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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Are these the most beautiful roses?  They were absolutely stunning and the picture does them no justice.  They are two toned.  The bottom of the leaf is bright yellow and then slowly turns into a burning orange at the edge of the leaf.  Absolutely beautiful.  
That brings us to Mother's Day 2015.  My younger brother Matze called us a few days before Mother's Day and asked if we could get my mom some flowers for the special occasion.  And thanks to such fabulous inventions as Paypal, we quickly received money from Germany to do so.  My mom's favorite color is orange (just like Kendra at Orangerie!).  I didn't even know this, so it was cool to learn this about my mom. And when Nathan and myself walked into the local store to buy the flowers, we were found this stunning bouquet.  Oma absolutely loved it and even more so when she found out that Matze had had the forethought to organize this and was thinking about her on this special day.  The roses, although opened already, lasted for a loooonnnnggg time.  
We were really bad about taking pictures while my mom was here.  As a matter of fact, we've been terribly bad about taking pictures in general.  Guess 4 kids is as much as we can handle...
Anyways, my point being, I'm not quite sure what all we had for food.  This is a Caprese Salad I made for my mom (she loves it).  And as you can see, we decorated the table and brought out the nice dishes.  This set of white dishes was going downhill quickly.  After years of using it, there were many chips and not enough dishes for family events.  I had been looking for a set for about 2 years but with this many people in the family, we could either not afford it or there weren't enough dishes.  When my mom was here we went to our church's annual sale and found a set of 12 sets of Mikasa white dishes with butter dish, serving plates, serving bowls, salt and pepper shaker, and tea cups!!  All for $40 and it was barely used.  Did I just go on another tangent?

The best part of this year's Mother's Day (other than my own mom being here with me) were the kids' presents.  Here is what Abby made me.  A lovely flower pot painting with a love note and a beautiful bookmark.  That will come in handy for homeschooling.  Just love and color and life pouring out unabashedly.  Loud  and big declarations of love in bright color.  These pictures shows the differences between Nathan and Abby so well.  Here is Nathans:

Nathan has gorgeous handwriting and carefully crafted a letter to me.  He had a few artistic touches that were carefully placed. No mistakes on his page.

Nathan's beautiful card.  He made a flower from fingerprints.  

And the inside of the card.  The heart had the above letter folded up in it.

And then he was thinking and thought he should use his birthday money to buy my mom and me Starbucks.  A habit I'm not thankfully healed from!  I now drink coffee and brew it at home.  So there, take that Starbucks.  We declined Nathan's generous offer but he kept insisting, so we let him buy Oma some coffee.  He is very generous with his money and usually ends up buying something for all his siblings.

This was probably Nathan and David's favorite part of Mother's day.  We've been trying our hands at ribs as they were really cheap around this time and my mom loves them.  And amazingly enough, all of our kids like them!  This happens once every four years.  Must be some comet circling around or something....  Anyways, they were really yummy.

We had a great day and David of course made sure that both moms had a very good and relaxing day.   It made me realize how much I would love for my mom to live here (hint, hint).  But most of all, I love being a mom.  My original plan for life looked more like me being a single career woman (lawyer) and making loads of money.  I'm so glad God intervened and provided this amazing man who had a dream of a family.  In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined this wild and crazy ride (how can you dream up something so wonderful?).  There are not enough words to express how grateful and thrilled I am to be a mom and wife.

Nathan's Birthday 2015

The kids just keep growing!  How rude.  Part of me is so very excited the older they get as we can see more and more who they are becoming.  But part of me is sad that it is going so fast.  Hello homeschooling!  Hopefully that will give us more quality time.
Anywho, since my mom was here and was going to miss the two of the three kids' birthdays, we chose to celebrate Nathan's earlier than usual.  To be exact, we celebrated it 2 weeks earlier!  The boy was quite excited.  But with baseball season being super busy and having 3 (yes, 3!) birthdays in the same month, it just worked out better that way.  And Isabelle had to move hers to later after all as she got sick. But her just turning 4, she was ok with that.

Of course, the best part of birthdays is having cousins around.  :-)  I love Abby's and Olive's facial expressions on this picture.  This was Nathan's present from Abby and she was really worried about it.  She had bought him a magic set and then, after she had bought it, thought it was a bad present.   So here she is explaining to him what a bad present she got him.  But he loved it, of course.  That made Abby very happy.

At the time of his birthday, Captain America was at the top of Nathan's list again (probably had something to do with uncle Chris taking him to see the movie a few days prior).  Oma got him this awesome costume with a frisbee shield.  We also cut out red, white and blue stars (see background) and hung them all over the place.

