Monday, August 29, 2011

An amazing thing happened today.

It rained!!

No really.... this is amazing.

Even though we are now back up to a sweltering 90 outside,

#1 - It's far better than the usual 103-107 we've been having this time of day,

#2 - I'm still  living off the memories of our cool, rainy morning.

It was like being in a dream (and a really good one) to be awakened before my alarm by big rumbles of thunder.  Could it really be!?  Instead of going on his morning run, my honey checked the radar (and outside) and crawled back into bed with me for a little extra snooze time.

When the boys made their appearance for the day (a little later than usual, thanks to the cloud-covered sunrise) it was still raining outside.  I was just on my way out to admire the stuff falling from the sky, so we made it a family event.  (Minus Daddy, who had already gone to work.)

After an isolated lightening bolt put a stop to playing out in the raindrops there were still scooters and tricycles to ride under the safety of the porch.

And since we were there, we decided why not enjoy breakfast out in the crisp breezy morning as well?

Followed by more playing.  

Even after the rain had stopped, the cool morning (and mud) was irresistible.

So thankful for the welcome respite from the heat, and so excited that fall is (oh-so-hopefully) around the corner!
The rainy treasures my boys brought to me.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dale!

My firstborn turned 8 today!!

He seemed more excited about this birthday than any previous ones.

And even with us keeping things pretty simple (hello, have you seen the baby countdown on the left??), he wasn't disappointed.

We started with our traditional candle in breakfast - pancakes - his choice.

We completed a limited school day and spent time getting ready for tonight's hamburger supper, again, his request.

That oldest boy of ours certainly is special.  I don't even have the words tonight to describe his uniqueness.  His depth of personality and character.  It seems so little to say, but I love him very much, and am thankful to be his mom.  

(And I can't believe I've been his mom for 8! 8!?! years!!)

Love you lots, Dale!!

Happy birthday, and many more!

(P.S. Thank you so much to everyone that called, texted, emailed, gave gifts, etc.. each little thing meant so much to Dale (and us) and really made his day special!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day in the Life

During our summer break, I sat down with my curriculum choices and an idea of our daily rhythms and goals and  began one of my favorite tasks: creating a schedule. 

There is something so rewarding about starting a school year with a fresh new schedule.  This year started out looking just as promising, but then we actually started school. 

And I hated it.

Each day was a struggle.

After consulting with my principal (Greg) and my academic adviser (my mom) I came away with a plan so simple and yet, for our house, revolutionary.

Our original schedule set Dale and his academics as priority.  I was trying to force things to move along with the assumption that I would get him started on his work and then walk away to do other things, like preschool stuff with Alan & Tyler.  But the "other things" were never happening.  And I was constantly nagging Dale to get his work done.  To hurry up. To pay attention to his business.

It wasn't pretty.

The solution?  Turn the day upside down! With a few adjustments we have settled into a fantastic routine that works for all of us!

Short version:
Breakfast, morning chores.
Outside playtime.
Rest time.
Dale's school.

Detailed version:
I'm going to list it with times, but they are WAY approximate and can vary an hour or more.  'Kay?  'Kay.

6:00-7:00 Mama up

7:00-8:00 Boys up, dressed, breakfast, and begin their morning chores

8 or 9 - Head outside to play before it is too hot.  We usually stay about an hour, depending on how fast it is heating up.  This is our only chance, as the temps have been hitting 100 by noon or before for weeks now.

9:30ish - Come in, cool off, finish morning chores.

10:00 Memory Verse Box & Bible Story (on the couch)
          Move to table for Alan to color a picture from the story, Dale to draw a picture for his notebooking            
          page, and Tyler to color (or eat crayons).  Dale narrates the Bible story to me.
           Preschool activities with everybody, including Dale.  We usually read a book or two, do a craft or other activity, sing some songs or do some rhymes.... you know... preschool stuff.  We are in our 4th (and final) week of an ocean unit, so most of our activities have centered around that.  (Big wrap-up post on that coming up at the end of this week!)

11:30 Ideally I would do a piano lesson with Dale here right before lunch.  But we move pretty slow in the mornings and often skip over a mid-morning snack.  So lately piano has been suffering while I get lunch ready and the boys play and clean up from school.

12:00 Lunch.  Lunch cleanup. Boys play and I sit.  Usually at the computer. 

1:00 Tyler's naptime.  I lay with him on my bed until he goes to sleep.  I usually sleep 30 minutes or so, and set an alarm to get myself up.  Dale and Alan play not-so-quietly (we're still working on that) in their room.

