Friday, August 28, 2015

Not in School: Poor Mom?

No, not "poor mom" and here's why: I keep hearing the joyful exclamations of parents about their children being back in school. I am joyful too; but because there is nowhere else I would rather be! Over the summer, I had a few misgivings about how things would feel in a house where the normal 4 or 5 children was suddenly reduced to 2 every morning. I even fleetingly thought they might be better off in school. Here are some of the things we are doing instead: (as well as yesterday's photos, all from my i-phone, of playing along the Mississippi. The first ones are of a walk we took after dropping off my son at high school Monday morning. Poor us.)

A wall of origami? The result of hours and hours of listening to audio books when Mama was busy or kids were sick...drawing and folding became passions this summer.  When I began to run out of ideas and room to keep all of these paper treasures, I offered the bulletin board as a display area; duly noted and used.

Hanging out together and talking...too rare now that the oldest spend more time out of the house than in.

Taking advantage of the beautiful summertime weather.

Working on special skills: Cate at her brown belt test in kung-fu, with the whole family there to cheer her on. (Just a few days before she left for college.)

With the wonderful Mr. Morrow of Morrow's Academy of Shao-Lin Chuan Kung-fu

Cooking; I have more time for cooking! And cooking surrounded by munchkins drawing and chatting with me is about as lovely as it gets.

Lesson planning...this was a selection of my favorite books for a new homeschooling family. I wish them much happiness.

And words needed for the initiated.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015

It Really is All About Rhythm

Our lives have been turned upside down with just a few flicks of the hands of the clock. Two nights ago, I was saying goodbye in my heart to my oldest; off to college yesterday. I did not sleep a wink. She slept like a baby, thank goodness, but Thierry was the same as me; up all night. My one loudly echoing lament was; "Did I do enough? Was I enough?" and the intensity of it was enough to make the ringing in my ears so loud that nothing could drown it out. The next day went beautifully, she was moved in without mishap or tears (lies!), and I know she will be happy and well.

Next week, my second daughter begins a new adventure; junior high. She'll be going to school for 8th grade for half the day, which means 1) I will be alone with the two youngest for half the day every day and 2) She will need to be picked up every day at the same time, unless there is early dismissal, she falls ill while at school, it is a test day with a funny schedule, there is a pep rally, or a bomb threat. I know the school drill by now. My second; son, 17, will be a senior, with no first block, but with driver's ed after school and a part-time job. There are also theater, dance, viola and other lessons...and I think we will add in a day of homeschool gym.

The new senior, Duncan:

I hate having a million places to go and get kids to. But I am trying to gracefully accept that with growth comes change and find ways to make it all go smoothly. The gym day at a local Y is something we tried and gave up years ago; the pool was too cold, one child wanted me to attend the class with them, but I also had a one-year-old and it took place during nap time. Now, however, the allure of kids to play with and two hours for me to workout is beyond tempting. Then again, I may not want to get everyone out of the house for one more activity each and compromises. 

Did I mention we also started Boy Scouts this summer?  (A perfect activity for my outdoor, adventure-loving child, and one more thing-to-do):

I am really looking forward to very peaceful days at home; work will be limited to one day a week or less, so our rhythm can be regular and predictable, something we all thrive on. Back to walk, recite, read, and the rest. Happy upcoming school season! And feel free to share your rhythm challenges and how you solved them, I always love to hear from you!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nature Study and Growing Monarchs

It has been a summer for camping, sailing, bonfires and way too much indoor time because of illness. Ordering monarch caterpillars was an idea that came before kids got sick, one after another, but it has been a wonderful starting point for observation and discussion of life cycles, metamorphosis and the botany we began in the spring in grade 5. A couple of days ago, our lovely critters began to emerge; this is number four and counting. It is so exciting! We have been growing milkweed for six years or so. It all began with our wonderful friends Henry and Vivian who brought us our first monarch caterpillars in mason jars, sealed with cheese cloth. They also brought along milkweed transplants for our backyard. We were all hooked from that very first magical chrysalis rimmed with gold and the naissant butterfly that was reborn out of it.

In the past two years, however, our milkweed seems to have been planted in vain. We had zero eggs or caterpillars two years ago and just one or two last summer. I did not exactly panic, but I do have to fight a little to keep the towering milkweed from being tidied up by some family members, and I wanted to make a difference in the restoration of these beautiful butterflies. So, this year, I ordered bugs, online, and they arrived already rather large and ready to go into chrysalis. Here is where you can find the company: Butterfly Bushes. I would recommend ordering as close to home as you can, so that you can enjoy the caterpillars for longer before they go into their next stage of life. However, this company is excellent: all 20 of the beasties arrived alive and we have had almost all of them survive to chrysalis form. 

