestly be able to say that I did the best possible job I could do with my particular set of abilities.  And I will garner peace from that affirmation.

If life seems "unfair" right now because I don't have enough "time for myself," then I need to just tell myself that there will be plenty of time for creative pursuits when my children are grown.  I'll have all the time in the world for knitting, painting and writing then.  I'll have earned it.  Do I want a pile of knitted hats, or well-trained children at this point in my life?

The future is full of questions and uncertainties.  Worrying and stewing over things you can't change at this moment is a waste of time.  Put your efforts into the things that you can improve TODAY.  Keep an eye on the future and start adjusting your course to line up to where you need to go, but don't waste any more time than that on it.  Today...there is so much to be done just with this one day of our lives.  Identify the things that need to be improved and then, instead of fretting and whining about how hard it all is, go DO something about it.  For me, this usually means getting up and cleaning something that I don't want to clean.  It may mean gathering all your children together--turning off the TV, the computer, the phones--and doing something TOGETHER.  It may mean cancelling commitments that aren't important.  It might mean fervent prayer and placing a problem or worry in the hands of someone higher than yourself.

Fill the day with the things that are important.  Be wise and efficient with your limited time and energies.  Stop thinking about everything.  Start doing something important.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Visit to Temple Square

We headed up to Temple Square on the Friday before General Conference--I just had this huge desire to go hang out near the Conference Center before watching Conference this time.  I'm late in posting these photos, but they're still just as nice despite the delay.  :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekly Report: April 11-15, 2011

The return of the Weekly Report!

Let's not waste any time...

The 3 R's:  Well, a big thing in Bluebird's world was that she completed her first grade penmanship book.  (I know...glasses are dropping to the floor throughout the english-speaking world as people read this.)  As a reward for finishing any level of any subject, I let my pupils have the rest of the week off from that subject.  Bluebird loved not having to do any penmanship!  Next week we'll begin the last "manual printing" penmanship book, level 2M.  After that, it's onto cursive...which she has expressed some interest in learning.

Speaking of penmanship, Penguin has improved a fair amount in her ability to control the ol' pencil.  I'm glad; I was starting to think we needed to back off for a bit and let her hand muscles strengthen up a tad, but we're good to go now...I think.

History:  We finished up with the Greeks.  I love it that I've actually discussed the Peloponnesian War with my seven year old.  We were going to start studying Alexander the Great, but the weather turned nice here and after the crazy amount of snow we received over the past couple of weeks I decided that we were definitely due for some time outdoors.  It's been a good call.  (We can read about Alexander next week, he's not going anywhere.)

Science:  Two experiments this week, plus checking on the ongoing experiment we started the week before.  Biology is pretty time-intensive in regards to its experiments.  We did the carnation-in-colored-water experiment...which is always so anti-climatic, don't you think?  The flowers never turn as cool a color as you think they should!
Penguin wanted to know why I had "put whipped cream on top of that colored water."

We also started sprouting some beans.  (Can you tell that we're studying plants this week?)  We're basically going through the motions right now while we wait for the time to grow some frogs and butterflies and ladybugs.  I think I'm going to split up the remaining "creature growing" and throw in some other science projects while we wait for the babies to grow to maturity.  The idea of growing frogs, butterflies and ladybugs all at the same time sort of gives me a twitch.

Art:  We did a fun project this week, exploring how oil pastels can resist watercolor paints.  The girls loved it.

Girl Scouts:  Bluebird received her 2011 Cookie Sales pin, and she was quite pleased about it.
We also started the "Between Earth and Sky" Journey, which involved her receiving the background patch for the journey.  She's pretty happy with all these acquired rewards.

After writing up the "Day in the Life" and Monkeyboy's birthday posts that happened earlier this week, this report seems kind of dull.  (We were busy everyday!)  I'm looking forward to this weekend and spending some time in the newly-acquired sunshine and hanging out with my husband.  This is a nice time of year.  Happy weekend!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Happy Birthday Monkeyboy!

