Wednesday, November 13, 2019

El fin

I think that we can call this blog defunct.

I'm not even updating my reading lists anymore.

Life is full: outdoor work, food preservation, parenting, the joy of loving and being loved by one's spouse, morning solitude, kitchen work, homeschooling, getting outside to revel, reading and singing together, poetry, bunny trails, solid rest and sleep.

It's all happening.

Life is good, life is hard. I take it all.

Maybe I'll post again at some point? Perhaps just a check-in to let anyone who might be checking in on me know that I'm still alive? Perhaps.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Homeschooling: Year 7

It appears my blogging has been cut back to twice a year.

I'm not even going to go into my lack of solitude or "free time".  Blah blah blah. That is old news.  Instead, I'll pick up where I left off.

We are starting our seventh year of official homeschooling.  It feels amazing, this complex structure, built over the years.  I couldn't have imagined it, but each year truly builds on the last and the elements come together quite naturally.

This year is a big difference from any other year, as Diego, now 13 years old, is reading at level.  This means that I am actually assigning him to read his own books.  Up until this point, I have read everything aloud.

This is perfect timing, because with Jamie in Year 2 this year, I wasn't sure how I was going to juggle reading 25 books aloud.  It was a fairly heavy load for me last year, which was easier than this year.

As it is, I am letting Diego ease into it slowly, and have assigned seven books for him to read to himself.  I am reading the other five aloud for the group.  In addition, I've always had Diego and Truen in the same year, so with this, I am having Truen listen to two of the books on audio . . . and have totally fallen off the bandwagon with three of the other books.  (I've got to get on that.)

With that preface, here's what we're going this year:

Modified Ambleside Online Y6
Diego (13), Truen (11)
  1. The Story of the Greeks - H.A. Grueber
  2. Augustus Caesar's World - Genevieve Foster
  3. Ben Hur - Lew Wallace
  4. Never Give In - Stephen Mansfield (Diego)
  5. Never Cry Wolf - Farley Mowat
  6. Material World: A Global Family Portrait - D'Alusio & Menzel
  7. What the World Eats - D'Alusio & Menzel
  8. The Mystery of the Periodic Table - Benjamin Wiker (Diego)
  9. The Sea Around Us - Rachel Carson
  10. The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom - Theodore Gray (Diego)
  11. Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity - Robert Cwiklik (Diego)
  12. Myths Every Child Should Know - Hamilton Wright Mabie (Diego)
  13. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (Diego)
  14. Poetry of Robert Frost (Diego)
Modified Ambleside Online Y2
Jamie (7), Eliah, in on the ride (5) (read aloud)
  1. The Story of the World, Vol. 1: Ancient Times - Susan Wise Bauer
  2. This Country of Ours - H.E. Marshall
  3. The Little Duke - Charlotte Yonge
  4. Never Cry Wolf - Farley Mowat
  5. Tree in the Trail - Holling C. Holling
  6. The Burgess Animal Book for Children - Thornton Burgess
  7. Tales from Shakespeare - Tina Packard
  8. Understood Betsy - Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  9. Poetry of Walter De La Mare
Circle Time
Everyone (read aloud, sung, recited together)
  1. Shakespeare: Henry V
  2. Plutarch: Julius Caesar
  3. OT/NT Bible
  4. Folk Song: Cockles and Mussels (Molly Malone)
  5. Hymn: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
  6. Book of North American Birds
  7. The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse - Thornton Burgess
  8. Getting Started with Latin - William E. Linney
  9. Oxford First Ancient History
  10. Earthworms - Dorothy Childs Hogner
  11. Artist: John Constable
  12. Composer: Carl Maria von Weber 

Morning Lessons
  1. MEP Math: Y2 (very end): Diego & Truen
  2. MEP Math: Y1 (very beginning): Jamie
  3. Piano Adventures Primer Level: Jamie
  4. Phonics: Jamie & Eliah
  5. Nature Study
  6. Drawing Practice
  7. Copwork/Cursive

Oh my garsh, no wonder why my head is spinning every day.

I can't even believe it, all written out. But is is happening. And almost every day.

Insert wink-emoji here.

Ta ta for now!

Friday, April 20, 2018

The long recovery

I've spent the last 4-5 months recovering from respiratory viruses resulting in pneumonia that took me out for the entire month of November. It has been a humbling journey to be sure. I've never been laid so low in my entire life.

Well, perhaps my bout with the Norovirus in 2015 took me down that low; but that only lasted one night. November was The Month of Endless Coughing and Fatigue, which has been followed by another four months of recovery.

It has been a long, slow journey out of darkness. I was still coughing until a couple of weeks ago, completely tapped out, and unable to handle much stress in a houseful of bouncing, battling boys.

This was made harder by the simultaneous shedding of allowable indoor battle games, played daily in a multitude of formats. My boys have been playing these games for years and years, but the mix of ages from Twelve down to Four, combined with their various temperaments, rendered that impossible this year.  Inevitably, the younger two melted into rage and I was left with the fall-out. Indoor battle play is no longer allowed in this house.

By March, I realized that things weren't getting better and I had to batten down the hatches and get serious in order to recover. It just wasn't happening.

