Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Back to School

I started last spring researching curriculum and trying to plan for this school year. I'm kind of a nerd that way. I really enjoy researching. I like knowing all my options so that when I choose something, I know that I know that I made the best choice. However, I was so wrapped up in choosing just the right stuff for my school girls, that I didn't take into account the big game changers - Bodie and Sadie. I knew having a baby would change things, but I just assumed she would nap much of the morning. And I certainly didn't know my sweet little boy was going to change from a toddler into a full grown all out BOY over the summer. Complete with the sweet sweaty stinkiness that I wouldn't change for anything.

So we've spent much of the first month of school tweaking things and figuring out what works. We've gone on a lot of walks in the middle of the morning because that is the only way to regain my sanity. We call it exercise. We've dropped some of my well-researched "best choices" and opted for some simpler things that aren't as amazing, but they get done. We have very full days - our school day lasts much longer than previous years - but it's been good for me to slow down and meet the needs of the little ones and not worry so much about getting done by noon.

Our typical day starts around 8am. I eat before they get up, so while they are eating breakfast, I read a Bible story. Right now we are reading through The Child's Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos. It's a little over Bodie's head, but it's just right for the girls.

Since Laney is in Kindergarten this year, I wanted her to do a calendar activity each day so she can learn days of the week, months of the year, count up to 100 Day, etc. It turns out her big sisters really wanted to do it too, so I made a Daily Learning Notebook for each of them. They all like this and while they are busy figuring out the time, weather, date, etc, I can usually clean up breakfast or take care of Sadie's needs.

While we're all still at the breakfast table, we pull out either science or history and we all do a lesson together. I've been trying to do science on Tuesdays and Thursdays and to do history on M/W/F.

For science this year we are using Science in the Beginning by Jay Wile. So far I am thrilled with how easy it is to use. It is geared toward Kindergarten - 6th grade, so I can easily use the same lessons for everyone. There is an experiment with every lesson, so every time we do science we also do an experiment. So far, all the experiments have been easy, using things I already have around the house and they all WORK! The girls each have a notebook that they write or draw a picture in each day about what they learned. I don't dread science now and that is saying something!

For history we are using TruthQuest American History II for Young Students. This is our second year to use this curriculum and I can't say enough good about it. I love history and this approach allows me to tailor our lessons according to our interests. If the kids show a lot of interest in a topic (i.e. Sacagawea), we can spend 2 weeks learning about her. If they aren't so much into a topic (i.e. The Stamp Act), we read one quick story about it and move on to something else. This curriculum does require frequent trips to the library to get lots of books about history topics, but that is a good thing in my opinion and the kids enjoy seeing our library bag filled with new books every couple weeks.

That is the part of the school day we do together. After that, we usually have a break to do chores, take a walk, take Bodie to Mother's Day Out on T/Th, go to the grocery store or library, or whatever.

Then around 10-11am, we start our individual subjects. Everyone has their own math, language arts (reading for Laney) and thinking skills. This part of the day has been a challenge for me because I feel stretched in so many directions. I think that is part of the reason why I feel like my brain is going to explode some days. I try to teach them to not interrupt when I'm working with someone else, but the sweet little stinky boy doesn't get it. That is why we signed up for Mother's Day Out, even though this mother is having her days in.

So the girls have a schedule or list of what needs to be done each day and they work through it at their own pace, putting a check on each thing as they get it done. It includes piano practice, time with Bodie or Sadie, exercise, chores and school work.

In the afternoon, we have lunch, rest time, reading time and whoever isn't finished with school finishes. The rest of the afternoon is free time. And that is our typical day of school.
Laney's First Day of Kindergarten

I can't believe my little Laney is a Kindergartener. She is so ready and so eager to learn. She is the only one who asks for more when I tell her she's done for the day. Just today I noticed she was walking around pouting and I asked her why. She said it was because she wanted more school to do. Normally her day includes math, reading, handwriting and thinking skills. Her front tooth next to the tooth she busted out last summer is very loose. I can't wait to see her sweet little toothless smile.

Tatum's first day
of 2nd grade

Tatum is growing so fast right now. Sometimes I look at her and I can't believe how  tall and independent she has become. She wakes up in the morning ready for the day. She is tender hearted and hilarious. Her day includes math, piano, reading, language, phonics and thinking skills. She is also a big help with Bodie. She loves her time with him and he loves it too.

