Most Beautiful Opportunity

My Aunt Lois was absolutely the most beautiful person I have ever met. She was gullible, but good-natured. She enjoyed a good joke (and a good number of corny jokes). She was caring, giving, inspiring, courageous, joyful, and kind. I can remember her exact tone of voice when she came with me to try on new outfits. If there was one outfit in particular she liked, she would say, “Oh, Kim… I love it!” Her voice would be soft and deep on the “Oh, Kim…” and it would rise up on the “love” and fall deep and warm again at the end. She was a teacher and she always told her students that their best work was most beautiful. She affirmed them so frequently with that phrase that at her funeral there were many cards given, signs displayed, and speeches made to show their gratitude to the woman who had made them feel like they were most beautifulMost beautiful meant most inspiring, most meaningful; “I am so proud of who you are.”

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Today has been the most beautiful day we’ve experienced so far in Wisconsin. It is spring. The temperature is in the upper sixties, there is a slight breeze blowing every so often, the sun is out, the grass is green, the daffodils are blossoming, the trees and bushes are budding out, the birds are singing, and the insects are coming out and passing through.

We did school in the front yard and on the screened-in porch this morning. The kids were swinging in their tree swings and we were singing our folksong at the top of our lungs! While they were swinging, we watched a wild turkey meandering through the neighbors’ yards. Then we walked around our yard and inspected the bushes, flower beds, and fruit trees for new growth while Hula Girl and I took turns reciting a poem about spring. We saw a monarch butterfly, a small white butterfly, and a dragonfly. After our nature study, we went into the porch, where Monkey Man and Sugar Plum dug around in some potted plants and rearranged the chairs while Hula Girl and I worked on her writing. Last, we went back to the front yard to swing again while I read today’s literature selection to Hula Girl.

While Sugar Plum had her nap, the big kids ate lunch outside and then whiled away their early afternoon barefoot in the grass. It was with much chagrin that they retired to their rooms for their rest time; I would not have made them do it had I not needed a shower!

This afternoon we will be meeting up with a new family for a playdate at the park. I connected with the mom in an online group for people who use Ambleside Online as our curriculum for homeschooling our kiddos.  And, bonus, they actually live in the same town as us! This is exciting because we have met very few homeschool families in our area, and no other families who use the Charlotte Mason method at all.

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Homeschooling has been going well overall. We took quite a break this past year after Sugar Plum joined our family. Hula Girl did a stint in public school while we were settling in here in Wisconsin, and I pulled her back out at Thanksgiving. We took the month or so between Thanksgiving and New Year off so we could focus on family and festivities, and started back up in January with a modified schedule to cover some of the material we had previously skipped or done poorly due to me being pregnant or us having a newborn in the home.

Lately I have been on a quest to really get a full picture of the Charlotte Mason method- her educational philosophy, her goals, and her means by which to achieve those goals. I have been reading blogs and articles and books and forums; I have been listening to podcasts; I have been consulting with the (two) moms I know in real life that also use Ambleside Online. It was a great time of learning for me, but I reached my threshold quickly. There are SO many ways that different families can focus their time and energy as homeschool allows for freedom and choice! I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that people have come up with to organize, streamline, and enhance their educational atmosphere in their homes. I couldn’t handle looking at yet another way to organize a nature notebook, or another binder for keeping lists of things, or another bookshelf filled with books for mothers to read (on top of all the curriculum to read to or pre-read for our children)! It all started to feel very “keeping up with the Joneses” in that I would never be able to organize our curriculum and materials in the most beautiful way, or create perfect nature notebooks filled with most beautiful sketches, or spend hours every day reading to cultivate my own heart and mind to embody the most beautiful thoughts, feelings, and motivations. To put it simply, there is no way I will ever have time to have the most beautiful everything, and that was downright discouraging.

I met with a seasoned homeschool mom, who told me that I am doing well. I explained the ways I was planning to implement a few things, and what I envisioned for our homeschool journey, and she assured me that we would do well! She gave me courage as she reaffirmed that this is my school, my family, my relationship with the Lord, and that my best is the best for my family. Even though I’m not creating showcase-worthy sketchbooks or filling our bookcases with hardback, leather-bound versions of all our textbooks, homeschooling is still the most inspiring and most meaningful thing I can provide for my family, and that makes this journey most beautiful for me. It might look different from other moms’ versions of school at home. It might look crazy to our neighbors (“Don’t your kids need socialization?”). It might look like an unnecessary burden (“That’s what public schools are for!”). But I get to watch my children mature, I get to feed their minds interesting things to ponder, I get to be witness to their incredible ideas, and I get to know their hearts more deeply and completely every single day. It is a most beautiful calling and opportunity, and I am so grateful that this is my life.

