Tuesday, May 10, 2016

He's a honey man

This is what Jamie said this morning as he was scraping out the bottom of an almost-empty honey jar that he had pulled off the counter.  I told him it was fine, but that I'd like him to ask me next time.

His response: "I'm a honey man. I just love honey!"

He's five years old and as cute as ever.

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I have a hard time comprehending where I am at in life.

Done having babies.
Four boys.
Youngest almost three years old.
On the brink of adolescence.
No more babies.

It's confusing.  I don't know how to feel about it.  Most of the time I feel settled, not feeling the mournful sense of "being done"; but it is a roller coaster.  It is almost a sense of loss, to know that I will never mother a newborn again, that my own babies are growing and moving quickly toward leaving fat bellies and sweet morning breath far behind.

But I can hold babies without feeling desperate.  I can hold them and hand them back and it feels right.  It is just such a strange place to be.

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Our vacuum finally bit the dust this spring after the plastic turning mechanism broke.  We bought it the year we were married with absolutely no research and lucked out.  We just got the replacement last week.  It's good, a definite improvement: lighter, better suction, more convenient.  This morning while we snuggled, Diego wondered when the new vacuum would need to be replaced. 

"Well," I said, "I don't think you'll have to worry about it. The last one lasted sixteen years."  Sixteen years!  I am old enough to have had a vacuum for sixteen years.  It boggled my mind for a brief moment.

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Diego found a baby pigeon last month.  He knocked down what he thought was an "old nest" (or so he said) and caught it easily.  It was fully feathered, but wasn't yet able to fly and still had a bit of baby fluff poking through.

Blaine, who evidently harbors a secret affection and fascination for birds, forgot himself and bought a bird cage immediately. (Ha!) (It totally cracks me up.) And now we have a pet pigeon.  Mr. Squealy. Within a half-hour of having him, he was hopping back up on Diego's lap when he set him down.  He went unnamed for a couple of weeks, but finally developed the name Mr. Squealy for the gentle baby-squeals and flapping he does when you feed him or go to pull him out of the cage.  We've read that baby pigeons are sometimes called "squeakers" for this very behavior trait.  Think baby birds' excitement when mama bird comes back to the nest with a fat worm.

Who knew pigeons were so wonderful?!  Seriously, he is the best.  Gentle, quiet, tame, so pleasant to have around.  He rides around on Diego's shoulder, indoors or outdoors.  He hangs out with us outside and has flown off short distances, but always returns.  His poop is usually dry enough that it just rolls off your back. (Though we've had plenty of turd-shirts too.)

He may yet fly away and that's okay.  But for now, we are all enjoying our pigeon interlude.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Have I really not posted in almost three weeks?  Good grief.  This calls for a good old fashioned list post.
  • My daily wake-up time hovers around 5:00 AM.  I don't use an alarm clock, I simply tell myself that I want to wake up at that time.  If/when I wake in the night, I look at the clock and tell myself, "three more hours", "one more hour" and so on.  I get myself out of bed by remembering it is the only time for quiet contemplation that I have.
  • Bedtime is fairly consistent: in bed by 9:30 PM, drifting by 10:00 PM.
  • We still all go to bed at the same time and sleep in the same room.  It is a double-edged sword in some ways, but more weighted on the side of Good.  It definitely keeps me accountable to be in bed earlier, and I love the lights-out conversations with the boys.  I sing to them every night.  When we're in bed early enough, I read to them. Any kind of night-time troubles are handled by boys whispering, "Mama...?" and I'm not bringing anyone back to bed all night long.
  • The downsides: no evening solitude, the only quiet evening conversation between Blaine and I occurs if/when the television is on.  Ah well.  It is the path we have chosen.
 Grackle Patrol
  • Spring! It has been such a relief to send the boys OUTSIDE to play for more than 30 minutes.  I am so, so thankful for spring.  Things were starting to get a bit stir-crazy in these parts.
  • The fellas spent a couple of days in the trees on bird patrol, pounding plastic buckets to bits and denting metal containers with Great-Grandma S.'s old croquet mallets, making a wonderfully booming racket.  The grackles had just arrived back for the season and congregate in great numbers in the grove around our house.  It would go from loud, raucous chattering to silence and the sweeping flap of hundreds of wings as the buckets were pounded.
  • The last couple of days have been misty, moisty mornings, when cloudy was the weather, and just delightful.  I made sure we were done with our schoolwork in record time this morning just to get outside and enjoy the dampness.

 Yessir Grok and Spiderman

 Eliah looking out the eye-hole of the Spidey Costume
  • The boys went through quite a spell of dress-up this winter.  Jamie mostly, wearing his crocodile suit most days for what felt like weeks.  It was the cutest thing.  He cycled through other costumes as well - dragon, Spiderman, frog, cow, etc. - but always came back to the "croc-a-aisle" as Eliah calls it.
  • In recent days, Jamie has been very interested in hauling around his bunny family - my big, white bunny from childhood, everyone's favorite Bunny Rabbit Smudge, and the little brown bunny in green overalls.
  • This has inspired Eliah, who has been tending his menagerie of teddy bear, ant-eater, snail, croc-a-aisle, and batHe sleeps with them every night and when he wakes up in the morning, his hands are full of stuffed animals plus his water bottle.  Every morning.
  • Yiya calls soldiers "Yessirs".

