Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Welcome Home, Lucy!

((Still playing catch up with the blog, y'all))

On November 19th, we surprised the kids with an early Christmas gift surprise by placing a single wrapped gift with a question mark label on it under the empty Christmas tree. They were perplexed to say the least. See?


Can you just take another look at Squish's face? Literally the best. ๐Ÿ˜‚

We gave them the option of opening the gift or not, and not surprisingly, they all agreed to go for it!

Inside they found... a book on beagle puppies! I also included a flyer with our new pup's info on it for them, too!


Here's the big moment on video:


So on Saturday, November 30th (the day after we informed the kids they would be getting a new sibling!), we loaded up the kids in the Suburban, temporarily dubbed the "Christmas Express," and hit the road. The kids each had a Christmas gift bag in their seats stocked full with Christmas coloring books, candy, popcorn, activities, and more. They also each had a cup of hot chocolate in their cupholders, a Christmas movies was queued up in the DVD player, and I even went so far as to (gag) put reindeer antlers and a red nose on the Suburban (TEMPORARILY).

Now we were ready to hit the road! Destination? North Carolina. More specifically: Shiloh Farm! We were surprising the kids with a MAJOR Christmas gift a few weeks early... their very own beagle puppy!

They were all instantly in love the second they met her!


Somehow they were all able to come to agreement rather quickly that her name should be Lucy. Her middle name is Opal. Our last name starts with L, and they purposely chose Opal for her middle name so her initials would be LOL. Aren't they crazy? They thought Opal would be a good fit because she was born in October, and opal is the birthstone for October.

She was so tiny!


The kids settled in with her at home in no time flat! They loved watching her sleep.





Without a doubt, Lucy prefers Chase's "nap lap" over all others. She will curl up with him and take the best naps!


LO has been the best mama to her sweet Lucy. I love watching her take care of her little four-legged baby.


As you might have noticed, one of her favorite activities her first month or so with us was SLEEPING. She slept all.the.time. And she still sleeps a good bit! She stays in her crate at night and when we're gone, she loves running and playing in the backyard, and she's so great in playing with the kids inside. She's really been a wonderful addition to our family! The kids all love her so much, and though I'm not much of a pet person, I've been pleased at how well the kids have taken care of everything (with help from hubs): feeding, bathing, picking up poop, cleaning up inside messes, keeping little toys/choking hazards picked up and out of her reach, etc. Lucy has been a wonderful addition to our family!

Welcome home, Lucy!

Monday, December 30, 2019

The (LONG) One with the Gender Reveal

Let's talk GENDER, folks!

I know what you may likely be thinking... it's too early for gender! And typically that might be true. We didn't find out until our 20 week ultrasounds with the first four kiddos, so this is definitely new for me!

So here's the deal: I'm older than dirt. And as a pregnant geriatric, I have slightly more concern this time around when it comes to the baby's health. Hubs and I discussed and decided to have a non-invasive pregnancy test (NIPT), the Natera Panorama. This simple blood test is a screening test for the most common genetic conditions. This test also happens to include the baby's gender. While we weren't choosing to do the test for the gender reveal, we did feel it would be in our best interest to know if the baby had any issues so we could best prepare for his/her arrival.

I had the test drawn on 12/12/2019. I was hopeful to have the results back by the time I went to my first appointment with the perinatologist on 12/23/2019 for a nuchal translucency ultrasound, which would also screen the baby for potential chromosomal defects. My grand plan was to collect all of the information I could possibly get my hands on to ensure (as best as I could) that the baby was healthy before making an official announcement to family and friends. And believe it or not, everything came together (almost) perfectly!

The morning of my ultrasound, I called my OB's office and left a message to inquire if my Panorama NIPT results were in yet. I was super stoked to get a call back a few hours later to tell me my results were in, and the BEST NEWS EVER was that the screening returned LOW RISK for potential defects! This meant < 1/10,000 y'all! It was such a relief! Not a full guarantee, of course, but a relief nonetheless.

