Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's going to be great!

I'm so very excited...

I am going to try and sew my very first skirt for Girly Pie this evening. And I get to hang out and chat with my best bud Mary Grace while I'm at it.

It's going to be such a fun evening!

I just hope I can figure out how to gather for the skirt... Guess we'll see!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

It's working!

So I know many homeschoolers are in full school swing by this point in August, but we here are just starting to get slowly back into the groove. My biggest goal for the weeks I consider "warm up time" is to see what kind of daily schedule I can work out for us all.

I want to fit in the basic, and mostly independent, school stuff for Punky and have been trying out a few different methods to see how he can best know what he needs to accomplish during this time on his own in the day. So far, though we've had some days when he is clearly not all there and plugged in (he is a seven year old boy - I would expect no less!), he seems to be getting the hang of just setting to work and getting his independent work done quickly and efficiently, with much less tendency to be distracted than when we started.

During this time when he is productively occupied, I am also trying to figure out how I can best use my time elsewhere. Should that be a time to get all my household duties done? Would that make a good pre-k time for Finny and Goose? Should I make it a mommy-daughter time with Girly Pie before she has her nap? I'm not sure yet... but since GP's nap is in transition from two medium naps a day to one longer one, she's still not a concrete person to count on at any particular time in the day yet, so I am leaning towards chores or pre-k time.

I also want to make a time in the day (hopefully while GP is asleep) when I can dive into the fun stuff with P and F. We'll be doing some unit studies, though I do not want to make them super-duper academic. I want that part of our schooling to be fun, exciting, mentally stimulating but not overly taxing - and really the part of the day we all look forward to the most. So having one less distracting little one around is a good fit for that. That will be the time when we do related crafts, science experiments and any bigger games or activities involved with our topic of study. I might also do the reading on the topic then, but I'm not sure.

And of course I need to make sure I'm available every two hours to be heading up the OT exercise for Finny, so I'll need to fine tune what the others are doing during those short but important times when he and I work together. Distraction is particularly hard for Finny to work through, so I am learning way s to have others occupied so he and I can find those 5-10 minute times to just focus on our work (it's harder than it sounds in a house with four young children to keep the other three from distracting one in particular)

The other key to our new days is learning how to keep everyone directed, even when I am not personally involved with each of their activities. I am learning the art of assigning and rotating activities for all three boys - even just fun, simple stuff like Duplos, playdough, blocks and magnets. Instead of letting them roam freely in between set work times, choosing those same activites or others as they please, I want to have more of the day structured where they are focused on specific kinds of activities, though still mostly playing (since they are still so young!). The focus and direction is mainly for Finny, since his therapist has encouraged me to minimize his completely free-range time, as he tends to lose his self regulating ability when left to his own devices for more than a few minutes. This new kind of directing and rotation is not really my natural approach to things, so it's been a bit of a slow learning curve, but I am finding fruit in it for all of us, and as I get more accustomed to it, I think it will suit us well over the coming years.

So all this to say I have a lot to finagle into our days, and that's really not even including basics like meals, most household work, one-on-one time with any of the kids... and many other very important things. But it's a good start, and we're finding some ways that work - and some ways that don't!

But today, it really went beautifully for the morning, even though we got off on a late start. We had a false wake at 4:40 from Miss Girly Pie and though we all fell back asleep, we were slow moving when we did wake up. Then our aging dog surprised us with a nice smelly mess in his kennel this morning, so among other things, we just had a lot to do before we could really get moving this morning. So I was sure all the school/schedule stuff was going to be a wash this morning. But Punky, though late to start, cruised right through his independent work with not a lick of help needed from me, Goose happily spent his free time playing nicely with Finny, and I was able to finish the morning work later than usual and to put GP down for nap, again later than usual. But when I came down from GP's nap routine, I found Punky sitting at the work table diligently plodding away at his math book, and right across from him was happy, "just right engine" Finny, who had decided this looked like the perfect time to pull out his reading lesson and begin going through it on his own.

Normally we do that together, and it is not something I am at all looking to have him do independently. (what's the point of homeschooling if I can't even be the one to sit down and watch my kids learn to read!?) But I was just so tickled to see that with all the effort I've been putting into our mornings, it seems the idea of working and staying on task with productive efforts seems to be setting in. The fact that instead of coming down from the nap routine to find Punky distracted by Finny's play time with Goose, I found Finny drawn into the quiet table time. I guess it's time to find at least one or two kindergarten-ish workbooks so that Finny can have something to do for his own "work" time, since he clearly would like something of that nature to call his own.

