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Friday kids started to feel better - enough to start picking at each other. Tobias has gone back to napping as part of his recovery. We spent the day at home, quiet and resting. Sweet friends sent us flowers and a get well balloon.

Saturday Joseph and Emma returned from youth conference, healthy and happy. They had a great time.

Sunday everyone was well enough to go to church together. After getting a bit stir crazy after dinner everyone headed to the backyard to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

Monday morning the kids cleaned out the van. In the afternoon Mason and I spent a couple hours doing an appointment to get various braces adjusted. In the evening there was a used curriculum sale at the local homeschool group, where I found a few twenty-two good books to add to our shelves for $9. Well, I suppose only 20, because the giant two volume set of all the Sherlock Holmes stories Emma claimed for herself about three minutes after I returned home. She loves Sherlock Holmes and is well into the first volume as of Tuesday evening.

Wednesday and Thursday I have no notes. Friday we went to a game night at the church. The kids loved the different activities, indoor and out. Saturday and Sunday were quiet.

Monday was full of appointments. Just a typical day. Jason had to work, which is unusual, but would get Friday off instead.

Tuesday the big van got an oil change and other minor prep for our upcoming family trip to Palmyra, NY to see the Hill Cumorah Pageant, visit a lot of church history sites, and then swing by Niagara Falls on our way home. Makayla was working the farm and a farmer's market as usual. Joseph, Emma, and Daniel decided to bake chocolate chip cookies for the family and to share with our piano teacher. We had piano lessons in the afternoon.

Wednesday and Thursday have no notes.

Friday we went to our friends' home home for swimming, a late night movie (Monsters Inc.), and then fireworks. It was so much fun!

Saturday was errand day.

Sunday was church and then a family birthday party for Samuel, who turns 6 years old this week.

Monday was the final shopping for our trip. We also squeezed in a 3.5 hour appointment with Mason's bracing specialist trying to adjust his HKAFOs (standing braces). Unfortunately, it looks like it is time for new braces. That means an appointment with the orthopedic surgeon and the physical medicine doctor, x-rays, possible surgery plans (depending on the x-rays, we're tracking a few things), submitting request for new braces to insurance, waiting up to 6 months for bracing to decide yes or no, appeal if denied, then a month-ish for the custom braces to be casted, built, and fit. All while we try not to lose function living without braces or wear improperly fitting braces during this time and risk pressure sores. And of course if it is time for any of the leg surgeries on the horizon that plays into all of those timelines too. Ha! It is never dull.

Tuesday and Wednesday I have no notes, so I'm hitting publish. Next up - a post about our big family trip!
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Tuesday was 'office day' for me. I was filling out paperwork for various things, listing phone calls that needed made, and paying bills. The kids enjoyed their summer day with minimal fussing at one another. The Instant Pot beef stew recipe we made was delicious for dinner, with a side of fresh rolls.

Wednesday was 'phone day' for me. I spent several hours on the phone, on hold or talking with people at various doctor's offices, insurance, etc. Almost everything on my list was taken care of by the end of it. Today was also Makayla's official birthday. I'm the parent of an adult. Crazy.

Thursday's physical therapy was a lot of fun. Mason liked exploring the new gym and equipment. Beyond that, the day had a lot of cranky kids who were getting on each others' nerves. It kept raining off and on and we were stuck inside.

Friday - I'm sure we did something on this day, but I have no notes.

Saturday we headed to The Works with the kids. It was a great morning for it because we nearly had the place to ourselves. Most of the kids spent their time in the tech center taking apart different donated machines. The youngest kids spent time in the little kid play area with me. It is full of costumes, puppets, and pretend play areas (firetruck, science lab, grocery, ice cream shop, puppet stage).

Sunday we had a peaceful day at church where even the littlest ones managed to make it through the first hour of services (family service). I began a new calling today, secretary in the Primary (children's church). That means I get to spend time with the large group of children we have at church. It is such a sweet place to be, hearing them learn and testify of what they know to be true, as well as enjoying the singing time.

Monday we started the week of daily rain. The kids are NOT impressed. Most of them only have one pair of shoes, so they can't play outside in the mud and ruin their only pair of shoes. We're stuck inside. That means trying to find different fun things to do each day.

Tuesday's fun activity laid out on the table after breakfast was exploring our rock collections. The kids did their summer reading and math time, then play ensued until lunch. Then the day took a downward dive because Samuel threw up. Vomit is a large family mom nemesis, because it increases cleaning, laundry, and work.

Wednesday is a blur because I was up all night Tuesday with sick kids, sick myself, and tired. Half the family was in various states of being sick, though vomit was limited.

It is Thursday morning. I dropped Joseph and Emma off at the church to travel to youth conference (they are in the non-sick half of the family). They will return on Saturday. It is raining and I'm still tired. We're about 25 hours out from the last person throwing up, but I still have a handful of people who haven't gotten sick yet, so that may change. Today will probably be a day of movies while people lay around in various states of illness. I think today will be a great day to watch Newsies.
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Our Sunday began as it usually does, with church. The rhythms is an anchor to our week and I always some away refreshed. Even if keep 10 children engaged and relatively quiet during worship sometimes means I hear less of the service than I would like.
Quick picture of the family at 
Makayla's seminary graduation.

