Monday, July 30, 2012

Homeschool in July

Well, our first month of homeschooling is just about over.  It's been a crazy month.  Lots of frustrating, but also lots of good.

Summer is a hard time to homeschool because there are even more distractions than usual.  Gymnastics is in the morning instead of the evening.  There are swimming lessons and play dates and camping trips.  I tried to be realistic and plan that we wouldn't start out with a full head of steam, but I still got frustrated when we had interruption after interruption.

I like to plan and schedule.  I've been devoted to my Franklin day planner for years... but that's a subject for another post.  Finding the planning balance in homeschooling has been hard for me.  I like to have a solid plan, and I make it with flexibility for all known limitations in mind: sick days, home repair emergency days, "Mom's just really tired" days...  But it seems like no matter how "realistic" I think I make it, it ends up crumbling to bits very quickly.  And this makes me nuts and I get all irritated and impatient with everybody (my poor husband... what I put him through!)

On the other hand, if I throw all my goals and schedules out and say "well, whatever!  We do school when we do school!" then things completely fall to pieces.  Nothing gets done.  The kids quickly take advantage of the lack of structure.  Like this spring when I found out I was pregnant:  I said we would drop the normal routine and just do what we could when we could.  I truly did have every intention of working through some art and science and other fun things, but my kids scatter like cockroaches when there is no structure and it very quickly turned into us doing absolutely nothing.  After weeks of this, my kids had forgotten a lot of what they had learned.

Which was why I insisted we start again in July even though neither I nor the children really wanted to and even though I knew we would be constantly interrupted. 

So what I need to do is continue to make my plans but learn to not wig out when they fall apart.  I must learn to readjust, re-plan, and move on. I swear, I am experiencing far more personal development than my children are with this homeschool business. 

My friend told me about some people she knows that do a "six week on, one week off" schedule.  You know, a week of rest after six weeks of labor.  I loved this idea because it would give me time for the big projects I never have time to tackle because I put all my best hours of the day into homeschool.  Projects like cleaning out the garage.  And sewing some maternity clothes or Halloween costumes.

I set up a calendar for the entire 2012-2013 school year with 6 6-week terms plus a possible 7th next summer if necessary.  It includes lots of time off for the baby and Christmas.  Then I divided all the curriculum up to see how much we needed to get done each term.  I liked the way it gave us bite-sized chunks to work with, as well as benchmarks to see how well we were staying on track.

The idea is that we get a week off IF the kids are on track.

The reality is that we have already lost our first week off. 

To be fair, it was mostly because we ended up putting the kids in gymnastics camp all last week.  During that time, I got the break that I would have gotten in a "week off" of school, so I can't complain.  I didn't get any really huge projects done, but I did actually get out my sewing machine, dust it off, and sew a bunch of patches on my boys' scout uniforms.   Yes, feel free to applaud. 

So I've thrown a few tantrums this month about things not happening the way they were supposed to, but I think I'm over it now.  I've re-grouped, adjusted my plans, and we're moving forward.

Looking back, a lot has happened in July.  Fish now knows his 6 and 7 times tables.  The kids know more about grammar than they did a month ago.  We've read about astronomy.  We made clay bowls and painted them.  The boys know what latitude and longitude are.  Etc. 

There's another lesson I need to learn: to be grateful for what they have learned instead of being mad at them for not getting everything done that I wanted them to.  And I certainly shouldn't fault them for not learning all their lessons when I still haven't learned all mine yet!

I am grateful we can learn together.

Mouse Hunt

So, at some point this morning Peanut walked off with our wireless mouse for our desktop computer.  This evening we offered the kids a dollar reward for the return of the mouse.  Money always motivates them.  However, they couldn't find it. 

This evening I came downstairs to do some computing and realized I had no mouse.  Bean said he'd already looked under the couch and armoire, as well as in the toy basket.  But he said he hadn't checked the shoe box next to the front door.  So I looked there, and voila!  I found the mouse!  Now I can blog!

And now I get a dollar!  Wheeee!  What should I spend it on? 

