Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The grass isn't always greener

We live in an older neighborhood, with well, older people. They tend to be a little anal where their lawns are concerned - and I am sure that in some ways they hate having us live here. Our grass isn't really grass. Okay there are a few different kinds of grass seed dh has sprinkled here and there. But, for the most part it is weeds.

Our azalea beds/other various flowers are not the neatest. I tell people we are going for the wild cottage look. But really it is because with the children there are always many more interesting and fun things we could be doing. I got out there two mornings this past weekend to weed and pull vines away from the house. I figured the kids could come out and ride their bikes or just roll around. No, they came out and hovered over me, asked every two minutes if they could pull the wagon to the curb or emptied the wagon of the weeds I had pulled - onto the grass. Yeah, I have better things to do with my time.

Where was I going with this? Anyway several of our neighbors - including the two on either side of us, have yard services and people come out to treat their grass on a regular schedule. The grass is cut every two weeks - whether it needs it or not. Beautiful oasis' on each side of us.

Now we are dry, and hot and dry some more. We can't even pull enough moisture from the atmosphere for a good thunderstorm. But our weeds, native weeds that are used to the varied weather we have are green. From a distance the yard is green. And we have only had to cut it twice this year - which is a good thing as we didn't have a running mower until last night. Our neighbor, taking pity on us or just worried about how her yard looked next to ours, came over to mow it for us both times.

Our neighbors, have their sprinkler running so the grass will grow, so they can cut it again. It is still brown and the weather forcast doesn't have it getting any better.



Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I think I'm starting to see a pattern

In the winter I am all about scheduling and having to-do lists and being all schooly, by the time spring gets really going the girls and I are all burned out on this (about 2 months) and the nice weather is calling. Each week we get more and more relaxed and life gets a little easier. Then I have attacks of uncertainty and fear of producing illiterate, barefoot southern girls. I'm sure they will be barefoot but I really don't want illiterate. Anyway, I freak out on MB and try to re-instate our schedules which of course starts all this backlash and moodiness from her. Boom we are miserable in a day or two. I give up with tears of frustration and we all return to our non-normal, normal lives and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.

The winter just lends itself to a more book-focused life. It is cold outside, nothing much happening, and so on. Who doesn't want to spend the day curled up reading or being read to? Spring, Summer, Fall - there is just way too much life.

I'm trying really hard to flow with this...not get all uptight over how many chapters are done - or the fact that none are getting done, right now. I'm dipping my toe in unschooling and reading about it. I'll be honest I think it is a wonderful path for some, but my heart and mind cannot totally wrap itself around totally letting go. I have to have some minimal accomplishments that something is happening. I know things are happening, but sometimes they are just harder to see. I would rather have a plan and not get to it because other interesting things came up - then not have a plan at all.

Today was a good example of the way our recent days have been.

The only thing I had 'planned' was to make three or four different recipes of playdough and see how they were different. Since we don't have enough clay to make the greek village MB was talking about wanting to do, I figured we needed to make some materials of our own to use. I don't have any Cream of Tarter to do the recipes that required it, so we made a run to the store once everyone was up and had breakfast. I decided to try Dollar General to find it. I really think I had seen it there before, when I didn't need it. They did not have it today.
What I did get though were a package of 100 plastic cups for MB's lemonade stand she wanted to have, 2 bug-catching kits, 2 bottles of bubbles and a bag of 50 assorted balloons.

We came home and I had to blow up ten balloons immediately. I then went and got Jr ready for his nap and tried to avoid passing out after blowing up those balloons. Apparently the girls decided to test various objects on how well they pop balloons by dropping them from the back deck onto balloons below. After having them clean up everything they had dropped, I gotK and Em busy with one of the bug kits. Mary and I went in to make playdough. We only got two different types made - basic salt/flour dough and oatmeal playdough. MB mixed up a few different colors. Then I got distracted by EM wanting another balloon. For the fun of it I ran a little bit of water into the balloon before I blew it up so she could shake it. Then MB wanted me to do another one like that, only color the water. So on it went until MB was making little water balloons. Of course she didn't put enough water in them, so they ended up bouncing instead of bursting - which was great fun for all of them. And, meant that everyone had to have at least two.

After lunch MB got her lemonade stand set up because she wanted to be out there when the high school let out. This picture was taken early on before the heat and lack of traffic through our neighborhood begin to set in. She did make about $3 of 'isn't she cute' money from our lovely neighbors.

It is tough sitting out there in the sun. She and K would get up and hunt for bugs or just come join me on the front porch off and on. I tried to convince her to close it for the day, without being negative. But she had determination like I so rarely see in her unless she is arguing. I had to let her go with it.

