York Swirls

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Multiples and Marriage

Hello, Magnolia Readers.

Over the years, I've received a lot of questions about how to manage multiples and marriage.  My twins are a mere three years old, so I don't claim to be an expert.  All I can do is share my own experience and hope that it will help some of you who are in the thick of it with multiples of your own or lots of little ones to care for.

When my husband and I found out that we were expecting twins, we were ecstatic. Our years of infertility were suddenly behind us and we were going to have the precious babies we had always dreamed of. After those first feelings of excitement and anticipation cooled, we began to be a little worried about how to handle our two precious babies. We had already adopted two wonderful children, who were 5 and 6 at the time. We had also had several years of experience as foster parents, caring for up to five children at a time. We knew how to handle a big brood. This would be different, though. We couldn’t anticipate a date they would be returned to their own families. We couldn’t contact the agency if they weren’t a good fit for our home. We couldn’t even call a respite provider for a few days off. We were in it for the long haul.

Our first surprise came about half way through the pregnancy, when I was admitted to the hospital for pre-term labor. We were told that we would give birth to our babies within the next 48 hours and that they would be too small, too weak to benefit from life saving measures. Our sweet babies were going to die. For both my husband and I, it was the worst 2 days of our lives. Against all odds, those 48 hours passed and our babies were still safe within me. Days passed, then weeks while I waited for their arrival in the ante-natal unit of the hospital. I spent 5 weeks on full bedrest in the hospital, 5 weeks on full bedrest at home and then one final week in the hospital before delivering my babies at 34 weeks along.

While physical intimacy was not allowed during this time, my husband and I grew closer as we passed through this difficult period of our lives. My husband took care of the children at home, but found ways to be at the hospital taking care of me, as well. One of my favorite memories is of some of those first few days in the hospital. I was finally allowed to take a shower but had to be very careful to limit my movement. My husband washed my hair, cleaned me, dressed me and then gently combed my hair for me. I knew, then, that he would take care of me, no matter what came our way in life. It was one of the most emotionally intimate experiences of our marriage.

After 11 weeks of bedrest, my husband and I were caring for 2 small babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Our baby boy spent 5 weeks in the NICU and our little girl was there for 8 weeks, before we brought her home with a feeding tube. Those first few months were a blur. Our babies needed to eat every 2 hours and I was pumping breast milk for them both. That gave me about 45 minutes to sleep in between feedings. My husband had started a new job and needed to be 100% each day to keep the job that we all depended on so much, so I was on my own at nights with the feedings and changes. It certainly wasn’t the ideal situation. I would have loved to have had more help from my husband during those first months, but I understood that this was a sacrifice I’d have to make to ensure that my husband could stay employed and that I could continue to be a stay-at-home mom. I had my moments, though. There were times that the overwhelming fatigue would become too much. I would lash out at my husband with brewing resentments over how little he was able to help with the twins. I would sob over my husband’s need for intimacy on days when I was too tired to get a shower or do anything else but care for our twins. Usually, what I needed most, was simply the opportunity to vent my feelings about the day. Once I did so, I found that I had enough courage to make it through the next day.

Then, about 4 months after our twins came home, our lives began to get easier. The twins went longer between feedings. I was able to get a few more showers and I was able to get out in public. My figure began to return and, with it, my self-confidence and my physical relationship with my husband. Conversations no longer revolved around how much each baby ate and what the pediatrician said at the last appointment. We began to reconnect with the world around us and each other.

Looking back at that time, I can appreciate that it was only a short season in my life. There are times when our childrens’ needs trump those of our spouses and we need to accept that our relationship with our spouses will not be what it was in other, less demanding times of our lives. The important thing is, as your children grow older, to use each minute that you get back in your day to strengthen your relationship with your spouse and find ways to take care of yourself, as well. Go back to doing those things that made your marriage great to begin with. Go out on a weekly, or even, monthly date. Compliment your spouse. Flirt with them. Get out of the sweatpants and make yourself attractive for your spouse and yourself. Take time to talk and visit.

