7 quick takes, Felix

7 Quick Takes: Felix is one edition

So, this baby is one. One! A whole year has gone by since that day when the midwife met us at the hospital for my favorite birth ever. In case any of my kids ever read this, please know that saying it was my favorite birth ever doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s my favorite child. Not necessarily. I love all of you in your own special ways.

Ahem.

Because he is the fourth child, Felix has suffered in the baby record keeping department. I don’t have a baby book for him with all the carefully recorded milestones and the dates his teeth came in and what face he made the first time he ate peas. I do have a lot of pictures on my phone. (What did people do before they had smart phones to take pictures of their kids?)

I guess they just remembered to write things down in their carefully-kept baby books.

This week, though, I’m focusing on letting good enough be good enough, and I’m not going for perfect. So pictures will have to do, Felix. Good thing we have so many wonderful pictures of you!

I made a collage of pictures from Felix’s first year for the birthday party. It’s amazing how much he’s changed.

Our gift to the baby who already has everything by way of hand-me-downs was a plastic baby pool with ball pit balls in it.

It was awesome. He loved it. I think it’s the perfect one year old present, and I kind of want to give it to every one year old I know.

My nephew will turn one on September 1, but we will not be sending him a plastic pool filled with balls, because he lives in Nome, Alaska. His mother will probably be grateful.

If she had experienced this gift, though, she might appreciate the ball pit more.

George’s sister and her family, in a gesture of love (and possibly out of a desire to get even with us for that child-sized electronic drum we gave their son- our nephew and godson- on his first birthday), gifted Felix with his own Rock and Roll Elmo.

Elmo sings, dances, taps his foot, plays the tambourine and the bongos, and will share his instruments and microphone with any child who takes them out of his hand.

“Okay! Your turn to use the microphone! Ha ha ha ha!”

(Why does Elmo sound so maniacal when he laughs? It gives me the creeps.)

Anyway, our baby boy was delighted with Elmo and crawled right up to him to put his chubby baby fingers in Elmo’s mouth. Elmo just kept singing, but I thought it was kind of charming. It turns out that if my baby loves Rock and Roll Elmo, I kind of love him, too. I was even happy about the extra set of batteries they gave us.

Since the arrival of Elmo, Felix has started dancing. I don’t know if Elmo really gets credit for this development or if it is just coincidental. Either way, it’s really awesome. He dances sitting down, standing up, and in his car seat. I could watch it all day.

A one year old’s birthday party is a tricky thing. It needs to be kind of low-key and comfortable. We were so precious about Sam’s first birthday- our “first” first birthday. We tightly controlled the guest list, the food, the start and finish times (carefully chosen to protect both morning and afternoon nap) and Baby Sam’s overall sugar consumption.

No longer a baby. Semi-pro cake eater.

This time…well, yeah. Our family is bigger, so there’s a certain amount of chaos around here all the time. Our siblings’ families have also grown, and most of our close friends have several children, too. It ended up being a rather sizable crowd with children running everywhere in our backyard. We bought a bunch of kites from Dollar Tree and gave them to all the kids. That led to a wonderful, harmonious time where everyone seemed to be flying a kite. The only downside was that I felt like the soundtrack from Mary Poppins was in my head for the rest of the weekend.

Although I have never been one of those people who talks about how fast time is passing, I feel like time is passing fast with this baby. How is it that he’s already one? The rest of our children seem to be exactly the right ages, and I don’t feel time rushing by when I look at them (even though Sam is doing all kinds of big-kid things this summer every time I turn around). There’s something about Felix, though- there’s something about his turning 1 that makes me want to slow things down just a little bit.

Unfortunately, if I slow down at all, I’ll just have to run faster to catch up with all the others…and who knows what they’ll get into before I get there. Might as well keep on going, I suppose!

Happy birthday, Felix. You are the most, and we love you.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 quick takes

7 Quick Takes: The Little Wins edition

Once upon a time, there was a blogger who never blogged.
The end.
No, just kidding. Sometimes, she sat down at her computer and a bunch of words came flying out of her brain through her fingers and onto the screen, and she hit “publish” and people got to read them. Most of the time, though, she hit “save” and the words sat for a long time with the word “draft” beside them and no one ever read them…except the writer herself, when she needed a post for some looming deadline and thought she might try to recycle one.
The trouble with blogging in fits and starts is that so many things don’t ever make it to the screen. I end up feeling like there are big holes in the story- so many little things I haven’t told you! So today, I’m sharing some of them. We’ll call it the Little Wins edition…the deceptively insignificant-actually great stuff that has happened lately that I want you to know. 
Ready? Here goes.

This week, I roasted a whole chicken by myself. I cut up the veggies and rubbed butter and kosher salt and pepper all over the thing, and I remembered to take out the yucky parts in the middle before I put it in the oven this time, and I even stuck some cloves of garlic in there to replace those yucky parts. And…it was amazing. So, so good. I felt like such a grownup that I even texted three people a picture of the chicken after I put it into the oven and told them that I felt like a grownup.

If you were one of those people, thanks for not telling me to grow up…because as far as I am concerned, I just did.

Let no one say that I have no domestic skills (even if some of them might have been late-blooming). Win.

The kids got a craft box this week from One of Those Monthly Box Subscription Services that are all the rage right now. I am not, overall, impressed with this company, but this box was a hit because it had a robot theme and included a hexbug.

Do you know hexbugs? They are pretty awesome things! Here’s a link*:

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I hadn’t seen them until my nephew’s birthday this year, where there was a whole little hexbug world happening with little robotic bugs climbing up and down these plastic connected tubes. It looked like a Habitrail I used to have for my gerbils for the middle school science fair.

So, we now have a hexbug of our own. My first thought when I saw it was, “Oh, no, here comes a HUGE problem,” because there was only one of him and three kids who were clamoring for him right away.

But then, this happened:

The big kids collaboratively built a course for the hexbug. They figured out he didn’t work well on the carpet, so they put down books. He didn’t do well on the books, so they lined up wooden blocks end to end and made a road. He fell off the sides of the road, so they made bumper-style walls for him on either side, complete with a little wooden box garage door trap at the end. They released him into their course and cheered for him until he reached the box…over and over and over.

It was amazing.

It might have only lasted five minutes, but what a gloriously beautiful five minutes they were! No fighting! All teamwork! Somebody must be doing a great job of parenting those kids. Win!

Before they could start pulling each other’s hair out and squabbling over the bug, I left.

I left. And I went out to dinner at a Mexican restaurant with my friends and zero of my children. It was even more amazing than the hexbug.

Thank you, George. I ate some chips with salsa for you.

(Win. Obviously.)

Mexican dinner out was especially amazing because I can now eat dairy again. The dairy elimination didn’t really seem to help Felix at all, so we decided to do a dairy reintroduction trial and see what happened. There was no difference. That’s not great news for Felix, but it’s good news for my diet. My short-lived exile from all milk products is over, and just in time to make a bunch of mint ice cream. I have missed ice cream so much.

I don’t mean to sound unconcerned about Felix- of course I’m still concerned about that, and since he’s about to go back to the doctor again (for his one-year checkup…how is that possible?), I’m sure we’ll get it straightened out. But ice cream and yogurt and cottage cheese and sliced cheddar and lasagna and queso dip and all the other things I haven’t been eating are not to blame for his issue. Thanks be to God.

