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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Character Training

Earlier this year, I read about a character training program called Character First! on the Large Families on Purpose blog.  (You can see that particular post here.  She gives excellent details.)  I was intrigued because I knew I needed some materials to help me better teach character purposefully to my children.

In the homeschool world, I often read about families that simply read books to their children to give them examples of good or bad character.  There are many wonderful books out there like this, one of our favorites being A Hive of Busy Bees by Effie M. Williams.   However, after several years of doing that I was not seeing the fruit I was looking for.  (Maybe we're just super slow learners here?!)  Yes the kids loved the stories, but they were not drawing out the applications I wanted them too - much less applying it to themselves!

Recently after reading a homeschool planning help book called Plan to Be Flexible by Alicia Kazsuk (see my post here), I determined that our two biggest goals for our school year would be growing in Christ, and growing in character.  (Yes they are related, aren't they?)  Oh yes, there will still be plenty of math, history, literature, etc.  But these two things will have the most impact on my children's lives long term. 

I wanted to share a little of how we are doing character training.  After reading the Large Families on Purpose blogpost, I decided to place an order from the Character First website.  I bought the series 1 notebook that had 9 character trait lessons inside. (I'm not seeing that now on their website - it seems they are now selling these teaching guides individually.  You can see them here along with a free sample.)

The first lesson was "Attentiveness."  I thought the 16 page teacher's guide was excellent.  (It has definitions, examples, real life stories, games, and a reproducible coloring page.  The only thing lacking, in my opinion, was scriptural references.  So I decided I would add that in myself.

About this time, Simply Charlotte Mason came out with a companion guide to their habits training handbook Laying Down the Rails. I already owned the book so I bought the new companion, a 2 volume set called Laying Down the Rails for Children.  The first book is a compilation of all of Charlotte Mason's quotes regarding habits, or character traits as we tend to call them.  The companion book set gives scriptures, stories, poems, and questions for each of the habits laid out in the first book.  Perfect!  I looked up the "attentiveness" section and decided what I wanted to use from it.

Let me just say that I think either of these curriculums are excellent on their own.  But I think they are wonderful combined.  We spend 2-3 weeks per trait, doing a little each school day.

Now if you're like me and "like" to make more work for yourself, you can add in some extras from your own imagination.  (Tabby and I often joke with each other that neither of us are able to do things without adding embellishments to them.)  I made the below things up to add to our lessons. (If you would like to see them, please e-mail me - I will be happy to e-mail you pdfs):

1. Copy work page - for Tabby it has the word "attentiveness" and the definition and a bunch of lines for her to write it out.  For Hunter it had the word in all capital letters.  My idea was for him to highlight the letters.  But he did that once and then grabbed his pen and wrote the word.

2. The "I will" page.  Each character trait has 5 "I wills" listed to further illustrate the definition.  (See a listing of 5 "I wills" on the Large Families on Purpose post here.)  Tabby got these as copy work.  For Hunter I made a page of pictures - one properly illustrating each "I will" and the other not.  He was to circle the correct one for each of the 5 "I wills".

3. Several examples from the Bible to which I added (of course) some clip art (I love google images!) to the page.  For one of the examples, I had different pictures illustrating the Last Supper of Christ and the events leading up to it.  I put the pictures in a random order.  Then as I read the account, the kids numbered the pictures showing the order they occurred in.  (My point being if the disciples were not attentive to the instructions Jesus gave them - they would not have had things ready for the Last Supper!)

I think the above was it for paperwork.  Again those were in addition to the stories, discussion, and games that I had already decided to use from Character First! and Laying Down the Rails for Children.

