Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sweet Weekend

Saturday was beautiful here.  Near 60 degrees with bright sun.  I went for a run in the morning with my sister, painted hives in the afternoon, and managed to plant a few rows of spinach and lettuce in the cold frame.  I ended the day hiding eggs by headlamp, followed by a "Parenthood" marathon while knitting up the last of my attempted "felted bowls" for Easter gifts.  Check out Clove's here--mine didn't work out so well.  It turns out front loading washers are good news for sweaters, but not so great for felting projects. I was left with extra clean tiny hats.  Oh well.  There was enough sugar here to keep everyone happy, and since they didn't know about the felted bowls no-one was disappointed.  We had a small egg hunt/candy breakfast here, followed by an Easter dinner and egg hunt/ dessert bonanza at Mimi's new house (only 20 minutes from here, yay!).  We're still in a bit of a sugar stupor, but nearly all of it was natural and dye free so we're crashing, but not feeling guilty about it.  
We ended the day working in the yard until after dusk.  A small campfire, almond butter and crackers, carrot sticks, pears and cold chicken for dinner on the porch.  Its early still, but already I'm sensing the shift from mostly inside to mostly out.  I love it!
It was a sweet weekend.  


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Homeschool Thursday: Low Tide

Several times I've referred to our style of homeschooling using Melissa Wiley's term, Tidal Learning.  There are periods of high tide where our focus is high, our way is clear, and we cover a lot of ground in a short time.  And then there's low tide.  We poke around.  We lift every rock, and enjoy the sensation of mud between our toes.  The past few weeks the tide of our learning beach has been out.  We've drifted about between planets, WWI, famous dead people (check out "How They Croaked" for a good young adult read and some interesting history) and plenty of making things, but without sticking to a set schedule, or following my lead so much.  Its been a nice, easy pace to balance our somewhat too busy "in town" schedule these days.

Kale has been thrilled with rhyming words recently. Throughout the day he exclaims with pure glee, "Mom, Hat! Cat! That's a rhyme!" or "Tree! Treehouse! That's a rhyme!".  He's right about half the time, but he is always extremely pleased with himself.  Yesterday Juniper and I made him this little rhyme matching game.
If you know any three year olds this would be a good little gift.  


The Playmo guys got themselves a new little shop courtesy of Wylie and some hot glue.

There was some cardboard/small circuitry construction, 

and a treasure hunt for the big kids.  I drew a simple outline of our floor plan, the kids added some details, then mapped out a route for the other to follow to find the "treasure".  This game was a lot of fun until it ended in a big sibling argument--but, I still feel good about the learning experience.  We'll definitely try this one again.  
Encouraged by the book, "Girls Will Be Girls" by Joann Deak, I've been trying to create learning experiences for the children that will encourage them to use their non-dominant skills.  Wylie, for example, is very spatially aware and typically (as young boys tend to be) right brain focused.  He will go for maps and building any time.  However, writing--by this I mean the physical act of forming letters with a pencil is still very difficult for him.  So--while I'm not altogether proud with how this has played out, we've agreed upon extra screen time for nicely written (full sentences, proper punctuation, his own spelling, and neat handwriting.) We started with a minute a word, but we may have to change up the rules before too long.  He does do some writing on his own in his journal, and he does some spelling/handwriting work throughout the week, but the incentive of a bit of screen time gets him excited about writing a story and gives him the encouragement to try spelling on his own and work longer than he normally would.  While these stories pale in comparison to those he dictates, his confidence is building and the task of writing has become a little less daunting in the past two weeks.  I'm planning to set up some appealing art areas as well, to encourage a bit more painting and drawing among the males in the house.  
For Juniper this encouragement takes the form or mapping games, block building, and brain teasers (the big kids and I are really enjoying "Logic Links" from MindWare). She's also been interested in learning about space, which I'm sure could lead itself to some spacial exercises.  

Something about spring seems to have brought out a dramatic streak in the kids.  Kale has been changing outfits hourly, from Farmer Kale (below) to soccer player, worker guy, space man, and beautiful dancer.  The big kids have been staging some medieval plays with princesses, knights (who look more like gnomes) and Ninjas.  

