Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#23)

We started the week with birthday celebrations at the park.

There was a lot of candy . . . but the cousins had a grand time together.  My sister and I brainstormed a way to get together more often (75 miles is farther in reality than it is in theory); we're going to have a monthly Cousins' Book Club next school year.  Between us we have 14 children ages 0-15.  We'll take turns hosting, and the children will take turns choosing the book and planning the activities/food. 

I'm already excited.

We continued our nature studies by reading/narrating from the BSA nature merit badge handbook.  We also pulled out a current state department of conservation magazine and worked on memorizing the features and habits of the Western Kingbird.  We're hoping to spot one when we go camping next weekend.

We're having days of sun interspersed with days of rain, and the little girls are spending untold hours in our little creek catching crawdads and getting muddy.  I am aching to follow them one day and just revel in their joys, but I've not been successful yet.  We have some serious rain in the forecast, so perhaps when the sun comes out again I'll try again.

S12 found a freshly molted cicada one day and took these incredible pictures:

Then the cat ate it!

We're still reading from Across America on an Emigrant Train.  It is an engaging read, and we're learning a lot about the U.S. and rail travel in the late 1800's, from Robert Louis Stevenson's perspective.  My one complaint is that Stevenson was making the trip to meet up with his sweetheart who was a married mother of two.  Infidelity is a subject that cannot be ignored, and it gives us some real meat for discussion, but the author's tolerant attitude (actually the author kind of defends Stevenson for his behavior) is not okay with me.  There certainly must be other engaging books on this subject, and I'm disappointed in the Simply Charlotte Mason site that recommended this one.

We're loving A Girl of the Limberlost.  The kids beg me to read longer each day, and I did indulge them with extra reading on Friday.   It also covers the subject of infidelity, but at least infidelity is clearly condemned in this book!  We're having lots of meaty discussions around here about agency, accountability, hard work, true love, and God's commandments.  The kids harumph and scowl each time I pause in our reading to ask questions (they'd rather I just kept reading), but I'm undeterred, and I can tell that our pauses are helpful because of things I catch the kids joking about later in the day or week.

The big girls all got a lot of math done this week.

And E15 is more than half way through her grammar book.

A8 continues to work by the hour on her journal.

I3 loves the little Kumon cutting book I purchased for him at the homeschool conference last month.

And the littles play and play and play together.  I3 was especially honored to get to play Barbies when he made a solemn promise to be gentle and treat his sisters' dollies with respect.  He honored his promise all day!

Dusting is a favorite chore around here--more of an acrobatic feat than a chore for the little girls.

Big sisters can't help using Baby L as a prop for their fun.  (He does look remarkably like his sisters once there is a bow on his head!)

He's getting better at using his hands every day.  We all delight to tempt him with objects to grab, watching and willing him to succeed.

The end-of-season spring sports banquet was Thursday night.  It was as long and dull as all awards banquets have a tendency to be, but I'm glad we went for the girls' sake.  I took the camera with me but took no pictures because by the time everyone had eaten and the girls' soccer awards were being handed out, Baby L and I3 were tired and cranky.

Our garden is planted.  It is small and simple: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, and a single watermelon vine.   It will do for this first year of gardening in this new house.

I saw this picture of I3 and realized how long and lanky he's getting . . . losing his preschool proportions and looking like a boy instead of a baby.

The thread had has tied the week together for us has been our worry over E15 and S12's birthmother.  She had a new baby a week ago--another girl.  She is unstable and homeless.  E15 pretends she doesn't care, but S12 is openly fretting over the safety of her newest little sister and the birthmother that is a puzzle to her.  Dad and I are trying to work out a plan for him to take these two on a road trip to visit Birthmom and Baby N, but it will be a month before that can happen.

They are in a homeless shelter now.  We don't know where they will be in a month.

In the mean time, we are praying for their safety and for peace in our hearts.  I know we can trust our Heavenly Father, but that trust is being sorely tested right now.  E15 and S12 are still in the earliest stages of learning to trust Him.  Dad and I are daily having to bear witness to our fragile girls that having faith in God is essential, rewarding, and relieving.

Math, grammar and science lessons pale in comparison.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#22)

Over the weekend we had a storm.  It took out our rope-swing tree.

This tree stood a good 30 feet tall before it fell.  Can you see the deer that came to feed?  They were brave!  They just looked at us and ate leisurely until I3 waved his arms and really yelled at them.