After a quick lunch at home we headed to the stake center (larger church building 30 minutes away where groups of congregations meet together for various events) for Makayla's seminary graduation. Seminary is a 6am scripture study class with other teens that Makayla has attended throughout high school.

Monday was our usual get-all-the-things-done day before daddy's work week begins on Tuesday. Rebekah and Jason each had doctor appointments, there was grocery pickup, errands to run, a couple hours outside enjoying a random cool weather day, Makayla working the farm in the morning, college work for Daddy, chores, cooking, cleaning, and the usual medical care for Mason.
Fortresses

Tuesday morning I was tired from the get go. Rebekah is getting in her first molars, and she did not sleep well, so neither did I. Our day's plans were very at home and relaxed. The kids read, played built fortresses out of bunk beds, and enjoyed our train set. They also had piano lessons.
Birdwatching window at the nature center

Wednesday Makayla headed off to work at the farm as usual. Rain was in the forecast but I decided to see if we could sneak in a visit to the arboretum. I packed up 9 kids and by the time we arrived it was raining. We decided to start in the nature center basement where there are displays, toys, books, turtles in tanks, a nature table with things to explore, and a giant bird watching area. We had the entire place to ourselves and saw so many birds and chipmunks! Once the rain slowed we headed back out to the van and headed down some of the auto trails to explore. Our mission today: look for leaves and bark to find differences.

Thursday was a bit shuffled around because we switched Mason's physical therapy time to mornings for summer. After getting everyone up, fed, and moving on their day, I took off with Mason, leaving the kids in Makayla's capable hands. Next week his therapy group moves into a new building that has an actual pediatric therapy room. We're excited for more space!

Daddy dropped the borrowed van off at the mechanic shop for an oil change and to have the a/c fixed.

This week we decided to start introducing the kids to some old shows, mainly musicals. Today we watched My Fair Lady. It was a hit with several kids.

Friday was a quiet, at home day while Makayla worked both jobs, using my van, and Daddy had the car for work. In the evening we were able to pick up the borrowed van from the mechanic shop, so we now have 3 vehicles for the summer. It is a huge blessing! We finished off the evening watching The King and I with Makayla.

Saturday morning I browsed a cookbook I borrowed from the library, jotted down a few recipes, and made a short shopping list for ingredients we didn't already have. Joseph was my shopping buddy this week. The cookbook recipes all an Instant Pot, which I already have and use occasionally. Here are the recipes we'll be trying in the next 2 weeks:
  • Vegan Fajita Bowl - Made on Sunday, added chicken as an option. Yum.
  • Cilantro Lime Rice - Made on Sunday. Yum.
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Beef and Broccoli 
  • Salty Baked Potatoes - Made on Saturday. Yum.
  • Super Simple Chili
  • Fire Roasted Beef Stew - Making this tonight (Tuesday)
Sunday began with church. A few of the boys were teaching or giving talks, which is always fun. In the evening we celebrated Makayla's upcoming 18th birthday with family. We had root beer floats and sherbet floats, talked, laughed, and just enjoyed time together.

Monday's forecast was rain, cooling off the temperatures, so we planned an afternoon trip to the zoo. We had a great time exploring three sections of the zoo: North America, Heart of Africa, and Polar Frontier. The kids were thrilled because we finally were able to feed the giraffes, an activity that has been on our wishlist for over a year.

Monday also was special because it was my 19th wedding anniversary! I have been married for half my life now to this wonderful man!
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Thursday we had a lovely thunderstorm kick off the day. I don't know if random conversations like this happen at your house, but at mine the rain kicked off a conversation that covered the following topics:
  • Why rain can be good/important.
  • Why too much rain can be bad.
  • Forest fires/dry grass fires.
  • The Paradise fire.
  • Serving others.
  • Fire safety (ex: crawl to get under the smoke, don't hide under beds or in closets - get out.)
  • Birds and worms after rain.
Friday Makayla headed off early in the morning to work at a local farm. She's now working two jobs - the farm in the mornings until lunch, and then the bakery in the afternoon until dinner. This is our new normal until she heads to college in the fall, which leaves me van-less and complicates all appointments for Mason. We're trying to work it out.

Saturday we figured out the vehicle situation - found one to borrow for the summer from extended family. We will get it in a week or two. Saturday was busy because it was Makayla's graduation party. She and a friend had a party together with a cookout, snow cones, and lots of food to prepare. I loved sharing the party with another family because it made the workload lighter!

Sunday Church. Quiet. Recovery. Family. In other words, all the good things!

Monday was Memorial Day. We talked with the kids about the holiday, went through all 10 kids clothing to switch from spring to summer (removing long sleeves/pants, bringing out shorts/short sleeves, etc). I made a list of everything we didn't have and needed to buy for various kids in their individual sizes, then hit WalMart for sale prices. The next thing to look at is shoes for everyone...sigh.
We went to my sister's home for a cookout, trampoline jumping, and a sprinkler. So much fun!

Tuesday my sister took Joseph to the orthodontist to get braces adjusted (thank you sister!) while Makayla worked and had my van. The home life included reading and playing games together.

