Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Homeschooling Thursday: This and That

These days we have a bit of a rhythm going, with a short morning session of math (sometimes on the windows just for kicks*)  and a few sentences of handwriting.  For handwriting we work on a few lines of a poem each day, and by the end of the month have memorized a new poem.  My go to book for seasonal children's poetry is the  "ChildCraft book of Poems and Rhymes".  We adopted a whole set of ChildCraft books from our neighbors last year, and they have been a great resource for just about everything.

Having accomplished these two subjects I'm pretty happy to leave the rest of the day up to chance.  It usually involves a little of this and some more of that--for instance:

* We have been slowly working our way through some study of Ancient Arabic times.  I was envisioning all kinds of excitement and imaginative play to arise from this study but so far the kids are showing little interest in it, aside from the classic stories we've been reading.   I'd like to be reading so much more with them, but find that life with a two (2!) year old allows for very little sit down reading--unless its of the worker truck variety.

* There's always plenty of outdoor play which leads to some pretty amazing nature study, almost always unexpectedly.  Yesterday Wylie took down our bird house and found an abandoned chickadee nest with eggs still  in it!  The nest was made up entirely of moss and hair and was somehow full of mushrooms.  It was unclear whether they'd grown from the nest, or had been stored there by some other critter.  A week ago we got to dissect a basketball sized wasp's nest that had blown out of a tree.  We were surprised to find the biggest wasp I have ever seen still inside it (um...yikes!).  Fortunately she was too cold to move quickly and just sat there enjoying the sun.  (I have since heard the trick of putting the nest in the freezer for a few days to make sure everything inside is dead.  We'll be sure to do that next time.)  

* Artwork happens on its own around here, with very few structured projects.  Juniper however, has created a new tradition of hanging a new collage in our mudroom at the start of each season.  Her project has specific guidelines, namely that she and I work on it side by side, that it involve paper, glue, and some elements of nature.  This is our third so far.  I'm hoping next season we can break out of the box a bit, but I seldom have much say in these matters.
Wylie's art is mostly in sculptural form, heavy on the hot glue and random electronic pieces.
Playdough rarely makes an appearance but when it does it is always a good time. In the picture above they were "in Mexico learning how to make cannoli"!   Which reminds me that we should certainly learn to make real cannoli--sans playdough. 

* Recently the kids have started performing all kinds of plays for us, usually in the after dinner hours.  They always involve some kind of ballerina, along with many costume and set changes.

Add an afternoon of playgroup, a homeschool co-op day, a play date, an afternoon of errands, and a quiet day at home (hopefully more than one) and that's our week.  Its almost never what I plan for and the mood is likely to change dramatically from one minute to the next--but its never boring.  Just the way we like it.

* The window crayons are Giotto Decor for glass, purchased at our new local art store, Fiddlehead Artisan Supply--they wash off really easily and would make a great holiday gift.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Bittle!

Two years ago this morning, I woke up still pregnant.  It was only one day after my due date, but for weeks I'd been feeling ready-- surely this third baby would come even earlier than the first two.  
The waiting ended that evening with very little warning.  After an intense, surreal, and beautifully fast forty minute labor Kale was born.  He hasn't slowed down since.  
He's been doing his best to grow up as fast as he can, and while I am always silly proud of each milestone, a part of me is screaming slow down kid!  

Happy Birthday Bittle!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Morsels: Grateful

I was chatting with a friend on the phone and she asked how our week was going.  I started in on a long bitch session about just how our week was going--something like this:  the baby has pneumonia, the dog has Lyme's Disease and a mysterious UTI causing her to pee all over the house, the rear windshield wiper repair necessary to pass inspection is going to cost way more than I thought, I drove an hour to take the kids to their dentist appointment--then missed the exit and the appointment... Yeah, it was one of those weeks.  But midway through I stopped and said, "our week was fine--with a grain of salt".  

Sure, in the midst of it all it sucked.  But after the fact, it seems naive and petty to complain about inconveniences when I'm fortunate enough that I can afford to take the dog to the vet and buy her medication when she needs it.  I am grateful to have the support and resources to try homeopathic and natural remedies when my kid is sick, and medical insurance to take him to the doctor and get antibiotics when he really needs them.  I'm Really grateful that what is making him sick can be cured in an easy 5 day dose.  I am grateful to have a car at all (and a working rear wiper).  I'm grateful that these issues can be seen as inconveniences and not family emergencies.
So yeah, the week was fine really.  How was yours?


*  These two are so sweet sometimes it kills me.  Juniper is such a little mother to him, and Kale loves his big sister, even when she's bossy.  "Kale, you can sit with Juju, but don't wiggle.  I'll get you a blanket but then sit still-- I'm trying to knit".  Perhaps she's heard that somewhere before?

