Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

First of all, Happy New Year to each Smooth Stones Academy reader. My hope is that 2008 is a year of great joy, great growth and great devotion to our spouses, our children, and most importantly our wonderful Savior!

I have been thinking about resolutions for a few weeks now. This past year seems like a whirlwind; actually the past three years have been closer to tornadoes. No wonder, I've had two babies 18 months apart (one of whom suffered from constant ear infections and for the first 10 months of life and was unable to sleep more than 30 minutes before waking up screaming - ohhh so painful to think back-the exhaustion, the tears...did I mention the exhaustion?) and started homeschooling an ADHD child right in the middle of that chaos, too! So today when I read Heidi's post about "One Little Word" something clicked. The word I have chosen for this year is Intentional. It seems a little boring but as I have reflected all day on what this past year was and what I desire for next year it's the word that keeps coming to mind. It's been difficult to be intentional about much of anything with two babies in the house but we are coming, albeit slowly, out of that phase and intentional is what I want to be!

Here are my goals/thoughts for 2008:

1. Physical
  • lose weight that's been creeping on since summer
  • exercise more and be more active in general
  • eat less/eat healthier (will be aided by our going casein-free and gluten-free)
  • drink more water
  • take vitamins, calcium, aspirin and fish oil regularly
  • Get 8 hours of sleep most nights
2. Emotional
  • Be a better model of a healthy (emotional, spiritual and physical) life for my kids. This will be much more easily accomplished if I am meeting my physical goals above. It's hard to be patient and kind when I have no energy due to not exercising, lack of sleep and junk food (oh why oh why can't diet coke and dark chocolate m&m's be a food group? Lol!) I love the quote on the header of Rachel's new blog,
"My children! My darling, precious children!
What I want
them to become I must become myself."
- Elizabeth Prentiss, Stepping Heavenward
  • Take time for myself each day- even if it's only 10 minutes to paint my toenails or call a friend on the phone. And continue to get away from the house every week for my Mommy's Night or a date with dh.
  • Invest more deeply in my friendships.
3. Spiritual
  • Spend more time in the Word. Get back to a consistent daily time of really soaking in the word...not just taking little "spit baths". This is more of a possibility now that I am not up all night with insomnia (common in my pregnancies) or needed by a nursing baby!
  • Finish reading Taste and See by John Piper for my devotionals (this book is amazing and if your budget is stretched too tight after the holidays, look at Desiring God's Whatever-You-Can-Afford Policy) and then follow up by reading/studying a New Testament book - possibly Ephesians or Galatians.
  • Focus on reading the Proverbs this year. I have been drawn to them the past month and so I identified with Jessica at Trivium Academy when she said, "God has given the gift of knowledge to me this year and I pray that I he will present the wisdom soon." I am in great need of increased wisdom in my life. I possess lots and lots of knowledge but somehow too often feel lacking in wisdom.
4. Mental
  • Get back to reading - even in snippets. I know this will be a slow process for sure because Beckett is so young and needy so I am starting small. Here is my book list for '08:
  1. Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver (Personal/Spiritual)
  2. Pleasing People: How Not to be an "Approval Junkie" by Lou Priolo (Personal/Spiritual)
  3. When Sinners Say "I Do" by Dave Harvey (Marriage)
  4. Christian Beliefs by Wayne Grudem (Theology)
  5. Educating the Wholehearted Child by Clay Clarkson (Education)
  6. The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz (Education/Parenting)
  7. I will refer frequently to my favorite parenting books as well: Making Children Mind without Losing Yours by Kevin Leman, Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel and Parenting with Scripture by Kara Durbin.
  8. It would be a HUGE bonus if I got to squeeze in a little fiction - one new book, David Baldacci's Stone Cold and one classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
If my goals seem a little long take a look at Jonathan Edwards' 70 resolutions written when he was only nineteen years old. I conclude with a quote from him:

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God's help, I do humbly entreat Him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions,
so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ's sake.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Here is our 2007 Christmas card. Some of our good friends are professional photographers and the past two years have done our holiday cards for us. Dave, the photographer, told us in a normal 30 minute photo shoot he takes an average of 200-250 photos. To get these four photos he took 542! Thatcher always struggles to look at the camera, Beckett was in a contrary mood that day and Haddon was just plain goofy. :) To get all our boys smiling at the same time Dave started across the garden waving his arms and screaming like a wild man. Once they started laughing he stooped down and clicked away.

I wanted to post this here because so many of you have become dear friends even though I have never seen your faces in real life. I am thankful for this cyber-community, blessed by the encouragement I have received and the experience and wisdom so generously shared!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Weekly Report - Week 16

Our weeks are so routine at this point that sometimes I feel yet another Weekly Report will bore anyone to death reading my blog. Then I remind myself that these reports are a great way to track our journey, keep us focused and celebrate all we've accomplished.

This week I am going to start with a little bit of what Haddon is doing. We are going to start a little preschool in January - although I have no idea how I will work it into our schedule. This semester we have casually been working on learning to sing the ABC's and recognizing a few letters, counting to 10, reviewing colors and shapes, learning Mother Goose Rhymes, reading lots of board books every day and learning finger rhymes.

