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Halloween 2016

November 2, 2016

This was quite possibly the Halloween with the least amount of forethought and effort ever.  I could get used to this!  But first, a look at our two little ones at dinner time Monday night.  They’re not sure what time zone they’re in (I think this was Little A’s third nap that day!) and sickness, unfortunately, is setting in, although I wasn’t aware of it at that point.  30725606625_bc7e1c75a3_o

With great effort, we got them to wake up for dinner and the prospect of trick-or-treating.

A, I think, has outgrown dressing up, so he stayed home to hand out candy.  E, as usual, did not want to dress up much beyond a breastplate and helmet (which came off shortly after this picture.)  D wore the same clone trooper costume he wore last year.


C wanted to be a Men in Black agent in “the last suit you’ll ever wear!”


And Little A wore her new Hawaiian dress and necklace.  This being Utah, she also wore tights and a long-sleeved onesie as well as her jacket once we got outside.



E looked just miserable after only five or six houses.  He was about to cry.

“I’m cold!”

So we called DH and he brought some gloves and a jacket.  Three or four houses later, E was just about in tears again.

“I don’t feel good!”

He has a hard time articulating what exactly doesn’t feel good, so we just took him back home and left him with Daddy, who also wasn’t feeling all that hot, then took the other three back out.  Little A had a good time.  She used her new purse for candy.  I figured we’d come home once the purse was full.  It was a good plan.  That’s quite the haul for a 2-year-old.


Her hands were getting quite cold and her nose was starting to run more and she opted to skip the last few houses across the street from ours.  I told C and D they could stay out if they wanted to and go to more houses, but they were more interested in coming home to watch the Studio C Halloween special, so that’s what we did.

And so, that was about the shortest Halloween experience in years.  We missed the family Halloween party, the ward party, and trick-or-treating at Daddy’s work.  Why?

Because we were in Hawaii!!!

Pictures and stories to come.

So many pictures…

September School

October 10, 2016

I’m not even attempting weekly reports this year, but I do like to go back and see a summary of some of the things we’ve learned.  Once I’ve photographed and blogged a project, then I feel like I can throw it away guilt-free.  currently I’d really love to reclaim the counter space currently occupied by three sugar-cube pyramids!





It’s been Ancient Egypt month around here.  We read lots of books,


made pyramids, wrote in both hieroglyphs and cuneiform,




and started on the mummification of a cornish game hen.


Preparing the “natron”:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Washing the chicken with rubbing alcohol drove us outside to finish the job.  Apparently Little A thinks it still stinks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We stuffed the chicken with the salt/baking soda/powder mixture,


And left it to dessicate in a gallon bag.  Speaking of which, I need to change out the salt mixture.  Again.


We also planted grass seed next to a model of the Nile river, but it never grew despite several floodings of the river, probably because it wasn’t simple grass seed, but seed mixed with fertilizer.  Hopefully we’ll have more luck with it when we spread in on our back lawn next week.



The first flood of the season:



Little A always wants to be involved and thankfully will color any map or coloring page we put in front of her before she moves back to coloring on the walls.  Gah! None of the boys have done this, except for a phase A went through when he first learned to print his name and I started finding his name on everything: doors, walls, furniture.  But Little A colors on everything, and I do mean everything.  Luckily she’s pretty adept at wiping down walls.  She’s getting a lot of practice.

D has been reading our geography book about Egypt and completed a nice map.


He also played senet online while we listened to some Egyptian music.

His cursive is coming along beautifully; he’s been memorizing and writing out the Articles of Faith.


Academic writing is still like pulling teeth, but now that he can spell (thank you, Apples and Pears!) he has written some decent sentences.  We’re working our way up to coherent paragraphs.

In science, he and E have learned how to measure tall items by measuring themselves and their shadows, then the shadow of the tall item.  We estimated that the cottonwood tree in the backyard is about 77 feet tall.  We might have gotten a more accurate measurement if the ground with the shadow on it hadn’t been on a slope. We also experimented with sound waves using different size rubber-bands stretched over a bowl.  I like our science book in that the lessons are short and the experiments are fairly simple.  I’m hoping it continues as science always seems to be the thing we let go of once it gets too involved.  For now we’re just doing it once a week as E is also learning about the human body.  He’s actually really interested in this and is having fun filling in his paper body with body parts.


D has been reading literature books about Egypt like Casting the Gods Adrift and The Golden Goblet, while A, C, and I have been reading O. Henry short stories and talks about the Declaration of Independence and Constitution by Ezra Taft Benson.  There’s not much more to show for their school.  They’re pretty independent with science and history online, then reading writing, math, plus German for A.  We’re using for online vocabulary practice for both German and Latin.

