Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thoughts from rest

My head is a-swirl this morning with what I've learned in recent time, both resounding and insignificant.

Blaine is home this week.  We are getting up well before the crack of dawn and enjoying the solitude; he in his nest in a lamp-lit basement with the fire blazing next to him, me on the main floor next to the piano and our enormous bookshelf, lit by the art-deco panther lamp.  The fellas haven't been waking up until 7:00 AM, even Yiya.  The space for reflection has been blissful.

He is reading Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel and watching Roman Polanski films on his sister's old laptop.  I am working through a book of poetry on grieving and loss and reading Jane Eyre.  Many of the poems make me cry, but it is good to connect and understand more.

But: what I have learned.

......that just because I am not doing something now, doesn't mean I won't be able to implement it in the future.  What a HUGE asset this understanding is under my belt in motherhood.  I am not sunk because I haven't read Les Miserables or [insert amazing book here] aloud, nor because I have yet to implement a two hour afternoon quiet time for reading and reflection.  Shoot, we've never even had a full-sized Christmas tree.  There is time for all of it.  So many things are worked into, not instantly implemented.  They grow and change, and so the does the rhythm and routine around them.  I am their steward and shepherd.

......that accepting children for what they are is very freeing.  I remember feeling this very profoundly when I realized that there wasn't anything wrong with Baby Truen, he simply wasn't Baby Diego. (Serious and Reserved vs. Super-smiley and Outgoing)  This was very confusing to me his first year.  They are all different; how could they not be?  And as they grow older, tactics and methods that work for one are less effective or useless with another - and that is okay.  It is up to us to figure them out.  X isn't a mutant because he doesn't respond how I would or how I've seen his brothers do it.  They are who they are and it is our job to meet him there.

and not thoughtful at all....
......that all I need to brush my teeth is baking soda and a drop of Sweet Fennel essential oil.  With maybe a little salt mixed in.  We ran out of tooth powder last week and won't be able to get it for another week.  In the meanwhile, Blaine bought a toothpaste that I find unpleasant.  I thought about it a bit, then decided to take an ulterior route and I have to say, I'm a big fan.

The snow is thick at our house and the bird feeders are flocked by squirrels and winter birds.

It feels good to be at home.  It feels good to think.

Monday, December 14, 2015

I must have been very, VERY proud


Last night I slept on my back, holding a pork belly-sized pillow in my left arm like I was carrying it.  I knew it was a pillow, but I told myself in my sleepy netherworld state that it was the bacon I finished that day.  I was clutching it in my left arm like a baby.  It was warm and I swear I could smell it.

I completed my first-ever homemade bacon experiment yesterday afternoon.  I roasted it after seven days of turning it in the brine in the refrigerator.  It looked and smelled amazing.  Un.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Checking in . . . so cathartic

I realized last week that I haven't posted in eons.  Perhaps more than a month?  Life is too full.  I am juggling a huge array of "just life" within these four walls.

This weekend I pondered house servants after dipping my toes into The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook.  Yes.  It makes sense to me.  Who has time for pondering the mysteries of life when the realities of upkeep hammers down unrelentingly?

"To everything, there is a season."  I know.  But this season feels like a treadmill.  I hit the pillow at night, running on empty.  Morning refreshes, but not too long after waking, I'm back in the saddle again.

My beloved morning solitude was completely decimated by the time change.  Eliah has upped the ante and often rushes out of bed in the five o'clock hour to find me.  And if I'm still in bed, he's up at 6:15 AM almost like clockwork.

Uncle!  I am trying accept it graciously, taking what I can get.  But as you can imagine, it is hard. 

What the little bugger often looks like by noon,
due to his early morning habits . . . soooo sleepy.

I am also working toward eating at a more reasonable time, starting the evening meal in late afternoon to ensure it happens.  It has taken a reordering of habits and expectations, but it is worth the effort.

In other news, we are slowly simmering down into Winter Rest.  Our outside work is completely finished for the season and last weekend was the FIRST WEEKEND since last spring that we didn't have a full outdoor agenda.  It was amazing, and for Blaine, a little hard to take.  He felt lazy, spending the days resting and nuzzling with the boys.  Lazy.  But when you've been in a full-on run for months and months, it feels strange to sit for a good length of time.

I picked away at little nagging tasks, like reabsorbing last summer's clothing into storage and busting piles that have been building for months.  We also took our yearly family picture for the Christmas cards.  I might even get 'em out by Christmas this year.  Maybe.  Last year it was April.

This year was the first year that we actually have a good variety of pictures to choose from.  Most years, we've just scrounged with something mostly-suitable.  But this year?  Three or four pictures were in the running.  Wow!  It was amazing.  I was so pleased.

One of my favorites from the riff-raff

Part of the success came from switching up our positioning after the first few pictures.  It added a bit of fun for the fellas - keeping them interested while giving us a chance for something actually nice-looking.  So much better.  Note to self: do this every year.

And finally, homeschooling.  This is our fourth "official" year and I finally feel like a dyed-in-the-wool, baptized-by-fire homeschooler.  We have arrived. 

We do our morning Circle Time M-TH: Motto, Read Aloud, Hymn, Poetry, Memory Work, Plutarch, Folk Song, Shakespeare, Mother Goose.  In that order.  Read Aloud: Bible (M-T), Misc. Reading (W), Geography (TH)

Morning Lessons are also M-TH: Math, Copywork.

I have yet to implement Reading Practice, but I have plans to require it 15 minutes per day, M-TH.  Both boys are reading, but only do so when forced.  I have allowed much time for growth and developmental breadth, but I am inching towards making it more a part of their lives.  We read aloud every day, they narrate and listen to audiobooks; but I can't help wanting them to break into their own private world of book-reading.

Fridays are our more relaxed day, where I "catch up" on read alouds, ensure that the bathroom gets cleaned (by Diego and Truen), and we have even been doing "Triangle Time" (haha) with almost-weekly drawings out of Draw Write Now.

So that's it from me.  I'm feeling a bit more balanced . . . the out-processing, sharing, and life-record of putting out a blog post is so cathartic.  I really should do this more often. (Ha.)

The Littles are napping and the Bigs are listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  (We love-love-love HP on audio.) (Jim Dale is so terrific!)

Word from the mother.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Queen of Collards

I feel like I've Discovered Greens this fall.  We've been eating out of our garden for eight years now, but I don't think I've ever fully appreciated the potential for cooked greens.  They are so scrumptious and satisfying.  And so wonderfully cold-hardy.  When nothing else is left, there's always kale.

