Sunday, September 22, 2013

Best of Weeks

It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks.

Seriously, it was pretty good, I was just tired and trying to keep it together.  Plus, two doctor's appointments in one week.  I don't know what the phobia name is for "fear of doctor's visits" but for me doctors rank up there with spiders on the "eek" list.

So, yeah.

Also, books.  As in, each kid got a homemade, blank book that they were over the moon about.  Oldest wanted to write his book about religion.  Next oldest made pictures.  Third child drew a picture of Mt. Doom on his.  At least, that's what he said it was.  That is the most bang for six pieces of scrap paper stapled together per child that I have ever seen.  It will now be a weekly occurrence.

Math continues on apace, reading and writing close behind.  We're doing well with memorization for religion and poetry.  This week we're kicking off science.

This week the third child surprised the heck out of me by asking for worksheets.  Like his brother and sister.  This is the kid who can't sit still or color with a crayon for any length of time.

But hey, yay for progress and peer pressure!

That's all from the trenches this week.  Shine on, you gorgeous diamonds!  I'm proud of you for every minute.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Lost Week

Last week I lost my voice.  Have you ever wondered what it's like to run a five ring circus with no voice?  The short answer is that you can't.

Luckily I had lots of help.  The kids had books read to them and spent time building their fort outside and they did lots of hands-on learning with other family members.

 The break from school didn't actually break their brains, which I discovered today.  In fact, they didn't miss  beat, except for a marked reluctance to clean their space afterwards (we'll keep working on the practical skills portion of the lessons).

The most important thing we all learned last week is that everyone needs help sometimes... and that's okay. It's okay to ask for help.

And that's a lesson I hope they never forget.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Reality Check (Trenches, Vol. 8)

So, it's Sunday again.

This week went well.  I figured out that I can do math with all three big kids at once, and that they love it that way.  I also found out that math should come  before phonics, because it just works better this way.  I also that the new arrangement gave me a free window, which I used for the maraudler* and Marty.  Marty needs individual attention to focus, so we made "star tracks" with crayons and stickers. I could never get him to practice drawing straight lines on his own, but when I was right there, putting the stickers on the paper, he loved it and spent loving time with it. Maraudler eats any crayons that fall into her hands, so I simultaneously entertained her by putting stickers all over her.  It was great for giggles and a good reminder of why we do what we do (hint: it's because we love our kids).

This was a good week to discover new fixes because it was my first week of teaching actual classes online instead of just introducing everyone and checking their audio tech.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching bigger kids, especially the bright ones in my classes (spoiler: I'm pretty sure they're all bright).


It was exhausting, on top of the cooking, the cleaning, the everything else of life.

But we did it and that makes me proud.

Apparently it also makes me sick, because as of right now, I have completely lost my voice and tomorrow is Monday, when the whole thing starts over.

This is where push comes to shove.  Where something's gotta give.  I guess tomorrow we'll find out what.

Stay strong and make noise, my fellow soldiers!

*Marauder + toddler

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Notes from the Trenches, Vol. 7

This was a good week, overall.  We did a full week of school (not counting Friday).  I was able to do orientation for my online classes with a little help and school for my own littles didn't suffer at all.  That, for the record, is why I started school with the littles so early, to get into the groove with them first before life and jobs caught up with me and started clamoring for my attention. The strategy worked!

The marauding toddler (who shall henceforce be known as the "Maraudler") got to play with random stuff in a Kleenex box.  I picked up that little trick on pinterest, and who knew! It kept her busy! At least busy enough to do math and phonics with the big kids.

Marty needs his busy bags switched up.  He still loves the scissor one, but the others have become blah. He's still digging the nursery rhymes, though, and he keeps up with the prayers and catechism questions like a champ (for the record, those are voluntary for the 3yo and 4yo, but they want to participate).

Bri loves math.  Loves it.  As in, will work through math workbooks during her free time for fun.  I don't get it, but I am not going to argue with it.  Maybe she'll grow up to be a brilliant scientist or something.  What I know is, it is rare for a girl to *like* math (I suffered through it, didn't ever enjoy it), so she has a gift.

Robbie hits a slump the same day I do, Wednesday.  He gets tired and has trouble focusing.  That's okay. We still got the basics done with no tears or fussing.

