Friday, August 24, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, we drove to the Indiana Dunes for a very special reunion! We met up with Jeb's best friend Tariku and his family. Jeb and Tariku were best friends in Ethiopia, part of a trio. The third musketeer is STILL waiting in Ethiopia...but we're hoping for good news in the next couple of weeks!

Jeb talks fondly of all of the boys from his orphanage 'class', but there is a definitely brotherly love that he has for Tariku and 'A'. They talk about each other all the time, and it breaks my heart to think that 'A' has been thinking about them and missing them with no contact with them. Tariku and Jeb miss him terribly as well, Jeb often makes a plane out of legos and tells me that he is going to pick up Tariku and they are going to Ethiopia to get 'A' together. We have been able to skype with Tariku and 2 other children who are home, and it was so fun! It is weird to hear them all speaking English now, and so nice to see them settled into their families.

Tariku's mom and I planned this reunion earlier this summer. She discovered that the Indiana Dunes are exactly between us, 3.5 hours each, which is very doable! We all packed a bunch of food, they brought a little grill, and we left early in the morning to get there before lunch.

When the boys saw each other, they laughed, ran toward each other, and hugged. Then they went about exploring each other's cars and the things they brought. Jeb had put a bunch of toys in his backpack to show Tariku, and as he took each item out to show him, Tariku nodded with interest. It was like no time had passed for them, they didn't need any time to get reacquainted, they were just hugging and holding hands and doing all the things that little boys do.

Like sword fighting with sticks. I love the way the boys are fighting, and the girls are standing there with their dolls, wondering what they are doing!

One of my favorite pictures ever!

It was the first time for all the kids to be together at once, but they hit it off pretty fast! Our kids are 2, 3, and 4, and their kids are almost 2, 3, and 4.

Sliding down the dunes

Vivi got to the sand, and laid in it. She probably still has sand in her hair...

Jeb and Tariku's sister Lydia became a little couple early on in the day. They kept holding hands and walking off together. Tariku was a little jealous-we'll have to see how that pans out when they get older!

Eric tried to run down the dune...

After the dunes we went back to our picnic area and the dads entertained the kids with some Olympic races. Then the dads competed in Olympic children-hurdles


Journey and Asher developed a sweet little friendship that day too! They kept smiling at each other and standing together. One time Asher fell and got hurt and his mom asked if he needed a kiss. He said "yes" and leaned over to Journey for a kiss!

Everyone had a blast and it was very hard for the boys (and the parents!) to say goodbye for now. I will be forever thankful that they live a mere 7 hour drive from us and that we were brought together in such a miraculous way so that the boys will get to grow up together and can remain friends. I hope we can see them all again very soon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Alphabet book, the beginning

Last week we started our homeschooling in full swing. We got the curriculum at the end of April and the kids were so excited to jump right into it. We were very relaxed about it, only doing it on the days we were home. Jeb had class at the enrichment hub on Fridays and we had a lot of play dates and doctor's appointments, so there were a lot of days we just didn't worry about it. We also had 3 weeks of VBS at our church and our friends' churches, so we held off those weeks to let everything soak in, and to reinforce the lessons he was learning at church. I'm glad I did it the way I did because it let us experiment with different ways of doing things, different times of day, etc to find out what works best for us, and how they learn. Week 10 of the curriculum gets a little heavier on reading material, including a letter of the week, starting with A. I've also added some more books, workbooks, and activities to the schedule to round it out a little more and make it work better for us.

Jeb has been really interested in learning to write letters, and a couple of weeks ago he saw a girl his age reading letters from a store sign and got really excited about the fact that knowing letters lets you read things outside of the house! He has been working double time to figure out what all the letters look like, and LOVES doing worksheets and any kind of paperwork that seems like a big kid school thing to do, so I decided to make an alphabet book with him that he can add to every week while we go through this unit.