Sam decided yesterday morning that he’s fascinated by robots and needs to know everything about them.

I know pretty much nothing about robots, and his questions were coming so fast and furious that he was practically spitting his Cheerios.

What’s a cyborg, technically? 
What’s the difference between a robot and a cyborg? 
So wouldn’t General Grievious be a cyborg? 
Does Darth Vader count, too, because parts of him are mechanical? 
What about Luke Skywalker? He has a mechanical hand! 
Well, is a cyborg like a kind of robot the way a square is a kind of rectangle? 
What kind of microchips are in their brains? 
Do robot brains even look like brains? 
Well, are you sure? Have you ever seen one? 
I bet the NASA guys would have made Curiosity’s brain shaped like a human brain just because they’d get a kick out of that.

Sigh.
I did what any reasonable homeschooling mom on summer break would do- I took him to the library with his card and sent him straight to his favorite librarian. She gets him. He went straight up to her, said, “I’m interested in robots now. These are my questions…” and she jumped into action. She found him a small selection of robot nonfiction, he copied an article from a science encyclopedia with some assistance (“Is this copier actually a robot? It’s doing a task that a human could do! Is it automated?”), and we headed out. Now he is building a robot in his project workspace. I don’t think there are any electrical parts in there, but I should probably double-check that he hasn’t dismantled something and cannibalized it for parts…like my sewing machine…

Hold on. I’ll be right back.

In other Sam news but completely unrelated to Sam (for reasons that will become clear), we’ve finally gotten to the bottom of the mysterious odor in his room. After weeks of futile carpet cleaning, sheet changing, and mattress airing, I have learned that someone seems to have been using the air vent in his room as a latrine.

Now, I should say (before this story goes any further) that a wise woman my mom’s age once told me about a little guy in her family named Yehudi. He lived in their table leg, and any time there was an incident with her three boys breaking something, Yehudi took the blame for it. She always told them she didn’t need to know who had done it- she just needed it to be fixed/cleaned up/made right.

She’s obviously a genius.

We don’t have Yehudi, but we apparently have “Mr. Nobody.”

Some stealthy interviewing led to the revelation that Mr. Nobody might have, on one occasion or another, peed in the vent. After seeking expert advice (thanks, Mary Beth!) I poured baking soda and vinegar down there as far as I could and wiped it up (unearthing a collection of Starburst wrappers in the process- apparently Mr. Nobody also has a candy stash someplace). I scrubbed the surrounding carpet, too, and the smell (while not entirely gone yet) is better.

Sam hung out and helped with the cleaning, and he assured me that Mr. Nobody was no longer using that vent for his bathroom needs. (“He was doing it, and he probably did it somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 – 20 times, but when he heard that you found out about it, he was really embarrassed and he stopped.”)

I’m not sure how my mom would have handled this, because I would never have done anything of the sort as a kid. I think this gets recorded as a parenting success. No one is peeing in the vent now, and we’re getting rid of the smell. Win.

That’s it. I wrote a 7 Quick Takes Post! Win! And now you’re all caught up on the little wins. Thanks to Kelly for hosting, and thanks to you for reading…and *if you click on that hexbug link and buy one (or whatever else you were planning to order from Amazon), your purchase helps support this blog at no cost to you- thank you for your support!

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

7 quick takes

7 Quick Takes: The Good Enough Edition

Wow. It’s been a really, really long time since I have done a set of quick takes. I mean to do it almost every week. I keep a little list of things that could be quick takes. I write and edit them but don’t quite finish, because I’m not quite satisfied…they’re not quite right…then life happens, and I usually just manage to get five minutes of writing done early Friday morning and have to call that “enough.” It’s not really enough. It’s just all there is, sometimes.

I’m kind of frustrated about that. I need to just let them be Good Enough Quick Takes and hit publish and let it go.

Today, I’m not dwelling on the frustration, though. Because Good Enough 7 Quick Takes! And Friday! And maybe a teensy bit of non-rain over there in the corner of the sky? Dare we hope?

Regardless, it’s good to be here.

This guy would like to point out that his mother forgot to take the monthly picture with the sticker again. Again. Because he’s the fourth baby, he says. You know what, though? He’s the first baby to even have any stinking stickers for each of his first twelve months. (He can thank his grandma for those.)

Anyway, he’s ten months old this week! And he’s crawling. The world is about to be very, very different for his older siblings, who have been warned, over and over, that babies like to eat Playmobil. And Littlest Pet Shop. And whatever other tiny choking hazards they have lying around the floors of their not-vacuumed-often-enough bedrooms.

I predict some medieval Playmobil weaponry will be the first thing swallowed. Anyone want to start a pool?

In other Felix news, his last checkup revealed that his head in in the 100th percentile for size. All our kids have big heads, but this one consistently tops the charts. He’s also been having stomach issues, and his doctor suggested that I limit dairy to see if it helps. I haven’t eaten dairy for a month now, and I’m not sure there has been any improvement. I hear it takes a while for dairy to get completely out of our systems, so maybe it just hasn’t been long enough…but I’m aware that if I call and tell them it isn’t helping, they might suggest we go gluten free. This is hard- I like ice cream so much that an ice cream maker was my birthday present last year- but least I can still have sorbet. I’ve been really missing George’s pizza, which is fantastic. This week, he brought me some non-dairy “cheese” (the first ingredient is water!). Vegan cheese is not tasty, but if I don’t pile it on, I can almost pretend it is real pizza (and if I don’t look at or smell the other people’s pizza with the melted feta and cheddar and other goodness on top).

Gluten free, though, would be really, really difficult.

I have much respect for all of you who are parenting people with food sensitivities. This is our first time dealing with any of this. If it helps, it will definitely be worth it, of course- but it’s hard to keep doing it when we aren’t really seeing any improvement yet.

Garden update: We have some things starting to come up: carrots, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, beans, some herbs, some strawberries and some melons. I had planned to expand our raised beds this year, but ended up deciding that I have enough going on and should stick with what we already have. (What is this feeling of deciding not to take on more than I can handle? I’m not sure, because it’s so out of character…I will let you know how it goes.)

In all the flowerbeds, there has been weeding galore to keep everyone (mostly me) busy. It’s hard to motivate small kids to weed gardens. I remember my grandma paying us to pull weeds, and even as a seven year old, I felt like the pay was not enough to convince me to sit on my knees in the dirt and rip out tiny clumps of clover. Last week, I dug out a corner of the flowerbed under the girls’ window where I once had a rosebush that shriveled up a couple of years ago. We always intended to plant another one there for the child we lost. When I uprooted the weeds and moved the dried up stuff that had accumulated there, I found the rosebush still growing there, thriving, and with two buds on it about to bloom. It felt like a small miracle.

In the vegetable raised beds, I put a chalkboard with space for the kids to update when we make our garden observations. Sam is doing some garden journaling using printable pages from Cathy James’ new book, The Garden Classroom, which has lots of good activities and really lovely pictures. I’m hoping to post a book list of garden books we’re loving next week.

School update: Instead of a formal test, I scheduled a local evaluator to come to meet with us. She talked with Sam, reviewed his work, appreciatively watched him demonstrate his bike riding skills in the driveway and determined that Sam has made adequate academic progress for first grade. The competitive person in me wants him to have made amazing progress in all areas and be ahead of everyone else. That’s why this was good for me. It’s not always about being the very very best you can possibly be. Sometimes, gentle progress is all we need.