Oh, my baby officially a "toddler" and no longer a "baby."  What a year it has been!  I've spent a lot of time thinking about the day you arrived here on Earth and into our family.  We hadn't found out what your gender was and figured you were another girl because "that's just what we do."  When you were born and I found out you were a boy, I felt a surge a joy course through my entire being--A BOY!  I didn't realize until then how badly I had wanted to have a boy of my own.  You peed all over Michael, the doctor and the nurses...a boy you definitely were!

And now, you are still very different from your sisters.  But not in the ways that I thought you would be different.  The biggest difference is how much you like me.  Your sisters were OK with me, but very much preferred to go out and do their own thing.  Not you; your favorite place in the entire world is in my arms.  You indulge your daddy with a few token displays of affection--as long as I'm not in the room.  However, the minute you hear my voice or see me, it's all over because you must get to me as fast as you can.  I find it especially endearing...most of the time.  It's hard to get things done when I have to hold you all day...and it drives me crazy when you sit and cry because I had to put you down so I could attend to something that requires the use of both of my hands.  (Don't take it personally, I still love you.)

You received your first dump truck and a little set of wooden tools for your first birthday.  We had Funfetti cake with vanilla frosting that your sisters insisted upon being colored blue.  You were afraid of the candle on your cake...until Daddy came and stood by you.  Your sisters fought over which of them could play with your presents.  It was a typical birthday in this crazy house of ours...but a-typical because it was our first "Little Boy" birthday party.

You are so special and I'm so glad that you're mine.  I love you, my little bear cub Monkeyboy.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


A Day in the Life: Monday, April 11, 2011

(Sorry about completely skipping the December 26, 2010 "Day in the Life," but I just did not want to keep tabs on what we were doing the day after Christmas!  This "Day in the Life" was actually supposed to take place on the 6th, but I completely forgot about it until the 11th.)

Bluebird:  7 years old, Penguin:  4 years old, Junebug:  3 years old, Monkeyboy:  3 days short of 1 year old.

12:30am:  I wake up because I can hear Michael playing on his phone.  He comes to bed about half an hour later.  I will later find out that he was actually up with Monkeyboy.

2:51am:  Monkeyboy wakes up.  He had shots on Friday and has some discomfort in the diaper region.  Michael offers to stay up with him so I can get some sleep, but whenever I hand Monkeyboy over to him, Monkeyboy starts screaming and reaching back for me.  I nurse him and hold him until 3:40.

4:55am:  My alarm goes off.  I get out of bed to turn it off and then stand there, staring at the time and trying to talk myself into going to the gym.  I type up the text message to my friend to tell her I'm not going when my brain suddenly "wakes up" and I feel much better.  I erase the text message and go to gather up my scripture study materials.

5:00am:  I write in my journal and read my scriptures.  I am particularly touched by 3 Nephi 20:18:  "And I will gather my people together as a man gathereth his sheaves into the floor."  We just read the chapter in Farmer Boy where Almanzo helps his father thresh the grain by beating it with flails.  I am amused that, in order to separate the chaff from the grain, the farmer must thrash the wheat with a flail.  It's a rather profound analogy for the trials of life.

5:20am:  I get a text message from my friend informing that she will not be going to the gym.  I send back a taunting text, telling her that the only reason I got up was so I wouldn't disappoint her.  She does not respond.  I gather up my things and head out the door.

5:32am:  I arrive at the gym.  I make a deal with myself:  If I do an intense 30 minutes on the treadmill, then I can skip lifting weights.  I fulfill my end of the deal and get to leave early.

6:23am:  I get home and get ready for the day.

7:00am:  I'm finished getting ready and as I'm kneeling down to say my prayers I hear Monkeyboy babbling in his crib.  I sigh, look heavenward and silently ask Heavenly Father to help me do a good job today.  I get Monkeyboy out of his crib and sit him down in the living room to play with toys.  I quietly sneak into Bluebird and Penguin's bedroom to make sure their alarm is turned on.  It's not.  I turn it on to go off at 7:15.  Penguin wakes up as I'm exiting the room and follows me to the kitchen.

