Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hello!

I am still alive!  I am just in the process of adjusting to this new current I am swimming in.  It moves pretty fast! 

I found out three years ago that having kids in both homeschool and regular school breeds a special kind of insanity.  I'm back in that world again and it's crazy and fun at the same time.  Having kids in every stage from high school down to nurselings is also a unique blend of wonderful and total bananas. 

The day starts bright and early with making sure Bean gets to and from early morning seminary.  

No, wait--actually the day starts when Their Imperial Majesties Leaf and Twig decree it shall start.   Sometimes that is at 4 or 4:30 am. Usually I make it until my 5:45 alarm and I think "oh good, I am going to drive Bean over there and then catch another 45 minutes of sleep in the back of the van."  But almost without fail, no matter how careful I am getting out of bed, one of the twins wakes up.  She wakes her sister and by the time I head out the door I have two chattering,  giggling little fuzzballs careening madly around my house.  By the time I return from the dropoff, most everyone has been roused. 

The next big event is getting the boys off to their school, which I shall call Plumfield, after the school in Little Men.  Since they are older,  they are responsible enough to pack their own lunches and get themselves ready.  We have a neighbor we carpool with,  so some mornings I drive and others I don't.   On the mornings I drive we must load all the little ones in the car. 
Plumfield is some distance from us, across town.  That puts us right on the thick of rush hour traffic,  which is always exciting.  

Back home again, I dive into my roll as homeschool teacher.  This is the easiest year I have ever had in regards to the actual homeschool.   Roo and the Rabbit do much of their work independently, and having to frequently remind the Rabbit to stay on task is nothing like the epic battles Bean and I used to get into.  I am much enjoying the time I have left over to work with Peanut and sometimes Frog.  Two mornings a week Frog goes to the preschool co-op and then I really have a chance to focus on Peanut.

Of course the easiness of homeschool is tempered by the difficulty of taking care of busy,  high-need twins, as well as the monumental amount of housework that presents itself in a household such as mine. 

I do try to get a nap right after lunch.   It doesn't always work but we always make the attempt.  

Mid-afternoon it's time either for the boys to appear at home or for me to venture out to pick them up.  And then comes the part of the day that I dread: asking them how much homework they have and what they need my help with.  

I guess there are two factors at work here.  The first is that I am so used to being their teacher and having to coach them through every bit of school work they do that I have been feeling the burden of their homework more than I probably should.  But the second factor is knowing that they are a bit behind the curve when it comes to knowing how to do basic things that school kids do: taking notes, studying for tests, writing papers, etc.  I know that they are going to need extra help from me at home to get them up to speed in their new school environment.   After a long homeschool day, though, when there's dinner to make and messes to tidy and fussy twins to soothe,  I am just not very excited about helping Bean put his writing in MLA format or helping Fish understand metric conversion.  So I always hope they will say "not much homework tonight, Mom, and I can do it on my own." 
Which they usually do.  They are getting up to speed very quickly and doing better at school than I anticipated.  It definitely has been a learning curve though.   I am grateful for both the small class sizes at Plumfield and for their teachers' patience and understanding, having worked with plenty of other transitioning homeschoolers.

Our evenings usually include football, and I have to say that it is quite a sacrifice to have Bean in football.   It takes so much time!  I feel strongly though, that this is something Bean needs to do.   He is having a good season and learning so much.  It is wonderful to see him growing.  It makes it all worth it.  

While he is footballing, I try to go work out.  I am redoubling my efforts in this regard.  I slacked off for awhile with everything going on, but it's something I really need to prioritize because when I improve my health the whole family benefits.   

Back home in the evening it is time to put the littles to bed, finish being the homework coach, and maybe do some dishes.  If the Badger isn't too tired, he will do the dishes and work with the kids to straighten up the house.  I am sure grateful for that.  

