Our Christmas

We had an excellent Christmas. Everyone was very happy with their gifts and the little guys are old enough now to pick out presents to give other people so they were pretty excited about that. As an added bonus, my parents finally arrived a few days before Christmas and are working on getting all their stuff unpacked making us a multi-generational household once again.

We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. Jamie and I also did pretty much all our Christmas shopping that day. Adrian was a little puzzled by all the wrapped packages under the tree. This is the first year we’ve done that (since all the kids have figured out Santa isn’t real and everyone is old enough not to open anything before Christmas).
Our Christmas

I got 24 little Christmas books and wrapped them all up with a piece of an Advent Nativity my mom made me years ago. Each evening from December 1st to 24th, the boys unwrapped a book for me to read to them and put the Nativity piece up to finish the picture. The boys also insisted that I make a countdown chain for them to rip off one piece each day. They love countdown chains.
Our Christmas

The kids left their shoes out and got candy and little presents for St. Nicholas Day.
Our Christmas

We got a huge surprise when it actually snowed. Considering we live in south Texas, this was definitely something unusual.
Our Christmas

We went to Main Street Bethlehem in Burnet and the Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls. Both were very amazing displays.
Our Christmas

We did our annual Random Acts of Christmas Kindness December 1st through 24th.
Our Christmas

My parents couldn’t find their stockings before Christmas (we found them a couple days later), so we got ones from Target for them on Christmas Eve (not much of a selection, but 70% off).
Our Christmas

Christmas morning our stockings were full and there were presents for the animals, too. Lola’s pile was a bit bigger than all the others.
Our Christmas

Everyone was quite happy with what they were given.
Our Christmas

But then there was the totally awesome present. Cameron decided to get a Nintendo Switch for him and his siblings to share. Ani got a couple games to play on it. The little guys were so surprised and so excited.

It really made a wonderful Christmas absolutely unforgettable. Even though Christmas is all put away now (did that on Saturday), wonderful memories were made. Merry Christmas a little late (or really, really early – your choice).
Our Christmas

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Science: Stars

Weeks 11 and 12 of school we learned about stars using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 7.

We learned about how stars are classified (our sun is a G).
Science: Stars

The boys researched famous physicists and gave oral reports on them. Adrian chose Neil deGrasse Tyson, Fritz pick Stephen Hawking, and Cameron chose Richard Feynman.
Science: Stars

We learned about the life cycle of stars.
Science: Stars

We learned about the zodiac, identified which one we each are, and all agreed that the strengths/weaknessses descriptions of people with each sign were silly. (Cameron’s Libra, Fritz is Cancer, Adrian is Gemini, Ani is Aquarius, my mom is Virgo, my dad is Capricorn, I’m Aries, and Jamie and Ani’s boyfriend are Scorpio.)
Science: Stars

We watched a video about how we are all connected and how amazing that is.
Science: Stars

For several nights we checked outside trying to see the stars, but apparently forgot we live in south Texas where, this time of year, there is always some cloud cover.

Multi-Generational Living… Again

My parents were supposed to move to Texas shortly after we did. We bought a 5 bedroom house with them in mind (no stairs to the front door, craft room, big master suite on the main floor, laundry right outside the master suite). And now we’ve lived here over 4 years and they are still in Maryland.

Life happened in the last 4 years. My uncle got very sick and my mother cared for him until he passed away. Then my dad got pancreatic cancer and had to go through major surgery and chemo. They tried to put their house up for sale last year, but the realtor just disappeared and never listed it. It was finally put up for sale (with a different realtor) this spring.

They knew their house needed a certain buyer, but they weren’t in a hurry and were willing to wait for the right person to come along. They live in a house built (by my grandparents) in 1945 on 8 1/2 acres with a couple large fields and lots of woods. It’s about an hour outside of DC in a relatively rural area.

The right person (well, couple) has come along. They are a young couple who grow organic fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Because of various reasons, they most likely will not actually close on the house until December (but possibly October). But the contract is signed. My parents have sold their house.

So, in a few months, we’ll be back to having three generations living all together. In the meantime, we need to finish the boys’ room, move the WiiU/TV to their room, finish cleaning out my parents’ room, clean the shelves in the craft room off (yet again), and who knows what else to prepare for their arrival and merging their stuff with ours. It’ll be a new adventure!

Welcome to 2017!

We’ve made it to yet another year. This year Ani will turn 17(!) in February, Cameron 16 in October, Fritz 11 in July, and Adrian will be 9 in June. I will be 39 in April, Jamie will turn 42 in November, and we will celebrate 19 years of marriage in June.

