Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lamb 2!

Lamb 2,

I remember well when you were born the nurses that had to work Memorial Day weekend loved holding you and spoiling you in the nursery. This year your birthday is on Memorial Day. I'm sorry that you thought that meant our pool was opening today. Our neighborhood decided to open the pool one week later and then stay open one week after Labor Day. You will be glad after Labor Day even though you had to wait now.

I am so glad your birthday is finally here. Now I can say that my boys are 7, 9, 11 instead of saying almost 9 when people ask me how old you are. I know it is difficult to be the last boy's birthday and that even Papa's birthday is before yours. You weren't very patient, but we made it to today.

We are so proud of the progress you made at age 8 in vision therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Nine is going to be great for you as you are starting to take off in your reading! We love you.

Mama and Papa

Friday, May 22, 2015

A great day to be homeschooled!

About a month ago I stumbled upon a blog that talked about a free program to get a Hot Wheels classroom kit. I had never read this blog before. I followed the links and signed up for a kit, commenting that we were a homeschool and I wasn't sure if we qualified. I honestly forgot about it and didn't have a confirmation number.

Lamb 1 and 3 are working hard to finish their math books so we can take summer vacation. Lamb 1 has been doing two lessons a day. Yesterday during the second lesson a huge package arrived. Once the Lambs read the outside of the box it was a mad dash to finish math so we could open the box. They quickly picked up a few things in the living room to make room and we opened the box.

The box was heavy for Lamb 1 to hold for a photo.
(Yes, I still have Easter decorations up. Sigh. Ascension Day came quickly for us this year.)

Mama, hurry and take the photo so we can open this!

Eventually the whole downstairs had track set up!

Soon they invited the three neighbor boys that are homeschooled over to join them.

I am still surprised that we received a full classroom kit. We gladly shared with the neighbor boys so it was like we are a classroom of 6. I heard great science questions and then experiments the whole time they played. It was a wonderful break for me as they were happily entertained for a couple of hours while I did the dishes and other housework without interruptions. They are excited to set this up outside this summer, they have plans to go down the whole sidewalk and invite all the neighbor kids to join them.

Soon they even set up track in the upstairs hallway.

After a couple of hours of Hot Wheels then they got out the duct tape and made Minecraft costumes and swords. Our Lambs were very popular because they have so much duct tape thanks to Aunt Hannah's gifts for their recent birthdays. Soon the public school kids were home from school and joined them. At one time there were about a dozen kids on my patio creating stuff out of construction paper and duct tape.

(Note to Mom and Dad: Notice our tree that we got from the power company and the new house built behind us in this photo. Lamb 3 is on our picnic table so you have a point of reference.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How the Lambs push the right button for Ewe

Ewe: "Lambs, come upstairs and help me please."
Lamb 2: "We will Mama. May I please finish reading this book to Lamb 3?"
Ewe: "Of course. Finish your book and then come upstairs."

Lamb 2 was such a late reader that I can't express how happy this conversation made me yesterday. My Lambs may get lots of extra privileges like staying up late if Lamb 2 continues this!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lamb 3's surprise

At the first track meets this year, Lamb 3 ran the 50m and did not participate in any more events. He was content to play with small toys he brought while his brothers ran many events.
The final track meet it is spread over two days and they do give ribbons for placing in the top finishers for each event. Lamb 3 said he would also run the 100m for this track meet.
Ram was not able to attend the whole second day with us and met us there later. Lamb 3 decided on the way to the meet that he would not only run the 100m, but he would also run the 200m to surprise Ram.
About halfway through the running events on day 2 of the track meet it started pouring rain. We all ran up to shelter in one of the buildings, waited about half an hour, and then finished the meet while it was sprinkling, but not pouring. My Lambs put on raincoats when it started pouring. The coach said we really needed to finish the track meet when it was scheduled, it would be impossible to reschedule both for all the families involved and the time we could get the track.
By this time Ram had joined us. When it came time for the 200m, I didn't think Lamb 3 was going to participate with the rain. He decided he was still going to run it. For each event they run, the parents fill out a sticker with their age, full name, and event and put it on the child's shirt. After each event they remove the stickers from the shirts and attach them to a sheet with the official time. Ram was surprised that Lamb 3 was going to run the 200m and thought we needed to fill out a sticker since he was doing another event.
At this point, Lamb 3 unzipped his rain coat and showed Ram that he already had a sticker on his shirt. He got such a big smile to be surprising Ram by running 3 events over 2 days.
With the rain, none of my Lambs ran real well on the second day of the track meet. They didn't finish getting ribbons ready to give out when we left. Any more ribbons will be mailed. But we think all three Lambs might have gotten a ribbon for the 200m because so few people were left to participate after the rain. We are hoping that if he gets a ribbon for the 200m, it will encourage Lamb 3 to try more events next year. Now we impatiently wait for the ribbons to come in the mail...