 

“It’s been 84 Years…”

Not quite that long, but it surely feels like it’s been 84 years since my last post. It’s really only been just over a year. (Can anyone identify the source of that quotation, by the way? Chelsea, are you reading?) My excuse? I forgot my password. I feel really sheepish saying that. Passwords are recoverable. However, I have a separate email account associated with this blog and I forgot the password for that as well… so… Anyway! Now I’m back.

So much has happened over the past year. We’ve added a new family member, our little Sugar Plum, who is five months old today. Monkey Man is almost four years old; Hula Girl just turned six recently. We completed our first year of real homeschooling. We’ve added new chickens to our flock. And all sorts of other things in between.

I wanted to get back to blogging because I don’t really keep track of our lives in any other organized way. All my kids’ baby pictures can be found on Facebook, but nowhere else. I want a place to store all our memories again!

I’m just going to jump right into writing about what happened today. I’ll go back and fill in details as needed, but I don’t really want to try to recap more than I already have.

This week Hula Girl has been taking a ballet class at dance camp. The funny thing is, she has the same ballet teacher she had waaaaay back when she first started dance. She quit dancing back then because she was just too shy to continue on. However, she started back up two years ago, and she has flourished. Hula Girl does so well with dance. She has beautiful feet, she takes corrections well and applies them consistently from the first time they’re given, and she observes her teachers carefully so she rarely misses a step. I know that all moms whose daughters dance think their daughters are just the most beautiful little ballerinas they’ve ever seen. I am no exception. Hula Girl astounds me with her grace and self-assurance when she dances. We plan for her to take separate tap and ballet classes in the fall.

Another funny thing about Hula Girl’s dance class is her reaction to a new girl in her class who has Down syndrome. Hula Girl loves kids with Down syndrome, especially if they’re of Asian descent. She once told me she wants to be Chinese and have Down syndrome, because she loves her friends who have Down syndrome SO MUCH. (Some of her favorite Sunday school friends have Down syndrome. Two of them are adorable Chinese girls.) The new girl in her ballet class has a darker complexion as well. I was SURE she would come home talking about the new girl with Down syndrome. I was half right. She DID come home talking about the girl. She said the girl is new to dance and that she is excited to see the girl trying so hard when it is something she has never done before. She said she is proud of the girl for doing her best. I asked her if she noticed anything else about the girl, and she thought for a minute before answering, “I really liked the way she had her hair braided!” It is such a rewarding experience for me to see my daughter being so accepting and encouraging of children with all abilities and skin tones. I want to impress on my children that NO ONE is better than anyone else, for any reason. I want them to learn to love and appreciate everyone, and to find ways to encourage everyone. Hula Girl is doing these things, and it makes my heart so thankful.

Monkey Man has a lot of fun at Hula Girl’s dance classes. He stands in the corner and does all the steps along with the dancers. We actually planned to have him take a rhythm and movement class this summer, but he backed out of it. I think it’s so interesting because he loves getting everyone’s attention– he is always walking through stores saying hi to everyone– but he doesn’t want to participate in dance class because he’s afraid people will watch him! We aren’t pushing the issue with him. Jonathan danced and we would love it if Monkey Man wanted to try it out, too, but we will leave it up to him to decide whether he wants to do it, and when. He knows the option is open to him.

Both children are also interested in taking gymnastics classes and joining a soccer team. They are both very athletic, and Jonathan and I are all for them trying out as many different activities as they’d like to try while they’re young.  We are also planning to start music lessons soon. I never learned to read music (I have tried, but it befuddles my mind),  and I feel such a sense of loss over this that I refuse to let my kids feel it too! So we will start piano lessons soon. I am certain that music lessons will be fun for Monkey Man. He is introverted, and he has always had an extra measure of musicality.

And now for a bit about our little Sugar Plum. She is just the easiest, sweetest baby you could imagine. She only ever cries if she is extremely overtired, extremely hungry (has only happened once in her life), or cold. Otherwise, she is just all around mellow. Nothing makes her smile more than seeing someone she loves; eliciting a laugh takes herculean effort. Most of the time she can be seen just gazing around the room and quietly taking it all in. She hasn’t rolled yet, but she is trying very hard. I am certain she will be rolling within a week or two. She looks much more like Monkey Man and Jonathan than she does like Hula Girl and me. However, she has red eyebrows, which leads me to believe she *might* have my red hair. So far she is taking after her siblings by growing superfine, uncertain-colored hair all over her giant head.

Jonathan and I are doing well. Just keepin’ on keepin’ on. I’ll let you know if anything specific happens. Haha.

Memorial Day Weekend; School and Life Update

This is just a quick update on school progress, and then a bit about family/life stuff. 🙂

Kindergarten is going well. I love the ebb and flow of business and activity in our home when we are working on school and chores and play. Monkey Man occupies himself well by digging out in the backyard in his “construction site.” I slather him in sunscreen and stick a hat on his head, and he’s good to go. It’s so peaceful to look out and see him atop his mountain of dirt, digging away with his little shovel, while the chickens browse in the (GIANT) weeds nearby. He hardly even notices them, and they only move away from him in order to escape the flying dirt he sometimes flings in their direction. Monkey Man gets completely absorbed in his projects; he works SO hard and doesn’t stop unless he’s thirsty… a lot like his Daddy.

