Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Outside - Stay Outside

With nasty germs floating around the inside of the house and temps knocking on 70 degrees, it is that time of year where thoughts of locking children outside become actual possibilities.

Since the garden did not actually get planted on Monday, see reference to nasty germs above, we tackled that project first thing Tuesday morning.

Here is K, in jammies (my most resistent one to leaving the interior confines) examining the straw bale. Along the fence line is the bed for lettuce & spinach.

My little 'helper'. No matter how many times we told her it wasn't a sand box she still insisted on playing there. Luckily I am not planting anything in that corner of the bed until later this spring. What I did plant in the bed were onions & broccoli. To Em's right, off picture, is a small potato bed and behind her along the other fence line is another potato bed.

Doesn't the whole thing just look fascinating ;) Dirt & straw - isn't it exciting! I think that kind of summed up MB's thoughts on the whole thing.

We did not make it to Choir yesterday as junior had been running a slight fever with his cold. We let junior sleep away most of the day in his car seat (the incline helps his breathing) to make up for the interrupted sleep he had overnight. I wish I could have joined him for most of the day.

Instead, I figured if I kept busy then I wouldn't notice how tired I was. We opened the doors & windows and I tackled cleaning the Family Room. I won't post any pictures of it - its not done and what was done, was basically undone by bedtime. Winter cobwebs were swept out and missing toys located. The rug was taken outside and beaten.

Seeing that heavy duty housework was being done, the girls disappeared into their 'bush' castle outside. Which led me to setting up the castle tent for them to play with. It kept them outside for most of the day - although several sets of clothes were changed after missions through the mud by my female knights.

I also got creative with fixing our mailbox. The wooden handle had fallen off, leaving industrial-sized stables sticking through the plastic door. Since I knew that USPS might object to being stabbed with these I figured it needed to be fixed.

My original plan had been to use an old cabinet pull, but couldn't find where we had stored them. Instead I made a handle using two small 'eye'screws and extra wire. Isn't it nice to have a junk drawer. Interesting and cheap - and we didn't have to go through the exercise of buying another mailbox and installing it. Anything to save me a trip to the store with 4 children in tow.

Amazingly enough, we did manage to complete our lessons for the day. We had night school. Everybody did their math and reading. We played several games of Memory, watched "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" and read Perrault's Cinderella.

"Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" was interesting, although I have to say it is further proof of the uselessness of the type of education children receive in elementary schools. The memorization of facts that rarely have much bearing on our lives as adults. I did *better* than the two adults that were on last night (I'm not sure if the first guy was a set-up or not - to not get any question right on his own)as I only missed one question. This might not actually be a show that you want your kids to watch as they might wonder why they need to *know* all these facts when adults certainly don't.

And, finally, I had a thought after reading Cinderella to MB last night. I don't know why I have not ever wondered about it before - because I have read so many versions before. But what is the lesson from Cinderella for Cinderella and for us. More than the whole 'your prince will come' and if you are nice & sweet through hard times then good things will happen. The godmother could have taken Cinderella away from her 'life' at any time, made her a permanent 'princess' instead of just giving her one night and a chance that more might happen. But, Cinderella had to have faith that good things could & would happen - and the Prince had to make an effort for her.

I asked MB to think about why the story wasn't just over when Cinderella & the Prince met at the ball. Why is the glass slipper important, and not just because it is beautiful? Today we will talk about it more. I think it will be interesting to hear MB's thoughts about why.



Monday, February 26, 2007

Garden Today!

Once the fog burns off and the sun comes out, it is supposed to be a pleasant mid-'60s day here. We put some manure into the garden bed on Saturday before it began raining so everything should be good to go.

The girls are excited that the day is finally here. They love our little garden patch and, like me, are thrilled that we are trying something new this year. I've arranged our school day, isn't it nice we can do that, so we can spend most of the afternoon outside. Can anyone say hands-on science. Saturday they helped daddy plant the blueberry bushes and kept talking about all the things they were going to do with the blueberries. I doubt we have a crop this first year - not to mention there are only two bushes and we will not be rolling in the blueberries. But, it is fun to dream. When we go to the mountains this summer I want to take them blueberry picking - they will enjoy that.

I'm just happy that we have 90% of the household population feeling back up to speed. Luckily it has only been a late season head cold, but one-by-one we all came down with it and spent a couple days each feeling gouchy and sleepy. Now, if I can just find the time to get my tooth fixed so that will stop wearing me down. This is the same tooth that I had something 'temporary' done to it in November - I wasn't supposed to wait until nearly March before going back.

