Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Corries' Loch Lomond

I'm getting a little obsessed with the current folk song for our little homeschool.  It is piquant and haunting; I'm feeling the tug to memorize it and sing it to my children like a bard. I must love epic tragedies.

My goodness, but it is so lovely.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Two amazing things happened this morning while reading The Tragedy of Othello, Moor of Venice to the boys out loud during Circle Time this morning.

First off, they begged for more.  And more and more. It was a much larger bite of Shakespeare than usual - things were starting to heat up and their interest was engaged.  Be still my beating heart!  The world stopped spinning and everything sparkled and pulsated around us.

(Though Jamie and Diego didn't stop wrestling.) (Circle Time is often ugly, but so, so beautiful.)

Secondly, I was getting so involved in the reading that my heart tightened up and I almost cried.  I felt so much pity for Desdemona and couldn't believe that Othello could be such a fool as to hold fast to such incredibly imbalanced conclusions.  He went crazy and couldn't rein himself back in.  Whatever happened to a loving check-in or even a sound cross-examination?

I felt creeping sadness as I read aloud.  Horrified.  But I am intrigued by the simultaneous awareness of the beginnings of a fuller comprehension of Shakespeare's magnificence.  It is thrilling.  I've always been told that his plays are incredible, but when I was introduced to them cold-turkey in high school, I was more confused than interested.  But now . . . I am seeing the slow dawning of understanding.  This guy.  He is amazing.

I've seen A Midsummer Night's Dream multiple times, listened to Coriolanus on audio, read aloud The Taming of the Shrew and now Othello.  I can't wait to canvas the entire collection.  Bit by bit, play by play.

Emoji hearts everywhere!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Autumnal review

Seriously.  It is the end of October.  Unbelievable.

This fall has been a bit of a whirlwind.  We traveled to the Twin Cities twice in less than a month. (Once to see grandparents and great-grandparents.) (Then for a dear friend's baby shower and visiting my first mama friend and her family.)

Meanwhile, I worked my way through another preservation season.  Tomatillo salsa, sauerkraut, applesauce, tomato paste, tomato puree, ketchup, pickles green tomatoes, dried vegetables, etc.  I am a machine.  I know what to do, how to do it, and the strategies for accomplishing such a massive undertaking are in place and well-girded.

Major improvements this year included:
  • Prepping multiple meals the week leading up to my 8-10 hour kitchen days.
  • Sprinkling in small jobs throughout the week.
  • Having a game plan in dealing with ALL tomatoes.
  • Harnessing children to pick, shuck, clean, haul compost, etc.

We also started our FIFTH YEAR of homeschooling at the beginning of October.  I can hardly believe that number. There is so much wonder and beauty involved with all the hard work. I am so pleased. This is the first year that I am able to so clearly see our progress.  It is a structure that has taken many years to create - built bit by bit, year by year, "shoring up the base" as my Grandpa O. likes to say.

Our daily outline involves:
  • Circle Time
  • Copywork
  • Math Lessons
  • Reading Practice

Diego is in Year 5, Truen, Year 3, and Jamie, Year 0.  The bulk of the responsibility falls on Diego and Truen, but Jamie is right there in the thick of it, insisting on having his own Math Lessons and Copywork.  And his understanding and abilities are far beyond what Diego and Truen were doing at this age. Osmosis, I swear it. It is proof of Charlotte Mason's maxim "Education is a Life". Yes. When it is the very air you breathe, you cannot help but absorb it.

Together we are reading:
  • The Story of the World: Book 4
  • Halliburton's Book of Marvels
  • Madam How & Lady Why
  • The Winter of Red Snow
  • Wild Animals I Have Known
  • The Story of Inventions
  • Biography on Isaac Newton
  • Of Courage Undaunted
  • Bullfinch's Age of Fable

We are enjoying these books so much.  I read aloud during meal times and snack time in addition to Circle Time.  They enjoy it, but I revel in it. LOVE.

Overall, I have a grip on our days and feel very confident and ready for the behemoth task of home education.  It is so massive, but I am right where I need to be.

But man: getting up early.  I have found myself unable to do it this autumn.  It is hit and miss . . . I would say I'm at about a quarter of the time, maybe a third.  It is abysmal.  I am not pleased.  But for whatever reason, I find myself soooo tired in the morning, sleeping in until 7:00 - 8:00 AM with all the bros.  Sleeping in feels amazing, but it is grating at me.  I feel a burning need for some contemplative solitude again.