1:30 (or 2:30) (or anywhere in between, remember?) I send Alan to his bed with books and sit down with Dale at the table.  He copies his Bible narration from the morning, then we do his math lesson.  That is followed by the rest of his school work.  On a good day we finish all this in an hour or less.

3:00 Snack time!  Tyler is usually up by this time.

The rest of the day is very unstructured.  We usually do a clean-up time about 30 minutes before Daddy gets home, and I cook supper somewhere in there.

That's pretty much how the last2- 3 weeks have gone and it is the best schedule we have ever had!!

We'll see how it holds up after September when baby girl gets here and turns things upside down again! :)

Linking up with:

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Random Ramblings on Family Size

So all of you know by now that we are expecting baby #4.

By some standards, we have crossed the line into 'large family' territory because we have more than the average 2.5 kids and will no longer be able to fit the whole family in a plain ol' passenger car.

But you have to understand... I read a lot of blogs.  Blogs with families ranging from 5 kids to 12 kids.  And we spent two years living next door to / renting from / hanging out with a family with 7.
So in my mind, when you start counting kids, I don't see us as that big.  It's 'just' Dale, Alan, Tyler, and the New Girl.  At the same time....even though the number seems small, I often find myself with a large family mindset when it comes to our little crew.  Does that make any sense?

It is in the approach I have to things like assembly line sandwiches, having olders help youngers, or for that matter, even dividing them up in my head into 'olders and youngers'!

So here we are, with 'only' 4 kids.  Are we done yet?  We get asked that a lot, especially with a girl coming after 3 boys.  Kind of like "you're getting a girl, so you're done now, right?"  Truthfully?  We don't know.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Our standard answer is "one baby at a time." Unless, of course, there were twins in our future. ;)
It's kind of funny, this mixture of seeing ourselves as small while still thinking big.  I had my first encounter with "are they all yours" recently.  I was sitting outside a hotel lobby with my three boys plus one extra, so 4 boys under 8 running around.  A smiling lady walked by - I don't know if she noticed the pregnant belly or not, with Tyler in my lap - and said, "Tell me they're not all yours!"  

I was so surprised to find myself wishing I could say, yes, they are all mine!  I claimed my 3 and explained 1 was a nephew, and she made some nice comment in return as she walked by.  And I was left pondering my funny reaction.  I always thought I would feel sheepish upon hearing that question.  Instead I wanted to claim a handful of kids!

Again, with only 3 and 1 on the way, we must have 'that look' about us.  The boys and I were in the shoe store today.  Along with what we had come for, I couldn't help buying a pair of tiny pink shoes for the baby.  As Alan placed them on the counter he told the ladies behind it they were for his sister.  After they oohed and ahhed and congratulated, one lady looked at me and, stumbling over the wording, asked "So, are you going to be ...just... letting God decide, or is this... all?  What I mean is....?"  She didn't seem rude in the least, so I helped her out.  "Do you mean are we done?" And I gave her our standard "one baby at a time" answer.  
She went on to explain she has been helping a family of 12 children that has come in the store for years.  She was very complimentary of them and didn't seem taken aback in the least by their dozen.  She sacked up our shoe purchases and, handing the bag to Alan, told him to be sure and bring that baby sister in to see her soon!

I had to laugh.  I mean really?  It's the shoe store. I don't know you, lady!  But I left with a light feeling in my step.  While most family and friends have been completely on-board and excited about baby #4, I have been curious what we look like to outsiders.  I'm sure we get our fair share of head-shakes and raised eyebrows (and I can't imagine what it would be like with 5, or 7, or mercy! 12!), but it was refreshing to know that with 2 afoot, 1 on the hip and 1 in the belly there are those out there that are able to smile and enjoy these blessings God has given our family!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alan! Alan!

If you have an Alan in your life, you need this video.  We have gotten way more laughs from it than I care to admit since Greg's brother shared it a month ago.  We also found it to be very useful in the hotel one morning when our own Alan was the last one awake.  Personalized wake-up call?  Awesome!
Even if you don't have an Alan, watch. Enjoy. If you don't find the video amusing, I guess you can laugh at us and the fact that we are so easily amused. :)

(The sharks are a bonus.  Keep watching after they do their thing.)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our School (and other things) Room

Week two of the Not Back to School Blog Hop brings us to our school room, and I am so excited to be doing this post!  Don't be fooled by the fact it is 4 days late. ;)

I am excited because.... we have a brand new school room!  Some while back, Daddy Buffalo had the splendid idea to flip-flop our furniture arrangement, moving our "living room" into the dining nook and the dining and schooling stuff into the living room.

