Wednesday, March 30, 2016


I have never been a neat freak, yet I don't think I am a slob either.  On the neatness scale, I have always been somewhere in the middle.  For the most part I like my environment clean and orderly, but I don't mind letting it go for a little while, especially if there's something big going on.  But then I like to clean everything up again and I find great satisfaction in doing so.  My preference would be to go to bed every night with things mostly picked up and no dishes in the sink, but when that doesn't happen I'm not going to freak out, nor am I going to stay up way late past my point of exhaustion just to accomplish those goals.  Cleanliness is definitely a priority, but it's not the highest priority, you know?

Anyway, I figured I was well-prepared for the mess of a large family and I figured I could roll with it pretty well.  Up until now, that has been true.  Things got messy, but that was okay, and then when it wasn't okay, we cleaned up.  There was a place for everything and everything could be put back in its place when necessary without too much stress.  I'm pretty good at cleaning when I want to and I had a system that worked.

Lately I have noticed that I have finally reached the point where the messiness is beyond my comfort zone.  This house is dirtier and more cluttered than what matches my position on that neatness scale.  I am not freaking out about this because I have one year old twins and that's a good enough excuse for just about anything.  But I have noticed. 

For instance, this is pretty typical for my homeschool room lately.  The babies dump books on the floor faster than we can put them back, and there's usually clutter on every available surface.  In my mind, I don't care how bad the mess gets during the homeschool day because we clean it all up when we're done, but the reality lately is that this is often the state of the room at the start  of the day and that is definitely not how I would prefer things to be. 

And here's my living room after the kids cleaned it up.  So that's better than it usually looks.  

I don't have a picture of my kitchen, but let me just say that if the Badger didn't cheerfully pitch in most evenings and do the dishes for us right now I don't know what I would do because I never seem to be able to get to them. And I actually like doing dishes, so it's not like I'm avoiding them on purpose.  But it's the Badger's biggest contribution to the homeschool effort and it is deeply appreciated.  

And the worst thing, that you can't see, is all the gunk that needs to be swept and vacuumed off the floors.  My floors are constantly in dire need of a sweep, and I sweep more often now than I ever have before (at least once a day!)

The thing is, this stage of life should be the nadir of my housekeeping career.  And it won't last long.  And then things will get better slowly as the twins stop constantly destroying everything in sight and as the older kids get better and better about pitching in.  I am always shocked at how quickly the house can get totally trashed, but I am also pleased with how quickly it can get clean when we all work together.  (It's not easy to get everyone working, but it does happen, and I would say over time it has gotten easier.) 

I just thought it would be informative to mention this aspect of this current chapter in our family history.  That way, down the road, when things are much tidier, I can be reminded of how far we've come. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

End of an Era

Both twins are totally done with pacifiers.  So the days of trying to keep as many binkies as possible in very accessible places are over for us.  Also the days of people (usually me) yelling out "SOMEONE FIND ME A BINKY!!!!"

So long, binkies.  Thanks for all the fun times. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Sixteen Months

Oh, it's a cute and difficult age!  Sixteen-month-olds are a handful, and having two of them has been pretty exciting.  The twins are both very sweet and mostly pretty easy-going, but they are adventurous and love to explore and climb and get into everything they can.  They're messy, dirty, loud, and absolutely delighted with life. 

I really probably shouldn't post this picture, but I'm going to do it anyway. 

Here's another picture of Twig recently.  It's amazing how fast they get dirty at this age, and there always seems to be something coming out of their noses. 

 It's a good thing they both love baths!

Lively Latin Lessons

My friend Courtney asked about our Latin curriculum, and I discovered it has been years since I have said much about it.  So, let's talk about Lively Latin

Bean and I started dabbling in it several years ago, back when he was really struggling a lot with his learning issues.  He was ten and starting fourth grade at the time.  We took it slow so that he wouldn't feel stressed about it.  After four years we were still only maybe 3/4 of the way through Big Book One, but since that's supposed to be a year of junior high Latin, I was okay with that.  And you know all we've been through in the last four years! 