While everyone has been under the weather I have taken advantage of some time to just sit. I finished another grocery bag - a little better than the first, but still needs work.

When I went out to buy some large knitting needles for my new project, the craft shop had my favorite cotton yarn on sale for $1 a ball. So I picked up 7 more in some Spring colors - new washclothes & more bags are coming.

Speaking of my new project. I am making a new rag bath mat from some older towels we had in storage. The heavy towel strips are difficult to knit, but it is moving quickly. So far I like it.

I think the size is going to be on the smaller side, but that is okay because our master bath is pretty small and our existing bath mats are so large they partially cover the air vent.

Better go start the day so we can have time for everything.



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Maybe the planets are aligned just right. Or, the gods could be smiling on me. Whatever it is - I like it. If this keeps up, I think that I might just be able to deal with K's sudden dip into obstinancy (her 1/2 birthday is next month, so that is what I keep telling myself).

Yesterday morning I had to take a shower. I had stayed up way too late Monday night watching Anna and the King and had to do research on the Anna in the story after it was over - so no shower for me. The girls were warmly snuggled down in the family room & junior was sleeping and I took the opportunity for a quick 5, 10, 15 minute shower.

As I was stepping out MB poked her head into the bathroom to ask if we could go ahead and do her HOP work for the day. After I picked myself up off the floor, I got dressed checked on everyone else and then MB and I snuggled in my bed and did 3 lessons. We only stopped because the other two started coming in and wondering when I might actually feed them.

After breakfast MB came to me again, this time holding her daily list, and asked if it was time for her writing. I got her squared away on the computer and then went to work with the other two. A little later she came into the family room looking sad and asked if I could help her - that her spelling didn't look right. I had told her that for creative writing exercises I did not worry about spelling, but she wanted my help - she wasn't getting frustrated and giving up. So I helped her clean it up then went through the steps of saving, printing and attaching to an email as she wanted to send it to her Mamaw.

I wish I could have just kept going this morning, but we needed to actually dress everybody and get to Choir.

Home again at 2:00 and after a quick, late lunch MB sat down with her math book and quickly worked through the lesson of the day. And then asked if I could go ahead and do the History reading. I was so giddy by this time I really thought I was on Candid Camera.

We finished the work and I sent her out to play. Only for her to come home an hour earlier than normal so that she could help me make dinner. We got the spaghetti sauce simmering and she wanted to bake a cake while the sauce was cooking. And, she did do the cake, by herself. The only thing I had to do was turn on the mixer. Since we were using a silicon form I had not used in awhile we needed to keep checking the cooking time. Apparently EM did not think it was cooking fast enough, so the last time the timer went off MB ran in to check it and started screaming my name as she had been enveloped in a cloud of smoke. EM had cranked the oven to 500*. Ahhhhh - burnt cake anyone.

Honestly, I really expected a meltdown from MB at this point. She just doesn't generally take it all that well when something she has worked so hard on is ruined by someone else. But, she said she understood and she knew we couldn't make another one until Thursday with our schedule.

After dinner I decided MB needed a reward and took her out with me to run errands. She had been wanting to go by the library for a few days, ever since I had told her there was a book that could tell her the answers to all those questions that I don't know like, "What's the record for eating chicken nuggets?" So we tried to find a copy of the Guiness Book of World Records - no dice for the big one, but the juvenile section had a number of the smaller topical ones in so we checked out a few.

I was also able to grab some Fairy Tale books for our new literature unit. I finally decided on Fairy Tales, and have a fun companion of fractured fairy tale plays for us to do along with it.

We did the errand running and came home about bedtime. She asked for Bruce Colville's A Midsummer Nights Dream since we were reading about Greece earlier. It has been at least nine months since we had read this story, but proceeded to give me an extremely detailed summary of the entire story before I even opened the book.

This morning I am still waiting for MB & K to wake up. I have to go to an appointment this morning and a friend of mine is coming over with her kids and they are going to do 'school' together. MB actually has a 'math test' in her workbook to complete - it is just review of review of work she did in last year's book - so I am not expecting any problems there.

We also have K's Piano, Science Club and MB's soccer practice all this afternoon. So, I believe it will be a rather abbreviated day.



Monday, February 19, 2007

Chinese New Year - at our house

I know Chinese New Year was yesterday, but that is what we spent today on. It was a fun day. MB first had to go to her Spanish Class, so I tried to spend the time working with K on her reading - but she had a non-cooperative day thing going. I just let it be for the day. After spanish class we came home to fix lunch and read 3 "chinese" stories: Tikki Tikki Tembo, The Story of Ping, and The Five Chinese Brothers. And, we also spent some time talking about the history/legend of the Chinese New Year. We had a lot of fun finding our chinese 'animal' with MB's placemat that she had gotten on a recent trip to a chinese restaurant.

