Monday, May 25, 2015

Library Snobs

I have raised a pack of library snobs.  I must be doing something right. 

As soon as we moved here they were begging to go to the library.   So I took them to the nearest branch library.  They were not impressed.   "It's too small," they said.  "We need better selection than this." 

So we went to the big library downtown.  "This is more like it," they said.  It was a bit of a drive and a bit of a logistical challenge (parking meters, elevators, etc.) but worth it for a good selection of books. 

Yesterday I decided to try one more library: the one in the next town over.  It's closer than the big downtown library.   It was smallish, but not as small as the first one we went to, and it was a bright and cheerful building.  Luckily, my little library snobs approved.  Apparently they had the most important books, even if the selection wasn't huge.  Happily, they let us have a card even though we are not residents.   I think this will be our main library,  but we will still go to the downtown library sometimes for some things.  And we are planning on signing up for the summer reading program at both libraries.  

We love summer reading.  And we love libraries.   Going to the library has always been an important part of life in this family. 

What are my kids reading right now?  Well, I try to feed them a steady diet of classics, but they read so voraciously that I can't keep up, so they read plenty of candy along with the vegetables.  

Bean can't stop reading the Ranger's Apprentice books.  I swear he's read all of them a dozen times and he still keeps checking them out.  He loves fantasy and we worry about him spending too much time in fantasy land, but he also just listened to Ivanhoe unabridged on audio and that's a feat that even I have never pulled off, so I think he's doing alright. 

Fish is really into Nancy Drew right now.  He still loves Tintin comics as well.  He also recently enjoyed The Invention of Hugo Cabret. 

Roo has been reading Rescue Princesses, Rainbow Magic, the Fairybelle Sisters, and other stuff like that.  But now the Rabbit is reading those too, and I think Roo is ready for something a little more challenging.   I checked out the first Boxcar Children book and read the first few chapters aloud to try to hook her but it was Fish that got hooked.  So I will have to find something else for Roo. 

I am amazed at how the Rabbit has suddenly leapt forward in her reading ability,  enjoying chapter books on her own, when I really didn't do anything.  Had she been in public school all this year they would have been reading with her every day at school and having me make sure she read 20 minutes at home every night.   I would have had to sign endless reading logs.   And she would have progressed beautifully.   But left alone, she was always reading, and now I daresay she is reading just as well as she would be if she had been in school.  Funny how that works. 

Anyway, I am looking forward to a great summer full of library books, now that we know the best places to get them!

Weighty Matters

I am extremely excited to report that I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight. The twins are six months old and I have shed nearly 60 pounds since the day before I delivered them.  I think that is pretty remarkable, and I am very grateful.  

However, when I got pregnant with the twins I was 30 lbs overweight.  I was having a really hard time shedding the weight I gained from my last pregnancy.  I was trying, but my progress was soooooo slow.  
So now, it should be easy to keep on losing weight, right?  And yet I have a mental block about getting lower than this because I couldn't two years ago (or perhaps I should say didn't instead of couldn't.... who knows where I would be if I hadn't been pregnant last year?) 

Weight loss is such a crazy psychological thing for me, and I suspect for most people.  Oh, the mind games that go on in my brain about my weight!  

While we were living at my in-laws, I had a daily routine that included exercise and that was so wonderful.  Since we moved here and I no longer have the amazing and generous help I had there I have not been able to get into an exercise groove at all.  This frustrates me because of my goal to run a 5K.  There have been two 5Ks this month in my area that would have been perfect for me and if I had kept training they way I was in April I would have done them.  But as it is, I am nowhere near ready.  

However, I keep reminding myself that I have eight kids, including baby twins, and these things are just going to take time.  And that's okay.  The 5K will happen, just maybe not as soon as I originally planned.  But in the meantime, I am trying to work on other healthy habits such as diet, and I am losing weight, which feels wonderful!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Life This May

