Primarily written by Adrienne, a homeschooling mother of seven, ages 10 and under. She chronicles life, laughs, struggles, and lessons learned as she raises a larger-than-most sized family and tries to figure out what she's doing day by day.

With occasional posts, Alexandra, Adrienne's older sister, writes of her ranch life in Nevada and raising four sons, ages 5 and under. Life is never dull and her boys have given her some pretty awesome stories to tell.

Stick around awhile, and you're sure to laugh, nod, smile, be encouraged, and see what life is like with a big (little) family.


Angus and the… small mouthed peanut jar.

One dear kitten has apparently lost a few brain cells in the booting-out-of-the-house process it insists on completing multiple times a day. The kids were cleaning out the van, throwing garbage out in a pile, and Angus decided to check things out.


She’s stuck. She didn’t even seem to mind. She just kept cleaning out the peanut jar.


She’s also fine. No kittens were harmed in the taking of these photos. She got herself stuck. Liberty got her unstuck. After I took a photo. Priorities, after all.


There will be pain.

After a crazy day that involved an ER visit and getting to know my midwife a whole lot better, I’m home, having convinced hospital personnel that I can recover from a kidney infection at home. I’ve never been so thankful for midwifery care, the ability to get a hold of my midwife in the wee hours of the morning, and her willingness to pick me up from home, take me to the ER, and be an advocate for me as I walked the maze of possible labor threats and renal ultrasounds. Not to be confused with rectal ultrasounds, which is what I heard. I had a mental conversation of “You’re going to do what?! Where?” Let’s be clear: all is external, and the kidneys are no where close to… that. Whew. I was just a bit out of it. Apparently. No drugs involved. Give the midwife her due: she barely laughed when the nurse left and I asked for clarification. Oh. My. Word.

So thankful for her. And dear friends who delivered dinner so that I could come home and not worry about cooking. And dear friends who prayed while I freaked out, fearful this baby was in grave danger. Thankful for a baby who’s heart beats strong and who decided to move far, far more than normal this stressful day, reassuring me all was well.

What a day. So thankful for God’s care, clearly displayed so many times today.


Update: Saw my midwife the next day. No signs of infection. Zero. Amazing. Sometimes, antibiotics are really, really good things.



  • Pierce threw two new rolls of toilet paper into the toilet.
  • Someone left the toothpaste, uncapped, on the bathroom rug. Charlotte stepped on it.
  • The rug’s in the washing machine. Fourth load for today.
  • I took the kids grocery shopping at two stores and to the library.
  • A random man asked me when I was going to be done having babies. I sputtered but remained polite.
  • I found out Liberty had a huge amount of homework to do for co-op. Due tomorrow. It’s still half done. Three maps to color and label takes a long time.
  • I found out Eden had a report on Laura Ingalls Wilder to do, among other things. Also due tomorrow.
  • I remembered once again that I’d rather homeschool than deal with daily homework.
  • I took the kids to the library. I’d borrowed Courting Cate by Leslie Gould and liked it so much I went to see if she had other titles. None were there. Read Courting Cate if you like Christian Fiction. It’s really good.
  • I didn’t have to throw even one kitten out of doors. They seem to be learning. I took Theodore Roosevelt’s advice to speak softly and carry a big stick to heart.
  • Floppy rulers qualify as big sticks.
  • I counted four gallons of milk in the fridge when we got home and sighed, realizing we’re not going to make another week. I thought we had six.
  • I sprayed the tub down with Comet spray at 9 am.
  • I finally got the tub scrubbed at 9 pm.
  • The tub soaking for that long doesn’t help out anymore than soaking for three minutes.
  • Pierce made it to 8 pm before he pooped in his pants. I was just thinking that we’d had an accident-free day.
  • Sterling couldn’t remember what lines of symmetry means on his math assessment. Seconds later, he informed me that 22 x 10 = 220. I don’t know what to do with that boy.
  • Ruby maybe, just maybe, has caught onto reading. She’s getting faster. It amazes me what personality and a little bit more time means at the ripe old age of five. Thinking back, the older the child was, the easier it was to teach them to read. The oldest one was 5.5 years old. That beats 4.5 any. That’s nearly a quarter of their life difference.
  • I stayed up way too late typing this, because I walked into the bathroom and saw the two rolls of tp in the garbage and it was just enough aggravating to write about.

TOS Review: Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns

I’ve been reviewing Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns with a one-year access to their Learn How to Make Doll Clothes Video Course with 8 Free Doll Clothes Patterns. Designed for ages 8 and up, Liberty (10) and Eden (8) both fall into this age range, but using the sewing machine is something I’ve done only with Liberty. She watched many of these videos, but with a mother who sews… it’s easier to show her than watch the videos for her. We worked on the patterns together, but I did most of the sewing when Liberty got sick on sewing day.