Finally,  the name of the game is getting to bed as early as possible because it all starts obscenely early again the next morning.   I have not totally figured out how to replace that late-evening time I used to spend on the computer paying bills, shopping for family needs, and doing social media.  Of course the social media isn't essential.  I have cut my Facebook time down to almost nothing and that is probably a good thing.  But I do wish I could blog more.  Hopefully I will!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

To My Posterity

I have been thinking about what my kids are going to say about me sixty or seventy years from now.  I imagine their conversations.  "Remember how Mom used to talk to the moon?"  "Remember how Mom loved the sound of certain words and would repeat them over and over again just to enjoy the way they sounded?  Like 'popsicle?' or 'bee balm?'"  "Remember how Mom used to make faces at us through the car windows while she was pumping gas at the gas station?"

It's kind of freaky to think about, because I know that the way I see myself is a bit different than how they see me.  And they sometimes see things that I wish they wouldn't: embarrassing things or things I don't like about myself.  I wonder what they will remember years from now.  "Remember how Mom was always scratching her nose?"  I have hayfever.  My nose itches a lot.  I don't like it, but there you go.  "Remember how Mom used to get so impatient with us?"  Sigh.  I am not as good of a mother as I would like to be.  But hopefully they will also say "Remember how Mom always apologized after she got grumpy with us?"  Because I usually do.  I hope they appreciate that.

There are a lot of things I hope they see about me, that I hope they will remember someday.

I hope they see that I am totally in love with the beauties of this amazing, fascinating world we live on.  There's a quote by Marjory Hinckley where she says that if you have intellectual curiosity, the world will always be your pumpkin, full of magic and wonder.  Yes, yes, yes, that's me!

I hope they understand that my family is the best thing that ever happened to me and that I completely adore each of them.  I am just amazed at the priceless jewel that is each one of my children and the fact that I am lucky enough to have eight of them just thrills me to death.

I hope they have no doubts about my faith in Jesus Christ, and my love of His gospel.  I hope they see me doing all I can to serve Him and keep the covenants I have made with Him.

They see me do a lot of things, some of which matter a lot and others that matter less, some that I want to do and some that I have to do.  I hope they understand that music affects me profoundly and that I cherish each experience I have to sing in a choir or play the piano.  I hope they know that growing things in the garden is a soothing and nourishing experience to my soul.  I hope they understand that I have a powerful drive to create and that I find deep satisfaction in making beautiful, useful, or tasty things with my hands.  I hope they know that although I struggle with spending too much time using technology, I deliberately choose to do good, uplifting things with that technology.

I hope they remember me as a proactive person.  I have faults and weaknesses, but I try to improve myself and I hope they see that.

As I think about this, I think about not only my children, but their children and their children after them.  There will come a point where those descendents will not have known me in their earthly life, but they will have me inside them, and when they will find out about what I was like, they will say, "Wow, me too!"  That is just an amazing thought, isn't it?

Someday, there may be a great-great grandson who also talks to the moon.  A great-great-great granddaughter who collects blue and white china (maybe even has some of mine!)  Maybe there will be a little boy generations from now who just loves to collect acorns.  Think of me, little one.  Acorns are my favorite.  I am right there with you.

Wow.  Here I am, insignificant little me, here in my little house with my eight little children running around making messes, and I'm caught up in these exhausting days trying to teach them and make them into good humans and that's my whole world right now, and I forget where this all leads.  Time will pass and my children will grow up and someday they will be not just parents but grandparents... great-grandparents... my influence will spread outward like ripples on a pond.  That's really something to ponder....

Hymn 291 "Turn Your Hearts," verse four:

Turn in love to all your children
Generations yet to be
May your deeds of gospel giving
Temple service, righteous living
Bless them all eternally

Edible Cells

They turned out great!  We had so much fun with them.



Since I did this with Bean three years ago, I knew that it was best to eat them right away before the candy oozed into the Jello and it was all gross.  So we did.



Star and Life



Fish is now a Star scout and Bean is now a Life scout.  I love what scouts has done for them.  They both had great experiences this summer with camps and adventures, learning lots of new skills and earning some cool merit badges.  This next year should be interesting as we tackle first one Eagle project and then another.

Busy Frog

Here are some cute pictures I have taken of Frog recently.  Working on his tracing book...




Pulling his favorite face:



Walking at the nature park:



Being a stylish little goofball at a wedding:



And falling asleep at the end of a long day...


