Every Good and Perfect Gift

My kids, especially my 4-almost-5-year-old, have been begging for days to bring their trikes and scooters to a park. It’s been so hot lately that I keep saying no, since I’m now 36 weeks pregnant and the A/C in our van isn’t working consistently. In fact, it seems to only work about 5% or less of the times I try to use it. But this morning, it was a tad cooler than it has been lately, so I finally said yes. I was amazed that the A/C actually worked on the way to the park! The temperature wasn’t even necessarily hot enough to justify using A/C, but I was so thrilled it was working, I left it on for the entire 10-minute ride to the park.

I found a picnic bench in the shade and plopped down with my current read (Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson), and pretty much let the kids roam free. They watched ducks, chased dragonflies, rode their trikes and scooters, ran around, and generally made merry. It made me happy and thankful and content to see my three beautiful, healthy children excitedly exploring nature on a perfect, sunshiny, blue-sky day. I was glad we had come.

When it was time to leave, the kids were worn out and thirsty, and the temperature had been steadily creeping up. I knew that there was no way that the van A/C would work–again!–two times in a row!–but miraculously, it did. It seemed like a gift from God, a little reminder that He sees and He cares and He loves to bless me, even though I don’t deserve it.

Once I asked one of my favorite Bible college professors how we can tell when a good thing is just a coincidence or when it’s actually God purposely doing something nice for us, and he replied, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” I feel like that verse applies in my situation today. I don’t pray as often as I should; I didn’t pray specifically that the air conditioning would work today, or that the kids and I would have a lovely time at the park, and yet, God gave those things to us. Even when I’m crabby and apathetic and fearful, His kindness leads me to repentance and awe.

Book Review: In a Mirror, by Mary Stolz

I saw In a Mirror recommended on Gretchen Rubin’s list of May book club choices, under the heading, “An outstanding children’s book.” As far as I can tell, the book was written in 1953. It is somewhat hard to find. My library system didn’t have it, but I was able to get it through interlibrary loan.

It’s strange to me that this young-adult novel was written before either of my parents were born. I don’t really have a detailed frame of reference for the era in which In a Mirror is set. As I was reading, I was sort of picturing clothing and settings out of The Dick Van Dyke Show, but I just looked it up and discovered that The Dick Van Dyke Show ran in the 1960’s, not the 50’s. The only other thing I can think to compare it to is the movie, Mona Lisa Smile, which, like this book, is set at a women’s college in the 50’s.

In a Mirror is the introspective, first-person, journal-like narrative of Bessie Muller, an overweight, opinionated, aspiring writer. She finds her identity in her intelligence and writing ability, but due to her appearance, she always feels stuck on the outside-looking-in regarding the “real life” interests, such as dating and fashion, of most girls her age.

The book contains some pretty turns of phrase and is more artfully written than most young adult books, but it’s not spectacular. I wanted to be “wowed” by the conclusion, but the book kind of quietly fizzled out. I enjoyed In a Mirror while it lasted, but I probably won’t ever re-read it.

Pregnancy Update: 28 Weeks

Yesterday, for the first time this pregnancy, I was able to feel a large, hard mass in my abdomen that was either Baby Girl’s head or her bum. I’m hoping it was the latter, and that she has turned head-down.

She has been dancing and swimming around like crazy in there lately! She also gets hiccups sometimes, which is such a strange feeling, but kind of cute.

I’ve been very happy with my experience with Samaritan Ministries. It looks like 100% of the expenses from both this pregnancy and from my appendectomy several months ago are going to be covered. In fact, I’ve already received most of the money in the form of checks from other Samaritan Ministries members.

This past weekend, I was at my church’s women’s retreat. Another lady and I led the worship sessions. She played guitar and sang, and I played piano and sang. I’m very comfortable singing in front of people, but this was really my first time playing piano in front of people as an adult, so it was definitely a stretch for me. I enjoy playing piano, but I’m not great at it. I’m really slow at reading sheet music, so I prefer to just play from a chord chart and by ear. Anyway, things went pretty well, and I’m glad I did it. It felt good to not allow fear and anxiety to hold me back from trying something that was outside of my comfort zone.

Homeschooling-wise, we are winding down for the year. I’m planning to focus mostly on science over the summer, since I didn’t do much of it with the kids during the school year.

My husband’s car was stolen two nights ago night from our driveway. :-( A generous friend is letting him borrow a vehicle for a while, so T can still get to work without leaving the kids and me stranded at home all day, every day. We’ve reported the theft to police, so I hope we will get the car back.

Pregnancy Update: 21 Weeks

Well, I will be 22 weeks tomorrow, actually. We found out yesterday that we are having a girl. My midwife called me today with additional information about my ultrasound. Baby Girl looks great. She is measuring about a week “small” for how far along I am currently, but my midwife said it’s not a big deal, because of normal growth variations in the middle of pregnancy. Also, she said that, for me, because I personally tend to have “late” babies (my 3rd was born at 42 weeks, and the others also came after their “due dates”), having this ultrasound which gives a later due date will give us a little extra leeway at the end of pregnancy to maintain a hands-off approach longer, instead of feeling pressured to induce or try other interventions if this pregnancy goes long. Midwives in my state can legally perform home births until 43 weeks, but this ultrasound extends what I originally thought would be my 43 week cutoff, if that makes sense. Not that I really want to be pregnant for 43 or more weeks, but I trust my body and my baby, and I want Baby Girl to come out whenever she is ready, without being evicted too soon.

