Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Will's 2 year old photo shoot!

I hope this link works....

That should take you to the photo shoot at the Picture People's website for Will's 2nd birthday. He absolutely REFUSED to smile and spent most of the session SCREAMING, I don't know what his problem was, OK I do know what his problem was, he DIDN'T want his picture taken. Any picture of just his face, I am holding him and leaning out of the way.

If nothing else I have a picture to prove his ever so stubborn attitude! I felt bad because the only picture I got was the first one, which was free with our coupon, but I really didn't want to buy pictures of him throwing a tantrum with snot in his nose and tears streaming down his face! I have an appointment to have Sophie's pictures done tomorrow at JC Penney's so if he is in a better mood, maybe I will have them snap some of him then!

Happy birthday William!

Edited 7-4-06: They snapped these at Sophie's 4 year photo shoot. Still not very good, but at least he wasn't screaming and throwing things at the photographer!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The following question was posed on one of the e-lists I am on....

How did you and your family come to unschooling?

There is probably a simple, short answer to this question something along the lines of "I'm lazy, I'm unorganized and I have always preferred play to work" but I think that I can probably shed a bit more light on just how we have gotten to where we are!

The first time I heard about homeschooling my children (then just 3 of them) it seemed like the most bizarre idea. I was overwhelmed with 3 in diapers and couldn't possibly imagine wanting to be around my kids 24-7 for the rest of their childhood. School would be my free daycare center and I would be free to sit around and eat bonbons all day! Then as they grew and I heard a bit more about homeschooling, the only families we ever encountered who were homeschooling where doing "school at home" and they had "odd" children, come on, you all know the kind of kids I am talking about, pasty white, unathletic, introverted, submission, the ones who won't look you in the eye and don't open their mouths without looking to their parents for permission. There was no way I was going to turn my kids into those "freaks". Nope, not going to happen. Yet there was that nagging voice that kept saying "come on, keep them home".

I sent Brett off to kindergarten. He missed a good part of the year being in and out of the hospital. In retrospect, I now realize we homeschooled most of that year, but it never occurred to me not to send him back once he was healthy. Hannah and Emily soon followed. That nagging voice got louder. I had met many of family online that were homeschooling, they didn't seem all that odd. Little things kept happening that made me question if school was really where I wanted them to be. It wasn't that I questioned the academics but more the notion that they were being robbed of their childhood. Heck, they were in a private school, yet we had to start driving them to school because we were informed that the 7th and 8th graders were having oral sex on the back on the school bus. I was slowly getting fed up with having 3 projects on 3 different topics due on the same day. I was sick of my family always being divided because they were gone all day and then had their other activities at night. And something about the way so many of the families talked and interacted with their kids just didn't sit right with me.

The moment of truth was upon me. Emily had a HORRID kindergarten experience and there was no way that I was going to send Grant to school, not to the kindergarten teacher that gave poor Emily an ulcer and robbed her of her creative spirit. So I began my crusade. I was going to save my kids from school, but I needed to figure out how. I decided I would spend the year doing research and that I would find support and that by the end of the year I would have my kids home. I went to support group meetings, I read ever book I could get my hands on, and I slowly began to bring my husband around to my line of thinking. Of course he was still certain that all homeschooled kids were freaks, but at least he would listen.

By accident, I stumbled onto an unschooling support group. I went to a meeting and honestly thought that the women there were freaks, completely out of their minds. What did they think, letting their children lead their own learning, not using curriculum, not worried that their 10 year old wasn't reading? I left the meeting mumbling under my breath about those poor neglect kids and offered up prayers for the families. Little did I know what kind of seed had been planted that night.

Things happened that helped Jay see the light. Brett suffered a concussion and was home from school for 6 weeks during which time it was taking less than a hour a day to get schoolwork done. It helped my cause that the week I sent him back to school they didn't heed my request that he not be sent out to recess because of the risk of him being reinjured. We found out that on day 2 that he was flattened on the playground by a classmate as they played football. Emily was bit by a classmate, breaking the skin. Hannah was being harassed daily because of her speech. On March 8th, as we left hospice after saying our final goodbye to his father, Jay said that they didn't need to go back to school next year.

If he wavered at all, it never showed. I bought books to use as a curriculum. My dad helped me put up a wall in the basement to create a school room. I met another mom, also new on her homeschooling journey, to meet at the park, attend park programs with and to just hang out with. I was "ready" to do school at home.

Things went well the first couple of days. Then one morning the phone rang, it was my friend Michelle. She asks if I was watching TV and I remarked rather smugly "of course not, we are doing school right now" to which she responded, "you should go turn it on. A plane just hit a building in NYC and they are showing pictures on the news". Oh, how educational, an air traffic disaster, we can certainly take a break to go see this. I took the kids upstairs and turned on the TV expecting to hear a story of how something had gone wrong with a plane. We had barely settled ourselves on the couch when a second plane hit the building next to the one the first plane hit. Looking back now, I wonder, if before that day, I had even know that there were twin building called the World Trade Center, after that day, I would never forget. I sat glued to the TV. My dad called. I sent the kids back downstairs to work on "school" work. Brett asked if they could take a small TV down with them and turn it on. I said "yes". Minutes later he is walking up the steps.

