Monty Python Gets a New Character

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged and before I recap the disaster that has been the first half of our summer in my next post, I have to give a nod to the funny Henry came up with yesterday.

Between my doctor appointments, our neighbor Maureen came over to talk to me about some Thirty-One business and when we were through, we sat and watched the boys (and when I say “the boys” I include Dave in this)  play Minecraft three-player on the Xbox.

An aside to my aside – have you ever seen three people play three entirely different first-person perspective games on the same television?  If you ever need to vomit, skip the charcoal and try this first.

Back to my story, the boys were talking about the game with Maureen who had never seen it, explaining it’s more-or-less Legos with zombies and creepers and then the topic of the Lego movie came up.  Dave bought it for the boys the other night and they’d been watching it yesterday morning.  At the very beginning there’s a man in a horned outfit talking to someone who looks like Gandalf.  I couldn’t hear the dialogue, naturally, because, well, kids, but I’d thought to myself “That looks like Tim the Enchanter from Monty Python’s Holy Grail…” so I asked Maureen if she’d seen the movie and if indeed it was Tim.  She confirmed that it WAS Tim (AHA!) and then, as only those who know MPSFHG could appreciate, she broke out with the,

“Some might call me…Tim?”

Henry has seen the Monty Python movie, but like any boy of seven, lost interest immediately after the Black Knight had his limbs hacked off, which is fine because there’s a bit of lewd stuff in it and he didn’t need to see it anyway.  He just took away the coconuts as horse hooves and the Black Knight and a British accent which surfaces quite a bit.  He didn’t remember Tim the Enchanter, which is very near the end, so he off-handedly parroted as he continued to play the nausea-inducing game of Minecraft,

“Some might call me… Tim Challies?”

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume at this point only my mom is laughing along with maybe a few others from my church and my former church who read Tim Challies.   And maybe Tim Challies himself if he takes the time to look at all the ping backs.  Which would be super cool and neat and I sound 14 and not 37.

for the record, I’m going to squeeze in that I’m 37 as many times as I can before I turn 38.

How Do You Manage to Eat Organic With A Peanut Allergy?

It’s actually easier than you think.  We’re sort of forced to do so, which is what I realized as I wrote what began as an email reply to reader.  Amanda wrote and asked:

Hi!  I just stumbled across your blog while researching Classical Conversations and from your title I am assuming you have a peanut allergy in the family?  I also notice you do a lot of organic/no dyes/healthier eating and I was wondering how you manage with the peanut allergy?  Thanks!

At first I giggled at the thought of us being “healthier” eaters (maybe that’s why she said “-ier” instead of “-y,” hahaha, spot on!) recalling how I watched Rhys chomp down on a piece of cold pizza for his breakfast yesterday morning.  We don’t actually know what’s in the crust, we just assume they don’t grind up peanuts and put them in there.  If they offered any kind of peanut toppings I’d be leery.  Side note:  we don’t eat at Chinese places anymore, except for PF Changs and their spin-off, Pei Wei because they provided us with a list of dishes that contain peanuts.  PF Changs will do this for any food allergy – just ask, very cool!

We have two in the family with peanut/tree nut allergies and one is also allergic to coconut – wish I’d known that before I let him eat half a bag of that dried kind from Costco!  No adverse reaction though, so that’s good.  Both of my little allergens are the boys (almost 8 and almost 6).  Our daughter can eat anything but I am actually horrified to give her nuts even though rationally I *know* she is fine based on skin tests and blood work.  I guess I’ve just had “no nuts” driven into my brain for so long it’s hard to think the other way.  Plus it’s dangerous to feed her something nutty since she’s around them, likes to touch them, lick, not sure what all else, etc.

