Saturday, September 29, 2012

rainy saturday morning….


See? Don’t my first cinnamon rolls look pretty? =)

David and I talked last night about what we should try and do today. There are so many fun fall things going on in our area right now, and I feel a little guilty if I don’t at least consider doing some of them on weekends… even if I’m not excited about putting in the effort to get us out the door.

We woke up to rain this morning, and I inwardly cheered. Guilty mommy is now off the hook, and she can cheerfully give in to puttering around the house and cleaning up the clutter.

Speaking of mommy guilt, I’m feeling a lot of it lately because Ben exhausts me so much. He’s an adorable, smiley little rascal, but he’s very, very mobile. We’re talking “taking the toilet brush away from him 5 times a day” and pulling-him-off-the-stairs-constantly kinda mobile.

My absolute least favorite thing that he does at the moment is stand holding onto the loveseat and whine and cry while I attempt to read his brothers a book. Brother is about to earn himself some crib time for that one.

I have little energy or patience for tackling big tasks right now…. and I blame him and his lightning fast crawling. I’ve been here before, and I know it’ll get better, but this is a tough stage for me.

I MADE myself clean yesterday during naptime, and it was a big effort to force myself to get off the couch and start. But now that the house is dusted, and I killed the pile of crud that has been collecting by the front door for months, I feel much better. Before I felt a little powerless with apathy and frustration, and getting moving on the ol’ to-do list helped immensely.

I like the word “immensely.” It has such a lovely sound rolling off your tongue. I should use it more often.

I’ve got chili in the crockpot. I’m using yet another recipe. I feel like I’ve been hunting for the perfect chili recipe for a very long time. And I’m terribly picky. It can’t be too tomatoey, and it must have beef and onions, but it can’t have sausage or bacon because that’s a little more unhealthy than I’m going for, and anything with tomato paste is definitely out… If you have an easy recipe that tastes identical to my mom’s chili but without the work, just let me know. =) Hah!

Monday, September 24, 2012

night musings…


The sun was just right when I noticed my baby’s shadowy kicking in the park swing and snapped it…

Another Monday come and gone…

It was our last day “rowing” Lentil by Robert McCloskey. I’ll put up pics of that later, but the highlight of today for Seth was probably getting to whittle with a bar of Ivory soap and a plastic knife. He and Evan made a huge mess of soap shavings on the back porch before I realized just how good Seth was at whittling. It does smell awfully pure and clean out there, but I’m wondering how hazardous it’ll be the next time it rains. =)

I looked around my house and saw all kinds of housework that I could probably be doing. So I decided to make a list of things to accomplish for the week… and then I hauled out the ingredients for homemade cinnamon rolls instead of tackling any of it.

Frankly, I’m ridiculously proud of my first batch of homemade cinnamon rolls. I remember being a newlywed about 11 years ago, and one of the most intimidating things that I could think of to bake was cinnamon rolls. There was YEAST and DOUGH and ROLLING DOUGH UP! I shuddered at the thought.

I made Rice and Roni and added cut up cooked chicken to it at least once a week the first year we were married. I didn’t have a lot of dinner ideas, and I had very little in the way of cooking skills. David knows about cheerfulness in affliction from firsthand experience.

Anyway, I have learned to bake since then. I started with a breadmaker, and at this point, I can even make bread without one. It’s been time to tackle my Mt. Everest of cooking for awhile now.

They turned out great, y’all. I even took a picture. I pulled out all the stops and used the plain dental floss trick I’d been hearing about to cut the rolls out of the rolled up log.

Another one checked off the bucket list! I like conquering something new and intimidating. It makes me smile. =)

And as if that wasn’t enough, I pulled a couple of pairs of pre-Ben jeans off the shelf in the closet, blew off the dust, and tried them on tonight. I fully expected them to be too tight, just like every other pair of jeans I own, including a pair I bought after Ben that has gotten too snug this week.

Praise the Lord Almighty, they fit. I do not have to drag my children to JC Penney and threaten to dismember them if they don’t stop climbing the dressing room walls and hanging from the light fixtures. David does not have to get creative when looking up “justifiable juvenile homicide” for yet another day.

AND the sweet lady who took our family pictures apparently knows how to do miracles with her Photoshop retouching tool. I saw one of them posted to Facebook tonight. The sheer amount of scrapes, mosquito bites, scabbed over ears, and swollen eyes should’ve made her run screaming when she saw our family coming, but she stuck with us, and it looks like we have a decent family picture for the first time since Ben was born.

It’s a “3-boys-under-age-6-family” miracle. You do know that God has given us an especially tough and seasoned guardian angel, right?

Due to the glorious fall weather, I’ve declared tomorrow to be a field trip day. Just another reason for homeschooling…. I’ve found more and more friends around me in this journey, and we’re headed to the local life and science museum with a couple of them tomorrow.

Time for bed so I’ve got the energy for it all. Nighty night.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

the story of ping…


I’ve wanted to share a little of what we’re doing with Five in a Row because I’ve gained so much from other bloggers sharing their book “rowing.”