"Mom, mom, is some "Penta" building important?"


"Penta building? P-E-N-T-A..."

"The pentagon?"

"Yeah, that's it"

"Yes, why?" Thinking it had something to do with some paper he was working on.

"A plane just hit it"

I relay Brett's message to my dad and hang up the phone. If I had doubted it for a minute, I was now certain our country was under attack. All I could do was cry, pray and hug my children. Later my friend Michelle called in tears. She had tried to go and get her kids from school and they wouldn't let her take them. I still relish that I was the one calming my children, holding them in my arms and sharing their fears.

Something happened that day as I sat, like so much of my country, glued to my TV set. The reality that there was no promise of tomorrow weighed heavy on me. The realization that living in the present was all that I could do. The importance of family resonated in my head. Of course the one thing I felt I could do was make a proclamation that I hadn't given up and the way I could do it was by having another child, saying "damn you, life goes on". Sophie was born the first week of the 9-11 baby boom.

The books and schoolwork were forgotten. I was pregnant and tired and it was easier to let them play or pick something they wanted to do than it was for me to make them do what some schedule said they were "supposed" to do. We went to the park, attended park programs, went to the museums, played, fought, laughed....We lived life. I reconnected with that unschooling group...And yes, some of them were freaks, but I started to realize that being a freak was OK! At the end of the "school" year, I administered the CAT test. All 3 of the older kids (the only ones I needed to test) did amazingly well, without any "schooling". Of course I am sure some of it was carryover from the previous years in school, but I didn't care.

The younger 5 have never known anything but unschooling. They have never taken a test. Brett, by choice, has taken some classes with some fellow homeschoolers as part of a local co-op. The year he was deciding whether to go to highschool or not, he took the admissions test at a local private highschool. Without studying and having not taken a standardized test in 4 years, he tested EXACTLY at grade level and was offered admission to one of the best highschools in our city. He chose to stay home. And yes, I am sure there are things my kids don't know that other kids their age do. There are things they haven't been exposed to. They are kids full of joy, full of passion who feel secure in their world. They are kids who know they are valued for who they are. They are children whose childhood is being prolonged just a bit longer.

We have been blessed to have come to know other unschooling families during our homeschooling journey. Many of them we call friends. Some we even hold in our hearts, closer than family.

So I don't know, did we come to unschooling or did it come to us? Maybe you liked the short answer better.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sophie and Louie

I can't remember if I ever posted a picture of Louie before. This isn't the best picture of our handsome boy, but I thought it was so sweet with Miss Sophie using him as a pillow! Louie weighes about 75 lb, probably at least double what Sophie weighs!

Happy 4th Birthday Miss Sophie!

Hard as it is to believe, our little princess is now 4 years old. No longer a toddler, but a preschooler (well, that is if you can call a completely unschooled child a preschooler!).

Hannah treated Sophie to a trip to "Build A Bear" as her birthday present and Sophie picked a pink poodle, decked out in a mini skirt and shirt with a shrug. The poodle was appropriately named PRINCESS!

Sophie picked out a cake from Dairy Queen with Ariel (Little Mermaid) on it and we will FEAST on it after dinner (which will be late since the girls are at dance and 2 of the boys have baseball games). The girls are at the studio and Jay took all the boys to the baseball fields, so I have the pleasure of hanging out with the birthday girl for the evening.....

And since I am in a melancholy kind of mood...I searched up Sophie's birth story and thought I would post it here. Despite the fact that she arrived via c-section, Sophie's birth was by far my best! This is what I posted to an online list that I was on the day we returned home from the hospital. Hard to believe it was 4 years ago!

It is with the greatest joy we welcome our newest daughter into our family:
Sophia Zevin
Arrived on June 20, 2002
At 2:29 PM by planned c-section
Weighing 10 lb. 5 oz
Measuring 21 1/2 inches long
Head circumference: 14 inches

Here is an account of the hours before and the 24 hours following the arrival of my newest daughter. When we found out that she would have to be delivered by c-section I searched the web and all I could find was birth stories from women who were either upset with their cesarean experience or who had been unprepared for having a c-section. I wanted to share my account, hoping that it is as honest as possible. For us the most important thing was insuring the safe arrival of our daughter and I am not disappointed that it took a c-section to give us that outcome.

I couldn't sleep at all the night before the scheduled c-section.Every time I would drift into that state of semi-sleep where you are half asleep but still awake I would have vivid hallucinations about the delivery and everything going wrong. The fears that I had harbored my whole pregnancy, that we would get to the very end and lose this baby filled every recess of my mind. I tossed and turned so much that when I finally pulled myself out of bed Thursday morning, I felt like I imagine a marathon runner must feel like after a race. Note to self: If we every plan to have another baby delivered surgically, ask doctor for drugs to help me sleep the night before.Spend the early hours of Thursday morning doing 2 loads of laundry and cleaning up the kitchen. The kitchen was barely half done when I realized I had to get the kids to my friend Michelle's house. Of course as ran around like a frantic nauseated chicken with my head cut off, Jay leisurely enjoyed a shower and the morning paper. I dropped the kids off and kissed and hugged everyone. Got weepy at the thought that it was the last time I would kiss Cade when he is the baby of the family. Drive back home, radio blaring to keep from completely losing it.

