River's Edge Urban Academy

Homeschooling 4 kids ages 9, 6, 4 and baby while working as a postpartum nurse and lactation counselor.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Well, it is now the 28th and I am having a little trouble keeping up with the blog over the holidays! We had a pretty good Christmas overall but I wanted to share the story of the Miller Christmas Eve.
My eyes open at 8am when my adorable 2.75yo son came in my room and said "Mommy, I don't feel any good," Before I could ask what was wrong it became very obvious as he blew chunks all over my blanket. I do not normally rise quickly, but today was an exception! I hustled him off to the bathroom and then put my husband in charge of the kids as I had Tons of last minute shopping to do before I had to work that evening. He puked again once before I left but at this point I assumed that he had probably overdone it on the cookies the night before, as we had celebrated Christmas with my family that night.
When I got home from shopping Ryan informed me that Zeff had continued to vomit, every 20 minutes or so!
This is where it begins to get crazy... We now needed to figure out who would stay home with the sick kid while I went to work and Ryan went to see Jossy perform at our church's Christmas service. As we were discussing and making frantic phone calls to my cousin and our moms it became apparent that Zeff actually needed to go to the doctor as he hadn't kept anything down in many hours, had hardly peed all day (sign of hydration) and was getting more and more lethargic. This further complicated matters as we only have one car that I can drive and the kids can ride in. We finally ended up having my mom pick me and Jossy up and drive me to work and then take J to church and watch her performance. This gave daddy the minivan to take the boys to Urgent Care (baby was fine, he is just difficult for other people cause he is very used to us and we wanted my mom to be able to enjoy the performance without having to deal with the baby). The plan was then that my mom would bring J home after church, unfortunately Zeff didn't improve at all, and kept refusing fluids at the UC so he needed to stay for a long time having IV fluids (poor baby!) and Ryan was still not home by the time Jossy was done at church. So! My mom had to take J home with her (on Christmas eve!!) when Ryan got home, he thought about taking the boys and going to get Joss but at this point Zeff spiked a low grade temp(100 F). Throughout all this I have been at work trying to coordinate everything and figure out what is going on with Zeff. I had also been on the phone explaining to Joscelyn that while I had left Santa a voice mail telling him where she would be, I wasn't sure if he would check it that night since he was probably all ready out delivering toys.
During this I also managed to have Christmas eve supper with my brother who was also working. He then offered to drive me home, even though it would mean him having to stay an hour later after he got off work. I gratefully accepted his offer. He then ended up being asked to stay for a double, which he agreed to, with the stipulation that he still be allowed to drive me home on the clock! So at least he was getting paid while he drove me home!!
Anyways, I got home then Ryan went and got Jossy (a 1 hour round trip drive at midnight on Christmas eve!) and we proceeded to have a lovely Christmas morning with our kids. Zeff was all better Christmas day, but we still stayed home from our noon visit to relatives and didn't leave the house till we went to my m-i-l's for Christmas Day supper.
Whew! That was exhausting to write and I hope not too boring to read. It was a Christmas eve that will live down in our family's history I think! I recently read about a study that showed mother rats handled stress better than rats who didn't have children. I think there is something to that. It seems like the more kids you have, the more variables are in place to mess up any plans you might make! But you do handle it better. Despite being worried about Z and having to be at work, we still got everything coordinated, with the help of our wonderful relatives esp my mom - THANK YOU MOM!
So we are now in the post-Christmas funk and I do think I will start school back up tomorrow as we never got any unit studies together as planned due to so much sickness in our house. I still don't feel like the time was wasted, Jossy has made a ton of progress in her reading this month and is really interested in and plays around with adding numbers quite a bit. She has a fair amount of addition facts memorized and even a couple multiplication that I am sure she doesn't understand.
Zeff has also continued to show improvement in his behavior and I think is on track to start a little bit of home-preschool in the Fall. We were playing with an alphabet puzzle yesterday and he surprised me that he haslearned a few more letters. I confess that I don't often point out letters to him, but his big sister delights in playing teacher when she can corral him into being her class and has gone over our ABC chart with him a few times. Kids are so cool!
Keian is really growing into a chubby, dimply, sweet-natured baby boy. He is not a newborn at all anymore (3 mos. now!) and is starting to enjoy rattles and spending time on his tummy. He is also very giggly and ticklish and just delightful! Ryan said he didn't cry once last evening while I was at work and I believe it. He is very good at giving cues about what he needs before getting upset and Ryan is so good at picking up on them. It sure seems a shame to stop having kids now, when we are getting good at it! Right now he is snoozing in my sling while I write and it is sooo lovely. But alas, laundry is calling me, so I must bid today's blog session adieu!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Grrrr, I wrote a really long post a few days ago to update on how we were doing and I actually wrote, in black and white that our whole family was 100% healthy. What an invitation to fate! Not only did I lose my post, but I also invited sickness upon my house! More to follow......

