Friday, October 14, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which We Visit a Pumpkin Patch)

With the pressure of a mid-week call to jury duty heavy on my mind, I decided that we would not dive back into traditional school only to be interrupted after 2 days.  Instead we began a David Copperfield marathon.

As part of our Morning Meeting (which happens every day whether we have school or not), I discussed the importance of civic responsibilities such as jury duty and motherhood.  The older kids were quite intrigued about serving on a jury, but we all agreed that a mother at home is far more important than a mother on a jury.  I've been praying fervently for several weeks (after my personal efforts were all denied) to be excused from jury duty so that I can be home to care for my family, but I got the kids to commit to praying as well.

For the main part of our morning, we put together a bunch of snacks, and the oldest 6 girls and I headed to the basement for 2 hours of David Copperfield while Sir Walter Scott watched the youngest 6.  We read and ate and ate and read until it was time for the babies to nap and the littles to have lunch.

In the afternoon, Pixie finished the play mat quilt she's been working on for one of her church leaders who just had her 5th baby, most of the other older girls read library books, and the littles rode bikes and played in the mud while Sir Walter Scott spent 5 hours mowing the lawn of an ill member of our church congregation.

It is an unfortunately blurry picture (the focus is getting harder and harder to work with).  The red squares make crinkly noises, and there are textured ribbon loops for Baby to play with.  Pixie even attached some plastic teething loop toys to it.  Each fabric has a different texture, and some of the squares are actually knitted in various patterns for even more texture.
I did laundry and kept a prayer in my heart.

In our Morning Meeting we talked again about the power of prayer.  We reviewed that Heavenly Father always hears us, even when He answers us in a way different from what we want.  We continued praying in faith.

Sir Walter Scott had to work, so we set up our reading camp in the main living room of the house with plenty of creative toys for the babies and pulled out a bunch of favorite building toys for the other littles to play with in Mister Man's bedroom.  We successfully read for over 2 hours (with interruptions) and sighed with happiness at many of the plot threads that are being tied up in satisfying ways.  Though we quite love the Micawbers, Mr. Micawber's bombastic speaking style makes his chapters harder to enjoy than the chapters about Little Em'ly and Dora and the Wickfields.

Little Princess enjoyed playing with the pegs while she listened to me read aloud.
 After lunch we headed north to our favorite pumpkin patch and spent several happy hours petting kittens, climbing hay bales, exploring the corn maze, and choosing an enormous pumpkin for our front porch (though it looks so small now that it is on our porch!).

While the other kids snacked and played, Rose Red and I spent an hour or so in the sunshine reviewing verb conjugations and vocabulary words for her Spanish test on Wednesday morning.

We arrived home in time for me to call the jury information line.  I'd spent the whole drive home trying to settle the butterflies in my stomach by reminding myself that whatever would happen God hears and answers prayers according to His wisdom.

The recorded voice informed me that I did not have to report the next day, that I could consider my duty served, and that I am now excused from jury duty for the next 3 years.

I almost cried.

I was so relieved.

I called the children together and told them that our prayers were answered in the affirmative, that we must consider my release a miracle in our lives, and that prayers of gratitude were in order.  The older girls breathed a sigh of relief (except Super Star, who didn't realize that jury duty was far more than a 1 day commitment and who thought a day without Mom would be a nice break), and the littles grinned and cheered and promised to remember to be thankful in their prayers.

They kept their promises.

I woke to lightning flashes in the sky and the growl of thunder.

Oh!  How I love a thunderstorm!

I woke joyfully, knowing that I have the privilege of spending time with my family--my messy, demanding, frustrating, and wonderful family.  If anything, this threat of being forcefully pulled away from home, has reaffirmed to my mind and heart just how deeply I love and appreciate my role as mother and manager of our home.

Oh!  How I love being a mother!

I made pumpkin pie oatmeal for breakfast and got organized for a spur-of-the-moment celebratory trip to the temple with Sir Walter Scott.  The kids rallied to the cause and helped us out the door.

We were home in time for lunch and to put Baymax down for a nap (Lola was already asleep).  I gathered the older girls together to read David Copperfield for an hour and a half while the littles had their quiet time and Sir Walter Scott looked up family names to take back to the temple with our teens in the late afternoon.

I took everyone under 12 with me to our favorite nature park for a little walk in the brisk autumn air.  As we turned in the path to head back to the van I said, "Each one of you gets to find a beautiful red leaf, a beautiful orange leaf, and a beautiful yellow leaf!"  The kids scurried around to find and show me their treasures.

We collected far more than 3 leaves per child.

We noticed gorgeous orange leaves falling from a tree.  They twirled and fluttered in the breeze, and I called, "Oh!  Look!  Go catch them!"  The kids danced in the path as they chased and caught the leaves.

When they brought their treasures to me and I got a closer look, I suddenly felt ill.  The shape . . . it couldn't be . . . I looked more closely at the tree . . . tree? . . . vine? . . . it was!

Poison Ivy!!!!!!

That was the end of our outing.

We put the leaves down, held our hands away from our bodies, and raced to the pond where we rinsed off as best we could before heading home for another half hour of rinsing and washing.

We're okay.

But we won't be collecting leaves again anytime soon. :)

We finished David Copperfield!!!!

It took such a long, long, long time, but I will tell you that when we got to each of the various climaxes of the several threads of the story, the tension and attention in the room was palpable.  Several time I was moved to tears as I read.

And the main climax?

The really, really good one?

It was really. really. good.

We had girls squealing, groaning, sighing, clutching pillows, jumping, rolling on the floor, and nearly crying in anguish as we worked our way through the final chapters.

It was awesome!

That Charles Dickens . . .

He's a keeper.

Or a classic.

A classic worth keeping. :)

We were at loose ends on Friday--done with David Copperfield, not ready to do regular school, unable to go on an outing because of Rose Red's class and Super Star's appointment with a podiatrist.  The littles rode bikes; Pixie designed and sewed another Halloween costume (using fabric scraps we had on hand--free costume!); I did laundry and dishes and made a grocery list; Belle read books (Oh my!  I'm reading them, too, and they are wonderful!  I highly recommend them.)  Sir Walter Scott took Baymax (and then the rest of the kids) across the street to the high school soccer tournament and spent some time watching the games.

In General
Here are pictures of the girls before the homeschool Halloween dance last Saturday.  Pixie designed and sewed her costume (she's the wolf), and Super Star's (Red Riding Hood).  Belle (the huntsman) purchased her shirt for $.50 at a thrift store and made her own axe.

They won the prize for best group costume.

(Rose Red was grounded--she stayed home with me and helped put the littles to bed.  Sir Walter Scott chaperoned at the dance.)

Our preschool book of the week was The Three Little Pigs by James Marshall.

Every day someone did some sort of jigsaw puzzle.

And Legos got a lot of use, too.

The mornings are darker and colder.  I can't quite bring myself to send the littles outside first thing, so I've been setting out activities to help them get focused as the day begins.  Play dough ruled the mornings this week.

Warm temperatures are expected to return this weekend . . . I don't know that I can bring myself to return to "regular" school.

But then I don't know what to read next either.

So I have some searching to do this weekend:  for motivation and a great read aloud.

(linking here)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which we Rest from our Usual Labors)

We dumped traditional school (we kept our Morning Meeting and evening reading) in favor of celebrating the season.

Monday:  We hiked a 2 mile loop outside the nature center.  We dawdled and observed--taking 3 hours to complete the loop.  Then we spent an hour our so at the zoo.

Just before we hit the trail.

Finding acorns was a major highlight of this hike.

We stopped to play on the limestone boulders.
Working up the courage to jump to the next boulder.

Super Star was our trail leader and finder of cool stuff to do.  Everyone stopped to have a turn swinging on this vine.

Tuesday:  We hiked around one of 7 or 8 lakes at a nearby memorial wildlife area.  I think we took even longer to complete this approximately 2 mile walk!  Then we drove around some of the other lakes searching for the paddleboat rentals . . . until we realized that it is technically autumn, and the paddleboats are probably put away until next summer.

Super Star was our super trail leader yet again. :)

All of the kids but Rose Red . . . the stinker!

Cute shot of Pixie because she's never in pictures because she's always behind the camera!
Sweet sisters/best friends
Sir Walter Scott caught this tiny bluegill with his bare hands--making him even more of a hero to the littles.
It was such a peaceful day . . .

Wednesday:  We shopped for Halloween in the morning while Brother and Ladybug were at therapy, then we took advantage of hugely discounted rates for Homeschool Week at the National WWI Museum.  Ladybug, Brother, and Little Brother didn't do very well--neither did the babies.  I left early to take them outside to play while the rest of the family stayed to explore the wonderful exhibits.   When the family was reunited, we ate caramel apple cookie bars, took silly pictures, and headed home, stopping along the way at our favorite park to play for a bit to get the carseat wiggles out.
Poor Super Star!  Her shoe broke just as we arrived at the museum.  Clever girl!  She fixed it with a couple of band aids.
The poppies under the floor represent fallen soldiers in the war.

Thursday:  Awesome thunderstorms kept us inside all morning.  Pixie worked on sewing Halloween costumes while I helped the littles write in their journals about our hiking days.  They dictated, I transcribed, and then they illustrated their stories.  We went to dance practice after lunch.  In the late afternoon, the sun came out so the littles rode bikes while I swept the back patio and the older girls worked some more on Halloween costumes.  Nature Angel is writing another story; this one is about a girl and a dragon.  Our reading of David Copperfield that night was punctuated with oohs and aahs over the incredible lightning display going on in the sky as the storms rolled back in.

Friday:  It was 45 degrees outside when we woke up.  I went hunting for the winter gear only to discover that I accidentally gave Sir Walter Scott permission to take the bag full of my coats and the older girls' coats to the DAV.

I won't even try to explain how that happened.

It just did.

The good thing is that the coats for everyone 10 and under were intact and all still fit this year.

So they played happily outside for 3 hours.

I made an emergency run to the thrift store with the older girls and found coats for each of us.  I also struck the motherlode on winter boots and rain boots--I think I bought 12 pairs.  (Most of the boots we'd used up to this point were simply worn out.)

In the afternoon we headed off to our church camp out.  We walked a little nature trail, visited with friends, and roasted marshmallows for s'mores.  Only Sir Walter Scott and 5 of the older girls camped.  Rose Red and the littles came home with me once the babies got tired.  I hope the campers stay warm!!  I sent them with at least 2 dozen blankets and sleeping bags, but 45 degrees is cold!

After sleeping warmly and soundly here at home, we wusses will head back to the camp out for the big group breakfast and help cart everyone/everything home.

In General:  This week was a treat for us all.  Pixie admitted to waking up Monday morning with a sense of heaviness in her heart about facing another week of school.  I'd felt similarly.  The others haven't voiced opinions one way or another, but I think they felt much the same.  It was a good rest from our usual school labors.

Part of me wishes we could live every day this way--just waking up and seizing the day--but I saw flaws (among others, keeping the older kids intellectually stimulated* and keeping Ladybug from regressing to negative behaviors) that remind me that we need at-home structure and routine and hard work balanced with easygoing outdoor adventures in order to thrive.

That said, there are still half a dozen autumn adventures I'd like to have with the kids, and I have to report for jury duty on Wednesday next week (they denied every plea I entered for postponement), so I'm not sure we'll return to our regular schedule on Monday and Tuesday before seeing what happens on Wednesday.

The preschool book of the week was Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm.

We're at 72% in David Copperfield.  Uriah Heep makes our skin crawl--the wretch!  And we are in agonies over David and Agnes.   What does he see in Dora?!?!?!

Two more completed African-inspired textile projects from last week: 

Nature Angel

*I know that outdoor studies can be decidedly intellectually stimulating, but I don't have the skills myself to mentor my older kids this way.  We'd need additional help.

(Linking here)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Week, Briefly (In Which Autumn Arrives)

Blessed, blessed autumn weather!

I love autumn with a love that is all the brighter and more glorious in contrast with the tremendous struggles I had all summer long with my own body chemistry.

I'm 2 weeks on meds, and I've made at least a 140 degree turn around in everything.  I still have a few bad habits to work on, but I love the blue skies, cooler temperatures, shorter days, orange pumpkins, snuggly hoodies, footie jammies, and early morning stories with my littles.

I love being alive in the autumn.

I love being alive.

(I could not say that 2 weeks ago.)

What have we done this week?  The blue skies and sweet breezes are calling me, so I have very little desire to do record record keeping. :)

The littles played outside--now that it is cooler they are learning to put on socks and shoes and jackets.  They still watch the sun come up each morning, and in the coolness they now have energy enough to venture to the bottom of the hill and play make-believe on the fallen tree.

Mister Man finished reading If You Lived in Colonial Times and started Can't You Make Them Behave, King George?  We're still reading Wild Places together.  Belle reports that he's restless and uncooperative during math lessons, so I said we'd drop them for a few weeks and see if he misses them.

Ladybug cooperated enough to get 4 days of school time.  She does about half of a math lesson each day and is now happily working on the beginning readers in her reading program.

Little Princess wrote an acrostic poem about birds, learned about prepositions, and practiced lots of spelling words.  She also read dozens of mermaid and fairy books.  After one of them, she looked at me and said, "These are starting to not be so good . . ."  Kind of like a kid glutted on sweets.

That's why I call books like that brain candy.

She's happy, happy to practice addition and subtraction facts with online drills, and she's on week 7 of her math program even though she's only been working on it for 4 weeks.  (She quite likes math!)

Nature Angel is writing her first essay.  She's not returned to her creative writing endeavor yet, but she spent the week making a "story" quilt.  She made the blocks (including applique and embroidery) and assembled the finished product all by herself--seriously, no help other than learning how to fill the bobbin.

She said, "Some of it wasn't straight."  I said, "That's okay.  You learned a lot this time, and next time you'll figure out how to fix it." 

I can't bring myself to tell her how to spell "tale" yet.

3-D--she made some of her appliques 3-D!!
I'm boggled.

Because she's 9.

And she hasn't had any sewing lessons.

She completed 5 math lessons, and she's really thriving with Saxon math.

Belle is faithful in completing her schoolwork each day even when I am not faithful about checking it or filling out her assignment book.  She writes down what needs to be done and does it.  She finished Invincible Louisa and started The Windy Hill for literature.  Otherwise she just keeps on plugging away at her regular work and devouring favorite library books.  We're supposed to have a writer's conference in just a few moments.  I love reading her work.

Super Star is almost as faithful as Belle, but she needs more parental support to keep going.  Though her school assignments are set up the same way Belle's are, a few days of negligence on my part leads to a breakdown on hers.  Today we got back on track together.

Pixie continues to work very, very hard.  Her pictures are so beautiful!  She takes hundreds of pictures each week, and I rarely even know where the camera is.  She's working on essay writing; learning how to effectively use quotations from the book to support her ideas is proving to be difficult for her.  She's doing quite well in Algebra and keeps plugging away at science, spelling, and grammar.

photo credit:  Pixie

photo credit:  Pixie

photo credit:  Pixie

photo credit:  Pixie
Rose Red is working slowly and only with continual parental pressure.  She's so bright, and she's so convinced that school work is a waste of her time.  She's reading, writing, researching, and practicing math skills though, so she's not stagnating.  I really like her math book because it is so very practical.  In recent weeks she's practiced balancing a checkbook and worked on story problems related to various business/accounting concepts.

Monday afternoon we visited a friend who is a pilot.  He gave us a tour of his office area, the hangar, 2 airplanes and 2 helicopters.

We all had fun in the pilot's gym, and most of us did a pull up or two, but Ladybug did a whopping 14 in 2 sets of 7!

Inside the cockpit of a Lear jet

Little Brother believed he was flying--truly believed!

Walking from one hangar to another.

Pretending to be the medical team on the helicopter

Mister Man was the most excited of all of the children to be a part of this field trip.  We may have a future pilot on our hands.

Watching airplanes taxi and take off.

Ooooh, Super Star is so strong!!! :)
photo credit:  Pixie

On Wednesday afternoon we jumped up and went to the zoo just for fun after school was done.

The camera died within seconds of arriving, so this picture must stand alone.
 On Friday Ladybug caught a monarch butterfly.  It spent nearly an hour on her hand while she sat in the sun with it allowing it to warm up enough to fly.

The littles observed crickets, grasshoppers, daddy longlegs, spiders, and all kinds of butterflies as they spent time outside each day.

The preschool book of the week was Corduroy.

I've forgotten to mention that we're reading daily from On This Day as part of our symposium.  Each day has a brief story/lesson from American history.  Some days are so exciting, and some days I wonder why I even purchased the book.

We had 3 history lessons about The Dead Sea Scrolls, St. Valentine, and Diocletian.  The kids wrote poems about St. Valentine--bonus points offered if they could incorporate Lupercalia into their poems.  They all did it!

We studied Africa for our Geography Through Art lessons--it took 2 lessons to color a map, study textiles from various parts of the continent, listen to a variety of African music, learn some interesting (and fairly random) facts, and make our own African-inspired textile designs.  (Only a few of the kids have finished--creating textiles is time-consuming work.)

Mister Man

Brother (This is a big deal--before this summer, he could only scribble randomly.)

Little Princess


Our Spanish lessons are still focused on Harold y el Lapiz Morado.  Focusing on a few new words each day is helping. (La luz, la luna, caminar, el bosque, la playa, pensar, las manzanas, etc.)

We studied Hunters in the Snow and The Land of Cockaigne as we continue to focus on artist Pieter Breugel.

We're 65% of the way into David Copperfield.  We're all dying inside to find out what happens with Dora because we're all waiting for David to think of Agnes as more than a sister!

(Linking here)