Thursday, December 18

Sick Day = Christmas Break Preview

Anyone else wondering what they'll do with the kids home through the break? Our kids' break is three weeks long so I've started thinking of what we can do to not drive each other crazy in our close quarters. Christmas brings out my claustrophobia in this apartment because of all the decor and winter gear that must find homes in our already-maxed-out floor plan.

Last night McKay was up all night with a stomach bug so I kept him home from school today. And I didn't bother schlepping Morgan to/from school because she was so worn out yesterday from getting back to school this week after a bad cold she missed school for last week. That meant everyone but Ryan was home today. Good thing it wasn't errand running day and I'd had them do a good job on their chores yesterday!

By 9am, the kids were bored and begging for electronics. Noooooooo! That's my survival tool when I need it for them! We did some school worksheets I printed online and then they needed some projects. McKay loves to build stuff so we pulled out our recycle bin and he and Morgan went to town building castles while Easton did more school work.


Jake is loving having more playmates for the day!
Morgan and Jake planned and set a picnic lunch for everyone in their room.

All this buzzing around wore lil' Aliza out!

After lunch and castles got old, it was Perler beads and Pinterest to the rescue!

Morgan and Jake have this funny running thing of playing cat/dog and owner. Morgan made this "collar and leash" a couple months ago and it's survived quite well. Her school teacher said she has an uncanny knack for mimicking the mannerisms and sounds of animals and I heartily agree!

After perler beads, they migrated to the white boards and dry erase markers. I must confess this is not a typical day at our house by any means. We're not nearly this project oriented but as the kids get older, their toy bins inspire less of their attention. I have to up my game! I'm easily intimidated and overwhelmed and hands down outnumbered! I'm guessing by next Wednesday I'll be in countdown mode for when school begins again!

Because I'm actually blogging, I have to show this next one. Morgan likes to stage all her stuffed animals and other collections every single night before going to bed. I was a bit freaked out when I checked on her the other night before I headed to bed! Poor animals!

It was rather traumatic for me because one of my hamsters as a kid escaped from its cage and died this way. He'd gotten himself stuck under a dresser on the slide rail for a drawer which essentially looked like this. Sorry to give you that mental picture. Here's a fun one to counter it of our baby! Much better, eh?! I love her smiley twinkling eyes!

Aliza - 3 months
In spurts between keeping up with these rascals, I finished up teacher gifts (origami Christmas tree money bill on a card the kids wrote) while browsing . . .
  • The author of "The Calorie Myth" and his SANE Solutions podcast. Heard of it first on PowerofMoms podcast. Makes sense, just wished I liked eating more veggies!
  • 2015 planners - I bought the PassionPlanner after having printed and used its pages for the past three weeks. I prefer a Mon-Sun week view but I like the other spaces and priority prompts.
It's only 2pm and I'm plum worn out! I'm trying to hold out until 4:30 when I'll let them watch a movie while I get dinner going. We were supposed to go see the Hobbit tonight, Rats!

Wednesday, November 26

Aliza's name

Since Aliza was born in Germany, we wanted a name that reflected her German heritage. But a lot of them are doozies! I had a short list of names but hadn't settled on anything yet. I really liked the name Anna but really felt Johanna was to be her middle name because of its importance in our family history searching and finding here these past two years. Anna Johanna seemed redundant and weirdly rhymed with Hannah Montana. No thanks! Ryan really liked the name Taylor but it just didn't fit for me, mostly because it wasn't German.

As it happens, there are quite a few Elizas in our Eppelsheimer, Carter and Reid lines. In fact, I found another one this week! The most recent one, however, is Ryan's Prussian maternal great-grandmother, Elise. I can't help but think that she has been invested in our search for her family these past couple years.

The night before Aliza was born, I was watching a live broadcast from Frankfurt of a Europe Sisters meeting for our church. There was a wonderful quote shared about Eliza R. Snow, an important leader in our church from the latter 1800s. The quote was:

"She walked not in the borrowed light of others, but faced the morning unafraid and invincible."

When Aliza was born the next morning, this quote was fresh in my memory. She did indeed arrive in the morning, unafraid and seeming invincible. She was very content and curious about her new world. I felt her sweet little light of a spirit light up my life. This quote is one I plan to make her aware of her entire life to strengthen and inspire her to become all that she can become. 

