You say goodbye and I say hello (except the other way around)

I got my first American Girl doll when I was 7 years old. I saved up for her for what seemed to be forever. I can't remember if I had to do the whole $82 or just half but when my main source of income was weeding dandelions for 10 cents a bucket, either way, it was quite the accomplishment and I was proud of it. And I loved her for many years. When I finally, reluctantly, outgrew dolls, my mom insisted in putting all my collection aside for when I had kids. That seemed such a long time to hold on to them but it made me happy not to have to get rid of them completely. Well, Sunday morning it was time for her to go to her new home. Which is also my home, but in a different room and with a different little girl for her to take care of.

Even after all these years, she was still in pretty good shape. I did get some braid spray which helped her dry hair. And some new stockings were in order. But otherwise, she looks pretty much the way she did back in the day. I actually got a bit chocked up getting her all dressed and doing her hair so I could set her next to Lucy's Easter basket.

For about 30 seconds, I felt sad that Lucy wasn't going to have the experience of earning her own doll but that quickly faded. She insisted on taking her to church with us this morning and on the way was telling me all the ways she was going to work and save her money so she could buy her a doll Christmas present because "that's my job as a doll mom." I'm glad Samantha is back out of her box and I think she's gonna like it here.

That was Sunday. Today, I was given this

It's a bit hard to read the pencil on the yellow paper but it says "Thank you for the boll." I think that's gonna have to go in my scrapbook. And I'm really glad I have two more dolls still stored. I just might have to try and add a third girl to the family so they all get used up :-)


Things I Love: Shakespeare

I've loved Shakespeare's comedies for a long time. I remember watching my first Shakespeare play with my aunt, uncle and grandmother when I was twelve years old (Twelfth Night with Helen Hunt on PBS) and thinking it was awesome. My mother took me to a local college's production of that same play a year or two later and it was just as funny. One summer my best friend and I watching the Kenneth Branaugh version of Much Ado about Nothing several dozen times (No, I'm not exaggerating. We watched it several times a week all summer until we could recite almost the whole thing along with the actors...and started using code names for people around us based on the characters in the show. And yes, I was clearly a nerd but I don't attempt to deny it.)

I didn't think I'd like the tragedies. Or I didn't think I did. I'd heard too many high school peers complain about Romeo and Juliet and the idea of watching or reading about a story where everyone dies was not appealing. Then last year, I read Macbeth with a group and actually liked it. This year, we read Hamlet and I adored it (I also adored David Tennant as Hamlet but that's a different nerdy story). So I would have felt comfortable saying I love Shakespeare a couple months ago.

Early exposure is good but you can take this too far. Here Norah Jane demonstrates that 3 months is too early for Hamlet by sleeping right through it. 

But I think you don't truly know how much you like something until you get the opportunity to teach it, to your own kids or others. I was so excited about experience Lucy's first encounter with Shakespeare together. SO EXCITED! And that enthusiasm paid off I think.

I started us off by adding a passage of A Midsummer Night's Dream into our recitation (memory work). I won't lie, this part didn't go well at the very beginning. She's a perfectionist and ran from the room crying. And I had only read three lines! But I neglected a very important step with Lucy. When I say she's a perfectionist, I mean she is so to the 100th degree. I wish I could add that I don't know where she gets that trait because it is ALL ME. Sorry my child, if I could have picked a trait of mine to shield you from, that would have ranked way up there but alas, it is what it is. So whenever we do ANYTHING that she won't immediately be able to do (like every time we turn the page in our piano book, every time I introduce a new topic in math, etc), I have to do "the speech."

"The Speech" is my going over 1) what is the point of this? To learn! I don't expect you to know it now or we wouldn't have to take time to LEARN it. 2) Am I going to get mad if you don't do it right? NO! We just need to stay calm and be patient with ourselves so we can have fun and LEARN. I can say this speech now without even thinking about it. So can she :-) But it works.

