Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nothing Much To Blog About

I've noticed that when I go a few days without blogging (such as for a long holiday weekend!) it becomes harder to find something to say! Not sure why that should be, but since we got back from our weekend on Tuesday afternoon I have been trying to think of what to write, and nothing has come up. So I figured I'd ramble a bit today.

Weather: gorgeous. Sunny, light breeze, low 70s. The kids have been playing outside all morning and I haven't had the heart to reign them in to do school work. Julia came in a bit ago and settled at the breakfast bar with her books, and basically Ben is down to just reading. Rachel has been on the phone most of the morning, so she has to get started.

What we've been doing lately: the younger kids have really been enjoying bikes and scooters. We've been taking rides (me walking, so I can be on alert for any cars) around the neighborhood, and Emma can ride her trike a LONG way! Rachel recently began riding her bike to the library by herself! She is very proud of herself and loves to take the bike lock and key with her. Even if she just reads there for a half an hour and comes home, she feels grown up doing it, and since it's a mile away and the two trafficked roads she has to cross have lights, it seems like a safe way to let her have her independence.

We've also been trying to arrange for someone to come refinish the wood floors on the first floor of the house....it has been a real chore, arranging estimates, playing phone tag and trying to get questions answered--I just want it done! We plan to camp while it is being done, so that we can be nearby for supervision and yet still be out of the house. I cannot wait for this to be accomplished.

Finishing up the school year. Ben just reads every day now. Julia has just a bit left, and Rachel has more than that, but we are ready for summer vacation, big time! Little League games scheduled practically every night haven't been as bad as I'd feared--because Matt does 95% of the ferrying! I have been staying home most of the time with the kids who aren't playing, except when we have double games.

Gardening. Planting, mowing, weeding....all jobs I hate. And yet I love flowers and fresh veggies, so I do it anyway. We have had some fresh flowers in the house already--forsythia and daffodils to start, pansies, spirea, ranunculas after that, now rhododendron, azaleas and irises. I have concluded that my lilacs must be a different breed from everyone else's, since the buds are only just beginning to open--everyone else's have bloomed and gone by now. And yes, they are in full sun, so don't ask.

Field trips. Plays, ballets, beach parties, hikes and library programs. Getting ready for the Splish Splash season... it has been a busy spring.....

--Jen

Daily Quote

The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.

--James Taylor

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Uber-Chickens

Five chickens.

Two days.

Eighteen eggs!

Say what?????



---Jen

Daily Quote

All my possessions for a moment of time.

--Elizabeth I

Monday, May 19, 2008

A Cute Game: "The Wedding"

Today, Julia, Ben and Emma were playing a very cute game. It was where their stuffed-animal dogs were getting married. They had a king dog, and the prince and princess who got married.

Julia set out to make "all the wedding stuff," which consisted of: a paper version of the Bible that the priest reads (which by the way, this copy has no religious matter whatsoever! In fact, she asked me if she could borrow my piano book to copy notes for a hymn that she could hum at the wedding celebration!), seats for the guests (more various stuffed animals, mostly dogs, but I think there was a Pterodactyl somewhere in the crowd...) and wedding clothes for the bride and groom.

We snapped photos, so you could see how funny it actually was! Julia was humming the original "Here Comes The Bride" while making the dogs 'walk' up the aisle to their destiny of being married. Afterwards, the new King and Queen Dogs sat on their throne, which they shared. It was very cute!

-Rachel



"The Priest" reading the homemade Bible



Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Kid Cracks Me Up

Remember the old saying, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones? Well, yesterday I had occasion to say this at the dinner table. I don't remember the exact events, but I'm sure it had to do with one of them calling another of them bossy....

Ben later made this drawing. He mixed up the meaning of the saying a little bit......








TRANSLATION: If you live in a glass house, then throw stones at someone else's house!

What a riot he is!

--Jen

Daily Quote

There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.

--Indira Gandhi

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ready For His Closeup

This Morning

This morning was very quiet. Julia and Rachel are still at their sleepover, and Matt got up to go about his business. We'd wondered if Ben would sleep in without the girls upstairs (you never know what might wake him in the morning, so we figured quiet would only be a benefit....) but no, he woke up and ate breakfast with Daddy. I went back to sleep when Emma came in and snuggled against me like a baby koala, it was so comfy and warm.

