Braving It

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time at all, you'll know that getting my kids into nature has been a priority these past few years. And I'm happy to say, it is getting easier and easier as we build the habit of spending lots of time in nature.

Right now, a lot of our outdoor time is spent playing in the sandbox and building mud pies but we do hike and I do hope that our habit of spending time outside together continues as the kids grow. That's one think I love about hiking and camping as a hobby. It can grow with us. So I was quite interested in reading Braving It, a memoir about a father and his teenage daughter's trips into the Alaskan wilderness together. 

I'm finding it harder to write about my kids on the blog as they get older. Finding the balance between protecting them and sharing my thoughts is difficult, especially as parents since we naturally see both the best and worst of our kids. I imagine writing a book about one's teenager to be on a whole different level. But Campbell does a great job; His relationship with Aidan is relatable and realistic, just as his portrayal of her seems to be. I enjoyed his perspective on parenting. And it just got me thinking a lot about what I hope my kids and I can do when we reach that stage of parenting.

I don't think month long treks in Alaska are on our agenda but I do hope we can do some bigger trips later on, you know, whenever we don't have to take a little potty with us everywhere. But there are two parts to that, the nature side and the relational. The afternoons spent in our backyard and getting us consistently out for 1 miles hikes weekly will hopefully lead to longer hikes and camping trips. And I hope the independence, respect and trust we are attempting to install now leads to the ability to entrust them with bigger opportunities when they are teens. And after a couple very trying weeks with a certain threenager in my life, a good dose of longer-term thinking was very welcome.

Those were the sorts of ideas I was hoping this book would contain and it did. As my first Blogging for Books review I was a bit worried I wouldn't like it but I didn't even get out of the intro before Campbell had mentioned Wendell Berry and the Socratic Method and at that point, I knew I was in good hands. (I know, I don't really like Wendell Berry. It's true. But I've learned that I do like people who like Wendell Berry). So if that was all I got out of the book, I would have been quite satisfied.

There was also a theme of Fernwah, an anti-homesickness, wanderlust-esque feeling of longing to go, to explore, to be elsewhere, that really resonated with me. As a military brat and an adult third-culture kid, I've been struggling with that lately. We've lived in this area for over six years now. Which to most people makes me a newbie, but to me means I've been here twice as long as I've lived everywhere else, three times as long as I've ever lived anywhere without moving. The Fernwah, I'm feeling it. Mine has a less wild, more cultural twist but I immediately knew what he was talking about. 

But how to resolve those feelings and my desire to be in a community? And if I do decide to indulge the explorer side of my, will I just be creating this same issue for my kids? Will they be happy to have be TCK's (as I am) or will they struggle with the side-effects of a nomadic childhood (like I am). There aren't any easy answers and Braving It is a light hearted memoir so it doesn't pretend to have them but it was refreshing to hear those same questions being asked by others. 

Perhaps I'll just try to appease my TCK side by reading memoirs like this of others exploring the world. The vivid descriptions of the scenes and emotions Aiden and her dad experienced are not going to be the same on paper as they must have been in person but they were still lovely. I felt like I was getting as up close and personal of a ride-along as I could, while still being able to snuggled up on my couch with a blanket, some ice cream and a real bathroom within walking distance. That's a nice combo.

So to recap, I really enjoyed Braving It and have already snuck it over to Craig's to-read pile so I can have someone to talk to about it. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


Dear Lucy, You're six!

Dear Lucy,

I can't believe you are six years old. And I am loving this stage right now. You are so much fun. It's the best of both worlds. You are getting bigger and have such great thoughts and ideas and we can have great conversations. You love history and learning about other cultures and how things work and are soaking it all in. You love Shakespeare and poetry and history and all sorts of lovely things. It's hard to believe you're my little girl. Despite the fact that when we measured you this morning, you had hit four feet!

But you are my little girl. And the little is still there. You love to color with me and play dress-up. Today you went to the grocery story in your Snow White outfit. You're old enough to want to be pretty and to have opinions about clothes and hair and things but not old enough to care what other people think. I love it!