Monday, May 18, 2015

End of Year Events

Piano Recital for Lamb 1 and 2
Last Sunday School before summer break
Final Track Meet Day 1
Final Track Meet Day 2
Last Cub Scouts for Lamb 1 before summer break
Church Preschool Graduation
Last Confirmation Class for Ram to teach before confirmation
Lamb 1 finish math book
Lamb 3 finish first 1/2 of math book

When all these events are completed, then I will declare that summer vacation is officially here for our family! I will attempt to update this list as we complete more.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Milestones Today

1. Lamb 2 read along while we sang the opening hymn in church and sang along. This was his first real reading along during a hymn. The hymn was Be Still My Soul. Since it repeats "Be Still My Soul" several times he could look ahead and figure out what the next phrase was during that phrase.

2. Lamb 1 was officially invited and attended his first youth night at church tonight. He will begin confirmation class in the fall. It hit me tonight talking to the youth leader's wife that we are beginning a whole new area that we haven't participated in before, especially that Lamb 1 will attend many of these events without Ram or Ewe. Higher Things, here comes Lamb 1, and then our other Lambs soon!

3. Lamb 3 requested insisted that we plant bell peppers in our garden. This weekend he ate several bell peppers from the store. This adds to the few other veggies he eats. He tries other veggies but the bell peppers are one that he eats now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My current frugal life

My friend, Kristen, recently posted about what her life is like now here. That got me to thinking about recent choices our family has made to be frugal. Here's a glimpse into my current life.

Since we moved here Ram usually shops at Costco twice a month with a list. We almost always combine errands to buy gas at Costco instead of another gas station. Even for trips we fill up at Costco on the way out of town and the way into town. We often buy gas at Costco without going in to shop.

Each week I shop at an average of 3 stores for what we don't buy at Costco. Some weeks this means stocking up on toilet paper and printer paper at Staples. Some weeks we need items from Walmart or Target. Most weeks I hit two main grocery stores. About once a month we shop at a cheaper grocery store and stock up on items that we need that weren't on sale at the other grocery stores. This year I am attempting to stick to my food budget including paying food sales tax. I frequently do rebates on Staples paper and on alcohol (to make vanilla or for a treat). I do the Staples rebates online so I don't pay postage.

I buy chicken and ground beef from Zaycon. I split chicken with a friend so buy it more often. I use the whole ground beef case myself, rationing it out so it lasts longer. I buy organic if it is on sale, but I shop close to home, not drive to Whole Foods. Recently I bought organic carrots on sale, but I don't always buy organic carrots. We are heading in the direction of eating Paleo, but don't buy very much processed marked gluten free foods. A normal Paleo meal is baked chicken and veggies, not something extravagant.

In the past we did Bountiful Baskets, but they changed the location and raised their prices. We have not participated in BB recently. We will still participate a few times a year, but not regularly. In MN we were often given garden produce and we also had a garden. We haven't been as successful at gardening here nor do we get very much produce from members and friends. I do use what we are given. I also pick blackberries and watch sales for other berries. We bought some plants to try again this year. We do get lots of strawberries and raspberries from what we have planted.

In MN we made our own bread, yogurt, and ice cream. We haven't done that here as we no longer eat very much of those. I still make my own kombucha, vanilla, and granola.

I have been more conscious of our utility usage. I check the thermostat more frequently and evaluate if we really need the heat or A/C on. (I have loved the last several weeks without using either!) I remind the Lambs to take short showers. We waited to use irrigation water to water our lawn instead of turning it on earlier in the season with city water.

We have our old cell phone plan that we were grandfathered into. We have to pay for our texts and we don't have unlimited talk time. Ram and I rarely send texts, but we do when necessary and we also reply to texts we receive. Even paying for texts, we save a significant amount compared to the latest cell phone plan. We do not have a home phone. I do not have a Smartphone. We have done our research and for the time being we are keeping this plan and saving dollars even if it means a little more planning ahead of time on my part without a Smartphone. Some months I have to watch talking during the week, but most of the time we have plenty of weekday minutes because we talk when we have unlimited weekend minutes.