Next I need to find my wedding ring.  Kids!!!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Other Garden Matters

Watermelon did not go so well this year.


The chickens did a lot of damage.  I had one left that I thought was going to make it and then I left it a little too long.  Came out this evening to find it split open and full of bugs.  Sigh.

Here's Fish, my Waterer.  After the evening milking he gives the garden a drink.  But the heat it still taking its toll.  You can see here that my cilantro and geraniums are dead and my basil looks sad.  Mint, rosemary, and lavender are doing fine.

I'm sure my garden would do better if I gave it more attention, but on these days of triple-digit heat the garden is not exactly my first choice of where to spend my time.  At least Fish is keeping it alive and we are getting some good things out of it!
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This is what my tomato plants look like right now:


Yes, they are totally fried.  But!  They look much better than they did last year at this time.  Last year, the plants looked just like this only there were absolutely no tomatoes on them.  It wasn't until September, when the weather cooled and the leaves greened up again, that the plants set any fruit at all.
Right now we are getting quite a harvest, which delights my kiddos to no end. 

The plants in the boys' garden actually look a little better:

And all these pictures were taken after I went out and picked this big ol' bowl full of lycopene-laden goodness:  

I am honestly amazed at these tomatoes.  This is the best tomato harvest I've had since I've moved to the Great Plains, not just in quantity but in quality as well.  I've had so many problems with bugs and diseases that it felt almost miraculous to pick an entire bowlful of ripe, red, round tomatoes with very little insect and disease damage.  Hooray!  
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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Back to Back Birthdays

We are done with the boys’ back to back birthday for this year. Whew! I am still getting over the Birthday Hangover, and I don’t even drink. But two days of rich birthday food in a row is harder and harder on me the older I get. It was very enjoyable though, and the boys were happy, as you can see from these pictures.


It is fun for me to remember how we ended up with these back-to-back birthdays. One lovely summer evening, 10 days or so before my due date with Fish, the Badger and I stayed up late talking. We talked about all the things we had coming up: Bean’s second birthday in a couple of days and then a week or so to get ready for the new baby. Bean had been born right on his due date, so I didn’t think this baby would be much different. And there was still much to do to prepare! 

We went to bed a little after midnight and I lay in bed trying to sleep. It’s not easy to fall asleep at the end of pregnancy, that’s for sure. About 1 am, as I was lying there with everything totally still, I felt Fish give a sudden squirm and then there was a popping sensation and I very quickly realized that my water had broken. It sure did seem like he did it deliberately. 

What followed was the most difficult thing I have ever gone through. My body really wasn’t as ready as it could have been, and so it was 19 long and painful hours before I had Fish in my arms. He gave me this look like “I am so glad that’s OVER!” which I realize now thinking back on it was a totally Fish expression. It’s amazing how they are so totally themselves right from the beginning. 

So instead of a week or ten days between birthdays we ended up with the younger brother’s birthday the day before the older one’s. For years this caused so much confusion: “How come his birthday is first if I’m older?” 

What I really think is this: Fish knew Bean very well. He knew that Bean has a very strong personality and was going to dominate him every way he could while they were growing up. This was something he could do to get an edge on Bean in one way. And so he did it. And it’s been a good thing for him to get the first celebration since he often thinks that “second child” means “second-class citizen.” 

So I am glad that the birthdays ended up the way they did. But I’m also glad they’re over for this year and we have no more major holidays until THE holidays so I have three solid months where there won’t be much to tempt me away from eating the way I know I should. 

Happy Birthday to my dear, wonderful boys! You’ve brought so much joy and meaning to my life. You’re totally worth celebrating, even if it wears me out.
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Portraits in the Park

We went for a short walk in a very pretty park the other day. It was hot and everyone was red and sweaty, but it was so lovely I decided to take some pictures of the kids. The boys are having birthdays and I like to take pictures of the kids near their birthdays.  I didn't get Peanut's picture because she was not feeling photogenic, but I think I got some nice pictures of the others, as well as some hilarious pictures of my little Rabbit.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Peaches for Me!