Jay has the bags ready to go in the minivan when I get home. I don't think we said a word to each other on the ride down to the hospital. Neither of us is doing well with the reality of the surgery looming over us. We arrive up in Labor and Delivery at 9:55 AM, five minutes ahead of schedule. We get some bad news. One of the 2 operating rooms is down so now the 6 c-sections that they have scheduled will have to run concurrently instead of simultaneously. We are shown to our room, and told we will either be taken back earlier than expected or up to 3 hours later than scheduled. Bet you know which one happened! By 1:15 no one had even been in to tell when we would go back. But then all of a sudden, things began to happen in a flurry.

Mike, the anesthesia guy, comes in and explains our anesthesia options. I tell him I would prefer to go with what Dr., S prefers. Mike replies that Dr. S prefers spinals so he discusses the procedure with me and he mentions that I have a 3% chance of developing a spinal headache because of the anesthesia. He mentions that they will give me duramorph after surgery and that is MIGHT make my skin itch. He then asks me if I have any questions. No questions, lets just get this show on the road. Nurse Kathy comes in and has me drink an antacid to help neutralize my stomach acids. It tastes like sour sweet tarts crushed up in lukewarm water. YUCK! Next she inserts the IV in my left forearm, honestly she did the best job of any nurse who had ever put an IV in me. She managed to do it on the first try and it didn't hurt at all, she even positioned it so it was COMFORTABLE when I moved my arm. IV in place, she proceeds to shave my abdomen and the upper section of my pubic hair. Talk about a WEIRD sensation. Baby moving, contractions, and a woman you barely know whipping a very sharp razor over your abdomen. Note to self: If we ever do this again, arrange for a bikini wax the day before. Once she is done shaving my abdomen, she gives Jay paper shoes and a paper hat to wear into the OR, I am also graced with a BEAUTIFUL paper hat to wear during the surgery.They wheel me down to the OR right in the bed that I have been sitting in since 10 AM. I am a bit surprised when they don't make me change into a sterile gown, and even more surprised when they take the pillow off of my bed with me into the OR. Jay is whisked away to scrub up and be prepped to watch the surgery. I wish I had had someone take a picture of him in his surgical garb!The moment of truth is upon me. I am taken into OR.

The room is WAY SMALLER than I had imagined. In the middle of the room is a single table with 2 outstretched arm rests. I can't help it, the first image that pops in to my head is the table that they use for lethal injections in death penalty cases. I feel a wave of panic come over me. If I had thought my legs would have worked, I probably would have bolted from the room at that point. Mike tells me to sit on the table, lean forward and RELAX-yeah right, I am going to relax and lean forward over this massive huge belly of mine. He pokes around on my back a bit, I get more and more apprehensive, anticipating what it to come next. He scrubs my back with something COLD and SCRATCHY. He tells me I will feel some pressure as he injects a numbing agent and I just about BOLT out of my skin, he promises the worst part is over. Turns out he was wrong. He can't get the needle into the spinal space he was hoping for so he has to move further up my back and do the whole thing over again. It wasn't as bad this time, partly because I knew what to expect and partly because I was a little numb from the first round. He gets the spinal administered and tells me to QUICKLY swing my legs up onto the table before they get too heavy for me to move them. I made some crack about them always being too heavy for me to move them. He wasn't exaggerating though, my legs were numb and dead weight within a couple of minutes. Although it seemed to take forever, the whole spinal procedure had taken less than 10 minutes.

Spinal administered and me numb, except for the fact that I could wiggle my toes (very odd, even according to Mike) the nurse inserts the foley catheter. I will say it is a totally ODD sensation to know someone is down between your legs in your genitals and you can't feel them. One of the nurses in the OR is busy counting instruments and another nurse is checking them off as she counts. Probably a good idea so they don't lose any of them inside me. I think in this day and age I would have a hard time convincing airport security that my doctor had accidentally left a retractor inside of me.Jay and Dr. S enter the OR. Jay looks pale and disoriented. I am a bit nervous he may pass out. The nurses position him on a stool right by my head. Jay keeps asking Mike why I am not asleep. Mike re-explains to him the spinal and the fact that I will be awake for the whole surgery. More color drains from his face. I am thinking I should have done a better job preparing him for the c-section. I thought that since he had talked to some any people whose wives had had c-sections that he understood I would be awake.Before they make the first incision, Mike does a pain test to see if I can feel him pricking at my skin with a sharp point. It is really weird to know he is touching me but I can't feel it. I am completely numb from about 2 inches below my saggy breasts to my toes. Dr. S takes a pen and draws a line to guide his first incision. Time of first incision, 2:02 PM. The weird thing is once the surgery is underway the mood in the room becomes more relaxed, although Dr. S makes a couple comments in a hushed tone that make me worry a bit. Either time is standing still or this whole thing is taking much longer than I had thought it would. Everything I had read on the web or in books had said from the start of surgery (first incision) to birth was less than 10 minutes. Probably a good thing that I can't see the clock or I would be freaking out. I feel absolutely no pain as he slices layer though layer, but merely this odd sensation that I can only describe like this. Imagine yourself on a ride at the amusement park. You are wearing a blindfold so you can't see what is ahead of you, but you can feel the sensation of movement and occasionally even a moment where you feel nauseated, like your stomach dropped after going down that big hill on a roller coaster. You feel some rocking and rolling from side to side. For brief seconds the movements seem overwhelming, but a deep breath and you feel settled again. I comment to Mike that I feel like I am on an amusement park ride and he laughs, saying he bets I wouldn't buy a season pass to this amusement park. I comment back that I know I will like the prize at the end of this ride much better than some giant stuffed Tweety Bird I could win at our local amusement park.