I always check the almost expired section at one of the grocery stores. Last week I got 32oz plain yogurt for 45 cents. This week I got two Simply Cranberry juice for 30 cents each. We eat those items in the next few days before they expire. Sometimes I buy frozen cookie dough there for 50 cents or less and immediately put it in the freezer and have something fast for when I need to bring something to church.

I am continually cleaning out clothes/toys/books that the Lambs have outgrown and try to resell them at the used kids store. Almost all the Lambs clothes are either presents from Grandma or purchased with credit at the used kids store.

We do not have cable TV, we only have "free" TV with an antenna. We have never used Netflix. We only went to the movie theater once last year using gift cards.

We primarily use American Express in order to get the rebate but we pay it off each month. This rebate pays for our Costco membership each year. We also use a AAA Visa which pays for most of our yearly AAA membership. We began using Bing Rewards this year and get $5-10 per month. We participate in our health insurance rewards to earn Amazon money. We are busy getting our exercise and eating our fruits and veggies for this. A lot of this reward money is spent on school books, but we use some to get treats for ourselves too.

We homeschool but I create most of the curriculum, we do not use a custom system. We do not participate in a co-op, but the Lambs do participate in track and field and take piano lessons. The Lambs would like to do a lot more sports and lessons, but we are at a good balance now both in time and finances.

We rarely eat out unless we are traveling. We use Amazon Local deals to occasionally get frozen yogurt for the family. The only time we have had pizza delivered here is on the day we moved in to feed our helpers.

We are not part of a fitness club or the Y. We exercise by walking or biking or swimming in our neighborhood. Ewe walks during track practice. We have a high HOA but it pays for our internet and our pool.

We were blessed to buy our house for a good price and a good interest rate. We try to pay extra on the principal each month. We were blessed to be able to purchase a new minivan so we have free maintenance on it for a couple of years.

Cow's milk is a treat at our house, not an every day drink. Often if you come to my house there is no milk in the fridge.

We combine errands when possible. We recently purchased plants for our garden by stopping by the garden center on the way home from the eye doctor.

We were able to get a shade tree for our backyard for free from the power company. It is growing well and we look forward to the shade for our bedroom in a few years plus hopefully a lower electricity bill.

I pay attention to my e-mail and participate in Shutterfly deals like free photo books. I don't do every deal that comes across my inbox though-we only need so many magnets even as gifts. I remain on some e-mail lists like Joann Fabrics just to get deals like this.

Last year we replaced our washer with a more energy efficient one. I have noticed a big difference in water usage and also use less soap. In the past I have made my own laundry soap but decided to use soap on sale since I use so little now. I do less laundry since more fits in a load.

We use a lot of coconut oil. We buy two kinds of coconut oil. Louana coconut oil from Walmart is cheap and used as body lotion and as cooking oil at our house. We also buy nicer coconut oil such as Tropical Traditions and use it in cooking where we would taste it such as in granola.

We try to go to the chiropractor once a month which I believe keeps us all healthy. When we skip months we either get sick or I can really feel it. Paying for the chiropractor does mean a cost once a month but I believe it saves us money and we feel better.

Last year I was better about keeping track of our spending than ever before. I enter in receipts and bills paid immediately on a spreadsheet. I have been bold to take back receipts when I catch it didn't ring up correctly. When family members have become allergic to unopened products I found the receipt and returned the items to get my money back. I wasn't always like this-especially when the Lambs were little. But I know being organized saves money and is worth the time.

