November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving and family fun

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! I've been mostly away from my house (and my computer) since my last post. James finally returned from his Missouri hunting trip last Saturday (a week ago). Since the guy he rode back with lives near my folks, we met him there Saturday night after attending two birthday parties in Cleveland that day. We like to party. James had a great trip, and came home with meat for the freezer. He was hoping to kill a big buck, and though he saw a lot of them, he was bow hunting and never got one within shooting range. So we have deer to eat, just not a deer head to look at.

Sunday we had early Thanksgiving with my dad's side of the family at my Aunt Angela and Uncle John's house. We usually have it at my Granny and Pa Pa's (Dad's parents), but last year at New Years' Granny had a stroke and things haven't quite been the same. I think she was glad not to have it at their house this year, though it's sad for the rest of us to have to give up tradition and adapt to life's changes. She's doing pretty well considering what she's been through, though she definetely would like to be back to her old self. She asks us to keep praying for that to happen.

It was fun to get together with family. The MOST fun part was the family picture we took, with all 37 of us. It's always fun to get that many people to cooperate, especially when 8 of them are seven and under. I think we've added all 8 of those kids since the last time we did a big family photo. Guess that explains why it seemed so much harder this time! I hope at least one of them turns out good. I am always proud to be a part of the family God put me in. We had a prayer time where many were able to share their hearts and pray for fellow family members who are having issues with health or finances. That was cool.

James returned to Cleveland Sunday night, and I stayed at my folks' house in McDonough with the kids until Thanksgiving. Over the next few days we went to the Imagine It childrens' museum in Atlanta, visited my dad's office, hit a few consignment shops, saw family, and went to look at a horse that the media specialist at Strong Rock School wants to donate to camp.

A couple of goofballs at Imagine It.

Thursday we had Thanksgiving at my folks' house. James came back, bringing with him a few ducks from hunting that morning. He said he shot at the one duck that actually flew over him, but our friend Ryan gave him a few that others killed that morning. My Uncle Ned and Aunt Dawn also came, and they brought a friend from church and her 3 year old daughter who had a blast playing with my crew. My Nanny came as well. It was a feast, harkening back to the first Thanksgiving where they probably also ate duck and elk (which we had too, as my mom had thawed some from the freezer- makes pretty darned good kabobs!).

We headed home Thursday night and Friday morning James got Amelia up at 5 AM and took her hunting with him at the hunting club. She had been asking to go, so she got all camoed up and enjoyed herself in spite of the fact that they didn't see any deer until they were on the way out. Friday afternoon we went to Dahlonega to hang out with my brother and his wife and her family who were there from Florida. They spent the holiday at the house some of my family owns in Dahlonega. This morning James was going to give Shannon a turn hunting with him at the club, but it was raining at 5 AM so they skipped it. We went to yet ANOTHER Thanksgiving dinner today for lunch. My Granny's family has been getting together for nearly 40 years, four times a year. They are all originally from Cleveland so most of the reunions are held here, which makes it handy for us to attend. She is one of eleven, and I think it's really neat that they've always made a point to get together.

Tomorrow we're off to church, then Monday starts life as usual again until Christmas stuff kicks in. We'll probably drag out the Christmas decorations tomorrow too, especially since it looks like my riding lesson will get rained out. Bummer.

Here are Thanksgiving photos, for your enjoyment. Or ignorement. Of course, if you were going to ignore them you probably wouldn't be here reading this in the first place. Anyway...

These are from the Sunday before Thanksgiving Thanksgiving celebration.

My brother Jonathan, sister-in-law Lisa, and niece Jordan. Jordan will be a big sister in June. :)

My Aunt Angela, Dad's sister, whose house we were at on Sunday.

Here's the rest of her family, along with Granny and Pa Pa. My cousin Adam just got engaged this week, so that was happy news.

Granny playing with Elizabeth. Elizabeth kept doubling over to look at Granny's jacket from about three inches away like she just couldn't get enough of it.

My cousin Brooke and her husband Ben.

My cousin Ashley and her husband Michael. They will welcome their first baby in June.

Uncle Danny (my dad's brother) and Aunt Lynn's family with Granny and Pa Pa.

Uncle Doug (my dad's youngest brother) and my cousin Jesse.

Uncle Doug and Aunt Reda's family with Granny and Pa Pa.

Elizabeth with her second cousin Abi.

Amelia flashes her gang sign (?)

My mom and Avery.

A few from Thanksgiving day...

Uncle Ned (my mom's brother) and Aunt Dawn.

Shannon pretends Uncle Ned is his personal jungle gym/toy in true Shannon fashion.

Nanny (mom's mom) and Elizabeth. Nanny happily snatches up babies the second they make a peep so Elizabeth had some good attention on Thanksgiving.

And here are a few other random photos from the first part of the week at my folks' house...

