Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cancer sucks, take2

My little sister Amy found out yesterday, after her second CT scan, that she has a tumor in one of her kidneys. (yeah, I almost passed out when I heard her say that. My Dad said the life drained from him. It's not exactly good news.)She is having a biopsy done tomorrow. Apparently a solid tumor in the kidney is malignant 90% of the time. A biopsy has up to a 15% false negative rate, so they will likely remove the kidney even if the test comes back negative.

On the bright side, if it's localized to the kidney, it can usually be treated with surgery alone... no chemo or dialysis. All in all, it's very good news... as far as cancer is concerned. I mean, if you must have a tumor, this is definitely where you would want it! God blessed us with a spare kidney! If it came down to it, any one of us would donate a kidney to her. Not only is she a fabulous sister, but she's truly one of my best friends as well.
Still, I can't imagine dealing with this. You don't expect this kind of news when you're 25, with a new baby. Amy is such a precious person, very compassionate and sensitive, but she's also one tough cookie, and emotionally stronger than I am. We plan to have dinner together tomorrow night, after her biopsy, if she feels up to it. I just need to hug her now.

She is requesting specific prayer that the cancer has not spread. So please stop and say a prayer right now that this is localized, and can be quickly and easily removed, with no further problems.

Oh, and email me if you know of a good oncologist in the area!

Thank you,

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gettin' Down with it

It's been quite a weekend! Go, Go, Go!
On Friday night we had a Family Game Night at Amy's house.
I love this sign on her front door.
They surprised us with a new game: Beatles Rockband.
I don't sing (really,) but I'm not half-bad at the guitar! Vu is hilarious on vocals!
And my man Fred is awesome. Really, the man has an incredible voice...
it's one of the things I first fell in love with.

Amy loves her kitties (when she gets old we'll call her the Cat Lady.)
Look at Thumbkin's freaky thumbs!

One of the best things about Game Night is all of the scrumptious food!!! Amy made delicious spaghetti (lots of yummy wine in the sauce. Mmmm....) We also had mashed potatoes and Texas toast, french bread, chips, strawberry shortcakes, carmel apples, and two kinds of wine. Can't beat all that!
What a great night!
Adam crashed first...

Rise and Shine for Saturday:

Back to back company picnics.

First was Fred's, which I didn't get any pictures of! My arms were loaded with popcorn, balloons, candy bags and I was attempting to help the kids with their games. I didn't even get a picture of my boys with painted moustaches!

Then we went straight to my Dad's company picnic. And, wait, you can still see a bit of Little Lad's moustache in this picture.

Julie and Scarlett, my Dad and Little Lad, Amy and her baby Ransom
(Mom still isn't feeling well at all, and couldn't make it to the picnic. We missed you, Mom)

And.... drum roll, please....

I did the climbing wall! For the first time ever! And it was terrifying. Really, I'm scared of heights. I may have screamed on my way down (not really sure... I may have passed out for a second, too!) See how it goes all the way to the clouds??
Yep, it was hard, but I did it.
Pay no attention to the little kids standing in line behind me. ;-)
While standing in line for this, Dad took two of the boys to ride ponies.
I saw it, but didn't get any pictures.
Wish I could show you how CUTE they looked on their horses.

Added bonus:
Both picnics had the huge jumping inflatable things!
Here Julie goes down with Scar.

I am so absolutely blessed to have family all around me. And, even more of a blessing, we are all the best of friends. I hope and pray that my own children will stay close for the rest of their lives.

Friday, September 25, 2009

the colorful forest and never-ending side

The Artist and Nature Man use Teaching Textbooks for math, and love it, but we still like to supplement with other activities now and then.

Today I had the kids make a Möbius strip.

To make one, cut a long rectangular piece of paper and draw an X and an O in alternate corners on the side facing up. Now twist the paper until the two sides are facing. Tape or staple together, to make a sort of circle. Try to color one side red and the other yellow (you can't because it only has one side.) This makes an easy elementary intro to topology (or M.C. Escher!)

As I mentioned before, we just started a plant unit for science. Yesterday and today we studied about osmosis & cohesion, and used celery stalks and food coloring to demonstrate.

Put celery in a glass of water (we decided to do three different colors, to make a Color Forest.)Before shot (taken as soon as we set the celery into the water)

Within an hour, the celery has absorbed enough to change the color of its leaves...