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The crud continues! Two oldest kids now have ear infections and baby is hacking away and would probably suffocate if I didn't attack him with the blue snot sucker every hour or so. Thank goodness for our sling - I can't set him down or he has even more trouble breathing, at least with our I have a hand free. Even so, Joss has made some major strides with her arithmetic facts, due to this little plastic machine my mom gave her, which has all the 1-10 addition facts on it and you can push a button to check the answer. She has also been exploring other ways to add (using number chart, beads, fingers). We have also been spending more time reading since Z is sick enough to sit still for it! We have been practicing all the sight words we've learned as well as sounding out all the CVC words as we read together. It is a neat thing about homeschooling that I always know exactly where Joss is on a particular skill and what her latest thing is. I know I would try to stay on top of those things if she went to PS, but I wouldn't have such an intimate understanding of exactly which words are hard for her and which ones she is good at. And I LOVE watching her progress and sharing her excitement over each small victory (she finally figured out THE - it stumped her for quite a while) I also really like how knowing I am fully responsible for my kids education has caused me to be a better parent. I am much more inclined to find answers for most of their questions than I used to be - I can't say I can answer all of them, but I really try, since I know I can't tell them "you'll learn that in school!" I think that is why Jossy is continuing to progress in math and reading, despite the fact that we have not touched our curriculum for 8 school days now.
As for Zeff, he is so much more pleasant and cooperative day by day. We had fallen into a very authoritarianish, punitive type discipline pattern as I found his behavior very appalling and had been trying to really hammer it into his head the need to "Play NICE". "Touch GENTLE" etc. However I observed how a good friend interacts with her two year old son, and started trying to approach Zeff with more of an attachment-parenting style (I also read Dr. Sears "The Baby Book" and "The Discipline Book") It may also be due to his maturing, but we are getting along so much better, and his hitting and unkind behavior have really been decreasing. I learned that he is actually a very sensitive little guy under his tough exterior and responds so much better to a sympathetic approach, when he is having a hard time behaving.
Okay, I know that none of those are earth-shattering realizations, but I had really gotten into the tough power struggle dynamic with him and it took being inspired by a friend who also has a boy of a similar age to examine my style and realize what about it wasn't working.
I had actually set out to say what Zeff's latest favorite activity is: Let's just say give this kid an ice cream bucket, turkey baster, wire whisk, a little food coloring, dish soap and warm water - then throw a big bath towel down on the kitchen floor and let him loose. He can stay busy with this for a good half hour at a time!! A large cardboard box and some "babies" can also be good for a good long while (Daddy taking them on errands to the library, the bank, the grocery store, etc).
And the baby, well he is just such a joy! Despite the fact that he must be feeling cruddy he is smilier every day and I am guessing while give us his first laugh any day as he is very ticklish. Even with his being so sick, he still sleeps through the night and I just have to thank God for him every day because he is such a blessing! Is it just me or are kids like peanuts? You always think just one more, just one more. This kid makes me want another for sure, but we'll have to see what daddy thinks in a few years :)! Some people also seem to think I should want a larger house or something - I happen to think we fit pretty nicely in our 700 sq foot, two (tiny) bedroom house. I suppose I do want a boy room and a girl room someday - so we may remodel our attic, but I feel like alot of people are spending less time home with their families in larger and larger houses and I would rather have our family be the reverse of that trend. Sure we could make alot more money if we worked more, and we could afford more "stuff", and a bigger house but at what price? I get to let my son slop water all over the kitchen every day, spend hours reading stories with my budding reader, and play with my baby all day long. I really don't think I could like a big house in the suburbs as much as I like my life working a couple evenings a week and spending every single day with my sweet kids.
Speaking of sweet kids, they are clamoring for me, so that's it for today.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

We are all down with a truly vicious cold. Hope to blog again someday when we are a little healthier!