We are having an elongated autumn this year - it has been lovely. (And unusual.) (I've realized that I wish it was like this every year.)  There hasn't been a hard freeze yet, so the cruciferous vegetables are still going strong: collards, three kinds of kale, red and green cabbages, broccoli, and parsley too.  We would have probably had celery too, if I hadn't harvested it all in preparation for a cold snap.

I feel like I just can't get enough of kale and collards. How have I not flipped for them before?

Here's my favorite dish thus far.

Sauteed Greens and Squash

1 large onion, sliced
A couple of dollops of fat (goose, chicken, lard, tallow, etc.)
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
Half of a cooked, dry squash
A giant basket (or stack) of kale or collards
1 cup stock or dry, white wine
Salt & pepper to taste

:: Slice the onion and start sauteing in the fat of your choice in a cast-iron dutch oven
:: Don't bother de-stemming your greens - just chop and add the stem part first
:: Roll the greens cigar-fashion and cut into swaths, then chop the sections into smaller pieces
:: Add greens, mixing to stir with the onion
:: Add the stock or wine, then cover to allow the greens to steam
:: Meanwhile, chop the cooked squash and add it to the pot
:: Lastly, smash and mince the garlic and add it to the pot
:: Stir periodically and let simmer for 10-15 minutes

It is also very good with a grating of nutmeg added in.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Quick peek

Our Little Guys: Eliah and Jamie 
They were watching the heating guy check out the furnace.
I love their sweet faces and Jamie peeking out from behind Mama's apron.
The furnace had stopped working from the chicken bones
Diego had inserted into the venting system "two years ago".
Good grief.  Thankfully, everything panned out just fine.

Truen turned eight the week before last.
He had a whole day of special meals, snacks, and desserts planned out --
He was very excited about his special day.
His favorite present from Da? Snap Circuits. Obsessed.

And finally, Diego's recently-invented pose for pictures --
This is what most snaps look like these days.
 In this case, he was dressed up to play "the old man" 
in a musical production of an old Chinese folktale
with our homeschool co-op: Tikki Tikki Tembo

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jamie's babe

Last week the younger two went through a day-long "doll phase", where they were exceedingly pleased by carting around their own little baby dolls and fussing over them.

I realized that Jamie, out of all the boys, has played with dolls the least.  He has never cared for his own little "baby" before.  Diego tended his Baby Air-Pump and Truen had Baby Lamby.  And Eliah has his little Tiny Baby that he is so pleased with.

(Though I should remember, Jamie has snuggled and tended to real babies outside of the family more than any of his brudders.) (And very tenderly I might add.) (Conversely, let us also not forget his "Attack Baby" phase between the ages of 12-24 months when he assailed any baby smaller than him.) (I had to hover to protect any babies within range.)

So there the Littles were, tending their babies.  Jamie had to change untold poop diapers and Eliah was so proud to carry his baby around and snuggle it.  It was such a novelty that I took pictures and helped make little diapers and outfits for each of their babies.

By afternoon, Jamie started wrestling with his doll (a freaky-looking old one of mine, totally bald, with plastic arms and a big plastic head).  Wrestling turned into brawling and brawling turned into a full-out assault on the doll, who was pinned down and pummeled.  He was absolutely beating it up.  With deluxe sound effects.

Not too long after that, he was holding it by the arm and leg and pretending it was an underwater bazooka, shooting big missiles across the room, spittle flying out of his mouth with the force of the sound effects.

I tell you.  Nature vs. Nurture?  I just don't see any way around it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Year 4

I'm still getting up early each morning, though the time has settled in right around 5:00 AM.  I realize that I needed to get up at 4:30 AM for a couple of weeks to decompress, but find that I am satisfied with a little later time.  It feels right.

We started school last week and it is going really well.  Adding Circle Time was Phase I.  This is when we sing, recite our motto and poetry, and do some reading aloud.  It is right after breakfast, lasts about a half-hour, and the boys get 20 minutes of free-time afterward.

This week is Phase II.  After their short break, we recommence with Morning Lessons at the table.  Copywork and Math.  I am using MEP Math, our first time delving into a math curriculum.  We are on Lesson 5 and so far, so wonderful.  I am exceedingly pleased.  I knew they were ready for it and both boys seem intrigued and excited.  Me too.

Phase III will be adding in Phonics and Reading Practice.  I'm not quite sure where to add this in, as they are ready for a break again by the time we are done with Math.  I am taking my time to get a feel for our new routine.

Phase IV is going to be doing a larger household chore.  They already do their Morning Chores (empty dishwasher, cat litters, clear the table, load the dishwasher, sweep), but I want to add some household maintenance to their daily routine.  They fold laundry on Mondays and clean the bathroom on Fridays, so I'm thinking that vacuuming various rooms Tuesday through Thursday will fit the bill.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The beautiful crook neck squash and her cousins

I've been learning all kinds of interesting things in the kitchen this past year, but the biggest accomplishment is broadening my abilities in making meat stretch.  I regularly feeds all six of us with one pound of ground meat, which is a great relief to our budget and a good way to make our beef half last most of the year.  Most of the year.

The key is using the right kind of additions to make it virtually undetectable and my favorite vegetable to do this with is summer squash.  The humble zucchini. And his other favorite cousin, the lovely crook neck squash.

I remember a woman in years' past almost-squealing about her love for zucchini while expounding on her garden, how hard it was to wait for it every season.  I didn't quite understand it, as I hadn't explored zucchini much at that point, but man . . . now I get it.

I just used it this morning with sausage.  I salted two medium zucchini and let it sit a bit, squeezed out the water, added a pound of ground sausage with my own seasoning, grated a couple of apples in with it, and we had EIGHT sausage patties for breakfast instead of last weekend's six when I had used only the apple.

[Incidentally, I am also frying apples in the fat left from the sausage with a sprinkling of whole sugar and serving it with breakfast.  Oh. my. goodness.  Why haven't I done this before??]

The sausage patties were delicious, moist, and there was room for a second helping for hungry little tummies.  A win-win all around.

Another way I've been using summer squash the last two summers is in taco meat.

Taco Salad (called "Haystacks" in my family growing up) is everyone's favorite meal at our house.  As our children are growing older, I bumped into the stark reality that a pound of meat just won't be enough for this meal anymore . . . until I added the magic ingredient.

Zucchini-laden Taco Salad Meat
  • 1-2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4-6 medium summer squash, chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, etc.
:: Start with the onion - chop and add to the skillet with a dollop of lard
:: Then chop and add the zucchini in bite-sized pieces
:: When everything is melty and sweet, add the ground beef in good-sized pinches
:: Cook the meat with the vegetables, stirring and moving around the mixture until nicely browned
:: Add the seasonings and let cook, stirring now and then, until it looks right
:: Add the garlic and let cook another couple of minutes

It is delicious, I'm telling you.  It is also a great filling for stuffed peppers topped with red onion marmalade.