Dad helps Avery play the piano. Amelia kept requesting for my dad to play so she could dance. I loved to hear my dad play while I was growing up. He had a grand piano that was just on the other side of my bedroom wall. Mom always wondered how I got to sleep while he was playing at night. So do I now, come to think of it!

She's not a real ballerina, she just plays one whenever possible.

I wish I had taken a picture of the audience she had lined up against the stair rail to watch her dance. There were a couple of dolls, a bunny, and an angel.

I took the doorway jumper with me because I figured Elizabeth was getting big enough to enjoy it. She loves it!

Whoa, look at this blue strap! Check it out, it's really a BLUE STRAP! Wow!

She went nuts bouncing when Dad played the piano. I think we have another music lover.

Well, now you know what I've been up to for the past week and a half. Let's see if there's anything else to note that I'll be interested in reading about in 20 years. Oh yeah-

While at my folks' house (this just made me laugh)- Shannon and Avery were shirtless, and Avery looks at Shannon and says, "Shannon has a little tummy." I said, "What about you?" He says, "I got a BIG tummy!" while rubbing it.

Today Amelia asked me, "What is an a-gay-sha?" Huh? "You know," she says, "Like a special a-gay-sha?" Occasion. It was occasion.

Elizabeth is about to cut a tooth. She has lumpy gums and was up, unhappy, several times last night. I hope things will be different tonight.

Earlier in the week Avery said he needed to go to the potty before bed. (Several weeks ago I was hoping he was starting to potty train. He's still just kidding around with me about it.) He said, "I want to ride the motorcycle potty. I want to ride it!" Shannon explained that Avery wanted to sit on the potty seat that goes on top of the regular seat that has handles on the sides for little kids to hold. Glad he could interpret, I wasn't aware of us having a motorcycle toilet in the house!

And those are the things I will care about in 20 years.


PS- Oh yeah, here's another thing James and Elizabeth did today.

November 18, 2008

Ghosts of Novembers past...

I thought this would be a fun time to drag out some old pictures from the past several Novembers. We've had a busy week, but I've been unable to capture any of it for your viewing pleasure because my camera has gone AWOP- Absent With Out Permission. James left last Thursday night with two hunting buddies for Missouri. On Friday I went to grab the camera to load some photos of our trip to Strong Rock school to my computer, but I couldn't find the camera, so I called James on the Nextel radio, and the conversation went like this, "Hey." "Hey, hon." "Did you happen to take the camera?" Pause, silence. "I took both of the cameras, we talked about that last week." "No we didn't." Silence, silence, silence. (Approximately 3 minutes later) "I'm sorry, I thought you knew I was taking the camera. Do you forgive me?" Silence, silence, silence. "I'll think about it."

So...hopefully we'll have some real good pictures of deer! James left last Thursday after dinner at the Davidsons and they drove all night, arriving at their destination mid-afternoon on Friday.

I've been holding it down here on the homefront, kicking off our no Daddy time by staying home two days straight with the kids. I did get 3 closets cleaned out and bagged up four bags for the thrift store. I had stuff in my closet that should have gone years ago, and the kids had toys they never or seldom play with. When I stop and think I am amazed that we live in a time and place that makes me feel the need to clean out excess before the holidays to make room for more stuff. Wow! We are so blessed, and so spoiled. I hope our kids grow up understaning this. They do pay attention, I realized, when the other morning they had been playing upstairs for awhile and I came to check out what was going on. There was stuff laid out all over the place, and when I asked them what they were up to they said, "Oh, we're playing kids who don't have any toys." They had filled two shoeboxes with necklaces, trucks, and other assorted things and were giving them to each other. (They've seen the Operation Christmas Child video, and we're doing it at church.) I thought that was pretty cool.

Anyway, after all the cleaning excitement and fun of staying home cooped up with four young 'uns, church was a welcome thing Sunday morning! Shannon's preschool choir sang...again, without Shannon. His face said what he was thinking quite clearly. "They can make me stand up here, but they can't make me sing. Hmmmpff." He told me on the way to church, "I sing at home." Clearly there is only one place a person can sing, and nowhere else. I missed my riding lesson Sunday afternoon due to James not being here, but that was just as well because it was about 45 degrees with a wind of 30 mph. I'm always game to ride, but it certainly made missing it less dissapointing!

Monday we partied all day at INK, the children's museum we're now members of in Gainesville. I tried all morning to get out of here, but due to the usual stuff that pops up on the way out the door, we finally arrived at INK at about 11:45. I had packed a lumch so we played awhile then ate, then we blew off naps and played until nearly 4:30. We had it to ourselves nearly all day until a family of three with kids close to my kids' age came in, and all of them played together for nearly two hours. The next day INK was expecting a field trip of 170 and they were going to do a craft. GOOD LUCK WITH THAT! :) I'm glad we weren't there today, it's so much more pleasant when the place is empty and you don't have to constantly search for your own kids in a sea of strangers.