Again I feel waves of movement, then I hear what sounds like a cry. I say "Is that my baby?" by the time I have the question out, the answer is clear. Lusty cries fill the OR and Dr. S announces "It's a GIRL!" and then he adds " A BIG GIRL!". As they hold her, covered in vernix and blood right next to my face for me to see for the first time, Jay and I look at each other and almost simultaneously exclaim "She has hair. She has DARK hair!" One of the peds asked why we said that and Jay told her that our others were BLONDE and BALD! Time of birth is recorded at 2:29 PM, a whole 27 minutes after the first incision.The pediatrician access the baby right by my head, so I can see the whole thing. Our little girl scores a 9 on her 1 minute apgar and a 10 on her 5 minute apgar (it isn't until the next day that I realize how impressive this is, when a nurse who had been at that hospital for years tell me she has seen only one other baby given a 10). They clean her up a bit and the moment of truth is upon us. They put her on the scale. The scale was directly behind me, so I couldn't see it, but I could hear everything they were saying. Everyone kept saying how BIG she was, but I think everyone was shocked when they clicked to convert the 4666 grams to pounds and a WHOOPING 10 lb. 5 oz came up on the display. She beat her big sister by a matter of ounces! Once she is weighed she is wrapped up and Jay sits and holds her right by my right arm during the rest of the surgery. I almost have to laugh at the irony that our "surgical" birth has ended up with the least amount of intervention and no separation from our baby.

The exciting part of the surgery over, they begin the repair and suturing. Dr. S asks us what the baby's name is. The moment of truth, Jay and I both say DIFFERENT names and then admit to everyone in the room that we haven't even DISCUSSED names. We tell them the only thing we know for sure is her middle name will start with a "z". After finding out the other kids middle names (Zachery, Zoe, Zara, Zane, Zaren, Zavier) everyone starts throwing out "z" names. I think the best one had to be Dr. S suggestion of Zeppo. After exhausting the "z" names the room starts suggesting first names. It quickly becomes apparent that Mike and Jay must have watched every one of the same sitcoms over the past 20 years. Names like Ginger (Gilligan's Island), Marsha (Brady Bunch), Uma and Mulva (Seinfield episodes) are amongst the most memorable they suggested. Dr. S gets paged and says that an emergency has come up and asks if I mind if the attending doctor finishes closing me, he is up to the top layer. I say that is fine and he leaves the OR. I tell the doctor doing the suturing, to make sure that all my stretch marks get lined back up. The room explodes in laughter! Apparently I lucked out that the person doing the closing liked suturing and opted to close with disposable sutures covered with steristrips rather than staples, which means I wouldn't have to have ANYTHING removed!Once I am sewn back together, the remove all the draping and sterile dressings and prepare to move us back to the room.