So I went back, did "the speech" and she came back to the table. We talked a bit more about how people love how Shakespeare used words and that he did a really good job at using them to make his plays interesting and fun and to make you think but that they were like poems. And what do we know about poems? Lucy: "We sometimes have to listen to them more than once to understand!" (The poetry version of the "speech" that I have given her more than once as well). After that, things went just fine. We added a line every few days and I explained what it meant (with some help from How to Teach Your Child Shakespeare - a good resource although I don't follow his plan exactly). And whenever we started table time, she'd tell me, "Oh, can't we do Shakespeare before Bible? How about before our song?" while Jonah fussed - "No, we have to do them in the right order! That's not the right order!"

The next week, we started learning the story. AO Year 1 officially recommends Lambs or Nesbit's but our library has several of Bruce Coville's picture book versions of Shakespeare plays that I've heard at least one AO auxiliary member recommend so we will be using those when we can. Both kids enjoyed it a lot.

We also mixed up narrations a bit and had Lucy make paper dolls for each character. She colored them just like the picture book and I wrote the names on the back which helped us a lot when we were trying to figure out who was who (hermia vs. helena confused even me at times). So the first few days of reading, we only got one or two pages done because we'd stop with each description and make the doll. But after that it sped up and she was able to narrate quite well. I did insist that she not take the dolls away to play with until after we finished the book (they are currently on her bedside rain gutter bookshelf, right by her head).

That all would have been fun by itself but as luck would have it, Craig noticed that one of the library's in the city was having a showing of A Midsummer Night's Dream as a family event! So last Saturday, off we went.

Getting excited! No really, I know it doesn't really look like it but we are all really excited. 

I wasn't sure what to expect, quality-wise, but it turned out to be the educational tour of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and it was really great. I knew they were putting on A Midsummer Night's Dream for their summer's Shakespeare in the Park event and I had planned for us to go but had no idea they had an educational troupe that puts on a shortened kid friendly version of the year's play. I hope this can become a yearly event for us. We were all laughing out loud. Even Norah did pretty well. They kept the house lights on so she had lots of people to watch although she did cry at Bottom once. He was loud and a bit ass-like so it's only to be expected for her to be afraid. But the actors did a great job engaging the kid. At one point, a little boy in the back yelled out to Puck "That's the wrong guy!"

Lucy's reciting her second favorite Shakespeare memory selection

Lucy's already asked if we can go see it again - and I said, "Yes! This summer at the park!" And while she was doing her math this morning, I overheard her whispering to herself, "Lord, what fools these mortals be." Perhaps she was having trouble with her addition? And she's asked for a Shakespeare birthday party. I had already told her we weren't having a friends party this year but she told me she'd wait until she turned 7. I'm thinking maybe we could have a little celebration on April 23 to celebrate dear old William's birthday although I'm still racking my brain for what ti actually do for a children's Shakespeare party. But it sounds fun!

Getting to share something I love with my kids and seeing them love it too is one of my absolute favorite parts of homeschooling and parenting. Hmm, I guess this post is really about two things I love! We start our second play/story next week and I can't wait.


Making Matza through the ages

Some people are great at milestone pictures - all the kids in front of the Christmas tree, on mother's day and the 4th of July. Me, well, the only consistent picture I can seem to get off the kids each year is us making matza. Which is odd but now that I've gotten it 6 times, I'm determined to keep it up! I don't care if I have to shove three cranky teenagers into the kitchen twelve years from now, I will make matza with them, they will have their picture taken and they will be happy about it (or not).

This year:

Now, let's go back in time...
Last year (at the grandparents house)





Oh, the cuteness! I'm so glad I've got a baby in my arms right now or I'd be craving another one!

We did manage to get a somewhat decent shot after Saturday's Easter egg hunt at church.

And this is our Easter morning shot before church. We thought we'd try later but kids changed into play clothes about 30 seconds after we got inside so no luck. Ah well, at least we have our matza pictures.


Classic's Challenge - Miss Buncle's Book

I needed something a little lighter after Bleak House and this was perfect. This charming and quirky story is about a small village and the author who proceeds to turn it upside down, She doesn't mean to of course, its just that bills have to be paid and she doesn't want to raise chickens (although I don't know why not, we enjoy them so at our house) so she decided to write about what, or should I say, who, she knows. It made me laugh out loud. Really. It's not deep but it's gentle sarcastic, witty and fun.