The kids are all happily doing their summer reading and coloring in their charts, creeping toward the reward of a frosty. Joseph, Emma, and Daniel each finished the book they were working on and moved to a new book. Joseph and Daniel chose Framed by James Ponti as their next read. Emma chose Here There Be Dragons by James A Owen. Oliver is still working through Howliday Inn by James Howe. Caleb is on the last reader for All About Reading level 3. Mason is on the last reader for All About Reading level 4. Samuel is on the second reader on All About Reading level 1.

Many of them are also cheerfully doing Musical Multiplication from The Good and the Beautiful. This, quite literally, takes 5 minutes.

Wednesday I managed to take no notes.

Thursday we had book club with friends. We actually never finished reading the book, unusual for us. Beauty just didn't catch my kids. It happens! We had a wonderful time with friends.

Friday Several boys asked about some new to us math books that arrived in the mail this week and have been sitting by my computer. It was a lovely opening to introduce them to another aspect of our summer math review/maintenance. We will be exploring these books by Edward Zaccaro:
  • Primary Grade Challenge Math
  • Upper Elementary Challenge Math
  • Read World Algebra
I love the thought on the cover of one of these books: "Math is often taught as all scales and no music. This book contains the music!" These books are explorations of math in a fun, thoughtful, and challenging way. Each chapter teaches concepts with fun stories and illustrations, then has 4 levels of questions from basic to Einstein. You should have seen my boys asking for one more question over breakfast, or a question from the next level. So fun! The Algebra book will be used more during the school year for Joseph and Emma, whenever they ask "when will I ever USE algebra?", because the entire point of the book is showing just how often real life has us using algebra. 

The other highlight for Friday was a library trip to restock our shelves with new books. We ended up with books about weather, big machines, tractors, different forms of energy production, Harry Potter, the Oregon Trail, optical illusions, some cookbooks, and a family that spent a year sailing together.

It is Saturday morning and we have a couple graduation parties to attend today. I'm hoping to get some work done on portfolios, and the bathrooms could use a good cleaning. 
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The weekend was family time and Mother's Day. I spent time with my mother and sister on Saturday sans kids. It was a lot of fun talking and laughing together without interruptions. Sunday we had church and then spent the afternoon at home together.

Monday was full. Makayla went to investigate a job possibility in the morning while I went grocery shopping and errand running. When I got back Daddy worked on his college class until it was time for Oliver and Samuel's dental cleanings. He took them while I fed kids, mixed up the meatloaf for dinner and put it in the fridge, and did afternoon medical care with Mason for 75 minutes. By the end Daddy was back, got Rebekah down for a nap, and ran Joseph to the movie theater. We passed each other as Mason and I headed out for the big city to pick up his new glasses at Children's Hospital. Two and a half hours later, mostly spent driving, we were home and Daddy was again gone picking up Joseph from his movie. I put the meatloaf in the oven, turned on the Instant Pot full of potatoes that daddy had washed and prepped while I was gone, and kept the general pre-dinner activities moving along (chores, more chores, food prep). After dinner the kids made sure their bedrooms were clean and got pajamas on because Daddy's first day back to work was going to be Tuesday and he needed to get to bed at 6pm. That means the upstairs is off limits all evening. The girls headed out to walk a friend's dog, pick up Joseph's epi pens at the pharmacy, and do some shopping of their own. 8pm was the general bedtime and 9pm was lights out.

Tuesday we all survived Daddy's first day of work for 2019. He is not back to full pay, but anything is better than nothing. We missed him a lot and simply kept busy at home until he returned. There were games of war, checkers, and chess. We pulled the Little People collection out of the attic. I read aloud The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe out of my old 1962 copyright ten volume Collier Junior Classics set. Joseph, Emma, and Daniel loved it. Kids had piano lessons (and some even ate little dried fish and other snacks from Japan our teacher shared). Makayla worked and then got her first semester's college schedule. Southern Virginia University schedules your first semester of classes for you. She's enrolled in a variety of classes including classic Western literature, general psychology, and servant-leadership. It's getting more real every week that she is leaving on a grand adventure.

Wednesday and Thursday I have no notes. I know that Wednesday was the last Cub Scout meeting of the school year. I'm ready for a break! Thursday was spent getting the house and family ready for my absence, and packing.

Friday morning Grandma arrived before 6:30am to take over the house and kid care. Jason was already at work (he had to be there before 4am) and Makayla and I climbed in the car and started driving. A seven-ish hour road trip later through a couple states, hills, mountains, and very winding roads we arrived in the tiny Virginia town of Buena Vista, home of Southern Virginia University. We had appointments with financial aid and academic advising, then a quiet evening exploring the nearby communities.
SVU Visit - Go Knights!

Saturday morning was the SVU Open House. We had so many questions answered, met important people and departments, she got to do a mini-class in Psychology (her declared major), then we had a solid tour of campus including the dorms she'll be in. It made everything feel very real. Now that we've seen everything in person, asked questions of both staff, current students, and past students, and felt the spirit on campus, we both know this is the right place for Makayla. It is a fantastic fit.

Sunday she and I climbed back in the car and drove home. It was a beautiful drive and ever so nice to be home again.

Monday was 'get all the things done' day, knowing that I would only have a vehicle that day. There were groceries to pick up, library books to return, library books to pick up, the final dentist appointment, and so on.

