7 quick takes, flannery, garden

7QT: Summer Rundown Edition

I’m told that the best way to start writing again after not writing and not writing and not writing is just to write. I’m hoping this is true, because it’s what I’m going to do.

There’s no real way to catch up on everything that’s happened since I last posted something (January!), so let’s pretend you’re starting the next book in the series and some events may have transpired in the in-between, ok?

Things always transpire in the in-between.

1. Summer is still happening here, although we’ve started some school up again already because we are traveling in September. I loved our Advent School so much last year that I didn’t want to give it up. To make it all work out and still leave the weeks of Advent basically open for reading and crafting and baking, we are doing some schoolwork now, and it’s going well. Somehow, we’re beginning our sixth year as a homeschooling family, with Sam going into fifth grade and the girls into second. It doesn’t seem true when I type it.

This is my pre-reading stack from a couple of weeks ago. We’ve finally switched to Ambleside Online this year, and I’m loving it. That’s probably another blog post.

2. Sam and Nora swam on the swim team this year- Sam’s second year and Nora’s first. They both really liked it. Starting out our summer with swim team makes the first month feel a little bit crazy, but things have slowed down now and I’m so glad they had the experience.

3. We’ve been gardening better this year than ever before. I had no idea I would become this person- someone who is excited every day to see if there are any new zucchini and who spends a lot of time hunting bugs on her bean plants to keep them from being chewed upon- but I love growing our own food and I love looking at that green bean arch and thinking of how much it’s grown since I put seeds in the ground back in the spring. Plants grow. From seeds. It’s basically miraculous.

4. I’m not sure if it’s just that we live in a weirdly moth-filled spot or if I’ve just gradually become someone who notices these things, but we’ve spotted a lot of really amazing moths in our yard this summer. We currently have a Cecropia Silkmoth caterpillar hanging out in our kitchen. He’s totally amazing, even though every time I look at him I get a tiny “thrill” like Matthew Cuthbert digging up grubs in his potato patch. I learned yesterday that these caterpillars spend the winter in their cocoons and then emerge as their moth-selves in the spring. Apparently you can observe this process by overwintering them in your refrigerator.

Polyphemus Moth on our sycamore

 

Rosy Maple Moth on our arborvitae

 

“He’s kind of yuck but I also like yucky things.”

 

Cecropia Silkworm caterpillar

I think this may exceed my commitment level…but I’m actually considering it, because I really want to see how this guy turns out! They are the largest moths north of Mexico- 5 1/2″ wingspan. That’s bigger even than a Luna moth or the Polyphemus we found.

5. I’m currently in the middle of a Summer of Flannery project- reading or re-reading everything that Flannery O’Connor wrote- with my kindred spirit Katherine. (Read her beautiful blog here.) I’ve always loved Flannery’s writing, but I feel like we are really getting to know her as a person by intentionally reading all her words and discussing them. So far we’ve done just short stories and Wise Blood, one of her two novels, but it’s been a lot of fun (and has occasionally resulted in late night or early morning texts back and forth about the deeper meaning of the shaving cream dripping from a character’s chin or the potential Marian symbolism of being gored by a bull). Such good stuff.

6. We are prepping for a Great Big Roadtrip to Points North- hitting Old Town Quebec for a few days and traveling to Prince Edward Island on a trip I have always wanted to take. I’m taking car entertainment recommendations, song suggestions, and lists of your favorite audiobooks, so send them my way! Our family is currently reading Anne of Green Gables aloud in preparation for the trip, and I underestimated how delightful it would be to share this particular book with my family. George has never read it before, so I’m reading aloud, and everyone is begging for “just one more chapter!”

Dear Northeast US and Canada, especially PEI, I’m sorry I haven’t yet learned what shapes you are.

Bonus: Felix is running around saying, “Fiddlesticks!” all the time. It’s rather disarming.

7. Are any of y’all afraid of geese? Because I think I might be.
This guy looks clever here (on George’s mom’s patio), but when he puts his head down and his neck out and runs really fast at you, it’s less charming. Also, I think I will always have an issue with large groups of birds convening in one place thanks to an ill-timed viewing of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at a tender age.

That’s 7. That was fun. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime soon!

 

Linking up with Kelly for 7QT (and feeling so grateful for this linkup, which feels like an on-ramp for writing here again). Go visit!