During her breaks we did get into digging through some boxes of rocks that we have. Yes, I know how horrible that sounds - boxes of rocks. But it is a good place to throw rocks from our little adventures and then sort out later. At the bottom I had a piece of polished, petrified wood. That started us off on a discussion of petrification, which thanks to the book become a discussion on meteorites. I was impressed by how much she already knew about meteorites.

K found a couple of beach pebbles and began telling me the story of how they became pebbles and how she found them on the beach (not really, but lets let her think she did). I do enjoy K's creativity but there are times she does become a little long-winded. About that time the mailman arrived so I'm not quite sure how the story ended.

They cleaned up the stand and MB went off to find her friends only to come home 15 minutes later complaining of being too hot and tired. She was out in the sun way too long. I let her get on the computer while I tried to entertain Jr and clean the kitchen at the same time. Eventually all the girls ended up outside, with water balloons, again. From the water balloons they eventually ended up in the wading pool - with their clothes on. Whatever - I was able to get Jr fed, and no one ended up screaming mad over something.

We read more books tonight, had more discussions. Really I like this way, if I could just get past the fear not doing enough. It sounds like all they did was play all day. But everything can be broken down into one of the basic 'subjects' it is just more difficult to measure and to describe to someone - like family.

Tomorrow we have a little more running around to do and K has her day camp orientation (meet the counselors) night. But, I think I will spend another day in the passenger seat and see where it takes us.



Sunday, May 27, 2007

Clean off camera time

It is the end of the month and time to clean off my digital camera. The homeschooling memorable events from this month would include the green snake that I already posted about, our Greek study, and the trip to the 'rocky creek'.

Greek Study
We are slowly reading about and watching a few documentaries about the Ancient Greeks. We find ourselves often with three books open at a time comparing the different pictures of life back then.

A couple weeks ago MB dressed as a Greek girl would have, minus the head wrapping (I'm not that talented)

And we tried to build a model of a house based upon a few pictures. We got it about halfway built before a freak hurricane (named EM) in the Agean Sea took out our house.

'Big Rock Park'

Even longer ago we took a Tuesday and headed down to the creek to wade and do some rock hunting. The weather was great, not too hot. The girls had a blast and Jr. fell asleep in the carrier.

There is something about watching them walk ahead of me like this that just makes my heart go pitter-pat. I love watching them do things together.

EM's favorite thing to do is find the biggest rocks she can carry and see how large of a splash she can make.

MB goes off into the woods to examine the trees and plants. I bet she is also looking for more bugs. She uses those exposed roots in the bank as a ladder to the other side.

Look at all those rocks to look through.

We never get out of there unscathed - K reacts horribly to bug bites. The rest of us might have one or two small bites. Her entire body was covered in hives. All I have to do though is pour clean water over them and by the time we made it back to the car they were nearly gone.

At least once a week they ask to go to the 'Big Rock Park'.


Where has the time gone?

This has to be the fastest first year for any of the children. Next Saturday Jr will be 8 months old. The first few weeks after he was born and visiting him in the Special Care Nursery are still so fresh in my mind I'm always thinking of him being a little thing.

I am so thankful that he is growing so well and is such a very good, loving baby boy.
In just the past week he has decided to get moving. He finally sits without support, although prefers to be on his stomach when playing, because he just doesn't know when he might want to go somewhere else. He tends to go in reverse more often than not, and doesn't get anywhere very fast, yet. But I know it is coming.

Not only an active baby, he has a sweet and loving personality. He doesn't fuss all that much. Whenever he catches sight of me I get one of these...

I better not blink too much because I also can't believe that this baby

Is now this...

It's a good thing we homeschool since I would never see her otherwise.

Time just needs to slow down a little.



Saturday, May 26, 2007

One Computer - 4 computer users

A few months ago I put away the laptop. It was running horribly, the sound no longer worked and several keys were missing. With that the kids lost their computer, just at the time that they want to use the computer more and more. Which means, I am often shuffled off the computer. It has been good for me as more things are getting done (what a really bad statement about my personal time management skills), but bad for blogging. When I get on I generally have a list of things I need to look up, people to email and so forth. When I have finally logged in to try to post, I'm called away and just never get back. Thankfully, I have not had a whole lot to say.

I did pull up most of the broccoli plants this week. They were so eaten by caterpillars that it was highly unlikely I was going to get anything. It allowed more sun to get to other areas in the garden and I will try again this fall with the broccoli. Once the lettuce is done, hopefully not for another few weeks (that has been a wonderful crop for us) I plan on building another raised bed where they are planted. It will increase my garden size by another 10sq feet or so. With incorporating a more 'square-foot' gardening plan that will allow many more plants.