Our first week of FIAR, we “rowed” The Story of Ping. Each day, we read the book, and Seth put the story disc on the map of China. Our first day, we talked about China. We read library books on China, and Seth colored a map of China that I’d printed from (They have great printables listed by individual book.) He decided to draw the flag of China under that, and we practiced saying “hello” in Chinese. We put that page in his kindergarten wonder book.

On our second day, we read about ducks. We got “Ducks Don’t Get Wet” from the library. We learned that ducks preen themselves, smearing oil from an oil gland near their tails onto their feathers. Because oil and water don’t mix, water rolls off their feathers, so they “don’t get wet.” Then we did a science experiment to show that. One of the brown paper bag ducks below has been painted with oil, and the other hasn’t. We put drops of water on each duck, and sure enough, the water rolled off the oily duck’s back. =)

Now it gets a little muddled, and I don’t remember on which day we did which thing, so I’ll just list some other activities and reading that we did.

I printed out the buoyancy charts from, and we tested the buoyancy of different objects, and we learned what a hypothesis is. We put our findings on the chart, and we added that to the wonder book…

We also put a blown up balloon in water and saw how well it floated. That simulated a duck’s air sack that it fills with air when it wants to float. It lets out the air when it wants to dive. I showed them how much easier it is to push a deflated balloon under water than the blown up balloon…

I got rice cakes from the store, and we had them for snack one day. Then we took the leftovers to a local lake, and we fed them to the ducks. American ducks apparently like rice cakes as much as Chinese Ping did. =) We identified the different kinds of ducks at the park.

Seth practiced drawing moving water by copying the techniques used by the illustrator of the Story of Ping, and we added his pictures to the wonder book. I also asked him to tell me things he remembered that we’d learned during the week, and I typed that up to add to the book.

We learned a lesson about discernment and taking punishment well from Ping, and I had an opportunity to talk with him about that later in the week when Seth wasn’t taking his own punishment well. =)

Seth and Evan both really enjoyed watching episodes of “Wild China” on Netflix streaming. Some of the aspects of Chinese life that we’d learned about from different books were really brought to life for them. Seth chose “Wild China” over Curious George sometimes! =)

We had orange chicken with potstickers and rice for dinner one night, and David got a pair of chopsticks at a local Chinese takeout place. They practiced using those to eat their meal. We listened to Chinese internet radio while we ate, and that was a good source of traditional music. =)

I got a lot of ideas from this blog post, and I’m grateful to her for the suggestions. I have no intention of raising a duck, but you see how far you can go with “rowing” a book if you really want to take the time and get deep into it. =)


Friday, September 21, 2012

thoughts on homeschooling thus far…


He asked me to wear a mask and cape so we could go to McDonalds one night as superheroes. And when your 5-year-old asks that, you do it… =)

We’re 3 weeks into this new adventure of homeschooling.

The first week, I thought that the added responsibility of teaching my children was going to take me down. It felt a little like having a new baby. Even if I’ve planned well and in advance, I still have some pulling together of books and materials that I need to do each night after the kids go to bed. I knew teaching the kids was going to be a time consuming job on top of everything else I already do, but it felt a little oppressive the first week. I’m not gonna lie.

The second week, I started relaxing and feeling a little better. I started getting a sense of where we were headed and what I needed to do and when. That only gets better every week so far, and I’m grateful for that. I now feel a lot more like I can do this than those first few days….

Our days are falling into a better rhythm, and I stress less about getting a ton done during Ben’s morning nap, knowing that I’ll have some time later in the day to do more school.

What I find interesting about this is not that I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed in the beginning. I am more interested in the fact that I felt a deep sense of joy and peace despite the “beginning something new and slightly terrifying” stress. It’s really hard to put how I’ve been feeling into words, and I hesitate to try.

Once again, it feels a little like having a new baby. (I know, I’m stuck with that analogy, but its the closest thing to it in my life experience of the last few years.) Its beautiful, and its sometimes hard. I feel myself learning and growing in ways that I wasn’t expecting. I see my eyes being opened to the excitement of learning all over again as I learn with my children. I’m noticing the world around me differently because of my teaching. The interactions that I’m having with Seth and Evan lately have been priceless to me, and I will treasure them in my heart all my life.

I don’t think that homeschooling is perfect. I’m going to have to work a little bit harder to provide certain kinds of experiences and opportunities that a regular school setting naturally gives. My mom had to do the same, and I think she did a good job, especially since she didn’t have a generation of homeschoolers behind her to point out possible blind spots and needs.

I’m not homeschooling my children because we can’t afford private school or because I don’t like the public schools. It’s possible that we could afford some sort of private school for our children if we pinched enough pennies.

My point is that we want something really different from a traditional school environment for our family. It isn’t easy to attain, and I’m still in the newborn phase, but so far, I can emphatically say that this “baby” has been worth it. =)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Greek Lentil soup…


photo credit to the Wall Street Greek blog

It’s been a stormy, gloomy day today. The boys played well together, school went well, and all I have wanted to do is bake and make soup. =) It feels like fall, and this is early for us in this part of N.C.!