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7 quick takes, Advent

(Not Quite) 7 (Not So) Quick Takes: The Advent Edition

This isn’t actually going to catch you up, in case you had any hopes for that. Part of the reason I’ve been putting off writing here is that the list of things I haven’t told you just gets longer and longer. So I’m jumping in mid-stream, and I’ll just put in backstory where it’s needed, and if you’re lost you’ll have to holler at me to slow down or back up.

Deal?

Good, now that we have that all figured out, here’s what we’ve been up to lately:

1. Advent School

I decided this year when planning our schedule for school to leave space during Advent and Christmas to do something different. We’re doing a light study of Christmas traditions around the world using Mary Lankford’s Christmas around the World as our main read-aloud and then reading all the Christmas picture books we love from our collection plus a healthy infusion of them from the library. My confession is that I put all those library books on hold in late October/early November and have just been renewing them so that we’d be sure to have them before someone else did. Sorry, y’all with whom I share a library system. I am being good about bringing them back when we have finished, though, so that’s something.

Without the usual schedule of math and history and science and other stuff, I have actually had the self-discipline to bake with my kids and let them do messy crafts without losing it entirely. We’ve hung pinecone bird feeders, made gingerbread play dough, painted wooden ornaments, sewn felt Christmas trees and made lavender sachets with cross-stitched letters on them. Not everyone has done all of these things. Someone hasn’t really done any of them. It’s okay, though- we have had time for extra reading, extra making, extra music, and extra lounging around, and it feels like overall things are working out as I hoped they might.

2. Advent- marking time

These are the things people want to know, right? What do you do? What should we be doing?

I’ll tell you what we are doing if you promise not to think it is what you should be doing.

Our Advent calendar – we open one door a day and there’s a short reading that goes along with it. This is my favorite Advent calendar of all time.

Our Advent wreath– we light the candle for the week on Saturday evening as a vigil for the coming Sunday, and we light it each night during the week before the kids go to bed and sing the first verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. We’ve been using this book by Lisa Hendey for several years now, and it’s just about perfect for the age that our family is- short, sweet, and to the point. (There are questions to discuss if you want to be more elaborate. We never do.)

The Sam of Advent Past: he is basically the same now, just bigger

Advent chain– I came up with this project for Sam a few years ago, and then the lovely Nancy of Do Small Things with Love made a wonderful printable version of it. There is a name of Jesus for each day of Advent. You can print Nancy’s pages out, cut them into strips, and make a chain so that you can remove a link each day leading up to Christmas. Scripture references on the chain links make it easy to look up the verses where each name of Jesus originates in the Bible. It’s been fun.

Jesse Tree– I have a pretty terrible track record with the Jesse Tree. We can’t seem to sustain it- things get busy, we get behind, and then I’m totally overwhelmed and we just drop it. I printed out Nancy’s ornament patterns a couple of years ago and we colored them, but we’ve never really gotten very far with the actual reading and doing of the tree.

This year, we are trying to keep up. Since I don’t have a lot of space to put out more things, we wrapped a branch with thread and are hanging the ornaments from it. No picture I can take of this branch is even remotely inspiring. So far, we are only slightly behind, but I’m not too worried about it yet.

We already put up our tree because we have a couple of trips away this month and didn’t want things to feel rushed. We could have waited until Gaudete Sunday, but we didn’t. I think at other times I’ve been more precious about the most correctest possible way to do everything, but this year I am just…not.

3. Hand-me-down hobbies
I thought this article from Brandy at Afterthoughts was so encouraging. I’ve been a little worried about how some of my kids don’t seem to be picking up certain things I wish they would pick up, or how I’m not spending equal time teaching each one of them the same things…but the older they get, the more different they are, and with so many different interests, it’s just not possible to cover everything with everyone in the same degree of detail. So for now, I’m spending more time with Lucy picking out carols on the piano or singing in parts, and Nora’s sitting with me working on her crochet technique (which will be better than mine quickly, since I don’t really crochet), and I’m playing chess with Sam or talking about theology or Hobbits or whatever else he’s read that I’ve always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

Bottom line: it’s going to be okay, because siblings.

