Friday, May 30, 2008


~ first summer heat wave

~ blowing bubbles

~ slip-n-slide

~ last soccer games

~ mudpies

~ lying under the ceiling fans

~ first sunburns

~ swimming

~ mandala artwork


Finding Freedom

A long time ago I posted that I wanted to do a book review on Richard Louv's book: Last Child in the Woods. I didn't really forget, I just wasn't sure how to go about putting my feelings about it into words on the blog. The premise from the book is that removing children from experiencing the outdoors is in fact one of the causes of our societal outbreaks of childhood obesity, ADHD and depression.

It isn't just a book deriding parents and governmental entities for not letting kids get out and experience nature, but also a how to. How to get back to the freedom of experiencing the natural world for kids and ourselves. There isn't a requirement to have a local 2,000acre state/national park nearby. We are reminded that nature exists even in the most urban and suburban of locals.
It is letting go of our control of how kids experience nature that is important. Let a kid climb a tree, roll over the log and search for bugs, float leaves on a stream...the list is endless. Experiencing nature through all their senses, and without a hovering adult. Louv does reiterate that this doesn't mean suddenly letting your free without any idea how to interact with nature. Adults are still responsible to teach safety rules and respect for the natural world.

I have to say, as a non-homeschooling book, The Last Child in the Woods, has really made an impact in how I think about educating and being with my kids. Letting them go and letting them experience life.

Mary is eight-and-a-half this summer. I remember being this age and I remember my hours running wild around our neighborhood and through the nearby woods. By nine I was on my bike and branching out to other neighborhoods and tagging along with the 'older' kids (~11) to go to the donut shop. I could fix my own meals if necessary, get myself somewhere at a particular time and I knew when places or activities seemed safe or not. My mom made sure I knew basic safety rules, but I could only learn to do things by doing them.

Mary's borders are going to open up a little more this summer. She'll be able to go visit kids in the next neighborhood over, go to the greenway and even the library. But, I can't entirely cut the apron strings...she will also be getting a cellphone to carry with her. I haven't done this with no preparation. We have been spending time together alone, riding our bikes so that I can observe how she rides on the road and follows the rules. We've discussed how freedom and responsibility go hand-in-hand, listening to that voice in the gut, and reviewed our safety rules. This doesn't mean I won't be a nervous wreck the first few times she heads out, but I also know she is learning important skills in her journey to adulthood.

Yesterday I came across the website FreeRangeKids, a site devoted to letting our kids experience more freedom in the absence of a hovering parent. Wow, others who think similarly to me.

My changes haven't only been in making sure my children get outside, or Mary gaining freedom, but also in how I am approaching education (becoming more and more relaxed/unschooly), how we interact on Field Trips (as long as the kids are following the rules, I sit back and let them guide me - show me what is interesting) and in general life.

The letting go of control has been a very hard and difficult lesson for me, but something I needed.



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Field Trip Wednesday

We spent most of Tuesday here at the house while the chimney was being repaired and cleaned. The children really enjoyed watching him work and asked lots of questions, and since he really is a good guy he enjoyed answering their questions and showing them exactly what he was doing. It was close to three when he finally finished and we could finally run to the grocery store. I really wanted to stock up on some more meat and chicken while the store was running their sale.

With it being the warmest day so far, we cooked on the grill and had our first watermelon of the year. Mmmm, sticky faces and fingers. I was convinced to move this old piece of furniture that has a due date already with the landfill to the back deck.

It does provide a soft comfortable sky-watching spot. But, what does it say about us? DH joked about bringing out a floor lamp so I could finally have that quiet reading spot.

Today, piano lessons were canceled, which provided the opening I needed this week for an actual field trip. After checking the weather and determining that we needed an indoor activity, we finally settled on the Museum of Life and Science. One of our very favorite hands-on science museums. I realized that it has been nearly a year since we had been there. The last time it was hot, hot, hot and I was carrying Robbie in the sling & pushing Emily in the stroller. Gee, I wonder why it has taken a year for us to get back.

This time I didn't have to carry anyone and only occasionally push Robbie in the stroller. We had so much fun...
Cloud Cauldron

A very active copperhead snake that drew everyone's attention

Watch that step! You might...

Honestly, he thought this was absolutely hilarious and did it all over again.