 This is the week we said goodbye to our outside-the-home-homeschool activities.  This week's calendar was full to overflowing; next week's calendar is almost empty.

The older kids are panicking, "What are we going to do?"

I am answering, "We will breathe slowly and deeply."

There are still church activities to attend, and the end-of-season soccer banquet is this coming week, and the homeschool camp out is only 2 weeks away.  It's not as though we're crawling into a hole and never coming out again.

E15 finished up her first year of early morning seminary.  She only missed 2 days; one was for a vomiting-up-her-guts illness and the other was the morning after she broke her arm when she was so exhausted and in so much pain.

No more 5:00 am (or 4:45 am in E15's case) alarm clocks for the summer!!!!

We had a morning of quiet reading and discussion on Monday.  Then we made apricot jam/syrup with the 20 lbs of ripe apricots I'd purchased through Bountiful Baskets.

They sing while they work.

A8 and I3 were playing outside at this point, but they came in later to help.

We met up with other homeschoolers to play "Bubble Soccer."

It was hilarious!

Figuring out how to wear the giant "bubbles."  They weighed 25 lbs apiece!

The blue and the red on the ground, ran into each other and bounced apart!

A8 in her bubble.

H5 on the ground--she couldn't get back up. :)

It was hot, hard work running around in the bubbles.  A8's cheeks were pink, pink, pink!

Hello, J8!

S12 scraped the skin off her knuckles by holding on to the handles in a funny way, so she just slid into a bubble on the ground for me to get a picture of her.

The kids played in several 10 minute "halves"--big kids on one field, littles on another.  It was a serious work out!

The older girls had the opportunity to attend a special Q&A meeting for the youth with one of our church leaders.  It meant an extra night away from home for the family, but it was worth it because the girls came out of the meeting just glowing with excitement, and S12 said, "I got an answer to an important, private question I've had for a while."

We participated in our last Explorer's Club meeting; it was a field trip to an urban farm.  There's a couple who bought a beautiful old house in the 'hood, put in some raised beds, and invited the drug addicts, ex-cons, and prostitutes in the neighborhood to help them garden.  Over the last few years it has become an astonishing success, and they've been able to purchase additional lots, additional houses (for office space, intern housing, etc.--one of the houses cost $1), and a giant warehouse that they're turning into a "makerspace" using donated time and funds from wherever they can get them.  They're successfully getting kids and adults off the street as well as raising enough produce, eggs, honey, and fish to support their own family, allow other families in the community the same opportunity, and open a stall at a local farmer's market. 

Not only did we get a tour of the farm, but we got to pull up our sleeves and contribute to the work ourselves by weeding some of the gardens.

You can see the neighboring lot is some sort of trucking business.

The house on the extreme left is one they're fixing up for intern housing.  The brick one next to it is a burned out shell--arson is a regular event.

They grow and harvest their own bamboo for staking plants and temporary building projects.

S12 outside the hoop house that holds their aquaponic equipment.

This is what Baby L thought of the day.
(There are more pictures, but they include the faces of some of our friends, and I haven't asked permission to post them.)

That night there were additional youth activities at the church, so J11, Baby L and I headed out the door.   I left the rest of the kids at home so that I3, H5, and A8 could get baths and get a good rest before the events of the next day.

We had our final dance performances for the season--two in one day!  It made for an exhausting but fulfilling experience.  Dad had to work, so I had to keep the little boys and help with costumes, stage entrances and exits, and all kinds of stuff with my hands already full.  Baby L was remarkably sweet-tempered and I3 tolerated waiting around in hot, stuffy dressing rooms for hours on end with astonishing patience. 

The shows were both successful--H5 stole the first show though when she exited the stage the wrong way after her first number and threw her arms around one of the nursing home residents in a giant, spontaneous hug.

We were going to have school the day after the dance shows, but we woke up so exhausted that I knew any formal school was going to be a bust.  We already had two young children arriving at 8:30 am to be babysat for the day while their mom attended a field trip with one of her other children, so we let our small house guests be the guides of our day.  It was a pleasant, quiet day filled with drawing, block building, marble run designing, and imaginative play.

But that night was our Explorer's Club award dinner.  I was in charge of awards, and it was good fun.  It looks like after 15 years, though, Explorer's Club is coming to an end.  I was ready to leave the group because the new leadership was going to take it in an uncomfortable (for us) direction; however, these leaders are stepping down, and after such a strange year, many of the participants aren't planning to come back. 