Later that afternoon was my first full workup with the perinatologist, including the nuchal translucency ultrasound. Everything went well during the ultrasound and we were able to see our sweet little guy or gal! The doctor informed us that everything looked great! The measurements looked great and further indicated our baby's health. Hubs and I will remain "cautiously optimistic" until we have the full anatomy scan at 20 weeks to check baby's heart, etc., but for now, we felt confident that we were ready to share our exciting news!


The next step of my plan involved picking up an envelope at my OB's office with the baby's gender written inside. I had planned to order 6 gender reveal cupcakes from Lowes Foods that afternoon to pick up on Christmas Eve. I wanted to line the kids up at the table on Christmas Day after they opened all their gifts and have them all take a huge bite to see which color was inside to indicate boy or girl. I picked up the envelope, and decided I'd call Lowes to place the order over the phone, so I'd just need to run in real quick to drop off the envelope.

This is when my perfect plan was foiled!

The lovely ladies at the Lowes bakery informed me they already had too many cupcake orders and couldn't fill mine. I asked a few follow-up questions, and the phone was handed off to the bakery manager. I told her I only needed 6 gender reveal cupcakes, and she proceeded to inform me that THEY CANNOT PUT ANYTHING INSIDE THE CUPCAKES.

Y'all.

Have you heard of Pinterest? There's like a gazillion ways you can stuff stuff inside of cupcakes! And all I wanted was just a little shmooze of pink or blue frosting!

Anywho, they straight up refused and I was left scrambling. Hubs tried to fix the situation by offering Publix or Bi-Lo cupcakes as a second option, which I vehemently refused. My plan revolved around Lowes Foods cupcakes.

Fast-forward a bit to later that evening. We took the kids to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants for dinner. I began sharing The Great Cupcake Ordeal of 2019 with them, and they were terribly disappointed. If you think I like cupcakes (and basically every dessert imaginable), you should meet my kids. They LIVE for sweets. #momwin ๐Ÿ˜ณ

When I mentioned I had the envelope in my purse, the kids all said they wanted to go ahead and open it. Right there. While waiting on our dinner. At Anita's. And I couldn't help but oblige!

It wasn't "my" plan. And I hadn't had time yet to come up with a Plan B. But seeing the excitement on my kids' faces was all I needed. The most important thing about my original plan was that it would be the 6 of us together. Just us. No fancy gender reveal party, folks. Just my sweet fam finding out together. And wouldn't you know it -- my sweet fam was gathered around that table stuffing our faces with chips and salsa. It really couldn't have been more perfect!

Before opening the envelope, I polled the family to ask what they thought it would be (not necessarily what they wanted it to be). Here are the results:

Mommy: Boy
Daddy: Girl
LO: Boy
Chase: Girl
E: Boy
O: ???

Without further ado, check out this little video for our big reveal for baby #5!



Hahahahaha!! Poor Chase!!! ๐Ÿคฃ
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Here’s the official proof!



After we found out the gender on 12/23, we told our families we were expecting on 12/24, and then shared the gender with them two days later on 12/26. What a whirlwind of Christmas and new baby excitement!!!

We can’t wait to welcome little boy Cinco in 2020!






Sunday, December 29, 2019

12 Weeks

Yes, it's me again... trying to get caught up on all.things.baby. here on the blog. I'm going back in time almost 2 weeks to share my 12 week bump photo! This is from 12/18/2019. I will be honest here, folks, as always: I'm pretty sure my belly "popped" the second I saw the positive pregnancy test! Seems I show earlier and earlier with each pregnancy, and this time has definitely been no different! It's been a struggle to find a variety of baggy tops to constantly pair with concealing cardigans while waiting to publicly share our big news.

I'm happy to report the ABSOLUTELY INSANE FIRST TRIMESTER FATIGUE is finally starting to abate and I'm returning to a somewhat functional human being. It's helped a lot that we've been on a homeschool break for a few weeks (with another one to go!) and hubs has been home much more due to the holidays. I'm looking forward to accomplishing much in my second trimester... including starting a new part-time job next month that I'm รผber excited about!

Cravings haven't been a big deal this time around (so far๐Ÿ˜). It's been a mix of both sugary deliciousness and savory goodness, so no clear craving signal pointing to either gender. LOL.