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Okay, so I left off at Tuesday afternoon. After Target we went over to a friends house for a nice afternoon of sledding, snowmen, snowangels, cookies and hot cider! It really doesn't get much better than that. The downside to the huge dumping of snow we just got is that it took us an hour to get home, compared to 15-20 minutes it usually takes.
Wednesday, was Awesome! Ryan took the day off work and we saw The Wizard of Oz at the Children's Theatre. I saw it last year too, and they do a great job. The kids loved it. Jossy was grinning the whole time, clapping and singing along at parts. She was so into it that she even screamed at one scary part! All in good fun though, she insisted she wasn't scared! Zeff did surprisingly well! He was the kid I most worried about, as he generally can't sit still for more than an hour. He did climb from his seat to daddy's lap and back a few times, but was absorbed in the play for about 95% of the time. He didn't get overly frightened either, as I was concerned about. Being in daddy's arms helps with the bravery, I guess. The biggest surprise was Keian, though!! I was sure he'd nurse and sleep through it, but he sat in his sling and watched the whole thing!! Yes, my 2.5 month old!
After the play we came home for quiet time. The kids really needed it. I was disappointed that all Zeff wanted to do was watch a movie, but I think he needed that quiet time to counteract all the stimuli of the morning. After his movie, the kids sat and played video games with their dad. We decided Zeff is the media kid, and we will have to make a special effort to both encourage other activities as well as provide educational, wholesome videos and TV in moderation. We discussed this while I sat at the computer and Ryan played video games. Hmmm... I wonder where he gets it?
Then we went downtown to see the Marshall Field's holiday exhibit. This year they did Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, based on the book, not the movie. It was okay, but the kids didn't really know the story. Of course we went and got pictures done with Santa and paid $17 for 5 pix! Santa was pretty burnt out, too. He seemed pretty sick of the whole thing. Fortunately, the kids were so excited they didn't notice. Zeff greeted him by telling him "I want a PT Cruiser and batteries" Jossy wants a scarf and slippers??? Keian hasn't told anyone what he wants, but I think clothes are in his future.
Well, today started at 5:30 am with a soaked and wide awake baby. Yesterday really screwed up his schedule as he gaped at the play all morning when he should have had his major 3 hour nap for the day. Then just as he was finally settling down at home we took him and the kids downtown and he woke up again to stare. I guess the days of newborns who sleep all the time are over. He is way too interested in everything to nap in his sling whenever we leave the house like he used to. It's such a cliche but so true...they really do grow up way too fast!
Well, we've had a lovely relaxed morning - I had chores done and supper started in the crock pot before the kids even woke up. Ryan and I even got to spend a little time alone with all kids sleeping!! (Baby went back to bed as soon as he had properly woken us up.) They are now watching cartoons while I blog, Xmas shop online and check email while I have my precious 1/2 cup of coffee that the baby allows me. I am also searching for Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa books, through the library. I have the idea of doing a very laid back unit study of the holidays (esp Christmas). We really focused just on Christmas and the bible story of it last year. Although I will include the bible story (of course!) I have an idea of looking at how different cultures celebrate. Not that I have anything planned yet! Hopefully I will get a few things together over the weekend.
Peace out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Well, I think our Christmas break has officially started! Our week is packed with activities, I am trying to get our shopping done and it has finally snowed! These things combined, plus my desire to try to pick up a few shifts at work have convinced me to start our break this week. I had planned on taking two weeks off before the holidays but I will start now, and if J begs for school we'll keep working through LA. I am planning to do more crafts, stories, etc. But tomorrow we are going to see the Wizard of Oz at the Children's Theatre with daddy and then downtown to see a display of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Depending on our stamina we may even hang out for the Holidazzle parade! We then have a meeting Thursday and playgroup Friday, so I hope to do a craft on Thursday. I saw a cute reindeer on Enchanted Learning where you trace a foot for a reindeer face and hands for the antlers then put on construction paper eyes and nose. Maybe we can learn a little about reindeer and read the night before christmas...
But I haven't recorded what we have done so far this week. So far a nice week but I can't say we have done any Calvert School. Yesterday we started off by visiting daddy at work on our way to the grocery store. If I had actually remembered by list and coupons it would have been perfect but it was still a pretty great grocery trip. I feel like Zeff has really come through the tough part of the 2's. He was on great behavior the whole trip and so was Joss. We really do have a nice time at the the grocery store, when we get along!We talked about the wax on cucumbers and why we have to peel the ones in the store, but how the ones from our organic farm have peels that are good to eat. We also had a really funny conversation about presidents and kings. Joss knows that George Bush is our president. She also knows from previous conversations that kings' children become kings. So somehow she heard about George Sr. and asked if the current Bush is president because his dad was president. Well I happen to think that had something to do with it, but I tried to explain that the president is the person that the people vote for, and whoever gets the most votes is the president. So she then says "Oh, so George Bush must have got the most votes" I almost bit my tongue off! I am just glad she is understanding the most basic concepts of a democracy and we will get into a little more historical accuracy as she gets older!
After the grocery store we brought dad lunch then hurried home for a playdate with some neighbors. It was our first time playing with them, although we have lived down the street from each other for 5 years! Zeff really enjoyed their 5yo boy's toys but the 5yo and Joss butted heads a few time. Apparently she felt he was being bossy, so tried to remedy the situation by calling him Mr. Bossy! He of course did not appreciate this! I was not sure that she would feel it had been a fun playdate, although I enjoyed talking to the other mom
Today was great. We had ice skating first, then went to Target where the kids had wonderful behavior again. We also had a real nice talk about needs vs. wants as well as having patience to wait for things that we want. I seriously got in and out with NO WHINING, NO BEGGING for things and NO FIGHTING between the kids!! We even stopped and had lunch at the (ew!) Target food place, which I normally would never eat at but it was where we were at lunch time and it beat loading the kids back in the car, driving around in the snow and unloading them again. - To Be Continued