But now that all those difficult pregnancies and traumatic moves are behind us, I decided this fall that we were going to start over and do Latin with Bean, Fish, and Roo all together, and that we were going to do the entire Big Book One curriculum in one year.  That is what the author recommends for grades 6 and up; for younger grades she recommends spreading it out more, but I knew Roo could handle it. 

It's been going very well.  We do Latin twice a week, and usually our lessons consist of a Roman history reading and 3-4 pages of lessons and exercises.  Id' say it takes about an hour each time, tops.  I also make the kids go through their vocabulary flashcards every day, and sometimes we review them together. 

The curriculum is excellent.  I think it does a really good job of making the concepts clear and introducing things at a good speed so that it's not overwhelming or confusing but not too boring and easy either. 

We have learned a lot of really cool things, especially about Roman history and culture.  It is interesting to learn about things that have carried over to our day that began in ancient Rome.  The curriculum does a great job with the "word power" exercises, where it shows how Latin words are showing up in our modern English vocabulary, which is great for helping build the kids' vocabulary.  

I would recommend starting no earlier than fourth grade.  Junior High age is perfect, and high school is definitely not too late. 

We love Lively Latin! 

Holy Week So Far

What a wonderful time we've been having this week at the Birrd's Nest!  Taking some time last week during our spring break to plan and prepare for our Easter activities has really paid off.  I think this week has been really special to the kids.  I know it has been special to me. 

Monday night we made bird's nests out of chow mein noodles and melted chocolate chips.  I love it that with simple things like this I can just tell the older kids to go do it and I don't have to do much. 

Apparently the birds who built these nests believe in big families...

Monday night was kind of crazy, so we didn't get a lesson in for Family Home Evening.  So I did it with the kids Tuesday morning at the start of our homeschool day (love that about homeschooling!)  My friend Montserrat posted this awesome FHE lesson on the three gardens: the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden Tomb.  I printed out her lovely printables and we had a really nice lesson.  After the lesson, we had this display on our mantle.  I love it! 

Up on the mantle you can see some beautiful things that Roo, Fish, and the Rabbit have made at their recent art lessons. 

I especially love these butterfly eggs (and I shall make sure they stay out of reach of the twins!) 

On Tuesday we made pretzels, which apparently is a traditional Easter food in Germany.  They are fun to make and extremely yummy.  The kids had a lot of fun making different shapes. 

Wednesday we didn't do much because Wednesdays are always crazy with stuff going on at the church in the evening.  But Thursday night we dyed our eggs. 

I bought six dozen white eggs.  I figure I've got eight kids so I better buy a lot of eggs.  Also, you always lose a few in the process, and I didn't want to end up with the kids feeling skimped.  Six dozen ended up being a LOT and most of my little helpers lost interest in the dyeing process after awhile.  That meant that I got to do lots of eggs myself. 

I will tell you a secret: I love to dye Easter eggs!  I have many happy childhood memories of Paas dye kits, the smell of vinegar, and writing on eggs with white crayon.  You were never quite sure how it was going to look because you couldn't quite see what you were doing, and the rounded surface of the egg presented an artistic challenge.  It was so fun to see how they looked when they came out of the dye.

We were listening to Handel's Messiah as we were doing the eggs, and many of the ones I did ended up with Messiah lyrics on them. Hallelujah!

Then today we did hot cross buns.  Peanut was very happy to help me put frosting crosses on them.  I had made note last time I did this recipe that it was a little dry, so I upped the fat and the sugar a little bit and used only white flour.  So they were pretty much amazing and they disappeared very quickly. Hey, if you're going to eat a treat, it might as well be a good one!

Yes, Frog does live on my kitchen counter.  Why do you ask?

When I went to the print shop I had several things printed up in addition to the 3 gardens lesson.  Here's another one, also from Montserrat's blog.  I framed it and hung it at the bottom of the stairs.  Doesn't it look lovely?  It makes me so happy.  And the download was free!  Thank you, Montserrat!

And my Easter tree is blooming so beautifully right now, even with only three and a half eggs on it. 

