Thursday, July 30, 2015

Morning Storm

I woke up this morning to a pale yellow-green dawn.  It was beautiful.  Since then it has grown darker and now I am hearing frequent rumbles of thunder and seeing a few flashes of lightning.   From my spot in bed I see the neighbor's sycamore tree, and its branches are beginning to dance madly to the rhythm of the storm. 

I love summer thunderstorms.  

I didn't get a very good sleep last night.  It wasn't terrible,  but it's going to take its toll on me today.

Still, waking up with the twins is always a joy.  I have always loved waking up with a baby.  By the end of the day you are both tired and cranky and you are just done dealing with them.  But when you wake up in the morning you are refreshed and they are in a wonderful mood.  They smile at you and babble a morning greeting and you fall in love all over again. 

You know how your hands are extra-sensitive first thing in the morning?  Sensitive and a little stiff, mine have alwaus been.   When I was a kid we called it "morning hands."  Well, there's nothing like putting those morning hands on a velvety baby's head.  Sweet, warm peach fuzz.  Oh, heaven. 

Still, I know I am going to be dragging a bit today.  We were going to go to the library and cash in on the last of our summer reading prizes,  but with this thunderstorm I think we will lay low this morning.  I have been wanting to do something and this morning will be a good time for it.  We have a lot of logic games I have collected over the years.  I have found that often after the novelty is worn off they don't get played with much unless I direct it.  So this morning we are going to round them all up and have some sort of logic game challenge.  See how many of the levels in the game we can complete or something.   Sounds fun to me. 

Yesterday's batch of bread was a little overbaked again... the batch before that was way underbaked.  I am having trouble with this oven.  We are not used to each other yet.  Hopefully I will figure it out in time.  In the meantime, overbaked bread makes great bread and milk.  My kids love bread and milk.  I don't like it at all, but it makes me happy to see them schlurping it down like old-time pioneer children. 

We also have plenty of milk.  The other night I went to Costco and bought two gallons.  The Badger stopped by Braum's on his way home.  He tried to call me but I have a bad habit of leaving my cell phone ringer off (I think that I am a very frustrating person to be married to!)  So he also bought two gallons of milk.  There is plenty of milk at our house now, and no question of whether or not it will get used up before the expiration date.  The only concern was whether we could fit it all in the fridge, but we made it work. 

For years now we have had the luxury of having a second fridge in the garage,  which is very helpful for a family our size who buys in bulk.   Moving here we only had one fridge, which is not a large one.  It's the one we bought brand-new when we built our first little starter home outside Boise, Idaho almost thirteen years ago.  We paid $400 for it at Lowe's,  a princely sum.  It's extremely beat-up, having been through so many moves... let's see... eight.  No, nine.  Ugh.  Anyway, it's been a challenge trying to fit all our groceries in it since we moved here.  We have wanted to buy a second fridge, but the budget has not allowed it. 

But then the other day Bean was on a jog through the neighborhood (we are trying to have the boys get some exercise.)  He ran by a house where a woman had just put a mini-fridge on her curb with a "free" sign on it.  He brought it home triumphantly.   I was skeptical, but it works fine and it cleaned up beautifully.   The Badger and I have always talked about what a luxury it would be to have a little fridge in our room where we could keep some drinks (Izze sodas come to mind) and treats for Mom and Dad only.  The Badger in particular would enjoy this; he loves fancy drinks, whereas I would just like to be able to have some cold water.

Well, now we have a little fridge in our room!  We will have to find a way to lock it if we want to keep the kids out of it.  Right now they keep messing with it because of the novelty.   But what a blessing, a tender mercy.  Not only is it a little overflow fridge space when we need it but it is a little something that we have been wanting but not needing, but that cheers us up and makes life a little bit more fun.  Just another one of those signs that God is aware of us and is walking through our hard times with us. 

