Monthly Archives: March 2009

Anyone use Teaching Textbooks for math?

I am engaged in a constant conversation with myself, “I can do it all.  No I can’t.  Well, you should be able to do a, b, and c, through x, and y, and z, and do it all well.  Well, you can’t.  So, whattya going to do about it?  Well, whattya going to do about it after you stress and get crabby?”

A friend of mine, who is working three jobs, plus pregnant and very ill, told me that one lesson she learned, to get through this season is to “allow myself to do work that is adequate instead of excellent.”

I’m thinking about that with this approaching schoolyear, even though this one is not yet past.

I feel that I should be able to do all the read-alouds, and history, and Bible devotions, and English, and science, and math lessons, et al, and do them one-on-one with all my children.  But, the sad fact is, I can’t.

So, I’m in the process of investigating what it is that I can alter to allow for less of my time, yet still provide an excellent education for my children, or at least an adequate one.  Ack.  That hurts just to write it.  Well, I guess the truth is that I don’t WANT just an “adequate” education for my kids.  Yet, there isn’t enough of me and my time to speak into every aspect of their character and education (not to mention the littles, our home, my husband, my responsibilities at church, etc.) to directly and excellently do EACH subject with each child.

All of that to say, I’m considering Teaching Textbooks for Ethan next year, when he’s in 7th grade.  Here’s what I like:

  • The program was created by some really smart guys.  It appears to be an academically rigorous program, but done in a way that is — at least from reviews — interesting and fun.
  • It used both text-and-workbook and a CD-ROM.  I don’t want math to be JUST done on the computer, but I don’t think Ethan could do well enough with just a book-based do-it-yourself curriculum.
  • Math is probably Ethan’s weakest subject, and sometimes I feel like I’m not able to communicate math ideas in way that Ethan understands best.  So, I like that the teachers give a 10-15 minute lesson, AND after I have corrected Ethan’s work, there is a step-by-step explanation of EACH of the homework problems for whichever ones he doesn’t understand.
  • And, of course, I like that this will require less of my time.  At least, it seems like it will.
  • Plus, Singapore, which we currently use, doesn’t have a full curriculum beyond 6th grade, so I have to switch to something.

So, if any of you use Teaching Textbooks and like or dislike it — or, if you use another math program that you adore, OR you want to say, “PLEASE stay away from X curriculum!”  please let me know!!


