Wednesday, August 26

OMGosh, where have I been?

I've been sorting, washing, and tagging clothes for the Kids' Swap Clothing Sale in Decatur. I've been sorting, washing, and boxing up things for the thrift store donation, the "gotta get this MAILED" stack, and the "REALLY need to get THIS mailed" pile. I've been to the dentist. I've been to the car wash. I've been going-going-going non-stop for a week!

Mice found the pantry shelf in the basement. Naturally, we don't have doors on it, yet. We will soon, though. Nothing motivates us quite like urgency, does it? Yick. Spent a lot of time reconfiguring that. Thank God for the compost, or I might have cried.

Jason yells, "Maaaaaamaaaaa" all. the. time. now. It'll be darling once we have a bit of space between the event and the memory. His inflection is fantastic, though. We can tell what he wants from clear across the house.

EmBaby just yells. I think she's feeling pressured to keep up with the noise level now that the older boys are doing their studies during the day. I'm sure they appreciate that.

Smidge is happy as a clam, and about to get happier: he gets to be acknowledged as an official Tiger Cub tomorrow night. Woot! (He doesn't know this, yet.) We'll swing by the Scout Shop tomorrow, after yet another dental visit (man, am I just the burgeoning medical butterfly, or what?), and hopefully get the proper dodads glued onto the proper spots in time for the meeting tomorrow.

Don't know what happened with the Pack, but there's been a total 180 lately. It's been fantastic. Even Zorak, who had begun to contemplate semi-spontaneous road trips for Thursdays, looks forward to going. They're *doing* things now. The attitudes have improved. The meetings are more organized. There's a plan-of-sorts in place. Even the kinda-scary-problem-child has been a totally-different-child. Everybody's enjoying the differences.

All this makes for good living, but lousy blogging. How have you all been? Fill me in!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, August 18


Too much to post, and not enough time without people touching me, climbing on me, or digging their bony little elbows into my leg. I could blog regularly and well with a few minor modifications. All I need is voice recognition software, a laptop, a gilly suit, and a caramel launcher. Is that so much to ask?

Tomorrow, ask me about the cool new Grammar program for 1st and 2nd! It's awesome! We're going to use it, and we don't normally use a Grammar program at all. But this? This is cool.

We had a splendid Sunday, hanging with Me-Wa and Me-Tae. They met us at church. Actually, they got there on time. We slipped in even later than usual. But I *had* to mop. There was simply no way around it.
Death by Irony point: this, right after Zorak helped talk me out of mopping Saturday night, by whispering sexy things into my ear, like, "It's okay to drop your standards a little, just one more time..."
See what happens when you listen to the Siren's Song, people? You have to panic-clean before church!

After a typically fantastic service (we are SO fortunate for this church), they came to the house, where I did not have to choke down convulsions and horror, because at least the floor was relatively clean-ish. We ate a weird lunch (I don't remember what we made.) Then the guys sighted in a few things, the kids blew bubbles, and played the piano for Me-Tae, and just generally enjoyed the lovely afternoon and the good company.Monday was gorgeous, but we didn't realize that until about 12:30, because it's the middle of August, and seriously, who expects a gorgeous day in the middle of August in the South? Once we clued in, though, we hustled through the rest of our lessons and then got out and enjoyed it.

When, what we should have done was work in it. Because today it rained and rained and rained. And now everything we should have picked up, or mowed, or harvested, is all sparkly and highlighted by droplets of sparkling guilt. But it's beautiful enough that we really hardly felt the guilt at all.
Dishwasher's still not fixed, another part will arrive Friday. I'm running out of one-pot meals we can all eat straight out of the pot, with our hands.

And that, my friends, is the week so far.

Monday, August 17

Native Tongue

Mom! Mom! Get the foot cream for the chemo pie!

EmBaby's still somewhat fluent in her first language. The one none of us quite remembers.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, August 15

Summer Antics

We finished the week strong and took off Friday to enjoy time with our friends.

This group is getting smaller, as some of the families are choosing to send their children to public school for high school. But we still enjoy our time together, even in our smaller ranks. And the high school aged children who were there yesterday, we enjoyed tremendously.

The biggest shock for me was seeing a canoe go by, looking up, and seeing, not Big Kids, but Smidge and two little girls his age maneuvering the thing across the lake. What?!? The BABIES are using the canoe? *sigh* Yes, they don't stay babies very long.

John made an alcohol stove at Scouts this week, and he's been dying to show it off. So, last night, we hunkered down on the front porch and he set it up.But just boiling water isn't that interesting. So he chopped vegetables, added spices, and made us a pot of soup. It was fantastic!

No, they sure don't stay babies for long. Even if they'll always be "my babies", I can't help but enjoy the growing up process, as well.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, August 13

I love vocabulary.

Not as an exercise on its own, but as a part of the day, it's wonderful. What's a "mazer"?