Our summer crops are still putting on their size, and DH and I are already talking about the fall/winter garden we are going to try. We are already working on building a portable cold frame to use, but in most cases here a lot of fall plants will actually winter over okay. The fall/winter crops we are going to do are broccoli, spinach, lettuce, and cabbage. There are other greens we could try but neither DH or I are big 'greens' eater (turnip greens, collard greens and so on). I gag just thinking about trying to swallow those southern delicicies.

I had a big grocery store find this past week. Of course what I got it for was last years 'on-sale' price. The big 10-lb bags of chicken leg quarters were regularly priced at about $.89/lb, they had gone on sale a couple of times for about $.69/lb, but like I said last year I was getting them at $.39/lb. So, I had not bought any. I ran in to pick up a few other sale items and checked out the manager's specials in the meat case. They had a few bags that need to be sold by the next day marked down to $3.95/bag - I picked up two, and now have 20lbs of leg quarters in the freezer to grill this summer.

The weather has been good around here. Not nearly enough rain, but it has allowed us to be outside most of the time. We have been schooling around the picnic table and I pulled out the chalkboard from the garage that we don't have room for in the house. We do a little work, draw on the chalkboard, jump in the wading pool and swing from the monkey bars. And I rarely have to leave my comfy seat up on the deck. The girls put their swim suits on first thing in the morning and rarely change until we have to go somewhere. The only thing that could be better is if there was a beach out beyond our deck. We even found EM's first freckle the other day.

That has been the quick update of our week. I'm hearing Jr wake up from his nap.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Homeschool and Grocery Update

My eye is doing better. The swelling has gone down significantly, although it is still puffy. It is just taking time. It doesn't hurt, but is still irritating as it bothers my vision.

We've managed to stay busy. History has become the thing around here this week. We are working through the Ancient Greeks. We've enjoyed reading through "Peoples of the Past:Ancient Greeks" which I picked up from the library before they closed for renovations. Friday we had 'dress like Greeks' day. The book had really easy to follow directions and we made a pretty good outfit for MB. She focused in on the statement that a teenage girl may receive only one piece of cloth (3yds x 2yds) which was to serve as her clothing into adulthood. The girl had to figure out how to make it fit.

K and EM have spent hours playing with tangrams and 'writing' on the white board. I've been trying to make sure K has at least 30 minutes that she can read to me when she wants to. It isn't everyday, but I'm trying not to push her.

The good news is that MB has decided that she wants to be home next year, not go to school. Can I tell you how happy I am. I really, really am!! I feel like this year was the year that we finally started finding our groove, and I really hated the thought of that being short-circuited. Anyway I can start planning her 2nd/3rd grade year. The big plan is to continue has much relaxed, child-led as we can until at least December. After that I will reasses and see if she is ready for more structure.

On my grocery challenge I have to say that I have blown the $200 stretch goal. We are at $215 for the month after my visit to BJs last week. But we were out of tp, needed formula for the rest of the month and I bought enough diapers to supplement the cloth ones for the next three months. I also went ahead and restocked our battery supply and got insect repellant (much needed). While I was there I picked up a few other things we needed, which of course is always the case. I'm thinking we will still make our $350 budget with only two weeks left and all we really need will be milk and more fresh fruit.

I better go, Em wants me to play with her and I still need to get the sauce going for spaghetti tonight.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

One of those days...

I should have just rolled over.

First thing this morning, before my head was even off the pillow, I rubbed my hand across my forehead. "Where did this zit come from all of a sudden?" I get up, stumble to the mirror, and's not a zit but a tick. Right in-between the eyebrows. We had gone for a hike yesterday and I had done a tick check on the children, but forgot to ask dh to do one for me. I'm sure it wasn't there though before I went to sleep.

Thankfully DH was still around so I had him pull it before he went to work. I noticed some minor swelling, but that isn't unusual. Fast forward to this afternoon, I am sitting here with one side of my face all swollen up and waiting for DH to come home from work so I can go spend money we don't have at urgent care. I just don't like the way my eye is closing up and the fact that it hasn't gotten any better in 9 hours.

I decided to let MB use our old camcorder to make movies with. Last night I take it out of the bag and hook it up to charge the battery. Only the battery is dead, dead. Then, this morning I try to find the cable to hook it up to the tv so that I could at least give her a rundown on the controls and let her play with it plugged in. They should have been in the bag with everything else. But, no, that would have been too easy.

