Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ye olde list post

So many thoughts, so little time.  I defer.

  • We are still finishing our 2013-2014 school year.  In my mind, I have likened it to a rattle-trap car just barely holding together, huffety-puffety, rolling into the finish line with a bing-bang-pop.  In other words, barely making it.
  • It is not unlike the poor guy we saw on the other side of 35W on our way to Luuuuke and Katy's wedding "back in the day": his car smoking and bouncing to a stop, the left front tire missing, him holding on for dear life as his car fizzled and zizzled to the side of the road.  A few seconds later we saw his tire cross all eight lanes of traffic.  (It was hilarious at the time and still makes me smile to think of it.)
  • This is exactly what the last bit of our school year feels like to me.  We are bouncing in to the finish line, totally worn out and hoping just to make it to the end.

 A common scene in recent weeks
  • I feel like "keeping up with life" (whatever that means) has become almost impossible with four children.  Honestly, I feel like I've been pushed over the brink.  Anything beyond survival is a luxury at this point in time.  Even now I feel a little bit frantic, wondering if I am using my time wisely.  It leaves me feeling off-kilter.
  • It is funny, because I look back on past posts and see myself iterating similar feelings.  Overwhelm.  Swamped.  No time for contemplative thought.  And when I read these things, I poo-poo my past self, feeling like things have ratcheted up a notch or ten.  Oh yeah, I tell myself, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.
  • Though I do remember from past experience that having a baby in the 12-18 month range (in addition to the extremely active activity level of multiple children) adds a lot of strain.  Not because that age is horrible, quite the contrary, but that they are into everything, have no sense to keep themselves safe, and aren't able to run with the big boys yet.  It makes getting "anything done" very hard.  Bless his little heart.  I keep on reminding myself to hold on and not wish time away.  Things will even out in time.
  • I'm working towards being more even-tempered and flexible.  I want my children to remember a happy mama, not a strained-glum-can't-wait-til-QT mama.  I think my fears play on the perception of myself, because I do think I spend most of my day mostly cheerful and patient . . . though the constant push to accomplish my enormous weekly bucket list is always weighing on me, especially in the mornings, and I know it effects my general aura.

This scene lasted long enough for a picture 
  • The more experience I gain, the more I understand that "for everything there is a season" and constant adjustment is necessary.  I know that, but I'm always surprised to identify that need in my daily, weekly, monthly, yearly life.  Not many rules or routines last for long before becoming outdated.
  • So with that in mind . . . my new-and-improved concept of MORNING CHORES and the boys' responsibility in household maintenance.
  • Morning chores: morning board, empty dishwasher, fold laundry (Mon/Tues), cat litters (M/W/F), get dressed, brush teeth.
  • Household maintenance: before-lunch clean-up, pick-up after play, assigned tasks to help me/us (i.e. picking tomatoes, taking diapers off the line, loading or unloading the washing machine and dryer, etc.)
  • I am planning to get more structured in this dept. with a flip-chart peg board that my SIL gave me.  I don't want to constantly remind them to stay on task (it drains my reserves).  My idea is to require morning chores to be completed by 10:00 AM every day, fueled by individual and team competitions - hopefully fueling their enthusiasm for sticking with the plan.  After brainstorming rewards, I came up with special meal or dessert requests for individual goals met and a Friday morning smoothie or eggnog for team victory.
 Jumping off the dock at our friends' family's weekend retreat
  • Swimming turned into a bi-weekly event this summer.  I aim for Fridays and stay all day, packing loads of food and water to keep us steady.  It is perfect, because by the time we get home Blaine has had a bit of time to himself and the boys are so tired it makes very a very calm night.  Then they sleep in the next morning and have a peaceful day reacquainting themselves with home.  It is so relaxing.
  • The last couple of days have been cold in the morning, beautiful sunny days with no humidity and warm afternoons.  I realized this morning that it is late summer.  I can't believe it!  It seems like it went so fast.  It has been a very cool summer, so it felt like I spent most of the time waiting for it to warm up and actually feel like summer.  We've had a few days with warm nights, and then poof . . . it's almost done.
 On our driveway
  • The boys and I went on a good number of walks in the past month.  It is amazing what slowing down does for the quality of observation and depth of appreciation for one's surroundings.  "Driving by" does not do the world justice.  But walking . . . what a difference . . . to feel the breeze playing on the skin, hear the insect and bird life, take in the the scent of the fields and flowers, even getting a better hold on the trees and sky, letting it all seep in.  It is beautiful.
  • With two little guys and two big guys, our walks consist of Diego riding bike, Truen walking, Jamie sometimes-walking, sometimes-riding, and Eliah sometimes-riding, sometimes-backpacking.  We have a rinky-dink Schwinn bike trailer that is perfect to fit three of the four boys at a time if need be (Truen is still small enough).  It is perfect.
  • Re: the Schwinn.  Buyer beware: it is worth investing in higher quality.
  • But nevertheless, it has been a blessing.  I love having a stroller big enough to haul multiple children and the big wheels make pushing it a breeze.  We even went for a bike ride as an entire family this weekend, Blaine hauling Truen and Jamie, Diego biking, Eliah in the backpack with me, to the graveyard a mile from our house.
Posing by the tomatoes
  • Two local ladies and I are starting a homeschooling group in our small town.  There are plenty of homeschooling groups in the larger towns around us, but there are a lot of homeschooling families in our area and honestly, why drive a half-hour or more when we can cultivate what we want right here where we live?  In addition to keeping our activities local, we will be keeping our children's friendships local as well, which bodes well for more frequent interaction and visiting.  It's a win-win-win.
  • One of the ladies is the wife of the new pastor at the Baptist church in town.  That particular church has a "half-gym" and so we are kicking off our group by organizing a bi-weekly homeschoolers' open gym.  I am so pleased.  A place for my fellas to run off some winter steam (and a five minute drive)!  Awesome.
  • Other organized activities will probably follow.  We are planning to "go with it".  Whatever happens, happens and if it doesn't, that is fine too.  It will be very loose and flexible, with people planning activities as the inspiration or need arises.   But I have a hunch: one of the women I am working with is very gifted in organizing activities so I assume that we will have a good start in the near-distant future.
  • It will be interesting to see what happens.  We already have five interested families, but I know that is just scraping the surface of the potential.
 Eliah does this funny tight-fist shaking thing that makes us all laugh