God is good.  He knows us individually and loves us more than we can comprehend.   In the midst of affliction our table is spread. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wordsmith

I have several drafts of posts I wanted to write about specific homeschool curriculum we have used.  And then I found that my brain was too worn out to put together coherent sentences about homeschool curriculum, until now.  I must be finally making a dent in my sleep deficit.   Yay!  Anyway, if I am ever going to get these done I am going to have to tap them out on my phone and that means there won't be any pictures or links.  I am sorry about that.  But I promised that I would write these and I just want to get them out there.  

Bean and I recently finished the "Wordsmith: Apprentice" writing curriculum.   We had a good experience with it and I plan on doing it with Fish and Roo this fall.  

The book pretends that the student has just been hired to work at a newspaper.  It takes them through introductory writing assignments for every newspaper department: classifieds, ads, poems, recipes, advice column, etc.  At the end it finally works up to factual reporting.  Along the way it introduces the student to basic grammar, which wasn't super important to us since we were already doing a separate grammar book.  But it was good exposure to many different types of writing without getting too technical about any one particular type.  

This was a good book for Bean, who has really struggled with writing and is behind grade level.   Some of the teaching is done through comic-style drawings depicting the editor of the newspaper.  That helped draw Bean in.  Most of the time the assignments were fairly short and not overwhelming to Bean, but they really did stretch him and get his creative juices flowing.  He grew a lot as a writer as we worked through this book, and by the end he wrote some things that really impressed me.  

I look forward to working through it again with Fish and Roo this fall.  We can discuss the assignments together and then I can turn them loose to write.  I think it is perfect for about 4th to 6th grade typically, depending on the student.  If your child is really bright and/or precocious and excels at writing, this program is probably not rigorous enough for them.  But for most kids it is a great choice.  

I am also planning on using the next volume with Bean.  I glanced at it briefly at the homeschool convention and I got the impression that it gets a lot more into writing techniques such as word choice and sentence phrasing.  

When Bean started out, I tried to get him to not write in the book so I could reuse it.  It ended up being a lot easier for him to just write directly in the book.  I would say it's best to buy a copy for each child, and it's not expensive.  However, I am going to be on an extremely tight homeschool budget this fall and I will probably just reuse our copy and have Fish and Roo write everything in a separate notebook.   Not ideal, but it will work. 

Roo and Grapes


I found these cute pictures of Roo when I uploaded the pictures on my camera and I thought I would share.  




Birthday Boys




My oldest two kids are now twelve and fourteen.  How exciting!

Celebrations were low-key this year.  Here are some pictures of their family birthday dinners. 
 Fish always wants chicken noodle soup. 




And Bean had his traditional lasagne.  I told him he would have to make it himself because I didn't know if I would have the time.  So he did, with some coaching from me, and it was fantastic. 


Enjoying fancy root beer:


Wow, people, he's FOURTEEN!!! 


8 Months Pictures

Here are some recent pictures of the twins. 

Yummy toes! (This is Leaf.)


Mommy and we (Twig on the left and Leaf on the right):


Lots of little pink piggies:


Playzone, with Leaf on the left and Twig on the right:


Leaf climbing up to investigate what the Rabbit is doing (reading a Max Axiom graphic novel!)  


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer Reading Lists

I wrote awhile back about what my kids are reading lately.  Right after I posted it, Bean started complaining to me that the girls were reading too much "twaddle."  Twaddle is what education pioneer Charlotte Mason calls books that have very little substance to them, books with not much literary value.  

"Mom," Bean said,"when I was their age I was into all these classics and all they read are zillions of those dumb fairy books." 

I started thinking about Roo and how she is at such a great age for so many wonderful,  classic, character-building stories with substance, both to read herself and to listen to.  Books like The Secret Garden.   Charlotte's Web.  Heidi.  I started making a list and quickly came up with about 50 books that I really thought Roo should read.   Pippi Longstocking.  The Moffats.  Thimble Summer.  Half Magic.  Miracles on Maple Hill.   Five Children and IT.

