Tuesday, December 6, 2016

I'm Sort of Famous....


And it was sent out by email to 1000's of people all over the DC area and was posted by two members of Studio C on their Instagram accounts (see here and here)!!! 

Check out my creation....

So, I'm not actually famous, since no one (except a couple of people who helped with the planning) actually knows  that I made it, but I still felt kind of cool that my self-taught photoshop skills got to go to a good use.       

The event turned out much bigger than the planners anticipated, a fact which drew the wrath of the security guards at the Lincoln Memorial and brought the whole night to a premature ending.  Ellie still got to meet the cast members briefly though, so she definitely called the night a success!

Alright, now that I'm done gloating about the tiny little role I played in this awesome event, it's time to shut the computer and get back to real life again....


Our Journey in Homeschooling

Our homeschooling journey started when I felt very strongly that I needed to homeschool Spencer for 8th grade.   We did it just that year and then he went off to high school the next year, refreshed and ready to work hard.  I didn't necessarily have the same strong impression to do it for Cami as I had for Spence, but she really, really wanted to do it and over the course of that year, we decided that 8th grade was a perfect year to pull all the kids out.  Thus our homeschooling for just 8th grade tradition officially began.   It's been a beautiful way to reconnect with each child before they head off to high school and I like that the only thing on the high school transcript that we have to worry about that year is math, and other than that they can each have some freedom to explore and learn about things that interest them.   

When Ellie started having seizures when she was in kindergarten, I wondered many times if I should just pull her out and homeschool her.  She was so tired from the medications and the seizures were so frequent that they interrupted her learning time at school.   I was frankly rather surprised when I prayed about it that it wasn't the right thing.    The reason for that answer became very clear the next school year, though,  when Spence was diagnosed with leukemia and our lives were 100% turned upside down.   I've often been grateful for the loving and steady support we had from the kids' elementary school during that crazy time and, in hindsight, I can see that having them in school was absolutely the best place for them to be at that time.   

Sometime during Ellie's 2nd grade year, though, I had the impression that I needed to consider homeschooling again.   Her medication side effects were less than they had been, but her seizures were as frequent as ever and they were starting to affect her socially too.   We met at length with the school staff that year to find solutions, but ultimately we realized that there was no amount of "special education" she could receive in a school environment that would ever suit the needs of our intelligent, well-behaved child who had frequent, but quiet seizures.  Basically, because of her intelligence,  she'd find strategies to fill the gaps in instruction that she'd missed during her seizures, but still it wasn't enough to keep her from struggling.   But because she didn't struggle enough to make her work fall below grade level expectations, she didn't qualify for anything in the way of special education. 

Everyone at the school was actually great to work with and tried very hard to be accommodating, but  because a school is a school with hundreds of students and our one student had a rather unusual set of circumstances that caused her to struggle, they couldn't offer what she needed.   It was quickly becoming clear that Ellie was being set up to fall through the cracks of the educational system.  What she needed was  someone who could tailor her education to her individually, who could pause when she had a seizure, and help when she needed extra help.    She needed mom to be her teacher.  

We prayed and this time felt very strongly that we needed to pull out both Ellie and Adam.   Adam was a kid who was doing great at school and that answer frankly surprised us a bit, but looking back I can see that it was absolutely the best thing we could have done.    Homeschooling them  has changed the daily dynamics of our family in a big way, but it has been a blessing far beyond what we ever could have imagined.  

When I started homeschooling, we just approached it as a take-it-one-year-at-a-time mentality.  After four years though,  I think we're in it for the long haul.  It's changed us all for the better and the fact that Ellie still has seizures is only one tiny factor in our reasons to continue to homeschool. 

It's definitely been a windy journey to figure out the type of homeschooling that works for us, but after four years, we're getting there.    We've got a great network of homeschooling friends around us, the kids are working hard (without having meltdowns), and the rigor for all the subjects seems just right.  And I feel like we're finally really starting to reap the benefits that homeschooling offers--benefits like having the freedom to be able to travel and  the kids actually loving to learn (and not just checking boxes to get a grade).   

It really is a beautiful thing!  

What better way to study culture and architecture than to walk the streets of Venice and visit Basilica San Marco in person?

One of the best parts about living near DC is the opportunity for really cool field trips.
This was Adam at a class on the Constitution at the National Archives. They dove into documents,
learned about the different parts of the Constitution and what they mean in today's world, and
then went to see the actual Constitution.  How cool is that?   

Here is Ellie at the same class at the National Archives.

We also recently attended a class all about birds of prey.  

We have a co-op for Biology this year and it's been the perfect blend of academic rigor and hands-on experimentation. 

We extracted DNA from peas and examined it under a microscope.

We've also examined cell structures under a microscope (Adam was very proud of this picture)

We also have a AP US Government co-op class where they dive into the history and workings of the US Government.
I don't have many pictures of it, but this day Adam, his friend, Abby, and his class went downtown to a
National Lawyer's Convention where they got to hear national politicians (Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, etc) sit on panels and discuss controversial topics that America  is facing right now. Again, how cool is that?!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Emma's Turns Sweet Sixteen In Portugal

After spending two wonderful days in Lisbon, we rented a car and headed to a quiet villa near Sintra where we spent the remainder of our time in Portugal.  