My recovery strategy:
  • Sleeping more (half-hour earlier to bed, one hour later to rise)
  • Two week break from school, focused on rest and connection with my fellas
  • Watercolor painting
  • Salt baths; to detox, soothe, allow deep rest
  • Work with my local holistic practitioner, AKA the "witch doctor"

Just within the last week, I am finally feeling more like myself: energized, optimistic, full of ideas and inspiration.

I tell you, it was a strange place to be these last six months: depleted, uninspired, easily rattled, upset, sad, overwhelmed, dismal, stressed and distressed. I've never been there. And I never want to go back.

Life is good, life is hard.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The dramatic novella of a homeschooling mother of four boys

Eegads. I kept a blog once.

Life at our house continues to up the ante.  I am chagrined to look at my previous Booklists, even from as recent as 2016.  I was reading.  And I am still reading, but almost everything is read aloud to my children. (Our school books are not listed.) (Just books for pleasure, though the school books are a pleasure.)

My time is filled up with what . . . ??
  • Kitchen work
  • School work
  • Orchestrating chore times
  • Delegating house work

Really, this is the bulk of my work.  Maintaining order fills in the cracks of everything else. If my attention is diverted in any way, on any task, all hell breaks loose at my house.  With four boys in the house, cooped up during the cold and snowy winter, when getting ready to go outside is a chore in and of itself . . . ALL HELL breaks loose regularly throughout the day.

Stampeding. Wrestlemania. Battle play run amok. Screaming. Crying.

I have been looking closely at the reasons why this happens. Most obviously, three of my four children are natural born agitators. There's a major crux of the issue right there. We are together day and night. Crawling the walls. Our neighbor boys are so busy that they aren't usually available to play, added to the fact that we don't have any other neighbors, so outside energy diversion is nil. A major drawback of living so rural. Our oldest is twelve and more than half-grown but he plays and body-slams like he's still eight years old. Another huge factor.

But I also believe that as they get older and louder and able to do more damage, our mode of being is is becoming outmoded. I am no longer allowing indoor battle play. It always ends in screaming and crying. Indoor stampeding is no longer allowed.  Flopping around in a giant wrestling ball is outlawed. They can do that stuff outside.

They are disappointed, naturally . . . but I simply can't handle it any longer. It is driving me over the edge. And if I have learned anything as I have gone through life, it is that crisis and/or feelings of upset and unrest are signs that something needs to change.


In other news, homeschooling is going very well. I have upped the ante in this arena as well.

This year I . . .
  • Started assigned reading for Diego.
  • Keep track of the days on our lovely Etsy-commissioned chalkboard.
  • Have assigned weekly chores for each day of the school week.
  • Started using clipboards for the boys to keep track of their daily/weekly work. 
  • Moved Circle Time to the kitchen table to a better end.
  • Assigned Nature Study to a particular day so it actually happened.

Diego is reading at level this year. I am so amazed and encouraged by this fact. Last year, at age 11, I would have classified him as a beginning-middle reader and two years ago, at age 10, absolutely a beginning reader. And now, he is reading with ease and fluency. It is AMAZING.

I followed the advice of so many educators before me . . . don't push it, read to them copiously, allow their development to be your guide, that reading readiness exists on a spectrum . . . not everyone is ready at the same time, especially boys, and that he will be reading with fluency in no time once the developmental requirements click into place.

Yes. Yes! YES.

This is what happened. If any moms happen to cross this post, take heart. Persevere. Slow down and don't force it. Allow him or her to develop naturally. It will happen. Read to that child every day, fill their heart with stories and amazing ideas. It will happen, slowly but surely.


I have the boys upstairs in the Lego Room listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while the youngest brother naps.  Eliah is four years old and in that uncomfortable in-between spot in napping. He can make it through the day, but then dissolves in the evening hours; or when he does nap, might be awake until 11:00 PM.

It's difficult to navigate, but I've settled on reading and snuggling like usual. but moving into Quiet Time if I can tell he doesn't need to sleep. And that is a beast in and of itself: teaching two kids at once the rules and regulations of Quiet Time.

Jamie, age seven, discontinued his afternoon nap this winter as well. But that is another story that could fill an entire blog post. Long story short: The lymph nodes in his neck and groin were swollen for over a year. In November, our natural health practitioner found that his body was loaded down with heavy metals. (I believe it finally surfaced after years of work with our holistic practitioner.) (And the air purifiers we installed in our home.) (Layer after layer of issues, until his body was finally able to release.) We worked with her intensively for a number of weeks and then started giving him Himalayan Pink salt baths to detox.

And it worked. His bath water was brown and cloudy at the end of each bath, especially at the beginning of the process, lighter as we have progressed. His lymph nodes decreased in size with each bath. For the first time in over a year, his lymphs are NOT swollen. His behavior has improved. His ability to cope with stress has improved (such as putting on socks and shoes, wearing underwear, clothing with tags, resolving conflict, etc.). And he no longer needs a daily nap.

I felt the lymph nodes in his neck today; they were slightly puffy, nothing like they were, but another bath is in due order. It seems as if his body is releasing its toxins slowly and it is up to us to provide the channels for its release.

