Life is about attitude and to have a good one is important. I am Ann and I am blessed with a husband that God chose for me, children that did not come 'easy' to our family due to me being a cancer survivor and the resulting infertility, blessed with family and true friends, blessed being a stay-at-home mom, and blessed to be a beloved child of God. This blog is about the miracles that God gave into our care as parents, the adventures of homeschooling those blessings, and our life in general.
One of my favorite memories of summers with my aunt are baking lots of cakes and being allowed to lick the batter. Of course, back in the day, nobody worried about us eating the batter full of raw eggs and such. So today, the girls got to help their grandma making a cake. She had baked it last night, so the only thing left was making the frosting and decorate the cake with it. Of course, if you can't eat the batter, you've got to try the frosting.
Munchkin liked it but she said it was too sweet. Now the frosting on the cake was only half as sweet as she thought, but she sure enjoyed stirring that mixer around and around making the pink frosting that she had requested. I love making memories for them.
We are spending some time with Grandma and Grandpa, and today, we hit a local water park. Coqui just spent most of his time waiting in line for the big, tall water slides. He had no fears. Peanut was brave enough to go down a few times with Daddy. Just little Munchkin was too scared and spent her time on the lazy river with Mami and Grandma.
All together, we lasted for four hours before heading to the ice cream store to cool down. We made tons of memories and the kids want to go back already. Summer is here and we are having fun. We are not having formal school right now, but we are still learning something new every day. Today's motto was 'conquering your fears'.
Road trips are lots of fun, especially when you stop for gas for the car and for the humans. We love this place and it's cute mascot, and we always pick up some fudge and some sausage and some coffee. Yum yum.
We had a little get-together with some of our friends today. Those are friends that have become like family to us. They are our network, our support system, our lifeline. We can count on those friends, and they can count on us.
Here is a picture of Coqui with his friend Zoodle. They have known each other since Zoodle's birth. It is a special friendship that we hope will last for a long time. It was raining the entire time, but those kids didn't care - they played for hours in the mud. The boys created a boys club with Coqui as the leader. They built a circle of huge rocks, that was their clubhouse.
Stuff like this makes life worth it. Friendships and bonds. We are so thankful for all of our friends that have come out to be with us. Great conversations and tons of fun. We love all of you.
Tonight, we went out to dinner with some colleagues from Daddy's work. While waiting, the kids had so much fun running in the shade of this beautiful building.Sometimes, you just need to let them be free and enjoy the moment.
This week, both big kids are participated in a local VBS (vacation bible school). They are having a blast while Munchkin and I are spending some quality time together - which we haven't had much, ever. They are in different age groups, but they are with their friends, and they love it. Once it is over, it will be a bittersweet goodbye, for a while at least.
Today's homeschool adventure consisted of dressing up with friends during a playdate. I love how the girls have their own friends. Peanut and her friend know each other since birth - they are only weeks apart. I love their silly giggles and their loud girly screams. Making these memories is so precious.
Friends of ours invited us out to the lakes. We had never been and it was an honor to be over there. We got to go on a boat ride around the lake. Then we swam in it. And then Coqui got to ride in a tube that was pulled by the boat. It was so much fun.
But the highlight of the trip was when Coqui learned to go on the water skiers. It took him a few tries until he got the hang of it. But at the end, he stood on the skiers and rode for about ten seconds. I love that he was determined to try and succeed. Super proud of him.
Thank you friends for an unforgettable afternoon and evening.
It's been five years since I last posted about Car Bingo, but yep, we are still playing it. All the kids love it, Grandma loves it when she visits, and even my parents got pulled into it before.
Today, we found a new addition to our growing collection. Our very first license plate bingo. Coqui already played on the way home from the store and was mad that he only found cars from our state. Well, we are going on a small road trip soon, so maybe he'll be more lucky then.
Trapped inside the house for most of the day, because they were quarantined for at last 24 hours, we were antsy to get some sunshine in the late afternoon. The big kids did lots of chalk pictures, hop scotches, and other games. My little Munchkin preferred to clean, including the chalk drawings of her siblings. She is a girl after Mami's heart.
We went to the doctor to get them medicine prescribed. Thankfully, they are not having any "symptoms" like I did. They are quite cheerful, and loved that they got donuts two days in a row. (I went to the doctor with Munchkin yest.) To explain this: we have this 'rule' that whenever we go to the doctor, the kids get Dunkin Donuts afterwards. So now no matter who has to go, they all get to have a donut.
I guess I am glad that we are not sick very often in our house.