As our children have grown older and their physical needs have decreased, we’ve found more ways, as a couple, to spend time together. An early bedtime for the kids is a must. Set a regular bedtime between 7 and 8 p.m. each night, so your children know what to expect. After they’re finally down for the night, spend a few minutes doing whatever you need to do to be ready for the next day, but save the heavy cleaning and chores for later. Take an hour or two to spend time with your spouse. Watch a movie or television shows you have DVR’d. Order some pizza or Chinese food for a late night dinner. Play a game together. Take a bath together. Take some time to be intimate.

With our oldest child being only 10 years old, we have a couple more years before we have a built in babysitter. We have great babysitters that we’ve met through our church. However, we can easily spend more on babysitting than we do on our date with the rates we pay for our large family. With babysitting costs being what they are, we’ve found that swapping babysitting with another family can help us get out more frequently. Though we live far away from our parents, we found that they are always willing to babysit for us when they come into town. Also, we can take advantage of babysitting centers at the gym and recreation center when we go out for a more active date.

We’ve found that, as we deliberately invest time into our marriage, we are not only getting back the loving relationship we began with, we are getting back a better relationship. This relationship has been through hardships, inevitable ups and downs and has come out better and stronger than it was before. We have developed a deeper respect for each other and have come to realize that, as we put our marriage first, our children feel more loved and secure. I am so grateful to be married to my best friend.  I'm grateful that I can call him that after 13 years of marriage.  It is only through sustained, thoughtful effort that I've been able to do so.  It is with the help of my Heavenly Father and a lot of prayer.  I married a wonderful man.  He has been worth every bit of the effort.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Whole Hearted Homeschooling

I've been gone for a long time, I know.  I'm sorry that I've left you waiting. 

We've had big changes around the Magnolia household.  Just last week, we brought our oldest child home from charter school...for good.  Why the change of heart?  Was the education sub par?  No, it was perfectly fine.  In fact, for all their talk of advanced curriculum, Spuds did just fine.  He didn't even blink at the "advanced" curriculum.  Was it behavioral issues?  Again, no.  There was no throwing chairs across the room, cuss words flying, early dating behaviors or bullying going on.  That is certainly part of what turned us off from our local public school.  This charter school was very good at producing good behavior from its students.  It was a variety of less obvious issues that helped us decide that it was time to bring Spuds home.

1.  We were driving 2 hours each day to transport Spuds to and from school.  It wasn't that the school was that far away, but, with the addition of morning traffic and the traffic created by a school of 1300 children and no buses, it was a long drive.  Both Hubby and I were absolutely exhausted.  It was taking it's toll on the younger Magnolia clan, as well.  Grumpy, grumpy, grumpy. 

2.  The charter school was costing us big bucks!  We paid for Spuds' uniform, which could only come from certain dealers.  It wasn't outrageous cost-wise, but it wasn't Target.  We were paying extra in packaged foods for lunch.  We made a lot of things from scratch, but we couldn't do it all.  We were paying over $60 each month in gas, too.  To make matters worse, the school had a premium on all of its enrichment activities.  Twice a week Spanish was $320 for the school year.  To have the opportunity to play in the sports program, it was $130, plus the individual team costs.  To play in the school orchestra or band, there was a monthly rental cost.  That wasn't a huge problem for us, other than the fact that the music teacher selected Spuds instrument for us.  What was their decision, after 2 weeks of observing our son?  Trumpet.  ...No, seriously.  Trumpet.  They obviously didn't take into account the fact that we have 5 children producing a healthy share of noise in our home already.  (It will be recorder and basic piano at home.  Hopefully, I can teach Spuds and PeeWee violin and viola next year.)