Or course Lego play makes up a large portion of all the play time here, and has become a venue for independent as well as group play.  Their favorite thing to build right now are floor plans.  The big kids make theirs quite detailed with little toilets, sinks, computers and coffee makers. 

But, I feel a shift about to happen--a turning of the tides if you will.  Outside changes are happening and I'm ready for a similar shift in our daily routine.  Today I heard the geese return to the pond up the road and saw our first doves of the season.  There was a new song bird calling--though we couldn't see him for identifying.  We're thinking about starting seeds, doing some bird study, being outdoors more.  I'd like more clarity in our focus and a bit more intention.  In spring everything is new and exciting, and I'm ready for a bit of that.  I'm sure it will come.  It always does.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A bit of sewing

A snow day, an evening entirely alone for the first time in 3 years (I think), and a cancelled appointment meant a bit of extra time this week to finish up the list of "To Do's", therefore freeing up some time for a bit of sewing--the first in a long haul.  

First up, possibly my new favorite little kid pants.  These were made in 5 minutes, honestly! with helpers.  I used a women's petite (though it looked pretty big to me) turtle neck and traced a pair paints with the neck as the waist.  Pin, sew, cut, wear.  I'd love to add some cute ribbon to the cuffs, but seriously that's not gonna happen.  Maybe for the next pair.  


Finally got around to framing and hanging this sweet drawing by Kale.  Its from a few months ago, some of his very first people.  I love how the first guy looks concerned, the second pissed off, and the third all ho-hum.  Or maybe its a series of the same person...

Finally, I made it to that deep pile of thingstobemendedbutprobablyneverwillbe  (though I didn't dig very deep).  Kale's only two pairs of jeans got some new sets of knees, and are looking even cuter for it.  I used iron on patches from the inside, and stitched some scrap material on the outer knees. 


This book has got me dreaming up all kinds of deliciousness.  Last week I had a bit of a stomach bug, and while spending a day all nauseous and pukey finished reading it.  Of course that day none of it sounded very good--but on day two after having eaten nothing but Popsicles and mint tea for 24 hours it all sounded fantastic.  Never mind the B.R.A.T. diet.  After testing the waters with a piece of G.F. toast, I dove right into roasted cauliflower and macaroons with chocolate ganache.  Yum,  I highly recommend;  The book, not the puking.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Morsels: Spring

For this last official day of winter we got a snow storm (actually, still getting.  Six inches so far).  But, even if we have to search, and perhaps create a few of them ourselves, there are signs of spring here and there:  

* The hens have stepped up the laying a bit, and we're getting 6-8 eggs a day, just in time to start saving for Easter.  
* The seasonal table got a seasonal spiff up this weekend.
* Baby lambs and goats (and many more to come) at my sister's farm.
* Spring sun, noticeably warmer, even on the cold days.
* Cotton knits--actually cotton un-knitts.  This sweater I'm frogging was knit 6 years ago and has been worn a total of three times.  The yarn is worth way more than that.  So, it will be a new spring sweater for me (hopefully for this year--but sometimes these things take longer than planned).  
* Garden planning
* Spring pictures by the kids
* and, our Spring Equinox tradition of chocolate eggs laid by those mysterious birds around our house, is much anticipated for tomorrow morning.  (Though Rob and I are much appreciating it this evening, especially since those sweet little eggs can only be found by the 1/2 lb. bag. Yum.)


Happy Spring!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Morsels: Elephants, Poop, and more

Morsels:  tiny bits of goodness from the past week or so....

This past weekend I participated in the MidCoast 1/2 Marathon in Hope, Maine--about 25 minutes from here.  The official race was cancelled due to low registration but a handful of hardy souls turned out for the fun run, with donations going to the Hope Elephants.  The race was Hard.  It should be called the "Hope I finish" 1/2 marathon because not more than a 1/4 mile of it was flat.  The hills were killer.  I'm still sore now, two days later.  