Below is our current Mother Goose book we read every day at lunch. I have three different Mother Goose books that we rotate so that we don't get bored. It's so cute to hear him walk around the house singing, "Hey Diddle, Diddle," "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" and "Humpty Dumpty"!

And because our time is so limited I have allowed these videos to teach Haddon his ABC's and how to count. They have done their job well, I might add. He can sing the ABC song, knows most of his letters and many of the sounds just from watching each video one time a week.

Here is Thatcher's Horizons Math Test from this week. He got 89% correct!

Here is his narration from Chapter 16 of SOTW1: The Return of Assyria. The illustration shows Ashurbanipal holding one of the clay tablets from the library he created in Nineveh. Thatch said he was smiling so big because he was happy to have all those books!

And here is Thatcher's copywork from science this week. We studied about flamingos and peacocks. We read from the Kingfisher First Animal Encyclopedia, followed up with more books from the library and completed our animal profile page too.

We have also been enjoying our readings of Aesop's Fables. Each week we focus on one story and read and discuss it each day at lunch. This version is wonderful and I would highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Introducing Jack Junior!

Meet our new pet....Jack Junior Betta Fish! That's truly what Thatcher named him. Jack is from the character in the Magic Tree House series; Junior is from Veggie Tales and he is a Betta. Anytime the boys refer to him they call him Jack Jr.

I wanted Thatcher to have his first taste of caring for a pet and having something depend on him. He's done a great job and really adores this little guy; they all do. Haddon begs Thatcher to let him help with Jack's feedings and Beckett is constantly pushing a chair from the kitchen table over to the counter so that he can climb up and watch Jack Jr.

One of the great thing about Bettas is that they are supposedly low maintenance fish. Unfortunately, I initially placed our tank near too much sunlight and I am already fighting algae growing in the tank (sigh). We're going back to PetSmart tomorrow to see if there are any algae-eaters that can reside with Bettas.

Dh just informed me last week that he wants to get a dog for the boys in January - Yikes! We are huge dog people and both grew up with big dogs (me Doberman Pinschers and he Border Collies). But I have always said that I do not want a dog until all my boys are completely potty trained. I am currently responsible for enough poo as it is. Lol!

When we were at the ranch for Thanksgiving, my in-laws' dog was there as were my bil's two puppies. Thatcher spent every single moment outside with those animals! It got dh thinking that it is time to get him his very own dog.

We have started negotiations so I'll let you know how it goes! We both want a large dog. I would prefer a female but dh really wants a male. We are trying to decide on a breed - previously Border Collies were a non-negotiable for him but he's agreed to look at other breeds that are less demanding. He has also agreed that whatever we choose can be an inside (mostly) dog! That was a non-negotiable for me. We're getting there. This is the breed I want - a Vizsla. Aren't they gorgeous?! I don't think they will be in our budget at $800 to $1500 each but maybe if we rescued one???

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Pizza Cake

A few moms asked how I made the pizza cake from Haddon's birthday so I thought I would post on my blog in case anyone else may be interested. I got my initial idea here but changed it up a bit. I added the gumdrop onions after seeing this site. If you click those links you can see that I am not at all creative - just a great thief of others' ideas!

Directions for Pizza Cake
(Adapted from Jake's Pizza Cake on


  • 1 16 inch pizza box - my local pizza store gave me one free
  • 16 inch Wilton cake pan (bought with the 40% off Michael's coupon that comes in the Sunday paper). You can make this cake any size depending on your pizza box. If you use this size pan be certain to buy Wilton's heating core as well or the center of your cake will be raw - ask me how I know this ;)
  • 4 Duncan Hines Cake Mixes - Classic White is my favorite. Prepare according to package directions except add 1 tsp of almond extract per cake mix to make it taste more like wedding cake - yum! You will need this many mixes if you are using the 16 inch pan which calls for 15 cups of batter. If you use a smaller pan adjust accordingly.
  • A batch (double batch if you really like frosting) of Wilton's buttercream frosting (I make the variation that says "For pure white icing" so I can make it ahead of time and my cake won't require refrigeration due to all the butter. In addition to the butter extract and the vanilla extract I again add a few tsp of almond extract to compliment the flavor in the cake) tinted light brown using Wilton's icing colors. These can be found at any craft store and even at Wal-Mart on their cake decorating isle in the craft section. You just need a little of the brown and your color will be perfect. Regular food coloring - if you can even find brown - will make your icing too runny. Use a little extra water to thin the icing to make it easier to spread if needed.
  • 2 cups strawberry preserves (raspberry will do too but buy seedless)
  • Wilton Candy Melts 14 oz package in white, red, and light-brown (can be purchased at craft store - Michael's, Hobby Lobby and some Wal-Marts)
  • 10 or so large malted milk balls or yogurt covered milk balls - found in bulk foods section of my grocery store
  • Green icing (the ready made kind, in a tube makes preparation easier)
  • 1/8 cup dried blueberries
  • 10 or so jumbo white gumdrops - more if you use the smaller ones
  • piece of cardboard cut into the same size circle as your pizza and covered with foil.