Looking at the goodread's reviews before I decided on it, I saw several people compare it to Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and that's seems about right to me. It's what I expected the Miss Read books to be like before I actual got one of those and fell asleep every time I tried to read it. (Sorry Jan Karon, I like your books but not your recommendations apparently. Miss Read is not for me.)

It's the first of four novels about Miss Buncle and D.E. Stevenson was apparently quiet prolific but alas, this is the only one of hers my library has or I'd certainly be reading more when I need something undemanding. If you like charming English villages, little old ladies, cups of tea and a bit of gossip (only in the fictional world of course), I think you'll like this.

But speaking of "Old ladies," I just have to show you all something, This seems to be one of the original covers, or at least an older one.

That seems a bit harsh to poor Miss Buncle. I mean, yes, she is unmarried and maybe considered a bit of a spinster but I do believe the book put her at around late thirties or maybe early forties. But now the new cover...

that doesn't seem quite right either, does it? Even if the person on the cover could be late 30s, it definitely not who Miss Buncle is. So just don't judge this book its covers but what's in between them is pretty good.

Miss Buncle's Book is my Back to the Classics Challenge Classic by a Woman Author selection. Head over to Booksandchocolate for more info on the Classics Challenge.


Everything that is not dead nettle

While I've talked about how we aim to spend a lot of time outside, I don't want to give off the impression that that time is all, or even mostly spent on nature study. My goal right now is just to get outside. The kids do very little formal nature study. Even those great little examples Charlotte Mason books give about kids coming back with tidbits and the mother encouraging them to picture a scene in their minds and describe. Not happening. The kids come back to me all the time, that part is true, but its to complain about the wind or to ask me to wipe chicken poop off their shoes or rinse sand from their waterbottles (even though I was pretty sure I told them not to take it into the sandbox to begin with) or to beg me to unlock the shed so they can find the "digger for shoveling."

And I'm okay with that for the most part. Every once in a while I feel that worry creep in - shouldn't I be doing more. Maybe I should pick a lesson from HONS and try and work through it with them so I could have something more to write down or check off. But I know at their ages, it would only be an added stress. So I try to keep on my path and remind myself that will come in time. Especially if I keep modeling my own interest in what I see. Which I do but even that can be discouraging sometimes because I feel like I know so little about even the plants and birds in my own back yard! But yesterday I got a glimpse of the ideal, one of those magical moments I wish I could bottle and I need to record it so I can look back and remember next time I need it.

This link was shared on the AO facebook group a week or so ago and it caught my eye because one of the few plants I have been able to identify in my yard without help was when I found "dead nettle" last year. Except, that link showed me that there are two other plants similar to dead nettle. So I had Lucy run out and collect some of what I had been telling her was dead nettle and with that link, and a bit of help from Craig (he is much better at plants than me!), it was officially declared to be ground ivy. Outwardly, I used it as an opportunity to show Lucy that its okay to make mistakes, we just keep learning. Inwardly, I was a bit disappointed. I thought I knew three plants in our yard (clover and dandelion being the other two :-) and I got one of those wrong! I was somewhat appeased that the title of that post said they were easily mixed up plants but only slightly.

Her pensive face?

But then yesterday we were playing outside and she ran over with a clump of something and yelled "Mom, it's not ground clover! But it's similar. Maybe this one is dead nettle. Can we write it?" (I do not know why my children continue to confuse the words draw and write but it happens 75% of the time).

Before I even went back to that link, we sat down and drew them and tried to find all the differences. Jonah drew too but I think he drew a robot dog. He's still not quite getting the point of drawing in the yard but that's the joy of being three years old.

  Our work. Hers is much better for her age than mine but I'm happy with both results. 

I transcribed for Lucy but she came up with the descriptions herself. Her drawings don't fully illustrate it but she did an amazing job at finding the differences. Even though neither of us knew how to correctly describe the differences in the leaf attachments or shapes, we were able to see them at least. Then I went back and read her some of the descriptions from that link I mentioned to see what she thought. She was pretty sure the new one was henbit (and I'm pretty sure she's right). She also guessed that it was called that because hens like to eat it and a little internet research proved her right. Our self experimentation on that subject proved inconclusive as chickens don't like to be chased even if you have something edible in your hand and are trying to give it to them. They just don't understand the nature study.