I could step in as the new leader, but is that a good idea?  That's a question I'll be grappling with over the next few weeks.

J11 thought these carrots were picture-worthy.  I agree! 

I3 thought Baby L should wear underwear, too. :)
Saturday arrived.  We planted our garden (finally!), did a medium-deep cleaning of the kitchen and family room, and sent Dad and the older girls off to a graduation reception for one of their friends in the church youth group.  I stayed home to put the littles to bed . . . and realized that I'm fighting off some sort of upper-respiratory thing.

(Here's hoping that I win.)

The week ahead is much quieter . . . though it will start with a bang when we meet up with cousins at a park to celebrate some birthdays.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Boy Inspiration

 I3 has had a hard time since Baby L showed up. 

He's a sweet boy, and we all expect boyish, preschoolerish, occasionally naughty behavior as a normal part of life.

But there's something in his behavior that smacks of more than just growing boy-ness.  (Though what do I know?  I've been raising girls!)

I've been working hard to feed him the love, time, attention, and gentle discipline he needs to grow well and know he's loved beyond measure.  But there's still something in that boy crying for attention.

On Saturday afternoon, he was climbing around the kitchen while I was cooking.  We'd spent the afternoon shucking corn together, and now I was preparing some of that delicious sweet corn for dinner.  He was excited. 

He got too close to the boiling pot of water.  "That's too hot, Buddy, you'll get burned.  Scoot your stool over so you can watch safely."

He didn't obey.

"Hey Bud, you're too close.  It's not safe here.  You need to move over here (I pointed out the location) or you'll have to get down."

He smiled and climbed from the stool to the counter.

"That was not following directions.  Now you have to get down."

He kept smiling and shook his head no.  I could see the wheels spinning madly in his brain.

"If you won't obey, then I will have to help you.  I'm getting you down now."

I took him in my arms to put him on the floor.  As I leaned over to put him down he poked a cube of softened butter--smashing it into an unrecognizable blob.

Before he even reached the floor, the thought flashed, "This boy needs more sensory experiences than he's getting now.  He's not acting out over the baby.  He needs intellectual stimulation via physical means."

It was a very clear thought--completely formed and easily understood.  It even arrived with a few ideas for how to act on it (playdough, pounding nails, cooking).

I feel strongly that it was inspiration sent by a loving Heavenly Father who cares for His children individually. 

After inviting I3 to come back when he felt he could obey, I thought about it.  It's not as though I3's life is devoid of hands-on experiences--he'd spent Thursday afternoon watching/helping Daddy try to fix the lawnmower; just that morning with his sisters he'd explored the tree in our yard that the storm knocked over Friday night, arriving at the back door so muddy that I made them all strip down before coming in the house; he gets lots of opportunities to help me cook; he's been Daddy's "Super Helper" during Daddy's hardscaping the garden project; but clearly, he needs more.

So, once we get through this week's field trips and dance performances I'll be planning some good stuff--some meaningful, physically and intellectually satisfying work--for my boy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Week, Briefly (#21)

Today the older girls are headed off to a soccer tournament.  This will close our soccer season for the year.  I am both sorry and relieved . . . mostly relieved.  I'm only sorry for the fact that the girls will miss the camaraderie of the team and the thrill of the game.  Dad will take them, so the littles and I will have some quality (quantity!) time together.

We're going to start our weekend by having some beloved friends over.  We're all terribly excited, but I need to get the toilets scrubbed (I don't think our friends would complain, but the toilets really need it) and I can't find the toilet cleaner!  We'll also head north for a Bountiful Baskets pick-up this weekend, and depending on how much rain falls and when, we'll try for a hike/walk at our favorite park.

It was a good week academically.

*All 4 big girls got some math done.
*I3 and I did a phonics lesson together.  We're just using index cards with letters drawn on them with marker--red for consonants, yellow for vowels (because those are the two colors I could find at the time).  He loves sounding out C-V-C words and spelling his name.
*We sat down to read Freckles, and the girls were so caught up in the drama of the story that they begged me to, "Keep reading!" for 2.5 hours.  We finished the book.
*The littles and I did some more pond activities--about floating, submergent, and emergent plants.
*We had morning devotional, family scripture study, and evening reading together.