The kids and I all have a weird obsession with notebooks of all kinds, so this study just screamed "3-ring binder!" to personalize and hold our work in:

I also wrote the definition and posted it on our dining room wall:

And put a related quote, by Isaac Newton, on our chalkboard:

Hunter went through a phase of writing "attentiveness" on a bunch of things:

So - how are we doing?  Are we all being excellent at being attentive?  Hmmm we all still need some work.  However, we all have a much, much better grasp on what exactly "attentiveness" is.  The kids will frequently use the word in their conversations with each other.  When someone wants my attention right that second and I am busy I can say "give me one minute and then I can be attentive to you."  That helps them wait patiently because they understand.  Honestly the study has helped ME to develop these traits better too.  :)

The wisest man in the Bible, Solomon, wrote to his son in Proverbs 4:20: "My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings."  He certainly had many sayings that would help us if we would give them our attention and follow them!

We have also gone through the "obedience" booklet.  This week we are going to start our third one, "truthfulness."  Again, these are all things we have been working on throughout our kids lives.  But doing this purposeful study, has helped solidify understand better.  And, everyone has actually been having FUN learning.

Our Solomon is looking forward to the lessons too!  (And I figure we'll go through them all again at some point so he can hear them from the beginning.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hunter's alternator explanation

Yay - we have gotten more chicken eggs!  Here is Friendly, our star chicken that has now laid several pink eggs.  She is a Buff:

I labeled an empty egg carton "Friendly's Fresh Eggs" and the next day Thorin, an Americana, added a blue egg:

I know it must sound silly, but I am finding it so exciting to have fresh eggs being laid right in our coop by our own chickens!  It seems magical or something.  :)

I think Solomon must be looking for some of those fresh eggs!  He's such a climber:

I am reviewing letter sounds with Hunter, my worksheet loving 5 year old, in homeschool right now.  We needed a picture of an "A" word.  I was throwing out easy words like "ax" or "apple" and then he suddenly came up with "alternator."  (The car part.)  So he drew an alternator.  Then he drew parts hooked onto it.  Then he decided he needed to explain it to me.  Wow.  Here is the picture:

Here is a video of him explaining how an alternator works in a car.  (I hope you can understand ok - he's all stuffy sounding from a cold or allergies):

[Blogger keeps giving me a message that there is an error uploading this video. I will have to try again and see if I can get it to work.]

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Peep! First egg, goat milk soap, and Solomon walking video

First, I wanted to share a short video of Solomon walking.  A number of relatives have asked me to post one.  (If you are reading this post via e-mail you may have to click into the blog to view it, if you are interested.)  I took this video after Solomon's bath the other night:

Last evening I heard Tabby yelling something as she burst into the house.  I was afraid something had happened to one of the animals but then she excitedly held out her hand.  The first chicken egg!  And most likely laid by a buff named Friendly.  (You can see a picture of Friendly at Tabby's blog, The Goat Chick, here.)   Tabby ate the egg this morning for breakfast and declared it "delicious!"

The big goat in this picture is Christa, the nanny that Tabby milks each morning:

Last week, Tabby and I finally attempted to make goat milk soap using goat milk courtesy of Christa.  I had done some online research trying to determine which soap recipe to use but it was rather overwhelming because I had never made soap before and felt clueless.  I finally settled on this recipe from the Soap Making Resource website.  The owner seems to be a soap making fanatic so I felt comfortable following his instructions.  :)  I ordered the goat milk soap kit.  It came with step-by-step instructions that were easy to follow.  Here are our supplies:

 Melting the oils (olive, palm kernel, rice bran, coconut, palm, castor) and shea butter:

This is the goat milk mixed with lye.  (Guess what it is no LIE that LYE burns.  We used gloves at first but later we got a bit cocky and didn't use them and had a little lye splash on our skin. Ouch!)

Here is the finished soap mixture (everything above combined plus eucalyptus and spearmint essential oils added in) poured into an acrylic mold.  (Supposed to be better for goat milk soap than wood because the soap can stay cooler):

About a day later I popped the soap out.  It was pretty soft.  It is now on a rack for about 6 weeks to cure.  (SIX weeks!  We're so anxious to try it now!)

I really enjoyed the soap making process and plan to make another batch very soon.  Tabby and I would like to sell the soap.  Tabby came up with this name:  "The Goat Chick's Utterly Natural Goat Milk Soap."  Thanks Christa!   