We will be avidly observing our milkweed for eggs that may be left on the leaves, and hoping for our next crop or two of monarchs before fall. The children are really good at spotting them and bringing them in before they can be eaten by something else. 

It is the right time of year to raise them, if you have a desire to do so; as late as August the milkweed is still very nourishing, after that the success rate can decline because of the dwindling power left in the plant as autumn approaches. Happy butterfly discoveries!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Darling Graduate: Congratulations!

So, here are the photos, in case you missed the party. Thanks to Joseph Maciejko and Jay Strickland for the lovely photography! If you did not receive an invitation, you should have; my apologies! We missed you! You have been a part of this fabulous community that has helped raise these kids so far, thank you. Cate and her friend, Mina celebrated the end of homeschooling, the beginning of college and the rest of life. This is Cate with Mina, whose family clinched the question of whether or not to homeschool that had been gnawing at us for years. Mina who reads over 400 books a year; thank you to you and your wonderful family for the inspiration and years of friendship.

Little sister on the right
It was a great day for babies
The youngest of my bandits

My friend, Audrey, from Africa, and her mother and infant son, Phanuel (you can see him better below)

My wonderful neighbors, holding the darling baby, Phanuel, and my dear ol' Dad, thank you, Dad!

The parents at the end of the day; Thierry, Angela, Cecilia, Mariano

I wish I had more photos with my mom, she's the one in the middle; thank you! She, like Cecilia, Mina's mother, was a moving target, tirelessly making sure STUFF GOT DONE all day. Elizabeth, in purple, has been a true friend, math savior for my children and knitting and writing companion. I couldn't have done it without her! There are others, but if I start naming names, I will forget someone, so thank you all!'

Monday, June 15, 2015

You Need this Bag

I am all about promoting and supporting local and small businesses. Today's choice: the best bag ever (and you know, I really love bags.) It was made out of 100% recycled materials (old pants' leg and an old tie)  by a lovely friend of mine with a fab etsy shop. What do I use it for? EVERYTHING! It began as a knitting bag, and quickly became my pick-up-and-sling-over-my-shoulder-to-go-anywhere (especially a walk with my puppy: poo bag holder, or to the gym: keys, license, towel) bag. I also use it for my knitting in the afternoon and evening.


I know, I should have had one of my super-cute kids model this, but it is MY bag and here I am; sweaty and post dog-walking, in real life, with my companion bag. If you are short-waisted or long-waisted, you can custom-order the length, choose your colors, etc.

The best part: only $10 on Etsy now! Here: The Gin Blossom

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Spin on Mama Fitness: and Caution! my fitness challenge to a new level with a cycling class. I am 99.9% sure my derriere will not be functioning tomorrow. Not to sit on, not to move my legs, nothin'. But just as I start to think maybe one track will be sufficient for my first day of class, the smiling face of my Body Pump teacher stops by; "hey, are you taking up cycling?" -"Yeah," puff, wheez, "just starting, gasp, "think my butt will be sore tomorrow." "Good for you! Buy yourself a pair of padded shorts, that's less weird than a padded seat, right?" "Huh?" Bottom line; I stayed until the end of class; I had no idea whether or not my instructor was lurking in the shadows, waiting to see if I made it all the way through.

...that was a few short days ago, and incredibly, my tush suffered no lasting damage, but I am icing my knee for the 3rd day in a row. It quit. I hate that.

That knee injury may either be because of the running (just intervals I began again a couple of weeks ago), or the cycling or the crazy elliptical spree I went on for 15 minutes before class on Saturday. Hard to tell. (Update from the physical therapist: it was probably the running, or the standing up while cycling. Serves me right, show-off.)

The point is; I am trying new things, shaking up the routine, upping the ante, and in the process, breaking the barrier of the pounds that would not part ways with my middle. You have to try this once in awhile.

But please: proceed with caution!
Sadly, your body is not as young as it once was, it may take a minute to adjust to a new demand on the joints. So why do it?

Because: it feels like you are starting all over, it is motivating and fun...and even having to ice your knee has advantages; more knitting time! I have lost some weight; that last 15 lbs. I would like to see gone has begun to melt away; ha! That sounds way too easy! It is a process; I'll say healthy food choices and more exercise has been chipping away, very slowly, at it. Keep the faith, change your routine, share your journey below!