Thursday, January 31, 2008


I've been working steadily lately as a substitute teacher. Yesterday, I worked with a class right next to Keva's classroom. Those kids, though, were all in wheelchairs, except for one, as opposed to Keva's mobile class. A few had to be tube fed, but most ate by mouth. I didn't have to change anyone's diaper because it's complicated to lift the kids that are spastic, so I mostly helped with feeding, oral hygiene and playing games. The kids were really sweet and touched my heart.

Today, I went to Kathleen's middle school and helped with another higher level special education class for math and science. They were eighth graders and were just learning the Pythagorean Theorem. I had to dust off my brain for that one. Fortunately, I had lots of help from the TA's and a therapist-type person. I had to stumble my way through the schedule and, since they'd recently switched to another type of attendance taking system, I got conflicting help on how to take attendance for my classes. I got it all straightened out at the END of the school day.

Here's a picture of how small town our town is. I got a call at school from the person in charge of transportation, who is the sister-in-law of Keva's bus driver, saying that Keva was the only one going home on her bus today and would I be home early? When I told her that I'd be home by 3:45, she said she'd pass that information on to Keva's driver. By the time I pulled up to my driveway, there was Keva's bus waiting for me. Kelly, Keva's bus driver decided to wait for me rather than let one of the younger kids have her, as we had pre-arranged, because Keva was in one of her "moods." So Kelly's daughter, who rides home on Keva's bus with her mom, was playing outside on the grass with my kids, having a grand old time. And Keva was safely ensconced in her seat on the bus until I went to go get her. Kelly's daughter presented me with my very own crocodile necklace that she had made before climbing back on her mom's bus to go home. Now, this just wouldn't happen on a LAUSD bus! Only in Mayberry.

I'm scheduled to sub tomorrow for the same teacher I subbed for today. So now I'll actually kind of know what I'm doing and who the kids are. Maybe they can finally explain the Pythagorean Theorem to me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Konner's 7th Birthday Party!

Konner got this parachute as one of his Christmas presents, so we filled it with balloons and . . .
. . . had ourselves a party!
One of Keva's very favorite things is a balloon. So here she is enjoying one of the many that were spread throughout the house.
Keith picked up boxes from Target and I went crazy with a box cutter and made a ton of road pieces. Each of Konner's birthday guests brought his own Matchbox car to play with, and everyone pitched in the put the roadway together.
Kathleen did a lot of the detail work.
Kristofer was the architect behind the road construction. Here's a car going down the road, pulling up to a stop sign.
We made cupcakes in the shape of stars.
Konner takes a roadtrip.
Every road needs a tunnel . . .
. . . and every car needs a carwash.
The beginning of the road at the front door. (Reminicsent of the movie Speed, where the bus leaps from one end of the uncompleted 105 freeway to the other.)
The road continues through the kitchen . . .
. . . and into the living room.
Dominick, The Five-Starred One
Konner gets to use the Special Plate!
Everyone decorates their own star cupcake.
Spiderman plates, too!
Happy birthday, Big Guy! We're so proud of you!

Saturday afternoon

Most Saturdays are spent playing, and when it's too cold to play outside, most kids can be found fighting over the laptop to play games. Here are some of the boys . . .
Here's Kade with his friend Dominick. His mom is serving in Iraq for a whole year. Every time I see Dominick, I just want to hug him and cry for the sacrifice that his family is making for our country. Thank you, Karen!

Ringing in the New Year

Okay, so I'm a little behind with my pictures, but here they are, all the same. A happy new year to you all!
Here's Andrew, one of our neighbors who helped us ring in the new year, with the last few flames of his sparkler.
Daddy helps Keva with her sparkler.
Annie and Molly join us, too. We brought out folding chairs for the show.
Mac, our honorary family member.
Let's hear it for the new year! Note Konner at the far right wearing one very dirty sock in 40 degree weather. Kylie is sleeveless.
Everyone was supposed to stay behind the line . . .
. . . while Keith set off the fireworks at the end of the driveway.
The aftermath
May God bless you all in this new year!

Spaghetti tales

We just got back from a luncheon at church. I love luncheons. No cooking or cleaning. Yummy food. Keith, the Hunter and Gatherer, raided the church kitchen and came back with a vat of extra spaghetti sauce and three take-home trays of spaghetti. So, we'll feast again tonight!

Keri Lynn, Kristofer and Kathleen sang in the youth choir at church this morning. They had participated in the choir festival all weekend long and are now finally getting a chance to rest this afternoon before heading off to another youth program this evening, True Love Waits, that encourages kids to remain abstinent until marriage. I'm going to be attending the parents' workshop while Keith is home with the rest of the kids. At the end of the four-week program, there will be a ring ceremony where the Dad presents a purity ring to their child.