Whoever designed this little hands-on activity for toddlers did not have a son like Robbie. Yeah, I want to teach him how to open even more locks.

The butterfly always absolutely amazing.
This moth was just emerging from its cocoon.
Emily spent a lot of time matching up what she was seeing with her guide.

A little play time with centrifical force.

With the weather being what it was we skipped the outdoor animal exhibits and train ride for the day. We have a renewed membership, so we will be heading back soon.



Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day

For a holiday we spent very little of our day in down time.

Since we are a "biking" family now, DH decided to take the two bigger ones on a trail ride. Since we had no idea what shape the trails were, we decided that I would stay home with the younger two for this ride.
To ease the pain of being left behind, I pulled out the 'special' paper for Emily to color on.

The bikers returned around noon with great reports and a little pouting over the fact that daddy wouldn't take them on the 22-mile ride. Now we know that one bike trail has a playground/picnic area and the other one they stopped by, but didn't ride is actually paved even though the website list it as dirt. Good to know since Emily is on training wheels. Both are within 10 miles of our house, so I see a lot of riding in our future.

DH had a tee time at 2pm, so we were on our own for the afternoon. Mary settled herself in with the legos, while Katie headed back to her bedroom to play with her stuffed animals. Robbie was down for his nap, and that left me with Emily. We decided it would be a good day to lay outside and just relax. We closed our eyes and practiced listening to the birds and the wind. We would have enjoyed watching the clouds, but it was such a beautiful day there were none to watch. I actually managed to get a half-an-hour out of Emily before she ran off to play in the sandbox. Darn, I had to entertain myself by reading.

When Robbie woke up we headed out to the playground the girls had been 'dying' to go to all weekend. We really had a good time until one of the meanest groups of nine-year-old girls I have ever had the pleasure to be around show up. Seriously, the entire time I watched them play with Mary, I had flashbacks to Middle School. They totally had the eye-roll, hands of hips, sneer going on. Finally when I heard them taunting Mary about being homeschooled, I just had to call her over and talk to Mary. But, before she walked away she did ask the leader "Do you like school?" and when the girl responded with "Not really," Mary replied, "then why would I want to go?" I was kind of proud of her. We still had a talk about choosing what types of people we want to be around and how you don't have to play with someone just because they are there.

The kids were hot and getting hungry, the run in with the mean girls had put the damper on Mary's enthusiasm so we headed home. I set the kids up with some paint, stencils and paper while I put together our pizzas for dinner. DH got home just as I was pulling the pizzas out of the oven. We ate, DH fixed Katie's bike (the chain had fallen off) and they took off on an evening ride through the neighborhood.

I put a very tired Robbie in the bath, checked him for ticks (they are everywhere this Spring) and put him to bed. The rest of the gang stayed outside playing until after 9pm.

It was a very long and enjoyable day!



Sunday, May 25, 2008

Holiday Weekend

The weather this May has been almost perfect. We have yet to be hit with a real heat wave. In fact most mornings it is still rather chilly. The windows have been open all May, giving us the wonderful feeling that we are almost a part of the natural world around us. We spend as much time outside as we can get away with. Now that we all have bicycles, and finally a carrier for Robbie, it is really easy for us all to get out and go places.

Today Mary and I rode our bikes to the grocery store to pick up some specials in the meat department and a few other things we needed for the week. Riding the bike with limited carrying space really helps as it keeps me from buying way too many spur-of-the-moment items. For whatever reason I have done so well staying within our grocery budget, which is helping with all the other outgoing expenses we are incurring.

This weekend we have been mainly hanging around. DH did have to work on Saturday, but once he was finished we headed over to his parent's house where the girls ran around in the woods and I chased Robbie. Had our cookout there, DH helped his parents with a few repairs before they leave for their summer home in the mountains. Today, besides the bike ride to the grocery store, I've been home trying to enjoy a day of rest. DH is off tomorrow and I'm not really sure what we have planned. I need to do some more cleaning, as always. I also have pulled a lot of my lettuce and need to work on the beds before planting some more summer plants.

Happy Memorial Day all!



Friday, May 23, 2008

Favorite & Least Favorite Things

My garden is coming along. although nowhere near the lush and overflowing garden of my dreams. I just don't have the green thumb some people have, but at least I no longer kill plants with a mere touch.

