Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Standing on Square One

You know how it feels when you're playing Candy Land, and you're making progress and feeling pretty good about things, and then you draw the card with the little plum on it and you have to go aaallllllll the way back to the Gingerbread Plum Trees at the very beginning?

It's downright disheartening, right?

Well, that's a little how we're feeling today, and here's why:

We got word this morning that the contract on our house was terminated, and while we certainly knew it could happen, especially after the home inspector went over the place with the perspective buyer, a fine-toothed comb, and a magnifying glass, it still leaves us pretty discouraged.

On top of that, another family that is interested- and has been since August- finally had a contract on the home they're trying to sell and thought they might be able to make an offer on our house, only to have their contract fall through, too.

It's not a lot of fun to be carried back to square one after getting a taste of what the game looks like further along, say, up there with the Peanut Brittle House!

Don't tell me we have to go back to those tiresome showings and rejections!

Don't tell me we have to re-stock the little brochure holder with informative booklets about the house, and resort to counting them each time we return after a showing to see if the "perspective buyers" were interested enough to take one!

Don't tell me we have to add to the stash of realtor cards we have accumulated! We already have 18 different names, and that only accounts for about half the times strangers trooped through our house.

Sitting here among the plum trees, my courage is failing me.

I would like to get a glimpse into the stack of cards yet to be played. I would like to know if there's a "SOLD" among them, and how many cards lie between us and the finish line.

Instead, God has another idea.

He's standing here with us on square one, speaking peace, and passing out the plums.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Influential Chocolate

Today has been a day for sharing.

Gavin shared a piece of gum from his personal pack with each of his siblings, minus Finley.

Parker shared little candy balls from the tiny toy gas pump that he loves to operate, wherein the candy rolls down a small track and lands with a clink at the bottom when you turn a miniature crank on the side of the pump.

Elasa, Gavin and Parker shared a bit of their time and energy with the neighbors across the street by raking some leaves out to the curb, where the leaf truck will vacuum them up later this week.

A friend from church who drove past and saw the children out raking leaves stopped and shared from  the stash of smarties he keeps in his work van, giving them each a pack.

Elasa in turn shared her smarties with Finley, biting them into small pieces to make them more consumable for a one-year-old.

Parker saved one smartie to share with Daddy upon his return from work.

I love seeing my children share, and the attitude of generosity behind the sharing is one that we try to foster through various methods: coaxing, suggesting, and even, at times, requiring.

Today, however, I was reminded that the primary way to teach my children to share is through example.

Case in point: today I shared a special bar of dark chocolate with my sons even though I was tempted not to.

Gavin saw the bar sitting on my desk and his eyes lit up, so I broke a piece off for him to enjoy while he listened to Henry Huggins.

Finley saw the chocolate and immediately began to beg, unabashedly, for one bite, and then another.

Parker came upon the scene just before the chocolate was decimated and gladly removed the last chunk from it's wrapper, so that it was officially and entirely gone.

After all, today was a day for sharing, and how could I praise generosity in my children and then resort to averted eyes and stingy nibbling myself when the opportunity to share came in the form of a rather rare and delectable bar of Cadbury chocolate?

Maybe sharing my chocolate today will lay the groundwork for Finley to share something that belongs to him tomorrow. (Or, more realistically, next year, when he is a bit older than 15 months!)

Maybe the kisses given, the praise spoken, the extra few moments in the rocking chair, the math concepts taught, the stories read aloud, the laundry folded, and the pumpkin muffins baked, when done with generosity of spirit, will come back to bless us again through the lives of our children, all pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Who knows who our children will become and what they will give to the world if they learn the art of generosity here and now, while under the influence of chocolate?

Monday, November 6, 2017

Noteworthy

Ever have an urge to write on a rainy Monday morning when it its high time to get school started, and the dirty laundry is giving you reproachful looks, and the beds are unmade and rumpled, and the baby is still in his pajamas even as the clock strikes 9?

Me too.

I have learned that if there is such a thing as a Writer's Law, it certainly includes this: a writer will always and forever have his or her most inspiring thoughts at the most inconvenient times!

Indeed. Ten times out of ten, my best thoughts for writing come to me either in church, as I am walking into Wal-Mart, or when I am zipping about the house in the midst of a crazy morning when I don't even have time to finish my coffee, much less sit down and write.

