Friday, April 29, 2011

Pure Cuteness

We settled in 25 chicks.  They're awful cute now, all yellow and fluffy.  And the cheep, cheep sound they make continuously draws me in so, I want to peer over the edge of the box forever.  But it's a good thing they all look the same because to name these little puffballs would be a sin, unless they were named breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Come July 1st that's what these Cornish Cross will become...food.  For now though, we'll enjoy their pure cuteness.
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Better Late Than Never

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Rise of Prussia Assigned Reading

Emily will be reading this biography on Bach and looking through her violin music for all her pieces by Bach and then playing them once through.

Nick will be reading a number of German fairy tales, yet to be determined.  I gave him a number of books to choose from.

Amber will be reading a short picture book biography on Bach and then will ask her piano teacher to help her find simplified versions of his music to play.

Samuel will listen to the following books:

Today we did Mapwork relating to Brandenburg, Prussia, Germany and learned a few German words, many of which we know the signs (American Sign Language) for.  So we can say "Thank You" or "Danke" or sign thankyou by touching the fingertips of our right hand to our bottom lip and moving it away from our mouth. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Happy Easter!

Easter celebrating began on Saturday with our annual egg hunt and homemade pinata.  Joseph enjoyed hunting for eggs for a while.  He's making a break for it here.

Grabbing an egg he placed it in his basket before taking it out and hiding it again.

Sometimes is difficult to get pics of the kids because they are always on the run during egg hunts.

Emily started off in the opposite direction of everyone else and filled her basket rather quickly.

We've been making a homemade Easter pinata for many years, at least 6 years.  Our skills haven't improved accordingly, but it still takes a lot of beating before it breaks.  And the kids have fun which is all that counts.

A mouthful of Peeps.

The gang after church.
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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BB Gun...A Bit Early

In our home the rule regarding BB gun ownership requires the youngster to be 7.  Sam has a couple months to go but we made an exception since Unca Dan was here for turkey hunting and he wanted to present Sam with a 70th anniversary Daisy Red Rider and a Rooster Permit. 

Thank you, Unca Dan!  It means the world to me.

Joseph didn't want to be left out so he grabbed the toy gun.  Amazingly, he knows just what to do with it.
We took a short walk Easter Sunday.  Sam shot at blowing leaves and floating debris on the pond.  He was thrilled.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Treasuring Down Syndrome

I ran across a well written piece on the joy and beautifulness of Down syndrome.  I stumbled upon it today, although it was written just one month (Sept. 2008) after Joseph was born.  The article includes links to follow and read; be sure to have tissues handy.  To knowingly choose one life over another, whether out of fear or ignorance is sad.  I wish more people were given the opportunity to befriend or be befriended by an individual with Down syndrome.  It only takes a moment to experience their beauty and treasure their friendship.

First Thoughts:  An Unlikely Civil Rights Leader

Friday, April 22, 2011


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Planning for the Last 5 Weeks

After our spring break is over we'll have five weeks of school left.  Crazy to think we're on spring break because when I look outside I see snow everywhere.  I'm hoping these next 5 weeks takes us straight to summer.  Heat, humidity, green, summer camp.....I'm anxiously awaiting you.  I typically rake the yard during our spring break but like I said it's covered in snow so I had to find something else to do.  Looking at the calendar I decided to plan out our last 5 weeks of school. 

Emily and Nick have 10 lessons left.  We will move on to the next book, Saxon Algebra 1 and work on that for the last 3 weeks.
Amber also has 10 lessons left.  We will move on to the next book, Saxon Math 5/4.
Samuel is working through a giant stack of homemade math packets.  I have enough to keep him busy for a long time.
Joseph will continue breaking our bowls one by one, learning that one bowl broken = 2 minutes at the timeout spot.

Emily finished Language of God 6 weeks ago and then took an online writing course.  She finished that today.  I'll share more on that in another post.
Nick has 5 lessons left in his Language of God.
Amber has 10-15 lessons left.
Samuel is journaling.  He writes a sentence or two and illustrates them each day.  He dictates what he wants to write, I write it in yellow highlighter leaving out a few of the easier words and then he traces and writes in the words.  For example:  I like trapping muskrats.  I would leave out the I like part and write the trapping muskrats part in yellow highlighter that way Sam could practice writing in I like by himself.  I have done this type of journaling with all the kids and it's very fun to look back at their journals to see what was of interest to them when very young.  We'll continue doing this daily until the last day of school.