With each of my babies, there's a song that plants itself in my head right away. For Easton it was "Teach me to walk in the Light." For McKay it was "I've been working on the railroad" and Morgan's was "I'm a little teapot." Jake's song was the simple Primary Song, "I love mommy, she loves me; We love daddy, yes-sir-ee. He loves us and so you see, we are a happy family." With Aliza, for whatever reason, the song that stuck in my head the day she was born, before a name was decided, was the children's song "Lil' Liza Jane" - the version about having friends in different cities around the US and world. I can't help but wonder what that portends for her life as it begins abroad.

So that's it then - a name from our families, the beautiful quote, and the silly song helped me choose her name. The other names just didn't fit after a couple days but Aliza seemed to so I stopped fighting it. Ryan had a hard time accepting this name, it didn't roll off his tongue. He couldn't figure out how we'd say it and spell it. Lucky for me, he had so much on his plate with the new contract that he left if up to me and my intuitions. 

Birth Story - Aliza Johanna

This was written the day after Aliza's birth. It's long and I haven't had time to give it a good edit, but I hate to wait for a good time to get it done because our life is just so very full these days!

About an hour after her birth. The Klinik uses these hand-knitted caps on babies, very German! 
Our much anticipated second daughter and fifth child arrived on Wednesday, September 10, 2014, at 8:43am at the FilderKlinik in Filderstadt, Germany. We are still considering names.

I was given the birth I had hoped, prepared and prayed for - relatively quick, all natural, and well supported by the clinic, trusting my own instincts to guide me in labor positions and how to employ Ryan to help me. I feel so thankful for my healthy shape-shifting body and the gift of a healthy precious baby to add to our family.

Baby girl was due September 12. I had made it known among friends and family that I was hoping she would come on a day numbered 5 or 0 in keeping with most of our family’s birthdays (McKay 4/10, Morgan 10/15, Easton 12/20, Ryan 9/25). Jake and I are 8/14 and 12/28, so kind of a pattern still. August 30th and September 5th came and went, lots going on in our house right now with the unknowns of Ryan’s delayed work contract approval, the current contract ending on the 15th, an interview for a job in Hawaii, school starting for McKay and Morgan, first time homeschooling Easton, my Primary President calling managing the routine summer turnover of 1/3 of the ward in children and staffing, and Ryan’s early morning Seminary calling starting up again. Our life is very full at this time!

On Tuesday night, September 9th, there was a Europe Area Sisters Meeting and I watched it via live broadcast from Frankfurt in my bed that evening. Technology ROCKS! I sat up propped by pillows hoping gravity would encourage labor in addition to a full day’s activity and wearing a pendant with clary sage and Whisper blend essential oils that my friend Stacey had shared with me. The meeting was really wonderful and reflective of many subtle changes and considerations recently being seen by the Church in regards to women. Apostles Elder M. Russell Ballard and his wife Barbara and Elder Bednar and his wife Susan were the key speakers for the night, joined by Elder Hallstrom (of the Presidency of the 70) and his wife Diane, and the Area President Elder JosĂ© Teixeira and his wife. The Apostles held this broadcast while in Europe I believe to reorganize a stake or two among other things, but they both reiterated that they were holding this special meeting simply to say thank you on behalf of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve to the women for “standing strong” and their “simple steady goodness” among the secular influences of our day. Really great messages shared by the sisters and elders!

Afterward, I went to clean up dinner, a little miffed that it hadn’t been done by the kids and Ryan. But I just couldn’t leave it for tomorrow and wake up to feeling behind again. While I was finishing up, Ryan came in and said that he’d gotten the final offer from SRA and it hadn’t budged from the initial contingency offer. He was completely frustrated. SRA had been awarded the new contract Ryan has been on for almost 6 years now with US European Command here in Stuttgart, Germany. I was too tired to be supportive as his wheels were turning. He felt deflated, wondering how it was that they were doing nothing to honor the expertise and cultivated network he brought to the table. All project managers were offered the same salary regardless of how long they’d worked there. I was simply relieved the offer came and that we knew we could live on it. Was it less than we make now and mean that we couldn’t “build wealth and travel” like we’ve been able to before? Undoubtedly! But on the eve of having our fifth child and all that we have going on right now, Ryan’s job security is premium piece of mind for me since job hunting is an uncertain and lengthy process. At this time, I do not have the earning potential he does, nor ability to jump into the workforce. I tried to smooth things over with him as we went to bed but he was too keyed up as I drifted off to sleep around 11:30 or so.