The result is unconventional, but perfect for us!  We are in love with how roomy everything feels now.

The view from our front door (previously a couch, recliner, and rocking chair):

Looking back at the front door:
The smaller bookshelf in the top picture came from what was previously the dining nook.  The taller one in the second picture was in our bedroom.  I moved a second, smaller bookshelf to our bedroom for odds and ends.  Having all of our homeschool and reference books in one room is certainly more convenient!

I also love Greg's idea of bringing my sewing machine into our new school/dining/multipurpose room.  I was a bit skeptical at first, but now, instead of being in the back corner of the house with my back to everyone, I can work on a project while still keeping an eye on what's going on around here!

To the left of the front door:
Homeschool central!  I discussed in last year's school room post how much we use this Hoosier.  While some of the things inside may have changed over the last year, the frequency with which we use it hasn't.  Actually, that's not true.  With the new furniture arrangement we have much better access to the drawers and cabinets and I am using the Hoosier (and what's inside) even more!  It is definitely a blessing to have one big piece of furniture for storing the majority of our supplies instead of having them stuck here and there.  

To the right of the Hoosier is our filing cabinet, and on top of that, the library book basket.  Out of the reach of toddler hands.  Gotta love that! :)

And, for those of you curious about how our couch fits in a dining nook...
There it is!  Our cozy corner.  Where we snuggle, read, and watch the Rangers play. :)  I love that I can sit here and see into the laundry room and kitchen in one direction, and the school room in the other.  Barely visible in the bottom left corner of the picture is our chalk-board door.  Fun for drawing, spelling, math, and demonstrations of all kinds. 

Three weeks in to this arrangement and we all love it.  Thinking outside the box of traditional has been a great success!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A picture may be worth 1,000 words....

... but photography during church is generally not acceptable, so y'all are going to just have to use your imaginations on this one.

As a result of goings-on in the Sunday School hour, we ended up with an entire sheet of foil star stickers on our pew with us during the morning church service.

Dale and Tyler had arrived from Sunday School already covered in various stickers, and I guess Alan decided it was his turn, because somewhere between hymn 1 and hymn 3, he began peeling stickers and carefully adorning himself.

One went directly on the bridge of his nose.

The next two went one at the end of each eyebrow, just before the curve around to his temples.

He turned first to me, and then to Mimi, pointed at his corner stars and whispered, "Look! I have headlights!"

He then proceeded to face the front, blink his eyes rapidly, and drive the imaginary steering wheel in his lap.

I am pleased to report that all stickers were removed from reach before the sermon began.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bake at 350. Or 112.

If you live anywhere near these parts I don't have to tell you.

For those of you who are far and away: 


No really.  Not your average August Hot, but unbelievably, dangerously, seemingly unending HOT.

We have recorded more than 30 consecutive days of 100 degrees or higher.  And this week?  We've been 108 or higher every day.

As of this writing, we have reached 111 today.


Now, let me tell you, things start to happen when it gets that HOT and stays that HOT.

It's like full moon, sugar high, Christmas Eve, stayed up too late, cabin fever.... combined.

I finally got desperate and last night either had a stroke of genius or a 'duh' moment (we don't have to decide which) and decided we'd go outside first thing today.

Before chores, before breakfast, before school, before anything.

Because that's the cool of the day.  86 degrees at 8am.

I love how you can tell Alan just woke up.

Tyler came up the hard way. I didn't know he could do that!

Only two of us actually ate any breakfast.  The other two hung around like good sports for a few minutes, drinking juice & milk.  Then playtime began!  It was such a joy to see all 3 boys outside! playing! It might have been my imagination, but they seemed to be extra joyful as they went about their play.
All too soon it was already too hot and we retreated inside to the air conditioning.  Which I am extra, extra thankful for these days.  Already slightly wincing at the thought of the electric bill, but "I'll think about that tomorrow."  Or maybe when it isn't 100+ anymore.  Or maybe when it's time to actually pay the thing.

So, we came inside and started preparing for the afternoon like a storm was coming.  Hanging additional blankets over windows, running the washer and dryer and dishwasher to avoid the extra electricity later ('they' are warning of brown-outs and black-outs in the afternoon hours if everyone isn't careful), putting supper in the crock pot.  Because, really, who wants to cook in this!?

I have to say, I'm glad we spent the time outside.  I think it made today much better for all of us!

I'm also glad we didn't lose Tyler down one of the cracks in the backyard.