Avery's first day of 4th grade

I am really thankful for the total change I've seen in Avery so far. She seems to really enjoy her independence this year. She is taking math and spelling on my laptop, which has been such a blessing to both of us! She also has language, piano, geography, Psalms study and thinking skills. She loves to sit Sadie in her lap while she's doing her school and talk her through each problem. She is a wonderful help to me.

Bodie's first day of Mother's Day Out

I am so crazy about this little guy. He is rough and tough, but has such a tender heart. He loves big hugs and his trains and cars. He is a sweet big bro to Sadie and loves to get her swing going really fast. He likes to sing "Let it go" with his sisters and he still really enjoys wearing princess dress-ups. He also likes his new Spiderman costume. He fills my days with laughter.

I work in the nursery at church and this is my "work shirt." Sadie got a matching onesie from our church in her newborn goodie bag, so the girls made sure we matched one Sunday.

Sadie is 6 months old already. Since this photo was taken, she is now sitting up all by herself. She has two teeth on the bottom and I can feel two more on top about to pop through. Ouch! She has a dimple just like Tatum, eyes like mine, hair like Laney, fingers and toes like Avery, a forehead like Brian and a smile like Bodie. It has taken awhile, but she is finally sleeping through the night from about 8pm - 6am, give or take an hour. Her morning nap is not too predictable yet, but she naps in the afternoon around the same time as Bodie. She has just started eating solid foods the past few weeks. So far she loves carrots, zucchini and refried beans. She tolerates sweet potatoes. She does not like applesauce. She strains her neck to see where her brother and sisters are. She adores them. She is so loved.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

the real Elsa and Anna

Let it go.
Why does that song resonate so deeply with me? I find myself almost crying as I watch Elsa walk up that snowy hill and design her dream castle of ice, all the while singing about her new found freedom. I imagine how it would feel to really be Elsa. Not the beautiful princess that every little girl wants to be. But a girl who lived in constant fear that you are going to hurt someone you love. You would never want to or mean to hurt them. But you know you might, because you have so little control over your own condition. Imagine Fear screaming at you every minute of your life - "You are better off alone. You don't belong. You are a danger to others. You were poorly made. Your life is of little value. You are destined to be broken. You will never defeat this. Your situation is hopeless." I can only imagine the list of lies she would be bombarded with. And her parents advice only made it worse - "Conceal it. Don't feel it. Don't let it show." So she did what she thought was best. She cut her closest loved one out of her life. She believed the lies and acted accordingly.

As I watched Frozen yesterday for the 13th time, it hit me for the first time - one reason Frozen has been such a successful movie is because Elsa is such a relatable character. Many of us feel isolated, fearful and anxious as we live out our day to day life. Fear controls us and all our decisions. The idea of breaking free is so bright and beautiful but we don't know how to get there.
Finally Elsa escapes and we all know and love how she expresses her new found freedom. But she quickly realizes she's not really free because fear followed her.
As believers, we know that the way to get freed is to put our trust in Christ... once for our salvation, then daily afterwards for our freedom and peace. Disney makes no mention of our Redeemer and Deliver, but the end of the movie spells out what heals us - "an act of true love."
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13)."

Elsa froze Anna's heart. She didn't deserve Anna's love, but that's the very reason Anna willingly gave it. Anna's act of true love turned everyone's lives around. She sacrificed her life for Elsa and that changed everything. The fjords melted, the flowers bloomed, the sun shone and Elsa's ice powers were changed from a curse into a blessing. Anna's act of true love is a picture of what Christ did for us. As is fitting for a children's movie, the heroine came back to life at the end. Christ gave His love and it cost Him His life. But He didn't stay dead either. He came back..

These are my very random deep thoughts about Frozen. It is a redemption story. God speaks through Hollywood whether they know it or not. I don't know if the writers of Frozen knew how beautifully their story points to the Savior of the world. But I'm thankful to have this movie show my little ones the power of sacrificial love as the only thing that can heal, repair, fix, redeem, save the broken, sometimes including ourselves. "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear..." 1 John 4:18

At the end of the movie when the credits rolled, I heard another verse of "Let it Go" that I hadn't heard before... "I know I left a life behind but I'm too relieved to grieve. Let it go, let it go...."
Amen. May I never grieve the things I've left behind in pursuit of freedom and peace.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

More catching up...