At 3:45 I was awoken with an image of my baby descending through the birth canal and realized the pain I was feeling was probably a contraction. Five minutes later I had another contraction - the kind of pressure and pain of opening up. This continued for 30 minutes of regular contractions before I got up and started assembling my go bag. Good thing I’d written up a list although I was very distracted and the list was incomplete. (I’d forgotten to list my “Mutterpass” and we showed up at the Klinik without it. It’s the German version of a woman’s health record through her reproductive years.) At almost 5am, contractions were still regular so I woke Ryan up and let him know. By 5:30 he’d gotten the kids up to get dressed so we could take them to Josie and John Pitkin’s home on the way to the Klinik.

The kids were abuzz with excitement to go to Josie’s house and that the baby was coming! Ryan told the kids to let me be during contractions and they were really sweet. Through one contraction, McKay (8) came up and softly rubbed my back as I leaned on the piano. The contractions at this point really did require me to stop and breath through them. Ryan helped me finish packing up a bag of food for the kids and I had a bag with changes of clothes for the kids and diapers for Jake. Then there was my suitcase. I knew I was forgetting one or more important thing as we turned off the lights and left.

On Sunday night, Ryan and I had realized this week could be rather complicated if I had the baby because of his potential in-processing for the new contract and seeing to coverage of the kids. I emailed a few friends to see what their week looked like, made a schedule and list of everyone’s phone numbers and addresses. My Primary Secretary, Josie, wanted to help and kept her week open. She's such a godsend! My visiting teacher, Ashley Andersen, said she could provide rides or watch kids. My homeschool co-op friends, Anna Palfreyman and Emily Eskelsen would pitch in where they could. It wasn’t a detailed, perfect plan but it was a starting point. I'm so grateful for being able to rely on good friends while so far away from family back home!

We dropped off the kids at 6 to Josie’s and it was another 10 minutes to the FilderKlinik. As we got out of the van, Ryan opened the trunk and we realized he’d given my suitcase to Josie rather than the duffel with their things. Classic! We got into the building and he called the Pitkins to see if John could come swap the bags. The stuff we needed immediately was in my regular bag I carry - the camera, my ID, phone, camera charger and such. We’d be okay. As we got to registration, I started a contraction and the woman just told us to make our way to labor and delivery “Entribung” or something. Essentially, we just had to following these guiding dots on the floor. As we made our way there Ryan and I got separated because he had to finish his call to Pitkins before he lost his signal. He quickly caught up to me for I’d sat down for a couple contractions in front of the elevator.

I chose this FrauenKlinik because I liked the feel of the rooms and staff when I visited in late June. Böblingen Krankenhaus was essentially like giving birth in the US in it’s medical interventionist approach while being a midwife-assisted birth. This time around I really hoped I could be brave and try a natural birth with the assistance of Ryan and supportive like-minded midwives. I’d watched “The Business of Being Born” series this past year, read Ina May Gaskin’s “Guide to Childbirth” twice, followed a few blogs on this topic, and sought out the wisdom and experience of a handful of friends and family members. All together, they confirmed previous birth experiences and feelings I've had so I felt led to pursue a natural birth if the pregnancy remained healthy and normal. I am so grateful for the medical world and the options available to women giving birth these days. I begrudge no one what they choose for their births because only they know what they are willing and able to handle for each of their births and there are unforeseen circumstances that require all that modern medicine can offer.

This time around, however, I felt my body could give birth naturally if I could get over my fears and work through it. I knew that Ryan is and would be a great birth partner because he is intuitively calm and supportive - he just needed to know from me what was helpful and not helpful. I wanted to see if I could do this, surrender to it and own it. In labor now, I was scared but hopeful I wouldn’t lose my nerve. No narcotics and epidurals are offered at this Klinik and it was go time!

A midwife, Isabelle, greeted us, fresh on her shift for the day. She spoke near perfect English and was just the perfect temperament for us. She put us in a labor room and soon had me hooked up to a fetal monitor to get the initial 30 minute baseline readings. I laid on the bed for the first 15 minutes or so and then decided to stand through contractions again like I had at home.