Over and out.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

September Food Preservation Notes

  • Tomato products: salsa, ketchup, paste, puree
  • Other canned goals: tomatillo salsa, watermelon rind pickles, apple sauce
  • Drying: greens, celery, zucchini, apple slices, apple leather
  • Fermenting: pickles (done for the season), sauerkraut 
  • Food processor (!!!)
  • Food mill 
  • Chef's knife, bread knife (so perfect for tomatoes), paring knife
  • Prepped-ahead meals (beef heart sandwich meat, lentil soup, ratatouille)
  • Epsom salts (for recovery) (me!)


In years past, I have chopped almost everything by hand - but this year I feel like I've Discovered My Food Processor. (The one I've had for a decade.) (Yeah.)  I've used it for big chopping jobs in the past, mostly for salsa, but this year I've been using the slicing attachment with no reserve.

(It is almost like I felt like I was betraying the art of hand-chopping?) (Very strange aversion.) I honestly think it might be because I didn't like cleaning the food processor when I was done.

But this year?  I am LOVING it.  The cabbage is shredded into such pretty cuts.  The dehydrator is loaded in no-time flat. The fellas line up to help shove zucchini into the chute and are actually, truly  helpful in the process.  Apples are going to be a breeze. It is totally saving my life right now.  Everything is easier.

 Paste | Watermelon Rind Pickles | Ketchup

Another difference from years' past: I have a honed game plan.  I am not writhing in the attempt to wrap my mind around the tomato table. I have a well-laid plan and know how to accomplish it.

First off, our family eats a lot of salsa and ketchup.  Check.

Secondly, everyone loves tomato soup in the winter. (The puree.)  Check.

Thirdly, tomato paste deepens the flavor of so many dishes.  Check.

I love tomatillo salsa. I love having scads of dried vegetables at my fingertips all winter long. I L-O-V-E sauerkraut and we eat it at almost every meal. Check. Check. Check.

I am so pleased.

But of course, this involves a serious time commitment.  I spent three 12-hour days in the kitchen over Labor Day weekend; Blaine took Tuesday off too, which was an 8-hour day.

On Monday morning I woke up so sore - my forearms were fatigued, legs and feet sore, just generally exhausted.  In serious need of recovery after the last two days in the kitchen. (With two more to go.)

I took a time-out for an epsom salt bath: forty minutes with Boards of Canada. (One of Blaine's current faves.)  It felt so good to stare and let the music unlock my thoughts.  And I couldn't believe it, but the epsom salts did the job.  My body felt rejuvenated and I felt ready to tackle the day.

Note to self: keep epsom salts in the house from now on.

 The fellas with our two biggest watermelon this year --
Tom Watson: 26 lbs | Orange Glow: 22 lbs

19.5 years this November | 16 years last month | Love him

Blaine.  Old Leroy.  He ran the household and kept kids under wraps all four days.  He gathered ingredients, picked tomatoes, played badminton, administered baths, worked in the garden, and prepped for my ill-timed Friends of the Library Sanding Party. (Tuesday night!) (New children's shelving for the library.)  What a man.

And finally, I do not want to remiss the fact that my youngest is now three years old.  Such a huge change.  My time in the kitchen is so much more focused and lengthy.  I am noticing the difference in a big way. (But just think of all the sweet baby breaks, nursing, nuzzling, in the past.) (Sigh.)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Where was I...

Oh yes.  It has been summer.

A few words.
  • Visited Western WA for most of July
  • Drove there and back (would do it again)
  • Working toward starting doula work
  • Garden feasting
  • Dehydrating everything
  • Watermelons galore this year
  • Smitten with that man of mine
  • Planning next school year
  • Enjoying cool mornings and warm afternoons
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek every night with the fellas 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Miscellanous notes on holistic cat care

Of all the things.  Cat care has been all but ignored in the last 10 years in our household, but there have been several recent bumps in the road that have required urgent and directed care for our aging felines.

I found my way with the help of the book Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Cats and Dogs.


Our poor kitty Tootsie (14) almost died from worms 18 months ago.  Her coat was ragged, eyes, dull, she was skeletal-thin, and she did nothing but sleep on a heap on a basement rug.  We just thought she was "getting old", but a friend noticed her and keyed us in: parasites.  We realized how badly she was infested when she puked up a worm just weeks later.

We had already started the conventional route, feeling like we needed to take action ASAP and not knowing what else to do. (It had been YEARS since we'd paid any attention to the health of our cats.)  It helped a little, but as we were warned, getting rid of intestinal worms is very hard.  The same friend pointed us in the direction of diatomaceous earth; and after we started putting a small amount of DE on wet cat food each day, slowly but surely, she regained her health and went back to her normal, glossy self.