Traditionally, the birthday kid sits at the table in a dark room while all the other kids (with David's help) bring out the lit birthday cake.  This is usually also the first time our kids see their cake.  Mom gets to pick a theme usually (sometimes I have them pick).  It is usually something they are really interested in at the time.  Oma also got all the red, white and blue decorations (see table cloth).  It helped that it was close to the Fourth of July.  :-)

Once the birthday kid makes a wish, all the kids help blow out the candles.  Nathan's cake was all white with Captain America's red start on the top in red sprinkles. Loads and loads of sugar!!!!

This time around, we opted for a layered cake.  The little layers that look really neat seem to dry out really quick when baking.  Therefore we have bigger layers.  The red is not bright red because Nathan loves red velvet.

Nine has been a pretty cool age so far.  He has definitely entered the stage of independent reasoning and conversations are at a whole new level.  It is really, really neat.  The downside of this is of course that he is questioning us now.  :-)

The boy had a great birthday and loved spending it with all his favorite people, including his Oma.  It was wonderful to have her around in particular.  She helped with dinner (and even made one ahead for another birthday party - Hannah) and was such a great help getting everything cleaned, decorated, taken down and cleaned again.  And thankfully, she stayed away from the cake.  :-)  All Schmitt's and David will understand that. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

So What Did We Do With Oma Here? Part I

Well, first of all, you are super excited and scream like a banshee.  Which I don't actually know what that is.  Once you calm down, you celebrate the rest of your birthday.  Then you get your mother's favorite Chicago-style pizza.  Yum.  And then Oma revealed her plan: She was here for four weeks to clean, cook, and re-decorate.  YEAH!  

And yes, Germans eat pizza with fork and knife.  And yes, I had way too many pieces.  With Chicago-style that is probably actually only two.
She was going to clean for me, do laundry every day, do whatever needed to be done.  She'd cook every day.  And we would re-decorate.  You see, I hate my fire place room.  Yes, the room that should be the neatest in the house.  At this point, I had still visions of it with a lovely couch or fuzzy rug.  But instead it was a dump.  We have no garage and no pantry.  So guess in what room everything ended up in?  And then there was the whole living room paint mishap.  I had wanted to paint the living room in a certain shade of green.  When the paint looked wet, it looked good.  But when it dried, it was not great.  In fact, it looked like asparagus.  We all got used to it but whenever someone visited, there was a certain cringe when they entered the living room.  :-)  It did wake you up, if nothing else.  And our dining room was too small for the furniture from our old house.  It was an obstacle course.  While that didn't bother me so much, the dump of a fire place room did bother me a lot.  Every day.  My mom and I talked about it over the phone but I could not see a solution.  When she got here, she proposed the following:
Buy a couch!!!!  (She hated our old one and it was starting to fall apart)
Re-paint the living room.
Move the pantry and all storage shelves into the old dining room.
Move the dining room into the much larger fire place room.
Seal old dining room with curtains on both entrances so that visitors would not see the junk (or me for that matter)
Get dressers for Nathan's room.
Get dresser for girls' room.
Hang double-curtains in girls' room.

It took me a day to adjust to the thought that my fire place room would never have a pretty two-seater with a fluffy rug in front of it.  But after I got over that, it turned out my mom's idea was genius!

I had already started to get rid of stuff we didn't need.  So we had a  last minute garage sale and get rid of all the stuff that is crowding your house.  You know what is awesome?  People hauling your stuff away and giving you money for it.  That is great!  My mom quite enjoyed this.  So did Hannah. She was really good (Hannah, that is) and played by us all day.

One of the few things I hated to let go: Abby's little cupboard we bought when she was a baby.  For three girls in one room, it simply takes away too much room and offers very little storage.  Funny things is, until I saw that pictures I hadn't thought about this furniture piece once. 

My favorite picture of Isabelle.  Doesn't it look very 80s?

Much to my mom's dismay, she got here during baseball season.  Actually she may have just discovered how much she hates baseball.  We even had a dry-erase board night where we tried to explain it.  To no avail.  The nice side-effect of that though was that the girls got to stay home and Oma watched them and cleaned and cooked while we watched the game.  It was amazing: I actually knew what Nathan did during the game!  But I did miss my girls.  It is not the same without them.  Oma even kept Hannah and was in complete control.  Amazing!  And while I was gone, she kept working on stuff, such as deep-cleaning my house.  :-)

Isabelle in a beautiful Hanna Andersson dress we found at a thrift store.  She loved it.  Then she sat in something that created big black stains that won't come out.  Grrrrr.
Oma also cut everyone's hair, including my friend Kim's.