This morning we went to playgroup, then later went out again to pick up a few grocery items and rent some movies. James was scheduled to return home late tonight but finagled a way to make it the end of the week instead, so I decided movie rentals were in order. I was all set to sit down and enjoy one with the kids, then one for myself after they were in bed...but got home with two entirely different ones than what I was expecting! Apparently someone had been playing with the little tags that you give to the folks behind the counter. I decided I didn't really want to watch Starship Trooper. Dissapointment. (So here I am blogging instead!!)

Here are the photos I dug up from past Novembers. I'm always amazed when looking at photos how much the kids have changed, and how it seems it was both just yesterday yet forever away. The past five years have basically been a blur...wonder why...

Here's sweet little bald Amelia during her first November ever. She was four months old. I remember snapping this picuture one morning before we left for church. I can't even fathom taking the time to take a picture before leaving for church now. Usually I'm barking like a drill sargent, "Move, move, move! Finish that breakfast! Get in that car!"

She was always smiling.

Here we are for Thanksgiving in Texas. This was our Christmas card photo that year, 2003.

Shannon had joined us by November 2004. Here he is just a month old.

Amelia was 16 months old, and was working on her Thanksgiving mullet. Still smiling!


Thanksgiving 2005 was the first time we had James' extended family at Strong Rock for the holiday. They came from Texas and South Carolina for part of the week. Here's Shannon at 13 months, ready for his first Thanksgiving dinner. Just days before he had fallen at my cousin's house, right into the side handle of a trunk-style coffee table. Stuff like this always happens in time for either holidays (with lots of pictures) or seeing folks you never get to see. "Why yes, we abuse our kids. Nice to see you again too."

Amelia and her second cousin London.

James holding two little wiggle worms in a friendly death grip so we can get a Christmas card shot. Just two months after this we would discover we were expecting Avery.

And here he is, November of 2006, just two months old.

One of Shannon's better faces. We had just moved into the house at camp the previous month. He felt the need to help take the new off the back door by covering it with nostril prints.

Shannon had just turned two in November of 2006. It's hard to believe he was the age then that Avery is now.

Last November, 2007. Avery wasn't even walking yet, and wouldn't until the week of Christmas. Hmmm...wonder if the delay had anything to do with his confusion over what were hands and what were feet.

And here are the happy Himstedts a year ago. Elizabeth is even in this picture, you just can't see her yet. She's about a third of the way done at this point.

Well, this concludes our tour of the past several Novembers. It's fun to see how much everyone has grown...and it's kind of scary to see how quickly it happens!

I'm not sure exactly when I'll post another entry. Sunday we have an early Thanksgiving dinner with my dad's side of the family in McDonough, then actual Thanksgiving day with my folks and some of my mom's side, again in McDonough. I'm considering just staying the days between them with the kids at my folks' house, since I don't have a pressing need to be in Cleveland those days anyway. If so, maybe I'll have my camera back by then, if James doesn't decide to move to Missouri on account of the deer being so much bigger there. If he does I guess I'll buy myself a new camera for Christmas.

Bye for now!

November 13, 2008

So how's homeschooling going, anyway?

This is a question I've been asked a few times this year. Amelia would be in kindergarten this year, had we chosen to send her. Instead I opted to get my feet wet with homeschooling and kept her at home this year. I haven't yet made a lifelong comittment to get her or the others all the way through high school, we're just going to take it a year at a time. I felt God leading us to keep her home this year for sure, and we'll keep praying for guidance on the issue.

So how is it going? Good, I'd have to say. Mostly because I don't know any better, since I've never homeschooled anyone before! We sit down for about an hour a day and work on a variety of kindergarten skills. I'm pretty much winging it this year, and have no curriculum though there's plenty of good stuff out there. I have a book called "Home Learning Year by Year," and it outlines in detail what students should know by the end of each school year. I've also been on Georgia's school system websites to figure out what kindergarteners in our state are learning. From that information I've tried to figure out fun ways to teach her what she needs to know this year.

I went to a fun store called The Schoolbox and bought a few workbooks, a US map puzzle, a couple of educational games, and a blank planning book which I use to write down what we did each day and how much time we spent on each skill. We are going by the White County school year calendar. According to the state I don't actually have to declare an intent to homeschool until she's seven, so for now there's no paperwork to be turned in.

Last year when she was four I started a phonics reading book with her called "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons." It has been wonderful, and when I got it I was pleased to see that any dummy can teach from it! :) Every single thing you as the teacher are to say is scripted, and it even tells you specifically how to correct errors or fix problems your child may be having. We worked our way through it slowly, often taking several days off or only doing half of a lesson when it was clear her attention span was shot for the day. We didn't pick it up at all this summer, and when we started it again in August (on about Lesson 70, I think), I was amazed at how it all seemed to come together.