What makes zucchini so amazing is its ability to suck up all the flavors around it, which makes it perfect in meaty dishes.  It isn't bland, it is juicy and flavorful and meaty.  And fried zucchini?  After it has been salted and squeezed out?  Almost as amazing as hash browns.

We had SIX summer squash plants in the garden this summer and we have eaten or I have chopped (or shredded or sliced) and dried every last one.  So, it's official.  Zucchini is my second favorite vegetable, in a head-to-head competition with the amazing cabbage.

I'm already sad about missing it this winter.  No fresh zucchini??

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bloom

I've been working in the kitchen this morning and putting together split pea soup.  The boys are right with me, playing peacefully with giant mounds of playdough at the kitchen table. 

Some of concepts they've tossed around --
  • The rainy season
  • Lakes drying up
  • People groups moving in and out
  • Top predators
  • Carcasses
It is so interesting to hear their schooling come out in their play.  I love that so much, seeing the fruit of my labor and the blossoming of their little minds.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Group shot



I love these pictures . . . the colors, all of us together, Blaine's beautiful hair, Truen's sweet face, Jamie and Eliah's little poses, Diego's quickly-disappearing little boy years.  My grandma took them with her iPad, so they're a little blurry.  But sweet nonetheless.

We were in Wisconsin last weekend to visit my grandparents, see my cousin's new baby, attend Blaine's grandpa's 100th birthday celebration, and spend time with my SIL and the cousins.  It was a 4-day weekend and very nice to spend time together away from the onslaught. We definitely enjoyed ourselves. 'Twas good.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Holding steady

My early, early mornings are continuing on track.  I am extremely motivated to keep this time of solitude in place and rise anywhere from 4:10 AM, which I've found to be too-too early, to 5:30 AM, which is not time enough.  Blaine is awake by 5:45 AM and I join him around six.

I have finally found my quiet time, space to think and plan.  It feels amazing.  I am centered, better organized, and feel like I have more of a grip on my life.

I am no longer niggled by the frantic feelings and ugly resentment when unable to find any down-time throughout the day.  I have my quiet. I hold in my heart throughout the day and look forward to it every night as I go to bed.  It feels amazing.

It seems like such an obvious solution that I'm not sure why it took me so long to get here. 

[Though I do remember pregnancies, night-time nursing, and more consistent quiet mornings than I've had in the last two years.] [And it is easy to forget that life is a journey.]

I've bumped into the early morning advice many times before, and now that I've made it a part of my life, I see it everywhere in the blogs I read.  So that's how she "does it all".  She gets up in the dark hours on the morning: reading, writing, crafting, exercise, whatever.  The day is fresh and the silence gives space.  Ah.

Finally. I've arrived.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Well before the crack of dawn

Oh my goodness, I don't think I even posted during the month of August.

That is life now.  It just is.

After stewing on it for a week or so, I've started getting up at 4:30-ish AM.  I didn't think I could do it, but I can and I am loving it.

I have spent my summer fairly miserable, completely burned out, unhappy, wondering what I am even doing.  After analyzing it for awhile, I realized that my need for solitude, the inability to gather my thoughts, plan, organize, and just sit quietly was leaving me at the breaking point.

I was honestly, truly unhappy.  Grim by midday.  Unable to get over feelings of anger and irritation.  Mad at my children for the unrelenting needs that burble forth, feeling like I can never, ever catch a break.  Feeling like there is no rest, ever.  It has been rough.

In addition, it has been a summer of amped up in-fighting amongst my crew.  I have taken to saying every morning after chores, "You have X amount of free time, unless it dissolves into fighting, screaming, and crying -- then free time is over and chores begin".  Sometimes they don't even make it five minutes, even when they are well aware of the consequences.  Misery.

Problems tend to crop up with "everyone but Truen".  He is rarely involved, except as a victim, which always results in him running to me in hysterics, screaming and crying.  Though . . . he did niggle Jamie last week beyond his ability to handle it . . . so he isn't just an innocent bystander.  And he is definitely a willing comrade in the play that amps up to a frenzied pitch.

But by and large, the fighting and inordinately rough play breaks out among the other three: the 10yo, 4yo, and 2yo.  Many times a day.

We are at a stage where I am unable to loosen my grip on the day, ever, at all, not even a bit, to keep any semblance of order.  If my attention is diverted for any length of time, great or small, from kitchen work to squeezing in a quick email, all hell breaks loose and half-naked boys are stampeding through the house or ripping a room apart in some frenzied battle play.  And it is extremely difficult to "get them back" after that.  Or piece together the day.

I am not exaggerating.  There are days, usually when Diego is intently focused in the Lego Room or outside examining bugs and their habitats, when their play is congenial and cohesive.  Otherwise, they are working together in a big boy-hurricane of flailing limbs and wrestle-mania into what I have taken to calling, "a frenzied pitch".  There is no other way to describe it.

But I wanted to talk about waking up at the crack of dawn.

This is Day Three.  I am not using an alarm (we still all sleep together in the same room), just telling myself every night as I go to sleep that I want to get up very, very early.  My goal is 4:30 AM.

I landed on this time with the realization that if I want an entire hour to myself in morning solitude (and I do, so very badly), that I truly need to get up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 AM.  Blaine is up by 5:45 AM and leaves for work by 6:30 AM.  We use this time to hang out and talk.  We work together to get his food ready for the day, relishing the ability to have true conversation without the jilted feelings of constant interruption.

So 4:30 it is.  What I've noticed is that I am feeling energized.  I am happier, more balanced, able to take on the day, with an ability for greater patience and a good attitude.  Getting up before the crack of dawn is not diminishing my abilities, not in the least: my cup is fuller and I feel happier and stronger.  It is noticeable in just a few days, which steels me to work toward making it a solid habit.

Early, early morning solitude.

'Tis the season.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gigantic blow-out catch-up post for the entire month of July

July 2015 . . . holy smokes . . . what a month.  What a doozy.

It started off with Jamie's plunge into a secondary infection from a minor cold, which took him out for three weeks.  Including the initial cold and in-between time where he never quite "came around" (he seemed tired and lackluster), it was an entire month.

It started with waking up from a nap with a fever on Thursday, 7/2.  My parents were supposed to come that Friday, but delayed arrival until Sunday (they were visiting with my grandparents in Wisconsin, so they were settled in nicely anyway).  The entire week they were here, he was completely subdued and touchy - going to bed at 7:00 PM, napping by 10:30 AM - he was a non-factor in almost everything.  It was sad.