This is why setting aside a time every day or even every week would not work for me! Faced with a spot of time when I could actually write, I am always faced with another, darker problem: a blank head!

So what is the solution?

Apparently, some of the time it is this: ignore the pajamas, the clock, and the dirty laundry for a few precious moments and type away like mad.

This is especially appropriate when you have good news to share, such as this: our house is under contract!!!

After six months of watching the seasons change from spring to summer to fall while our "for-sale" sign stood sentry in the front yard, after more than 30 showings and just as many rejections, and after nearly giving up hope on numerous accounts, we finally got a message from out realtor on Friday evening that there was an offer!

Talk about exciting! Talk about something of note!

The very next morning we met with our realtor, accepted the offer, and signed papers, putting our house officially under contract.

After all this time, it's pretty hard to believe that our dreams of moving to the yellow house across the street just might become a reality, and while there's always the possibility that things could still fall through, taking us back to square one, our overall sense at the moment is one of excitement and relief!

Most of all, we know that God has this!

Which, of course, is the most noteworthy word of all.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Enough

Thanks to a rainy day, we had the perfect weather for Poetry Teatime.

Thanks to a simple scone recipe, we had the makings of our favorite treat.

Thanks to my Mom, we had the delight of fresh red raspberries.

Thanks to a carton of heavy whipping cream, we had scoops of heaven on our plates.

Thanks to The Random House Book of Poetry, we had a marvelous selection of things to read.

Thanks to homeschooling, we had this ritual at lunch time on an ordinary Wednesday.

Now, there are days when I am quite certain that homeschooling is not for me. I crave quiet and order, and my mornings are anything but.

Rather, I jump from one child to the next, from one subject to another: answering questions here, giving a spelling test there, and often with a cantankerous toddler on my lap all the while who is trying to write on the teacher's key with a pilfered red pencil.

If you envision homeschooling as a calm, peaceful endeavor, with children bent sweetly and studiously over there work while the baby plays with blocks in a corner and gentle soothing music wafts through the atmosphere, then don't stop at my house in the morning, for you will be sadly disillusioned.

And maybe you shouldn't stop in the afternoons, either, for more often than not, there are still books piled high on the school table, waiting to be graded and sorted back into their proper basket, and you might find the teacher, head in her hands, wondering what on earth to make for supper.

Homeschooling is probably the hardest, messiest thing that I have ever set my hand to, aside from the motherhood, and there are days when every fiber of my being resists the weight it places upon my shoulders.

But then there is Poetry Teatime.

There are scones, hot from the oven and sprinkled with sugar.

There are fresh raspberries, making us feel like kings and queens in our own home.

There is whipped cream, licked from lips and spoons with relish and abandon.

There is a red teapot with white polka dots, steaming with the most soothing of beverages.

There is poetry, making us giggle and sigh with emotion borne on the wings of words.

And somehow, for a moment, all is right with the world.

Somehow, it is enough.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

School and the First Day of August


The first day of August seems a bit early in the season to call a halt to summer vacation and get back to school, but since we're still up in the air with our move, it seemed prudent to start sooner than later. The thought is that if we move, I will need some time off and starting early will give some wiggle room, and if we don't move, well, who minds getting out a little earlier in the spring?

I don't feel as prepared for the beginning of school as I would like, but some of that will happen with time as we work out a schedule and learn a few things by trial and error.

I am realizing that homeschooling is an ever-changing scene, and that no two years are alike! Yes, you learn things that stand you in good stead from year to year, but other things have to remain flexible.

Last year I had a new baby; this year I have a very busy one-year-old, a house on the market, and the possibility of a move in the fall.

Last year I had two scholars, this year I have three!

Hence, the need once again for more changes and organization in preparation for another school year.






I was considering using my kitchen for more school this year,  even though in the past I have shied away from that, and to that end I bought an 8-cube shelving unit and some bins to organize things into. Well, when Wesley put the shelf together last evening (yes, on the eve of our first day of school!) I could tell right away that it wasn't a good fit for the kitchen.

And besides, it all felt pretty disorderly to think of some school supplies on the shelf in the living room and some in the kitchen, with books here, there and everywhere...