  1. Level cake if necessary with a serrated knife and turn cake onto foil covered pizza circle.
  2. Spread the tinted icing over the cake.
  3. Over medium heat, simmer the preserves until runny. Add several drops of red food coloring (if desired) to make the color closer to that of tomato sauce.
  4. Spread the preserves over the cake, covering the top thoroughly - be certain your preserves are not so hot they melt the frosting! Chill the cake again for at least an hour so that the preserves re-congeal.
  5. Now for the fun part - decorating!
  6. Sausage/Meatballs - with a very sharp knife, cut the malt balls in half, set aside
  7. Green Peppers - I am sure there's lots of great ways to do this but I bought Wilton's green icing and spread it onto greased plate then placed it in the freezer. Once the icing had set I cut it into into small rectangles. Put it back in the freezer to get firm again if needed.
  8. Pepperoni - Grease a mini-muffin tin and put one red candy-melt into each cup. Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of grated brown candy-melts into each well. (I used a handheld cheese-grater to grate the candy-melts. See "cheese" below for more details). Put the muffin tin under the broiler to melt the candies (only takes a minute or two). Once they are melted, mix the red and brown candy-melts together using a toothpick. Place into the freezer for about 10 minutes or until set. Once they are hard, flip the muffin pan over to release the "pepperoni" This was a little tricky and I scorched the first 2 batches. You just need them under the broiler for a minute or so. They may not look melted but if when you swirl them with a toothpick they will be soft enough.
  9. Olives - get the dried blueberries ready, set aside.
  10. Onions- press 2 jumbo gumdrops together and press until flat - you will need to continually dip the candy in sugar to keep it from getting too sticky. I have a set of graduated circle cutters similar to this that I used to cut the onions into realistic slices in multiple sizes. If you don't have a set like this you can slice your onions like on this cake.
  11. Cheese - I used a handheld cheese grater to grate the white candy-melts over the top of the pizza. I worked my way over the top of the pizza until it had a good coating of cheese, but not so much that the "tomato sauce" didn't peek through. Then I used the brown candy melts around the perimeter the the "crust" -- I thought it looked more crust and slightly burnt, like a real pizza would. Finally I put the entire pizza in the oven under the broiler and watched it very closely. It only took 3 minutes for the "cheese" to melt - it even browned slightly!
  12. After you take it out of the oven and while it is still warm, put your toppings on the pizza. I started with the sausage/meatballs, then the green pepper, followed by the olives and the pepperoni, onions and then a little more cheese. Put it into the fridge to set again. For fun, put the pizza cake in a pizza box for a cute visual effect. Use a pizza cutter to slice cake!
Just one more note: You can do much of the prep for this cake ahead of time. I made the frosting and tinted it 5 days in advance. I made the onions, green pepper slices and pepperoni 2 days in advance. The day before the party I baked the cake and the morning of I put it all together.

This cake turned out to be one of my favorites and I will definitely make it again!

I don't have digital photos of many of the cakes I've made since we only got a digital camera a year ago but here are two of the others I've made. The cow was from Beckett's first birthday and R2-D2 was from Thatcher's 5th birthday.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekly Report - Weeks 14-15

Here is my weekly report for the past 2 weeks of school - one before Thanksgiving and one after. We are finally in a good rhythm - and it only took four months to get there! Lol.

Math is plugging along; nothing new to report there. One lesson continues to take an hour but I am getting used to it and it does not bother Thatcher. He chooses to start with Math every single day! I have not been drilling his math facts nor practicing his skip counting since we are already spending so much time just completing the lesson. He can count to 100 by 1's, 2's, 3's, 4's, 5's, 9's and 10's. And he's almost half-way there with the 6's. If I would just count out loud to him every single day once or twice he would get it within a week or so. It seems like such a small thing but all those small things can sure add up!

Language is not happening. I am not sure why since it only takes a few minutes a day but we haven't done it in 3 weeks. It just isn't as fun as history, science or Spanish which are the other subjects we do in the afternoon and it just seems to get put to the side. I am going to try to pick up where we left off this week.

Reading is going very well and tonight I actually found Thatcher reading a Magic Tree House book all by himself. He is capable of reading above that level but because of his ADHD he struggles to focus when he sees that many words on a page. Because of that, for his independent reading I have kept him in longer picture books to minimize his frustrations, and we read all chapter books together.

If your child is in the same boat - somewhere between easy readers/picture books and chapter books - and you need some new ideas for reading here are some of our favorite series so far:
If you have any others, please leave a comment. We're always happy for new ideas :)

For our read together time we are enjoying the Tales from the Odyssey series by Mary Pope Osborne. Thatcher loves these books more than any other we have ever read together. I would highly recommend them, especially if you have boys (Cyclops getting gored in the eye with a burning log may upset a few girly-girls!). The story has captivated his imagination and each day he can't wait to hear what adventures Odysseus will find.

Spanish is going great as well. Thatcher loves watching Sra. Cano on United Streaming and he is retaining a lot more than I thought he would. Most importantly he is excited about Spanish and is learning to love the culture which are some of my biggest goals for this year!