I was excited to begin this review. I’ve made dozens and dozens of things, beginning to sew with my mother in my teen years, and since making many more things, learning the hard way at times. Doll clothes have been something I’ve worked on quite a bit, but clothes so tiny are not so easy to work with. With my sewing experience, though, I watched many videos before I learned something new – but I’m thrilled with the new things that I did pick up! Hems, fabric choices, elastic, stitch types, and more are covered in this beginner sewing course that lasts 6 weeks with a handful of videos for each week lasting 2-15 minutes long each. There are over 130 videos in all - it starts out super simple and builds skill as you go along. The videos live stream – there’s nothing to download. I watched several videos in a sitting. Well done with decent quality but nothing fabulous, the videos loaded well for me and my fairly fast internet.

This isn’t something I’d just set my daughters loose with. The course has many how-to videos, but then you jump into sewing and simply refer back to the videos for instruction should you need it. My sewing machine is one of my more important, more expensive, and favorite tools, so perhaps I’m a bit overprotective, but I’m not prepared to set them loose with my machine quite yet. This did, however, provide us with a fun thing to do together. Liberty loves to sew with me and has visions of making her siblings Christmas and birthday presents, so she was a very willing participant in this review.


I chose to make the Summer Nightgown and a pair of doll panties. Super simple, to be sure, but I found the directions rather confusing. I searched and searched to find out how much elastic of the 20” required was for each leg and the waist of the panties, until I finally figured out they weren’t cutting it, but marking where to cut it, using that length, then cutting it and taking the leftover to the next leg, etc. I’ve never found a pattern that does it this way, and found that part frustrating. The patterns for the dress were simple rectangles, but I found myself pasting the two pages together to make the pattern that could have easily been instructions to cut a rectangle x inches by y inches. I’m sure this was to keep the beginner confident, but the extra steps with the patterns seemed unnecessary. My items turned out great, although, live and learn, I found that I was out of blue thread except for one bobbin. I thought I could get away with it since the mismatched color would be on the inside, but the t-shirt I cut apart to make them wasn’t so thick that the thread didn’t show through. Dolly doesn’t care, but it looked less than neat because of that.


Overall, the video course is great for beginners. It clearly explains and shows steps required for sewing, and I learned a few new tips even as one who sews quite regularly and has made a multitude of doll clothes for my four daughters. The patterns I made I was rather disappointed with how difficult they made something that was truly simple. I think, perhaps, it’s to be super clear for those that have no experience, but I couldn’t help but think it could be a bit more clear in the directions and make it sound far less complicated in the process. Most of their patterns are available on their website for an additional cost, I only made two of the free ones that are offered as part of the video course.

The course includes 8 free patterns. There are many other patterns for sale on the website, but the free ones include the ones pictured on the dolls above:

  • Sport Shorts
  • Crop Top
  • Sarong
  • Halter Top
  • Summer Nightie
  • Hat
  • Pumpkin
  • Underpants

All come with PDF pattern pieces and basic written instructions and step by step videos on how to make the outfits.

Access to the lessons for one year is $47.85 USD. Copies of the videos on DVD are also available. See their store page on their website here for more information.

To read what the rest of the Crew thought of Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns and her How to Make Doll Clothes video course, check out the review crew blog.

Dreams, projects, and the messes they can make.

I woke up with a start at 3:00 am with a dream. My dear son, having been potty training since June, still has a LOT of moments. In my dream, I was sitting on the floor folding laundry and he decided to relieve me of my chore, relieve himself on the laundry, and save me the steps of folding and putting away.

It actually made me jump.

While Mr. P has had accidents in a multitude of places, on clean laundry, thankfully, has not been one of them. But I couldn’t help but laugh. I got a three hour nap yesterday, went to bed at 9pm, so a total of 13 hours of sleep later, mostly uninterrupted, I was finally sleeping hard enough – and long enough – to dream. (Uninterrupted until 7:18 am when Pierce hit me in the face with a cheese stick and asked if he could have it. Hello, morning.) But what do I dream about?

This motherhood thing is getting to me.

We’ve had sick kids this weekend. It started Friday afternoon with Liberty, Eden started complaining Saturday, and today, they’re asking if co-op is still on for tomorrow. We shall see. From the sounds in the kitchen, Liberty’s eating real food again. Hooray for the small things. Eden never did get it very bad – I’m still not sure if she got it or she just wanted the opportunity to read all day. When I dictated it would be only toast and no books during her illness, she felt better quite quickly. Amazing recovery.

I spent Saturday sewing. I’ve decided that’s my spend-little-to-no-money method of not shopping when stressed. Of course, looking around the house and seeing my sewing mess and the mess made by many small children while I didn’t pay them 100% attention is enough to send my stress levels back up to where they were. But, for a little while… I sewed a maternity dress that turned out a little less fabulous than the photo in the pattern. I’m trying that again, a little differently. I shocked and amazed my children at my ability to twist fabric strips into rosettes. Sew for hours and make slings and dresses and blankets and doll panties? No big deal? Make a flower with a strip of fabric in 32 seconds? Now that’s amazing.