Hula Girl is enjoying school for the most part. She is not a fan of copywork, but she will write sticky notes for anyone and everyone all day long! So funny. I have been trying to get a little bit of narration out of her in response to the readings. Narration is totally unguided and is a way to check for understanding. Charlotte Mason says students should narrate in order to solidify their own understanding of the material and that narration should never be guided- we want children to make their OWN unique connections. I will say that there are times when Hula Girl’s narrations surprise me with her insight, and there are other times when her narration is so obviously NOT correct that I feel the need to go back and re-read segments of the text with emphasis so she gets the point. This is especially critical with Aesop’s Fables. Haha.

I think our next big change is going to be switching to the Alpha level in Math-U-See. The Primer level is just dragging along and Hula Girl is becoming a bit restless as the concepts seem too easy for her after just a day’s practice, but then too difficult after a week off. She gets it right away, experiences success, and then as we move on, the concepts seem to leave her brain, and she gets frustrated when we have to do it again. So we’ll see how that goes. I think we might back off math completely for summer and then pick up with the Alpha level in fall.

Hula Girl’s dance recital is on Saturday. We are all very excited to see her perform; I have heard that the productions done by this studio are magnificent. Hula Girl is doing a phenomenal job with dance. Her class ended up being a bit too easy this session, but that worked out because her teachers used her in a leadership role. She has SO enjoyed the responsibility. She will be continuing on with this studio in the fall with a half ballet, half tap class. She is also doing a dance camp this summer to ease her into tap and rhythm a bit.

Monkey Man and Hula Girl are taking swimming lessons two days per week at the YMCA. We opted to put them into a private lesson together. They each get 15 minutes of full attention from their teacher, Miss J. Hula Girl thinks Miss J is something special. Monkey Man runs away from her. We’ve ended up having me play with Monkey Man for Hula Girl’s lesson and then having Miss J use Hula Girl as the demo kid while showing me what to do with Monkey Man for his lesson. It works pretty well. My goal is for Hula Girl to be able to swim and for Monkey Man to get there by next summer. 🙂

The kids went to my parents’ house for the long weekend. Jonathan and I spent our time at home cleaning, working on the chicken coop and run, planting some things in our garden, mowing and pulling weeds, taking down old dead trees, ripping out some fencing, and shopping for some new organizers and stuff for our closets. We also had our pastor and his wife over for dinner on Friday and went up the road to a friend’s house for dinner on Saturday. It was a productive weekend!

The kids’ weekend was really fun. My parents took them bowling when it was raining. The next day they went kayaking on my parents’ pond, scouting for bugs and critters (they caught frogs, snakes, crickets, grasshoppers, and all kinds of flies), and camping in my parents’ fifth wheel. Of course they got to have s’mores. 🙂 The kids had a blast with Grammy and Grampy, and BOY were they tired when they got home on Monday! We got nice long nights and naps the first couple days home.

I’m hoping this week gets calmer. It seems to me that we’ve been going, going, going for weeks on end. I’ve also been sick for five weeks straight with colds and sinus infections. I was up all night last night, coughing and coughing. Ugh. Power through.

Hula Girl’s First Day of Kindergarten!

Today was a wild success. When Hula Girl first came out of her room this morning, I was standing in the hall doing laundry. She said, “Hooray! It’s Monday! The day I get to start school!” It was all smooth sailing from there. (Kid takes after me- school is always so much fun!)

We said our family memory verse at breakfast, and lo and behold, Hula Girl, Jonathan, and I can say Ephesians 4:32 perfectly now, so we got to put it in the box and start a new one! (Monkey Man listens with interest but makes no effort to actually say the verses. I figure he’ll join us in time. He’s only two, after all.) Our new memory verse is Psalm 119:30. We’ll start working on it as a family when Jonathan gets home for dinner tonight. That’s what I LOVE about this scripture memory system– it’s something we’ve chosen to do AS A FAMILY. I might review it a couple of times a day with the kids when Jonathan’s not here, but we aren’t moving on to the next verse until EVERYONE (who is old enough) has it. And then we will continue to review each verse multiple times per month. Love it.

After our verse, I read the ESV version of Genesis 1:1:26-31; 2:7, 20-25. The kids did a quick narration, telling me what they heard in the passages. Then we prayed for our Compassion kids. Finally, I read “Bed in Summer” and we talked about how silly it is that we get up in the dark in winter and go to bed in the daytime in summer. Monkey Man then requested that I read a picture book to them, so we read Eric Carle’s Rooster’s Off to See the World.