You love to pretend still. Princess or history games dominate your play, inside and out. A few days ago I watched you spoon mud "chutney" into jars and seal them with "hog bladders" made from leaves then you danced around the yard singing princess songs. You also love doll play and are often teaching your dolls things. You love words and music and are almost always singing or reciting something or talking to yourself and explaining things to your dolls...when you aren't asking me questions, that is.

You love school and make my job so much fun. It's hard to say whats your favorite subjects are because there really isn't one you don't like. Piano is a favorite but it is also your hardest because you worry when you don't know something and your always learning something new but you've gotten so much better about being patient with yourself. I see you start to get frustrated than calm yourself down. I'm glad you are learning good hand positions and note reading but watching you try and grow your self-control is worth ten times that much.

Overall, I've seen so much growth in your character this past year, especially these past few months. We had a bit of a rough patch a few months ago but once those molars come in, you became a joy to be around (again). You're caring and sweet with Norah and Jonah and really try to be patient with them both (especially Jonah who is all boy and all three and makes this hard on you). But you're quick to forgive and go back to being best friends with him. And you've started to make some little girl friends and really enjoy playing with others too. You still in your own world a good deal and will happily play in it by yourself but are also developing empathy and this understanding that there is a different perspective than yours and will sometimes choose to come out and join everyone else. Watching you grow is such a joy and I can't wait to see what this next year brings!


Lucy's Birthday Interview

What is your favorite color? Pink

What is your favorite toy? Samantha 

What is your favorite game? Enchanted Forest

What is your favorite song? The Star Spangled Banner

What is your favorite animal? Two actually, well, my favorite home animal is bunny... and kitty. My favorite farm animal is horse. 

What is your favorite book? My favorite chapter book is Laura and Mary (Little House on the Prairie) but my favorite regular book is firebird.

What do you like to snuggle with at night? That is a very big question. - My lovies (green blanket, owl blanket, baby owl, horsey, tiger)

What is your favorite movie? Aladdin

What is your favorite thing to eat? Our dinner tonight (White Chicken Chili) and pizza

Where is your favorite place to go? Playground

What is your favorite outfit? My Pocahontas dress (its a Hanna Andersson dress that has fluttery sleeves and different colors and isn't really anything like Pocahontas would wear but that's what she calls it)

What do you like to learn about? History. Things that happened a long time ago. 

What have you learned in the last year? I forgot. Shakespeare and clocks.

What is hard for you? Math puzzles and circle math (circle math is what she calls two part equations.  When we solve the first part, she puts the answer in a circle so she can remember it while she works on the second part)

What is your favorite thing to do as a family? Go to another state and visit people in our family.

What do you like about Mommy? She makes good breakfast.

What do you like about Daddy? He plays with me.

What do you like about Jonah?  He makes a good friend.

What do you like about Norah? She is happy and she likes to be played with. 

What do you like about yourself? I am pretty.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Take care of horses. 


Things I love: Quality Tools

I'm a pretty frugal person but I do like to have nice quality tools. Especially ones I'm using often. Although I'm learning that I don't always even realize how much it can negatively impact me when I have to do a job with a sub-par too until I get a good one. Then I kick myself for waiting for long to upgrade.

Last week my dustpan broke. It had a tiny crack for several months that made it a pain to use and I every time I would use it, I would tell myself to add it to to my shopping list but then by the time I finished sweeping, I'd be on to another task and never remember. But the little crack became a big crack on a day that I just happened to need a few more dollars in my amazon cart to get to free shipping. So I got this one.

I love it! Even Lucy, who's morning chore is to sweep under our kitchen table, was excited about it. A dustpan has to be pretty darn good if a 5 year old starts raving about it. But she doesn't need my help to use it so it really makes our mornings run smoother. And since I do quite a bit of sweeping with a baby on my back, it makes my life a lot easier too. Best $15 I've spent in a while.

Another tool I love - my can opener. We had really bad luck with can openers. I've tried electric ones and hand ones, more expensive ones like the kitchen aid and super cheap ones that we really only had to keep in our emergency supply kit. One time we got a new one and it only opened 2 cans before it broke! 2 cans! I'd look at reviews and moan. I don't have high expectations from my can opener. It doesn't need to be any particular color or look fancy or do anything other than - open cans. I was about to try the pampered chef can opener even though it is a bit pricey and I had heard mixed reviews. But I was also getting desperate.

