So.

This post is just to let you know that I do not have any free stuff for you at free stuff dot com and that if you click on a picture that’s supposed to have boys or dogs or books in it and it instead directs you to a spam site, I am really, really sorry. 

Yeah.

The WordPress.com people tell me that they have done all they can do. Fortunately they were able to rescue some of my photos, but not all of them. I wasn’t hacked exactly, but possibly one of the plug-ins I used when the blog was self-hosted at Bluehost inserted some kind of code that activated when my domain expired. Or maybe not. I’m not really sure, and it took the kind, helpful people at WordPress.com a few days to figure it out. My fourteen year old, who is interested in cyber security, has been sending me links. And maybe lecturing me a wee bit. 

Anyway, I’m sorry if it caused anyone else any trouble. I didn’t actually figure out what was going on until last week when I was finally able to catch my breath a little bit (in the whirlwind of therapy and solo parenting that has been this spring, as Andy has been out of town a lot) and I pulled up my drafts folder to find the pictures in some of my drafts replaced. It took a few more days after that to register that ALL the photos on the blog had met a similar fate. 

I’ll be working on manually trying to fix the remaining posts as I can. And hopefully finishing up a post on “how do I keep going” that has been in my drafts folder for a loooong time. But my highest priority right now is to retrieve my oldest from his sophomore year at college and to take the family on a short D.C. vacation. Hopefully, I’ll be able to add real pictures when we come back!!


For now, here’s a cute picture of Abby in her Easter dress as a peace offering. ūüėČ

Links I Love #1

Erin asked for a list of blogs I like, so I thought in lieu of actual content, why don’t I share some of the places I’ve been clicking around to lately?

Blogs

I don’t read a ton of blogs anymore, but here are a few I’ve been particularly enjoying in the past week or so:

Sweeping Up Joy — Alicia writes about life with little ones and serious medical special needs with a bubbly optimism and humor that is infectious.¬† Reading her blog is like visiting with another homeschool mom over the back fence.

Camp Homeschool — I just discovered this blog last week after following a link in a Facebook group for Homeschooling and Down Syndrome.¬† Jennifer writes about life in a large Catholic homeschool family in which one of the children happens to have Down Syndrome.¬† She also homeschools him.¬† I read through all her Down Syndrome archives last week and found myself reassured by her confidence that she could provide just as good an environment for her child as all the experts.¬† Also, they grow cranberries which is kind of neat.

A Work in Progress — This is a book blog that I’ve been enjoying for a while.¬† It’s not commercial, just a collection of the author’s reading notes and reviews and links.¬† While our politics differ, I do like her book recommendations and her chatty posts.

Internet Places

Well, there’s only one Internet place where I hang out a lot, but that’s because it’s lovely.¬† It’s the Book A Week thread on the Well-Trained Mind boards. I stumbled onto this wonderfully eclectic community of readers last year after having sort-of participated in the 52 Books Challenge with my blog for a few years.¬† Robin runs both the 52 Books blog and the BaW thread, and it really is one of the nicest places on the Internet. Every week I try to post what I’ve read and I look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading.¬† Be warned, though: if you check out this thread, your TBR list is likely to grow exponentially! But you might be encouraged to read more books this year, too.

And some random links…

The Simple Truth Behind Reading 200 Books a Year — I don’t know if I could read 200 books in a year, but I do know that I could probably read more if I didn’t have internet access when I sit down to nurse.

Thirty Dollars, Five DinnersDinner:A Love Story is one of the only food blogs that has remained on my subscription list.¬† In this post, she took $30 to Whole Foods to make five dinners for 4 people.¬† I make dinner for way more than 4 people every night, but I do shop at Whole Foods for some of the weird specialty items that we need.¬† Lately with my husband out of town a lot I’ve found myself picking up other things at Whole Foods, too, and our grocery bill has been creeping correspondingly upward.

And speaking of food…

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Jammeril’s Large Family Table.¬† She’s feeding 7 kids and a husband (and she’s pregnant) and they eat.¬† Jammeril is very down to earth and watching her giant grocery hauls makes me feel less weird.

 

 

 

Following Three Plus Two with Bloglovin’

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I’m in the process of transferring all of you who subscribe to Three Plus Two with Bloglovin’ over to the new address. (To claim my blog I have to post the Bloglovin’ link at the top of a post.)¬† Hopefully you won’t have to do a thing.

Actually, I’ve recently started reading all my blogs with Bloglovin’, too.¬† The Feedly app on my iPad completely froze and won’t reload no matter how many times I try to reinstall it.¬† I tried Newsify, but for some reason blog titles aren’t given when posts show up in list form, so I never knew who was posting what.¬† Bloglovin’ has a clean mobile format, I can tell who is actually posting, and now I think they have a comment feature directly in the app.¬† Switching over to Bloglovin’ was also an opportunity to clean out my blog list.¬† It had grown pretty cluttered over the years.¬† Now I have it whittled down almost entirely to the homeschool and book blogs that I really want to read on a regular basis (leaving out all the diet blogs where people argue about what to eat).

 

 

Moving Again

Blogs, not houses, that is.

The short version: I’m moving to WordPress.com because it’s a) cheaper and b) easier than moving back to blogger. The new url for Three Plus Two will be https://threeplustwohomeschool.wordpress.com. The old site may disappear after February 8… I’m not sure how this is going to work. I think I’ve got all the feeds transferred over, and I will be contacting Bloglovin to move my Bloglovin followers to the new blog and WordPress.com to hopefully move my e-mail subscribers. (If you subscribe by email, you may need to click on over to the new site and subscribe there too in order for posts to show up in your email and not just in WordPress Reader.) I’ll hook up my Facebook and Twitter accounts to the new blog, too, so if you depend on those to get my posts, you shouldn’t really be able to tell a difference.

And now for the long version…

Three years ago I thought I might want to grow my blog. And I thought I would be able to move my old Typepad blog here so that all of my life would be in one place. So I moved Three Plus Two from blogger to a self-hosted platform. I got a “deal” on hosting, or so I thought. But when it came time to renew this year, the deal had change drastically and so had my life.

For the first time probably ever, I’m pretty sure I know what God wants me to do every day. I don’t mean that I have been floating through life aimlessly until now, but I have always been the kind of person who always has some sort of big decision going on. Twenty years ago, the question was, should I go back to school or stay home with my baby? Since then, the questions have multiplied. Should we move or should we stay? (That one comes up a lot.) Should we put our child/children in preschool or keep them home? What homeschool philosophy should we be using? Should I change everybody’s math curriculum? (That one tends to come up a lot, too.) Does this child need therapy or should we just wait and see? (Wait and see was a bad decision.) Should we remodel our kitchen or should we look for a new house? Should I start writing fiction again? Should I try to do it for publication? Should I try to make my blog a capital B Blog or is it just a hobby?

Since Abby’s birth however, I find that many of the questions that I worried over were just superfluous. I woke up one morning recently and I realized that I knew exactly what God wanted out of me that day and the next and the next.

He wanted me to get out of bed and feed my family breakfast. He wanted me to sit down on the floor and help a baby girl sit up and learn to crawl and communicate. He wanted me to play “Carwash” with a three year old and read The Napping House over and over. He wanted me to do handwriting and subtraction and Latin and fractions, and then he wanted me to make lunch and drive children to therapy and come home and make dinner and read more board books and play on the floor and try and do some laundry and listen to my husband read The Long Winter to a bunch of boys. And then He wanted me to nurse a baby and go to bed.