Tuesday Daddy was at work and the kids and I started off the day with breakfast and chores. They have not had assigned chores for a while. I simply ask for helpers as needed. Now that our two week total break for summer is over we are beginning to build routines in. This routine is fairly simple - in 30 minutes everyone is given 2 chores to tackle and the entire house ends up clean by the end of the 30 minutes. Yes, that is one perk of a large family, many hands truly make light work.

Wednesday the next routine was introduced: summer reading. My kids are split between solid readers (Oliver, Daniel, Emma, Joseph, Makayla), a solid reader who is finishing All About Reading level 4 because he wants to (Mason), readers still needing regular lessons (Caleb and Samuel), and non-readers (Tobias and Rebekah). This summer we decided to set a basic reading goal with a small incentive (something we don't use during the school year). I printed out a page with 20 black and white graphics (Pokeballs from Pokémon) for Joseph down through Tobias. Each day that they read at least 20 minutes, or have someone read to them, in Tobias' case, they color a ball. When the sheet is filled up they get a small frosty from Wendy's. Makayla elected not to participate as she is busy living her nearly adult summer. If a kid decides not to read I am 100% okay with that, natural consequences will follow. Most of my kids naturally read an hour each evening, plus their personal scripture study time.

It is Wednesday afternoon and I'm hitting publish on this post while I'm thinking about it!
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Monday began with a dentist appointment (cleaning for 1 child). The people at home spent the morning playing, drawing, and creating. Lunch and an afternoon appointment for daddy came next. We got our car back from the mechanic. At 4pm everyone headed outside to play in the backyard. We also released all 12 butterflies. The kids enjoyed watching as they flew around the yard and off to explore.

Tuesday we had another 4 dentist cleanings (and no cavities). That leaves two more children to have cleanings next week. Phew!

Wednesday I took no notes.

Thursday was stressful. Joseph and Mason had their soft cooked egg (scrambled) food challenge at the allergist. Mason passed, no reaction to eating eggs that we could see. Hooray.

BUT ---

Joseph had a very obvious negative reaction to eating the eggs. It took claratin, Benadryl, two rounds of Epinephrine, and an injected steroid to control his reaction. We spent 8 hours in the office before it was all done. Joseph is just fine now, we have more information than we had before, and we can definitively say he is still allergic to egg. He is cleared to continue eating egg baked in items (the temperature and time baking make bigger changes to the protein that his body is able to handle). But anything cooked on the stove top with egg is out (think: omlets, French toast, boiled eggs, mayo or anything with mayo like potato salad, ranch dressing, or pasta salad, fresh pasta, eggnog, etc).

Friday is finally here and I took some time this morning to put together this:

That is my beautiful homeschool graduate! It has been an amazing journey together and now I'm excited to watch her life unfold as she moves into adulthood.

For others whose children are homeschooling high school I wanted to share a neat Etsy store with some helpful items. The Plaid Polka Dots offers editable transcript templates that will calculate GPA for you. I am excited to use this throughout high school to keep records neat, clean, and organized for the rest of the kids!

They also offer custom diplomas for homeschool graduates. You have several options in font, text, and customizations. Then you can choose to have them print and mail you the diploma on a nice linen-textured paper or you can download the file and print the diploma yourself.

Friday continued... 
As I type this it is early afternoon. My children have been pestering one another all day. It is summer break, and we always start off with a total break. They are driving me and each other crazy!

After about two weeks of total break we start summer routines. In a family with this many kids there have to be routines or everyone goes crazy. It's the time of year when we brush up on or learn new chores. We set up daily routines that include no media mornings. We plan some out of the house activities like kids bowl free, trips to the zoo, and science museum adventures. The kids get two days of math practice a week and know that they need to grab a timer for summer reading and curl up with a book most days of the week. Some kids choose to learn typing and get to use Typing Instructor for Kids. All the kids set personal goals to learn new skills or practice old ones, and so do I.

I'm off to enjoy a leisurely afternoon of handing out chores for anyone who is pestering a sibling. Maybe I'll pull out a couple games and see if anyone wants to play, too.
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Saturday was a typical Saturday morning. The kids pulled the video game systems out of a box in the basement and brought them up to our tv for their once a week 30 minute turn. Makayla was working. Jason was doing college assignments. Joseph and I ran errands (post office and library) before going to Aldi for some fresh fruits and veggies.

In the afternoon my sister and I took off for our very first trip to IKEA. Recently a family from church passed a toddler bed frame down to us, but it was in need of a new mattress. It turns out this wasn't a toddler bed, it was a junior size bed at IKEA that has a special mattress size. This means Tobias will be able to use this bed for several more years. You may remember that our 7 sons share the master bedroom - with two triple bunk beds and Tobias' toddler mattress on the floor after his last frame broke because of #boys. Space is at a premium to preserve floor space for building with Legos. My sister and I were able to find the correct size mattress, sheets, and a waterproof cover for less than $90 total. We also realized that IKEA is a wonderful place to wander and gather ideas and plan to go back again.

Sunday was a sweet Sabbath day. Church was uplifting, with wonderful talks and lessons I needed to hear. We arrived home hungry and worked together to make tacos, cut fruit for fruit salad, and eat. There was some game playing in the afternoon: Checkers, Labyrinth, Dr. Microbe. Makayla got senior pictures taken by a sweet friend at church. I'll share some soon. After dinner several of the kids sat down to play Hero Kids together.