Then back in February, we went on our impromptu road trip and I commented on my aunt and uncles' can opener and then got me one as a present before I left. It's a  Swing-A-Way. It's amazing. It opens cans! Easily! Like cutting through butter. In this case, it wasn't that we needed to spend more money for a better tool, we just needed to find the right one. Now we have an we can sleep easy knowing that chili or peaches and cottage cheese are just a twist away.

Next tool I need to upgrade is my pencil sharpener. I owed these little metal ones and they are great. I lost both of mine recently but will order new ones because they are great for packing with our nature/art kit or for keeping in my little pencil box for on-the-go schooling. But now that we are doing first grade, even without a ton of hand writing, we go through pencils fast. And I'm tired of having to sharpened everyone's pencils. So time to upgrade to a bigger, better, faster daily use pencil sharpener. But which one?

A classic old-school wall mounted one is a top contender. So is this "Best Pencil Sharpener" which I've seen recommended by several people in homeschooling circles. Do you have a favorite? Please let me know because I have our big armoire/office full of paperwork, school supplies and manipulatives to clean out and re-organize and I need some motivation so I've decided that a pencil sharpener will be my reward!

PS - Those aren't amazon affiliate links. Just plain ol' links so you know what I'm talking about.


Classics Challenge: Brideshead Revisisted

Look at me! I finished it! And relatively quickly. I knew if I lost steam, I would give up. And by the end I was actually enjoying it.

 I was originally curious about this book because I seemed to be getting two vastly different views on it from outside sources. The first group thinks its a great book that show characters of all sexual orientations. It's that 1920s world that sensual and deep and dark and artsy and rich. You can practically see the cigarette smoke eminating from the cover. Who wouldn't want to join Charles Ryder as he gets thrown into the  elite world of the Flytes?

And then there is it's inclusion on the Ambleside Online highschool curriculum list and Andrew Kern's recommendation, which was really my main inspiration to put it on my reading goals list several years ago. It's even on the Circe's list of 11 Novels every Christian should read. I mean, are these people reading the same book? I'll be honest, it wasn't it inclusion on Time/Newsweek/Modern Library's top 100 books list that finally got me to pick it up, nope. It was that question. Curiousity got the girl to read the classic. That's how that quote goes, right?

And now I see what happens. The first set think its a great book with a kinda random crappy ending. Or they get that its really about religion, not sex, and come away with the idea that its the world's worst Catholic apologetic. The second type of person thinks its a rough start (in terms of actions within the book, not the writing itself) to a book with a good ending. I'm of the later set. I made myself read a chapter every night until I was engaged. And it did take a while. For a couple days I was wondering why I was just stuck reading about these vapid people. I mean, even Ryder doesn't care about (most of?) them really. By the last third though, I finally was draw in and could start to see the point. I still didn't particularly care about any of the characters, which is why I wasn't bothered too much by the lack of wrap-up in areas, but I think that in and of itself is part of the book.

I try not to include spoilers in my reviews so I can't say much more, and even if I did, I'm not sure if I even could but it's left me with a bit to think about. I was right in that it really isn't my type of book and I'm sure I would have gotten more out of it if it was. And I don't think I'll ever read it again, unless perhaps  I feel like I need to for high school discussion with the kids way down the road. But I'm glad I read it.

Actually, I said above that there were two groups but there is another. The third group doesn't like the stuff in the first category but fails to see stuff in the third so bans it. Which is kinda throwing the baby out with the bath water. Yes, some characters are obviously homosexual. And some are debatable bi-sexual. So I wouldn't hand it to my twelve year old. But I hardly think one with a good handle on classic literature and other things beautiful and true would read the book to the end and think, "Wow, here are some people I'd like to emulate!" But it was banned which makes it perfect for my Banned Book Selection in the Back to the Classics Challenge!