Frog is such a great kid.  I really enjoy him.  

Our School Room 2016

Using our formal dining room for a school room in this house has worked out well.  It is a little small, but it is bright, cheerful, and accessible.  When we were shopping for houses I thought a lot about whether I wanted to buy a rambler with a basement where we could have a lot of room for our school, or a two-story.  there are advantages and disdvantages either way, to be sure.  Overall, though, I like how we can spill over into the comfortable living room and how the kitchen is right there too.

Since our school room is right off the main living area, however, I like it to have an attractive appearance.  Everyone who comes over sees it and so I like it to look nice.  Or at least clean up nice for company.

Last month I worked really hard to get our school room in order.  It was pretty messy...


But I think it cleaned up very nice.  An attractive school room it good for my soul.  



This fall I finally put our school tree back up.  It hasn't been seen since Oklahoma, and the kids were thrilled to see it again.  I think this is one of the best homeschool purchases I have ever made.

They all decided which animal they were and where they wanted to hang it on the tree.  I then made labels with their names on them with my handy-dandy label printer, which is a new tool in my teacher arsenal.



Over the summer I went through that entire bookshelf and reorganized it.  I love an organized bookshelf!



The Rabbit loves our school!  And I have loved those Ikea shelves for organizing each kids' books!


Here's a better shot of the tree.   It makes the room very cheerful.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

September Afternoon Ramblings

I am cuddled up in a soft blanket next to a gently-snoring Twig.  My other kids think I am asleep, so the older ones are managing the younger ones in other parts of the house.  A quiet break in the middle of the day is essential to my health and sanity.  Usually I do sleep during this time, but today I don't need to.  So I am just soaking in the calm.  It won't last. 

September is here!  The -ber months have arrived at last.    I savor every one of these days.  I love the season of harvest and of gratitude for God's bounty.  This is a time for reflection, for turning inward.  It is also the time when my soul is the most thrilled to be on this magnificent earth. 

Right now the theme music to Sense and Sensibility is stuck in my head.  We watched it last night, the Badger and I (along with a heap of squirmy, chattery children.)  We do so love Jane Austen movies in this house.   It's one of my favorite things about my Badger, that he loves those movies. 
It's fun to see different movie versions of the same story. Last night we watched the BBC's 2007 version of Sense and Sensibility (warning: skip the very first scene; after that it's wonderful.)  I always wish I could make a hybrid movie with my favorite characters and sets from each version.  I really loved the actresses for the Dashwood sisters in this version, but give me the other Willoughby,  please.  And I loved Alan Rickman as Colonel Brandon because I love Alan Rickman,  but this guy was perhaps better suited to the role. 

Overall,  I think my favorite Jane Austen story is Persuasion.   I really relate to Anne Elliot in many ways.  

Homeschool is going well.  Let's talk about that for a minute.

I bought Kumon cutting and tracing workbooks for Frog and he can't stop doing them.  He just loves them.  He has almost used them up already.   I shall have to buy more.  Probably many more.  It's nice to have Frog so thoroughly occupied while I work with other kids.   I have already seen his fine motor skills improve. 

Peanut really needs to work on her fine motor skills too.  I have started the Developing the Early Learner workbooks with her.  What I love about those is that it shows you what learning readiness skills they are strong in and what they are not.  It's giving me a better idea of what Peanut needs to work on. 

The biggest thing Peanut needs to work on is learning her letters and numbers.  This is not coming easy to her at this point.  The few letters she can recognize right now represent major victories. 
Deciding how hard to push Peanut is something I am trying to figure out right now.  I am really liking the Good and the Beautiful curriculum and I would like to do the Kindergarten level with Peanut,  but the child is supposed to know their letters before they start.  She is almost six, so it is not unreasonable to want to teach her the alphabet.  On the other hand, I am very well aware of the fact that some children just need more time and they catch up when they're ready. 

Roo and Rabbit are doing great.  We are doing Apologia Science's anatomy book this year, and it's time to make edible cells.  I took them to the store this morning for the supplies and watched their eyes get wider and wider as their normally straight-laced mother bought such rare delights as Smarties and Nerds and M&Ms.  I am just realizing, however, that I intended to hide these items away before quiet time.  I forgot, so maybe there won't be much left for the cells when I get up from this rest.  Hee hee! 