Our gentle old dame Bay (15) had gotten to the point of stinking so terribly that no one wanted to be around her.  Her eyes were dull, her coat was raggedy and dull, and she hid and slept most of the day.  She had sores around her mouth that would not heal, no matter how they were tended.  They hurt her so badly she stopped cleaning herself and her coat turned lumpy and matted.

I knew without a doubt that it was the food that was causing it.  Dried kibble?  Complete garbage.  Wet cat food is no different, it is just a moist version of the dried stuff.  I have made cat food in the past and had been feeling guilty about it for years, but felt swamped with young children and managing a household.  The cats seemed "okay".  But the time had come.  There was no doubt it was the food causing the problem.

And after I started making it...?  Her sores starting healing within a few days.  She was completely recovered, looking and smelling better in a matter of days and weeks.  Her stench wasn't a not-cleaning-herself smell.  It was a toxic smell.  There is no other way to describe it.  And now..?  She smells like a normal cat. Of course.

CORNEAL ABRASION. Eyebright and Apricot Kernel Oil.

Poor Bay.  Just last week she was scratched full across the eye by an outside cat, with a tear in her cornea that went across three-fourths of her eyeball.  It looked terribly painful.

I tried to get at it every day, keeping it clean with a mild saltwater solution and the application of eyebright drops, but it wasn't healing as quickly as we would have wanted.  I finally found the time to apply a just a few drops of apricot kernel oil and within a day it looked so much better.  Of course I was kicking myself. Why didn't I do it sooner?? (Mother of four!) (Weeding season!) (Three gardens!) The suggestion was to use almond oil or cod liver oil, but I opted for the apricot kernel and it worked just as well.

* * * * * *

Hopefully we can keep our cat trouble, chronic or crisis, to a minimum from this point forward, but I know that I will be able to deal with most potential issues at home.

Out of everything, the deep nutrition from their homemade food is going to be the most important to keep them healthy going forward.  I will never, and I mean NEVER, go back to dry cat food.  With a decade of cooking experience under my belt, homemade cat food is a cinch.  I make a double-batch every couple of weeks, freeze it in pint canning jars, and voila - lunch.

As a surprising side-benefit, the cost is same or less than the bagged/wet cat food we were buying.  It is better all around.

Friday, June 10, 2016

More shifting

It has been 90 degrees F for the last two days, which prompted me to finallllly start the seasonal clothing shift and get the boys' summer clothes out.  Until now, they've been making do with a pair of shorts and a few t-shirts.

First I stowed all the clean snowsuits that were waiting for me.  Then I pulled out the 5T for Jamie and the size 7 for Truen.  Easy.

Then I spotted the 18-24 months on the towering clothing storage shelf and thought, "That's it. Taking up space."  Enough.  But when I pulled it out and started sorting?  A river of tears. I couldn't help it. It had to come out.

Both Diego and Truen were very tender and concerned with me when the found me crying. Their sweetness.  I choked out my explanation as I spotted the little maroon 12-18 month sweatpants that Truen wore when he was 2 because it was the only thing that fit his tiny little frame.

Ah. How can it be?

I haven't gone through baby clothes yet, nor the toddler clothes.  But it just doesn't make sense to take up precious storage space.  I've been telling myself that I will sort through them, keeping the precious outfits, but passing the rest to a friend in our homeschool co-op who has a 2yo and newborn baby boys. (Her older kids are girls.)

Honestly, giving them to someone I know has been a big comfort to me in the process of even thinking about it.  I felt that comfort as I started the actual sorting. As I sifted, I found myself making two stacks: one for the friend, one for my SIL.  The second stack contained the pieces that I couldn't bear to part with and/or hold oodles of nostalgia for a particular babe.  Each stack was about the same size.

Then Eliah woke up and needed to snuggle.  I still need to pull down the 3T for Yiya and sort through the miscellaneous Big Stuff for Diego.  He's the ice plow: I have to "break on through to the other side" every year for him; then store it in nice, neat boxes marked "9" or "10" for future reference. I even have it bagged within the boxes marked "5T Summer" or "8 Winter" for my convenience.

I'm so sthmart. (So why does it take me to the middle of June??) (Good question.)

We are lucky - we have many, many hand-me-downs from cousins. So most of Diego's clothes are just a matter of sorting and identifying what fits. The rest are thrifted.  I've found that pants generally last two boys before the knees are totally blasted (sometimes one boy), so I still need to fill in here and there.