And that is something I hope to see more of in the coming years, though I know there will still be many a day (month, year...) of finding the workers distracted by the players, I do hope that we will see more and more of the players joining in on the more directed learning experience.

So it is working. My children are learning routines and self direction. They still have plenty of time to play in the day, and much of their directed time is still spent in just doing simple activities that they enjoy, with none of the three R's covered through the process. But they are learning something through it all.

And so am I!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Award time!

Thanks, Mary Grace!

Wow. I was given an award! I was humbled this evening to do a quick check before bed and to find that my best friend, IRL and in cyberlife, Mary Grace (who blogs over at Books and Bairns) thought I was deserving of a blogging award for being thankful and/or having a good attitude. So thanks Mary Grace! So I will gladly pass on the joy of being so honored to a few other lovely bloggers I enjoy reading up on.
The rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!
3. Be sure to link your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Remember to link the person from whom you received your award.
So without further ado...
I hereby nominate...
Vicki at Joy Home Living ~ Because as far as I can tell she is always joyful in her life and always has something encouraging to post about - and when she hits a snag, she seems to coast right through without letting it bog her down.
Meghann at The Jones Family ~ Because just reading her blog you can tell she is smiling all the time!
Ellajac at Aspiring to Simplicity ~ Though she just had a baby over the weekend, so she may be awhile before posting again, but I get a kick out of reading about her daily life. And who doesn't want to read the blog of a woman with four girls, the youngest only days old?
Melody at They Call Me Mama ~ Because she posts such beautiful pictures of her beautiful family, and because her posts just seem to ooze with the joy she finds in her daily life as a Mama and wife to her family.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice and everything nice.

... Oh, and ER visits, too.

So I got to spend my first day in an ER today - and it was not with one of my three sons. It was with my little Girly Pie. I've heard many a rumor that girls are docile, calm and still. But not my sweet Girly Pie. She is sweet for sure, and definitely has her daintier qualities. But she is not anywhere near still. She's been a climber since before she could walk, and has given me more than my fair share of scares over the past months of her increasing mobility.

But this morning when she fell and bumped her lip on a small child's bench we keep at our little kid's table, she hardly cried at all, and I never would have thought twice about such a simple stumble.

Except for the fact that there was blood everywhere and her lip had a nasty looking flap of skin hanging off of it.

Looking at it I suspected immediately that it would need something - stitches, skin glue, something like that. I called Mary Grace to confirm my suspicions (I didn't want to be too paranoid, after all lip wounds can look much worse than they really are) and then set to work trying to figure out just what to do.

The really cool thing was that God's hand was all over the day. For a start, my Hubby has Mondays off from field work and he works at home doing phone and office stuff, so I had the flexibility to just go with Girly Pie and not have to worry about who could watch my three boys, or about taking them along and dividing up the attention that I was sure a sad little girl would need fully. And from there, the little twists and turns of the day just led more and more directly to exactly where God knew we needed to go.

Our new insurance is apparently not accepted by our current doctor's office - a fact we just found out this morning when I called to find out if they could squeeze her in for a look. I have never much liked the whole office, and really the only reason we have remained is that it is only 25 minutes away and all the other docs are 40 minutes or more. But I always second guess their thoughts and we never have really been on the same wavelength. So I called my good friend E. who uses the same insurance and has always said wonderful things about their pediatrician. She quickly gave me the number, and off I drove with Girly Pie, waiting on hold on my cell as I headed that direction and going on faith that they would make room for her ASAP. Sure enough, even though the wonderful doc didn't have any openings until 5pm, they made room for Girly Pie right as we arrived at 10am. The new doc was WONDERFUL. I know that I would not have appreciated my old doc's advice as much as Dr. Wonderful's, and he was so sweet with Girly Pie, and so thorough with his exam. He was gentle with her and explained to me the severity of the injury.

Now I will pause in the story here to point out that Girly was not crying during all this time. The fall was minor, the bleeding had stopped, and aside from missing her morning nap, she was really not fazed at all by the whole ordeal of the actual injury. (another small miracle for the day!) So the doc told me all I needed to know, and said that since the cut was on the line between her actual lip and the skin below, and because it was so close to the crack where upper and lower lips meet, it was just a really hard place to stitch up. He saw she did indeed need stitches, but he knew his office was not equipped to do such a delicate job on such a small, and uncooperative, patient.