I think watching a child's cognitive abilities blossom and seeing them start to read is every bit as amazing (maybe more so), than seeing them learn to walk. It's so cool! At five years and four months she is reading slowly but fluently, and can finish books like Are You My Mother?, Green Eggs and Ham, Llama, Llama, Red Pajama, and many other beginning reader books. She is easily reading every three letter combination (i.e. cat, big, log, etc.), and bigger or harder words like "know," "around," "right" and "write" (and which one means what), the days of the week, colors, shapes, and many, many others. It really is amazing to see the light bulbs come on. It's almost like I can watch neural pathways connecting as she gets a new concept or figures out new words. Might I add that I am jealous of her relatively empty brain, just waiting to be filled? Mine is so full (mostly of drivel, I hate to say), that I wish I could empty a bunch of it and start over refilling it with things that are actually important. I'd also add a lot more memory, as my current one isn't dependable.

So we spend time reading each day, whether it's a book or off of one of the websites she enjoys (mainly or We play homemade games such as sight word memory (made from index cards), or one I bought called Sight Word Bingo. We also practice handwriting, often writing "books" complete with illustrations or using workbook sheets. We do math, again sometimes workbooks but mostly using "manipulatives" such as gummy fruits or chocolate chips. We're also working on patterns (with beads or food), money, and measuring. We make a calendar for each new month with important days written in. She learns a new Bible verse each week, and has also learned the Pledge of Allegiance, which we do each day using a tiny flag we acquired at the fall parade in town. Art is always a big hit, so we do at least one art project every two days.

There are many other things we've worked on and things I plan to work on before the end of the school year. I'm already leaning towards homeschooling first grade, and will probably research a curriculum to use, at least in areas like math and science. I also plan to start her and probably Shannon too with piano basics as soon as I take the time to sit down and order some books. I could probably wing it with that for awhile too, but would rather have them going with a system so I don't confuse them or miss something.

Following are a series of pictures I took over several days in the last few months, which illustrate one of the best reasons to homeschool, at least in the eyes of a fashionista like Amelia. You probably wouldn't send your kid to school in most of what she's wearing...

Here we are in the classic long sleeved velvet shirt and shorts. This is where school mostly takes place too, at the table where we eat. Note the tidy, orderly appearance of the table. This is on a pretty good day.

Here's Belle working on her handwriting. On this particular day she was working on the letter "p" and was coloring them in. When I asked her why she was doing that, she said...

"They're black eyed p's!"

This day she came to the table dressed like this. She said, "I can probably wear this to church." I told her I wasn't so sure about that, and she said, "Yeah, it's probably too fancy."

Here's a favorite, her very tattered Cinderella night gown, which is worn as a dress up at least once a day.

The look of the gown is greatly improved by adding one of Shannon's jackets. It was cold on the back porch that day and we were working on measuring with colored water.

She loves when we practice measuring.

Now here's a scandalous looking outfit. Would you send your daughter to school looking like this? The beads she's wearing are actually from one of the days we were practicing patterns.

Where are the other kids, you ask? I've found that the easiest time to do school each day is in the early afternoon when the others are napping. I'd rather get it done in the morning, but it usually takes a good deal longer because I'm having to keep the others entertained with something since they want to "do school" too. Avery and Shannon will both play with play dough for awhile, but they usually at some point become a distraction. Elizabeth is usually happy to keep us company while we work on stuff, and more often than not if she's awake I'm feeding her and teaching Amelia at the same time.

I've started the Teach Your Child to Read book with Shannon now that he has turned four. Since he has an October birthday he will be two years behind Amelia in school even though he's just 14 months younger. I believe this is a good thing, judging from the way our reading lessons are going! He knows most of the stuff he would learn in preschool as far as colors, numbers, etc. go, but reading just isn't clicking for him at this point. This is probably mostly due to the fact that he can't sit still for more than two minutes. Apparently the chair I put him in has something pointy and sharp in it, as he literally starts springing up from it after reaching the two minute attention span threshold. His eyes dart all over the place, his head rolls around, and he loses all ability to focus. That's okay...I'm not stressed about it. We'll just break "100 Easy Lessons" into about 300. And I'll work on keeping myself from saying, "Why can't you be more like your sister..?"

Some day I'll detail "why" I like the idea of homeschooling. For now I'm content to know neither I or Amelia missed this because she was at school--

Girl time with baby sister. (Elizabeth, just ignore the outfit. Your father would never let either of you girls leave the house dressed like that anyway.)

Besides, she would be the envy of all the other kids with her incredible fanciness. We wouldn't want to distract all the other kids at J.P. Nix Primary School from their studies...