After that, I sewed doll clothes for another review. Liberty’s doll got two new items. Liberty joked her doll hadn’t gotten two new things in one day since the day I sewed a heart on her behind to patch the hole and sewed a patch nearby to patch an even larger hole. I love it – my daughter has quite the sense of humor developing these days.

Then… I looked at my house and had the brief thought that it might be easier to just move than to clean up the mess that had taken over every inch of my home. But, after an hour in the kitchen trying to find my tile floor under the dirt, and an hour in the living room, putting things away and cleaning that floor, it started to look manageable again. And then Pierce woke up from his nap. It was nice while it lasted.


TOS Review: VocabularySpellingCity

Many members of the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew have received a VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership from VocabularySpellingCity to review. I received the membership and have used it with all three of my students who are studying spelling: Sterling (6), Eden (8), and Liberty (10). It’s appropriate for K-12, but since Ruby is still learning to read and not doing spelling in our home school, she didn’t use this.

Each week, I’d type up each student’s spelling words from their current curriculum, and they spent the week playing games, taking practice tests, vocabulary tests, and more, all with the spelling words I’d chosen for them. The possibilities were endless, but they soon each had a favorite game that they kept going back to.

Honestly, the biggest problem I had with this program was getting their words typed in there for them. We’re always scrambling for time, and I was forever forgetting to get them typed in there before Monday rolled around again and they started a new list. I think if we’re going o stick with this, I’d spend some time entering every word from all 36 lists that are in my kids’ spelling books, organize them by list number, and then I could step away from all responsibility beyond the occasional reminder for them to do it.

My only other complaint is that some of my girls’ lists are longer than the 51 word maximum we ran into. They are their review weeks, and I couldn’t enter in all the words on those lists into one practice section. That was a little frustrating, but we figured it out. Signing in for the kids was strange – it didn’t require a password for the kids so I didn’t use one, but I found out too late that because of this, it wasn’t recording any of their scores. Not critical for us since we just used it for practice on their words and I still administered a regular test on paper each week, but this could potentially replace the need for me to give a test at all, but it would need to be recorded properly. I’m sure it’s an easy fix, but I didn’t find it.

There are so many games. Liberty saw my screen shots on my review and had instant comments. “Oh, I liked that game. That game was hard. That one wasn’t my favorite…” All three of my kids loved playing on VocabularySpellingCity and begged to do a practice test each Thursday morning before I gave them their regular test. All of them recognized their scores much improved with a practice test first. The kids have been learning typing this year too, so the games that allowed them to type or had them searching for a letter quickly were particularly fun for them, since they got to practice their newly acquired (and still developing) typing skills.

Overall, this has been a great site for our family and the kids have learned and enjoyed themselves. Liberty in particular wanted me to mention how much she enjoyed it. Perfectionist that she is, she loved that she got 100% on every spelling test taken during this review. Eden scored perfectly the entire time too, and Sterling did almost that well. While they typically do quite well in spelling, this was a bit better than normal. In our house, a 100% on Thursday’s test means no Friday test and no words to write multiple times, so this was cause for rejoicing on their part!

VocabularySpellingCity offers a much more basic offering (less games/tracking/options) for free. Their premium price is $29.99 per year for up to five students. They also offer classroom and school-wide prices on their website here.

To read more reviews from the Crew on Vocabulary Spelling City, check out the Review Crew Blog.


It’s like a barnyard around here.

There’s still a rooster roaming the yard. How he’s lived this long, I’m not sure. Why I continue to allow him to live, I’m even more unsure. He crows at all hours of the day and night, but lately, he’s pushing me to my limits.

He’s taken to thinking the front porch is for his residing pleasures. The concrete patio has become his playground.

My children’s shoes keep tracking in the signs of the suicidal animal.

If he’s hanging out on the porch and patio… and leaving the remnants of his time spent there for everyone to know where he’s been… he must be suicidal.

Pierce w rooster

Between “Some Other Guy’s Rooster” as Charlotte has affectionately named the stray, and two of these furry gray balls of infuriating named Fred and Angus (both girls, ironically enough):


who like newspapers, which is fine with me, but also like the inside of my home, which is NOT fine with me, I’m just going to go crazy. Between the rooster making a mess of our play spaces, and the cat climbing the screen and running inside every time the door opens, it’s like a three ring circus around here. It’s driving me crazy.

Looking at the bright side, it’ll be the animals that send me over the edge. The kids’ consciences can be relieved. They didn’t do it.


TOS Review: Barbour Publishing

This year, Barbour Publishing, Inc. has published Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton and asked the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew to review the book and let you all – and them – what we think of it. Based on the life and diary of main character Emma Jean – EJ – Payne, a 10 year old girl with tragic hair and growing up in the boring, boring town in Wisconsin. She can’t wait to grow up and get out of there. While her actions are almost always good, she doesn’t always land on her feet.

This paperback had me nervous at first, fearful I was going to encounter attitude problems and challenging authority figures from the characters of a book. From personal experience, this is not something I want my children reading about. It doesn’t end up in any good thing.