Friday, December 05, 2003

Oh! I forgot to say that Thursday afternoon I took the kids to the library and it was the Best Library Trip Ever!!! Zeff's behavior has really seemed to improve lately and that was the ultimate test! They have a loft above the children's section that the kids are NOT allowed to go up by themselves. Now despite me telling them that once a week for at least a year he almost always tries to go up without me! Yesterday he took two steps up the stairs, and when I reminded him he wasn't supposed to go up there, he CAME BACK DOWN! He didn't run up the stairs as fast as he could! And when it was time to check out he was even willing to relinquish his video for a minute - without crying!! - while the librarian scanned it - another first!
Also on this note, he played pretty nicely with all the other kids he's been around these last two days. No hitting (that I've seen) and even some sharing! These things just don't seem to come easily for my second child, but he is really improving!
We started Thursday with a speed I did not know we are capable of!! By some misguided miracle, the kids and I slept till 10am!! Now this would normally be cause to rejoice since I am always trying to get them to sleep later, but we had somewhere to be by 10:30!! We actually got dressed (the kids were wearing mostly different things than they slept in), teeth brushed, baby and Zeffy changed, into our winter gear and to the coffee shop by 10:30!!! It helped that the coffee shop is 2 blocks away and I elected to feed them there.
After our playdate/meeting we had friends over for lunch (Bean soup and milk - nutritious! to make up for breakfast at the coffee shop!). After they went home, Joss and I did another 1/2 of a LA lesson, but she was having a really tough time concentrating. She was still really wound up from the morning of playing with friends and Zeff could not keep himself busy at all, so was constantly interrupting us. I threw in the towel and just read stories for a while. It's funny, last week we worked right through Thanksgiving, when the ps kids were off, but this week we have been accomplishing a lot less than we usually do - I guess we're taking our Thanksgiving holiday this week!
Today, Friday, consisted of playgroup in the AM followed by lunch and playing at McDonalds playland with some homeschooling friends. While there we met another homeschooling family. We had a nice time chatting about kids, curriculum, support groups, etc. I always get a kick out of meeting other homeschoolers randomly like that. Helps me feel like less of a freak, I guess :)! In many ways it was alot like yesterday, so I stuck with our Friday routine of no school - even though part of me is feeling like we didn't get enough done this week. Instead of trying to get through some school with Joss I let both kids watch a WHOLE movie (a major treat - part of the reducing TV thing is that we now watch movies in segments). They are still on the couch half-asleep watching it. I think we will call the week of school done and not try to do any work over the weekend to "make-up" for our slacker week.
Hope everyone out there has a great weekend as I intend to do the same!

Thursday, December 04, 2003

All right, I don't want to get sued by my employer so I won't go into details but I truly hate my job some days. No, I hate the things that get in the way of me doing my job which I actually love. Enough about the job - onto the homeschooling.
Actually the homeschooling wasn't great either. I woke up late and was appalled by how messy our house had gotten lately and spent the morning cleaning while the kids played very nicely in their playroom for almost an HOUR! I loved eavesdropping on them. Jossy definitely leads the imaginary play, but Zeff delights in it too. At one point they were both doctors "fixing" their stuffed animals by wrapping first aid tape around their broken parts for casts.
Once I got the house under control, we had very little time before I had to go to work so we skipped going to the library and instead did the other 1/2 of LA from yesterday. Then I made soup while the kids watched a Christmas Veggie Tales video.
Joss had choir and pioneer club at church tonight so I don't feel too bad about not doing as much school as we usually do. She learns quite a bit of music theory in choir and pioneer club also has a bible story and craft.
Well baby's sleeping and I should be too. Bye