The One Where We Tell the Kids

If you happened to miss my little announcement on Christmas, we are excited about welcoming our fifth (and FINAL๐Ÿ˜œ) little one, who we've dubbed "Cinco," due July 1, 2020! There's so much to share, and since I'm terrible at both remembering details AND filling out baby books, my blog will serve yet again as the central hub for all.things.baby.

We told the kids the day after Thanksgiving. As usual, I had a grand plan that did NOT go as expected. I wanted to take a Christmas photo of the kids in their pajamas, and add in an extra pair for baby to see their reaction. I planned to use the beautiful photo that resulted as our Christmas card AND baby announcement for family and friends.

For starters, my setup was terrible. A way-too-small blanket on the grass, some ghetto garland sprinkled with a few red and gold ornaments, and a ladder to get some height over the kids for the photo. It just wasn't a great setup.

Here's my proof:


Can you say double-chin? Can you say completely uncooperative 2-year-old? Things just didn't go according to my vision.


While taking the (awful) pictures, I mentioned how something was missing. I asked hubs for some help, and he walked over and put the additional baby pajamas next to Squish. You can already see LO and Chase are looking perplexed...


They sat up for a closer look...


At first they thought it was something for the new puppy (blog post coming soon on that one!), but then they realized what it meant. Well, the older two did. E and Squish were both quite oblivious!


LO's face was priceless once she realized what was going on and looked up at me on the ladder. LOL!


Overall I think it was safe to say they were surprised!

My sweet smiley Squish!


Chase's face says it all... LOL!


As does LO's... 


I love my sweet crew and I'm so excited to welcome one more sweet little to our family!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas 2019

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone reading this is enjoying the best Christmas ever! We've had a wonderful holiday week so far. Last night, for Christmas Eve, we attended a wonderful service at our church and enjoyed a big family gathering at my sister's house. The kids all opened their matching buffalo plaid pajamas! It was so much fun!

This morning, the kids were so kind to wait until after 8AM to wake up (some of them much later), so I was able to sneak downstairs to get a few pics before they came downstairs to kick off the magic!

Every year, the kids get new ornaments. Squish got a new car!


E got a Star Wars ornament!


Chase got a new game controller ornament!


And LO got a new reindeer!


Here are a few pics of the loot!





The kids made cookies for Santa last night and they came out so cute! Here's a BEFORE pic...


And an AFTER pic once Santa was done with them! LOL! He enjoyed his cookies and chocolate milk. He even wrote back to Chase's request for a note from Santa in his journal!


The kids were SUPER excited to see all the Christmas fun awaiting them downstairs!


My favorite thing about Christmas this year was watching the kids start out by opening the gifts they had each made for each other. Chase made E a Splatoon gun of some sort. It was so neat to see Chase was probably just excited to GIVE the gift as E was to receive it!


LO crocheted an AMAZING Pikachu for Chase. I still can't believe she MADE this! Isn't he adorable?!


Check out this adorable reindeer LO made for me! I love it so much!


Chase was thrilled to receive one of his Christmas wishes: a skateboard!


Lots of new games for E this year (since he happens to be an expert at losing game pieces). Ha!


Chase and E with their new onesie jams: Pikachu for Chase and a Minecraft creeper for E!


O finally woke up about 2 hours later and was excited to try out his new balance bike!



His stocking contained one of his most favorite things ever: M&Ms!


Bed hair don't care. LOL!


Here O paused mid-gift opening to randomly say, "Cheese!" since I had my camera in his face. Haha!


I didn't get too many pics of LO, but she was super thrilled with her new Warrior book sets, a new dress, new boots, and lots of other great stuff!

We loved our family time this morning, and are super excited to continue our Christmas festivities with Christmas dinner at our BFFs tonight, and then hosting my entire family for Christmas dinner tomorrow night!

Merry Christmas, all!

A Little Announcement. . .

Merry Christmas!

I shared a little announcement* today on fb and IG and of course wanted to share it here, too!


*Hint: Count the pairs of shoes!

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The One with the Aftermath

It's been three weeks, y'all.

Three glorious weeks.

Three amazing, inspiring, freeing, enlightening, joy-filled weeks.