7:11am:  Penguin and I put on our aprons to make breakfast.  It's Monday, which means muffins!  We decide to make blackberry muffins.  Penguin loves to help me cook, and has become pretty good at cracking eggs.  As a result of this talent, she refers to herself occasionally as a "Cracker Penguin," which makes me chuckle.

Monkeyboy gets into the pantry/homeschool closet
when Penguin and I forget to close the doors after getting out our aprons.
7:15am:  The girls' alarm clock goes off...for longer than you would think it needs to go off.  It's finally turned off and I can hear Bluebird grumbling as her footsteps make their way up the stairs.  She is decidedly not a morning person.  She comes and stands in the kitchen with a grumpy look on her face and watches the breakfast preparations with glazed eyes.

7:20am:  I send Bluebird off to get dressed.  She bursts into tears.  It turns out that she wants to help make muffins too.  We have a discussion about the importance of "using your words" instead of hoping someone reads your mind.  She then scrambles up onto the chair by the counter to help with the final mixing of the muffins.  We put the muffins in the oven and set the table while they bake.

7:55am:  All four of my children are assembled at the table.  Junebug volunteers to bless the food.

8:10am:  Michael has finished getting ready for the day and comes out to join us.  He pours himself a big glass of milk, which I'm so proud of...until he adds two inches of chocolate syrup to it.  Oh well, at least it's not Coke.

8:20am:  I start clearing the table and getting the kids dressed.

8:35am:  All children are dressed.  Michael takes out the garbage.  I start styling the girls' hair.  I remind Bluebird that she needs to sweep the dining room.  It elicits the usual grumpy response, but she still completes her chore.

9:10am:  I put Monkeyboy down for his nap and start school.  We start with a devotional, which consists of singing the hymn/song for this month (Children's Songbook #88:  On a Golden Springtime), working on scripture memorization (Third Article of Faith), reading a chapter from Book of Mormon Stories, and reading an article or two from this month's issue of The Friend.  We then have family prayer before embarking on the "academic" portion of our school day.

Michael is staying home from work today.
He was sick yesterday.
He spends most of the morning texting people at work
to make sure everyone is working on the things
they should be working on.
9:27am:  End of devotional.  Bluebird and I begin with her Math lesson.  She's grumpy and decides to use one of her "Calm Down Period" cards.  (She has three of these to use each day and can use them whenever she wants to have ten minutes to go and calm down and build up a cheerful attitude.)  I call Penguin over and we go through the first half of her Math lesson.  She impresses me with writing down the month and the day of the week all by herself on a piece of paper laying nearby.  She does a pretty good job with writing the year, but has a hard time figuring out how to write the number "2."

9:37am:  Bluebird comes back from her Calm Down Period and we re-start her math lesson.  We breeze through the concept of subtracting ten from a number, but run smack into grumpiness and frustration when I pull out the "oddball addition facts" flashcards.  She uses her second Calm Down card.

Proud of how tall a tower she built.
9:48am:  Bluebird skips off for ten minutes and Penguin and I finish her math lesson on AABB patterns.  Junebug loves it when we work with the linking cubes, so she joins in on the lesson as well.

9:56am:  We finish Penguin's math lesson and clean up the linking cubes.

Michael got Monkeyboy out of his crib because it was obvious that he was NOT going to take a nap.
He plays with toys in the living room while we do school.

10:02am:  I decide that Bluebird is just going to have to have some Math homework this afternoon and put away her worksheets so we can move on.  We pull out her Penmanship workbook.  She is not happy.

10:11am:  I send Bluebird to Time-Out for smacking her pencil against her paper after I asked her to erase her lowercase "o" because she didn't write it correctly.  I add her penmanship book to the Homework Pile.

10:22am:  We start Bluebird's spelling test.  Bluebird gets mad because she has to write out the word "April" when she writes the date.  I remind myself that she's a seven year old and that they do this.