And that was it.

I was not supposed to worry that my house was not as clean as all the other houses on the Internet, or that I did not have time to dump all my closets on the floor and reconstruct them. I was not supposed to worry that I was not doing 18 different subjects with my 6 year old. (He’s learning his letters and how to speak so we can understand him. That’s enough for him. He is listening to a lot of audio books.) And I was definitely not supposed to spend time I didn’t have worrying about making my blog into a business.

That made my decision about moving my blog (again) relatively easy, but it’s also given me some purpose back. I like blogging so I can’t say that I will ever really give it up, but I’ve discovered that I need this space to be more of a reward than an obligation — more of a space to sit and chat with friends than to try to convince you that I know more than you do. (Oh, I feel like I’m going to get in trouble for that last statement! I’m not suggesting that every popular monetized blog does this, but all those “Ten Things You’re Don’t Know You’re Doing Wrong” articles drive me absolutely bonkers.)

Anyway, life is pretty full right now — mostly in a good way, but with Abby’s needs and two other kids in therapy, it’s hard work — and my focus needs to be on my family and my home right now. Unless Abby starts sleeping a whole better in the near future, I’m afraid posts are going to be few and far in between… but hopefully there will be a few of them here and there. I’ve gotten quite a special needs education in the past few months (not just about Down Syndrome) and I’d like to share some of that, as well as all the normal stuff about boys, books, life in a large family, and a post that Karyn requested about how we do high school. I’ve also added Instagram and Goodreads widgets in the sidebar, and I hope that you’ll all connect with me in those places because I do actively use both services.

So this is the new Three Plus Two. I hope to see you there!

Homeschool Diary: Keeping Records, Puppies, and Wasps

I’ve been experimenting with different recordkeeping methods this fall.¬† Mississippi does not require me to keep any records (a fact which often surprises people) but I like to keep them anyway.¬† In some seasons I do better than others.¬† The one thing I can say for homeschooling in New York and Missouri is that it forced me to write things down.

I had been using the EC Teacher Planner to keep track, but there just isn’t enough room.¬† I like to record conversations and some of the questions that people ask, and there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to do that, unless maybe I made my own “conversation log” or something else that I don’t really want to put time and effort into.

So I went back to Sue Elvis’ videos about using Evernote to keep unschooling records. (I also watched these videos, which were helpful, too.)¬† I had tried this a couple of years ago, but the habit never stuck.¬† When I watched the new videos, I realized I had set up my Evernote notebooks wrong; originally, I had a notebook for each child, which meant a lot of laborious copying of notes between notebooks whenever there was shared work.¬† I didn’t realize that the same thing could be taken care of using one notebook and tags for each child.¬† So I set up a Term 1 notebook and started adding notes.

Evernote notebook term 1

I like keeping track of our learning using Evernote — although I’ve kind of dropped the ball in October.¬† I can nurse the baby to bed at night and use my iPad mini to catch up on our day without too much trouble.¬† But what I was missing was the day-to-day.¬† Did every kid do math or only some of them?¬† How many times did we do math this week? What about reading? Latin?

I think I could (and probably will try) to tweak Evernote to account for some of this dailiness, but first I thought I’d give journaling another try.¬† The good news is, I can keep up if do it on the blog, because I can type on my iPad mini and add pictures.¬† (Theoretically, I mean.¬† If I upload the photos from my iPad to Instagram or Facebook first, or if I would sit down and work on the storage space on my Mac for the big camera.)¬† The bad news is it feels kind of cumbersome typing everything out every day.¬† (Also, I know what you’re thinking; why don’t you just make up a checklist or a chart and print it out, then file it, Angela?¬† Because that would make too much sense and I’m kind of incompetent.¬† The problem I have with printed materials is that I spend so much time fighting with their formats and then after a short while, I usually forget to use them.)

Anyway, since I did keep track of last week – at least as much as I was able – I thought I’d post it in case you were interested in what we were up to.¬† I have to tell you right now, though — it was a nutty week.¬† Gareth was home for fall break (which was not what made the week nutty), and I knew there was a lot of planned “stuff” on the docket, but the unplanned stuff was… well, very unplanned!

 

Monday (October 17):

Abby

A long day for me, but only because I had to go here and there all day. I took Huck to the doctor in the morning (sinus infection), Abby to PT in the afternoon (she has met 4 of 5 of her short term goals already!) and G and K to the carpool for dance class after dinner.¬† (Gareth went along to see local friends.)¬† I was only gone five minutes, so I left the boys at home by themselves. When I came back, George had been stung twice in the face by a wasp. I took over his kitchen chores, did some laundry, bathed the baby, read a couple of books to JM (Building a Bridge and Cross a Bridge, because he is fascinated with bridges after our trip to my mom and dad’s), and after that, I was quite ready to stop and get ready for bed. George’s face was pretty swollen by that point, though, so we did some googling to find out what was normal and decided that he might be having a “large local reaction.” ¬†Having already given him Zyrtec and ibuprofen, we determined that we would just have to keep an eye on him.

The only schoolwork I did with anyone directly was with Chipmunk : we did his phonics flash cards and half a page of Dancing Bears A. Otherwise, the boys worked independently. George and Huck did math (George, Singapore 5A Intensive Practice – estimating; Huck an exercise on area in Singapore 4A), Dennis did his Greek, and all 3 worked in their Latin books. We’re still on Lesson 2 of First Form. It’s going to take us forever to get through this book.

This was K’s class day, so she was in the computer room most of the day.

The boys read their schoolbooks and religion, and George told me about Pioneers of the Old South, the settling of the Shenandoah. Chipmunk worked in his Draw Write Now journal and looked through a bunch of Let’s Read and Find Out science books I picked up over the weekend. Before bedtime, he was paging through Destination Moon (a TinTin book) and giggling, so I think he was reading at least parts of it. He read to Andy from his All About Reading Level 2 reader before bed.

Lots of playing outside and time with the puppies today, especially for the little boys.

Bedtime book: By the Shores of Silver Lake

Tuesday:

Late start this morning. ¬†The side of George’s face was completely swollen, and he could barely open his eye. I started off the morning by calling the nurse line just to make sure we were doing what we could. JM wanted to read Building a Bridge again, and the other boys did their animal chores and messed around outside while I was feeding Abby and getting my own breakfast.

Chemistry day for K, so she was up early and online.

In the morning – math with Huck, reading with Chipmunk, math with Dennis, prayers, the Gospel of Matthew, read aloud from The World of Capt. John Smith and a story from Viking Tales while the little boys modeled with floam. A long, interesting discussion about angels, contingent vs. necessary beings, fallen angels, possession, exorcism, and the rite of baptism in the Extraordinary Form, with some referencing to The Baltimore Catechism, v. 3. ¬† Everyone involved from G (newly 20) on down to the 9 year old.¬† Dennis and George read their schoolbooks before and after (in spite of George’s swollen eye.)

In the afternoon – I took Leo to speech for his very first visit, came home to find that George’s face looked still worse, and turned right back around to take him to the doctor.¬† I think he frightened the ladies at the front desk.¬† We left with prescriptions for steroids and antihistamines.¬† While I was gone, Dennis did the rest of his math, Greek, and religion, and Huck read his schoolbooks.

Bedtime: Read Tractor Mac Tune-Up twice to JM and Leo.¬† (Tractor Mac is a little twaddly, but much beloved in our house ever since we read them to George when we lived in rural upstate New York.¬† This is one we didn’t already own, and is good for boys who like to know what all the parts of an engine are called.)