I did not *think* it was difficult to manage feeding them until we tried going gluten free.  OH.  MY. GOSH.  There is basically one brand of flour that I’d have to mix together along with xantham gum (which has not come yet – hope it’s nut-free) to make any kind of bread/crust/muffin unless I want to buy Namaste and pay $7 a box for a mix that makes 12 muffins or one loaf of bread.  Uh, no.  I made muffins from the mix once, which I thought was pretty good, maybe a bit chewy, and they ate the tops off and left the bottoms.  Coincidentally, I’d sprinkled turbinado sugar on top.  Weird how they just ate that part, hmm.
We do no food dyes because it makes my oldest hyperactive.  Not in that “boyhood energy” type way, but in that, “This child needs a hamster wheel,” kind of way.  It doesn’t really seem to effect my middle or youngest, but they still don’t need dyes regardless.  We never gave them juice or soda to drink before I cut out food colorings, so I didn’t have to worry about eliminating any beverages.  Instead I started looking at the backs of cans and boxes and buying them lollipops from Whole Foods.  One advantage of the peanut allergy is that they really can’t eat any kind of candy bar/chocolate – everything has nuts or is made in a nut facility.  They’re weirdly understanding about this, so I figure if we buy them some unreasonably priced suckers every now and then we’re actually spending less than most Americans do on candy for their kids.  We are (fortunately?) forced to eat a healthy-ish diet.  The downside to the no-dye thing is that you do pay more for things like boxed mac and cheese (I’ve just started making my own with noodles and Kerry Gold Dubliner cheese) or anything made by Annie’s, which they do not like –  save the mac and cheese.  It kept getting more expensive on Amazon Subscribe and Save so I cancelled it in lieu of homemade.

Other things:  As I said, we buy Dubliner cheese and cut it off in slices for sandwiches, it is made by the same company that makes Kerry Gold butter and is an extremely good cheese.  I buy Boar’s Head sliced deli meat because it is nitrite-free and waaay better than that stuff in plastic (noo plastic either) boxes.  I try to give them the Cascadian Farms (?) version of fruit loops for breakfast, or I’ve started making smoothies with frozen berries, milk and raw honey.  I have been guilty lately of buying Frosted Mini Wheats which breaks so many rules, but at least it’s dye-free.  Somehow chocolate Cheerios  keep finding their way to the pantry…not the best choice but the cereal fairy can’t be stopped completely, I suppose.  I’m a libertarian after all, far be it from me to limit another adult from what they buy for breakfast.  But maybe they could disguise it in a box of Grape Nuts?

I have to use dye and scent-free laundry detergent on them because they have really bad eczema and any sort of scent makes their skin break out.  I use those wool balls in the dryer instead of dryer sheets.  Love those things.  The one oddity that sticks out is that the only soap they can tolerate is Dove unscented.  I tried switching out all our soaps for Dr. Bronner’s (because why NOT go whole hog and completely restock all your soaps before you’ve even tried Dr. B’s?) and got the Baby Bronner’s for them but it burned their skin.  I kind of scoffed because they can be dramatic and I have no idea where that came from, but I have some eczema on my hand, so I lathered up and WOW.  Burned like fire. So, we can’t even use hemp-based non-soap soap that’s supposed to leave the natural oils in your skin which is exactly what they need.  The only thing that’s worked is Dove soap and prescription strength steroid cream which I hate using on them but nothing – literally nothing – else ever has.  I have tried coconut oil and wondered why it made Henry worse (gee, maybe because he’s allergic to it!), essential oils with a special eczema synergy blend, Vanicream which is suppose to fix everything because it’s parabens,  phlalate, on and on and on-free but it burned their skin too.  ARGH.  Egyptian Magic and Blessed Bees (something something) work well but they are so.expensive.  And Dave doesn’t show any discretion when digging in that jar to slather them up.  I’ll get a jar of Egyptian Magic and after one bath, 1/4th of the tub is gone.  Fail.

I’m going NOW to look up and possibly join a CSA.  We have a juicer but I’d rather get all the fiber and bulk from the produce if we juice any so I might look at a Ninja for a Mother’s Day gift, though I really *wanted* another piece of Le Creuset.  I have absolutely LOVED my dutch oven.  It really does make a difference what you cook with – it distributes the heat so evenly and the for always tastes wonderful.  Still haven’t made my loaf of bread in it yet, though!  I’ll try that when my xantham gum arrives.