History and Science are great! Some days I wish we could spend much more time on these than anywhere else. Thatcher loves these subjects and to be honest, I am learning so much!

The week before Thanksgiving we went on a field trip to a wonderful place called Dewberry Farm. Here are a few of my favorite pictures from that day.

How do you like the shirts dh had made for all of us at the start of the year?! We wear them anytime we go on an outing. It makes it a lot easier to keep up with everyone and the boys are so proud to have their own school shirts!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Jessica from Trivium Academy tagged me so here goes!

8 Things I am passionate about:

  1. living an authentic faith my kids (and others) will see and by it know Jesus is real
  2. loving my husband
  3. raising my kids to love God and love others - in that order
  4. food
  5. being healthy and keeping in shape (this is greatly complicated by #4!)
  6. cooking and baking
  7. running
  8. organizing

8 Things I Want To Do Before I Die:
  1. grow into a person who can truly say she lives her life for an audience of One
  2. travel, travel and more travel - Greek islands, a Civil War tour down the East Coast, Yellowstone, Redwood forests, Italy, revisit Cayman Islands where we honeymooned...
  3. see my children cross the line of faith and live out godly lives - get married and have children of their own, too!
  4. decorate my home... I often tease that God gave me an extra dose of the organizing gene but forgot to give me the decorating gene! I can't pick paint colors, coordinate furniture or accessorize to save my life. Lol.
  5. take culinary classes
  6. run a marathon in less than four hours
  7. complete a half-ironman race
  8. read all the great classics I never read in school

8 Things I Say Often:
(mostly to my kids!)
  1. Focus, Thatch.
  2. I love you.
  3. Use "Honey Words!" (I will blog about this soon.)
  4. People are more important than things (usually said when my guys are arguing over a toy).
  5. Make the wise choice!
  6. You bring me joy.
  7. It's not fun unless everyone is having fun.
  8. Time to clean up!

8 Books I've read recently:
(For me this category should be "The 8 most recent books I've read" since most have not been recently read and it would be most accurate if was an altogether different category: "The 8 books waiting on my bedside table to be read!")
  1. Taste and See by John Piper
  2. The Birth Order Book by Kevin Lehman
  3. The Well-Trained Mind (the Logic section) by Susan Wise-Bauer
  4. Wisdom and Eloquence by Robert Littlejohn and Charles Evans
  5. The Well Educated Mind by Susan Wise-Bauer
  6. Creative Correction by Lisa Welchel (I read this a few years ago but refer to it regularly)
  7. Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
  8. Chronicles of Narnia (our bedtime read-a-louds the past several months)

8 Songs I could listen to over and over:
  1. most anything by Kenny Chesney - right now my favorite is Never Wanted Nothing More
  2. Something in the Way She Moves by James Taylor - actually the entire Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 (except Steamroller)
  3. Piano Man by Billy Joel (okay I realize I am cheating by naming entire CD's - but the entire Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 and 2!)
  4. the entire Soundtrack from Les Miserables
  5. Sitting by the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding
  6. Drift Away by Dobie Gray ( I loved this way before Uncle Cracker redid it and the original version is so much better than the remake!)
  7. Levon, Philadelphia Freedom and Rocket Man by Elton John
  8. Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art

8 Things I've learned this year:
  1. I have constantly been reminded that I am a sinner in need of a Savior and I still have a lot of growing to do.
  2. Homeschooling is as much (and somedays more) a tool God is using to disciple me as it a tool I am using to teach and disciple my children.
  3. I love coffee and dark chocolate
  4. I am becoming more of an introvert as I get older. Solitude re-energizes me more than time around lots of people. I still am not sure if this is because I am a mom of 3 young kids (and get so little solitude) or that my personality is shifting.
  5. Even though #4 is true I still need good friends in my life who will love me no matter what and speak truth into my life.
  6. I need to not take things so seriously and I need to laugh a lot more!
  7. I was always under the illusion that because I made excellent grades all through school and college that I am an educated person. Just one year of formal homeschooling (third year counting pre-k and Kindergarten) has exposed that myth! I have a lot of learning to do still and most of it has to do with teaching myself how to read and engage texts in a thoughtful way.
  8. I really do like Star Wars!

Eight People to Tag:

That's only six but anyone else who wants to jump in, please do. Leave a comment and I'll read yours, too!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our Halloween Photos (Better Late Than Never)

I have at least 20 things I want to blog about; I am so behind. I thought I would start with a few simple things to help get caught up.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from Halloween this year. We had just finished reading all seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia series when I stumbled across these costumes on clearance at! Thatcher was Peter the High King, Haddon was King Edmund and Beckett was Aslan (but I found his costume at

Thatcher and Tinkerbell!

Haddon (er...King Edmund) riding his trusty steed!

At Daddy's office showing off our costumes!

