Saturday, December 27, 2014


As a family of 10, I'm often asked what we do with the kids for Christmas.  Do they give each other gifts, do they draw names, etc.  Funny, I remember asking moms of larger families the same questions when we were starting out.

This Christmas as the kids gave their gifts to each other I was reminded of the reason we chose to have every child get something for every sibling.   The 2 oldest have jobs and sometimes pool their money together to buy things for siblings.  Some of kids make their gifts or give away some of their old special toys (i.e. this year our 15 yr old split her old Playmobil toys among her 3,6, and 9 year old siblings - they LOVED it!). 

For the kids who aren't old enough to hold a job we "finance" their gift giving at the cost of approximately $2-$3 per person.  So, each child gets to spend about $14-$21 combined on their 7 siblings.  (My husband and I don't buy stocking stuffers  - that's what many of the sibling gifts are).

Some years I wonder why we bother.  It's hard to get them out shopping at a number of stores to get all their gifts, especially when I don't take them all together...and it can be hard to find gifts for only $2-$3 per person.  But we make it work.    I've asked the older kids for inexpensive ideas and they've come up with things like pens, tape, snacks, etc.  The younger ones are easier (dollar store whoopee cushions, matchbox cars, etc.)  I also have a box of small gifts that we've accumulated over the years that they can choose from.  They really put a lot of effort into choosing the best gift they can for someone.  This year was a little extra challenging due to shopping time cut short by sicknesses.  But it all worked out.


When we settled down to open gifts...the kids didn't search out gifts with their names on them.  They searched out gifts that they chose for each other.  It was beautiful to sit back with my husband and watch the kids excitedly carry their wrapped gifts to the recipient and eagerly watch them open them.  Even our 3 year old was excited to carry her gifts to her brothers and sisters and watch them open them (though she did pick out a couple gifts from the grab box to wrap for I was a little worried she wouldn't understand the giving...but she did!) Only after all of their gifts were exchanged did they start opening presents from us.

GIVING!   Yes, they were very excited to receive.  But it was amazingly beautiful (as it is every year) to sit back and watch the kids be so excited about giving!  For that reason, we will continue this tradition.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Family is so important.  We frequently remind the kids, "Look around, see your siblings?  These are the people you will know for the rest of your life.  These are the people you will call on in good times and in bad."  I have one dear friend I've known since grade school, and a couple others I've met in the last 20 years.  But my family will always be there.  I only have one sister.  And I cannot ever forsee us not talking to each other or being there for each other in times of need.

My husband and I both have families in which people won't speak to each other.  On my side of the family we have a couple instances of relatives that would not speak to each other for over 20 years.  Really.  20 years!  They were NEVER in the same place at the same time; they avoided each other.  Thankfully, both relationships were restored before they died.   FAMILY!

Today we attended the funeral for my 78 year old uncle.  He was a really strong tall man, he owned a junkyard most of his life (and yes, that junkyard dog used to terrify me!)  But he was one of the most kind and genuine men I've ever met.  His smile lit up his face.  As I was talking to my aunt today after the funeral she asked if he had ever shared his story of the moon and the cross.  [My aunt and I both married Catholics and share the same faith....while many of our relatives do not.  I think that's why she wanted to make sure to tell us this story.]  He hadn't, so she did.  He used to tell her that when someone dies to look up at the moon and you will see a cross behind it.  It means that person made it. :)  She said that once they saw a huge cross behind a moon; the cross reached all the way down to the horizon.  They figured someone very holy had died, maybe a priest of something.  Her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer just 2 months ago and had frequent visits by the priest.  The night he died she woke up and saw the moon - with a cross behind it!  She went to check on him and saw the pillows on the bed where he lay were glowing.  It was beautiful and very comforting!  FAMILY!

My aunt (and dad) have a brother that had distanced himself from the family over 10 years ago.  My aunt frequently reached out to him sending him letters, etc. She was so sad that he wouldn't contact her.  Well, he and his family came to the funeral.  Oh that made her so happy!  FAMILY!

There was another funeral today that we were unable to attend.  A relative's husband (on my mom's side) was killed in a hunting accident.  There will be struggles.  There will be family.  I pray that their family holds fast to one another.  FAMILY!