Chipmunk read to Andy from his reader.

Wednesday:

Another late start.¬† On the other hand, it has been so hot lately that I understand why the boys are still in their summer pattern of wanting to head outside to play as soon as they wake up.¬† It isn’t supposed to be 90 degrees this late in October.¬† The other problem we are having is the dog.¬† She has essentially stopped nursing her puppies, at least in the day time.¬† They are not quite 3 weeks old, too early to be weaned.¬† So we had to spend extra time all day coaxing her into the box with the puppies, trying to get her to lie down (or at least sit) so the puppies could nurse.¬† Huck’s theory is that it is too hot to be all jammed up together like that.¬† I’m sure the kids are all learning quite a bit from this experience, but it is very stressful for a soft-hearted mom.

K read some books to Abby — Little Green (a lovely board book about a hummingbird) and Chicken, Chicken, Duck!

Morning — We had Morning Time again.¬† Marked the feast of St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs (in New York, we often visited the shrine at Auriesville), prayed, read more of the Gospel of Matthew, another Viking Tale (the kids think Harald is rather over the top), and about Mary Stuart in The World of Capt. John Smith.¬† Dennis narrated yesterday’s reading about William of Orange, and we tried to get Leo to do a narration of yesterday’s Viking Tale.¬† Then we attempted to sort out the chart of Tudors and Stuarts in Capt. John Smith.¬† While I read, the boys built machines and buildings with Duplos, and Abby played on the floor.¬† She is starting to be able to sit nearly on her own for short periods of time, which is amazing progress in the past week or two.

Before MT, Huck did his math.¬† (He is almost finished with 4A.¬† Tomorrow, I hope.)¬† Dennis read in Age of Fable and Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth.¬† George did his chores — probably while listening to an audio book — but I think the most he could handle this morning was checking all his news websites.¬† The antihistamine is apparently stronger than Benadryl.¬† (He reported to us at lunchtime that the Archbishop of Kansas City did not have good things to say about Hillary’s VP pick.)

Afternoon — Andy took G, K, and George to the Installation Mass for the new bishop of our diocese.¬† It was held in the convention center downtown and lasted 2.5 hours.¬† The other boys stayed home with me.¬† I took a nature walk around the yard with the younger ones, and the twins spent a long time reading Mysterious Benedict Society books.¬† Then I read to Chipmunk, Leo, and JM, kid-picked books: a chapter from Sarah Witcher’s Story for Chipmunk; Flood Warning! (a Let’s Read and Find Out book) for Leo; and Bear’s Bargain for JM.¬† Math with Dennis at quiet time, and we spent more time trying to get the dog to nurse her puppies.¬† I nursed my baby for about an hour and watched a couple of videos on Facebook — one on Down Syndrome, the other an inspiring video about a man with cerebral palsy and how physical exercise is improving his condition.¬† After quiet time, JM ate a couple of meals’ worth of food to make up for refusing to eat breakfast and lunch and the other boys tried to work with the dog, rescued escaped chickens, read some more, and played outside.

Evening – Speech homework with Leo, and some of us watched the debate, calling out fallacies. Andy and G listened to it on the radio outside in the garage while they put up a giant kennel to make it impossible for the dog to escape the puppies who need to nurse.

Thursday

Abby’s Special Instructor (SI) came in the morning. ¬†Huck spent the entire time staring at one math problem and getting frustrated when he couldn’t get the answer in the book. ¬†All the problems he missed were area problems of composite figures, which meant they were multi-step and required some writing. He tried writing some things down, but the numbers were all over each other and it was hard to tell what he had done. This is why we have an OT evaluation scheduled, and an appointment with a neuropsychologist. I am 99.9% certain this is dysgraphia.

Chipmunk worked in his Draw Write Now journal and made a clay airplane.

I also did reading with Chipmunk, played a blending game from AAR with Leo, did some Right Start A subitizing activities with Leo, using fingers and the abacus, and I had George show Chipmunk how to play Corners and enter large numbers on the other side of the abacus. I tried to do an RS E lesson with George about how to do division with remainders on the abacus, but the steroids were making him irritable and restless. Dennis read his school books. We also did some Latin before lunch – well, really English grammar, as we talked about subject/predicate and diagramming.

In the afternoon, Dennis still had math left from Weds, so he did that.  George and Huck read their schoolbooks.  (George finished Pioneers of the Old South today or yesterday.)

Evening – An early dinner because the boys all went to FNE (Federation of North American Explorers… basically the Catholic version of Boy Scouts).

Friday

Our long out-of-the-house day.  Band and choir, with a walk on the Germantown Greenway and a trip to Whole Foods in between.  Huck collected leaves to identify for his FNE requirements.  We made it a little way past the .5 mile marker before we had to turn around.

After lunch in the van, we went to the G’town library to get library cards for the kids enrolled in band, since they can get free library cards even though we don’t live there.¬† We didn’t have much time to look around, but it’s much bigger than our library. Then we brought Leo to speech and tried (and failed) to keep JM occupied in the waiting room. K finally took him on a walk. The other boys read their library books.

We got home about 3 and everybody scattered, mostly to computer time.  Andy and I went to our first supper club with some local friends, so no bedtime reading; K and G put the little boys to bed before we got home.

Saturday

Not technically a school day, but books were still read, etc. K had a lot of homework to do and a math assessment to take online, and even G was sitting at the table doing homework (translating the Confessions of St. Augustine from Latin.) The little boys and I walked around the yard, examining trees and mole tunnels. Leo played with the moon sand, and then spent a lot of time cleaning it up. He also 409’ed the doors. ¬†Extra chore day and Mass in the afternoon, since G is flying back to VA tomorrow. We had BBQ from Corky’s for dinner.

Bedtime: Leo’s speech words

Books to JM and Leo: Boo! It’s Halloween (library book, lots of Halloween jokes and rhymes), How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?, Tunnels (Gail Gibbons)

Abby practiced sitting up while I read.

Sunday

Andy brought G back to the airport first thing in the morning, which was quite depressing, but at least it will only be about a month until we see him again at Thanksgiving.¬† Andy took Abby and me out to look at the office space he is thinking of renting, and then we went to lunch, and unexpectedly, to the Verizon store to replace my ancient phone.¬† We spent two hours in the store and then my phone got hung up in the restore process at home.¬† It was very frustrating, and it’s still not set up right.¬† I wish we hadn’t tried it on a Sunday afternoon, but when else is there?

In the evening, I helped K with the letter of intent she was writing for a music scholarship, and read some books to the little boys (which Dennis listened in on, too): Boo! It’s Halloween again (none of the boys seem to get the jokes), Mooncake, A House is a House For Me.

Family rosary, and we crashed into bed.

**I see that I left out a religion essay that K wrote and also George’s Singapore 5A Intensive Practice workbook.¬† He didn’t work it in every day this week, but he did use it this week.

 

 

Rethinking the School Year

I started the school year sort of like I was preparing to hurl myself into a burning building.¬† I didn’t like the looks of the schedule but certain things had to be done in the name of Education.¬† Besides, other people seemed to be able to handle it, why not me?

The short answer is: because I can’t.¬† And because living like you’re perpetually running through a burning building is no way to live, really, even in the name of Education.

Plus we all got sick.¬† (It was the “September Virus”. )

Sick baby

Some of us got a little sicker than others, but fortunately — no hospitals this time.¬† Antibiotics for both my two littlest ones and many breathing treatments for Rose, but we did finally mend.