After my recent second read through and highlighting of Gaskin’s book about a month ago, I’d written up a quick page and a half cheat sheet for Ryan. As we got into our room at the Klinik I told him to pull it out and review. The key was for him to see how I labored and help me relax through contractions so that I would work with them, not against them. For me, this meant I needed to focus on relaxing my brow, my jaw, my shoulders, allow my birth canal sphincter to open up, and to relax my calves and feet. Ryan was to help me do this and remind me to breath/moan low and deeply and not panic and tense up. As a contraction begins to build, I always find some fixed point to stare at and focus on. We figured out quickly that I don’t like a lot of talking while I’m in labor. Of the mantras I’d gleaned through the book, I only wanted to hear short words or phrases like “open” and “relax.” I felt a lot of pressure on my tailbone so I told Ryan to apply pressure there. We figured out rubbing with the palm was not my favorite, but that firm pressure of a few fingers on that area like one was slowly playing a few notes on a piano felt better.

Because I’d forgotten my Mutterpass, they had no information on me and my history which was troubling but not insurmountable because I was calm, laboring well, and “experienced.” We were trying to figure out who to call and bring it to us while Isabelle did my internal exam. She found my cervix very pliable and I was dilated 6-7 centimeters!!! YAY!!! I was so happy and relieved! I knew I was doing something right by really letting standing/gravity help me work with contractions. She continued her exam through a contraction to see how well they were working and said they were nice and strong. I would be moving to a delivery room soon she said!

Isabelle then manipulated my belly to feel the position of the baby’s back, legs and head asked me to stay on the monitor, laying on my left side on the bed so that the baby could turn just a bit to a more optimal birth position. Meanwhile, Ryan was needed down at registration. Isabelle stayed with me, but she was busy getting everything situated to transfer me to a delivery room around the corner. Soon she wheeled me and our stuff there, finishing room preparations as I had a few more contractions. Not fun on my side in the bed in a hallway!

At this point I had begun low moaning the word “open” over and over through contractions and trying to focus on head to toe relaxing and not fighting each contraction as it swept over me. During the very short breaks between contractions I felt exhausted and would almost doze off before the next one would start. Each contraction also raised my temperature so that I felt hot and sweaty during it but then normal temperature during the reprieves. I remember thinking that during prior labors I would have never moaned aloud in a hallway! I had been to inhibited to make a sound until during Jake’s labor last time when I let out some grand hollers and screams during pushing which terrified Ryan!

Finally Isabelle brought me into the delivery room which had a birthing bed, tub, birth stool, all the amenities — it was the room I’d hoped to get because it was so large and well lit from big windows. For a fleeting minute I’d wondered if I should try for a water birth, it sounded nice. But there was no time to really consider it because another contraction was upon me. I told her I wanted to stand and lean on the bed. Actually, I believe I only said the word “Stand” in a caveman grunt and she could tell what I was going to do by watching me labor in the other room. She raised the end of the bed to about elbow height for me to lean on. (This was a miracle because the bed was completely temperamental any time she tried to work the controls later.) Soon Ryan was there again and it’s all pretty much a blur from there because contractions were progressively stronger and closer together.

Ryan was helping to apply pressure on my tailbone or maybe he and Isabelle both were. A staff doctor was also in the room but I still don’t remember her name. She had a kind, experienced face so I felt in good hands should she be needed. My water broke during the peak of a hard contraction and I said I wanted to push. Ryan attests that everyone kicked into serious action. This baby was coming fast!

Each contraction now threatened my sanity and had the burning sensation I knew was the head crowning. It is at this point when you want someone to tell you one more contraction and baby’s out because you literally don’t know if you will survive being torn in two from within! I was still standing and Ryan had grabbed my hands from across the bed and was trying to tell me to keep calm and to focus on something but I don’t remember what. At one point of intensity in a contraction, I actually bit his hand I was gripping! He squawked and I released, but man - don’t mess with a woman in labor, we can’t be held accountable for what we’ll do! (The kids love to share this detail now!)

Isabelle told me she was applying heated oil cloths which I understand is to help prevent tearing during crowning. That did provide some relief but next thing I knew she and the doctor and Ryan were demanding that I sit on the birthing stool for better stability. They gently but firmly lowered me against my instincts onto the stool. My legs were shaking and she was coming so quickly that they didn't want Aliza to slip out too fast for them to safely catch! Ryan was now behind me on a chair higher than mine and I was resting against him between his legs. I must have only pushed a couple more times and our baby girl was born! I don’t remember being able to focus on anything during those last insane pushes until my eyes settled on her on my chest. We hadn’t even had time to take off my skirt, bra, or shirt! It had all gone so quickly! (I’m so grateful for this because I’m a rather modest person and had feared the midwives would demand I labor naked as a friend had experienced here.)