D finished Singapore 6B and is starting the same pre-algebra review packet that C is working on.  I decided not to do the entire Dolciani Pre-Algebra book.  We’re just going to review a few things and learn a few new skills, then move into algebra at a slow pace with both of them.

C, D, and I have been working a drawing curriculum once a week (we should probably up that or we’ll never finish).  So far we’ve practice drawing straight lines and ellipses, and drawing outlines of jars and glasses.


I started an art program with E, but he didn’t really like it.  The first assignment was to draw a self-portrait and after asking me too many times to draw it for him, he finally came up with this:

He really wants to do art (as does Little A!) but I can’t seem to find a program that fits him.  He’s doing really well with math and reading lessons though.  He also finished his last Explode the Code primer.  He sat down one day and decided to finish it–40 pages in one day!  He was so proud of his work.

Other than that, my orchestra prepared a quite difficult concert in a short amount of time.  It was an intense month of practicing while suffering with equally intense allergies. The hay fever has been ridiculous this year!  Luckily it’s mostly over.  It kind of killed my idea of doing school outside every day though, which made me mad, but I’ve tried to get the boys outside every day.  We’re trying hard not to become indoor people, but old habits die hard, and we haven’t enjoyed our big backyard nearly as much as I would have liked.  But it’s not snowing yet, so maybe there’s hope!

Sunshine, dark, snow

October 4, 2016

Last night after LDS General Conference was over, we all ended up in the backyard.  It was such a beautiful day, though quite windy.




Little A is constantly picking the apples off our tree.  She and E are about the only ones that do.  Those apples are incredibly sour.  Little A eats about half the apple and then leaves it somewhere for me to find later.  Thank goodness I didn’t have to pay anything for them.  I have thrown away so many half-eaten apples.



The dog was obsessed with this stick.  It was so funny watching her try to get it away from C.


Three hours later, when it was really and truly dark, the power went out.  And stayed out.  Now I know that I need to buy more candles and put them in a convenient spot.  With the light of one candle and the aid of our (thankfully fully charged) phones, we found flashlights and headlamps in the boys’ camping gear.

Little A is constantly adding words to her vocabulary.  Yesterday’s was, “I scared now.”  We had to reassure her that everything was ok even though the house was so dark.  It was actually bedtime, but as we’ve all gone to bed ridiculously late lately due to some crazy schedules, no one was ready for sleep.  But we sent them to bed anyway.

Later we found out that the wind had blown some power lines down across streets and the train tracks, then a train went through, pulled the power lines, and ended up taking out some 25 power poles, leaving the entire north end of the valley without power.  Some power was restored through a different substation sometime in the middle of the night (I only know because I woke up to find our closet light on around 2 a.m.), but we’re being advised to save power and not use any big appliances as there may be rolling outages until Wednesday when hopefully the whole mess will be cleaned up.

School was cancelled for the two elementary schools in town and the high school today, so A didn’t have to go to seminary or choir.  We tried to do school as normal here, but it only lasted until lunch when E’s little friend (also E, with blonde hair) came over since he didn’t have to go to school.  It was pointless to even try at that point as I had a cello student coming and A and C needed to finish packing, because tonight was the beginning of Youth Conference with Liahona Academy!

This was a highlight of last school year for them, so this afternoon we drove them up to Aspen Grove camp in Provo Canyon where they’ll stay until Friday.


It looks really cold!  It was cold.  I’m glad I reminded A to grab his winter coat as he went out the door.  It feels like it’s been hot for so long that we’ve forgotten what real cold feels like, but that there is snow on the mountain!  It actually snowed some more on us as we came over the top of the mountain and down Alpine Canyon.
Hopefully they’ll survive the cold and have a great week.  It’s beautiful up there, but summer is definitely over!

Meet Nova

September 14, 2016

Because we don’t have enough going on, we got a dog.

On Prozac.

So much story to tell. . .


This is Nova.  Nova is the product of two police canine dogs who were inadvertently left unsupervised one afternoon!  She is part Belgian malinois and part Dutch shepherd, and very smart and very energetic.  Now we’re trying to remember what owning a dog entails.

It’s been eight years since Sneaker died.  We kept saying we’d get a dog after we moved, and here it’s been a year!  Our old house was just too small for the seven of us, let alone another dog.  (I might mention that we are not “small dog” people.  We like big dogs.)  I’ve been putting off the dog decision, but about a month ago Little A started talking about wanting a “goggie” and getting a dog, and would not let it go.  She was convinced we were going to get a dog.  And so we did, or rather, the dog found us.