Oma and Hannah, best of friends.  They got along so well, that Hannah didn't even mind me going away at night to baseball games.  And Oma got her to eat real food!  Until then, she refused to eat ANY real food.  I was up nursing all night again so she would get enough food.  Oma getting her to eat real food was a life-saver.  Within a few weeks Hannah slept through the night.

What other wonders did Oma perform?  Tune in next time!


Nimmersatt.  German.  To be insatiable.  Which of my kids do you think that describes?  Bet you won't guess.  Wait for it......wait for it...... it's the baby!  Not kidding you, she eats
Here is what she had for breakfast:

One whole banana
A bowl of corn
An adult-sized bowl of oatmeal (very thick oatmeal)
An adult-sized piece of Denver fritatta
An adult-sized Strawberry-banana smoothie (with yogurt and milk)
A cup of water

And that is just breakfast.

Here is what Abby ate:
Two pieces of toast and strawberry banana smoothie

Strawberry banana smoothie

Toast and egg

Fritatta and smoothie

That is why we eat so little, There was nothing left after Hannah was done....

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Homeschooling Second and Fourth Grade (and a little Pre-K)

After much thinking (and let me tell ya, it was a LOT of thinking) and much deliberating with friends who so generously let me peruse their materials and gave me great advise (thanks Beth, Kim, Ann, Kendra!), we've settled on some pretty awesome curricula.  While they are awesome, I wish they were more religious.  The program we are going through won't allow any religious programs, so there is a limitation there.  It is a public school program but as always, I can teach Christianity on my own. Here is the plan for this year:

What Nathan and Abby will do:

Writing/Grammar (Language Arts combined 10 hours per week):
Institute for Excellence in Writing: Student Writing Intensive, Level A and Structure and Style. Also Fix It! Grammar Book I and II (this may be lighter for Abigail but because of her reading ability - she is at Grade 3 reading level, if not beginning 4th - the people from IEW think she can do both the Writing Intensive and the grammar books).

Handwriting (Language Arts combined 10 hours per week): 
Abigial will do Evan Moor. She will start out working more on Modern Manuscript as her handwriting is still sloppy.  Toward the second half of the year we will move on to Contemporary Cursive.
Nathan has beautiful handwriting, both manuscript and cursive.  He will move on to typing, most likely Mavis Beacon.  He had already started this in school, he will therefore build on that.

Reading (Language Arts combined 10 hours per week): 
If we have enough funds, they will both do Evan Moor's Daily Reading Comprehension (Abby Grade 3 and Nathan Grade 4).  Other than that, see book list at the end of the post in addition to library books (classics for each particular grade and books the kids will get to pick).

Social Science (5 hours per week): 
Story of the World, Volume I - The earliest people through the end of the Roman empire.
We have quite a few extra books that go along such as various Usborne books (The Usborne Atlas of World History, The Usborne Book of World History, The Greeks, Usborne Children's World Cookbook, art from Rome and Greece, Ancient Rome by Mike Corbisheley, Step into Reading books, DK Readers, etc)

Science (5 hours per week):
We will go through REAL Science for Kids, Space Odyssey.  Alongside I will also read through Apologia's Exploring Creation through Science.  We had to purchase this on our own (thanks Ebay!) and it is our secondary curriculum.  However, I wanted to be sure to get a Godly perspective into science. Very excited about this subject although parts of me is wondering if we should have done the human body.  The reason I decided against it is because the folks at Apologia thought it would be too abstract for my second grader.  We also have a few DK Readers as well as Step Into Reading on space as well as some Seymour Simon books (great books for this topic!!).  We have the one on the moon and the one on the sun.

We went with Primary Mathematics, Standards Edition. Also known as Singapore Math, this is a very strong math program. While we liked A Beka and Nathan did so well with it, it is created for the classroom and not very suitable for teaching to multiple kids in a homeschool setting.  From what I understand, the program is not as strong after the 4th grade.  If we have to switch after 4th grade anyway, might as well do the switch now where he is still so strong in math.  Nathan is starting with the last chapter of book 3A and Abby is starting with 2A.