I love my life, but I am definitely not on top of it yet!  Slowly I am figuring things out; slowly I am picking up the various balls I need to juggle.  Some balls I have dropped and cannot yet figure out how to throw into the mix at this point (like exercise.)  But it will come.  After all, I spend a huge amount of time each day feeding babies and that will not always be the case.  
Feeding twins is a big job though.  Much bigger than I thought it would be.   Trying to keep myself nourished and hydrated so that I can keep two babies nourished and hydrated is a challenge.   I experience some effects of dehydration.  Twig has needed a little bit of supplemental formula.  But for the most part we are doing well. 
We are getting settled.  The Badger just built 16 feet of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the basement for his book collection (maybe they will all fit!)  That means most of the unpacking will soon be done.  Then he just has to do some organizing in the garage and we can turn our attention to the yard. 
Oh, the yard!  We have some major major work to do there.  I enjoy taking care of a yard and I know I can handle this one (and make it look gorgeous!) once the weeds have been dealt with (huge job) and it has been brought to a point where it just needs to be maintained.   Maintain I can and will, but getting out there to get the mess taken care of to begin with.... I have got to figure out how to fit that in and soon: before the heat sets in.
I am very grateful that this May has been cooler than average.   It would not be uncommon for us to be having days in the 90's by now and we haven't.   I hope this trend will continue.  A milder summer would be much appreciated.  
Homeschool is going well.  The kids are finishing things for the year and gleefully flinging them aside.  Most of them are done with math and just thrilled about it.  We are doing an art lesson every day (well, most days....)  The Artistic Pursuits book has 32 lessons, which is perfect for once a week for the whole school year.  Well, art got dropped when things got crazy.  So now we are going to work through the whole art book in a couple of months.   The kids love art, so this has been fun.  It's not easy for me to do art projects with the kids (they're so messy!) and it's challenging with Peanut and Prince Charming along for the ride, but I love the Artistic Pursuits books so much.
At some point we need to do the same thing with science because it got dropped too.  Why, oh why is science so hard for me? 
I keep thinking I want to start planning for next year.  Of course I haven't yet had time to do that, but when I do it will be fun.  Knowing that I will get to do old favorites with the next kid in line as well as try some new things... it's going to be awesome. 
I really,  truly do love homeschooling.   I couldn't always have said that in the past. But I love having so much time with my kids.  We had a great experience with public school when we went and I loved their teachers and all they were doing there, but I realized how little time I really had with them when they were going to school.   I remember thinking that I still wanted to teach them certain things or work on certain projects with them and I had the idea that we could do those things together on certain evenings or weekends but it did not ever happen because we were too busy and/or tired.   And I missed the ability to teach them.  Now I have them back with me and I am grateful for the time I can spend with them.  Bean doesn't have very many more years with me, and there is still so much I want to teach him.  Oh, so much. 
I think I finally have the twins settled for the night, so it's time for me to go to sleep.  (Hooray!  One of the best times of my day!) 

Friday, May 15, 2015

What I Bought at the Homeschool Convention

I mentioned awhile back that I recently went to a homeschool convention curriculum fair.  I love these.   They are a highlight of our year.  I love the chance to be able to pick up and look through the books I am interested in before I buy them.  I love finding out about resources available in my area.  I love talking to people who are passionate about homeschooling.  And I love picking out a few fun things to take home and give our homeschool a little boost.  

I remember my first curruculum fair-- I think it was in 2008 and I know it was here in Kansas.  We were fairly new to the broad range of homeschool curriculum options and we left feeling completely overwhelmed by all the options, wishing we had a thousand bucks to blow to buy all the neat things we'd seen.  We have never had a thousand bucks to blow at a curriculum fair, and we've learned that it's a place to make a list and then slowly acquire things over time.  After all these years I have a much better idea of what I really want and don't want, and I've been able to get a lot of what I want.  So the curriculum fair is much less overwhelming now-- it's just a lot of fun.  I plan ahead so I have a little bit of money to spend and then I make my purchases at the end of the day after I've looked at everything.  Oh, it's as good as Christmas for me!

No one is paying me write reviews for these purchases, but I've been really happy with my selections this year so I thought I would share.  

Here's what I bought this year:

A membership in the HSLDA (homeschool legal defense association): this is always a good thing to have when you're homeschooling and there's a little bit of a discount if you sign up at a convention.  (Plus they give you this little coupon book with a coupon for $5 off at the Rainbow Resource booth, so buy the HSLDA membership before you hit the Rainbow booth.) 

Farm animal math set from Timberdoodle: I am trying to focus on Peanut right now and what I can do to help her.  I don't have a ton of preschool activities and manipulatives, and I thought these looked great.  There are 30 plastic animals in the tub (one each of five kinds in six colors) plus a sturdy mat to put them on and a booklet of lessons.  We have had a lot of fun with them so far and the lessons in the little booklet have been perfect for her.  I don't think I would have ever thought to buy this if I had been shopping solely online, but seeing at the convention I knew it would be a valuable resource for us.  And I am so glad we got it!


pipSquigz: I have been buying from Timberdoodle for years but this was the first time I have seen one of their convention booths and I was so impressed!  It was the funnest booth.  They had so many of their toys and games out for people to play with and fall in love with.  This was, again, something I never would have understood if I hadn't seen it in person and handled it.  They had a set of the regular Squigz and I had so much fun playing with them... then I saw that they had these jumbo ones with rattles in them for babies and I was sold.  They are rubbery and rattle-y and chewy, but they also suction onto things like the stroller or high chair, which I think is really cool.  The twins are just barely starting to be able to play with toys, but I know they will enjoy these.  


