One Quarter Planned!

With just under a month until school starts, I finally have one entire quarter completely planned (actually just over one quarter is planned – I’ve completed 10 weeks since the sixth Layers of Learning unit will be done over the 9th and 10th weeks). To be fair, it’s only the Layers of Learning units (history, geography, science, and the arts, each done once a week, plus pre-reading for all three boys) that still have to be planned. Everything else is already done. I’m hoping to have at least half the school year planned out before the first day of school.

How We Use OneNote, Part 2: School

This is part 2 of how we use OneNote. Part 1 was about how I use it as My Brain. Part 2 is on how we use it for school.


I have five notebooks in my school section. The cleverly named School notebook is where I keep files and information I’ll need later. Together contains my lesson plans for the work the boys do together. Cameron, Fritz, and Adrian each have a notebook with their assignments for each day of school. Those notebooks are shared to their OneNote accounts so they can use them each school day (they get to choose how they access OneNote: computer, phone, or iPad).

I am currently spending most of my time in the 2017-18 tab in the School notebook. It’s where the lesson planning happens. The Subjects section in the 2017-18 tab has a page with a list of what we are using for each subject, a page with a running list of general school supplies I need to get as well as specific things I’ll need listed out by week, a page with specific needs (which are mostly food so cannot be bought before the week we’ll need them), and a page with our school year calendar. The Subject Notes page has links and passwords and other notes like what days of the week they do certain subjects.


The answer keys for various subjects are each on separate pages in the 2017-18 tab. The answer keys for Latin (Fritz), Math (Fritz), and WWS1 – that’s Writing With Skill 1 – (Fritz) are attached pdfs.


The rest of the answer keys, NLE/NME – that’s Latin and Mythology exam practice – (Fritz), CW1 – that’s Creative Writing 1 – (Cameron), and WWE3 – that’s Writing With Ease 3 – (Adrian), are written directly on the pages with no attachments.


There are three reading pages, one for each boy. As I pre-read the books I assign to them, I come up with questions for them to answer. Their books are from what we are studying (usually history, but sometimes science or geography).


The final page in the 2017-18 tab is for Planning. I use that page kind of as a holding tank as I work through a subject in the Layers of Learning units. Once I’ve got a subject all planned and divided into two days worth, I copy and paste it onto the appropriate day in the Together notebook. Most of the time this page is blank and it will get deleted once planning for the year is done.


Most of the remaining tabs in the School notebook are past assignments by Ani, Cameron, and Fritz. One tab holds their report cards and transcripts. The Files tab has pages for various things I use occasionally as well as my Layers of Learning Year 2 master plan.


The Together notebook is for me to use during school. There is a tab for each month of the school year and then pages under each tab for every Monday through Friday of the month (school holidays are marked and have blank pages). Each page is my guide for what to do during together work time.


The notebooks specifically for each boy tell them what to do each way. They are set up very much like the Together notebook. Their assignments for the day are all laid out for them.


Some days there is additional information on their daily page for them to look at and refer to during all together work.


In addition to the daily assignment tabs, they have some additional tabs. The Spelling tab has daily pages for the boys to record their personal misspelled words and also to take their weekly tests. The Interest Led tab is for them to work in however they want about whatever they want each day. The Writing tab has a page for each writing assignment they will complete over the course of the school year.


Fritz’s notebook has two additional tabs. The WWS 1 tab has a page for each week’s worth of assignments. The Latin tab has a page for Memorization and a page for Vocabulary.


So that’s how we use OneNote for planning school, keeping school records, and as we go about our daily school activities. OneNote is an amazing tool for keeping us organized. (One more thing… the boys are color coded. Their folders and things have always been certain colors in school – orange for Cameron, blue for Fritz, yellow for Adrian, and green for Together – so I chose to make the notebook icons next to the names of the notebooks color coded with those colors as well.)

How We Use OneNote, Part 1: My Brain

I used a paper Bullet Journal, affectionately known as My Brain, for well over a year, but, then, a few months ago, I decided to go digital. I switched to OneNote (which I have on my laptop, phone, and iPad). In addition to everything I had in my paper Bullet Journal, I also use OneNote for school planning (which I’ll explain in part 2).


