2020 Thanksgiving

8 Dec

We finished our first 12-week term of school by the week before Thanksgiving. The kids all got a break, while I spent the week grading their exams, analyzing how the term went, and organizing everything for the next 12-week term. I think it was our best term ever. As I was planning, I realized that after four years, I’ve stumbled on solution to the January school problem. Every other year, we have finished up our term right before Christmas. Then I was supposed to plan the next term over Christmas Break and be ready to start right after New Year’s. You will not be surprised to learn that I never plan school over Christmas Break, and beginning on schedule in January is a major stress for me. This year, we finished first term before Thanksgiving. We will have 3 weeks of second term before Christmas, and then close our books for 2 weeks. I don’t have to plan because I’ve already done it over Thanksgiving week. January 4, 2021, I will just open the books and continue where we left off on December 18. It’s brilliant!! What a relief!

I did make time to play Monopoly with these four smarties (secret math class).

And I sewed a few masks, which was a fun day for me.

I’ve always wanted to cook a whole Thanksgiving Feast by myself. But I was never willing to skip out on fun family parties in order to do so (some “dreams” aren’t really worth the sacrifice!) However, this was the year for it, because we are all being careful and staying separate. I made turkey, potato casserole, green bean casserole, jello, and 3 pies (coconut cream, apple, and chess pie.)

I got this ham for the potato casserole. Zeke (blue shorts) begged to eat it all week. Finally on Thursday morning, he said, “NOW can I eat the biggest ham I never had?”

I didn’t really make the whole dinner.

Tamale Pie made the rolls, and Cherry Pie made the stuffing, because I had to zip to the store to get cinnamon for the apple pie. I had also planned to make creamed corn and sweet potatoes, but decided to save them for another day.

Chess pie is too sweet, so you can only eat a tiny sliver at a time. it does have cream in it, which makes it better than Pecan Pie, and I needed to use up pecans.

It was the quietest Thanksgiving I’ve ever had. It was also the least stressful, because I didn’t have to be anywhere at a certain time and no one was coming over. It was a great day!

After we took naps, this kids and I played Settlers of Catan, Code Names, and several hours of Pit.

Happy Veteran’s day 2020

18 Nov
Happy Veteran’s Day

Tamale Pie turns 15

15 Nov

Tamale Pie turned 15 years old this month. The year of her birth is tied to several landmarks of my life.

The year I was pregnant with Tamale Pie, I joined Mary Kay. We started building the house we are now living in. I ended my eight year career in the Missouri National Guard. (If I had not been pregnant, I would have been deployed with others my National guard unit to Afghanistan.

Soon after she was born, we had the worst ice storm of my adult life. Our house was out of power for 10 days. I learned a lot about emergency preparedness from that time.

Tamale Pie’s

Favorite color is deep Navy Blue

Favorite food: surf -n-turf burritos

Wants to be a baker and a mom when she grows up.

Has been taking violin lessons for 2 years. She practices diligently without me hounding her and paid for her own lessons by baking and selling bread for several months last year when I couldn’t pay for them. I’m so proud of her dedication and consistent work. Her goal music is “The Erle King” by Schubert

Loves all things Studio Ghibli. Howl’s Moving Castle is her favorite of Haywood Miyazaki’s films.

Tamale Pie bakes all the bread for our family, keeps the bathrooms clean, helps keep the Scooter Pies busy, and asks me several times each day if she can do anything to help me, in addition to 6-7 hours of homeschool lessons, which she works through largely independently while I am teaching math and reading to the four youngest.

She is amazing

November is the Best

15 Nov

November is my favorite month. 

It’s my birthday month and Thanksgiving.  Nothing beats it. 

Sunday, I needed to get the littles outside, into the fresh air and away from screens.  So I promised them a treasure hunt.  Luckily, I have scripture clues saved on my computer, so I could set it up in less than 10 minutes, and I have beautiful daughters who are willing to run all over the yard and help look up and read scripture clues.  Success!

Monday, we celebrated El Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead.  I made Pan de los Muertos. 

Abuelita and Abuelito came over with calavera suckers to decorate. 