But she does. And together we are learning. Yay us!


A Mother's Daybook - March 16

Getting - Caught up on life! With the exemption of a bit of daylight savings time woes (arg you daylight savings time! Every year I think, it won't be that bad, it's just an hour and then, no, it is that bad.) But I finally feel like we are starting to get back into our normal routine again. I love normal. It's so nice. I've been wanting to do another "day in the life" post but wanted to it to be at least somewhat reflective of our life. Of course, Easter is quickly approaching and last year's was pretty basic with the morning sickness all day every day thing and I really want to make this year's a bit more special so I probably should start at least thinking about that. Ahh, normal. Why do you never stick around long?

Enjoying - Sleep. Norah Jane just went through the oh-so-lovely 4 month sleep regression but unlike the other two, it seems to actually have been a phase and not the beginning of months of sleeplessness. She's still gets up a couple times to eat but is back to falling sleep on her own most nights and then sleeping a good chunk. And as long as we are home (and Jonah doesn't have a tantrum in the middle of it), she takes at least one good long nap in her co-sleeper every day. Easy babies are so, well, easy. And I'm glad we didn't have to move her bedtime too much earlier. I love having a bit of time with just her after the other two go to sleep. If she didn't start sleeping more, that was what I was going to try next. I'm not keeping her up to midnight or anything but the big kids go down between 7-7:30 so even an 8:30 baby bedtime gives us an hour to play and snuggle without interruptions.

Listening to - The Mulan soundtrack over and over and over again. Both kids, but especially Jonah, are obsessed. They aren't bad songs but there are really only four songs with words from the movie (the kids reject the weird 98 degrees song that is on the soundtrack but not in the movie). Four short songs. Which means if they want to listen to it for an hour, we hear each song 4-5 times. I feel like Donny Osmond is in my head all day long! But while I am getting a big sick of the songs, I think it will be a while before I get tired of watching Jonah "dance" to them. His dancing is basically running around making ninja arms and sidewards glance while yelling "I'll make a man outta YOU!" It's hilarious.

Watching - Once Upon A Time. Craig and I needed a new show since we've finished all of Doctor Who. We started this while we were sick and desperate and I like it. It's really different. But what I think I like more than that the show itself is having a show so we don't have to make a decision. I really hate the "Let's watch something, but what?" conversation. I don't always know what I want to do on a Friday night but I know it involves not making decisions about things.

Preparing - Copywork. Lucy's just finished up her first getty dubay handwriting book this week and I think we're ready to move to copywork. But now I have to think of copywork. I only want to give her 8-10 letters at a time so she can focus on making them very nice. I've noticed if I give her more, she does it without complaint but starts rushing. Anyone got any fun words or phrases that use less than 10 characters? I'm thinking we'll start with the names of everyone in the family but what then?

Enjoying - Spring! We were outside almost 5 hours yesterday. We just passed the 70 hr mark on my log which is good for winter but I'm really looking forward to seeing that number increase a little faster. And on a less reward orientation note, we've been able to add several things to our calendar of firsts. This spring seems to be about the same as last year but several weeks ahead of 2014.  Again, morning sickness last year meant not much got written down so this is really the first year we've been able to look at the past and see how things compare. I did notice that the next 2014 event to occur was the first tick. Now that we have the chickens, we don't have nearly the tick problem we used to so I'm hoping we can hold that off for another several months. But after that should be our tulips and those are a favorite. The kids are checking them each day and keeping my appraised on their growth.

I am dealing with a odd issue concerning Jonah and wind. He seems to be very worried that he will blow away. Everytime its gets windy, he starts to cry and scream to go inside because "I'm gonna blow away, help me!"I waffle back and forth between comforting because I know he's really scared and annoyed because he won't believe me when I promise him he won't.  I know Mr. Rogers had a segment on not going down the drain but blowing away is new to me. Any more experienced mom's have a tip for that one?


Norah @ 5 Months

Dear Norah,

You are 5 months old today! This has been a rough month for our family with sickness and stuff and I barely took any pictures. But you've managed to get through it was such a happy attitude so the few I took are good ones. You've finally decided to be a smiley baby and I'm so glad because I love your smile.