We took a 30-minute break after breakfast to wash dishes, switch the laundry to the dryer, brush teeth and hair, and get dressed. Monkey Man HATES to get dressed. He would spend all his life in jammies if I let him. I totally get it. I hate real clothes, too. Jammies FTW! But I convinced him to at least put on some fleece pants and a thermal shirt. It’s cold here today!

Next, we spent an hour switching back and forth between the couches in the living room and the dining room table. We completed the bulk of our schoolwork:

  • Natural History- Chapter 1 from Paddle to the Sea
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12B (addition)
  • History- “Sword of Damocles” from Fifty Famous Stories
  • Copywork- “Be kind to one another” from Ephesians 4:32
  • History- Chapter 1 from Island Story

Monkey Man trailed along after Hula Girl and me and he worked with her unit blocks while she completed her math worksheet. He was actually pretty good at it! I quickly drew a couple of unit bars on his blank paper and asked him to match them with the proper unit bars. He got them all right on the first try, without counting! For example, I drew a unit bar with three units; he put the 3 bar right on top. I also asked him to “put some together” and he was able to add 1 to any number just by saying the next number in sequence. For instance, I put the four and the one down and said, “Put the four and the one together. How many units does this make?” He replied, “Four, five. FIVE!”

I discovered that I’ve set the right time allotment for our work, even though I allotted too long for some subjects and too short for others. It’s a wash. We were ready to go out for our nature walk at exactly the time I’d predicted, so yay! We went outside with coats and mittens on today! We picked some of the wildflowers that are blooming around our house right now. We talked to a neighbor who is moving tomorrow. We examined thistle plants and discovered some small succulents thriving in the middle of a rocky field down the road. Hula Girl’s favorite discovery was a patch of bushes with teeny weeny pale blue flowers. These flowers are so tiny that you can’t even see them from an average person’s perspective; you have to be short or bend down! The flowers have four petals and are at the very tips of long wiry stalks with needly leaves running the length of the stalk. Hula Girl decided to call them “fairy flowers” because they’re so tiny a fairy could pick them. And because fairies love the color blue. (“Like my eyes, Mommy!”)

When we got home from nature study, we sorted through our wildflowers, trimmed them, and put them in the press. (Our flower press is AWESOME. My dad made it out of two pieces of plywood that have holes drilled in the four corners. Then he put a screw in each corner and it’s all fastened together with wing nuts. The wing nuts screw down and press the flowers super tightly in between the pieces of plywood. Gorgeous.)

Our next activity was Hula Girl’s reading lesson for the day, which she flew through. I was glad to see that it was slightly more difficult than the first two lessons, though. Just enough change to keep us on our toes; not enough change to throw us off our game. When the lesson was over, the kids got to spend 45 minutes doing whatever they wanted to do. Monkey Man hid in the shower curtain (not even kidding) while Hula Girl went to her room to create some “projects.”

At lunch we talked to Jonathan and listened to our folksong. Then we read three picture books. Then it was time for me to put Monkey Man down for his nap. Hula Girl disappeared, again, into her room to color, write, and glue. When I went to get her, she had created at least seven different compositions. Here’s my favorite:

MomMom

That’s me, at the dentist. Obviously. And my name is MomMom.

After rest time today, we’ll have tea and do our picture study. Jonathan baked cookies for the kids last night, so they’re excited for their tea today. Somehow I can bake them cookies all day every day but DADDY’S cookies are more exciting. 😉

So, all in all, today was great. Having school in our lives helps keep us organized and pleasant. We don’t have too much time to dwell on the downside, and I love the way our day is designed to give us periods of activity interspersed with periods of relative calm. I can’t wait until it’s really summer, so we can head outside in the sun for more of our lessons!

Homeschooling: Why We Chose What We Did

When I first mentioned homeschooling to Jonathan, he was not very excited. He grew up in the Nazarene church, and homeschoolers were those kids in denim skirts and matching polo shirts who won the Bible quizzing bees, hands-down, every time. They didn’t know how to converse with anyone else and they certainly never even thought one uncheerful thought in their entire lives. They built robots and did chores, sang hymns and nothing else, and probably all of them snorted when they laughed, too.

However, Jonathan generally trusts me and my research, and what I’ve found is that homeschooling is the right choice for our family. We want to be the main influence on our kiddos’ developing attitudes, faith, and outlook on life. We want to bring them with us to train them in compassion and evangelism. We want to be free to GO DO STUFF as a family (we’re stoked for future missions work) as well as staying home and DOING STUFF as a family. Homeschooling is an easy choice for us to make. The hard part was deciding how to do it. Spoiler Alert: We chose the Charlotte Mason method, and the curriculum guide found at www.amblesideonline.com.