ALSO!!  Please check the sidebar!  I am fundraising for therapeutic massages for orphans in war-torn Ukraine.  These kiddos were bed-ridden but because of the massage treatment, they are learning to WALK, they are happier, more interactive and have a much better quality of life!  Therapeutic massage is healing for the body AND mind!  Help bring some joy to these little ones and just think – your donation may help one of these bedridden cutie pies get up and DANCE!!  Just watch and I dare you not to smile!

Please donate today, these children need these services and you can help them feel sooooo much better!  With the power of a click, you can help an orphan go from listless to happy, smiling and relaxed.  Please visit my Crowdrise page here to donate.  I am working with Maya’s Hope, a wonderful foundation that gives aid to orphans in need in the Ukraine and the Philippines.   Visit her page as well to see the HOPE she is giving orphans – personally! – in these countries.

Getting All Up In Your Prayer Life

If someone says “I need prayers” or “Please pray” on some social media outlet and you type “Praying for you…” do you do it?

I fully expect a chorus of guilty people hollering “Naw,…”

I admit, I have typed it a lot and then forgotten to do it – many times over. So I’ve started typing it and then STOPPED what I’m doing and prayed. No long, elaborate prayer is needed, one of my sweet friends taught me this. Just a simple prayer based on the person’s request.  Some people I pray for I don’t even really know so I’ve got to follow the rule of “KISS” (keep it simple, snapperhead).  I can’t use the regular word because Henry reads this and he’ll be like, “You said ‘STUPID!’ and then I have to explain how it’s an expression.  So my kids are going to grow up with some weird takes on familiar expressions until a peer corrects it.

But back to the topic at hand, it’s a lot easier to do early in the morning if you’re alone or at night as long as you don’t fall asleep while praying.  I’m guilty of that too, I’m probably the only person with a drool-stained Bible that’s not in seminary.

This “I’ll pray for you,” deal was something that was on my mind, I’m not trying to holy roll you, I’ve just felt guilty for saying I would and then not doing it and I thought “Hey, maybe someone else has had the same feelings,” so I wrote this out. Plus I can’t skate or use a rolling-pin for anything other than, well…okay, I have to go pray again now.

As an aside, as I was praying for my last friend, I extended my hand over to Sarah and asked God to heal her from this horrible cold she has going on.  The prayer went something like this:

“…and Father, please heal Sarah from her cold…”

*lays hand on Sarah’s head, she immediately swats it off*

“…because she is miserable and is in need of your tender touch and comfort…”

*moves hand down to her arm, is immediately swatted off there too*

“…as she has struggled all week and hasn’t gotten much sleep…”

*moves hand to leg and it’s slapped away*

mental dialogue: “Okay, so you’re a Presbyterian and taking that “frozen chosen” nickname literally, which is an outdated stereotype.  But fine.  No laying of hands.  I’ll keep my Baptist to myself.

“…and I pray she is restored to health soon in your Son’s Mighty and Powerful Name.”

Side note:  she’s sleeping peacefully on the couch now.  :)

Homeschool After the Plague

It’s 10:40 and people are prancing around, eating apples.  This is not appropriate.  I am reheating coffee and trying to rearrange papers, trying to figure out where we left off.  Sarah is pilfering my supplies, bringing me to the realization that my current setup is NOT going to work since she can get to everything (and draw on the couch).  

It’s like completely starting over.  Thanks, stomach virus from hell.

The Only ADD Here = All Donna’s Donuts

I’ll be honest, I’m feeling really inadequate lately.  The house has been an upside-down wreck, the closets are still horrors (well, ours and the guest room), the dirty clothes can’t ever seem to get resolves, dishes are always – ALWAYS – overflowing and Dave is always the one who ends up taking care of them and I barely find time to run the vacuum or sweep under the filthy kitchen table and around the island and counters.

How do these women who make “Happy Turkey Day” banners and heart-shaped pancakes do it?  Most days I can’t even get myself dressed before we do school!

