Monday, August 30, 2010


Our little Madeline Kate got her first taste of standing last week. After many tears while being pulled in and out of the stander, and many adjustments by the orthotist, we finally swung Madeline into an upright position. The tears fled away and a brilliant smile instantly covered her face.

Repeat when I brought her home and she showed Daddy and sisters her new trick! They were all squealing with delight, which made Madeline clap hysterically and pump her fists in the air, all while beaming radiantly (Is that redundant?)

Right now she is tolerating 20 to 30 minutes in her stander, made especially for her by Abe at Advanced OrthoPro, INC in Indianapolis. The back is molded to the exact shape of her very curved little back to prevent any undue pressure. While in her stander, she plays at the couch, the piano bench, or the (too-HUGE) doll house (which someone gave us for free, and which Kirsten is going to remodel!). She also enjoys standing in front of the door.

To answer some quick medical questions: I've been asked several times what the point of this stander is. First, Madeline cannot weight-bear even slightly. Because of this she has no regular joint or bone compression from her hips on down. Bone compression is crucial for growth. This stander gives her added doses of compression, all while she's having fun being up on a normal 2-year-old level, which, of course, is the second reason to use a stander.

We also visited Madeline's orthopedic surgeon, Dr. William Didelot. The great news is that Maddy's bones are FINALLY getting big enough for surgery to correct the severe kyphosis in her lower thoracic spine. (You can see a little bit of how bad her curve is here. Picture a golf ball or a little bigger coming off the back of her back. It's hard to really tell how bad it is without seeing her in an upright position. The x-rays are bizarre.)

So she's being scheduled for surgery in March, when Dr. Didelot will remove a couple vertebrae and put rods in her back, hopefully ones that will grow with her to reduce the amount of surgeries required. He can't get her on the schedule before November and he doesn't do this type of surgery during the holidays or cold/flu season because of the high risk of infection. Any infection around the rods would most likely require removal of all hardware and another surgery to redo later on.
The hope is that a straight back will free Madeline's lungs up to breathe better and possibly get her off her oxygen. We have seven months to pray that miracle in, okay? :)
Thank you to all of you who prayerfully follow Madeline's journey. I cannot begin to tell you how blessed we feel that she is in our home, brightening our days with her constant kiss-blowing, smiles, and shear determination. Knowing that we have such wonderful family, church family, and friends who continue to rejoice with us and pray for us is buoying.

Blog change and a quick question.

Over the last couple years, I've heard from lots of you that you love my playlist and several of you have said that you go to my blog and leave it up just to enjoy the music.

The problem is it drives me nuts. Don't get me wrong...I love the music, but it restarts every time I navigate back and forth, and at other times, I need to be working with other audio files and it's a pain to go turn the playlist off.

So for now, I've added the link to my playlist to the side of my blog. The playlist has it's own URL and I will (try to) keep it updated for your listening pleasure! :)

And a quick question: Does anyone know of a great blog counter or site tracker that I could use to keep accurate totals of readers to my blog? It seems like mine only last a few weeks and then, it needs redone, and it's getting annoying.

Ok, enough griping. ("Does somebody have a case of the Mondays???" **high, shrill, too-happy voice)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

MFW Adventures, Week 2

Right up front: I couldn't find my camera this week. I knew that I had uploaded pics while sitting in my chair last Saturday. I pulled that chair out at least 5 times, tipped it, felt down in it. No luck. Turned every other nook and cranny inside out looking for that thing. Glen was leaving for DC on Friday--and wanted the camera, of course. So we started tearing apart our room one last time looking for the camera. I asked him to go look under the chair again...and Voila!

While I was (am!) very happy to have my camera back, I was (am!) very bummed about all pictures I missed.

(Quick note: MFW Adventures is our core curriculum and does not include math, phonics, spelling, or language. This blog post and others like it will mainly be about MFW.)

Bible: This week we started studying the names of Christ, starting with Jesus, which means The Lord Saves. We used Carli's Discoverer's Bible for Young Readers to read the story of the angel's instructions to Joseph concerning Jesus' name, as well as read some prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus. We started our Jesus' names poster as well.

Math: Ok, I know I just did a disclaimer above, but I did want to say that we started using our Usborne Math Wrap-Ups this week, and they are a hit! It's fun to do something different than flashcards everyday.

History/Geography: Christopher Columbus dominated our week in the history lessons. We enjoyed reading about him in The Story of the US. Carli placed his picture on our timeline, narrated about the lesson and then did a short copywork based on the lesson as well. We also sailed the Santa Maria, Nina, and Pinta across the Atlantic Ocean, blowing to help them cross. The boats were made from aluminum foil and a pencil to hold the mast, decorated with the red crosses that various illustrations show. This activity tied in nicely with our science for the week.