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." - James 1:17

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hannah's Blankie Blessings

I've often noted that I find it very therapeutic to make things with my hands.  Creating things, like writing, gives me a feeling of peace.  So, I was very interested to read the other day that new scientific research reports that 20 minutes of creativity will reduce stress by 45%.   Wow! Creative time should be mandatory! 

I have shared, many times here, how the kids and I love to do creative projects in memory of Lilly.  It makes us feel better and has helped a lot with the healing process.  (I've been compiling ideas from old blog posts into one handy list to have as an online resource for people, accessed by a tab at the top of this blog:  I hope to finish that soon.) 

One family that we've grown to love during our Trisomy 18 journey has been the Kwant family.  Their angel Hannah Grace lived for 64 days.  (Read her story at: )  They are a lot like us and their oldest daughter has even become Tabby's best friend.  If only they didn't live all the way across the country from us!  Anyway, their family does a lot of creative projects in memory of their Hannah.  (I have links to some of their memory ideas listed my above mentioned "Memory Ideas" tab.)

Recently, some of the Kwant children finished sewing 180 blankets (yes that's 180!!) to donate to the Everett Providence NICU and the Seattle Children's Hospital (both hospitals in Washington state) in Hannah's memory.  Below are some pictures their mother shared with me and gave me permission to post here.

I love their donation tags, attached to each blanket.  Here is the front and back:

Here are some of the blankets with a framed picture of Hannah:

Some of the Kwant children with the 180 blankets.  Notice the purple Hannah Bear.  (Just like red/white/blue are "Lilly colors", the Kwants know yellow/pink as "Hannah colors.")

Finally, here is a picture of the children at one of the hospitals with blankets:

I know that making the blankets and donating them made this family feel good!  We are still happy with our hospital donation (here and here) and hope to do more in the future. 

Something funny that Tabby and Cassie realized at one point, was that their little sisters had the same cardigan with an elephant on it.  Here is Hannah:

And here is Lilly (at 7 months):

I know the recipients of the blankets will be blessed, just as we were when Lilly received a blanket from this family.  I remember being so impressed with how soft and well made it was.  (The flower headband is from them too.):

I love the scripture on the Hannah donation card as it is one that has brought us a lot of comfort since Lilly has passed away:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy 1st birthday Solomon!

One year ago today, our rainbow baby Solomon was born.  One year and nine months ago, our sweet Lilly passed away.  What a gift Solomon has been in bringing healing to our broken hearts.  To filling our arms back up.  To bringing more amazement back into our lives.  I thank the Lord for him every day, as I do for our other children.  Believe me, I do not take any child for granted.

I've purposely delayed giving Solomon grains of any kind, so when it came time to think "birthday cake" I wasn't sure what to do.  Hunter pointed out that Solomon's favorite food is bananas so he suggested a banana cake.  So that's what I made.  I had no idea if he would eat it, but figured we needed a photo if nothing else!:

Solomon wasn't sure what to do with it:

But he found he enjoyed hitting the cake with his spoon and then throwing bits onto the floor:

Solomon thought eating wrapping paper was much more tasty:

Yesterday I made Solomon his birthday t-shirt.  Of course it was huge on him today, but I know it will fit a bit better each birthday to come:

After supper, I gave Solomon a piece of "Lilly chocolate" to try.  He decided that was a birthday treat much more to his liking:

(You can see Lilly eating her chocolate here. )

"O give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known His doings among the peoples!"  - 1 Chronicles 16:8

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A few natural (and cheap!) recipes

Jesus said:  "Treat others the way you want to be treated." - Matthew 7:12

Do you ever have days where you feel like you're quoting this verse to your kids constantly?  I hope I'm not alone!