They wheel the bed I rode down to the OR in right back into the OR and transfer me into it. It kind of freaks me out a bit that they wheel the bed right through the blood on the floor and then right out the hallway and back to the room. The hospital is set up that you go immediately from surgery back to your postpartum room and they send a nurse with you. She is required to sit with you for an entire hour. Once we get back to the room, I am hooked up to a heart monitor, pulse oximeter, a blood pressure cuff and my catheter and IV are both still in. As soon as I am hooked up to everything, the nurse puts the baby in my arms, she is barely an hour old at this point. Never again is the baby out of my sight. The nurse helps me position her to nurse and since I am still numb from the spinal, I feel no pain.Once she finishes nursing, the nurse says they have orders from my pediatrician to test her bloodsugars. If her level is below 40 they will need to test it 4 more times and have it register above 40 before they consider her to be in the clear. With her bassinet right by my bed, my hand patting her tummy, they draw the first level. Unfortunately it comes back 36, too low for the healthy baby standard. The nurse standing there suggests that we supplement her with one ounce of formula to rapidly bring her sugar up. She says chances are since I haven't eaten in 18 hours my own blood sugar is so low that I won't be able to bring it up on my own. Knowing I didn't want her to be supplemented or given a bottle (great thing about being at a hospital that doesn't promote formula or give out samples is they are very supportive of breastfeeding moms) the nurse suggests giving her the supplement from a cup. I had serious doubts that a baby less than 2 hours old could drink from a cup and was utterly AMAZED to watch my daughter drink down an ounce of formula with only one drop rolling off her fat little chin. As much as I hate formula, it brought her blood sugar up to 46 the next time they checked it. After that we just relied on her nursing to keep it up and she did!About 7 PM Mike (the anesthesia guy) came in and removed the heart monitor. I was told everything else would remain in place until about 8 AM the following morning. Of course that meant I would be stuck in bed ALL NIGHT! The scary thing was that I was left alone in my room with my baby. Jay went home to take care of the other kids so the baby and I were solo with me drugged up the first night. The nurses were wonderful, anytime I rang they were right there to change her and hand her to me. I spent most of that night holding her, smelling her, nursing her and fading on and off into sleep. Although I wasn't allowed anything solid to eat, I was given all the juice, ice and lemon frozen ice that I wanted through the night. The duramorph really made my skin ITCH, but an unbearable itch but more an annoying itch, like when you have a bug bite. The percocet they gave me made me have hot flashes and made me sleepy, but it took the edge of the pain. Worse than my incision pain was the aftercramps, full blown gut tighten cramps every time baby nursed. 800 mg of motrin barely touched that pain. Every time I would drift off to sleep I would kick of the pulse oximeter and make the alarm go off. Finally the nurse agrees around 5 AM to remove the pulse oximeter. What a relief to be able to move my foot without setting off an alarm!About 6 AM the nurse helps me out of bed for the first time since the surgery. Even with the IV still attached and the catheter still in place, it is such a relief to be upright and out of bed. The baby seems to like our new more upright position and settles in for a long nursing session.At 8 AM I am surprised to see my obstetrician, Dr. S walk into my room. He had told me the day before that he wouldn't be in the hospital the following day because he was scheduled for vacation. I asked him what he was doing at the hospital and he says he had to come check on "Ginger Zeppo". He also tells me that he was sorry he had to cut me so far across, apparently from hip to hip because he couldn't get the baby free. Suddenly the hushed whispers and the fact that it was more than 25 minutes from incision time to delivery all becomes very clear. He tells the nurse to disconnect my IV and remove the catheter.

Less than 20 hours from the start of the surgery I am complete free of all tubes and wires!

12:30 PM I eat my first soft meal, Roast Beef, Mashed potatoes and gravy, cottage cheese and pears, and iced tea.

1 PM : Jay and the kids come to visit. The kids are THRILLED with their newest sibling and it isn't surprising that they argue over who gets to hold her and for how long. We have a family discussion about names and by the end of their 2 hour visit, her first name is at least decided. Sophia, named for her great grandmother that she never got to met, is welcomed into our family. I only hope she has half the stubbornness and tenaciousness that her great-grandmother had.

2 PM: 24 hours outside of the start of our surgery, my bladder FINALLY kicks back in. It is unreal the feeling of urinating through a urethra traumatized by a foleycatheter. My bladder seems to empty fully, but I am completely FREAKED OUT that I can't seem to control the flow of urine. Note to self: KEGELS, KEGELS, KEGELS!So there you have it, our c-section story.

I sit here typing this 3 days post partum (we came home at 7 PM on Saturday following delivery) and I am very sore, but taking only motrin for the cramping. I decided against getting the percocet prescription filled, I felt it was better to feel some pain and use it as a gauge for when I was overdoing it. Our first night home brought some tears on my part, it was almost impossible to get up off the couch or roll out of bed, but things get easier by the hour! Sophia is nursing well and adapting to life in our large family. Every bit of discomfort, every ounce of pain is worth it because I now have my daughter safely in my arms!

Monday, June 19, 2006

More Beach Waterpark Pictures!

Here is Jacob on the Leap Pads. The object is to get across without falling in the water. It is a much tougher task than it appears to be!

Here is Grant, one handed, on the zip line. The kids love riding out and dropping into the 10 ft pool!

Emily on the zip line. I think her dance/ gymnast body is quite apparent in this picture!

Jacob on the rapids!

Cade on the rapids. Cade was absolutely terrifyed of the water last year but warmed up quickly to it this year. After our 3rd visit to the park he was riding slides with the big kids!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Our brief!

On one of the list I am on, one of the mom's posted sacrastically about summer relaxation, so I posted the following as a reply!

Relaxation...what is that? A brief glimpse at our week.....

This week Sophie, Cade and Jacob have swimming lessons every morning from 8:30 to 9:30 AM. Can you believe I have to be UP and OUT THE DOOR by 7:50 AM??????

Yesterday they had their lessons and then we hung out and swam until 1 PM. Then Grant went home with his friend Chris to work on a 4-H project. He got home at 4 PM and we headed to the ballfields....Grant's usually sharp game looked like crap (although we beat the only undefeated team in our league) so no more swimming on game days for him!