We started a new read-aloud book for history American Pioneers and Patriots and I agree with every other MFW blogger out there that this book was a huge hit in our household. Carli keeps asking me to read ahead.

Carli and Olivia both remind me everyday to listen to the "Pledge of Allegiance" and "God Bless America" which we're learning in history time now.

Book Basket: Our book basket included books about Christopher Columbus. Our favorite read this week was I, Columbus, which includes Columbus' journal entries as he led his men across the Atlantic.

Science: We began the Usborne book Science with Air. We learned that air is everywhere within the earth's atmosphere, that it does not have a shape, but fills any available space. We performed one simple experiment which showed that even an "empty" bottle has air in it, as evidenced by the air being pushed out when dunked in the water. (This simple experiment we documented using a page from We also had fun moving the air during a paper race.

Art: This week we enjoyed looking at art in Children: A First Book of Art. We talked about different styles (not really in-depth) and then Carli chose one picture she especially liked and told me a story about it.

Nature Walk: What a beautiful week for a nature walk! We enjoyed two days of doing all of our school work outside. I think mommy benefited from the extra sunshine as much as the girls did. Maddy had fun crawling off the blanket and around the yard.

On Wednesday, one of our outside days, the girls were outside eating lunch while Maddy and I worked with her developmental therapist. Suddenly Carli and Olivia came crashing into the room saying they had seen a raccoon. Sure enough, a small raccoon was in storm drain right at the edge of our driveway, vigorously clutching a grape in his paw. (Evidently the girls had a "bad grape" and were donating it to the drain.)

Yes, I'm getting to our nature "walk." On Friday, we had school in the park, spread out on a blanket in the shade. We read and played lots, studied a little (Friday's our generally our light days), and drew in our nature journals. Carli decided to draw a plant, a pine cone, and a feather she found while Olivia and I drew raccoons. Since I am NOT an artist, I cheated and used a tutorial from I can't believe that I actually drew something resembling a raccoon because my brother Jordan inherited every ounce of creative ability from Daddy, leaving me nothing to work with. Yes, I'm bitter. :)

Reading: Ok, so this isn't MFW either, but in reading, Carli finished The Fire Cat and started The Big Balloon Race. As a family we are reading aloud Matthew, The Strawberry Girl (Lois Lenski), and Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein). I wish I could tell you how happy it makes this book-lovin' mama to have my kids begging to have "Birdie" (Strawberry Girl) or "The poem book" (Where the Sidewalk Ends) read aloud to them. Many times I heard, "Just one more, Mommy!" when I would finish one poem or one chapter. The kids have been asking for their favorites of the poems. Right now the reigning favorites are "I Must Remember," "Captain Hook" and "Homemade Boat."

So I leave you this time with "I Must Remember."

I must remember
Turkey on Thanksgiving
Pudding on Christmas
Eggs on Easter
Chicken on Sunday
Fish on Friday
Leftovers, Monday.
But, ah, me--I'm such a dunce.
I went and ate them all at once.
Yep, I've done that!
Coming tomorrow: Awesome news on the Madeline Kate front!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop: A Day in the Life

So this is the final week of the Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop hosted by At Heart of the Matter {online}. This week's topic is "A Day in the Life."

As a short disclaimer, let me say that this is a look at last week, when we had no therapies or other major interruptions. This week we added back in Madeline's therapies (4 hour-long sessions, spread over three days), as well as two appointments in Indianapolis. In September, we will add taking Olivia to preschool three mornings a week (two-hour days...Glen will take her as often as possible so as not to halt homeschool for very long.), as well as a women's Bible study that I'm helping with every other week. (Yes! That every other Wednesday will be a little crazy: homeschool, preschool, Bible-study, therapy, and choir/kids' church at night!)

Without further ado..."A Day in the Life."

6:00 or 6:30 I get up, start the coffee pot, sit in our easy chair enjoying coffee and quiet time, reading my Bible and Bible-study book and journal about what I read. Shower, dress, check email and Google reader and The Homeschool Lounge feeds.

7:30 Girls up and while they work through the first part of their routine (pictured below), I change and dress Madeline. Then Carli has quiet time on her own or with Madeline while I do quiet time with Olivia (only about 5 minutes). Then breakfast/cleanup...Ok, I admit it! We only have cooked breakfasts about 3 or 4 times a week. Some days we just need to get started on school. Some days I do the dishes then, or Carli does, and some days we just get on with school and do dishes at lunch.