So we were sent to the Children's Hospital in Seattle, over an hour from our home. He said we could go to others nearer, but that Children’s would be the best equipped to do such a delicate procedure on one so young.

So off we went. Again, this doc's demeanor and his kindness and gentleness with both my girl and this worried momma were so comforting, and I really did trust his opinion. I really see God's hand in the insurance thing sending us away from our other office to this one.

So eventually (after so very much waiting and talking and looking and waiting…) Girly Pie was given a bit of a loopy drug, the name of which eludes me at the moment, to lessen her reaction to being messed with and to make her forget the whole ordeal when it was over. She was definitely happier after the drug - she had been horrified up to that point by anyone even looking at her or taking her pulse, let alone sticking needles in her face! But even with the happy juice, she fought like crazy when they tried to wrap her up in the blanket to do the procedure. She was numb and a little sedated, but still fully conscious - and fully ticked off to be so rudely messed with.

Poor thing.

So as if that wasn't bad enough, after I was finally able to hold her again and calm her down, while she was sucking on a popsicle BOTH of her stitches popped out.

So they had to do it AGAIN.

That is the point at which, as her Mommy, it really got hard for me. I had already told her we were all done, she was in my arms and ready to go. But that wound just opened right back up, and aside from just not wanting her to have a big scar on her face for the rest of her life, I just could not imagine how the healing process would go with such a big, floppy wound.

So I agreed to try it one more time, stating that if these new stitches failed that we were done and she was just meant to have a scar.

So they did it again. They used a heavier gauge suture, and did three stitches instead of two. And she fought even harder.

The hardest part for me though was not so much the fighting and crying. That was actually a good thing. I was glad to see her fighting and not just accepting such abuse. But when she plaintively called out "Mama! MAAAMAAA!" through that second procedure I just about lost it.

I just could not imagine how terrified she was in that moment, her head held down by strangers, bright lights in her face, her lip numb and her body reacting to a strange drug in her system that made her feel out of control. And when she called for the one person she trusts most in the world to help her - I couldn't. I couldn't help her, and I couldn’t stop the fear.

I just talked to her all through it and stroked and held what parts of her little body I could without disturbing the doctors, and I prayed like crazy. I prayed that God would give her peace and not let this be a scarring event in her life - emotionally, I mean. I could care less about the physical scar compared to that. And I prayed that she really would just forget the whole thing, and that it wouldn't be something that would really affect her as she grows.

So finally, long past when I ached to hold her, they finished the last stitch and I got to pick up my frightened, sweaty, exhausted little girl. And she really did calm down quickly. She did not like any of the hospital folks after that, though I can hardly blame her. But she was happy to be in my arms, and we went home shortly thereafter.

Girly Pie was asleep before we even got out of the parking lot, and slept like a rock for the whole hour + ride home. The poor girl had missed her usual naps and hadn't eaten since her very meager breakfast at 7:30 this morning. We left the ER at 3 in the afternoon.

But when she woke up, she was happy and snuggly and ready to get up and get to playing at home. She still wants to grab at her lip, which we of course are not supposed to let her do, but she is eating fine and as far as I can tell is not feeling any pain from the whole incident.

And though I can't tell for sure, I feel like my prayers really were answered, and Girly Pie seems to have forgotten the trauma of the ER today already. She has not been overly clingy or fearful, and she really has been her same old, adventurous self all evening. She has already given us several scares from climbing and trying to fall. I'm not super thrilled about the scares, but it's still a good sign that she's feeling like herself.


So that was my day. I had big plans for a mellow day at home, a bit of school and tidying up, maybe a trip to a park after her nap. But God had other plans for our day.

And really, aside from the pain of watching her through that second procedure as she called for me - and thinking about just how terrified and awful she was feeling in that moment - through the whole day I was so aware of God's gifts for the day. I never had those thoughts of "If only she hadn't fallen!" I was so focused on being thankful that God had everything under control. The day was crazy, there were such hard moments, and nothing went as smoothly as it could have. But the trouble with the doc's office ended up being a blessing. And the doc not being able to do the stitching was a blessing too. Can you imagine if they had tried in the office and failed? It would have been even more traumatic there, and then we would have had to go to the hospital in the end anyway, since the stitches clearly needed to be done in such a special way. And what if we had gone to our old doc and they had tried to do a less-than-the-best fix for her? I was just so thankful that God paved the whole day to get my girl, His girl, where she needed to go for the best care.