Halloween 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Finally...a Plan! (Part Two)

A few additional thoughts I forgot to include in my first post:

One more thing I am excited about is finding the Accountable Kids program. I first read about it at Lisa's blog and after talking with her and pouring over their site, I feel like it will be a great fit for us. Now I am saving up to purchase it. I think it will really help Thatcher see what he is responsible for and work towards doing those things consistently with less guidance from mommy. He really desires to take more responsibility for his "stuff" but doesn't know how to go about it. I have tried all sorts of charts and other incentives with limited success but I really feel that AK will be different! Here is a photo of the AK board just in case your interest is piqued:

Lastly, as I began thinking and praying about how we needed to help Thatcher more, I quickly realized that part of the problem was me. I am a person who needs lots of sleep - eight hours will do but nine is optimal. When I do not discipline myself in this area I am too often not as patient as I need and want to be with my boys. Since this past summer when I basically became a night owl, I rarely get the sleep I need; I always feel I have too much to do to stop and rest. Sleep doesn't feel like "doing" anything because I don't have a box to check for a task completed (yes, I am one of those box-checker types. Lol!). I guess I need to make a new to-do list with "Get 8 hours of sleep" at the very top!

Well that about sums it up: fish oil supplements, dairy-free, gluten-free, Accountable Kids, and more sleep for mom. I will let you know how it goes and thanks so much to all those who offered advice and encouragement. It is truly appreciated!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Homeschool Blogger Awards

Did you vote yet for your favorite blogs? I voted for all my favorites today. They are only accepting nominations through tomorrow, November 17th, (nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh?) so take a few minutes and give a nod to all those blogs you read regularly!

I hope all my favorites will get to add an awesome button saying "Winner of a Homeschool Blogger Award" onto their templates soon!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Finally...a Plan! (Part One)

Since I published this post just a few hours ago, I have already remembered a few things I forgot to include. I will add those in Part Two.

Well if you have read my blog for any amount of time you know that my oldest son, Thatcher, has ADHD as well as other developmental issues. If you have never read his story you can read it here at my other blog. It has been a long journey for us - as it is anytime you have a child with unique needs.

At the age of three our pediatrician told us that we would need to put him on medication some day; he was that busy! We never thought we would go that route, but things change. At the age of five Thatcher was unhappy because he was too often in trouble and had no friends, and I was in tears many days. We decided it was time to try prescription meds. With the first prescription we tried we had horrible side effects - within an hour of Thatcher taking his medicine he would get an upset stomach and terrible headaches.

The second medication we tried yielded enough results that we stayed on it for almost a year. Unfortunately as time went on, there were side effects with it as well. Thatch is already a kid who has little interest in food. He is one of those "eat to live" not "live to eat" type people (very unlike his mom!). On the medication every meal became a battle. He never wanted to eat. Also as time went on, he increasingly experienced what his pediatrician called rebounding; once his meds wore off each day he was more hyperactive than he ever was without meds. At about 4:00 each day he would begin to bounce off the walls - almost literally - and from then until bedtime was insane. For a year now we have been off any prescription medication and maintaining.

As a side note: Let me say here I am a little nervous about sharing so openly about our journey as this is an extremely "hot" topic. If you are tempted, please do not leave any comments on my blog about your opinion of prescription meds. I am not inviting opinions and anyone who choses to tell me how terrible I am for putting my child on "drugs" will have their comments immediately deleted. I am not anti-meds at all and I know for some families it is a valid option - and very well may be for us at some point in the future as well. I am just one mommy trying to do the best for my child. I am processing my thoughts here hoping to possibly encourage someone else along their journey because it's good to know you are not alone! Read this recent post from the WTM boards (Thank you momof7!) before you make any judgments on those going the medicine route and remember that until you have walked in someone's shoes...

Ahhhh, I feel better for getting that out. Thank you for indulging me!

Back to the topic....we need to do more to help Thatcher than we are currently doing. As he gets older the gap is widening between where he is socially/emotionally and other boys his age. Everyone expects some amount of chaos from three and four and even five year old boys! But as he gets older and other boys are able to sit for some length of time (granted boys are active no matter what - just speaking in relative terms. Lol!) Thatch still cannot. He is nowhere close and his impulse control is very lacking. I have spent the last two weeks intensively researching a plan and so here it is:

First we have started Thatcher on daily fish oil supplements. We have started him on Nordic Naturals Children's DHA but we are about to order OmegaBrite KIDZ or MorEPA Junior. They have higher ratios of EPA to DHA which is thought to be more effective in the treatment of impulsivity.

After observing his progress for six weeks we will begin a dairy free diet as well. Even if we see huge results with the supplements we will still go this route - although I reserve the right to change my mind at any time :). It is believed that the proteins in milk (which are made up on long amino acid chains) are very difficult for some bodies to digest and end up acting like natural stimulants in the intestinal tract. It takes about a month to get all dairy out of a body.

After a month we may possibly try a gluten-free (gluten is the protein in wheat and many other grains) diet as well. This one makes me really nervous as it would be the biggest life change for us. Removing dairy would be huge but not so much as removing wheat. I am the person who will skip a meal just to be able to munch on a loaf of fresh-from-the-oven french bread while I shop at our local grocery store! The gluten-free diet usually yields even more results for ADHDers than dairy-free but it takes three to six months to remove all gluten from the body vs. only a month to remove dairy. This path seems the easiest for me to implement as well. If we go gluten-free it will be closer to summer when our school load is lightening giving me more time to learn to cook in a completely new way.

