Life. Love. Family. Our Perfect Imperfection. Living life as a Catholic, homeschooling family with three amazing, unique boys, a too-oft serious, frustrated and anxious but also loving momma, and a fun-loving, hardworking dad.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

School Daze (and we haven't even started yet!)

We had Open House at school last night. It was hectic, for sure. Always is. Tons of kids, grades K through 12 with parents and siblings, coming to find out their teacher, or schedule (6-12) and meet all of their teachers, and determine where all their classes are. Meeting the resource room teacher.

Poster in the Special Education Director's office

Alex is in the same classroom E was in for 5th grade. The teacher isn't the same, well kind of. She was the long-term sub when E's teacher was on maternity leave. That teacher has since moved to a different position and the teacher who subbed took over 2 years ago. So we've had some experience with her. She is nice and had her classroom all laid out with the books they will use, what kind of work she'd like to see on book reports, etc. They are going to do 6 book "projects" this year, where they read a book of their choosing - teacher-approved, of course - and then make a small project, such as a poster, brochure, diorama, etc, and then do a short oral presentation.

He doesn't know what days they have specials yet, but should be taking computers, art, music, gym and Spanish again this year. Last year, and throughout summer, Alex said he wanted to play soccer, but the last two weeks he changed his mind. After I signed him up. I even had all the paperwork at home filled out and ready to turn in last night. He had decided that he would at least sign up and go to the first practice to get practice and game info. His biggest reason for changing his mind? Cub scouts and Choi Kwan Do! He wants to make sure he has enough time to do both of those! What a smart kiddo. Well at least he wasn't to s ad when I realized I'd forgotten all the paperwork at home last night! He actually made sure to tell me that he was absolutely fine with it and he'd much rather work on earning belts at Choi, and awards in Scouts.

Alex was a little upset last night when he saw the class list for his teacher. While he knows several kids in his class, and he knew his best friend and a couple of other good friends wouldn't be in his class (they are in 4th grade and there's no 4/5 split this year), he had hoped a certain good friend would be in his class. Unfortunately he's in the other class. I was proud of him though, because he took it in stride and remembered that they would have lunch and recess together as well as all of his 4th grade friends :)

E is rotating classes this year. It's his first year rotating, because, as you may know, even though he's been in a regular education classroom with no aide since the beginning of 3rd grade, he was in a self-contained "elementary style" classroom for 6 & 7. They have such a large class size for his grade, that it's been split into 3 sections for all of middle school. Previously, due to interest from many families, they had 2 rotating sections - A & B - and one self-contained section - C. Because of the school size, logistics almost required it to be like that as well. At the end of last year, they did a survey asking if there was interest in staying with a SC class, and over the summer we received a letter stating that there was little to no interest, so there would be 3 rotating classes. The high school building was under construction during the summer and there was a small addition put on to one of the hallways. That will now be used for one of the sections of 8th grade. Section "A" was always seen as the "advanced" class, while not honors, they seemed to work at a slighter quicker pace. "B" did all the same curriculum but the pace may have been different. The kids have all been at the same levels for learning basically. They took the kids from self-contained last year and split them between B and C. No biggie. I was a little concerned about E being in B, because of the pace. He's smart and usually ahead in many subjects. B & C will be in the 4-8 building, while A will be in the high school. I was also concerned about him not having algebra this year, which is required for him to go to International Academy next year, should he apply.

I voiced my concerns last night, and I'm so glad I did. The HS resource room teacher made sure to talk to the vice principal for me, and I received a call today!

She wanted to reassure me, that although they aren't teaching Algebra as a class, they are offering the Algebra test for the students! They do it in April, and if they pass, they get credit for taking the class. Sometime in January, E's math teacher should give us some study topics (not a specific study guide and they won't actually be teaching it) to practice with, and they do apparently use an Algebra book (?). Also she wanted me to know that the only reason they didn't put him in "A" was because it's his first time rotating, and they didn't want to throw him into a whole new thing to quick. Since it will be a rotating section AND in the high school vs the middle school building that he knows well. She said if he does really well with rotating - handling transitions, frustrations, etc - as well as his grades, we can revisit it and consider switching him at the end of Trimester 1!!