Emily, Nick and Amber all do My Catholic Speller workbooks.  For some reason they never complete all the lessons by the end of May and so they have to finish up in June.  This year is no different.  This is Emily's last year with these workbooks.
Sam does oral spelling with me.  After reading his Bob Book I ask him to spell 3 or 4 words.  I hold up the appropriate number of fingers as their are letters and then count down as he spells the word correctly.  We'll continue this until the end of May.

Emily, Nick and Amber will continue to read for fun as well as assigned books for history.
Sam will continue with reading Bob Books and other simple Dr. Seuss books.
Joseph will continue begging to have books read all day and we'll all take turns reading board books to him, usually two or three at a time.

Emily, Nick, Amber and Samuel will all do Story of the World together with me.  I have planned two more chapters:  The Rise of Prussia and A New World in Conflict.  We'll read, label maps, learn a few German words, color a flag, make wax seals, plant wheat berries and write a story about the Liberty Bell.  I'm hoping to complete this in two weeks.  Wish me luck!

All together we'll study the 5 senses, making paper models and conducting other simple experiments related to taste, smell, hearing, etc. Again I plan on this taking about 2 weeks.  Nature Club starts up next week as well.  And lots of gardening preparation, too.

Music lessons will start up next week so between these plans and the unexpected we'll have a full 5 weeks before summer vacation.

Mr. Sun

Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun
Hiding Behind That Tree,
Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun
Please Shine Down on Me,
'Cuz All of Wisconsin is a Waitin' for You
So Come on and Do All the Things That You Do,
Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun
Please Shine Down on Meeee, Yah!

We sang that song at Girl Scout Camp many years ago.  Any cloudy, rainy day all us 8 and 9 year olds would do our best to invoke the sun to shine.  Today I didn't need to sing the song, the happy little sun came out on its own.  Thank you, Mr. Sun, we've been waiting a while.  One request:  Could you melt all the snow?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Iola Trail Run

After letting Emily down by not registering early enough for the Point Bock Run in March, I frantically looked for another race to enter and ran across this Iola Trail Run.  Running a 5K is completely doable for us and the idea of a trail run sounded like fun.  We've just run road courses in the past.  Online registration only because of its "green" nature, organic cotton shirts and the "no paper cups, bring your own wide-mouth water bottle" statement didn't scare us away.  We were up for the adventure.
You can see it was pretty darn cold and windy that day.  What's with the guy in shorts?  Out of approx. 200 runners he was the only one dressed like that.  The rest were sensible with hats and gloves and tights.  No tights for me.  I stuck with something a little less clingy.
All the racers gathered to hear the instructions.  5Kers should keep the blue flags to their right.  15Kers keep the red flags to your right.  Have fun and oh by the way the 15K is really 9.75 miles instead of 9.3 and the 5K is really 3.5 miles instead of 3.1.  I know it doesn't sound that big of a difference and you're right.  However after all the straight up and down hills it was killer.  Anyway in this picture Emily and I are looking confused because the online registration said the 15K started at 10am and the 5K started at 10:10am, but the guy starting the race didn't make that clear so it seemed like we were all going to start at the same time which is what happened, except for the people standing back by the lodge.  They looked up and realized everyone was gone and then started running to catchup.  I learned that tidbit from Warren who was hanging with the rest of the kids to cheer us on.
And here we are taking off on our first, but definitely not last trail run.  About 1/3 of the trail was double wide cross country ski trails, still snow covered.  The other 2/3 was single track through the woods over fallen trees, under leaning trees, straight up hills, straight down hills, over tree roots and grapefruit sized granite.   To put it in perspective some of the 15Kers came to the 5Kers finishline and said I'm not finishing the race, that was the toughest course I've ever run.  Warren got a little worried about Emily and me, knowing we live in flatland and have never ever run hills like this, but we were having a blast.
Emily crossed first.  I just couldn't get any more speed at the end.  Way to go, Em!
When reading the sign, emphasize "ICE" because that's how the day was, icy cold.
Emily took 1st for her age group and took home the cheese.  A delicious cut of Colby from Oak Grove Dairy in Clintonville, WI.  I took 4th for my age group.  Monday morning we went for an easy 2 mile run and discussed our plan to start running Partridge trail and watch for more trail runs in the future.
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Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Look Around the Yard

Hard to believe it's April 16.  It's turkey week for Warren and Nick.  Feels more like deer season than turkey season.  Warren already tagged a bird, but poor Nick his week's been awful.  First extreme winds and now this:  snow.

