Sunday, November 1, 2015

Epic Disney Adventure--Day 2: The Arrival

There is really nothing quite like driving onto Disney property.  I wish I had video of the kid's excitement as they saw the giant Mickey Mouse sign.  It was just too much.  Disney really is magic and you can feel it.  We stayed on property at Port Orleans French Quarters.  Disney knows how to do things right.  I checked in online.  Got a text that our rooms were ready.  And we were able to use our Magic Bands that they mailed to us to go straight to our rooms.  No stopping at the front desk.  Seamless and easy.
We unloaded the van and got down to the serious business of having fun.  The real reason for wanting a short drive on Sunday was so that Brisbane could get in some good clean swimming time.  We had rented a cabin for a weekend a few months previous and all Brisbane wanted to do was swim.  He's a swimming junky.  He told us for the weeks leading up to Disney World that he just wanted to swim.  I hadn't planned in much downtime at the resort each day so we figured that arriving early would hopefully get the swimming out of his system.  So after a quick lunch, we headed off to the pool.
It was glorious.  6 inches of water for the babies.  Tame water slide for the big three.  Life jackets provided at no charge.  Again.  Disney knows what they are doing.
My parents and Becky both arrived later that night and we all tried to tuck in early for the real excitement that was to begin the next day...

Epic Disney Adventure--Day 1: The Drive

We've been back from Disney World for over a month now.  It was the best vacation I could've asked for.  We haven't been on a family vacation in over three years due to Mack's medical school schedule and being poor students.  We saved up and this made up for all of those years of vacation-lessness.  And I'm so glad we did it!
Our theme for the trip was, "Do you have your happy pants on?"  Mack and I knew that vacationing with five small children and a pregnant woman was not going to be easy.  But we were determined to have the best attitude, no matter what obstacles we faced.  We did have to remind each other a few times (Ok, so Mack had to remind me.) but for the most part, I think we were highly successful.  A large part of that success was due to my parents and one of my best friends, Aunt Becky, coming along to help wrangle children.  We needed every single adult we had and I am SO grateful they were there.  Best vacation buddies ever.
But first we had to make it to Florida.  Fourteen hours in the car with five children is pretty daunting.  I prepared for MONTHS.  I had bags labeled with the kids names and every hour they got a new activity.  We took a slightly more organic approach with Della and Miriam and Della milked us for all we were worth.
We drove 11 hours the first day in hopes of having a really short drive Sunday morning.  Honestly, if Mack hadn't been there, joyfully pushing along, I probably would have given up 2 hours sooner.  But he was awesome....and we made it to Valdosta, GA.
The drive went better than the last car trip but not quite as I wanted.  Here are a few takeaways.
1.  Brisbane is incapable of giving any sort of warning that he has to pee.  He had to unbuckle and pee in a cup "on the move" several times throughout the trip.  As I am sitting in the passenger's seat with a cupful of my son's urine next to me, I turned to Mack and said, "This is what has become of our life".  Parenting is special.
2.  Even the most organized Activity Plan doesn't mean that your van will stay clean.  Ugh.  I hate a messy disorganized van on a long road trip.  But I might need to just suck it up and accept it.  Things just get out of hand rapidly.
3.  Della is a lot smarter than me.  It didn't take her long to figure out that there were things being kept from her in a mysterious bag at my feet.  No matter how fascinating her current form of entertainment was, it only held her interest for three minutes.  Because if she threw it on the floor and yelled, "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom." she knew that Mack or I would eventually give in and let her have something else.  She was going through our stash WAY too fast for our liking. 
4.  Miriam is our favorite child.  At least when traveling long distances in a car.  She liked being given books to read or things to do but she never once demanded anything.  She could sit for hours and just ride along.  She also took a morning and afternoon nap.  Best. Child. Ever.
5.  We love hotels that let us squeeze 7 people into one hotel room.  Hey.  Two of them are in pack and plays.  So much cheaper and so much more convenient to have both adults in one room. 
6.  When you see a sign that says "Chick-fil-A Dwarf House" don't get too excited that your kids will be able to run off steam in a Playplace.  We had planned on stopping for dinner somewhere with a Playplace.  We figured the kids could run around while we ate and when we were done they could load back into the van and eat there.  Nothing entertains kids on the road quite like food.  Win-win.  So Chick-fil-A was our first choice because the food is a cut above and the Playplace is cleaner than other options.  Well if you stop at the Child-fil-A Dwarf House you find yourself at the first Chick-fil-A EVER with a small dwarf sized door.  But that little door does NOT lead to a Playplace... it leads to a Chick-fil-A with half a fast food restaurant and half a SIT DOWN TABLE SERVICE restaurant.  At Chick-fil-A?!?!  I probably would've normally found this set-up fascinating.  But after 10 hours in the car, we were bummed.  Real. Real. Bummed. 