So, now it comes down to this: Should we just let the math take it's course, or should we do some "homeschooling" for Algebra? And I don't mean extra practice. Basically a real class. Where I go get the Algebra book and Teacher's book, and we sit every day and have a half-hour lesson. More formal than just practice. So he doesn't feel like he has to just figure it out on his own. He's a very visual learner, and I think he will need to be taught some of the concepts he's never been introduced to. I know homeschooling isn't something Jason and I agree on, but they are still going to a traditional school. I'm just thinking of something extra, to give him an advantage when it comes to going to the school he wants to go to for high school. It's not about what I want here, it's about helping him. If the school isn't going to have a traditional Algebra class, but they are willing to test him to pass it, then he needs to actually be taught some of it, right? Thankfully, for him and I, math is fairly easy for him and one of his favorite subjects (math and science are top right now, followed closing by history. Of course he loves to read so reading is not too far behind. Writing and gym are definitely at the bottom of the list, though!), so even though it's not my best subject, with the help of some good textbooks, I think we will be just fine.

E has Art for 1st hour for Trimester 1, which he loves. MTSS(math/reading standards)(M,W-F)/Computers (T), Math, Reading, Social Studies, Lunch, Science and finally Writing. I think it's fortunate that 3 of his best subjects and one of his absolute favorites are in the morning, and his top favorite is right after lunch. He'll be able to concentrate without being hungry on Science. His least favorite is at the end of the day, after lunch and he can look forward to going home after. Hopefully he will get along with all of his teachers, and also continue to deal with frustration and transitions well. His perfectionist attitude has been coming out a lot in Choi Kwan Do, and we've been talking about it daily. I know that it can affect not only his attitude but his assignments, others' responses to him and the atmosphere in the classroom. Two of the teachers are new to the school this year (MTSS and Science), 1 (reading) worked in the preschool before but is new to the MS, 2 (Math and SS) have never taught E but we've talked and they know him, 1(writing) he had in an earlier grade and she knows his difficulties, but hasn't taught him in several years, and the computer teacher I'm not sure about. The art teacher is pretty awesome. He's been there since the school opened 12 years ago, and E had him in 6th and 7th grade. Mr G actually chose Ethan for the Spirit award for his classroom last year and said he saw how much he'd grown and how hard he'd worked on dealing with his frustrations! E is looking forward to Tuesday morning :)

I really need to help Little J  with his potty-training. It's so hit or miss, and I know better than to rush or force it, but I'd really like to have him fully potty-trained day and night by January (October would be better ;) ). I want to put him in preschool at least part-time, during the day, so I can pursue some dreams of my own. More on that later, once the plans are set in stone.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Early morning ramblings of a wandering mind

It is nearly 5:30 in the morning. I've been up for over an hour and was tossing and turning before that.

I can't sleep. We have one week left till school starts for our older boys. I keep thinking about all that it entails: the school year itself, what we still need to do before. Our oldest boy, E, the 12 year old, is starting his final year of middle school. Yes, 8th grade. What does that mean? We are thinking about high school. Where will he go? Our current school goes through 12th grade, but there is the public high school near us, a Catholic high school as well as the international academy that offers an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma. The last is his first choice as of right now so we are looking at application info for January (!). Our middle son, A, is starting 5th so he needs to think about what middle school he wants to attend: our charter school or the public middle school near our home.

We've got a busy week of activities, between a one-to-one brain gym today at 3 and Choi for the boys today, tomorrow and Thurs or Fri, open house at school on Wednesday, Jason starting two of his three classes for this semester tonight after work and then of course normal everyday stuff, like cleaning, grocery shopping, etc.

Plus extended family is on my mind heavily right now. I just keep wishing I could help each and every one of them out with whatever is needed, but have no idea where to start. I can't choose one over another to start helping first and I can't help everybody at once. Not just family either but those close friends that feel like family. Also I know I can't possibly help everybody by myself. My heart hurts.