After that we made Chinese Lanterns to hang in our family room.

Then we made Chinese Moon Cookies to go with our dinner.

For dinner tonight we had chicken fried rice with spicy beef & broccoli stir fry.

Not much of anything else was done. But we had alot of fun with the day. MB was totally into the day, although K was not so much. She just wanted to spend the day playing, actually jumping on the sofa cushions they keep taking off the sofa.

If you notice in the pictures MB's hair is down. She had me take the braids out last night. It took us three hours and this is what she looked like before she went to bed. She did give me permission to post this picture.

Does she remind anyone else of an '80s female pop singer?



Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday Picture Post

Here are some recent pictures that I have just managed to download.

Here's junior showing off his new trick of rolling about 3/4 of the way over. He loves to 'talk' to his lion.

Another picture of my big boy. He is over 12 lbs now!! And, is in the middle of a growth spurt. He is bound & determined to get into those 3-6 month clothing.

Speaking of growth spurts, these two seem to do nothing but grow up. MB has grown nearly 2 inches since early Nov, when we last measured them against the door frame. And, K is over 2 inches in growth during the same time. It better warm up soon or they really will be wearing "high-tider" pants.

I can't leave my little imp out. Not the best picture of her. But, when the girls see the pictures they will want to know where the picture of Em is.

And here is my bag that I am working on. For this first bag I am using up some leftover yarn from different projects, so it will be 'unusual' when finished.

And a big shout out to my dh, whom I just found out has been reading my blog at work - and sharing with his co-workers. The funny thing is that his particular office area is maybe 15 people and found out that the guy just down from him also hs his kids. See - not that unusual.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Thursday was a much better day for us. Or at least me - the girls missed their sugar HI they had all day Wednesday. I almost blew it by forgetting the time for MB's piano lesson. Thankfully I happened to actually look at our calendar 10 minutes before class time. So, after getting everybody into the car with shoes in hand so they could put them on during the ride - we made it only 5 minutes late. Which is horrible for my child who does. not. like to make an entrance.

But, other than that we were able to stay home for the day. We needed (I) a slow warm up to the day. So, the morning we were pretty lazy. MB and I made pumpkin-spice muffins and I did a little financial figuring before just hanging out with some books. Which is probably why I totally spaced on piano.

Schoolwise we are staying on track and making some strides. Hooked on Phonics has actually been really good, especially for MB. My idea of having MB & K do it together has fallen out because MB wants to do 2-3 lessons a day, and she can do that many because right now it is all review for her. K is limited to about 10 minutes and we can spend two days on each lesson. K doesn't want to move as fast as MB and that is fine too. Generally after K's lesson she asks to play Starfall for a little bit - so she actually gets double phonics work.

I made some changes in our writing program. MB was fighting me so much in doing her writing exercises - not cursive practice - but writing stories & sentences. The problem she told me is that she doesn't like her handwriting because it is too messy. Where she gets that I don't know. I keep telling her how good it is and show her work from last year to show how much she has improved.

On Monday I told her that she could do her exercise on the computer. She had to spend twenty minutes playing with all the different type of fonts. But, after that, proceeded to do her lesson without problem. Yesterday she wrote a letter to her Granddaddy to thank him for the trip on the computer. I think we will keep going with it.

My main school issue right now is finding our next bit of literature to read. So far she doesn't like any of the ones I have suggested or started. That is our hole right now. I could force her to listen to something but, don't want to turn her off permanently, especially since I think that she will enjoy them later.

Other things going on, I have began my grocery bag. I only picked up the crochet hook this weekend for the first time. I practiced a few days and then decided to just jump into the project. It is going together really well. I am so excited about how nice it is looking so far. I will try to post some pictures later.

I've heard back from a organization I sent a bid/proposal for a project to. They want me to look over some details and take a transcription test (I'm a little worried as I havn't done transcription in 5 years). It would be a long-term project, but not too many hours per week. It would really fit into my life better than anything else right now. The money would be great in helping us get out of debt that much faster and begin our addition or house hunt that much faster.

Today is some errand running, a little school and some needed down time.