Today it was swimming lessons , a brief hour at home (hence this post) and then I will be heading out to take Brett to cut my dad's grass, pick up my dad from dialysis and then take him to radiation. Then back home and back up to the ballfields for t-ball practice for Cade. The girls (Hannah and Em) have dance from 2 PM to 9 PM, but luckily they are getting rides both ways. Fortunately Emily's girlscout meeting for this morning was cancelled, so it was one less thing to worry about! Oh, I will have to somehow figure out how to make time to go to the grocery, there is NOTHING in this house to eat, and for some reason these children of mine think I am supposed to feed them.

Tomorow is swimming lessons then off to the local theater for their free kids flick (10 AM). Think we might go and swim for a bit after that since we pass the waterpark on our way back home. Hannah is babysitting all day and Emily is assisting at the dance studio from 10 AM to 2 PM. Jacob has a baseball game (doubt swimming will affect his game at all, he isn't the player his brother is!) and Grant has practice tomorrow night, luckily both at the same ballpark.

Thursday will be similiar to today....swimming lessons which I will have to leave 1/2 way through to drive carpool for dance (Em dances 10 AM to 4 PM on Thurs) then back to the waterpark to get Brett and the little ones. From there I will head over to get my dad from dialysis and take him to radiation treatments, hopefully they are running on time because I have to be back at the dance studio at 3 PM for Sophie's FIRST COMPETITION TEAM rehearsal! Hannah is babysitting until 3 PM, but luckily the lady she babysits for will drop her off at the studio in time for her 4 PM class. As soon as Sophie is finished with her class, we will run home to get the boys to head out the Grant's baseball game and Cade's teeball practice.

Friday will be swimming lessons and then off to a local park to meet with our homeschooling for a day of fun. Brett is probably going to play golf while the rest of us play on the playground. I have to be home by 4:30 PM because Jay is taking the boys to the Cincinnati Reds Game and it takes about an hour to get into town and park and they like to get there for batting practice (best chance to catch foul/homerun balls)...they open the gates about 2 hours before game time.

Saturday.....Jacob has a game at 10 AM, Grant a game at 1 PM, and Cade a game at 4 PM. Haven't really looked at the schedule yet to see if they are all playing at the same ballpark or not...if they are, we may have time to grab lunch between the 1 PM and 4 PM games!

Sunday is Father's, brunch, a 1 PM tee time for Jay and Brett (ssshhhhh, it is supposed to be a surprise!)...I will probably take the kids over to see my dad while Jay is playing golf. No idea what I am going to buy Jay!

Since I almost always have Will and Sophie in tow I barely get to sit down...luckily they are both pretty good kids (especially when I look around and see what other kids their ages are doing!).

Did I mention that we only have one car right now? We haven't had the $$ to get Jay's car fixed, so it is adding to the excitement of it all!
Will is such a ham! Here is a picture of him waiting for Jacob, Cade and Sophie to finish up with their swimming lessons. Can you believe that he will be 2 years old in 2 weeks?

From left to right: Chris, Jacob, Cade and Grant! My boys are such hams when you get a camera out!

Will was so cute. He practiced "swimming" by putting his hands on the bottom of the pool and letting the rest of his body float. He seems so little to be trying to swim!

Hannah...not the best picture, but the only one I managed to get!

Emily and Sophia. Sophia is starting to swim all over the big pool as long as she has on her life jacket. She is getting used to putting her face under water. Our little princess will be 4 years old next week!

Brett and his friend Sarah. Sarah had her wisdom teeth out last week so Brett, being the gentleman that he is, sat and kept her company!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Swimming Lessons

As one of the perks of our Beach Waterpark ( season passes, you can sign up for swimming lessons for $25 per child for the first session and $20 a child for each additional session. I thought it would probably be a good idea to sign Jacob, Cade and Sophie up for lessons since none of them had ever had formal lessons and I wanted to add to their degree of confidence in water situations. Today was the first swimming lessons.

Dispite the large turnout for lessons, the student-teacher ratio was AMAZING...4 or 5 swimmers to each lifeguard. The thing I found so ironic was that when they called the kids to go to their instructors, the other 3 kids in Cade and Sophie's group SCREAMED and CLUNG to their mothers (I saw this repeated by just about every other child in the level 2 class). Later I commented to friend Deanne and her daughter Sarah that it was ironic to me that my "poor, unsocialized homeschooled children" where the only ones behaving properly. Sarah remarked that since they weren't SCREAMING they must not be reacting properly....SILLY, SILLY ME! I thought it had more to do with a trust we had developed that they realize I wouldn't put them in a situation that is harmful to them.

Anyhow, back to the lessons! The kids had a GREAT TIME and are eager to go back tomorrow. I was surprised that they served breakfast (juice and danishes/muffins) to all the parents and siblings that weren't taking lessons. I figure for what they typically charge for juice and muffins, I am coming out way ahead on the price of the lessons...feeding myself and the 5 other kids! The lessons lasted for an hour today and continue the rest of the week.

After lessons we met up with friends and played in the waterpark for a couple of hours. Will is getting so much more confident in the water...he even started "swimming" today...where he puts his hands on the bottom of the pool and lets the rest of his body float. He really is a little fish, he just loves playing in the water! He is happy to just sit in the pool with the water up to his shoulders!