When you aren't smiling, you normally have someone's hands in your mouth (preferable who ever is holding you but you own will do if they have to)

or you are biting your lower lip. Both looks are cute on you. I love your expressions. Especially how expressive your "eyebrows" can be when they are practically non-existent.

You've started to really push up off your belly and Lucy and Jonah get so excited to see you (she's close to crawling mom! She'll do it soon!) and I would swear you know it so smile more and go up and down just to see their reaction. And you manage to scoot around pretty well. It's all a bit random still but I have to keep an eye on your because even if I leave you on the middle of the carpet, you'll often work yourself over to a corner or get stuck under a chair.

You're also getting pretty good at sitting up. You need a bit of help but you love to sit on a lap. You also love to bouncy. After my arms were wearing out, I pulled out the door jumper a few days ago and it's a hit. Especially when Lucy and Jonah are playing nearby. They have both figured out how to make you laugh which is fun. And now they insist on giving you a hug and a kiss before they will go to bed - which is tricky if you are taking your pre-bedtime cat nap. 

Sitting up so well means that you can join us at the table in your highchair now. You don't get food yet but plastic spoons are fun to play with and you just like being a big kid. I love watching you grab things and figure stuff out. It's like I can see your brain growing. You are a fan of people watching in general. You just want to see what everyone is up to all the time. Sometimes when you are on my lap, it's hard to keep you still because you want to see in all directions.

Sleep this month was a bit rough but things are looking up again, especially with naps. But you've started sleeping with your bum all tucked up in the air. The cuteness of that never gets old.

Oh baby girl, we love you so!


Breezeway Stage 3 - Progress

We've slowly been working on the breezeway and it's starting to look pretty good. Just to recap - here is what we started with (kinda - this was after the new door and trim removal).

Since then, I've put up a second update. Since then we've added a drying rack. It's pretty low but I wanted the kids to be able to use it themselves. They can. If they will remains to be seen...

We also added a shoe bench and cabinet. Yep, this breezeway is pretty much all Ikea, all the time.

The shoe cabinet was our most recent addition and it really helps control the clutter. I'm pretty strict about shoes. The kids really get one pair of play shoes per season but add in rain/snow boots in the winter and sandals in the summer plus and church shoes for Lucy and suddenly, it's tiny shoes everywhere! And our precious organization method of "toss everything in a rubbermaid tote" was not helping.

Some smaller updates include Craig's replacing the broken screen door handle so it doesn't bang everytime the wind blows (Yay!) and installing a sensor light on the screen door. The breezeway has a light but the switch is inside the house which means if you came home and the light is off, you had to find your keys in the dark. Not fun. Oh, and we got a new doorbell. It can play about 20 different songs which seemed fun but I ended up picking the generic ding-dong. I feel like that says something about my personality but I'm not sure I want to think about it too much.

  • added door between breezeway and garage
  • removed weird angled trim
  • took the texture off the ceiling
  • primed everything
  • painted ceiling and trim white
  • painted walls gray
  • Added door trim and caulked it
  • tiled floor
  • Switched out the black and transparent gold light switch and outlet for white ones. 
  • Replaced pineapple light fixture with simple one
  • installed shelves and coat hooks
  • installed drop down drying rack 
  • added shoe bench 
  • added shoe cabinet/storage
  • replaced broken screen door handle
  • installed sensor light to door
  • replaced doorbell
  • Find recycling containers. None of the ones I see are big enough. We have a lot of recycling, especially paper. I guess we could take it out more often since the paper recycling bin is in our church parking lot but its enough to get us all dressed and to church without worrying about that every week too. I'll keep searching. 
  • The doors. With four in this room, it isn't surprising they take up a substantial portion of the work. I want to paint the new door aqua/teal, and get a new door into the house (with a number keypad - my dream!)
  • Some more color in the form of art on the walls. I'm all about printables after searching for gallery wall art and since the free part of that really suits my budget, I'm guessing that's what I'll end up with. Maybe a pineapple to honor the previous light fixture?
  • Figure out how to take a decent picture of this tiny space!
Getting so close to being done! The art might happen sometime soon. The other things probably won't. But right now this room is really functional and as recently as last June it was a total mess. Baby steps really do make progress.