But we made it to Valdosta and still loved all of our children.  And we were excited to make it to the Happiest Place on Earth the next day!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween

 Elsa.  She is a year late as far as "most popular girl costume in the universe".  But she's the cutest Elsa ever!
 Raphael.  He's cool.  But rude.
 Leonardo.  Even though Raphael wouldn't be able to protect me if Shredder showed up tonight, Leo's got my back, he said.
 Pinky and the Brain.  Started these costumes today.  We made it.
 The whole crew.
 They wouldn't pose for a "rear" shot...
 So I had to be sneaky.
Off in the rain...

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I have been a major bum this pregnancy.  It has kicked me in the trash and I have spent a lot of time lounging on the sofa.  I have two 18 month olds though that want nothing more than to be outside.  So Thursday night I prayed that I could suck it up and play with the kids.  So Friday we went outside.  Prayer works.
 Brisbane's Cozy Coupe was a HUGE hit!
 Miriam refused to use the door to exit though.  She would get her head stuck between the pavement and the front end and we would have to lift it off her.  Every. Time. 
 Della found a baseball and started there.
 But then the temptation of the Cozy Coupe was too much.
 Of course when the big kids came out, they wanted to push Della in the Cozy Coupe.
 Miriam and I played ball.
 We threw it.  We kicked it.  We chased it.
 Oh wait.  How many kids does it take the push Della in the Cozy Coupe?
 And there is Miriam still playing by herself...

FHE this week is going to be about playing with Miriam too.  She spent the first year of her life being a total grump.  And in general Della is still more interactive and smiley.  But Miriam is a good time too!  Unfortunately the big kids pretty much ignore her.  And that's not ok.  So we are going to have a little lesson about loving Miriam. 
And Reese is still a bike riding champion.  He definitely needs a bigger bike...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Choosing Curriculum

There are a few factors I considered when I chose our homeschool curriculum this year (bearing in mind that this is our first full year at this): 
1.  Time.  I don't have a ton of time to prep with both Brisbane, the twins, and being pregnant.  So I needed to pick things that could be engaging even if I didn't go to the effort of creating extension activities every week.
2.  Cost.  I'm a former teacher and used to create engaging enriching lessons from the most boring of textbooks.  So I wasn't going to buy the most expensive curriculums out there when I knew I could beef things up a bit at home.
3.  Quality.  I wanted materials that supported my general teaching philosophy and the needs of my children.  I've read so many stories of parents switching curriculums mid year because they didn't like what they got.  That sounds expensive and I really didn't want to do that.  We are sticking with what I picked and if we decide to change next year, we can.
So here is what I have planned, for better or for worse:

Scripture Study:  I am using the Discover the Scriptures printable workbook for the Book of Mormon for Reese.  This is a companion workbook to the children's illustrated scriptures published by the LDS church.  Reese did the New Testament last year and it was PERFECT.  He memorized a ton of scriptures and could do the whole thing pretty independently.  Jessenia can't read independently yet so I purchased the Scripture Notebooking set from the same company for her.  Reese will read the chapter out loud and then she will free write about the topic for that chapter while Reese is doing his workbook.  They will do this first thing of the day and I know that isn't a time that I will be available to help much, so I need it to be independent.  And I knew I wanted some scripture reading each day to start.

Journal Writing/Calendar:  Brisbane will be around most mornings and he will work on a calendar sheet from Confessions of a Homeschooler while Reese and Jessenia write in the journals.  Probably a writing prompt of some kind.

Lego Quest:  Google it.  It's a blog a lady created with Lego challenges.  We are going to do this every morning after they finish Scripture and Journal Writing.