Unfortunately Nova’s previous owners J and C had to give her up.  Nova wanted to be their alpha dog, but they also had a German shepherd which was 40 pounds bigger than she was and they just kept tussling and Nova always ended up getting hurt.  She’s currently on antibiotics for a tear near her eye and several other sores.  It was so bad that they had to be kenneled at separate times all day long, one dog in, one dog out and it was getting too hard to do.  J and C’s 6-year-old was distraught over giving the dog away, but especially after the last fight between the two dogs had fur flying, she understood why Nova had to go.

But she made her parents promise that Nova would go to nice people who would love her and wouldn’t give her away and would let the 6-year-old come and visit from time to time.  She insisted on meeting us and apparently we passed her test.

We promised to give this dog all the love she needs, and she needs lots of love.  Previous to J and C owning her, she was kept outside in a cement/chain link fence enclosure, without enough water, and apparently the neighbour boys would shoot BB’s at her for barking.  J and C said the vet found about 50 or 60 in her neck and back right after they got her in February.  Then with anxiety from trying to assert herself over the German shepherd, the vet said she probably has something like PTSD.  So they brought her Prozac pills to us!  Although right now, she can’t take them because of her medication.  We are all hoping that maybe she won’t need them in a few weeks when her antibiotic is finished and she is calming down and getting used to a new living situation with a big yard to run in and hopefully less stress.


Already she is adored.  Little A just can’t get enough of her.  Nova came to us Sunday night and was so incredibly jumpy and anxious and running her and there checking everything out.  I wondered if we were up for this.  She had a really hard time settling down, so we were back up at midnight letting her run laps around the backyard.  Then at 3 a.m. we woke up to Little A following her around the kitchen and up and down the hall whispering, “Here goggie, come goggie.”  It took a lot of convincing to get Little A back to bed!  And we’re still not sure which one woke up the other.

Monday morning DH took Nova for a run, then C took her out again for his daily rollerblading.  She was still full of energy.  Then E and Little A spent the entire morning just about playing with her, chasing her around the yard, and going in and out of the house.  Finally around lunchtime, she was sitting in the shade while they played in the sandbox.  And after lunch:

We finally wore her out.

We wore out the toddler too.

Or maybe her nocturnal wanderings finally caught up with her!

Today Nova has been sweet and calm, although she barks at the doorbell, and we found out she doesn’t like thunder.  She’s now curled up on the floor by my side of the bed.  I think we’re going to enjoy our new furry family member.

First Day, no . . . Week of School

September 6, 2016

Poppa pointed out that my school plans post had no mention of a certain little 2-year-old . . . tornado.  If this week’s been any indication, here’s what she’ll be doing this year:

  • Coloring on the bookcases (good thing I bought her the washable crayons) (inadvertently, but now I’m very grateful)
  • Hiding her crayons between the books on the bookcases (I wondered why her crayon box was empty)
  • Locking bathroom doors and then closing them with no one inside
  • Stripping down to her diaper about 15 times a day, or ditching the clothes and going back into pajamas
  • Putting blush all over her lips, cheeks, and my flip-flops
  • Finding my hidden stash of Dove’s dark chocolates and eating as many as she can stuff in her mouth at one time
  • Dumping out my jewelry boxes (and hiding my wooden cello one; I still can’t find it!)
  • Hiding my camera so well that I couldn’t find it to download our first day of school pictures

And so much more!  I feel like I’m forgetting the funniest things she’s done this week.  She’s busy!

So now that I have my camera back–

It’s getting harder and harder to get five children lined up for a photo.


There’s always that one kid.


Almost every first day of school picture has them in striped shirts, so we decided that’s our thing and we’re going to stick with it.  I even found Little A a new striped dress to wear.  She’s learning from her older brother how not to smile for the camera.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut ahead of hiding the camera, I found that someone had taken a few shots of her.

Busily working:

And finally smiling (probably because she escaped the clothes and got her pjs back on.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA E didn’t want an individual photo taken for the first day of first grade, but I got some good shots of the other three.




I usually write up a minute-by-minute account of our first day of school, but that day got derailed almost from the very beginning, so that plan went by the wayside.  Tuesday went a little smoother, although that’s when we found out that not much is brand new this year.  Either they picked up their books where we left off in June, or it’s a continuation of the same program from last year.  Effective, but not particularly exciting.