  • Our dog Tally, thankfully, does not have distemper, bless God.  However, she does have a serious case of Valley Fever.  😦  She’ll have to be on antifungal medication, twice a day, for likely 12 months.  With the anti-inflammatory meds she’s also on, she’s already moving better, and in less pain, so she’s eating better.  She’s still visibly, seriously sick, but at least she’s not at death’s door any more.
  • My hubby, too, is sick.  Not Valley Fever.  However, he is now on medications, due to ear infections and severe allergy trouble.  Three medications at once, the most I think he’s ever been on in our whole nearly-15 years of marriage.  😦
  • Baseball is both wonderful and driving me nuts.  Little League, that is.  My 11yo is doing wonderfully.  My 9yo… not so much.  His baseball skills themselves aren’t lacking, which is encouraging, since he was delayed in so many motor skills for so long.  Socially/behaviorally, though, he’s not doing so well.  He’s not a cooperative “student” for his coaches, nor is he a very good teammate.  Nor does he focus well enough for a half-inning, let alone a whole practice or game.  So, he’s frequently getting in trouble for his goofy behavior, like for sitting in a five gallon bucket in the dugout.  IN the bucket, not on it.  Thankfully, his coaches are kind, but this means he spends the maximum amount of time on the bench each game.  😦  He loves baseball, but I’m torn between wanting to keep him in baseball (thinking of fall, and next spring, that is), so as to exercise his weaknesses and hopefully, eventually, overcome them… or just chalk it up to, “Team sports don’t work for Grant.”  We’ll have to see.
  • Fiala’s finally rolling over, back to front, at five months.  That’s a little late.  Precious, pudgy, happy, sweet girl.
  • April 6 is Audrey’s 3rd birthday, Diamondbacks opening day, and the boys have a Little League game that day.  🙂  Audrey keeps talking about a birthday party.  I do not have one planned.  The best day for that would be April 11th, and a friend of ours is already having a big party that morning, and our church is doing a big meal for the poor and homeless, downtown, that afternoon.  I’m still not sure what I’m going to do.  😦
  • My house is in the worst shape it’s been in in my entire marriage.  SO MANY things are behind, undone, pushed aside…  I think we’re going to have to take an unplanned week off, next week, just to make a dent in my 2.5′ high stack of ironing, clean filth off of doorways, give the dog a bath, remove the ¼” of dust that covers everything, save my digital pics to discs, print out photos to fill the picture frames I got for Christmas, clean out my laundry room, etc.
  • I finally got all three boys’ hair cut.  They were in desparate, shaggy need, a good 4-6 weeks overdue.  Halfway through, I was totally thinking, “This is SO not worth the $36 it is saving.”  I cut Ethan’s bangs too short.  I got done giving Grant a buzz cut, as he requested, and Martin said, “Oh, I didn’t want his hair buzzed.”  Wesley’s hair looks great, but it took me nearly 2 hours.  Seriously.
  • It is a joy of my heart that Ethan can read music.  It rocks.  Two-and-a-half years of trumpet lessons is all it took!  😀  With Sonlight’s Core 4, we got a CD with an accompanying booklet of notated music, called Wee Sing America, which is mostly historical Americana/folk music.  Ethan said, “I can sing these songs even though I’ve never heard them just by reading the music!”  I thought he was exaggerating his skills until he demonstrated.  Wow.
  • Ethan’s challenge right now:  Not to be Imperious High King Ethan, Ruler of All Siblings, Who MAY Deign to Let You Play With Him, Provided You Play According to His Royal Wishes, and According to His Particular Design, Framework, and Rules.  Ugh.  This especially does not work for Wesley, who will, minutes after starting to play with Ethan, invariably come running to me in tears.  Wesley is not competitive like the other two boys, nor does he want to follow some arbitrary rules made up by his brothers, especially Ethan.  Nor does he really care about rules to real games, like baseball.  He just wants to play.  He wants to hang out with his brothers.  And Ethan gets really upset that Wesley insists on being, say, an Indian, when he and Grant are playing robots from the future, and he tries to force square-peg Wesley the Indian into the round hole of Future Robots, to the consternation of everyone.  I have expressed to Ethan that the phrase running through his mind needs to NOT be, “If you want to play with me, you must…” and instead be, “If you want to play with me, I will…”  Know what I mean?
  • Speaking of Wesley, I got him speech-evaluated about a week ago.  His imprecise enunciations are “within the range of normal,” but he does have some language processing difficulties, as I had suspected.  We’re trying to figure out what sort of therapy schedule our insurance will pay for.
  • It’s warming up, here in the Phoenix area.  Sigh.  Days in the low 80s, mostly.  I am so not ready for it to be summer.  We have seven-ish months of summer here, which might sound lovely to those of you currently buried in snow and ice, but it’s not all that lovely if you live in it.  I mean it’s lovely now, but unbearably hot weather is just around the corner, making ugly faces at me, taunting me.

My heart is breaking… (doggie sadness)

Part 1, Tuesday:

Tally attacks!

Tally attacks!

Our little doggie, Tally, whom we have only had for not quite 2½ years, is sick.

She first seemed to have a little cold in late January, then recovered, then two weeks after that, in mid-February, seemed to come back down with it again, or something…  She had a decrease in appetite and spunk.  We thought, “Oh, she’s just tired of this food,” so we changed it.  We thought, “Oh, we just need to spend more time with her” which, golly, we’re home all day, she gets a LOT of time spent with her.  Wesley in particular LIVES with her — she sleeps with him, she lays all over him when he’s on the floor, etc.  But, we made a point to spend more particular time with just her, give her extra love…  We thought, “Well, it’s been a while since we de-wormed her” so we gave her both kinds of de-worming medication.

But, nothing seemed to have any affect.

In the last week or so, her she’s been having trouble moving, her energy has severely dropped, she’s not eating much, and this morning, as I was observing her, I thought, “I think she’s not seeing very well.”

I looked up symptoms online, and from what I can tell, it seems to be distemper.  There’s nothing to cure a dog from distemper.  Unless a dog can beat it on its own, which dogs can, in mild cases, distemper becomes fatal.

I e-mailed… well, Cheryl, the daughter of Tally’s former owner.  I have a good relationship with Cheryl;  she’s the one who helped us find our old dog, Hayley, and who helped us find Tally.  She kindly returned my e-mail with a phone call.  She gave me the name and number of the breeder, in Texas.  We knew that Tally had had some kind of illness as a little puppy, but from talking with Cheryl, it appears that maybe it was worse that we had thought.  We had never given it much thought, because all the time we’ve owned Tally, she’s been the picture of health.  Now, I’m wondering if maybe she had a mild case of distemper as a puppy.