Eden (8) read the book first. She was pretty thrilled to get a book in the mail that was ”for her” to read. I heard about it. And heard about it. And heard about it. “It’s funny. The main character’s dad is a pastor. It’s so funny. They talk about God a lot. It’s so funny.” Yeah. My own dear daughter, well-meaning but oh, my goodness, the things she comes up with sometimes… Eden related to this book on a very personal level. She loved it.

Liberty (10) read it too, and while she wasn’t quite so ecstatic about the book as Eden was, she still talked about it often and happily read it. As a pickier reader, I was happy to have her find a book she enjoyed and read without dragging her feet about it. She’s really starting to understand jokes and have her own sense of humor, so this was pretty fun for her. EJ is 10 in the book, but very much not like Liberty with her serious, quiet manner, but Liberty still appreciated having a fun book to read.

I was pretty happy with the book. It’s great to find materials for my kids to read that I agree with, and this one fit the bill. The characters, while certainly portrayed as sinful people, they learn from mistakes and find a lesson worth learning in the end. I’d rather read about sinful characters that find grace and mercy in Christ than when books build characters that can’t possibly be real. EJ had a lot of lessons to learn (and it sounds like more are coming!). She isn’t perfect, but she seems like she understands that too.

Much of the book is entries from EJ’s diary – the diary her mother gave her because she believed it would be a “good outlet” for EJ. The very first page has some pretty funny stuff, and even Sterling (6) started reading it. He hasn’t gotten very far, but he keeps picking it up. I love how even he “gets” the jokes. If funny is what it takes to make my kids want to pick up books, then so be it. Throw in a Christian theme and a lesson that my kids can draw from too, and it sounds something we’ll look for more of! Book 2 is coming, and I already have requests from my kids to get our hands on a copy ASAP.

Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story has 192 pages and is published by Barbour Publishing. It retails for $5.99 and is available here.

To read the rest of the Crew’s opinions on Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton, head over to the review crew blog.


Facts of Life (by Alexandra)


Gus helped his dad ride through the weaned calves checking for sick ones yesterday. The boys have a pretty impressive understanding of how life goes. They have watched calves being born when it is calving season. All mother’s make milk for their babies, but during the weaning process they know that the calves no longer get milk from their mom and sometimes they get sick without the good stuff in her milk. Sometimes they get so sick that they die.

One of my chickens sat on eggs and even managed to hatch one of them. They chick made it 2 days before one of the cats ate it.

Tough stuff for little boys to understand, but they do amazingly well with it. It’s hard to shield them from much when our life is so surrounded by animals and the life and death of them. I've come to conclude that, while it's sad, it's good for them to experience. The knowledge that life leads to death, that people die too, that Jesus died so that their death isn't permanent... it all becomes an integral part of who they are and learning what we believe. Hard lessons, but important ones too.

A friend gave us another kitten. He got named Spike the 2nd. (If you remember back, the owl got Spike #1) Gus was outside building him a house on Saturday when he came running into the house crying. Almost to the point of hysteria, I finally was able to decipher what he was saying enough to figure out that it was something about my dog eating Spike that had him upset. I look out onto the porch to see Spike calmly sunbathing on the pillow he had been instructed to stay on.

“Pretty sure the dog ain’t eating your cat, honey.”

“Well she is eating something! It was all wet and gross!”

“Hmmm, lets go see…  Do you think that it could be?…”


Mystery solved. The kids watched for a few minutes and then went back to their cat house building.  There was a comment made at dinner to the effect of her “milk” being a lot bigger but that was about the extent of it. “When can we PLAY with them? They just sleep all the time right now!”

Around and around we go. It's a pretty incredible life in which to raise these sons of mine. They get to experience so much, to learn from real life, and to see so much firsthand. What a joy life is!!


TOS Review: God’s World News–Early Edition


As part of the Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, I’ve been reviewing God’s World News, receiving their magazine for grades 1-2, Early Edition, and full access to the grade level I received at their website, and new websites, and (should I have received a magazine on the teen level)


I requested Sterling’s age level, Early Edition. He’s six, in first grade, and reading very well. He’s devoured his magazines that he’s received so far, and told me over and over of the stories he’s read. The first morning after the mail came with his first issue was awesome. “Mom, did you know?” “I found ___ on the map.” “Mom, where’s ___ on the map? I can’t find it.” His first issue (September’s) came with a map to use with each issue, and oh, my word, has Sterling had fun with that. He’s studied it at length, finding all the states we’ve lived in, been to, countries he’s heard of, places he’s read about in his magazines. I have a feeling that thing isn’t going to make the year. We talked of hanging it on the wall, but he informed me he would not be able to look at it as well that way. Well then.

The magazines each contain 24 pages. They are colorful and printed on thick newsprint from what I’ve gathered. Amazingly, they haven’t ripped or fallen apart. I’m impressed, after what they’ve been through.