I was so excited earlier this week to see my very first ever broccoli crown in my garden. Last year I planted six broccoli plants and got nothing. This year I tried nine and was ready to give up hope since broccoli is supposed to be ready in April. I planted them in February like the old timer at the Farmer's Market told me...Here it is the end of May and I have three crowns of various sizes. Lets just hope they don't go immediately to flower if it finally warms up around here.

The other areas of the garden are coming along. The squash & bean plants seem to be doing well enough. I got no squash, even zuchinni, last year so I am hoping that this year will be better.

The black beans above are from plants Emily decided to plant late last fall. They started coming up early this Spring and we already have pods. They have done really well sharing the pots with the leaf lettuce that Emily also scattered this Spring. Emily may have the green thumb in the family.

My tomatoes are showing a bit of distress, and I have no idea why. There are a couple baby tomatoes already, but the plants don't look well. And, my green pepper plants don't seem to be growing. Not the fruit, but the plants themselves. I've always had good luck with pepper plants, so I am at a loss.

The head lettuce is at the end of their season and ready for me to cut out. The leaf lettuce is still good, and since are in a partly shaded spot may give me a few more weeks.

The garden has been one of my favorite things to watch these past couple of weeks.

Also this week I've had to do one of my least favorite things: interviewing and collecting quotes from contractors for home improvement projects. We are getting gutters put back up, the chimney needs repairs and we are replacing a few of our windows. The chimney guy has given us a great deal and he was easy since we already knew who we wanted to us. DH has chosen the gutter company and all we have to do is give him a call and set up the day to have it done. The windows are giving us fits, probably because it was somewhat unexpected. I ended up breaking the glass in a window that cannot be repaired, so we are replacing all the similar windows. Quotes are all over the place and comparing them is difficult since windows can vary so much in quality.

Between meeting with contractors, I've been organizing and pulling out unnecessary homeschool materials. I have even sold some...DH was floored when I told him that I was actually getting rid of some of our stuff. It is all with getting inline with our new approach using books, online resources, manipulatives and unit studies. We will pretty much only have a 'curriculum' for Mary's math this next year.

We are glad the week is almost over and DH will be home for a long weekend. No soccer games this weekend, so the time is all our own!!!



Monday, May 19, 2008

Sleeping Like A Baby

You know this isn't going to be good, right?

Robbie went down a his normal bedtime last night, he really is so good about putting himself to sleep. I checked on him as I headed back to the bedroom, sleeping soundly. Good I was worn out from a busy weekend and looking forward to a goodnight's rest. I spent about 20 minutes journaling, turned off my light got comfortable...and he woke up. I got up thinking he just needed to be resettled, rubbed his back and he seemed to go back to sleep.

I went back to bed and had just fallen asleep when 30 minutes later he was back up. Okay, time for a dry diaper and a sippy cup with water (sue me, I want sleep). He settled back down, for a little while. Thirty minutes later back awake and this time he woke up Emily. I saw that this was not going to be easy, so I took him to the family room to see if he would fall asleep with me.

I spent the next hour or so being jumped on, kicked and head butted. He wanted to play with his favorite toy, which of course is the one you don't want any child playing with at 1 am. The lights were all off but that didn't stop him from running around.

I gave up near 2 am, but him back in his crib and hoped that Emily was soundly asleep. I hear him as I went back to bed, but was so tired that I passed out. My last coherent thought was that he will at least sleep late in the morning.

So, I was a little put out when at 6:20 this morning I heard laughing, giggling and banging coming from his crib. Robbie was wide awake, and very happy about it. Me, not so much.

Of course today we have to be somewhere at noon and I needed to be able to put him down for a later nap.

Sunday wasn't all about the lack of sleeping babies; Mary made the soccer team she tried out for last week and is so excited. Wait till she learns what it is like to attend preseason camps in mid-August.

And, DH bought himself a car. At least he completed negotiations. Tonight they are bringing the car to us and we are using the notary next door to sign over the title. My other chore today is to go to the bank and deplete our savings account. But, we may actually be able to afford to have DH drive to work again. I did this online calculator and it figured that we spent somewhere close to 20% of DH's takehome on fuel alone, and this is considering I normally don't drive but three times a week and make my tank last for three weeks. If all goes well this Honda will pay for itself in six months on gas savings alone.