Abuelito shared stories about his mother and his grandfather.  We loved hearing about great-grandma Gwendolyn Campbell growing up in Idaho, and great-great-grandpa Jose Sabino Lozano who rode with Pancho Villa (according to family lore.)

Great-Grandma Gwendolyn

The truth is, I don’t really like Halloween all that much.  But I love Dia de los Muertos.   Making delicious food and telling stories about our departed family—it becomes more like Thanksgiving, and that is my favorite.

Dickerson Park Zoo

5 young pies

Friday, We finished up our 11th week of home school for 2020 and took a field trip to the zoo to celebrate with friends.  My brother’s wife and children joined us as well as our home school co-op friends.

Apple Pie and Banana Cream Pie have been reading about African animals for science, so we visited the giraffes, lions, zebras, and monkeys.  We had read there were new baby cheetas, but discovered when we got to the zoo that they were not out for the public to see.  Apple Pie was very disappointed. 

I bought zoo passes for the family in August when I discovered that the year passes only cost $3 dollars more than tickets for one day.  That is a price I can make feel like a bargain by taking the kids frequently.  Going to the zoo stresses me out because the Scooter Pies run away a lot and obey hardly at all.  Apple Pie and Banana Cream Pie complain a lot.  But I keep thinking that if I take them enough, they will start obeying, stop whining, and learn to love the zoo.  This year is the scientific test of that theory.  I’ll let you know how it went at the end of May. 

Election Night 2020 Thoughts

4 Nov

Apple Pie learned about apple stars this week. Her delight brought joy to my heart.

It is in our homes that we can create the peace we yearn for. From our homes it can flow to heal the world.

Today I am thankful for children’s hearts, for apple stars, and books that bring truth to us:

From A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’engle:

“Her father said, “You know, my dears, the world has been abnormal for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a peaceful and reasonable climate. If there is to be any peace or reason, we have to create it in our own hearts and homes.”

“Even at a time like this?” Meg asked….

“Especially at a time like this,” her mother said gently. “We don’t know what the next twenty-four hours are going to bring, and if it should be what we fear, then the peace and quiet within us will come to our aid.””

Goodbye October 2020

1 Nov

So many snuggles

The Scooter Pies have named all their marbles after Pokemon.

My big Mom Win for this week was on Tuesday.  I had announced that “technology time” was over (as all the littles had been watching YouTube for at least 2 hours while I taught piano lessons) and was making dinner.  The Scooter Pies came downstairs howling to play with Blueberry Pie’s Nintendo Switch.  I said, “No,” but they continued to howl and repeat themselves.  Have you ever had twins howling at you in stereo?  I was about maxed out and ready to start yelling.  But I stopped making dinner and sat down, taking one twin in each arm. My counselor says to get kids to calm down by having them take deep loud breaths,”dragon breaths.”  I have never been able to get the twins to do this, but I tried again, doing the loud deep breaths myself, and saying, “It looks like you’ve turned into dragons.  Better breathe out all that fire.”  They didn’t do it, but they did stop howling, and I started calming down.  Then I remembered how much we all like The Three Little Pigs, so I said maybe they were the big bad wolf, huffing and puffing.  They started smiling, but still no breathing.  I was really calmed down by now and realized that I could let them help with dinner.  Here they are cutting up the summer sausage with butter knives for our Sausage and Cabbage over Rice.  They were so excited to get to help.  I read somewhere that when a child asks for technology, what they are asking for is connection.

We begin school every morning at 8:00 am with CNN10 Student News.  Then we sing and do our weather journals.  Nature Walk was next, but now that it’s dark and cold outside, I’ve moved Nature Walk to the afternoon.  So the big girls do piano and violin practice, and the littles and I do math.

We have calendar math all together.

Then Banana Cream Pie does a third grade worksheet, and Apple Pie and the Scooter Pies do a first grade worksheet.  On Thursday, Banana Cream Pie’s math was too fun to keep to herself, so everyone got to try it. 