I should just have looked through my archives, because this is apparently a cycle I go through every September.¬† (Here’s another post from 2014, in which St. Francis de Sales talks me down from the cliff.¬† This year it was St. John Henry Newman.¬† More on that in a minute.) I start out trying to do all the things I think I am “supposed” to, and then by the end of September I am tweaking everything down because I’ve remembered that I have small children who don’t sleep.¬† In order to regain some sanity, I often pull out some favorite unschooling books, just to give me a little perspective from the other side.

The book that seems to help most is this one:

A Little Way of Homeschooling: Thirteen Families Discover Catholic Unschooling

I like the collection of prayers in the back, which includes a prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.  And I like the calm, reassuring tone of the book.  I also like the essays included in the back, written by four women who are not quite unschoolers, but not quite anything else either.

Kind of like us.

This year, I had an epiphany when I read the quote Willa uses to begin her essay (and by the way, I am so happy to see that Willa is blogging again!)  Here it is, from St. John Henry Newman:

How much more profitable for the independent mind, after the mere rudiments of education, to range through a library at random, taking down books as they meet him, and pursuing the trains of thought which his mother wit suggests!¬† How much healthier to wander into the fields, and there with the exiled Prince to find “tongues in the trees, books in the running brooks!” ~St. John Henry Newman, Idea of a University

This sounds like something I might be able to do — although it’s often the “mere rudiments of education” that give me the hardest time, with late readers and dysgraphia in the mix. ¬†But I think that Newman is arguing for the educational “feast” here just as Charlotte Mason does, the difference being that Newman is not figuring schools and school schedules into the equation (at least in this quote).¬† Therefore, there is a lot more freedom present in Newman’s quote.¬† Charlotte Mason was ever practical, and she was working with school timetables.¬† I spent some time over the summer investigating schedule-making in the Charlotte Mason tradition, and this was not the first time I have tried to divide up a large number of books and subjects among my kids.¬† If I will remember to remind myself next August, though, it will hopefully be my last.

My house is not a school, not even a wonderful Charlotte Mason school. (Even teachers in Charlotte Mason’s schools had problems keeping up with the schedules, though. A quote from that article which particularly resonated with me:

I will refrain from enlarging upon the involved state of affairs when there are children working partly in one class and partly in another; nor will I discuss what happens when one has a child of 10 who cannot read. Suffice it to say that one is inclined to wish that either he would go away or else that every other child would vanish into empty air, leading one free to follow absolutely strictly one of the ideal timetables to which have been so cleverly, so thoughtfully, and so comprehensively drawn up.

I had the impression she saw forward through time to my house.  HT: Sabbath Mood Homeschool: Is Following a CM Schedule Impossible?)

I don’t know that following a CM schedule is impossible for other people, but it sure is difficult for me.¬† Cycling through so many books and schedule changes makes me feel frazzled and distracted, particularly since the biggest chunk of my “school day” is devoted to doing math with five kids and phonics with two.¬† While short lessons often work for us in math and reading, our attention spans cannot handle switching through a large number of books and lessons in other subject areas.¬† It seems backward when you talk about people with ADHD tendencies needing a smaller number of books that they can sink into, but the “short” ADHD attention span is really a misnomer.¬† We tend to hyperfocus when we’re interested or involved in something, and when we’re made to switch away from that thing, it does NOT feel good.¬† In fact, we will not be able to focus on anything else.¬† We will be distracted and frazzled and feel as if, indeed, we¬†do have short attention spans.¬† But if we were allowed to really exercise the true powers of our attention span on something that interested us, maybe it would be easier to focus on those things that don’t.

It’s tough as a mom to have this kind of attention span as well, because, especially with a baby in the house who doesn’t nap well, there are a lot of household tasks to accomplish and often only five minute increments in which to do them.¬† I can’t switch my focus that fast.¬† It makes me feel overwhelmed already, and adding in a complicated schedule only makes it worse.

Because I doubt I’m the only who ever gets overwhelmed by a self-inflicted schedule, I thought I’d write down some of the tweaks and changes I’ve made this year to try and deal with “it all”.

I’m acknowledging that I am an introvert who needs a minimum amount of sleep to function.

I am a mother of nine.¬† I am also a strong introvert, and I have a baby who does not reliably sleep through the night or take naps.¬† This means two things for our day.¬† I can’t always (even usually) get up before my kids, and I need a break during the day to close my eyes, or at least to go in my room, put the baby in the crib to play, and shut the door.¬† I tried scheduling (i.e. writing down on the schedule, it didn’t always get done) time with some of my younger kids near breakfast and then math right through the afternoon.¬† This made for a tired, frazzled, and grumpy Mommy.¬† Everyone’s day is improved when I take a break, and I need at least 6 hours of sleep a night to function — ideally 7.5, but that doesn’t happen every night.¬† Below 6 hours and my brain starts going on strike.¬† I can beat myself up for not being able to sit down at 8 AM every morning to do 1st grade work with my 6 year old, or I can just accept the situation and move on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I’m able to take a shower makes a huge difference in how our days go, but see above for needing sleep.

Everything I read on the Internet tells me that I’m supposed to be dressed and ready before my kids get up.¬† I completely agree with this, because on the days that the baby wakes up a little before 6 and then goes back to sleep after she eats so I can shower, we get a lot more done.¬† But sometimes she’s up for two hours in the middle of the night, or she gets up and doesn’t go back down, and on those days, I just have to accept that I am not going to be able to get everything done.¬† I’m not going to be able to get in all the math, or we won’t be able to read aloud history, or something else, because there are several therapy appointments a week (for various kids) and those are non-negotiable. I’ll continue to try to get my shower in as early as possible, but this is a tough year and I have to be able to function. (Can you see a theme here?) I can’t skip a shower every day, and anyway, feeling clean and being dressed is part of being functional; it’s like putting on the air mask that drops down from the airplane ceiling before putting it on your child.¬† Mom’s no good if she can’t breathe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some subjects are now “strewing” subjects to allow time for more teacher intensive subjects.

After we started our academic work in August, I discovered that my dyslexic thirteen year old was farther behind in math than I realized, even though he had been working through some of the Key to… math workbooks over the summer.¬† To make a long story short (I can try to write the long version in another post if you’d like), after doing a lot of research, I made the terrifying decision to switch him to RightStart Math.¬† I say “terrifying” because RightStart is very teacher intensive, which was one of the reason I didn’t choose it for my older kids way back when I first heard about it, eight or nine years ago.¬† But if I am going to focus my energy in one subject, then I have to ease up in others.¬† I’ve decided, for instance, that science works perfectly well as a “strewn” subject.¬† Art is something else that works better when I don’t assign us all to work on something, but instead sit down to draw myself, or just set out a bunch of art supplies.¬† I do have to be somewhat intentional about this, but strewing the content subjects often seems to work pretty well for us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Instead of scheduling in smaller increments with assigned activities, we’re using a morning “school” block with a list of priorities.

Sometimes the person responsible for loading the dishwasher takes too long.¬† Sometimes I can’t take a shower until 9:30.¬† Sometimes I’m ready to sit down by 8:15 and the 6 year old has been up since 6 AM and is occupying himself by bothering his brothers.¬† Though I started out trying to schedule the kids for certain times to work with me, now I tend to grab whoever is available. If there’s a time crunch I have a list of priorities I work through. Math for my 13 year old and reading with my 9 year old are always the highest on the list. Then I work through math with everyone else, reading with my 6 year old, Latin with the middle boys, Morning Time readings, and after lunch read-alouds with the younger boys. I never get everything done in a day, but if I miss something the day before, I try to pick it up the next day. It’s not really a formal loop schedule but it sort of works that way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t stress if the boys read one book at a time instead of 3 or 4 pages from many books every day.

