Saturday, December 2, 2017

Warm Winter So Far

Although, I guess it's technically still autumn, isn't it. We've had a couple of days of jacket weather, but it's mostly been the air conditioner that runs around here.

Boerne had a Christmas evening deal going on. It was super crowded, so we just walked around a bit and then went to Dairy Queen for a snack. Liz drove home so she could get some night driving hours in (you have to have 20 hours of day driving and 10 hours of night driving before you can get your license). 

"Snow" in Boerne. 
I think Elizabeth is the only one who remembers anything about real snow. 

Santa Clause waving from an upstairs window.

There were a lot of solo and duet instrumentalists outside the shops along Main St. 

Look how bright and sunny it's been around here! 
This Lantana bush was full of butterflies. 

And a bit of nature around our house. 
I sit on the floor of the garage to do school with the kids individually. The garage door is up so that we can enjoy the outside. We throw out little handfuls of birdseed and listen to the sparrows and grackles peck, peck, pecking while we school. 

I just put a teensy picture here because it's a little gross. But it's also fascinating. We saw what looked like a palmetto bug taking a bite out of this long white grasshopper-looking thing. Later on when I came outside, the white bug had resumed the shape of a palmetto bug and was eating its brown shell. So it had been in the process of molting when we first saw it. So weird. It had really looked like a grasshopper, minus the jumping legs. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving at Home

It was just Phillip and I and the kids at home this year for Thanksgiving. Consequently, I didn't go crazy with food prep. And I paid more attention to food prep than to taking pictures, so there's slim pick-in's in that regard. 

I wanted to make a recipe from the Cook's Illustrated magazine that I receive, and brussel sprouts won out. I've learned to like this tiny cabbage-like veggie. I was just telling my mom on the phone yesterday that I used to surrepticiously rid my plate of the brussel sprout when I was a kid. There weren't many foods I didn't like, but brussel sprouts and grapefruit juice were two of those that I distinctly remember sneaking to the garbage. But this year, this dish was just for me. No one else wanted to be near them.

Burnt dessert. 
It's a cherry bar dessert. And it actually didn't taste burnt at all. Just a little toasted. I'd definitely make this again, minus the "toasted" part.

We each had our own little Cornish hen this year! I used to enjoy making these for Phillip and I when we were first married. But then we decided it was a little more work than it was worth and a little messy too. But I wanted the kids to have memories of having their own Cornish hen, so I decided to do it this year. Hard to think about, but Elizabeth may be leaving home in a couple years, so if I want to make memories with all my children under one roof, I have this time now to do that.

Phoebe helped me prep the hens. She enjoyed reminding everyone as they were served that she'd "had her hands all over those things!" I'm sure her siblings loved the thought.

Harrison hasn't watched Shane since he was a baby, so we had a Shane viewing in the afternoon. Good movie. Highly recommended.

We talked Phillip into a game of Monopoly (there are few games we can talk him into). Jonathan and I were out first. Phoebe and Phillip battled it out, and Phoebe was at last the victor. 

Elizabeth worked on two cookie orders she has to fill this weekend. The avocado sugar cookies are for Avocado Cafe where she works. They're pretty cute!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Austin Weekend

This is not Austin. 
This is the kids adventuring down the dry Cibolo Creek-bed at Evans Street so Liz could get some photography practice. There was a colorful newly-vandalized train bridge foot that she used as a background. Also, it's just kind of fun to explore a dry river bed. I'm not sure why, but Texas seems to have a lot of distinct layers in its river rock. Lots of sea creature shells and fossils imbedded there. Lots of dinosaur bones discovered. History and science and exploration.

Some friends from New Braunfels had the Gore's and the Casey's over for lunch. Lots of kids and lots of fun. Their home had metal/country decor that I quite liked. 

Harrison for Halloween.

Phoebe for Halloween. 
They used their costumes from last year, which delights me to no end, because #thriftiness. 

Phillip's parents were passing through on their way down to winter in south Texas, and they indulged us with a weekend away to Austin while they watched the kids. We stayed in a tiny house from AirBnB. I don't think I'd want to live in a tiny house, but it was fun to try one out for a weekend.

The capital of Texas. 