3.  We were SICK!  Not just a little sniffle or minor stomach bug.  Six out of the seven of us were sick on our butts for the majority of the 3 weeks in school.  Bebe got croup 3 times.  It was a minor case each time, but it wouldn't be long before we'd end up in the hospital with her again.  Her Autumn bouts of croup are always more managable than the mid-Winter ones.  Booboo ended up with head to toe hives from a virus and still, a week later, has a lingering cough-cold.  Both croup and these agressive hives are capable of being life-threatening to our children.  Bebe, Schmoocas and PeeWee were all preemies.  Booboo and Spuds were early babies, too.  They just don't have the immune systems that other children do.  I know that exposure to germs strengthens the immune system of the average child, but Hubby and I are confident that it will take a few more years before our children are even capable of building a stronger immune system. 

From our brief time back in the public/charter school system, we discovered that we weren't really missing that much.  I think that was what my Heavenly Father wanted me to know.  I think that is why I was allowed to go forward and place Spuds in school.  It wasn't about him.  It was about me and getting this notion out of my own head that we were missing something.  I allowed myself to be influenced by my own doubts and fears.  I allowed myself to listen to the doubts and fears of others, especially in our own extended family.  What I came to realize was that I needed to stick to what I knew to be true.  Our Heavenly Father wanted us to be a homeschooling family.  I have received that confirmation over and over again through the years.  Can I homeschool five children on my own?  No way.  I can absolutely, 100% homeschool my children with the help of my Father in Heaven, with the support of my homeschool friends (both online and in my daily life) and with the support of my wonderful husband, who loves homeschooling almost as much as I do.

So, after a lot of prayer and thought, we brought Spuds home.  He understood our reasons and was fine with the change.  He misses his friends at school, but is adapting quickly to our homeschool day.  We are still dealing with the lingering illness and exhaustion from our time with the charter school, but I'm confident that we'll be back up to speed by next week. 

The obvious question is, "Are we ever going to return to public or charter school?"  Since I can't see all that is ahead of us in the next 16 years, I can't say for sure.  However, I will say that we're planning on homeschooling until our kids graduate from high school.  Neither Hubby or I want to send our children to middle school or high school and we can't imagine sending our younger kids to school and keeping the older kids home.  I think it would be a real detriment to family unity.  Besides, we love homeschooling!  Our kids love homeschooling!  We are so happy to be together again, learning, playing and working together again. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fitting It All In.

This school year, I have the unusual challenge of having one child in charter school.  This school is unique, in that, it does not provide transportation.  So, my husband drives my oldest child to school in the mornings.  I make the hour round trip to pick him up in the afternoons.  With that addition to our schedule, this is how a day in our home looks.

5:30 am Time to exercise, shower, pray, check email, fold a basket of laundry, do a load of dishes, etc.
6:30 am Breakfast and Spuds Dresses for School
7:00 am Family Devotional (We read a page or two of scripture and commentary from Discover the Scriptures: Old Testament and we have prayer.)
7:15 am Spuds and Hubby leave for school and work
7:25 am Finish the Morning Routine (PeeWee and I bathe the 3 toddlers, get them dressed and changed.  We clean up the table, start the dishes and a load of laundry.)
8:15 am Finish devotional.  Do pledge of allegiance, sing a primary song, do copywork or questions from Discover the Scriptures, recite an article of faith, recite memory poetry.
8:30 am  Saxon Math 3 for PeeWee; Little ones play.
9:15 am Table work for PeeWee: Explore the Code, First Language Lessons, A Reason for Writing (handwriting), Building Spelling Skills; Any work not finished during this time is finished in the afternoon.
9:45 am Pack up for outdoor time.
10:00 am Outdoor Time or Indoor Recreation Time (if the weather is bad). 
11:00 am Booboo goes down for nap; PeeWee and I read our Time Travelers: Explorers Lesson and go over the projects.  We also read in Boxcar Children.  We take turns reading alternate pages.  We use the literature study guide for Boxcar Children from Veritas Press.  We use the questions for oral narration at this point, but will be working up to written responses over the next few weeks.
11:45 am PeeWee works on literature and history projects.  Preschool Time. 
12:30 pm Mom cleans and preps lunch.  Bebe and Schmoocas watch an educational preschool video.
1:00 pm Lunch and clean up.
1:30 pm Subject of the Day: M-Spanish, Tu-Music, W-Computers, Th-Geography, F-Art.
2:30 pm PeeWee works on table work assignments.
3:00 pm Leave to pick up Spuds from charter school.
4:00 pm Snack time.
4:15 pm Homework time for Spuds and PeeWee finishes work or reads (if necessary).
5:00 pm Family Cleaning Time
5:30 pm Outdoor Play Time for oldest 2 kids.  Table play for the toddlers.  Mom preps supper.
6:30 pm Supper, clean-up and make lunches for tomorrow.
7:00 pm Older kids take showers.  Get younger kids changed and dressed in pajamas.
7:30 pm Stories, scripture readers, brush teeth and family prayer.
8:00 pm Kids' Bedtime and Mom/Dad Time
9:30 pm Our Bedtime (if we can wait that long).