I'm sure there are more ways that we are frugal that I didn't list here. After you do some things long enough they become habit and you don't remember that others don't do things  your way!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Lambs Annual Stats 5/8/15

Lamb 1: 11y 2 m
Received tetanus and meningitis immunizations.
BP 104/65
Height 4ft8in 38%
Weight 66lbs 11%
BMI 6%

Lamb 2: 8y11m
BP 106/59
Height 4ft6in 75% (2 inches shorter than Lamb 1.)
Weight 68lbs 68% (2 lbs more than Lamb 1.)
BMI 53%

Lamb 3: 7y1m
BP 95/54
Height 3ft8in 4%
Weight 43lbs 8%
BMI 42%

We praise God that our Lambs are all healthy and even if just barely, they are all on the chart! Now I see why Lamb 1 and 2 wear the same size clothes and shoes too.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Lamb 2 had a vision therapy evaluation this morning. He will be 9 in 2 weeks so the doctor compared him to both 8 and 9 year olds. Here's the results of his reading numbers tests:
Reading vertical rows: 15 percentile for both 8 and 9 y old
Reading horizontal rows: 10 percentile 8 y old/5 percentile 9 y old
The ratio of reading numbers vertically and horizontally is 10 percentile.

My comment after the testing was Lamb 2 is on the chart! Even for a 9 y old he's on the chart! He has come so far from the initial testing in November 2013.

The doctor's comment was that Lamb 2's smooth eye movements are still below average. The doctor sees that Lamb 2's eyes work fine, but the testing means he has to say what he sees. The doctor thinks Lamb 2's slow speed is his brain saying the numbers. The doctor said that if we can get him to a level of reading silently to himself, he will read much faster than reading aloud. He did have significant improvement since February even though he has not done VT since November.

The doctor said after the testing today that as far as he is concerned as a doctor, Lamb 2 never has to return to him for testing or vision therapy. He saw enough improvement since February that he is not concerned. Of course we are always welcome to bring him back in 6 months or a year if as parents we want assurance that he is still improving.

It was very strange to pay the receptionist but not make another appointment. The testing showed me this morning that Lamb 2 CAN read and it is no longer a vision problem, he is just slower than average. I believe that with continual practice reading he will speed up. Even if he is never above average in reading speed, after VT he is now capable of reading. The testing also showed that he was accurate with reading his numbers. That was not true before VT-not only would he say incorrect numbers, but he would skip numbers.

The doctor enjoyed hearing that Lamb 2 now reads his math lesson/story problems to himself without help. He also enjoyed hearing that when it is time to read aloud if we take too long to get ready, then Lamb 2 begins reading the chapter of Little Town on the Prairie or The Hobbit to himself. He was especially impressed with Lamb 2's confidence to tell him he read his math lesson himself. If they have confidence they will try reading even if it is above their level.

The doctor reminded Lamb 2 again today that as a doctor he has high standards. He wants his patients to graduate from VT and be capable of reading the material to get the PhD when they grow up. Lamb 2 said he just wants to be able to read, not PhD. material! But that got me to thinking that Lamb 2 seems the most likely out of our 3 Lambs to want to pursue a PhD and he would be capable of that after VT.

We praise God for the diagnosis that Lamb 2 needed VT, that this doctor's office was close to our home, and that this doctor and his therapists were able to help Lamb 2.

Friday, May 8, 2015


This morning all 3 Lambs and Ram had eye doctor checkups and Ram ordered prescription sunglasses. That all went well, but it was a long morning at the doctor's office. Lamb 1 would probably need glasses if he wasn't homeschooled, but the doctor said he can wait another year since he doesn't need to see a whiteboard in the front of the classroom. We encouraged him to tell us if he can't see things far away and we will get him glasses.

Back in February we scheduled our 3 Lambs for their annual checkups on May 1. At the time the receptionist encouraged us to check with our insurance because their last checkup was in August and it would not be a full year between checkups. When we contacted insurance then they said that one checkup per calendar year was allowed so May 1 appointments were fine.

When we showed up for our appointments on May 1, they told us we were not on the schedule, we were scheduled for May 8. That is not what they told us back in February. We have been so busy that I didn't think anything of not receiving a phone call to confirm our appointments. There was nothing we could do except come back the next week. Thankfully we didn't miss our appointments, they were scheduled for the following week.

On May 6 we received 3 texts to confirm our appointment. Ram couldn't figure out how to reply to their strange texts so he called them the next day and confirmed the appointment by phone. He also asked them to not send us any more texts as we have to pay for texts on our cell phone plan.

After that phone call, we received 3 more texts to remind us of our appointment. We asked them again today to remove us from the text list. We'll see if that happens.

About an hour before their appointments, we received a phone call from the doctor's office that because Lamb 2 has not had his birthday, they didn't think that insurance would pay for his checkup. They said he had already had an 8 year old checkup and wasn't due for another checkup until he turned 9 in a few weeks. We called insurance and they said the same as we heard in February, one checkup per calendar year is allowed, it has nothing to do with when your last checkup was or the child's birthday. Since the last checkup was in 2014, he was allowed to get another checkup today.