I originally thought I’d go the Classical route with curriculum and methodology. I thrive in that kind of high-achievement, goals-oriented environment. Give me a task and a timeline, and I’m good to go. But I know that’s not for everyone, and my kids aren’t me. So I wanted to make sure that at the very least, I considered other options. As I went through the vast world of homeschooling on the internet, I came across unschooling, unit studies, and several other approaches.

Unschooling appeals to me because it really allows parents to help their children seek out their passions and support them while they pursue everything pertaining to a particular area until their curiosity is satisfied and they can find something else to learn about. I like the depth of knowledge a child can develop about any number of subjects and trades. However, as my friend Julie so aptly put it, “I know my own sin nature and I know my children have sin natures.” Unschooling won’t work for me (at least right now) because I know I’d be a little on the lazy side, and it wouldn’t work for the kids right now because… well, they don’t seem to be that invested in anything except for Frozen and tractors. 🙂 Also, to be honest: I kind of need a schedule and an idea of where we’re going.

Unit studies are always fun because parents can teach all age groups at the same time and find cool ways to incorporate every subject area under one unifying theme. Families studying Egypt can learn about triangular prisms, deserts, rivers, mythology, art, zoology, technology, agriculture, Islam, astronomy, and even Joseph from the Bible. Imagine the projects that can be created and the inquisitive ideas and questions that can be elicited from the children! But as fun and exciting as unit studies sound, I just couldn’t wrap my head around the “how will I make sure we cover everything” question. Sure, we’d get a lot of math here and there, but math is something that I feel needs to be sequential and intentional. (I’m sure that anyone could say, “Well, just do math on its own! You can still do unit studies!”) Everything just seemed like I’d have to pull together an enormous amount of resources and do a TON of work every new unit. Blech.

There were other approaches which were kind of amalgams of each method. In fact, eclectic homeschooling gives parents freedom to pick and choose from any and all methods and curricula to piece together a homeschool experience that is unique to their own children. More power to them! I, however, don’t like to scramble for resources, and so I was looking for something that was more of a “package deal.”

The Charlotte Mason approach is kind of the last thing I’d normally choose. Like, if you had me and four other homeschool moms in a room and a set of five homeschool methodologies listed on posters on the wall, you would NEVER send me to the Charlotte Mason poster. It is SO different from anything I thought I’d ever be doing when teaching my kids, and it will definitely be a stretch for me.

Charlotte Mason was a schoolteacher in England in the late 1800s and she worked together with the parents of the kids in her schools to create a rich, nurturing, child-friendly environment for the children in her care. She emphasized quality reading material (no “twaddle”), Christ-centeredness, study of nature, observational skills, narration to check for understanding, and a general all-encompassing excellence. She outlined ways to build good habits in our children and ways for the children to quiet themselves to ponder a lesson, work of art, or wonder of nature. The phrase, “I am, I can, I ought, I will” sums up her philosophy briefly.

The Charlotte Mason method uses short lessons (plenty of freedom for children to play or to develop other skills each day). There is an emphasis on the children mastering many other skills, not just academic subjects. Books used are “living books,” those which have rich ideas and deep messages to consider, all wrapped in a package of beautiful verbiage and storytelling.

You guys. I’m not the flowery type. Charlotte Mason is flowery.

And that is the biggest reason I chose to use Charlotte Mason. I recognize areas of my life which need work. I need practice on my homemaking skills. I need to develop better habits of scripture memory and diligence. I need to read beautiful language and not just the language of the internet. I need to surround myself with God’s creation on a daily basis and to reflect on what he has made. I need to slow our lives down so we are always ready to receive company with open arms. I need to learn to appreciate beauty and simplicity and the loveliness of just being together with my own two beautiful children, day in and day out, without the stress of a super rigorous academic schedule. (Don’t get me wrong- Charlotte Mason is EXTREMELY rigorous as far as academics go; more rigorous than even the Classical curriculum I considered- just take a look at the list of books Hula Girl and I will be reading this year in my next post!) I need peace and quiet and time to cultivate beauty in my heart and home. So, Charlotte Mason wins.

I plan to post every day, mostly to keep family members updated on our progress. If you feel inclined to follow along on our journey, well, the more the merrier!

Jonathan’s Upcoming Surgery

Jonathan is officially scheduled for his surgery. This is something for which  many of our friends and family members have been praying with us since December. We finally figured out the root of his eye issues, so we’re excited to see how things go with this surgery.

We feel so encouraged about this operation. The ophthalmologist is going to make a small incision in the layer of tissue around his eye and then she’ll cut out a small segment of his muscle there. He had a major concussion from rugby while he was in college. This damaged one of the nerves that feeds directly to one of his eye muscles. Over time, that muscle grew weaker and since eye muscles work in pairs, the weakening in his muscle began to cause his eye to turn as the healthy muscle pulled stronger in the opposite direction. So the surgeon is going to remove a section of the stronger muscle in order to balance the muscles to work more smoothly together.