Originally I thought the book would have 26 pages, one page per week. But he loved the first page so much that we ended up doing a page each day last week, and I was able to write up a lesson plan that we can carry on through the rest of the weeks that will help him learn his letters, add to his book, and work on some other skills like patterns, cutting, and handwriting.

Here is day 1, using halved apples to stamp a big letter A. This was a big hit, as most things involving paint are!

On Tuesday, Jeb used a washable stamp pad and made finger prints all over a paper, and I drew on legs, antennae, eyes, and smiles to make them look like happy little ants. I typed 'A is for Ant' on the paper.

On Wednesday, I used this website to give him a paper with the letter A, and another paper with pictures that start with the letter A. His job was to cut all the pictures out, and glue them onto the paper with the A.

On Thursday, he did a coloring page with an apple tree and a little paragraph about apples. He was only mildly excited about this, he's not really big on coloring, but he was excited to add another paper to his book!

And on Friday, we had 2 projects. I had drawn some pattern exercises on a pice of paper using different variations of a red apple, a green apple, an acorn, and an ant. Most of them were simple a b a b a b patterns, but a couple were trickier. He did great, only missing one, and he is really good at drawing something he sees.

On the other side of that page, he practiced writing the letter A a few times without the lines from his dry erase practice book.

Jeb is insanely proud of his alphabet book-he even slept with it a few times in the past week! And wants to show everyone he sees. He was actually bummed over the weekend when I tried explaining what a weekend is and why we don't homeschool on the weekends, and couldn't wait to start the new letter on Monday. We actually ended up having to read some educational books to him at the usual time of day because he really wanted to 'have homeschool' every day :)

Quiet time activities

Jeb has officially outgrown naps, and Vivi really needs to stop napping so that she goes to bed at night. Journey can sometimes go without, but usually needs a nap. And I like my hour+ of quiet time to myself every day! The problem we were having though is that Vivi, when left alone in her room with her books, kept falling asleep, then being up and crazy all night, and Jeb's imagination leads him to playing and getting loud, sometimes waking Journey up in our room.

So off I went to pinterest to browse for activity ideas to keep them quiet but busy during 'quiet rest time', with the idea that I can keep these activities separate from their day time toys and use on a rotation, each kid getting a couple of activities every day so that they stay fresh.

Unfortunately I can't find where I first saw the idea for the felt activity, but I made 2 sets of fun mini felt boards. The blue rectangle is a half sheet of felt, so it's pretty small. I keep it, and the shapes to go with it, in a quart sized ziploc bag. I made a sheet of grass and some other basic shapes, with the house in mind, but later when Jeb and I were playing with it we used these shapes to make a truck, as well as some abstract art. Jeb LOVES this 'toy', and the past few days he has practically begged to go into his room for quiet rest time. Since taking this picture I cut a few more shapes, and brought them to church on Sunday for the girls (who are on a Sunday School boycott) to keep them quiet and busy so we can listen to the sermon. We sat next to a mom and daughter who was having a hard time sitting quietly, so I pulled out one of the felt boards and passed it to her. Vivi and I would make a picture, and A and her mom would make a picture, then we would show each other. We got creative and I got some more fun ideas from the other mom, and picked up some more felt to add to it. I'm also excited to change the shapes up seasonally-orange pumpkins in October, white circles for snowmen in winter...

This activity is based off of an idea from the blog The idea was to use a colander, but we were at Ikea and saw this neat little utensil holder for $3. I like it more than a colander because the shape seems better for little hands, and it is easy to stretch the pipe cleaners from one side to the other. This is one of Vivi's favorites. I also have a baggie of just pipe cleaners and let them each have one in the car on a long drive. We have used them to make shapes, silly faces, letters, and jewelry. Not bad for 87 cents for 25 of them at Hobby Lobby!