I'm still fine tuning our school room and the Baby who Never Stops Nursing still naps in the morning.  I've also been lucky to have my co-parent around.  He reads aloud classics to the kids, helps with the baby and the toddler on the mornings he doesn't have to rush off to work, and is building a fort with them from scratch. He also gets them audiobooks for the car, practices their prayers with them, and answers the millions of toddler questions patiently.

Our schooling has become a team effort here and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Notes from the Trenches, Vol. 6

This week was good, but Thursday was rough.  We learned this week that school belongs in the *morning* and errands belong in the *afternoon*.  Flipping it around results in not much work getting done.

Robbie got his new math book, Saxon 1, which he loves, but I find very complicated for a kids' math book.  However, Saxon is tough and it works, so we're sticking with it.  We are also almost at the halfway point in Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, and he loves it.  Also, he's reading more on his own and writing notes, so it's working as well.  Religion is also going very, very well.

Bri is working through work books of her own volition.  Girl has quite a head on her shoulders.  She's also absorbing quite a bit from her brother's lessons, which is going to put her ahead of the curve.  No complaints here.

Marty is doing okay with his busy bags, but he loves his oral work best.

Kitty is finally getting used to the new school room set up and isn't destroying hardly anything at this point, also a win.

Ellie has been sleeping in the morning, which I love, but I wonder how long it's going to last.  We shall see.

This week I start my teaching classes from home, so that may or may not put a kink in our plans.

This is what a week of school work/prep looks like.
And that's all from the trenches this week, folks!  Stay busy and happy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Notes from the Trenches, Vol. 5, New Baby Edition

We started school again this week, picking up on the last lesson plan sheet.  The first three days went well.  We stumbled on Thursday, partly because it was a Holy Day of Obligation and partly because it appears that number five is the Baby who Never Stops Nursing.  

So, next week I'll be better prepared for the one-handed challenge of it all ("I can do this homeschooling thing with one hand tied behind my back, sort of!")

Also, I'm ordering some new stuff, which I will be reviewing when the Baby who Never Stops Nursing naps, if that ever happens.

So, once more into the lesson planning breach, dear friends!

Til next week, stay happy!

This is my new vice principle.  
She has some concerns about my lesson plans.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Please welcome our newest blessing, Elanora Anne.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Notes from the Trenches, Vol. 4

School cancelled this week on account of heat wave and early labor stages (which in my case have been known to last for weeks, so we'll see).

I plan.  God laughs.

When Blessing #5 arrives, I will post pics.

And that's all from the trenches this week.

Friday, July 12, 2013

In This Moment

Friday we don't usually "do" school.  I plan on getting the other stuff done on the first four days of the week.

Today, I was planning on a big meal prep session.  You can read more about that here.

Anyhow, my mom brought over my sisters who played with my kids while mom and I did meal prep (I come from a family of saints... did you know?  Not me, but everyone else).  After  a morning of hard work, I put on a cartoon for my kids and figured I'd veg out on the couch catching up on my social networks.  my back was spasming and I was *tired*.

So I went to sit next down to my 16 month old, Little K.  She threw herself across the couch, right where I was planning on sitting. Then she giggled hysterically.  "Okay," I thought.

I sat down next to her anyway.  This time, she threw herself into my arms, before I even had a chance to glance at my email.

Now, little K is my miracle baby.  She had to be induced, at six weeks she was sick in the hospital, and only in the last few months has she blossomed into an independent, sassy almost-toddler.

Usually she wants down, she wants to get into things, she wants to be trashing her clothes and doing her own thing, which is great.

On the day that I wanted a quiet moment, however, she wanted to play.

I didn't want to play.  I wanted to check Facebook.

And then it occurred to me.  She isn't going to be the "baby" for much longer.  A few weeks at most, and then she'll be the big sister.  And right now, in this moment, she wants to be my baby.  She wants to kiss and cuddle.  She wants to be tickled and hugged.  And, because we wouldn't have too many more of these moments, I gave her what she wanted.

So, here she is, today, in this moment.  My baby.

Because babies grow too fast.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Notes from the Trenches, Vol. 3

In the interest of full disclosure, this week was a low point for us, school-wise.

We did school on Monday.  Everything on the lesson plan.  The kids even got all their chores done afterwards.