4. Siblings

There is so much sibling conflict here right now that I often wonder if siblings are the reason why it is NOT going to be okay, maybe ever again…so I especially welcomed the reminder from Brandy (see #3) that there are practical advantages to having several children in my home, even if they aren’t immediately apparent. The squabbling is killing me, y’all. The boys are always whacking each other with swords, and if we take the swords away, they find other things with which to whack. The girls are constantly making and breaking and reforming alliances and sneaking Halloween candy into their room and arguing over who should have to clean up the dirty clothes that are everywhere. And I’m running around saying, “Everything has a place!” and “Don’t leave underwear in the kitchen!” and “Swords are not for whacking your brother!” (even though swords really are kind of for whacking your brother, aren’t they?)

5. Advent playlist

I have an eclectic Advent playlist. It’s still my go-to, and every now and then I add things to it, but that’s hard to do because I made it way back in the day when George had the only Spotify account in our household. It’s still under his name, but if you need music to accompany your Advent, give it a try. 
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/1233061482/playlist/1NU3xalSmeK22Cn2iBlbZ0

6. HolyLens

George and I are doing #HolyLens again this Advent, because we would miss it if we didn’t. There is a small but faithful band joining us on Instagram. If taking pictures of your daily life helps you see the moments of grace embedded in your days, come and join us. Just look for the hashtag. I’m dere_abbey and George is grdvee.

That’s it. I guess sometimes quick takes come in sixes instead of sevens. Or maybe I’ll think of something else later.

Would you say a prayer for our parish Blessed is She leadership team and the women who will attend our Advent retreat tomorrow? It’s supposed to snow, probably not a lot, but I’d hate for weather to get in the way of what might be a very needed two hours of peace and reflection for these ladies tomorrow. I love snow, and I refuse to apologize for that, but if we could have snow and safe travels/not-too-slippery parking lots tomorrow, that would be most excellent.

Thanks for reading. I know I have been silent quite a while, and I don’t take it for granted that you stuck around now that I have something to say again. 

7 quick takes

7QT: the trouble with radio silence edition


Hi, y’all.

The thing about blogging breaks is that they aren’t really breaks. Life has a way of being full of things. I keep meaning to write about them, and instead of waiting for me to sit down and do that, life just keeps rolling on with more and more things happening. As a way to ease back into blogging, I thought I’d do a quick-ish catch up post to let you know what we’ve been up to the past few months.

1. This has been our most ambitious garden year yet. I built a fourth raised bed, made a new flowerbed/herb garden on the corner of the house by our patio, and dug up a huge quantity of weeds and garlic chives that had taken over a former flowerbed to try to create a cottage garden. Things have done well- we had more strawberries than ever this year, the tomatoes and cucumbers are out of control, and we had lettuce well into July because of its position in the shade of a corkscrew willow tree that has finally gotten large enough to cast a decent shadow. My lavender stayed alive this year, and the four o’clocks I planted have finally grown up enough to reach the trellis. The cottage garden is a work in progress, but I think it’s looking promising.

Despite all the good, though, this past week has brought record numbers of squash beetles and Mexican bean beetles, neither of which have ever been this big of a problem before. The cucumber plants have spots that turn into holes that turn into wilted, brown leaves and the cucumbers themselves are bitter. I’m trying to rally and keep things under control, but part of me wants to pull up the cucumbers and the squashes and just fill those beds with spinach and lettuce for a fall crop. Maybe some peas. Could I do that?

2. We had a lovely trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina with my extended family. It was wonderful for our kids to have their cousins to play with all week…and to my astonishment, we actually had moments where both George and I were sitting in chairs on the beach while the kids played. This is definitely the first time since Sam was born almost 9 years ago that we’ve been able to both kind of relax at once.

3. A friend loaned us his copy of Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. It’s a story of a family of four children who spend their summer at a country house with a small sailboat. In Boxcar Children style, they are allowed to sail the boat to a small island nearby and camp out there. Adventures ensue. This charmingly British book was new to me, and it has changed my kids’ lives. They play at sailing all the time now, turning our play structure into a boat and wrapping our swings around the posts to be the rigging. If you haven’t read it, you must. It’s a perfect read-aloud- nothing earth-shattering ever happens, and yet it manages to be very exciting reading! The Audible recording by Alison Larkin is also quite good.

