Practicing

The girls asked to wear “Ergos” on our morning walk today. We used scarves that my husband brought back from Cambodia to make slings to carry their babies (doll and rabbit, respectively).  The slings held up through the entire 45 minute walk and they wanted to keep wearing them once they got home.  Big sister practice is well underway!


Madison’s face…it makes me giggle. Also, most likely the girls will not be babywearing their new sibling anytime soon.  Safety first, after all. It is sweet to see them embrace something they’ve seen us do as parents and make it their own.

Countdown to September – Baby #4!

Be prepared for the most anticlimactic announcement in the history of announcements:

We’re pregnant.

Yay!

Now, of course we are brimming with excitement and looking forward to Baby #4 joining the family sometime in September or October (and planning for another home birth in Mexico).  We are grateful to have another life to welcome to the world and into our home.  The kids already know how to talk to the baby and Leah is particular about making sure my shirt is pulled up and my belly is exposed when it’s her turn, especially if she’s ‘reading’ a book to the baby.  Oh, and the name suggestions are out of this world.  Possibly blog-post worthy all in their own right.

The reason for the wah-wah nature of the announcement is that I wanted to start writing about how I’m processing becoming a mom of FOUR KIDS.  My heart and mind are already picking up habit loops based on what I think life will be like, trying to grasp onto some sort of plan to help us survive those first few months.  Let’s face it – newborns are the most unpredictable creatures on the face of this earth.  And for an INTJ mother whose StrengthsFinder score is all DisciplineStrengthsFinder score is all Discipline and whose DISC score is a soaring S, a tiny, wailing, inconsistent, irrational human is so hard to deal with.

I love them.  Yes.  But there’s a lot to process and I want to use this space to help do just that.  Here’s to new life and more diapers!

Sidewalk Homeschool

We were just settling down to start homeschool this morning when the doorbell rang. The fumigator was here (cockroaches keep wanting to make our kitchen their home) and ready to spray. Which meant we were ousted to the sidewalk for 15 minutes while he did his business.

Enter sidewalk homeschool. 



We did tic-tac-toe, a connect the dot game, and hangman.  Hunter found a pile of sight word cards and used them to help spell his “word.”  We may not finish all our planned work today but we still found a way to learn.

What our homeschool looks like these days

I had the best of intentions to continue homeschooling while we were in Washington for a few weeks.  Meh.  What’s that saying about the best of intentions?  Well, whatever it is we definitely lived up to it.  I think we maybe did three mornings of homeschool out of the almost 20 days we were there?  However, the kids were able to do so many other things that we don’t have available where we live that I think it made up for it.  Like spending four hours at the local children’s museum one morning.  Totally counts as homeschool in my book.

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Settling back into life at home means settling back into our homeschool routine.  Here is what our homeschool life looks like these days.

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Tuesday and Friday mornings are our big homeschool times.  Madison and Leah are both at the campus preschool all morning, so Hunter and I have about three hours to dedicate to learning.  Usually we spend about one and a half to two hours on school.  The majority of our structured homeschooling happens on these days.

Monday and Wednesday mornings we can usually sneak in a bit of homeschool (what I call ‘table time’) but with all three kids at home it is usually fast and focused.  Most of the learning that happens on these days leans towards the unschooling version, like long walks outside or art creations or building forts or Legos or MagnaTile empires.  Sidenote – this friend of mine and fellow homeschooling mama is my hero and inspiration when it comes to unschooling.  I wish I had the guts to embrace it like she does.  Also, those photos?!?!  Stunning.  Sometimes I wait until the afternoon when Leah is napping and the kids are in their Quiet Technology Time to steal Hunter away for fifteen minutes of work.