Monday began with quiet time for me at 6am (pretty normal, I just don't usually write it down) and then the usual morning line up. School is winding down SO quickly here. Kids are diving into the last of the lessons and books with gusto most of the time. I have not announced the official last day of school, they just all know we are close. (Psst… our last day is Friday! Can you hear my happy squeal?)

In the afternoon I went to see Avengers: Endgame with Emma. She had already gone Friday with Jason and a couple siblings and wanted to use her Christmas gift card to go see it again. She is my Marvel fan and she had spent the weekend talking all about the movie. I was perfectly content to wait to see the movie when it comes out on DVD. When she asked if I would go with her I couldn't say no. So we sat in a theater for 3.5 hours this afternoon. I laughed, had happy feels, and sad ones. I cried right alongside my girl as the movie unfolded. It was worth it to dive into this interest of hers.

Tuesday was my birthday. It was just a normal day with homeschool in the morning and 5 doctors appointments mostly in the afternoon. Jason had another checkup with his surgeon and is cleared to go back to work in two weeks. Hooray! We will miss having him home, but it will be good to have an income again.

Wednesday we told the kids our last day of school is this Friday. There was much cheering in the house. Now, let me be clear, we started our school year on August 13, 2018 - 38 weeks ago. In Ohio homeschoolers do not have a required number of days or weeks to homeschool. We have a guideline of 900 hours and that runs from the beginning of one academic year to the next. Because we homeschool, we have flexibility to accrue hours of learning on weekends, days off, holidays, vacations, and during the summer. While my kids are excited for 'summer vacation', they already know that after a couple weeks off in May they will each choose personal goals for the summer. They will be required to practice math 2 days a week and read at least 3 days a week. The goal is simply to maintain skills and enjoy stories.

Makayla decided to do all the rest of the week's lessons today since she is off work. She is officially finished homeschooling and it has been one long, amazing journey. I'm grateful for every day of it!

Thursday Daddy held down the home and family while Mason and I spent 5.5 hours on a check up with his eye surgeon. Mason had double eye surgery 3 years ago and everything is stable. Hooray! He ordered new glasses.

Friday was the last day of our school year. We snuggled up and read. There was science to talk about with the middle schoolers. The elementary group's first two butterflies hatched. People worked on stories they are writing. It was a good day.

It is now Saturday morning. I will start going through portfolios with each child today individually. We will reminisce over the school year together and see their progress. I will write down notes about what they loved and what they didn't. I will ask for ideas of things they want to learn about next year, or different ways they want to learn. Then we will pack away their books. These portfolios will be evaluated by an Ohio licensed teacher according to Ohio's homeschool laws. It is the last step before the school year is truly 'over'.
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Spring is glorious! We spent time outside every day but Friday this week, because Friday was rainy pretty much all day.

Monday
A foggy morning cleared away to reveal sunshine and spring. Flowers are everywhere. The silver maples in the back yard have baby leaves growing enough to partially shade the yard. School work was a struggle for some, who are ready for the school year to end. It happens every year, that pull to set aside the books and get out of doors. We do have one fun nature study going on at the moment. We have 11 painted lady caterpillars eating and growing in the living room.

A peek at the calendar shows 20 medical appointments (not including physical therapy) in the next 22 days, with probably a few more to add in still (dental work if anyone has cavities or baby teeth that need pulled because they've wedged themselves in). It feels like appointments here are often a flood.

We spent the evening outside enjoying the perfect weather.

Tuesday 
School went much smoother. Oliver finished level four of All About Reading - a huge accomplishment because he has now graduated from the program! Joseph and Daniel each finished their current level of The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts. People started reading various new books, kept reading current books, and we listened to more of our Homeschool Book Club title - Beauty. The afternoon held piano lessons and then time outside until dinner.

Wednesday
Makayla had new retainers made at the orthodontist's office today. Those things aren't cheap! There was school work (Emma finished TGTB Language Arts), cleaning, laundry, and cooking as a family. The older 4 kids had activities at church in the evening.

Thursday
Navigating almost-adult children in the home is quite the experience. We are learning as we go, so excited for what comes next while still struggling with growing pains as we all find our feet in new roles.

Home life has a few stresses right now as Jason reaches the end of his 4th month of no employment during his surgery recovery. He sees his surgeon next week and we hope his restrictions are adjusted enough that he can go back to work even part time. He is feeling pretty great compared to before his knee and shoulder surgery.

Caterpillars began changing to their chrysalis on this day. By Friday morning all 12 were finished.

Friday
The highlight for five people in my home was going to watch Avengers Endgame in the morning. I was home with the five youngest kids and Makayla was at work. Caleb helped me bake a couple loaves of banana bread and pumpkin bread, which became lunch. In the evening the entire family made their own pizzas for dinner. It is on nights like this that I wish for a double oven! 7 pans later everyone's pizzas were cooked and eaten.