Never underestimate the power of the FAMILY!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Scheduling my interruptions ?

Before I quit working almost 20 years ago, I had an interesting boss.   I learned a lot from him and some of those things I carried over in my new job as SAHM.  But there is one thing I learned from him that I had forgotten....until tonight.

Scheduling interruptions!  My job was probably not a whole lot different than most.  I had a list of things to accomplish but was constantly bombarded with questions from various people.  At first I would set aside what I was working on and answer questions or research it immediately.  But when I went to my boss with a question he told me that unless it was urgent, he'd meet with me at 2:00 to discuss it.   I remember that well, because in addition to discussing the question I had, he taught me that he scheduled his interruptions....He set aside 1-2 times during the day that he planned on getting back to people with questions....that way he didn't lose the momentum of what he was working on at the time...and, he said, most people really figure it out on their own if given a little time.... (remind you of anyone?  all those folks living in your house that are shorter than you?)

So how does this really work for a SAHM much less a homeschooling mom?  Well, we'll find out...because I just remembered this.  But, do you ever feel like you have a lot of things to get done but you are so often putting out fires along the way?  And by the time you get back to what you were working must move on to something else?  I do, especially when it comes time to take care of myself. 

As mom's, most of our interruptions can't be scheduled (diaper change, something spilled, someone is fighting, etc.) but if our day is filled with things to complete, then whatever we were working on often doesn't get done.  Or, if it's something that can wait I forget and never get back to the poor child (I'm not talking about a kid sitting on the potty chair here.....I'm talking about a kid wanting access to a computer program to sign up to volunteer!) etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.  

I plan to set aside some time every day as my scheduled interruption time.  Whatever it is, I can try to do it then. 

But there's something else that I will use that time for....and it's what got me thinking about it...

Long story last ditch chance for exercise this evening didn't really work (and didn't work yesterday either....) - those last ditch times rarely work!  10 minutes into the walk I got a phone call that my little one was inconsolable.  I turned around and headed home, wondering why I can't seem to get time to exercise?!  Now, if I was anywhere near the size I was when I got married I'd say....ah whatever...tomorrow...but maybe that's what got me here.  Now...I need to exercise!  Why can't I just get 30 minutes in per day!!!!  Because SOMETHING very often comes up during my normal exercise time and I don't have a scheduled interruption time.  There is no other time to do it! 

So, we'll see how this all pans out...but I think there really is something to this....I certainly helped me in my job!  A set time every day when I plan to do NOTHING because SOMETHING will need to be put there.

...and before you start thinking my dh should not have called me 10 minutes into my walk when my little one is 2 1/ wasn't him....

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dear Mom Letters Flash Give Away

I've been enjoying reading this site for the past couple of months.  One word to describe motherhood - beautiful.

Dear Mom Letters Flash Give Away

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

My husband is in tax accounting; I never knew he had a tacks shelter.

Monday, May 12, 2014

I've heard of homeschool days like today

Yesterday we had a nice Mother's Day.  We ate dinner very late and I did not make the kids clean up the house before going to bed.  AND...I did NOT jump in and do it myself (it was mother's day...) 

This morning we woke up to a mess...there was stuff everywhere. But, I decided we would NOT start school late to clean it up and each child could handle cleaning up their own zone after school.  

It was very humbling/embarrassing when the city inspector came to do the inspect the INSIDE of our house.  This is what he walked into during our school hours (and this is what he didn't know). But, maybe he didn't notice the kids; he was probably too busy navigating his way through the house.

10 yr old on the computer playing a game
 (it was his spelling list on spelling city)

14 yr old on the computer writing a letter to a friend
 (it was an assignment for Greek History on Pericles' Funeral Oration)

9 yr old cleaning her room
(she was using her time wisely while waiting for help since she'd finished all her solo work)

6 yr old cutting paper on the couch
(he and I were working on math when the doorbell rang, the assignment had to do with the shapes he was cutting out)

12 yr old cleaning the bsmt
(he, too, was using his time wisely while waiting for me)

16 yr old cleaning his room
(he was cleaning all the schoolbooks off his desk that he is no longer using)

2 yr old glued to my hip

I don't know what bothered me most:  the fact that the house was a mess, the kids didn't "look" like they were doing schoolwork, or that my immaculate kitchen counters weren't noticed because he had to watch where his feet were stepping as he walked through that room.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Grammar Grading made easy

 Automatic Diagramming

A few weeks ago I made some changes to the elementary kids' schoolwork after looking at someone's The Logic of English book.  I was close to jumping ship and switching since it seems to combine
subjects so nicely; then I slowed down and realized I could combine the programs we already use.