Since she came, it feels like summer should be here. I’m having trouble motivating myself to do anything schoolish. Fortunately, this place is like a learning laboratory all the time, and Sam keeps things going with his multiple projects without my needing to prod him.

Currently on his project table: the rock project (ongoing), a Playmobil star wars stop motion film, an Ancient Egyptian tomb model/diorama looking thing with paintings on the walls, and a paper/cardboard model of the Parthenon.

It is tiring being his mom sometimes, but it is never, never boring.

It feels like it’s been raining all week, every day, all day long. This doesn’t necessarily keep us inside, but it made me realize just how much time we’ve been spending outside recently. Our house isn’t big, some people who live here have energy levels that are above average, and outside is like another room for us. When we have to stay in, it feels a bit cramped.

Being in such close quarters made me realize how much I have not been engaging with them as they play. If they are happily occupied together, I usually find something else to do- fold clothes, unload the dishwasher, get dinner started, etc. No, I don’t have to play with them, and they don’t need me to…but I took the opportunity this week to relax a bit and just hang out with them while they were playing. It was really good for our relationship.

It was not as good for the state of my house. But hey- it’s Friday! I have all weekend to scale that mountain of laundry that I haven’t folded, right?

Finally, can you guess what happens when your driver’s side window won’t go down and you have to have the van inspected and they don’t have the part to fix it and you have to have the van because you can’t cancel your kids’ big trip with their cousins to Dinosaurland?

You get a rejection sticker!

It’s only pending the arrival of the part, of course, and I could have changed our plans with my sister and her kids. That would have made the week a lot more difficult, since this trip was much anticipated. I gritted my teeth and drove the van with a rejection sticker. It wasn’t as bad as I thought…the sticker was white and small on the windshield, not a huge red poster with flashing neon lights around it as I had expected.

And we got to go to Dinosaurland.

I wrote about this place before– complete with lots of photos of a tinier Sam running around in a Velociraptor costume. You must visit if you’re ever anywhere close to here. It’s…unique.

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7 quick takes, pacifiers, random miscellany

7 Quick Takes: Pacifier Madness Edition

Because I know you’ve all been holding your breath to know how the glucose test turned out on Tuesday, I’m going to report on that first.

I don’t have gestational diabetes.

I know we could have dealt with it and managed just fine for the next 9 weeks or so, but I’m glad ecstatic that I don’t have to think about counting carbs and testing my blood sugar four times a day. It would just be one more thing, you know? My brain feels kind of full most days already.

We celebrated the news by eating a bunch of sugary yogurt with even sugarier toppings from Sweet Frog. (Do you have Sweet Frog? I feel sad if you don’t.)

Speaking of full brains, I’ve been wishing Dumbledore’s pensieve was a real thing that I could order on Amazon. I really, really need one. I have all these lists of things…stuff we need to do before the baby comes, things I need to take with me when I leave the house, errands I need to run, questions I need to remember to ask George. Sometimes in the middle of the night, I get up and “empty my brain” onto a piece of paper so I won’t have to lie there trying not to forget anything.

It seems like a terrible waste of energy. And paper.

I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links, you understand, when they are in this form.” 

Yes. This would be much more efficient.

One thing on my mind lately is the children’s 6 month dental appointment. So far, no one has had any cavities, but we go regularly so that Sam can have a cleaning and the girls can get used to the idea that one day they, too, will have their teeth cleaned.

It’s never boring.

The appointment was supposed to be on Tuesday, but since I was busy vacationing at the midwives’ office for the glucose test, I rescheduled for later this month. Our favorite babysitter is going along to be the extra set of hands (ever tried to wrangle 3 children ages five and under while someone tries to get them to open their mouths wide and starts touching their teeth? It. Is. Madness.) I’ve promised to treat everyone to Chick Fil-A afterward if we survive…but I already know the biggest hurdle we have to face will be before we arrive at the office that day.

The dreaded moment has arrived. It’s time to get rid of the girls’ pacifiers.

I know, I know. They’re 2 1/2. I should have done away with the pacis (or “passas,” as the girls call them) long ago. My sister told me so. “You’ve got to get rid of them early or it’s going to be even worse,” she said, having survived the process with her own daughter.

I should have listened. I was weak. I made excuses. “They only use them when they sleep,” I said, which is true- they turn the passas in when they get up, and I stash them in a high place where they are out of reach. Somehow, I thought only using them for sleeping would make it easier to ditch them when the time came.

(What was I thinking?)

Sam never used a pacifier, and I would have naively said then that people shouldn’t use them. Funny how having twins changed that know-it-all feeling I used to have. The pacifiers have been lifesavers. I’m indebted to them, really.

Did you ever see the old film Reefer Madness? It was all about how smoking marijuana made this group of respectable teenagers insane…they danced! to jazz music! how scandalous! and someone ended up getting shot, I think. Totally over the top craziness- it ended up becoming a cult classic.

No pacifiers. You’ll regret it one day.

Anyway, I can’t help thinking that we are in our own film- Paci Madness. It starts out fine enough…harmless little latex nipples with cute plastic rings on them that help the babies sleep. They don’t cry. They suck happily and drift off to dreamland. The parents sigh contentedly and smile at each other as they snuggle into their own bed, happy to be getting such wonderful rest. It’s all thanks to the paci.

And then…the paci madness starts.

The babies start throwing the pacis. They scream and demand that the parents come and pick them up. The parents drag themselves out of bed two, three, even four times in the night to retrieve the little lost opiates so that everyone can go back to sleep.

At just past two years of paci use, this is where we are.

The time has come to say goodbye to the pacis.

Besides, I know that in a few weeks, the dentist will ask if they are still using them, and I really want to be able to say, “No! They gave those up!” I’m pretty sure I get some kind of Good Mama Award if I do that, right?

Please, friends…pray for us. I think this could get ugly.

To replace the pacifiers, we told the girls they could choose “a special friend,” which is their name for a stuffed animal.

Where would they like to go to look for these special friends?

IKEA, of course.

I think Lucy and Nora have been to IKEA once since they were old enough to remember, but they talk about it all the time. They push their babies in their strollers and say they’re going to IKEA. They drive their Duplo guys in cars and say they are going to IKEA. I’m not sure what IKEA did to make them customers for life, but they got these girls early.

Anyway, I think we’re going this weekend for the special friends and random other pre-baby needs: plastic mattress covers, hooks for towels, a small bookshelf, a lamp.

And probably meatballs. (Why are those so good?)

I guess we could view quitting the pacifiers as a milestone of sorts, just one I’d rather not have to experience.

Other milestones are much more pleasant. Every time we finish a read-aloud book with Sam, it feels like kind of a milestone, too- the kind you fondly note in someone’s baby book (or their homeschool reading log!). We finished Peter Pan this week and are ready to move on to our next book. After some discussion, it seems like it will be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory this time.