The sailors in my backyard were further inspired by their new favorite movie, Disney’s Moana, which is one of the best Disney movies to date. Moana is a strong, independent non-princess who sails her own canoe and manages to convince a demigod to do the right thing. Her grandmother, Grandma Tala, is my favorite character ever to appear in a Disney film. The sailing in the movie got wrapped into the sailing play…and now Felix struts around with his shirt off pretending to be Maui.

4. Sam joined the swim team this year and loved it. He had practice almost every day in the month of June, and we often listened to books (Swallows and Amazons) or the Moana soundtrack in the car on the way. In fact, we figured out that if we started the soundtrack in the pool parking lot, it would take us into our driveway as the final notes sounded. I cannot believe how many times I have heard those songs this summer. Swim team has ended now, but Sam is already talking about next year. And all of us are still singing the songs.

5. Felix celebrated his third birthday this week with coffee cake for breakfast, a trip to a favorite playground and lunch at Chick fil-A. He did not want a traditional cake and asked us to take him out for ice cream instead. I appreciate the chance to fulfill someone’s birthday dreams with such a simple request. Things seem to get more complicated as they get older, you know?

6. I spent many hours this summer working on a new study for the Blessed is She series of Blessed Conversations. The studies are designed for small groups to use as a way to dive deeper into Church teaching and grow in faith together. My study is on the cardinal and theological virtues, but there are six others by some of my favorite writers, covering a variety of topics from the Trinity to the Ten Commandments to the Beatitudes. There is also a leader’s guide for women who are facilitating small groups. They are available for purchase now. I really want to try out one of the ones I didn’t write and am thinking about getting a group together…because I always seem to want to start up new things as fall approaches…

7. …but maybe someone else will start a group and I can just go be part of it, because I have a bad habit of getting all excited at this time of year when school is about to start and suddenly I think I can do everything when there is about to be a lot more to think about and do! We have two first graders and a fourth grader this year, along with our energetic three year old who will definitely keep things interesting. I’m not sure how difficult it will be to have three people in academic subjects instead of just one- Kindergarten is pretty relaxed around here, and this is the first year we will be juggling multiple math books. When I start to get anxious about how hard it is going to be, I remind myself that it cannot possibly be as hard as going from one child to three children all at once in the first place. Giving birth to twins and bringing them home to your almost-three-year-old has to be more difficult than starting them in school with your almost-nine-year-old, right? That’s what I’m telling myself.

If you made it this far, you’re all caught up! How has your summer been? Ever read Swallows and Amazons? What are your thoughts on Moana as compared to the other “princessy” movies?

Linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum today for 7QT– be sure to go check out Kelly’s homeschool prep update and all the other assorted miscellany, all neatly organized into lists of seven. 

7 quick takes

7 Very Quick Takes: The I’m-Still-Alive Edition

I am still alive!

Since last Sunday night, I’ve been dragging myself from my couch to my bed and back again (depending on other adult availability for supervision of my children). My kids have watched more television than they had seen up to this point in their lives. We are all here, though, and we’re still able to take our big roadtrip, so that’s something.

I have a small mountain of laundry to deal with before I can pack for the bitter climate of the Northland (just kidding, I know it isn’t that cold yet, Canada)…so of course, I am taking a moment to blog. Priorities.

1. Disney Junior is not the best thing in the world. I’m pretty much convinced after a week of watching princesses, tiny cartoon scuba animal marine biologists, and conflict-ridden lion sibling relationships that it might be contributing to the demise of our society through an unrealistic standard of beauty and a ridiculous emphasis on individualism.

That said, it isn’t the worst thing, either. I respect Doc McStuffins’ dispassionate but empathetic approach toward her patients, and it’s difficult to dislike Mickey Mouse under any circumstances. He’s such a nice guy.

I am a little concerned that my girls have apparently fallen in love with some toy called “Adoptimals” that they saw repeatedly advertised this week and now want for Christmas.

2. In case I was worried about the effects of Disney on female identity in my house, my girls pretended last night during their bath that they were a twin swimming duo breaking the world record. When they touched the end of the tub, Lucy sat up and said, “Do you see where the other people are? Waaaaaay back there. They haven’t even started.” Then she granted me an interview, in which she confessed that she had been a bit nervous, but the world record race was really just like all her practice races. “I just did my best, not just today, but over the course of my life, and I wasn’t intimidated,” she said.

I was impressed.