So...we heaved and hoed a bunch of furniture around in the living room- which included unloading a bookshelf, hauling it to the garage, trying the new cube storage in that spot, not liking it, hauling the bookshelf back in from the garage, and reloading it! We finally came up with an arrangement that works- and needless to say, I am relieved to be back in the living room with my school table and all my supplies in one room after all. The room may be a little tight, with a total of 4 bookshelves at the moment, and it sure gets plenty messy with all the different roles it plays, but at least the books aren't on the kitchen table when lunch (or supper!) rolls around.

I told Wesley last evening in the midst of all our arranging that some people dream of a commercial kitchen. I dream of having a school room!!!

You know- the kind with all manner of handy shelves and cupboards and closets for books and supplies, plenty of wall space for maps and charts, a nice chalk board, a spot for desks, and a big work table...

Ah, well. If flexibility is an essential ingredient in homeschooling, then making the most of the space you have must be right behind it.

In the end, we got something figured out that I am pretty satisfied with, and having a couple empty cubes on my new shelf makes me feel like a rich woman!



Elasa is in fourth grade, and she had an almost a total curriculum switch this year, so there is a pretty steep learning curve for both of us as we figure everything out.

For math there is Teaching Textbooks, which is done on the computer, and after one lesson, she said she loves it, so lets hope it lasts! I hear very good things about TT, and I like the fact that she can work more independently on this subject.

I am trying a new Language Arts called Kaleidos (published by Learn for Your Life) which is touted as a "skill-building language arts curriculum based on creative writing and classic literature," and we bought it at the homeschool convention in a kit which includes a book called Syllable Savvy for spelling and Write On for writing. There is also a really nice list of good literature Elasa will be studying, which was one of the main reasons I was attracted to the curriculum, and the course also covers some computer skills (such as typing) and nature study, so I hope we like it!

For hand writing there will be Getty-Dubai Italic Handwriting 4, although it has yet to arrive, so that subject is still my pig in a poke, purchased not from experience, but from liking the looks of the curriculum and feeling that it fit the bill!

Elasa is doing CLE Bible again this year, after we really like it last year, so that's one subject we feel pretty confident in! Last year Elasa did a lot of CLE (Math, Reading, Language Arts and Bible) so this year is quite a switch, as I said, with only one CLE subject right now.

History is another subject that has stayed the same, although we are moving from Ancient Times to the Middle Ages! These history books, written by Susan Wise Bower, are very well done! The text book doesn't look very interesting, and the few illustrations included are all black and white, but what it lacks in color it more than makes up for in quality, and Susan writes in a style that makes history fascinating and fun. I read it aloud last year to Elasa and Gavin and they both really enjoyed it, so I feel reasonably assured that we'll enjoy history again this year. I use the accompanying Activity Book, and while we don't do nearly everything (there's a lot in there!) we do some of the map work, coloring pages, and hands-on activities, and it is also really nice for all the book recommendations that tie in with the history lessons.

Science will be Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, by Apologia, and again we are continuing what we started- and really liked- last year! The main difference this year is that Wesley will be the teacher, so while we have yet to do a test drive on how that will work out, I am excited to be able to relinquish responsibility of one subject!



Gavin is in second grade and using a lot of the same curriculum Elasa used two years ago, so I feel a lot more familiar with his things.

Math, Reading, Bible and Language Arts are all CLE, and he will be doing history and science with Elasa, which makes his curriculum pretty straightforward.




Parker is only four-and-a-half, but I decided to try a pre-reading program with him which is published by All About Learning Press, and I really like what I am seeing! Here again we only did one lesson so far, but the curriculum is simple and charming, and Parker took an immediate shine to Ziggy the Zebra, a puppet whom he refers to as our pet zebra! It didn't take very long to do our lesson today- which is a huge plus- and the little activity sheet and poem that accompanied the capital letter "A" were really cute, so I am feeling positive about our kindergarten! Parker, of course, was thrilled to be doing school with the older ones, and he hung around my shoulder and begged to get started while I was helping Elasa and Gavin.

Another new thing I am planning to implement this year is Morning Time, and I am intending to use the Middle Ages Term 1 Morning Time Plans for that, since the work of planning has already been done for me, and since they correlate perfectly with our history study of the middle ages! I doubt I'll get everything done that is laid out in the plans, but I really like how they include music, poetry, fine art study, good literature, and even some math, geography, and nature study.