I worked on Friday helping a teacher who works with high functioning special needs high school kids. The morning class went to our local hospital for what's called "job site" where they wiped down hospital cafeteria tables, took out trash and did other general clean-up. Then, we were all fed some very delicious food from the hospital cafeteria -- fried catfish and some seriously delicious hush puppies. I helped bring them in and out of the building, but really they had the system wired. So I sat at one of the cafeteria tables and talked at great depths with the bus driver. I think we got each of our whole varied histories shared! The afternoon class was a boisterous group of kids that absolutely loved playing games. After they finished some workbook pages, I found a deck of Uno and we played some very lively games. They were VERY serious Uno players -- my kind of competitors. They played where you can put down not only a card that matches the color or number, but any runs or similar colors that you just put down. I could barely keep up!

The teacher that I worked with said that I did a good job, which was gratifying to hear. She said that the kids liked me, that I took the time to get to know them. A lot of subs didn't do that and were intimidated. Those subs the kids would run off. Eek! I could totally see some of those kids running off a sub. They can be intimidating, and they know it. But, some of the best advice I've gotten while on my quest to be a sub, has been that you've got to show that you care.

Keith got the van back on its feet again! Yippee! He changed the oil, added water, and changed the air filter. So now I'm good to go for Monday. The car sounds much better. Next, though, is a break change. Now that the car is running more smoothly, you can hear the breaks screeching.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Subbing away

I had a two day stint as a substitute in Economics. All seniors. All pretty much well behaved. It was actually a lot of fun, but I wished I could have helped them better. Economics is definitely not my thing!

This is my usual intro, "Hello, I'm Mrs. Johnson. I am the mother of seven children . . ."

At this moment there is the usual round of gasps. I then go on to tell them where my kids are attending school and that up until last year we were homeschooling. I then make a sweet speech about how great high schoolers are and then jump into taking the roll.

The teacher that I subbed for this time has a bathroom toilet seat with the cover for the kids to take to the bathroom for their bathroom pass. I think it's a marvelous way to keep too many kids from wandering out to many times to the bathroom while there's a sub in charge. But I discovered very soon that they were leaving the toilet seat and cover in the hallway and continuing on to the bathroom, and then picking it up again on their way back into the room. I caught three of them doing it.

The third one was aghast, "How did you KNOW?!?"

"Well," I said calmly, "I'm the mother of seven. I see through walls."

"Dude, she knew when I left the toilet seat in the hall, too!"

What can I say. It's a gift.

In an effort to get to know the kids better, I came up with a 3x5 card questionnaire. I passed out cards to each student and asked them to put their names on the cards and answer four questions about themselves:

1) Favorite movie

2) Favorite gum

3) Weird or unusual thing about you

4) Life motto

Then, I read each card and the class was to guess who that person was. That way I got to know how well they knew each other while getting to know them myself. It was a hit. One of the classes wanted to do it again the next day, so we did. This time I asked them:

1) Favorite food

2) What they aspired to be

3) If they could be one person on the planet for 24 hours, who would it be?

4) Dream vacation OR If they had one million dollars and had to buy one thing, what would it be?

It was fascinating reading the answers and listening to the responses. In the manner of small towns, some of the kids have been together since preschool, so some knew each other very well. But there were others that weren't as friendly with each other, so it was a good way to get them to talk to each other.

Any ideas for more questions for other classes? Anyone, anyone? (Ferris Bueller reference there . . . been thinking a lot about Ferris Bueller lately!)

Tomorrow, I have another full day of substituting. This time it's in special education resources. Not entirely sure what that means, but I guess I'll find out tomorrow. Keith has tomorrow off, so he'll be able to see if he can do anything about our little van that we're borrowing. PLEASE PRAY FOR THAT VAN'S QUICK RECOVERY! We need it badly. Keith has a lot on his plate tomorrow while I'm at work. He needs to make sure that after school Keri Lynn, Kristofer and Kathleen all get to the bus at church to go to the weekend choir festival. Also, Kade has a slumber party that he's attending, so he needs to be packed and ready to go right after school. All of this has to be done while Keva's coming home from school. I'm still not sure how we're going to work out all of the details at the time of this writing.

And some of you may be wondering how I'll be getting to work since Keith will be using his truck and fixing the van that I've been driving. The last two days, I've hitched a ride with Cheryl, the youth pastor's wife, who lives down the road from us and who also works at the high school. So as long as I get jobs at the high school, I'm covered for rides! Whew!

I've got to go and fill out a bunch of medical release forms now. I've put it off long enough.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I haven't been precisely busy as of late, just adjusting to a lot of change.

Top on my list of change is my job. I picked up my last check at Target yesterday, a whole $68. As I picked it up, I waved hello to some of my fellow cashiers and was on my way back home, so grateful to be going home to be with my family rather than working on a holiday.

I did not get a call for substitute teaching today, but I did get my first check for the 4 1/2 hours that I worked in the two week pay cycle. Not tons of money coming in right now, but really hoping it will pick up SOON! The stress of money issues weighs heavily.

The kids brought home their report cards for the first half of school. Keri Lynn, not surprisingly, brought home all A's. Kristofer got one A and three B's. Kathleen got a B in math and the rest were A's. I think I was most pleased with the little kids' report cards. The important part of it being that they showed marked improvement from the first quarter to the second. The little kids each had a party at school celebrating the 100th day of school which I thought was really cute! It is a milestone, and to be honest at about this time each year in our homeschooling, I was always behind in our goals. We never once finished a grade course!