I searched for two hours before finally giving up. We have like 20 of these A/V cables for various components - yet could not find the ONE that fits this. I even hunted through the boxes in our garage from last years aborted move. Those boxes of the things we just HAVE TO KEEP....

I can buy a new cable, and a new battery. Spend about $65 when the smoke clears. I'm trying to decide if it is worth that. I could also sell it for about that with the dead battery and missing cable. But, it would be cool to see what kind of movies she would come up with. Decisions, decisions.

It wasn't a horrible day, but one in which I feel I did nothing productive, nothing planned.



Saturday, May 12, 2007

May Grocery Challenge - Update 2

I did most of the grocery shopping for next week today. I only have one more thing to pick up this weekend while it is on sale, and I will do that tomorrow (sale runs Wed - Tue). Otherwise, I spent $35 today. This should cover the groceries for next week. What did I get:

Farmers Market
Lettuce - $2 for a large bag
Spring Onions - $1.50 bunch
Total: $3.50
I wanted broccoli, but got there 15 minutes too late.

Trader Joe's
Gallon Milk - $2.99
5 Bananas - $.99
3lbs Pears - $3.99
Doz Eggs - $.99
Mangosauce - $2.99
Total: $12.22

Formula - $12.12
Tortilla Shells - $.99
Sandwhich Bread - $.99
Ice Cream - $2.50
Salsa - $1.50
Total: $18.46

So far, so good. It is close to mid-month and I am at $78, still under the $100 mark. Hopefully we can keep it up with our menu we have.



Thursday, May 10, 2007

Springtime Science

Tis the season when the outdoors become our primary learning classroom. Mainly, because I just can't keep them inside.

So far this season we have had numerous lizards and slinks caught. In fact, I think there is still one living in our bathroom where it got loose from the girls.

And, MB has started a collection of those large black beetles one finds in decaying wood. I think she is up to 20 in a bucket she has outside. She has even given them a habitat to live in. They are very interesting, especially if you come across the bucket after dark and you hear all the clicking and hissing they are making. It is a little freaky though to watch my 2-yr-old handle them like they are family pets.

This evening though was a highlight for the girls, well mainly MB and Em. My girl, K, wasn't really sure she wanted any parts of it.

I'm finishing feeding Jr., when MB comes running in and telling me she has something to show me. I figured she might have found the patch of potatoes coming up from the seeds we thought were duds. I was wrong.

A beautiful little green snake in one of the small trees along the fence line with our neighbor. Both our neighbor and myself watched it slither through the leaves and took photos. At one point it even ended up directly over my head.

Since we explained to MB that there was no way either the neighbor nor I were going to attempt to catch the snake, MB decided to climb up for a closer, birds-eye view.

Just as I was ready to call it an evening, DH actually pulled into the driveway making MB's night. This man will pick up just about any kind of snake. And, what a man. He immediately went into teacher mode.

No animals were harmed in the making of this post. And the snake was returned safely to the tree in which it was found.

Add this too the Black Snake skin we found in our back fence this morning, and it was just a snakey kind of day.



Fresh from the Garden

Yesterday we had a garden milestone. We finally, I felt, had large enough plants that I could actually harvest a worthwhile amount of lettuce and spinach for our dinner last night. I ended up with a collander full of leaf lettuce and spinach leaves - Yummy.

For dinner last night we had baked spaghetti, which actually was more like baked beef-a-roni as we have lots more elbow pasta than spaghetti pasta right now. And, a side salad. A couple of the girls wanted small bowls of salad along with dinner and I had one for myself. There was plenty left for dh when he got home from work and even my lunch today.

DH came home and fixed himself dinner while I was doing the bedtime routine. Before I realized it my husband had used every last bit of the salad for himself. My man loves salad!! I wish I had more room to plant more lettuce plants. We are going to have to enlarge the garden space next year!

So we will wait a few more days to have salad again.

Dessert was yummy strawberries with whipped topping. I love this time of year!



Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Grocery Challenge - May Update 1

I'm working very hard to stay within by planned grocery challenge of $200 for the month, even with the trip out of town. We are sitting at $52.30 spent so far this month, not including the $60 mom gave me to buy groceries for her before we left town. That money paid for the things she wanted to have: jar baby food, frozen single dinners (for her), frozen pizzas (for the kids), extra milk (my mom drinks/uses alot of milk), disposable diapers, etc.

Half of our total has been formula. The rest was basically spent on cheese and supplies for our weekend at the cabin. So I am on track for the month. I just need to ignore the siren call of the store sales fliers.

One of the things I did work on this weekend while I was away was creating a menu for the rest of the month with what we already have.

