Friday, June 21, 2013

Five Things For Friday, Family Goat Edition

-1-

We got Jon an unusual Father's Day gift.


A  goat named "Little Red."



About two weeks ago we had FOUR of our chickens get carried away by some foxes (sob). That only left us with three chickens, and since our coop is fairly large we knew that those ladies would freeze this winter without several more chickens to keep them warm. I finally found a lady in a neighboring town who was selling chickens just about the same age as the ones we lost. When we went to go pick them up we  saw that she was also selling some baby goats and lambs.

Oh, man baby goats and lambs are cute.

The kids insisted that Jon would LOVE a goat for Father's Day. It is a running joke in our family that Dad is the "family goat" because he clears the left over food off everyone's plates after dinner. Jon is the opposite of a picky eater, he will eat anything... almost. They also argued that a goat would be a good present because Dad's lawn mower was still broken and the goat could be our lawn mower instead.

Who could argue with that logic?  Besides he was really cute.

So, I ended up loading three kids, 6 chickens, and one goat into the suburban. I really should have gotten a picture of it. Rose up front (because she was scared the goat would eat her hair), chickens and Abe in the middle seat, Asher in the back seat, and a little goat head sticking up in the way back.

Priceless.

The idea was to keep the goat in the barn Friday night and then surprise Dad with him on Saturday morning. The kids made Jon promise that he wouldn't go out to the barn that night, which he promised. Yet later that evening he went out to check on the chickens and came back in with a horrified look on his face.

"Heather!  I can hear a baby crying in the barn. What is in there? What in the world did you get me?"

He looked so confused and so upset that I felt bad for him. To put him out of his misery we gave him his present early. He was definitely surprised that we had gotten him a goat, and maybe just a bit relieved that it wasn't a baby crying in the barn!

Little Red is the sweetest goat.




Though I am afraid the pasture we put him in is a bit much for just one goat to eat. The grass is so tall that we often can't see him until he gets close to the fence. Turns out that goats aren't much at eating grass, mostly weeds. Maybe we should have gotten some of the baby lambs too!

Hmm.... I'm thinking he needs a friend :)

-2-

We had unexpected visitor the other night.


A snapping turtle!

Jon found him crawling through our yard. At first we were totally freaked out. I mean what sort of turtle has a tail like a dinosaur! Really?

A man from our ward, who is "corn-fed" (meaning he grew up in Iowa), was over at our house and he wasn't scared by it at all. He picked the thing up with his bare hands and held it as it snapped and bucked around. Jon tried later to pick it up with gloves on and couldn't even get it off the ground.

It hissed at at us.  

Not a nice turtle.

Asher was afraid it was going to eat our chickens, and I could see his point.


The funny part was that he showed up right before the Relief Society ladies showed up in our backyard for an activity. He was the center of attention for awhile because some of the other women (who weren't' from Iowa) hadn't seen one either.

I am pretty sure the "corn fed" Iowans thought we were wacky.

He was pretty incredible, but I am glad he continued on his way... out of our yard!


-3-

I discovered a wonderful book. It is called "The Splendor of the Temple: A Pictorial Guide to Herod's Temple and its Ceremonies" by Alec Garrard.


I have always wanted to know more about Herod's Temple. It is the temple that was in Jerusalem when Jesus was alive and so much of Christ's life and ministry centers around it. I had tried to find some good resources online but never found anything reliable. Then I came across an article about Alec Garrard's  and knew I had found a jackpot. Garrard has spent that last 30 years making a scale model of Herod's temple and the result is amazing. It fills an entire barn! You can see pictures of it here, or if you click on the "Click to Look Inside" tab in Amazon it will let you read the first few chapters. 

The book is filled with pictures of his model and explanations about the different parts of the temple and what went on there. It is incredible to see the temple come alive with his model and figurines. Seeing what the actual temple would have looked like and learning more about how the temple was used by the Jews has really enhanced my understanding of the New Testament, especially the events surrounding Christ's life.