*  Wylie and Juni have been outside the most of the day recently.  Several mornings last week they were headed out to the tree house by 7:45 am--usually acting on some plan hatched the night before.  The latest involved a broom, a blanket, and a stack of books requiring two separate trips.  I like to think that these chilly mornings huddled together in a tree top are the times they'll remember as adults.

* This was one of the books in their stack:

A good friend gave this book from his childhood to the kids last week.  Its a beautiful version, with pictures by one of our favorite illustrators.  Ironically, he gave us the book the very day that we attended a symphonic Peter and the Wolf  at the Waldo Theater in Waldoboro.

* This is Kale's favorite scene, which we read over and over again, with much discussion about the wolf going to "num up the duck" (said with as much growl and ill intention an adorable toddler can muster).  Then he slides the switch back--effectually calling of the attack, and declares joyfully, "no num you up duck!"

* Impromptu science experiments on the deck (in her underwear).  

* Wylie:  "Mom, I thought you'd be proud that instead of a band-aid I made my own from nature."

  * The best way I know to cook a pumpkin:

1. Rinse the pumpkin and slice off the very top.  2.  Bake directly on the oven rack, with a pan below for the drips, at 400 degrees F until soft when poked (it takes a while--but its a great way to warm up the kitchen).  3.  Remove the pumpkin from the oven and when cool enough to touch gently peel off the skin (this part is so creepily enjoyable.  Kinda like pealing dry rubber cement off your hands and pretending its your skin--anyone one else do this as a kid?).  4.  Slice it open and scoop out the seeds and gunk (save them for toasted pumpkin seeds later).  Be careful not to cut into the flesh too much while you scoop.

Now make your favorite pumpkin dish.  We like pumpkin pudding which is really just pie with no crust, baked in a deeper dish.  I make mine with maple syrup or honey as a sweetener--but not too much of it.  Top with plenty of whipped cream and you have dessert and breakfast the next day.  I may or may not have eaten all but three slices in one morning.

Happy Monday!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The View from Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homeschool Thursday: Artist in residence

We recently borrowed Andy Goldsworthy's  Rivers and Tides from our library last week--amazing.  
Even Kale was a quick fan, asking for more "Rock Guy".

Since watching the film we've all been inspired in our own ways, and today Wylie took the inspiration a step further and created a movie of himself producing art in nature.  

I love how the structure morphed over time (it became an all afternoon endeavor, despite the 2 minutes of film).  Most of all I love his seriousness and focus--Brilliant (I may be a bit biased).

(filming by Jasmine and Juniper)

    A few snap shots in case the movie won't play...I can never seem to make that work right.

Tee-shirts and bare feet, in November!  Others are preparing for the holidays, but we just can't stay inside long enough to do any elving.  Everyone on our list may be receiving pine cone sculptures and nature photos!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Homeschool Thursday: Room to Grow

You'd never guess it based on the amount of crap in my house, but I'm somewhat of a minimalist.  I appreciate a little flare here and there, but for the most part am a jeans and tee-shirt kind of girl
(its sort of my uniform).  I like to make do with what I have, and have just enough to get the job done.  I can handle a pretty thick coating of dirt and grime, but clutter unsettles me.  As you may have guessed,
I don't deal well with excess.

So, when I was designing our house my tendency was toward less.  After all, a huge part of the world lives in a fourth of the space (or less) than most Americans.  I grew up in a family of 7 in just over 1000 square feet.  As kids we all managed to get along in that small space, and we still love one another today.
(My parents are a different story--but I'm not sure you can blame that on the house).  So I was aiming for 1500 ft. or less, trying do away with anything excess, while maximizing the things we felt were crucial.

My other half had a different opinion.  And while he is by no means extravagant, he enjoys his legroom a bit more than me.  After a while we settled on a plan that worked for us both.  At 1900 square feet it felt huge to me (particularly in comparison to the 300 sq/ft. we'd been living in the previous year).  But was nonetheless considered a "small house" by conventional standards.    

(Yes, that's a helmet he's wearing.  This boy likes to be prepared.) 

The children were little then.  They slept with us, ate with us, stayed where we put them (for the most part) and wanted to be under foot.  They didn't care where we kept the toys, or the furniture, or the snacks.  It sounds terrible, but they were really more like pets than people.  In my head I kept scheming as to how we could justify all  this unnecessary space.  Maybe we could rent a room to a housemate? Maybe we could move the couch into the dining room and use the living room as a huge indoor project/work area...
I carried (still carry) a lot of guilt about our culture of affluence.  

Not surprisingly (and somehow still shocking on a daily basis) the children grew.  And I realized just they other day---"I don't need another housemate I've already got 4".  Four other people with strong opinions about where their beds should be, which toys should go where, who can go into what room and when, which shelf we should designate for snacks, which snacks we should have in the house at all...the list is endless.  I do not feel the need to oblige everyone's wishes, but there are still all those voices to consider.  We're trying to make it work for everyone as best we can.  