A and C are really excited to have their Liahona history and science classes, while D and E are excited to get back into ancient history this year.  On Friday, we finally managed to buy some sand so we could do an archaeological dig in the backyard.  C couldn’t help getting involved.  They dug up some play food, cars, Star Wars playset figures, a crayon, and a few other toys.



We even tried to be somewhat scientific and write down who found what in which quadrant.


We should have gotten a sandbox last spring.  E has wanted to play outside more this week than he has almost all summer long.  We have a fabulous backyard for the first time in year, but he honestly doesn’t know what to do outside to entertain himself.  I have definitely raised some indoor people and that needs to change!

After much coaxing, we finally convinced E to lie down on some butcher paper so we could draw an outline of his body for our human anatomy study.  Everything has to be such a struggle with this kid!  But now he’s excited.  And looking at how skinny he is, I may have to reduce all the copies of my body parts to 80% so they’ll fit inside his outline!  I remember doing that for A too the first time around.  We don’t grow them large at this house.  Tall, yes.  Large, no.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Really, there isn’t a whole lot more to tell about our first week of school.  We’re still figuring out how to fit it all in, and remembering just how we make this homeschool thing work.

2016/2017 School Plans

August 28, 2016

A while back I saw a picture on the internet that said something to the effect of, “So is it just me, or did June and July go by in about 5 minutes?”

Yes. Yes, they did. At least at our house they did. I know I’ve sorely neglected blogging this summer.  I’ve taken a break from a lot of things this summer, although we’ve been quite busy.  It was just so nice to not worry about moving or packing or anything else.  We feel settled for the first summer in years!  I wish we’d enjoyed our backyard a little more, but it’s been a good summer.  And I do have a lot of pictures to share.

But suddenly it was August, and now practically the end of August, so for the better part of this last week I’ve been surrounded by a sea of books, dvds, planning sheets, and my computer trying to pull everything together.  It’s always nice to write this post about our school plans.  They feel solidified when I can see them all written out in one place.

I used to do long-term planning.  Ha ha ha.  Children are getting more independent with their own ideas.  This year A decided to do choir at the high school plus seminary.  So we’re working around Men’s Chorus right in the middle of the day which conflicts with his online history class twice a week, but luckily those are recorded so he can catch up any time, and he says he doesn’t mind being responsible for that.  So if he doesn’t mind, then neither do I.  A and C are also taking science from Liahona Academy, but then everything else is at home as follows:

A (age 15, 10th grade):

  • Finishing up his MCT grammar book, plus exercises in  Jensen Punctuation and Killgallon Sentence Composing
  • German using German Made Simple and German: How to Speak and Write It (an awesome book from the 60s that I got for a quarter on amazon!), supplementing with online programs Memrise and DuoLingo.  We’re focusing on more writing and reading German this year.
  • KidCoder Advanced Web Design and then a programming course from Udemy
  • How Math and Music Relate from the Great Courses (12 lectures)
  • Finishing Jurgenson Geometry (3 chapters left!) then moving back into Dolciani for Algebra 2 with Trigonometry (and this is absolutely the end of the line for me; I cannot do pre-calculus with him next year.  I can’t believe I got talked into doing Algebra 2.)
  • Astronomy with Liahona Academy
  • Piano and organ lessons with Poppa plus Men’s Chorus at the high school


C (age 13, 8th grade):

  • Earth Science with Liahona Academy
  • MCT grammar and vocabulary
  • Finish First Form Latin and move into Second Form (which I think was last year’s goal too!)
  • Apples and Pears spelling level D
  • Dolciani Pre-Algebra just to shore up a few weak areas, then jump into algebra at a slow pace
  • How to Draw from the Great Courses plus some simpler drawing curricula that I’ve been meaning to use for the past several years but haven’t.
  • Piano lessons and bagpipes!

D (age 11, 6th grade): 

  • Apples and Pears spelling level C
  • Grammar Town and Practice Town grammar and sentence analysis
  • Continuing First Form Latin
  • Finishing Singapore 6B math and then we’ll see.  Technically 6 A/B count as pre-algebra and D is pretty math-minded so he may be able to go into algebra with C.
  • Oxford University Press The World in Ancient Times series to beef up ancient history–I’ve been tracking down the entire set used at super cheap prices and I think he’ll enjoy reading them.
  • As far as writing goes for this kid, our aim is to learn how to summarize and outline passages from his history, science, and literature books, and do a little writing every day without too much of a formal curriculum
  • Piano lessons and considering violin (because we’re not busy enough)


E (age 6, 1st grade): 


I’m kind of excited about doing anatomy again.  Making paper bodies and adding parts to them every week was one of my favorite homeschool activities when the older three were younger.  We also have a butterfly garden that we’re going to use.  In all of our many years of homeschool, we’ve never gotten caterpillars and watched them turn into butterflies.