And so on. 

Then I started thinking about Fish, and how he was ready for stuff like A Wrinkle in Time. 

I got this brilliant idea to make them each a reading list and then have a "Mom Summer Reading Program."  It was a great idea.   It just took me weeks to put it together just because everything is so hard for me lately.   I still don't have Bean's list done, and no-one's list is as comprehensive as I originally imagined making it. 

But I do have lists for Roo and Rabbit and Fish.  And they are getting into it.  Roo is especially into it.  She wants to read all the books on her list (Yes!  Go for it!)  If she reads 20 of them by the end of August she gets to go out to eat with me at her choice of restaurant.  Same with Fish.  The Rabbit's list is shorter, so her rules are a little different but it's the same idea. 

I look forward to those restaurant meals!

Eight Months

Suddenly, the twins are everywhere.   Everywhere!  Yesterday I panicked when I couldn't find Leaf, only to discover she had suddenly gone from not even noticing the stairs to climbing the entire flight very quickly.  She was upstairs in the girls' bedroom playing with Peanut.  We don't currently have a gate for the bottom of our stairs so I am now constantly watching to see if she is getting on the stairs again.  I try to build barriers out of things like plastic storage tubs full of shoes-- that usually holds crawling babies off for awhile-- but the older kids keep moving them so they can get where they need to go. 

What a yucky age!  I have had to detangle them from sticky spider traps and pull them out of the dishwasher.  And the stuff I find in their diapers....  it's almost unbelievable.  

But, oh, how cute they are!  So happy and giggly and snuggly. 

They are sleeping better.   It has taken a long time to get them consistent with an afternoon nap but we're pretty much there now, and that is lovely when it all lines up for us to nap together.   I love naps so much right now, since I still have frequent interuptions to my sleep at night. 

The whole family still revolves around them.  We just enjoy them.  Right now we are very tight on money and we don't even own a car big enough to fit the whole family, so we are not going on any kind of vacation this summer.  The kids aren't doing any camps or classes or sports or activities other than what is offered at church.  This is a change for us and sometimes I feel bad about it, but it has forced us to slow down and just enjoy the twins at home.  We will be glad we did because they are growing so, so fast. 

We do have a new friend here with a backyard pool and that has been a blessing... we have at least been able to do something outdoors a few times.  So the twins have been swimming and they both love it.  They kick and splash very enthusiastically and very adorably.  

Two thirds of the way through the first year....

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Evening Ramblings

So, I am just going to babble about life at our house lately. 

The babies are getting more mobile every minute.   Leaf loves to explore all over the place.  She scoots like a champ and is starting to full-on crawl.  Twig is not as adventuresome, even though she scoots quite well.  If you put both of them on the living room carpet in a few moments Leaf will be at the back door or in the laundry room, but Twig tends to scoot up to the edge of the carpet and stop there.  I don't blame her;  tile is awfully hard. 

Today was Fish's last day in Primary at church.  He will turn twelve this week and so next Sunday will be ordained a deacon.  He has mixed feelings about growing up, and he doesn't seem to be as thrilled about leaving Primary as I was at that age.  I couldn't wait to get out of there, but I watched him from the window for a few moments during singing time and he looked happy and engaged.  I think he might be a little bit nervous about being a deacon but I know he is ready. 

Oh, those two older boys of mine!  This last week we finally let them have Minecraft.  We have been extremely reluctant to let them have much in the way of video games because of the way it takes over their lives.  But since we moved here they spend a ton of time with the neighbors, where they mostly play video games.  So when someone had an extra Minecraft account and offered it to Bean he begged and begged... and the Badger and I thought "well, at least they'd be playing it at home instead of slithering off to the neighbor's house every chance they get."  I told Bean I didn't need one more thing in my life to have to manage and keep track of and he counter-argued that Minecraft would actually help me because it would be such a good carrot to motivate them to do whatever I needed them to do.  So we finally caved; now they have Minecraft, and guess what?  They are already pushing every envelope and stretching every limit and somehow getting away with playing far more Minecraft than I would like and generally acting like addicts.  Sigh.   I have tied myself in knots all these years, sacrificing so much personally, to try to foster things like a love of learning and a self-motivated work ethic in my boys and right now I feel like a complete failure. 