The middle boys focus on a few books at a time instead of stretching more books out for longer, and I’m okay with that.¬† They almost always finish the entire stack of books in the time frame I originally mapped out for them.¬† (When we choose the books for the term, I stick a post-it in the front of each one with the pages per day written on it.)¬† Being willing to accept some variation on their part means less energy expended in keeping them “on plan” on my part.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t mean to make it sound like everything works perfectly for us now, but it does work better.¬† Sometimes I still get overwhelmed with all there is to do.¬† I think that is just the nature of the beast, being a mom of a large family with many special needs. Sometimes I ask my husband, “Please tell me that it will be okay,” and the other day he answered, “I think this is what okay looks like.” Life is never going to go “perfectly”, as planned.¬† It doesn’t have to in order to be good.¬† Sometimes I just need to be reminded of that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool Diary: Week 1

Homeschool Diary is my sort-of weekly account of life at our house.¬†¬†I used to call these posts “Learning in Review”, but I like the name “Homeschool Diary” better. ¬†Here are a few facts to keep in mind when you read these posts:

  • I have eight kids still at home, in grades 12, 8, 5, 5, 3, and 1, plus a VERY BUSY 3 year old and an infant with Down Syndrome.
  • Most of my kids have some sort of special need. ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, articulation and fine motor issues, Tourette Syndrome, and now Down Syndrome – we have dealt with or are dealing with all of the above.
  • My tag line says that we are Relaxed Homeschoolers. That just means that sometimes we junk the curriculum and follow our interests. We use too much structure to be unschoolers and sometimes not enough structure to be considered anything else. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever get frazzled and burnt out, or that our family is at all “relaxed”. We are not Type A control freaks, but on average my babies have always needed about 4 hours less sleep than the “average” child, if that gives you any clue.
  • These are the snips I remember from our week, or that I thought were interesting. It isn’t everything we did, and on the other hand, you can’t see any of the blood, sweat, or tears that happened behind the scenes either.

Here’s how the first week of back-to-school went, by the numbers:

  • Doctor’s visits — 2
  • Antibiotics prescribed — 2
  • Special Ed evaluation — 1
  • Calls to insurance company — I lost count
  • Early Intervention visit — 1
  • Glasses repaired — 1 pair
  • Injuries with more than the usual amount of blood — 1
  • Birthdays — 1
  • Morning Time Attempted — 2
  • Times we did Latin — 2
  • Baby Naps — not enough

If I had known how much “stuff” this week was going to involve, I would not have decided to add in school on top of it.¬† We would have just waited a week.¬† But the baby woke up on Monday morning with her eyes all gunked shut, and that kind of kicked everything off.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 8.16.27 AM

The week continued on from there.¬† On Day 2, the child who didn’t seem sick enough to go to the doctor on Day 1 did indeed seem sick enough to go to the doctor and was prescribed antibiotics for a sinus infection.¬† On Day 3, a series of calls to my insurance company culminated with them telling me that oops, they were wrong to tell me that my child’s speech evaluation was covered, because the provider’s address had changed.¬† Did I mention that this happened in the provider’s office right before the evaluation, and that they had been telling me it was covered for days, every time the office sent me an email or called me to tell me I wasn’t covered and would need to pay $250 at time of service?

That was probably the most frustrating point of the week, although Thursday was also a difficult day, but only because I tried to handle an almost full schedule.¬† It turns out that I still can’t fit in time with everybody in a single day.

morning schedule

It’s always mornings that get me.¬† You’ll note that I have a shower for myself penciled it at three different times.¬† That’s because Rose’s schedule is all over the place right now.¬† After I make some changes and our schedule starts to actually work, I’ll post it — not just the first four hours of the day.

So the week was exhausting, and definitely one of the hardest first weeks back that I have experienced in 16 years of homeschooling, but it wasn’t really terrible either.¬† Rose’s eyes are better and I am off dairy again, which I think was partially to blame.¬† (Her nasal passages and tear ducts are small and easily clogged, and when I eat dairy, she seems to have a lot of extra mucus production that can’t go anywhere.¬† So — no more dairy for me, and she seems to be improving.)¬† We had Rose’s first home visit by a special instructor and that went well; the SI is very young and everybody likes her.¬† The dart war injury was bloody, but small.¬† (A scalp wound, caused by hitting his head on the door.)¬† And Leo didn’t need the full-blown $250 version of the speech evaluation, so the bill ended up being somewhat smaller than that — no thanks to the insurance company.

(I’m putting off making all the calls about Rose’s bills.)

Books

The kids — at least those who could read — accomplished quite a bit for a first week.¬† As is our practice, ¬†I assigned some books and allowed them to choose others. K, as a 12th grader, is doing three online classes this year — AP Latin and Chemistry from Kolbe, and AP Calculus with Wilson Hill — and three home-based classes — Religion, Literature, and Economics.¬† For religion, we are using the MODG 12th grade syllabus with Anne Carroll’s Following Christ in the World, supplemented with Toward the Eternal Commencement, the fourth book in the Our Quest for Happiness series.¬† She’ll be doing economics with her father using Economics, Work, and Prosperity by Russell Kirk, and literature with me on the theme of “Reading the World”, mostly modern literature, with the goal of hitting every continent.¬† K wanted to start close to home and then move outward, and we’re lucky enough to live in the American South, so we’re starting with Southern writers (probably Flannery O’Connor.) ¬†This week she just did a couple of online orientations and the first week of the religion lesson plans.

The middle boys did more.¬† I plan to list their term 1 book lists in another post, but they were quite dedicated to doing the full list of assignments, and so they mostly did.¬† George’s books come almost entirely from AO Years 7,8, and 9 (I’ll have to explain my thinking behind that combination in another post) and the twins are mainly reading from AO Years 4/5.¬† (They don’t want to read the same books, so it takes a little juggling.)¬† I am a little concerned that their schedules are too heavy, so we are going to see how it goes this week and then we may trim a little.¬† As far as I could tell, these were the favorite books of the week:

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, Roger Lancelyn Green (AO Year 5) — Huck’s pick this week.

Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories , Illustrated Junior Library edition (AO Year 4) — I wrote down that Dennis should read “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle” for the first term, and he had read them both by Thursday afternoon.¬† I’ll have to check, but I don’t think that our edition is abridged.

The Brendan Voyage (AO Year 7) and Pioneers of the Old South: A Chronicle of English Colonial Beginnings (AO Year 8 Free Reading list) — George’s picks. ¬†Pioneers is an interesting book. When it came in, I flipped almost immediately to the section on Maryland to see how it treated Catholics. I was pleased that it seemed pretty evenhanded.

To the younger boys, I read an interesting new picture book that I picked up earlier this summer:

Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre and His World of Insects

Actually, everybody enjoyed this one. The twins thought it was particularly interesting, because both of them have read books by Jean-Henri Fabre (Storybook of Science, The Story of Everyday Things) and didn’t know that he was real. (I think they are confusing Fabre with Uncle Paul?)