I would highly recommend the book for anyone that wants to deepen their New Testament scripture study! 


-4-

Rose has a milk allergy, which means that she is allergic to the protein in milk. If she eats or drinks milk it makes her tummy hurt, and if she has too much it makes her throw up. She has done much better the last year or two since we stopped giving her milk, but sometimes it has been really hard on her as well. She seems to feel it the keenest whenever we have ice cream.

Usually when we know we are going to be having ice cream (like for a birthday) we buy her a little pint of Haagen-dazs sorbet, which is one of the only "ice cream" products that doesn't have milk and actually tastes yummy.... really yummy, actually. The only problem has been that I haven't been able to find it (yet) where we live. It is also really expensive.

But I think we might have found an even better alternative. The other night the kids and I were experimenting with making ice cream in a bag. Basically you take a pint bag and add milk, sugar and vanilla, put it inside a gallon bag filled with salt and ice, and shake it for 5 minutes. Voila! Yummy, yummy, ice cream.

I figured we would try the recipe with soy milk just as an experiment.  I wasn't really expecting it to work because soy milk doesn't have cream, but it did! The soy milk turned into really wonderful ice cream. In fact, I think everyone liked the soy milk ice cream better than they liked the regular milk ice cream.

Rose was just thrilled!

I thought I would pass along the tip in case anyone else has a little one (or a big one) with a milk allergy.

Though I will warn you. Once your kids know you can make ice cream that easy they will beg you to make it ALL.... THE.... TIME.

Just a warning.

-5-

A friend invited us to go to a local farm where they have a "U-pick" strawberry patch. It was the neatest place. They had a big field just bursting with the biggest, juiciest, tastiest strawberries I have ever seen. The kids and I had a lot of fun picking them, and we filled up two flats with strawberries to take home to make into jam!

Though I am afraid that Abe mostly just filled himself up with strawberries.


He really made lots of people smile because he had a steady stream of strawberry juice running down his face and was just COVERED in strawberry goop. They really should have made me weigh him along with the strawberries we picked, because about half of them ended up in his tummy! Still, I suppose they just take it into consideration that when you have little kids picking strawberries, some of them are bound to get snacked on. That is half the fun of it, really.



I was surprised that when we were getting ready to leave a college-aged Chinese girl ran up to me with her camera. "You kids so beautiful!" she smiled at me, "Can I take picture?" It seemed really weird to me that she would want to take our picture, but she was so sweet that I couldn't say no.

I guess that seeing three blonde haired, blue eyed kids, with a big pregnant momma, picking strawberries in an Iowa field must have just seemed like the idyllic "American" moment to her.  I really can't blame her. If I was in China and saw three black haired kids, with a big pregnant momma, planting rice in a rice field I'd probably ask her for her picture too. Though it does seem a bit strange to think that we might end up in a scrapbook page somewhere in China.


As she was leaving she thanked me for the picture and then looked at me with a  big smile and said, "You just so happy." 

And you know what?

She was right.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Children's Names

Fourteen was a hard age for me, my parents relationship was rocky, my mom was sick, and I constantly struggled with feelings of low self-esteem.

There were times when I felt completely alone.

Yet, it was in the midst of those trials that I had a great spiritual awakening. It was then I received a powerful testimony that God loved me and was aware of me. It was also the first time I felt the presence of three spirits; spirits that I recognized as my unborn children.  In my mind I called these three spirits, "Asher, Luke and Rose."  Always in that order.

I can't tell you how many times over the next decade of my life those little spirits would give me strength and help keep my mind focused on what was important. They were my spiritual cheerleaders and with them I never felt alone.

When I was pregnant for the first time the thought of those three little spirits weighed heavily on my mind. I was excited to meet one of them, but I didn't really think that I would name my children "Asher, Luke, and Rose." I mean ALL little girls pick out names for their future children but how many of them actually end up becoming the real deal? Not very many.