My phone battery is low and Twig is awake, so it is time to go back into the fray.  Enjoy your September, my friends!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

School this Fall

We are gearing up for an incredibly busy school year.

Bean and Fish will be attending a small private school.  I can't tell you how excited I am about this.  I found out about this school shortly after we moved here, and I was drawn to it like a magnet.  But last year it just didn't work out.  I was very disappointed.  This year, however, things are falling into place.  It will be a sacrifice for our family, even with the generous financial aid we are receiving.  But it is worth it because it is JUST what we need.  It's what Bean and Fish need, and it's what their exhausted, spread-too-thin homeschooling mom needs.

I am homeschooling Roo (grade 5), the Rabbit (grade 3),  Peanut (Kindergarten), and Frog (preschool.)  Our year got underway last week and so far it's going great.  Roo and Rabbit do a great job working independently for a majority of their assignments, and that frees me up to work with the little ones, who got completely neglected last year.  Peanut and Frog need a lot of one-on-one attention.  It feels funny for me to go from teaching advanced grammar and composition to teaching letter recognition and fine motor skills.  Somehow you think the younger kids are just going to pick it up by osmosis, but mine don't, and they need my help.

In addition, Frog is involved in a co-op preschool with some other little kiddos from church.  This means that I get to take a turn teaching every few weeks.  I did this with Bean so many years ago, and I wanted to do it with the other kids but I just couldn't because I was too busy with homeschool.  Even now it wouldn't be possible if Bean and Fish were still homeschooling; I would be spread too thin.  I am excited about this little co-op and what it will provide for Frog.

The minor challenge this year will be managing schedules and all the drop-offs and pickups that need to occur.  Roo and Rabbit have already shown that they can keep their school work moving along while I'm running shuttle service, so I have hopes that we can keep things running smoothly.

The MAJOR MAJOR MAJOR challenge this year will be the twins.  Teaching goes great as long as they are happily playing in the living room with their toys.  That doesn't happen very often.  More often they are acting as a massive force of disruption and destruction.  We have to be flexible and constantly on our toes.  So far it hasn't been too bad since Bean and Fish haven't started their school yet, so they have helped out a lot.  The tradeoff to having the burden of my older boys' education lifted from my shoulders is that I also have the benefit of their help lifted as well.

It will be a wonderful year, as long as I can figure out how to manage the twins.  If I can't, I think I am going to take a page from this guy's book.


If you see me, be sure to say "hi."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tomato Sandwiches

I grew up eating tomato sandwiches, and so did the Badger.  A tomato sandwich as we know it is a very simple open-faced sandwich.  You need homemade bread, mayonnaise, and fresh garden tomatoes.  They just don't work with store bread or store tomatoes.  But with a vine-riped tomato, they are heaven.  I am glad my children are learning to like them, too.

Twenty One Months

We've rounded the third corner and now we're on the home stretch to the twin's second birthday.

They have gotten a lot harder lately.  They are really a handful, and it's exhausting.  They tear around the house giggly madly and destroying things.  They climb, they unload, they dump, they splash.

They do play with toys more though.  I can get out a tub of Little People or blocks and they will sit on the living room floor for quite awhile with them.  This has really helped with homeschool.

Working on the computer is hard.  If I sit at the computer they come running.  They fuss at me and climb up on me and then proceed to bang on the keyboard and grab the mouse, etc.  In fact, at this very minute that is what they are doing.

I love hearing them say the names of their older siblings.  I love the way they adore their older brothers and sisters.  Leaf likes to order Roo around.  She will take Roo's hand and lead her here and there and indicate what she wants her to do.  She knows she can get away with it with sweet Roo.  And Fish and Twig have a special relationship that is just adorable.