My prayer is that this works for Thatcher. If there is truly an organic cause for his ADHD and we can treat it by removing items from his diet it will be completely worth all the work it will entail. On the other hand, if his ADHD is a true brain-chemical issue and we see no difference (or just minimal difference) then we will be back at the table considering what medications may help our little boy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Week 13 Report

This week was full...full of good and not so good. I'll share the good first. That's so much more fun!

Math (Horizons 2) is going well and next semester we are going to try to start supplementing with this program. I looked at tons of great programs but this one won out for now - mainly because it's free and has lots of what I am looking for: activities to encourage thinking "outside the box".

Language - We didn't touch FLL lessons this week. We'll play catchup next week.

Reading - We are struggling a little here. Thatcher has regressed in his oral reading skills again. He mumbles, skips words, inserts new words and is generally showing some laziness. We are stopping Magic Tree House books for the time being hoping that some fresh books will inject some life into this aspect of school.

History is still going very well. I had pretty much stopped doing narrations (just hard to fit it all in) but after reading several threads relating to the value of narrations on the Well Trained Mind Boards I was encouraged to start back up again. Here is his narration from Chapter 13 of SOTW1. I copied down his narration but had him write the title. I loved his artwork, too! It shows Hatshepsut on her throne wearing a crown and surrounded by gold!

Science - We are playing catch up in this area but we are loving the life science plans Jessica created and shared at her blog, Trivium Academy! Here are two of his animal profile pages from this week: worms and ants. He is really enjoying learning to draw the animals. Coloring and drawing have been a long time coming for us and are just starting to emerge but oh how fun!

Spanish - We just completed Unit 1 of the Elementary Spanish program on United Streaming. Thatcher scored 100% on his test! We have acquired a Spanish pen pal for Thatcher, too! I'll post more about that later. :)

Just for fun here are pictures of Thatcher (wearing his red-eyed tree frog glasses!) and Haddon (wearing his new birthday outfit from his paternal grandparents) from this week.
Now for the not so good. We have had a tough few weeks with Thatch; I am at a loss for how to help him many days. He is stuck in a negative spiral, and I don't know how to break the cycle. His ADHD/SPD/Spectrum Disorder stuff is really rearing it's head: emotional outbursts when life doesn't happen just the way he thinks it should, disrespect, impatience with his brothers (more than just normal "sibling stuff") and more. Raising kids is *tough*. Period. No matter what. Raising a kiddo with special needs is sometimes downright...I can't even think of a word to describe it: exhausting, sad, make you want to crawl under the sheets and hide some days...

We are starting fish oil supplements on Monday as some have had great success in treating ADHD this natural way. Oh, if it could truly be that easy for us! We are also getting more strict on his diet as I've grown a little lax since school has started: absolutely no sugar, refined flour or white rice, no dyes, additives or preservatives and limited dairy and wheat. I am also researching a parenting/behavior program that may work for us as well. I will post more as I learn about this as well.

Next week is a new week and I am looking forward to a fresh start!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Haddon is Three!

Today was my Chocolate Eye's birthday and it truly was special. It was the first birthday where he really got that it was all about him...and how sweet it was! The first thing he said when he woke up this morning was, "I tree!" (Translation, "I'm three!")

He had been looking forward to his party at Chuck E. Cheese for months and it did not disappoint. And doing it on a Friday morning was wonderful - no crowd whatsoever!

Here are a few of my favorite photos from our day:
The Birthday Boy!

Beckett had a great time, too!

Big Brother

Air Hockey Champ!

The Pizza Cake

Blowing out the Candles

Haddon and Mommy :)

Happy Third Birthday, Haddon.
We love you so very much sweet boy.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Week 11-12 Report

I am late, late, late in posting our weeks 11 and 12. I have had a hard time keeping up with reports now that I am running early in the morning again. My bedtime has moved waaaay up and cut into my blogging time. Lol! As I have thought through my schedule and considered ways to streamline (read - cut things out!) I considered not doing weekly reports. You know what though...I like these reports and here's why: It gives both Thatcher and myself a sense of accomplishment to see our week all neat and tied up with a bow (or a slide show!). It also provides me a time and a place to process what is happening at Smooth Stones Academy. Some weeks we get so busy we are just going through the motions without stopping to reflect. Here I get to reflect and process.

History is going so well and Thatcher loves it! I wish we had more time for projects but it is just not happening this year. I keep reminding myself that he is getting so much more in this area than I ever was able to do as a public school first grade teacher. We did stop and have a little fun one day because Thatcher had been begging me to make him into a "toilet paper mummy". The photo shows our third attempt because the first two times Thatcher lost his balance and fell over ripping all the tp apart!

Science is also going really well. We started off very slowly but are rapidly picking up steam! Do you like Thatcher's frog he drew on his animal profile page? It's from Ed Emberly's Big Green Drawing Book. We got such a kick out of this and Thatcher was very proud of the final product.