So today really was such a good reminder to me that stuff happens in life. There are no promises that we'll be protected from hardships. But God does make a way to get you through those hard times, and he makes sure you are carried safely to the other side.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him... (emphasis mine)

So today was a much needed perspective check, and I feel firmly kicked out of my little cave of worry over the things to come. I've been stuck here in neutral for a few weeks, wondering how to do all that I have to do, and feeling overwhelmed by all I feel I must do. But in all that, I lost sight of God's power to carry me through any hard times to come, and I lost focus on the gifts and blessings he has blessed me with along the way.

As our pastor recently said powerfully in a message about the young David in the Bible before he was king - I was like the other Israelites, focusing on the Giant - unlike David, who put his focus on the Giant Killer - God.

So today I am happily, joyfully, thankfully back where I belong. My eyes are on my Giant Killer. The giants of my life - the duties, the fears, the sensory disorders, the responsibilities, the worries of failing those I love the most – will no longer receive my utmost attention. God, the defender of us all, the slayer of all of life's Giants, is where my eyes are pointed once again.

And I never would have thought He would remind me of that simple truth by walking me through a day of trauma and pain in my baby girl's life. But He does indeed work in mysterious ways. And my baby is safe and happy and sleeping soundly in her bed.

I have nothing in the whole world to complain about. I have only thanks to give this night.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Grumpiness Update

Well I did indeed end up having a very nice time at the family gathering yesterday. The car ride was decent. The kids were happy and cooperative. My headache lingered but did lessen. And after a rather adrenaline-pumping experience of just barely making it back to the car in time for our ferry to board ( I actually threw kids in seats just in time to barely get in the driver seat and get the car in gear as I drove onto the ferry without anyone buckled! That's crazy for me!), my focus was back on the rush of life and not so much stuck in the doldrums. So that helped. ;o)

But the highlight of the day, the thing that helped it all to come back around so that I could really remember why I find so much joy in the work that I do and in the family that I work so very hard for, was in the hour I spent in a community pool at the beach house where the gathering was. All four of our kids wanted to go in, so my husband was not quite enough to keep them all in arm's reach (only one is really a swimmer, and even with life jackets, Goose is too scared to do any floating alone) which meant that I had to put on a swimsuit and join the crew.

I do like swimming, but I do not like cold. So to go into any body of water that is cooler than a bathtub is a bit of a bother to me. But my baby girl was so happy to go in the water, and those boys' smiles were so big, that I just couldn't say no. So once I was suited and in the pool, the fun really began.

Punky was a complete fish. Once he had on a snorkel, I was shocked to find that he can actually fully swim! He's built like a brick and sinks like a rock, so even with strokes and skills he has had a hard time in the past. But he was completely confident and capable yesterday. I was so proud of and happy for him. My boy is so big. Finny was thrilled to toodle around in his life jacket, and he even took it off towards the end and did great just paddling around with a floaty kickboard. He is clearly well on his way to swimming independence, too. Goose was so proud to be in the big pool. "Wook Mommy. I'm swimmin' in duh poow!" He was quite the cling-on with either my Hubby or myself, but he was so cute and thrilled to kick and "swim" all over the place.

And then there was Girly Pie. She's never been in a big pool before. I know she likes baths and the little blow up backyard pools we put out on hot days, but she can always touch the bottom in those situations. But that girl LOVES to swim! Her whole body squirmed and kicked with delight as we floated her around in the pool. She kicked enthusiastically, and seemed completely unfazed by any distance from us - we could hold her out at arm's length and she gladly just kicked away, enjoying the sensation of the water all around her. The smile on her face was so wide made it look as though her cheeks were literally ready to split apart! Her little face is burned in my mind in one of those never-to-be-forgotten memories.

I guess I've gotten a little overwhelmed lately by all that it takes to keep a larger family running - the laundry, the food planning and prep, the school planning, cleaning, organizing, not to mention disciplining and putting out the fires between my three busy boys right now. And the struggles with Finny's SPD are hard on me, too. I have been so busy pouring myself into getting on top of things with him, and keeping afloat in the sea of daily duties that I have lost the focus on the daily joys. And some days, I honestly don't seem to have time for the daily joys.

But yesterday, watching my baby girl light up with the new and wonderful experience of feeling weightless in a vast expanse of water was almost a spiritual experience for me. To see all my children so lit up by the joy of that hour in the pool did wonders for my heart.