  • Even as our school year is puttering to an end, I am planning our new school year.  I plan to take September off, reading aloud sprinkled in here and there, then pick up again at the beginning of October.
  • This will be Truen's first "official" year: first grade.  I've had him participating at 75% for the last two years, then full-on 100% for our history reading and activities from The Story of the World.  Overall, he's done very well.  When I can sense that something is too much for him, I ease off a bit.  But otherwise, he's been tagging along through pretty much everything.
  • My plan is to do a modified version of Year 1 from Diego's first year.  I'm not sure if I will read to him/them separately (everything but SOTW) or if I should still combine everything.  I honestly don't know what to do at this point in time, because I see pros and cons either way.  At this point, I assume that I will attempt to continue a combination approach, then adjust as neccessary.
  • I will say though: looking at the initial schedule for this year left me feeling a bit faint.  I'm not sure how to fit it all in, especially with a very LOUD preschooler and a very BUSY toddler.  I don't have much in the way of concentrated time to sit or speak in leisure.  I'm usually trying to make my voice heard above the exclamations and hollering.
  • That being said, I have honed in on a few tactics that give me at least a little bit of time.  First and foremost, looking for an opportunity in the morning.  Are they quiet?  Are the younger ones absorbed in anything?  Secondly, snacks.  Giving them food keeps them quiet for a few minutes while I read aloud.  Thirdly, special toys or crafts: things that they don't have continuous access to.  I can sometimes get a good 10-15 minutes of absorption from them, or should I say, Jamie.  The three year old.  Holy smokes.  It will be interesting to see if anything lets up this coming year as he grows and changes.
 Gramma S. shopping the Farmers' Market
  • Finally: September.  Harvest season.  I'm already feeling the burn.  I look toward it with mixed feelings, thankfulness for the bounty and the dread of knowing the amount of work it will take to put it up.  It will be interesting to see if next year will be as overwhelming as this year feels.  I'm not afraid of the work, but I do feel strained at the thought of trying to "fit it in".  Eliah still needs me so much, it is hard to be separated from him for the length of time each work day requires.  Likewise, it is difficult to keep the pace with so many interruptions and distractions.  It is hard.  I'm not sure how I'm going to do it.
  • In addition, I plan to travel TWO TIMES during the month of September.  This is unprecedented and totally crazy, but I am pleased and looking forward to it at the same time, while simultaneously quaking in my boots. Blaine's grandpa's 99th birthday and a corresponding family reunion??  My dad within driving distance??  It would skewer me to miss either of these opportunities.  I must go.
  • Blaine is taking four days off this month (in addition to Labor Day) and I will use them to the best of my ability.  Tomatoes, apples, cabbage are my biggest challenges.
It took me two days to crank this post out.  I think I covered most of my bases.  Much love, many blessings, I think of you all much more often than you hear from me.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

'Tis the season and Yittle Yi-ya Yen

"Oh Eliah, Little 'Liah Len"
(to the tune of "Little 'Liza Jane")

Holy smokes.  I am up to my eyeballs in tomatoes and crookneck squash and pickling cucumbers.  It is best not to think about it too much or my mind goes into gridlock.  Eegads.  

