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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, November 23, 2014

Cold, Crafts, Photos, and Goats (!)

This fall has been abnormally cold here in North Carolina.  Wednesday morning it was FREEZING in our house.  That didn't seem that odd since it is a very old house and we turn the heat low at night to save money.  But this particular morning it only 23 degrees outside AND our heater was broken.

Brrrrrrrrr ...

Coldness just seemed to ooze out of every inch of the house.  Thankfully we have a wood stove in the living room and Frank had a fire roaring in it before he left for work.  It felt good when we sat right in front of it.  (It isn't very good for heating more than just that room.)  Thankfully we also have base board heat in the house.  We never run it because it is ridiculously expensive, but I was thankful for the option.  So the house wasn't too frigid after awhile.  Reading right in front of the wood stove was the best place to be:

 A heating repair guy came out that morning.  MORE to be really thankful about!  Hunter bundled up and followed the repairman outside, to watch the repair while talking the man's ear off.  What a great homeschool lesson.  :)  It turned out the man that did the repair was the one that put the unit in for this house, a bit over 20 years ago.   He got the heater running - it needed a new circuit board.  Hunter got to keep the old one and studied the thing for hours.  (The man was a real quiet talker that mumbled, but he did say clearly how impressed he was with the kinds of questions Hunter asked and what he seemed to know already!)

I am SO THANKFUL to live in a time of central heat!  I was so, so cold Wednesday morning and I kept thinking what a wimp I was.  When our house was built in 1907 - the original owners had no electricity.  The only heat they had was from their fireplaces and a large cook stove in the kitchen.  People in the past were obviously a lot tougher than I am!  Of course maybe it helped not knowing any better.

On a different note, I recently found a book that we just HAD to buy at the thrift store.  It is called Thank You Solomon by Charlotte Lundy. 

Of course my Solomon "had" to have it.  And then when I opened the front cover, I couldn't believe the inscription - it started "Dear Hunter!"

I got a book with both Solomon and Hunter in it for less than $1.00.  Oh, and the story is good too.  It is about a boy that gets a puppy and his dad tells him a story about King Solomon in the Bible to teach him about responsibility. 

Last week, Tabby wrapped up an online colored pencil techniques class ("Drawing with Colored Pencils").  She took it from  This is a really neat site that offers over 500 classes at really reasonable prices.  (They often run great sales!)  Classes are on all sorts of "crafty" things in the categories of:  sewing & quilting, cake & cooking, yard & fiber arts, aft & photo, home & garden, jewelry, papercrafts, etc.  What's nice is that you can watch your class any time, and review it as much as you like.  You can also ask the instructor questions and they reply promptly. 

Here is one of Tabby's projects:

Tabby also likes drawing with regular pencil.  Here is the collection of Star Wars drawings she has done recently:

Last week, a friend sent me a link to a blog of a mom of 14 children, who had a post on "How to Organize Digital Photos."  (On my blog, in one post, I had asked you all how you handled this daunting task, and have posted some ideas people gave me in another post.)  I thought this mom had some good ideas.  One of which has really stood out in my mind is that she takes 10-15 minutes - every week - to keep up with photos.  That makes photos seem so much more manageable, doesn't it?  Another technique she uses is called "Project Life."  I only found out about it a few months ago, and am very interested.  It is a way to easily scrapbook your photos - simply by slipping photos and memorabilia into pocket photo pages and adding journaling cards where you want to.  I still haven't tackled my own photo backlog, but am really hoping to this winter.

Nutmeg - our only goat that has never had a kid
We are about to undertake a new adventure with our goats.  I am watching CraigsList, looking to buy a buck.  (A Lamancha or Nubian.)  We are hoping to breed our three goats this winter.  Once they are all pregnant, we can re-sell the buck.  (The family we got our goats from did this successfully - via CraigsList - for 3 years.)  It will be so fun to have lots of little goats running around this spring.  (We would then sell the kids when they are old enough.) 

Goats remind me of goat milk.  Which reminds me of goat milk soap.  Recently, The Goat Chick (aka Tabby) and I made peppermint scented goat milk soap.  It smells divine!  I can't wait to try it.  Right now it is curing but will be done mid-December.  We will be sell it for $4.00/bar.   :)

Peppermint Goat Milk Soap - still in the molds
This Barred Rock hen may look pretty and innocent.  But watch out ...

She is a STALKER!  (Hence her name - "Stalker.") She follows us everywhere in the yard.  She used to peck at me but now just follows closely.  Very strange chicken ...