Saying goodbye - Jamie wouldn't be in the picture

The secondary infection was in his lungs and sinuses - all the usual tricks I employ to treat such issues were useless against it.  It seemed as if I couldn't get anything to drain.  It just took time.

The week after my parents left, the congestion in his lungs slowly cleared, but not before a double ear infection manifested itself.  That week was spent focused on ensuring that Jamie took warm baths with rosemary oil to promote drainage, administering garlic oil and applying a hot water bottle to his ear three times daily to nix the ear infection, and making sure that the vaporizer was running with eucalyptus oil in the room while he slept so he could breathe more easily.  He was pale and thin, but sleeping and playing more normally in spite of the pain.

Eventually the pain subsisted and the congestion s-l-o-w-l-y cleared.  Amazingly, Blaine, Diego, Truen, and myself all had sore throats that week (and Jamie and Eliah never got it, thank the good Lord).  He still had blood in his nose from his sinuses and, toward the end of the week, we noticed that several lymph nodes in his neck were swollen and tender.  And still are.  Un-un-un-un.  Will it never end??

We are starting to move outside the house again - we were able to attend the last Park & Rec of the season this Monday and go swimming afterward.  Finally! Swimming, imagine that. The boys reveled in it.  I'm starting to think that I'll need to take the boys swimming for an afternoon each week in addition to our all day Beach Day extravaganzas on Fridays to make up for lost time.

Otherwise, life has been a whole lot of this --

Collards and broccoli
Black currents, kale, peas, turnips
Beautiful Cylindra beets

Our gardens are MAGNIFICENT this year.  It is truly "the best year ever".  Though we've said it before, it honestly tops everything we've accomplished in the past.  We've caught our groove.  The years of experience have dovetailed with our vision and enthusiasm and culminated with an amazing creation.  Blaine, of course, is the mastermind.  Without him, I would be just "pretending to garden" as a friend put so aptly.

:: THE EAST GARDEN ::
Florence fennel, parsley, celery
 Onions (left), garlic (right), then summer squashes, cucumbers
Lettuce gone to seed, broccoli; behind that, the raspberries

:: THE WEST GARDEN (from the south) ::
Corn, cauliflower, and cabbages
Scallions, green beans, peppers, tomatoes, beets

:: THE WEST GARDEN (from the north) ::
Turnips and rhutabagas
Salsify, parsnips, kale, collards, mustard, peas,
Lettuce, carrots, winter squash, sunflowers
(the giant mass on the right is bittersweet)

The West Garden is our main kitchen garden this year.  In the past, it was for summer and winter squashes, melons, and garlic; but we made the switch out of necessity to starve out the grasshoppers that were plaguing the East Garden.  (And succeeded! They are not an issue this year at all.)  We doubled its size, fenced it, and hit the ground running.  It has been an enormous success.

How do I love thee, West Garden?  Let me count the ways.  First and foremost, it is so lovely to look out the window and see such ordered beauty, tangible results of a lot of hard work.  The East Garden is tucked behind the garage and much less visible.  The West Garden also gets much more sunlight, from morning to dusk, with no trees shading it at all.  The soil seems to be rich and fertile, the weeds, not a problem.  And I don't mind the walk one bit.

We also carved out a section in what I call "The Front Four": four acres along our driveway on the north side of our property.  It is currently in alfalfa and will be planted with oats this fall.  We are experimenting with The Front Four and planted winter squash there this year.  It is growing beautifully and plan to use it for squash, garlic, and onions next season.

Our geese this year: five white Embdens
They are so funny!  They are curious and like to follow us around the orchard,
which is exactly what they were doing this lovely morning.

The boys have been housebound pretty much the entire month of July.  Other than our houseguests, we haven't gone anywhere, gone swimming, and missed all the Story Hour and Park & Rec activities for the month.  Such a bummer.

They've still been outside a ton, however.  The big excitement last week was catching frogs.

Truby, pretending.
He caught the hugest frog of all! 

Diego, not pretending.
This is so him: always taking it to the next level.
("No frogs were hurt during the making of this video.") 

Jamie, hopping on the bandwagon.
See how pale and thin he looks?  Ugh.

And Yi-ya.  I still use my Ergo every. single. day.

We've also had a lot of tea party action going on in these parts. Truen has been the main promoter.  It is so cute - they set up the table upstairs and we drink tea or kombucha, eat dried fruit and nuts and toast, and sit with a lighted candle.  It is oh-so-cozy.

Truen and Jamie
 
Eliah, Truen, and Diego

We also had more friends to visit last week - Lyndi and Jen with her girls.  

The entire tempo of the household tamed with girls present. It was amazing.  They set up house in the bedroom upstairs, pulled out their coloring books and markers, and colored.  Jamie sat with them, almost transfixed, sometimes coloring, sometimes just sitting and watching.

A sweet crew
 
This is what happens when I ask Diego to take pictures.
I end up saying, "Will you please take a picture of all of us...?" 
as he hones in on all of our faces one at a time and snaps away.
The pictures always end up so funny, but it is stressful at the time as we w-a-i-t
and there is usually baby fussing or howling to add to the commotion.

The ladies: Shawna, Jen, and Lyndi.
Me with my exasperated and impatient face
"Will you just..??"

And finally, Jamie the Chef with his little helper Eliah Len.  Jamie has been keenly interested in working in the kitchen in the last couple of weeks.  Per his request, we've made pancakes twice, french toast, scrambled eggs, and . . . something else?  I can't remember. He's been begging to make a frozen banana-chocolote-peanut treat that I think we'll probably end up making tonight.