Or maybe I am just really tired.  The twins are sleeping a little bit better, but they still keep me up at night and demand so much of my energy and attention during the day.  It's good that homeschool is down to a tiny trickle because that's all I can handle right now.  I told you all I was excited about planning out this fall and part of me still is, but I haven't done any planning yet... I really am going to have to put together something that looks quite different from what I would like to do just because there is only one me and I can't do it all. 

Okay, this is starting to sound gloomy and I don't mean to be gloomy.   Life is both hard and wonderful right now, so let's talk about something wonderful.  

I wrote a whole thing about our summer reading lists and it didn't get saved.  And it's Monday night now and so I am just going to publish this and write about our book lists in a separate post.  

Saturday, July 11, 2015

More Things I Love


The view out my kitchen window... for so many reasons.  Seeing my large backyard.  Seeing the green grass and happy trees.  Our nice back deck with a pergola, which someday we may even have furniture for.  The finch sock, which is the beginning of our goal to attract many birds to our backyard.   The honeysuckle vine growing on the deck railings.  


My kitchen sink.  I never saw it before we bought the house.  A good, big, deep sink is critical when you have a big family.  I ended up with a really great one, hallelujah!   I love the stainless steel because I can scrub it easily.  And I am loving the black faucet so far because it doesn't get little water drop stains,  so it always looks nice.   



IKEA's Ingolf chairs... the shape of these makes me so happy.  Classic lines.  We bought six because that was all we could afford for now, so we will have to buy more later (but they come in child-size too, so I plan on getting a couple of those.)  Having even six matching dining room chairs that I love is a first for us.  It is strange how something small like that makes such a big difference to me.  I really really love these chairs.  



Fourth of July 2015


We don't get out much lately,  with young twins in the house.  So we had no big plans for the Fourth of July. Luckily,  our neighbors invited us over for a barbecue and fireworks.  There was all the fun there the kids needed, from a water fight to sparklers and glow sticks and fireworks.   I was very grateful!  





Screaming Aliens for Dinner

My older sister went on an LDS church mission to Italy years ago, when I was an adolescent. When she came home after more than a year of living over there, she introduced us to many Italian foods. There were many interesting new shapes of pasta, one of which was pipe rigate.  This was one of her favorites because, as she said, they looked like screaming aliens.  The round end is the mouth and the pinched-off end looks like eyes.  Is that awesome or what?

I was at Aldi the other day and they had some imported Italian pasta (gotta love the random European stuff you find at Aldi!)  And there they were: screaming aliens!  I was so excited.  I bought a couple bags and then that evening I had so much fun when the kids would ask "what's for dinner?" and I would reply, "screaming aliens."

 

I hope years from now my kids remember that sometimes I was a fun mom and not always an exhausted wreck. 

Weeding Rewards

So, I think I mentioned before how my yard is an overgrown weedy mess.  I had this great plan to get the front yard under control (so that my house would at least look nice and happy and welcoming from the front) and then attack the back.  Well, I have spent hours working on the front and it's still a mess.  I don't want to go on and on about all the details of the problem; I will just say that it's becoming clear that we need to completely clear out all the old landscaping... sigh.  

Meanwhile the back yard was becoming more and more of a jungle.  Yesterday I decided maybe it would cheer me up to work back there instead, so first thing in the morning I rallied the troops and we attacked.  It DID cheer me up: the ground was soft from recent rain, so weeds popped right out and because I was just dealing with dirt and not several layers of old landscaping stuff the work went quickly.  In a short amount of time I was able to cover a lot of ground and make a big difference in how things look out there.  That was incredibly satisfying.  