We adapt this schedule on a few days, as follows:
Tuesday-5:15 pm Soccer
Wednesday-7:00 pm Family Home Evening
Thursday-Homeschool Field Trip Day.  We drop most of the table work and focus on Math, Reading, Spelling, Writing and Geography for our short day.  6:30 pm Scouts

We were exhausted at the end of this week, but this schedule allowed us to get so much done!  It's definitely worth the early start.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My North Carolina

Here it is, folks!  The very best BBQ around.  Not an smudge of red BBQ sauce to be found.  This is pure vinegar, North Carolina BBQ!  Mmmmm.  I love this place.  It doesn't look like much from the outside, but then the best places never do.  This is down-home goodness to a T.  I've been going to Flips, in Wilmington, NC, since my honeymoon in 1997.  My husband's family has been going for decades.  So, a stop here was an absolutely must. 

This was my big kids' first trip to Flips!  Hard to believe, but it's true.  So, how'd they like it?  See for yourself...


Don't forget to add a side of hush puppies and an order of banana pudding.  If I ever had to pick a last meal, this would be it.

My wonderful mother-in-law invited us to stay in her Wrightsville Beach house (just outside of Wilmington, NC) for the week before Fourth of July.  Hubby and I had taken a few trips to North Carolina since we became parents, but never had we visited as a family during the Summer.  Spuds and PeeWee went to Mexico with us when they were 3 and 4 and got in a little beach time, but the youngest 3 had never seen a beach.  As you can imagine, they loved it!  Here's the line-up.

Boo-boo only got a mouthful or two of sand. 

Spuds and PeeWee practiced body boarding and built their sand castles.


Can you see those model genes in Bebe?  She takes more good photos than any other kid in the family.

Schmoocas is my collector.  His favorites are rocks and, obviously, seashells.

Here's the whole family, plus one.  Miss S,, in the pink suit, is Hubby's youngest first cousin.  She helped with the little ones on the sand. 

Here's my brother-in-law, my sister-in-law and Hubby.  They always look like a JCrew ad.  Too beautiful!  Did I tell you that my mother-in-law was a model?  Great bone structure, huh?

Can't wait for our next NC trips.  More later...

Here's my babies!

I know you're dying to catch a peek at my little ones.  At my husband's request, we're not using our real names on the blog.  Instead, I'll substitute our nicknames.  Some names are from Grandpa.  Some of the nicknames are from us.  Spuds is my 9 y.o. son.  PeeWee is my 8 y.o. daughter.  Yep, they're bio siblings.  We adopted them from Denver foster care.  Aren't they beautiful?!  Schmoocas is my 3 y.o. son.  Bebe is my 3 y.o. daughter.  Booboo is my 1 y.o. son.  He chose to stay in my arms, rather than ride on the hayride.  Go figure. 
This photo is from our Primary's Pioneer Day celebration.  There was all sorts of pioneer games, crafts and yummy foods.  There was also a fantastic rope pull.  Too much fun.
More to come...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our Curriculum 2010-2011