We have also done many readings this week: the stories from Discover the Joy of Easter as well as some devotional readings I got from homeschool guru Donna Goff a few years ago.    Her book contains a lesson for each day of the entire month: a scripture, a hymn, a quote, and a biography of a famous Christian.  Even though she's LDS, the collection is all non-denominational, and I have enjoyed learning more about several Catholic saints, protestant reformers, and others.  Some of the bios get a little long and are a bit dry for young children, but now that my kids are getting older we have been enjoying it as a start to our homeschool day, and I think the lessons have been very valuable.  (Here's a link to her website if you are interested: she is not currently selling the Easter book but she has other cool stuff.)

Roo was just in here asking me, "what are we going to do tomorrow for Easter week, Mom?"  Well, I have some plans, Roo!  It's going to be great!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Happy Palm Sunday!

We made palm leaves out of green paper, then reenacted the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. 

Then Roo made "Pax Cakes," an English tradition on Palm Sunday that we read about in our Discover Easter book.  Our Peace Cakes were just white cupcakes with white frosting, but they were a big hit!

Our Easter Tree

Easter, to me, is the celebration of the most important event in the history of the entire earth: the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.   It deserves a big celebration! 

I have been working on this in recent years.  I want to make the Easter season as special and exciting as the Christmas season, and make it a time when we make an extra effort to "talk of Christ" and especially to "rejoice in Christ" in our homes (see 2nd Nephi 25:26.) 

 I have five tubs of Christmas decorations, plus a Christmas tree-- I want to have special Easter decorations too.  This year I went into the garage and opened up the one plastic tub that said "Easter," having no idea what was inside.  Very little.  There were eight Easter baskets that I bought last year for 75 cents each on clearance.  They took up most of the tub.  There was an old lavender tablecloth that had seen better days.  There was a very small wall-hanging with a chick on it that I have had for time out of mind.  "I need to work on this Easter decoration thing," I said to myself.

There was one other thing: a box of twelve painted egg ornaments that I bought sometime last year from Zulily when I had ordered a bunch of Life is Good shirts and got free shipping.   "Wow, these are really lovely!"  I said. 

I remembered how when I was a kid my mom would always have an Easter tree.  She would go out in the yard and cut some branches from our crabapple tree and put them in a large silver vase she had.  She had special ornaments she had collected over the years that we hung on the tree, and sometimes we decorated our own eggs and hung them on the tree. 

Here is my family on Easter in 1988, with our Easter tree in the background.  I'm the blond in the dress with blue stripes.

So I'm looking at this eggs, and I'm thinking "Easter tree!" and I'm wondering about the cherry tree that the Badger recently cut down in our backyard (sad to cut down a cherry tree, but it was truly necessary.)   The branches had been lying on the lawn for at least a week, but I wondered if they would still bloom if I brought them in and put them in water. 

It was worth a try!  I collected some branches and found the perfect container for them: our old milk pail from when we used to milk goats (doesn't that seem like forever ago?)  And, yes, after a couple days I could tell that the branches were going to bloom! 

The girls loved helping me hang the pretty eggs on the tree. Oh, it looked lovely!  I was so happy to have one beautiful Easter thing in my home! 

Well, it was wonderful while it lasted.  Then the twins figured out how to pull the chairs out from the table, thus allowing them to climb up there even if we had carefully pushed the chairs in to keep them from doing just that.  And we learned that these pretty eggs shatter when dropped. 

Sigh.  I must admit I cried when I saw the shards of my one pretty Easter decoration all over the floor. 

I hope Zulily will have some more of those at some point.  Luckily they were fairly inexpensive (I think I paid $8 or $9 for the set.)   Meanwhile, I have some other plans for things to hang on the tree that I will share in the days to come!

Monkeys in a Tree

Our backyard has this beautiful little ornamental tree that bursts forth with gorgeous white flowers in the early spring.  The blossoms smell delicious, with a citrus scent that fills our backyard.  It is such a lovely little thing and it makes me very happy. 

It's also the perfect tree for little climbers.  Frog and Peanut spent a delightful afternoon out there a few days ago being monkeys.  They chattered and hooted and had a marvelous time.  