Three weeks ago, our family made the decision to leave Classical Conversations and take on our homeschooling journey solo this year.

{ Just as a reminder: We LOVED the people in our co-op. We just didn't agree with the business behind the co-op. Or the cost. Or the time commitment. Or... well, you probably get the idea. }

I honestly cannot even put into words the freedom that followed making this decision. Y'all, we had been fully committed 110% to homeschooling our children through high school with CC. Once we found the program, we jumped in with both feet and never looked back. Unfortunately, we didn't adequately look ahead, either.

I'm not going to take up an entire post to share the 101 reasons why CC is no longer the right fit for my family. Rather, I'd just like to joyfully share what we've been up to these past three weeks, and what we've put together for our school year!

Once we made our decision to leave CC, I immediately went into purge mode. This is the period of time, about a week, during which I sold off all CC-related program materials. For a company that touts "stick in the sand" as its principal educational methodology, y'all, I brought in almost $1,500 by selling all of my CC materials during purge mode. It would likely hurt my feelings to go back and determine how much I actually spent when I originally purchased all of those materials, so suffice it to say CC requires a whole heck of a lot more than a stick and some sand! ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ’ฐ๐Ÿ˜‚

Immediately following purge mode, I blissfully entered a season of peaceful rest. This was the point at which I had all.the.freedom.in.the.world. to decide what and how our homeschool would work.

I began by having beautiful conversations with each of my children.

We discussed what THEY were interested in.

What THEY wanted to learn about.

What THEY found exciting and thrilling.

What THEY thought would be fun.

What THEY felt would bring them joy.

And then I started building our plans from there! No more shackles! Instead, we had uninhibited freedom to return to a love of learning! Together--as a family. The way we had intended to do this from the beginning. So much joy there, y'all!

I initially looked into the possibility of joining a local Scholรฉ group that meets in our area. I met with their director, who was amazing, and learned about their program. It was so wonderful! The costs were unbelievably reasonable, all of the parents worked together in a true co-op environment, the children had a restful pace of learning, and the curricula was simple and beautiful. They met once per week, with field trips scheduled every month, and it overall appeared to be a wonderful solution for my family.

However, after talking with my kids, we all agreed we were so unbelievably grateful for our newfound freedom that we didn't want to be tethered by a weekly community day. We wanted to embrace a relaxed schedule of doing whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it. Hubs and I discussed and prayed over the decision, and felt confirmation to continue on our own this year. ๐Ÿ’œ

Thus began the process of selecting curricula for my kiddos! It's been a joyful and exciting process for me! I've loved being able to choose materials that my children and I will love. Here's how it's shaping up (for those who are interested in the details):

// HISTORY

LO is excited about preparing to take the US History I CLEP exam in the spring, and we both felt it would be perfect to study American History as a family this year. I'm super stoked about this because we would have been studying Medieval History with our previous co-op, and none of my kids were very thrilled about that. I found this incredible program called America the Beautiful from Notgrass History.
What I love about America the Beautiful is that it combines American history, geography, and literature into one course! It combines the flexibility and richness of a unit study with the simplicity of a textbook-based approach to history. There are daily lessons to guide students chronologically through American history, highlighting key events, people, and places. And I love the corresponding literature book selections! And did I mention there is a cookbook that has recipes from all of the states to create and enjoy? This one is going to be great! Even though the course is designed for 5th - 8th grade, I plan to have Chase complete this course with LO, and will have E listen along to the readings and work on related coloring pages, activity sheets, etc. So ALL of us will be learning from ONE course TOGETHER. YAY!

// SCIENCE

When I asked LO what she wanted to study for science, she eagerly listed a plethora of interests! This didn't surprise me as my girl loves her some science! When gently forced to limit her choices to her top 3 or 4, she went with Astronomy, Minerals, Weather, and Oceans. That seemed super specific to me, but I was intent to find what she wanted. Imagine my surprise when I discovered General Science 1 from Master Books! It perfectly fit the bill!


One of the things that sold me on this program (besides the extremely reasonable price tag!) was the fact that the Teacher Guide included a weekly lesson schedule, the student worksheets, the quizzes and tests, and the answer key--all on ONE book. No separate workbooks or answer keys or added costs. EASY, y'all.