What's the difference between a broadsword and a regular sword?

"OH! Well, no wonder, then!"


Yes, this is good.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, August 11

First Grade for Smidge

That's such a weird sensation. *pause to reflect how quickly it goes. pause, pause, pause* OK, not getting any easier. Let's move on, anyway.

He's pretty much following the path his brothers have packed down ahead of him, with variations to account for support where he needs it, and leeway where I wish I'd given it with the older two. Not a lot of "seat time". Plenty of "couch time". Lots of "outside time" (when it cools off a bit). This isn't Victorian England, and I don't have a stash of opium, so we don't have the pastoral scenes of young children learning that one might expect or desire. We have a lot of paper, tons of colored pencils and drawing materials, books absolutely *everywhere*, and I think there's Sculpey stuck to the bathroom wall. (I don't know how or why. I quit asking years ago.)

Science is Life. Particularly at this age. It's Parables From Nature. It's a magnifying glass and an afternoon on the floor with encyclopedias and Mom. It's drawings and rabbit trails. Leaves and seeds and flowers and fruit. Eggs and larvae and things you probably don't want in your home. It's antibacterial soap and a lot of deep, slow breathing.

Math-U-See Alpha is math for Smidge. It's his happy spot. He enjoyed Primer, learned plenty, and was anxious to start in his new book. (Comes by that last bit honestly. We all just love a fresh, new book, around here. It's almost, but not quite, a sickness.)

Music and Art are still a bit haphazard, here. Although we do still enjoy Artistic Pursuits and Meet the Great Composers, so he'll continue to use those in a light and painfully unstructured way.

For History, I feel like I ought to go back and start him with Vol. I of Story of the World. We had such a good time with that. Then I realize what a scheduling nightmare I'd be inventing for myself. It's not as if he hasn't been listening in along the way, and I have to remind myself (sometimes forcibly) that he's putting up pegs on which to hang future information. Since he draws Hammurabi cartoons, explains how a trebuchet works, and makes jokes about privateers, I'm guessing he's been listening - at least peripherally - and has been, quite happily, slinging pegs here and there along the way. So he's doing Modern Times with us, at a slower, softer pace.

For Reading, Phonics, Spelling, and so forth, I still cannot recommend The Writing Road to Reading highly enough. It is thorough, concise, and well done. And, with apologies to Ms. Spalding, I modify it to suit our needs. Smidge needs extra work on his speech, so this is where I put that in, too. More focus on speech, less on reading for him than is usual.

Copywork, copying the work you're reading together, is the absolute best at this age. Pick the things you enjoyed as you read. Write them out, let them copy, and then turn them loose to illustrate it. Some children love coloring books. So far, none of mine really have. Smidge seems the closest, but even he will draw his own illustrations quite happily. Put them up. I have no clue what color my fridge used to be. Someday, the weight of the tape, magnets and paper will pull the door off, I'm sure, and then we'll remove the pictures and narrations and copy work and see what it looks like. Before we cover it up again.

A note on reading. (Pardon me while I pull out my little soapbox. It's just a little one.) The reading comes. Whether it comes when they are two, four, six, or seven, it does come. Read aloud to them. Tell stories. Make up stories. Let language fill your days and nights. Create for them a world rich in literary texture, tastes, and images, and they'll want to make it their own. You've got a big old bag full of tools to share along the way, and yes, show them those tools. Explain how they work. But if it doesn't click, don't get angry or frustrated. Put the tools away and dive back into the words for a while. Try again later. Definitely keep your eyes open for places where there may be trouble, and address those spots if you find them, but always remember that reading is a gift we can cultivate in their hearts, as well as their minds. It's interesting to me that that's the one area I've never sweated, and it's the one area I have no/few regrets now that I'm in a position to start looking back. I have a horrible suspicion I'll find many other areas where I will wish I'd applied this philosophy a bit more soundly. (Sheepishly tucks soapbox back under the desk.)

Literature. Such a word! For the Littles, it makes it sound much less enjoyable than it is! There are book lists and book lists and book lists. I can't even pretend to know a tenth of what's out there, and when I try to collect it all, Zorak inevitably finds me curled up on the porch, feverishly figuring out what we'd have to sell or go without in order to BUY IT ALL RIGHT NOW. So. I try not to peruse more than one or two lists at a time. Zorak appreciates that, and so does my blood pressure. I like Veritas Press' reading lists, and of course, The Baldwin Project's books are big favorites, here, too. If you find something at Baldwin Project that you'd like to have in print, Yesterday's Classics offers many titles. We've ordered from them, and have always had great service. The books are decent quality softcover books. Lang's Fairy Books are also a staple.