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Getting Organized

I am up late working on getting set up for our next school term.  This is our week off, and so it's time to look ahead to the next six weeks and get things ready. 

I am still really loving this "six weeks on, one week off" schedule.  Six weeks is enough time to really get things done, but it's short enough that it doesn't sound daunting to the kids.  And I get a chance every few weeks to catch my breath, catch up on essential matters around the house, and maybe, just maybe work on a fun project or two of my own.  I have done a little tiny bit of sewing this week.  I have also been working on the yard and garden.  It's time to plant cool weather crops, and it's time to start weeding (there will be a LOT of that this year!) 

And then there's homeschool prep. 

Organization is really important in my homeschool.  So is preparation.  Everything goes so much better when I'm prepared. 

What's hard for me is finding time to prepare.  At the beginning of this school year I made a list of Mom Prep tasks that I was supposed to complete every week.  Stuff like "look over the kids' math scores to see how they're doing" and "look at the coming week's history lesson to see what enrichment activities we can do."  Having it all on a checklist was great because in the past I was always forgetting to do most of that stuff.  Now I could just go down the list.  I figured Friday night would be a good chance to do that, to close up our week before the weekend. 

Well, I've found that on Friday nights I am TIRED and sick to death of homeschool.  Saturdays are hit and miss, and ideally Sunday is not a day when we work on school work.  So sometimes I do some prep, but honestly I haven't done a very good job. 

But if I take some time during the week off to really plan ahead for the coming six weeks, making sure pages are printed and lessons are ready, my lack of prep time during the week doesn't hurt me too bad.  (And this is another way that the six week schedule is perfect: it's not too overwhelming to put together six weeks of lessons at a time.)

I don't even have to do it all at once; I have all week, right?  Tonight I worked on Latin.  This is a subject where I have found that advance prep is really crucial.  It's not really hard, I just have to go through all the pages for each chapter and divide it into four lessons to be done over two weeks.  Then I have to print extra work pages for my two other students.  Some paper clips, some post-it notes, and then all I have to do when it's Latin time is grab the approprite packet and dive in.

Here's one of our file trays.  The top tray has some new All About Spelling word cards that I need to punch out and put in the card boxes.  The next tray down is six weeks of Latin lessons all ready to go.  Below that is blank copy paper for the printer (looks like I'm running low, as usual) and on the bottom are some old assignments that I need to sort through.  

Also, you can see our school pencil cup.  It never ceases to amaze me how, despite the fact that I restock it with 15 or 20 good new pencils at the beginning of each term, there are never more than a couple decent pencils with any eraser left in the cup.  And usually there are none.  It's a wonder, I'm telling you. 

Oh, I hear a baby crying.  I guess tonight's prep session is over!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We're not very Irish, but it can be fun to observe St. Patrick's Day anyway.  It seems like we do it differently every year; we've never really found a tradition that has stuck.  I discovered years ago that I don't like corned beef and cabbage, and some of my children don't like it when I dye the food green. 

A few days ago I was at Aldi and I was looking at their selection of specialty cheeses.  We love cheese, especially affordable specialty cheeses at Aldi.  The Kerrygold cheeses caught my eye, and I put two and two together.  Irish cheese for St. Patrick's Day!  Why did I not think of this before?

I think this has a high probability of becoming a tradition.

Then, yesterday n my social media feed someone posted about Irish soda bread.  "I could make that," I thought.  "It even looks good."

It IS good!  I could make this a tradition too.  Irish soda bread and Irish cheese.  Works for me!  Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sometimes They Fall Asleep in the Weirdest Places

Happy Leaf

Here are some cute shots of Leaf being extremely happy.

Wouldn't you be happy too if you had spent the morning playing outside in the dirt, then had a nice lunch of pizza with smearly sauce that got all over your face, and then you climbed up on the table to eat your siblings' crust scraps?  Oh, it's a good life!  (And I am so glad that babies are so washable!)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Literary Babies

It's always so gratifying to me to see my children begin to love literature at a young age. 