After math, we have stories from the Old Testament (or New Testament, depending on the day) and then Beginning Reading lessons.  Despite my efforts to put books and supplies away as we use them, somehow the kitchen table looks like this every morning by 10:30 (Snack Time)

I’ve been telling my kids that Halloween was canceled because of COVID-19 for a month.  I said we would just get some candy and watch a movie for Halloween.  But Thursday night, I found out our town was doing a Chamber of Commerce Trick-or-Treat at 3pm Friday.  I gave in and pulled out the tub of costumes, telling the kiddie pies that we could go trick-or-treating if they picked a costume from the tub and wore a mask.  Of course, none of them picked the good costumes.  They just tied themselves up in our raggedy silk scarves that have seen better days and announced what animal they were.  Skeeter, who wanted to be a “Snuggle Bunny” was the exception.  He actually looked cute.  I drove them around town for about an hour, and they each got enough candy to be satisfied.

Saturday we all worked together for about 2 hours to wash the walls downstairs and the kitchen cabinets.  I cleaned out the fridge.  I am very happy about the shiny, clean walls.  Next week: upstairs!

Random fact of the week: I have 7 different chili powders in my spice cupboard, and I use them all regularly.  Yum!

Blueberry Pie bought these very spicy ramen recently.  They are super hot, even for us chili loving people.  After morning chores, the big kids had a hot noodle eating contest.  They only ate about 2/3 a package each, but they had fun.

Also they had pain. You can see it in their faces.

Halloween night, we roasted hot dogs at Uncle Peter’s house.  This little pink vampire is the cutest, yes? This is the only picture I thought to take all night.

Celebrating Half a Century

28 Oct

The Man of the House turned 50 this weekend.

I sure love him.

21 years ago he won my heart because he was personally kempt. All the other college boys were so slovenly in their personal dress, often grimy, and complained loudly if they had to dress up for anything. My guy was alway neat and clean, shirt always tucked in. He took pride in dressing well, and I knew I needed someone who would without complaint put on a sports coat and a tie and take me to concerts.

He valued education generally, and literature particularly, especially poetry and Shakespeare. It is really from him that I learned to love Shakespeare. Until then, I had liked Shakespeare on principle because smart people valued it, and I was smug about it because I didn’t struggle to read it the way my fellow high school classmates had.

But this guy had memorized Richard the V’s speech on St Crispin’s Day. We watched Kenneth Braunaugh Shakespeare films and every Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet movie available. I began to like Shakespeare because it was funny and real and insightful.

This guy read e e cumings and William Carlos Williams to me and wrote poetry to me in emails. I wrote poetry back to him, and he liked it.

He cared about astronomy.

We have been married for 21 years, and he is still kempt. If we are going out on a date—even if it’s just to get sushi at the sushi truck and sit at the park to eat it, he irons his shirt.

I have come to respect his integrity and honesty. He is honest even when it is inconvenient.

He quietly goes to work each day to provide for our family and encourages me to stay home with the children. He has 100% supported me in project homeschool, even talking me back into confidence when I have days when I’m convinced I failing and should just quit. When I’m worried and full of anxiety, he is great at asking me questions until I can calm down and discover a solution or realize that nothing is really wrong after all.

He is pretty great. I’ll keep him.

October is Almost Over

25 Oct

This week was busy and full with just the everyday things.

We did home school and stuck to the schedule, despite everyone feeling tired and draggy.

I realized that I have not been checking up with Tamale Pie’s assignments. sigh. Must find time to do that more regularly.

Mom!Mom!Mom! What does this say?

Thursday morning was so beautiful, sunny and warm, I threw our schedule under the couch and took all the little kids to the park. We tried to fly our kites, but the wind was inconsistent, so they didn’t stay up for long. We still had a great time.

Banana Cream Pie

I’m glad we took that time to enjoy the outdoors because it has been rainy and cold and gray since then.

Our chickens started laying eggs. So far the Man of the House has collected four.

He has been hurrying to build a chicken coop with nesting boxes for our pretty hens, but it’s been slow going, and rain and many responsibilities have limited his time. I pray the Lord multiplies his time this week because next Sunday or Monday he has to go to 2 weeks of training for his new National Guard assignment. Besides the chicken coop, he also needs to write out 2 weeks of plans for the substitute teacher, and I know that is worrying him.