We hosted our small group a few Sundays ago which necessitated cleaning the house.  I’m glad we volunteered for so many reasons and being forced to clean is one of them.  I actually vacuumed the bathroom wall.  It so needed it.  I don’t know how or why a bathroom wall would get dusty or any dustier than any other room, but ours was very gross.  Everything got scrubbed – I think, though, the guest bathroom looked suspect – so I feel like we’re starting with a clean slate.

In an effort to get our act together and get a bit more organized, I’ve bought Monday – “Weekend” clothes hangers for the boys and I’ve stocked each day with an outfit for them.  Their job is to put their pajamas under their pillow (thank you, Mom) and then get changed, brush their hair/teeth and come downstairs and eat breakfast.  The first day Rhys was dressed but NOT in what I’d put in his “Monday” cubby and Henry was still in his pajamas.  Neither of them had eaten and they were watching something scary on the Roku.  So.  A slow start, but at least it was a start.  I sent Henry up to right himself.  I guess Rhys is just going to have to stock his own clothes if he’s this picky.  I mean, I should have known, it’s RHYS.

And school.  I’ve been so discouraged the last few weeks.  I think, “I’d rather make banners and cupcakes and fun dinners and keep the house clean and just send them to school, rather than get a migraine from someone whining at me because they don’t want to do their spelling test first.” or “Our house wouldn’t be in utter chaos if they were in school.” or “I could actually GO TO THE STORE if they were in school.”   They’ve just been very disobedient, very disrespectful.

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This was written last week, before I passed out into an hour and a half nap.  I feel better now, but they were still being disobedient.  I got up at 5 am and Rhys joined me downstairs not long after.  He’s my snuggle bug.  He’s also always afraid someone’s breaking in the house, so instead of cowering in bed like I’d want to do (but don’t, since I feel the need to protect the family and Dave won’t get up and patrol unless he takes the time to fully dress, by which time we could be killed because he puts on a belt) he comes downstairs, all sleepy-eyed, ready to confront the ne’er do well.  My brave, not necessarily intimidating, yet dauntless little protector of the realm.

Speaking of Rhys and Dave and getting dressed, yesterday Rhys was pitching a fit of monstrous proportions.  He wanted animal crackers.  Sarah had animal crackers.  Sarah doesn’t do homeschool and I’ll give her whatever (besides elicit drugs) to keep her quiet while I teach the boys.  So animal crackers it was.  They have high fructose corn syrup, something I overlooked when I bought them.  Yes, I *do* look at every single package of crap I buy, believe it or not.  I will not buy things with HFC because it makes my boys, particularly Henry CRAZY.  It just doesn’t come in this house.  We are not the model eaters (HAR!), but we don’t allow snack cakes, candy, HFC, potato chips, that colored drink in the soda-shaped bottle, koolaid, things like kid-marketed colored yogurt or squeeze yogurt that’s colored, artificial colors or sweeteners, fruit juce or soda (unless it’s a VERY special occasion)  to be consumed.  They drink water, or maybe milk for breakfast, although we limit their milk intake (grandmas cringe at this, calcium comes from other places, trust me) and only give them organic milk.  I would love to feed them organic everything but DUDE, have you seen the price of organic berries at Whole Foods?!  $7.99 for four blackberries?  Totally insane.  Sorry, we’re just going to have to scrub the pesticides off the outside and at least hope they’re non-GMO so their grandchildren are able to reproduce.  Well, I went off on a tangent there.  Oh and “natural” doesn’t mean anything, when advertized.  It’s just a word companies like to slap on products to make you think they’re safe – but it means nothing.  I think I’ve seen “natural bologna” for sale before. Okay. “100% All real meat!”  Well dang, I hope so!  What else would it be?  Part meat, part tires?