I give the kids ice cream bars for helping me weed.  This time the weeding was so easy that even Peanut and Frog were helpful.  And I took these adorable pictures of them eating their ice cream bars.  The last one is my favorite. 







Welcome!

The twins' increasing mobility sometimes takes me by surprise.  The other day I walked a visitor to her car and when I turned to go back inside I found Leaf right at the front door saying Hello and Welcome!






Lots of Littles

I have never had this many little kids at one time.  I am finding it a challenge but also a joy.  I also rely heavily on my older kids.  They are great with the little ones and I don't know how I would manage without them!

 




Sunday, July 5, 2015

Reorienting Again

Every time we move I have to reorient the family again.  It can be a challenging process,  but as I look back, we have always bloomed where we are planted eventually.  

I have to keep telling myself that lately because I am really struggling with some aspects of getting settled here. 

A year ago, my kids were absolutely thriving.   We were in a place where they had just exactly what they needed to grow physically,  mentally, emotionally,  socially, and spiritually.   Many of the opportunities they had were answers to prayer, and at least one I can think of was something that I had received revelation that it needed to happen years before but that I had not had a clue how it possibly could until then.  Everything just made so much sense.  We were in a place where I just had this vision of the future and how the kids were going to have what they needed through every stage of their development.   And it was a community where I felt so at home.  I never wanted to leave.  Part of that was because leaving Oklahoma was so traumatic that it was so healing to be given these great gifts. 

It was exceedingly traumatic to have all that taken away from me so suddenly, and I am not over it yet.   I guess that's understandable.  

Now we are here in Kansas, and it is my nature to find the good where we are, especially every good opportunity for my children.  As soon as I get somewhere new, I always start researching everything that we could do or be involved in, and then I pray that the Spirit will guide me to those activities and situations that will be best for my children.  And He does. 

But that's what I am having a hard time with right now.  So far, I have been getting a "no" from the Spirit about everything I look into for the kids.  I get all interested and/or excited about something and then I just get that feeling of "no." 

What's hard about this for me right now is that my kids are not really thriving.  Their developmental needs are not all being met as well as I would like.   I look at those needs, I pray about them, I go look at possibilities,  and then I just don't have a good feeling about them, so we continue in limbo.  Other than Scouts and Activity Days at church, they aren't involved in anything in the community.  Some of them are not getting enough athletic activity.  And we do a lot of stuff at home with homeschool that meets some of their needs, but there are several gaping holes and every time I try to fill them it just doesn't feel right.  Gymnastics?  No.  Dance? No.  Football? No.  Swim team? No. Homeschool co-op?  No.  Several different options for public schooling? No.  Private school?  No.

Some things really just don't make sense to me right now.  Why did we invest so much in certain things in the past that we can't continue with and reap the rewards from?  How come something the Spirit told me was necessary for one child, that we were finally able to provide for her in our last home, is not an option here?  Why did something that seemed at first like an amazing, incredible answer to prayer end up feeling like a No when it came time to fill out the paperwork? 

But see, these "No"s tell me something,  something that I have always known but that I keep needing to be told over and over again:  these are not my children.   They are God's.  He has a plan for them and He sees the end from the beginning.  The fact that He cares enough to tell me "no" means that He is steering me toward "yes."  Even though I thought I had it all figured out before we moved and now it doesn't make sense, it makes sense to Him.  I know that.  I trust Him.  I don't know how I could possibly tackle this parenthood thing without Him on my side: my children's eternal Father, their omnipotent Creator.  The One with every resource at His disposal and a perfect love for my children, and for me as well.

So I think far too much, I overanalyze everything, but really I should be so grateful for the guidance and direction I am receiving that is just not making sense to me right now.  It will make sense in time.  It always does.  And what a beautiful thing is a "no" from God because it means He cares and has a plan in mind.  And sometimes we forget just how brilliant God's plans are.  It will be mindblowingly stunning when we finally see the whole pattern of our lives: more poignant, profound, and triumphant than the greatest novel ever written and more intricate, exquisite, and breathtaking than the most beautiful work of art. 