The surgery itself is a much less risky surgery than the previous doctor’s suggestion. Jonathan had seen a neurologist who said he had a malformation in his brain and that he would need brain surgery to fix it. Fortunately the good sense of the neurosurgeons won out and neither of the doctors the neurologist tried to refer him to would accept him as a patient– they both said he didn’t have the malformation after reviewing his MRI. Regardless of how we got to this point, we feel so blessed that the surgery he now requires is so much more minimal than the aforementioned brain surgery!

We also feel fortunate because we have qualified for an assistance program through the state of Colorado. We don’t qualify for medicaid, but there is a program for people who don’t qualify for medicaid but still have lower income. This program will allow us to pay the same total amount for both our surgeries (including my D&C back in November) that we would have spend on just the anesthesiologist bills alone.

Please keep our family in your prayers this week as we prepare for Jonathan’s surgery on Friday. My parents are helping out with childcare so I can go be at the hospital and support Jonathan through his recovery. The doctor said he can expect to be able to go back to work on Monday, with slight accommodation for his sensitivity to light and healing tissues. We are praying that the first surgery will be enough to make a significant difference in his vision so he does not have to have a follow-up surgery.  Also, please pray that Jonathan doesn’t have a terrible reaction to the anesthesia. He’s been known to vomit profusely after prior surgeries; we don’t want any of that!

I’ll update when the surgery is complete!

Cinderella is Crazy and my Cat is, Too.

You guys. Yesterday, I was sitting here in the living room, enjoying the first rays of dawn while typing my post, when suddenly my cat, Riley, came flying into the house. He had been out in the garage with Jonathan. I thought nothing of it as the cat is a bit off his rocker and he gets spurts of energy which send him sprinting up and down the stairs and meowing like a maniac several times a day. But then Jonathan came bounding in from the garage, too, and said, “Riley has a mouse!”

I don’t know what made him do it. Riley clamped that disgusting little rodent in his razor sharp teeth and brought it into my house. Into my house. INTO MY HOUSE! Cinderella would have been thrilled. She would have pulled out her miniature wardrobe and talked lovingly and calmly to this little former-field-dweller and been oh-so-exhilarated to have made a new friend. Not I. I did what any sane human being would do- I panicked.

I yanked my feet up and told Jonathan he better stop that mouse from coming anywhere near me. I cowered in my chair like Malcolm hiding from T-Rex in Jurassic Park. I had pictures of Riley tossing that little flea-ridden disease factory in the air and hitting me with it. As soon as the mouse got free and scurried behind a bookcase, I made a dash for the kitchen and jumped up on the counters so I could be safe. Rodents are scary, man.

Jonathan carefully moved the bookcase so Riley could get to the mouse, but Riley is apparently the worst mouser in the world, and he let it run… into the kitchen. You guys, I really couldn’t win. Of course the mouse scampered along under the cabinets, flashing his beady eyes and chomping his giant rodent teeth at me until he got to the dishwasher… then he disappeared. I was freaking out, imagining all the dish-washing Jonathan was going to have to do (NO WAY was I going to be touching those dishes after a nasty nasty pesty fuzzball had run across them and probably pooped and left every disease in the world all over them). Jonathan pulled out the dishwasher to reveal a gaping hole behind the cabinets. Great.

Fortunately the hole was a dummy and it did not lead to Narnia. The mouse was trapped and Jonathan was able to scoop it out of there with a broom. (Note to self: buy new broom.) Of course, Riley the WonderCat was absolutely uninterested in finding/hunting/killing the mouse by this point, so he just casually observed as Jonathan stepped on it!!!!!!! (Note to self: buy Jonathan new shoes!) Then Jonathan got the mouse contained in a jar and took it outside. I told him to just throw it way far out in the field across the street… but no. He insisted that Riley come out there to finish the job.

Riley, Mr. Unreliable, did not have any intentions of finishing that job. He was all like, “Oh man you guys, I brought you a fun mousie to play with and all you wanna do is take it out of the house and kill it? I’m having no part in this.” And he walked away. Seriously, my un-catliest-cat-ever WALKED AWAY from a mouse. So Jonathan had to dispose of that horrible little squeaking germ ball and that. is. that.

Thank goodness for Jonathan. Without him I would be petrified on the counters, ripping my hair out for fear the mouse would want to come steal it and use it for a nest for its disgusting little disease-ridden offspring. I’m totally sane, but that Cinderella chick- she’s crazy.

Longest Bike Ride Ever and other Small Golden Adventures

This time of life is so perfect. I love having little children in spring. We’ve been cooped up a lot in the winter and now we’re headed outside for hours of golden sunshine every day. We don’t even need heavy coats any longer– just a light jacket will do. The garden is sending out its first shoots and sprouts and the daffodils will blooming soon. The children are full of wonder and a sense of adventure as they while away the daylight in the backyard, creating new games and trying new ideas. Everything is bright and soft and fresh during this time of year.