And to think today starts our spring break.  We're hoping the snow and cold go away as fast as they came.
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Friday, April 15, 2011


**Trying to post pictures again.  Let's hope it works.
These go with the Kayaking post below.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011


**I wrote this post on Wednesday morning but for some reason Blogger wouldn't let me post pictures.

Enjoying these beautiful days is easy to do after such a long winter.  We got the kayaks out for the first time yesterday.  Seemed everytime I was ready to do lessons someone had snuck off to the pond.  Our schoolwork schedule gets a little upturned on these warm days.  Even I can't bring myself to stay housebound for too long.  It all gets done in between our Vitamin D treatments.

I don't feel bad one bit enjoying the warmth as much as we can because look what we're in for. Rain and slush are forecasted for later this week.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just Another Day

I'm going to share a bit about our day, not because I'm looking for pity, but for your benefit.  I don't think I'm the only one who finds a bit of comfort knowing that other families experience silly disasters.  I'm guessing you've been in a disaster situation and thought "Why Me, Lord?"  Well for your benefit you aren't the only one.  Enjoy!
Our "day" actually started yesterday morning.  Warren got one helluva sliver on Friday.  He's building armoires for the girls and in the process of sanding a 1/2" piece of stained and varnished wood jabbed into the pad of his pointer finger, in one side out the other.  But it didn't go all the way out.  It just poked the skin and then retreated back into the finger pad.  Ouch!!!  We worked on it trying to get it out, but had no luck.  Not sure of what to next he slapped a bandaid on and then went back to sanding.  Fast forward to Monday morning.  The finger is swollen, slightly warm and hurting like _____.  So off he went to urgent care.  Two doctors looked at it agreed it had to come out but didn't want to touch it.  They sent him to a plastic surgeon specializing in hand surgery.  She gave him two options:  1) MRI then removal 2) removal.  He opted for the 2nd option.  Three shots of lidacaine, a cut, and a pull and it was out.  All for an overgrown sliver.  The day continues normally until Joseph knocks the fish bowl off the kitchen table.  Glass, gems, rocks, FISH, water everywhere, everywhere!  We ended up moving the shelf and refrigerator in the clean-up process.  Of course I was in the middle of preparing dinner.  Tuesday started like any other day, a little banana on the floor, soggy grape-nuts left behind on the table, the typical.  But boy did it take a hard turn for the worse.  While sitting at the table with the older kids doing spelling, language and math I heard Joseph playing with the laundry basket.  No big deal I thought, at least he was occupied.  After a few more than a few minutes I went out to check on him and found the bathroom floor sopping wet, him sopping wet and a pile of clothes hanging out from the toilet bowl, lid closed.  Soggy toilet paper strewn about and Joseph soaking wet in fleecey pajamas.  I lifted the lid to find the toilet (which hadn't been flushed) jammed with clothes.  I'm guessing he got those from the laundry basket he was so innocently playing with.  Not the worst thing.  I cleaned it up using enough Lysol to kill all the germs in Wisconsin in February.  Joseph gets a bath.  Now it's just about time for lunch.  Emily makes Kool-Aid and as she's putting it on the fridge shelf she knocks over Amber's milk cup, which of course spills backward running down all the shelves and under the fruit/veggie drawers.  Again we clean it up and start on lunch.  Sam comes in to eat leftover ribs and attempts to get the Kool-Aid out.  Trying to lift the full pitcher and hold his cup at the same time he spilled lemonade down the fridge shelves, dishwasher and on the floor.  Again we clean it up.  We're laughing at the craziness by this time.  No more events at lunch but immediately after when Nick and Amber go to feed the fish somehow the fish food spills all down the book shelf and into Joseph's toys.  All I heard as I headed out the door to get the mail was, "THIS DAY!"  And last but certainly not least, when I got back from getting the mail the washing machine was making an odd noise and after a little investigation realized that we don't have water.  Not a drip coming out of any faucet.  What?  And that's it.  A little bit of our crazy life.  Tomorrow can't come fast enough.

Language Development and Down Syndrome

Hurdles, hurdles, and more hurdles is what it seems needs to be conquered when it comes to Down syndrome.  That's what the therapists, doctors, and books claim.  Low muscle tone, congenital heart defects, cognitive delays, speech delays, Hirschsprung's disease, sleep apnea, astigmatism, hearing loss, hypothyroidism, atlantoaxial instability, leukemia, sensory issues, strong gag reflex, constipation, joint flexibility, low stamina.  Is your brain overwhelmed yet?  Parents of children with Down syndrome can easily get caught up in all the possibilities, it's easy to do.  Yet, our ability to help our children develop to their fullest potential requires us to remain grounded and aware of the "what ifs" but not overwhelmed by them.