They were thrilled when I told them we would be combining spelling, grammar, and handwriting.  My 4th and 6th graders know cursive but don't use it unless I force them to.

They still have their spelling lessons with All About Spelling (and for review every day) but instead of me dictating sentences to them at the end of each section I am allowing them to copy them.

I have them write sentences (the number = to the grade level they are in) 3 times per week.  If they do them in cursive they can skip their handwriting.   (I've discovered this is much better anyway because it's harder to "translate" from print to cursive than it is to copy).

I also set aside their Winston Grammar workbooks books (which I do love) and have them mark these sentences with the parts of speech learned thus far.  (I use the teacher's manual to move forward and teach them something new each week.)

This is working wonderfully; it's fewer books for them to pull out and finish yet another page, and it's fewer things for me to correct.  However, the one major problem with this is that grammar  is NOT my strong suit. I am one of those mom's who really does need the answer key (or I ask one of my older kids...thankfully they have learned their grammar despite their mother's faults ;) )

Then I remembered that someone I knew posted the above link to our homeschool group awhile ago.  Excellent!!!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

No...this is NOT an overfull pond.  It's a farmer's field.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Making the most of a busy day

Wow! Two posts in a week!  Is anyone still there?

How OUR busy science day mornings became less stressful and more productive.

My son serves at early morning Mass and we host science classes all afternoon....on the same day.  This has been going on for years and I have to admit, it's been a wee bit challenging (though not challenging enough to outweigh the benefits we receive from either of those!)

For years I tried to squeeze in reading lessons, math lessons, you know, all those things we want to do every single day.  Also add in work with the high school kids, since they are pretty much gone at co-op the following day. Problem is, it usually didn't work. Add in the fact that it would be nice if our kitchen were somewhat clean when families start arriving shortly after lunch, and it would be nice if dinner were prepped since my toddler is often glued to me while people are here (and I admit, I just like to visit with my friends too!)

Now our busy science day looks more like this:

Prayer time (unless we all make it to Mass with my son....we're working on getting there again).
Spanish Jeopardy
Reading Eggs for my 2 youngest readers
Math games for the elementary kids while I help the older kids
Frozen pizza's for lunch (little prep - little clean up!)
Quick rest time for the kids while I prep dinner.
People start arriving for science and art classes (neither of which I teach!)

So, yes, once a week our morning elementary classes consist of games.  But it's amazing how helpful it's been both in time for me and for learning for them.  It's also amazing the change it's made in our routine once a week.  

Spanish Jeopardy:
I started the 6th, 4th, 3rd, and K on Spanish second semester using Powerglide.  I love the program and it worked well years ago with my oldest kids and the neighbors who used to join us.  Once a week we play Spanish Jeopardy.   We have pieces of paper with Spanish words (and the English answer) placed face down under columns of 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 points.  The kids have divided themselves up in teams I have found them studying together to beat the other team!  It's a lot more fun to review vocabulary this way, and it also gives me an easy method of knowing when they are ready to move on or continue working with our current words a little longer.

Math Games:
I currently have the K and 3rd grader working on skip counting memory.  They each have a set of multiples to work with.  Last week the K worked on 5's and the 3rd grader worked on 3's.  So all the cards (5,10,15,...50 and 3,6,9,...30) are placed face down together and they need to collect their own set in order.

My 4th and 6th graders are also playing memory but they are matching fractions to percents.  They have the percent cards face down on one side and the fraction cards face down on the other side and draw two at a time hoping for a matched set.   This is a bit more challenging in that they have such fractions as 7/8 in the pile along with the standard 1/4, 2/3, etc.

Someone just gave us the game Equate and they pulled it out today.   That will be another option for all to play together.