So as Jon and I talked about names for our little boy "Asher" was on our list, but not our first pick. I actually really wanted to name him Jonathan Luke (and call him John Luke) and begged Jon my whole pregnancy until he finally consented. Yet as I held that tiny infant boy in my arms for the first time my initial thought (besides relief) was, "Oh, no! You are not Luke! Who are you?" 

It was obvious to both Jon and I that his name was not Luke. It took us almost a day to decide on his name, but the more we  basked in his spirit the stronger came the impression that his name was Asher.


My Asher.

When I was pregnant the second time I was certain that I was going to have a boy. I figured that since my "Asher" had  come to me, my "Luke" must be on his way next. So, I was surprised when the ultrasound told us we were having a girl. I made the doctor double check, and even after that I still had my doubts. I was thrilled about the idea of having a girl, but I don't think I ever really believed she would be one until she was finally in my arms. In fact, the very first thing I did when she was born was hold her up and check.

Yep, a girl.

And from that moment on I called her Rose. I didn't even ask Jon. I knew exactly who she was.


My Rose.

My third pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 12 weeks. As I was miscarrying Jon gave me a blessing that my son would be fine and that everything would work out as it should. We were both surprised that he used the word "son" to describe the baby, but he told me it had just felt like the right thing to say.  I struggled afterward with the miscarriage but I never felt a sense of loss. Deep in my heart I knew that my son would be back.

When I was pregnant with Abraham we didn't find out the gender, but Jon never seemed to doubt that we were having a boy.  I felt conflicted. Part of me wanted to believe that what I had felt, that my little boy would come back to me, was true. Yet, the other part of me doubted that it was possible for me to receive revelation like that. So, just in case, I spent the last months of my pregnancy convinced that I was having a girl.

But it was a boy.

As I was holding Abraham for the first time I just assumed that he was Luke. I figured I now had my Asher, my Rose, and my Luke.

Then Jon asked me, "What do you think about the name Abraham?"

"Huh?" That was never a name we had even considered.

Then Jon told me that when he held Abe, just after he was born,  he heard/felt a voice say "Abraham." He had the distinct impression that was this little boy's name.

And you know what, it fit.

It was old fashioned, long, and unusual, but he was definitely Abraham.


I don't know why that is his name but I believe that names are important and that certain ones can carry with them spiritual power. I don't doubt that Abraham has his name for a reason. I also think that this was God's way of letting me know that he wasn't Luke.

That my Luke was still waiting to come.

As I get nearer to bringing this next little spirit into the world I have been thinking alot about my relationship with my children in the pre-existence.  President Joseph F. Smith taught that we made covenants with the spirits who are to be a part of our posterity. He said:
How will a young married couple feel when they come to the judgment and discover that there were certain spirits assigned to them and they refused to have them? Moreover, what will be their punishment when they discover that they have failed to keep a solemn covenant and spirits awaiting this mortal life were forced to come elsewhere when they were assigned to this particular couple?"

Those are pretty strong words.

They make me wonder about my own children. Were they all "assigned" to me? Did I covenant with each of them, or are some of them gifts?

I guess I won't know for sure, but I feel like Asher, Rose, and my future Luke are the spirits that I personally covenanted with. They are the spirits that have been with me from the very start. Getting pregnant with Rose was a definite prompting, we knew that there was another spirit ready and anxious to come to us. After she was born I even remember having a feeling of contentment, like our family was complete. I think I even joked to Jon that we didn't need to have any more because we-- the four of us-- felt whole.

Abe on the other hand feels like a gift. A beautiful, precious, amazing gift. We never got a "prompting" to have him. We simply opened our hearts and let him come.

And that was the best decision we ever made.

Often when I look into this sweet face I am filled with so much gratitude for him; like I can't believe he is mine. Perhaps it is because I know he could have gone somewhere else, but that he didn't. He came to us; a deep and wise spirit who has an important mission on this earth.



Life without him would be lacking in so much.