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I was woken up today by a naked two year old crawling in my bed. He told me he was cold and I asked him why he had taken off his clothes. "So I could see my butt!" was the logical reply. I don't know why I even asked. I suggested putting clothes back on as a possible remedy to the being cold thing, but this suggestion was met with scorn. I could tell he thought that was a really dumb idea. :) He's lucky he's cute.
Our first activity of the day was ice skating classes which continue to be fun, challenging and an all around great experience for Joss. We are so fortunate to have found an excellent instructor who teaches by using lots of games so the kids never realize they are "working" on a certain skill. She even mixes some "school" in, today the kids were picking up letter blocks off the ice and thinking of words that started with the letter.
After ice skating we dropped off some bread and pictures and letters the kids had made to some friends who are fighting illness at the same time as trying to move! Their kids are about the same age as ours so I always have a lot of sympathy for what they are going through. Right now I am being very grateful for all of us being healthy and not having to move!
In school today we did math first and it is continuing to be fun, but not terribly challenging. I am thinking about calling Cavert's ed. counselors as I am not sure if my instinct to try to stay together with math and LA is correct. The math is almost too easy while the LA is just right and often challenging.
We started LA by putting up our word wall. This is not part of the Calvert curriculum for K but my mom gave us one, so I had Jossy read each of her sight word cards to me as she decided where to place them. She then assembled two sentences. We then did the literature portion of the LA lesson, but Joss was too burnt out on reading (from working on the word wall) to do the phonics. She likes working on it, but there is a point where she just starts guessing at everything and can't read things she could five minutes earlier and I am learning to quit right then. The word wall thing was fun though, and I am thinking she might want to play with the words on her own now, since they are so accessible. We'll see. Right now we have to clean the playroom, because daddy found us a big whiteboard on an easel but we can't put it up till the room is clean! Hopefully I can get the kids started cleaning, then sneak over to the laundry room and start a load.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Oh, I did want to record one more humorous thing from the day. It actually starts out not very funny, with Joscelyn being quite rude and defiant to me. I lost my temper with her and yelled for her to go to her room for a time-out. Zeff, hearing me yell, came running from the other room and took his karate stance and said "Leave my brother alone!" It was so sweet I just started laughing. I still had to send Joss to her room, but we were all in a better mood. God bless little boys.
Today, monday, went fine. We all slept later than normal so we didn't get started with Calvert school till 1pm. Joss is doing well with her reading. She had been struggling with a few sight words, but is now confident with all the words we have learned so far, including yes and no. My mom (a teacher - I am so lucky) gave me a "word wall" so as soon as I clear some wall space we will put that up. A word wall, is a large plastic sheet with holes for hanging and lots of little see-through plastic pockets. The pockets should just fit our key word cards and will make them more accessible for Jossy to look at and review them whenever she wants.

We had a review day in Math where we are supposed to do our own math activities. I recorded our baking for the day, (Jossy counts, measures, helps add how many ounces we need when we use baby bottles to measure water), our countdown to Christmas on the whiteboard (We also did this countdown for vacations, her birthday and Thanksgiving - this activity has really helped her to grasp the concepts of larger numbers better) and our discussion of the proper formation of 2 and 5 (she initiated). This was not satisfactory to Joss, however, so we also had to do another Math lesson in the book. I really fought it as I am trying so hard to get us caught up with LA to Math and I didn't want us to get even further ahead. I finally decided that I didn't want to discourage a kid who is that set on doing school, but I despair of ever getting all on the same lesson!

We have been cutting back on our social activities of late and the kids are having even more time together and entertaining themselves. I still think they are getting enough time with other kids, just not as much as we were. They have actually been playing more nicely and involving themselves in creative activities. J has been particularly industrious and lately is making 3D paper sculptures with construction paper. She makes arches and secures them with lots of tape. She then decorates everything with cut out bits of construction paper either taped or glued on. Her latest masterpiece also includes such found objects as her leftover apple (cut in pieces and glued on) which is a ticket window, and glued on chocolate chips which are all waiting in line for tickets. The theater is a big piece of green fluff from the dogs chew toy/bed. There are other apple bit structure and she had a great time telling me all about it.

Today we enjoyed reading Skyscrapers by Gail Gibbon, a very detailed non-fiction account of how a skyscraper is built. I am surprised at the amount of explanation the kids will tolerate on this subject. Zeff sat (almost) still the whole 20 min. or so! Joss and I really enjoyed reading Little House in the Big Woods last night. We read two chapters (my limit). It is cool how it was talking about maple syruping which we did last year and will certainly do again. Joss thinks it is amazing that it takes place in Wisconsin and we have ACTUALLY BEEN THERE! I love how easily amazed kids are!

Well, that's it for now...