“And my sister here tried really hard and got the silver,” she said, gesturing at Nora.
Nora shrieked and splashed her in the face.
“I…GOT…GOLD…TOO…justbecauseyouwerebornfirst you poopy top!” she yelled.

Apparently lions are not the only ones with difficult sibling relationships.

3. Felix has started his superhero phase claimed his true identity as a superhero.

“Who are you?”
“Superman.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I gonna fly!”

And he did. Unfortunately, his flight was cut short just after this by his brother, who crashed into him in the middle of a sword battle with a ninja princess who was defending her planet.

We obviously just need wider hallways.

4. I am tired of eating frozen waffles. Last night we had Chinese takeout for dinner, and it was the first real food I’ve eaten all week, and it was heavenly. Not quite as good as the turkey sandwich the hospital gives you after you have a baby, but almost.

5. I got some great ideas from readers and friends for things to do in the car that don’t involve screens. We’ve had so much screen time this week that I really want to take a break from them for a bit. I’ll let you know which ones work after we get back from our trip. In the meantime, feel free to follow along on Instagram (#dupuysgonorth) for occasional updates. Sam plans on featuring his Playmobil guy’s travel adventures with the hashtag #

6. My friend is taking my big kids to the playground this morning so I can finish packing. THIS IS SUCH A GIFT. If you ever find yourself in the position to offer this kind of love to a stressed out parent, you will earn a place in the friend hall of fame. Seriously. It seems like a little thing, maybe, but it is going to make such a difference!

7. Believe it or not, it’s almost time to start thinking about Advent…is there anything you’d like me to be sure to talk about? That’s a question, not really a quick take, but I’d love to be helpful to you if I can as I start thinking about preparing for this season of um, preparation.

Now, to do something about all that laundry. (I am probably not going to do anything about the french fries under the backseat. Just being honest.)

7 quick takes

7QT: The Sabbath Rest Week edition

After having completed our first six weeks of the school year, we are on break this week.

This is the first year we have adopted this schedule for homeschooling. I got the idea from Mystie Winckler over at Simply Convivial, who uses it successfully as a way to prevent burnout. With the knowledge that there’s a break coming, it’s easier to keep on keeping on when things feel tough. So far, for us, this seems to be true.

So, what happens during a break week? We’re not having any written work, but a lot of other things look similar. There was a giant medieval feast/birthday party for the Playmobil king this morning in which all the children were involved. When the girls got tired of Sam’s constant telling them what their characters had to do and say, they started building block castles for their blankies and dolls. Felix asked for books to be read to him and played for a while with scoops and funnels in a box of rice. We had a snack. They went outside. We had lunch, and now they’re resting.

Actually, it doesn’t look that different than normal.

I do feel different, though- as if I had more mental space to think about other things. I’ve half-written several blog posts in my mind this morning. Yesterday, knowing I had this week free from school, I found the energy to bake two different kinds of bread and make soup. I feel less pressure to keep the kids on task and more freedom to let them be loud and live in their pajamas.

I’m not sure what to expect from the rest of this week, but I’ll be sure to let you know how it went. In the meantime, here’s the short list of things I’m hoping to accomplish with all my extra time and mental space this week:

1. Replace the assortment of random stuff in our book basket with our fall books.
I’m a big fan of the seasonally-rotating book basket. When the books come out of storage, they feel like old friends. Especially in the fall, cuddling up to read those familiar stories (and a few new ones I’ve added) makes me feel like the season has definitely changed. Despite my commitment to the practice, I just haven’t been able to make it happen yet – it is on my list for this week.

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2. Clean the windows.
Yeah, it’s kind of futile- they’ll be covered in nose prints and finger prints in just a day or two…but for a few sparkling October minutes, I’ll be able to see that bright blue sky streak-free.

I guess I could just go outside.

3. Tackle the mountain of recyclables.
September is our birthday season, with three kids’ birthdays falling in the second half of the month. That combined with the start of our school year made for a lot of Amazon shipments. We also had a Costco trip in there for the medieval feast birthday party (still planning to blog about that sometime), so there are a lot of boxes. There are also a lot of beer bottles and wine bottles. Some of those are from the party, some are from dinner parties, and there was a Presidential debate, and some are just…well, I don’t know. There are a lot. I need to take them to the recycling center this week because they’re obviously getting too comfortable in the laundry room and are multiplying, and I can’t get in there to do the laundry, and people are running out of underwear.