For an all-in-one collection at this stage, the 20th Century Children's Book Treasury is my all-time favorite collection. It gets read, and read, and loved on and read. The binding is crap, and the book won't last through three children before Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom and part of Swimmy fall out in the hallway. But I haven't found a collection of favorites like this anywhere else. Even Zorak got excited when we received this book, years ago. (Who knew he had such a soft spot for Sylvester?) Ideally, we'd all be able to buy all the books individually, but realistically that's an investment of almost $1,000 all said and done. And you know, if I'm going to lay out a grand for a book collection, it'll be the one *I've* been coveting for almost a decade now, thanks. This, however, does the trick quite nicely. And, as True Favorites emerge, you can pick them up here and there without giving anybody involved in the household finances a stroke. There's that.

Poetry. Don't scoff. (OK, go ahead and scoff, but come back. I'll wait.) Poetry. Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy incorporates daily poetry. As with anybody who has homeschooled more than, say, six months, I've read her papers, poked around Ambleside Online, fallen in love with it, and eventually abandoned it, in general, taking precious gems with me back to my eclectic educational cave. Poetry was one of those gems. It doesn't have to be dry or dull. Hilaire Belloc, Mother Goose, Robert Lewis Stevenson - whimsical, beautiful, rich poetry is available and wonderful for use in daily life. I can tell you this: the best year we've ever had, as far as routine, tone, flavor, and pace, was the year we incorporated poetry into our daily routine. We are bringing it back this year. It was that good.

The bulk of our school is reading, even at this age. When they're older, they read and we discuss. When they're younger, we read together and we discuss. When they're younger, I read to them and we discuss. It looks different at every stage, but you'd be hard pressed to find me, at any stage, putting us in a circle, clipboard on my lap, peering over imaginary spectacles as I toss out a topic and say, in the manner of James Lipton, "Why?" More likely is that Zorak comes home to find us piled up in the boys' room, or the living room, talking animatedly about whatever it was that struck our fancies.

Mostly, it's an organic flow of discussion. Questions, point-counterpoint, more rabbit trails, bantering, back and forth, and always, in the end, more reading. When you care what they think, what they liked, and what they got out of it, they know. And they're happy to share. This is what I'm talking about when I tell people that homeschooling is a lifestyle more than just an exercise in academics. It's how we do things, and who we are, part and parcel, inseparable. Sometimes, you'll want to bang your head against the wall, but not right now (I'll go into that more on the appropriate entry, later). Right now, it's all magic. It's all new and exciting and interesting.

And, I think that's about it, for First Grade.
Kiss those babies!

Sunday, August 9

The Sloth is Among Us

It's more of a mindset than an actual animal. (Lest anybody worry that we've taken to importing critters to, erm, supplement our income.) Although, in the interest of full disclosure, if you'd watched me from 2:00 to about 5:00 this afternoon, you'd have been hard-pressed to see any movement.

This weekend wasn't just hot. It was Hot 'n Sticky. I know, I know, Zorak helpfully reminded me that summer's almost over. (It wasn't helpful.) Add to that, our propensity for not being what one would call "Morning People" (so we don't get out and work early in the day), and you have the ready indication that we are also (as I've pointed out before) "Not Farmers". It is a miracle that we've harvested as much as we have from the garden. Once we found it among the weeds, that is. And after the flush of excitement wore off (about three seconds after the last item hit the bag), we mutinied against our Beloved Commander and headed for the house.

See, he has a work ethic that demands he get things done on the property, no matter how unholy the weather, or how miserable the conditions. So, although he may not get up and at 'em bright and early and go scattering cliches about the property, he still gets work done. Even if that means doing it in the hottest part of the day. While the children and I (lacking such ethic, and sweating profusely) keep edging nearer and nearer the house, keeping in the shade of the trees, in the hope we can make a break for it while he's on the other side of the barn.

I can't blame the boys for taking 30 minutes to "get a glass of water". They'd blow the glass, themselves, if they thought it would buy them some time. And, they do come by it honestly. You should see my lovely, hand-crafted ice cubes. I'm sure that added touch makes Zorak feel much better when he comes in, looking for us.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, August 6

New Game Plan

(Filed under: this is why we have nearly two decades to raise them...)

I'm getting a very low power paint ball set. When I'm on the balcony, talking with the Mortgage company or bank, I'm tagging anything that comes out that door.

When I get off the phone, everybody with paint on them gets sent to bed.

And splatters count, because that means you were close enough to intervene, but were most likely egging on targeted sibling.


That's the new plan.

On the plus side, I think we've got everything now switched over to USAA, and we are so very glad to be just about done with Bank of America. The difference, thus far, has been amazing!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, August 5

Not on Wednesdays!

We're not far from the dentist. We're not far from the music store. But the dentist and the music store are quite a trek from one another - the northeast corner of Huntsville down southwest, across the river, to the center of Decatur. And yet, in my head, Wednesdays are good days for scheduling appointments. In theory, we'll already be out of the house, so that's a good day. Maybe for other errands in the same town. But for the dentist? No. So, it was a long day.