What an incredible comfort it was to be cradled against Ryan as we welcomed this new baby girl to the world! I was so relieved she was here and that the hardest part of labor was now done! And I was so relieved that she and I were healthy to my knowledge at the moment! I had tears in my eyes, she was here!!! I’d been given the birth I’d hoped, prepared, and prayed for. So many things can and do go awry during a birth and I was just so grateful for a smooth delivery! We were so blessed!!! I had Ryan, this wonderful man I love - who somehow puts up with me - to enjoy this beautiful, wide-eyed little lady with. Ryan was so shocked at how fast it all went! He was incredulous and so very proud of me! It was one of the best, most fulfilling moments of my life!

The Stories That Bind Us

Bob & Lorry Reid, 1944
my maternal grandparents

A few months ago, a friend shared a NYTimes article with me by this title "The stories that bind." The author asked, "What is the secret sauce that holds a family together? What are the ingredients that make some families effective, resilient, happy?"

The article goes on to share what a psychologist who studies this question at Emory University has discovered, “The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges.” The article's author refers to this as having a strong family narrative, especially one where the ups and downs are known.

I love stories about my family and learning new ones as I've begun to research my family. It's become a passion of mine in the past couple years so teaching about it in Sharing Time today was a great opportunity!

The Primary theme this year is "Families are Forever" and the scripture is Malachi 4:6 "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers." I have thought a lot about this scripture this year. In my faith, we speak of and read in the scriptures a lot about the condition of our hearts. Are they soft and humble, teachable - or are they hard and prideful, leaning to their own understanding? I love the imagery of generations of hearts being "turned" to one another! How comforting it is to me to think that the love I have for my parents, grandparents, husband, and children extends generations before me and will extend beyond me into the future. 

I have been blessed with a couple of experiences where I have felt the presence of a deceased loved one. I have listened to others relate their experiences and love feeling it is a reality. I feel my ancestors want to be known and remembered and that they are assisting the family history work to find them and other loved ones. In short, I feel connected to them by working with them to connect our family through the generations.

Mormons are big on family history research and doing proxy ordinance work (baptisms, endowments, eternal marriages) for the dead in the temple. We believe that through restored priesthood keys given by particular holy men of Biblical times to the prophet Joseph Smith and his counselors, families can be bound together as eternal family units. It fulfills a promise given by Jesus Christ that "whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven" (Matthew 18:18). We believe those who are deceased go to heaven and continue learning and progressing if they so choose and that one of the great works in heaven is that of missionary work to share God's plan for our eternal happiness and progression. Of course, each person dead or alive has the choice accept or reject that message and these ordinances, but the act of us searching them out and doing that work in the temple knits our heart to theirs. What brings more joy than feeling love for another person and being able to do something for them? Doing temple work for the deceased also causes us to return to the temple where we can retreat from the pace of life and stand in holy places to be taught of God's plan and feel His love for us and our families.

I love how I feel when I am in the temple. I feel great peace and a renewed desire to become the best version of my self. Sometimes I have received answers to questions I'd been praying about. Who wouldn't want to spend time reflecting and pondering in a room like this?!

Celestial room of the Vancouver Temple

Going back to the lesson I shared today with the children, the theme of this month is "Priesthood ordinances and temple work bless my family" and the theme this week is "Family history work connects me to my ancestors." How grateful I am for these annual outlines the church provides!

The outline shared a story about how one family has felt connected through the generations by a shared love of music. It got me thinking about what connected me to my ancestors? For some who know a lot about their ancestors, this might be easy, but I don't know a lot about my ancestors. 

My maternal grandmother, Lucretia Lorene Agee Reid, was the first one in our family to really begin collecting stories and information about our ancestors. When Lorry was a young mother, she began looking for a church to join and raise her young family in. She was introduced to the LDS church and joined but her husband never has joined. He has always been very supportive of her and their kids' participation and the lifestyle that brought. At some point, she learned about family history work and began working on hers.

Back row: Karen, Kim, Gigi (my mom), and Judy
Front row: Jeff (mom's twin), Lorry, Sue, Bob

My Grandpa Bob, however, caught the family history bug from his wife. As my mom is currently compiling his life story for his 90th birthday, I took the chance to ask him why he started doing family history work. It was all Lorry in the beginning until he'd retired and had more time to explore it on his own. The two of them began doing family history research before the ease of today's personal computers and the explosion of the information age. Over the decades, they have provided our family with an impressive start on our family tree. I believe some lines they've researched go back to the 1500s! With four to six generations per 100 years, that's over 25 generations now linked together. Add the four generations of their descendants continuing to grow and the number of people my grandparents have connected me to are in the thousands! 