But, while the race was less than enchanting, the elephants were AMAZING.  I've always loved elephants (who doesn't?) and seeing these beauties, Rosie and Opal, and hearing Jim talk about how intelligent they are was fascinating.  His love for them is infectious. I suspect an elephant project may be in the wings for my kiddos.  We were all entranced.  

photo by Wylie

Last week had a tiny winter adventure (similar to last year's).  We used to get out and have these winter walks frequently, and now that Kale can navigate the snow more easily I think they'll become more of a routine.  We tracked some deer and turkey, and while never glimpsing the beasts themselves (no surprise) we found plenty of evidence that they'd recently visited.


 Kale asked to see the picture of the deer poop several times throughout the walk, and was thrilled each time we found more.  We also found this unidentified poop, in a small shelter that kids had built. It looks like porcupine to me, but we didn't see any other evidence.  We'll have to go back soon and look for more clues.    Its fun to think of a little creature settling into their fort to get out of the elements during a storm.  

We also found these strange marks on a small patch of alders--some kind of disease I assume, though we've yet to look it up.  Any thoughts?


Kale:  "Come see my Lego, its awesome, and its really cool, and its awesome."
photo by Rob

Every Monday we swim at the YMCA.  The kids love it, and it makes a huge difference in their swimming strength to be able to swim all winter.  I'm hoping this summer everyone will be out of the drowning stage.  Kale has always love to swim, but now he is truly doing it.  He can swim a good 5-6 feet underwater to or from the edge of the pool.  His only trouble is he doesn't know how to come up for a breath.  We're working on that.  For now he pushes off, swims until I think he probably needs a breath, I lift him gently while inhales calmly, then he's back under swimming again.  He went across the pool and back like this.  Its really amazing to see.  Juniper did a lot of early swimming, but most of it looked more like drowning until she came up smiling and proud.  But Kale is relaxed and clearing floating, kicking a bit and pulling with his arms--enjoying the sensation all around.  I get a lot of comments from other parents of toddlers/preschoolers in the pool and usually feel the need to clarify that it is just who he is (lest they pressure their own baby too soon).  I always add that my 9 yr. old is just swimming this year.  
These kids are who they are, and mostly I think we have very little to do with it.  But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't proud.  Plus its so damn cute.  

Inspired by a friend's recent Cub Scout derby Wylie came home and built his own racer.  It's a piece of strapping, with Lego wheels screwed on, and electrical tape for aerodynamics.  He says the popsicle sticks are for balance.  There's also a rock in there for weight.  He challenged me to a race, so I whipped up a snazzy Lego car (no photo) and it was pretty close.  Mine won for distance, but his was faster and way more official looking.  

With the recent warming (up to 50 today in the sun!) we were able to harvest these carrots that overwintered in the cold frame.  It was a tiny harvest, what you see here is pretty much it, but they were sweet little guys.  Quite a few of the others were rotting and had to be pitched to the chickens.  I was really lazy about garden chores last fall and didn't mulch these with anything, which I'm sure would have done the trick to prevent them from freezing.  With these out of the way we're hoping to get some early greens going.  I can't wait for fresh baby spinach! 


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homeschool Thursday: Maybe it is working

Days at our house are seldom (never) idyllic.  Among the children there is hitting, name calling, teasing, and tattling.  There is whining about schoolwork, screen time negotiations, and messy bedrooms.  There are three washes worth of clean laundry piled in the bathroom, bee hives in our mudroom (empty thankfully), and Legos everywhere.  We strive to eat all organic food-- but often don't.  We eat more processed sugar than we should.  I'm pretty sure jelly bean was one of Kale's first words (ok I'm exaggerating, but barely).  We have more screen time than I'd like and we use it as bribery leverage for all kinds of things.
We do not split up housework or childcare equally (not even close). We yell more often than we should.
There are a lot of days when it feels like most of it isn't working.

A homeschooling friend said to me the other day, "I want you to tell me what to do."

"Me too."

At times I don't know what it is my children need, other times I know but I don't feel like I can deliver.

But when I step back and look at the big picture of our lives I'm grateful for the priorities we have made, that allow us to give our children what we most value:

I can give them the space to listen to audio books for hours on a rainy day.  I can give them the freedom to play outdoors whenever they want.  I can give them the joy of brain teasers at the kitchen table, the pride of finishing their first book, the opportunity to plunk out a tune on the piano endlessly until it sounds like music.  I can give them the chance to master the building a block tower, the handling of a hammer, the use of a power drill.  I can give them relationships with siblings that are strong enough to work through the name calling and hitting, and playful enough to extend dramatic play for hours at a time.  I can give them the opportunity to love learning throughout their lives, and the time to do it.