Thursday mornings have a completely different flavor as Madison attends preschool that day but Leah does not, so she is with Hunter and me in the mornings.  Also, I have a standing weekly meeting on Thursdays that starts at 11:00 AM, which means by the time we drop Madison at preschool at 9:30 AM, drive home, do work, and drive back to campus for said meeting, the morning has slipped away (even if we live two minutes from campus, it still take ten minutes to unload and load everyone and everything in the car).  A few months ago I decided to pack all of Hunter’s schoolwork up on Wednesday night, as well as snacks and toys for Leah.  We take everything with us to the campus on Thursday morning when we bring Madison to preschool, and the find a relatively quite place where we can put in at least forty-five minutes of school before I attend my meeting.  It usually works quite well, and Hunter gets to play on campus with his friends which he loves while I’m in the meeting.  Leah attends the meeting with me and charms the socks off everyone there. 🙂

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Much like last year, we did not purchase a set of curriculum for Hunter’s first grade learning.  Instead, we’ve cobbled together various workbooks and activities that fit what he wants to learn, should learn, and is at his level of learning.  Some of the workbooks we use are:

Lest you think Hunter does all of these workbooks every day…never fear.  We have a rotation of what we work on each day and it’s very doable and appropriate for a first grader.

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One of our favorite subjects is history because this book makes it come to life.  I had been eyeing Susan Wise Bauer’s works since before we started homeschooling last year.  We went pretty light on history during kindergarten and I wanted something that gave our kids a worldwide perspective of history, not the Western-centric one I remember learning in my early years of school.  I checked out a few discount book websites and was ecstatic when AbeBooks.com came through for the win.  I was able to purchase both the book and the activity workbook for less than the cost of only the book on other sites.  Happy dance!!!

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Today we learned about the Indus Valley and how it compared to Mesopotamia in ancient times.  Even with my less-than-stellar drawing skills I was able to come up with a few pictures that represented what the story told about agriculture in this region, and as Hunter heard the words in the story he added the pictures to the map.

Reading makes up a significant portion of our homeschooling day.  After we finish workbooks at the table, we usually break for a quick snack and then reconvene on the couch to read aloud.  Our books usually include:

  • An early reader for Hunter to read aloud.  He really loves Elephant and Piggie books, especially this one.  It was the first time that he was fully comprehending what he was reading as he was reading it, and had to stop reading because he was laughing so hard. We’ve also used Dick and Jane books which he enjoyed last year.  Right now we are working through Little Bear, which has vintage illustrations that I love.
  • A book that teaches about the current lapbook topic.  We are on earthworms right now.
  • A BOB book.  We found the first two sets of BOB books in a box of giveaways so he is working through them one at at time.  He is probably beyond this level of reading but it’s nice for him to build confidence by easily reading a whole book by himself.
  • Other random books or articles.  This week we are reading through a magazine article about loving others.

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Then we usually head back to the table to add a section to his lapbook.  I’m so glad I stumbled upon lapbooking as technique for homeschooling.  This website is my go-to place for FREE lapbook lessons.  Hunter enjoys seeing his lapbook take shape during each unit and has even pulled down his finished lapbooks from last year and looked through all of them (we did close to a dozen!).  If we have time before we head to campus for lunch, often Hunter watches a few minutes of an educational video about whatever lapbook topic he has chosen.

Admittedly, I started this year quite lazy when it came to keeping track of Hunter’s daily progress.  Then, a few weeks into the year, I remembered this blog post about upside down and backwards homeschool planning.  Now, instead of pre-planning what we will do each week, I record what we actually accomplish on a daily basis.  As the week progresses I can evaluate if we are lacking in a certain subject and use the final few days to target that area.  Also, as you can see by Monday’s lack of recording, some days we do absolutely nothing.

Like I’ve said before, more than any facts or statistics or rote memorization, I want my kids to love learning.  This quote from Eleanor Roosevelt perfectly sums up my approach to learning:

“Education provides the necessary tools, equipment by which we learn how to learn.  The object of our education is to give everyone of us an instrument which we can use to acquire information at any time we need it.”

Why I Quit Reading a Book I (Should Have) Loved

Food.  World Wars.  Ethnic or racial conflicts.  Baseball.  Literature.  A hint of magic realism.  Any abstract idea that is made concrete, especially through narrative nonfiction.