While one family's shared heritage may be a love of music, one of mine from "Grandma Honey" is a love of family history work. She inspired my mom who began audio recording the life histories of the older generations, collecting pictures, and doing more research. When I was a little girl in the 1980s, I remember summer visits to my great grandparents' home in Grande Ronde, Oregon. Us kids would be sent outside, sometimes to pick berries or beans, while Mom interviewed and recorded those life histories. 

Dad, Mom, me, Chad
Ben, Brooks, Chris - ca.1984

My mom introduced my dad to the church as they were dating. She has helped his family begin finding and recording the names, details and stories of their family tree. While my dad isn't a big researcher yet, he and his dad created one of my prized possessions - a large Bare family tree which I got framed. 

Family history work requires the talents and inspiration of many kinds of people. Some are researchers, some are artists, some are story tellers, photographers, scrapbookers - it takes all kinds to bind us together! My mom's and Grandma Honey's enthusiasm for family history has rubbed off on me and my siblings in different ways with our various talents and circumstances. I am so blessed to have them all in my life! 

As I've been helping with my grandpa's life story, I have loved learning about his life and what made him into the good man he has become. I am so happy to have these stories to share with my children about growing up during the Great Depression, working hard as a youth to pay for his own clothes and entertainment, his desire to get an education to increase his opportunities, was a meticulous family budgeter, and what it looks like to be a good husband, father, employee, and involved citizen. He saw challenges and hardships along the way and was resilient and compassionate. He lost one daughter to leukemia at age 11 and was a devoted caregiver to Grandma Honey in her declining years. 

I truly feel that these are indeed stories that will bind us, knit our hearts together.

Tuesday, November 25

A school night with five kids ten and under

The scene in our home at 8pm tonight. We try to aim for a 7:30 bedtime on school nights, but . . .

Morgan (6) is bounding from room to room like a clumsy puppy trying to throw everyone off the scent of who her Secret Santa person is. Ryan printed "Your Secret Santa was here" tickets up last night for FHE after we drew names. We can place a ticket for our person to find when we do something nice. Morgan and McKay are totally into this! Lego figures are left on pillows, beds were made for the first time in recent memory, rooms were picked up . . . and yet someone is upset because someone else isn't keeping good enough secrets. Morgan and McKay keep letting people know there's something for them to check out because our printer only made 4 tickets before going on the fritz and it's hampering their giving spirit! I'll take her joyful Secret Santa any day over her tantrum throwing because chores have to be done every single day. Finally she settles in to draw and color yet another self portrait because it was McKay's homework yesterday and she's a big kid too. And a bright, beautiful one at that!

 McKay is trying to get ahead of the coming week's homework before the Thanksgiving break his international school doesn't have. We'll have family visiting Friday through Dec 7th and homework is now the buzz kill of travel for me instead of laundry and not sleeping well. McKay's German translating resources are my basics, Easton's basics which are better than mine and he can pronounce them correctly, Google translate on the iPad but the internet connection is agonizingly slow tonight, and Ryan on the laptop using Google translate. McKay's question, "How do I spell 'He is cooking breakfast?'" begins a conversation over the words "cooking breakfast." McKay's German is probably the best in the family but spelling is not his forte yet. While he's becoming more diligent in doing his homework, he's rather picky about your input even though he's asked you for it. He also would do best going to bed at 7:30. This active kid needs his sleep! But late nights of homework are sadly becoming a norm for him because he forgets what's due when and panics at late dinner. Insert my heavy sigh. Sunday nights are torture lately for this reason. But he's coming right along and enjoying school so we're so grateful!

Easton is sitting patiently as I finish cutting his hair. I can't seem to ever figure out his cowlick in front. I need my mom! She did an awesome job when she was here! Easton's trying to subtly ask for a Dr. Who episode without getting on our nerves. With homeschool, his work is done by the time the kids are home which has been a real godsend of this new experiment. It is so great to see him so relaxed in the evenings unless he's pining to watch Dr. Who and upset that everyone else can't get it together to make it happen. He's trying a new tactic lately of coming into our tiny kitchen to ask me if he can help while starting conversations about what's on my Christmas list? Did I like college and why? Or today's topic of interest - tell me about all the boys you dated before you met Dad. Part of him is trying to butter us up so he can watch a show, part of him is craving social interaction and parents are more interesting than his siblings lately, and part of him is just plain growing up. Insert my heavy sigh, I'm not ready for him to grow up!