Saturday
Errands and play filled the morning. I'm heading to IKEA this afternoon with my sister - for our very first time ever. It's lunch time so I'm getting off here and making sure everything is finished.
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Last Friday
I just needed to put a really quick note in here because Mason finished All About Reading level 3 and was super excited about it. He started level 3 exactly two months ago to the day (I had to look it up). He truly flew through this level, reading the reader. I can count on one hand the number of times he needed a new concept taught. He's moving forward into level 4 next week. Caleb moved forward into level 3 last week and reading has not yet clicked for him into complete fluency, but he is seeing measurable improvement. I'll say it again, this is the beauty of homeschooling! Each child can go at their own pace in every subject. Caleb has been done with his math curriculum for at least a month, while Mason, on the other hand, has 1/3 of his book yet to go. Teach the child, not the curriculum.

Saturday
Friday night I threw up in the middle of the night. Saturday I spent as much time not moving as possible, fighting nausea. The older three kids had the Spring Formal, I got to do the girls' hair before they headed out. According to their chatter they all had a good time at the dance.

Sunday
I was feeling better but Rebekah had a runny nose, so I stayed home with the youngest 3 kids. Jason spoke in Sacrament meeting and based his talk around one of the General Conference talks from last weekend, called Your Priesthood Playbook.

While the church group was gone I baked a cake and made two 13x9 pans of peanut butter pie. Sunday evening some extended family came over to celebrate this month's birthdays - mine and my husbands. He'll be 41 and I'll be 38 by the end of the month. Family time was fun and noisy as usual.

Monday
The beginning of a new school week went well. All of the usual lessons happened around our table, on the couch, at the computer, in bedrooms, etc. We decided to finish up the marine biology unit this week. Our zoo trip last week was great, the kids loved seeing so many things we had talked about, including live coral, fish, and sharks. We also saw some animals we were going to talk about this week (sea turtles, herons, and penguins). Today we read a few books about Jacques Cousteau and a few about penguins. The kids were fascinated with various things they learned. Here are the highlights:
  • Cousteau was an explorer, inventor (aqualung), videographer, Navy sailor, and author.
  • He bought an old military warship named Calypso and converted into a research ship.
  • Emperor penguin moms lay one egg, pass it off to dad, and then go to sea for several months to eat. Meanwhile, penguin dads skip eating for several months while keeping the egg and then young chick warm on their feet and under their belly. 
  • There are 17 penguin species and some live in warm climates, others cold. 
  • Some penguins can stay underwater for up to 25 minutes and dive 1000 feet deep in the ocean.
We also had some unplanned lessons on this day. We watched as Notre Dame burnt in a large fire. We talked about Notre Dame, the Rose Windows, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the bells, the history of the cathedral, Catholicism, firefighting, courage, bravery, hope, God, faith, hard work, and mourning with those that mourn. What a sad event that will impact so many people.

Tuesday
I am almost as excited about the last month of school as the kids are. We have one month left of school after this week. Everything seems more interesting, more fun to do. Maybe it is just the spring weather improving our moods? Joseph, Emma, and Daniel will finish their levels of The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts next week. We sat down to chat about what they will do for the last 3 weeks of school. Each one chose to do a book study with me. I prepared a list of books for each to choose from individually today, so I can track down copies of each book before next week. Daniel and Emma each chose The Westing Game (which Joseph already read and liked this year). Joseph chose Ender's Game. I'm excited to reread each book along with my kids and have some Socratic discussion with them.

In the afternoon the main attraction for our next science unit for the elementary kids arrived - two cups of live caterpillars. We will be studying butterflies and caterpillars next!

Wednesday
This morning two of my kids chose to start their school work off with writing. Each of the younger kids need to do a writing project related to our recent science studies, so they started that today. Mason wrote about herons. Oliver and Caleb chose sea turtles. Daniel wrote about penguins.

There was a lot of math help, listening to kids reading aloud, and science help today. Basically, a normal Wednesday of school.

Once afternoon hit I made a trip to the library and found a few copies of the books my kids picked to read. I hit Aldi for fresh fruit for Cub Scouts tonight. We're doing a cooking night. The boys will be making homemade pizzas, a fruit salad, and rice crispy treats.

Later that night: The cooking was a hit, the food was delicious, and nobody cut themselves. That is a big win with a kitchen full of Cub Scouts.

Thursday
My favorite morning learning was simply the many books read with various children. After school we also did a few small house projects, including spring blanket switch where we get out sheets flat sheets and put away all but one of the warmer blankets on the beds. We live in an old house that stays pretty hot upstairs all summer, even with air conditioning running downstairs. Yesterday the temperature reached 80F outside, so upstairs was pretty warm all afternoon and evening.

Friday
Today has flown and instead of taking notes I just enjoyed the day. We are looking forward to celebrating Easter and have been talking about Jesus Christ, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection as the more secular Easter symbols have caught the kids' eyes.
I'm off to listen to a podcast and then make dinner. Happy Friday everyone!
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Our calendar is swiftly winding down to the end of the school year now that Spring Break is finished. I am so excited for this spring term because the fruit becomes obvious as we finish subjects and put away books. Who doesn't love 'finishing'?! Here are my notes for the last two weeks.