Alright, I'll admit it.  I'm a curriculum junkie.  Those catalogs, those beautiful catalogs, are the most read item in my house.  The pages are tattered and earmarked by months of study.  A circle around this item and check by that one.  I have a drawer full of them, waiting for another look through.  I just can't help myself! 
So, how does one choose the perfect curriculum when everything looks like a good idea?  Well, usually (and don't laugh too hard at this one), I load everything into my online checkout basket, cringe at the total and start whittling down the list until my financial and educational priorties are in line.  That way, I'm able to take an honest look at my needs versus my wants.  Not an easy process.
This affinity for educational items started when I was a little girl.  My adopted parents had struggled with infertility for 9 years before adopting me.  So, when I finally came along, they were in parenting overdrive.  There was a lot of love, a lot of time and a lot of stuff.  My parents were particularly invested in my education.  I went to a private Montessori preschool and kindergarten for a whopping $1000/month back in the early 80's.  At home, they had stacks of puzzles, games and educational toys of every sort for me.  My mother still glosses over with a look of fatigue when she retells the stories of how she read me 9 books every night before I went to sleep.  Bless them both for that level of dedication.  I was 8 when my brother was adopted and 13 when my sister was adopted.  By the time they came along, my parents had learned to relax a little and just enjoy.  I'm not sure my brother ever sat still for a bedtime story, to be honest.
Now, as a mother of 5, my home is filled with educational toys, books, you name it.  My mother is not suprised, in the least. This year, as I start with a 3rd grader and twin 3 year olds, I am clamouring for more things to hold their interest and attention.  There is no shortage of great ideas either, especially with all the homeschooling blogs out there.  The key is knowing when the bookshelf and the to-do list are full and bravely saying, "Maybe next year." 

Here's what our curriculum plan looks like for the 2010-2011 school year:

4th grade

Our 4th grade son is starting this year at the local charter school.  Not an easy decision at all, but one made with prayer.  My 3rd grade daughter needed more one-on-one time with me or we had to consider holding her back a year.  She has really struggled with a lot of developmental issues from damage done before she became a part of our family.  We're hoping to bring our oldest kiddo back home by the next school year, at the latest.

3rd grade

Math: Saxon 3 (We are transitioning from Singapore 2A.)
Religion: Discover the Scriptures Old Testament, Discovering the Life of Christ, Scripture Notebooking
Spelling: Building Spelling Skills 2 and 3
Grammar: First Language Lessons and Grammar Practice Simplified
Typing: Jump Start Typing
Literature: Veritas Press and Homeschool Share literature guides
Writing: Just Write 1 and 2, literature-based writing assignments, daily journaling, scripture journaling
Phonics/Vocabulary: Explore the Code 7 and 8
History: Homeschool in the Woods: History Through The Ages and Beautiful Feet Early American History for Primary Grades
Nature Studies: Handbook of Nature Study guide and blog (We're planning a unit on frogs and owls and then seeing what else we can add in.)
Human Anatomy: Christian Liberty Nature Reader 5, Skills For Success: Human Body and Grossology
Earth Science: EduPress Hands On Science: Rocks & Minerals
Geography: Geography Matters: Trail Guide to U.S. Geography, Homeschool In The Woods: United States Maps, United States Cookbook, variety of supporting games and reference materials
Spanish: Spanish Big Book, flashcards and practice with Daddy
Music: Homeschool In the Woods: Hands On History Activity Pack Composer Lapbook, Harmony Fine Arts composer packets, Classics For Kids, Meet the Masters cds, recorder course, Alfred piano course
Art: Usborne I Can Draw series, Harmony Fine Art artist packets