Jake is wielding a wooden hammer and wearing a cape because he's Thor. He keeps asking if his 'pidew-wan 'tume (Spiderman costume) is clean and melts down because I can't remember if it got into the load I put in but then forgot to start the machine. He knows he's next getting his haircut and is trying to warm up to the idea but playing coy til then. In the meantime, he is the particular recipient of many Secret Santas and he just doesn't get it yet, much to Morgan's chagrin. He wants to 'nug Dad for now.

Aliza is fast asleep in her bassinet by my side of the bed, thankfully. At 7:00 after we'd all finished dinner I heard her and groaned. She has not slept much today and woke up every couple hours to nurse last night. She must be growing. We close the door, turn on the noise machine and I pray for another hour or so to get the boys' haircuts done before her next feeding. Boy do I crave her smiles first thing in the morning! When she sees my face or hears my voice she lights up! It buoys me for the impending morning face-off with Morgan. Can I get her out of bed and dressed without tears today? Back to Aliza, we tried the Bumbo seat today and the kids sure liked trying to entertain her with every toy they could put on her tray. Talk about sensory overload! So I rescued her and carried her in the baby bjorn while I chopped dinner veggies. She was soon out cold and I put her down.

Ryan's in his chair as our whirlwinds swirl around him. Tomorrow he doesn't have to teach early morning Seminary to the ward's high schoolers and can run the kids into school so I don't have to. Hurray! He is very busy at work with this promotion leading his team. He'll take off on Friday with Easton and McKay for Paris to meet up with Nancy and Mark, tour around town and join them up in Belgium and Luxembourg, returning on Wednesday with a brother or two flying in. Christmas market season is here!!!

Time for bed now, all is quiet. Life is full and so very, very good.

Tuesday, October 28

Homeschooling Easton

Did I mention I'm homeschooling Easton this school year? Yes, that's happening. Short answer for why is that he has been asking to be homeschooled for a couple years now and I've wanted to give it a go too.

And yes, I did just have a baby. I might be crazy but homeschooling Easton with a new baby is working so far two months into both those endeavors! Aliza's birth story is mostly written, but it's on a different computer that is in use tonight. 

Tonight I'm just feeling so happy this experiment is working so well that I wanted to document a bit of it.

The biggest reason I think it's working for us is that we landed in a pretty sweet spot of a homeschool co-op. A couple friends from church were forming a co-op twice a week and they asked if we'd join in. Honestly, they took pity on me, their very pregnant friend and said they'd homeschool Easton until I was back online after baby's birth. Our co-op consists of four families all homeschooling one or two kids in their families. Between the four families, we have a total of 20 kids but only six are being homeschooled for various reasons. We have three 13 yr olds, an 11 year old, and two 10 year olds. That's two girls and four boys - all delightful smarty-pants kids. The motto is "If it doesn't work for mom, it's not working and something's gotta give." In two months, there's been a fair share of tweaking but it seems to still be working for all four of us moms and by extension, the kids. Who teaches what and when, rides to/from, homework, supplies . . . it evolves weekly.

We meet every Tuesday and Wednesday from 9-3. One day, Emily teaches language arts and two of the kids teach two of the others trumpet and violin while the remaining two work on a project of their choosing. The next day, Emily or Anna teach biology and Anna or I teach history. I love learning from these women and having them in my life as regulars! Having weekly contact with my peers to this extent is new for me but I like it. It's great to know them better and be known by them. I've been such a hermit for so long I'm realizing. But I'm learning fun stuff now and that, of course, is one of my true loves in life! For instance, I learned how to read poetry with iambic meter from Emily recently. I don't remember ever hearing about iambic meter before now. What a difference that makes in my attempts to enjoy poetry! 

In language arts, the kids are reading a couple novels and doing five paragraph essays, vocabulary searches, grammar, and other related assignments to the books. They are currently reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Bronze Bow."

In biology, they've been learning about classification (kingdom, phylum, families, species . . .). Last week in biology, Emily led them out to the forest and a nearby pond on an expedition to collect samples. They examined their specimens under the microscope, drew what they saw and tried to classify them. Homework was further research on the specimen and its classification. 