I use it the most to tell me what to do each day. Our planned meals and snacks, schedule, and my to do list are all on one page so I can see what I need to do when. I have the My Brain notebook shared with Jamie so he can see what we are doing and what’s on our schedule and add to it as needed.


My to do list is color coded so if I have a few minutes I can just look at the colored section with tasks that are most convenient at that time. Red is in the physical world, blue is on my phone, green is on my computer, iPad, or phone, and purple is on my iPad. If I don’t get something done, I just move it to the next day (like on today’s list, I moved fold clothes and put away clothes from yesterday).


I have three notebooks that make up my digital Bullet Journal: My Brain, Recipes, and Journal. In My Brain, the My Day tab has several pages under it. Several of them are my calendar. They allow me to easily add things to my Today and Tomorrow pages. The Every Day, specific day of the week, and First of the Month pages are my to do lists for those days. I just copy and paste to add them to my Tomorrow page (which gets copy and pasted to today each morning). The RS Lesson Schedule page helps me keep track of what to read (in the Gordon B. Hinckley manual and Conference talks) each week to prepare for Relief Society.


I keep track of what I’m reading and what I’ve read in my Reading tab. The 2016 Books and 2017 Books pages are just running lists split by month of what books I read on what date and what rating I gave them (out of 5 stars). The Reading Challenges page is where I plan the books I’m reading each month this year to spell out the birthstones, what our book club books are, bedtime stories for the boys, school books, 52 Books Bingo, etc. My favorite page is Sentences That Made Me Laugh. That page has a bunch of quotes from books I’ve read that I found funny.


The rest of the tabs in My Brain are Health which has pages for keeping track of Ani’s symptoms, what we are still owed from overpaying for some procedures she’s had, and the kids’ vaccine records. Blog Ideas is just one page of ideas for blog posts. Scouts which has pages for Fritz and Adrian with a list of things they need to complete for rank advancement. Sports has pages for our taekwondo schedule, a record of dates for earning belts and mid-terming, and Fritz’s times at swim meets. Church has pages for planning family home evening, my notes for General Conference (one page per Conference), my Personal Progress answers split by value, and a poem Ani wrote when she was around 12. Finances has pages with spreadsheets for our checking account, the kids’ money, our budget, and a list of 2017 pay days.


I really love my Recipes notebook. Most of the time we use it just like a cookbook, reading the recipes off the iPad as we cook. The notebook is extremely useful every Wednesday. That’s the day I make our menus for the week. I go through the sections of recipes and pick the breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners that sound good to me at the time. As I write down what we’ll be eating, I make our grocery list and note how the chicken will need to be cut. The grocery list is the used to order groceries from HEB (which Jamie picks up on his way home from work). I cut chicken once a week, on Wednesday night, so the gross bits can go out in the trash on Thursday morning (living in Texas, we definitely don’t want chicken sitting around very long).


My Journal notebook is mostly exactly what it sounds like. I copied my journals from 1999 on and divided them into years. Under the year sections, the journal entries are divided into months. I copy and paste all my Facebook posts including pictures into my journal. The AB Letters tab is where I wrote my letter to my aunt each week (it also gets sent to my mother-in-law). I keep her up to day on what’s going on in our lives. I’ve been keeping those letters since December. The Fun Stuff tab had a page for funny things people in the family have said. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Adrian’s is the longest. I also have Adrian’s birth story, a page of things that happen that I am grateful for, and a page of things that blew my mind (like the fact Queen Victoria had a granddaughter who was still alive when I was born). The Christmas Letters tab has a copy of all of our annual Christmas letters (and one Valentine’s Day letter that year I was super late…) since 2007.


So that’s how I use OneNote to be my brain. It totally keeps me organized. In a couple days I’ll post part 2 on how I use OneNote in our homeschool.

Update on Ani’s Health

It’s been almost four months since we started getting diagnoses for Ani. At that point, she was sleeping up to 18 hours a day and worn out all the time. She was so incredibly sick.

What’s wrong with her: Ani has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, POTS, Fibromyalgia, and Celiac Disease.