This post by Micaela made me think. Are we introducing some of these books too soon? Having an advanced reader in the house is challenging- he wants to read better and harder stories all the time, and usually we try to have our read-alouds be things he might not be ready to tackle on his own. I try to guide him toward things that he’s emotionally ready to handle and that won’t overwhelm him. Peter Pan was racier than I remembered- we had to skip some parts when we were reading aloud- but he loved the story and the pirates and the excitement. I know he’ll read the book again in a few years when he’s more mature because he was so fond of it. I don’t want him to be forced to only read The Magic Treehouse books for the next few years until his maturity catches up a bit to his reading level…but I’m not willing to throw him into the deep end with books that he’s not ready to handle.

For now, I think it’s okay that some of the language and some of the themes in what we read aloud together are going over his head. We’re laying a foundation and fostering a love for great language and good stories and deep, interesting characters. It’s okay if he doesn’t get every detail right now.

George is doing another running streak this year. Last year, I participated, too…we ran at least a mile a day every day from Memorial Day to Independence Day. It was challenging, fun, and motivating, and it helped lay the groundwork for my marathon training.

This year, I’m jealous of the running streak (or really, of anyone who can run at all). My joints are super loose this pregnancy- my hips have been popping in and out of joint just from ordinary activities of daily living, so I can’t chance any running until a while after this baby is born. I miss it so much. I think running functions kind of like the pensieve for me…a place to deposit thoughts and sort them out.

The endorphins are nice, too.

At least I have some labor-related endorphins to look forward to…and the running days will be back eventually. Still, if you’re one of those people posting every day about your mileage on social media, please don’t be upset if I stop commenting on your posts for a bit. It’s not personal. I’m just sad without my own miles to claim…and you don’t want me to compensate by starting to post about how many poopy diapers I rinsed off every day.

Hey, maybe now that we are getting rid of the pacifiers, we can tackle that potty training thing in earnest!

As always, thanks to Jen, our amazing host.
For more Quick Takes, visit her at Conversion Diary!
7 quick takes

7 Quick Takes: mark all as read edition

Earlier this week, my friend Jenna posted on Facebook that “sometimes, life is life and you have to Mark All As Read.” I’ve been feeling so behind on everything- on reading other blogs, on reading and responding to comments here, on reading and responding to e-mails, on writing deadlines, on cleaning the microwave (which I finally did do and it was AWFUL in there).

Jenna, you are right. Life is life. I wish there was a Mark All As Read function for the laundry, but since there isn’t, I’m following your example with my online life. I can’t possibly catch up. If I missed something huge, someone please tell me.

I’m rebooting here on the blog, too, and focusing on moving forward. I can’t catch y’all up on everything at this point, but here’s a small window into what we have been doing. Just for fun, I’m doing this Super Quick Takes Haiku Style. Why use lots of words when just a few (and some well placed photos) will do?

Chincoteague Island.
(Yes, the beach is worth all of
the minivan sand.)



We took a trip out to Chincoteague Island last weekend- it was the best way to fit in one last beach trip before there are six of us instead of five. It was lovely. The kids are already asking to go back instead of having a birthday party in September (when all three of their birthdays happen). What reasonable adult would argue with that?

There will be six of us then, and one of us will be about six weeks old. At this moment, though, the mere fact that there will only be one new baby and not two makes this whole idea seem incredibly doable.

Hubris?

Sorting hand-me-downs-
like Purgatory, because
at least it’s not Hell.

I am always so, so grateful for the boxes of hand-me-down clothes we have stocked away in our shed, but somehow, the sight of those gray bins stacked in my kitchen makes me feel like the walls are pressing in on me. I’ve worked diligently, though, and everyone has their summer clothes in the house (washed, dried, folded, mostly put away) and their fall/winter clothes in bins ready to go back out to the shed. That’s no small feat.

Knitting for babies:
nothing’s quite like getting kicked
inside while purling.

I’m working on the most wonderful striped blanket for Upcoming Baby Boy Dupuy (loosely based on this pattern, but not, because I can’t ever just do something simple and follow the directions). Also in the knitting project pile- a hat for my Nephew-To-Be and a just-completed hat for my cousin’s new baby daughter.


Oh, Dorothy Day!
I love you, but your writing
makes me so sleepy. 

I’m almost finished with The Long Loneliness, our second-to-last book for the Well-Read Mom this year (which I’ve been hosting every month at my house). Our meeting is Sunday. I have to finish it before then, because if I don’t, I never, never will. It’s not that I don’t like it. I like it a lot. For some reason, though, maybe a writing style reason or a third trimester reason or a just-have-too-much-going-on reason, every time I read more than about eight pages, my eyes get really, really heavy.

It’s very interesting, and you should still read it. Really.

Once isn’t enough
when it comes to glucose drinks.
Fast, drink and repeat.

I was not thrilled completely horrified to get a call from my midwives’ office two days ago, informing me that my results on that awful one-hour glucose test were “borderline.” Never mind that I’ve had two normal tests already this pregnancy (and two the last pregnancy, and three the pregnancy before that)…borderline means I need to do the fasting three-hour test on Tuesday.

For the uninitiated, this involves not eating for 14 hours, going to the office, having blood drawn, then drinking 100 mg of what tastes like flat orange soda and trying not to throw up or pass out for the next three hours while they draw your blood three more times (once each hour).

Since SuperSam, my first baby, weighed over ten pounds, they always kind of want to give me gestational diabetes. So far, they have been unsuccessful.

The odd thing is, I’m kind of looking forward to the time by myself in the waiting room. How bad is it that three hours of waiting for blood draws on an empty stomach sort of sounds relaxing? I’ll be on twitter and facebook, I’m sure…anyone want to hang out?

Dear Galactica,
I avoided you so long.
Now I’m really hooked.

You know you’ve been watching too much Battlestar Galactica on Netflix when you start making jokes to the phlebotomist at the midwives’ office about her testing your blood to see if you’re a Cylon.

They look human now, you know.

Just saying.

Now you’re all caught up.
Liberated by Jenna,
I’m all caught up, too.

 

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 quick takes, humble

7 Quick Takes: The Humble Edition

Humbled. (#HolyLens, Day 3)

I spent today looking at my world from a slightly different angle.

I’ve been struggling lately with feeling grouchy at my kids, and they’ve been struggling with listening and following directions. After a big meltdown last night when I confessed to George that I felt invisible and like no one ever heard anything I said, I decided to do some things differently today.

I sat on the floor a lot.

I realized that much of my day is spent above or beside my children, but not usually below them. I do make an effort to get to eye level when I have something serious to discuss with them, but many of my “regular maintenance” comments fly around above their heads. “Don’t forget to put your plate in the sink.” “Time to make your bed.” “We need to get dressed.” “Please get your coat on.”

Today, I tried saying everything directly to them, looking into their eyes, either at or below their level.

It sort of worked. The girls listened. They were sweet and compliant and helpful. They were even kinder to each other and did more talking about their feelings to each other and less hitting.

At one point, sitting in the kitchen on the floor with Lucy as she matched up magnetic animals’ heads and rear ends, I kept hearing a noise. Kind of a clicking noise. What WAS that? It was driving me crazy.

I finally realized it was the rivets on the back pockets of my jeans- my maternity jeans- the more comfortable of only two pair I have, which means I wear them almost every day.

If I’ve never before heard the sound of them clicking on the kitchen floor, I haven’t been sitting on the kitchen floor very much.

Based on today’s results, I’m planning to spend more time there. Clicking rivets be darned.