I had a dream about my grandma during the night, and I think that's what woke me in the first place. I don't recall the details and they aren't important. What is important is that not only did I see her Saturday,but I also talked to her on the telephone for a bit yesterday. For some reason, and I don't know if it's God or my guardian angel whispering in my ear or something else, I just cant stop thinking of her, my uncle Bob and aunt Kay. Feeling like I need to go see them again, right now, and take care of something that's been left undone, but I don't really know what that is. Not a bad thing, either, but like I was supposed to say something, or I'm supposed to do something for Gram. When she called me yesterday, to thank me, I couldn't stop thinking of how I wished I'd have been able to do this all sooner for her. That I don't want any more time to slip away. That all the other things I want to do for her, others, and even myself, well, that I need to just do them, and quit putting them off. I need to stand up and voice my thoughts and offer suggestions, even if they fall on deaf ears, even if they piss someone - no one in particular - off. If I see something that can change or something someone can't do for themselves and I can help with, by physically being there doing it with them - if I had a money tree, I'd give it all away, too - I need to.

My brain just can't stop.

Then I keep thinking about how to plan another get together sooner rather than later. I don't want it to be another year before I see the people I saw Saturday and I also want to see those who couldn't make it. And then there's my mama's family that I haven't seen in months or maybe years for some. I'd like to have a get-together with them soon too.

 Sometimes this is how my mind works. I feel all over the place but each thing is so important to me. And then when I can't fix the problems or do it all, I have a tendency to withdraw or give up or become angry, or irritable towards my little family because I let myself get overwhelmed. Because I don't know how to deal with it all. Because I'm one person but I want to make everything better...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

School lunches

It's that time of year again. Well, almost. We actually have 3 full weeks till the first day!

I'm grateful for the time left for summer, and just a tad bit ready for it to start at the same time. After so much unstructured time, my boys are bored all the time. Even after they do a few chores, read books, play with toys, ride their bikes, watch cartoons and play video games. This can make for some very loud, unhappy children and a cranky mama by the time dad gets home... Poor Jason ;)

This year, I want to plan a little better when it comes to lunches. We typically do a combo plan: Wednesday is pizza day at school and they usually ask to buy it. Since we have to pay for the month in advance, it makes it easy to say ok to that and no to the rest.

They (and I) can't change our minds in the morning about buying vs. packing before school if it's a different day. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, the boys always pack their lunches. Last year they packed A LOT of sandwiches. I want something different for them this year.

Also, I really, really DON'T want to buy pizza every week for the both of them. Now September is different, because we have a small balance in each of their accounts. Of course, one has 3 meals' worth of money and the other just 1 meal's worth. To make it fair, I am sending money for both to have pizza all 4 Wednesday's in September. What they don't know yet is from there on out, we probably won't be doing that.

I'm currently making a list of what foods to make (and freeze) ahead of time for lunches - as well as some breakfasts! - that are wholesome, real foods with little sugar, and processed crud in them, and some that are paleo, so I can indulge too! Some things we won't be freezing, of course.