I like natural products and enjoy making them.  Plus they usually save money too.  Recently while Tabby was having her piano lesson, her teacher's husband asked me how I killed fruit flies.  I responded that I didn't but should as our kitchen has been overwhelmed by them this summer.  He said that his method of killing the fruit flies last year did not work this year.  I asked what it was, he told me, and I came home and tried it.  It worked like a charm for us!  Much to his surprise and confusion when I told him the following week at piano lesson.

To make fruit fly killer, all you have to do is fill a little bowl with about an inch of apple cider vinegar, squirt in a little dish washing soap, and leave it on your kitchen counter.  I've been gleefully delighted with the rapidly growing body count of the fruit flies in our bowl!

I used to make my own laundry detergent, but now prefer soap nuts.  You can read my post about them here:  God made laundry detergent.  (You can get 10% the purchase of soap nuts by clicking through the top right Olive Shoot Institute ad and using Lilly10 as your discount code.)

The other day I made eye makeup remover using a recipe I found here.  I mixed: 
2 Tbsp witch hazel
2 Tbsp sweet almond oil (you can use the oil of your choice)
2 Tbsp filtered water
I also pierced a vitamin E capsule and squeezed the contents in.  Poured it all into a little glass jar and viola!

Speaking of oil, Tabby and I like this face cleanser I found here.  (More details in that link.)  I make it with a one-to-one ratio of castor oil and extra virgin olive oil, then add a few drops of tea tree oil to fight acne.  I wondered if the oil would make my skin feel oily but it doesn't.  Just soft and clean.

Finally I really like this all-purpose cleaner that I've been using in the kitchen.  I found it here.  In a spray bottle I mix:
1 tsp borax
1/2 tsp washing soda
1 tsp liquid castille soap
essential oils (your choice.  I use:  4 drops lemon, 4 drops lavender, 10 drops sweet orange)

What about this face - do you think it needs a cleaning?!

Who me?

the berry and veggie goatee
If you like making your own products, there are tons of recipes online.  You may have guessed by now, I am a book person.  Two books which I frequently use are:

The Naturally Clean Home:  150 Super-Easy Herbal Formulas for Green Cleaning by Karyn Siegel-Maier

Organic Body Care Recipes: 175 Homemade Herbal Formulas for Glowing Skin & a Vibrant Self by Stephanie Tourles

In the second book listed, I use recipes for toners and astringents that work well.  There are also facial cleanser recipes I really like though I've been using the oil one described above simply because it's faster.  There is also a lip balm recipe I like though I've adapted it by leaving out a few ingredients.  A hand lotion recipe worked great for me this past winter.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite homemade recipe to share? I'd love to hear it!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy 5 years Hunter!

Hunter celebrated his 5th birthday today with a glazed donut.  (This was his request instead of a cake.)  Blowing out the candles:

All summer long, Hunter has had one request for a present.  His own digital camera.  Here it is:

Several years ago, wrote the names of each of our children on a size large white t-shirt.  Each year on their birthday, I take a picture of them in their shirt and put the picture in a little album.  It's fun to see how they fill out the shirt a little better each year.

I keep the t-shirts in the top of my closet.  Finding Lilly's birthday t-shirt made me smile today.  She got to wear it once.  She looks like she is swimming in the shirt!

This afternoon I made up the goats' dewormer balls.  (They get them once a week as a preventative.  Since they're herbal, they don't build up in their system and stop working like the regular ones do.)  I call them "Goaty Delight."  (For some reason I think of "Turkish Delight" in the Narnia series.)  All the goats love to see me coming with them, except Daisy.  I have to force them into her mouth.  Herbs, slippery elm bark, and molasses.  Wanna try it?

After feeding the goats, I popped into the chicken coop to check for eggs.  We still haven't found any yet, but we should be any day now.  Taffeta (the "Trisomy 18 chick") was relaxing under the nesting boxes:

Then I noticed a patch of tall yellow flowers in a clearing, that I had not noticed before.  Tabby and Dixie came to see them with me:

It often feels like Christmas living here.  So many surprises pop up here and there.  I brought some of the surprise yellow flowers inside with me:

"All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." - John 1:3