One more highlight of our summer was swim team! This was our 3rd season. Each year we've added one kid to the team and this year it was Laney.
This is our favorite coach. She taught Laney how to swim last summer and this summer she got Bodie swimming across the pool all by himself! Hopefully he will join the team next summer.
Here's all our Copperfield Dolphins. The sweet team store lady even had a onesie made for Sadie that had a big green C on it. She wore it proudly to all the meets.
Between races, there is plenty of time to be goofy. Tatum came over to our tent to show me that her Ariel's head had fallen off, but no worries - she has been resurrected with a huge Tatum head!
 This Daddy loves his baby girl and she lights up when he talks to her.

Another fun random summer story... We happened upon 4 baby cottontail bunnies at a newly constructed park near our house. They were hopping all around the playground equipment when we got there. Our girls and friends quickly caught them and convinced me we needed to keep them as pets. So we brought them home with us and I started researching how to care for cottontails. Well, it turns out all the internet sites I found advised not to keep them as pets, as it could be fatal to them. So we went back that night and let the bunnies go into the wooded area near the park. We felt sad leaving them there, almost like we were abandoning babies in the woods, but as soon as we walked away, we looked back and saw several larger rabbits and mice running all around, so we felt like our bunnies would find their mama soon.

My parents blessed us with our own piano! My mom has been teaching Avery and Tatum on Skype for over a year now. They have both improved so much and they both love to play. My mom felt like our digital piano just didn't do justice to the beautiful songs the girls were learning to play so she came to Houston one day to go piano shopping and found us this beauty! It was delivered late one night, which is why the girls are in their PJ's. The sound is so beautiful! I love to hear it throughout the day.
Another fun memory that I didn't get a picture of was our week in San Antonio. Avery and Tatum went to His Hill day camp for the week and my mom and I kept the 3 little ones busy all day long shopping, swimming, napping and playing. Those naps we took in the afternoons were so sweet. All of us passed out for a couple hours each day, even Laney. It was the week right before we started back to school, so it was nice to be away from home that week to get my mind off school stuff.
Next time, all about our adventures in getting back into school ...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Catching up

I'm back.
I was re-reading my blog last week trying to remember how many months old Bo was when I started feeding him solid food. As I was reading, I realized  how priceless this blog is in remembering all the sweet and funny episodes of our kids' childhoods. I am so overwhelmed with life sometimes, but I truly enjoy writing about our kids and what God teaches me through them. So here's hoping I will keep on enjoying this and it won't add to my never-ending to do list!

First of all, on the 28th of March we welcomed Sadie Blyss to our family. She is so loved.

She was our littlest baby, weighing 7 lbs 5 oz. We decided to be surprised with her, so we really had no idea whether she was going to be a she or a he. I can honestly say her delivery was the most exciting and memorable of our kids because of the suspense leading up to her birth. And the pure bliss and excitement when I heard everyone yell, "It's a girl!"

Sadie means "Princess." Brian heard it while we were pregnant and we decided right away that was our favorite if it was a girl. We debated quite a bit for her middle name, but I really loved "Blyss" and Brian finally agreed when he saw it spelled with a "y" instead of an "i."

Bodie's expression is so perfect for this moment of his life! FOUR sisters!!!
On Easter Sunday, Sadie & I stayed home from church. She was still so tiny. But when the rest of the crew got home from church, we had a little photo shoot in the backyard. I love these sweet memories of our tiny little blessing with her big brother and sisters who love her so much!
The boys

We got to go to Foxfire with my family over the summer. It's a beautiful place out in the hill country right on a river. This was our 3rd summer there and we look forward to it more each year. It's so relaxing and peaceful to just watch the kids catch critters in the river, swim, fish, eat yummy fish and the best part... no cell phone service out there.

My brothers came for a short visit and the kids were thrilled to see Uncle Martin and Uncle Matt cruise up on their motorcycles.

 Tatum and Nana
 That's my sweet Mommy and Daddy
 We got to pick peaches on our way home. We had enough for a peach cobbler and a batch of homemade peach ice cream. YUM!

 The kids loved catching crayfish in the river, which their daddy loved using as bait.

 Those were so yummy
 Painting rocks

We also got to take a trip to Galveston with Brian's family.We stayed in a townhouse that was a short walk from the beach and from a couple fun swimming pools. The kids loved catching and playing with the tiny frogs that were all over the place. There was a lot of seaweed on the beach so we didn't spend as much time there as we did at the swimming pools. Bodie got stung by a jellyfish on his belly the first night we were there. Thankfully the next day he was fine.

 Sadie spent a lot of time strapped to me.
 Mud monster Laney
 This was Sadie's first swim, so everyone wanted to have a front row seat to see how she would like it.