The Badger came home with a box of peaches the other day. A neighbor had called and said "come take what you want from my tree" so the Badger stopped by on his way home from work and filled a box.  They are small-- peaches here usually are.  But they are PEACHES!!! 

The neighbor hadn't done anything at all to the tree, so we weren't sure about bugs.  But there weren't any.

The kids and I got busy.  It reminded me of the old days when I lived in Idaho and did a ton of canning, but back then the kids were really too little to help.  This time, I had Bean doing all the blanching:

And Roo and Fish peeling the blanched peaches so I could slice them.  We were a good team and we had fun.  The Rabbit even helped for awhile and did a good job peeling.  She loved it.  After awhile we all ran out of steam and the Badger helped get things finished up.  Then we had a large mixing bowl full of peach halves. 

 So far I have made about 12 pints of peach freezer jam.  I love the freezer jam pectin they sell these days!  I used to make jam a lot and I didn't mind the cooking and stirring, but this no-cook business works really well with my current busy life.  And the Badger LOVES freezer jam.

I have still only gone through half of the peaches.  I think I'll make a peach cobbler tomorrow...
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Monday, July 16, 2012

No Pictures With This Post....

...And you'll thank me for it. Today I have a few things to say about Bugs. 

Bugs are a big part of summertime here in Oklahoma. 

When you walk outside, the air is full of the sound of the buzzing of the cicadas.  They are in every tree, and I have a lot of trees in my neighborhood, so it is loud.  One day the Rabbit asked me what the "electric spinning things" in the trees were!

What with five kids running in and out of the house and living in the country and all, we get a LOT of flies.  I have learned that I am really lousy at swatting flies.  I miss nearly every single time.  Good thing the boys are better at it than I am. 

I remember when I moved here how freaked out I was by the large Texas Red Harvester Ant nests on our property.  They remove all vegetation from a large area around their hole and then they set up these little ant "superhighways" going to and from the nest in all directions for quite a long distance.  They are big ants and they bite, so I wasn't sure how we were all going to get along.  It hasn't been that bad, actually.  Most of the time I've hardly noticed them-- most of the nests are in our pasture.  But this year they've set up a superhighway that runs right along the edge of our back patio and another that runs right up the middle of our driveway.  Roo got bit the other day and she cried and cried.  I need to do something about them.  I've heard some interesting extermination techniques from the locals involving things like fireplace ash and gasoline.  This could be exciting. 

Okay, now I am going to talk about spiders so some of you will want to stop reading.  :)

Everyone said this was going to be a bad year for spiders because of the mild winter.  I was dreading that because we had a brown recluse infestation when we lived in Kansas and I didn't think my nerves could handle that again.  When we first moved here I got us a pest control service for that reason.  After a year and a half or so I decided to stop the pest control and just see what happened.  You know me, I'm not a big fan of chemicals, especially pesticides. 

Well, this year we have a massive proliferation of wolf spiders. Big hairy ones.  But you know what?  I'm okay with that.  I did scream the other day when one came running right toward me across the kitchen floor, but the thing is that wolf spiders eat brown recluse.  We have had very few brown recluse in our house this year, for which I am very thankful.  Give me the wolf spiders any day.  I still don't want them in my house, but we're having pretty good luck with the sticky traps. 

And no, I have never yet run into Claudio or his cousins on my property since that one day he visited me in my garage.  I hope it stays that way. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Worth It

A few weeks ago, toward the end of those most difficult weeks, the Badger and I had an interesting conversation.  We were talking about how tough things had been and I was probably apologizing to him for everything I'd put him through.  Then he said, "you know, I really think we needed to go through this." 

When he said that, I had this feeling come over me and the Spirit confirmed to me that yes, these weeks of debilitating sickness were necessary for his growth and mine.  I don't want to say "especially his" because that sounds like I am more advanced than him, but it was interesting to hear him talk about what he learned during the time when nearly all of the care of children and house fell to him.  I was grateful that the burden my poor health had inflicted upon him hadn't been in vain.