Reading Eggs:
It's not free but it's worth the money (in my opinion).  I first started using this to keep my early readers reading something in the few weeks after our 8th was born.  The kids move through activities at various map levels.  The thing I like most about it is that they can't continue until they pass the activity.  Instead they have to repeat until they know the material (the knowledge level is assessed both through correct answers and time it takes to get the correct answers).    I also get progress reports.  The kids love the activities and they also earn points "eggs" which they can use to purchase game time.  My K would play this for hours at a time if I would only let him....

Interesting side note:  It was the reading games that made me question one of our children's vision.   She knew the material but could never pass a certain game in which she had to click on the correct word (written on a fish) as it moved from the right to the left of the screen.  Turns out her vision in her right eye was so bad she needed glasses just to see the big E on the chart!  (Her vision is improving...and don't even get me started on how unhappy we were to find this out when she was 7 after years of passing her vision test at the pediatrician with flying colors.  They have since changed their method for vision screenings and instead of covering one eye with the "spoon" they put an eye patch it. - no chance of peeking)

All this gives me some time to help my older kids with anything they need to finish up before co-op the next day. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Beginning Again. Again.

After first quarter I always take some time to assess how things are going.  Are we moving at an appropriate pace?  Is there anyone getting lost in the shuffle?  Should anyone be doing more?  Etc.  It seems this year that we barely got through first quarter and life got a little complicated.  Quarter 2 took a long time.  In addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas, a child just not feeling well and needing extra mommy time and doctor visits, and then ending up hospitalized for over a week....well let's just say that we are happy to start second semester with a more normalized routine.  OK, as normal as we can get when you throw in toddler ear infections, taxes, etc.  You know.  Life :)

Anyway, I was still struggling with how to make it all work as we made our way through second quarter with kids in 10th, 9th, 6th, 4th, 3rd, K, a toddler, and college student coming and going.  I asked a good friend of mine who has 4 kids.  Because really, regardless of the number of kids we have we all struggle to schedule everything in.  Her first sentence was something like, "First I fit them into my schedule."  What?!  Why had I never thought of that before?  Every year I would make up their schedules and try to tri-locate.  It never worked.  For the last couple weeks I have been creating their individual schedules and one for me at the same time.  [I usually try something for more than a "few" weeks before telling people how great it works...but this is really something!]

The first week I saw my problem right away.  4 math lessons, 4 spelling lessons, 4 grammar lessons, 4 reading lessons, 3 writing lessons, religion class, vocab. Those were just the elementary kids (and yes, they do more than that.  That's just on their mom time list.)   THAT was Monday. I still had to work with my high schoolers to discuss the upcoming plan for the week and their expectations (they have lists too, but due to the nature of their work it works best to spend some time discussing things up front - and fortunately they are both doing the same work for their Greek Studies classes).

I realized I was trying to do everything and not doing anything well.  It takes a little more prep time, but I spent some time looking at their assignments quickly.  6th grader:  If I spend 45 minutes with him what can we accomplish.  M's math was a brand new concept and I expected it to be challenging.  A writing lesson was important to keep on track for the week.  But the grammar and spelling lessons could wait until the next day when his math was more of a review page.  Continue to the next child.

Put it all together and what does the day/week look like for me?  Remind myself that my high schoolers take more time on M and F.   Is this doable?  What else should I move?    I also highlight everything on MY list that requires prep.  I don't get everything done on the weekend (photocopies, etc.) but I can have one of the kids copy Spanish pages during a break if I have it written down.

My high school students (enrolled with STAA) are currently studying the Greek Lit (Iliad), Greek History (Heroditus:  Histories), Old Testament, and Essay Writing (which is usually related to Lit, History, or O.T.)  A lot of their work is discussion or written work.  In other words....I need to have at least an understanding of the material they are covering.  Instead of running to grab their books to see how many chapters I had to read of the Iliad before our discussion in the morning (not fun!), I added that to the bottom of my list as well.

I am praying for a more peaceful school routine, and I think we finally hit on something effective here.  Still need to work in some fun stuff for our 2 year old because that's just the kind of gal she is :)  Give me something NEW to do!

Praying for a peaceful rest of the school year for you too.

Next our chaotic/stressful T mornings have become opportunities for fun AND learning!