Yesterday was a fun day all around. We stayed home because Hula Girl is still recovering from her cold and I hate it when other parents bring their kids in public to share their germs with everyone else. Practice what you preach, right?!

Anyway, after preschool was over yesterday, Little Man and Hula Girl went outside for a few minutes. They had so much fun in the backyard. I don’t even know what all they were doing, but it involved a lot of filling up the little wagon with dirt and moving it to another location, then dumping the dirt out of the bed over and over again. They never dug up the same place or moved dirt to the same place, so I’m pretty sure the goal was just to dig up and move the dirt. When I finished with my inside chores, I went out with them and we loaded up for a walk/bike ride. Hula Girl rode her bike and I pulled Little Man in the wagon with his bike and helmet. Hula Girl decided she wanted to go down to her friend G’s house. (G is a little girl in Hula Girl’s dance class.) Although G lives quite close to us when we ride in the car, walking and riding bikes is another matter altogether– G’s house is a mile away. But Hula Girl was determined we should go, so she pumped her little legs and rode all the way there. She was rewarded when G was home and the two of them got to say hi. I talked with G’s mom for a while and then it was time to head home for lunch. The walk home was uphill the entire way. There were several times when I pulled a wagon AND a bike. But Hula Girl did most of it on her own. She was so tired at bedtime last night!

In the afternoon the kids wanted to go out and play with our neighbors across the street. We discovered their mom was letting the kids finish their nap in their car seats (what mom hasn’t done that a million times?!) and so Hula Girl and Little Man jumped on their trampoline instead. When the kids woke up, their mom let the kiddos go over to the barn with her, where she let Hula Girl collect their chicken’s egg and hold the rabbits. Then Jonathan came home and we brought the kids back to our house to play and work with Daddy in the backyard.

For some reason, Little Man was awake until 9:00 last night. I just keep thinking of when Hula Girl was his age and she had nights where she’d stay awake long into the night singing and talking to herself in her crib. I know it’s totally normal, but when I’m so exhausted that I feel like I could go to sleep an hour before he actually falls asleep, it makes me feel old. 🙂

I had taken a week off running while I was battling strep, so when I got back on the treadmill yesterday, it was a humbling experience. I ran my three miles and then collapsed. I took a shower and then sat on the couch reading my Bible until it was time to get Hula Girl up from her rest time. When she got up, she started working on her Perler bead creations and I fell asleep on the couch! I jumped awake and she said, “Oh, hi, Mommy. I was trying to be quiet so I didn’t wake you.” Ugh. This time change has been a hard one for me!

The kids and I are going to be joining my parents in the mountains for skiing on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. This will be Little Man’s first time, and we’re not even sure he’ll want to ski. He hasn’t been very enthusiastic about being outside in colder weather…ever…so he and I might spend a few days hanging out in the ski lodge and going out to sled every now and then. But Hula Girl has been before and I have no doubt in my mind that she’ll be zipping down the blues by midmorning.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a great new episode of “Riley vs the Mouse”– an all-new, true story that just unfolded in our home while I was writing this post. Ugh.

DST Routine for “Home Days”

I’m better! Now we just need to get Hula Girl back on her feet, and then the family will be healthy again.

Jonathan really can’t get sick now; he has surgery coming up on the 20th. We don’t want that to get pushed back any since we’ve already had enough trouble just trying to figure out what is actually wrong with him! Please keep him in your prayers. We are hoping for equal strength for both of his eye muscles so they work properly together!

This weekend one of my girls from Sunday school, who has been missing for a while, came back! It was so nice to see her. She is growing up so much. She will be in high school next year. She came in with some heavy questions regarding homosexuality and whether or not some sins “rank” higher than others. I got to see a perfect example of how some well-meaning Christian teachers can scare some kids away from the faith. This poor girl was thinking that just because some of her friends are self-identified as gay or lesbian or bisexual or whatever, they won’t get to go to Heaven. Period. Case closed. It was a joy, therefore, to be able to explain to her that while the Bible calls out homosexuality as a sin, it’s a sin like any other sin– a sin that can be forgiven, a sin that can be overcome. I could see this was something that has been tickling her brain for a while and she wasn’t sure how to address it. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to leave the faith of her childhood, but on the other hand, she can’t see how these people, whom she loves, would be excluded from Heaven forever based on a sin; she’s smart enough to know we ALL sin and deserve eternal condemnation. She just couldn’t get her mind around why her friends’ sin was somehow worse than her own. It is amazing to watch young women wrestle with issues like this in their faith. It doesn’t happen every week, but when they do have hard questions and I’m there to supply biblical answers, I am SO glad they have the gumption to even ask! That can be scary!