"[I]n everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some homeschool helps and more Montessori activities

This has been my best year ever, as far as planning and organizing for homeschool.  It's a shame it's taken me so long to get to this point.  (I started schooling Tabby 8 years ago.)  Though really every year I try new methods.

I spend a chunk of time on Saturdays typing out all the assignments for the next week.  This saves so much time and stress during the busy week itself.  I am using Ambleside Online's curriculum schedule for the bulk of our day, and adding in other things of our own choosing.  I print out my assignment lists and keep them in a binder.  Of course I had to embellish the cover of my binder - I used some vintage clip art:

I haven't figured out how to post documents in my blog, so maybe these pictures will work well enough for you to see examples the assignment pages I made.  This is Hunter's schedule for one week (I use the same method for Tabby):

After I am finished and print out the week's schedule, I load up a tote with Hunter's schoolwork for Monday:

I load up Tabby's work too, using the workbox method.  (see here for Sue Patrick's Workbox System. I started using workboxes years ago with Tabby, as the method really helps her.)

There is a separate drawer for each assignment.  A card (which I made) shows the subject:

When Tabby has completed her work for a subject, she turns the card over (they are secured by velcro dots):

If it is a subject that she will be working with me on, I add an extra card indicating that:

I have a stack of workboxes for Hunter too, though at this point, I use his for storing his curriculum.  It really saves time each evening when I am loading up the tote with his work for the next day:

Sue Patrick recommends open boxes on carts for this system, but Tabby felt it was too cluttery and overwhelming looking.  So we use two "6-drawer mobile organizers" from Staples, that are stacked and taped together.

The week before last, I introduced a new Montessori activity to Solomon each day.  For Monday, I gave him an "acorn sensory bin" (I got the idea from here).  It has popcorn kernels, acorns, and pine cones in it.  (Solomon helped me pick up acorns the day before.)  And I gave him a tray of scoops and pouring devices.  (Looking back, I probably gave him too many.)

I instructed him he was to keep the everything off the floor and in the bin.  He did pretty well with that on that day.  But another day, he was playing and suddenly started throwing and kicking the corn and acorn all over the place.  That session was ended abruptly!

Tuesday we did color matching.  I took some colored pieces of foam sheets and stapled them to make a pocket.  I used a green piece of felt because I didn't have foam in that color.  (I had seen some really nice, sewn ones on Etsy for sale which is where I got the idea.  Mine were not nearly as nice, but they worked.)  I used marker to color the popsicle sticks:

Solomon had some trouble getting the stick into the felt pocket.  The foam was so much better because it slid in easily.

When he was finished, he got the corn/acorn sensory bin back out and played with everything a long time.  He added his stacking/nesting cups to the game:

Wednesday was another color sorting activity.  I took a really neat vintage wooden silverware holder that I had gotten on Ebay, cut colored foam pieces for the slots, got out the little balls and a strawberry huller.  He used the huller to pick up the balls to match to the correct colors:

Solomon has gotten good at matching colors.  But he still doesn't usually get the names of each one right.  So we continue to point out colors of stuff throughout the day.

After he played with this color game a few times, out came the clothesline again.  I continue to be surprised at how much he likes this activity:

Thursday we practiced sorting "big" and "little."  I made signs for them on cardstock and gave Solomon a number of sets of things so he could separate them into big and little piles.  He really liked this and even when he had finished what I gave him, went around the room and gathered up more things to separate.

Friday was easy.  I gave Solomon a book - Montessori Number Work

This is such a neat book.  After counting objects on a page, you turn the page and it shows the number of those objects.  The number is a sandpaper number that is large and you trace it with your finger.  Solomon goes through this book most every day now.  Sometimes with me, but he usually likes to look at it by himself.

I haven't given Solomon any new activities since then.  He has been happy continuing to do those same activities over and over each day.  Plus his cousins gave him some train tracks and Thomas trains to play with, so he has been busy with those.

 As if I don't have enough pictures already in today's post, I am going to add a few more.  Since this is the time of year that colorful leaves on the ground are plentiful, I wanted to share a fun book that is full of ideas of leaf pictures to make.  Look What I Did With a Leaf! by Morteza E. Sohi.

Here is an example of one of the book's creative leaf designs:

 I showed this book to Hunter recently and then we went outside to gather leaves. I made some weird animal creatures:

I sort of expected Hunter to do the same.  But instead he made a leaf machine.  (What in the world was I thinking??!!)