The whole concept of Morning Time, in the words of Pam Barnhill (a favorite homeschool "mentor" of mine and the producer of my Morning Time Plans) is to include truth, goodness and beauty into your homeschool day, and while it can all sound pretty idealistic in the midst of all the other things calling our names, I think it's a good idea to set before our children things that are lovely and that go beyond the basic requirements. Obviously, I haven't started this yet, and I am worried that maybe I over-extended our schedule, since Morning Time alone could take about an hour, but the beginning of a new school year always breeds optimism, so it's good to feel excited about the things that are new and special for all of us.

Right now I'll take all the sips from the wellspring of hope I can get, for on this first day of August, we have one day down; 179 to go!

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I don't know Andy Williams.

I only know that he was sadly mistaken when he wrote the lyrics to a song claiming that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.

Apparently he knew nothing of summertime in Pennsylvania.

And surely he could not have written those words in good conscience if he had experienced fields winking with lightning bugs.

 Salty lips after eating corn right off the cob.

The agreeable collision between children and wading pools.

Ice cream in a bowl, on a stick, or smothered in sundae syrup, with the only requirement being more.

Foot freedom better known as flip flops.

The smell of rain on a sun-warmed street.

Meadow tea, the most refreshing drink in the world.

Babies who have no need of shoes and who are learning to walk on grass.

A cool shower after a hot work out in the flower bed.

The luxury of lingering over coffee in the morning as there is no math to teach.

Watermelon juice gracing the chin.

Reading books by the drone of the air-conditioner.

Laundry piles with very few socks.

Muffins made with fresh zucchini and eaten warm from the oven.

Picnics & sweaty play at the park.

Sultry afternoons served over easy.







With all due respect to Mr. Williams, I beg to differ.

Any way you cut it, summertime is the most wonderful time of the year.

This, right here, is the time of good cheer.

And I have the most marvelous crop of zinnias blooming in my garden to prove it.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Celebrating the First

From this


To this


In one short year.

Amazing!!!

When I consider how quickly the past twelve months have gone, the only thing I can wrap my mind around is a question: how did that happen? 

A year may sound like a long time, and for many things it is, but it's not very long to go from a helpless infant to a toddler who is capable of babbling, going up steps at the speed of light, wreaking havoc in the pantry, plowing around the house behind a little push toy, standing up in the bathtub, and putting anything but food in his mouth.

There's so much happening- and so much ground covered- in that first year!

Add to that the fact that Finley has been such a delight, and I think I am beginning to understand why it feels like time has gone so fast.

Last evening we had a birthday party for Finley at the park, which included both sets of grandparents and some aunts, uncles and cousins. I had fun with a woodland theme, having picked a fox for Finley's animal some time ago, and all concerned had a good time- even if Finley doesn't really eat solid foods yet, and therefore did not partake of any cake or ice cream! In fact, we all thought it was a real milestone when he ate the sum total of one chocolate chip!








Today we celebrated a bit more quietly, and with just our family, although thanks to party leftovers and some fresh corn-on-the-cob, we had the simple makings of a second party! Once again, Finley didn't really eat any cake (maybe just a lick or two of icing?) but he did justice to the smashing part of the smash cake!

I wanted to make something special for Finley that he could both use and keep, so I made a quilt (a first for me!) last week, and while I'll try to give more details another time, you can see it on the pictures below for now, complete with the theme of foxes! 

The children also wanted to give Finley little gifts, and when I was at JoAnn Fabrics last week choosing a fabric for my quilt back, Elasa was looking at some little stuffed animals and actually found a little fox named Finley, which tickled her half to death, and helped to settle the "what should I give him?" quandary! Gavin gave him a book that I had on hand, and there was a ball from Parker, so the birthday boy was well celebrated!







The nice thing about one-year-olds is that they come to their birthdays with very low expectations! They don't have a wish list, nor do they request sleepovers, and they would just as soon chew on their hats as wear them, so they are pretty easy to please.

They also leave the sentimental fuss to their mothers. 

If I am going to cry over how tiny his pajamas were a year ago, or sniffle over newborn days departed, I'll have to do it alone. 

Finley is all about moving on to the next milestone, and since he has proven himself to be a delightful traveling companion on the journey thus far, I might as well get on board and enjoy the ride.

Full steam ahead to toddlerhood!