I can't help but wonder if this next baby is going to be my Luke. Or will it be another gift, another spirit who is coming to us simply because our hearts and our home are open to life?


I guess I won't know until we meet...

....which I am getting excited for. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Matriarchal Order

I want something strange for my birthday.

Basically a box with two big Q-tips

This is the DNA Test for the National Geographic Genographic project. For $200 they will send you two mouth swabs, which you swish around in your mouth, and then mail back to them. With the swab they are able to use your mitochondrial DNA and the DNA from your Y chromosome (if you are man) to trace your lineage back thousands of years. So far the project has hundred of thousands of participants from around the world and they are beginning to be able to trace the genetic trends and migration patterns of ancient people based on DNA markers. The results you get back from your mouth swab should be able to tell you from what individual woman you descended from and where your maternal ancestors moved and migrated to through the centuries.

These videos explains it much clearer than I would be able to do. It is really quite amazing.





If you are interested in more of the science behind the project, this webpage has some great videos.

Maybe I am strange, but I would LOVE to have this done. Here is why: 

If you remember back to your 7th grade Biology class the "Y" chromosome is  only found in males and is the sex-determination gene. If you have a "Y" Chromosome then you are a man, if not you are a woman. This means that the "Y" Chromosome has been passed down since the very first man to all other men living on the earth. Tracing it back can tell a man his paternal lineage. Yet only tracing the "Y" Chromosome gives us less than half the picture of humanity. 

The mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) on the other hand is found in both men and women. The mtDNA it is the "powerhouse" of the cell and is where cells create the energy they need to live.  Scientists have discovered that within the mitochondria there are thirteen genomes that are the life activation sites where-- miraculously-- the cell creates the "spark" that makes life possible. The amazing thing about mitochondrial DNA is that it is ONLY passed on-- to both men and women-- through the mother. Men's mitochondrial DNA is contained in the sperm and it dies before it is passed on to the egg. So the only mitochondrial DNA that both men and women have comes from their mother. This means that by examining their mtDNA every person on earth would be able to trace their maternal lineage back to the very first woman. In fact, this woman is often called by scientists "Mitochondrial Eve." The woman to whom ALL of humanity-- both male and female-- has an unbreakable DNA chain back to.

It just takes my breath away to think about what that means.

It means that within the very first woman, this "Mitochondrial Eve", was given the literal power to  activate life. That as she bore children that life force was passed on to her sons and her daughters in the from of their mtDNA. Then as Eve's daughters began to bear children they passed on the VERY same mtDNA to their children, thus giving them life. Their daughters then passed on that that life activating power to the next generation of women, who passed it onto their daughters, who passed it on and on until eventually that very same mitochondrial DNA (with a few mutations) is what now powers my cells and sustains my  life force. It is incredible to think that I am literally connected in an unbroken chain of mtDNA, through all those generations of women, back to my very first mother.

It is the matriarchal order.

The matriarchal order is the plan, the lineage, the way through which ALL of God's children have, and will, enter mortality. There is no other way to get to this earth than through the body of woman. You just can't sneak in the back door, it doesn't work that way. If you want to come to earth and get a body you must pass through a woman's body into this world, and she must pass onto you those life activating cells. There is absolutely no other way to do it. Furthermore, once you have your body you will forever carry with you that mtDNA, a permanent and real link that seals you into the beautiful tree of humanity.