"May the beauty of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—    yes, establish the work of our hands." - Psalm 90:17

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Book List - October

I was very excited to find pansies and mums on clearance at Walmart last Friday.  They were dirt cheap so I didn't feel guilty buying some.  I wanted to plant them in Lilly's garden.  It has been looking so dismal lately - full of dead leaves and dead lily flower stalks.  For some reason I had had it in my head that I could only plant LILY flowers in Lilly's garden.  Of course that would mean only blossoms in the spring and early summer.  Since I buried Blueberry in Lilly's garden, that helped wake up my thinking that it should be a pretty garden - ALL year - since it honored two children.  I know that pansies grow well all winter here, so that is why I bought them.  And how could I resist pink mums?  Solomon helped me clear out all the leaves and I got busy planting.

I read five books last month and what a variety:

Girl Sleuth:  Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak - This book caught my eye at the library and I just had to check it out.  I was a huge Nancy Drew fan growing up.  And I still am.  This is a scholarly book with plenty of footnotes and it took me forever to get through.   Even though I enjoy details - I thought there were way too many unnecessary details in this book.  Still though, I am glad to have read it as I learned so much.  In case you did not know - there is no real "Carolyn Keene."  Just like for you Hardy Boy fans - there is no "Franklin W. Dixon."  Same for Bobbsey Twins, Dana Girls, Tom Swift, etc.  These books all had ghostwriters and were part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  The first Nancy Drew book was published in 1930.  Many books followed.  However, they were revised beginning in 1959.  (I read the revised books when I was growing up.)  I have been enjoying going back and reading the ORIGINAL versions.  They can be very expensive but you can find cheap copies for sale on Ebay, usually from thrift shops like Goodwill.  I must point out one gross error in the book.  The author described Nancy's boyfriend Ned Nickerson as having BLOND hair.  Gasp!  Horror!  Every Nancy Drew fan knows Ned had DARK hair.  You can read that for yourself in The Clue in the Diary, the first book we meet Ned in.  (And yes he has dark hair in the original version too.) 

I still have my Nancy Drew book collection
An Easy Start in Arithmetic by Ruth Beechick - Hunter's one request for his first grade school year was "no more math workbooks!"  So we have been learning math in all sorts of other ways.  And that is fine as I am using Rays Arithmetic Series for his math curriculum which uses a lot of mental math.  (This series is from 1870!)  Not using workbooks of course means more planning on my part.  So I have been getting ideas from the Parent-Teacher Guide for Ray's New Arithmetic, also by Ruth Beechick.  I found An Easy Start in Arithmetic at my library and checked out this little book and found lots of ideas to use in it.  This book is for grades K-3.  The book was useful enough that I  bought my own used copy.  By the way, Donna Young's website also is very helpful if you are teaching math without modern workbooks and curriculum. 

Playing store to teach money value and adding.  Hunter put out the items to "buy" which is why there are motors and lights!

Your Real Food Journey: A Gentle Guide to Steady Progress by Trina Holden - This is an encouraging and informative book on continuing the real food journey.  Even though we have been eating mostly this way for several years, I still learned things and definitely appreciated the encouragement and new ideas.  Chapters range on topics such as menu planning, good fats, dairy, wise preparation of grains, natural sweets, fermented foods, bulk food preparation, and lots of yummy recipes and helpful advice.  Usually when I am looking at recipes in a cook book, I just jot down the ones that sound good on a piece of paper and leave it tucked in the book.  However, when I started to do that with the recipes in this book, I found I was writing them all down!  So I threw away the paper and am just consulting the index instead.  I really enjoyed Trina's first food book:  Real {Fast} Food (see my post here) and her new book has also quickly become a favorite. 

Solomon wearing Tabby's boots
Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith by Matthew Stover - Several months ago we watched the Star Wars movies together as a family, for the first time.  I've always loved the movies and remember collecting Star Wars bubble gum cards and playing with the action figures with my brother when I was little.  Then the new set of movies came out in the early 2000s.  And - a new movie is coming out December 2015 - The Force Awakens.  So the Star Wars saga will continue to pick up new generations of fans.  It was interesting watching the movies at this time in my life.  Frank talked to the kids a lot about good verses evil and pantheism.  Tabby checked out Revenge of the Sith from the library and I decided to read it too so we could talk about it.  I was happily surprised at how well written the book was.  But the story was also very sad, as this is where Anakin turns to the dark side.  Sad sad ending.  I do not like reading sad books very much anymore.  Makes so much sense why George Lucas named the next episode in the series A New Hope.  "Hope" is truly one of my favorite words.