On Tuesday I had a doctor's appointment that ate our school time.

On Wednesday I was exhausted, uncomfortable and hot. The little ones all felt hot and Marty threw up, so we had a sick day.  I let it slide.

Today I spent the morning shopping for a major meal prep event tomorrow, so school time was spent at Grandma's house.

While this week was weak on school, the amount of artwork and imaginative play generated has been stellar, not to mention the socialization time spent with their relatives.  So, it wasn't a complete loss.  It never really is.

Next week is a new week.

And that's all from the trenches.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

5 Favorites: Babiez mayk u dum edition

Thanks to the lovely Hallie for hosting!

5 Favorites: Babiez Mayk U Dum Edition

I'm 36 weeks pregnant and counting the days.  I know not everyone gets this fun pregnancy symptom, but I get major brain drain, especially during the third trimester.  So, my memory goes, my grasp of English is greatly reduced and I have trouble concentrating on anything (including books written for kids.  Yeah, it's bad).

1. Roku box

My kids have a mild flu, so we're having a sick day.  They're tired and cranky and still getting over a super eventful week last week.  So, they're being allowed a bit more screen time than usual.  My roku box lets me stream Dinosaur Train from Netflix online to my vintage TV.  There are other shows, too, but Dinosaur Train is the current favorite with the four different ages. The peace is priceless and the kids "buy" another episode with a chore, so it's not like they're vegging out for uninterrupted hours.

2. Pinterest, again.

This time I'm crowdsourcing my meal planning to all the smart blogging ladies who do freezer meals that go into the crock pot.  I'm going to be spending the next couple days putting up some freezer meals for those hazy post-baby days.  I'm starting with this smart lady who introduced me to the method and branching out to browse all the other possibilities out there.  I have a round up of these recipes on my pinterest board "survival recipes" along with my other school year, mom of many, super quick and easy recipes.

3. my laptop
What other device lets me stay in touch with my buddies, helps me make meal plans and recipes, runs my homeschooling lesson plans, and lets me bid on getting my mom the perfect "thank you" gift?  I love my twenty-first century tech.

4. my list app on my phone
Since I have no memory left, I have to write down *everything*.  I have so many lists and checklists I would never be able to keep them in the same place without the kids finding and destroying my stack... so I have them all on my phone.  Grocery lists, chore lists, reminders, they're all in the same place.

5. smart kids
Not just my smart kids, who are great helpers when I'm in the "ooohhh, that's a Braxton Hicks contraction and I'm going to be on the couch for a bit now" stage of the third tri.  My smart, college-kid sister comes over for a couple hours every day and brings my smart youngest sister.  Between the two of them, my house stays clean and my kids are entertained.  Surrounding myself with smart people when I'm feeling intellectually vulnerable has been so comforting.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Seven Quick Takes: Memorable Moments

Thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting. :-)

This week there was nothing earth shaking happening at our house, but sometimes it's all about the little moments.

1. Marty was being carried somewhere by one of his aunties. Apropo of nothing, he popped his head up and said "HEY!  Imma love you!"

2. Upon being given a donut, Kittybean (15mo) made happy smacking sounds with her mouth, punctuated by waving her arms in the air.  This is her rendition of the "happy dance."

3. At a coffee shop, I was putting cream and sugar in my coffee.  My curious Robbie was watching and started commenting. "Don't put in too much sugar." "Why do you need that much cream?"  "I think that's enough cream now, Mom.  You should stop now." Because a six year old who has never tasted coffee is of course an expert.

4. Girls' night at the cafe with dessert and coffee was awesome.  My girlfriends are wise, geeky, and the perfect group for me. Not to mention funny and supportive.  Love 'em to pieces.

5. While I was watching my son do his work sheet, he looked up and smiled ear to ear.  He loves his homeschooling.

6. Bri actually asked for more school work after she finished her quota. Her sister grabbed her crayon  and, instead of coloring on her sister's worksheet, made coloring motions over where Bri had already colored.  She's getting it!

7. Every day there are little moments where my kids interact with each other that warm my heart.  Yes, four is a lot and five will be more.  Yes, they keep me busy and a little tired.  But they fit together like puzzle pieces.  They love and help each other.  They belong together.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Notes from the Trenches, Vol. 2

Since today is a national holiday, I'm giving the kids the day off of school.  I haven't decided yet if we're going to catch up tomorrow or if I'll just re-boot my lesson plan making up for the missed day.