We’re also reading aloud Homer Price and On the Banks of Plum Creek. ¬†Our copy of Plum Creek is actually included in a hardback anthology of the first three books that I picked up off a bargain table years ago. It includes the original illustrations, as well as coloring on the frontispiece from my now 13 year old and a pressed leaf from one of our trees in New York. Chipmunk stuck a sweet gum leaf in it a couple of months ago when Andy was reading Little House in the Big Woods to them at bedtime.¬† Now when we read it to the next set of kids, we’ll have another layer of history to talk about.

Nature Study

Black SwallowtailBlack Swallowtail butterfly, in our homemade butterfly container — a Rubbermaid container with a piece of window screen for a top.

Butterflies and caterpillars are very popular right now, probably because there are so many of them around this time of year. All the caterpillars are big and fat, and the Monarchs have begun migrating through.  The boys have been catching butterflies in our lone remaining sweep net (I think we used to have three) and bringing them inside to keep in a homemade habitat for a few hours or a day so they can observe them.  Chipmunk, Leo, and I have been drawing butterflies, too.

Screen Shot nature journal

I have a slot on my schedule in the afternoon for “Outside or Art, Science Experiments, Nature Journals”.¬† Not everybody chooses to do art or science experiments, but a few of the kids have.¬† Dennis is reading Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth for science this term, and did a couple of experiments in the sink while I was drawing butterflies with Chipmunk and Leo.

(I wish I could show you Leo’s butterflies, but for some reason I can’t upload photos taken on my iPad unless I have first posted them to Instagram or Facebook.¬† A raw iPad photo will show up on my blog upside down. Leo is 6, but has some fine motor issues. Until a few months ago, he did not do any representational drawing at all. ¬†But now he’s feeling confident enough to attempt butterflies, and looking at them makes me happy.)

I’m planning a whole post about caterpillars and butterflies — equipment, field guides, etc.¬† If Rose will give me a few minutes to work on it, that is. ¬†She is full of get up and go now that her heart works!

 

 

 

SQT: Summer is Coming to an End Mash-up

One

Do you ever start a conversation making perfect sense in your head and half way through you suddenly realize that you have either forgotten everything you knew about the subject or you never knew it in the first place and your point, if there ever was one, has completely disappeared? I’ve been getting 4-6 hours of sleep a night and am feeling pretty beat up, y’all.¬† This return to newborn zombie-land is a little harder than it used to be.¬† But I didn’t realize how my cognitive processes were suffering until I sat down to finish a blog post I started last week.¬† Seven Quick Takes to the rescue! I still want to do the summer learning wrap-up I started, but I’m afraid that transitions between paragraphs are beyond me.¬† If that doesn’t make you want to keep reading, I don’t know what will.

Two

Andy dropped Gareth off at school this weekend, which is how I know that summer is really ending.

Three

Anyway.¬† Although the summer didn’t go as planned, learning went on.¬† I attempted to catch some of it in my teacher planner, but much of it just doesn’t fit.¬† A lot of our learning this summer happened in the form of discussion, not as titles or page numbers.¬† What happens if you don’t want to vote for either person for president, Mom? What will happen if we have an unqualified president?¬† What are they going to do to Rose’s heart? Can other people catch Down Syndrome?¬†

This summer was like that.¬† The kids at home saw their older brother and their parents struggle together to keep him going through a difficult summer job.¬† They heard us talk and talked with us about the current political situation.¬† We showed them diagrams of the heart and explained what would happen to their sister when she went into the hospital.¬† When she came home, we answered their questions about how her heart was repaired, how she would heal, and the dramatic and somewhat frightening incision on her chest.¬† (Which has been healing nicely).¬† We talked a lot about college choices and what is the end of education and how to make compromises between educational ideals and career and financial realities that didn’t sell out the educational ideals.

It seemed like we talked a lot this summer.¬† More than usual.¬† All of that is hard to encapsulate in a couple of words that fit into a grid, but it is the sort of thing that teaches kids a lot.¬† It was a long summer and academically, we are going to have to do some backtracking, but I feel like if I lived in a state in which I had to count attendance (which I don’t anymore), I would have counted many of our summer hours as “school is in session.”¬† It wasn’t a school any of us would necessarily have chosen (although I think that my 13 year old and 17 year old have had an interest sparked in politics and political philosophy), but there it is.¬† Our long break — from mid-May to the beginning of September, probably, unless I really get my act together — was certainly not educationally void.¬† Nobody’s summers really are, but sometimes I need to write everything down to make myself feel better.

Four

Speaking of which… I ordered another Erin Condren Teacher Planner for this year, but I’m somewhat disappointed. I think I can work around the fact that there are fewer Absentee log sheets, which I was using to log picture books, because there are also more pages for notes inside the monthly spreads.¬† But… a pet peeve here… the notes pages which coordinate with the colors of the monthly spreads are BEFORE the monthly calendar page and this does NOT match up with how my brain works.¬† What I want to do is get a visual sense of the big picture first, and THEN head on to my notes, which are probably going to include booklists and college application to-do’s.¬† Why would I want to look at a list of picture books before I saw that I had therapy appointments for four kids this month?

I also goofed and reversed the pattern and background colors I wanted on the cover.¬† That person they’re targeting with that little pop-up question at the bottom of your order form, the one that says, “Are you ABSOLUTELY SURE that you’ve got everything the way you want it?” That person is me.

<Insert face palm.>

Not that it’s a bad cover, it just wasn’t the cover I had in my head, you know?

(This is where I would put a picture IF I had enough memory to load one or IF I could find one to save from my Facebook feed.  Just picture a lot of pink when I had been thinking about a nice periwinkle blue with pink accents instead.)

I started looking at Plum Paper Planners, because you can customize the classes and I get tired of writing everybody’s name across the top every week.¬† But since I’ve already spent the money, I guess I’ll be sticking with the Erin Condren this year.

(For the record, I don’t use my planner to plan but to record.)

Five

This summer was also the summer of Beverly Cleary.¬† Back in May, I decided to do some “fun” reading with my 8 year old and my 5 year old (who is now 6).¬† This is where I have to admit that sometimes I find myself a bit… taxed with trying to read AO’s selections to my younger kids.¬† It’s not that we don’t enjoy them, because we do.¬† But there have been good books written after 1965 and we also enjoy a little historical fiction here and there, too, and sometimes the AO books, even the ones on the free reading list, start to feel a bit heavy.¬† So I pulled Ramona the Pest off the shelf — with my 5 year old specifically in mind — and gave it a go.¬† I didn’t know if the boys would like it or not considering that it is about a girl (and yes, I know, it’s Ramona but she’s still a girl), but wow, I could not have predicted that reading Ramona the Pest would mean that I would be required to read every single one of the Ramona books, including the later ones which are girlier and include Beezus growing up and getting moody and wanting her hair styled.¬† We¬†just finished¬†Ramona Forever.¬† The boys want to read Ramona’s World, but no one seems to be able to find it.