The website access is amazing. I’ve spent several hours on there and barely scratched the surface. Back issues of all God’s World Magazines (including World, one I’ve read some online and always in the eye doctor’s office, and have been thoroughly impressed with their views and vantage points. Plus… we have a writer from World in our own congregation. It’s a fabulous magazine. Unfortunately, our entertainment budget remains at $0 so we’ve never subscribed. For now though, I get to read it online. I was thrilled when I learned this – and further thrilled when I could “add” family members and added Blaine, so that he may read with his own username and password. Ah, it’s the little things.


The answer keys to quizzes in the magazine (during the school year – no quizzes in the summer) are online, as are extended news lessons, biographies in PDF form (I found one to use this week, was all excited about it, then my computer shut itself down and lost it. And just like that, what was it about?! Live and learn. Bookmark. Download. Now I’ll have to find another one to use. There’s 120+ to choose from – it shouldn’t be hard!) Weekly email newsletter Teaching God’s World News is available to subscribers, and is the easiest way to access all that I’ve mentioned.

Chalk it all up to say, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed Early Edition and all the online content that goes with it. Sterling is thrilled to get a magazine in the mail just for him, I’ve really appreciated all the articles inside, and I’m so excited to be able to read many of the other offerings online. The news chosen for Sterling’s magazine has been in good taste – I assumed it would be, knowing what I know of the adult magazine, but it did not disappoint. Sterling is getting a taste of the world and what goes on around him in a format I really appreciate, from a Christian worldview I also appreciate. Awesome.

Early Edition retails for $32 for ten monthly issues, but God’s World News has it available here for $28 a year for a single subscription. A school-year subscription, with issues September through April, retails for $25 but is available from God’s World News here for $21. Further discounts are offered for multiple magazines to the same address.

To read more reviews on Early Edition and God’s World News’ other magazines available for the young reader to young adult, check out the Review Crew Blog.



Sterling lost his first tooth last night. He’d mentioned earlier in the day that he had bumps on the inside of his gums that hurt. I told him he must have scratched them up on toast or some such thing. He complained again later, so I looked to see what was going on. His adult tooth was coming in, behind his baby tooth that has been loose for months but he’s babied enough that it never got looser.

I did what any parent would do. I bribed him. “You get it out before tomorrow morning, and I’ll give you a dollar. You still have that baby tooth in your mouth in the morning, and I pull it and you don’t get to complain.”

Compassionate? Of course.


Thing is, money speaks to Sterling like nothing else. He hoards it. So when he got the chance to add to his stash, he was all over it.

“How am I supposed to wiggle my tooth during supper?!” he asked.

I told him he could take a break and eat.

“But then I won’t get it out tonight!”

Pretty soon, he was asking for help. Sounding somewhat like a woman in labor, he moaned and huffed and puffed and I got it looser. He took to eating an apple in hopes that it would help. It didn’t.

I told him I’d get it out. He indulged me and stood there willingly. Thirty seconds later, he was spitting a tooth across the kitchen floor with a look of terror on his face.

Just like that, my baby grew up just a little. And he got his dollar.



My children have an imperfect mother.

I know. Shocker.

I show my children depravity at it’s finest.

But where there is sin, there is grace. Forgiveness. Another day.

I distinctly remember the first time I ever apologized to one of my children. It was the hardest moment I could recall. So humbling. Since then, it’s become far easier. I have had lots of practice.

It’s a balance, this motherhood thing. We make mistakes, we learn from then, we move on, striving to do better. And then we make more mistakes. Scripture talks of the faith of a little child. The forgiveness of a little child is also a remarkable thing. Whereas I want to stay offended, and struggle to forgive and move on, a child forgives and immediately acts as if they really aren’t offended. As if I didn’t really just mess up once again, use a harsh tone, hurry them along when they were already doing their best, or interrupt their story to remind them of chores. They just forgive, move on, and love me still.

It’s incredible.

Today, I’m thankful for grace. God’s grace, grace from my husband, grace from my children, grace from my friends. Lately, I feel more in need of it than ever. I struggle, I sin, I fall flat on my face, and yet, God has offered me free grace. Over and over again, I’m in need of it.
I was called “super mom” again the other day. All I could think is, “Wow, have they got the wrong lady.” I try, I fail, I try again, and fail again. Motherhood is the most humbling experience of my life. My frailty is fully displayed to these six little people – and when I think I might be conquering just one small portion in life, one of my children says or does something that I taught them that reminds me, once again, that it’s so much worse than I ever thought.

Grace. Forgiveness. Thankful.


Pierce: self entertainment.

Pierce dumped out his shoes this morning, then started cleaning them up.


Then he realized I was laughing and taking photos, so he dumped them all out so he could start again.


Cheap entertainment. Unfortunately, as soon as I put the camera away, he gave up, walked away, and left the shoes everywhere. We’ll get there… one day at a time. In the meantime, I’ll marvel that he can actually use a broom and dust pan rather effectively.


TOS Review: Chess House

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine was asked to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from CHESSHOUSE.COM. It includes a soft-sided bag (given the choice of color, I chose black) and vinyl-front fabric-back chess board that rolls up and is contained in the bag, along with all the pieces required for set up (plus a few extra queens). It also includes DVD Elliot’s Chess School Pawn Level: Level 1 that teaches the very beginning basics of the game of Chess.