4. Deal with the ordeal that is the seasonal clothing change.
The laundry room is also the temporary home to a bunch of those wonderful/awful giant grey Rubbermaid storage bins that hold all of the off-season clothes in the next size up for my children. Obviously, they’re in the way, and this is the week I have to tackle this chore.

I have a love-hate relationship with hand-me-downs. I’m extremely grateful for the clothes, but the process of sorting and trying on and laundering and separating and putting away seems to take a week (at least) every season. This is the time of year when I start looking at coats and boots and hats and jeans and sweaters in all sizes and wondering if we might be able to just move to southern California. What must it be like to only need one and a half seasons in your wardrobe?

5. Prep for the next big road trip. 

We are taking a trip soon to Niagara Falls for George to run the marathon there. As I’m preparing for a long car ride with my kiddos, I’ve started a Pinterest board to save ideas for games and strategies to make it all easier on everyone.  I’d love your ideas- what’s your best car trip tip for little people? Favorite travel games? Things you’ve tried that were a total failure (or just weren’t worth the effort)? Let me know. I’ll do a roundup post on what worked and what didn’t when we get back…just in time for your holiday travel planning needs. Let’s help each other out!

6. Quality time with the Rug Doctor.

I will also be spending some time this week cleaning the carpet in the girls’ room. It’s funny. I was just thinking (pretty recently as they approached Five Years Old) that we had finally found our way out of the Random Acts of Twin Naughtiness stage. It had been so long since they’d done anything really awful that fell into the category of “stuff they only do because there are two of them and somehow that is more than double the amount of naughty impulse and less than half the amount of self-control.”

In the last twenty four hours, they have cut their hair (and each other’s) with the fingernail scissors (kept behind a childproof lock in the bathroom cabinet, which they somehow defeated). They also pretended that their floor was a “rest area” and spread blankets out on it and peed on them. This is not our first family intentional floor-peeing incident (just scroll down to #6 there, and you’ll be all caught up).

I’m not sure what this says about us.

Both the hair cutting and the peeing incidents happened while the girls were supposed to be sleeping.

So, despite my smugness, I’m forced to admit that the season of crazy twin behavior isn’t over- it’s just gone underground. Should I be glad, from a sibling relationship perspective, that they aren’t ratting each other out?

Mostly, I’m just annoyed. Bring back the tattling. Tattling saves hair. And carpet.

7. Finally, I’m hoping to knit this week.
I’m so close to finishing my cowl and ready to cast on a hat for Sam (who just can’t wear his any more). I haven’t knitted him anything since 2011 when I was on bedrest, so it is definitely his turn. I’m hoping to get some work done on the hat before Wednesday so I can show something new for Ginny’s linkup and not just more rows of the same.

There you have it- think I can do all that in a week? Sounds restful, right? Maybe “Sabbath” isn’t exactly the word I should be using…

Thanks for reading my quick takes at the beginning of a week instead of the end of the previous one. For more of everything under the sun (divided neatly into sevens), visit Kelly and the others at This Ain’t The Lyceum.

7 quick takes, giveaway, homeschool

7 Quick Takes: Homeschool Week 1 Highlight Reel

Well, we did it! It’s past sundown on Friday, and the first week of our new school year is over. Everyone survived. There were moments of bliss. There are some little hurdles we’ll need to overcome and some bugs to work out…but mostly? It went great.

Here’s our week in brief, for our friends and loved ones (and those of you who are curious about what we did):

1. Pictures.

Yes, we do first day of school pictures, mostly so I have something to compare with at the end of the year when we do portfolios. I didn’t post them on facebook, but you can see them now! Look how big everyone is…especially the little brother with the photobomb skills.

2. Morning Time

Now that we’re in our second year of starting the day with Morning Time, it runs more smoothly. I felt like I spent much of last year trying to round everyone up and get everyone to sit down for even a few minutes together to start the day. This year, I’m not telling them it’s time to start. Instead, I’m just playing a song as a musical cue, and they have until the song is over to wander dreamily into the room (or come dashing in dramatically at the last minute).

Both of those things happen every single day, by the way.