In the fall, Cameron will start 10th grade, Fritz will begin 6th (middle school!), and Adrian will be in 4th grade. Ani will graduate in June. Hopefully, she’ll be healthy enough by the fall to take at least some on-line college classes.

Cameron will test for his second degree black belt in June and with any luck (and some better health) Ani will test for hers in December.

Ani will be seeing an endocrinologist the end of this month. We’re really hoping for some good, solid answers, a diagnosis, and a plan for treating whatever the heck is wrong with her.

Jamie and I are planning a trip to visit his mom in Ireland at some point this year. It’s been almost four years since we’ve seen her in person. If all goes well, my parents will finally sell their house and move in with us… in 6 months to a year (it’s always 6 months to a year).

During Family Home Evening last night, we all set some goals for the new year.
Jamie: Grow food we regularly eat rather than what he things sounds cool
Me: Tell the kids what chores I want them to do rather than expect them to notice things that need to get done and get annoyed when they don’t notice or do it
Ani: Get diagnosed with what is wrong with her
Cameron: Do more stop motion animation
Fritz: Play with the sugar gliders more often
Adrian: Start a YouTube channel
Maddie, an almost 17-year-old who collects mothers because hers passed away and spends a lot of time at our house: Get a job
Whole Family (Maddie came up with this one): Go on a family date every other month

Between the things we know are going to happen and the goals we’ve set, it’s going to be a great year!

My Nativities

I collect nativities. I have almost 30 of them out this Christmas, though I must have left some at my parents’ when we moved because I remember some that are not here.

My Nativities

I think I have a total of around 35. The rest will come with my parents when they move in with us.

My Nativities

My collection started innocently enough. I had three or four of them and they made me happy.

My Nativities

I happened to mention to Uncle Ralph that I seemed to have started a nativity collection and I loved to look at them.

My Nativities

He gave me one that Christmas. And another the next Christmas. And then another. And then he started giving me an amazing Lenox nativity part by part. That one is utterly amazing and beautiful to look at.

My Nativities

Some of my nativities are tiny. Some are big. Some represent other cultures. Some are just silly. One even doubles as an Advent calendar.

My Nativities

One doesn’t match at all and was found piece by piece at antique stores. One came from Panama where my Uncle Lawrence was serving as a Catholic priest.

My Nativities

One was made by Ani and Cameron when they were 8 and 9ish using upside down clay pots as part of a Christmas study we were using that December from Discover the Scriptures.

My Nativities

Every one of my nativities has a story. This one is from Uncle Ralph, that one is from my best friend Kimberlee, this one was made by my mom.

My Nativities

Looking at them brings me joy. Thinking about where I got each one and who gave them to me brings me even greater joy.

My Nativities

The best part is they only come out once a year for a few weeks. This means they are not cluttering up my house year round and becoming part of the background that I don’t even really see when I look around.

My Nativities

Instead, they remain very special. Putting them out, I remember their stories. Looking at them those few weeks each year, they make me happy. I truly love my nativity collection.

Ani’s Room, Part 2

Several months ago I posted about starting to redo Ani’s room. It’s been slow going, but we’re almost done (much to Cameron’s delight since his room is next – thankfully his plan is way simpler than Ani’s!).

Once we had her room all painted white, I used Frog Tape to form randomly sized triangles all around her room.
Ani's Room, Part 2

Then we used the five colors Ani picked out (yellow, blue, purple, orange, and green) to randomly paint inside the triangles. (The exception to the triangles is behind the shelves where it is pink and behind the desk where it is deep pinkish red.)
Ani's Room, Part 2

When we pulled off the tape, the edges were rather fuzzy. The texture on our walls makes it so good lines take a lot of work. I spent about 40 or so hours listening to Literary Disco podcasts and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and making those lines nice and straight. (Side note: I usually can’t pay attention to audiobooks, but while doing something mindless apparently I can.)
Ani's Room, Part 2

Jamie, Cameron, and Fritz installed the floor. Once we got a good saw it went in so fast. It’s gorgeous.
Ani's Room, Part 2

We put in new baseboard trim. The old stuff looked white until we painting the room white. Then it looked like an ugly shade of yellowish beige.
Ani's Room, Part 2

I painted the shelves white (they were as ugly as the old baseboards).
Ani's Room, Part 2

We installed an outlet with USB ports. We painted the outlet and light switch covers random colors from the triangles and screwed them in place. The outlet covers on the shelves/desk wall are painted the pink/pinkish red opposite what the walls they are on.
Ani's Room, Part 2

We got a bedset that goes nicely with the room and white cordless blinds for the windows. Ani loves being back in her room again even though it’s not quite done yet (she was sleeping in the room my parents will be in once they move here).
Ani's Room, Part 2

We still need to finish painting her door white and put that up, get curtains for her windows, and do a few touch-ups on the triangles. Her closet is a different story. We removed the door and wire shelving and painted the walls and ceiling using the leftover paint from the shelves/desk wall. In there, she is planning to build chests to hold her clothes that double as reading benches. She’s planning to get a little chandelier and beads to go in the doorway making it a nice, cozy little nook. We’re going to move on to Cameron’s room before we finish her closet, though.