I woke up sometime later, not knowing why--turned out it was because Ben was sitting on the bed next to me, staring at me. (You know how when someone is watching you sleep you can somehow feel it and you wake all of a sudden?) I said good morning to him and ruffled his hair.

"Good morning, Llama," he said in his cute little voice, "it's a very peaceful, fresh air morning!"

With a boy like that, how could I stay asleep?

--Jen

Daily Quote

People tend to forget their duties but remember their rights.

--Indira Gandhi

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Just Too Cute

Today Rachel and Julia are off at our friends' house for a sleepover. Rachel has been sleeping over there quite a lot lately, but Julia has never gone and it was starting to bum her out. When my friend Trisha (the mom) found out about that, she immediately invited Julia to come too. Let's not go into the sisterly squabble that followed--it's all been worked out! Anyway, Julia has been counting down the minutes till the sleepover, and she got up this morning and finished all her schoolwork so she'd be unencumbered the rest of the day. She packed her clothes and pjs, toothbrush and hairbrush, pillow and favorite snuggling guy, her scooter and a book to read by the fire they're having tonight. Trisha wasn't coming till noon, but at about 10:30 Julia headed onto the front patio with a book just to make sure she wouldn't miss their arrival. Ben and Emma went out and played in the yard to keep her company.

So Trisha arrived, we chatted a while, I kissed the girls goodbye, Emma and Ben hugged and said goodbye, and they got into the car. As the car was pulling out of the driveway, Ben started blowing kisses and shouting, "Goodbye, Julia!" which Julia didn't notice because she was talking in the car. Trisha rolled down the window when she saw that and stopped in the street--she must have told Julia Ben was blowing kisses, because before they pulled away I could hear Julia: "Catch this kiss, Ben!" and of course he did it!

After we waved till they turned the corner, Emma said, "I guess you only have two kids now, Mama!"

And Ben said, "I'm really going to miss Julia."

AWWWW!

--Jen

Beach Party

Yesterday was a very busy day. We went to see a ballet in the morning, then came home for about an hour. We packed into the car again and headed for Hampton Bays for a beach barbecue with the teen club of our local homeschooling group. I had signed up to be half in charge for this event because it sounded fun, because it was in May and I had a long time not to think about it when I agreed to do it in October :), and because it was one of the few events that I could bring the younger kids to. Normally, teen club is a drop off event so that the older kids can have time to socialize without little ones along. One of the pluses of homeschooling is that usually our older kids have no problem with all ages being together, but the moms who formed this club thought that this should be an exception, most of the time.

Anyway, we lucked out on the weather--good thing it hadn't been planned for last week!--and had a warm, sunny day. We had a terrific turnout, around 40 people, and the kids and parents had a blast. The parents got a few hours to talk just about uninterrupted, we all ate great food, and the kids did anything they wanted. Some were swimming, some were digging, some were playing ball and Frisbee, some took walks down the shore, some collected shells. It was a really nice, relaxed time. A few moms and I had the experience of lighting a grill in beachy wind, but we finally managed it and made all the burgers and dogs the crew could eat.

Julia spent almost the whole time swimming (I don't know how she did it, but she was like a dolphin!) and she even found a jellyfish which was put into a bucket, examined and played with by a lot of the kids--it didn't sting, apparently. I didn't touch it (cooking!) but did watch it swim, which was a cool experience you don't see every day. She was positively blue by the time we went home, but she had a great time. Ben and Emma were in the water a bit, but got colder than Julia did, so they built castles together. Rachel was with her friends, but she did spend a little time getting wet. I knew I wasn't going anywhere near the water, and so didn't even bother wearing a suit!

So here are a few pictures I snapped when I wasn't busy chatting or grilling....

--Jen










Daily Quote

The power to question is the basis of all human progress.