We love United Streaming! Just in the past two weeks, in addition to our regular Spanish lessons, we have watched a Magic School Bus video on frogs and two excellent history videos on ancient Egypt. Part of my lesson planning each Sunday night now includes checking US to see what videos might match our lessons that week. We couldn't find much on snails and worms for science this week but reptiles will be more promising I am sure! Also, I have been very pleased with the Spanish program they offer, especially considering I was about to spend $200 on a different program. Instead, we got US and all it has to offer for only $129.

Lastly, because I hardly ever mention my little Haddon I thought I would type out what I am working on with him this year. He turns three next week so have not started anything formal, yet I have many things I want to teach him through play this year. By his age Thatcher already knew all these things and more but Thatch was an only child and his memory is one of his absolute greatest strengths. Haddon is much more interested in bats, balls and climbing than anything academic, although that is changing. Here we go:
  • Colors
  • Count to 10
  • Recognize #'s to 10
  • Say his ABC's
  • Recognize all 26 letters
  • Know basic shapes: circle, square, rectangle, oval, triangle, heart, star
In addition, each day we try to make sure we: read at least 10 books together, work puzzles/shape sorters/stacking toys, read from one of our Mother Goose books, sing songs, and do finger plays. Some days we don't get it all done but we certainly try.

Next week we are going to take off since we have a Halloween Party with our other home school friends on Tuesday, Halloween is on Wednesday (won't get anything done that day if I tried!) and I will spend all day Thursday baking and decorating Haddon's cakes for his party on Friday. For Halloween Thatcher is going to be Peter Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. Haddon is going to be his younger brother, Edmund Pevensie, and Beckett is going to be Aslan the Lion! All the costumes just arrived today and they are cute! Can't wait to post those pictures and see all the cute ones of your peanuts too! :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Godspeed STS-120

Tomorrow at 10:38AM (CST) the crew of the Discovery will launch from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Two of the astronauts on this mission, Doug Wheelock and George Zamka, both attend our church. Dh and I were invited to attend this launch but unfortunately were unable to go.

Please pray for these men and the entire crew as they prepare for their fourteen days in space. This mission will be to bring the Harmony module to the International Space Station which will provide attachment points for European and Japanese laboratory modules.

For our friends, Doug and George, this will be their first trip into space and what they have dreamed about since they were accepted into NASA's Astronaut Candidate Training Program in 1998. They are both daddies of some terrific kids and husbands to two great ladies.

Discovery on Liftoff

Discovery's Crew for STS-120

Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 10 Report: Reflections on Our First Quarter

We are one-fourth of the way through first grade. It started out rough (You can read about our first day here.) but has steadily gotten better as each week has progressed. I have figured out ways to get the most out of our days, but still want to do much more!

I have had to turn loose many things in this give and take: my house is messier than it has ever been; I almost never get an opportunity to spend time or even chat on the phone with girlfriends; I have less time to myself than ever; reading for pleasure is a thing of the past; my toenail polish is always chipped ;) ... But you know what? I wouldn't trade a thing. What I do have is a six year old who truly loves learning, three brothers who adore each other (although some days they do a better job of showing it than others), and days full of knowledge, exploration and fun!

I have been continually reminded that this season is short. Soon I will turn around and my boys will be heading off to college. Until then, my main job is to be a wife to their Daddy and a disciple-maker of them. I will have years after they are gone to catch up on all the good books I've set aside, take classes at the culinary school, learn to quilt and I suspect I will have more than enough time to myself. Nope, this is the better thing. Not easier, but better. Now someone remind me of this in a few weeks when I am worn-out and frustrated. Lol!

I have been thinking through some of the things I still want to add into our days and here's what I have come up with:

  • Problem: I desire for them to daily listen to classical music from our "Composer of the Month" so they will have a better grasp of that artist's work before we proceed on to the next.
  • Solution: I will have music playing when the boys come down in the morning. We will listen as we do our morning routines. The music will go off after breakfast when we start our morning devotional. I will turn it back on when Thatcher has his 30 minute morning break.
  • Problem: I still have yet to do any art instruction.
  • Solution: I am not going to stress about it this year. I am seriously considering a video based art curriculum for next year. Thatcher is *such* a visual learner that I think this would be a great for him. (I am fully aware that I may simply be wimping out here and I am okay with that!) He watched a Veggie Tale's "Bonus Feature" on a DVD we checked out from the library that showed how to draw Goliath. I was truly amazed at what Thatcher did after seeing that short video segment. Unfortunately, any future purchases - big ones at least - will have to wait until the next year. Art instruction (formal at least) is on hold for now.
  • Problem: Beckett is *so* demanding as he gets older. He amazes us with his ability to communicate his desires so young. Unfortunately this results in many tantrums as he throws himself backwards anytime he doesn't get exactly what he wants! You would think he would clue in after the 100th time of us not giving in that this method is not effective but alas, he hasn't gotten that memo yet! Working with him is a huge reason that some days we don't get nearly as much done as we could.
  • Solution: Hang in there and don't sell him on eBay yet ;)! Haddon was much the same at his age and has turned out to be such a kind-hearted, tender little boy. Also, I have seen glimpses (albeit short) of the joys of having two so close together - Haddon and Beckett are starting to play together!!! Haddon will have Beckett follow him into the playroom and they have stayed there together playing for up to 20 minutes! I am looking forward to seeing their friendship blossom.
  • Other Misc: I need to come up with a better system for our memory work. We have not been listening to our VP Old Testament Card CD since the second week of school. I want to have a library day twice a month for the boys to go and pick books of their own. I need to start thinking about next year and what curriculum we will use. I also want to make a plan for the remainder of elementary in regards to Language Arts - reading, grammar, writing and spelling.
So this is what you get instead of pictures of Thatcher's work this week - my ramblings. I just needed a place to think it all through. Thanks for indulging me!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Week 9 Report