There are two things that I do feel really good about right now that help me a lot when I am struggling with feeling like my life has gone wrong. 

The first is the Badger's job.  The opportunities he has at work right now are exactly what he needs, and the stability and long-term growth potential are exactly what our family needs.  A couple of times I have been at work with him talking about his job and I have had the Spirit whisper to me that the people he is meeting (who are from all over the world) and the experiences he is having are going to be significant down the road in ways we can't even imagine.  In other words, this job is just right. 

The second is our house.  Getting this house was a miracle and the direct answer to prayer.  And let me tell you what: I LOVE this house.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I love it and how comfortable I feel in every room of it.  So many things about it make me so happy, starting with the beautiful neighborhood it is perched in and ending with the little details that are just what I need, such as a deep kitchen sink and closets in just the right places.  I promise that in time I will show you more pictures of my house.  

Slight tangent: some people have asked me why we didn't try to get another country acreage.   Have we given up on our homesteading dreams?   We loved homesteading, but when we left Oklahoma we lost all of our farm equipment and paraphernalia that we worked so hard to acquire.  Then by the time we got here we were so far behind in terms of all the furniture and money and everything that we lost that we figured it was going to be hard enough to gain back that ground, let alone try to refurnish a farm.  Maybe someday we can get back into that.  There are aspects of it we miss very much.  But for now we are very content in a suburban neighborhood with just a house and a yard to take care of.

Anyway,  I am rambling.  But writing this has been so helpful to me.  It has helped me put things back into perspective.  Some things have been painfully puzzling to me right now, but things will come back together again for us here in time, just like they always have before.  And it will be wonderful. 

A Goal

You know how sometimes someone says something in church that really hits you?  A few months ago someone in church was talking about personal prayer and scripture study and how he found it most effective when he did it in the morning.  So, he said, he made it a goal that the first words he would speak every morning would be words of prayer and the first words he would read every morning would be the scriptures.  

I just loved that.  Yes, I said to myself, that is what I want to do!  It's so brilliant because if you get into that habit of putting those things absolutely first then you know they will happen every day like they should and you will have the blessing of starting your day with God every single morning.  What a powerful force in your life! 

So that's what I have been trying to do.  So far, I am not doing so well.  It is harder than it seems.  One problem is the pesky little notification icon on my phone... "okay, scriptures.... Oooh!  I have new messages!  I will just take a look really quick..." 

The pull of technology is incredibly strong.  I see this in myself and in my children.  I want both me and them to have self-discipline stronger than the pull of electronics.  In fact, I think this is vital for my children's success in life.  I worry about this a lot.  I feel like I grew up along with technology and while I know I have technology addiction issues,  I try to channel them into productive, creative, helpful channels (like my blog!)  I feel like although I struggle with this,  I at least have a fighting chance.  I really feel like this idea of starting every day with the Lord will make a big difference.   And maybe if I set a good example my children will follow. 

Things I Love

I had a hard day today.  The twins were fussy, Peanut and Frog were destructive, and the older kids were difficult.  I had a big long list of stuff I needed to get done and I ran into various snags so that in the end I got hardly anything done.  I was frustrated and grumpy. 

So, I thought it would be fun to write a post about some random things in my life that make me happy. 

Calendars:  I love wall calendars!   I always have several hanging in the house (often courtesy of my sister who loves them too) and it's like getting to redecorate every month as you go around the house and turn your calendars to new pictures.   My favorite calendars are the ones with beautiful pictures of gardens and flowers.  

Trees:  I have always felt a connection to trees, especially certain types (oak, maple, sycamore, and sweet gum come to mind offhand) I really think that if we could hear trees talk they would have great things to say, and when I am around them I feel like I can almost hear what they are saying.   My new neighborhood has an abundance of beautiful mature trees and I adore them so much.  They make me feel at home. 