--Indira Gandhi

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Something You Have To See To Believe

Today Julia, Ben and Emma wanted to play in the sprinklers. Not an unusual request. They put on their suits, I helped them with sunscreen, and they went into the front yard. I was doing things in the house, occasionally looking out the window and watching them run and shriek through the water. At one point I looked out to see Emma and Ben squatting over a puddle that had formed in the driveway--also a usual pastime. Then Julia came in to get plastic dinosaurs, and they played with those. I was in the kitchen, making brownies for a beach party we're going to tomorrow, and when I came to the window to check on them again--my heart dropped.

They were covered in mud! Anyone who knows Ben knows that he (used to) loathe being dirty. Even getting his hands dirty was never fun for him. He hated the beach for years, he hates sandy playgrounds and won't wear shoes in them. If he gets dirty, he changes his clothes. Or at least he used to. Today he was leaping around like an aboriginal tribesman. And his sisters were doing the same. It was kind of horrifying.

Finally they wanted to come in---no way! Not through my house! I sent them through the garage and shed, and put on the back sprinklers, where I told them to get as clean as they could before coming in to shower. This was not very clean! They kept coming to the back door, asking if they were clean enough yet...to which I'd say no, go get cleaner. Finally I took pity on them (and myself, since I was tired of sending them back to the sprinklers) and let them into the kitchen. There they had to wipe their feet on a dog towel, and then I followed them to the bathroom to get them into the shower--making sure they didn't touch walls, furniture, or the white flowered shower curtain in the process! They went in bathing suits and all (Ben's looks pretty clean but we'll have to see what laundry magic I can perform on the girls', unless we want rags of Lycra....) and spent about 20 minutes in there with soap and shampoo.

They came out warm, clean and looking like my kids again! I could almost pretend it never happened...but here are the photos!

--Jen

























Daily Quote

This is not the most right I've ever been.

--Paul Reiser

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Why Half the Day is Gone and the Kids Haven't Done Any Schoolwork

For most of the school year (not counting December and this time of year, when summer is beckoning) I am pretty strict about school work. We do it every day I have it planned, which is pretty much every week day, unless I know far in advance (when I am planning lessons 6-8 weeks ahead of time) that a day will be so busy that school work will be impossible--such as field trips or family visits or the like. We rarely even take a sick day.

This is not to imply that we are up, scrubbed, fed and doing school at 8 am....that is just completely ridiculous for my family. Rather, the kids get up when they feel like it (for Ben and Julia this could be any time between 6 and 8, usually on the earlier end of that span, and for Emma it's around 8:30 or 9:00--like me--and for Rachel, well, 10:00 is about the norm) and they have breakfast with Matt before work, and they read and play and whatever they want (excluding TV or computer, which are not allowed before school work is complete.) When I get up, I get dressed, do a few chores such as tidying the kitchen, setting Rosie My Beloved Roomba to work, throw in a load of laundry, make beds etc...I also make coffee, sometimes breakfast, and check my email for a while. However, we get started by 10 or 11 am so that we have everything done and can have most of the afternoon free.

Well, this morning we were thrown off. Part of it is that Rachel is sleeping over at her friend's house, so it doesn't feel like a weekday. (I think this is the first sleepover she's had during the week not in the summer...) I slept till 9:00 because it's a cloudy, drizzly day, so my room was darker than usual. When I woke up, Julia, Ben and Emma were fully embroiled in a very involved pretend game. They were using the big stuffed horses, swords, costumes for armor and princesses, and had made a fort of stools and pillows by the fireplace. I had a lot of mail to catch up on, so when I was dressed, coffee'd, and had the house straightened up, I sat down and went to work. Then I did some laundry and folded some, emptied the dishwasher with Julia's help, put away some things waiting for the basement, etc.--and all of a sudden it was noon! I made lunch--fruit salad of strawberries, mango and kiwi, grilled cheese and cream of potato and spinach soup (leftover) for me, Julia and Ben, and for Emma I heated up leftover chicken tacos.

After lunch I was about to insist that we begin school work--enough is enough, it's getting late and all that jazz. The kids were drawing and I figured they do more than enough of that. Then I noticed what they were actually doing. They were....making a library for various "guys" they play with! Tiny books with drawings and writing inside, on everything from ice cream cones to helicopters to ladybugs to ballet dancing to jousting....they were arranging them on the piano so the toys could go to the library and choose their books for the week.

