Wednesday, May 28, 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Friends are friends forever

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

I got a new camera lens!  My Mother's Day present.
These are mostly taken in Auto mode though, so I still have to work on settings.
Here's my pretty baby girl at 3 months old

And another pretty beauty called Mary Margaret who we had with us over the weekend...

They were about to leave for home in this photo, but these were some HAPPY kids!

Our dear friends came to visit for Memorial Day weekend.  It is such a gift to have close friends who we can share our home and our holiday weekend with!  Our kids are all close in age and have a great time together.  We really treasure the wonderful friendships God has given us, and we try not to take that for granted.

They only have one son, their oldest, and he was such a sweet guy to my boys, playing with them all weekend.  Steven Joseph really looks up to Patrick.

We had of course planned for a beach outing, but in the end just the dads and kids went while the moms and babies stayed home.  I was sad to miss out on some great beach photos with my new lens, and fun times with everyone, but it really was a lovely quiet night to spend with my friend.  And at least I got these pictures at the park!

The girls had so much fun together.  Ellie and Catherine are close in age.

 She'll probably get mad at me for posting this, but isn't she gorgeous?  With their new puppy Billy.

Little Agnes is such a doll.

The dads love hanging out too.  In fact their daddy came to visit for a hunting-turned-fishing trip in January.  Kiernan is a very talented writer and shares beautiful family stories and thoughts about life on his blog, Old Soldiers.  He and Steven both grew up as the babies of big Catholic families, him being #9 and Steven #7!

Billy is their new distinguished black lab.  He came from far away in Mississippi and is going to be quite a well behaved dog with all the intensive training they are doing with him! Our kids really enjoyed having a dog here for the weekend!

Thomas could be very sweet with little Agnes when he wanted to!

The crew walking back to our house

Tommy is a funny kid.  He snuck out of the house the other day!

Can you tell what he's missing?
He keeps sneaking outside without pants!

I'm not kidding, this kid is really giving me a run for my money.  

 I've bought about five different parenting books over the past couple months.  I don't think they're helping.

I love the few minutes the boys actually play together during the day, because most of the day Thomas is just trying to climb on me.  It's like having another infant.  One who almost weighs 50 pounds and is solid as a rock.

 So yesterday I set up a "car wash" after seeing something similar on Facebook.

 One glorious hour of total concentration as I prepared for the phone call with my homeschool consultant.  

I will be collecting ideas, if anyone has similar things that little boys might enjoy this summer!

The boys are scared of monsters upstairs, so they won't go up and play with their toys in their room or playroom together.  They usually won't go in the backyard without a sister or adult, either.  It makes life a little difficult.  But we are finding new ideas like this!  Maybe they will start to play upstairs soon, and the girls have a new "chore" for their daily summer allowance to do something nice for a younger sibling.  It has been a hard week but hopefully we will all survive the summer, or else homeschool will start early this year!

Real special moments with sisters.

 And I'll end with this really nice photo of Steven Joseph, since my 50 pound infant has woken up now at 1:00am and wants to sit in my lap!!!

Enrolling with Mother of Divine Grace

This spring, Steven and I decided that we would enroll with Mother of Divine Grace School, an accredited Catholic homeschooling program, for this coming school year.  Quite a few friends have been asking about our decision, so I thought I'd share about it here on the blog!

It has been in my plans for a long time, that by 7th or 8th grade we'd enroll in this program to prep for high school. One of our main mentors is a huge proponent of MODG and we have quite a few friends who use this program. We've used some of their lesson plans and book recommendations over the years.  Also, the hybrid academy that meets twice weekly and is located in our hometown uses it too, so if we ever wanted to enroll the kids there we'd be on track with their curriculum.  It's one of the few accredited Catholic programs, and it's the one I'm most familiar with and have friends to whom I can ask questions and get advice.

I like this curriculum for a variety of reasons.  I know it is a solid, Catholic classical program.  It is light in the early years and allows for an appropriate progression of work as the children get older.  They aren't requiring 1st graders to write elaborate stories, but they are challenging the high schoolers to read, discuss, and write papers on the classic works of literature.  It's very literature-based, and encourages eduction in the arts.  They allow substitutions for the textbooks used in their program, and offer a tremendous amount of support to enrolled families.  I'm confident with their textbook choices, but will probably continue with a few of the programs that work well for us, like Math U See in the younger grades and All About Spelling.

I keep seeking out co-op opportunities that don't end up working out, and can be a stress on our family, especially with the new baby.  I feel like I need some kind of outside help, especially for Latin, writing, and literature. MODG offers online Learning Support classes where the kids listen in and participate in discussions. Then they also offer the Teacher Assisted, Teacher Directed, and Teacher Enhanced Directed options that give different levels of support and grading.  They collect certain work samples from each semester and give grades and report cards, keeping records for the families and transcripts for college. 