We were right next door to what looked like a cute little hobby farm, complete with ducks, geese, chickens, and large garden plots.  
The villa was large enough for us all to stay there together.   Since it was homey, it  meant that we could get settled in and get comfortable for our time there.  There was a kitchen to cook in, a washing machine for laundry, and beds enough for everyone but Spence, who slept on a couch.   

Portugal apparently has a thing for castles on hilltops.    In Lisbon, there was the one where we surprised Emma and in Sintra, there are two.    One, called the Palace de Pena,  is bright and colorful, the other a moorish castle is gray and dull by comparison.   We opted to visit the colorful one built by King Ferdinand II in the 1800's.  

We enjoyed admiring the beautiful view from high atop the hill...

and enjoyed walking around the lovely surroundings.  

It was another gorgeous day...

and it honestly was just quite nice to spend the time outdoors....

The fact that we were at a lovely castle on top of a mountain in Portugal was just an added bonus!  

My little nephews  decided that photobombing Emma was a fun past-time!  (THEY ADORE HER and will miss her when she comes home in a few weeks!!!)

Here are some interior pictures....

And these little cuties were melting my heart!

Another day there in Sintra we visited Quinta da Regaleira, a UNESCO world heritage site.  The interior was a little more boring than Palace de Pena, but the grounds were SUPER COOL!   

We walked through interesting tunnels,

got put in the dungeon....

and crossed through alligator infested waters (haha!  There weren't really any alligators, although we teased that there could have been underneath all that algae.)

These cute stairs were crying out for a quick photo shoot!   I miss my sweet Emma! 

I had to take a picture of my footwear for the day, since I laughed every time I looked down.   It rained so much during our trip in May, that we all packed Crocs for our main shoes.    They were actually surprisingly comfortable and other than feeling a little unfashionable every time I wore them, they were actually great shoes for traveling--lightweight and totally waterproof!

I loved spending time with all these awesome people!

I was totally obsessed with finding missionaries  on our trip.   Walking through the town of Sintra on a Monday (their preparation day) was the only time we did other than at church on Sundays.    I was so excited to find them and take them out for ice cream!    Imagine my surprise when Spence walked up while we were talking to them and knew one of them from our home stake.    It totally made my day!

Speaking of church, we went to the Mems-Martins ward near Sintra on Sunday.   Of all of the times we've attended church in foreign countries (New Zealand, Iceland, Italy, France, and Portugal), this one was by far my favorite.  

The fact that it was our favorite had mostly to do with the fact that we happened to be there the day of the Primary Program.  Talk about a beautiful tender mercy.  Listening to those sweet children (all 12 of them) bear their testimonies and sing the beloved primary songs in Portuguese was something I'll never forget.      

My favorite comment from my 4-year-old nephew, Jack, upon hearing the familiar primary songs playing from the piano, "At least the piano is in English!!!"  

Emma turned Sweet Sixteen while we were there!     Mostly it was just a day of exploring and enjoying, but  we did take her out for a special meal to celebrate.    Too bad the menu was all in Portuguese and  google translate wasn't much help.

We ended up with a few weird things...

but mostly it was pretty good! 

Overall, we loved Portugal and we loved being with Emma on her birthday!    I definitely want to come back here with Glen sometime!  

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Gratitude Today

On this Thanksgiving Day, I want to take this opportunity to express a little about what we currently are each grateful for.    

for two days off of work to spend with family.
for me sleeping in past 4:30am finally.  My jet lag was keeping him up and driving him bonkers!

for the wonderful opportunities for travel we've had this past year.
to have finally lost the extra weight I've been packing around since right after Spencer got sick.

to have been able to see Europe for the first time.
for mom being excited to cook again (and cooking something besides soups)!

Cami (currently known as Soeur G.):
for her first baptism which is scheduled for later this week!
for the opportunity to share the gospel with the wonderful people of France.

to have this opportunity to live overseas and explore that part of the world more.
to be able to spend all this time with cute little cousins that adore her.

for all the cool adventures he's been on this year.
for finding clothes that actually fit (it's been a struggle!)

for the opportunity to mother's help for people.   She LOVES babies!
for the Hamilton soundtrack, which she plays nonstop!

I'll be baking pies today and eventually we'll all head to my brother's house for dinner!  The Sister missionaries from our ward are supposed to drop by this morning and we are looking forward to that too.  I hope your day is filled with good food, the warmth of a loving family, and a spirit of gratitude in your hearts.    


I got his picture from an American? family that shared a pre-Thanksgiving lunch with Cami yesterday! 
Taking long hikes on a beautiful fall day is one of my favorite things in life.
I have finally lost my post-Spencer PTSD weight!  

Ellie LOVES hanging out with young children! 
The sky looked sooooooo cool, just before a storm blew in while we  were hiking last Saturday.


“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.”  
Maya Angelou


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