I just had to try out a food truck since Austin has a lot of them. But I wasn't hungry when we were nearby a street of food trucks and the food costs a little more than I wanted to pay when I'm not hungry. So I settled on a cherry slushie so that I could at least say I bought something from a food truck. Was it worth it? .....sigh.... I'm just not sure.

This picture is to commemorate by husband's awesome patience and persistence in getting me to Bat Bridge on Congress St. We drove around probably for a good hour looking for parking. We were going to take a boat tour, but there was absolutely no parking available around the area. We drove in circles and finally found some parking a little ways away. We walked down to the bridge. And someone walking in front of us was saying that the bats don't always come out..... And the bats may have migrated already.... And, you guessed it, there was not one bat that showed its cute little mosquito-eating face. But, just so I wouldn't feel so foolish, I took a picture of all the other people standing on the bridge waiting with us.

Here's what it should have looked like: 
Photo from Austin City Guide.

Detail from our tiny house in Austin.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pumpkin Fun

I hadn't even considered pumpkins this year. 

Jonathan piped up one day and said, "When are we going to get our pumpkins?" 

Me: "Oh, are we getting pumpkins this year?"

And so we went to get pumpkins.

Jonathan farmed out his pumpkin-innard-scooping to some neighbor kids. They all seemed to love squishing the stuff with their fingers. I've heard there's actually a connection between squishing things (mud and such) and catching on to math. I'll have to check on where I heard that.... If it's true, then pumpkin carving is a great activity for the kids!

Harrison's pumpkin sports a mustache and some cat ears. And one gangly tooth.

JS is for Jon Solo ~ Jonathan's username for one of the games he play and also his logo for his YouTube channel. 

Phoebe's is dark because she is not yet finished. But I believe she's put a Star Wars symbol on there so far. The mums were a gift from Ms. Monica. She bought me two pots of mums and I love them. 

Roasted pumpkin seeds. 
These are plain salted and then we made some sweet and spicy ones also.

I just love these things all together. Very autumnal. 
My coffee mug and Elizabeth's yarn bowl that Aupa made her and a burnt orange yarn that she's making into a glove, I believe. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Encouragement for Moms of Late Readers

We've made some leaps and bounds this year in the area of reading ability. It's been a struggle -- mostly internal for me; mostly external for the girl. (We had very little teasing about late reading {came from neighbor kids; not siblings}, but it was enough that I realized how much worse it would have been in a classroom setting where comparison is built into the system.) My hopeful thinking that reading ability is unique to each child's maturation has been (experientially, at least) vindicated, so I feel I can share our story: 

More and more studies are being done on connections between the brain and reading abilities. The findings confirm that kids run the gamut on the age that their brains are ready for the different stages of reading. Kids become fluent readers once the pathways between both hemispheres develop. Physical activities such as playing in the mud, cutting with scissors, sweeping with a broom and playing ring-around-the-rosies are all helpful in maturing the brain. Reading to your child from a variety of styles (stories with pictures, stories without, poetry) helps them imagine a story and learn to rhyme. Once they show interest in letters, you can playfully teach them how to recognize and write. All these things prepare a child to read. Even so, children's brains are not the same and there is no settled age for the different stages of reading. 

My four kids have all had unique approaches to reading readiness. The eldest became interested in reading at age 7. Dad bought her an American Girl series and she quickly read them all (though she tells me now that she skipped the words she didn't know, which were quite a few!). She was hooked on reading from then on. She's an active girl who always has a project going on; math is not her strongest ability. 

Second child was not as quick to learn to read. He did reading lessons fine but wasn't excited or eager. At 13 he still doesn't choose to read for pleasure, but he handles the school readings assigned to him. He likes Lego, computer games and watching science/nature videos.

The youngest is 7. He also seems to be of a similar level as his brother. He is progressing fine through reading lessons, but he's not super excited by them. He prefers to read from a simple book rather than do a word-building lesson. He had a hard time paying attention to audiobooks last year. (I didn't expect him to; but I wanted him to listen to get some practice for later years. I just can't do all that reading aloud anymore!) This year he gives much better narrations from audiobooks, and he cried when Heidi came to an end. He is often lost in his imagination ~ thinking of stories or playing a character.