When we checked in at the doctor's office today, there was a perky young receptionist. We signed all the paperwork, still disgusted that we didn't get this appointment done last week. She was very firm about they had warned us that insurance would not pay for Lamb 2's checkup and we would be responsible if insurance did not pay. She did not listen to what I said insurance said. We asked again to be removed from the text list. During all this she asked how my day was going. I didn't say anything, Ram nicely replied to her for me.

We finally had our checkups and Lamb 1 received two shots. We like our doctor and her assistants, it is the crazy system of the schedulers that we don't like. Ram went and got me a big Starbucks after all that. We have a couple of things to follow up on after these appointments, but we are thankful to be done with eye doctor and annual checkups for the Lambs until next year.

Monday, May 4, 2015

May 4

We haven't celebrated with her for 11 years, but today will always be Grandma Frieda's birthday. My Lambs like Star Wars much more than I do, but I can't think of "May the 4th be with You Day" as much as Grandma's birthday.

Today we made cupcakes and frosted them with green "grass" and put jelly beans on them like Easter eggs, similar to what Grandma Frieda always made every Easter.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Emotional Week

This past week has been one of my most emotional weeks in my life. I know I had emotional weeks when Ram received his first Call, when I got engaged and married, when we moved here, at the birth of my children, etc. But all those times I was too busy to dwell on what all was happening. This past week I had time to think about what was happening.

Our family doctor is leaving for another job. We were able to fit the boys annual checkups in before she leaves. We were scheduled for today, but when we went they had us down on the schedule for next Friday. So we were not able to see her today and will go next week. I had the Lambs make thank you notes for her this morning and tucked them in a card with my appreciation for all the referrals she gave us for Lamb 2 the past few years when we were trying to figure out that he needed Vision Therapy. She also did a few minor referrals for Ram, Lamb 1, and Lamb 3. We really appreciated those referrals because they ultimately got a diagnosis for Lamb 2. On the way to the doctor I bought her flowers and we left the cards and flowers at the desk for her since we were unable to have appointments today.

Later this afternoon she called Ram's phone and was practically in tears over our cards. I think she was shocked that we did that. Not only did it mean a lot that we did that for her, but she really appreciated how far our boys have come in the past few years. She made a point of saying Lamb 1 had beautiful cursive and she knew that Lamb 2 could not have printed so nicely before VT and even Lamb 3 at age 7 wrote nicely. It almost brings me to tears too to think of the journey we traveled and how far our Lambs have come the last 3 years. We will miss her, but her replacement is a female doctor from Indiana with three boys! We can't wait to meet the new doctor, but hope it is at our annual checkups and not because of an emergency visit.

Last Friday morning I helped my friend pack for moving in a few weeks. We cried some of the time we packed. We have known each other less than a year, but we will really miss each other. There are so many similarities to our lives, even down to we do laundry the exact same way. Helping her pack brought back a lot of memories of us moving here 3 years ago. We packed and moved in less than a month, she is doing it over a few months. It was a crazy month, but looking back I'm glad we did it and got it over.

Then that night I attended a ladies only farewell party for her. At the end of the evening we asked her for prayer requests and then each spent time praying for her and her family. I knew better how to pray for her this week and spent much time in prayer for her.

I've already blogged about having her children over to my house on Wednesday night. I had such sympathy for those children and their crazy life right now. My prayers for the children increased over the past few days. I've held it together through several conversations with my Lambs about their family moving. They need help through this too.

Tonight I stopped by her house to drop something off and found out that due to circumstances they almost didn't move. They would have had to move houses because they have sold their house here. But they almost didn't move to a new state. But ultimately her husband decided that moving would be best for the family. I spent some time talking to her about her husband is the head of the household. That conversation reaffirmed for both of us the reason why they are moving. We can see God's hand over them better than we ever would have asked for in this move. Neither one of us can see yet the reason for them moving, but we both trust that God has a purpose. Look out TX, my friend is coming and great things are going to happen for her family there!

We have a very busy week next week and I don't know how much more I will be able to help her. But my prayers for her will continue. I'm so thankful for Ram to help me through this week. He has been awesome both in helping me at home while I helped her and listening to me talk about all this.