Munchkin loves to be independent - sometimes. Lately, she has taken to dressing herself. The pants are pretty easy - two legs and put them in the holes provided, not a big deal. Now the shirts are a bit trickier but with a little help, she can manage those, too.
Her newest 'trick' are the buttons from her button pajamas. She has been practicing for a few days, but tonight, tonight she did all those buttons by herself! I won't tell you how long (!) it took her to get there. But I have to tell ya..... this girl has determination. She buttoned and buttoned, and when she realized it was wrong, she undid it and tried again, until it was all the right way.
Day Three of VBS is completed and tonight, they had Family Night. The kids got to go up on stage to sing their VBS songs. There were games for the guests. And before that, we had hotdogs and lemonade. We also got our picture taken in a photo booth, and the big kids got their faces painted. It was a great night for all.
For the summer, Coqui has to read for at least half an hour every day. For Peanut, I told her to pick one of those Number One books and we would be working on getting her to read. So far, she's been quite rejecting the idea of reading independently, even though she can...... Let's see how successful we will be when these stories are words that interest her.
After Peanut got to read her book out, Munchkin grabbed it and pretended to read, too.
I feel awful, so I went to the doctor this morning. The diagnosis is, to no surprise: strep. So I am on antibiotics. Due to this, I've been in bed for two days straight and I really hope I feel better by tomorrow.
So I am going back to a picture from a few days ago. After many tries, Munchkin finally can do the balance bike. This is the same bike that my parents brought over many years ago for Coqui. All the kids learned to balance ride on this. I am excited that she can finally reach it. She was a little wobbly at first, and scared, so I had to hold her the entire time. But I know before long, she will fly down the street by herself.
Today, I am so sick. We tried to go to church but I just couldn't sit through the entire service, so I pulled the kids out of their classes and we went home. I have since been in bed and will stay in here until I am better.
This is a picture from yesterday's study. I found this book and I am so happy I did. I must have gotten it as a kid, the tag states it from 1986 from East Germany. It is a little dictionary for kids about herbs. Since I have gotten into the essential oils, I am finding information about natural remedies everywhere. The reason why I got into them was because it made sense to me. I always grew up with these natural remedies, my grandmothers knew a lot and m y mother knows even more. She knows which herb is good for what, like the says that cherries reduce fever, blueberries can cause constipation, and we always have peppermint around the house for inhalation when we were sick.
So I started reading this little jewel yesterday. It is full of great information, not only for cooking, but also about essential oils. It has pictures of the plants, where they grow, how it smells and tastes, and how to use it. I feel empowered when I stay informed and can make good decisions for my family in case they have a little booboo.
The kids have gotten quite good at smelling the different scents, and what to ask for when they hurt. Like peppermint for their tummies, and lavender when they have a scrape. I am so glad we can learn together.
This morning, we went to one of the local Home Depot to have the kids do a project. We have never done this before, so the kids were eager to start hammering. It is such a fabulous idea. The two big kids were completely able to build their trucks all by themselves. Little Munchkin needed much help, but that's okay, at the end she was confident enough to swing the hammer herself.
The real cool thing about it: the trucks are completely done when they come home. Painting done, stickers done, everything done. They got a certificate and an award pin for their aprons. We will definitely return.
We decided to take a break from our studies and enjoy the summer for a little while before we go back to the books. This is how we celebrated today, with lots of water fun with friends in the sun. After some much needed time at home, we went out for frozen yoghurt. What a relaxing and yet eventful day.
We are using BJU Bob Jones University for our Spelling curriculum. We really like it and we will continue to use it for the years to come. It works for us, both me as the teacher and Coqui as the student. One list per week, and the kids learn to use the words in context, proofreading, and dictionary skills. It shows that those spelling words are not just words put into a list but that spelling has a purpose in life.
So for a while, we've been working on learning to think about the way the words are spelled, and why. I keep telling him to think about the root word and what else has happened to the word, like a prefix or a suffix or a tense change. So today, for the second time, during a spelling test, he's taken to a piece of scrap paper and trying out different ways to spell a word that he is not sure about. And for about half the time, it has worked for him. He spelled it correctly.
This is it! These are those little milestones that make me jump for joy. When our learning has reached a new level. I don't want him to drill the spelling words for one week and then forget about them. That would not serve him for life. But thinking why and how..... YES! This is it.
Super proud of him for this. And for being able to skip spelling lists here and there, because he already knows how to spell all the words. We are down to our last list of the year. We are excited about finishing the book and taking a break.
Yesterday, while at the park, I found Coqui inside the building playing chess with one of the boys. I asked him afterwards if they really played and he confirmed. Wow, I was a bit taken back because I had started teaching him how to play but we never got to play a real game together.