From what I’ve read, dogs can come down with a mild case, recover, then later on, severe symptoms can recur.  I’m wondering if maybe with her little cold in January, her immune system became depressed, which allowed the distemper virus to flare back up.  I don’t know for certain.

I’m eager to hear back from the breeder, for whom I left a message.

We’ll be taking Tally to the vet tomorrow.  I’m not so eager about that.  Unless I’m misunderstanding things, the only way to really diagnose distemper is to do 20 billion blood tests to rule out other diseases.  And then, if it is distemper, and if symptoms are serious, euthanasia is recommended.  😦

Martin and I need a lot lot lot of wisdom on how to handle this with the kids.  If we do need to put Tally to sleep, that will be two dogs dying within three years.  That’s just hard.  Really hard.

Part 2, Wednesday:

Today, I am feeling a lot better about Tally’s prognosis.  We actually decided to take Tally to the vet yesterday;  we didn’t want to wait until today.  That meant missing a baseball practice, but, oh, well.  Five kids (including a 5mo baby, past her mealtime) and a sick dog in the vet’s office by myself.  Yee haw.  Martin did arrive after we’d been there for about 30 minutes, and that’s always a … I don’t know what to call it.  He brings peace with him, always.  It’s a blessing.

Anyways, Tally is definitely seriously ill.  But, she may not have distemper.  The vet said, if he had to guess, that she has Valley Fever, which is common here in the desert Southwest.  Valley Fever is treatable.  It’s a long process, often 6-12 months or more (some lifetime) treatment with antifungal medication.  But, if it is Valley Fever, at least it’s not certain death, like distemper.

They did a blood draw, and will test her for “desert diseases” panel, including Valley Fever, tick fever, and I-don’t-know-what-else.  The vet was also able to give us some immediate help with Tally, in that he identified that she seemed to be suffering the most pain in her neck.  It was so bad, that he said that she may not be eating simply because it hurt her so badly to lower her head that her avoidance of further pain outweighed her need to eat.  He suggested that if we raise her bowl, she may eat better.  OH MY GOODNESS!  It worked!!  Martin and Ethan actually fed Tally by hand last night, letting her sit up or stand up, and she ate her first full meal in nearly a week.  Wow.

Also, the vet prescribed an anti-inflammatory for Tally.  Honestly, we have never had any of our pets on any meds other than vaccines and de-wormers, and having pets on prescription meds seems rather… yuppie Western of us, but it definitely seems to be helping, even less than 24 hours later, and seeing our pup doing somewhat better is a relief.

We will get some of the test results by Thursday, but probably won’t know until Monday whether or not she has Valley Fever.

Last night, after kinship, I sat up for about an hour and a half, reading up on Valley Fever and its medications.  There are currently three medicines in use to treat canine Valley Fever, but the most effective one with the fewest side effects was called “expensive.”  That made my heart drop, since we’ll need to medicate her for so long.  I was envisioning $100 a month or something like that.  However, I found an online source that has a month’s worth of medicine for about $10.  That’s doable, definitely.  I’ll ask our vet to fax the rx to the online supplier.

Anyways…  we don’t have a vet, currently.  Or, we didn’t.  Whenever we need one (which is infrequent), we have brought our dogs to PetsMart and its clinic.  However, I would rather develop a relationship with a more… mom ‘n’ pop kind of veterinary clinic, if you know what I mean.  I recalled seeing a vet’s name as a sponsor on the back of one of the opposing teams during my sons’ Little League game on Monday, so I looked ’em up, and they’re nearby.  So, we went there.  I liked the doc a lot.  That’s a win-win for everyone.  Our doggie now has a reliable vet, and the doctor’s sponsorship has won him a new client.  Good for Tally, good for us, good for the doctor, and good for Little League, too!

So…  Tally’s not out of the woods yet.  But, about 24 hours ago, it looked like she was at death’s door, and though she is still seriously ill, we’ve been given some hope.

Box Day non-post

Well… we got our Core 4 box from Sonlight earlier this week.  Many blogging Sonlighters post pics and stories of the excited children squealing as Fed Ex drives up, and as they go through the box.

Yes, we are excited, no I am not posting pics of excited children.  Why?  Because our Box Day consists of me saying, “Shoo!  Shoo!  DO NOT RUN OFF WITH THESE BOOKS!  DON’T EVEN TOUCH THEM!!  I haven’t covered them yet!  I don’t want them to go missing!!”  Nice, huh?