Today is housework, errands, reading and maybe a bit of napping. Mary said that she wants to spend some time working on her China stuff, so maybe a little helping there. Otherwise a pretty normal Monday.



Sunday, May 18, 2008

Old things new again

This has been a week when the children have rediscovered joy and fun in their old toys. The basket filled with Barbie and My Littlest Pet Shop has been pulled back out and the two older ones have spent many hours creating quite involved scenarios. Lots of creativity at work, including building new houses and bedrooms.

Katie seems to take the lead in much of the creativity at work - her bed is an alter to creative, imaginary play. Every stuffed animal, doll and miniature has it's place on her bed and she will disappear, alone, for such lengths of time I begin to worry where she actually is. Mary will go play for awhile, but she cannot stand to be away from the activity in the rest of the house for too long.

Webkinz online has come back into our day also. Around Christmas it became all but impossible to get online so the girls just stopped trying. This week they wanted to get on again and have been happily finding all the new activities they have added over the last 5 months.

Mary had tryouts this week for the new competitive soccer team. I was not sure how Mary would handle three long nights of tryouts and then her normal rec team game on Saturday. She has enjoyed soccer this week more than she has for the last two seasons of rec play. She is trying out for what would be the first level of boy/girl teams, as opposed to coed. Several girls from her team are also trying out, and wow after a week of just playing with the girls their confidence was sky-high for the game yesterday. They had fun and were all over the ball. Mary didn't score, but had three separate break-away attempts. We will not find out for a few days if Mary made the team or not, but were told by the coaches that she has a pretty good chance.

I really need to figure out someway to record digital music so I can share with everyone Mary's attempts at composing her own music. She has such a good ear and has 'written' some nice pieces. Her handwriting leaves a bit to be desired so it is sometimes hard to tell what she has put on the staff. We found a printable source on-line for staff paper, so I am letting her compose to her heart's desire.

I'm faced with some 'end-of-year' activities I would like to complete, including the scrapbook of our year. It really has been a busy and exciting year for us. Mary will have her end-of-year testing in June, neither of us are looking forward to the stress this is going to create.

Today is R&R day. DH has to work for a few hours, Mary & Katie have a birthday party to go to and at some point we will hopefully go look at a car for sale. I'm just along for the ride.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A week

We have basically cruised through the last week. We are still working on our projects and added a few more activities into the mix. With the weather being so wet and iffy, we have been in a major movie watching mode. Catching up on all the movies we have missed over the last few years. Last week we saw Hoot for the first time. What a wonderful movie. I think before we took it back we watched it about 5 times and Mary wants to add it to the list of movies to buy. I really want the soundtrack as I love all things Jimmy Buffet. The DVD extras alone were great and educational. Following watching this movie we added another Carl Hiaasen book, Flush, to our reading pile.

This we week we have How to Eat Fried Worms and Mr. Magoriums Wonder Emporium.

My Mother's Day went well. Mary got up and fixed breakfast for me before I went back to bed for three more hours. I really needed to catch up on my sleep after burning my candles at both ends for the last couple of weeks. Once I got up, I took the two big girls shopping with me. I haven't been shopping, shopping for months, but I had a little bit of money to throw around and some items I have been wanting for a long time.

We started off at Border's for a little book browsing. I felt like I hit the jackpot in their bargin section. Mary picked up a magic kit and Katie a paintable keepsake box. I also found: an Atlas of the Human Body, Human Body Flip Chart, Grade 2 Math Activity Kit, Counting/Addition & Spelling (K-1st) Write-On/Wipe-off books, NC Gardening Book and two preschool/toddler activity books for Emily and Robbie.

We browsed through a few more stores, but the only other thing I bought for myself was a water filter pitcher thing for the refrigerator. We are all good about drinking water if it is cold, but don't care for straight from the tap. I'm hoping to increase our water consumption this summer by providing clean, cold water on demand.

Mary has pretty much locked herself in her bedroom to learn the magic tricks. Every little while we have a magic show. She isn't too bad.