Those ingredients make the perfect book for me.  Maybe not all of them in the same book, but toss a few between the covers and I’m good to go.  If I’m browsing my library’s website or have the rare chance to actually peruse the stacks at a brick-and-mortar bookstore,  I’m like a moth to the flame when I see those themes appear on a book jacket or shelf label.  It’s usually a home run (back to the baseball references…see what I did there?).

So imagine my excitement when I came across this book:

It hit all the right notes.  I was sure it would be a winner.

Then, 106 pages into it, I quit.

I had forgotten one key factor in my reading life – I have a huge trigger for stories about children who are suffering.  With three kids of my own, it’s too easy for me to project the situation I’m reading onto the lives of my kids.  I start to picture them with the sickness, or them in the prison camps, or them as orphans.  The book is no longer about an unknown character.  It’s about my own flesh and blood.  I walked away from The One in A Million Boy a few months ago for the same reason, even though I had endured a looooong library hold list to finally get it in my hands.  The boy in the story became my boy.  I couldn’t read past what I was seeing in my mind and decided to send it back to the shelves.

That’s what happened as I turned page after page of Mischling.  Affinity Konar is a skilled writer and her tone and prose makes the book almost seem like you’re reading a dream.  It’s wistful but tragic.  Haunting and hopeful.  Yet I found myself flinching as I turned each page, dreading the horrors that I feared were in store for the main characters.  It came to the point where I put it down and walked away.  Of course I’m still wondering what happens and how the story resolves, but I’ll have to wait for now.

Yes.  I quit reading a book I should have loved.  However, there were plenty of books I kept reading and enjoyed as the calendar said goodbye to January and welcomed February.  Click the cover image to learn more about each book.


Angelina’s Bachelors: A Novel with Food  A quick read with lots of recipes, but with some deeper themes of love and loss.  I read it in about 24 hours.  The perfect palate-cleansing book, in more than one way.

 

 

 

 

Walking  I chose this book as an homage to my grandfather, who passed away at the beginning of 2016.  He was so moved by Thoreau’s writings and philosophies during his life that he built a small cabin in his backyard that he he named “Walden.”  It was sparsely furnished, tucked away in a swath of ivy and between two large hemlock firs.  He would go out there to sit in nature and just be.  We would sneak out to the cabin and loved playing in it.  While this book didn’t do anything for me, I enjoyed listening to it and reflecting on my grandfather’s life and legacy.

 

A Fall Of Marigolds  This book alternates time periods and narrators each chapter, a feature I have come to really enjoy in novels.  I wished there were more chapters dedicated to the present-day side of the story as it seemed a bit weak in tying the entire narrative together, but I still enjoyed the story.  Also, the fact that sewing and fabric were a central player in the story made it unique, too.  I enjoy sewing and the author’s descriptions of the textures and colors really brought them to life.

 

 

A Sound Among the Trees  Out of the three Meissner books I’ve read, this one is my second favorite (Secrets of a Charmed Life still holds the number one spot in my mind).  While the majority of this book is told through letters, I didn’t mind reading those chapters even though I usually am put off by that style of writing.  I like books that are set during the Civil War and this one approached a familiar story from an unsuspecting angle which made it fun to read.  Plus, I brought this book on our surprise weekend away which meant I read it pretty much non-stop for two straight days.

 

I Let You Go  I was hesitant to start this book since I knew one of the main plot lines was about the death of a child, and as I said already – that’s a huge trigger for me.  Even though that scene happens at the beginning of the book and sets the entire story in motion, Mackintosh doesn’t dwell on the situation as much as uses it as a catalyst to reveal the complexities of the other players in the story.  Be forewarned – unreliable narrators come into play here (I found myself flipping back and forth between chapters to try to figure out what was happening) and the ending?  Oh, the ending.  It’s  infuriating and stunning and perfect.  Definitely a page turner.