10:25am:  Junebug falls off her chair and starts crying as though she's going to die.  Bluebird gets upset because "Junebug's distracting me!"  I hug Junebug while finishing up administering Bluebird's spelling test.

10:30am:  We finish her spelling test.  Bluebird works independently in her spelling workbook while I make up snack plates with the leftover muffins and everyone's choice of fruit.

10:55am:  We finish eating our snack, I load the washing machine while the girls get their boots on so we can go outside and play for a little while.

11:09am:  Penguin slides through a pool of melted snow water at the bottom of the slide.  I round up everyone so we can go home and change her into some dry clothes.  It's good timing, as this week is our school district's Spring Break and we leave the park just as the pack of elementary-aged girls that roam the neighborhood unsupervised show up at the park.  Bluebird always asks me for a few days why I won't let her walk around the neighborhood with the girls after she plays with them, so I'm glad to avoid having to explain yet again that that's just not how we do things in our family.

11:19am:  Penguin is in dry clothes.

11:25am:  I sit down with Penguin and Bluebird to do some more school.  I have Bluebird get her penmanship workbook off of the Homework Pile because I'm going to work with Penguin on her penmanship and can't instruct Bluebird one-on-one until I'm done with Penguin.  Penguin does really well with writing the uppercase and lowercase E.  Bluebird gets more and more upset over having to practice penmanship.

11:30am:  Bluebird uses her last Calm Down Period card after she realizes that she wrote all lowercase letters when she was supposed to be writing uppercase letters.

11:31am:  I play "Bag the Bugs" with Penguin as part of her phonics lesson.  We play the game because Penguin is "too tired" to read.  [insert my devious chuckle here]  I set up the game so that Penguin will win most of the time because it convinces her that she's a good reader.  (As the game gets easier in the future, I'll start winning a little more.)

11:40am:  Having finished all her schoolwork, Penguin is set loose to do as she pleases.  She and Junebug race downstairs to watch television.  Screaming and crying soon erupt as they disagree on what to watch.  Michael hops up from the couch and goes downstairs to put out the flames.
I start Bluebird's grammar lesson.  We work on correct usage of pronouns, while involves knocking on the door and asking "Who is it?" to which the person knocking replies, "It is I."  As you can imagine, the door knocking attracts some of the younger siblings' attention.  They join in on the fun.

11:55am:  Bluebird shuts Penguin's fingers in the door.

11:56am:  Michael consoles Penguin by sharing a bowl of ice cream with her.  Bluebird "is distracted."

11:58am:  I pull Bluebird away from the ice cream to start her writing lesson amidst the lovely background noise of Junebug screaming and crying because Michael won't let her get another spoon out to eat the ice cream.

12:14pm:  Writing is done.  Bluebird and I clean up the table, and then sit down in the living room together to read some more of The Adventures of Odysseus.  We're both pretty tired of this book.  I don't think we'll end up finishing it because it's just too long for a first grader.  We read about Achilles and Agamemnon's conflict regarding the maiden Briseis.  Monkeyboy repeatedly tries to steal the book out of my hands while Bluebird plays with LEGOS nearby.  Penguin and Junebug are watching Disney Junior downstairs.

12:38pm:  I help Bluebird by writing out her narration of what we read and leave her to draw an illustration.  She decides to draw a picture of Briseis standing next to Achilles' tent.  In an attempt to encourage Bluebird to include more details in her picture, I say "I bet Briseis was really pretty.  Why else would those two men fight over her so much?"  Michael overhears us and says, "That's just what boys do."  Bluebird enthusiastically replies, "Yeah they do!"

12:46pm:  Bluebird finishes her narration page.  She files it in her bin and I send her off to play.  She pleads to be allowed to open up the package of origami paper, but I tell her we need to save it for a later history lesson.  She pouts and I remind her that there's always room for her to go sit in Time-Out.  The pout disappears.  I go into the kitchen to make lunch.