So I'm hoping this program will offer that support I need without running around to different classes and co-ops. I hear that the children love the LS classes and I think I will get a lot out of the periodic meetings and frequent emails with our consultant.  I had my first one yesterday, which was about 2 hours of discussion about our family, this program, and each subject and textbook choice for each of the children. I can tell she will keep me grounded, accountable, and motivated. She's worked for MODG since 2005, is graduating her 2nd of 6 kids, has a Masters degree in education, offers teacher support for some classes, and helps train other consultants.  So I know she will be a great help to me and to our family!

I decided to enroll this year for a variety of reasons.  This is a year of lots of changes for our family.  I know I'd be tempted to join other classes or co-ops if I didn't try this option. I want to maintain the more simple lifestyle we've had the past few years, not running around all the time to different places. We have the funds now to pay for it without me feeling guilty for the extra costs.  I kind of made a rash decision about a month ago (with Steven's input) because I wanted to be sure I could get a consultant and a phone meeting in before registration for the LS classes this summer. I had my consultant assigned and she emailed me about 3-4 days after I mailed in the enrollment forms! I also appreciate that their website is user-friendly and professional. I will be able to print out daily and weekly lesson plans for the children.

I'm looking forward to this new program for our family, but am also realistic that every program will have drawbacks and it could add extra stress following their schedule and syllabus, and having their deadlines and requirements.  It may not end up working out for us, but I'm glad we can try it out in the middle school grades, so that if a change needs to be made, we can figure that out before high school.  I am grateful for the simple first six years of homeschooling we've had, but I know we need to get more serious as we approach the middle school years.  I'm hopeful that MODG will be a good fit, and am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a good, solid Catholic homeschool program.

Have any of you enrolled in a program?  Do you have other thoughts or advice?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Answer Me This and WIWS

I can't seem to get my posts up on Sundays! This week it was because we had friends visiting from Houston! Today we got a new computer, so hopefully the photo uploading and blogging will be much easier very soon!

having fun at Best Buy

I'll start with the Answer Me This questions, linking up with Kendra at Catholic All Year

1. Beach or Mountains? Where would you rather be? 
I'm definitely a beach girl. We live near the beach in south Texas and go to the beach about once a week in the summer. I've only been to the mountains (skiing) three times as a teenager, and I loved it and would be thrilled to go back, but it just hasn't been a vacation priority for us. It's ok the short list though. 

The kids went to the beach with the dads last night while mamas and babies rested at home. Hoping to make a visit sometime this week though! Here's a photo from last year's beach visit with these friends...

2. Which is more fun, Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? 
Christmas Eve is filed with anticipation, but the late night for mom and dad is always so hard! I'd have to say I like Christmas morning better just because of the joy and excitement of the children and the beauty and simplicity (and low crowds) of Christmas morning mass.

3. What's the most embarrassing childhood outfit you remember wearing?
I don't remember anything specific, but had fun with some photo albums tonight!

Love this ensemble with the high top sneakers and holding the doll (not American Girl, see below).

And this one is pretty interesting.  I bet that shirt had shoulder pads!

And Kendra's talk about her silk screen bunny sweatshirt reminded me of this.  A silk screened Santa with gold puffy paint decorating it!  My little brother has a pretty cute sweatshirt too!

4. Your house is quiet, you don't have to do work (housework included).  What do you do?
Blog, Facebook, or play around with photos.  I'm also reading quite a few books right now!

5. What movie do you want to watch while feeling under the weather?
I'm not really a movie kinda gal.  I don't like getting emotionally involved with movies.  I prefer a quick show like Downton or White Collar; last night I even watched an old Columbo episode!

6. Did you have an American Girl doll when you were little?
No, the dolls weren't out until I was older, although I do remember looking through the magazines when I was a teenager.  I had Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbies, My Child dolls, and lots of stuffed animals.

But my girls love American Girl!  They each have four dolls, some passed down.  They take photos, make videos, set up houses, and often play for hours with them.  Maybe little Katie will get a Bitty Baby when she gets a little older.

Here are the girls at ages 5 and 3 with their very first AG dolls, Emily and Elizabeth.

And I'll end here before it's too late and I get really angry with this new computer (It's mainly the annoying Apple keyboard and mouse.  I can't format anything right...ugh!).  Here's What I Wore Sunday...linked to Fine Linen and Purple

Grabbed this maxi skirt at Walmart last week!

Cuteness overload on my little angel here!

And I adore the smocked dresses.  Isn't she a doll?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

{pretty, happy, funny, real}

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
Every Thursday, at Like Mother, Like Daughter!

Some beautiful photos from the Botanical Gardens 
taken by Mary Clare

He really wanted to "catch" a butterfly! 

Always a happy girl!

The birds don't seem too sure about my photographer-girl!

A snake in the reptile room

Which reminds me of the story of the 12 foot python found in someone's bathroom in College Station.  Did you guys see that story?  So scary! 
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