A Mother's Daybook - May 22

Ready for - Term 2! We start tomorrow. I was going to start next week and had lots of extra fun plans ready for our last week but we have to be home tomorrow to meet a plumber and the weather report for the rest of the week looks to be nothing but thunderstorms so...we'll just have fun with school instead! Insert tongue sticking out emoji here.

And I think we are all ready. Makes me laugh to read all the end-of-year blog posts when I'm ready to get going again and am really excited about all our new artist and composer and the fun folks songs that I picked out so the break did us good. That's the beauty of homeschooling. Although I am ready for extra curricular stuff to end. We finished up tumbling a few weeks ago and have our American Heritage Girls banquet this week so Lucy will be done with everything, I helped put on our church's women spring brunch this past Saturday so I just have one more women's steering event of the year and it is prep-free! We don't do a ton outside the home and those are well thought out but the break is nice too. I'm such a classic introvert it isn't even funny.

Reading - My first blogging for books book! And I'm enjoying it a lot. I'm so glad. I don't mind giving a bad review if it's a true reflection of what I think about the book, I have before, although those authors are often dead which makes it easier, but it would be a killjoy to start off with a negative review. So look for that soon-ish. Although I also have a back to the classic review to finish. I can't seem to write my review posts with kids in the room the same way I can these Mother's Daybooks. It hurts my brain.

Looking for - My blogging mojo. I miss writing consistently. And it bothers me that I don't get to do the review and editing that I'd like but if I do, I'd never post anything! I don't think most of y'all are judging my posts harshly so I'm not sure why it bothers me so much, but it does. And even when I do get time to write, so often it feels rushed. Not sure what to do about that but it is what it is.

Feeling - Sentimental. Lucy will be six in a couple days. How did this happen? That's one blog post that won't be hard to write. Lucy has grown so much this last year and I never have problems bragging on my kids but I'd better not even get started with that or this post won't get finished ;-)

Thinking - Up some read-aloud options for DH. I normally do one chapter of a read-aloud at naptime and at bed (in addition to picture books) before Craig takes over with bible time but Norah's bedtime is shifting. He'll take over read-aloud at bedtime now and I need some really dad friendly read-alouds for the 4-6 age range as we switch to a divide and conquer bedtime routine. I feel like we've done a lot of the obvious ones (little house, eb white books, etc) and most of the ones I've got on my list are a bit on the girly side. I mean, both kids are enjoying Betsy, Tacy and Tib but I don't think the next in the series is really on Craig's "must read" list, you know? And parental enthusiasm counts for a lot in reading aloud. We are going to try The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and I think it will either be a big hit or it will be too intense and nobody will get a good night's sleep. But if you have any good dad reads, please share!


The family that plays together...

I said our May break was going to be sewing month and while my joint pain is slowing me down a bit (I can cut out an outfit a day or sew one, but not both it seems), I've still managed to get quite a bit done.

My main goal was to get a few more shirts for Jonah done. If I had a picture of his wardrobe it would show, on the right are all the nice, colorful shirts he has that he refuses to wear. On the left are the ones I handmade, all using the same pattern, Brindille and Twig Raglan in short sleeve version, and the same two colors of Target knit sheets (grey and black). Nothing else will do. He even separates them like that so he doesn't even have to bother looking at the ones he doesn't like. Little stinker.

And on Sunday when I insist he wear a collared shirt to church, he'll wear one of these underneath it and take off the church shirt as soon as he gets home. He does let me use fabric paint to fancy them up a bit. So he's got a black rocket ship shirt, a black and grey wild thing shirt (version 2 since the original was getting small), a black and grey kit (baby fox) shirt....I'm really regretting buying those navy blue sandals last summer. He'll wear them, but not anything that actually matches them! Oh well, life is too short to worry about a non-matching three year old.

I also made him one pair of shorts in black too, and cut off some of his growing-too-short pants into shorts. I need to find some fun fabric for shorts he likes though because the all grey/black wardrobe is a bit emo for a preschooler. I love cold days because he has to wear pants and at least I can get some khaki in there to lighten it up. I am enjoying his having more that two shirts he will wear though. I like to stay caught up on laundry but having to do a colors load every other day was a bit much.