Today they again practiced being naturalists like Darwin. Emily had her son stand on a chair and recite from memory "The Jabberwocky." He stood tall and proud on the chair and recited it in his best British accent. Awesome! Did I mention that these kids are insanely smart?! They are, Easton and I are blessed by association! Anyhow, the poem mentions a number of creatures among which Emily had each kid choose one to draw. They were to put as much detail into the drawing of the animal and its habitat as they could. Then they traded papers and filled out a worksheet as if they were classifying the other person's animal. Each student presented their animal to the group as if they were professors at a meeting of naturalists, three of them with British accents. Just because. 

Next week is photosynthesis with more collected specimens.

In history, we're studying civilizations between 500-1500. We've been reading out of Story of the World, a chapter or two a week. We discuss what we've learned from our reading at home, review geography, and do an activity related to the civilization. When studying the Romans, they created signum poles. Another week, they made their own illuminated manuscripts, played with calligraphy pens and fonts, and bound their own "books" like the early Celts of Britain. 

But now we've taken a bit of a different direction with history and will be creating our own civilizations (on paper), borrowing this and that from the civilization we're studying that week - ideas of government, economics, or culture. Last week they each chose two numbers that became the latitude and longitude of their new civilization. We got Mongolia, United Arab Emirates, the Marshall Islands, Yellow River China and coastal southern China. For homework they had to research the geography, topography, fresh water sources, climate, and natural resources of their civilization to see what made life flourish there. 

Today after review our reading about Australia's aborigines and New Zealand's Maoris, we watched a short clip and discussed that early civilization's organization of their society and their culture. Emily's parents have spent time in Australia so she had a handful of children's books I'd read through and we discussed those and what they revealed about that place and its peoples. 

Then we moved on to our Civilizations Projects. They spent quite a bit of time sketching out and discussing their new civilizations, some already making alliances or plotting plans to invade their neighbors. Next week, they'll have reviewed the first four civilizations in SOTW to see what ideas they want to adapt to their own civilization. Last week I introduced a few of them to the Settlers of Catan game to get their minds ready for the Civilizations project. Some enjoy strategy video games of that kind so they are feeling pretty confident in the abilities to run a civilization. One girl was stumped today, however, on how she will disburse food in her civilization - should she give it out freely according to the number in each household or make her people work for it? It was fun to see this discussion evolve. In this project, the kids get to earn people and resources but will gain and lose them based on scenarios we'll play out such as invading armies, natural disasters, cultural project patronage and so forth. It's fun seeing them beginning to think about what contributions of prior civilizations they want to adopt.

On the home front, Easton's homeschool is pretty self directed. He does some gospel study, math (dvd teacher and worksheet), spelling (workbook), logic (workbook), a free typing program online, German and co-op homework. It's amazing how full the day is with all of that. We head to the base every Thursday so Easton can hit the library and I can get my grocery shopping done and gas up the van. It's becoming a good routine for us.

Last week, Easton also just joined a homeschool book group reading Lois Lowry's "The Giver" before the new movie's debut. The group meets once a week to discuss the assigned chapters. I really like this book but we'll see what says in their review before we take Easton to see it. The group happens to meet during his library time - SWEET!

So far this homeschool experiment is working! It's so great to be able to not stress over or have to fit in  homework with Easton in the evenings. It's nice to be able to enjoy him in the evenings and see him relaxed and able to enjoy family time. The co-op provides us the perfect balance of self-guided study and peer learning. It's fun to see Easton among peers and he still likes having me stick around to participate. It's so great having him home to play with Jake or hold Aliza while I see to a task or just because he needs a baby fix. He's such a great helper! 

We've had our learning curves as the co-op assignments have been harder than he's used to. He is learning valuable time management skills and how to break down a big assignment into doable chunks so he's not overwhelmed and immobilized. There's still much we need to learn and can tweak, but on the whole it's working and feeling like a blessing and not a curse.

Morgan and McKay both want to try homeschool although they both really like their school and classes. It's nice that twice a month they get to see what co-op does and participate somewhat because we rotate days and houses based on one of the participant's A/B middle school schedule. McKay says he'll do homeschool for 5th grade just like Easton is. We'll see!

I don't know that homeschooling is a long term thing for me, Easton, or our family. But it is working for now and we are enjoying it.

Edit: 11/25/2014. I have to laugh because a week later this all changed! I'm happier with the changes which means less co-op and maybe no co-op after Christmas. Easton and I are finding our way with still a lot to learn! The less I have to leave the house, the more learning actually happens. Go figure!