My new strategy still didn’t work with Sam. He had a really tough day. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t yell at him one time, not even when he was yelling at me. Beyond that, I’m thinking we’ll just try again tomorrow.

Lucy had a to-do list. I had no idea she was keeping a list in her head of “her work,” as she called it, until she asked if I could help her write it down.

Here it is:

Lucy’s List

  • do alphabet games (this involved arranging letters and numbers in lines on cookie sheets and singing the ABC song)
  • research what a hippo says
  • read Jump Frog, Jump (but not just read it…act it out with a frog puppet and jump off the couch screaming whenever the frog jumps)
  • play “the duck game” (which turned out to be the magnetic Fridge Farm that I hid on top of the refrigerator months ago. How did she even remember that?)

By the end of the day, we did all these things.

(In case you are wondering, a hippopotamus sounds remarkably like a pig…a really, really big pig.)

Nora spent most of the day playing with magnetic letters. She holds up each letter and says, “Na-na-na-na-Sam!” or “Na-na-na-na-ice cream!” with great relish and pride. She’s so thrilled about it. I hate to correct her every time (especially because Sam does correct her if he hears her make any mistake, ever), so I always get excited when she picks up an N and says, “Na-na-na-na-Nora!” It feels so great to see her face light up.

(I keep telling Sam to give her a break. She’s two. She has plenty of time to figure out the right sounds. At this point, it’s just fun for her. He says she’ll never learn if he doesn’t tell her she’s wrong. As the oldest sibling in my family, I know how he feels, but I still feel bad for the girls when he is hard on them for making mistakes. I also feel like I should probably issue blanket apologies to all my younger siblings.)

I’m sorry, guys.

We spent some time before lunch playing the piano and singing songs the kids requested. In the middle of the sing-a-long, there was a knock at the door. It was our friendly neighborhood Jehovah’s Witnesses, who always come at the worst possible times. Once, they caught me tandem nursing (and kept on knocking and knocking because they could see I was sitting on the couch right beside the front door). After that, I stopped leaving the blinds open. Another time, they came when I was holding two screaming babies and two poopy cloth diapers. (Sam opened the door that time- I didn’t even know he could do that.). After that, we put a childproof doorknob thingy on the door so he couldn’t open it. A different time, they came right at the beginning of nap time and rang the bell repeatedly, causing the twins to wake up and cry loudly. Sam was already having a tantrum on the floor in front of the door because he didn’t want to nap. (After that one, I took a reader’s suggestion and put a sign over the doorbell informing visitors that we were napping.)

Anyway, they don’t have the best track record with timing.

Today, the lady looked surprised to see all the children lined up on the piano bench. I told her we had been singing some songs. She ignored this and wanted to talk to me about the papers she had brought to share. She read me John 3:16 from her Bible. (I told her that was a great verse.)

I think she might have preferred me to remain silent and let her evangelize without interruption.

As I stood there, pretending to listen to her, trying to think of how to get rid of her, she suddenly said, “Do you like being a mom?”

The question caught me off guard. This woman, always perfectly dressed and smiley, has seen some things just inside my front door. Usually when she’s been here, I haven’t showered. She’s witnessed toddler tantrums and heard me speaking in my not-quiet-mommy-voice just seconds before she rang the bell. It’s not like I could pretend that it’s all smiles and rainbows.

“Well, I think we all have our moments,” I finally said, “and I know you’ve seen some of mine. Most of the time, though, yes. I really love being a mom, and I feel blessed to have this time to stay home with my children and nurture and teach them.”

She looked satisfied and told me to have a good day. As I closed the door and turned around, all three of my children were beaming at me from the piano bench.

Humbling.

Speaking of humbling, I’ve been so amazed by how our little photo-a-day project has grown. We have a bunch of people faithfully posting their photos on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It’s inspiring to see how everyone is interpreting the prompts, and I love hearing from people around the country (and some from Canada!) who are participating.

If you haven’t joined us yet, it’s not too late. Look here for the list of prompts for the first week. I’ll have the prompts for next week up here on Sunday so you can plan ahead. Remember to use the hashtag #HolyLens when you post your photos so everyone can find them.

I did a great big list of Lent links earlier this week, and I’m adding to it as new things come my way. If you have a link you’d like me to include (for a resource, a craft, a family activity, an app or a book recommendation), please let me know. I’d love to add it to the list and help promote it.

Thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting this party.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
7 quick takes, random miscellany

7 Quick Takes, 2 Days Late: The Awesome Train of Thought edition

Speaking of awesome, everything is. Awesome, that is. If you haven’t seen The Lego Movie, you should. It’s hilarious. We took Sam tonight on a Mama-Daddy-Sam date to his very first movie, and this movie was worthy of being someone’s very first movie. It was great. The grown ups in the theater were laughing more than the kids.

Also, I’m adding the theme song to my running playlist.

In addition to going to movies and taking up swordfighting with paper towel tubes, Sam has been looking for more adventure in his life and has begun bathtub snorkeling (with the safety goggles from his dinosaur fossil excavation kit and a leftover juice box straw from his McDonald’s Happy Meal).

He wants to try it at Lake Arrowhead.

I think we will probably be saved from watching him suck that algae-filled water into his mouth by the simple fact that when Lake Arrowhead opens for swimming, the juice box straw (and possibly the goggles, too) will have been lost for a long time already.

Sam has also begun reading my blog. He finds it by googling “survin our blessings.”  I realized it when he referenced a post I’d written about Lucy and suddenly started using the word “rogue” (which he pronounces “ROG-yoo”).  I don’t think I use that word a lot (do I?), but he said this blog post is where he first saw it.

ROG-yoo.

That seems like a reasonable way to pronounce it.

Speaking of pronouncing things (or mispronouncing them, as the case may be), this video is a hit at our house. Everyone keeps asking to watch it again and again. I’ll post it here as a public service announcement in case we are the only Dupuys you know.

Now you try it. Doo-Pwee. It’s not that bad. Not Deputy, Duppy, Doopy, DuPREE, or (my personal favorite) Dah-POO-Wee.

Tomorrow’s forecast: more snow and ice.  I am not complaining, because I love snow and ice. Mostly I just need there to be enough that things get canceled and we can hang out at home in our jammies. Still, after being able to go without coats this weekend, even I will be ready for warmer weather when it finally gets here. I feel like winter is the hardest time to be a parent of small children. All the coats need zipping and half the mittens are always lost no matter how careful we are to put them away.

Does that happen to you all, too? And why is it that the moment when I just need them to wear one pink and one grey striped mitten is the one moment that my kids decide they really, really have to match?

Nora, who dressed herself in three shirts, a jacket, tights, and two pairs of legwarmers.

Speaking of colors and matching, I Love This Game. Lucy got it as a Valentine’s gift from George’s mom, and it’s so much fun. Even Sam likes playing. You should get it for the two-year-old in your life.

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(That’s a Big Fat Amazon Affiliate Link. If you click through it and buy something, Amazon will pay me a tiny amount of money for promoting them. Even if you don’t buy the game through that link, you should really get it somewhere.)

It’s a large plush cube with a color on each side. The colors correspond to cards that have tasks on them…things like stomp your feet six times, or make a silly face, or find something that is blue. The child rolls the cube, picks a card with the matching color, and then completes the task. There is no winner, there is no time limit, and everyone in my house thinks it’s the best thing ever.