Freaky Friday
  • And this is what romped down the stairs one morning before lunch after things had been a leeeeetle quiet for a while.  The Pig Bros. in two of my reserved vintage dresses.
  • I finally cleared out my vintage dress collection last spring, after realizing that I had had enough.  I just can't keep all this stuff.  Blaine might as well have hooted and hollered and said, "'bout time!" 
  • I've been reading more and more poetry of late.  It really, really hits the spot.  It spurs so much thought and emotion.  I loved the atmosphere it creates.  The literary power it holds.  I am amazed by it.  
  • I am almost done with Dakota by Kathleen Norris (I've been reading it since June) (ala Mother Culture) and at one point in the book I thought to myself, "She could have said this so much more succinctly in a poem...."
 The most amazing carrot ever
  • We are almost finished with our second term in school.  Huge successes have been the establishment of Circle Time, regular Picture Study, Folk Songs, our first foray into formal Math Lessons, Habit Training, weekly pencil drawings, establishing Reading Practice, afternoon athletic practices, and a more established routine.  This is a real homeschool, where in past years it felt more like practice.  We are catching our groove.  It feels great.
  •  In the Room for Improvement category: keeping Littles under wraps and maintaining the self-discipline to keep a steady routine day in and day out (me).  I feel like I've made strides in both areas.
  • So we have had A LOT of wins this year.  I am so pleased.
  • A funny related side-story: I keep crying while reading Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie Bober.  The difficulties that the Adams family endured, the intensity of the build-up to revolution, the political unrest, the strain . . . all I can say is "Wow . . . I just never knew".  There is something about a narrative account of history that leaves text books in the dust.  Dead and dry and parched.  
  • The boys are quite concerned as I choke up, working on either regaining my composure or squeaking out the words, and pat my back or give me hugs.  Diego tries unsuccessfully to comfort me by saying, "It's just a book". (Riiight.) The tender-hearted things. I told them this morning that I don't mind crying about it at all - it is helpful to understand people and life better.  
  • If anything, I've come to a much greater understanding of the origins of our nation.  How young we truly are, what amazing principles it was founded on, the irony of the birth of a nation combined with the demise of many other nations, the fact the war and squabbles are the neverending story of humanity.  And so on.  I am amazed.
  • Truen is reminding me that my "five minutes" are up.  
  • Time for a popcorn snack.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I have to write it down ASAP

 The little dinosaur on the left

Eliah has been saying the most hilarious things recently.  He has moved into longer sentences that allow for greater complexity in communication.  It has been delightful to hear what is going on in his little mind.
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"Why you call me Doll?"

:: To Blaine, whose nickname for him is, you guessed it, "Doll".

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Mama (calling from the kitchen): "I'm ready for boys to get the table ready to eat....!"
Eliah (from the other room): "Be patient, Mama."

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"I naughty and you dumb."

:: What he said as I walked into the bathroom after his two-minute time-out.  I laughed at this one for quite a while. 

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"I catched this restapede."

:: Proudly showing Diego the millipede he caught. 

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"I do it myself!"

:: Like a broken record.  Last month it was "Me do it by myself!"

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"What's a-daaaaaat?"

:: The question of the day, every day, all day.  Answers simply result with another question.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Booklist for boys

 Books my boys have loved:
  • Hatchet (et al) - Gary Paulsen
  • Woodsong - Gary Paulsen
  • My Side of the Mountain - Jean Craighead George
  • Old Yeller - Frank Gipson
  • Rascal - Sterling North
  • Where the Red Fern Grows - Wilson Rawls
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH - Robert C. O'Brien 
  • Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
  • The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling
  • Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe
  • Little House Books 1-4 - Laura Ingalls Wilder
Future Reference:
  • Little Britches - Ralph Moody
  • Stone Fox - John Reynolds Gardiner
  • Penrod - Booth Tarkington

My older boys are currently 10 and 8 years old. 
All books were absorbed either via audiobook or read aloud.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Further honing

I've been tweaking our homeschool schedule in recent weeks with hugely beneficial results.

The revised morning flow
  • Eat earlier (me)
  • Breakfast at 8:00 AM
  • Preschool Circle Time / Lego Time
  • Circle Time
  • Table Time
  • Free Time
  • Clean-up
  • Lunch
Instead of a lackadaisical approach to breakfast, I am gunning for an earlier eating time.  Our mornings were getting squeezed out by eating too late.  Enough.  We are eating our evening meal earlier - we will eat our morning meal earlier as well.

Secondly, I've realized that too much free-time with the ages, stages and personalities of my children degenerates into CHAOS.  Enough.  Every morning it was the same thing: 20 minutes of freedom after breakfast comprised of frenzied battle play that resulted in the complete loss of control of the day.  From boys rampaging around the house completely naked to tears and shrieking from over-wrought younger sibs.  It was hard to reel them back in from that.