Five in a Row: You know how you can hear about something for years and in the back of your mind think "I should look into that sometime" and then one day it comes up again and you just know that now is the time to bring it into your life?  Five in a Row is another answer to my prayers about how to help Peanut.  It is a great preschool program revolving around the finest of children's picture books.  I am so excited to have it and to use it... I think I will write more about it in another post because it's just that awesome.  

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens:  I am a Seven Habits fan, and I have been wanting to teach these principles to my kids.  We checked out this book from the library in Utah over the winter and I started reading it aloud to my kids.  They really were enjoying it, even more than I thought they would, which pleased me.  We didn't finish it, but we got far enough into it that I knew I wanted to own my own copy.  I had it on my Amazon wishlist, but when I saw a copy of it at the convention I just snagged it.  

Dutch Blitz: A couple weeks before the convention I got a promotional email from Rainbow Resource Center saying "when you're at convention this spring, come to our booth and when you do, here are some things you really should check out."  One of the things they listed was this little card game, Dutch Blitz.  I thought we could use a fun new game and since they gave it such a glowing recommendation, I decided to buy it.  That night we cracked it open and we've been playing it like crazy ever since.  It really is contagious.  I like it that everyone plays at once-- no waiting for people to take their turns.  It's fast and easy and fun.  A real winner.

I know this is a tough time of year for school-- all my public school friends are counting the days until it's over, and us homeschoolers are dragging too.  It's so fun to pick up a few fun new things to get us excited about school time again!

Five Months

I am very late posting about how the twins are five months old.  But at least I am not so late that they are six months old quite yet.  I will make up for my lateness by posting a zillion photos so you can savor their diverse ranges of facial expression.  I did take these a few days ago when they were not much past five months.  :)  Leaf is on the left and Twig is on the right.







This last picture just made me laugh:


They are so much fun.  And so much work!  But they have a whole house full of people who love to hold them and play with them and take care of them.  We are all so glad to have them in our family!
.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tapioca

Yesterday Fish was reading Calvin and Hobbes and he came across the comic where Calvin offers a bowl of lukewarm tapioca to the television god, saying it represents his brain.  We all had a good chuckle as he read it aloud.  Then Fish asked, "what's tapioca?"

I went and got a bag of tapioca pearls from the pantry, thinking he would recognize it.  He looked puzzled.  

So I decided we would make tapioca pudding as an impromptu homeschool lesson.  (Isn't homeschool great? ) 

The bag of tapioca pearls had a recipe on it, so I started some soaking per their instructions.   And I realized that I had never made tapioca pudding before.  I have used tapioca to thicken fruit sauces and I have used it as a gentle exfoliant in homemade soaps, but I had never yet made actual creamy tapioca pudding. 

I didn't read the instructions carefully before we got going, and so once we were into the process I discovered with surprise that we were both separating eggs and making a merengue.  Way more fiddly than I ever thought tapioca pudding would be, but a good cooking lesson for my budding chef Fish.  We folded merengue into custard and ended up with a very creamy, delicious treat.  It was definitely a gourmet tapioca pudding, especially with fresh nutmeg grated on top. 

Now the kids know what tapioca pudding is.  And I know that it's something I want to make again!  (Though I bet there's a simpler recipe out there.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Gearing Up For Summer

May is beautiful in Kansas.  Everything is green and lush and the temperature is usually pleasant.  

The summer heat will be here before we know it.  And I am having a hard time getting excited about summer this year. 

Now that I am back on my feet after all those difficult months, now that I am backing running my own home and cooking for my family,  I am wishing it was autumn.  Isn't that funny? 

I kind of missed the holidays this last year.  I did very few holiday activities and no holiday cooking or baking.  I didn't even attend Thanksgiving dinner.  Now I am craving that turning inward that happens in the fall, the gathering around the hearth on the dark, chilly evenings.  I find myself wanting to bake with pumpkin and cranberries.   And decorate a Christmas tree.   I want the months back that I missed.   But they are gone, and I know that I gave them to the best of causes: two sweet, beautiful baby girls that I don't know how I ever lived without.  No question of whether or not it was worth it.

So I am trying to reboot my brain to gear up for summer.  It may not be my favorite season, but it does have much to enjoy.  Fireflies.   Barbeques.   Summer reading at the library.   Popsicles.  Watermelon. 

Help me out here.  What do you love about summer?