Joseph is at the point where he's conquered many hurdles:  inability to maintain body temperature, breast feeding, weight gain, open heart surgery, sitting, crawling, walking, drinking from a cup, using a spoon.  Some were bigger hurdles than others.  Now he's working on communication/speech/language development.  I've mentioned before that we started using the Baby Signing Time DVDs when Joseph was 1.  He began sitting completely on his own 2 weeks after his first birthday and at that time he began watching Rachel Coleman and all the babies sing and sign.  We all learned American Sign Language (ASL) along with him.  He didn't start to sign on his own until around age 2, maybe a bit earlier.  He began with the sign for more and eat.  Then added milk, drink and dog.  He's got quite a signing vocabulary at this point.  Regularly he'll sign the following words.

french fry
thank you
signing lizard which is on the next page

signing bird

Some require a bit of coaxing on our part:  please, thank you and mom.  And to the untrained eye others may be unrecognizable, but we know what he's saying for the most part.  Once he began to sign he also started "reading" books.  It's probably my favorite pasttime, just watching him sitting on the floor with a book.  He especially likes books about animals and vehicles.  He'll babble, turn the page, point, babble some more, sign familiar animals, turn the page, babble, point to the words, repeat until the end.  Then he'll grab another book and do the same.  Love it!  And now most recently he's begun saying a few words.

car - cah
shoes - hoosh
deer - deeh
daddy - da  or dada
eat - ee
fish - ohsh
cookie - key
dog - gah

Still no mama, but I'm confident that by 3 he'll be saying it.  Joseph has a speech therapy evaluation coming up later this week.  Last June the therapist did an evaluation and concluded that she "couldn't do anything more for him than his family's doing already".  I requested another eval just to be sure that I'm not missing anything.  I'm pleased with his speech development (except for the mama thing, what a disgrace) and believe strongly that Baby Signing Time was extremely beneficial to his speech development.  I've read in various parenting magazines that signing is useful in those inbetween months when babies can't talk but can express their needs.  Children with Down syndrome often have a delay in their speech development therefore knowing how to communicate through signs may ease any frustrations that come with a delay.  I don't have any proof of that.  I just know that Joseph is content; if it's because of his signing ability or our (mom, dad, brothers, sisters) increased awareness of his needs, I can't say for sure.  One thing for sure is that signing requires eye contact which aids in communication.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Spring Has Indeed Sprung

Last Monday the entire landscape was covered in snow and ice.  And today it's nearly all gone.  Last Friday, after three good melting days in a row, Samuel and I went for an evening nature hike.  We were gone for over an hour and experienced a great many naturey things.  I didn't want to be accused of documenting every step of the walk so I left the camera at home.  Sam enjoyed our walk immensely and told Dad all about it when home.  Here's what made an impact on him.
Large white lichen on a tree stump
Canadian geese breaking their way through the slushy ice
Bald Eagle flying overhead
Bright green moss on a Birch tree stump
Mole tunnels
Heard our first Spring Peepers
Feather - white with dark gray stripes
He also carried dad's BB gun and I wedged an oak leaf into the bark of a tree for him to shoot off.  Second shot and it was down.  Last year we took part in a Nature Club and look forward to starting that up now that nicer weather is here.

Other nature highlights from the last few days:
*Emily and I heard the Loon early Friday morning on our run.  All the ponds were still covered in ice - Good Luck!
*We got a lot of rain Saturday night which helped the grass green up.  Quite an amazing sight - you go to bed and the yard still looks mostly dead and wake up to green grass.  That was a pleasant surprise.
*Sunday's 80 degree temps really rotted the ice nicely and now today the entire pond is a sea of ripples.

The garden seeds are ordered, rose bushes pruned, leaning apple tree staked and garden gloves all washed and ready for a new season.  And I can't wait.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Two Picture Thoughts

Amber played Antelope Lope and Puff, the Magic Dragon in her spring recital.

Little J learning to dress himself.  By the looks of it he's got a ways to go.  That's his shirt he's wearing as pants.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We've had an unspringy spring so far, but that didn't stop us from learning about maple syrup making a few weeks back.  That was before our spring snowstorm covered everything in ice and snow again.  Anyway the kids (and mom and dad, too) had a great time collecting sap, straining it and watching it boil away.

It really jump started our desire to start making syrup.  We bought all the supplies from a neighbor years ago when she moved into town.  They were pretty serious sappers so we have a giant pile of supplies taking up space in the upstairs garage.  The kids are at an age where they can help, but can also stay behind and watch out for Joseph.  That's what we were waiting for so I can say that most surely we'll be making maple syrup next year.  But until then I'll keep making my homemade fake maple syrup which is much better than store bought syrup (not so thick and stringy)  What is cellulose gum anyway?