Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Singing by the fire

In December 2005 my brother made up a song inspired the bumbling Master of Disguise, Chief Inspector Clouseau.  He was home on Christmas break with his guitar and I was home visiting with Baby Diego.  My sister was still in high school and on winter break.  We had nothing pressing to do, nothing at all. 

We sat around a lot in those days and this visit was no exception.  We lounged in the living room in front of the fire and sang the song together, very sweetly.  Over and over and over again.  It is soft and folky, nothing like you would imagine the sound of a fake peg-legged pirate with an inflatable parrot on his shoulder and a rubber nose singing right before he fell off a foggy pier into the murky waters below.

We bumped into the video I took of it the other night and it triggered much nostalgia.  I wish I could post it, but it resides on a mini-DVD vs. our hard-drive.  It is sweet, oh so sweet.  Sing it mournfully in your head as your read it.

Does it have a title, Erik?

Sixteen chests on a dead man's rum,
Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of the kip-per,
Drink to the devil and ohhhh-ohhhh-ohhhhh

Inspired by this scene in Revenge of the Pink Panther, starting at 2:22 --

Friday, January 25, 2013

Best idea ever

I now require that the older boys stay in bed until 8:00 AM each morning.

If they get up before then, they are allowed to come out to grab a kitty to snuggle with, say hello and get a hug, or go potty.  After any of that, back to bed.

I usually try to wake up with Blaine around 6:45 - 7:00 AM.  We talk while I help him get ready; a pleasant time free of disruptions, as you might well imagine.  He leaves at 7:30 AM and then I take a shower or stretch and read or stare until the boys wake up.

Believe you me, it is a mighty unpleasant sight to watch a groggy-eyed little guy stumble out of the room way too early, especially considering how late their bed-time is, and particularly when that signals The End.  The end of my morning down-time and the beginning onslaught of the day's demands.  But these little guys are hell-bent on spending every waking hour in our presence, even if they have to pull themselves out of bed at an ungodly hour in a heap of total exhaustion to do it.  Bless their precious little hearts.
I have had enough.  I need that quiet-time in the morning and they need more sleep.  I've come to understand (though don't always remember) that the more structured the expectations, the greater the success in navigating through all the pit-falls of daily life with children.  Thus: the eight o'clock rule.  They grumbled a bit about it at first, but this week's "test drive" has gone very well.  Both boys have both fallen back asleep upon the return to bed and wake up refreshed at a much more reasonable time.  As for little Jamie . . . he wakes up "whenever" and I snuggle with him in the solitude, though it is usually much later time than the boys typically attempt to wake up (unless they are out-cold).

I got the idea from Steady Mom.  Their house rule is that their children need to stay in their rooms until 8:00 AM, but since my guys don't have their own room and go to bed comparatively late, they will stay in their bed.

So far, so wonderful.

Monday, January 21, 2013


All three boys are asleep, a rarity these days.  This bronchial virus has laid them all pretty low.  It is amazing how much they are still coughing.  This is the first day Diego has been able to talk above a whisper since last Thursday.  Friday?  I can't remember.

I am so unused to posting more than once every week or that I don't even know where to start.  It feels like a big job, piecing a post together.  My mind is so full with "just life" -- daily activities, schooling, survival, making sure we are fed and clean, etc. -- that I don't have much time to think about much else.

I've been wondering about things a lot recently, feeling like I had "so much more time" in the past to commit to reading or outside interests.  But now?  I just can't.  There are too many demands on me.  It is hard.

And we are adding another baby to this mix.  Ha!  As if I feel sparse on personal time now . . . and then I'll be starting this whole process over again this spring?  Wow.

I am currently 22 weeks.  I feel the baby moving every day, with all kinds of kicks and rolls and head-butts.  It is an active little thing.  It seems like I didn't feel as strong or specific movements at this point in past pregnancies, but I don't know that for sure.  I am more experienced, so I know what I'm feeling . . . but it just seems different.  I need to compare notes with friends.

* * *

Our little homeschool is coming along nicely.  I am slowly implementing more of a routine, which helps me to feel like we are staying on track.  I finally made a Morning Board, using MamaJenn's work of art as my inspiration.  I am pleased with the end-result (and I'll have to post a picture at some point, though Jamie has already mangled some of its components, the little rascal).

We keep track of the calendar, our days in school, the weather, shapes, and recite our monthly poem each morning before breakfast.  I am working towards building an understanding for the days, weeks, months.  I was getting tired of their lack of knowledge in this dept. as well as their inability to tell time, so I am organizing it into our day.  There is no point in spinning my wheels any longer, or just assuming they'll "catch on".  It is time to teach it.  Measuring time by Mr. Bean episode lengths has been helpful, but I've had enough.

I am generally following the Ambleside Online (AO) schedule for Year 1.  I chose not to include some of the books; but for the most part, I am following their weekly schedule.  Some of the selections are too hard to source through the library, I didn't like them, and/or I didn't want to buy them; nor do we have an ipad or Kindle to read them as e-books.