Yes, there is a lot to do. And yes, there are times when I am doing so much "damage control" with one or another of my more demanding or needy children that I will miss out on the simpler and more enjoyable moments with them or the others.

But that's not all there is to it. And I do not want to get so caught up in the trials that I miss the rewards and the joys.

So today, thanks in part to an hour in a pool, and thanks in larger part to my Hubby who has blessed me today with a bit of a "day off" after I broke down and told him I was just overloaded and needed a chance to just rest and be off duty for some of today, I do feel much better.

Today I got to spend a few quiet moments with each of those whom I love so much. I slept in a bit and had a few quiet moments to read the Bible before I started my day. I had a bit of a quiet time with my Hubby. I sat and picked a few blackberries to munch with Girly Pie. I played Legos alone with Finny. I had a short but sweet snuggle with Goose after his rest. And though I have not had time yet with just Punky, I do plan to read a bit extra with him tonight in our time together at bedtime, so I can just enjoy that sweet big boy of mine. And we all ate lunch quietly together. And we all took a walk. And my Man made breakfast and brought home lunch and will help with dinner. My kids are enjoying the day of rest, and I am already feeling refreshed and ready to begin a new week.

So yesterday's big whine-fest was truly driven by a struggling heart and a tired and weak body that has been pushed past its limits for awhile. But today I feel the joy in this life God has blessed me with has been renewed. I feel better ready to handle the speed bumps on the road ahead.

I feel more like myself, in other words. Which is much better than this curmudgeon that seems to have taken over my body lately! ;o)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Confessions of a grumpy Mommy

A headache. A 5am wake-up caused by a very cranky little girl (no - she didn't cause the headache, but I doubt she's helped much to relieve it). An uncooperative 5 year old with sensory issues that seem to be really making a star appearance this morning. A long car ride ahead with no hubby to enjoy it with. A ferry ride in addition to the car ride. Again, no one to help out with potty runs and the like on the ferry (I sure hope no one has to pee when someone else is asleep in the car...). All for a trip to a very un-baby-safe house on a beach with a bunch of family members - some of whom I enjoy, some I strain to be pleasant around. Four very excited - and very rambunctious - children. And a bad attitude that I just can't seem to shake this morning.

I know that there is plenty of opportunity for fun and for joy today. There will be swimming and pot-lucking. There will be beach combing and blackberry picking. There might even be kayaking and sea fishing. The kids will be happy and dirty and off-the-wall delighted with the entire day.

But all I want is a good book and a long nap.

Do you ever just have one of those days where it just takes a whole lot of effort to smile for anyone? Well, to be 100% honest, that's me today. I wish I could just get over it. But so far all me wishing is not actually making a dent in the little black cloud I seem to be wearing over my head right now.

Gee, I hope I can pull it together before we arrive at the family gathering so I don't look like a complete humbug. ;o) Even reading this I can see what a terrible grump and complainer I am being. But I'm stuck. It won't go away.

Right. Well. Off I go to load the car and pack lunches. Man I just hope that at the very least this headache would just vanish.

OK. I'm done complaining now. I'm sure I'll have a lovely day. Eventually. ;o)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You know you're a homeschooling family when...

... your seven year old begs you all day to be able to get some free time - so he can spend it using your Math U See blocks to build a replica of the Parthenon, from memory.

I may not be doing all I dream of doing with these kiddos as far as school stuff goes, but that event alone today reminds me that I'm doing SOMETHING right.

Monday, August 10, 2009



It’s a pretty great number, isn’t it? I’ve never really thought about it too much, but really, it’s very nice.

We have fingers on each hand and five toes on each foot. Each number on a clock face counts for five minutes. Five is half of ten, which in a base ten number system, makes it pretty useful. It’s an odd number. It’s a prime number. It’s a Fibonacci number. It’s a great age – they are suddenly so big, so aware – and yet still so small and sweet at the same time. It’s two pairs and a single. Five arms on a sea star (or most stars for that matter). Five petals on a flower (at least most flowers drawn by little hands). Five love languages. Five star restaurants. On a scale of one to five.

And then there are the many wonderful uses in literature and music. Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. Five Little Ducks Went Out to Play. Five Little Monkeys Swinging in the Tree (teasing Mr. Alligator, “Can’t catch me!” – you know that one, right?). Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (great book). One of my husband’s favorite five allusions… Johnny Five is Alive. Remember that one? ;o) Five Litte Fishies Swimming in a Pool. Five Bears in the Bed.