But yes: another shift away from the baby years. It hurts. I've thought it will be easier to let go of  clothes as they get bigger, but we shall see.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Rambling pictoral update

 Truen snuggling with this year's goslings.
Sadly, they all vanished one sunny Saturday morning.
We are almost positive it was coyotes.

 Our pigeon, Mr. Squealy.
Diego caught a fledgling pigeon this spring.
This was pre-haircut for Jamie and before Squealy learned how to fly.
He still likes to land on our heads.
Seriously. Pigeons: The best.

 The North Garden. (Three of 'em now.)
It is nestled in our front four acres, currently planted in oats.
Blaine was prepping the onion bed.
We planted, and I'm not kidding, 1,800 onions. 
It was insane. Twenty-four rows, approx. 75 onions in each row.
Garlic is on the right, melons and squash will be to the left of the onion bed.
Qualifications for North Garden admittance: deer will not eat it.

 Our patchwork quilt of a house this spring.
We had to re-roof it last summer due to a leaky roof. (Eegads.)
 We chose tin instead of shingles for a long-lasting investment.
We are very pleased with the end result: cozy, attractive, more cohesive.
(This picture is from the beginning of May.)

Have I talked about the native planting along our driveway?
The old stems and seed heads are so lovely when it rains --
they turn red and have a sweet, floral grassy fragrance.
A prairie planting was perfect for this gravelly weed-infested patch of ground.
It is thriving where lawn grass could not. (And we don't have to mow it!)
In the summer, it is loaded with flowers and the birds and bugs love it. 
Beautiful year-round. And an extremely functional snowfence.

One of our three Prairie Fire crabapples.
The wind affects everything on the rolling prairies --
See how it is growing bending toward the north? 
The south wind blows hard.

Diego is in braces now . . .
Or more specifically, "utility arches".
Phase two of widening his palate.

All our boys will need a palate expander.
Jamie has the most severe crossbite of the four.
See how his top teeth are inside his bottom teeth...? Not good.
And isn't he just the sweetest?  I am really enjoying his little 5yo self.
I gave him his summer buzz a few weeks ago.

 But this fella?  We just can't cut the curls.
I've been putting it in a top-pony in recent weeks.
In this pic he wanted to "climb the tree" by our chicken coop,
but was very concerned once he got up there.

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.

****  ****  ****  ****

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.

****  ****  ****  **** 

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.

****  ****  ****  **** 

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 mouth-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.
****  ****  ****

"Why you call me Doll?"

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

****  ****  ****

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."

****  ****  **** 

"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. 

 ****  ****  ****

"I catched this restapede."

:: Proudly showing Diego the millipede he caught. 

  ****  ****  ****

"I do it myself!"

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

 ****  ****  ****

"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.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A good winter for skiing

It was a great year for snow --
Blaine skied almost every weekend in December-January.
The boys joined him several times throughout the season.
And everyone was stronger and better controlled than the year before.
 Yiya and I even went out with them a couple of times.
He might be in skis next winter!  Goodness.
(He's already working on the second-half of Two.)(Ay-yi-yi.)

This was my favorite walk --
Eliah was very interested in walking through the drifts.
We got way, way behind everyone else and
Outside Bay even came along for a stroll.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Not again

It is amazing, it really is.  My boys, with their frothy leader at the helm - the oldest and most impulsive of the crew - have officially graduated into "wild animal" status.  I'm serious.

At this point in the game, if my attention is directed elsewhere - phone, skype, kitchen work, delivery person, whatever it may be - they almost instantaneously rip off all their clothes and stampede around hooting and hollering like feral monkeys.

Four boys: Ten, Eight, Five, and Two. Or four wildebeests?

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Those delectable chocolate curls

Shower Day: freshly washed and combed

I've developed an entire routine to keep Yiya's curls looking beautiful.

It takes a lot of attention and moisturizer to keep them tame and coiled, otherwise his hair frizzes into an unsightly and enormous mouse nest. (Stretched out, his hair goes halfway down his back.)

I wash it with conditioner every few days, apply in a leave-in conditioner, then comb through it with a hair creme.  On the off days, I spritz it with water with a few drops of beard oil added in. (Thanks Uncle Erik!)  The curls tighten right up.

As you can imagine, he detests having his hair combed.  It only happens every few days, but we have a routine for that as well: we watch Convos with My 2-Year-Old on YouTube while I comb through it.  Otherwise he is completely unmanageable: squawking, crying, fighting, curling up on me.  If Convos is on, he is mild and subdued.  So much easier.

But the real inspiration for this post ...