I loved how author and scientist Bryan Sykes explained his own feelings about this order in his book, "The Seven Daughters of Eve." He said:
" I am on a stage. Before me, in the dim light, all the people who have ever lived are lined up, rank upon rank, stretching far into the distance... I have in my hand the end of a thread which connects me to my ancestral mother way at the back. I pull on the thread and one woman's face in every generation, felling the tug, looks up at me. Their faces stand out from the crowd, and they are illuminated by a strange light. These are my ancestors. I recognize my grandmother in the front row, but in the generations behind her the faces are unfamiliar to me... There are all my mothers who passed this precious messenger [mitochondrial DNA] from one to another through thousands of births, a thousand screams and thousands of embraces of a thousand newborn babies. The thread becomes an umbilical chord." ( In "Eve and the Choice Made in Eden" by Beverly Campbell, pg 47-48
In a similar way all who wish to enter into the Kingdom of God must pass through the patriarchal order. They must become "reborn", as Christ describes it, as the sons and daughters of God through the ordinances of the priesthood, which includes baptism, the endowment and sealings. These ordinances, which are recorded on heaven and on earth, makes it possible for there to be an unbroken sealing link  through all generations. A link which literally makes it possible for us to be reborn into our resurrected immortal bodies, be cleansed from our sins, and enter into God's kingdom.

Really, the goal of all the work we do in our homes and in the church is aimed at having every person who has ever lived on earth spiritually sealed, bound, and connected together all the way back to Adam, just like we are already-- through the process of our birth-- physically sealed to our mother Eve. Understanding this makes everything we do in the gospel so much more clear to me. As author Beverly Campbell said,
"What insight this fundamental connection gives us of the gathering into families in the hereafter and therefore of the importance of genealogy and temple work. How marvelous is the plan of God and His wonderful scales of justice as He places recognition of the linkage of humankind through the mother and the lineage of the priesthood through the father." ("Eve and the Choice Made in Eden" by Beverly Campbell, pg. 48
It is truly incredible when you start to think about it. It makes me want to shout with joy and spread the good news of the gospel from the housetops. It makes me want to stand beside the men in my life and help them honor and use their priesthood righteously; to help them to truly see and understand the marvelous work that God has entrusted to them on this earth. It makes me want to hug the women around me and say, "Do you understand? Can you see who you are? We have the most amazing bodies!" It makes me yearn to search out my ancestors and take their names to the temple. Yet more than anything, it makes my heart swell with joy and gratitude to the men and women who have sealed me into the family of God-- both physical and spiritually. Those men and women who have worked together to forge a matriarchal and a patriarchal order-- endlessly sealing and linking all of God's children together for eternity. 

God has truly designed the work of this earth to be  THE MOST beautiful partnership between men and women imaginable.

Which is why I think it would be really neat to get a little peek at my very own ancient maternal lineage for my birthday.  Even though $200 does seem like a lot for two giant Q-tips. 

A girl can always hope right?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Five Things for Friday, 57th Edition

-1-


The first week we moved to Iowa we had dinner with the Relief Society President and her family. Her youngest daughter took a liking to Rose and ended up giving Rose the stash of plastic dress up shoes she had out grown. Rose was thrilled. She has been begging for a pair of those shoes since her last birthday.  I could never bring myself to buy them. I remember having them when I was little and they were the most uncomfortable, impractical shoes ever. They never stayed on your feet and you had to walk in itty bitty steps to avoid falling over. Not to mention the loud, obnoxious noise they made ,"clip clip clop, clip, clip clop". 

If you don't know what I am talking about, consider yourself lucky. 

Anyway, Rose was thrilled to get the shoes and for the first few days wore them everywhere. After awhile the novelty wore off and I was hopeful she had forgotten about them. No such luck. Several Sundays ago, right before we were walking out the door to church, I heard Rose and Jon having a heated discussion. 

"Rose, you can't wear those shoes to church."

"Why, Dad? The big ladies wear their high heels to church." 

"Those aren't real shoes." 

"Yes, they are. I am wearing them." 

"Okay, we have to go. So you can put them in the bag and wear them after Sacrament for Primary." 

I didn't say anything about Jon's concession and silently laughed as Rose stuffed the hot orange and pink (straight from the 80's) plastic shoes into the diaper bag. 

Fast forward to the end of Sacrament meeting. Abe was acting like a wild banshee in the middle of a beautiful musical number. Finally I stood up to take him out of the chapel and as I was walking out  Rose ran up to me holding the plastic shoes. "Can I put them on now?" her little eyes asked. Not wanting to cause more of a scene than I was already doing I hastily waved my hand, "Yes, whatever."