I tried out my new religion plan this week.  The first day we focused on learning a prayer, the second day we read a story from the old Testament and the third day we read from the new Testament.  I like the rhythm and it keeps the kids thinking about  what we're studying and why.  I'm keeping it. :-)

We also did math this week, using Saxon K.  Because I actually did all my lesson prep in advance it was much easier than winging it, which was what I was doing before.  It worked seamlessly into our work week.

This week we didn't have any "weak" points per se, unlike last week.  While I feel good about that, we did run into a couple of other snags.

Yesterday, the 6 year old Robbie and 4 year old Bri both started having trouble focussing about 2/3 of the way into our school time.  I'm not sure if it was the fact that we have out of town company or the couple added subjects this week.  Either way, they ran out of steam, so I backed off.  We did all the essentials, but some of the optionals fell by the wayside.  Which is fine.  That's why they're "optionals".

Also, 15 month old Kitty has developed an aversion to school time.  I think she feels left out when she's not the center of attention.  It's okay, though.  She will get used to it.

3 year old Marty still loves read aloud time and poetry time.  And I found out yesterday that he will do coloring sheets if, and only if, I hand him the crayon at the same time as I hand him the page.

Have a great week, everyone.  Happy lesson planning!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Five Favorites: Homeschool Newbie Edition II

Thank you to Hallie at Moxie Wife for hosting this week!

1. Work Sheet Works

This nifty little website lets you make your own handwriting sheets (if you click on the one that says "Handwriting Practice").  You get to customize how many lines appear, what the worksheet will say, how big the text is, the works.  The best part?  It's FREE.  Easiest part of my lesson planning week is to plug in what I want the kids to work on writing this week.  There's all kinds of other good stuff, but I go there for the customized work sheets.

2. The Dollar Tree

For manipulatives for my 15 month old, this place is hard to beat.  They have basic craft supplies and right now they're starting to gear up for the school year, which means flash cards, handwriting pads, work books and school room accessories that stay in my budget.  While I still don't buy sketchy tooth whitening or grooming supplies, this is my go-to to keep my busy baby busy.


This I borrowed from a friend and dusted off this week to help with my weak math lessons.
The content is varied enough that it keeps it interesting for my six year old student, but scripted enough that I can teach a math lesson even with every things else going on in the background.  It's heavily focused on manipulatives and playing with numbers, so it's a fun introduction and won't induced later groans and "Math? Do I have to?"'s from reluctant math students.


One of the joys of having very young students is being able to match them with things that they love and things that they are good at.  To see that lightbulb moment when they know they are learning and they feel happy and strong because they are learning.  This poetry compilation was put together by Laura Berquist, foundress of Mother of Divine Grace homeschool program (and my boss).  She walked the homeschool walk with her kids and this book is a collection of poems that she taught her kids over the years and has something for each grade level.  For example, did you know Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote poetry for small children?  He did, and they're part of this collection.  My littles are learning his sweet little poems and being able to recite poetry is one of the best parts of their day.

5. Dessert: Door County Renaissance Faire

At the end of the school week, our reward is going to be going to the Door County Renaissance Faire for a "field trip".  It's important to remember that part of learning is having fun and experiencing new things.  Plus, we've been working on costumes all week.  The kids have a say in the creative direction of their costumes and they love watching the outfits come together.  We talk about things like planning for the weather, what kind of colors they are hoping for, etc.  It's a bonding experience for me and for them, plus they get to exercise their creativity in a new way.  The six year old actually drew pictures of a coat he was hoping for (and that boy has swagger!  It was a very stylish coat.).  Plus, the theme this year is pirates. Yargh!

I did not receive a promotional consideration for any of these products.  I did not get paid in freebies or otherwise for these product reviews.  The content here is solely the result of wanting to share with other homeschooling parents things that I have found helpful.  But if you click on my Amazon links I might get a couple pennies if you buy stuff.

Monday, July 1, 2013

You might be a homeschool mom of many if...

You might be a homeschooling mom of many if you find yourself saying things like:

"No, no.  Please don't sit on the math book."

"No, you can't color on the lesson plan."

"See?  She's just trying to show that she knows what the crayon is for!"