In order to make the books last longer, I go through the tedious process of covering each of them with clear Contact paper (it works!) after I have put a colored dot on the spine of each book.  I also like the books to be actually available to pull off the shelf when it’s time to read from that particular book.  Plus, when I put no restrictions on reading ahead, when we’d get to the spot in the schedule for that book, I’d have a kid protest, “But I’ve already read that book four times” and then he’s not interested…  I mean, it’s great that he’s read it four times, but I have discovered that a kid’s understanding of a book is not necessarily the same as my mother/teacher’s understanding, and for most of the books, they really need my insight to explain some things… but since they’ve already educated themselves on the book, I can’t get them to really apply their attention as I read.  For all those reasons, I no longer let my kids read the books in advance.  I know, I know, I’m mean.

Thus, I don’t let them riffle through the box and see what great books are ahead.  I let it be a surprise.  🙂

SoftLips Pure Winners!

I’m happy to report that — finally — I had my son Ethan draw winners for my recent blog giveaway of SoftLips Pure. I said I’d do it on Wednesday, but didn’t until Thursday, and am now posting it on Friday.  Better late than never, right?

Congratulations to Christy and Gina! Christy, yours will be in the mail today, and Gina, yours will be headed your way as soon as I get your address.

New song. Woo hoo!

I write songs, semi-infrequently.  Actually, I regularly write bits of songs, and irregularly actually finish them.

In June, I started writing a song… and then, at my pastor’s wife’s encouragement, in October, I finally poured myself into crafting the entire song, words, music, everything, and actually finished it.  I thought, “This is really good.  This has actual potential,” and I tried running it by my hubby, and he was like, “Um, yeah.  That’s good.”  But then, for a couple of months — in which I really tried hard to work on my attitude, as he played five or ten songs of his own, asking for feedback on lyrics, chord selection, this or that bit of melody — didn’t say boo about it again.

~I promise I don’t always fight with my husband.~  Actually, when we hit ten years, it seemed like that was the magical get-along number, and we virtually never fought again.  Well, it wasn’t magic, exactly, but by that time, we had been around enough mountains to know how to effectively voice our disagreements.  Usually.


About a month or five weeks ago, on a Saturday, he ran yet another song by me.  Please understand, I am SO THRILLED with my song-writin’ husband.  He’s written some truly excellent music, and the Spirit just flows through him, and he’s a fantastic musician, has a great grasp of all facets of songwriting, and what, specifically, works for corporate worship (“corporate worship” meaning, Sunday morning, everyone singing).  My problem wasn’t with him writing music.  What I was struggling with was him wanting me to give him my totally undivided attention on most Saturdays to work with him on his songs, whilst mine went unregarded.  Make sense?   Very much an exercise in humility.

So, as he was playing another song for me, I was trying really hard — really hard — to give him my best.  There’s sad irony in me pitching an attitude fit over a worship song.  I’m aware of that.  So, I was doing my best to deal.

But, a bit later, when Martin asked, “Babe, is anything wrong?” it all came pouring out of my mouth and eyes and gestures, and hit him, I’m sure, like a wall.  He responded, “Well, OK, let’s work on it later today.”

And then, I started thinking, “Well, that was dumb.  I don’t want him giving attention to the song just because I dumped on him.”

But… no matter the reasoning, he did give it a good deal of attention.  Not that Saturday, but the next.

And then, yesterday, at new song practice (which we have every three weeks), the team learned it!  It went really well.  It was cool to hear everyone singing and playing it.  During practice, we had all the vocalists up at the mics, and it was like a mini-choir, with the ten of us or so…  A mini bluegrass choir, because the melody is low enough that some were singing high tenor, which always sounds bluegrassy to me.

The true test will be on next Sunday or the one after, when we actually do the song, to see if the congregation… buys into it.  To see if it catches on.  I hope so.  I wrote it as a corporate… anthem of sorts, for our particular church body.  It’s not a solo kind of thing.  It’s for all of us.  I hope it works out that way.  🙂  I’ll let y’all know.

Note to self

You get a lot more done around the house when you don’t even turn on the computer until 3:00.

The Neanderthal in the parking lot

(This is a really long saga…  I started writing it on Friday, about my Thursday night, and now it’s no longer current, but I’m not fixing my tenses, OK???)

So.  Last night was bad.  Seems like I’ve been having a lot of bad days lately!  It stems from being very busy;  I don’t do “busy” very well.  Four of five nights this week were taken up by baseball, the other nights for the last 10 days or so taken up by other things, too, and we were in desperate need of groceries.