The list goes on.

Five. It is indeed a nice number. It’s not a number I’ve ever really given much thought to before. I’m usually more of an evens girl myself. I like equal pairs, normally. They just fit nicely in my moments of more linear thinking.

But five is growing on me. I like the idea of it being one more than two equal pairs. Being a little odd is a good thing, after all. One hand full.


So… Any curiosity as to why I have this sudden fascination with the number five?

Any guesses? Anyone?

Well. I am currently pondering and admiring the number five… because in about 6 months I will be the proud mama of five little blessings.

Yep. We’re expecting another little one, due to arrive in early February, 2010.

It’s a little surprising (though not terribly so…) and a lot humbling. It’s slightly intimidating and hugely honoring. I cannot believe we are being blessed again with a new little person to love, guide and encourage. I get to meet that new little life, and be the first one to hold them in my arms. I get to memorize the face of another little being. I get to see God’s fingerprints all over the creation of another of His most precious creations – a new son or daughter, made in His own image.

I really cannot even find the words to describe all the thoughts that go along with this exciting experience.

I know that for many, five children are A LOT. I get constant comments in public places about how full my hands are as it is, so I can only imagine the looks and comments that are to come with 5 little ones all under the age of 8. But to me, that’s really not at all what it’s about. I do feel like I have less time to just sit around and dream about this new little baby to come than I have with the others. And I have been through pregnancy and birth four times before, so I can’t exactly say I am surprised by the stages and sensations that come along with this precious time of life. But it is still no less miraculous, no less awe-inspiring to consider.

When I sit down and take a moment to consider how far this little life has already come in the 14 weeks of his or her existence, I am amazed all over again, just as I was the first time I pondered these same thoughts 8 years ago while pregnant with Punky. And to think that in six short months we will be welcoming a new son or daughter into our family, a new name to love, a new face to cherish, and new little soul to meet and become acquainted with… well, I really am constantly in awe of God’s power to bring two half cells, just barely large enough for the naked eye to see, together and create from them a perfect little life.

So, clearly it’s not old news to me to do this “all over again.” It’s familiar, it’s comfortable… and it’s still exciting and amazing and lovely.

And I get to have five little wonders to raise and love! Wow.

And they get to grow up together – five of them – as siblings in a big, happy, blessed, uneven and quirky family.

(And, just as a side note, I get to learn how to educate two children while still having three little ones to also love, raise and entertain… it’s going to be an interesting year around here, to be sure.)

So there you go. The joys of five. I can hardly wait! (But really, I’ve got A LOT to do before February… so I CAN actually wait just fine. That is one very big difference from my first pregnancy to my fifth!)

Friday, August 7, 2009

I wish I brought my camera!

We had so much fun today!

I took my four kiddos, plus Mary Grace's three oldest and we headed out to a berry farm about 45 minutes from home to pick raspberries.

The kids were so great at picking and happily stayed nearby on our same "lane" so I could keep an eye on all seven kids at once. They especially loved when I would send them as "scouts" down to different lanes of berries to report which was the most promising lane to head down next. MG's three picked for their family and my crew and I picked for ourselves, and both families ended up with +/- 9 pounds of fresh raspberries. I can't believe how effective those little eyes and hands are at finding and picking berries. Even Finny was really, really great!

Goose was less effective, and most definitely ate more than he collected. But he was so cute as he'd come running down the lane to me hollering, "I got one! I got a beewy! Hewe, Mommy." As he dropped one proudly into my collecting box. I'm sure he collected a total of 20 berries throughout the entire afternoon. But he had a great time, and was very proud of each of those 20 berries.

And Girly Pie happily walked up and down the dusty, dirty lane following the procession of poking, picking, hollering, laughing and chatting children. Every once in a while she would find a promising branch of berries and squat down in that cute toddler squat to indulge herself. I loved watching her dirt and berry stained face as she would smile and nod, mouth full of berries, and say, "Mmmmm."

By the time we were finally loading up in the car, every single pair of feet was completely covered in fine dirt, and every pair of hands was coated a sticky brown, highlighted of course with berry juice. Goose and Girly Pie had completely brown and red faces. Girly Pie even had some chunks of berry in her hair.

It was great.

So home we drove, with seven happy little people all buckled in and chatting away the 45 minute ride home. Girly Pie and Goose fell asleep quickly and slept through more laughing and jostling than one can imagine. The sleep of exhausted, happy babies with berry-filled bellies.