I have a few more ideas and I'm slowly building up a collection of fun, budget friendly quiet time toys, hopefully I'll be posting more soon!
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Monday, August 6, 2012

July catch up! Jeb's hospital stay

The day after our anniversary adventure, Jeb seemed to be feeling a little off, he didn't eat much breakfast and was really glum looking. By mid afternoon he still refused to eat or drink and looked awful, so I figured he was dehydrated and took him to the local urgent care to be checked out. They did a couple of tests and said that he definitely is dehydrated, but they aren't experienced with children, so they sent us off to Children's Hospital. Eric dropped Jeb and I off and kept the girls with him, and we got checked in, and had some more tests done. Nothing had come back conclusive but because he was so dehydrated with a high fever, they wanted to keep him overnight. He got an IV for fluids and an antibiotic, and we watched the same Dora the Explorer movie 4 times while we waited for a room to open up. Jeb mostly slept, but wanted the movie on, since movies are a special treat. 

Because they thought he had a virus but weren't sure what it was, we ended up in a private room, which was so nice! Eric had taken the girls to his parents for dinner and to play, then went home to pick up a change of clothes for me and some things to do. Jeb slept most of the night, but had perked up just a little the next morning. He got to see a big group of student doctors when the rounding doctor came in to talk to us. He asked Jeb how he was feeling and when Jeb weakly said "good", all of the female students said "awwww!" He got spoiled by the nurses who tried to take some blood but couldn't get it and had to start all over again with a new vein. They promised him toys and he made sure they kept their promise. 

At breakfast time I told him how the menu works, and suggested some breakfast foods he usually likes. He shook his head and said he only wanted soup. Luckily they make everything on the menu at all times of the day, so he got his chicken noodle soup. I also ordered him some scrambled eggs with cheese and a banana, 2 of his favorites, and some juice. Then we turned on the tv and he watched some PBS shows. The benefit of having an older child in the hospital-he let me leave for a few minutes to run to the cafeteria and get some breakfast for myself. My one big complaint about Children's Hospital is that they don't feed the parents, if we want to eat we either have to leave our kids to go get food, or leave our kids to go buy vouchers so we can order off the menu.When the food came, he tasted the soup, tasted the eggs, then asked me to put the eggs in the soup. I did, and he ate a lot of it. A little weird, but it got him to eat!

The nurses were all super nice, and Jeb was beginning to regain some strength and start to really enjoy his stay in the hospital. He started walking to the bathroom by himself, pushing his IV cart in front of him, and figured out the controls that make the bed go up and down, which he did over, and over, and over :) A library cart came by with some books for kids and magazines for moms, and she told us that we could go to the hospital library and borrow books and dvds. After lunch, Jeb perked up even more and was able to walk down to the library. He picked a couple of movies, and when we got back, he was delighted to find that someone had switched his plain white pillow case for a brightly colored one with pictures of vehicles, animals, and toys on it while we were gone. Later that afternoon, we went down to return our movies, and get some new ones, and around that time we were also informed that they still didn't know what was wrong with him, so they wanted him to stay for another day or 2.  He did not like to hear that, and was getting really antsy, climbing around on the bed and examining his IV to see how to unhook it. He wanted to go home. 

Eric and the girls came up to visit again and they all piled on the bed to watch the movie that was on. With his sisters there, he started acting like his normal self, and we decided to push the doctors a little to get them to let us out. The first guy was going to make us sign AMA forms, but then he reported back to his boss who said it wasn't that big of a deal, we could go home with our prescription for an antibiotic.

The next few days, we took it easy, but he was pretty much his normal self by the next day. He has been fine since, and after getting the call from the hospital that it was a bacteria that made him sick, we have been working harder on not touching things that we don't need to touch (public floors, toilets, etc) washing our hands when we touch those things, and not putting our hands near our face. With the power being out that week and the temperature hovering around 100, we had been to every germ infested child play place in town, so I'm sure he picked it up at one of those places. So gross! But we all survived, and we're hoping to finish out the summer without any more hospitalizations! I say summer because Journey does have a hospital stay in October to monitor her for seizures. But no surprise visits!

Vivi was almost a race winner!