I am also more interested in following a classical approach to studying history, with the four-year rotation of studying Ancient History, Middle Ages, Renaissance & Reformation, and Modern Times.  AO Year 1 starts with the history of the UK, which is interesting, but not exactly what I had in mind.  That being said, we are listening to An Island Story by H.E. Marshall via LibriVox and haven't started in on any other history other than biographies, though I am starting to think about incorporating it this spring.

Ideally, I would like to get all our schoolwork done in the mornings while we are all fresh, but reading aloud has been relegated to Jamie's afternoon nap.  Reading aloud with him in the room (unless I am specifically reading to him) is all but impossible.  He is very demanding and will insist on turning the pages or try to grab at the book to close and put it away.  Or he hollers and insists that I pay attention to whatever he is doing.

We are also working on beginning reading with the chalkboard: identifying letters, letter sounds, sounding words out.  I am taking it slow and steady.

* * *

This post was interrupted well over an hour ago and I'd better post it now or it will reside permanently in my Drafts folder.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Señor Destructo

We usually have two Lego tables set up during the winter months.  One in front of the kitchen door (we never use that door in the winter) and one in the living room in front of the southern-facing bay window.  Squeeze always gets obsessed with Legos over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, putting together all the sets that have slowly disintegrated over the year.

Jamie was too little for much destruction last year.  He was always interested, but he couldn't reach much.  I even have a picture of his fat, little baby toes gripping a Hubbard squash in an attempt to get just a leeeetle bit higher.

This year is different.  Oy.  Though the tables have been set up for the last two months, he hasn't shown much interest in total and complete destruction until recently.  Sure, he tinkered with the Legos within reach, and tore a few things apart, but most of it was easily put together.  Those sweet days gone by.

This has most definitely not been the case this past week.  He has morphed into a rabid Tasmanian devil, leaving a path of destruction and scattered Lego pieces in his wake.  Ripped apart, thrown asunder, probably even stomped on, who knows.

This morning the older boys were in the bathroom with the door closed, to keep in heat and steam with Diego in the tub, listening to a Magic Treehouse audiobook.  All three have been sick with some kind of bronchial virus; Jamie is pretty much over it, but Diego and Truen are still in the thrust of sore throats and the accompanying coughing fits.

Jamie was mercifully entertaining himself at the play table, or so I thought, while I had a bit of down-time over a slow breakfast after 6 days of being a sick-slave.  Oh dear.  I should have seen it coming.

Truen came out the the bathroom at some point to check in with me on something.  By this point I was in the living room writing an email to my in-laws.  He surveyed the wreck of the Lego table (which I hadn't noticed yet) and said, "Look at this!  Who made this mess?  Who made this mess?!" while Jamie rolled around on the floor under a blanket.

I finally tore myself away and replied with the obvious, "Uhm, welllll . . . it must have been Jamie".  Who else??

Truen went back into the bathroom to tell Diego the news.  When he had left, Jamie popped up from under the blanket like a little jack-in-the-box and affirmed jubilantly, "I did it, yeth!"

So the little sucker is proud of it too.

I see a near-end of the Lego table in sight.  Slowly, slowly all the destroyed pieces are being stored away in boxes for next winter's Lego-making blitz.  The stuff that the boys are able to put together might be stored on a high place, played with for a length of time, then put back UP.

That little rascal.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A delicious chicken & rice soup

I've learned my lesson before: always write down a recently developed recipe, even if I think I'm going to remember it.  With that in mind, I made the most amazing chicken & rice soup today.  I wrote it down for my recipe box, but it was so wonderfully delicious I wanted to share it with all of you.

Chicken & Rice Soup
  • 1-2 onions
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 4-6 mushrooms
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • Mixed dried vegetables (zucchini, green beans, corn, celery, etc.)
  • 4-5 carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cabbage OR frozen chopped greens
  • 1-2 potatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • Thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2-ish cups cooked rice
  • 2-3 cups cooked chicken, chopped
  • 3 cubes frozen chopped parsley
  • 3 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

:: Begin to fry the onions and mushrooms in lard (or butter) until melty and sweet, adding in the garlic.  Add the chicken stock, thyme, bay leaves, chickpeas, and all the vegetables except the frozen greens.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until cooked through.

:: At the end of cooking, add the frozen greens, parsley, chicken, rice, salt and pepper.

It was out of this world.  Amazingly satisfying with buttered toast on the side.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Extended weekend wedding trip

 We started off the weekend visiting Squeeze's grandparents
Jamie really loved playing with his great-grandma --
He would run from her to Squeeze's grandpa and throw himself in their laps.
I was a little worried about him possibly hurting them but they seemed to love it.
We were watching a video of our nephews & niece playing the piano --
They hadn't been able to figure out the DVD player up to that point.

 We stayed in a hotel, which the boys LOVED --
Truen declared, "I want to live here forever!" on the first night.
And here they are: mesmerized by the kids' channel on the TV.
Their #1 favorite activity was swimming in the hotel pool.
I took pictures, but every single one was blurry --
Picture huge smiles and constant motion.