Fish Takes a Break

This is one of those "homeschool is awesome" photos.  When you need a break you can head outside and chill in a wheelbarrow for a few minutes. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Running Update

This evening I went for a run through my neighborhood.  The weather has been so, so lovely lately and spring is coming early in these parts.  Many things are blooming and budding, and that is always so energizing. 

It was my first outdoor run in awhile because for the last several weeks I have been running indoors at the Y.  I love running on the track at the Y because I can calculate everything to death.  I am a details person, and I love timing myself as I complete each lap, thus being able to calculate my speed.  I love setting little goals for myself that I am going to run so many laps and only walk so many.  I also love being around other people engaged in fitness activities.  I find that very motivating.  There's this one guy that is often on the track at the same time as me who periodically bursts into a sprint and goes pounding past me at amazing speed.  You can feel the power and energy in his wake as he passes and I imagine I'm soaking it up so I can use it myself.  I love it. 

I also recently attended a yoga class for the first time.  I have been wanting to go to a group exercise class for, well, for years, really, but I have always been too chicken.  I have been so worried that it would be way too hard and after an embarrassing ten minutes or so I would hang my head in shame and slither out of the room.  Well, I finally went to Beginning Yoga and I loved it so much.  I survived the whole hour just fine.  It was gentle and slow, but it was powerful.  At the end I had the most amazing feeling of balance and relaxation.  I am so sold on yoga.  I wish I could go at least once a week, but it looks like it's going to be pretty hard for the stars to align for me to get there very often at this stage of the game. 

As I look to future years, though, I want regular health club attendance to be a part of my life from here on out.  When the kids are older I would love it if I had a routine where I could go daily, alternating cardio with strength-building activities and including yoga at least once a week.  Just what a responsible, healthy, balanced person should do, right? 

But tonight I remembered how much I love being out in nature as I exercise.  The air was fresh, cool, and invigorating.  Without a track to give me exact distances I ran when I felt like it and walked when I felt the need.  That probably wasn't exactly pushing me closer to my goal, but it was much more enjoyable.  I was running because I was loving it, not because I've gotta get good enough to do this 5K. 

As for goals, I think a lot about what my goal for my first race actually IS.  I know I can complete a 5K--walking the whole way-- in under an hour.  So, do I set a time goal, or a "percentage ran" goal?  I still cannot imagine myself running the whole thing without walk breaks at this point in my training.  But maybe I can.  I do know I expect to be on the tail end of the finishers and have a time that is much higher than the average woman my age and that's okay. 

I had Bean with me on my run tonight.  He's been swimming a lot lately, but he doesn't run much and he hasn't built much running stamina yet.  He can run twice as fast as I can for very short distances, but at this point I can run for much longer stretches at my turtle pace than he can.  We're like the tortoise and the hare.  He says stuff to me like "wow, Mom, you just keep going and going."  Like I'm good at this or something.  And I laugh because really, I can't run that far without taking a walk break.  And when I do run I am extremely slow.  But I have gotten better-- A LOT better-- than where I was when I started.  That was only two and a half months ago.  So I keep telling myself if I just keep doing this and just get the tiniest bit better every time, who knows where I might end up? 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Almost Perfect Pose

Shortly after we got home from church on Sunday, I looked over and saw both the twins sitting under the easel, next to the shelf where the baby books are.  Each was absorbed in "reading" a board book.  It was absolutely adorable.  I ran for the camera. 

Of course, as soon as I got there, Leaf took off. 

She likes cameras, and she wanted to come see.  

Soon they were both on the hearth.  Twig brought her book along.  

And then I thought, "maybe I can get them to pose!  In their adorable matching Sunday dresses even!"  

What if I took Twig's book away?  Would she be mad at me?  

Not terribly.  

So then I took all kinds of adorable pictures, and I thought, "this is absolutely perfect!"  

And then I realized afterwards that you can see my reflection in all the pictures and I am making goofy faces to get the twins to smile.

So they are not perfect pictures, but I love them.  One thing that struck me was how much older Leaf is looking.  Her hair is growing and it makes her look less like a little baby.  Oh, she is so, so beautiful!  I love you, Leaf!

How could you not just love, love, love, love these two adorable little people?