Costco:  I love going to Costco!   I always feel happy and energized when I go there.  I am not totally sure why.  I think it's just that I have a big family and it's very satisfying to be able to buy large quantities of food, conveniently packaged for large families and priced affordably.   Or maybe it's just the samples. 

George Winston's album "December":  You know the music you can listen to over and over and never get sick of it? George Winston is a new age pianist and this album has been a favorite of mine for more than 20 years.  Most of the songs on it are very peaceful and gentle, so it makes great background music, calming mood music, or car music.  It does have a wintry, Christmassy feel to it, but I have been known to listen to it year round (it's in my car CD player right now, which is why it is on my mind.)

The smell of clean sheets: I don't experience this as often as I should, but I always love it when I do!

This is fun.  I should do it more often. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

My Sleep-Deprived Life

I am really having a hard time staying on top of things lately.  I can do basic things pretty easily, like laundry and dishes and stuff, but anything that requires extra brain power keeps getting put off, especially if it also involves communicating with people.  So I have all these things that have been on my to-do list forever that are important but not critical, like making some changes to our life insurance policies and getting the kids set up with dentist appointments.  Normally not a big deal to get stuff like that done, but it's a big deal right now. 

Some nights the twins sleep better and some nights they sleep terrible, but even on the good nights I don't get quite enough sleep.  Napping is a high priority every afternoon, but even so I can never get quite caught up and so my brain is chronically in a fog.  It's interesting.  

The twins are moving around more and more.  Leaf is scooting and super close to crawling.  Twig is not far behind, and she's an expert roller.  They are venturing beyond the living room carpet and discovering all sorts of fascinating things,  such as spider traps.  Ugh.  They both enjoy bouncing in the jumparoo, which is always so cute to watch.  They are so cute and sweet.  I can hardly believe that they are seven months old. 

Bean just got back from scout camp.   He had a marvelous time and it was so good for him.  He got to do a lot of neat water-related stuff like sailing and kayaking.  I missed him badly as my chief baby holder, but I am so glad he got to have so many neat experiences.  

Fish spends a lot of time lately with a neighbor boy.  They like to play basketball and ride bikes and also play video games.  Bean goes over there too, but only for the video games.  This drives me nuts.  At least Fish does some healthy active stuff with Ryan as well as the video games. 

Roo and Rabbit play with the neighbors a lot.  Some days I feel like I hardly see them.  I would like to see a little more balance with this.  I am all for playing with friends, but I would like a little more moderation.  I don't like it when I feel like the neighbors are raising my kids.  Though I am grateful for good neighbors. 

This week I tried to do some Independence Day stuff in homeschool.  I have an old second grade social studies book from Abeka Book called Our America.  Someone gave it to me several years ago and this is a great time of year to go through it.  It is a basic introduction to American history, patriotic holidays and songs, the flag, etc.  So we read that aloud this week.  Roo, Rabbit, and Peanut enjoyed it.  I also started reading aloud a children's version of The Light and the Glory, which is a book by a Christian author explaining how God's hand was in the settling and founding of America.   It's more geared toward Fish and Roo, and they have been enjoying it.

Homeschool has been pretty relaxed lately.   The kids do what little they have left, practice the piano, and participate in whatever project or read-aloud I want to do with them that day.  And then they have lots of time to go play with their friends.  This is good because I have a mountain of things to do... the yard still needs a ton of work and many areas of the house are not yet in order. 

Peanut and Frog have been really challenging lately.  They are constantly into everything.  They won't stop coloring on the walls.  If there is a pair of scissors in the room they will find it and have it in their hands and be cutting something that shouldn't be cut before you can even blink.  They fight a lot too, and Frog has learned to hit, bite, pinch, kick, and pull hair.  He also likes to throw things lately.  I am trying to give those two extra love and attention but it doesn't seem to be doing much good right now.