A few minutes later I was sitting in the foyer with Abe. The musical number ended and I heard a loud, "clip clip, clop, clip clip clop" noise.  I peeked in and there was Rose walking all the way across the chapel towards the foyer in her plastic shoes. Beaming like a queen. 

Oh, dear. 

Later one of the sweet old ladies in our ward told me that she thought that we must have had visitors at church who were clapping for the end of the musical number. 

Nope, just Rose in her shoes. 

Despite all my threats about taking away her dessert and making her sit in the car during primary she still made the trek from the chapel to the foyer three more times.... just to hear her shoes make that noise. 

And I guess to make sure that the whole ward saw her fancy high heeled shoes. 

Trust me they did!

-2-

I had an a ultrasound this week and we got to take a peek at  Baby Sam (her  womb name). Everything looked healthy and good!   Jon really enjoyed not knowing the gender last time and so we didn't find out again this time.  But it was nice to get a peek at the baby and to make sure that everything is developing how it should.

They can take the most amazing pictures now with ultrasounds. They are so detailed! It was amazing to see this little baby's face.


Sometimes it boggles my mind to think that I have a little person with a face, heart, hands, hair and toes living inside of me. It is completely amazing, while at the same time being completely bizarre. It will be really sweet to meet this little person!


-3-

Several years ago on my family blog (which I have since abandoned) I shared the following post: 

Do you remember her from your childhood?

(well, depending on how old you are)







Elmyra Duff from Tiny Toon Adventures

The animal loving little girl who, when she could catch one, would squeeze a cat or dog to death and say things like:


"I'm gonna hug you and kiss you and love you forever "

or

"I love cats, I love kitties, squeeze them into itty bittys!"

Well I just happen to have a chicken loving and squeezing "Elmyra" at my house





Asher has really become quite talented at the art of chicken catching and when he catches one he doesn't want to let it go. He gets so excited that he finally has one (it usually takes him awhile to catch one) that he goes a bit crazy on the loving and squeezing. He also likes to carry them around and rock them like babies. The poor chicken in these pictures is the one who seems to gets caught the most by him. I think she just gets tired of running and gives up. I'm amazed that she has made it out of his grasp so many times alive and with... most... of her feathers.

She is a really patient chicken.





This chicken chasing fetish probably isn't great for our chicken's mental health, but it is really hard to keep him away from them or to get him to put them down once he has them. The other day I had to chase him around the backyard for 10 minutes before he would put one of his "chicken captives" down. I'm sure I looked like a lunatic chasing after a giggling toddler with a squawking chicken under his arm and yelling "Drop the chicken, do you hear me! Mommy said DROP THE CHICKEN!"

I'm glad our neighbors work during the day.



Oh, isn't he so cute? Asher was just about the same age as Abe is now in these pictures. Time goes by so fast.

But children really don't change all that much, sometimes...





Asher is still very much our "Elmyra" and I haven't been able to decide yet if our chickens love him or are terrified of him. For the first few weeks we had them in the chicken coop they would bolt to the furthest corner of the coop and huddle together in a trembling group whenever Asher would open the door. Yet, lately they seem to enjoy his presence a lot more. Maybe they really do love all the snuggling, petting, wagon rides, and attention Asher gives them. He spends a lot of time out there with them, and-- I am tentatively happy to report-- he is well on his way to teaching his little brother how to be a first class chicken catcher.




-4-

We have yet to get our riding lawn mower to work. Turns out that it had a lot of things wrong with it. Hence, the dirt cheap price. Go figure.

Our yard has about an acre and a half of grass to mow and with all the rain we have been getting our yard was beginning to look like a jungle.

Literally.

Abe would walk in the grass and we would loose him.

I have never seen grass grow so tall, so fast, before! It took Jon a few days but he eventually fixed our push mower and took a whack at the grass. It looks much better now, but it is growing fast again!

Jon hasn't yet given up hope on trying to fix the riding mower, but I have my doubts.