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day

Let's see - how did I spend day of 'love'

- Driving across the county to the big hospital to have junior's development checked. He is fine, just a follow-up from his birth issues. Unfortunately it wasn't an appointment I would have scheduled - the hospital upon check out did, for first thing in the morning. Which meant I had to drive through rush hour traffic, in the rain, to get there and have them tell me they were already 1 1/2 hours behind schedule (at 9am).
- rushed back home to pick up Em who was with her g'mom and then go pick up the big girls who were at a V-party.
- Stopped by McDs for lunch, yuck, because we only had 10 minutes to make it to K's piano
- Came home and had 1 1/2 hours before soccer - managed to finish work from yesterday. Why it did not get done yesterday, I don't remember.
- Went to MB's soccer practice, chased Em around the very dangerous, yet interesting (to a 2 yr old) indoor soccer facility.
- Came home, changed a nasty 2 yr old diaper. Put said 2 yr old in bath.
- Cooked Mac 'n' Cheese for Valentine Dinner
- Girls are now eating dinner and watching Cinderella III, again
- I'll see DH about 11pm tonight, if I make it that long

Poor junior spent just about the entire day in his car seat unless I was feeding him. I am glad our Wednesday is finally over.



Monday, February 12, 2007

MB has returned back to us. Well, I think she has.

The child I got back has grown up alot in 10 days. The self-confidence she has gained from the trip is wonderful and well worth it. I think I may send her on a cruise every year for this much change in a short period.

The hair-thing is temporary, I am sure. She says it hurts to sleep on, but she wants to show all her friends before she takes them out. Her features look really nice with the hair pulled away from her face. If I can just get her to let me fix her hair more often. I was told that this active child sat for more than 1 hour to let them fix it.

She remembered to buy gifts for everyone and was excited to give them out when she came home on Saturday. We have just been enjoying the family thing this weekend. Nights in front of a fire, cuddles and reading books. Last night we had a movie night to watch Cinderella III that my mother gave them for Valentine's Day.

I did manage to finally finish my shawl. I did not complete it before MB came home, but finished it that night while MB and I visited and she told me about the trip.

Now, I am trying to teach myself how to crochet. I want to be able to make grocery bags like this. The free pattern can be found at the Lily site.

I am at that stage where I am trying to figure out why people say crocheting is easier than knitting. Way too many things to have to try to hold on to and my fingers don't quite want to work right. It is good for me to let MB see me struggling with learning something new. She can see that things don't always come easily, but when you don't give up things do become easier.

We are trying to get back into the school groove again, and my break is over. I just wanted to share that my family is again back under one roof.



Thursday, February 08, 2007

My quiet week is coming to the end. At some point today MB will set foot back onto US soil, and Saturday morning she will be back in the house. And for good & bad MB being gone for a period of time does change the mood in the house. Apparently, MB is our energy bank upon whom we all draw our daily energy levels (she has enough to spare). Without her we have tended to be very slow and lazy in our days. There isn't a sense of urgency to anything we do, and well sitting around and cuddling, me knitting and them playing with little people seems to be just fine. And, also, K still likes an hour or two of quiet time in the afternoon without MB around to energize her. And, who knew that K, who generally stays up until 10pm, will actually pass out before 9pm if she is just left alone.

But, I do miss someone to talk to during the day. K & EM don't feel the need to talk very much unless they need something. And, while Jr will talk as long as someone is looking at him - I don't really understand infant coos all that well (just that he is happy & comfortable)- and I am a little self-concious of the running commentary I keep up with him.

Without MB here I don't feel complete, my schedule is off, my routine is out of whack. I've enjoyed the quiet, but don't feel as needed by all the rest of my children put together as I do in one day for just MB. That may not be a good thing. But there it is.

I miss the routine of homeschooling that we had developed recently. K's routine is so short and simple - read a little bit, play some games that incorporate math - and then let her go and be free in her learning. It is good and age appropriate, and I wish I had done more of it with MB at that age, but doesn't feed my homeschool control issues like MBs larger range of studies. And, I am not looking forward to next week and getting back into routine, yet again, this year.

On DH's job front it looks like we will not be going anywhere. With the time to think about relocating for work since they have brought it up to him, he has come to decide that he wants to stay here - surprise, surprise. He passed on Illinois & Indiana already (but with the recent cold weather snap - I'm glad). His bosses like him here and his family is all here. So, here we stay.

I can't believe that it has been a year since we put the house on the market and almost moved. It seems so much farther away in history than that. We are still happy with where we are. I am still leaning towards one more bedroom, with some type of small addition. We are trying to make things simplier in our lives and have achieved a bit better lifestyle. Our debt load, while not tremendous, has been a stumbling block - and that is our goal this year. Paying on debt each month is actually causing more debt - basically a bad case of living above our means leftover from when both of us worked. So, we are baby stepping through The Total Money Makeover.