Not everyone has the opportunity, or the flexibility, or the desire to homeschool their children.  Not everyone should.  Some people are much better off working as our nurses, and teachers, dentists, and carpenters.  Some children are better off with teachers who are not their parents.

I don't ever mean to portray that homeschooling is the right thing all the time, the easy thing (any of the time), or the ideal situation for everyone.  But for me it is the deal breaker.
Its what makes the rest of it feel like its working.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday Morsels

Tasty bits from the past few days...

My brother's family came up to Maine this weekend to visit Mimi in her new home.  We are always excited to see Casey and Nessa, but the real excitement these days is this cute little thing.  We were taking numbers to see who could hold baby Sophie first.  At one point Kale conceded that Juni could have a turn before him--but only if she paid him $9.00.  We settled on 9 pennies, and everyone was happy in the end.  Even Sophie, despite all that passing around.  She really is a good one.  

Sometimes the third child (despite the many, many photos) gets the shaft.  While I honestly believe that the benefits from his siblings outweigh the things he misses out on, I still feel a bit sad when I realize that he's never had nesting blocks, or been to toddler story hour at the library.  The other day at Mimi's he did his first age appropriate puzzle.  Throughout the day there are so many times I find myself saying, "just a minute" or "not right now" or I'll help you with that after this..."  The other day, on the verge of a tantrum (his, not mine) I realized it was time for something 3-year old focused.  Play dough.  When Wylie and Juniper were little we made play dough all the time.  All The Time.  Every week I think.  The stuff Kale has been using was made months ago, was filled with hard clumps and was the dingy pink of old bubble gum.  So we stopped what we were doing, and made new playdough.  Orange, with peppermint oil so it smells nice.  No one can resist warm, fresh playdough.  Its like therapy for three year olds.  And the rest of us. We spent a good five minutes just holding it to our cheeks until it cooled.  Start to finish it took maybe 10 minutes, including dishes.  Wish I'd thought of it sooner.  Maybe next week we'll make those little fish with paper clips and a magnet on a string.  Remember those?  


Over the past week we collected about 2 gallons of sap, and it was time to boil.  We've never done this before, and it was definitely a hobo operation.  But, it worked.  We made syrup.  "Now we don't have to buy it at the store!" --Kale   
After a week of gathering, and 2 hours of boiling we have about a cup of syrup to show for it.  But the work was easy (the kids got cold and bored and flitted about here and there while I stoked the fire, and enjoyed my tea and book), and the end product is pretty amazing--all smokey and buttery flavored.  
I'm already dreaming of something bigger for next year.  

Kale's taken to wearing his little black stretchy gloves at all times.  They're the $2, one size fits most, nylon things from Reny's that are also apparently the perfect accessory for worker guys, train drivers, and knights.  It makes dining tricky.  We're rolling with it because hey why not?, But I can't help be reminded of a short period of time when someone close to me was suffering from an eating disorder and wore gloves at all times due to cold hands from poor circulation.  Its a skeletal, morbid image that doesn't at all jive with this juicy plump morsel trying to balance his bagel without getting cream cheese on his worker gloves.  

Our centerpiece these days has become more utilitarian than beautiful, but its working.  We've just cut some forsythia that looks like it may bloom soon, I'm looking forward to a bit more spring in here.  

A A friend just sent this lovely lino-print greeting card, by Vermont artist Suzanne DeJohn.  
I put it up on the boards in our kitchen and find myself loving it every time I look at it.  I've Googled her but can't find any info on who she is.  Thinking I'll have to frame this small treasure.  Thanks Dorn!

In March when its grey like today, it feels colder even though its warmer than it was last week.  The driveway is thawing out, the blaze orange "bump" signs are out on the road, and the chicken coop door won't shut far enough to latch properly.  Its frost heave, muddy slush, wet snow gear, and smelly chicken coop season.  But its also early sunrise, garden planning, seed starting, outside-sitting season.  
Its coming.  I can smell it in the sap boiling.