I still feel like we could make do with less--but I am also learning to really appreciate the space we have and the freedom it gives our littles to create their own spaces.

Since Wylie's move, there has been quite a bit of door slamming and kicking people out of "my room" from both ends of the hall.  I must admit I have a fairly firm rule about no one playing in my room either, without permission (though I make a point to be polite about it).

In order to keep the peace there were some signs constructed.  Juniper's is uncharacteristically clear and to the point (I was expecting a few more rainbows and purple houses).  It does the trick nicely.

Wylie's started out with all kinds of warnings, threats of hazardous waste, and video surveillance.  Halfway through the project he thought of the lights and the words became unimportant--he never even colored them in.

The lights make this one hard to see--it reads:  Please Enter
On the reverse its says:  Entrance by appointment only, warning:  high voltage within, use caution.  
Since hanging the signs there has been little need for them.  It seems that all they needed was the chance to claim ownership of the rights to their rooms.  And while I still feel that children may be better off sharing rooms (both Wylie and Juni will have a turn to share with Kale) I do love seeing the responsibility they have each been taking in caring for and setting up their own private space.

And, even though the sign may read closed its quite likely there'll be three little ones in there building Legos, or leaping off the bed into a pile of pillows all together.

Monday, November 7, 2011


We had the amazing opportunity to go climbing with some friends this weekend.  We weren't sure what to expect, but it ended up being such a great time for everyone.  Wylie surprised us all with his climbing skills, and our great guides encouraged us all to have a go.  It was really scary and empowering, and the view from the top was breathtaking, as well as the descent over the edge.  

I've been reflecting on that moment of of descent, trusting that you'll be safe as you sit back into the harness and have no choice but to believe that your belay has got your back.   Not to get all poetic or sappy, but its kind of like parenting.  Sometimes just when I least want to relinquish control I have to just sit back and trust them.  There's been some breath holding--but I haven't been dropped yet.  

                     Wylie on the move
                     Rob on belay 

    Kale bouldering

                      Monkey man wanted to climb so much he got himself a home made harness!

 Spider man aka Rob

    Mama monkey

Tonight I went for a run just before dark and was feeling so grateful for my strength and health.  Its an everyday thing for me to be able to move about as I want, to run fast when I choose without thought or difficulty or pain.  I usually take it for granted.   After my first climb I've been feeling so empowered that I'm  aware of the freedom I have.  What an amazing thing to be healthy and fit, to play with my kids in the sun, to grow my own food, and when the chance arises to be able to scale a ledge.   Wow.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

The View From Here

This is a moment for sharing , inspired by SouleMama's "This Moment".  In her words,  "A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember."  To play along go to the SouleMama blog.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Homeschool Thursday: What we teach our kids

Throughout the day Kale will often pat his chest and declare "Mama"-- as in I am pretending to be the mama-- and will then go about his business rocking or nursing his baby.  This is of course very sweet.
But, the other day he came up to me, and patting his chest said, "mama" then yelled "bye-bye" and went for a jog around the house.  I love this!

It was such a real reminder to me of the truth that our kids learn from what we do not what we say.
Its not just when my own nasty words come back at me, or when manners start to slip, though those times are poignant.  But in these little times, when our kids are acting out what it means to be a mother or father it becomes so obvious:  its what we do with our time, and our passion that counts most of all.

My friends and I have had repeated conversations about this, and keep coming back to the same thing:  As babies our children need us to be everything for them.  But as they grow there is a space created, space for ourselves as women not just as mothers*.  But its difficult to know how to best fill this new space.  Particularly as homeschooling parents its hard to strike a balance.  We can't possibly continue to put all our energy/time into our children (we'd be in their faces all the time).  Then what else?  How do we let them know they are valued, but also work on ourselves enough to feel fulfilled?

Most of the time I am all too aware that my kids see me as a waitress/house keeper/cook.  So it thrilled me to glimpse that they see me as an athlete as well.  It was like a little reminder that yes, I am doing something right.  I hope they also see me as an artist, reader, gardener, scientist, and just a really cool person.  Is that asking too much?

Sometime with this new space in our lives I find myself spending too much time and energy analyzing who my kids are and what they need.  I'm trying to remember that the best way to teach them is by example.  Its not so important that I figure out who they are (that's their job) but that I figure out who I want to be.

I'm still working on that one.  But I'm hoping that by teaching myself, I am teaching them the best way I can.

* I realize this may be an issue for some fathers too--but it seems to be particularly true for stay at home mom's dealing with the cultural dilemma of choosing children over a career.