This may have been the first visit we've had with no new cavities! The kids are completely un-impressed with the whole thing. I, however, am completely, idiotically ecstatic! We're talking irrationally tickled by such a little thing. It's been a good day, if only in my head.

We had lunch at a little blue plate diner in town before piano lessons. The kids have been dying to go. I'm not sure what's wrong with my children. Every time we eat at a restaurant where the food is mediocre, the service is questionable, and the cost is exorbitant (for the quality), they *RAVE* about it. Today was no exception, and they cannot wait to go back. Weee. (Erin, be ready. I'm sure they'll want to take the girls next time you all come out.)

After getting the car cleaned and filling up with gas, swinging by the bank, and the blowing off a couple of other stops we ought to have made, we got home just 15 minutes before Zorak today. Poor guy didn't get the homey welcome we shoot for. I've gotta go do the dishes. The kids are cleaning up ground zero erm, the playroom. We have no clue what to do for supper.

But it doesn't matter, because not only do the kids not have new cavities, but I remembered today to schedule the next dental checkup for the kids on a Tuesday.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, August 3

Routine, Sweet Routine

The company and travel and more company of the last month has been so wonderful. Still, it's nice to be back in school (yeah, you can remind me of this is February, when all we want to do is sleep and take pictures of daffodils), and back to the daily grind of living.

We made it to church this morning, and managed to remember to take some of the hog we brought back from our trip down South. Pastor's going to try smoking it. Should be fantastic!

We'd planned to be productive when we returned home, but John's not feeling well, and I've been s-l-e-e-p-y, and the next things we knew, everybody who was still awake was already jammied up. So, we just played and snacked and read and snacked. Of course, come bedtime, the children (who had done little else but graze all day long) realized we hadn't eaten supper! So, of course, we had to have a "proper supper". (Could have fed them the same things they'd been eating all day, as long as it has been deemed An Actual Meal, they're good. Are my kids the only ones who do that?)

Of course, the rain stopped, but even that wasn't motive enough for us to get out there and work. It was just too nice looking out the window, doing nothing for a bit.

Tomorrow, we hit the library, switch out the laundry, and put our thinking caps back on for the week. Today truly was a day of rest. And togetherness.

I'd planned to be in bed long before now, but Zorak offered to fix up a little midnight steak and eggs for two. How could I resist? But it smells ready now, so I'm off!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, August 2

And So The Week Ends

Between the Scout-Fiasco thing, the Recovering-From-Travel thing, the Various-and-Sundry-Forever-Home projects, and our return to school, this week flew right by. It seems fitting to touch base on how quickly time always flies by, regardless of our activities or pursuits, and how we hope those pursuits serve us well in the end. In the blink of an eye.

Tonight, my baby, the one who cried and cried during the "Heavy and Light" song from Elmopalooza -- because he worried so very much about poor Elmo -- watched Tremors, and Tremors 2: Aftershocks. He laughed at the funny parts. He appreciated the suspenseful parts. He fell in love with the characters and spent the rest of the day coming up with ideas for Tremors 5 - 10. He dissected the features that go into creating the mood of a movie, compared and contrasted Jurassic Park to Tremors, and then begged us to let him watch The Thing. He'll still happily watch Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang and sing through the great songs and dance with his little siblings.

I'm struck by a few things. First, and foremost, Where Did My BABY Go? But later, when I'm done with my panicky fit, I also think, "Wow. Who is this well-adjusted, insightful, witty, intelligent young man?" Did we have anything to do with that? Or is he turning out this way in spite of us? And, "I'm so glad he's ours." Suddenly, that unfortunate incident with the bug net last month slips easily into perspective. The Big Picture is nice, and we are glad.

Obviously, when we see something good emerge, we hope to God it's us. When we cringe and think they'll never be able to live on their own, we look for some faulty ancestor on the other parent's side to blame it on. But the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and that's probably good. Heaven knows I don't want my Mom's Mom's Dad's Sister's issues to crop up, here. But if they do, we'll do our best to cushion the blow. On the other hand, if Zorak's Mom's Dad's brilliant mind happens to seep into the genetic blend, SCORE! And then, we'll do our best to prepare them to use it wisely and well.

No matter the situation, no matter the child, loving parents strive to do the best they can for the children in their care. That "best" will look different in every household, no matter how many windows you peek through. (Before you get arrested, that is. So, just take my word for it and don't do that, 'k?)

Tonight, we stocked up on movie choices for the Littles to watch in another room (no sense in scarring everybody all at once), and sat, watching our eldest child enter a new stage in his life. It was a very small thing, compared with the news of the day around the world, but in our world, it was a very big thing. And an important thing, that bodes well for so many tomorrows.

Kiss those babies!