Part of the reason I had kids was so I’d have someone to play games with me, so having one that even the two-year-olds can play makes my life wonderful.

Lent starts next week on Ash Wednesday. Starting tomorrow, I’m working with Bethanne’s Best and Two O’s Plus More to do a meatless meal linkup each Monday. I’ll also have a post this coming Tuesday for all those of you who (like me) might not have figured out exactly what you’re doing for Lent yet. Expect lots of ideas from people who are already on top of their stuff (and also an explanation from me about why it’s okay if you aren’t yet). All good things.

Also, if you haven’t seen our Lent-stagram photo-a-day linkup yet, we’ll be starting on Wednesday with a daily prompt based on the lectionary readings for the day. Come post your photos on Instagram, Twitter or your favorite social media outlet and make this community photo journal even better.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 quick takes, Olympics

7 Quick Takes: The Olympics Edition

We are a dedicated bunch of Olympics-watchers in this household.
Since we moved into our new house (nearly 2 years ago), we haven’t had TV. We have a Netflix subscription that we occasionally use on our TV, but usually we just don’t have it on much. Since NBC and the cable companies were so stingy about their online coverage during the last Olympics, though, we got cable just for this month so we could watch in prime time.

We’ve been staying up way too late every night. Our oldest child has been staying up way too late every night, too…but he’s clearly caught the Olympic spirit, because he’s been staging his own events all this week.

We have two new celestial residents at our home. Sam saved up his allowance and did some odd jobs to earn enough money to buy Venus (pictured above with her gold medal from the first-ever Celestial Snowboard Cross event). George’s mom then sent the Comet for Valentine’s Day.

Sam took Mars and Venus outside in the snow to compete (complete with snow goggles and snowboards made from the tops of his Lego storage boxes). Mars wiped out, so Venus got the gold. At the last minute, Mercury also competed so that there could be a third planet on the podium. Flags were hastily assigned to everyone. When it was time to play the anthem, though, Sam pointed out that none of the planets are from Earth, so they couldn’t appropriately have a national anthem from one of Earth’s countries. (Earth wasn’t even competing.)

For the anthem, he chose California Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas. You can debate its appropriateness as a Winter Olympics event song. I think it kind of worked.

Speaking of the national anthem, I’m really bothered by how many US athletes start singing along with The Star-Spangled Banner and then don’t seem to know the words. George thinks I’m overreacting, but it just bugs me. It’s not a hard song to learn (not the words, anyway). Doesn’t it seem reasonable that if someone is going to the Olympics, he or she could either learn the words ahead of time or just not sing?

I propose sending all our summer games teams with a little leaflet and CD to help them learn the anthem on the flight to Rio. It would help pass the time. Or, we could substitute California Dreamin’ – I think everyone knows the words to that.

Not to be outdone by their brother, Nora and Lucy have been creating their own Olympic events. Lucy slides back and forth on the coffee table on her tummy and calls it “snow sliding.” I’ve decided never to let her watch skeleton, because I’m afraid she’d actually try it. For her part, Nora has been putting Sam’s sock puppets over her hands and feet and “speed skating” on all fours across our kitchen floor. 

We have yet to experience any major injuries from these events.

The girls have also been putting me through some crazy, diaper-related, potty-training Olympics. They take their diapers off as soon as they’re behind closed doors (like at nap time), which usually relates in potty-related messes. Some have been worse than others. I was able to get the upper hand for a few days by putting onesies under their clothes during nap time, but this morning, they were both completely naked when we got them up. The pajamas were unzipped on the floor with the onesies beside them…and the onesies were still snapped.

Maybe they should consider training as escape artists instead of Olympians.

With all the pregnancy-related tiredness (which I’ve exacerbated by staying up way too late watching Olympics every night), I’ve been in a lazy slump with our cloth diapers and have just been using disposable ones. We ran out of our favorite disposables from Target, so George picked up a box at Costco the other night while Sam and I were at violin lessons.

Oddly enough, the Kirkland brand diapers have lots of French on the outside of the box. How very global of them! Do a lot of French speakers shop for diapers at Costco?

Sam noticed that, despite the international flair of including the International Olympic Committee’s official language, there were no Olympic rings anywhere on the box. “Costco doesn’t support the Olympic Games!” he concluded, eyes widened in slightly judgy disbelief.

Come on, Costco. Be a team player. If Home Depot and McDonald’s can do it, so can you.

I’m banning styrofoam from our house until further notice. Always a fan of recycled materials, I saved some big pieces of styrofoam from a packing box for Sam’s endless projects. After turning a piece of it into a birthday cake for Saturn, he crumpled it up into itty bitty bits all over his floor. The bits are stuck to everything- his hair, our pants, our bath towels, the carpet in every single room. They cannot be vacuumed up, no matter how hard we try. We have to pick them up by hand and put them way down inside the trash can by sticking them to something already in there- otherwise, they adhere to the underside of the lid and escape again when someone throws something away.

They kind of remind me of the granular spring snow that everyone is complaining about in Sochi.

Thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting this party.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 quick takes, random miscellany

7 Quick Takes: The Jumble of Thoughts edition

This is true 7 Quick Takes – 7 things you want to know that aren’t long enough to warrant their own posts.

How badly you want to know about these things depends on who you are and how interesting you find my musings about random things (like Suzuki violin, car alarms and Random Guys With Fishing Poles).

SuperSam told me today that he loves me as much as 13 million thousand googolplex thousand gajillion Jupiters in a row. And if all the planets’ orbits were stretched out in a straight line, end to end, and then fused together and then bent into one enormous ellipse, it would not be big enough to contain God’s love for us.

Word.

In the world of Suzuki violin at the Dupuy household, things have been bumpy this week. Yesterday, my very stubborn, very articulate son spent two and a half hours trying to argue with me about why he couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t/didn’t have time to practice his Twinkle Variations. I sat in a chair the whole time and just kept saying, “I hear what you’re saying. Unfortunately, you can’t move on to the next thing until you finish your practice.” He finally did it.

Once he started, it took him less than 10 minutes to play all the variations and 8 repetitions of the first phrase of “Lightly Row.”

Then it was time for lunch. It was time for lunch because he used up our entire morning with his non-practicing, and I let him do it.

I knew about twenty minutes into the whole thing that the approach I was taking wasn’t really working. I also knew he wasn’t going to back down easily. In a very mature, awesome parent moment, I decided to dig in my heels and be more stubborn than he was.

Although he did eventually finish, it didn’t feel like a victory. I hate it when my child’s weaknesses are so clearly coming from me.

Today, I gave him a marshmallow for each variation- he got to eat them at the end. The whole process took 12 minutes, and he got an extra marshmallow for being awesome. Maybe things are turning around.

We have been enjoying the new-to-us van. Every time we get into it, Lucy says, “This is really our car now,” and Nora says, “Hewwo, new van!” The downside: there are these crazy newfangled electronic keys that only open with buttons, and only one of them works. Somehow, George ended up with the working one.

Only the driver’s door has a regular lock. To use it, you have to slide this button on the electronic key thingy over and push another button to pull a valet key out of the top. Then you can put the valet key in the door to unlock it.