What we’re doing to treat her: Every day Ani takes a beta blocker to help control the racing heart from the POTS. She did an experiment trying various POTS remedies and found that Nuun electrolyte tablets work best for her. She takes one in the morning and one in the evening now. She takes Lyrica for the Fibro pain. Recently she had to up her dose because the drilling pain that she now knows is from the fibro started up again. Hopefully, we’ll be able to decrease it back down in a couple weeks. She is careful with her range of motion to avoid EDS pain and, of course, she eats no gluten so the Celiac is usually a non-issue. She has been going to physical therapy for her neck (side effect of the EDS) and that pain has decreased a whole lot, enough that she no longer takes Aleve regularly. She is getting better at watching her body temperature (she has trouble regulating her body temperature because of the general dysautonomia that includes the POTS).

So how is she doing?


She’s still so incredibly sick, but when I think of how my daughter was just a few short months ago, the difference is incredible and so encouraging. I’ll be honest. I did not think she would survive. She was getting worse and worse. I thought she was going to die. She thought she was going to die. It was bad.

In March, a friend asked if they could dedicate their monthly fast to Ani’s health. Her whole family fasted for Ani. She encouraged others to do the same. I will always believe that changed everything for my daughter. It was within days that we started getting answers. We found doctors willing to help instead of brushing her off. We got medication, we got a treatment plan to help her, we got diagnoses.

She still has bad days. Some are very, very bad. On the Fourth of July, we had a church picnic. It was hot. We live in Texas, after all. She got overheated. Getting overheated means she got sick. Very sick. She slept most of the afternoon/evening that day. The big difference is, though, that the next morning she got up and was functional. She didn’t need three days to recover. That is a miracle. She still gets exhausted relatively easily, too, and she never feels truly good. But it’s livable.

Over the last week, she spent several days being a substitute nanny for three little girls and still did her normal program directing at taekwondo and also babysat a little girl Friday night. These are things she literally couldn’t have done just a few months ago (though I think she might sleep most of today since she was so exhausted by last night). She’s got plans to go see Spider-Man with one friend and Wonder Woman with some other friends. She’s training at taekwondo and working toward her second degree black belt again. She’s actually being able to be a human. Most importantly, she has hope for a future. A sometimes painful, taking medication for life future, but still a wonderful, full, happy future.

Magical Magic Birthday

Today Fritz turned 11 on the 11th making it his magic birthday. We always try to make the magic birthday extra special for our kids and it looks like we totally succeeded with this one. Fritz said no day can be perfect, but today was almost perfect.


The 11th birthday is extra magical because, as JK Rowling taught us, that’s when kids learn they are a witch or wizard. Ever since Fritz read the Harry Potter series, he’s been hoping the magic world is real. For a while, there was an owl hanging around our house and he was pretty sure it was scouting out where we live for his upcoming birthday. Just like we did with Cameron almost 5 years ago, Fritz’s owl and letter were waiting for him when he woke up this morning.


He was so excited about his owl and letter. I was a little concerned beforehand that he might think it was real just because he wants magic to exist so badly. I needn’t have worried. He loves his owl. I hope when he’s about to turn 16, he’s still got it in a place of honor in his room just like his big brother and his owl.


Fritz got his big present a few weeks ago when he went to Houston for the Markiplier tour. Today we gave him his other present, a Harry Potter Pop Figure. He got a Dobby last year so his collection is growing.


We played a bit of Pokemon Go. Jamie, Fritz, and I joined together in a raid battle and all defeated, and then caught, a Muk (none of had one before today). We defeated a gym and hit a bunch of PokeStops, too.


We spent the day at The DoSeum. I was a little hesitant to go there, but Ani was bringing the girls she’s been nannying there today and convinced us to join them. I wasn’t sure there would be enough stuff to entertain kids as old as Fritz and Adrian. As it turned out, there was plenty for them to do. We visited every exhibit, but, honestly, we could’ve spent the entire time doing just one or two. The boys loved it and want to go back. In fact, we’re considering an annual pass because they loved it so much.