 This girl wanted to play football in the pool all day long. She loves being sporty.
Sadie is so happy to be with Avery. And likewise. They are inseparable.
 We love our cousin Tara (and Theo) but he's too little to swim yet too!

What a little trooper! She just goes with the flow and smiles and coos and laughs at all the crazy noises and faces she sees all day. Sweet Sadie, you are such a joy. More about you soon.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Our fun weekend

I didn't know how this weekend was going to turn out because there were so many unknowns going into it. But God gave us a super gift in the way He made it work out. Laney & Bodie were invited to spend the weekend celebrating cousin Tara's 4th birthday in Austin, so Brian & I were able to spend the entire weekend with our two big girls. We drove up to The Woodlands for the KSBJ 30th anniversary concert. We listen to KSBJ most of the time we're in the car so we know a lot of the songs they play. We especially love Switchfoot, so we were excited to get to see them live.
 When we got there, the lawn was completely packed. We found a spot for our quilt about 20 feet from the back fence. We couldn't see the bands. We couldn't even see the stage. But we could hear the music. The concert started at 5pm with the opening bands, For King and Country, Chris August, and Family Force Five. We knew our favorites would be much later that night. So we just started rolling around and wrestling on our quilt.

 I looked up and a man knelt down next to me with a microphone. He said he was Sterling from KSBJ and asked our names. Then he asked us where we were sitting. I didn't catch on to what was going on, but Brian said "we're sitting in the very back of the lawn!" Then Sterling said "how would you like to move up to the KSBJ luxury box seats?" We couldn't believe this was happening to us! It felt surreal as we folded up our quilt and took our kids ALL the way through the lawn to the front of the concert. The girls had no idea what was going on. In fact, I think they were pretty disappointed we had to leave the lawn. :)
P.S. We are on the radio right now!!! If you listen to KSBJ, when you hear their recap of the concert, listen for when you hear a DJ say "how would you like luxury box seats?" Then you will my voice and Brian's voice saying "Thank you so much KSBJ, We love you KSBJ, etc etc." It's weird but fun to hear our voices on the radio every day now!!!
Here we are in our luxury box seats. We had a waiter that came by and offered us a menu. We saw several people walk by that made us feel like we were definitely out of our league. But we were so excited!!!
 From these seats we got to see Francesca Batestelli. She was so beautiful and I loved hearing her talk about her life and how God had showed her His love. Her husband is her drummer. She was wonderful! Then there was a surprise guest - Amy Grant! She started with "Baby, Baby" then "Sing Your praise to the Lord." The girls had a hard time understanding that she was one of my favorite singers when I was about their age! Tatum just asked me today how old Amy Grant is if she was one of my favorites when I was little. I told her that is a very good question.
We were so excited when Switchfoot came out. We loved hearing "Your Love is a Song," "Mess of Me" and "Dark Horses." The girls caught on pretty quick - they were singing at the top of their lungs and having such a great time. They sang a lot of their oldies too. Then during "Restless," the lead singer started walking out in the audience right toward us! Then he stopped right in front of our section. He sang the whole song right there. We could've reached out and touched him! So here's our buddy John Foreman...
After Switchfoot, there was another surprise guest - Steven Curtis Chapman! He sang "Divin' In" and "Cinderella" then he said he was going to try a new song on us (all 16,000 of us) that he had never tried before in front of people. He butchered it! Then he broke a string on his guitar! But he was so funny. We love him!
Then there was an awesome preacher, Jeff Bethke, who gave a great message about how church is supposed to be the huddle, not the game. Then Mercy Me came out to finish the night. When the concert was finally over a little after 11pm, both girls were out cold. Brian & I were still in awe of how God had blessed us! We loved every minute of it!
It was a wonderful way to celebrate our big girls' birthdays. We also got to stay at a beautiful resort in The Woodlands, play in the water park, collect shells from the pond there and eat some great food. It was such a memorable weekend.
A few more photos from recently... Avery's Leonardo Ninja Turtle that she wanted so bad for her birthday. Now she has all four turtles. She doesn't really play with them, she just uses them as decorations on her dresser. She thinks they are cute.
Avery and Tatum both learned to ride without training wheels over this past winter. They have spent many fun afternoons riding their bikes on the greenbelt behind our house. Avery's old bike had a chain and a pedal that were always falling off. So we were excited for her to have her own new bike!
Here's Bodie and Matthew in their sweet Mother's Day shirts.
 And here's my Laney on Muffins with Mom day at preschool.