My dearest Phoebe, the third and truly middle child, is the one whose story encourages me at this moment. Because for a while there, I did not know what to do for her. We did brain exercises, Dad had to take over teaching the alphabet after I'd tried for several years, we dabbled in different reading programs, I would voice my concerns to others which usually ended with a new program recommended and me feeling like a failure. In my heart, I felt she would be just fine and would pick it up when she was ready; but I also felt so much pressure from the outside world to have my child on par with "standards."

Well, this is the year Phoebe has launched herself into the printed world. She started reading the Harry Potter series this fall and is on the 5th book right now. Hundreds of pages read in a week. On her own time. This is an amazing thing for me to witness and I. am. thrilled!

Two years ago she labored through a Magic Treehouse book over the summer when Dad offered an incentive. Last year she read books like "Green Eggs and Ham" for the summer reading program. And this year, at age 11, she's doing the Harry Potter series (4,224 pages!). 

This has not come from special programs or instructions or even brain exercises ~ at least that's my opinion from my observations. This has come because she was finally physically ready. 

There were several things I noted from The Struggle though:

  1. Don't push or nag or make reading lessons a horrible, tear-inducing drudgery. Surprise, surprise - that doesn't help anything.
  2. Do keep teaching reading. Progress is key, not arbitrary deadlines. Slow and steady. Back off if needed, but don't quit.
  3. Keep variety in your lessons. When she was a little older, we used Delightful Reading which I had written for Jonathan (there was only one kit at that time; now there are two for the younger years as well). We used several other programs in her younger years. We also just read from simple living books quite a bit.
  4. If a word is unknown in the course of the child reading aloud, just tell them what the word is instead of having them drag it out and get frustrated. I think it's important for them to enjoy the story and have some success in a timely finishing. If you're telling them every other word, you may want to try an even simpler book next time.
  5. Do anything verbal/reading related that interests them. Phoebe wanted to enter a story contest last summer and won third place with a cash prize. It was a victory for her. She also listened to copious Librivox recordings over the past years: Anne of Green Gables, The Little Princess, and the like. Her teachers in Sunday School made time for each child to read aloud from the Bible if they wanted to; Phoebe said that she was a little embarrassed to try, but she was determined to read for them. 

And so we forge on with school. Figuring out a problem. Stepping back. Praying. Trying something new. Remaining calm. Encouraged when at last there is a break-through; but not detrimentally pushing the child to that break-through until they are ready. I knew you would get there, Phoebe. We just had to give it time.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Passed Through Beaumont

Mom and Dad were in Louisiana, so the kids and I made a very quick trip over to see them. We are always happy to head East on I-10 because we pass through Beaumont and usually get to stop and see Liz' camp friends. 

This time we saw what Hurricane Harvey had done to the area. We did not see anything like this in Houston (granted, I don't think we were in the part of Houston that had flooded). But both sides of the streets in their neighborhood and throughout town were laden with flooded belongings and housing material. Our friends had had 5 1/2 feet of water (sewage water) in their home. Their church that they had evacuated to had also suddenly begun to take on water and their vehicles were lost in that flooding. They stayed with another family for three weeks and have now found a place to rent while they reconstruct their home. 

Elizabeth is doing a cookie fundraiser for their home. She has lots of orders to fill this week, but once it settles down, I'll post her blurb so my peeps can participate if they wish. You can also simply donate to the Goebel's if you would like to help them rebuild their home. Their PayPal email address is They (and many others from their church) have been amazing friends to Liz; we kind of like them. 

Strangely enough, I got no pictures of the kids with my parents. My phone kept dying on me every time I thought to take a picture. But we had a picnic with them at Girard Park in Lafayette. We sat together at church on Sunday. And we had lunch with Mr. Wallace and Mrs. Aline Hebert and family after church. We got to see my cousin's baby who had had surgery when she was born. My mom has been helping them take care of the baby. The kids were smitten with her. She was so precious. No tears the whole time we were there! 

We stopped at Lake Charles (the actual lake, not just the town). Liz has been wanting to every time we pass by. I thought, "What the heck? Let's do it." So we waded for 12 minutes and then washed our feet and headed back down the road toward home.