Here's what I have so far: *Anything with grains, dairy or sugar IN the recipe will be adapted if possible or is just for the boys and Jason as I'm following Whole30 for the next 90 days. Well, 89, now. Through November 8th. Besides the fact that I'm planning to go mostly, if not completely, grain-free and dairy free from now on anyway.*
  1. Paleo Pizza Bites   
  2. Whole-wheat waffles (or pancakes)  
  3. Spaghetti and Meatballs - possibly minus the noodles, so just meatballs and sauce. Also planning to adapt the recipe slightly, using coconut flour in place of whole wheat breadcrumbs, and leaving out the parmesan and maybe the soy sauce.
  4. Homemade whole wheat pizza - or I may use her suggestion of pita bread, sauce, cheese and whatever cold toppings for a "lunchable" style pizza
  5. Whole wheat blueberry muffins - I love that she offers suggestions for other add-ins.
  6. Whole grain pumpkin muffins - we might just use whole wheat flour instead of spelt...
  7. Homemade Pop Tarts - we've made these before and they were tasty. 
  8. Refried beans (with leftover taco meat)- so good, and so easy. They won't eat the beans plain, but if I have a ton made up, they can take leftover taco meat and beans mixed in their thermos, with a tortilla and some cheese and lettuce on the side to make a quick taco!
  9. Cinnamon and coconut pancakes - these were a hit when we made them and although I'm not sure how they will fare being frozen, it's worth a try.
  10. Bacon, egg and cheese muffins - We made them once, and they were overly salty, but I want to try again using coconut oil in place of the bacon drippings, and a little less bacon.
  11. Spicy Tuna Cakes - I'm not sure about freezing these, but I figure they could just take some leftover ones the next day.
  12. Whole wheat zucchini bread
  13. Strawberry Jam - to use on sandwiches or on waffles!
  14. Cool Ranch Chicken Nuggets 
  15. Egg-salad made with homemade mayonnaise
  16. Tuna-salad made with homemade mayonnaise
  17. Oatmeal with raisins, or cinnamon/sugar
  18. Fruit and yogurt parfait - just a little 100% maple syrup and/or vanilla extract in plain whole milk yogurt, with a quality granola (homemade if possible!) and fresh/frozen blueberries, strawberries, etc.
  19. Fresh veggies with homemade mayo ranch
  20. Salad w/ homemade mayo ranch
  21. Fresh fruit
What are your typical school lunches? Any ideas that I haven't thought of here? I love comments and ideas, so feel free to share!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Goal-oriented: An Update

It's been a few months since we have shared how we are doing on our 2014 goals. I'm taking a little bit of my day to sit down and write today, so here goes. (If you aren't aware of our goals, check them out here!)

I'll start by sharing the boys' progress!

Since our last update back in April, Ethan has completed level 2 in swimming at our rec center, and gone to social skills day camp in July, which he really enjoyed and learned a lot. He has added 17 more books to his total for the year bringing it to 32 so far: After Ever After; Steampunk: an anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories; The book of Mordred; The Guinness Book of World Records 2014: Gamer's Edition; Timmy Failure: mistakes were made; Tuck Everlasting; Flawed Dogs; Heartbreak Messenger; Where the Red Fern Grows; Killer Pizza: the slice; A Day No Pigs Would Die; Stargirl; The Loser List: Revenge of the Loser; Julie of the Wolves; Snoopy: Cowabunga comic; Liar, Liar; and I, even, funnier!

Alex has also completed level 2 in swimming, and attended cub scout twilight camp. He had lots of fun, and got to do archery, bb gun shooting, arts and crafts and play games. He's read another 12 books since April, bringing his current total read to 29! The new books he's read are Nellie Oleson meets Laura Ingalls; The Georges and the Jewels; How to eat fried worms; Number the Stars; Galaxy Zach: Hello Nebulon; Arnie the Donut; Benjamin Pratt & the keepers of the school; Sisters of the sword: Chasing the secret; Encyclopedia Brown & the case of the exploding plumbing; Puppy Place: Rascal; I survived the Battle of Gettysburg 1863; and Amulet.

Both boys are currently reading Hidden Like Anne Frank, a collection of 14 stories.

As far as learning a second language, and learning to cook a couple of simple recipes,, there has been no progress for Ethan OR Alex. In fact, we haven't even attempted them as of yet. Volunteering with mom hasn't happened yet, unless you count picking up trash as a family with Alex's cub scout pack last week...

Ethan hasn't had an opportunity to take a video game design class, and hasn't started working on a comic yet. Alex didn't work on any belt loops but did get his new religious emblem book to start working on earning that. It's part of the Webelos requirements.

Ethan and Alex both added Start a new activity to their goals, and have fulfilled that by starting Choi Kwon Do this week (you can check out a short video on our Instagram or Facebook page!). I'm expanding that goal, by adding a secondary one of sticking to it for the rest of 2014! We signed up for one month to start, and they have the opportunity - if they go to a certain number of classes - to take their first belt test on the 30th. Alex also has another activity added: Attend cub scout pack camp out and fishing derby and he and Jason are going to that this coming Saturday!

Jackson is slowly working on potty-training. He's gone a few times in the last couple of weeks, and knows to tell us as soon as he goes in his diaper. We are working on him telling us BEFORE he goes and he has told me a couple of times - hence the reason he's used the potty a few times :). Jack didn't pass the level B swim classes, but was very close. Not sure when we will schedule the next session, probably a day-time class after school starts...