My dinner menu for this month:
5/8 Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans
5/9 Baked Spaghetti, Garlic Bread
5/10 Chicken & Rice Casserole, Broccoli
5/11 Cheese & Broccoli Soup, Yeast Rolls
5/12 Leftovers
5/13 Pizza
5/14 Roast Chicken, Boiled Potatoes, Peas
5/15 Chicken Tetrazinni, Broccoli
5/16 Hamburgers, Homemade Mac 'n' Cheese
5/17 Grilled Pork Chops, Pasta Salad
5/18 Spaghetti, Salad
5/19 Leftovers
5/20 Pizza
5/21 Mexican Chicken & Beans, Rice
5/22 Beef Stroganoff, Peas
5/23 Chicken Pasta, Broccoli
5/24 Grilled Kielbasa/Hot Dogs, Mac n Cheese
5/25 Tacos
5/26 Leftovers
5/27 Pizza
5/28 Roast Chicken, Stuffing, Green Beans
5/29 Chicken Quesadillas
5/30 Swedish Meatballs & Noodles
5/31 Baked Chicken, White Rice
6/1 Grilled Pork Chops, Dirty Rice, Corn
6/2 Leftovers
6/3 Pizza

The only things on this menu I will need to purchase will be more tortilla shells, hot dog buns and broccoli. I want to get the broccoli fresh from the farmer's markets but am not having good luck with that so far. I'm still waiting for my broccoli to head and am becoming discouraged there. So, if I can't find fresh broccoli I will need to get frozen. Everything else we already have in the freezer or pantry for this month.


Weekend Away

DH and I did something special this past weekend; we went out of town just the two of us! We started planning this back in March. We split up the kids between my mom who came up and stayed at our house and Dh's sister. We went to his parent's summer house up in the mountains and had a wonderful time. The last time we had been away like this was four years ago when K was just a baby.

The first two days we were stuck in the clouds. It was so foggy that you could just see the outline of the trees on my in-laws property. I love the fog, as long as I don't have to drive in it. It made for very surreal experiences when I went out onto the deck and felt as though I was stepping into nothingness. The last two days the sun came out and it warmed up. Yet, we still did nothing. The only place we went was for dinner to DH's brother's place. Of course we missed our turn, got lost and ended up in Virginia before we got there.

Otherwise, we stayed at the cabin. I read two books, knitted two washcloths and crocheted another grocery bag. We watched movies on the dish and just generally responded to no one else's wants or needs other than our own. We ate when we wanted to, showered when the mood hit us and slept whenever.

Of course every morning I woke up and my first thought was "why don't I hear my kids?" And, I did miss all of them. But, I needed a respite and DH needed a break before work actually gets busier (if it can).

I'm glad to be home. My mom left this afternoon to go home and I am ready to get back to our routine. I miss doing the things around the house I do. I was actually excited this afternoon when I put Junior back into his cloth diapers (my mom asked to be able to use disposables while she was here).

We will be going back to the mountains in early July, but will be taking the kids on that trip. I love the mountains. If Dh could find a job to do from home we would be living there already.



Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Penguin Sledding

Yesterday was the day to give the family room a good cleaning. Toys needed to be sorted, the rug cleaned and the floor needed a good hot water mop. You see junior is beginning his mobility. He doesn't just stay where I leave him anymore, and to get places he basically drags himself across the floor. Time to get crawler friendly in this house again.

Besides watching me to make sure none of their toys were 'misplaced' the girls really didn't get to involved in my cleaning. They were too busy outside playing 'school' bus or something with lame & popular kids. Which of course meant we had to discuss my whole feelings on the subject of school cliches and all.

I was ignored until it was time to pull the mop out. Suddenly I had three helpers bouncing around me. Since it was just water I left MB in charge while I went out on the deck to steam clean the rug. A few minutes later EM ran out needing me to put on a fresh pair of trainer pants - I figured she had gotten soaked already, not really surprised.

They were laughing and giggling, and just generally having way too much fun mopping a floor. I went in to check on them. They were down to their undies and were sliding across the puddle soaked floor on their bellies. I dared to ask, "What in the world are you all doing?"

Penguin Sledding!!

Way too much March of the Penguins, Happy Feet and Avatar.

They were helpful on the whole yesterday. MB made another cake to eat as our snack and dessert last night. And, K helped me with laundry

And, I just let her go ahead and take down all the clothes. My clothspins are still out there on the line, but it was joyful watching someone else do one of my chores for a change.

Here is a totally unrelated photo of Jr I took yesterday during his nap.

I had gone into his room to get the bag of wipes for EM and caught him napping all huggy with the stuffed tiger. It was so sweet.



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.