And to think we lost half our tomato plants in May because the ground was too wet and they got root rot.  Oh the irony.

But not all gardening was a disaster.  Not long after we came inside this morning, Mimi & Gramps showed up with a truckload of watermelons, all from Gramps' garden!  We found out later there were 110!  (That's 110 watermelons, not 110 degrees)  

And since you can't exactly preserve watermelons (and because Gramps just likes being generous that way) they were giving away melons to everyone they could think of.  Us included!
Funny things, these melons.  I don't know how many cows is takes to  make a herd, but I think it takes about 7 watermelons.  A herd is what I think of every time I see them clustered around together.  

They even have migrating habits.  You doubt?  When they arrived, they were deposited right where you see in the pic above.  But throughout the afternoon I kept finding the lot of them grouped up in different places.
It's risky business being in a watermelon herd, though.  By nightfall not one, but two of these melons suffered cracked rinds.  I felt particularly sorrowful over the one whose juices ran across the floor.  

All ended well though, and both busted melons ended up in their rightful places.... eaten!

Breakfast picnics, hibernation, and ice-cold watermelon.  It's a tough life, but we're doing what we can to survive the unbelievable heat. (And since it's taken me all afternoon/evening to write this post, I can tell you it is STILL 100 at 9pm.  Looks like another doozy tomorrow!)

How are you managing to hold up through the August heat? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

50 Days and Feeling It

Funny to me, way back when I was pregnant with Tyler I added a "Pregnancy" label to my post categories, and yet, through 1 2/3 pregnancies, I have hardly used it.

I just don't talk about being pregnant much!

But, pregnant I am.
And yesterday, for what may just be the first time in 4 pregnancies, I looked at my time remaining and thought, "I don't know how I'm going to make it that much longer!"

Maybe it's the heat.  Temps in the 1-0-somethings make everybody cranky, pregnant or not.

It's certainly not that I am carrying around a humongous belly.  If I have heard it once (and I have), then I've heard 100 times about how small my belly is, and how I'm 'finally' starting to show.

I've never carried very big.  With Dale I was kind of defensive and disappointed about it.  It was my first pregnancy and I wanted everyone to know it!  Then he turned out to be 8lbs 4oz and surprised all of us!
I carried about the same with Alan, and he was smaller - 7lbs 8 oz. 
The night before Tyler was born I was with a group of ladies from church, and we all made predictions of how big he would be.  Based on my tummy size, they all guessed small.  And that boy also came out 8lbs 4oz!

So, even though I am blessed not to have an overly large, extra-cumbersome belly in front of me, I do remind myself that, visible or not, I am carrying around 32 1/2 weeks of baby.

And then there's that whole loose ligaments making my bones grind together thing.  And yes it is as uncomfortable as it sounds, thankyouverymuch.  But I think that's enough said about that, don't you?   We'll just pretend I didn't mention it.

At any rate, whatever may have caused it, I was surprised to catch myself thinking yesterday I have almost had enough.  Because usually I am a big fan of being pregnant.  And, for today at least, I am again.  Let's just hope that feeling lasts another 6 weeks or so!

Monday, August 1, 2011

1st Day of School

As I mentioned in yesterday's curriculum post, today was our first day of the new school year.

With this being our 4th year officially homeschooling, I finally had more realistic expectations of what today would be like.

That is the positive way of putting it.  The more pessimistic version would be the honest admission that I was dreading today just a little bit.  

After a month or two of little structure or routine and Daddy being home all day every day, the first week back is always a bit of a shock to everyone's system.  All the fun plans and new curriculum are still exciting, but it just takes a little settling in to get to all that enjoyment.

I am so glad to be going into this year with a strengthened awareness and resolve that what we are doing here every day has much more to do with our children's character training and spiritual education than it does the 3 R's or anything else academic we end up throwing at them.

If my focus today had been the handwriting and math skills I think I would have yelled and cried and wanted to pull my hair out.  I know this from experience. :)

So even though I was dreading the battles I felt sure we'd face today, I was much more prepared and patient with our renewed perspective of what really matters.

I dealt with each heart and behavior issue as it came up (and yes, my own patience and self control were pushed to their limits), and worried less about the borrowing and carrying and layers of the ocean.  That stuff will all get learned in due time. 

Maybe even next week, after we have re-established some good habits and training around here.  But first we all have to get through tomorrow. 
Just kidding.  Sort of. ;)  But for the record?  Even with its challenges, I wouldn't trade this homeschooling thing for the world.