Language Skills: Confessions of A Homeschooler Letter of the Week program, LDFR Happy Phonics, Getting Ready for the Code A, B and C, Letter Factory DVDs and Preschool Prep Co. DVDs, Kumon Letter Wipe Off cards, lots of read alouds
Early Math: Confessions of A Homeschooler Math activities, Kids Learning Station worksheets, Preschool Prep Co. DVDs, BrainQuest Shapes and Numbers, dot to dot workbooks
Fine Motor: lacing, sorting, stickers, cutting, pasting, Kumon Tracing and Mazes
Gross Motor: Yoga Kids DVD, ballet videos, lots of play
Life Skills: dressing (buttons, zippers, laces and velcro), calendar, pick up toys, prepare snack, set and clear table, make bed, "Please", "Thank You", "May I...?" and "I'm sorry."
Crafts: stamps, stickers, playdough, finger paint, coloring, Kumon Easy Crafts
Science: nature walks, butterfly kit and activities, Baby Einstein animal flashcards, frogs and ladybugs
Music: rhythm instruments, Primary songs, Nursery songs
Reading: nusery rhymes, poetry, classic picture books, ABC and counting books

Have you figured out what type of homeschoolers we are yet?  Me neither!  I love Charlotte Mason style teaching but not all of it fit.  My kids did great with classic literature, lack of grades and even some narrating.  However, they became a little lazy in their work without more structure and accountability.  We added in some Classical Christian homeschooling and, definitely, some Montessori method for the preschoolers.  We are constantly evolving with 5 little ones to teach. 
I'll post later about how we fit all of this learning into our busy schedule.  Talk to you soon!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Latter-Day Homeschooling

For those of you who haven't stumbled on to this gem, check out Latter-Day Homeschooling at http://latter-dayhomeschooling.blogspot.com/.  We were lucky enough to find this site in its infant days.  It has been a daily source of encouragement in our homeschooling journey.  Really, there a wealth of inspiration for homeschoolers of all faiths.  Take a minute and check it out.  I know you'll love it!

What's In A Name?

For those of you who know me, I grew up in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  I went back to visit earlier this month with my kids.  There were places and people there that I have a deep connection to, but I was amazed at how much things have changed in the last 14 years, since I left for college.  Everytime I go back, I feel my connection to that place and time grow weaker and weaker.  I still have family there that I love and will want to see, but could I ever move back to that place?  No.  I've made my home in other places.
In 1996, I left for college in the Rocky Mountains.  My husband and I have called the Denver metro area home for a decade now.  We love our home.  We love the people and their friendly demeanor.  We love the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.  We never get bored of the amazing view here.  We hike, we camp, he fishes, he hunts and we love to observe the wildlife here in Colorado.  Are we skiiers?  No, but that will come as our children get older.  We are Coloradans through and through. 
So where does the Magnolia come from?  My husband grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, along the Cape Fear River.  This is my adopted East Coast hometown.  In June, we took our kids there for their first Summertime trip to the Wrightsville Beach, (which is the barrier island across the sound from Wilmington).  They fell in love with this place, just like I have.  The sound of the waves and gulls, the smell of the saltwater, the feel of the warm, soft sand under their feet, the amazing food that can only be found there (thanks to Flips BBQ and Trolley Stop Dogs) and a million other things that make this place absolutely bewitching.  For a short time, my husband and I made our home in this place and owned a cheap little boat.  Some of my favorite memories are of riding through the sound at sunset.  Just gorgeous!  Inland, the plantation and colonial homes are surrounded by towering azaleas and shady magnolias.  Magnolia has to be my most favorite scent in the world.  It smells like the South.  It smells like beauty. 
Of course, this name is metaphorical, as well.  It's what I aspire to be.  The Rocky Mountains are wise, strong, steadfast, immovable.  Magnolias are gracious, elegant and they make everything more beautiful around them.  At this point in my life, I have a long way to go to achieve this high standard, but what a wonderful challenge!  I hope this blog will be a way to chronical that journey, to reclaim my writer voice and to give some perspective to my crazy days as a wife and as a mother of five.  Thanks for joining me.