We also read several of the Henry Huggins books, which would seem to make more sense because the main character is a boy, after all.¬† But I think the Ramona books are better.¬† Beverly Cleary wrote Henry Huggins in 1950.¬† It was her first novel, and so I think it’s just to be expected that she would grow as a writer from there.¬† On the other hand, of the Henry Huggins books that we read, I think that Henry Huggins is the best.¬† (George may choose to argue with me, because I think that Ribsy was one of his favorite books at the age of 8 or 9.)¬† We ultimately had to take a break with the books in this series, though, because Beverly Cleary’s characters are just too darn life-like.¬† The kids argue and bicker like real kids, and Henry is constantly saying, “You keep quiet” (or he uses another expression which a lot of people use but which is banned in our house).¬† So when I heard my 5 (6) year old knocking through the house picking fights with his brothers and saying, “You keep quiet,” I knew where he had picked that up.¬† We put the Henry Huggins books down at that point.¬† Which is a shame because some of them are pretty funny.¬† In contrast, I think the Ramona books deal a lot more deeply (but in a humorous way) with the battles kids wage (with themselves and with grown-ups) in the process of growing up.¬† What’s interesting to me is that the Ramona books range from the late 60’s to the mid 80’s, and although there are a few discrepancies between the early Henry Huggins books and the later Ramona books (Ramona and Beezus first appear as Henry’s neighbors), mostly nothing in the books seems dated or out of place.¬† Including those 80’s commercials in Ramona Quimby, Age 8!

Leo was also most excited that Sprout was airing the movie Beezus and Ramona as one of their Family Night movies… but ugh, what they did to those books! Everyone watched it, but with much complaining about how they had edited and smooshed all the books together in order to produce a film.

Six

George spent most of his summer reading his way through our history shelves and practicing his wilderness skills in our backyard. I found it impossible to keep up with what he was reading. I should have made him keep a list but I didn’t, and now both of us are struggling to remember all the titles; I think that sometimes books blur in time and you think, when did I read that? This isn’t every book he read this summer, but it will give you some idea of what he was doing.


You know what amazes me most?¬† This kid has only been reading — I mean, really reading, beyond reader level — for a little more than two and a half years.

Seven

It didn’t seem possible to me a week ago, but I think that we may be able to start easing into school next week.¬† I’ve got my resource shelves organized, the last-minute oops-I-forgot-this books and curricula have been ordered, I’m working on getting actual books onto people’s shelves, the schedule is almost done (such as it is), and I wrapped up my old teacher planner with printed copies of my learning-in-review posts from last school year.¬† There weren’t many of them, and as usual I wish that there were more.¬† I know I say this almost every year and then posts dribble off around Christmas and never pick up again, but this year I am going to write a wrap-up post every week. Or maybe every other week. More than four all year at least! (How’s that for a goal?)¬† It might not be a long one, or it might be a smash-up of learning notes, but I’m aiming for something I can print out as a hard-copy record.¬† The notes and arrows I put in my planner are a good shorthand for what we’re doing, but sometimes I want to see a finished picture and not just an empty paint-by-numbers board.

 

Linking up with Kelly!

Post-Op

We’re home and doing well!

Coming home from surgeryThe day Rose came home from the hospital. The marks on her leg are pen, to measure the swelling an IV in her foot caused.

Rose was in the hospital for eight days, including her pre-op day when she was weighed, stuck, x-rayed, and settled in prior to surgery.  We came home on Day 9.  The surgeons were able to take care of all of her heart defects at the same time, and there were no surprises. (Deo Gratias!) Andy wrote a Facebook post every day to keep friends and family up to date, so if you are a Facebook friend or if you follow me on Instagram at @angelaboord, you probably saw some of the news as it happened.

Right before surgeryRight before going downstairs for surgery. Andy posted this picture on the first night because the picture of her connected to all the tubes and wires was too distressing. The nurses carried her into the OR at about 11 AM and we got to see her in the CVICU at 3:30. ¬†Andy’s brother and our good friend Diane, whose 11 year old daughter also has Down Syndrome, came to sit with us. Having company to distract us from our worry really helped us make it through those 4 fretful hours.

We had one bad day in the ICU when her airway was partially blocked, probably by her own tongue as she was sedated and propped up with her head tilted forward.¬† Fortunately, one of the surgeons lowered the bed and flipped her on her side just as the rest of the team prepared to intubate her again.¬† The surgeons called this a “bump”, but it did not feel like a “bump” to me.¬† More like one of those big scary hills on a rollercoaster, where you get to the top and you can’t see the bottom beneath you.¬† Rose, on the other hand, did not seem to have been set back too far in her recovery because of it, only about an extra day.

Falling asleep to BrahmsThat night she would only sleep if the white noise/music box played Brahms over and over again, so we listened to Brahms Lullaby for about 12 hours straight. She had never gotten the memo that children with Down Syndrome need more narcotics than normal and could only handle 1/3 of the regular dose of morphine.

Starting to feel betterAfter she spent about a day getting over her “bump”, she started to feel better. Her surgery was Tuesday afternoon, and on Friday, they took out her central line and the chest tubes that drained the area around her heart. She took one bottle and after that was allowed to nurse. Progress came quickly after that.

In the new roomOn Saturday, we were moved up to the regular floor, and on Sunday, we were allowed to give her a sponge bath. Her sensitive skin had reacted badly to the adhesive of all the tape, and I imagine it was a relief to get it all off.

I started writing this post when I was still at the beginning of the process of settling back into home and wondering when “normal” would happen again. How long would it take? Recovery is supposed to last six weeks; would it take that long? I did a lot of wandering around my kitchen in the brief moments when I wasn’t walking a fussy baby – not fussy because of any pain in her incision (she didn’t seem to have much), but because all the narcotics and the surgery had given her terrible constipation, which lasted about a week after we got home. It was a little like when I was in college and the semester ended and I always felt like there was something I was supposed to be doing but there wasn’t anything. But the stress and urgency have been slowly unwinding. Abby’s tummy is better and so she’s much happier. We had her post-op visit last Friday and her incision and lungs both looked great. She will be on vasodilator medication for a while as her heart repairs itself, but she should be able to stop that in 3-6 months.¬† I have read to the boys about four or five afternoons out of the past seven, which counts as getting back to normal for us, even though we are still relying on the freezer meals I made before we went into the hospital and the freezer meals my sister-in-law generously made for us.¬† (Her chicken spaghetti is a new favorite for the kids, so I will have to figure out a gluten-free version.)

The problems we are having now are all good ones.¬† I didn’t realize how much the holes in her heart were affecting her activity levels because I didn’t know what effect Down Syndrome and low muscle tone were “supposed” to have.¬† When she just lay limply on her back beneath the baby gym was it because she was tired out from her heart working so hard or was it because low muscle tone and poor motor control made it too hard for her to reach up and swat a toy?¬† It turns out it was her heart, and I learned yet another lesson about assuming “supposed to”s.¬† Now when we put her down on her back, she is bending in half to kick the toys with her feet, or more often, flipping immediately onto her tummy and pushing up on her arms. No, she isn’t quite on par with other 6 month olds, but it’s a vast improvement over 3 weeks ago when she was struggling just to hold her head up. Our problem now is that she rolls over onto her tummy to nap but spits up as soon as she does. So – no napping these days unless I’m nursing her, walking, or rocking her.

NappingNapping on the neck roll she was supposed to sleep on when she first came home to make sure her airway stayed clear. We’ve done away with it now, because it just gets in the way!

Actually, bringing her home was a little like a do-over of sorts. Because every part of her body is getting more oxygen, her digestion has also been affected. She is able to process more food now,and she certainly does! At first we thought she was waking up at night because the nurses had changed her schedule by waking her up at 4 AM in the hospital. But it turns out that really she is hungry and has been nursing almost like a newborn. I have to tell you that there are days when 19 years of pregnancy and nursing catches up with me. I’m pretty sure that getting up at 3 AM every night never used to make me feel so tired, although I know I complained about it more!