And Yi-ya is always right there, 
insisting on being right in the thick of it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tidbits

  • Collectively, we've been sick three times in two months, all upper respiratory infections, and this last one has a deep, nasty cough to go along with it.  I just can't wait until it is done. It is oh-so-very unpleasant to miss out on summer with coughing, hacking, and lethargy.
  • Not to mention all the screaming and ill-tempered fighting.  I've kept Eliah in the backpack for a good part of the part two days, mostly to keep him from rooting up turmoil wherever he goes.  He is calmed by being with me and on my person, while I am still able to accomplish my tasks at hand.
  • Speaking of . . . I am feeling somewhat mournful over just that: the endlessness of my tasks at hand: the bulldozer effect that inhibits enjoying my little guys with more leisure.  For the first time, I really understand my mom's admonition that she remembers my younger years much better than my sister's, 11 years younger than me.  Life is a blur with so many needs to meet.  I feel sad about it.  The blur.
 He was so pleased about this tree
  • I am full-bore in the thrust of planning for our little homeschool for 2015-2016.  It has been a lot of fun - I can tell I am getting better at it.  I have a better sense of the rhythm of our days, how to plan it out, what to expect.  I am also very excited for our new material: literature, poetry, nature study, history.  We will be delving into "early modern times" and studying the beginnings of the US, as well as what was going on in the surrounding world at the time.
  • I am totally sold on Festina Lente in my growing philosophy of education, to "make haste slowly" - the idea of not cramming it all in, but letting it slowly settle.  Not trying to conquer or cover everything, but following a slow, well-trodden path.  Saturation vs. sprinkling.  I love it.
 Playdough festival
  • We made playdough the week before last.  Each boy got to pick out his own color and spent hours over the course of a couple of days cutting, rolling, lumping, and bumping.  It was great fun. And a good table-time activity for a menagerie of sickies.
  • Blaine made the boys a tree house in a younger ash in the tree-line along our driveway.  Truen picked it out on a day that Blaine was planting pumpkins in our "front four" acres.  We are carving out a section (currently in alfalfa) as a test-run.  Truen perched himself in a tree to watch and realized it was the perfect spot.  
  • Truby has been talking about tree houses for so long that Blaine decided to bite the bullet and just do it finally.  He cobbled together a nice little platform from scrap lumber.  Three boys can be up there at a time, but we are sticking to a Two Boy rule.  We can just picture them starting a tussle if there were more than two at a time.  
  • And actually, if Diego and Jamie are together alone longer than just a few minutes, sometimes [what feels like] just a few seconds, fights inevitably break out.  They are currently under quarantine from each other and can only play together if udder brudders or friends are involved.  Seriously.  It is bad.
  • I am still working on nailing down time for Mother Culture.  I've found that I can only read Pride and Prejudice before bed, otherwise my mind wanders (and it isn't too long before it shuts down completely at that time of night anyway).  Dakota is best read while I'm eating, otherwise I feel antsy, and Home Education is best in the morning before anyone else is awake. It isn't a daily guarantee, but I am slowly pecking away at them.
  • It has been very interesting to re-read Pride and Prejudice and Dakota as a woman of 37, instead of a girl of 20 (P&P) and a young woman of 27 (Dak).  My sense of insight and understanding is undoubtedly deeper. I love noticing that.
  • I have also started a commonplace book to keep track of myself while I read: thoughts, insight, significant passages, excellent quotes.  It pleases me.  I picked the Pegasus Decomposition Book for added whimsy.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Straight from the horse's mouth

I read the following poem aloud during lunch today --

Hear what the mournful linnets say
Hear what the mournful linnets say:
"We built our nest compact and warm,
But cruel boys came round our way
And took our summerhouse by storm.


"They crushed the eggs so neatly laid;
So now we sit with drooping wing,
And watch the ruin they have made,
Too late to build, too sad to sing."


~ Christina Rossetti
   Ambleside Online: Christina Rossetti Poems 

As I read it, it struck me as a good, subtle teaching moment for my boys.  After I finished, Jamie exclaimed, "Hey! We are in this poem!"

Not that Jamie is a particular menace to bird nests at this point in the game, but he is being schooled by a chronic, reoccurring case of I-can't-resist-itis in his biggest brudder.  Truen is intrigued by baby birds, but no one is driven by the desire to ransack bird nests like Diego. 

I could see a look of recognition in Diego's face. It will be interesting to see if this new idea, so beautifully written, bears any fruit in his thoughts or actions.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tidbits

  • We had an expander installed into Diego's mouth last week to widen his palate and make room for all his teeth to grow in.  The reason for it: Can we be well fed, but malnourished? The teeth tell the tale.  His appliance looks identical to the one pictured.  I am convinced that this is the crux of the issue for all of us.
  • Our garden looks absolutely magnificent, much more prolific and successful than we've ever experienced.  Or at least that is what we are crowing to each other.  There are always some losses, but this year seems to be 100% success.  Thus far.  (Fingers crossed!)  It feels terrific to have it back.
Jamie with a gosling in mid-May
  • Our half-grown chicks and goslings are also "the best ever!".  They put themselves into the coops by themselves at night, something that has never happened this early or smoothly.  We have had to physically catch-and-place half-grown chicks into the coop for what felt like weeks (and attempt to "teach them" how to use the roost until they finally get it into their pea-brains) and have always had to herd the geese up into their coop every. single. night in years' past.  It is such a relief to do nothing more take a pleasant walk to latch the door every night. The chicks even figured out the roost by themselves this year.  Smart bunch.
  • An interesting side-note on keeping geese: we've noticed that the grass in our orchard has grown stronger in the three years we have kept geese.  It was pretty much a weed-pit when we first moved in, but keeping grazing animals on it has improved the space dramatically.  The grass is thick and it looks like a pleasant place to walk vs. a place to avoid.
They are just so cute

And friendly and endearing and hardy.
(Until they are grown, then they hiss and menace)

  • You'll noticed I put two new side-bars up: Mother Culture and Favorite Podcasts.  The latter is self-explanatory.  My SIL sent me her old iPod and the rest is history.  I am so grateful to have the break and thoughtfulness to keep me company while I work in the kitchen.
  • Mother Culture is a concept I've been familiar with, but have just recently decided to get serious about in my own life.  This season of life does not afford the leisure of reading for pleasure unless it goes on The List and is made room for.  So make room for it I will.  Brandy's posts have been a great inspiration.
  • So with that in mind, I picked three books that I am working through at a snail's pace.  It does make sense to have three in the running, because the snippets of time available to read are not always conducive to one particular book; it is better to have something to pick from based on my frame of mind and availability.  Two of the books I've already read, but have wanted to re-read (Pride and Prejudice and Dakota) and I've also already read a portion of the third (Home Education).  Baby steps.
  • This week is Kid Chore Boot Camp at our house (inspired by Mystie at Simply Convivial, et al).  Same song, new verse: I am amping up chores at our house.  With hindsight, I see that this has been a several year process and it is paying off richly.  It is so nice to have the responsibility spread across the divide, rather than drowning in endless duty and sheer mess created by four active boys.  They are getting used to it and while they do still moan, most days they do their chores without much complaint or even many reminders to stay on track.  I am thankful.
  • They are now responsible for an expanded set of Morning Chores: in addition to pre-breakfast chores and clearing their spot, they are expected to rinse and put dishes into the dishwasher, sweep, and have one big morning chore each day of the week: fold/put away laundry, vacuuming, vacuuming, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom.  I am having them team up on the vacuuming jobs, but have separated bathroom duty: Diego cleans the toilet, Truen cleans the sink and mirror, Jamie has the bathtub.
  • I also assigned Diego to solo dishwasher duty.  Truen is now doing cat litters daily, including litter-bucket dumping and sweeping (something that Blaine was still doing on weekends up until this week).  Awesome.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

E-yi-ya is two


Our Eliah is two years old.  He still feels like our baby.  He's so little by comparison.  So we carry him around on our hips, baby-talk him, cuddle him close, and refer to him as "the baby".