What was I talking about?  Oh, Rhys and his animal crackers fit.  It was LOUD and ugly.  He was lying in the floor in front of the pantry door screaming which eventually morphed into a guttural roar and I finally shouted (yes, bad mama but he was scaring me) “STOP GROWLING AT ME!”  Dave didn’t have to work and I guess he’d been hearing this melee from the bed upstairs and had enough because the next thing I knew, he stomped across the kitchen in his underwear, snatched Rhys up and took him upstairs with him.  Even Henry was taken aback.  “Dad was in his underwear!  He must really be mad!”   I have never, ever seen him walk around the house, nevermind the downstairs in broad daylight in his underwear.  The sight of Dad in his skivvies probably sent a shock of fear through Rhys’ heart, enough to make him forget about those crackers because I think once he caught a sight of that Fruit from the Loom he shut right up.  So the next time he pitches a fit, I’m going upstairs, taking my clothes off and coming down in underwear.  He’ll probably just laugh.

I don’t know how to get through to him.  I used to think he was like me.  He is like me, but 100 times worse.  I don’t know how to deal.

As far as Henry goes, he’s just a bouncy ball.  He’s all over the place.  If he were in public school, they’d diagnose him as ADD and maybe suggest medication (NO) and we might have a fight on our hands, or we might not.  I’ve never read a positive story about this because people don’t generally post positive experiences, only horror stories about how the drugs made their children “zombies” or something along those lines.  I take that back – I have heard one positive story, firsthand from a teacher who said it did make all the difference in the world and that the child wasn’t just a seat wiggler but actually in need of medical intervention.  From the specifics of the story I will agree on this point, and I am a strong advocate of only medicating children (even with pain relievers – and never Tylenol – only Advil) when absolutely necessary.

Instead, I am reading  a book called “Right Brained Children Living in a Left Brained World” by Jeffery Freed and it’s completely changed how I look at him and how he looks at learning.  It’s changed how I look at myself because I think I’m right brained as well,  if internet quizzes are to be trusted.  I just flipped through a book on right-brained addition and subtraction as well as multiplication and division and stared in wonder:  that’s how I look at it in my head!  So I got Henry the multiplication book since he’s doing fine with addition and subtraction at this point, particularly subtraction, which he didn’t need any instruction on whatsoever.  What a blessing!  Something that has come naturally besides farting!

Oh – and we’re also implementing a gluten-free diet today to see if that will help him mentally as well as with his horrible eczema.  Please pray we all have the willpower to do this!  It’s going to be hard, especially with their nut allergy which cuts down on an already smaller list of food choices.  Thank you, friends!

Henry’s Third Grade (gulp!) Curriculum

It’s almost all here. And it’s only February of his 2nd grade year and we’re still doing some first grade books. But I’m ready.

So let’s do this:

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Copybook III –  This is more than likely just a placeholder for something else which is yet to be determined.  I say this because he’s doing this book now.  It’s the 2nd grade copybook.  I don’t know that there’s a 3rd grade copybook as such…I think it morphs into something else.  The “something else” might be the Latin book over in the right-hand corner.  I’m going to have to look up the publisher again and see what comes next.  Henry laments his “terrible” handwriting and wishes it looked better.  But he hates to write.  So we’ve got a bit of a problem.

Foundations Guide for CC, Cycle 3 – YAY!!!!!  Can I just say that this is my favorite cycle of all?  Maybe it’s the nostalgia of it being the first cycle we participated in, or maybe it’s because it’s the easiest (it is most definitely the easiest) or maybe it’s because it’s got the best songs, but whatever the reason, I LOVE cycle 3!  I can’t wait for next year!  This will be the year Henry attempts Memory Master.  If he can’t do it for C3, then all hope for future cycles goes down the drain.  Cycle 1 is hard, very hard.  The history sentences are very hard, the science is not easy (for me, but I am not an ecology lover), and he’ll be starting Essentials which isn’t going to give him a lot of free time to study for Memory Master.  Cycle 2 is hard as well, but not as hard as cycle one, though the history songs are not exactly easy or catchy.  The science – in my opinion – is a lot easier.  But I’m off-topic.  Next year will be the year, if he’s ever going to go for it, to go for it.  Rhys too.