I've realized that I am going to be in "maintenance mode" this year.  No frivolities, very little experimentation, sticking almost entirely to the basics.  I thought last year was hard (and it was).  But this preservation season feels like it might swallow me whole.

I think it is because of "Little 'Liah Len's" age.  14 months.  He's into everything, climbing whatever he can get on, and has absolutely no sense of how to keep himself safe (so very normal, of course).  Blaine has him mostly covered on weekend; but he wants his mama like every toddler does, so I am pulled to the wayside for regular snuggle breaks.  Which I love, of course, but it becomes my own personal speed bump.  Times ten.

My current thoughts on the subject is to do as much as I can during the day (weekends being the big push), then stay up for a few hours after everyone else is in bed.  I've done it a few times already and it provides a major boost on keeping things under control.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A quote from an interlude

At the end of last week, Diego and Jamie were sitting together peacefully at the kitchen table playing with Legos while I was tending to the baby in the tub.  This, in and of itself, is an amazing and rare event worth noting.  Unless enmeshed in an extremely active and imaginative game together, they are usually fighting.  Especially when it involves Legos.

::: Sidenote: I think I finally understand why I fought so much with my brother who is five years younger than me.  I see it in action every day. :::

So anyway . . . Diego came into the bathroom and gave me this terrific quote from Jamie, who had been talking to him about the Lego motorcycle's kickstand.

Jamie said to Diego, "Do you know how to get this stander off? you?  It's pretty hard for big boys."

I love this in so many ways, in the fact that this is a perfect snapshot for Jamie's language and communication right now.  That they were getting along so beautifully and Diego actually came into the bathroom to tell me the story with pleasure and amusement, ahhhhhh . . . it made me so happy at the time.

But the icing on the cake was Diego's finishing touch to the story.  He said, "You'd better write that down, Mama."

The thoughtfulness.  His tender heart.  He knows that about me.  It left me feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside as I rushed to Jamie's Special Notebook to write it down before the next big emergency would knock it right out of my mind.

Then a couple of days later, I wrote it down in Diego's Special Notebook.

::: A final sidenote: I've noticed that if I don't write things down immediately, that particular thought or memory is essentially vaporized.  (Where is my mind?  Way out in the water, see it floating.)  But worse, I've also come to realize I don't remember some of the things I do write down.  Reading it either triggers the memory, or I thank myself for writing something down that would be otherwise lost to time and space.  My brain is too full, too full.  :::

Friday, August 01, 2014

Blahblahblah, cameras, blahblah

I've got to enjoy QT while I have it, but I wanted to get some kind of shout-out, some kind of something out here, to keep some kind of semblance of a "groove" in my blogging.

A groove.  Ha.  I lost that awhile ago.

I don't have any new pictures for you because I haven't had time to download the crappers (seagull, clam, blurry pictures, you remember), but we did just get our new camera in the mail this week.  We bought the exact same make and model as our last, a Sony Cybershot, except this one is pink instead of purple.  I don't want to go through the work of learning anything new, and besides, it was only $99.

We are giving the blurry purple one to the fellas.  Their pictures are usually all blurry anyway, so it doesn't make too much of a difference, and they are very excited about making videos with sound.  Diego has an antiquated camera that takes silent videos (which he has really enjoyed using), and Truen has our old-old black camera, a cheaper model that switches back-and-forth between the video and picture function, making it rather annoying to use (he has really enjoyed it nonetheless).

Kids with cameras are so great, just as long as it isn't my camera they're using.  Our old-old-old silver camera bit the dust when dropped on the root cellar floor by a certain little mister in the somewhat-distant past.  That was a lesson in parenting that stung a bit.

However, I love seeing the world from their point of view, not to mention the creativity ignited with the story-telling capability of the video function.  With my guys, Diego is always the director with Truen and Jamie in the starring roles in front of the camera.  "The stuff they come up with."  It's usually some kind of a battle scene on grand or miniature scale.

I love that they have cameras to use.  It makes me happy.

Jamie has been asking for a camera in recent months as well and I was so pleased when Diego found a Fisher-Price kiddie camera for him in perfect condition at a thrift store just the other week.  Awesome.  He's going to love it.

And now . . . to my book.  The Call to Brilliance by Resa Steindel Brown.

I'm trying to work books back into my harried life, as I'm always so much happier when inspired.