Ever since I had Bean and found out that I don't breeze through pregnancy, I have been searching for the solution to my early pregnancy misery.   Every time I go into another pregnancy I say "this time I am going to take Wonder Potion Q and I am going to feel great through my first trimester!"  I have heard so many other people say things like "with my first pregnancy I was sick as a dog but with the next one I took Extract of Bolivian Lizard Flower and I felt fine!"  and whatever it is, I'm always game to try it.  I have experimented with all sorts of different potions, pills, diets, herbs, etc., and sometimes it seems to help for a little while but as soon as the hormones kick in in earnest it's all over. 

I am sure that it is out there, this wonder cure.  It is probably right around me.  I need to eat a weed that grows in my pasture, or start putting cardamom on everything, or stop eating oatmeal, or something.  That's one of the things that drives me nuts about learning about health.  You learn some little tidbits and you try to do some time-consuming and/or expensive thing to improve your health while at the same time wondering if you're poisoning yourself even worse with something in your environment or diet you're not even aware of.  If you could only see and understand everything about health and the body it would be so obvious and it would all be right there within our reach, I am sure. 

Around the time the Badger and I had this conversation I re-read Neal A. Maxwell's awesome 1989 General Conference talk about irony.  And it just all seemed so clear to me that this is part of our test.  We are sent here to this earth to grow and learn, and physical challenges have to be part of that.  The irony, the crust on the bread of our adversity, is that when it comes to our physical health, the solutions to our problems are usually right there within our reach, but we can't always see them.  And so we struggle.  But as we struggle, we grow.  And that's part of the plan.  This isn't to say we shouldn't learn all we can and do all we can for our own health, but we're still going to have problems, even if it's just growing old.  And that's okay.  Perpetual youth in perfect health is not the end goal of our lives here.  The end goal is to "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him."  For all of us at some point He needs to use a problem with our physical health to help us come closer to Him, to help us develop more charity for others, to help us be more patient, or more grateful. 

I am grateful for what I went through.  I am especially grateful that it was not for some serious life-threatening illness but for a normal, healthy pregnancy.  In the end I get a baby.  What a deal! 

Babies and Watermelon

Always such a cute combination!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Naughty Chickens

I'm mad at my chickens.

I've been told several times that it's a great thing to let chickens roam your garden after it is well-established because they eat the bugs.  It's supposed to be great squash bug control (don't get me started on squash bugs...) 

Well, several of my chickens have been fluttering over the fence lately and having a fiesta in my garden.  Trouble is, they don't just eat bugs. 

They love tomatoes. 

I had a really nice crop of tomatoes coming on.  Every single one that was even just starting to ripen got pecked off the vine and half-consumed. 

They also like baby watermelons. 


The Badger went out last night and clipped everyone's wings, so it shouldn't happen again.  But much damage has been done.  Oh, my beautiful crop of tomatoes!!!

And after all that the squash bugs are still doing a number on my cucumbers.... 

The summer garden battles have begun.

Flavor Announcement

In case anyone is wondering....

We found out what flavor of baby we are having....

It's a boy!!!!!!

We all thought it was a boy, so we weren't surprised, but it was fun to have it confirmed.  And it makes it all more real. 

Bean is so excited to have a young apprentice.  I think I'm in for a lot of trouble! 

I haven't had a boy in nine years.  It's going to be a big change, but it's going to be wonderful!

Fourth Fun

I'm a bit behind on blogging... sorry, y'all. We had a pretty low-key Fourth. We opted to stay home, thinking there would be a pretty good display of fireworks in our neighborhood (last year... hooooo-eeee!) but this our neighbors decided to keep quiet and we didn't get to see much.

We got a few sparklers, which were poor quality and stopped burning partway down (like after 10 seconds... lame!)

But the real hit for the kids were the red, white, and blue glow sticks.  These simple things made them soooooo happy!  They danced all over the yard wearing them in as many ways as they could.

I have to say, I am not as good as I wish I was about making holidays fun for the kids.  But sometimes we forget that simple is sometimes better.  

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