When you open the door handle, though, a crazy loud alarm starts, and everyone within a mile looks to see who is trying to steal a van. To stop it, you have to stuff the valet key back into the top of the electronic key thingy and shove it into the ignition and turn it on. Meanwhile, your kids cover their ears and scream at you about how loud the alarm is, and everyone nearby stares as you struggle to stop it as quickly as possible.

George, we have to remember to switch keys.

The Sisters’ increasingly crazy nap time situation has resulted in Lucy’s temporary relocation to a nap spot in the living room. I have begun removing her to a pack and play by herself for nap time. Without Nora to do her bidding, she gets bored and falls asleep. Without Lucy to keep her awake, Nora also falls asleep. There is, altogether, less trouble and more sleep.

There is also a pack n play in the living room, which (as you might imagine) adds greatly to the decor.

Tomorrow, we are making the questionable choice to go to IKEA. It can be pretty crazy on a Saturday, I know, but this trip really needs to happen. We have to get a wardrobe for the girls’ room to have a way to close something up (so that they stop redecorating their bedroom behind closed doors with every article of clothing they own). They also need actual big girl beds, because we need at least one of their cribs for the new baby (and it seems better to make that transition early for many reasons). SuperSam desperately needs a clip on reading lamp that will clamp onto his bed.

Thank goodness we have that van with the stow and go seat…and George’s key, so the alarm won’t even go off when we open it.

It’s 55 degrees here today. Lucy sighed as we passed the Greenway on Wednesday (when the high temp was 16 degrees) and asked if we would ever be able to take a walk there again. “I remember there is a tunnel that I love so much in my heart,” she said. After naps today, we headed out there to walk. We needed to take advantage of the bright sunny spot of warmth…they’re calling for snow and more super coldness next week.

On our walk, we met another twin mom with a little girl in kindergarten and a set of fraternal 2 year old boys who were born the day after Lucy and Nora. That is an instant friendship. It almost doesn’t matter if we have anything else in common. We exchanged phone numbers. I kind of wanted to hug her and buy her one of those BFF necklaces, but I decided to wait.

Also on our Greenway walk, we encountered a Random Guy With Fishing Pole who gestured at The Sisters in their red coats and grunted, “They’s twins?” When I told him they were, he pointed his fishing pole at my stomach and said, “You better not be havin’ twins again!”

That’s one I haven’t heard before. I guess I can add it to the list of things you should never say to a mom of multiples. Or anyone, really.

Also, I guess I officially look pregnant enough that Random Guys With Fishing Poles are going to stop their fishing to call me out about it. Good to know.

You know what’s almost never boring? Attending ecumenical gatherings with my liturgically-minded Catholic kids. We occasionally go to Mission Friends, a non-denominational gathering of parents and kids at the Baptist church in town. The kids hear a story about a real-life missionary, have a snack, sing songs together, and usually do an art project. Today, there was a tray game (just like at a baby shower). Objects related to the missionaries of the day were arranged on a tray. The tray was covered with a blanket, and an object was removed. The kids had to guess what was missing. SuperSam and his friend Aubrey are the big kids now and confidently supplied the majority of the answers.

At one point, the leader asked, “Why would I put a candle on the tray today?” SuperSam didn’t hesitate at all. “Because it’s almost Candlemas!”

(I’m pretty sure from my own Baptist upbringing that Ms. Judy has never heard of Candlemas.)

He’s right, though. Candlemas is this Sunday. Candlemas is 40 days after Christmas- the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. Traditionally, churches bless the candles that will be used for the rest of the year on this day. Although our church doesn’t really do that, we still like to mark the day and will probably stock up on new candles at IKEA tomorrow.

St. Brigid’s day is coming up tomorrow, too. Here is how we celebrated St. Brigid last year. If you’re looking for ideas to celebrate either of these days, check out these great posts:

Overview of Liturgical Living in February from Carrots for Michaelmas
Liturgical Living: Candlemas from Carrots for Michaelmas
Candlemas and St. Blaise from Two O’s Plus More
Ideas for Celebrating Candlemas from Catholic Icing

Have a great weekend- and check out more quick takes over at Conversion Diary!

7 quick takes, homeschool

7QT: Answers to those Homeschool Frequently Asked Questions

So, how’s it GOING?

I’ve been getting this question a lot lately, almost as often as I did back in the fall when we first decided NOT to send SuperSam to public school kindergarten and to homeschool instead. I guess it’s a new year, halfway through a school year…everyone wants to know if we think we did the right thing.

(Okay, not everyone. That might be overstating it a bit.)

Still, a lot of people want to know what we think of our choice to homeschool this year. I think people are mostly just curious because this is such a different path than the ones George and I traveled as kids. Some people are concerned, too, and their questions reflect their affection for Sam and their wondering about how we are handling things.

So, to put all of your minds at rest, I’m sharing the answers to the 7 Most Frequently Asked Questions about our decision to homeschool this year (with lots of photos of SuperSam’s education in progress, for your viewing pleasure).

These takes might be slightly less quick than usual. I do want to be thorough, you know?

Testing to see if this viewer will work as a telescope

Do you think you made the right decision in homeschooling this year?

Absolutely, 100% yes. I have no doubt that we did the right thing.

My son is an interesting kid.

  • He’s curious and creative with boundless energy and lots of faith in himself. This can make him a challenging family member. 
  • He is always certain that what he has to say is the most important. 
  • He doesn’t have a “lower” volume setting. 
  • He wiggles almost constantly and often falls off his seat at mealtimes or during church. 
  • He gets distracted easily (especially by written material, which he always has to read even when it isn’t for him, especially if he’s supposed to be doing something else). 
  • He has laser-sharp focus for hours on projects or books that capture his interest, but he can’t remember to get his shoes on if you send him to his room for that purpose. 
  • He puts everything in his mouth…you can immediately recognize his pencils because the erasers are chewed off. 
  • He often makes crazy bad decisions in the name of science because he wants “to see what will happen.” 
  • He remembers everything he reads. (Yes, I really mean everything.)
  • He corrects adults when he knows they are wrong and has to be reminded that it’s not always polite to do so. 
  • He has no patience for rote tasks or for daily chores, like making the bed. (“Why? I’m just going to unmake it when I sleep in it, anyway…what’s the point?”)

Basically, he’s a high-energy, intelligent five-year-old boy.

He is completely awesome at the following things: making up wildly entertaining stories, creating and performing plays with complicated plots, doing research to answer questions he thinks of while he should be sleeping, climbing things, memorizing poems, baking cookies, reading and retaining information, solving addition and subtraction problems with his whole body, planning menus, building things using multiple types of materials at once, digging in the dirt, remembering both the Greek and Latin names for mythological characters, riding his balance bike, ordering pizza online, composing catchy riffs with inventive use of vocal percussion.

Areas in which he does not excel: sitting quietly, waiting patiently, raising his hand before speaking, using his walking feet, using his library voice, remembering where his coat (pencil, wallet, shoe, sock, favorite stuffed planet) is, doing repetitive tasks, finding things that are right in front of him, being aware of where his body is in space.

I’m pretty sure that if he were one of twenty-something kids in a classroom, his teacher would be pulling her hair out. It’s okay for me to say that because I love him dearly and sometimes, I’m pulling my hair out, too.  

The thing is, SuperSam is flourishing in our current arrangement and has learned a lot this year. He’s very enthusiastic about it. He’s not anxious about school. He has time to explore his interests deeply and has read a lot of books. He’s having fun.