But the fun set was these "family team" shirts the kids wanted. Because, as Lucy said, "We are a family, that's like a team, so we need to have family team shirts" They wanted matching designs and after much deliberation, went with the "kit" theme. Then I surprised them with the ones for their dolls too. I had planned to put their birth order numbers on the back  but I ran out of fabric paint and they didn't want to wait to wear them. I might go back and add them but in all likelihood, it will never happen. They are still super cute though! And they love to match. I put Norah's on her this morning and when the the big kids saw it, they ran off to get theirs and redress their dolls to match. And then they all cooperated while I took a picture!

All Brindille and Twig Raglan tee pattern. Lucy in Size 6 (slightly extended plus curved bottom added so hers is more of a tunic), Jonah in size 3-4, Norah in size 12-18 month, and the dolls are printed at 70% scale, then use size 3-6 month.


Norah @ 7 months

7 months! We made it! It's been a rough month. Since your six month update you have learned to crawl and pull-up and climb. And with that has come a lot of falling. A lot of crying. A few cuts and even more bruises. More crying.

You also got your first tooth. Overall, the teething wasn't bad, you just wanted to bite stuff all the time. Not teething toys, that would be too easy, but things like your own fingers (cue more tears!) or my shoulder or leg. And the drool. I put that shirt on for the above picture, immediately took you downstairs for the picture and two minutes later, it was already all drenched. I suppose that means your 7 month picture is indeed an accurate representation of you this month. Except that you are sitting still, the pictures after this are you lunging forward and flinging yourself down from the chair.

Naps and bedtime haven't been the easiest this month either, you've almost dropped your third nap but sometimes you get confused and just decide bedtime was actually a nap so when 9pm rolls around, you're up and ready to party! As I said - a rough month.

But it hasn't all been bad. You've started solids and you love them! So much! Like, if you don't get food fast enough at the table, you just start banging and banging until it magically arrives.

Foods you love: brocolli, carrots, sweet potatoes, black beans, chicken bits, cheerios, puffs, banana, ground beef (plain AND with taco seasoning), oranges, strawberries, melon, dirt, leaves, grass, that peanut butter chocolate chip muffin you snatched from my hand last week and shoved in your mouth. Since you are much more demanding about foods than your siblings were, you've even gotten some puree and you love that too. You insist on handing the spoon yourself so its pretty messy but prunes, squash, beets.

Foods you don't like: Eggs, in any form. I tried again today and you just threw them all down on the ground and started banging for something else. They were replaced by orange slices and cheerios and the banging stopped.

You also did great on your first camping trip and first trip to the zoo. You love to play outside and I like it too because there is less stuff around for you to pull up (and fall off) of.  Just dirt to eat.

You're siblings have learned that you can now figure out how to follow them which is fun when they want to play (and not as much fun when they don't) but I can often hear, "Come on Norah, come on, follow me". It's makes you seem a bit like a puppy and in fact, they do  sometimes decide that you are the baby goat/puppy/kitty/chick in their games. You are such a good sport about going along with it :-) And sometimes if you in the mood you will even come when they call from another room. They love that and think you are so smart (which is true!). Jonah has taken to calling your "Norah Janey" which actually sounds like "Norah Naney" and is pretty cute.

I thought I'd ask them what you like to do these days and this is what they said:

Lucy: She likes to play with feet and she really likes to swing while I run to her fast.

Jonah: She likes to laugh and smile and cry.

You also like to make great faces. It's not really possible to capture them on camera but we keep trying. Mostly, the scrunch face. It cracks us all up everytime.

So, overall, you're still pretty great and I think we'll keep you are for a while longer. Just let's work on sleeping and not biting, okay.


Classics Challenge: Utopia

Oh, Utopia. This is a hard book for me to rate/review. I guess it all depends on the questions I'm asking and what I'm rating it on:

On how much I enjoyed it? 2 stars
On how much it made me think through the ideas it presented? 4 stars
Oh how well written it was? Uhm. I give up. Rating is not fun.