So today, the first thing he did after getting up was to pull out his chess game. It was a gift from last year's birthday (I think), and it is a great teaching tool to become a better chess player. It's called No Stress Chess, and teaches the rules by having the players draw cards randomly from a pile. So yes, you can not move freely as in a regular game, but it shows which move each piece can make by playing it. The more he played it this way, the more moves he learned and experienced a ton of different scenarios. He got pretty good.
So after playing with me two games, he decided to teach his sister. They also played two games before Peanut gave up. She is such a free spirit, she has a hard time following any rules in any game. But they still had fun, and she was exposed to something we all like to play.
We met some friends at the park today. It was a hot day, so the kids enjoyed a water balloon fight. Usually, this excites my son greatly, but the girls are too shy or too timid to get in with the big kids. Not today! The girls kept going at it. When the kids ran out of the pre-filled balloons, they went into the bathroom and started filling the empty ones. What I love most of it is that the bigger girls helped my little girls with the filling. I love that homeschooling teaches the kids to rely on other kids of any age, and that they don't focus so much on peers, or what school tells them their age group is. Great experience.
In East Germany (and all other east block countries), we celebrated the children's day on the first of June. (And apparently, Germany is still having two different international children's days.)
It is a day dedicated to the children, their protection and their rights. Usually, we would get little gifts from our parents and maybe some at school, too. Bigger towns would put together festivals for the kids to enjoy, with rides and good food. It was a great day.
Of course, I have to share those special traditions with my own children. So today, they got some German treats to eat. And to their question of not doing school on such a wonderful day, I simply pointed out that one of those rights that children have is the right to a great education.
What a great day. We are so blessed with awesome children.
After church, I was handed this letter from my Peanut. I don't think it needs any explanation.
Anybody that knows me personally, knows what a rough start Peanut and I have had. For the past five years (and a few months added to that), I've been trying to establish a relationship with her. And only in the last few months, I can see a breakthrough. It makes me so happy. So receiving this today, brings tears of joy to me.
I am thankful that she is part of our family. That she is different and keeps me on my toes. That she is always funny and silly, and brightens up all of our days. I thank her that she teaches me new points of view and that she stretches me constantly. I am blessed with a beautiful daughter.
I am sure most of you have seen those little cube games in the store. We got Story Cubes as a gift for one of the kids, I actually don't remember which one. Nonetheless, they are a great tool for learning to tell stories, homeschooling or not. This morning, the kids got it out and the Hubby joined them in telling tall tales. He is so great with his huge imagination (I don't have any) - I am glad that the kids can play this with him and learn to be creative, something I never learn and it is kind of sad.
The many rounds of story telling actually ended with a round of singing rhyming songs. It was so funny and got really loud, but the kids had a ton of fun.
The Hubby was off today, so we went out for lunch to one of our favorite spots. Of course, as part of the American tradition, the kids get a kids menu that includes coloring pages and other activities. The two big kids usually get to work right away and don't need any help. But little Munchkin still wants help or color together. So I decided to teach her to play tic tac toe. She made all the crosses and I had the circles. Not only did she do a good job with the crosses, but she also beat me the second time! Kids are so much smarter than we think.....
While the two big kids get to go to PE class, Munchkin has to hang out with me. For the last five months, this has become her one-hour-of-playing-on-my-phone-time. We believe that technology has its place but we don't let it rule our live, so we are limiting our kids very much on any screen time. This hour is a treasured time for her as she only gets it once a week. (and I am not sure what she will do once PE class is over for the school year)
There are a few apps that I let her play on my old phone, mostly those are puzzles, but lately she has preferred to play letter writing games. Some let you trace, but the lines show up automatically. This one (it is called ABC Tracing) is a bit harder as the lines show as SHE is writing them, crooked and not straight at all. It was her first try today, and I think she did really well. (Proud Mami speaking here)
Now I have looked for the ABC Tracing app and I can't find it anymore - I wonder if they took it off. BUT before you sigh, there are a ton of other tracing apps that are equally good. Alphabet Tracing is free and works the same way. Little Writer cost two dollars, but is just another great app. iTrace uses both techniques, teaching connecting dots to create letters and free writing. Those are just a few, there are many more.
Coqui's new favorite book series is Geronimo Stilton. We own a few books as they aren't cheap. So with a trip to the library, we got a total of seven 'new' books into the house. He barely washes his hands coming home, and as soon as he can he plops on the floor and reads. I love when my passion becomes his passion. I love to read and I truly believe that reading will broaden his horizon and enlarge his imagination. Homeschooling rocks.