Either way, these three boys have sure had a lot of fun working on it in the evenings. I don't know how much help the two small ones have been, but they sure love to be with their dad.

Abe's favorite place to play. I think he likes sorting through all of Jon's junk!


-5-

Iowa has a really great homeschool support network. Most of the school districts actually have a homeschool assistance program that organizes field trips, activities, classes and buys curriculum for homeschooling families. I have been so impressed with all the support there is here. It has been really nice to have someone hold my hand and walk me through the whole process of starting homeschooling.

I met with the director of the homeschool program here a few weeks ago and she helped me pick out some curriculum choices for Asher for Kindergarten.  Asher is a VERY visual learner and so I have tried to find activities and teaching approaches that would appeal to him more. Rose is not far behind Asher and so in most things (besides math and reading) she will do the same work as him.

So far this is what my plan looks like:

Reading: We are going to try out the Sing, Spell, Write, Read curriculum. As well as doing the Montessori Pink Reading Series. I also have a long book list of books to read a-loud together this year. 

Handwriting: Asher is already pretty good at writing, but I found these Draw Write Now books that have art lessons and handwriting practice combined. I am hoping he will really like them!

Math: We are going to try out the Horizons K curriculum. I also have lots of math manipulatives that I plan to use as visual aids. I would LOVE LOVE to have a full set of the Montessori Math beads, but they are $350 (at the cheapest) and so I got a set of base 10 blocks that I think will get the same idea across.

History: I don't have a whole lot planned here because mostly I want to focus on teaching my kids their family history. Ideally, I would love to get a book together that had pictures, facts and a story about some of their ancestors. But we will see if that comes together. They might just have to settle for hearing the stories and looking through photo albums. 

Geography: I am really excited for these activities. I have a Montessori Geography curriculum I got as a free download (though you can buy it here now) and am putting together continent boxes with objects, pictures, stories, activities, crafts, music, etc from each continent. I plan on spending several weeks studying each continent.  I also ordered a landforms lapbooking set to try out. I've never done lapbooks and so I thought I'd see how the kids like them.

Science: We are going to focus on studying animals this year.  Mostly I just plan on going on lots of nature walks with the kids and writing and drawing about what we see. I  have a good list of books to get from the library about different animals. I also ordered a frog hatchery kit, an owl pellet dissection kit, and bird identification supplies which should be a lot of fun.

Art: Asher is really interested in art, and really has a talent for it. That boy spends at least an hour or two every day just drawing pictures. We burn through a lot of paper around here. I was super impressed with the Artistic Pursuits courses and even though Asher is probably ready for Book 1 I chose to get the pre-school book 1) because the art supplies were cheaper and 2) then he and Rose can do the projects together. If it goes well then we will move on to the other books!

Religion and Character building: We are going to keep having our daily family devotional and continue doing my Mom's MTC lessons. They have been going really well for us and my kids look forward to them. The best part is that I can see that focusing EVERY day on a certain virtue really has had an impact on them. They remember things we have talked about and I can see the little wheels in their heads turn as they figure things out! 

That is my tentative plan. We are going to start our school early (probably July) because Baby Sam is due the start of September and I'd like to have a good routine and schedule set before I add another little one to mix. Also if we start early then I can take it easy for a few months after the baby comes and not feel bad.

That is the idea at least.

In all honesty I am a tad bit terrified. I feel like I am about to jump off the third platform at the swimming pool. I feel totally inadequate and overwhelmed.  I worry that my kids will be totally bored, that we will all hate each other by the end of every day, that nothing I plan will go well, and that I am crazy to even attempt this. Yet, there is still a part of me that has faith that I (we) can do this and that things might just work out. I know that this is the right path for our family right now, but that isn't really making it any less scary. I figure we will just take it one semester at a time and see how things go.

Still, any encouragement or suggestions for jumping into the first year of homeschooling (especially with a new baby and a toddler) would be highly appreciated!

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!