Tabby made this card game - it's "Old Palpatine" (based on "Old Maid")
With Lee in Virginia by G. A. Henty - I've heard a lot of praise for the Henty books in homeschool circles.  Henty wrote a huge number of historical adventure stories in the 1800s.  This book was the first I read.  (It was an assignment for Tabby's history course.)  This book was written from the perspective of Vincent, a Southern teen during the American Civil War.  Vincent was a spirited and brave young man and definitely had a lot of adventures.  I really enjoyed the book.  (I have always loved learning about the War Between the States.)  Tabby didn't really care for the book overall.  She thought there were too many battle details.  I found one really funny typo in the paperback copy we had.  Instead of the Battle of "Bull Run" it said "Bull Buns" in one place.  Ha!  One thing I like about reading books written about events that happened close to when the author was writing them is that there is less chance of revisionist history!

sign I painted to hang on our chicken coop
So - what have you read lately?

Monday, November 3, 2014

October's Montessori activities and Reformation Day

I have to admit, my miscarriage last month knocked the creative side out of me.  I felt flat about everything and therefore we just did the basics.  Even the "basics" felt overwhelming at times though as there are an awful lot of "basics" around here.  One thing I just did not do was to introduce any new Montessori activities to Solomon.  I felt sort of bad about that but of course he was just fine without them.

Last week though, I got it together better, and made a list up of 5 new activities.  I only ended up putting together 3 though, because Solomon enjoyed working with them so much and wanted to repeat them every day.

First was a color matching activity.  Solomon can match colors pretty well, but he still gets all the names of colors confused much of the time.  I painted 4 of those Styrofoam blocks that are for artificial flower arranging.  I also painted several toothpicks to match each one.  Solomon pushed the toothpicks into the matching blocks:

Solomon did this activity many times in a row.  Then he added his own twist.  He got out his cars and matched them to the blocks:

A bit later, I was deeply engrossed with schooling Hunter.  I suddenly became conscious of a strange noise coming from where Solomon was working.  Oh no!  He had been using his fingers to dig deeply into the Styrofoam.  Pieces of all sizes were gouged out and all over Solomon, the tray, and his mat.  What a mess!  We "played" clean up next.  And I threw the activity into the garbage.  Bummer.  I wonder if those white Styrofoam blocks would work better - they seem to be a bit stronger than the plant type ones.

The next day, I gave Solomon an object-picture matching game I had made.  I had bought a little farm set and then took a picture of each piece.  I printed out the pictures, laminated them, and cut them into cards. 

I gave the activity to Solomon and helped him spread out the cards and then showed him how to match a farm animal to the appropriate card.  He loves matching games and so he quickly went to work.  Even Hunter was interested:

It is cute how little kids think out loud.  For each piece he would say "Let's see ..."  Then when he put the animal on the card to match it he said "There!"  When he finished everything he's say "Do it again!"  This activity was a big hit. And ... did not make a mess.  At some point I'd like to re-print the pictures and write the words on each.  That way he will be exposed to words more.

For the third day, I took some scrap fabric and cut it into squares.  Then I got some of the old style of clothespins:

This activity proved to be much more challenging than I would have thought.  I also gave him the kind of clothespins you pinch to open, but after trying them, he went back to the other kind to continue to work with them.

The next day, Solomon made up his own activity.  He got out some plastic cups, plastic utensils, and some plastic bears we use as math manipulatives.  He kept busy pouring, scooping, and stirring:

Solomon played with the farm animal cards and clothesline activities every day, so I decided not to do anything new for Friday.

Friday was Reformation Day!  I wasn't up to getting together all the activities we did last Reformation Day, but we still celebrated the day.  I read a little bit about Martin Luther to the kids. I used several quotes by Luther for Tabby's dictation work.  Tabby made a "Diet of Worms" cake.  (Worms was the city in Germany where Martin Luther was told to recant his writings by the Catholic church.)  And we watched our favorite movie about Martin Luther (the 2004 version starring Joseph Fiennes).

Tabby covered the cake with gummy worms
Finally, here are two projects that Hunter did last month.  One of the many benefits to homeschooling is that there is time for this kind of exploration and experimenting.  My hair dryer died, and of course Hunter took it apart.  He then turned it into a flashlight:

He also received a hard drive in the mail from his Uncle Dennis.  Dennis included several pages, explaining how everything in it worked and how to take it apart.  Hunter was thrilled with this activity:

I'm armed with a fresh list of activities for Solomon this week.  I will share what we actually do.  I like getting ideas from other blogs, and maybe you will get an idea or two from this one.  :)

"A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." - Proverbs 16:9