And that was just today.

Rock on, homeschool mommies.

Hello, Monday!

After a wild and crazy weekend, I'm so, so glad I did my lesson planning last week.

Believe it or not, *not* flying by the seat of your pants increases the probability of getting things done by 1000%. I'm sure wiser heads than mine have pointed that out, but sometimes being a beginner means making your own mistakes.

Also, we have a full docket this week: out of town guests, Fourth of July festivities and rounding up the week  with a weekend at the Door County Renaissance Faire.  I'm making everyone pirate costumes this week (Except for B, who wants to be a blue pirate fairy princess.).  I'm running errands and meeting friends and getting our garden in shape (as much as a 35 week pregnancy will let me) and I am still confident that we are going to get our school work done this week.

Also, the kids keep asking to make sure that we're going to get our schoolwork in.

I always promised myself I would be a "summer off" kind of homeschool mom.  However, our little curriculum only takes about an hour, so they get the majority of the day off.  Plus, they will be ready to start the school year with a bang, since their mental hinges will all be oiled and in top working shape when A. the new baby comes in a month B. my teaching from home job kicks back in and C. harvest season rolls around.

And that's the thing about homeschooling. If you find something that works, roll with it.  If you find something doesn't work, change it.  There's a real beauty to flexibility.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

1. Power outages stink.  They re-set everything in the house and the kids wake up scared because their night lights aren't working.  It's also hard for a pregnant mama to use a windowless bathroom.

2. Husbands who get up at 4:30 a.m. because the power is out and their kids are scared are awesome.

3. Husbands who figure out how to use a match to light the gas stove to make coffee are even more awesome.

4. Getting the kids out of the house so they stop being squirrelly because the TV and the toaster both aren't working seems to be the Thing To Do.

Because then you get these:

5. First strawberry picking:

6. Contented, post strawberry smiles:

7. Coming home to a house where the power is back on and all is right with the world.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Notes from the Trenches (Vol. 1)

So, it is late Thursday and we officially finished our school week.  Tomorrow I'm going to set up a craft and an educational show, after I go over with the kidlets what we did this week.

We're done with the hard stuff, for now.

So, this is my round-up of random information gleaned from homeschooling a 6 year old, a 4 year old, a   3 year old and a 15 month old, while being 34 weeks pregnant.  I'm calling it notes from the trenches, because, whatever else homeschooling is, it is hard.  So, for all you newbie homeschoolers and moms of many out there, have hope!  You're not alone.

My lesson plan system worked. It worked so well that this afternoon I went ahead and did my lesson planning for *next week* because, carpe diem, people!

It turns out, to my surprise, I am not a color by number syllabus person.  At least, not when my hands are so full.  It turns out that when I reach down and try to relate to each child at their own level, schooling became easier.  Rolling with the differences is actually a lot less stressful than trying to impose the same mold on the whole crowd from the top down.

So, the 15 month old spent the week playing with foam blocks and a muffin time, augmented on different days by a wooden spoon, various sippy cups, and a plastic snack container with a hinged lid.  Also, for some reason, her sibs who were waiting for their turns at different times were also interested in these things.  School time for her was an adjustment, but she's getting the hang of it.

The 3 year old spent the week learning "This little piggy went to market..." He had coloring sheets as well, but he was not interested.  He  did enjoy the group reading and poetry time, though, and felt included enough that he didn't disrupt his older learning siblings.

The 4 year old spent the week tracing letters and numbers and doing simple phonics.  She also got to color, which she thoroughly enjoyed.  I think her favorite part was getting a sticker on finished assignments, though.

The big kid, the 6 year old, started slow and gained momentum.  The first couple days it seemed like he had lost all interest in reading and all knowledge of phonics.  By this morning, however, he was buzzing through his reading and phonics so fast it was like he was playing a game.

The highlights seemed to be the end-of-the-lesson chapter of Winnie the Pooh.  They were good listeners.

This week was weak in religion and math.  Frankly, this has always seemed like a weak spot in our school, but now there is a plan on the books to improve this.  I've located the appropriate lesson in Saxon Kindergarten, so we'll be starting that and I've designed a religion lesson that covers all the weaknesses in the other religion programs I've had trouble with.  Both of those are now part of the lesson plan, so they *will* get done.  They have their own special boxes like all the other important subjects.