I’m free to adjust things to suit his learning style and his need for perpetual motion. I let him chew gum or chew on straws when he needs to sit still to do a task (which is hardly ever). We are putting sensory bands on the bottom of his seat at the table so he’ll have extra input for his feet (and maybe won’t fall off quite as often during dinner). He has the freedom to work fast, read for hours, and spend lots of time outside poking the roly-poly bugs under the swingset and drawing different kinds of clouds. He can still take an afternoon nap, which he really needs.

Most importantly, he didn’t need an IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) to get any of these accommodations. I didn’t have to advocate for his needs in the classroom or have him tested. We can just do what works for him.

It’s pretty amazing, really. Like him.

How does he get to socialize?

This question frustrates me. It assumes that socializing with people born the same year as you were is the most important factor in whether you will grow up “normal.” Once we get out of the K-12 setting into the “real world,” we are around people of all different ages…for the rest of our lives. It seems like it would be as important a life skill to know how to socialize with all ages of people, right? I’m not even sure what year most of the people I know were born.

Anyway.

He is actually socializing regularly with other people born in 2008, both at church (where they have age-graded classes) and at violin group lessons (where the other kids in his group are generally Kindergartners or first graders). He played on an age-graded soccer team in the fall and might do so again in the spring. We also have a few other homeschooling families with children his age with whom we hang out/paint pumpkins/take field trips/build Legos/ride bicycles/climb trees/catch crayfish/hunt for salamanders.

He also talks to our neighbors (all adults) when he sees them, makes his own requests for materials at the library (even when his favorite librarian isn’t there), and volunteers to tell strangers at the grocery store about what constellations are visible this time of year. He politely and competently orders his own food in restaurants.

He’s fine.

How can you be serious about school when you have the twins at home to deal with?

I know where this question comes from. Anyone who has ever met a two-year-old can imagine having two of them at once…the noise! the squabbling! the diapers! the constant unrolling of toilet paper!…and legitimately wants to know how I can accomplish anything at all around here. Taking on the serious task of educating my oldest child on top of behavior managing the Sisters seems like a lot to handle.

This is true. It is a lot to handle, but it’s not as bad as you might think.

First, school is only so serious at this point. It’s Kindergarten, and he already knows how to read, so the biggest hurdle was crossed before we started. Before school in general became as test-driven as it is today, Kindergartners used to play a lot more than they do now. They had dress up and blocks and lots more free play.  They got to focus on things like dealing with their frustration when there aren’t enough red square Legos to make the airplane they designed, or working out how to share one wheelbarrow between three eager gardeners. I have absolutely no problem with going back to that model around here. He has his whole life to get serious about academics…he’s only 5.

Second, the Sisters like to do what SuperSam does. If he’s at the table working, they want to do “school,” too. They each have a composition book that they like to make lines in while he is practicing handwriting. When that gets boring, there is a bag of special things that they can only use during “school” time. It keeps them busy for a while most days. Sometimes, they play with magnet letters on the refrigerator or play with the kitchen toys and make pretend food for us while we are working. If all else fails, I put a dishpan of water out for them and let them wash their babies or their dishes (which really just means that they get water all over the floor and each other). It usually buys us 30 extra minutes. Most days, that’s all we need.


Some days, we finish school while they are napping.

On the days when nothing else works, we go outside or build a fort in the living room with blankets or set up a grocery store with the toy cash register and all the canned food from our pantry, and everyone plays. If you ask me, this is a perfect use of time- they’re all together, they’re working out their problems, they’re being creative and doing dramatic play. We’ll call it the best-case scenario for our mixed-age classroom.

Aren’t you worried that he’s missing out on what the other kids are learning at school?

No.

We are covering the basics with lots of extra time left over to explore various interests. SuperSam is a voracious reader, and he chooses books on all kinds of topics. This fall, he worked on dinosaurs, Greek mythology, Ancient Rome, and space. He also had a brief fling with Russian culture.

He has learned to add, subtract, count money and tell time because he wanted to know how to do those things. Math is his favorite subject, he says.

Finally, he’s studying Latin. (This was his choice. Most people start later, I know, but he can do the reading just fine and has a real knack for picking up the vocabulary. I see no harm in allowing him to accumulate lots of Latin vocab now as it will only make later language study easier. As a bonus, he’s learned some Latin prayers that we use at church sometimes, and that helps him feel he can participate more fully.)

Violin practice also takes place as part of our school time.

I know he’d be learning different stuff at school, but I’m not concerned about gaps in his knowledge. If he needs to know something, he asks or finds out somehow. Even if he somehow made it to adulthood without some key piece of information he should have learned in Kindergarten, I’m confident he would be able to find out what he needed to know.

Also, I’m sure there are things he’s not learning from his would-be schoolmates that I’m just as glad he doesn’t know yet.

So no. Not worried.

How long do you think you can keep this up? Are you putting him in first grade in public school this fall?

I expect we will keep this up as long as it works well for everyone.

We are not planning to put him in public school first grade next fall.

Things are working out great, and we see no reason to change the plan unless there is a reason to change the plan.

What curriculum are you using?

We are not using an “out of the box” curriculum at all. I’m piecing things together based on SuperSam’s needs and interests. One of the biggest advantages of doing school at home is that I can personalize things for him without needing to label him “ahead of grade level” in one area or “at grade level” in another or “needs extra work” in a third. We can just work on things he needs to work on.

We are using Saxon Math 1, but kind of loosely so far…no need to rush into things (after all, he’s just 5). Saxon has a placement test on their web site, which is handy for determining which book you need. We’ve enjoyed finding some great deals on gently used books through cathswap, a yahoo list where you can post items for sale and look for items you need. It’s been great (even if the volume of e-mails is slightly overwhelming at times…it just means there is a robust used book market for homeschoolers!).

We try to visit the library every week for new books to read (although we got off schedule a bit over the holidays). SuperSam generally selects his own reading material with occasional guidance from me. I figure if he gets something too difficult, he’ll figure that out when he starts reading it. I do try to encourage at least one more challenging book for every two or three picture books (which he still reads and enjoys a lot).

We are using Prima Latina from Memoria Press for Latin, and we love it.

We use Zane-Bloser for handwriting, and it’s fine- he really likes doing handwriting, for some reason.

Finally, we spend a lot of time doing hands-on experiments and working on SuperSam’s various projects. Since these are interest-driven, we don’t need a curriculum for them. He finds books at the library when he needs to research something or looks things up online with supervision.

Next year, we’ll add more stuff, but this is plenty for now. Again- Kindergarten. Not inherently stressful unless I make it that way, right?

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently so far?

I wish we spent more time outside. It’s tough with the cold weather, but I expect as spring weather arrives, we will be doing lots more hikes and nature walks again. Almost all learning is portable, so there’s no reason to stay cooped up indoors all the time. Being outdoors seems to calm everyone down, and SuperSam’s boundless energy is less noticeable when there aren’t walls for him to bounce between.

I also wish I had worried slightly less about whether I was doing the right thing by choosing to homeschool. I lost a lot of sleep over it. I guess the upside of having worried so much is that I’m now confident that we are doing what’s best for our son and our family at this stage.

So, there you have it…the not-so-quick answers to your 7 most common questions about our homeschooling life so far. If you made it all the way to the end, thanks! 

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