The first thing we did when we walked in was customize some fish using our phones and then added them to the virtual fish tank on the wall. Then we played in the wind tunnel and with some pulleys.


We spent a couple hours in the spy room. There were lots of activities to do. The first thing they had to do was complete specific activities in order to get an access code. Once they got the access code, they could make their spy badge and then do more activities in order to become a master spy. One section was set up like a room in a house with clues hidden all over the place. It was a lot like an escape room. Adrian thinks we ought to build a room like that in our house. He spent a really long time working on the clues in there.


The other exhibits inside included light, sound, color, and building activities. The kids really enjoyed playing with the green screen. Adrian was wearing a green shirt which made the green screen a little more fun. Fritz played with a green sheet to make himself disappear like he was under an invisibility cloak.


We went outside on one side and played in some water activities and climbed on a huge climbing set. It was hot today (in the very high 90s), but the humidity was low (less than 30%) so it wasn’t so bad out, especially in the shade.


Outside on the other side, we discovered a bamboo forest, and eco-pond, a treehouse with a fairy village underneath, and a fun little river to play in. The pond had quite a few red eared sliders in it so now we know just how big Ani’s hatchling, Venus, will get when she’s full grown (huge!).


After we left The DoSeum, we went to Big’z Burger Joint for dinner. They have some of the best burgers and we can get amazing gluten free buns there. Fritz was pretty much in heaven eating his burger.


We went to PetSmart partly because the boys love to watch the fish and partly because we needed to get a basking platform to go in Venus’s tank. We also got some ghost shrimp to help clean the tank/be food for the turtle (we also have minnows in there both to be fun to watch and also to be turtle food).


When we got home, we watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I’d been meaning to buy it since it came out on video (we saw it in the movie theater), but hadn’t gotten around to it. My procrastination came in handy because the digital version (we only buy movies/TV shows in digital) was on a great sale today for Prime Day.


So that was Fritz’s truly magical magic birthday. Adrian said Fritz’s birthday was way better than his own last month and I told him it’s because this was Fritz’s extra special 11 on the 11th birthday. So now Adrian is expecting a truly epic 19th birthday. Guess we better start planning!

Amazing Cupcakes and Some Practical Math

Yesterday Fritz and I made some amazing cupcakes. We used a recipe from the December/January 2017 issue of Gluten Free and More for Vanilla Chocolate Mint Cupcakes.


As we measured the ingredients, I asked Fritz some math problems like we have 1/2 cup of tapioca starch, 1/2 cup of potato starch, and 1/3 cup of white rice flour so how much is that all together and I need 3/4 cup of milk, but I don’t have a 3/4 cup measure so what two measuring cups can I use to make 3/4 cup. Simple questions, but very useful things to be able to calculate quickly when cooking or baking.


The vanilla cupcake mix ended up really good so Fritz, being the helper got to eat the leftover batter. That is, of course, the best part about helping bake.


While the cupcakes baked, we made the mint chocolate ganache filling. It was surprisingly easy. We just mixed cream, dark chocolate bits, and mint flavoring.


Fritz tried it, but didn’t like it very much. The dark chocolate was quite overpowering. He wasn’t sure it would be okay in our cupcakes, but he really didn’t have to worry.


The cupcakes finished baking so we set them out to cool. They turned out so nice and pretty.


With the cupcakes and filling done, it was time to make the mint chocolate chip Italian meringue buttercream frosting. It really sounded complicated, but went together pretty easily. The frosting presented us with another, harder, math problem. We had 1/3 cup of one kind of shortening left, but we needed 3/4 cup total so we had to make up the difference with butter. I showed Fritz the markings on the stick of butter and had him figure up how much butter 3/4 cup would be and then subtract 1/3 cup to find the answer of how much we needed.


We took a little break until the cupcakes were all the way cooled and then we hollowed out the centers, filled them with the ganache and then topped them with the frosting.


We sprinkled some chocolate sprinkles on top to make them extra fancy.


After almost 2 hours our cupcakes were finally ready to enjoy. They are so incredibly good and so rich we can only eat one at a time. Surprisingly, they are better after they’ve been refrigerated for a while. A definitely a hit and totally worth the time it took to make them!