Liberty (10) and Eden (8) played and learned with me. While the ages for play are listed as 4 and up, Ruby (5) and Sterling (6) quickly bored with my lack of knowledge and constant referral the the video and they wandered off and lost interest. Eden and Liberty, though, thoroughly enjoyed themselves and picked up the basics quickly. Pierce (2) made the game a little more interesting, moving pieces at will. We quickly learned to play while he was napping.

First, let’s be clear: I’ve never played Chess in my life. I’ve never seen Chess played. Ever. And when I watched the DVD through the first time (we’re going to be wearing it out, to be sure) I got more and more lost. It took jumping in… and referring back to the DVD often, to start to get an idea of what needed to happen. It’s not the simplest game ever. Winning isn’t just a cut and dried thing. There are so many variations of how the game can go it’ll make your head spin. But, we jumped in, played our first game, and guess what? I won. Yes, folks, I beat an 8 and 10 year old team. Such victory.

Since that amazing victory, the game comes out often. We tried playing it outside, but it turns out, we still need the DVD often. My only recommendation for Chess House would be a diagram on the Chess board of how set up should be, and perhaps a quick printout of how each piece move. I was ready to take notes, so frustrated with my ability to remember how the game goes, but Eden always remembered and knew so I trusted her memory (it’s usually ridiculously reliable) and went with it.

IMG_4923The DVD is organized really, really well. With setup, overview, and how each piece can move in individual segments, it made it easy to find the right section to tell me what I’d already forgotten. Explained and demonstrated by National Master Elliott Neff, the DVD made figuring out what we were doing far, far easier than reading it on paper. I’m quite certain I’d have given up if I’d have had to read the rules. If we ever figure this out (or the girls leave me in their dust, given their pursuit of the game is far more enthusiastic than my brain wants to be!) there are many more levels offered on DVD to continue learning the game in greater understanding.

Blaine called one afternoon from work as the girls and I were playing. When I told him what I was doing, he replied, “I didn’t know you knew how to play Chess!” Um, yeah, I don’t very well. But I’m learning. It’s been a fun experience – and a great one to have with my girls. And, as long as I insist we play on the floor in front of the TV so we can continue to double check that we’re playing correctly, it’s pretty fun too.  One of these days, I might just challenge my husband to a game. But, knowing his intellect… I’m going to practice for a while longer first.

This beginner kit from Chess House retails for $49.95 but is currently listed here for a sale price $39.95.

To read more reviews on the Starter Chess Learning Kit from other members of the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew, check out the Review Crew Blog.


Liberty's making pancakes - from a mix. She's over an hour in and I just heard the first oil spray hit the pan. I can teach them how to cook… but how on earth do you teach them speed?!

Sterling asked me how big a yard was. My reply was, “3 feet. 36 inches. A yard stick. You know, that’s why we call it a YARD stick.”

My son just snorted at me. In that brief second, he realized he’d asked a very stupid question. I love it. (If you saw how they play with yard sticks around here, you’d understand better. We have about 10 of them, from the farm show and from Blaine’s parents’ hardware store. They frequently become swords, roads, and, with the help of bread twist ties, bridges. Yard sticks are something he knows VERY well.)

Yesterday Sterling learned about nickels. We sorted out 2 quarters, 10 nickels, 5 dimes, and 50 pennies into four piles to make a point on the value of each coin. What Sterling got out of our piles? “We have $2 here!” I’m not the least bit math minded. My son is scaring me.

Pierce is back to his normal self. Temper tantrums, requiring lots of correction, and eating everything in sight normal Pierce. Thankful. Even for the exhausting job of the constant need to correct him. Funny: I dropped a butter knife onto the tile floor with a crash that sounded worse that it really was. Pierce took the opportunity to correct me back. “Momma! No no!”

Ruby was told that today at co-op she has PE and needs to wear jeans. She came back with five jean skirts for me to choose from, insisting that a jean skirt with leggings is really easy to run in. She just can’t stand it.

Eden is the first child I’ve ever had to tell to write out her math answers using numbers, not words. She had an entire lesson that she wrote answers like “five hundred twenty six thousand nine hundred fifty two” – in cursive. I’m sorry. I’m glad you know place value and how a number reads in words. But my brain does not want to convert that to numbers, so you’ll have to indulge me and use numbers next time.

Charlotte insists she’s three now, so she’s big. Until last night. When asked why she wasn’t helping to clean up supper, she informed me she’s not that big. It went into a several-minute dissertation on why three years old is pretty big, but she’s not quite big enough to do work, because she’s still pretty short. With the ability to have a discussion like that, she’s being recruited into service. She’s a fabulous “Crawl under the table for any runaway cups, silverware, napkins, or large pieces of food picker-upper”.

The pancakes were worth the wait. If you have the chance, the pecan-glazed mix from Aldi is pretty darn fabulous. And a ten year old can make them. If they have an hour and a half.