Apparently, they also have workbooks - I need to look into those. I am sure Coqui won't mind Reading Comprehension as much with his favorite mouse.
We were stuck in the house for most of the day, had some friends over for diversity, but we needed to get out once Daddy was home from work. We did get a lot of school work done today. But most of it was sitting still at a table with books and workbooks. So after dinner, we went out for ice cream. This little girl grows up way too fast. I want to make time stand still. She is funny and silly, and yet so gentle and loving.
Once the sugar rush kicked in, we let them run around for a little while to get the energy out.
These are most of the kids from our small group. We had a gathering tonight with a little celebration for Memorial Day (and for just the fun of it). The kids could play and eat and run around. I love this group so much. All but three of them, know each other since birth. How awesome that they can grow up together. They care for each other and they fight like siblings. The learn next to each other, and grow. Like friends are suppose to. They are all special and unique.
Of course, the adults are all friends, too. We learn together, we pray together, we share life together. This is our 'security blanket' when rough times come and we need practical and spiritual help. We are so blessed with great friends, and the kids are equally blessed with their friends.
Coqui has been collecting the Top Secret Adventure countries for a while now. It comes as a monthly magazine, and it teaches them about a country at a time through solving mysteries. He loves it.
When we went to a homeschool book sale and he saw this game, he had to get it. And so did Mami! We played it right away the next day, but today, Daddy joined us for a big round. It was so much fun going around the board, swapping suspects, items, and countries, in order to fulfill our missions. I won the first round, and Coqui won the second. The girls played, too, rolling the dice, moving the little people, and trying to answer the quiz questions. It is such a great game for the entire family.
It's the best time of the day..... bed time. Yes, trust me, it is. The kids are ready to go down but they are still so wired up from the day, that they will have a hard time settling down. Sounds familiar?
There is a simple solution: sleeping potion! Yep, that's what the magic is called in our house. See that little red bottle? That's it. It is filled with essential oils valor and lavender and a carrier oil. I slather it on the kids big toes, cover it with socks, and then I send them off to slumber land. It is totally like magic because they get the sleep they need and we get the quiet time we need as parents. Win-win.
A local homeschool group had put together a play and we heard about it. It was Robin Hood. So Coqui decided to wear an outfit for the play, he even made his own hat (that got left behind at home, so don't remind him!) and an arrow pouch. We all got dressed up and went to see these young artists. They did a phenomenal. One could see some rising stars.
After the show, the kids went to collect autographs and the girls even got some flowers from one of the actresses. What a sweet memory we will have forever. And we will have to study this topic now.... I can see it in the near distance, Coqui will want to read the book.
I can't believe that she is almost three and she had never blown bubbles before. We usually don't have bubbles around the house - it's just one of those kids things that I am not a fan of, so I don't have it. Now she has seen them and I believe in her Sunday class, the teacher sometimes blows bubbles, but I don't think the kids get to do it.
So we had to practice quite a bit before she got the hang of it. But once she did, she was doing just this nonstop for a long time. The girls even had a contest. What fun times with friends.
A friend of us told me about this cool app that she is using for her kids to supplement Math. Now I don't think we need to add any more Math to our daily schedule, but it was worth trying it out. So I downloaded it this morning, signed up for the two weeks trial, and got Coqui hooked. He loved it immediately although he said that it was very hard.
The program is called Dreambox, it is an online Math learning program for elementary and middle school. It cost money, that's why I signed up for the free trial first before I commit to anything. We will try it out every day to see if it is worth the investment.
So far, I like that he is challenged already on day one. I like that I can go into the program as a parent (aka teacher) to see the progress he has made. It tells me where he has had trouble and where he has done great. It has many different areas covered (as far as I can tell from today), for example fractions with money, all the operations, measurements, decimal, etc..... It seems to cover pretty much everything. Let's see what I think in two weeks.
This picture really doesn't need any caption......
Let me be honest, we have great days, and days where homeschooling is real work and not much fun. But when this kid uses his new compass to practice drawing circles and then writes that he loves school - in those moments, I jump up in the air three feet high! THIS is what it is all about. The moments when they get it. Love it. Feeling extremely blessed to be the Mami of these awesome kids and to be able to teach them at home.
It's the end of the day and I am tired after having eight kids in the house today. But there is just one more thing before we call for lights out. One thing that even Mami is looking forward to. Good night stories. Many nights, we come home late and there is not enough time to read. So we cherish the nights that we can read. Our bedtime routine can take over an hour with taking baths and showers, getting their PJs on, brushing teeth, and READING.
I love to read to them. I know it will too soon be over. Coqui already prefers to read on his own and only seldom joins us for the book fun. But the girls still love me reading - they can't get enough, and usually it doesn't stop at just two or three books. Eventually, I do have to stop.