Designing my curriculum as I go was stressful initially, realizing all the bases I had to cover.  However, it enabled me to roll with the punches this week, taking notes, mentally re-working things in my head.  It's the last day of the school week and I don't feel burnt out.  That's a first.

And that's all from the trenches this week, folks.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Five Favorites: Homeschool Newbie Edition

So, this is my first Five Favorites post.  Thanks a bunch to Moxie Wife for hosting!

For those of you who have never met me, I have a Type A personality (I think). I like to feel in control.  I also want to homeschool my kids.  So far, hilarity has ensued as I try to get my beautiful darlings (ages 6, 4, 3, and 15 months) to fall in line with these goals.

But this week I found a system that works, you guys!

So here are five things that as a newbie homeschooler are making my week better.

Favorite 1.

A word spreadsheet.  I know, I know. It's a plain, 6 x 12 square grid.  But so far, I've been able to put everyone's (yes, the baby has a row) school stuff on there.  I've been modifying stuff in pencil as I go, so next week it's going to look different when I print it up (I know for sure I'm adding a row for notes, for example). I filled it in and saved it as a template and now it's waiting for me when I have to do lesson planning for next week.

Since my biggest challenge has been trying to figure out how to juggle work for all four kids at once, this is a big deal.  And my new favorite.

Favorite 2.

The Piano Guys.

Since one of the goals of a classically oriented education is getting kids to recognize the good, the true and the beautiful, I try to find good music to listen to during the school day.  On Monday the CD I had so carefully picked out refused to play on any of my machines, so, on a friend's recommendation, I put on these guys.  They cover all kinds of music, from classical to popular, but they are amazing to listen to.

Favorite 3.


Where else can I find print-outs and activities to incorporate into my school week that cover my entire range of students?  I'm an obsessive pinner.  And it makes my school week easier.

Favorite 4.
This book:

My six year old loves the format and the stories.  I love the fact that it's flexible and phonics-based.  Also the fact that the exercises are bite-sized, so when (not if!) we get interrupted, it's easy to get the train back on the track.  Also, each story is a bit different and comes with a picture, so my student eagerly works through the lessons to get to the "good part."  It's like dessert.  And who can argue with academic dessert?

Favorite 5.

Again, with dessert.  At the end of the school day, I'm reading a chapter from this:

I have fond memories of being read these stories as a child and now I get to pass them on to my kids.  This is one of the reasons I do what I do.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

Seven Quick Takes: New House Edition

Last summer, in the late summer, we moved into a new house.  For the first time in our married  lives, we're in an actual house, that isn't attached to anyone else's residence and that has a yard.  Here are some of my new favorite things about our home:

1. Lilacs.  The house previous owner (the only one, the one the house was built for) was an amazing gardener.  I'm falling behind in taking care of the sheer number of flower beds and garden areas.  But she planted these amazing lilac bushes that bloom in rotation, so we have had lilacs for almost a solid month.  I can smell them everywhere and the blooms are gorgeous.

2. Open windows.  We can keep our windows open most of the time starting in May.  We get a great cross breeze that keeps our house cool and let in the amazing scents of the garden, newly-mown grass, summer bonfires.  From my open bedroom window, I can hear the rainfall and hear the wind whisper in the trees.  I can also hear cranes, crickets, frogs and more birds than I can name.  We've never had "open window season" for a number of reasons, but I love it.

3. Our swing. We have an old porch swing in the back yard you can see a bunch of the garden areas and trees from.  It's one of my kids' favorite places in the world now.

4. Our big garden.  In addition to flower beds, we now have a huge vegetable garden with lots of sun and good drainage.  My mom is an enthusiastic gardener and thanks to her efforts we have gotten lettuce, spinach, radishes, dill, asparagus, garlic scapes, and wonder of wonders, strawberries!  I've never successfully grown anything before, so this bumper crop is overwhelming in the best possible way.

5. Our flower garden.  There are perennials everywhere! Right now it's irises, but I've seen alliums, bleeding hearts, lilies of the valley, flowers I don't know the names of, herbs I know but can't remember.  Crab grass has become my nemesis as it tries to choke out my pretty blossoms, but it can't lower my spirits.