We’re also going back to ancient history with Story of the World and the accompanying Activity Guide.  We took a year off from history last year to do world geography with D while his brothers did history with Liahona Academy.  While it was an ok plan, I’m excited to start world history over again with E and D.  I also have an activity book called Time Traveler (that apparently is now out of print) which covers art, music, drama, and architecture for Egypt, Greece, and Rome.  And we’ll be reading A Child’s Geography books covering the Holy Land and the Ancient Classical World in addition to the geography/map work and projects in Story of the World.

Science was a total bust last year for the younger ones, but we’re trying again with Science in the Ancient World in addition to anatomy.  We’re still working on cursive with Presidential Penmanship excerpts.

I found a great new art lesson website, Art tango, that I’m going to try out.  It seems like some of these fun extras are the first ones to go when life gets a little rough.  I’m going to try harder this year to not let that happen.

A and C together will be doing American Government and Civics with Bro. DeGraff at Liahona Academy.  We’re also doing a Music History course together and starting a Literary Analysis program called Windows to the World, after which we’ll go back into The Lost Tools of Writing that we began last winter and never finished.  We conquered Homer with Roman Roads Media dvd courses last spring, completing both the Iliad and the Odyssey (a huge accomplishment!), but never got to Greek drama so I’m planning to revisit that at some point.  The rest of their literature has yet to be decided, but I’m trying to balance fiction selections with nonfiction that will complement their government course.


Last, but certainly not least, we’ll be reading the New Testament together since that is what A is studying in seminary this year, and we’ll continue using  Gospel Principles as part of our morning devotional.

I think that covers it.  We start tomorrow; Liahona starts Tuesday.  And we have orthodontist appointments, orchestra rehearsal, Kindermusik, book club barbecue, and cello/piano/bagpipes all scheduled for this week.  I’m tired already just thinking about it, but ready or not, here goes!


Check out the 8th Annual Back to Homeschool Blog Hop for more curriculum posts!

The GHB: It just got real

August 23, 2016


Last summer at the Labor Day parade, the high school band was passing out flyers for free bagpipe lessons at the school on Thursdays. C was so excited!  Not our high school mind you; the high school I went to which is now 80 minutes from home.

“Mom, we’re down here on Thursdays!  I can do this!”

We had vaguely talked about maybe getting him some bagpipe lessons after we moved and got settled.  But this was an even better proposition.  Let’s just say the Scottish is strong with this one.

Of course, then I misplaced the little flyer, and we were technically homeless at that point anyway, so really can you blame me?  But eventually I found it and contacted the bagpipe teacher, then C went to youth conference, and then we had to wait for his practice chanter to come in the mail.  Finally at the end of October, he got to start chanter class while I taught cello lessons.

Truthfully, I’ve only heard him play a handful of times.  The first time I asked him to play for us, A, E, and I got the giggles and couldn’t stop laughing.  Then C got the giggles and you just can’t play the practice chanter while laughing.  So he’s mostly practiced in his room with the door shut ever since.

But last week his teacher told me that she can tell he practices and that he seems to be really serious about continuing to play, beyond just the high school band years.  She can also tell that we’re serious musicians at this house and know how to take care of instruments.  So she helped me customize a set of bagpipes for C.  She was going to put together a set from the school that he could borrow, but we’ve been putting aside money and figured why not buy him his own set now.  It would be a definite improvement over a school instrument.  (Anyone who’s ever rented a school instrument knows exactly what I mean!)

Today these came in the mail:

I feel like I should apologize to our neighbors.  I can see it’s going to be quite an ordeal to master the Great Highland Bagpipe!  Some of the difficulties can be found at this link.  Quite an educational read. I really had no idea!  But apparently we’re in it for the long haul.  Maybe some day he’ll look like this:

Incidentally, when I tell people he’s learning to play the bagpipes I get one of three responses:

  • “Oh, how awesome, I love the bagpipes!”
  • “Oh, you poor souls . . . I’m so sorry!”
  • “Oh, wow, the bagpipes!  Well . . . that’s different, but way to go for letting him follow his dreams!”

That’s us, the “let them follow their dreams” parents.  We’re just grateful we have a large basement.  I have a feeling practicing is going to get a lot louder.

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