You could probably guess some of my views on this book if you've noticed which Classics Challenge category I put this book in. It's not really science fiction but, at least from my point of view, it is Dystopian. The category itself was quite an interesting part of this read for me. I tried to keep an open mind but I didn't go into this thinking this would become my new favorite book and as I was reading, I was pretty much constantly evaluating whether it would fit this category. Which was fun!  I had anticipated disagreeing more on the practicality and ability for this "ideal" government to actually work, I wasn't expecting to disagree so much with what the ideal was. So not only did I not have to find a new pick for this category, I ended up thinking this book was more dystopian than I planned! Despite how "tempting" More tries to make it sounds, I have absolutely no desire to live there!

It was also much less narrative than I expected. It starts out with a story but the majority of the book is just a flat out description of the country and how it works. Which sounds kinda boring but I found interesting, albeit infuriating at times. I didn't agree with much of it but that doesn't necessarily mean I can't enjoy it and I read it along with a group of wonderful women who really brought a lot of insight. But I felt what can only be described as a sense of whiplash.

Utopians value all people equally and think everyone deserves to be taken care of, just not the slaves. Or the foreigners who are willing to fight for thm which is nice but its even nicer when they die because they think overall the world has been improved by their death. Or when someone reaches the point where they have "outlived themselves" and are encouraged to commit suicide by starvation or opium.

Utopians don't judge by physical looks. If one does it is a sign of lowness in the judger not the judged. Except when people are about to become engaged, then they have them look at each other naked to see if there are defects. And if someone doesn't perserve their natural beauty, they look on it as a sign of a sluggish mind. But otherwise, looks don't matter.

They don't go to war except for ...insert whole list of reasons.

Now, some of this might have been cleared up if I knew if/how much of it was it written seriously as a blueprint for an ideal government (as some people have thought) or somewhat sarcastically to illustrate the ridiculousness of certain governments. I generally don't like satirical writings (I disliked 10 ways to destroy the imagination of your child even though I think the author and I would agree on much) but I felt like this was partly both which was confusing. At least pick one and commit! Or maybe it was all truly what More thought would be ideal. If so, yikes!

Now if it had been written today, I probably would have assumed it was supposed to taken at face value, but I expect more from More. Mostly, that basic understanding of humans that I've come to conclude our current society lacks. And there is a tone there that really seems to scream satire - but only sometimes. So basically, my thoughts were - "What are you trying to say, More!?" Since that was unclear, I was quite frustrated. I might have even given up out of annoyance if I wasn't able to discuss both options, section by section, with others, and explore what the satire was trying to say and whether his ideas had merit.
So, this ended up being a book I loved to hate. I'm glad I read it. I'll probably make my kids read it (its a Ambleside Online year 8 selection) and then maybe we can all love to hate it together. The family that reads together, stays together...unlike in Utopia, where children are removed from a "more fruitful couple" to others to ensure that all "families" stay between 10-16 people.

Utopia was my Sci-fiction, Fantasy or Dystopian Classic selection as part of Books and Chocolate's Back to the Classics Challenge. 


A Mother's Daybook - May 9 (AKA - The we are obviously not vegan edition)

Watching - Victorian Farm.  It's a BBC miniseries in which one historian and two archeologists show us what it would take to live in and run a farm in the victorian time period for a year. I started late one night when Craig was out ubering but after an episode and a half decided the kids could join me. It's been a very busy week for Craig so I've had mostly solo bedtimes and I've found that 30 minutes of a show between pajamas/tooth brushing/bedtime stories and actually going to bed is a great motivator for getting those first things done without whining and dawdling when I've got no back-up.

They've really enjoyed watching it with me and have started playing a pretend version of "the old farm" in our backyard. Jonah is always quick to clarify "I'm Alex." Lucy is Ruth Goodman. I was a bit worried at some of the animal "loses" but despite both Lucy and Jonah normally being soft-hearted, animal-loving kids, they've taken it all in stride and Jonah now wants to "get a pig and cut it up" or, at the very least, some rabbits. Lucy is convinced I can easily manage to make a fidget pie and kept asking me why I was cringing when she was scooping out the eyeball. But its been great fun and we've had lots of good discussions about all sorts of topics. I think my favorite is when they built a fence on the show. Craig has been hard at work finishing ours but now the kids think his job was super easy because he just bought the pieces at home depot and is putting them together. He didn't even have to fell any trees himself, let alone saw it up or use a horse to pull it out of the forest! And not to put down Craig's hard work but, it is true.