1:10pm:  The doorbell rings.  We've received three packages!

1:12pm:  We sit down to our lunch of re-heated Chicken Stew from the night before.  I open the packages at the table so we can see what they are.  One is a box of new clothes for Bluebird, one box contains some books for school and the other box contains Monkeyboy's birthday presents.

1:28pm:  We're finished eating.  Bluebird shows off her new clothes to Michael, and Penguin and Junebug head downstairs to play video games.

1:42pm:  UPS delivers a package to our door, filled with more of Bluebird's new spring wardrobe.  I allow Bluebird to change into a new outfit and I sit down with Monkeyboy so I can nurse him.

2:11pm:  I put Monkeyboy down for his nap and start Bluebird's history lesson.  We learn about the Golden Apple and its role in starting The Trojan War.

2:35pm:  I leave Bluebird to draw the picture for her history lesson narration.  All of the awakenings during the night are catching up to me and I'm barely able to keep my eyes open.  I try to talk myself into pushing through the tiredness, but then realize that Michael's home and that I should capitalize on the situation.  He agrees to keep an eye on the girls (and send them to do their independent reading in their beds at 3:00) so I can take a nap.
I lay down and fall asleep immediately.

4:01pm:  Junebug triumphantly enters my room, holding my blaring phone alarm above her head.  Really?  I only laid down five minutes ago...oh wait, an hour and a half ago.  Good nap, bad wake-up.
I stumble out into the living room and find Michael and Monkeyboy dozing together on the couch.  Michael lets me take a picture and then, noticing that I don't look too happy to be awake, suggests that we go to McDonald's for dinner.  I accept the proposition.

The next thirty minutes is a whirlwind of diaper changes, shoe applications and moving loads of laundry to where they next need to go.  We head off to the McDonald's that had a recent PlayPlace face-lift and the girls can hardly contain their excitement.

6:00pm:  We're loaded back up into the van to go home.

6:23pm:  We arrive home.  I help Penguin with her shower in the master bathroom while Junebug takes a bath in the kids' bathroom.

6:44pm:  Michael supervises the girls as they clean up the toys in the living room while I hurriedly put together my picture slideshow for our Family Home Evening lesson.  I gain extra time when Michael sends all three girls to Time-Out because they won't calm down.  When they return, they last about five minute before being sent to Time-Out again.  I'm able to finish putting the slideshow together.

Since it's Monkeyboy's birthday this week, our Family Home Evening is dedicated to him.  We sing his favorite songs, play his favorite games and have his favorite treat (Parfaits from McDonald's).  I show a slideshow of pictures of him from the last year:  me in the last few days of the pregnancy, pictures of him right after he was born, pictures of him in memorable outfits, pictures of him playing with his sisters and pictures of him on significant days in the past year.  It's enjoyed by all.

7:45pm:  I read a chapter of Farmer Boy out loud Bluebird.  (It's the one where Almanzo is driving his team of oxen and the logs...Bluebird laughs hilariously when the sled tips over and all you can see are the red legs of the oxen sticking out of the snow.)

8:00pm:  Michael and I tell everyone that it's bedtime.

8:05pm:  We turn off the light in Junebug and Monkeyboy's room.

8:12pm:  We finish tucking in Bluebird and Penguin in their room.  I go upstairs and start getting ready for bed because I have felt inordinately tired ever since I woke up from my nap.

8:17pm:  I get Monkeyboy out of his crib because he's crying pretty hard.  I sit with him on the couch so he can calm down.

8:22pm:  I put him back to bed.  Junebug is out cold.

8:53pm:  I get into bed, after having spent the last half hour talking with Michael about some things he wants to start working on in regards to his career.  He tucks me in and talks to me for a few minutes before leaving so I can go to sleep.  He'll stay up for an hour or two more before going to sleep himself.

Next "Day in the Life" is scheduled for:  July 21, 2011.
Read the previous "Day in the Life" from September 16, 2010.