Close-up (click for an even closer view)...
Voila! Blue and red celery!
The purple one didn't turn out as well.
Happy learning!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lovin' my manipulatives, baby!

We are well!! Laundry is done. Dishes are done. School was done today (and not just home EC, which they got plenty of on my sick day!) Homemade chicken noodle soup and rice was cooked. Yes, yes, yes, I appreciate the standing ovation. Really. Ah, yes, thank you.

Man, it feels goooood to be back. I'm tired, but it was a good day. Thank you, God, for giving me sunshine today. We worked outside, and I just ran in and out to move laundry from washer to dryer to couch all day. After school, we did art. Of course. And then folded laundry ALL evening. (Contented sigh)

So, anyway, manipulatives. I love them. Because they are fun! And they are anything.
A manipulative can be a bean, if I call it such. I feel the power.
(yes, I'm on a healthy-high right now, almost giddy feeling so much better.)

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I like hands-on learning. I want these things to stick, and I believe we should use as many methods possible to ensure it.

Dominos= manipulative. You bet.
Bears, Stackers, poker chips, and mini-counters. All manipulatives. All fun.
Can be used for all ages, to demonstrate so many problems.

Rods and cubes. Love 'em.
They're hard to build with, but come in so handy for many other things!
Worksheets have their place in our home.
The kids like them thank goodness. (Honestly, I always liked worksheets myself.)
Actually, books and worksheets are our primary method,
but we supplement a LOT with other tools.
The huge dice and flashcards. It's all fun when it's mixed up. If I only used flashcards for drills, the kids would hate math after day 3. When used once a week, it's just part of the "game."
Window clings. Sure, they can be manipulatives.
And addition bingo! Gotta love the genius parents who came up with this. We also have word-family bingo. Heheheeee.

We've started our plant unit now. First up was the celery experiment. I'll post our steps & results tomorrow night... or sometime this weekend. :-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fall artwork

Seeing as how I spent the night on the bathroom floor last night, I'm just happy to be sitting up again. I've been so sick. Nature Man also got the stomach virus. Then we both ran fevers today. :-(

I counted down the hours until Fred would be off work to help me. The only problem is that Fred had also become very ill today. After work he stopped at a gas station and suddenly couldn't stand. He sat by the car for a few minutes, with his head between his legs, trying not to vomit. Poor guy. He made it home, my parents ordered pizza for the kids, and my precious Artist took care of us all evening.

I couldn't have made it through this day without her. The little 4th grader changed diapers, cooked eggs for lunch, straightened the house, read stories. Really, it all amazes me. I'm so proud of her.

Earlier this week, before I was knocked out with sickness, we did a lot of fall art projects in the afternoons.

Line Leaf drawings
Dash worked so hard on his, and it turned out just beautiful!

The artist's leaf

We also read about the artist Wayne Thiebald and copied some of his work.

Then there were leaf butterflies, that we hung on all the front windows.

And painting time...

...that quickly turned into finger painting time for Little Lad. We used the finished artwork (read: messy clumpy brown paintings!) to cut out leaf patterns and string them up.

The Artist painted a volcano, rather than participating in our messy table time. Seeing as how we just studied volcanos and worked on a lapbook, I think we'll fold this painting and add it to a pocket on the back page. Now that we lapbook, I feel like I can save so much more artwork, and they learn when the revisit it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Alphabetical order, Sick Days and thoughts

Double duty teaching is here again: Beginning consonant sounds for Dash and alphabetical order for Nature Man. The Artist (4th) stood by as a teacher's assistant.

Nature Man has already covered ABC order, using our poster and worksheets, but extra FUN practice never hurt anyone. :-)

First the boys put their new 10-foot long ABC puzzle together, down the hallway.
This was a yard sale bargain. Thanks, K!

I gave Nature Man (2nd grade) a list of words to alphabetize: Bear, Spoon, Horse, Purse, Apple, Leaf, Cookies, Watch. Then the boys received items, one by one, that corresponded to the list. Dash (4) had to sound them out, and tell his big brother where they should go.

I would have given them a different "H" item, if I'd realized that the puzzle actually had a picture of a horse there!
When they were finished sorting their items, Nature Man wrote all of the words in the correct order on his page.
We also did an experiment today on water states, but I neglected to get pictures (gasp.) We worked ahead today, too, because Daddy was home to help (swollen and sore from the swarm of yellow jackets he encountered.)