*All 4 big girls got some math done.
*The littles and I finished our pond unit.  We read some library books about ponds and pond life, too.
*The older girls and I started A Girl of the Limberlost
*The final regular-season soccer game was cancelled because the other team forfeited.  The girls were disappointed.
*The kids spent hours outside in the sunny spring weather.  E15 is still raising her tadpoles.  We tried to feed a pair of mallard ducks that were hanging about in the swampy area on the far side of the soccer field, but they flew off before we could get the bread out.  Instead we oohed and aahed over a pair of red-winged black birds and found animal tracks in the mud.
*We had morning devotional, family scripture study, and evening reading together.

Spring flowers in our yard . . . I'm 90% sure the photo credits go to M13

Jump roping is a new skill for H5

Yes, he still uses a binky, but no, he's so not supposed to have it during the day.  That look means he knows he's been caught, but he just can't resist the satisfaction he gets from it!

Warm days = water play.  I wish I'd gotten a picture of 5 kids in our 4' diameter wading pool :)

Some sort of large bird track . . . perhaps a heron.

Red-winged blackbird--we think this is one of a nesting pair we saw fluttering around and away from a dead tree.  Perhaps it was trying to distract us from the nest?
Deer track


H5 picked a maple seed apart to find the cotyledon inside

M13 doesn't like this picture of herself, but Baby L's funny little eyebrows in this picture make me smile.

*All 4 big girls got some math done.
*We continued reading A Girl of the Limberlost, and we began working out of the Boy Scout "Nature" manual.  I read to them, and we practiced some note-taking and essay style paragraph writing techniques.
*A8 and I did some math together
*More phonics with I3.
*H5 and I practiced reading.
*We had morning devotional and family scripture study.
*Youth activities at the church were about mother's day and cooking.

Poor tired boy!

Barbies that joined our family via last week's toy drive have been fun for everyone.  E15 spent an hour one afternoon posing and photographing some of them.

*All 4 big girls got some math done.
*A Girl of the Limberlost is getting exciting!
*More reading from the BSA "Nature" handbook.  (Hands on activities to follow next week--I hope!)
*E15 and I worked on grammar from her Fix It! grammar book.
*We attended our final dance practice of the year--2 shows next week! (I'm busy finishing sewing a couple final costumes.)
*The older girls and I attended a Relief Society activity--a Zumba class taught by one of our church sisters.  Whew!  I wore Baby L and modified the moves, but it was still a terrific work out!
*The littles had a "date with Dad" at home.  He read them stories, gave them ice cream, and let them watch Frozen video clips on YouTube. :)
*We had family scripture study.

Which brings us back to today and the end of our week.

We're all feeling a sense of order and accomplishment that's been missing for a while.  It feels good.

(But meal planning is still killing me!!!!)

Friday afternoon update:  Today the littles and I had a lovely morning playing with our friends.  They left for home at lunchtime, and after we ate our lunch, we put our Pond Life lap books together.  H5 asked me to find our Oceans lap books so she could look at them both, and I did.  The kids had a grand time revisiting what they'd learned and comparing their study projects.  We read some more library books about ponds to finish up.

H5 read one of the books to us--a darling early reader by Margaret Hillert called The Yellow Boat.  It was a sweet little find.  I'm reminded that I've seen other books by her, and I'm going to reserve them at the library for H5 to enjoy.

I did some math with A8, and some reading/spelling activities with H5.  H5 also spent some time reading her Bible reader.  I3 did some preschool activities out of his favorite activity book.

Eventually I set to work folding laundry.  Baby L napped while the littles dispersed to various quiet activities on their own.  As I was finishing up, A8 appeared.  "Where've you been?" I asked in greeting.

"Writing,"  she answered.

"What are you writing?"

"That book about animals . . . remember that one?  I'm writing what it says in my journal.  I started my journal with the story of my broken arm and my baptism, but then I wrote, 'The end' and started writing everything I like from that book.  I'm getting to be a better writer and a faster writer.  I'm learning to spell better, too.  It's kind of like school.  I love it.  I can't stop doing it.  That's why my hand is always tired.  Do you want to see my book?"

"Wow!  That sound really interesting.  Yes, I would like to see your book," I replied.  Whereupon she spent the next 10 minutes giving me a tour of her journal.  It has hand drawn maps, page after page of copied information from the book she spoke of, art postcards, nature samples, magazine clippings, and brochures from museums we've been to.  It is just about the coolest journal I've ever seen.

And she's done it all on her own because in her words, "I can't help it!  I love it so much!"

That guilt I've been feeling and writing about . . . the guilt over doing a poor job homeschooling my kids?

It's not so bad right now.