Monday
I was the only person truly excited about the first day back to school, though everyone willingly did their work. As always, children have a mix of independent and guided work. Some of the lessons I helped with today were:
  • Latin with Makayla - We read and translated the story of Crassus the elder and Crassus the younger.
  • The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts with Joseph, Emma, and Daniel(only some parts each). Joseph passed off a states and capitals ladder, read with me about idioms, and did sentence dictation. Emma wanted help practicing her geography cards and passed off a states a capitals ladder, then read with me about idioms, and did sentence dictation. Daniel read to me and practiced vocab with me.
  • All About Reading with Oliver, Caleb, Mason, and Samuel - Oliver read part of a story in AAR level 4 to me and finished on his own. Caleb finished reading aloud the very last story in AAR level 2 and celebrated the move to AAR level 3. Mason read part of a story in AAR level 3 to me and finished on his own. Samuel finished reading a story in AAR level 1 to me. 
  • Handwriting Without Tears with Samuel - We worked on using the slate to practice uppercase letters and really focused on his pencil/chalk grip. His grip is atrocious and so we're focusing on that for a few weeks to hopefully make some progress.
  • Math with Emma, Daniel, Oliver, Caleb, and Mason - Emma wanted me to practice area of parallelograms and trapezoids today, as well as finding a missing side or height if we already had the area, and converting measurements before doing those calculations. Daniel's Math U See lesson introduced some geometry basics around lines/rays. Oliver's Math U See lesson had him looking at diagrams and writing the shaded part to the whole as a fraction. Caleb and Mason were both introduced to some math fact practice games that have them roll dice and solve problems on a game board. 
At 9am Makayla and I headed to an ENT appointment. She had a scope done and came away with a confirmation of gastroesophagal acid reflux and a stronger reflux medicine to try for 3 months. As the rest of the day went on there was cooking, cleaning, playdoh, more cooking, General Conference preparations, physical therapy for daddy, Makayla and Tobias making rice crispy treats, getting a few dresses dropped off to be hemmed, reading another chapter in Owls in the Family, drawing, and some of the kids watching Mary Poppins Returns. It was a good day!


Tuesday
I loved this day because I had no place to be out of the house, which makes for a relaxed homeschool day Breakfast at 7am started the kids off. I sat at the table offering my presence for those who wanted help. This one habit is a wonderful help in having smooth homeschool mornings. I am ready and available to help. Today some of the lessons I helped with were:
  • Math - a mix of math games, answering a question about finding the area of a rhombus when only given diagonal measurements instead of edges, checking fractions.
  • Language arts - overseeing a child editing a sentence looking for mistakes, dictating sentences for two children to write (this helps them work on spelling and punctuation), explaining how quotations marks work when a speaker is talking and also quoting someone else during part of what they say (single and double quotation marks), and reading and discussing a story with a child.
  • Reading lessons - teaching new concepts and listening to children read aloud.
  • Science - studying magnetism with middle schoolers, then teaching the next marine biology lesson to the 5th grade and under crowd. Today we talked about tides, tidepools, creatures living in the intertidal zone, as well as reading a book about each of the layers of the ocean and how creatures survive in them.
  •  Handwriting - Today Samuel and I wrote words on the dry erase board on the dining room wall. He chose words that interest him, like his name, ghast (a Minecraft creature), and the name of a favorite character from a book. This gave him a good mix of letter to practice and we were able to use large motor skills to write very big, then write a second time making our letters smaller and working down into fine motor practice.
Some of my Marvel-loving family were excited that we got tickets to the opening showing of Avengers Endgame today. Tickets released today and we had a 2.5 hour wait online in a line to get our tickets. During part of that wait we finished reading aloud Owls in the Family. In the end it was a good book, but not truly great. I think everyone enjoyed the story and found the end bittersweet. Our next book is Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley, published in 1978.

The afternoon piano lessons were accomplished and then it was time for dinner prep. It was Taco Tuesday. We followed tacos up with making new batches of slime for the younger 4 boys.

Wednesday
My favorite part of school on this day was that we somehow managed not to have any meltdowns. After taking a school break we almost always have kids melting down by midweek when we start back to school. Today went as peacefully as the earlier days in the week and I was so grateful.

Lunch was leftover tacos or chili and cornbread, depending on your preference. After an afternoon of family time and dinner of soft pretzels, salad, and fruit, it was time for weekly church/scouts activities. The youth did a 'Chopped' cooking competition that sounded like a lot of fun according to my youth. Meanwhile the Cubs and I had a marbles night led by my assistant leader. She did great and the boys loved it!


Thursday
This morning always feels hurried to me because I'm trying to help kids with school before Mason and I leave for physical therapy at 10am. Daddy oversees school after that, which always goes fine, but I try to be there for the lessons kids need the most help in. Physical therapy went well. It is a challenge to decide how much PT to do, and what to do during PT. Mason has some real, physical limitations and not all of them are clearly defined. His nerve damage is different in different parts of his body, so some areas can be strengthened more than others (even a difference in left and right sides of his back/core). All of it is also affected by his scoliosis progression, meaning what he could do or couldn't do today may be different tomorrow, next month, or next year. As he grows the spinal cord itself can be stretched and cause further nerve damage without warning (and need surgical release - we last had to do that at age 2). Figuring out what is a change and what is just him having a tired, sore, or off day is challenging.

In the afternoon there was an orthodontist appointment, a bit of grocery shopping, and games with the kids.