A friend shared this Greek lentil soup recipe with me, and I LOVE it. Cheap, healthy, and with ingredients I usually have on hand….

Greek Lentil Soup

1 c. lentils

4 c. water

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves minced garlic

1 carrot, sliced thin

4 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

3 bay leaves

2 fresh tomatoes (or an equivalent amount of canned)

3-4 chicken bouillon cubes

1/4-1/2 c. good, robust olive oil (I used Kalamata olive oil from Trader Joe’s)

Soak the cup of lentils in a little water for half an hour or so. Rinse and drain. Put all the ingredients, except tomatoes, oil, and bouillon in a stock pot. Bring to a boil, simmering for 45 minutes to an hour. Check periodically and add a little water if needed throughout the cooking time. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes more. Pick out the bay leaves, and serve with warm, crusty bread.

A good olive oil is important for good flavor, and adding it in at the end is important to the taste, I think. Enjoy!

Thanks, my dear Catherine! This will be a frequent soup in our house this winter…

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday evening…

Hi, all. It’s a beautiful evening, and I’m sitting here listening to the sounds of a daddy/boys wrestling match upstairs and crickets out the porch door. The lawn is freshly and beautifully trimmed, and I made it to Friday, and everyone is alive and has been edu-ma-cated.

The reason the lawn looks so gorgeous and neat is because David didn’t trim it. He does a good job, but he doesn’t have the tools and time that the lawn guys do.

I had to call them because he cut two fingers last Saturday with the electric hedge trimmers. We made a trip to the ER, and he had 5 stitches. It’s healing well so far (though prayers are appreciated, and we’re thankful he didn’t hit any tendons), and I’m bracing myself for the bill… Oh well.

We’ve just finished our second week of homeschool. I’m starting to relax ever so slightly. We spent the week doing our first Five In A Row book, The Story of Ping. They know a lot more about China, ducks, rivers, discernment, buoyancy, and drawing water than they did before…  And since they asked lots of great questions, wanted to do more than I suggested of activities, and got pumped every time I pulled out the books, I’d say it was a success.

We ate orange chicken and potstickers tonight for dinner while listening to a Chinese internet radio station. It was Seth’s idea to try eating with chopsticks which Seth and Evan shared back and forth. =)

David spent Tuesday and Wednesday night gone for work. I am still trying to recover from this. A very mobile baby and a defiant 5-year-old with a hair trigger temper do not make for relaxing days at ye ol’ casa.

But I made it. Yes, I did. And I’m used to the good and the bad all being rolled together into one big ball of awesome, right? =)

The baby is now screaming because Daddy brought him downstairs out of the wrestling match, so I gotta run. Happy Friday….

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

learning as we go…


This picture was taken on our first morning of homeschool, and it kinda sums up one of things that’s been on my heart in the last week and a half. We’re keeping a 3-ring binder to catalog what we’re learning and doing this year. I have named it the Kindergarten Wonder Book. =) I showed Seth on the first day how I’d printed off pictures of him and Evan and hole punched them to put in the book. He caught on pretty quickly.

He wanted to add something of his own to the book. So he created a picture of a pelican. (He’s been pretending to be a pelican lately, and he and his grandma got a book about pelicans from the library the week before school.) Well, he wanted me to spell out phrases for him. He created a page for his wonder book that is all about pelicans- what they do, what they eat, etc.

And in that moment, all kinds of thought and feelings collided for me.

I remember thinking, “Yes. THIS… THIS is what I was hoping for…even though I didn’t know what it would look like.” There is time and space to feed Seth’s excitement about learning.

I can encourage his initiative and stop to listen and include his personal interests into our school day.

This is my most treasured thing in the Wonder Book right now because it was all him, and I LOVE that…

DSC_0367-001 This is our science experiment on absorption and capillary action. As you can see, the middle cup has nothing in it at the beginning, but a day later, colored water had traveled through the rolled paper towels and combined to create green…. for an added color wheel bonus lesson. =)


1st day of homeschool photos…


DSC_0326 DSC_0345-001

Explaining the calendar, weather chart, etc., to Seth. We’re putting a sticker on each day and singing the days of the week and months of the year. They color in a section of the weather chart depending on the weather for the morning.

DSC_0359-001 I hid school supplies on the porch for them to find and unpack. Evan was most excited about his very first pair of scissors. I may regret that one. =)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

meet the teacher…


This is my favorite picture from our very first day of homeschooling….

We started on Monday, and we’re having a great week so far. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my boys in just a few short days. I have a lot of emotions and thoughts that I’m still processing, but I’ll be back with more info soonish…. =)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Ben’s 1st birthday….


Ben’s not-at-all girly butterfly birthday cake. Hey, I was tired of making snakes and rocket ships and trucks, and he’s a baby, not a big boy. It was pretty easy. I just baked cupcakes and one round 8 inch layer, and then I cut that in half and shaped it for wings.

DSC_0255-001 “Hey, that’s my present. Hands off, big bro!”

DSC_0280-001 Yummmm…. hands full of delicious.


The aftermath….