This little rascal usually refuses to eat during most mealtimes and instead insists on nursing, something Baby Truen did as well.  His frame is small like Truen's too, though he is taller than Truby was at this age.  He's got the most beautiful {milk} chocolate brown curls.  He has his daddy's hair.  And I don't think these are just baby curls . . . I'm pretty sure they are here to stay.  They are so much tighter than either Diego or Truen's baby curls.


He asks, "Jamie?", "Truby?", "Dada?" every morning, wondering where they are.  "They're asleep (or at work)," I tell him.  (He can say "Daygo" too, but never wonders where he is in the mornings for whatever reason.)  Yi-ya gets up at the crack of dawn, usually right around 6:43 AM, sometimes earlier, rarely later.  We snuggle and nurse and read books - it is the only time of the day where I am able to be 100% focused on him and him alone, such precious time for us.

His favorite books are Babies by Gyo Fujikawa, Here We Go! (a vintage 1982 board book), My Little Word Book (a gift from "the Hotdogs" for Baby Diego) and all the "Babyfaces" board books like Smile!, Peek-a-boo!, and Hugs & Kisses.

And this kid, with gum, is amazing.  Blaine gave him a piece last week in the mid-afternoon; I blanched, but didn't fight it, figuring it was just one tiny piece.  Heck, it seems like Jamie was eating gum just last year.  But this guy took to chewing gum like he had always done it.  He chewed that sucker until we went to bed that night and took it out while he ate.  Un-un-un-un.



His favorite game is Hide!, where he likes to cover our heads with his chickie blankie and whisper "Hide! Hide! Hide!" excitedly.  He loves the slide at the park (and at home) and goes down fearlessly.  He'll even play the older brudders' slide game, where they crash into each other and writhe all over the slide in a giant, giggling mass.

He loves his chickie blankie, the one made by Gramma S.  He will go and get it, hand it to one of us, then turn around and expect to be wrapped up in it to snuggle.  This has been our morning ritual for months now, but he also does it when he is sleepy or needs a cuddle.


He likes to "write" like his big brudders, but his artwork extends to the table, walls, or any other flat surface.  He also like to eat the erasers and chomp on the lead.  Needless to say, the pencils are out of his reach unless a'nudder brudders leaves one down (which happens often) and I often have rescue it from his little chomper.  No pencil is safe in his little hands. He even requested to have one this weekend, asking for a "fen-ho".  I had to have him show me to even understand what he wanted.

He is fully potty-trained and has moved to being out into public settings without a diaper.  I'm not sure if he was the easiest to potty-train or if it was just my experience level that made it seem that way, but he did great.  His little buns are so cute.  I love that diaper-less butt.  (And I love. love. LOVE. not having to wrangle diapers anymore. I was so done.)  He's waking up dry from naptime and most mornings too.


He's starting to be interested in big boy games and toys.  He likes to build with Duplo and Mega blocks and has the same loud soundtrack as all his brudders while he plays.

He has also replaced Jamie as the super-pest when it comes to getting into his brudders' set-ups and scenery as they play.  He wants to do everything that they do, right that very second.  Most fights with Jamie end in screaming, with Eliah being pushed down hard, or Yi-ya biting Jamie's head.  The bigger brudders usually just carry him to another room or drop him off with me.


He loves "washing dishes", balls, snuggling, running around with his brudders, kitties, our baby chickies and goslings, horses ("hohshies!) and cows viewed as we drive along, and his "Bupas".  (He refers to both sets of grandparents as a unit. Not "Bupa and Bupa", but simply "Bupa".)

And of course, he is obsessed with "helping" in the kitchen, especially if a big brudder is there.

Eliah is two.  What a little fella. ♥

Friday, May 29, 2015

A lovely rhubarb sauce

We've been enjoying eating out of the garden again: lettuce, spinach, scallions, parsnips, cilantro, dill, rhubarb.  It has been so delicious and quite refreshing, such a nice change of pace from the winter's cabbage salads and sauerkraut.

My favorite treat this spring has been rhubarb sauce, sweetened with raisins and dates.

Rhubarb Sauce
  • 1-1.5 lbs of rhubarb
  • A big handful of raisins, chopped
  • A small handful of pitted dates, chopped
  • 3 cloves
  • 2-ish cups boiling water

:: Chop the rhubarb and combine everything in a pot that "just fits", pouring boiling water up to the half-way point.

:: Bring to a boil, then let simmer 10-15 minutes or until the rhubarb has broken down into a saucy consistency.

:: Enjoy warm or cool, with butter and maple syrup or coconut oil and honey.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Contingency plan the thousandth

I thought more about my What a diff post and realized that, duh, I now have FOUR children, ages ranging from 2 years old to almost 10 years old. 

In 2009, I "only" had two children, an almost 4 year old and a two year old.  Wow.  Double the laundry, double the food prep, quadruple the clean up and fighting.

No wonder.  One would have thought that was obvious.

Not to mention that they are all boys, energy abounding, with a preference for wrestling and racing all around, led by the oldest boy who has freely admitted that he stirs things up to a frenzied pitch on purpose if and when he gets "bored".

Or the fact that I am trying to keep up with a preschooler and a toddler while simultaneously trying to stay on top of a homeschooling schedule for a 9 and 7 year old.

Goodness.

The one thing I have to remember, always remember, please please please remember, is that life is constantly changing; and with that, I have to be continually adapting to keep the pace.  It is hard, as I usually feel like I am adjusting woefully late in the game.  I need to get better at that: the continual re-address and problem-solving part of parenting.  It never ends, but somehow it slips off my radar on a semi-regular basis.

Furthermore, as a homeschooling mama of four, everything depends on me.  There is no outside structure.  It is all me.

This is good and bad.  Good, in that I prefer autonomy.  Bad, in the fact that I tend to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, inspired-to-action kind of gal.  I can do routines, but the day always seems like it gets away from me.  And I think it is making life harder.