This morning the boys are making Lego conservatories for the flies and stink bugs they find around the house.  Everyone was gathered around the table building.  Yiya was draped in his towel.  After getting him dressed, I headed back to the bathroom for the hair creme and a comb.  He knew what was happening next.

When I came back into the kitchen, he was nowhere to be seen and sweet little disembodied voice called, "Me hiding!"  I looked around for a few seconds, laughing to myself and not seeing him anywhere, then looked under the table; sure enough, the little mister was crouched down and looking sly.

Everything unfurled as usual: Convos, creme, comb. Then I rushed to write this down as soon as I possibly could.  The "Me hiding" is just such a perfect example of where he's at right now: his sweet little two and a half year old self.

Also: the picture above.  We have local friends who run an online Catholic homeschool curriculum.  We posed as models for them last month and this shot came out of it.  We were giggling at each other. Isn't he just so sweet?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Two and a half

Eliah says
  • "Shishy papo" not "fishy papo" [papo = pacifier]
  • "DungeBob" not "SpongeBob"
  • "Dushbrish" not "toothbrush"
  • "Bana chips" not "Banana chips"
  • "Sell this?" instead of "Can we buy this?"
  • Adds "butt hole" into all teases and jokes
  • Asks for me to sing "Hump-Dumpy-Dumpy"

Funny quotes
:: "You a lady, Mama" (fingering my ponytail)

:: "Me buy this one ship! Twenty Dollars." (Diego's Lego X-wing Fighter)

:: "No way hoo-zay" and "No fanks hoo-zay"

:: "Get outta here, butt - head." (to get a laugh) (always)

:: "Pumperdoll is, Pumperdoll is, Pumperdoll is" (his song) (inspired by Blaine's nickname for him) ("Pumperdoll" and often just "Pump" or "Doll")

:: "One . . . two . . . butt hole . . . three . . . butt hole . . . butt hole . . . butt hole" (counting to ten with me) (goodness) (there's obviously a lot of potty talk in a houseful of boys)

:: "So many yucky things" (surveying Gramma S.'s beautifully set Christmas spread)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

These days

I am....

....playing the "Dragon Game" with Jamie and Eliah every day before lunch in the upstairs bedroom.  Jamie gets dressed up in his dragon costume and  I am Mama Emerald, Jamie is Baby Ruby, and Eliah is Baby Opal.  I cozy up in bed and they run around and squeak. We also do a lot of fake eating, pretend sleeping, and flying practice (AKA jumping off the bed and tearing around the room).

....playing Hearts with the Big Boys in the afternoons.

....starting the evening meal at 4:00 PM, which makes the entire night easier.  I also shifted around my other regular routines, like making stock or broth-making, yogurt-making, boiling eggs for snacks, making Blaine's weekly breakfast frittata, etc. to the morning, so I am not in the kitchen until bedtime every night.

....reading Johnny Tremain aloud and really enjoying it.  And Robinson Caruso.  And 26 Fairmount Avenue.  And Poor Richard.  And the Jesse Bear books.  And always, always Mother Goose . . . I adore nursery rhymes.

....reading Big House in the Little Woods aloud on the nights that Eliah falls asleep quickly.  Blaine is reading Indian in the Cupboard at bedtime every few nights.  This is a relatively new tradition that I am so pleased about.  (Though I did read through all of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy when Jamie fell asleep quickly in years' past.) (But it felt much, much more intermittent than this.) pleased about Skype Story Night with my Dad.  He's reading us The Hobbit.  Every Wednesday (or Tuesday) at 8:00 PM CST.  Blaine snuggles and reads with the younger boys while the big boys and I laze and listen.  I look forward to it every week.

....surprised this post turned into raving about books.

....glad to be able to out-process this afternoon.  It is so settling and inspiring, getting a good look and a dose of perspective.  I really should post more often.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Book List: Completed

  • The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing - Ed. Kevin Young
  • The Taste of Country Cooking - Edna Lewis
  • Raising Real Men - Hal and Melanie Young
  • Twelve Recipes - Cal Peternell
  • For the Children's Sake - Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
  • Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (audio)
  • Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Aimee Wimbush-Bourque
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe (audio)
  • One Good Dish - David Tanis
  • Life Skills for Kids: Equipping Your Child for the Real World - Christine Field
  • Mansfield Park - Jane Austen (audio)
  • Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  • Help for the Harried Homeschooler: A Practical Guide to Balancing Your Child's Education with the Rest of Your Life - Christine Field
  • The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children - Ross Greene
  • Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World - Tsh Oxenreider
  • Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition - Ramiel Nagel
  • Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons - Meg Meeke