Her placenta is low-lying at this point, but that’s not a problem at 21 weeks, as it almost always “moves” out of the way in plenty of time of give birth naturally at term. But it does mean that I will have to have another ultrasound, which I was not planning to do, at around 34 weeks or so.

She is also currently in breech position, which I’m not too worried about yet, but that is another reason my midwife wants me to have another ultrasound in late pregnancy: to confirm that Baby Girl has turned head-down.

In addition, the placenta is anterior (by my belly instead of my back). This doesn’t really mean anything, but it does explain why I have really only felt kicks and movement really low and/or toward my sides, instead of in front, and also why it has been challenging at times to locate Baby Girl’s heartbeat with a doppler (including the morning after my appendectomy when two nurses tried, unsuccessfully, to find the heartbeat–that was kind of scary, but they said since I was only 11 weeks along at the time, it was probably fine, and I guess it turned out to be).

Anyway, I am grateful that overall, things are going well. I am physically feeling fine, just easily tired/overwhelmed and very emotional, but that’s normal for me during pregnancy.

We’re not telling anyone Baby Girl’s name until she is born, but it has been fun to be able to privately call her by her name, talk to her, and sing to her. I love her so much already.

We’re Having a Girl! Due July/August 2015

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Book Review: Begin (Growly #1), by Philip and Erin Ulrich

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This is a fun adventure story for kids. There is nothing at all inappropriate in the book, and it is full of positive values (friendship, courage, loyalty, and kindness, to name a few) without being preachy. Family ties are important, and the characters all treat each other very respectfully.

I read this book to my 8- and 6-year-olds. They are in the perfect age range to experience this book as a read-aloud, and they really enjoyed it. My 4-year-old listened in about half the time, and was somewhat interested, although some of the plot and words went over her head.

Overall, I personally enjoyed the book, although I felt that the narrative occasionally became excessively, tediously descriptive. The kids didn’t seem to mind, though, and remained attentive even through long passages about the landscape.

This book, the first in the Growly series, is definitely not a stand-alone. Growly’s quest remains unresolved at the end of this book, so the kids and I are looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

Our 2015-2016 Homeschool Plans!

I just placed orders for all (or almost all) of our homeschool supplies for 2015-2016! It feels so good to have the decisions made and to have everything ordered early. My personality is such that, when I have a decision to make, I research the heck out of my options and am very anxious and unsettled until I make the final decision, and then I feel relieved and can finally rest and not have a million thoughts constantly swirling around in my brain. I’m generally not a procrastinator and like to get things done way ahead of time, for my own peace of mind.

Anyway, this is what I decided on:

Main Program:

Sonlight Core B (1st year of a 2-year World History program) with Grade 3 Language Arts/Readers

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I think that this program should appeal to both my 4th grader and my 2nd grader, and the Kindergartner can listen in as much as she desires. I love that there are so many fun and informative “real” books, not just boring textbooks. This Grade 3 language arts program covers paragraph writing, which is a skill that I’ve not yet worked on with the kids. The Grade 3 readers are probably the right level for my 2nd grader. They will be a little simple for my 4th grader, but he will probably enjoy some of them.

Additional Grammar:

Easy Grammar: Grade 3

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I really like this program, since it covers all the basics, but it only takes a few minutes a day. It is easy to use and easy for kids to understand. My son has been using an older 2nd/3rd grade version of this program this year.

Handwriting:

A Reason for Handwriting

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The kids will be using books K, A, and T of this program.

Math:

Singapore Math

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I love Singapore Math. It really teaches kids to look at math problems in a variety of different ways and to solve problems creatively, but accurately. The workbooks are easy-to-use and kid-friendly, with lots of graphics and some “fun” puzzles, and not oppressive like a giant, black-and-white, picture-less, heavy textbook (Saxon, I’m looking at you. Oh, man, I hate Saxon. Don’t even get me started). My son has been blowing through this program. Currently, he is just about done with his 4B book, so I expect he’ll get through the Level 5 books and into Level 6 next year. Well, maybe, because, I also want him to go through the math workbook that comes with…

Additional Math:

Complete Mathtacular Bundle

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The older kids have been begging me to buy the Mathtacular 3 and 4 DVDs. We already own 1 and 2, but it was a good deal to just buy this whole kit, which happens to come with all four Mathtacular DVDs and a bunch of other stuff, including manipulatives that my Kindergartner will find useful. The workbook that comes with this kit looks to be on my son’s level. I think he will think it is fun to have a workbook that goes along with Mathtacular 4.

Phonics:

Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten

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My currently-4 1/2-year-old is pining to know how to read, but she really needs a step-by-step program to get her there. I researched probably close to two dozen phonics programs and decided that this would be the best fit for her, despite my memories of making fun of the cheesy “Hooked on Phonics worked for me!” commercials in the 1990’s.

Thinking Skills:

Developing the Early Learner, 4-book set

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The reviews I’ve read for the four books in this series have all been really positive. I think they will be right on my Kindergartner’s level.


Well, those are the materials we’re planning to use next year. We might even start using them this year, since, as I mentioned in this post, we are probably going to be cutting our current American history course a little short, since I don’t think the kids are emotionally ready to study the World Wars yet.

I didn’t mention science, because that is the one thing I’m not sure about yet. Soon, we are going to begin (well, continue, since we did get through about one unit) the Apologia Botany course that we already own. When we’re done with that, I’ll get something else, probably a different Apologia course. I’m not at all concerned about my currently-3rd-grader’s science education, since he constantly checks out piles of nonfiction science books from the library and devours them. I’m pretty sure he already knows more about most scientific subjects than I do.