Prima Latina – How many years has this been on his list?  Fifteen?  Well, we’re going to do it next year.  He will have the muscular stamina to write as much as is required by this book, which I just don’t think he’s had until now.  It’s a LOT of writing.  Beside it is the Classical Conversations Latin trifold card with all the conjugations and declensions so you can decline till your heart’s content.  Mercifully it includes a teacher’s manual that’s as large as the student book.  Also, mercifully there’s really no right or wrong way to pronounce Latin since it’s a dead language.  There are no long or short vowels.  Haw haw haw, Old Mother Southern, you won’t make a mockery of my accent this time, if I can help it!

Prescripts, Cursive – It is what it sounds like.  It’s Classical Conversations’ cursive handwriting book, containing cursive phrases from weekly history sentences the student is to copy, and drawings they are free to color.  Oh look.  It’s my copy book for next year.  D’oh.

Spelling Power – We’re getting our geek on next year and using the preeminent spelling text that all the nerdy homeschoolers who go to the Merriam-Webster National Spelling Bee use as their spelling text.  I tried this with him this year, but he tested into the lowest level possible and was having a hard time with it, so I just ordered a 2nd grade spelling textbook and we’re using it with great success.  He’s made 100 on all his tests so far!  Hopefully this will signal a smooth transition to Spelling Power next year now that he’s gotten some practice with formal spelling under his belt.  Big money, big money!  I mean, let’s become an excellent speller, Henry!

Writing with Ease, Level 3 – This is SUCH a fantastic textbook by Susan Wise Bauer to teach reading comprehension and beginning composition.  Level three finally gets them reading and writing on their own and breaks the levels 1 and 2 pattern of copywork/narration and dictation/copywork/narration and dictation.  Henry was actually excited to see that he’d be reading the excerpts himself (really?!) And writing a very short synopsis (think:  adverbs).

First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind, Level 3 –  Finally, writing!  Levels 1 and 2 have writing, just not a lot.  And they don’t have workbooks but level 3 does!  Henry will begin to diagram sentences and I am so dadgum excited.  That’s a nerd frothing at the mouth and rubbing her hind legs together in anticipation like a cricket, singing a song of gleeful grammatical expectation. Let the slicing and dicing of complete thoughts begin!

Story of the World, Books 1 and 2 – These are the wrong books.  I should have 3 and 4 out or maybe just 4 out for Cycle 3.  Whoops.  Well, this is our history for next year, along with the accompanying activity book and Everything You Need to Know About History Homework.

Math – Horizons Level 3 – After a rough start in math this year, and last, and the year before, we FINALLY found a curriculum that works for him! Because he’d gotten behind through changing curriculums, which changed his pace and focus, I went back to the 1st grade book this year to make sure he had a good, solid foundation in math and mastery of the subject before we moved on, just for the sake of saying, “We’re doing 2nd grade math!”  Initially he tore through the book, doing two or three assignments a day, but gradually found his “grade-level” and he’s working at a nominal pace now.  He could do multiple assignments a day now, but new concepts are introduced on a more regular basis and he’s got a lot of other work he needs to do that consumes a lot of his time, so in light of these two reasons, we keep it to one lesson a day now that he’s hit his stride.  We’re going to work through the summer and probably finish up the 2nd grade book, allowing him to enter the 3rd grade this fall using his new, shiny 3rd grade workbook.  If he’s still working in his 2nd grade book – no big deal.  We will most definitely be caught up by next summer and he’ll be raring to work on 4th grade math a year from this fall (FOURTH GRADE?!).

Still missing – Apologia’s anatomy textbook.  Possibly Jr. Notebook.  I’m going to have to see how…descriptive these books are before I decide how much I want to answer and how much I’m pushing off on Dave.  Possibly a phonics book – I have to look and see if they make a 3rd grade phonics book or not.

Wow.  That’s a lot.  I think I fell asleep a few times writing this, I am absolutely exhausted this week.  Yep.  Just caught myself drooling on myself. How embarrassing, and I’ve shared it with the whole world.  Maybe we should do a unit study on health?

(please excuse typos)