Furthermore, I was noticing a pattern: the older boys were finally settling down for focused play in the Lego Room just 5-10 minutes before Morning Chores or Before Lunch Clean-up.  I hated tearing them away from it, but the day must move on or we will be swimming in a cesspit of chaos.

Finally, I've been feeling an important urge to give my younger two boys time to themselves, to play their imaginative Little Kid games and not have to be running around the house in full battle gear.  To be baby bunnies or go fishing for crocodiles off the loveseat without brudders coming in and dominating the play.  And I've been wanting to read to them more, feeling that urgency of time pressing down upon me, wanting to share special books and really settle in and focus on them. 

Enough.  Combine the all the issues, add a dose of insight from a homeschooling post on a favorite blog, and I realized the answer lay before me.

Further structure. More order.  (Duh, Shawna.)

I've implemented Preschool Circle Time right after breakfast.  (In order to make that work I have to ensure that I eat before they do, as I read to them while they eat.)  So while the Littles are with me downstairs, the Bigs are upstairs in the Lego Room.

The result?  A quiet morning.  No AM battle play.  No rampaging around the house.  No bellowing, hollering, screaming and crying.  No spiraling out of control.  Focused attention.  Peace.  It has been AMAZING.

I am loving the quiet time in the morning with the little guys - we are reading stories, poems, Mother Goose, singing songs, snuggling and usually ending with a bit of make-believe.  Today we took a little detour and made meringues.  And all the while, the older boys are able to have a lengthy time for focused attention on Lego play.  It has been amazing.  I am absolutely reveling in it.

So we are building the habit.  It takes vigilance and perseverance to keep any good habit on track for the long-term.  And it is all on my shoulders.

Now a quick run-down on Circle Time.

  • My Book House: Story Time - Olive Beaupre Miller
  • Poems to Read to the Very Young - Josette Frank
  • The Mother Goose Book - Alice & Martin Provenson
  • Clap Your Hands: Finger Rhymes - Sarah Hayes

  • OT/NT Bible Stories
  • Elementary Geography - Charlotte Mason
  • The Life of Marcus Cato the Censor - Plutarch
  • George Washington's World - Genevieve Foster
  • The Young Brahms - Sybil Deucher
  • The Adventures of Reddy Fox - Thornton W. Burgess
  • Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
  • Othello - William Shakespeare
  • The Arnold Lobel Book of Mother Goose

Lest you think that I am super woman because you are unfamiliar with the lay-out of Circle Time, I am not reading all these books in one day, nor I am reading full chapters or lengthy passages.  The boys can't take much more than a paragraph from Plutarch and we get through perhaps a quarter of a scene from Shakespeare before I've lost them.  It is quick-quick-quick, with the idea of a cumulative effect over time.  I am a builder.  We also sing, recite poetry, and practice our memory work.

Oftentimes, the boys are flopping around on the floor while I am reading to them or Jamie is up on my shoulders while I am hunched over the book and trying to keep my eye on the line.  It isn't pretty, but it sure is beautiful.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Curried butternut squash soup

Shucks, it's leap day - I've got to post.  My mama was a Leap Year Baby and today is her 15th official birthday.  My dad used to tease me when I was very young that my mom was "younger" than me.  It boggled my mind and I remember getting upset about it - I obviously wasn't able to wrap my mind around the concept. 

Meanwhile, I've been wanting to post a scrumptious squash soup recipe.  Most of my children can barely choke down squash, but they eat this soup with gusto - they actually shout with glee and hop around the kitchen when they realize I am making it.

Diego even asked this last time, "I wonder why I love this soup when I hate squash so much?"  Winter squash is pretty much the only thing he cannot stand.  And he is the king of the dramatic productions.  He will stuff his minor portion into his mouth all at once, hands at his throat, replete with overly-grand gagging sound effects as he chokes it down.  It is ridiculous.

But he loves this soup.


2 TBSP butter
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1-2 onions, sliced
1 baked butternut squash
4 cups stock
1-2 bay leaves
1 TBSP curry powder
pinch sugar
pinch nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups milk

:: Sautee the onion in butter, adding the garlic and curry powder in at the end.
:: Add the squash, mix well, then add the stock and seasonings.
:: Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer for 45 minutes or so.
:: Add the milk and blend with an immersion blender until velvety-smooth.
:: Add salt & pepper and enjoy!

I usually double the recipe to make it last a few meals.  Sometimes I substitute coconut milk.  It's really, really good.  Really good.

Happy Birthday, Muver!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Called out by the two year old

"You got mad eyes, Mama."

After a moderately rough morning and a burning need for solitude.  Little Eliah Len.

I've also realized that while noise and commotion may be the downfall for some moms (and that does get to me eventually), my weak spot is discord.  Fighting, screaming, crying, nasty attitudes, harsh treatment of each other, mocking, belittling, seemingly endless conflict.  It steals my joy and leaves me feeling like a husk.

So interesting too, because that list sheds light on the mix of ages I've got.  Parenting kids 5 and under doesn't involve much of  the latter end of the list.  What "they" say is right: parenting older kids involves so much more mindwork.  Little guys' needs are immediate and much more simply dealt with.  But big kids?  Mentally fatiguing.