What we do in Morning Time could probably be its own blog post someday, but in brief, we have a prayer, sing a song or two, go over our memory work, and do something beautiful (read a poem or story, do an art picture study, listen to a new piece of music, paint with watercolors, or work on our nature journals). We end with a short prayer and go on our way to do other work or to play. It takes about fifteen minutes, unless we get carried away with the beautiful part, which we sometimes do. Things have a way of leading to other things, you know. It’s a good life.

3. Reading. Lots of reading.

We read a lot around here. Usually, I do our main read-aloud at lunch time, but we read other books throughout the day (and upon request from Felix, who frequently comes up with a book in hand, declares it’s his “vewwy fave-rit!” and asks us to read it. We almost always say yes.)

Sam reads something on topic (usually science or history related) for about half an hour every morning, and he spends a couple of hours during the day reading whatever he’s reading for fun. Right now, it’s mostly the Redwall series, but he took a short break from those to devour The Trumpeter of Krakow this week.

4. History.

There’s no better way to kick off a new year than to start up a new co-op, right? This year, we’re meeting with friends to do weekly activities for our history study using Story of the World, Volume 2 (which covers the Middle Ages).

It was our turn to host, and our backyard was briefly the scene of a battle reenactment between the Romans and the Celts. (It turned out no one wanted to be Romans, and the battle kind of fell apart. Still, I think we made the neighbors curious- there’s no better way to look like a wild, unsocialized bunch of homeschoolers than to run like crazy all over the yard during school hours waving homemade cardboard battle axes covered in foil and screeching with your capes flying out behind you.)

I’m excited to see how the rest of the year goes.

5. Science

Sam is studying Chemistry this year using the book Adventures with Atoms and Molecules. I like it a lot so far- it’s really clear and easy to understand with simple experiments that mostly use things we have around the house. We’re aiming for two experiments a week, and right now, that seems realistic. I’ll keep you posted.

6. Math

We are sticking with Life of Fred for math, backed up with some extra practice using the Reflex software program (which I can’t say enough good things about- it’s amazing). Sam generally despises repetition, so lots of practice problems can ruin a whole day for him (even if he needs the practice). Using the computer for the practice part seems to make it less of an issue.

7. Kindergarten

Yes, we do it…although it is mostly just reviewing lowercase letters right now, doing some math-y stuff and playing a lot. This week, we’ve played grocery store, restaurant, princesses who own their own housecleaning business, and something the girls called “baby Viking warriors.” I didn’t get in on that last one.

Today the weather was perfect, so we went outside for a long time. Felix drove our fleet of Cozy Coupes (which he calls his “van-cars”) all over the driveway and the girls played hopscotch. It was pretty wonderful.

And really, that’s what I want to remember. It’s all pretty wonderful– to have the freedom and the opportunity to do school this way while it works for our family. Even when it’s hard. Even when I’m tired. Even when it’s late on Friday night and I am scrambling to finish a dessert and this blog post because of how busy our week has been.

It’s a lovely life, and I’m thankful for it…and I’m thankful for you for reading along and sharing the adventure with us.

Speaking of sharing, I was going to give away a book, wasn’t I?

Let’s see…Rebecca D, you’re our winner. Let me know how to get in touch with you, and I’ll mail you a copy. Congratulations! I wish I had one to give to everyone…it really is a lovely book.

I hope you all had a great week. Next week, I’ll be talking about books and book clubs (and my strategy for books I don’t really love but need to finish) over here, so please come back and weigh in.

For more Quick Takes, visit Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum.
7 quick takes

7 Quick Takes: The Surprisingly Enough Edition

I’m feeling behind with all the things I meant to do and make and say and write this week.

Surprisingly enough, I think I can catch you all up in Seven Quick Takes.

Here we go!

1. We made it back from the beach. We unpacked. Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t very hard to take things out of bags, put them away, get the laundry done, and feel like we were settled in again at home. This is due to two things I did right this time- I didn’t overpack, and I washed our clothes before we came home. Putting away clean stuff is so much easier than having to wash, dry, and fold everything immediately so that people can have clean underwear.

2. Watching George drag the boogie boards and beach chairs to the shed was like watching the death of summer for me. I don’t even feel sad about it. I know it’s still summer for another month, but I’m in full-on ready for fall mode. We start school on Monday in this house, and things are ready to go. I’m going from one “official” student to three this year, as the girls are going to start Kindergarten.

Kindergarten. On Monday. My twins, remember?

(Bonus points if you can tell them apart here without the help of Lucy’s curly hair.)