Garden Supper

Supper the other night was veggie pizza. I wanted to try to make Papa Murphy’s white sauce. Every place I found that discussed it said it was simply ranch dressing with extra garlic cloves in it. I made ranch dressing and added 4 cloves of garlic (to 2 cups of sauce). While it was quite good, I’m not certain it was the same. At any rate, until I think of a better idea, I’ll do that again.

The veggies for our pizza all came out of the garden, except for the mushrooms. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, chives, and basil all came fresh from the outdoors. While I didn’t take a photo of the finished pizza – because, while the crusts I make taste good, they are lumpy and bumpy and full of “warts”. So, you get the cutting board. It’s prettier.


Colorful. Fun. I love it when our food looks pretty.

One little project deserved a bigger one…

My little two-hour sewing project and little purse made yesterday afternoon, proved I can’t leave well enough alone.


I made myself a diaper bag last night. Because I can’t just sew something small and quit while my back is still fully functioning. No, I must find something else to make, dig through scraps until I find enough fabric, and sew until I can’t sit up straight or move without pain. I’ve always wished for a sewing room. Turns out, that might be a bad idea. I’d be forever sewing instead of leaving the machine tucked away because it’s too much work to haul everything down the stairs to a big enough work space.


But, on the bright side, I now have an extra-large ultra-colorful diaper bag with lots of pockets for when baby’s born! Since I have all the baby clothes, bed, blankets, diapers, and everything else I need for a newborn kept from the others, it was kind of fun to do something new for the new baby – you know, the one that won’t be born, Lord willing, for another five months. I might have to find an excuse to use it before then.

Oh, Ruby.

Ruby fills out a “meeting strip” every day during math. With the day’s date, a pattern to finish, and a coin cup box for the coins I’ve handed her to be counted and recorded, she apparently was getting bored with the routine. This is the one she handed me last week:


I was told to finish the letters to make the date. Each of the letters for October are half there (except the c, since she couldn’t draw only half). Impressive shorthand, dear Ruby. Not quite what I was after, but impressive nonetheless.


Projects while the sickie sleeps.

Pierce has been sick this weekend. It started Friday night. About the time he was sent to bed, he started crying. And crying. And 16 hours later, he finally quit crying and fell into an exhausted sleep. Ibuprofen didn’t even slow him down. Teething tablets did nothing. Discussions were made as to whether to take him to the doctor, not having a clue why he was crying and he refused to talk or point what hurt or anything to indicate what the problem was, but in the end, we stayed home. Hard decisions. He’s recovering, sleeping a ton, mostly on me, and now says his teeth hurt. Hello, am I glad I didn’t take him to Urgent Care over teething. “Yeah, we have a mom of six here who can’t figure out her son is getting a new tooth. You’d think she’d have figured this one out by now.” Nope. Not a clue.

But, on that note, I stayed home from church today. Blaine teaches Sunday school, so there’s not much choice. I’m the dispensable one. So, while Pierce slept, I sewed. Rough morning, to be sure. I made this:


While I had visions of it being, oh, about twice as big, (It’s 8”x10” finished.) I made one true to pattern and now, I’ll attempt to double it, I think. I used fabric leftover from other projects (a few slings contain these fabrics) so it cost me nothing. Kinda fun. I went to a popular bag company party a few weeks ago and found myself looking at the catalog thinking, “I could so make that – and it wouldn’t cost me $65.” I walked away feeling horrible for buying nothing, but inspired to get out my sewing machine. Fun.

Soup Recipe: Zuppa Toscana

This recipe is one of our favorites. We grew kale in the garden this year, just because we liked it so much. Blaine even suggested canning it pre-kale in mass quantity. That has yet to happen… we eat it as fast as I make it. Leftovers are highly sought after – it reheats very well.

Be careful when stowing leftovers. Spilled soup makes you want to cry twice. At the loss, and at the greasy mess left in it’s aftermath. Not that I would know this firsthand or anything.

2 lbs. ground sausage

2 onions, diced

8-10 cloves garlic, minced

12 cups chicken stock

8-9 cups russet potatoes, cubed

2 tsps. salt (to taste)

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

4-6 cups kale, washed, cut leaves off stems, discard stems and cut leaves into bite size pieces

3 cups heavy whipping cream

Garnish: Parmesan cheese, grated, to taste


In stock pot, brown and crumble sausage and onions. During the last couple minutes of cooking, add minced garlic. Once cooked, drain grease.

Pour in chicken stock and add potatoes. Cover and allow potatoes to simmer for about 15-30 minutes, until tender. Once potatoes are tender, pour in heavy cream, season with salt and pepper. Then add kale.

Stir. Bring mixture back up to a simmer and allow the kale to soften and wilt. Serve.


Underthings proclamation and other short stories.

I was in a dressing room, trying on a purple maternity dress. Charlotte tagged along.

“Mom! That dress matches your glasses!”

Yes. Yes it does.

“It matches your…” she searched for the next purple item she could name. “PANTIES, TOO!”