My kiddos and I will explore oceans, astronomy, weather, and minerals and discover fascinating facts, incredible wonders, captivating creatures, and God’s glory on display throughout creation! This course is designed for 7th - 12th grades, but we plan to use it with the whole family, adjusting as needed for Chase and E.

// SPANISH

Our family is thrilled to switch things up this year and move on from Latin to Spanish! I did a lot of research to find a program that wasn't workbook-driven, was designed for children, would work well for kids of various ages, and be fun and engaging at an easy pace. That's a lot to ask for! Thankfully, all signs pointed to La Clase Divertida!


I was concerned that the video samples look like they were filmed in 1987, but I looked past that and enjoyed how engaging it was for the room full of students. There are a lot of great activities that go along with the program, and I can't wait for us to go through this program together!

// ENGLISH

This is one area where my kiddos will receive individual instruction while working through resources I selected specifically for their reading and writing levels. I chose BJU Press materials for LO and Chase, so there will be some helpful similarities and continuity within the two programs.

Chase will be using English 4 Writing & Grammar. This will be his first year using an official writing program, and I'm super thrilled at what we will cover! Parts of speech and sentence structures are examined in detail to help him gain a mastery of grammar. The writing process is explained step-by-step to be implemented in a variety of writing assignments, including a personal narrative, a research report, and a business letter. I just love this! ๐Ÿ’™

Choosing a level for LO was a bit more involved. Luckily, I was at the BJU Educators Marketplace down the street from the BJU campus, and could flip through the various grade levels. This was SUCH a blessing, because I'm not sure we would've ended up with what we did had I not had the opportunity to flip through the pages of the books.

I started with Writing & Grammar 7, looked through the table of contents, and started flipping through the pages. Everything I read, she already knew. So I grabbed Writing & Grammar 8. SAME. Then I went for Writing & Grammar 9.
Near the end of Chapter 1, after discussing the four kinds of sentences, subjects and predicates, basic sentence patterns, and fragments, they introduced and discussed comma splices and fused sentences. Eureka! These were concepts I was certain she was not familiar with. So I landed on 9th grade English for LO. She couldn't be more thrilled to finally learn something new after spending the past 3 years going over the same information she had pretty much mastered the first year.

For E, I'm going to use Language Smarts Level B from The Critical Thinking Co. It's a single workbook that is a full Language Arts curriculum. E still isn't reading independently, so we've been spending lots of time working on letters and sounds, as well as reading simple words. We'll use this comprehensive workbook to teach reading, writing, grammar, and punctuation skills and concepts that students are expected to know in first grade. E will also develop critical thinking, vocabulary, and several other skills and concepts normally taught in second grade. I'm excited to see how his reading and writing skills look at the end of the year after completing this workbook!


// MATH

This is another area where my kiddos will receive individual instruction. LO's curriculum is still a big question mark at this point. We've jumped around a bit over the past 5 years from Singapore to Saxon to Teaching Textbooks, back to Saxon, and back to Teaching Textbooks. I'm afraid our inability to find a suitable math program for her has left her with significant gaps. I'm currently looking for a mastery-based math program for her. I'll have her take a placement test when I find the right curriculum, but I wouldn't be surprised if we'll go back a level or two in order to ensure she has a solid understanding of the basics.

Chase is still killing it with Teaching Textbooks 5, so we're going to continue with it. I LOVE that it's all online and I don't have to do any grading! It's a very hands-off program, which is working wonderfully for him (and me!).

For E, I have decided to try Master Books' Math Lessons for a Living Education: Level 1. This story-based approach invites students to participate in the story, make mathematical connections, explore the world around them, and realize the value of math in their own lives. I'm excited to start our first real math program together! E really loves numbers and has done well with learning his skip counting, so this ought to be a fun adventure for us!

Of course there are several additional programs I'll be using this year for spelling, accounting, typing, coding, piano, etc. And I'm also thrilled to already have several field trips lined up for the fall semester. Everything is falling into place, and I couldn't be more grateful that God has led us here. All of us are incredibly excited to get into the full routine of our school year!