SECOND HOUR:  (During this time the twins are going to be doing play time in their room for one hour to give me some time to work with the big kids.)
Math:  Singapore Math.  I don't need anything too commercial for math.  I can take the bare bones of a curriculum and create games and activities if I need to.  There is a super popular math program using all of these colored blocks and things but it seemed too expensive and not something that would transition well when the kids go back to public school.  I was torn between Singapore and Saxon but decided on Singapore because it is a bit more kid friendly for Reese to do independently.  With Reese last year I taught the instruction part using manipulatives and dry erase boards and then he did the workbook on his own. 

Reading:  Jessenia is not a strong reader coming out of Kindergarten so we are doing 2 programs.  All About Reading for her basic reading instruction.  I had another homeschooling mom recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.  It is a fluency program and looks like just what J needs so we are going to do that too.
Reese is a strong reader and so last year we just read whatever we wanted.  We did a unit on Detectives and Mysteries and he was super into it.  This year I want him to have some comprehension instruction so I got a book Jacob's Ladder Reading Comprehension Program.  It is just short stories with comprehension activities at different levels of thinking.  It's right up Reese's alley so I'm stoked about that.


THIRD HOUR: (Reading and Math are the only two subjects we are doing every day.  In the afternoon we will do one or two subjects while the twins are napping.)

MONDAY:  Grammar & Science
Grammar:  Growing with Grammar.  This is so bare bones and cheap.  It's just so that I have some order to follow when creating hands on grammar activities for the kids.  This plus pinterest was fun for Reese last year.  And if I didn't feel like jazzing it up one day, the workbook was just fine.

Science:  NOEO Science.  I studied science curriculums for HOURS,  reading reviews, stressing, praying.  It was a major challenge.  This was one of my favorite subjects to teach and I wanted something awesome.  All inclusive programs with the experiments and materials are SUPER expensive.  But I knew I wanted something that was more than just a textbook.  I also did not want a Christian based program.  I just feel like kids need to be exposed to all different opinions, particularly in science.  So we went with NOEO Science, which is actually a Christian company but they do not gear their science program away from evolution and other secular theories and ideas.  It was a nice compromise and one of the few reasonably priced programs I found that included living books and experiments.  Reese and Jessenia are sharing this program and will be on the same lessons each day.

TUESDAY:  Writing & Art
Writing:  Winning with Writing.  This is from the same company as the Grammar program and for the same reason.  It's just a starting point for whatever else I want to do.  Some days we will use it and some days we won't.

Art:  Home Art Studio.  This is a DVD based program and the teacher links you to an art supply store where you can buy a bundle of all the supplies you need for the whole year.  This is where my time became an influence in what I bought.  I just don't have it in me to be running to the store searching for water colors and tempera paint.  We will have all of the supplies we need so when we get to each project, we are set.  Reese and Jessenia are sharing this one too and I just bought double of the brushes and things they will need their own of.  I'm excited to do this one with them since a great artist, I am not. :)

THURSDAY:  Handwriting & P.E.
Handwriting:  Handwriting without Tears.  This is just a workbook.  Nothing fancy.  But Reese is a lefty and his letter formation makes me bananas in pajamas so I knew we needed something.  This program is HIGHLY recommended for lefties.  I've liked it so far but it really is nothing special necessarily.

P.E.  We are just winging it.  We do storytime yoga on YouTube, or take a hike, or go to the park, or play kickball in the backyard.  Whatever we want. :)

FRIDAY:  Social Studies
Social Studies:  Roadmap of the USA from Confessions of a Homeschooler
I haven't gotten into this one too much with Reese so he and Jessenia will be starting fresh.  It's just a fun US geography program that includes activities, recipes, coloring, writing, projects, and living books.  I'm excited for this one too.

FOURTH HOUR:  (We will do this at night after the twins and Brisbane are in bed.)
I will read to the kids for 30 minutes and then every other night Reese or Jessenia will read to me for 30 minutes.  I couldn't figure out how to eek in some more reading time with two kids.  If Mack is home in the evening they can each read to one of us.  But I have to be realistic and know that I will be home along a lot too.  So this seems ok for now.