PE (3+ hours per week):
Nathan won't have lack here, he will get plenty of hours of physical exercise.  I will also go through some trade books as well as Abeka's Developing Good Health.
Abigail will participate in a local co-ops PE class and do her ballet.  She will also go through the American Girl's The Care and Keeping of You: For Younger Girls.
Both will also read What's The Big Deal: Why God Cares About Sex

While I won't report on art, I hope to still do art and music appreciation.  If I get too overwhelmed the first year, I will tread lightly here. Since I don't have to report on it, that makes things easier and takes off the pressure.  After seeing Beth's daughter's amazing creations from a local art studio, we purchased Mrs. Cherington's art curriculum.  The curriculum starts with the basics: color theory.  We ordered the supplies she recommended from Blick art materials.  The box came yesterday.  Happiness in a box!  We also have an Usborne book for art if we get to it.(Thanks, Kim!)
As for music, if nothing else, the kids will listen to classical music during art time.

Reading List (Language Arts combined 10 hours per week):
The older kids will read to each other or younger siblings or read science books aloud for read alouds.  We will also use some of the books from the following list.  Those are books that were either given to us (thanks Kim who so generously gave me all the Abeka readers!!) or recommended by people we highly esteem and then ordered.  We hope to go through the list but I'm not expecting it, since we will also read many books from the library.
Here it goes in no particular order:
A Beka - Trails to Explore - Grade 4
A Beka - Adventures in Other Lands - Grade 4 (goes well with history to broaden world view)
Dover Children's Thrift Classics - A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Starts - The Red Bade of Courage as retold by Stephen Crane
A Beka -Salute to Courage - Grade 4
A Beka - Liberty Tree - Grade 4
A Beka - Pilgrim's Progress Simplified - Grade 3
Rick Joyner - The Final Quest (Not sure on this one, how we got it, so it will be a read-aloud) (garage sale)
A Beka - Song of the Brook - Grade 4
A Beka - Flags Unfurled - Grade 4
Scholastic Classics - Jack London - The Call of the Wild (given by Sarah R. for Isabelle's baby shower)
Irene Howat - Ten Girls Who Changed The World - (Deep Roots at Home blog - see below)
Irene Howat - Ten Boys Who Changed The World - (Deep Roots at Home blog - see below)
David Bennet - William Booth (Goodwill find)
Catherine Swift - Gladys Aylward (Goodwill find)
Mildred A. Martin - Missionary Stories With The Millers (Deep Roots at Home blog - see below)
Character Classics - Volume I - The Kings Daughter and Other Stories for Girls (I have the one for boys as well that I will dig out of Nathan's room.  It is called "Tiger and Tim") - These are really great, the kids love them. (Recommended by a blog called Deep Roots At Home - see link below)
Character Classics - Choice Stories...For Children (Deep Roots at Home blog - see below)
A Beka - Frontiers to Explore - Grade 4
Marian M. Schoolland - Leading Little Ones to God (recommended by Beth a few years ago)
Patricia MacLachlan - Sarah, Plain and Tall (Deep Roots at Home blog - see below)
East Brockman - Taken: The Quest for Truth (free Kindle book from the Focus on the Family staff)

Overall, the goal is to read girl and boy books, different levels (above, grade and above for some read along), different genres (poetry, biographies - thinking Julius Cesar to go along with history, fiction, non-fiction, etc.)
For great list of older books that teach character well, go to Deep Roots at Home for her post on 100 books that counter the culture.

Isabelle has already started with Hooked on Phonics and is learning the names of uppercase letters.  She struggles with a few of them but has most of them down.  She even knows some names that start with them (such as H as in Hannah and I in Isabelle).

I am over excited to get started as materials have slowly trickled in.  We have already ordered the math books through Exodus Books as the program takes a few weeks to get things to us.  We didn't want to start Math late.  We have some readers, we have the CDs for Story of the World (we had ordered those 3 years ago after hearing of them from my friend Kendra H. whose boys Abel and Lachlan enjoyed them).   Art supplies came in yesterday as well as the art curriculum we already have on the shelf. Oh yes, we have homeschool shelves thanks so my awesome husband!  Thanks you!  Just finished writing my Student Learning Plans yesterday for all subjects and am starting to get my supply list out to my contact lady.   Waiting to hear from IEW on what all I need to order for two students as their packs are always just for one student. We got our regular school supplies (pencils, markers, crayons, erasers, sharpeners, dry erase markers, chalk board markers, etc.).
I'm wide-eyed, naive and excited. In three months I may be desolate or may have gone insane.  But for right now, I'm enjoying this part of our journey.  I know it will be hard, sacrificial, nerve-fraying and most of all, test my patience and endurance.  While it is the only thing for me to do for our specific family, the right thing at this point for our kids, what I hope to get out the most, is a heart that loves God even more.  A heart that draws near to God in my own weakness.  As far as hopes for myself (which is not why I decided to homeschool), there is only one:

2 Corinthians 12:9-10New International Version (NIV)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Biggest Birthday Surprise Yet

This year I had a big birthday.  I wasn't thinking about it much and wasn't sad about the number either. I did use it to my advantage though when wishing for a more expensive gift....  :-)  More on that later.  Either way, my husband got me breakfast (which I love!) and then had to work.  I went garage saling for a bit but he needed the car to get me a gift still.  For some reason I got the strange idea that my mom might come.  I knew there was no reason to think that and David felt bad for me.  I continued on with my day, preparing for the party at nighttime while David went out to get a gift for me.  He either took the kids first and then went by himself or vice versa.  Not sure which one.  But here are some snippits from my special day and the big gift reveal:

The man who made it all possible and the blue-eyed baby. Yes, her eyes are still blue.  It seems they will stay that way.

Cute little Rosie. She is still so very tiny.  Which makes her all the more adorable.  

Other than my girls, our very favorite red-head, Jennifer.  We love that they make it out for our birthday parties.

Megan, Rosie, Rusty.  We are very fortunate to have all our family on David's side here.  Having the kids grow up around their cousins is very special.  My kids are missing out on cousin Noah as he lives across the ocean and it makes me very sad.  So much they miss out on.

The littlest one and her bunny.   This is also her favorite dress.  David had bought it for Abby when she was little.  It was so sweet.  He went into Fred Meyer and saw the dress and bought it for her.  Now his second daughter loves it.  Who knows, maybe Hannah will get to wear it as well.  Isabelle loves to run around and play with Rosie.  The two of them seem to form a bond just like Olive and Abby did.  Maybe that leaves Nathan and Hannah to hang out together....

Beautiful Olive. This girl is definitely a big girl now. This summer she doesn't look little at all anymore.  Her and Abby are best of friends.  I also think that Olive and Hannah have the same color eyes.  They both have those bright blue eyes with the little white ring around the iris.

There is a definite developmental leap for Nathan this year.  He is a big boy now.  His thinking has changed and he is reasoning for himself now.  Conversations with him have changed and are very exciting. He is also challenging our thinking which is not always fun.  :-)  He loves taking on more responsibility and is developing great leadership traits (other than with Abby - the two of them still either get along fantastic or not at all - no in between).  And yes, much to my dismay and his father's delight, the boy matches clothing colors in horrid ways.

the backyard swing set is still widely popular although further into the summer some yellow jackets made their home under the slide which made the girls freak out.  Literally.  Screaming and all.

And there is my sunshine.  That is her favorite outfit.  It's really for size 5 and she is a size 7 but she is making it work.  I just mended it the other day.  It is one tough piece of clothing to survive this girl for so long.  As you can see, she is a monkey and she also finds dirt very easily.  Clothes don't live long.  So invest in Tea (company who made this outfit) and Hanna Andersson.  Those seem to last.  And Keen shoes.  There is just never a bad background for your pictures when you have this color of hair!

Don't ask.  I don't know.  It's a water table for little ones.  Maybe he thought it was a bathtub although he doesn't like baths.  Who knows.  Betsy probably made him do it. 

Dick, before he took his mustache off.  Now it lives on in pictures.  Nathan looks so bored on this picture.  I must be opening someone else's present.  Oh, and note the couch and the color of the living room wall for a future post.

My Mother?  What is she doing here, you ask?  Well, remember the title of this post?  That's right, my sneaky husband and my equally sneaky mother pulled one over on me.  He didn't go to get my present from him.  No, he LIED!  He got my mom at the airport!!!!  Best birthday surprise ever! Even better, my mom was there for 4 weeks of cleaning, feeding me, re-organizing my house and to find a new couch that she would pay for.  Y-A-H-O-O!  I cried like a little baby.  In fact, my husband whom I love very much but whom I will get back, took a video of me screaming like a maniac and send it to my friend.  Yep.  Good one, my love.  That reminds me, I never got you back!
Oh, and that more expensive present I was hoping for? Yes, I got my Kindle Fire HDX.  (I had just hoped for a Kindle Fire).  I got spoiled....

My Birthday Cake

This year for my birthday I got the notion to make my own cake.  I make something somewhat special for the kids every year but never for myself.  There is a blog that I read on occasion and her cakes look great and sound fantastic.  She also became famous for her rose cakes.  After going back and forth on what cake to make, the rose cake won out.  It is very simple to make!  And such a show stopper. :-)  I used two separate recipes for white and chocolate cake but as good as the cake looked, it was not that great. :-(  But at least it looked great! Here is the link.