(He swallowed a watch battery when he was a baby.) (That is where we believe it came from.)

Over and out, I'll catch yeh next quarter.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017 Food Preservation Season

I am in the full-thrust of harvest - fermenting, drying, canning, freezing - and have been going hard for a month or more.  It has been an amazing change this year now that my youngest child is four years old,and I have 3-4 helpers who are actually helpful - picking, shucking, hauling, loading, slicing, snapping, cleaning.

Another huge difference from years' past is that I am working steadily through the entire week, rather than saving the bulk of my work for the weekends.  This is huge.  Instead of blow-out weekends that leave me completely stripped, there have been Saturdays or Sundays where I finish my work in the early evening hours.  It has been amazing.

I am getting more done too . . . with steady progress, instead of fits and starts. I am a machine.  I know what needs to be done and how to do it. My output is massive.

As I have said in recent years, I am a "serious home food preservationist".

 Bread & Butter pickles ready for storage.

Sliced cabbage + salt + caraway seeds = sauerkraut

Cucumbers have been prolific this year, so I have gallons upon gallons of sour pickles, bread & butter pickles, sliced dill pickles.  Our green cabbages came in in conjunction with the cucumbers, which left me in a bit of a pickle (haha) with the amount of produce that needed processing.

Also, with the amount of rain we got this year, the green cabbages (but not the purple thankfully) started cracking at the beginning of August.  It was not a good situation . . . they were in tough shape by the time I was able to get to them. (About half-way into the crisis, I got two 5 liter Pickl-Its that made all the difference.) (Pictured above with the sauerkraut.)

Likewise, with the amount of rain and cool weather we had in August, our tomatoes are in a precarious situation.  They are cracking and extremely vulnerable to bug damage.  We are picking them before they are fully ripe; if left on the vine, they are left to the wiles of slugs and bugs. Completely destroyed.

Now for for a slight detour: a small tour of ketchup-making --

 Pre-ketchup: spices, onion, sugar, vinegar, tomatoes

Culling spices in the food mill.

Ketchup refuse

 The final product sealed in the canner.

I am displeased with the ugly rendering of these pictures with my iphone.  YUCK.  My beauty-loving eye sockets are seared with the sheer displeasure of seeing such refuse.

Alas, it cannot be helped.

I use the A Canadian Foodie recipe: Homemade Ketchup with Fresh Tomatoes.

I've been also been making tomato sauce, salsa, and the most delicious oven-roasted tomato concoction: a panful of halved cherry or plum tomatoes, add salt, several crushed garlic cloves, and a few chunks of beef fat, baked at 350 for most of the day and stirred every-so-often.

It roasts down into an umami-filled, rich, reduced . . . I don't know what.  I've used it as pizza sauce or simply as a visually appealing and palate-pleasing addition to a plate.

I am listening to The Brothers Karamasov in the kitchen while I work, now on speaker via my iphone rather than earbuds through my little hand-me-down ipod.  It is an incredibly long book, but well worth the time invested.  I've been absolutely gripped by the story and the many ideas that Dostoyevsky explores.

Finally . . . my Food Preservation Notes. Or, how I taught myself how to do this all.

Though let's give credit where credit is due: the groundwork was laid in my childhood by watching my mom and aunties in the kitchen.  Thanks Muver. (Emoji heart!)

Over and out.


Wednesday, August 09, 2017


  • Food preservation plans.
  • The 2017-2018 school year.
  • Going for the gold on that beautiful, very functional Etsy chalkboard.
  • The ensuing organizational revolution the said chalkboard will facilitate.
  • The gray hairs standing at attention and in proliferation on my head.
  • Why a houseful of boys involves so much fighting. (Really.) (Why??)
  • (And perhaps the complaint should be expanded simply to "children"...?)
  • A workable plan toward gutting clutter.
  • Why the "m" key on our keyboard only works some of the ti(m)e.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hashtag "boymom"

UN. We had another tooth almost knocked out by an elbow during a bout of rough play this afternoon. (Jamie's.) (Front right.) (Hanging by a thread.)

This means we've had a total of 2.5 teeth knocked out in our house over the years . . . and we have so many more loose teeth to go.

Only in a houseful of boys.  For realz.

We spent time with a friend yesterday with an older daughter and a son and a newish baby boy.  The boys were in the basement, making their usual commotion and noise.  While we were talking, I noticed she was starting to feel tense and distracted, and I realized that this, my life, what-feels-like constant noise and commotion, might not be normal in other families.

"It sounds like they are tearing down the walls," she said, as she asked her daughter to go and take a look, then report back on their activities.  And it absolutely did: it sounded like shelves were falling and walls were getting pock-marked.

And I realized that I had barely even noticed.  Yes, I heard the noise, but it was just the usual din: no one was screaming or crying, the usual sign of things run amok.

Her daughter came back upstairs rolling her eyes and said they were battering each other with balloons. They evidently had a pack of balloons and balloon pump, and of course, what else are balloons for, other than smacking each other and exploding them in short order?

Battle play.  Of course.


It's real.