As I write, it is midnight, Saturday, and the girls and I have succeeded in removing the mountain of sweet potatoes from our dining table! I am waiting for the last batch of sweet potatoes to be done processing in the pressure canner. We have 21 quarts in glass jars. I wanted to can all the potatoes that way, but sweet potatoes take 90 minutes in the pressure canner (not counting the time to parboil, peel, and chop them and the time the canner takes to come up to pressure and cool down from pressure.) Also, the canner only holds 7 quarts at a time. So as I put the current 7 quarts in, and it was nearly midnight, I hollered “Uncle” and put the rest of the parboiled and peeled sweet potatoes in quart freezer bags. I have 13 quarts in freezer bags now in the deep freeze. Adding the sweet potatoes that looked like they would winter well in cardboard boxes in the garage, I bet we have close to 50 quarts of sweet potatoes. What a blessing.

Current Family Read-a-Loud: Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr

Poem for this week:

The Human Touch by Spencer Michael Free

’Tis the human touch
in this world that counts,
The touch of your hand and mine,
Which means far more
to the fainting heart
Than shelter and bread and wine.
For shelter is gone
when the night is o’er,
And bread lasts only a day.
But the touch of the hand
And the sound of the voice
Sing on in the soul always.

Mid-October Madness

19 Oct

This week, so many things happened. It was like a month crammed into a week. Fall is definitely here, but my rose is still blooming.

I was reading a fairy tale to Banana Cream Pie for her literature class. In the fairy tale, the prince has to find a girl to marry who is the richest but also the poorest. She interrupted to ask, “how can that be? How can she be the richest and the poorest?”

I said, “Often fairy tales have riddles like that. If we keep reading, we will find out how the prince solves the riddle.” Before I could start reading again, Banana Cream Pie jumped up excitedly.

“Oh this is reminding me of something!” she said. “This is reminding me of the widow and her two coins. She paid the least, but Jesus said she also paid the most.”

I was very proud that she made such a great connection and very grateful that she shared it with me. This is what education is about.

Our folk song for the next six weeks is “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain.” We learned that the root of this song was an African American Spiritual song and it is actually referring to the second coming of Jesus Christ. It was then adopted by railroad foremen, who we learned were hired primarily for their singing ability because singing is how they kept the work crews working well together. Being excited for the second coming is a relatively recent feeling for me, and singing the song with this new knowledge was very poignant. What a glorious day that will be when Christ comes in glory, six white horses pulling his chariot. We’ll all go out to meet him. All hardship will be ended, and we’ll have the best food and gifts to offer him and celebrate his coming, and

“We’ll be singin’ hallelujah when she comes”

Princess Tooth

Tuesday, I took Banana Cream Pie to the dentist because she had a tooth that was hurting. The dentist assured her that she wouldn’t need numbing shots or anything and started drilling away. However, the decay turned out to be much deeper than he thought; and after she cried out a couple of times, he had to stop, give her gas, and several numbing shots before continuing. Once she had relaxed, Banana Cream became quite chatty and conversational. As the dentist was finishing up, she said,

“That took a lot longer than I thought it would.”

“Yes,” said the dentist, “I should have asked you if it had been hurting, it was worse than I thought at the beginning.”

To our dentist, who has been fixing teeth for so many years that he was my dentist when I was a kid, Banana Cream Pie said quite matter-of-factly, “Maybe you’ll learn from this, and next time you’ll be more careful and look more closely at the beginning.”

Doctor Stidham rocked back in his stool, laughing, and I told him he was lucky to be benefiting from the kind of helpful advice I get every day from this wise eight-year-old.

Jeopardy master

For Family Home Evening, we played our traditional family Conference Jeopardy. Cherry Pie has been in charge of this game for years now. She makes up all the questions, and sets up the board. We have to take meticulous notes to do well in the game. You might ask for “Sunday Afternoon for 100, please.” and get

“This color was the tie President Nelson wore during his closing remarks.”

or “Who provided the music for this session.”

or you might be brave and ask for “Saturday Afternoon for 500” and get a really tough one like

“Elder D. Todd Christofferson provided several ways that a society can be sustainable. Name 2”


“This General Authority related the firey darts of the adversary to a flaming empty microwave.”

We had a great time. I had forgotten about dessert, but one of the kids suggested apples and dip, and I have this great recipe from my sister, Katie, so I whipped it up fast.

Blueberry Pie

In a medium saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 3/4 cup light corn syrup, and 1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk.

Stir constantly until mixture comes to a light boil. Remove from heat and add 1 tsp vanilla. Serve warm.

**homemade sweetened condensed milk substitute (I used regular powdered milk)

For art, we used chalk pastels to draw apples, focusing on drawing what we see and not what our brain knows an apple looks like.

We also practiced vertical strokes for brush drawing, and had time for a free drawing session.

I drew this as a gift for a friend.


This is my practice/demo of our handicraft for home school co-op. Paper sloyd teaches so much more than I ever guessed. My students are learning how to follow directions, how to measure accurately with a ruler, how to cut a straight line, how to fold a straight line, and how to tie a bow. This is only lesson 7! Who knows what practical knowledge heights we will climb with this “non-core” subject? P.S. my grandmother was so beautiful. I love her face, and even more, I love the legacy of education that she passed down.

Sad thing for this week:

Little Aztec has passed on. We gave him a good two weeks, after Blueberry Pie rescued him, but Wednesday, he ran under a vehicle in our driveway as it was backing out, and that was the end of his mortal existence. None of the kids were very upset about the accident, except the one who was driving. She had a tough couple of days. I buried the little puppy under the big cedar tree in our back yard, and even though the ground was really hard, I took the time to dig his hole big enough that he could lie comfortably, as if in a little bed. Rest in peace, Aztec.

The resident Captain talked me into doing this Couch to 10K in 13 weeks running program with him. I haven’t been walking recently because it’s dark in the mornings, and it’s harder to make myself go alone. So I agreed, and he bought me some special running shoes to correct for my over-pronating feet. I don’t enjoy running, but I like spending time with the Captain, and I like how my back hurts less when I get out and move.  The shoes are making a big difference: I haven’t rolled my ankles once.  Also, the kind of running I am doing is called “shuffle running” and it’s not much like any running I’ve ever done before.

I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more… rather than run.

Key Lime Pie got to dissect an owl pellet Friday. It was gross and cool and took forever. She considered the bone charts carefully and determined that our particular owl had digested a mouse and a vole, at least.

Friday morning, we had our first frost. I told myself that after school we would dig the sweet potatoes. But I had to take the van to get the tires replaced, and that took so long, I forgot about the potatoes. Saturday evening, around 8:00pm (It was after dark) I suddenly remembered.

An In-the-dark Treasure dig was announced, headlamps were handed out, and we trouped out to the garden to save the potatoes. We had planted the sweet potatoes in hills of mushroom compost, so we didn’t have to dig very much. Mostly, I pulled the vines back, and the potatoes came up. Some potatoes had grown down into the hard ground though, and we had to work harder for those. It was pretty fun, and Banana Cream Pie announced that it was Family Fun Night. Wholesome Recreational Activities? check!

The dining table is now heaped with our bounteous crop of sweet potatoes, and I’m going to have to do something with them.

Sunday Morning, I discovered that someone had thoughtfully placed T-rex to guard our treasure while we slept.

Poem of the week:

Frolic by A.E. (G.W. Russell)

The children were shouting together

And racing along the sands,

A glimmer of dancing shadows,

A dovelike flutter of hands.

The stars were shouting in heaven,

The sun was chasing the moon;

The game was the same as the children’s,

They danced to the self-same tune.

The whole of the world was merry,

One joy from the vale to the height,

Where the blue woods of twilight encircled

The lovely lawns of the light.

Sunday Evening Treats

11 Oct
If you had an amazing fourteen-year-old at your house, you too could enjoy Brioche and Abuelita Hot Chocolate on Sunday evening.