Kind of a homeschoolerish game! The way I figure it, Rachel will have catch up work to do from yesterday and today when she gets back from the sleepover, so Julia and Ben might as well join her!

--Jen

Daily Quote

At the very least, my tastes are out of the ordinary.

--Sherilyn Fenn

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Photos


Now that we put some pictures on the computer, I wanted to share a cute one Julia took of Emma....

--Jen

Emma's Room Redone







Ain't it purty?

--Jen

Correction About Emma's Carpet Strips

When Matt read the last post, he told me to tell you that the carpet strips were not rotten, they were dry and brittle.

Now you can sleep at night.

--Jen

Daily Quote

All politicians should have 3 hats - one to throw into the ring, one to talk through, and one to pull rabbits out of if elected.

--Carl Sandburg

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Long Put-Off Chore Finally Done

Some of you may remember that we took the wall to wall carpeting out of our living room, dining room and hallway by the downstairs bedrooms last year. When we moved in and saw this white carpet, I knew that it was going to have to go. I love wood floors, first of all, and knew from the floor in the master bedroom that the wood was in decent shape (I won't go as far as great shape, but decent) and second of all--WHITE carpet? With four kids and umpteen pets? I think not! So after we got all settled that was the first thing on my mind. It went fairly quickly, but by the time we finished we left Emma's bedroom alone. We rationalized that her carpet was the cleanest (low traffic area when one elderly lady lived here) and that it would keep her warmer, and was nice to play on. Now, however, we are preparing to have the floors refinished, which means that the carpet had to go. So I decided to do it yesterday.

We had friends over for dinner on Saturday, which meant that, in addition to two ball games and Julia's Brownie meeting and a play date with her best friend, we also had to clean the house and cook and bake....then we had our fun time, and stayed up far too late. We slept in the next morning, but Matt was scheduled to pick up a bed frame for us from a nearby freecycler, so he had to do that, then take apart our bed frame and put together the new bed (which I love, by the way--it is a sleigh style, but the headboard and footboard are dark brown wicker, so it has a country feel to it...) and so he was less than thrilled when I decided to take up carpeting.

He was even less thrilled when I informed him that although Emma's room is the smallest by far in our house, it was taking a really long time because the wood strips with the tiny nails to hold the carpeting down were rotting, AND they used more nails than they had in the other rooms. Where in the living room I was prying up strips that were a foot or two long at a time, in Emma's room I was having no success because the wood was splintering. I ended up using pliers to wrench it up, and then pulling the nails out with the hammer. It was extremely slow going. Matt took over after diner, and was able to go much faster than I had, mercifully. (Though he KNOWS that he's going to have to add trim to the baseboards, the way he did in the rest of the rooms in order to have the baseboards meet the floor, I am NOT bringing it up at this time! Plus, the arrangement of furniture hides it anyway. I'll wait till we have the floors done and have to empty all the furniture out!)

I rearranged her furniture--and I am amazed how different the room looks! Completely different. Part of it is that I took some of her toys down to the family room, so there's more space, but changing the bed, dresser, bookshelf, etc--it looks so much nicer. I am very happy with it and will post photos later. I also had to change our room a bit. Because the new bed is so big, our computer desk had to be moved (we can't change the orientation of the bed, to my chagrin, because we have wall sconces for reading)--but to do that we had to move Matt's dresser. Well, Matt's dresser is big--so that had to leave the room. But where would he put his clothes? My solution (which he didn't think would work at all, but turned out nicely in fact) was for me to keep my one skinny little lingerie drawer but empty the rest of my dresser to my closet, and let him have the dresser.