It feels like we are all floundering, particularly in the morning hours.  I have a skeleton outline for the day, but reeling in the boys for our various tasks and assignments can be arduous.  Set expectations make everything easier.  I know this. An established, daily structure makes everything easier too.  Instead of having to think about it or question "what's next?", we flow.  Like a stream. 

And with all that, I need to actively impose further order to my life, for all of us.

My plan is to start parsing out the day with a timer.  Seriously.  I am going to use it as practice to divide up our hours into manageable chunks, giving the boys an understanding of what to expect so it isn't pulling teeth to move to the next phase of the day, or for me, to wonder what we should be tackling next.  I will do this until it becomes normalized.

I need to identify hot spots, hone in on our routine, and make sure that I have plenty of down-time with the little guys to be able to give them my full attention.

And now . . . I post.  Speaking of the devil, I've got a little four year old wiggling all over me who obviously needs my attention. ♥

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What a diff

I try to re-read posts from each particular month from years' past on my blog.  I like to reminisce, compare notes, remember phases and stages, and gain a bit of perspective every time.

Tonight it was the months of May.  I came across this post from 2009 called "What I've been thinking about recently..." and felt amazed I had enough space in my mind to contemplate that long of a list.

My mind is clogged with trying to stay on track with schoolwork, chore routines, housework, attitudes and unruly behavior, mitigating fights, and all the endless problem-solving that goes with all of it.

Things have changed.  There's no doubt about it. I've been feeling as much, but wasn't quite sure if it was just a sense of overwhelm or if I honestly have less space in my life for . . . what? Fancy? Extras? Contemplation? Freedom of thought?

Whatever it is, the difference from May 2009 to May 2015 is distinct.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mystery solved

I recently listened to a fashion podcast when it dawned on me: the people who are really into style and fashion are the ones that are very interested in it.  It's something they really enjoy.

It cleared up an old mystery for me; which is, why I have never had any fashion sense.  I'm just not interested. Sure, I like to "look cute" . . . but when it comes right down to it, I just don't have it in me.  Ditto on the make-up and hair.  I'm not willing to commit the time and effort when I could be doing something else. So that's why. Whew! I thought there was something wrong with me.

I used to assume it was a deficiency not be imbued with any sense in this area, but now I have the maturity and experience to realize that it takes all kinds.  We all have our own specialties. What a gift.

Mind blown. Again.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Barf festival

My goodness.  Getting at blogging is harder and harder for me these days. Shucks, I just sent out our 2014 Christmas letter just last week.  Pretty much anything other than daily survival is hard to get to at this point in life.

I feel like a college student, talking about how busy I am all the time.  Blah blah blah.  But seriously.  I am enmeshed.  Hopefully it doesn't sound like all I do is complain about how I can't keep up with life.  Eegads.

We were at my parents for three weeks this March/April.  It started off with a bang, with five hours at the airport resulting in a cancelled flight, subsequently rescheduled for two days later, and a 4 year old who woke up throwing up the morning we were supposed to leave.  We bit the bullet and decided to go for it, but realized a day later, that, oh dear, we had probably spread the stomach flu all along the way. Crap.

All five of us slept on the bathroom floor the second night we were at my parents' house, sometimes crowding around the bathroom two-and-three at a time to puke our guts out, until there was nothing left but black bile.  Truen had it the worst, then Eliah, then Diego and me, then Jamie.  If Jamie had had it like Truen or Eliah, we would have never have decided to travel.

But travel we did.

The entire first week was spent recovering from the Norovirus (we all barely ate for days and everyone was weak and thin), broiled in hyper-vigilance over cleanliness and sanitation so as to not spread the virus to my parents, sister, brother, sister-in-law and their new baby.  I wiped everyone's butts wearing disposable gloves, used a spray bottle with bleach solution like a vigilante, and didn't allow anyone touch that sweet little babe until the second-to-last day of their week-long visit.  Eegads again.

It was hard not to be able to cuddle that plump little lass, but the very thought of a 3 month old with the stomach flu prevented any temptation whatsoever.

Also: for the record. I can remember my midwife saying at one point that "activated charcoal does wonders for the stomach flu".  We had given Jamie charcoal the morning we left, but didn't have the experience or insight to administer it to anyone else as a preventative measure.

However, as I was laying on the bathroom floor the morning after a night of puking my guts out, I realized that that is what she was talking about.  Taking it after the puking starts doesn't make sense, because you won't be able to hold anything down. But taking it after exposure to inhibit or damper the side effects, that makes sense.

I immediately told my mom, who started taking it along with everyone else in the household.  My mom did get sick (usually a 1-2 day incubation period, spread by fecal or vomit contamination), but she never actually threw up.  She had the body aches and a tender stomach, but barfing was not in the picture.

So the actual experience and recovery time will be much, much better with activated charcoal.

FYI for future reference.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Unseasonably warm

 E-yi-ya has gotten into the bike craze too.
Bbbbbb-bbbbbb-bbbbb (this is a motor-tricycle)

 Puddle-stomping on a sunny morning --
The boys are outside before breakfast most days.

 Examining the interesting swirls and patterns in the drying mud.

Posing with their spears --
I can't get boots on Diego to save my life. 

 Truen, the threatening monster.

Eliah dipping his finger in the mud and sampling it like melted chocolate.
They were waiting for Blaine to come home at the tree-line on our driveway.
They often wait for him to come home,clambering into his vehicle and asking, "Any treats??"

Sunday, March 15, 2015

He did it!

Truen decided it was time. This spring. Seven years old.
Time to learn to ride a bike.

 And by golly, he did it.  It took him two days --
First he rode down the front walk, learning how to balance and steer.
After awhile he added pedaling and voilĂ ! He did it.
He has been riding so much since that his little buns hurt.

He named his bike "Bird Wheel" and rides for hours every day.
It is a another dumpster-diving treasure I dug out the summer of 2007,
a few months before he was even born.
And now he's riding it.

Monday, March 09, 2015

My few favorite instances from this morning

QUOTE #1

Mama: "Where's the ball?"
Eliah: "Dere ball!!"

~ A first for Yi-ya, putting two words together.


QUOTE #2

"Mama, the geese are coming back!  I heard their voices."

~ Diego, after opening up the back door to a warm 40 degree F morning.


QUOTE #3

"Look!  There's a MANIA of pine cones up there!!"

~ Jamie, pointing up into a big black spruce in the front yard


And finally . . . Truen's determination to start riding a bike this year.  He's serious.  I think he's going to make it happen this year.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Meatloaf Monday

I am regularly looking for ways to streamline our life, to put the structure in place so I don't have to think as much and put myself into decision fatigue.  It makes life so much easier.