8:30 or so We start school with Bible and then work through the remaining workboxes. I mix up the order everyday so that we don't get too bored! :) Now that there are other things that come up during our school day, like therapy, I place Carli's number tag on the opposite side of the box for those things that she can do by herself, i.e., reading, Math worksheet, activities, etc. If we have therapy, I try to set it up so that we can work through lessons I need to teach before then, and then she can cover the boxes she can do on her own during therapy.

Workboxes include...
  • Bible or Bible activity
  • phonics and worksheets
  • math and worksheets
  • history/geography and/or activity
  • science and notebooking page for documenting experiment
  • art
  • music
  • read aloud
  • "reader" (doing Sonlight's second-grade list this year)
  • random activities (like Math Wrap-Ups from Usborne, or an extra supplement to something we're studying)
  • book basket, handwriting or copywork.

Some of those aren't everyday, but you get the idea.

10 or 10:30 Small snack and quick pickup of the school room, then continue working through the boxes until lunch.

While Carli works diligently on her projects and lessons...

Olivia either works with us, or works on a letter activity...

...or plays and reads...

...while Madeline crawls around getting into everything and is just being too adorable for words. See?

12:00 or 12:30 Lunch/cleanup and outside play time.

1:00 or so. Maddy and Livy lay down for a nap and Carli and I work on what's left, usually not very much by this point.

After school I work on the house and laundry and working on the next day's workboxes and researching for future lessons, while Carli plays outside or inside with this humongous handmade dollhouse someone just donated to our (limited) space...or whatever her little heart wants to do (ok, that was hyperbole, but you know...).

6:00 or so Supper/clean up with Bible reading by Daddy, more outside/inside play for the girls.

8:00 Kids inside for baths, bedtime snack, picking out next-day's clothes, quick room pickup, read-aloud with Mommy and/or Daddy.

9:00 Bedtime for kids, but usually with reading or music for a while.
After the kiddos are in bed, I continue to work on my chores or school stuff, take some computer time. I go for a walk around 9:30 and chat with my mother for a while. After that, if I'm done with all (most) (ok, some!) of the work I need to do, I read and/or watch a show/movie with Glen. I try to be in bed by 11 or midnight. Sometimes happens, sometimes doesn't.

One thing that has made our routine a little bit easier is that Maddy is almost completely off the g-tube. She eats what we eat (pureed) or Stage 3 baby food and small bites of soft Gerber cookies, etc, and drinks from a cup with Thick-it added. SO we're eating as a family of 5 a lot now! She now has a better routine of eating, napping, and bedtime, and it makes mommy a lot happier!

Thanks to A Heart of the Matter {online} for hosting this blog hop!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

MFW Adventures, Week 1

I must say that one week in, and I'm absolutely in love with the My Father's World curriculum. My Father's World follows Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education and teaching methods. For a mama who has always wanted to do more than just workbooks and inspire my kids to love learning and reading, but also not being overly creative on my own, this curriculum is does what I couldn't do on my own.

We are doing the second grade core this year, called Adventures in My Father's World. Through the course of our year, we will be studying the history of the United States and learning about each of the 50 states. Next year, we will get a good dose of geography and culture with Exploring Countries and Cultures, to be followed in 4th grade with Creation to the Greeks. Each year after that, we will be studying another section of history. What I love about MFW is that I can incorporate all the children into the core without having to teach separate history lessons to each one.

So these are pictures of our first week of school. Carli was not at all excited about starting school until the night before, but halfway through our first day, she said, "I'm excited now! I can't wait till tomorrow so we can do more!"

Here's Olivia on the first morning of school. (Funny...the girls laid out darling little sundresses to wear and we woke up to a chilly house. Someone had accidentally bumped the AC down way too far, AND it was in the 60s outside! Most beautiful weather this week. So they found sweaters to keep them warm for a while. They wanted to wear their robes, but I didn't think that would be fun for first day pics!)

Carli ready to start

Oh, and she wanted to show off the rock she painted.

All three littles.

Day one called for a red-white-and-blue snack. We had Icee treats.

One of Carli's favorite activities was the timeline. Since I didn't have wall space to make the line on the wall, I accordion-pleated cardstock. I was going to buy a book, but I talked to a MFW rep and they suggested that we do a more simple timeline this year, one that could be stretched out so she could see a full line at once...something about how young ones see time at this stage of development. So we'll start our big timeline books in two years with Creation to the Greeks.