There are tons of researches that proof how important it is to read to the kids. For us, it is a nice way to calm down from the business of the day. We spend quality and quantity time with each other in enjoyment over the stories we read. Many times, when I ask my Peanut what her favorite part of the day was, she answers with "This right here." - she loves me being there with her, reading, talking, cuddling. Good night. Gute Nacht.
After studying birds for the first part of the year, we moved to the flying dinosaurs. Apologia then had us studying the bats. Now we moved on to insects and will do that for the rest of the year.
I can not tell you how much I (!) am learning alongside these kids. I know we talked about metamorphosis during my school years, but I am pretty sure that we never covered complete and incomplete metamorphosis. That is what we learned the other day. So today, Coqui showed me what he 'built' with those shapes that his sisters usually plays with. All four stages of a complete metamorphosis. I love when they do this kind of stuff on their own.
They got it. Yeah.
Now one big reason why I love Apologia is that it is Christian based, creation based, and anything taught points back to God. Studying the complete metamorphosis, the book tight in the Christian walk of becoming a new creation when we first believe and invite Jesus into our hearts. What a beautiful picture that is. When we become a Christ follower, we also go through a complete metamorphosis, and at the end, we come out like a brand-new, beautiful butterfly.
The kids got to build these robots today. They are built completely out of recycled materials. We cut, we glued, we taped. It took over an hour in a very warm room, but the kids had a blast. I love seeing all their different characters mirrored in these creations. Coqui's robot is realistic, and Peanut's is a fashion queen. Super cute.
Afterwards, we went to the playground to let the robots play.... All eight of them had fun in the sun.
This afternoon, we went to the local aquarium. The kids had a blast learning about, touching, and feeding the animals. We got to feed an iguana, sharks, birds, and stingrays. Now the stingrays were the absolute favorite. I even dared putting my hand in the water - it feels a bit slimy but not as much as one would think. Now it does feel kind of satin like, just with water. Super soft. And they are just so cute.
The birds were the second favorite, I think. They spent a lot of time in the cage, feeding and holding these little creatures. Munchkin was so proud of being able to hold them and loved feeding them, but she did not like when they landed on her head. To me, that is just too creepy. I did not get in, of course! But I am glad to see that my kids did not inherit my phobia about these flying things.
Last week, we went to the park with our friends where they found this cute little snail. Apparently, they took it home and had it there for a week. Today, they brought it back and my kids enjoyed learning about snails. We watched this little guy eat grass, swallowing it with his body - because snails have thousand of teeth all along their body, something I sure did not learn in school. It was interesting to watch the kids 'care' for this little guy.
These two kids worked so hard all year long to memorize God's Words and now they could reap the harvest. Each of them got called up on stage three times. We could not be any prouder of them. They really earned all those awards. We will miss this activity, even if it is a lot of hard work each week. Congratulations to Coqui and Peanut.
Though I have to say, that the award for 'Most Improved' is going to Munchkin. Dropping her off in her little class, she went from screaming and crying to confidently running into her room. She could not wait for this day of the week. She loved it and I was told that she learned some songs and bible verses as well. Great job.
Today was a long day...... so here is one picture of Coqui hanging in the wall rock climbing. He did awesome and had so much fun with his friends.
The perk about homeschooling was to go to a birthday party in the middle of the day when it was all empty and the boys had the whole place to themselves..... until school got out and three big buses of a private school unloaded their students.
This morning, I spoke at our Women's ministry meeting. I am not a born public speaker, but God had put this one theme on my heart that I wanted to share with my ladies at church. So I needed to overcome that fear of speaking in front of a group for the sake of a message that needed to be heard. My teaching was on Intentional Friendships. God wants us to be in relationships with the people around us. We need to learn to trust and rely on friends, as they can enrich our lives so tremendously. Friends can broaden our horizon, they can give us love, respect, and acceptance, but they also can lend us a helping hand when we are in need of practical help. Most of all, they can counsel us as only those iron-sharpens-iron-friends can do, in speaking the truth with love and grace, so that we can grow in our faith. Our diverse friends compliment us, as God created us all as individuals, so we need to embrace our differences. It was a good speech and I think I made a few ladies think.
I loved that I had a special guest, too. It made it more meaningful. And I felt supported by her. Thank you for being there. Forgiveness is a great healer and I love that I was able to learn to forgive and to be forgiven. God is so good. And I am excited for the future.
And the kids didn't mind going to church either, as they got to play with their friends. Here is Munchkin having fun instead of crying (going to church is not her favorite thing of the week).