What Homeschooling Moms Want You to Know

Anyone can homeschool.
There is nothing special about people who homeschool. I often hear, “I just couldn’t homeschool.” In every case, if they wanted to, I have no doubt they could and would be great at it. Homeschooling does take dedication and a lot of time. This is true. But especially nowadays with so many curriculum options, it’s easy to put together an excellent, well rounded education for any age student.

We’re not all superwomen.
Let’s face it. All moms have to juggle where kids need to be when. Homeschooling moms just keep their kids home and do a few hours of school while moms of public schoolers get their kids to and from school, help with or direct homework, volunteer, and do all sorts of other things related to their kids’ schooling, too.

We’re not all ridiculously creative.
I have two friends who are seriously creative. The first puts on these elaborate parties for her girls every holiday complete with themed food and decorations. The other made these incredible t-shirts for her kids to wear when they went to Disney World recently. Every craft she makes turns out amazing. The first friend is a homeschooler. The second is not. Just like some moms of public schoolers are ridiculously creative, some moms of homeschoolers are. And some moms are not creative, and others are everywhere in between. As far as creativity goes, homeschooling doesn’t make us any different from other moms.

We worry about our kids’ education like crazy.
While the proliferation of curriculum choices makes it easier to homeschool, it also makes it easier to second guess what we are using and feel paralyzed about making the “right” choice. We worry that we’re not covering everything and that we’re leaving huge gaps. We worry that the choices we make for curriculum aren’t the best ones for our kids, or if homeschooling at all is the right choice. When it comes right down to it, if something is missed or goes wrong, it is our fault. There is no one else to blame. There’s a lot to worry involved when you’re completely in charge of your kids’ education.

Sometimes we get burned out.
Sometimes we wish that big yellow bus would stop and pick up our kids. Sometimes we are tired of the worry and time homeschooling takes. For some reason the most common time for this to happen is February, but burn out can happen at any time. Burn out, though, does not automatically mean the kids should be put in public school. What it means is a little break or switching to doing something fun (like a unit study) for a few days is needed and usually we’re ready to get back to it when the break is over.

We don’t think you sending your kids to public school is bad.
Just because we homeschool, it doesn’t mean we are judging you for sending your kids to public school. Yes, we think homeschooling is the right choice for our own family. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be doing it. It does not mean we think it is bad or wrong that homeschooling is not the right choice for your family. I’ve been homeschooled/homeschooling for a lot of years and I’ve only encountered a handful of truly anti-public school, all people should homeschool are terrible if they don’t, type people. They are definitely the extreme (albeit often vocal) minority.

We are not all super organized.
Like creativity, this is another one that varies. You will find incredibly organized homeschooling moms who have their schedule planned for the whole year before the year even starts (that would be me) all the way to moms who fly by the seat of their pants. A couple homeschooling mom friends of mine were looking at my “brain” (bullet journal) and weren’t sure whether to be horrified or impressed. When they saw I have days off school pre-planned months ahead of time they decided horrified was probably the right response. The thing is, pre-planning like that works for me and I’d go crazy if I didn’t. Other homeschooling moms would go crazy being so completely planned out. But, no matter how organized (or not) the moms are, the kids still get a good education.

Not all homeschooled kids are super high achieving geniuses.
Some are. That is true. And some are behind or have learning disabilities (actually, that’s a big reason people pull their kids out of school to homeschool them). Most are average, just like in the general population. Because they can go at their own pace and one-on-one schooling takes less time than educating a whole classroom of kids, however, many average homeschooled kids do end up above grade level in one subject or another.

Homeschoolers are a pretty diverse group.
When my parents started homeschooling me, most homeschoolers were whitem middle to upper class, conservative Christian families. It’s not that way anymore. You’ll find all races, classes, and religions (or lack thereof) homeschooling. You’ll find some who believe the earth is 6,000 years old and some who think it’s several billion years old (never, ever engage a group of homeschoolers in an “old earth/young earth” debate! – just trust me on this one) and some who aren’t sure. Some are conservative, some are liberal, some are moderate. Pretty much, when it comes right down to it, we’re just regular people who choose to educate our children at home (and the reasons for that choice vary widely, too!).