Keva did fine, too, in each of her goals. She's learning color matching and shapes and stuff like that. I don't know if she watches much TV at school, but to keep her out of trouble I put on PBS kids' shows when she gets off the bus. She plops down on the floor in front of the TV and becomes a TV vegetable -- enough to make any mother proud! Well, okay, not proud exactly, more like RELIEVED because she's not removing items off of the kitchen counter or pulling on the dog's tail.

(Now I will pretend to be Roger Ebert) We've rented several DVD's lately that we've really enjoyed. One is Meet the Robinsons -- this one made me cry just for the sweet joy of it. We also watched Amazing Grace -- a movie that shows just what can be accomplished when men aspire to do great things. I was disappointed, though, in the newest Pixar movie, Ratatouille. I had been waiting so long to finally see it, but it just didn't pull at my heartstrings the way other Pixar movies have. It might have something to do with all of those rats crawling all over everything. Ewwwwww!

I will be posting pictures of New Year's Eve fireworks, Konner's birthday party, and . . . (drum roll please!) . . . SNOW! That's right, we've had snow twice now. The first day, last Wednesday, we got about a half inch. The kids were ecstatic. But they hadn't seen anything yet. On Saturday, it snowed and snowed for hours. We eventually got about two inches, more than this part of Georgia has seen in years. There was enough snow to make snowmen, snow angels, and have snowball fights. A kid's paradise.

I'd also like to send out belated birthday wishes to my sister Beth, to my Mom's husband, Rich and to my grandmother who turned 91! Wish we could have celebrated with you! Know that you're all in our thoughts and prayers!

One more thing, if you don't tune into Focus on the Family regularly, make sure you tune in tomorrow for our friend Scott Klusendorf. He attends our church, and -- get this -- actually invited our family to his home for dinner a few weeks ago! First of all, we never get invited to people's houses for dinner (unless they're very brave or very ignorant or very stupid.) I'm kind of thinking that the Klusendorfs fall under the very brave category.

If Scott's name isn't familiar to you right off the bat but sounds a little familiar, it's because you might have heard him on (Ahem, I feel like I'm name dropping here) Focus on the Family, The Bible Answer Man and -- my very favorite -- Stand to Reason. He heads up Life Training Institute, educating us on how to stand up for the unborn. Very articulate. As far as I'm concerned, he's kind of like a rock star, or so I told his wife, who laughed! Anyway, he's scheduled to be on Focus on the Family later this week, January 24-25, Reaching Hearts on Abortion.

Oooo, just got a call for a two day gig at the high school substituting for a social studies teacher. Yay!

Dinner now calls . . .

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Gift card time!

Keri Lynn went shopping for clothes with her gift card money . . .
Isn't she beautiful!
Kathleen loves a luxurious bath. She had a Wal-mart gift card and about fainted at the sight of all kinds of gift baskets full of lotions, bath salts and perfumes. She finally picked out this gorgeous lavender set!
Here she is in an outfit she picked out . . .
. . . with size SEVEN-AND-A-HALF shoes. Yes, ma-am, women's seven-and-a-half. She looks like Keri Lynn did at that age, like a colt, with those big long feet and long legs.

A new way to make jello

I got home from work one day to find this in the freezer.

Kathleen asked me, "Don't you freeze jello?"

The concert

Kathleen, Kylie and their friend Erin all put together their own Christmas concert over Christmas break. They wrote many of their own songs and made their own arrangments to other Christmas songs. They each sang, Erin played her keyboard and Kathleen played her recorder. It was a lot of fun!

Christmas Day

Here we are on Christmas morning. I was hoping to sleep until 11:00, but Keith thought maybe 7:00, and the kids liked 6:00, so we compromised for 8:00 am.
Christmas loot
"These are a few of my favorite things . . . "
Kristofer couldn't wait to install a computer game.
Keri Lynn with a warm sweater and a ceramic bowl that Konner made for her.
Kathleen -- a gift card to Wal-mart! She loves to shop!
A doll with dangly hair!
Must. Shoot. Something.
I bought milk and Hershey's syrup as a Christmas morning treat. Some of us had chocolate milk and some of us had hot cocoa. Kathleen is the hot chocolate connoisseur of the family.
Littlest Pet Shop (of course!)
Here are Scot Klusendorf and his daughter Emily who dropped by with Christmas gifts. The Klusendorfs go to our church and moved from California about a year before we did. Scot went to UCLA, so for our benefit he wore his UCLA sweatshirt and a Dodger cap! I'll be blogging more about the Klusendorfs soon.
Keith tends the fire and Keva looks on. She loves to sit by the fire and watch it burn. Keith, the biggest firebug in all history, enjoyed firing up boxes and Christmas paper.
It's cold in our neck of the woods so . . .
. . . Keva sits with her Daddy next to the fire!

Here's Miss Carol who came to have dinner with us Christmas evening. She's a USC graduate and huge football fan, but we won't hold the USC bit against her.
Merry Christmas, everyone!