He is doing great with his colors, recognizes most of his letters now - sometimes he confuses I and L, and B and D but is doing good, knows part of the ABC song, and is still a little confused when counting to 10. Skipping numbers or repeating counting items. His goals are getting an added goal as well: Start preschool this fall. This one depends on age and potty-training. He has to be out of diapers with minimal accidents, as well as 33 months old, so the earliest will be October 3rd.

Now onto the other goals! I'm just going to do these in a list to make it easier.

2. Met my first goal of 10 lbs weight loss!!
3. Currently on my way (slowly) towards 20 lbs.

Diet-related goals
1. We have switched some things back - as previously noted - to organic. Also we have starting using coconut oil to cook with and that's all organic. Little steps here.
2. When I decided to do the Whole 30 back in June/July, I cut out all dairy as well as other things for 30 days. I had chosen earlier in the year to drop this goal and possibly revisit it. I'm glad to say it is back on the goals and technically DONE! Since July 25th, I've had little dairy and plan to continue that way. Not perfect every day, as we have had pizza twice but that is the most dairy I've had, and I see how it makes my tummy feel after. :)
3. I haven't been keeping track 100% but I'm pretty sure we've been keeping up with 2-3 new recipes a month. Especially from June 24 through July 24th! We tried SEVERAL new paleo/Whole30 recipes during that time and since. If we were "missing" the goal, we made up for it during that time for sure!

2. All three of the boys have had their yearly check-ups. Jason and I still need to go for ours.

Pay-off/Debt control
1. We refinanced Jason's motorcycle this month and in the process were able to pay off the mini-van. The "extra" money from that van payment (until we decide if we are replacing it) is going to pay down credit cards, as well as Jason's BAH he gets from the VA for going to school, come September.

Home Management
1. The boys have been pretty good about doing their daily chores: empty/fill the dishwasher, feed/water and let the dog in and out, clean their room and the basement playroom, make their beds, pick up the living room (toys, books, etc), take out the recycling and also putting their folded clothes away. They also help when asked to do other things like help Jack pick up his room. We are adding new chores this week: Wipe the kitchen counters, bathroom counters, kitchen table, vacuum their room, help fold laundry. They have done those things, but it will be added to their daily chores as a consistent item. And honestly, I haven't been consistent on having them do everything, every day.

2. To be honest, I've been slacking with using the MOMO app, and doing more than the quick, general clean-up around here. I'm getting back on it this week!

5. Added a new goal of Declutter! I'm getting rid of things, whether donating, trashing/recycling or giving to someone we know that can use it, and finding proper homes for other things in our own house. If we decide to move to a different house, I really don't want to move a bunch of things we don't need or want! You would think after all the moves we've made in the last 13+ years - 7 different times of packing and unpacking, not including the short (long) hotel stay when we first moved to Maryland and the couple of months we lived at Jason's parents when we moved pack to Ohio and all of our things were in storage! - we would have done that a long time ago. Actually, we probably did and have just accumulated more STUFF.

My personal goals 

1. My reading total: 6! The Remains; Destined (by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast); The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall; Deep and dark and dangerous; Animal Farm. Currently reading 4 books...
2. I haven't been spending any time knitting, so I'm dropping my goal of finishing my project.
12. I've been better about writing or posting at least once a week.
14. I completely FORGOT about this one! Pinterest has tons of great ideas, and I need to spend a little time on there this week and pick our August item, and maybe make up a few months' worth as well ;)
16. Still working on the genealogy, rather inconsistently though.

Most of my goals have not been achieved or even attempted! I think this fall might be a good time to attempt a photography class and an additional enrichment class, as well as a volunteer or pay it forward opportunity.

I'm not updating on Jason's goals really, but maybe I can have him look over them and tell me where he thinks he is on them. I do know he took the summer off from classes, took 2 of 4 weeks' worth of vacation so far, and did well in his Spring semester, although I'm not sure what his GPA is. He is currently registered for 3 classes set to start in Aug/Sept.

Well, that's all for now!