So, little by little, we are figuring things out. I have started trying to sort out school for the new year again — although I have to keep reminding myself that what I can do there is just what I can do as well — and Andy and Gareth, who is home for another week or so, have resumed the painting that screeched to a halt when we found out Rose needed surgery sooner rather than later. Because of her sleep issues – blessedly normal sleep issues, I have to say, at least in this family — I haven’t really had time to think about blogging much, but I do hope that “normal” will creep back in enough that I can share with you what we’re doing this year, and how Rose is doing, and what I’m learning about Down Syndrome.¬†For now, I just wanted everyone to know how thankful we are for all the thoughts and prayers that have been directed our way! They have really kept us going, and we have been so blessed by all the support we have received.

 

 

Quick Takes: Preparing for Surgery

There are a lot of posts I want to write right now, but there’s nothing like saying, “I’m planning to post more often!” to encourage life to become too full to post anything.¬† So here are a few bits and pieces of our lives lately.


The biggest piece of our life right now is getting ready for Rose’s surgery later in July.¬† We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride as far as her heart defect goes. For a while, the cardiologist seemed hopeful that the biggest hole in her heart (she has more than one) might close on its own in spite of its size.¬† But on our last visit at the end of June, nothing had changed.¬† The hole was still exactly the same size, and the pressure of the blood flow through her lungs was still too high.¬† So we were launched from relative calm into a whirlwind of surgeon meetings and arrangements at home.

I take that back.¬† It wasn’t really “relative calm” at all.¬† It was sort of “becoming calm again”.¬† We went to the cardiologist at the end of a month of respiratory gunk for everyone but me.¬† Rose developed a double ear infection and was on a nebulizer for a week.¬† Four of my other kids ended up on antibiotics, too, and one is still taking them.¬† So to that point most of our summer vacation had been full of hacking, nose-blowing, and visits to the doctor already.¬† I believe that we surprised the cardiologist when we told him we would rather do the surgery sooner than later because we were skeptical of our ability to remain well for that long.¬† It has just been that kind of year.

My mom is coming to stay with the other kids while Andy and I are at the hospital with Rose.¬† They expect her to be in the hospital about a week, but it could be longer.¬† The surgeon calls her heart defects “garden variety” and tells us that the operation has a 99% success rate.¬† He was wearing a coat that said he was part of the Heart Transplantation Team, so I guess if you’re the sort of person who does heart transplants for little kids, Rose’s operation must seem rather routine.¬† Still, it’s not routine for us.¬† I have heard from many other people whose children have had the surgery or who know someone who has had it that it is really for the best, but it still makes me want to squeeze my eyes shut and take a lot of deep breaths when I think about it.

Rose laughing(This is Rose at almost 4 months old. She’s a big smiler.)


In the midst of all this, our downstairs AC went out.¬† Our house is kind of weird because almost every useful room in it is downstairs; the upstairs is a finished attic space with one bedroom and a large Lego bonus room.¬† Just an FYI, but if you see steam coming out of your vents, it’s probably not a good thing.¬† Anyway, it turned out to be a very, very large freon leak from a really antiquated unit, and we had to have the entire unit replaced.¬† That required shopping around a bit for the best price and then waiting until the HVAC guys could work down their list to get to us, because the weather has been murderously hot since about the first of June, and apparently everyone in the city is having trouble with their air conditioning.¬† But after two weeks we finally have AC again, and it’s very nice but also somewhat ironic that I am now having trouble sleeping without the noise of all the fans going full blast.

Asleep in front of the fan


It’s a long story, but Rose had not been baptized before we went to the cardiologist either.¬† It was basically a function of trying to avoid germs and at the same time falling prey to every single virus that came along for four months.¬† Her baptism ended up being scheduled for 3 PM on a Thursday when neither of my two oldest children were in town.¬† Our lives have never gone “as planned”, but the past five months have definitely been a challenge.¬† The baptism turned out beautifully, although we definitely missed Gareth and Katydid.¬† Katydid has the big camera in Wyoming, so Dennis took pictures on my iPad.

Baptism

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Before the cardiologist’s appointment, I was frantically trying to plan school to the extent that we could start up on a lighter summer schedule on July 5.¬† Needless to say, we did not start school on July 5.¬† I have a few things for the boys to do and the goal is (I hope, if everything goes well) to start school on a regular schedule, the week of Labor Day.¬† (This is me trying to be optimistic and not terrified.)¬† I do hope that we will be able to settle down in September a little bit, but if that doesn’t happen we’ll somehow adjust.¬† George (age 13) is heavily in unschooling mode right now, and because I think it would be a shame to put the brakes on this particular train since it’s left the station, I went ahead and altered his history and literature for the year, too, to account for his interest in Native Americans, pioneering, and the history of Western expansion.¬† The other boys are not quite as unschooly right now, but I am hoping that a Tinker Crate, Kiwi Crate, and Koala Crate will help keep them occupied at least for the week of surgery so that they don’t worry too much.¬† I purchased the Hydraulic Claw, Pinball Machine, and Little Artist crates, if you’d like to know what we got.¬† These will be our first crates, so I’m interested to see what they look like.


Speaking of school planning, we’re going to try something a little different this year.¬† I will still be pulling many of our book selections from Ambleside Online, but I’ll also be using My Father’s World and a couple of Beautiful Feet guides to help me along.¬† Frankly, I cannot stand the thought of another “just focus on the basics” year, even though it seems like this ought to be one.¬† My little ones need more hands-on work.¬† More art.¬† More reading aloud.¬† More attention.¬† I know I could plan a bunch of projects, etc. to go along with Ambleside’s selections, but that sounds like a lot of work right now.¬† I think in topics and not necessarily by books stretched out over terms, so combining some history across kids is going to make me feel a lot less crazy.¬† I hope.¬† I don’t expect that we’ll use anything as is — we never have, so why start now? — but I think having the skeleton and some suggestions for activities will give me back a little brainpower.¬† I have MFW Kindergarten, MFW Adventures (because I didn’t like the curriculum that’s supposed to combine EVERYONE), and Beautiful Feet’s Early American History (Intermediate) and Early American and World History (for 7th grade and up) guides, as well as their History of Western Expansion Pack.¬† Right now my thirteen year old is reading most of the History of Western Expansion books on his own (in addition to some of the books that AO includes on their Year 10 list), but I am thinking of just handing the guide to one of my very methodical ten year olds when we start in the fall.¬† It matches up pretty well with Ambleside’s Year 5, and I think he would enjoy having both the independence and structure.

HT for the MFW/Beautiful Feet combination goes to Farmhouse Schoolhouse, which I have spent a lot of time stalking reading this summer.


Actually, I feel like a real copycat because another resource I discovered on her blog is A Year of Playing Skillfully, a year-long curriculum for 3-7 year olds from the Homegrown Preschooler which focuses heavily on sensory activities.¬† If I haven’t mentioned it already, my three year old needs A LOT of stimulation and attention and this is really right up his alley.¬† The curriculum is pricey, but it collects all the neat things you see here and there in blogs and on Pinterest (etc.) in one place and gives you a place from which to begin, which is (for me) probably the hardest thing.¬† And I expect to use it not only with my 3 year old but with my other kids joining in, and also I think it will be an excellent resource to use with Rose when the time comes.¬† So I shelled out the money.

Year of Playing Skillfully

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

I wish I could say that now I will be posting more, but life is going to be rocky for a while.  Thank you so much for all your prayers and support so far in our journey.  Please keep praying for Rose.

Rose

Linking up at http://thisaintthelyceum.org/sqt-parties-burns-and-collecting-more-data/!