What happened to Wednesday?  We are only doing school 4 days a week.  This will allow us to take field trips or clean house or just catch up on what we need to get done.  I don't feel any pressure to keep up with the public schools so this works for us.  I'm pretty laid back about it. If we get invited to a play date, we go.  If the weather is nice and we want to go to the zoo, we go.  If Mack is off work and we decide to take a day trip, we do it.  No sweat.

Brisbane will be in preschool all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  When he is home I am using the Letter of the Week program from Confessions of a Homeschooler to keep him busy.  I'm sure he will join in on science and things, but he needs to leave me alone for math and reading. :)

Of course we haven't started yet and this amazing plan I have might go to heck in a handbasket in the first week.  But based on my experience with Reese at the end of the last year, I'm feeling pretty good about this.  I'm just bummed that I am going to have to give up my afternoon nap...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Botanical Gardens

The kids are on "Spring Break".  They get Friday, Monday, and Tuesday off.  That is NOT Spring Break.  But Mack took today off in honor of the occasion.  And since it is April and I told Mack I don't want any birthday presents but just to create family memories/experiences, we headed off on a Spring Break/Month of Monica excursion.
To the Botanical Gardens.  $8 to get my whole family into an attraction?  Yes, please!  Then I feel like we can eat there and still get our moneys worth.  Love not having to pack a lunch for seven people!  :)  I took tons of pictures.  The trees were gorgeous and the flowers were just starting to bloom.  I told Mack I want to come back in a month when more trees had leaves and the ground flowers had come out more.  It's a date.
 It was a little humid in the Climatron so these pictures are a tad foggy.

 The kids were bugged that we didn't pay to go in the Children's Garden.  It was part of my secret mission to get to come back another day.  Grandma needs to come so we can check it out together.  But they did have these few cute things for the kids to climb all over.

 Love my little girl.

 Reese wanted pictures with the dragons in the Japanese Garden.  Brisbane wanted nothing to do with the dragons. He was still mad about the Children's Garden.
 All the kids with Mack.  Look at all 6 of them looking at the camera!  I am a miracle worker!
 Look at those trees!  GORGEOUS!  I wanted to just sit and stare at them all day.  The kids thought that would be boring.

 This little English Garden was so pretty and the kids loved running around in the maze.
 We let Della and Miriam get out and walk a bit.  Miriam is a girl on a mission.
 All five of my little ducks.
 We tried to get just one picture of Della and Miriam together.  No dice!  But I love this picture of Della sitting crying with the gorgeous flowers behind her.

We stopped for lunch right after this and discovered Della's first tooth popping out!  16 months and she finally got her first one!  That would explain the grumpiness.
 They all really wanted to sit on these sheep.  At a Botanical Gardens.  I don't get it.  But they did it.  And they were happy about it.
 Awesome bridge to nowhere.
 Brisbane was not into giving me good smiles today.  So I finally gave up and asked for a goofy one.  Love my little goofs.
 This bridge was amazing.  So we did a mini-photo shoot with my sub par photography skills.
 Gorgeous girl.
 Reese was really dressed for the occasion with holes in his knees and a hand me down Lego shirt.  Classy kid.
 Jessenia started hamming it up for me and just finding cute places to pose on her own.  She might be my obedient child that will allow me to practice my skills.
 Brisbane was most cooperative sitting on this bridge.  Such a beautiful setting.
 We fed some Koi Fish.  Reese was really troubled that there were animals at the Botanical Gardens.  "This is NOT a ZOO!"
 Loved these flowers.  I wish I had clipped Jessenia's hair back today.  But we were just lucky I remembered it hadn't been brushed and grabbed the brush for her to do it herself in the car.  Thank goodness for that short hair.

 There are no words.  He just is what he is.  And it's a four year old boy.
 Della and Miriam fell asleep after lunch.  It was a tender mercy.  They were SO good this trip. Miriam didn't even scream once!

 Brisbane looks a little lost in the hedge maze.  This was the kids' favorite part.  They ran around in this maze and wanted to keep going back for more.
 I hope they always want to walk holding hands. 
 Turkish Garden

 Loved this red door.

The kids had so much fun.  I was nervous about how they would like walking around looking at plants.  Reese got tired near the end and told us he was bored.  But the kid was panting in between breaths from running around in the hedge garden.  He was full of bologna since he was basically having the time of his life.
Wonder where our next adventure will take us this month...