Friday
Our early morning had kids doing a few school assignments. Mid-morning was spent at a friend's home for Book Club. We talked a bit about Owls in the Family, as well as our upcoming book. Everyone got to visit, play, and just enjoy their friends of many years. When we came home it was time to clean the house in preparation for General Conference weekend, where we watch live broadcasts from the leaders of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who speak over five sessions of approximately 2 hours each. They share messages of hope, encouragement, and instruction to help us become more like Jesus.

In the evening I made a quick trip to a couple stores with Makayla. She was looking for materials and plants for a small container of succulents. She has a cactus she has grown from seed (it is at least 6 years old) and decided it needed some company.


Saturday
This first morning of Conference is spent baking. We made muffins and cinnamon rolls to enjoy at the first session, which began at noon. I also managed to slip out with Emma for a quick stop at our library book sale. We came home with two bags of books for $10. So many new books are on our shelves now!

General Conference was wonderful. There were so many encouraging, challenging, inspiring talks that I look forward to studying and applying in my life. They are all available to read/watch/listen for FREE online here or on the Gospel Library App. The first talk I want to study from this day is Careful vs. Casual by Becky Craven.


Sunday
Day two of Conference went swimmingly well. We made it through the first session with more great talks. Then while I was preparing chicken enchiladas for the oven for dinner Makayla learned that the sister missionaries were looking for a place to watch a special show about several Amish families that converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints several years ago, that was airing the half hour before the next session of Conference. These families live in our stake, which is a geographic area similar to a Catholic diocese. We know them a little bit and Jason was able to do some of his early college classes with two of them a few years ago. We invited the sister missionaries to join us for the show and for the last session of Conference as well.



Monday
Another beautiful Monday morning welcomed us to our learning routine. Each child took a few minutes to schedule out their subjects and then got to work. Three of my kids let me know they only have 10 days left of The Good and the Beautiful Language Arts and decided to do extra work this week in that subject. I'm fine with that!

We started listening to Beauty by Robin McKinley today for book club. Sometimes I read aloud myself, and other times I like to just sit and listen with everyone else. That is when Audible comes in handy!

A couple of the boys and I did some chalk pastel art this afternoon. We each chose a sea creature to go with our Marine Biology study. We followed that up with a game of Labyrinth, playdoh, and then reading aloud a stack of books from the library sale.

In the evening Jason, Joseph, and Emma headed to do a special pick up. I received a phone call during the morning from a gentleman in our church. He had heard we have some children who love art and wondered if we wanted a drawing table. He also offered to share some of his knowledge about drawing, which Emma loved. She and Joseph both brought some of their art to show him, and came home excited for more drawing adventures.

Today was also day one of potty training Tobias. We have been waiting for his speech skills to move forward enough that he can reliably communicate his needs. While there is a fair amount of speech delay still hanging around, we have noticed a leap in the last two weeks that should be enough to get us through potty training without anyone pulling their hair out. Tobias is my 9th child to potty train. I'm pretty laid back about the process. Day one is all about peeing everywhere but the toilet as he tries to understand what his body is doing and the subtle signals it is giving him before he pees. We set a timer and hop on the toilet about every 30-45 minutes, but beyond that it's just underwear and accidents. Tobias did pee in the toilet once today. Hopefully tomorrow he'll beat that and have a new record. ;)


Tuesday
School was school, straightforward. The highlights today were:
  • Tobias potty training - he woke up and simply used the toilet all day, lots of successes. If my count is right, he only had two accidents. If this continues he will officially beat Daniel as my easiest child to potty train. 
  • Changing out some of the winter clothes for kids out for short sleeves and shorts. We are in the lovely Ohio weather season known as sprinter. We can have frosty mornings, thunderstorms, sunshine, and end the day in the 70s all in a single day. 
  • The weather was perfect to spend outside roasting hot dogs and making smores for dinner - so that is what we did. Add in a bubble machine, sidewalk chalk, scooters, etc and it was a great evening.
Wednesday
The morning was pretty chilly for children who had hoped to wear shorts again. Some of them still did, while bundled up with fleece blankets to do school. Tobias started the day out happily using the toilet. I'm shocked how easy this is going. By bedtime he had just one single accident (#poop). He's officially the easiest child I've ever potty trained. Seriously, one day of accidents, then using the toilet cheerfully day 2 with 2 accidents, and 1 accident on day 3? I'll take it. Now to figure out the pooping aspect of using the potty.

Other things we did today:
  • School work. I feel repetitive explaining this every day, so just know that we did school as usual.
  • Home project - doorknob replacement.
  • Daddy's last day of physical therapy.
  • Daddy did his final exam for his microeconomics class. All that is left this week is the final for the communications class. Then he gets 1 whole week off before his next class starts.
  • A temple trip for Daniel and Makayla tonight, youth group for Emma, and hanging out at home for everyone else. 

Thursday
We took advantage of beautiful weather and made a trip to the zoo. While there we checked out some of the marine animals we have been learning about, walked a lot, saw tons of animals, and just enjoyed family time in the sunshine. The pictures sprinkled throughout this post are from the zoo, courtesy of Makayla.

Friday's plan is another school day. I'm going to hit publish now, Thursday night, and let this be the end of the notes for the week. Happy Spring everyone!

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