Carli adds Leif Ericsson to the timeline. We also had a brief geography overview of the United States, as well as the continents and oceans. (My camera was dead for a couple days and I didn't get that photographed).

I bought Draw Write Now book 1 for art this year, and we worked on it twice this week. (This is day one). This will be a favorite activity of ours this year. Carli, Olivia, and I all worked on this. I am NOT an artist, so we started simple with this book. Carli enjoys art, but Olivia LOVES to draw/paint/color/marker and does a good enough job that I think she has a more creative bent than Carli or me. I'd like to get them into art lessons next year. Carli was constantly complaining that hers didn't look as good as the book, and saying things like, "I'm just horrible at this!" If anyone has great ideas about making art lest scary, encouraging us both to try and practice and be happy with our best efforts, let me know! :)

Carli working on her aBeka math and phonics workbooks

In Bible this year, we are learning about the names of Christ. This week we talked about name meanings and how our names were specially chosen.
  • I wrote her a letter to tell her about her name.
  • Carli did some copywork on special paper.
  • We incorporated Chrysanthemum to remind us that our names are special.
  • We did a simple notebooking/lapbook hybrid page
  • We made name necklaces to remind us that our names are special.

On highlight of the week would have to be Science. MFW includes the Usborne First Encyclopedia of Science, and we enjoyed the bright and colorful pictures, the internet links(!), and the simple science experiment. We used a notebooking page from to document our experiment.

On Friday, our whole family traveled about an hour and a half away for our first field trip and nature walk. We visited one of Gene Stratton Porter's home and Rainbow Bottom. More on that coming soon.

Another part of our school day that did not get documented photographically is our Book Basket. We really enjoy any chance to read and we definitely have plenty of chances to read between our read-aloud (Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski, sometimes read during school and sometimes before bed since it's not part of the curriculum), book basket time, and "reader" time for Carli. (We've been using Sonlight's reader list mixed with ones we choose) The Book Basket is used with MFW to provide read-aloud or independent reading related to our history, science, or Bible topics. This week, we read Chrysanthemum, the Usborne Vikings book, and have started Paddle-to-the-Sea (we're practicing our narration skills with this book, and Carli is really enjoying that process!).
Coming soon: "Not-back-to-school blog hop: A day in the life" and "Limberlost"

Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop: Student Picture Week

Our students: Carli Brooke, age 7; Olivia Grace, age 4; Madeline Kate, age 2(!)

Carli is the only one officially doing school at home this year. Olivia is going to a great little preschool here in town, and Madeline does lots of therapy and playing (see her story under the tab at the top of the page)

Hop on over to Heart of the Matter {online} to visit other homeschools across the country.

Coming up next: "A Day in the Life" and "First week of school using My Father's World."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop: School Room Week, a little late

Thank you to Heart of the Matter {online} for hosting Not-Back-to-School Blog Hop! Since I finally uploaded all my pics, I'm ready to post for the School Room Week, even though most are already done with that.

For those of you who could care less about school rooms...well, go read politics or something on my hubby's blog: Ramblings...

We live in a small three-bedroom house: no family room, no basement, no dining room. So we converted on of the bedrooms into a schoolroom/playroom/office/part-time nursery, and even though it's not a lot of space, we love having a semblance of a school room, at least. Here you see part school and part play. That shelving unit holds toys, mostly the non-educational kind! :)

We incorporated workboxes into our school this year. Since we will have many interruptions this year with Olivia going to preschool three mornings a week and Madeline in therapy here at home four times a week, we needed something that would give Carli some ownership and would keep her on track with what she can do. This is based loosely on Sue Patrick's system, but I've never read the book. I have however read lots of info from many great blogger's out there! I used the tags and grid from The Heart of Wisdom blog.

The shelf under the window holds a our pencils, markers, etc, and lots of our educational activities. Carli's desk under one of our maps (beloved by all....the maps, that is) and mini-office.

Mini-Office (I used some of the things from Teaching Heart, but I don't remember where each piece came from.) The mini-office includes ASL alphabet; ZB cursive and manuscript alphabets;

months and days (for spelling); fraction circles; greater than/less than chart; clock; number chart which includes number words, tickmarks, and ASL sign; US map; skip counting chart; 100 chart; coin value charts.

Mommy's corner

Our shelf for baby board books, level reading books, etc. The board has the kid's morning routine to keep them on track while I get Maddy ready for the day.

Yep, that's a changing table in the closet! :)
The other tall shelf holds a lot of our read-alouds, puzzles and blocks. Livy's desk below the other big map.
Stay tuned! Coming soon: First week of school using My Father's World curriculum.