We've got two more episodes of this one but I think we'll try Edwardian Farm next. Secrets of the Castle looks fun too but I'll have to check it out a bit to see if it is kid friendly.

Reading - Brideshead Revisisted. I'm putting that out there because I just started it and I'm anticipating it being the most difficult classic on my reading list this year. Not in terms of reading level but motivation and enjoyment level. I made a bad decision and also picked up a Peter Wimsey mystery at the same time and it keeps calling my name whenever I pick up B.R.  So if you don't see a write-up about in the next month, nag me please :-)

Can't get much more fun than rolling down the hill - at least if you are under 6. They invited me to join in but I only lasted one trip.  

Working on - All the outdoor stuff, all the time. The projects are multiplying. But the end is near. Well, not the end, but a slight lull in activity. It would be easier to get things checked off my to-do list if I didn't have to re-do them (I'm looking at you, chickens who un-plant my garden! You are getting older and slowing down a bit in the laying department so the only thing keeping you out of the pot is the fact that you all have names but I'd watch out if I were you!) but at least we are getting outside a lot during our break time.

We've added new plants to the front, planted almost all our veggies, and finished fencing in the yard. Craig has done the bulk of it because I've got so many helpers. I can't complain about my "helpers" because I might have a tendency to "help" the same way. Last week Craig had several evening events and was trying to finish the fence in the few minutes between coming home and leaving again so I thoughts I'd mow a bit while he was at work only to somehow catch the chute on a branch so that it broke off, fell under the mower and got chopped up. I've ordered a new chute and its on its way but until then Craig has to use a bag and empty it. So much for helping. I think I'll stick to watering the plants this week.

I don't need to hold on, do I, mom? Oh, I do? Too late!

Surviving - Tears. Oh, the tears we have had this week. Norah has decided she is only 100% happy when she is standing up. Since we live in a house with gravity, this is problematic.

Setting up - A Roly-Poly farm. Jonah loves pill bugs and they are one of the few creepy crawly critters I actually like. So after some tears (yes, more tears, it's contagious I guess) because Jonah's little friends kept getting killed by his kindness, I got them some containers so they could set up homes. Actually, he doesn't really mind if they are dead, he still plays with them, but once they are dead they tend to fall apart and then he gets upset. Of course, by the time they got their containers, their little fellows (ladies?) had left them. More tears. But now our homes are ready so tomorrow we can find more and hopefully get them situated before any other calamities occur. I've heard they are fairly easy to keep alive but even if that doesn't appear to be the case, at least we can easily get replacements.

First attempt with soft pastels. Messy but fun!

Learning - School's on a break but the learning doesn't stop. We've had extra time outside but also a fair number of rainy days so we've had time for some extra art, read-alouds and buddy reading. Lucy seems to have stalled with reading (which I know is normal) so she and I are working our way through some of the picture books on our shelf together to build up a little stamina while keeping the enjoyment level high. It helps that Jonah likes to listen in and is completely impressed every time she finishes a page ("You read that whole page! And another one!").

So, my lazy month hasn't turned out to be very lazy but fun is being had so I can't complain!


Thoughts on Term 1

Thoughts on Lucy's first term

 Not at all bad for just an hour a day, 3-4 days a week. I think she did really great. She is turning 6 soon so technically I started too early. I knew this and went back and forth because I did have my reasons but then again, so did CM and the people who said year 1 was written for a 6 year old. Maybe someday I'll look back and regret it but for now, I'm happy and she's happy and we're ready for term 2 (after a break for May and a birthday. So from now on, we won't be "rule breaking" :-)

She's always been a good narrator. Even before she was asked to do it formally. But she wants to include every detail. I know that summarizing and selecting what she thinks is important can be a skill that takes time to develop so I'm impressed that she made even some progress with it and I was really happy to see that in most of the review/exam narrations she was able to get the basic storyline summarized.

Besides Beauty and the Beast, the only other reading that was a bit of a stretch for her was the Bible. I choose to stick with the KJV for our readings (we memorize in ESV) because she is very familiar with most of the stories so can muddle through the tricky language. I could easily tell the difference in narration of stories she already was familiar with and the one or two new ones. Gideon was a new one so we broke it up for shorter narrations but her exam retelling wasn't bad at all.

Planning wise, everything went just about how I expected. We only did a tiny bit of french (a couple french folk songs and reading "Bonsoir Lune") so I'll be attempting to do a bit more formal work either next term or term three, probably term three. And as I said in the exam post, we also kept nature study really informal and that will remain so at least one more term.

The one thing that needs to be improved is reading lessons and piano. They don't have a designated time slot, just "afternoon" which means they got dropped a lot. I don 't really care about the reading lessons because we're just practicing and building up stamina but piano should happen daily so I think I need to find a "peg" to hang that on in our schedule.

Thoughts on my first term

As for me, I definitely found myself more stretched, especially now that the weather is nice. I can keep up with everything even if we spend 4-6 hours outside. I can keep up with everything even with an hour of school in the morning using up most of Norah's best naptime (normally her only solo nap is the first one). But the combination leaves me with very little time. Very little time for more than basic cleaning let alone blogging or sewing or keeping up with my book club or responding to an email in less than 72 hrs. I just can't make those little things on my check list happen. But on paper they seem so little! Moping was on my to-do list for several weeks before I finally just told Craig to stop working on the fence and go play with a baby outside, told the big kids they weren't even allowed to come in and use the potty for a while and finally got it done! And I only did it then because I had a podcast I wanted to listen to :-)

To be honest, I was pretty discouraged last week by all those other things, what I was seeing as my "failings." I told myself that the obvious answer is to sleep less but I really need 9-10 hrs in bed every night (I say in bed because between Norah's night wakings and insomnia, I am not actually sleeping that many hours) plus one quiet time hour spent laying down resting if not actually sleeping so I knew that wasn't actually going to work. And I felt like I had no solution to this "problem."

But going over exams and looking back on our spring overall, I realized that I set my priorities at the beginning of the year and I did a good job of sticking with them.

Yes, that meant that things that weren't a priority fell off my to-do list. But we
-spent a ton of time outside (almost 200 hours so far!)
-we had a great term of school
- our house is reasonable clean (depending on your definition of "reasonable" but my standards were way lower last spring when I was sick so at least the trend is up. And we have a very decluttered house so it is pretty easy to actually do the cleaning whenever I have a chance to)
-we ate every day (see what high standards I have!) and I even started going grocery shopping part of the time (Craig had taken that over when Norah was born and still does a large percentage of it but sometimes its just better timing for me and the kids to go)
-I go to bed at the same time as Craig. It's early because he gets up really early for work so I could stay up later and only get 7-8 hrs of "sleep" and be productive but it wouldn't be good for me or us. And if I cheat on this occasionally, I'm at least laying down in bed and reading :-)
-Read some good books for own growth.

Now, if it isn't on that list, it really didn't happen. At all. But I'm okay with knowing that I'll get to those emails - eventually. And it I don't clean the bathroom quite as often as I should, we'll all live. Frankly, with a potty training little boy I feel like I'd have to hose it down every 30 minutes if I wanted it to always be clean so what's an extra day or two between scrubs. And I can save those projects for the months we take off (this May is all about naptime/rainy day sewing!). I just can't handle having as many top priorities as I could with less kids and better healthy but that's life.

 And a few days ago, I got some lab work results that showed a pretty significant Hashimoto's relapse. Which was very discouraging overall but also affirming. I did all that with a TSH of 14! My thyroid stinks but I rock!

I realize that a lot of what I just wrote doesn't really seem to be about homeschooling or term 1 and that's true. It's probably just as much about now having three kids, all of which are now mobile (yes, that baby girl is really getting around! The climbing! The falling! It's wearing me out) But God really used the exams we just finished to help me see my reality a bit more clearly. Instead of being upset with what wasn't happening, I ended up being pretty happy with how I was able to keep my priorities in check. Because it really is my choice what I prioritize. That's very freeing. It's not that I am unable to do those other things, it's that I'm unwilling to prioritize them.