Sleeping is still a huge issue.  It will get better, then it will get worse.  I think they are just light sleepers, so anything that could possibly bother them while they are asleep will wake them up.  And when one wakes up the other wakes up.  Last night Twig woke up at 1 am scratching some mosquito bites and crying.  (I don't think I have ever had a kid wake up in the middle of the night with mosquito bites before... many times it has made them have a hard time falling asleep, but it has never woken them up before.)  Anyway, Leaf woke up too, and it took me over an hour to resettle them.  Then Twig woke up bright and early (about 6) all cute and cheerful.  She woke up Leaf and there was no hope of me sleeping in.  So I am struggling today, which is why I am sitting at the computer instead of deep cleaning the bathrooms, which is what I was supposed to do this morning.  They badly need it, but I just can't.

I really try to just enjoy the nighttime episodes.  I'm stuck with them, so I might as well.  It's uninterrupted time with my sweet babies, who won't be babies much longer.  I take them into the rocking chair, I squish their chubby legs, stroke their soft fuzzy heads, and hum softly to them.  Bliss in the middle of difficulty... isn't that what motherhood is all about?





Late Summer Garden

To be honest, I have been ignoring my garden for awhile.  It's no fun being out there in the heat, and once football practices start I can't spend my evenings out there.

The summer heat has broken now, and we are looking at several weeks of lovely warm weather.  Yesterday morning after I had school under control I went out and poked around, mostly to see how bad it was.

The kids' garden area isn't too bad.  Other than the section of grass that I have still never finished digging out, there weren't very many weeds.   Probably the worst thing going on out there is that we haven't been picking our tomatoes regularly and there were many rotting on the vines.  Shame on us!  My pioneer grandmothers would be appalled.



I looked at my little patch of parsley and said, "hey!  Someon'es been eating my parsley!"  And then I saw who it was.  Can you see him?  He's going to be a black swallowtail, that one.  I'll forgive him the parsley for that.  I don't use it much, anyway.


Fish's exemplary tomato plant...  I must say, those nice tomato ladders I bought from Gardener's Supply a few years ago are so much better than the $1.50 tomato cages I bought at Aldi.  All those cheap cages have fallen over with the weight of our very abundant plants.  


The Rabbit accidentally dropped a packet of sunflower seeds in the dirt last spring.  I thinned them a bit when they first sprouted, and then left them alone.  They ended up growing about 10 feet high and producing some nice-sized flowers, which are now dying off and looking brown and yucky.  So this is the best picture you'll get of our sunflowers this year.  


So, my back garden is an absolute mess.  Totally overgrown with grass and bindweed.  The squash bugs got the zuchinni, and now they're after the pumpkins and melons as well, but I can't even hardly get at them to apply the Sevin Dust I finally broke down and bought.  (I would really like to be an organic gardener.  But I have tried and tried to organically control squash bugs for years and it hasn't gone well.)  If I can just get back there and clear everything out...


I did poke around back there and find a few tomatoes and a pepper.  The twins thought these lovely red balls were super fun.



I love watching babies mess around in gardens.  It just seems so natural and right.  And I hope it means that they will carry on a love of gardening to the next generation.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Football Fundraiser Blanket

I needed to produce some sort of item for Bean's football silent auction fundraiser.  I decided I would go with handmade, and I thought it would be a fun excuse to put together a quilt.  Okay, Mom, since it's tied and not quilted it's technically not a quilt.  But it is patchwork.

I went with fast and easy.  I just used two charm packs, which are stacks of precut 5 inch squares in coordinating fabrics.  I arranged them randomly and then sewed the whole thing together in one sitting.  It was still really fun, despite the simplicity.



It didn't get much attention at the auction, and I felt kind of bad about that.  It probably wasn't a very good venue for something like this.  The stuff that was selling really well was the stuff like tickets to various events and food packages.  No one was bidding on my quilt, so finally I bid the minimum just so it would have something on the bid sheet.  Near the end of the auction one other person bid, so I didn't end up having to buy it back.  I hope that person enjoys it.  They certainly got it for a a great price.

While I was at the auction I did end up talking to the woman who bought the skirt I made for the auction last year.  (I didn't attend that one, so I had no idea how my skirt had fared.)  She went on and on about how much her granddaughter loved it and wore it all the time.  That was very gratifying to me, to know that it had been loved and appreciated after I had sent it off into the void.  Maybe this quilt will be treasured also.