6. The pool.  Yeah.  We have a pool now.  It's a big one.

7. The fire pit.  The biggest social draw has been our firepit.  Husband and kids love gathering burn material, getting the fire started, and cooking brats and marshmallows over an open flame.  We have cookouts a lot.

Bonus: 8.  My family lives a mile away.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gypsy Week: a retrospective

Last week was our family vacation.  Traditionally, my parents rent a house on the beach for the week and we hang around, doing fun, often tourist-y things.  This year, for a number of reasons, we didn't stay at the house with my folks and sibs, but opted to drive back and forth every day.  This resulted in a grand total of 4+ hours in the car every day with four toddlers and a very pregnant mama (me).

Here's what I learned.

What didn't work:

Arts and crafts in the car, unless we're talking about coloring with crayons, are not a big thing for the under 7 crowd.

My three year old learned quickly that if he was bored, he should ask for food.  The car snacks were types of junk food he doesn't get at home.  He got to the point where he was "hungry" every five minutes, even if the last snack was two minutes ago. After the first treat, we learned that if we offered him something boring, like a plain graham cracker, he would stop asking.

Sometimes, when you're pregnant and tired, you're just not going to be comfortable in the car, no matter how many little luxuries (chocolate almonds) you packed.

What did work:

Command centers. Each child had a back pack with necessities (blanket, coloring book, clip board for a lap desk, snacks, etc.).  Since car seats keep kids from being able to reach the floor under most circumstances, I used carabiner clips (from the Dollar Tree), to clip each child's pack to the back of the chair in front of them.  Had we been hiking or camping, each back could be zipped up and detached in seconds to allow the child to take the backpack with them.

Audio books. We listened to "The Fellowship of the Ring" read by Robert Inglis for much of the trip.  Great stuff.  My little geeklings are learning so much!

Car snacks.  I know, I know.  I complained about the three year old.  But, truly, breakfast in the car with the kids every day was less of a disaster than I imagined it would be. They had fresh grapes and frozen gogurts every morning and the real junk snacks didn't start til later.  We also made sure to fill water bottles with ice and water in the morning, so the sugar was kept to a minimum.

Family time.  The driving was hard, no doubt about it.  But the quality time with family was priceless.  If I had to do it again, I would.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Today we honor the great men in our lives.  The ones who go by the title, not of "hero" or "general" or whatever grandiose titles people covet.  But I think that the best, hardest-earned, most precious title in the world is "Daddy".

I have been so incredibly blessed to have two great men in my life.

The one I have known longest is the one my siblings and I still call "Daddy."  He taught me what virtues men are capable of and taught me how to spot the good ones.  He taught me a lot of other things, too.  He taught me there was more to life than being pretty, that I could do anything and that I was infinitely valuable.  These lessons and so many more are the legacy I got from my Daddy, who raised and is still raising strong, independent, smart kids.

The man I know best is the one my kids call Daddy.  I thank God for him every day.  We have been through a lot together, both the "better" and the "worse" we promised almost seven years ago.  Through all this time we have grown together and also had some growing up to do (especially me).  Today, he is a man I am proud and grateful to share children with. He teaches them kindness and patience, love and joy, honesty and diligence.  We lean on his strength and he shelters us.  He is gentle and strong and the love he has for his family is beautiful and deep-rooted. Some of my favorite memories are his lullabies to our babies, hearing him read aloud to our kids, seeing him working in the yard with the little ones and playing with them.  He calms and distracts them when they are distressed and laughs with them when they are happy.  He is a wonderful husband and father.

Happy Father's Day to my two favorite men.  Thank you for all you do.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dusting off my blogging shoes

So, it has been a hectic year for us in many ways.  My motto has been "If you want God to laugh, tell Him your plans."

So, as I am planning on resuming blogging soon, no doubt He is having a hearty chuckle.  But that's okay.

Anyhow, as blessings #1 and #2 are now school age (sort of), I'm going to start posting reviews of homeschooling stuff in addition to the usual cheery updates.  I'll probably also be posting book reviews for learning age books.  And when I say "learning age" I don't mean "school age" because, really, who ever out-grows learning?  I'm pretty sure when you stop learning, you die.  Like sharks with swimming. Don't stop.

So, for new readers, hello!  I'm happy to see you!

For old subscribers, hello! I didn't die, I swear.

I'm back!