We have a very big shelf that goes across the whole closet, and I have those shelf separators for sweaters. I'd installed them, but didn't put them to much use--till now. Now I have one part of the shelf for pajamas, once for pants and one for shirts that I kept in a drawer (some of my shirts hang in the closet...) Everything fits with plenty of extra room (on the off chance that my wardrobe increases--ha ha!) and Matt has the remaining dresser to himself. Our room is much airier without the huge dresser, even with a bigger bed, and it's nice to have the desk in a different spot since we can't move the bed itself....I even have room to add a bookshelf or something else if I want to. But I'll wait till Matt adjusts to the changes first! It's really amazing how rearranging furniture can upset him! (I asked him if he was autistic--that didn't go too well...)

--Jen

The Giant Egg

Now this is just in the file marked "bizarre".....

I have noticed that our chickens lay pretty large eggs. The white leghorn hen, Marie, lays the smallest. (Hers are the pale blue eggs....) However, they are around the size of store eggs marked large. Maybe medium, but probably large. The brown eggs we get are akin to jumbo eggs, and sometimes when we bake I will take an egg out of the recipe to make up for it.

Well. The egg we got on Saturday was HUGE! I'm not even sure how the chicken who laid it survived. When Matt held it in his hand, it covered nearly his entire palm, and it was markedly heavier than other eggs. Since then, the eggs have been normal, but we're keeping an eye on the situation.

I guess we don't have to worry that they're getting enough to eat!

--Jen

Daily Quote

I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.

--Garrison Keillor

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Homeschooling in the Spring

We're getting to the time of the year where it's very difficult to keep on with the school work. Ben has completed everything I had planned for the year. Basically now we are reading every day, and he is finding art projects he wants to do, practicing his writing and playing educational computer games. Julia has finished nearly everything in her schedule as well. She finished her math review yesterday and her writing program as well. She still practices cursive every day and has her spelling book that she began mid-year. She also does French, music and art, and is playing some computer math games to practice her multiplication tables.

Rachel took her standardized test last weekend--we just mailed the results and haven't got them back yet, but I checked it over and she only got one question wrong. So that pretty much makes us want to be finished with the school year! She is still doing history, science, some language arts (though she has finished most of the elements in her program--including grammar, reading comprehension and writing. She still is doing a program called "Figuratively Speaking," which teaches literary terms, and she is still reading some Newbery classics and doing those activities) French, art and music.

We have decided a few things about Rachel's homeschooling for next year. The first is that I am passing the math and science baton to Matt. Anyone who knows me knows that math and science are not my favorite subjects, and unfortunately, the programs that I have found don't give me enough information to adequately teach them to her. If we were "school in a box" people, I could get programs that spell out every little thing--and I could bore her to death in the process. Also, because I don't enjoy these subjects, I think that I am coloring her attitude towards them--she is beginning to say she hates math or that science is boring. I think that Matt teaching her will solve all these problems. He is a great teacher and of course since he's so in love with math and science I am hoping it will be contagious. The one glitch in this plan is that since Matt works and life happens, I think she is going to get weekly megadoses of math and science, rather than spreading it out over the week the way she does now. This could cause problems, maybe, but we talked about it and she understands that Matt works this way. So wish us luck!

The next thing is about history. We have decided to go with a notebooking approach to this, because while I thought the history program she had this year was going to be interesting...it wasn't. Notebooking basically means that you choose a topic--say the American pioneers. You read lots of books about it, fiction included, and then you have free reign. You can write reports, essays, poems. You can keep a journal from the point of view of someone who was there. You can draw clothes, maps or pictures of homes, write about what people did for fun, how they worked. You can write about famous people, battles, weapons, etc. Basically the point is to make history be more than a bunch of dull facts. The child comes away with a keepsake for each time period. It will be a real scrapbook of lessons and I think it will make history stick far better than reading a text and taking multiple choice quizzes will. I haven't decided yet, but Julia may go that route too.

And so the school year winds down. One of the best parts of homeschooling is that we can be flexible at this time of year. We know that we've worked hard since September and haven't wasted the amounts of time that schools do, and so when the work is finished, we will start our summer break. No silly weeks of half days, watching movies in the cafeteria or having field days. We also still have clubs and activities going through the end of June, and field trips planned. And most of the days are too nice to sit inside. So we're excited and looking forward to summer!

--Jen

Daily Quote

I never have plans for the future as you never know how things will turn out.

--Nigella Lawson