I've been doing just that with the chore routine for the boys.  After a bit of practice for all of us, it becomes the new normal. The older two boys are doing cat litters three times a week, emptying the dishwasher every morning, cleaning the bathroom sink and mirror every Friday, folding / putting away their own laundry, doing regular clean-ups throughout the day, getting the table ready to eat, after-meal clean-up and now after-breakfast chores: Diego clears and wipes the table, then puts the dishes into the dishwasher while Truen sweeps.

After just a few days, it absorbed into their system.  I generally don't even have to remind them and they almost 'whistle while they work'.  It is an especially sweet outcome for me, since both boys turned into dark clouds after I made the initial announcement of their new after-breakfast chores, and then accused by an angst-filled Diego who wailed, "Why are you ruining our lives??"

Right.  I had to turn my face aside and chuckle over that one.  It was so preposterous it wasn't even worth getting mad about.  And that same morning, both of them followed-up with a "That wasn't so bad" and "I actually like putting dishes in the dishwasher / sweeping".  Seriously.

But this post isn't about chores, it is about meatloaf.  Scrumptious, mouth-watering meatloaf.

I lahv meatloaf.

New at our house is "Meatloaf Monday".  It is so simple and such a great kick-off for the week.  I never have to wonder what I'm going to make that night or what I should pull out of the freezer that weekend.  It is already scripted into my weekly routine.

In addition, I've hit the sweet-spot where I don't even need to look at a recipe.  I've got it down pat.  It's my own creation too, grain-free and loaded with vegetables.

MARVELOUS MEATLOAF
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large onion
  • 1-2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 4-5 mushrooms
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 cups cooked squash
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • parsley, sage
  • pepper
  • home-rendered tallow

:: Preheat oven to 350
:: Chop the vegetables and saute them in beef fat, adding the garlic toward the end
:: Put the cooked squash and egg into a large bowl, then beat the egg
:: Once the vegetables are soft and sweet and slightly brown, add it to the bowl along with the meat
:: Add salt, pepper, parsley, sage
:: Mix well, then put back into the 12" cast-iron skillet
:: Bake for 40 minutes

Oooo-la-la, it is amazing.

I love it with baked sweet potatoes, cabbage salad, and a pickle on the side.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The boy-ohs

Eliah (21 months) now says, "Papo!" and points to the top of the refrigerator (where we keep the pacifiers) when he wants one.  He's talking more and more and has recently added, "Throw!", "Wow", and "Uh-oh" to his usual "Dada", "Mama", "Ball", "Bath", "Bye-Bye" repertoire.  He whispers "Toots" or "Bay" and clicks his tongue, holding his hand out for the cats.  We are working on body parts and he can identify his belly button, nipples, teeth, tongue, nose, eyes, ears (most of the time), and his hair.  I usually quiz him during diaper changes just to keep him busy.  I asked him the other day where his hands, feet, and head were (never thinking to have asked before) and sure enough, he knew where they were.  Osmosis.

Jamie (4 years) is currently going through a phase of carrying a notebook with him wherever he goes.  It is the cutest thing.  He like to "write" along the lines, in compact up-and-down scribbles, but he is also writing a few letters - "T", "H", and the cutest "E" with a few too many lines.  He LOVES doing his own "copywork" with his brudders during Morning Lessons.  He is right-handed a holds his pencil like a pro.  He is drawing too - stick people with big heads and long mouths.  The other day he asked for an "ink pencil".  And just yesterday afternoon he set up a little desk at the play table with the toy laptop and a pile of paper.

Truen (7 years) is always busy with little projects - drawing, painting, writing, making books, or building you-name-it with wooden blocks, Duplo blocks, Legos, Magnetix, etc.  He is an absolute self-starter and usually spends a good chunk of the night at the kitchen table at work while his brudders snuggle with Blaine on the couch in front of the television.  He wants to grow his hair out to "keep him warm".  His top-left front tooth is loose and will probably fall out sometime this spring.  He loves to speculate about big ideas like gravity or the heat of the sun.  He recently listened to The Boxcar Children during QT and came downstairs dreamy-eyed and wishing he could live like that.

Diego (9 years) has gotten back into drawing battle scenes.  Bigtime.  He filled the bottom-half of the large sketchbook he got for Christmas the year before last, but realized that most of the top-half of the paper is blank, so he has gotten back into the groove of adding to the action (different levels or ships flying through the sky).  If the house is quiet, he's usually either upstairs playing with Legos or laying on the sunroom floor drawing in his sketchbook.  He's able to make breakfast now: eggs.  I can count on his adept assistance with very little supervision.  Money burns a hole in his pocket and he spends time every day scheming on what Lego sets he (and his brudders) will buy.  He has a clear understanding of the clock, time, and money.

And my other baby, our little Homeschool.  We are in our third official year and I feel like I've learned so much.  We are in a solid routine of daily Morning Lessons with copywork, phonics, read alouds, map-making, etc.  Both boys are reading.  Diego's fluency and reading level are higher than Truen's, which makes sense give his age.  They practice by reading aloud to me every day.  I recently moved our read alouds to breakfast, morning snack, and lunch, which has been an absolute BOON.  I am actually able to get in all of our reading material each week and they are attentive and mostly quiet while I do so.  It is amazing! and it feels so good.  Before this switch, I would say we were definitely floundering.  Or at least I was.  It was hard to bore my way in through the noise and attention levels to get them to sit and listen.  Another addition that feels terrific: reading a longer piece of historical fiction that coincides with our history timeline.  Awesome.  Our most recent novel: Son of Charlemagne.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pictoral Update

We were gone on our annual winter visit to the Twin Cities the week before last --
First with my friend Laura in Wisonsin, then with my SIL in a TC suburb.
Here are three of 'em readin' with Laura's Plumpy.
Just look at that holey knee: the demise of so many pants.

Everyone loves the fountains at Como Park --
And yes, Diego pulled out a few pennies before I put the kibosh on it.
We were there with my SIL and three of the cousins.

 You would not believe what it took to get this picture --
I had to haul Yi-ya up on my lap and block Jamie from the water behind us. 
Surrounded by boy-ohs.

 Visiting the cousins: I just love cozying up at home with them.
Here are the little guys playing with a favorite cousin upstairs . . .

 While the big guys did Lego battles with another favorite cousin downstairs.
Love them. Best cousins ever.

After a bit we came home, and after some fevers and coughing,
we continue the process of readjusting to "real life".
Just look at these little brothers!
It is amazing what kind of growth happens in less than two years.

 Just last week: I love this action shot in the kitchen --
The morning sun shining, our crowded refrigerator front,
Dishwasher, diapers, boys climbing like monkeys.