I am glad we put the house on the market for the experience and the awareness we got. And, I am glad we didn't move. I can put my dream of having a mini-homestead back on the list. Because, if we just work towards it we could eventually end up there.

I have also, along the way, re-discovered my love for cooking. Cooking things out of boxes, what I did a lot of when I worked and for the past few years - just totally sucks away the joy of cooking. It just becomes another chore. But, for some reason baking bread, babysitting a stew pot and creating menus so that we actually use leftovers is not a chore. So, we are eating less expensively, food that is better for us, and it brings a great deal of creative joy to me. What could be better.

So this post has gone from MB will be home in a couple of days to ramblings about the past year for us. I cannot stay on topic.

I am going off to think about some type of special welcome home activity for us to do for MB - any ideas.



Monday, February 05, 2007

It is so strange around my house. We've reached that magical point where MB is no longer on a short little trip to visit grandparents, but that she has gone further and is away longer than ever before. It is also the first time, on a trip away, that she or we just can't pick up the phone and check in. How is she doing? Is she having fun? What has been her favorite thing so far? Or, even better, she hasn't climbed up the railing and fallen overboard into the sea?

K asks us daily "how many more sleeps until MB comes home?" Em last night was calling for MB as we put her to bed. We are just so used to being together, it is unusual for anybody to be gone for very many days.

I am getting lazy with MB gone. Not in the 'laying around eating bon-bons' kind of way (but wouldn't that be nice for a change). But, K & Em are so happy playing together or by themselves, that I can sit off to the side and read a book or knit for longer periods of time. And, if they are so happy & cooperating why interrupt with any sort of 'organized' activity. My mom had me check out some books from the library for her that her library doesn't have. So, I am trying to read those before I give them to her when she comes back this weekend. My shawl is actually about 3/4 of the way done - and I could actually have it done by the end of the week.

Some of our activities have been canceled this week - so it is a good week to just hang out. Take a February 'blahs' vacation. I feel so guilty - but it does feel really good to not be 'on' every minute of the day.



Friday, February 02, 2007

MB left on Wednesday for the coast to avoid this

Not quite as impressive as a couple of weeks ago. But, instead of waking up to it - we actually got to watch it snow this time - which is picturesque. K & Em are not all that impressed with snow, so they were only out for 15 minutes or so before they want to come inside and have hot chocolate. I tried having a fire and spent about 80% of my day from 9am until 3pm trying to keep the darn thing burning. For some reason it just didn't want to burn. Thankfully, we don't have to depend on my firekeeping skills for survival - thank you PSNC.

About this time, MB should be at my father's house packing up his suburban for the drive to Florida. She is so excited about the trip. They actually leave on the cruise tomorrow morning out of central Florida. They are going to visit the Turks and Caicos Islands and then stop in the Bahamas. Some day I might actually get to visit some of the places my own daughter has gone.

Since MB is gone DH and I have actually been able to have the 'school' discussion that has been on the back burner when MB is around. We already know how she feels about it - but the adults needed to have the discussion without input.

I was pleasantly surprised by the discussion. I *know* that DH wants MB to go to school next year, but in the discussion I actually was able to get a better feeling about the whole thing. First of all he doesn't want her to go to school because he is unhappy with how things are going here. In fact he is very, very happy - which is great since he originally was hesitant, but willing to give it a try. No, he thinks MB should be given the chance to try school - since she is so adament about wanting to go. But, should we have any problems or MB want to come home after the first semester - then we will bring her home. He does want me to go ahead and have the WJIII test administered this Spring. We would not actually have to do this since we have a year from her 7th birthday - but he wants to have some idea where she is before she goes to school. I think he thinks that the school will actually work with her ability levels in certain areas - he has such an optimism about public schools.

Although I would prefer to not even get caught up in the whole school system, I am very happy that this isn't the end and if we are unhappy MB will come home. And, the kicker, I asked if he wanted K to be registered for school also since she will be in Kindergarten this coming year. He doesn't want K to go to school this year. He wants me to be able to take some more time to work with her, and K has no interest in going to public school. So, we will still be a homeschooling family.

I guess the thing that makes me the happiest about this is that DH was so hesitant about trying homeschooling and he faced a lot of grief from his family, but he has converted to the idea and philosophy of homeschooling. Even though he wants MB to try ps, and I understand his wanting her to try it sooner rather then later, he believes that homeschooling works and I truly think he expects us to be homeschooling for a long time.



A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.