I found out that they offer a program for scouts for water safety/first aid. I am going to pass the information on to Emily's girlscout leader. It is a great deal, they do everything they require to earn the swimming badge for FREE with the price of admission (special scout pricing of $10.50 a girl and the leader is free). Deanne and I think we might inquire if they would do the program for our 4-H group later this summer and hopefully we can tie it into the first aid project.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Earn Free books at Barnes and Noble

For kids in grades 1-6, earn a free book for every 8 books you read this summer. Limit to 2 redemptions per child.

For us this is a great incentive to keep us on the track to reading during the summer and help us earn links in our summer reading program (read-a-mile). And who can say no to earning a free book?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Great papercrafting site:

I could not believe how involved these papercrafting patterns are or how much fun they can! Makes me long for a cheap printer and free ink (figures it would be Canon's website...a cheap printer, maybe, cheap ink NEVER!)! There is plenty here to keep anyone busy on a rainy day. Have to keep the "Buildings of the World" in my memory bank for both the geography fair and the architecture projects for next year. There are ideas here to enhance any project the kids might decide to explore.

Emily loves oragami and can't wait to try all the projects on the site.
Cool Unschooling E-zine (Connections)

The link for this unschooling e-zine came through on one on the many email lists I am on and I think it is worth checking out. Seems to give a fairly balanced look at what an unschooling life can look like.
Pizza Hut Book It! program (deadline 6-9-06)

Who is eligible for the BOOK IT! Program for homeschools?Any student in grade K-6 (5 years old by September of current school year) that is homeschooled and does not attend any other educational facility.

What is the enrollment deadline for the 2006-07 program?The enrollment deadline is June 9, 2006.

What are the program dates for 2006-07?October 1, 2006 through March 31, 2007.

When will the 2006-07 materials be shipped to enrolled homeschools?Materials will arrive by early to mid September.
LaRosa's Incentive program (open to homeschoolers!)

Frequently asked questions:

We participated in LaRosa's incentive program last year. I was a bit disappointed that it only allowed for one reward per child, but why should I complain about free food! We used the certificates last year as a reward for completing our biography fair projects. From looking over the website, it looks like this year the rewards may be different. Worth checking out if you live close to a LaRosa's!
Free Cincinnati Museum Center Fridays

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal opens its doors to all this summer on select Fridays. Free Fridays allows the public to visit allthree museums at Cincinnati Museum Center from 4 to 8 p.m.-admissionis complimentary.

Free Fridays dates for 2006 are:
• May 26
• June 16
• July 28
• August 25
• September 15

The complimentary offer includes the Cincinnati History Museum, CinergyChildren's Museum and the Museum of Natural History & Science. This offer does not include special exhibits or OMNIMAX films. Children ages 12 and under must be accompanied by someone 18 years of age orolder. Parking is $4.50 per vehicle.

We have let our membership lapse so the kids and I may take advantage of the Free Fridays!

A fun and rewarding summer reading programdeveloped to encourage young children to read during the summermonths.BOOKWORM WEDNESDAYS entitles kids to free admission to a selectchildren's film every Wednesday from June 28th to August 16th at 10a.m. when they present a book report at participating Showcase/Multiplex Cinemas or Cinema de Lux box office. Accompanyingparents or guardians and children under six receive free admission

Springdale 18: Cinema De Lux
12064 Springfield Pike
Springdale, OH 45246

Here is the schedule:
Wednesday, June 28 at 10:00 a.m.ROBOTS 91 minutes, rated PG

Wednesday, July 5 at 10:00 a.m.WALLACE & GROMIT: CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT 85 minutes, rated G

Wednesday, July 12 at 10:00 a.m.MADAGASCAR 86 minutes, rated PG

Wednesday, July 19 at 10:00 a.m.NANNY MCPHEE 97 minutes, rated PG

Wednesday, July 26 at 10:00 a.m.CURIOUS GEORGE 86 minutes, rated G

Wednesday, August 2 at 10:00 a.m.CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY 115 minutes, rated PG

Wednesday, August 9 at 10:00 a.m.RACING STRIPES102 minutes, rated PG

Wednesday, August 16 at 10:00 a.m.BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE 106 minutes, rated

Book report form can be found at:

Inforamation about other participating theaters:

This should work as a great incentive for my kids and ties in well with the summer reading program we do with our homeschool group called Read-a-mile!
Upcoming event.....Young Eagles Rally

After our recent trip to Lunken Airport for their aviation days, Emily, Grant and Jacob were thrilled to learn about this upcoming opportunity where they would get to fly in a small airplane for FREE with a local pilot. I will admit, I am a bit apprehensive, never did really understand the physics as to why a plane is able to stay in the air, I much prefer to travel by car/van. But the kids are excited (and Cade a bit disappointed as he isn't 8 years old and able to participate). Ironically, we just got our baseball schedules and Jacob who usually plays at 10 AM on Saturdays has a bye that weekend....looks like the flights are meant to are the details!