We went to an Olympic themed party over the weekend that was a fundraiser for God's Littlest Angels Orphanage in Haiti. Our friends adopted their son from this orphanage, and have another son there right now, waiting to come home. They had a good turn out and raised a lot of money for the orphanage, and the Olympic theme of the party was perfect!

The party started with a big race. We knew Vivi had it in her with her long legs, and we told her to run as fast as she could...

And she did, she was the fastest kid...

In the wrong direction!

Gold medal for Anri, and Vivi just kept running!

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Friday, August 3, 2012

July catch up! Our 5th anniversary adventure

I went wayyy too long without posting in July! Here's why:

We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary on the 7th. We didn't have anything big planned, just a relaxing day with the kids and eating at home. But early in the morning on the 5th, we had a big storm, and this happened:

Yep, a tree branch in our yard took out the power lines, and killed the power on our whole street! We were surprised by this branch too, this tree has a few dead branches, but it was a live one that came down. Besides the tree and the power, we also had all the windows open to get fresh, cool air during the night (we don't have a/c) and we had a huge puddle in the dining room that we had to mop up from the 3 big windows there. The front room window had a small puddle, and another puddle in the girls' room. We called the power company as soon as we noticed the downed wires, about 5am, and sort of figured that it was some kind of priority and that they would come pretty quickly. Eric stayed home from work to wait for them, in case they needed us to move our cars or something, but by lunch time we still hadn't heard anything, so we went to the mall for lunch, and Eric used the free wifi to work while the kids and I shopped and played in the play place. A neighbor had come over to say that he worked with power lines and advised us to stay far away from them because of the high voltage wires. 

At nap time we dropped Eric off at church to work the rest of the day and went home. It was a really hot day, too hot to have played in the yard anyway, so we just sat inside and played. After 2 days of no power and lots of eating out and frequenting air conditioned play places, someone from the power company came out and taped off our yard with warning tape. At that point the estimated date we would get power back was the 8th. My dad just bought a new generator and still had the old one, so we were able to run it occasionally to keep the fridge cold. We called it an adventure and made the best of it, trying to fit take out into the budget and taking short cuts when possible, and the cold showers weren't terrible, they actually felt kind of nice on those 100 degree days! Someone from church had given us some tall candles just a few weeks before, so I melted some wax into the bottom of some tea cups and made candle holders so we could keep the house lit at night. Very Laura Ingalls, I know! 

On our anniversary, it was already hot out when we woke up. Eric surprised me with pearl earrings and a pearl necklace, and I got him a new backpack for his laptop, something he has desperately needed-he's been toting his laptop to work and back in a purple Babies R Us reusable bag! After we went to church (our church has a Saturday service and Eric teaches the jr. church class, while the girls and I help in the nursery sometimes) and then went to the reception hall to take our yearly pictures: 

I told Eric that the best way to spend our anniversary would be in air conditioning. So, we took the kids to McDonalds for lunch, then let them play in the play place while we took turns watching them and checking our email and facebook for the first time in a few days. At naptime we put the kids in the car, but still didn't want to go home so we drove out to the Hands On museum. The kids napped in the car, we had some nice conversation, and then we had a nice afternoon exploring the Hands On Museum. 

When it closed around dinner time, we drove over to Eric's new office for a tour, then walked over to a little shopping district. They had a small supermarket, so we walked around and everyone picked a fruit, then we got sweet potato chips for the kids and some bread and brie for ourselves (a snack we ate on our first official date :) After eating we headed upstairs to the shops. There was a very cool spice shop that even sells berbere (The Ethiopian spice blend that we have grown to love). It was much more expensive, about the same for an ounce as we paid for 1-2 lbs in Ethiopia, but it tasted just as good, and as my dad pointed out, it's cheaper than a plane ticket back!

We got to a time where driving home would mean that the kids would fall asleep, and it was too early for that, so we drove to the local mall and walked around for awhile. We hit a Whole Foods on the way out and picked out some fruit, crackers, and yogurt, and then enjoyed a quiet ride home as the kids slept. Not at all what we expected for our 5th anniversary, but I wouldn't trade it!