I can hardly believe we are one week away from completing our first quarter! It's gone by so quickly. Here are some of the things we did in Week 9...

Here is a photo of the books Thatcher read independently this week. He reads each book on his own and a short (or long, depending on his interest) discussion ensues to be certain he understood what he read. It's not at all unusual for him to disappear into a room to be found reading an hour later. It is also not unusual for him to be staring at the ceiling or playing with his matchbox cars an hour later either! A quick few (& fun) questions and I know whether he read the entire book or not! :) He is really enjoying non-fiction but the Henry and Mudge series is a big hit here, too!

We are still reading one Magic Tree House book together each week, too. We alternate reading chapters and we read two to three chapters a day. He could read these independently but he gets overwhelmed with all the words on the page (ADHD kicking in for sure!). At bedtime we are still reading The Last Battle. I think we will read Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling next and then move onto Favorite Thornton Burgess Animal Stories after that. They will nicely compliment our animal studies in science.

As a side note, I almost always link to Amazon in my blog because you can often see "inside" the book and I love that feature. It doesn't always mean that it's the cheapest place to buy though. Do your research before you buy. You can save some serious money if you do!!! :)

Here is a photo of one of Thatcher's math lessons. I was much encouraged by a mom who shared that her child also used to take about as much time to complete each lesson as Thatcher but has steadily improved each year with maturity and familiarity. Oh I do hope so!

Also, I don't put a number or letter grade on Thatcher's math assignments but I do put how many problems he missed at the top of the page and we correct all mistakes off to the side before proceeding to the next lesson. Recently he missed 15 problems on one page and made the comment, "That's a lot of problems wrong mom." He was so discouraged until I counted that he had 15 wrong but 92 correct! He brightened tremendously. Now I write how many he got wrong and right at the top of each page. It just feels like we not focusing so much on the negative that way! :)

He's doing so much better now that I am taking the time to really sit with him as we introduce
the rule and also make a point to review the rule(s) each day. Here's one of his "tests" this week. If it's difficult to read (insert drumroll....) he made 100%! I was so proud of him.

We are really using this as more of a spelling program than a true phonics program, so I really want him to understand the rules. I have said all along I would switch to Spelling Workout when we finish ETC but I just found out about SpellWell, a spelling program by the authors of ETC that I want to take a look at, too!

Here is a photo of Thatcher's copywork from The Epic of Gilgamesh this week. I had never even heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh until just a few months ago when I was pre-reading SOTW1. Dh was shocked. I still wonder, "Was I truly never introduced to this material or did it just not stick?" I have referred to it before but it's worth repeating...I love the quote on Mater Magistra's blog, "To teach is to learn twice." It's so very true! I have learned so much already and we've been on this journey such a short time.

Also since we are studying the ancients this year I have been reading one story from Aesop's
Fables each week to Thatcher. One of my biggest goals for this year is character development so these stories serve a dual purpose: supplemental history readings and character building. The language is rich and beautiful in the classic version I chose so we read the same story each day at lunch M-Th. By Thursday the lights are really coming on for him.

This week we read The Lion and the Mouse and we discussed the moral, "A kindness is never wasted." There is a coloring book that I considered ordering but decided against it at the start of the year. Now that Thatcher has grown to love coloring I may just need to order it! It's called Aesop's Fables Coloring Book and it would be a great thing for Thatcher to do while I was reading to him.

Art Appreciation:
Someday I hope for this subject to list Art Appreciation & Art but I have not made time to sit down with my copy of Mona Brooke's Drawing with Children yet...although I did find another mom's generously shared plans for using this book on Paula's Archives. This is another one of those subjects I feel I know so little about and that makes me hesitant to teach it. Plus, I can wing a lesson in just about any other subject right now, but I definitely cannot wing this one! I need to sit down and decide if I can really use this book or if I would be better off with another program like Atelier or Draw Squad.

We did cover Rembrandt this week though. It was short meeting with this great man, but next week I am introducing a new artist and composer so that we can stay on track and cover all 10 artists and composers I chose for this year. This picture shows the books we read this week and the Dover Art Postcards ($1.25 per artist at Rainbow Resources) we used to help discuss the man and his works. I laminated the cards and will post the ones from the artist we are studying each month.

Be back next week with our Week 10 Report!

PS. I just viewed this post and I don't like how it formatted the text around some of the photos. I am not certain how to fix it and too tired to try! Oh well, that's what I get for trying something new! :)