All of that was before we fell ill.

Dash was sick with a stomach bug on Saturday night. Thankfully, it passed after a few hours (of non-stop vomiting.) This evening The Artist, Little Lad and I all got the same thing. :-( Whimper...
And I missed the homeschool house tour because of it. Whimper...
And I have 20 loads of disgusting laundry. Whimper...
But we'll all be okay. I believe we may be all better by tomorrow!

However, even if we have to trudge through any more sickness, we won't get behind. There's no pressure. Ah, the beauty of homeschooling. If The Artist was, say, sick in bed for 4 days, she wouldn't be recovering under a mountain of make-up work and tests. We can school right through it, if she's able. And, if the load needs to be lightened, then the schedule is adjusted and we can smoothly move along. This evening I took over her chores, and just read to her, even though she had some math "homework" (ha) to finish up. She'll finish it soon enough.

If she feels able tomorrow, she can sit at the computer and get her math done, lie down and orally give me her spelling answers, and so forth. We'll do fun calm work, versus our usual fun enErGeTic work.

It's a huge weight off of me to be able to focus on the kids, and not on what they are missing during this time. I fully expect to fall behind on the house, too, when I'm ill and Little Lad is throwing up and needing cuddly time, and The Artist requires attention and care, plus there are still the two healthy boys. Yeah, I'll fall behind. No sweat. Just don't visit the sick house for a couple of days. It will be a wreck, I can assure you, because I am attending to more important matters. Although I AM sanitizing everything!! And doing tons of laundry and dishes. I'm just not cleaning up toys, or hanging clothes or anything else *minor* like that. :-)

Sooo, well or ill, tomorrow will work out.

Sister Night

A few days ago, my sisters and I left the kids with their daddies, and headed out for a dinner together. I'm blessed to have sisters that are so GREAT!
These gals are my closest friends, always up for fun. (Yes, Julie took this picture of me while I was trying to take pictures of her. Stinker.)
We ate supper and then drove to an enchanted-looking little park.
In the dark. In the rain. It was great.

Doesn't Julie look so sweet and calm in this picture?
Heeeheeee... and not so much in this next one.

We were... (ahem...) pretending to be statues.
It's more fun to post about this, than about the stomach flu that briefly (PTL!) visited our house, or the swarm of bees that attacked Fred today. Poor guy. He is swollen and sore. I may have to post a picture of him soon. ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Double duty teaching: emotions and pronouns

What can you do with poster boards? Draw huge "emotion faces." It's fun. :-)

With four kids, ranging from 4th grade to 2-years old, teaching must get creative. Kids are learning ALL the time, so we might as well sneak in extra education when we can. And the funner (and funnier) it is, the more memorable, right?

I had one of the kids sit on the couch to complete the sentence. Dash and Little Lad "read" it to me. Little Lad would just shout out "circle" most of the time, so we helped him along. The face is supposed to be "bored" and The Artist did her best to mirror it.
She looks very bored, doesn't she?

Then we talked about what a pronoun is. Simple explanation: A word that can take the place of a noun. This is review for The Artist, so I had her go first to lead by example.
Artist, how would you read this sentence?
Yes! "I am bored."
"I" is the pronoun.

Then the middle boys sat down.
Boys, what might someone say about you when they see this?
Yes! "They are angry."
"They" is the pronoun that takes the place of "boys."

Short photo session.
Little Lad needed to get in on the couch-sitting action,
so I took some pictures of him sitting on the signs.
Okay, now that he's had his fix, we're moving on...

Nature Man is happy.
Dash, what could take the place of "Nature Man?"
Yes, "he" is happy! "He" is the pronoun.

(Nature Man has also studied pronouns --beginning of last year, I think-- but he acted like this was all new info. Go figure.)
Nature Man, your sister is worried. What could take the place of "Your sister?"
Yes, "she."
She is worried. "She" is the pronoun that takes the place of "your sister."

(The Artist and Dash got up on the couch for this next one,
but Little Lad needed to be in the picture again. So be it. He's a cutie!)

Dash and Artist, how do you feel?
"We feel confused."
Yes! "We" is the pronoun.
Great job, kids!!!