Surprisingly enough, I’m feeling a little nervous about the change from one to three students, even though Kindergarten in our homeschool is a very laid back, gentle thing with minimal academic work involved.

3. The coming of September means the coming of three birthdays for us- Lucy, Nora and Sam all have birthdays next month. Surprisingly enough, this is the year they have decided that a family getaway isn’t what they want for their birthday celebration. I knew this day would eventually come- I just hoped it would wait a few more years. This year, they want to have a “real” party and invite their friends.

I tried explaining that we don’t really do “real” parties in this family, but they pointed out that we just had one for Felix.

Oops. We did, indeed…possibly even with plates and decor that matched the cake.

So, we’re in negotiations about how this can play out so that they feel adequately celebrated and I feel adequately sane. Some people have the strong desire and gift to create elaborate theme parties for their children and have fun doing it. I do not think I am one of those people.

Pray for us, will you? Sam has already said that he wants friends to come in costume as knights, pages or princesses. He’d like a banquet tent in the backyard, a bonfire and a boar’s head with an apple in its mouth (but will tolerate a pig’s head if we can’t find a boar).

I guess it’s time to get creative.

4. While I might not have been writing here much lately, I was working on something else, and it’s finally ready. The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion  is a collaborative effort, featuring the work of 80 writers with a devotion for every day of the year. It doesn’t follow the lectionary, so you can use it over again when you get to the end, and you won’t be missing anything by starting in the middle. The devotions are quick but thought-provoking. Each one has a prayer and an action step to help you take your good intentions from the morning forward into your day. I’d love to give one to everyone I know (and you don’t have to be Catholic to appreciate them, either). Surprisingly enough, I do have one to give away to one lucky reader. Since I have been silent for so long over in my corner of the internet, if you’re here reading this now, you probably have an excellent chance of winning! Just leave me a comment below saying you’d like to win a book. I’ll do a drawing next Friday and post the winner’s name. You’ll have a week to claim your prize. Good luck!

5. After our month-long summer break from school, my kids are asking for more routine and structure and are all asking to start doing an “activity.” We have not been, up to this point, an “activity family.” Sam tried out soccer in a rec league for one short six-week season, and it didn’t make him happy. He also tried the violin for one academic year, but it wasn’t a good fit. (I should write about that some day.) Last year, we had the flurry of preparation classes for the sacraments at our parish, but that was about it.

Suddenly, Right Now, all the big kids are asking about 4-H, gymnastics, ballet, swimming, karate, and fencing. Surprisingly enough, even the girls, who have previously been “too shy” to participate in anything, are very eager to try something new.

I want to be supportive. Really, I do…but I am certain that if they each pick one activity, I will lose my mind. 

Maybe I can get them all to pick gymnastics and put them all in the same class?
Who is the patron saint of busy family schedules?
How did we get to be people with kids who are this old?
How do y’all do it with all the things in your schedule without eating in your minivan every night of the week?
etc. etc. etc.

6. I continue to slog my way through The Brothers Karamazov. I finally passed the halfway mark, but it feels like there is still an eternity to go. I do actually like the book, but it’s slow going despite my interest. I assumed for months that I had just lost my reading mojo (and that I probably just need glasses). Surprisingly enough, I read four other books while we were on vacation that weren’t Broski (as my friend and slogging partner Katherine has affectionately dubbed it) and was astonished to find that I am still a pretty fast reader. I can still focus on a page of text without falling asleep. I can still finish a book in a day or so. There’s just something mildly discouraging about Russian translations the size of cinder blocks.

7. One of the things I’m looking forward to resuming with the start of school is our family practice of memorizing scripture. I wrote a little about it at CatholicMom this week– about why we bother, about why we think it’s valuable, and about how to get started. I’m still working out our list of verses for this year, and I’d love to know- do you have a favorite scripture verse? If you share it with me, it might make the cut…and I’ll post our whole (proposed) list in the next couple of weeks after we finalize it. Usually it consists of mostly short verses, a few medium length passages, and one or two longer passages (last year those were Psalm 23 and the prologue to the Gospel of John). So tell me- what verse do you think is worth knowing by heart?

That’s it for me- you’re all caught up. If you made it this far, thank you for sticking around! Don’t forget to tell me if you’d like to win a copy of The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion

For more Quick Takes, go visit Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum.