Friday, September 28, 2012

Good Work

I.10 is sick and teething.  He has had a very rough 3 days.

Today at lunch I decided that this baby would sleep for a long time this afternoon no matter what.  I left the kids at the table with these instructions, "Finish your lunch, do your after-lunch chores, and be ready for dictation when I come up.  I may not be up quite on time, but I want you to be nearby and ready."

I went downstairs to rock the baby.

He was miserable and cried for so very long while I rocked and sang and rocked and sang.  Finally he fell asleep, so I carried him up the stairs to put him in his bed.  I'd head lots of movement after lunch was done, but was unsure of what I would find.

How happy I was to see a cleared and wiped table and a swept floor in the kitchen!
How happy I was to see a tidy bathroom!
How happy I was to hear the washer and dryer running with fresh load of laundry!

They are regular children who quarrel, mess around, and argue back about doing their chores, but today they did them and did them well!  Today, when I really needed to spend time with our sick baby, they came through.

They were also close at hand and ready to begin their dictation exercise.

I thanked them profusely . . . and I think I'll thank them again at dinner tonight.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Jonah Day

photo credit: unknown
It was my beloved friend Anne who lived at Green Gables that taught me the phrase "a Jonah day."

I'm having one.

I'm supposed to be snuggled on the couch between H3 and A5 reading stories.  Instead my precious A5 is sitting on her bed by herself until she is ready to obey Mommy. 

The older girls are doing their silent reading . . . most of them huffily.  M10 stomped her feet and yelled at me when I told her she needed to read indoors because she wandered around too much when she tried to read outdoors.  S10 whined and threw her body on the floor when I reminded her that she was supposed to read before she started writing her summary.  E12 called me a witch--yes, she actually called me a witch--and stormed out of the room when I informed her that because she had not been dating her math work, nor had she been bringing it to me on a daily basis as she'd been told to do repeatedly every day last week, she would have to do two extra assignments to catch up to where my records showed she should be.

And my dearest husband is distantly grumpy today.  I don't know what to do to make him feel better, but he is on my mind and in my prayers.

So here I am complaining to the computer . . . not really complaining . . . recording this Jonah day for posterity and to remind myself that I know that Jonah days happen.  Life has been so very good.  It is a blessing to wake up each morning, and I love my job of raising my children and  running our home and school.  The wonderful days we've had lately keep me from throwing in the towel on a day like today. 

Eventually that whale is going to spit me right out.

And though I'll be slimy and tired, I'll be able to get up and begin my journey anew.

Another good day is just around the corner.

I'm sure of it.

I'm off to see if my A5 is ready to obey and listen to some stories.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The First Nature Outing of the New Year

Sometimes I don't know what to say . . . a day comes together so well that it leaves me speechless . . . yet it was a regular day with squabbles and frustrations and hurried moments.

These outing days refresh us . . . they refresh me . . . and remind me that God's creations are simply wonder-ful.
Pausing to enjoy some sunflowers before crossing the bridge that led us into the park.

We stopped for a moment to explore some seed pods . . .

and then looked up to discover where they came from.

The excitement on A5's face and the expectant look on H3 simply grab my heart!  I am charmed to remember that she was pointing out how beautiful the sun was glinting off the rippling water.

Blurry of not, she's gorgeous and so proud of her seed finds.

E12 loves to climb anything climbable, and it was only the worried protests of her younger sister that kept her so close to the ground . . . at least that's what I think.  This tree trunk was almost vine-y in how it grew around and was so flexible.  E12 says, "It WAS a vine, Mom."  She's probably right.

A5 was captivated by the coloring of this feather.  She collected lots of feathers on this outing.  I always wonder at the safety of such a habit, but we just try to wash hands well afterward.

"Mom!  There . . . are . . . berries . . . in . . . this . . . tree!"  S10 said as she jumped over and over and over again!

I though J8 was sulking over not getting her way when she plunked herself down on the sidewalk and stayed put.  But she was watching a bug . . .

this bug.  We need to look him up.   J8 asked me to please find an insect field guide.  Okay.

Most of us stopped and got out our sketchbooks and drew this Great Blue Heron. 

But S10 drew this little nest she found and put some seeds into to pretend it had eggs.

And then we just relaxed for a little while.

Sometimes when I look at my oldest daughter I realize that she's really and truly going to become a woman someday instead of always being my harum scarum little girl.

Thank goodness I have lots of daughters still to enjoy in their harum scarum days. :)

We were getting into the van when we found this little guy crawling along at quite a clip across the parking lot.  We all got back out to ooh and aah over him/her.  Another research project for today.

Poor I.9 was soooooo tired.  I thought he'd conk out on our walk, but he spent the whole outing in the backpack happily chirping in my ear and waving at the trees.  He slept an awfully good sleep within seconds of settling into the car.

We had to leave just before noon so that I could keep a visiting teaching appointment, and we were all disappointed, but I realized that sometimes we sacrifice a little in order to serve, and that lesson was perhaps the best lesson of all.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Entertaining Beginnings . . .

Art credit here
I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with the ideas that flew at me.  I turned to see my kids rising out of their seats with energy.  I stopped writing and asked as I laughed out loud, "What's happening here?  Do you feel how full of life you all are?  Look how your bodies can't even stay seated!"

"You're right, Mom!  This is great!"

"How funny!  I'm standing up in my chair!  I like doing this!"

"I can't wait to do some more!"

"I'm going to do this during my free time!  This isn't like school at all!"

"I'm so glad you're enjoying this!  And I'm so glad you're excited to write on your own.  Let's keep practicing because there is so much to learn!" I said, and we returned to our writing lesson on "Entertaining Beginnings."

Every day (except for E12 who only has time once a week because of her job as a mother's helper) the older girls get out their creative writing journals and write for half an hour.  They can write about anything, and they have a little plastic bag filled with journal prompts they can draw on if they don't have an idea of their own.

They actually really like it.

Once a week we're meeting for a Writing Workshop (we're using this that I picked up for a dollar at a used curriculum sale) during which they get to read a favorite selection from their journals and I present a writing concept for practice.

Last week's lesson on types of writing was a total dud--useful, but not inspiring.

This week's lesson was such a joy that I still can't stop smiling when I think about it.  S10 left the lesson and completely rewrote the beginning of her pirate story during her free time.

The funny thing is that the lesson was nothing more than me standing at the white board listing techniques they could use to grab the reader's attention and having them practice the techniques with me.  It wasn't the lesson that was inspiring--it was the actual act of writing that lit us on fire.

We've had very little formal writing instruction in our homeschool so far.  I just read to them a lot.  And I give them good books to read. 

We read a lot.

A lot.

The kids have developed such good ears for good writing that just handing them the tools they need is allowing them to create masterpieces.  At the beginning of the lesson I asked them to start a story about  finding a mermaid at the beach; without fail the stories all began, "One day I . . ."  At the end of the lesson I asked them to use any one of the 5 techniques we'd discussed to start the same story.  The difference was astonishing.

They won't let me copy their work here, but I can say that J8 used sound effects and dialogue to set up a story that I wish she would finish!  M10 and S10 used action and sound effects to create very engaging beginnings.  E12 knocked my socks off with a beginning that was worthy of an award-winning adventure novel; it had a capsizing boat and a brush with scales . . .  and I can feel my heart rate picking up just remembering it. 

(Yes, I am their mom, but I'm also very critical of their writing.  I like good writing, and I know good writing when I read it.  I wish they'd let me show off their work!)

I challenged each girl to use the techniques we talked about this week during their creative writing times.  Seriously, I am so excited for next week's Writing Workshop!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Perfect Moment

This morning was a little rough . . . not a terrible day by any means, just a little rough.  One child decided not to do her morning chores until the rest of us were eating breakfast, so she had to miss breakfast.

(No worries.  I gave her a nice hunk of homemade bread to keep her from starving.)

Another child talked back rather a lot.

The baby's bottom was burned raw from a bowel movement he must have had in the night and knew nothing about until this morning, so he wept copiously and my heart hurt as I cleaned him off.

Another child missed her shower because she overslept.

No great tragedies, just enough to make me take a deep breath and hope that the day would smooth out.

And it did.

By 9:15 am I was standing at the counter kneading bread dough with the baby in the backpack on my back.  My four littlest girls were making paper bag puppets, helping and loving one another as they worked.  My biggest girl was plowing through some Personal Progress goals, and my M10 was happily reserving books on the library website.

I breathed deeply again . . . this time in gratitude. 

Perfect moments keep me going through all the rest of the imperfect moments that make up most of life.

Perfect moments are small and rare, but we had one today.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Standing Alone

This darling 12-year-old of mine aches for independence.  I give her as much as I can, but she's always hungry for more and more and more!

I'll never forget the day her 4-year-old self sat across from me in her booster seat at the kitchen table and asked, "Mom, when can I get my own apartment?"

The hunger has only increased since then.

We went camping with our church congregation this weekend.  The campground was a wonderful group site that provided good boundaries for the kids while allowing them lots and lots of freedom within those boundaries.  I rarely knew where all of my children were at any given time, and as long as they checked in every once in a while we were all happy with that arrangement.

My E12 loved hanging out with the teens in the youth group.

Eventually I went to bed with the 3 littlest children while my husband stayed up as parent-on-duty for the 4 older ones.

Around midnight one of the teens said she was going to drive another pre-teen home and asked who wanted to come along.  According to my E12 all of the youth piled into the car but her.  She said, "I'll have to ask my mom and dad."  The kids in the car shrugged their shoulders and took off.

She felt abandoned.



The kids in the car came back within minutes because the campground exit was closed for the night (I don't think they tried very hard to get out because the gate was not actually locked).  Everyone reconvened their singing/talking/hanging out around the campfire, and E12 was happily part of the group again.

When she finally decided to come to bed, she told her dad about what happened.  He took the opportunity to tell her she'd made a really good choice and thanked her for behaving responsibly.

I know nothing happened, but what were those kids thinking?

Her take on the event is to feel annoyed that she's so tied to her parents that she didn't get in the car.  She feels dependent and trapped.  She wishes we would stop bugging her and having so many rules for her to follow.  My take on the event is to feel proud of my girl for doing what she knew was right even though she felt alone.  I think she just took a big step toward independence.

I'm so glad she didn't get in that car.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday--The First Great Cooking Adventure

Oh so long ago I used to bring my {then} four children into the kitchen to help me make bread every week. I'd set one child up with pizza dough, one with rolls, one with traditional bread, and one with . . . hmmm . . . I can't remember . . . did we do two batches of bread?

 I think so.

But it got exhausting, and some more babies came along, so I bought bread for a while and got quite out of the habit of having my girls learn to cook with me.

This year it is really, really time.

Today we made a summer garden vegetable soup, homemade bread, and strawberry fool.
S10 chopped carrots while E12 diced potatoes.

My little girls snapped green beans because I didn't want them wielding sharp knives, but then I gave them knives anyway when the beans were done and they wanted to chop the cabbage.  I definitely helped H3, but A5 proved herself quite competent.

M10 was fascinated by the beets; we've never eaten them before.   She loved how they dyed everything pink!

J8 helped dice potatoes.  She was ever so careful and proud of her work.

All of the prepped veggies and all of my silly girls, though E12 looks rather as though she is above such foolishness, doesn't she?

The sauteeing onions really bothered S10 . . . and J8, too.  They both wore goggles for about half an hour today.  This is the only picture I took of the four beautiful loaves of bread the girls made.  I'm so disappointed.

E12 stirring the onions and tomatoes.  She was up on a stool, feeling on top of the world.  She had me step over to her, measured my height as compared to hers and said, "Yup, this is how tall I want to be someday."
Not all of our veggies came from the garden.  Notice we had to switch to a larger pot!  The recipe said it would feed 6, so I doubled it, but we ended up with 12 quarts of soup!!!!!!

So beautiful!

The little girls played outside for a while but came happily back in when it was time to make dessert.  They smashed berries for a very long time!

I.9 woke up, so big sister played with him for a few minutes.

Still smashing.  It was only 2 pounds of berries, but their small hands got so tired.  Sweet J8 stepped in to help.

I just want to kiss his squishy face!

And because I am a lousy picture taker, this is the last picture I took.  While the soup simmered and the bread rose and the fool chilled, the girls drifted off outside.  All of a sudden it was time to eat and wake up Daddy {he works nights} and in the hurry and flurry of everything, the camera sat forgotten.   M10 had lots of fun manning the mixer while the little girls had fun stirring sugar into the strawberries.
The day is done.  I am tired, but it's a good tired.

I am also glad that I get a weeks' respite before working with 7 children in the kitchen with me!

And dinner is already made for tomorrow night . . . leftovers!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bestest Big Sister Ever!

Part of our schedule for this school year includes morning playtime sessions; big sisters are assigned to little sisters while I take care of Baby I.9 and get things ready for the day.  The only directions I gave were, "You get half an hour to play together at 9:00 every morning."

This dearest of big sisters, my M10, took those directions to heart.  She not only plays with her little sisters, but she runs a sort of miniature preschool with them.  A5 and J3 jump for joy when M10 says, "Let's play!"

She takes them outside on nature walks.
She takes pictures of them.
She helps them with art projects.
She reads to them.
She helps them read to her.

If I didn't treasure the time I get to spend with my littlest ones, I could hand off their educations to her without batting an eyelash.

But I do treasure that time.
As they treasure their time with me.

This morning as I nursed my little man in the sunshine by the open window, I listened to M10 and her small sisters laugh together.

I felt that heaven was so very near.

Monday, September 10, 2012

So Far So Good

This picture was taken during our summer session of school, but I haven't taken any pictures today, and this one captures the flavor of this first day.

It is snack time right now . . . we've finished our snack, worked on our poem and find ourselves with a few free minutes.  I guess you'd call that recess. :)

I'm stealing this moment to say that my prayers for an easy day are being answered.  I know that not all days can be easy ones.  There will be days that the kids don't cooperate and the baby cries and the supplies all seem to be missing, but today, this very first day, is going well.

The pace that looked rather hard on paper, but over which I prayed and worked so faithfully, is turning out to be just right.  There is time to breathe.  There is time to settle into some good work.  There is time to be joyfully engaged.

(I did forget to brush my teeth! 

I'd better fix that right now.)

My sweet J8 is the happiest of all children, and as we started family scripture study this morning she said in her prayer, "We thank thee that this is the first day of school . . ."   I could hear the smile on her face. 

Hard days will come.

Today is a day of joy.

Let the Games . . . er . . . School Begin!

It has been 5 weeks of vacation for the kids.

It has been 5 weeks of non-stop work for me.

I did not accomplish my goal of organizing the living room; the top of the piano still looks . . . well, no need to go into details . . . I'll just have to work in some organizing during Saturday chores over the course of the months ahead.

But the notebooks are new.  The pencils are sharpened.  The books are stacked.  The kids are ready.

I think I am ready, too.

Here we go!