Saturday, June 10; 8:30am - Noon
Young Eagles Rally
Clermont County Airport
4184 Taylor Road, Batavia, Ohio 45103
Hawk Building
Ages: 8 - 17
Cost: Free
RSVP to: LaShanda (courtesy RSVP by Wednesday, May 31st)

RSVP's: B. Campbell (1), L. McFarland (3), C. Yates (1), C. Day (1), J. Hensley (2), D. Cook (1), J. Winslow (3), L. Riesenberg (3), C. Gulick (2), C. Hall (1), L. Helbling (1), S. Smith (1)

If you are planning to attend, there are 2 things we would appreciate you doing (though neither is mandatory): 1) RSVP to me so EAA Aviation, the sponsor, can better plan for the number of pilots and planes needed. This should help reduce everyone's wait time; 2) pre-register your child(ren) at Neither of these steps will move you ahead in line. They are simply courteous steps to allow EAA to better plan. Participants are taken on a first come, first served basis. Phil Cady can also be contacted at (513) 237-5163 to get more info.
Thursday, June 1; 4:30 ppm - 7:30pm
Volunteering at Ronald McDonald House
Ages: 13 and up (no toddlers or younger siblings please!)
Ronald McDonald House (350 Erkenbrecher Ave, next to Children's Hospital)
Organized by: Hannah Riesenberg and Sarah Leland
Why: Because it is FUN!

Through the youth group at our old church we learned about this wonderful volunteer opportunity at Ronald McDonald House. What our group would do is prepare dinner for the house (approximately 50 to 60 guests). This month we will be providing an All American Cook-out! Each participant will bring items for the meal (see menu below!). We cook the food (either on site or brought already made from home) for families staying at Ronald McDonald house. It is unbelievable how much fun it is cooking in the big kitchen (5 ovens, 5 microwaves, 5 sinks, 5 dishwashers) and how rewarding it is to serve the guests of Ronald McDonald House. Typically, if there is enough food left over, the volunteers eat dinner once the houseguests are finished. After dinner is over, we clean up, put the leftovers away, load the diswashers and head home!

If you are interested in joining us, please email Laura at to express your interest. Deanne Leland and Laura Riesenberg will accompany the kids (we can talk about carpooling, etc when we know how many kids are coming). Moms (or dads) are welcome to join us, we just ask that no toddlers or younger siblings come as the house often has kids over from the hospital and the last thing we want is to make anyone sick with a flurry of germs!

If you would like to help out, but can't come down and prepare dinner, we will gladly accept your donations of food! Email Laura at to let her know you want to send in food and we will work out arrangements to get it from you.

If the teens decide this is an activity they enjoy (Sarah and Hannah both really enjoyed it) they will be able to return the first Thursday of each month through October ( July 6, August 3, September 7)

For those of you unfamiliar with Ronald McDonald House check out their website at

SVP: Laura, Hannah and Brett Riesenberg, Sarah and Deanne Leland, Shanda S., Marian B. (Shanda's mom), Jessie J., Josh C., Eppings (3).

Hamburgers: 36 patties
Hamburgers: 36 patties
Hotdogs: 40 hotdogs

brats: 18 bratts
metts: 18 metts
macaroni salad: 2-9x13 pans
potato salad: 2 gallons (consider buying from GFS)
baked beans:

devilled eggs: 4 dozen
Coleslaw: 5 lbs
Red seedless grapes: 5 lbs
Pasta Salad:
corn on the cob: 2 dozen ears/ shucked and washed
corn on the cob: 2 dozen ears/ shucked and washed
meat fixins: 6 large tomatos, 3 onions, 2 heads lettuce
sweet pickle relish: 1-12.7 oz squeeze bottle
sliced american cheese: 72 slices ($3.96 at Sams)
hamburger buns: 72 buns
hotdog buns: 80 buns
ketchup: 1-36 oz bottle

hamburger dill chip pickles: 1-32 oz jar
mustard: 1 large bottle
Rice Krispie Treats: 2-9x13 pans
cookies: 3 dozen "break and bake" cookies

Since I end up using my blog as my brain half the time, I had to post the menu here.

What a great afternoon. Everything went so smoothly once we got down to the house and started the meal. I was THRILLED to see that one of the families send the DAD with them so I had someone that was experienced with grilling. Not don't get me wrong, but I really feel that most men are better with a grill than most women.

The house was full and the line was pretty steady from about 6 PM to 6:45 PM and then the volunteers sat down and ate. We must have been much more chatty than usual, because it was close to 8 by the time we finished cleaning up. The staff at the front desk said they love it when our group comes down because the food is always good and we clean up so well.....we don't leave burnt pots in the sink or big measuring cups full of grease on the counters (2 things that greeted us when we walked in).

I think we will do a BBQ next month. Hopefully we can get more people interested in sending in food. I am honestly amazed that we have so few families participating (although I wouldn't trade them for the world). There are 5 families that consistantly come down each month and another 5 families that send food, but you would think in a group of over 100 families that more people would extend their hands and offer to help with the expense. I guess people have different priorities.