 LSJFF's wedding --
'Twas lovely and intimate.  I was so happy I cried.
My favorite part was seeing Aaron's face radiate such happiness and joy --
As he looked around he appeared to be totally floored by the scene,
surrounded by so many people who love them.  It was great.
We brought the boys, so unfortunately didn't get much of a chance to enjoy things.
Such a bummer, but we didn't predict the level of insanity --
At the reception, Jamie was literally RUNNING the entire time.
Tripping old men, weaving through crowds, climbing the railing, that kind of thing.

On our last day we took a trip to Como Park. 
Here we are, crowded around one of our favorite exhibits --
The leaf-cutter ants.  Awesome.
We also tried to visit our former neighbor Wilburn that day,
but his senior housing was in the throes of an influenza outbreak --
We were strongly advised at the reception desk not to enter.
SUCH a bummer.

 All the boys fell asleep on the way home after such a busy weekend --
Diego somehow produced this sleeping position,
the best fell-asleep-in-the-van picture ever.

 We came back on Monday night, but took a 4-day weekend --
Giving us time to recuperate on Tuesday. 
It was so nice for Blaine to not have to go back to work ASAP.
We bought cross-country skis for the boys while we were in "the Cities".
 We have been scheming on this for a number of years and finally did it this weekend.
We skied yesterday afternoon and they LOVED it.  Yessssss.
We were so pleased.

 We skied up the driveway and back (probably a half-mile total).
I pulled Jamie in the sled while Blaine skied at a snail's pace with the boys.
They both did very well and seemed to really enjoy it.
In addition to the actual skiing,
I think they really liked having gear "just their size".

Truen didn't fall as often as Diego --
But he is generally a lot more careful and deliberate.
Aren't those tiny little poles just the cutest?
We went out again today and Diego was actually going pretty fast.
I think I would have been like that too --
'Forget all this learning-stuff . . . let's get adventurous ASAP!!'
All in all, a very good weekend.

I should also say . . . Jamie is fully potty-trained!  He accidentally peed his pants twice this past weekend but said, "Pee!" as he was doing it both times.  Otherwise everything else went into the potty chair completely on his own prompting, even in the van on the way there and back.  Wow.  Awesome.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Jamie is two years old

 All wrapped up at almost 3 weeks --
How I love that button nose and downy little head.

"Safety first"
Playing with playdough last week

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

This afternoon the boys and I started working on memorizing the first stanza from Robert Frost's poem Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.  At the evening meal, I asked them to recite what they remembered for Squeeze.

Diego started before I had the chance, so I kept quiet and let him go forward on his own:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

He finished with wide eyes, amazed at himself.  He had recited it perfectly.  It was so fun to see.

Earlier in the afternoon while we were working on it, Truen recited the first two lines like this: "I think I know whose woods these are, but his house is in the village".  It was the cutest thing.

I think this might be my first official post on our little homeschool.  We are using this book illustrated by Susan Jeffers as our reference: a lovely book of a lovely poem.

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~ Robert Frost
   The Poetry of Robert Frost

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2012 Booklist: Completed

  • One Whaling Family: A Stirring Adventure - the Authentic Account of a Great Whaling Captain Who Took His Family to Sea - Edited by Harold Williams
  • Mortality - Christopher Hitchens
  • Why? - Tomie DePaola (Read Aloud)
  • Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes - Mark Bitterman
  • Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round - Marisa MeClellan
  • The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux - Paul Virant, Kate Leahy
  • A Householder's Guide to the Universe: A Calendar of Basics for the Home and Beyond - Harriet Fasenfest
  • Your One Year Old: The Fun-Loving, Fussy 12 to 24 Month Old - Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg
  • Your Four Year Old: Wild and Wonderful - Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg
  • Your Six Year Old: Loving and Defiant - Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg
  • Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook - Alice Waters
  • I'm Still Scared - Tomie DePaola (Read Aloud)
  • An Invitation to Indian Cooking - Madhury Jaffrey (again)
  • Things Will Never Be the Same - Tomie DePaola (Read Aloud)
  • The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home - Susan Wise Bauer, Jessie Bauer
  • Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting - Pamela Druckerman
  • The King of the Golden River - John Ruskin (Read Aloud)
  • A Charlotte Mason Education - Catherine Levison
  • A Home Start in Reading - Ruth Beechick
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis (Read Aloud)
  • What a Year - Tomie DePaola (Read Aloud)
  • On My Way - Tomie DePaola (Read Aloud)
  • The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking - Kate Payne
  • Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes - Jennifer McLagan
  • The Essential Oils Handbook: All the Oils You Will Ever Need for Health, Vitality and Well-Being - Jennie Harding
  • The Mystery of the Periodic Table - Benjamin D. Wiker
  • Here We All Are - Tomie dePaola (Read Aloud)
  • 26 Fairmount Avenue - Tomie dePaola (Read Aloud)
  • The Complete Illustrated Guide to Aromatherapy: A Practical Approach to the Use of Essential Oils for Health & Well-being - Julia Lawless
  • Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair: Natural and Healthy Bodycare for Every Body - Dina Falconi