Now that we’ve had the spring time change, I’ve developed a new sort of routine for our days. Most of the building blocks were already in place, but I just wanted to solidify what we do. It’s so easy to get into a rhythm, but I wanted to make sure the rhythm is highly beneficial for my family so we can play, learn, grow, and be at rest well together. Here’s our “home day” routine (times are approximate):

  • 7:30 up, breakfast (here we do a one-a-day toddler devotional and listen to our memory verse)
  • 8:00 brush teeth, get dressed, do chores (Hula Girl makes her bed and does the breakfast dishes; Little Man helps me with laundry and feeds the cat)
  • 8:15 Hula Girl has preschool; Little Man has roomtime
  • 9:00 reading time (SSR for the first few minutes and then I read out loud)
  • 9:45 outside play time (kids go out back while I clean up the kitchen and living room, then we go for a walk) or play room time (if the weather is bad)
  • 11:15 inside play time/bath time (kids get baths every 3-4 days or so)
  • 12:00 lunch
  • 1:00 Hula Girl works on handicrafts while Little Man begins his nap
  • 1:30 Hula Girl has rest time (she naps some days, if she is tired enough) and I work on chores or exercising or dinner prep or relaxing
  • 3:00 Hula Girl gets up and we read together while Little Man finishes his nap
  • 3:30 Little Man gets up and they have a snack while I read to them
  • 4:00 outside play time or play room time
  • 5:00 Hula Girl stays outside or in the play room; Little Man helps make dinner
  • 5:30 Jonathan comes home and the kids get Daddy time while I finish making dinner
  • 6:00 dinner
  • 6:45 Mommy and Daddy “couch time” and then family time
  • 7:30 bedtime

Obviously, we adjust based on the day’s activities. On Mondays, we go swimming at the Y instead of doing morning playtime at home. On Wednesdays, Hula Girl has dance class so we skip preschool and outside playtime. We also get groceries on Wednesdays. Thursdays are storytime days so we go there after preschool. Outside playtime happens at the park next to the library when storytime is over. And Sundays… well, Sundays are a day of rest. So, we give the schedule a rest! Church in the morning, then naps and meals as normal… otherwise, we do whatever we feel like doing.

Speaking of doing whatever we feel like doing on Sundays… yesterday, Jonathan and the kids built a brooder box for our chickies! It’s just a wooden box with a frame above it to support the heat lamp. The kids got to paint the box and everything! They had a ball. 4 weeks to chickens!

The Crazy Life

I’m still sick. It’s really bumming me out. But oh well.

This week has been a good one for me and kids. On Wednesday we had Hula Girl’s dance class. It went so much better than the past few weeks because it snowed Wednesday morning and only four families braved the weather. The four girls in class were four of the ones who do quite well, so they got to do extra steps and learn new choreography! Hula Girl was excited about that for sure. She was mostly excited that her closest dance friend was also there. 🙂

Thursday was a bit of a full day for us. We went grocery shopping in the morning, which was new for us. I usually shop on Saturday mornings, but I don’t like having to be away from my family on weekends. So we tried Thursday morning and we liked it. I think we’ll start going grocery shopping on Wednesdays after dance from now on– dance is 3/4 of the way to the grocery store anyway. And the kids are finally old enough to behave decently well through two stores. It takes a lot of setting explicit expectations detailing consequences for poor behavior beforehand. My expectations:  1. Keep a hand on the shopping cart at all times, and 2. Only ask for something one time. If they remove a hand, they will ride in the cart the rest of the way. If they ask more than once for an item, they will not ride the mechanical horse at the end. If the behaviors continue after consequences have been given, we will leave our cart, go home, and come back for the groceries tomorrow. No one wants to shop two days in a row. We had a good time on Thursday.

That afternoon, we went to the Y to swim. Hula Girl is an awesome swimmer and Little Man loves to have me guide him all around while he “swims” after the balls he tosses. They had such a fun time at the pool! Hula Girl even asked a little girl to swim with her in the pirate pool and the two played hide and seek for about 30 minutes. Cute!

Today we hung out at home. I like to plan “home days” at least 4 days per week. Today we ate breakfast, got dressed, brushed teeth, and cleaned the kitchen. Then Little Man had some roomtime so Hula Girl and I could catch up on some preschool. She worked through a couple of place value worksheets and sketched her bean plants in her nature study sketchbook while I planned out next week’s activities. Then she got out her “Dick and Jane” book and read a few stories to me. After preschool, we did SSR together and then I read to the kids for half an hour. Then I kicked them out into the backyard to play while I started reading a book on raising chickens. Next up was lunch, which Little Man helped prepare, then naps, and then Jonathan came home. All in all, it was a good smooth day and the kids had plenty of reading time, free play time, learning time, and family time. Balance. That is why I like home days.

Tonight I plan to read my chicken book and work on my lesson for Sunday school. Woohoo– living the crazy life over here, folks!

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