When I go grocery shopping, I usually go by myself, after dinner.  But, that just hasn’t been possible.  We were running out of everything.  Bless my dear stepdad, who said, “I’ll come watch the boys if you take the girls with you to the grocery store.”  So, I fed Fiala, and took Audrey and her with me.  I thought, “I’ll put Audrey in Kid’s Corner.  She’ll like that.”  She has done that twice, and both times, she thought it was fabulous — toys and TV instead of the shopping cart.

I got paged twice within 30 minutes to take Audrey potty.  I thought, “She’s not digging Kid’s Corner.”  Sure enough, as I brought her back the second time, she clung and refused to go back in.  I still had half my shopping to do, and no room for her in the cart, but what else could I do?

So, she went with me.  Sort of.  I would briefly consult my list, grab an item from the shelf, chase after Audrey who had rounded the corner, fearless of losing Mommy, off to new adventures.  And, then, repeat that process seemingly endlessly.

It was getting later, and I thought, “I’d better get a rotisserie chicken to bring home for dinner.”  But, they didn’t have any of the large size ones out, just the small ones that are WAY too small for our family.

So, I asked at the deli counter if they had any more.  “We’ll have some more in ten minutes,” was the reply.  I finished my shopping in 15, and headed back to the deli.  No chickens in sight, I stood and waited, attempting to keep Audrey either holding my hand, or holding my pocket, and not biting the tomatoes in the adjacent produce department.  And…  Fiala started to cry.  So, I now have a crying baby on my shoulder, a 2yo running around the produce department, and I’m waiting for a chicken that should have already been done.  Five minutes later, it’s my turn at the deli counter, and I inquire about the chickens.

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SoftLips Pure Review and Giveaway!!

First off, please let me express my apologies to the winner of my last giveaway, who had to wait a Long Time for her package, and in fact probably hasn’t received it yet, though it is (truly!) in the mail.  Partly, I was waylaid by illness that struck here with a stranglehold for a good 2½ weeks, but most of the delay was caused by a) my fear and loathing of five-kids-in-the-post-office, and b) my simple, regrettable forgetfulness.

This time, I should be much more prompt, as I can pop the items into a padded envelope, slap some stamps on, and put it in my neighborhood’s outgoing mail box.

Now, onto the real purpose of this post.

Pomegranate SoftLips Pure

Pomegranate SoftLips Pure

When I agreed to review SoftLips Pure lip conditioners, I told the very understanding marketing exec that if I liked it (or mostly liked it), I would post a positive review.  If I didn’t like it, I just would post anything at all.  She agreed (unlike some other pushy marketers who have sent me stuff, in the past).  So… hopefully, y’all will believe that I’m being as unbiased as I can when I say:

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“You will always be a blessing”

Each of my children are so dear, so precious to me.  But, there is just a special sweetness over Fiala.  She is so very good-natured.  We get comments — all the time — both from people who have long known us, and from virtual strangers, about her personality, about how kind she is, how peaceful, how sweet…  She just is.  She is such a pleasant little girl, and she brings joy everywhere she goes.

I have a love-hate relationship with photography, where my children are concerned.  I love having memories perserved, both from the inconsequential to the monumental.  But, I get frustrated that the true nature of my children are so rarely captured on film (well, not really film, but you know what I mean).  Every once in a while, though, their true selves will peek out at the camera, and we snap the shutter at just the right time.

This past Friday, my step dad came over to take Ethan on a trumpet-shopping expedition.  He’s been renting one, bless him, for Ethan for more than two years, and recently decided that, long-term, it makes more sense to buy one, since it appears that Ethan’s going to continue with trumpet-playing.  When he brought Ethan back home (they weren’t successful in their quest, unfortunately), Fiala was awake and happy to see Grandpa Joe.  I adore this picture.  It just captures Fiala so nicely.  (And, I dearly love my stepdad, who, among all grandparents that my kids have, takes the most active role.)

Grandpa Joe and Fiala

Grandpa Joe and Fiala

A few weeks ago, Martin and I had the same thought, independently, on the same day, regarding Fiala.  It was the phrase, “You will always be a blessing.”  My mom used to always send us kids off with the encouragement and admonition, “Be blessed, and be a blessing!” and it’s only now that the beauty and weight of those words sink in.  What a joy it is to actually be a blessing to every one you touch.  🙂

OK.  I know I’m biased, and I know I’m gushing… but who better to gush than one’s mother?  I love my children, and I’m so, so happy that we “decided” to have a fifth child, because she’s simply dreamy and sweet, and I love her so.  She’s a blessing.

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