Could you say that a little louder, dear? I’m not quite sure the cashier at the front of the store heard you. From the chuckles outside the dressing room, the other ladies shopping nearby certainly did.


One dear boy helped his big sister lick out her birthday cake batter bowl. I’m pretty sure he got some in his mouth. Wouldn’t know it by looking at him though. I’m going to take heart between the two faces, and remind myself at the difference a year makes.


Today: Three grocery stores, six children and I, 1.5 hours, a week and a half worth of groceries, tp, and cat food, $200. That might be a new record for time. Between that, and Pierce actually holding onto the cart the entire time he was instructed without failing to obey (down to almost walking away to get in the van and remembering, saying “Oops!” and heading back to his post) it was a day for record-breaking. Maybe that’s why we got done so quickly, come to think of it!

One of my dear children, to remain nameless, was questioned this morning regarding MIA daily 100-problem math timed tests that had been assigned. Turns out, this dear child opted not to do them, pulling the perfectionist card out of the repertoire of bad excuses. “I can get a good score, so I didn’t want to do them. So I didn’t.” How didn’t? 14 lessons didn’t. Between those, the extra lesson that had been assigned but not completed, and the four chapter tests also mysteriously opted out of, one dear child has roughly 1,400 math problems to make up. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. Today: half done. I’m scared to correct them, for fear said child’s brain opted out of complete operation after all that. Sometimes being the parent and the teacher just stinks. It’s stinking hard to leave the frustrations of our school day during school hours and move on in the evening.

Liberty was conjugating verbs. “Have boughtended?” The sad part was, she looked at me, waiting for my nod of approval instead of realizing her error. She realized it shortly after, however - when I snorted.

I told Sterling to grab his math book today. “Why?” he questioned.

“To do your lesson,” I replied.

“I already did it,” I was told.

“Yeah, fine, but we need to do your lesson. You’re learning about measuring today.”

“That math book is weird, Mom. I already know how to measure. They want to teach me things I already know. I did that page too. Why are the people that wrote that book so weird? That stuff is so easy.” And he had done it. All of it. To perfection.

Tomorrow, we work on humility.


TOS Review: Fundanoodle

As we wrap up the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew year, I’ve received some pretty fun stuff to review with Charlotte from Fundanoodle. I received I Can Cut, I Can Do Math Level 1, and Max and Alphie’s Adventure Level 1, all part of the “Orange” level for 3 year olds, or preschool level.

Charlotte turned three last week – partway through the review. While it was obvious she was a beginner learning these skills (and her I Can Cut! Activity Book looks like a slight massacre has maimed it for life) she had a BLAST doing these books. Thrilled with the concept of “doing school” alongside her older siblings, she took her work with an incredibly serious attitude and worked her little heart out on these. She did 1-3 pages per school day in each book, and they took her usually 5-10 minutes per book, depending on how meticulous she decided to be.

The I Can Cut! Activity Book was by far her favorite, complete with the pair of safety all-plastic scissors that came with the book. While I didn’t check to see if they cut hair, I don’t think they will. They’re pretty perfect for a first pair of scissors. She cut up those pages to pieces, sometimes more accurately than others, but her ability to hold and control scissors greatly improved as she went. The other two books I received cover counting, patterns, and looking at pictures to find missing objects. She didn’t get the concept at the beginning. (When told to circle all the houses, she circled ALL of the houses. And everything else on the page – with one GIANT circle. Talk about the letter of the law more than the spirit of it!) Now, several weeks later, she takes to the directions like a pro – and I learned to demonstrate my desires just a little bit more clearly!

The I Can Do Math! Activity Book was a little bit above Charlie’s head. Attributing a number to a single object is something she’s still learning, and despite trying to get her to count objects and give each a number, to find which square had more, etc., she really didn’t get this. She, however, did not realize she wasn’t getting it and had a fabulous time in the meantime. I learned to let it go, give her the instructions, and let her do it wrong. It’ll be okay.

The stickers… oh, the stickers. Charlotte loved finding the “right” sticker for the page and placing it, ever so carefully, exactly in the right spot. There’s nothing wrong with her hand-eye coordination, for certain. Her sticker placement was exact and perfect. She never, ever forgot to grab her sticker to mark the page completed. These were quite possibly her favorite part of the two books (I Can Do Math! and Max and Alphie’s Adventures!) that contained them. Such fun.

When Charlotte saw me working on this review, and saw photos of “her school”, she was concerned she wouldn’t get to keep it. Suffice it to say, she really, really has enjoyed these books and will continue to do them each day.

All three of the books I received are 9” x 12”. I Can Cut! Cutting Activity Book contains 40 worksheets and is $7.99, I Can Do Math! Level 1 contains 40 pages plus sticker sheets containing a sticker reward for each page and is $5.99, and Max and Alphie’s Adventures! Activity book contains 40 pages plus stickers for $5.99.

 To read more reviews of these books, more Orange level books and other levels and books offered by Fundanoodle, visit the Review Crew Blog.