14 filthy hands. 14 socks encrusted with dirt and most likely beyond saving. 7 smiling brown faces. 18 pounds of raspberries. 1 filthy car. An uncountable number of smiles.

And one happy momma and friend.

It was well worth the $36 for the berries. Today was a day I will not soon forget. I just love days like this.

And I can't BELIEVE I didn't bring my camera. I guess I'll just have to keep those mental snapshots and hope they last forever. Somehow, I think they will.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Unit Studies!

So for the first time this year I am throwing out all semblance of following a curriculum put together by someone else and I'm going to give homeschooling a try via a unique mix of unit studies and some workbook-type stuff (for the kids and topics where that works well, but in minimal amounts).

It's all very new, and I admit I'm still quite vague on what our year will look like, but last night I was able to come up with (or be divinely inspired with, still not sure which, though I have been praying hard for direction!) a very, VERY vague outline of my unit study plans for September through December.

I'm just so excited to see some sort of goals in writing that I just had to post them here. My plan is to set aside a few nights for each unit and pull appropriate books from the library, good crafts from the internet, and even throw in a field trip or two to places that will help cement the ideas we'll be learning. We'll still do math and some basic language, spelling and other fundamentals separately, and Punky will be listening to some Story of the World CD's to follow along in history at his own pace without my having to pour as much into teaching history as I have been (which is hard with so many littler ones who really can't participate in something that became the bulk of our learning). But I think that at least for this first part of the year this unit idea will be the bulk of where our time and interest are invested.

So without further ado, I give you my basic plan for what topics we'll be covering for the first 4 months of our 09/10 school year.


  • Study on caves, caverns, etc.
    o Possibly can lead to study of rock, sand, salt, etc formation.. just see where it takes us
    o A topic I know nothing about, so I have no idea where it could lead! Maybe even a local trip to some caves to explore?
    o Found a cool diorama idea that makes real mini stalactites. How cool is that!?
  • Study on the history of WEAPONS (of all things. I must really love my sons…)
    o Boys wanted to know how boomerangs and bows & arrows worked
    o Seems a good time to learn about all things weaponish.
    o If nothing else Punky will want to do school every. single. day.
    o Hubby can cover my behind on the physics behind how they all actually work. I have no clue. ;o)
    o Make a few homemade weapons
    o Maybe a nice time to go over some of the Story of the World CD's Punky will be listening to in more detail
    o Could buy one of those little wooden siege tower or catapult kits… fun stuff!


  • Fire preparedness
    o Tour local fire dept
    o Go over the some emergency sheets in the October section of The Old Schoolhouse's planner (good ideas for home safety and preparedness)
    o Make and practice new fire escape plans with the kids
  • Planet/star study
    o Good time of year with time change to get out in the dark and actually see stuff without keeping the kids up until 11pm!
    o Will need a good friend with a telescope we can borrow…
    o Lots of potential here, will need to work to pull together stuff I will really do

  • Little House in the Big Woods unit study (Nice to follow weapons with Little House, huh? We want to be well rounded around here, after all!)
    o Using some resources from a friend with lots of Prairie Primer goodies, Little House recipes and crafts, plus even some fun folk music
    o Lots of opportunity for crafts and holiday coziness
    o Fun recipes to try
    o Make some homemade Christmas gifts for people
    o Listen to the music from the time period during craft and baking times, and for fun
    o Possibly learn some music with recorders or some other intro instrument

  • Time for our annual Advent month
    o Jesse Tree again (my boys love it every year, and I’m sure Goose will want to do one this year too)
    o Crafts, cooking, all that
    o Possibly find a different theme for Advent readings… I’ve never gone "out of the box" here, so we’ll see

So that's it for now. I have done no real planning on the individual topics, but I am excited to have the ground work laid for what we'll be studying for a few months. I think that leaves me plenty of room to explore, but not so open ended that I fall into my trap of doing nothing due to the overwhelming pressure of a completely blank slate. I think the topics are perfectly age appropriate, and that my kids will really be interested in all of them, but that I can still find information to stretch them to learn outside of their complete realm of current interest. Plus, I can easily pull fun books for the little guys on the topics, so that everyone can do something topic-related.

So has anyone else out there done much in the way of homemade unit studies? Any helpful suggestions or advice on pitfalls to avoid? I'd love to hear ideas from fellow unit study families.