We have also received a blessing this week. We've been looking at bikes to buy DH since he has started riding more with the girls, and so he can also transition from using the car for short errands. Yesterday we were offered a men's bike for free, which just happened to be a hybrid like he was looking at. We surprised him with it last night and I think he was surprised it was as in as good of shape as it was. Since we saved money on the bike we took a little of that and have ordered a 4-bike bike rack for the van/pathfinder. We were already having trouble loading Mary's bike and my bike into the cars, there was no way DH's 26-inch bike was going to fit. The possibilities are open for new summertime activities.

We are going to be a little bit busier than normal this week. Mary has tryouts for the Developmental Soccer League three evenings this week. If she makes this she will actually be playing on two leagues for the next year, as they want them to continue playing rec ball until they move up to the Challenge division. We also have the other normal end-of-year activities going on. Ahhh, Lazy summer days are around the corner.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

What have we been up to?

Well, a lot of enjoying the weather and being outside before the heat, humidity and bugs force us back inside. Being sick last week knocked me and the schedule for a loop, but we are doing okay getting back to 'normal'.

The days are being spent on a lot of unschooling and project activities. The China unit study has been a big hit, and we are being blessed with a lot of media attention on China with the upcoming Summer Olympics. The May National Geographic magazine was entirely devoted to China, and several times I had to find it in Mary's room so I could finish whatever article I was reading. And, this weekend we watched two shows; one on the building of the Great Wall and the other on the first Emperor of China. My mother has sent us a couple different kid's pages from her newspapers on China which Mary has enjoyed working and reading through.

Emily and Katie are engrossed with the puzzles my mom brought to us after cleaning out her house. They are also very busy creating their own little 'art' books. Nothing like handing them some paper and a handful of markers. Mr. Robbie is just his own very busy self. He wants to be doing whatever his sisters are, at least long enough to make them howl before he trots off to climb whatever will stand still long enough for him to climb.

I'm just doing. Lots of really fun chores (at least to me) this time of year. I really do like the time I spend hanging laundry outside and pushing our new reel mower around. Time to enjoy being outside while also being productive. Getting back into the kitchen and being creative again in my cooking. I've put away the knitting for the time being and have been busy teaching myself how to sew while putting together some new clothes for the girls. Like my knitting I'm keeping it simple until I become a little more comfortable. Currently I'm working on a couple pairs of cropped pants for Mary.

There is also the planning and shopping for this summer's house projects. We are getting gutters, finally, and rain barrel(s). We are also considering a woodstove insert for the fireplace. We are in the information gathering phase of that. While it wouldn't be our primary heat source, I'm looking for a strong secondary system that will help us cut a month or so off our central heat use in the winter.

Basically we have been doing a lot of fun things, for us, just not very exciting.


How does your garden grow?

With a good amount of rain, plenty of sunshine and wonderfully-perfect temperatures, the garden is really exploding considering most of it was planted only a couple of weeks ago. Granted the tomatoes and peppers were transplants, but look at those beans! The background is our overabundance of lettuce.
More beans and lettuce (Emily got a little seed-happy with my lettuce seeds this year). The small containers are weeds, as I am trying to figure out what to grow in them this year.

This is my little patch of wild blackberries. I found it as I was planting the raspberry and blackberry bushes that I had purchased. It is going wild with blossoms. Have found several off-shoots from this plant and am trying to protect them from being 'weeded' out.

This is my cultivated raspberry. The picture isn't very good but there are plenty of blossoms here also .
One of my three blueberry bushes. If you look closely I have little green blueberries.

Ahhh, Spingtime!!!



Thursday, May 01, 2008

10th Anniversary

Tomorrow we celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary! Has it really been that long. I still remember the butterflies in my stomach the morning of May 2, 1998, wondering what the heck I was doing.

Who knew that ten years later we would find ourselves here today? I knew we would still be married, but four children and me the career woman home with them. Then, let's top it off with homeschooling, a direction towards simple living and so forth. What a 'long, strange journey it has been.'

In preparation, I have been popping antibiotics to get rid of the wonderful sinus/ear infection I developed earlier this week. Nothing says romance like the feeling of an ice pick drilling in the ear.

Seriously, though, my mom is on her way up to spend the next couple of days here. DH is taking Friday off from work. And, I have no clue of what the plans are. Either he has made none or he plans on surprising me. It could go either way.

Still, WOW - ten years. Where has the time gone? I am not old enough to have been married for ten years (says my perpetual 21-yr-old persona).

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.