 

Underground Airlines  I have been recommending this book non-stop since I finished it.  Wow.  Wow.  Wow.  This is a book were they blurb on the jacket flap actually does make you want to read it, so start there and be ready to be sucked right in.

 

 

 

 

A Holy Ambition  John Piper is one of those authors who writes in a way that is slightly offensive, but then after you’ve pondered what he’s actually saying, you realize that’s he’s most likely right.  And then you walk away convicted, challenged, and encouraged.  This book is a collection of sermons about missions and “going where we are not.”  I picked it up from a box of donated books and read a portion each morning as part of my daily devotions.

 

 

The Bookshop Book  Now I want to go to all the places, see all the shops, and read all the things.  The photo spreads are breathtaking.  The descriptions of the bookshops made me want to jump into the text and never leave.  If you’re wanting a bookish theme to a trip you’re taking, this book would be a great place to start.

 

 

 

War Brides  While this book lands directly in my sweet spot of World War 2 fiction, it left me unsatisfied.  Portions of the books seemed to drag, while other jumped over key points in the character’s lives that could have added depth to the plot.  The author missed the mark on character development and at times it felt like I was reading a long list of descriptions about each of them, instead of truly entering their motivations, thoughts, or emotions.  The ending is highly unbelievable.  I finished it but would hesitate to recommend it.  There are too many other books in the genre that would get my endorsement before this one.

 

Coal River  I have not read any books about this time period or geographical setting, so I learned quite a lot about the history and tragedy of the coal mining industry in the United State while finishing this book.  I must say, I figured out the “twist” pretty early on so when the author had her big reveal at the end of the story, the surprise was lost on me but I still enjoyed reading it.

 

 

 

The Other Wes Moore  I picked up this book while we were at my parent’s house and I needed a break from Mischling.  The author chose a clever way to tell yet another story of injustice, poverty, and the will to survive.  It would definitely be a read-alike for this book.

 

 

 

 


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Snow!

What a surprise when over six inches of snow blanketed my parent’s hometown yesterday. It snowed nonstop from about 10 AM until well past 10 PM, which meant a white, winter wonderland awaited the kids this morning. 


To say we were underprepared for winter weather would be an understatement.  No gloves, no snow boots/pants/coats.  It didn’t matter though!  We layered up with what we had and stomped through the neighborhood as soon as we were done with breakfast. Snowy days tend to last only about 24 hours (it was already melting off the trees when we were outside today) so I’m happy we were able to be outside and enjoy the snowfall while it still felt like real snow.

And, to compare:


Scott might be in for a slight adjustment once he returns to this continent.

How FaceTime and wall to wall carpeting are saving my life (at least today)

It’s cold here.

Like, really cold.

I thought it got cold where we live, but Northwest Washington has us beat by a whole 22F (at this exact moment; I just checked to compare the two cities).  It might even snow this week.  GULP!  I know there are other places in the world that are much, much colder, but it’s our current reality and we are adjusting to learn how to live with the chill.  At least for a few more days until my husband returns from overseas we head back to the surf and sun of the Northern Baja peninsula.  Where it’s still cold…but not that cold.

Couple the cold with the late sunrises (7:33 AM) and early sunsets (5:18 PM) and it can seem like shadows and wind chill rule our waking hours.  There are a few key things that are helping save my life these days and adding a sunny, silver lining to all those clouds .  They might seem a bit commonplace to deserve an entire blog post unto themselves, but when it’s making that much of a difference they are definitely worth mentioning.

Wall to Wall Carpet

Yes.  I just named a synthetic fiber ground covering as the number one thing that is saving my life right now.  As heads are scratched around the interwebs, allow me to explain.  Our house does not have carpet.  Nay, it doesn’t have any floor covering to speak of except cold, white tiles.  Which are f r e e z i n g  cold in winter, even in our moderately temperate climate.  Our walls are concrete block which are covered by the thinnest coat of plaster (no sheetrock here!) and a hastily applied paint job.  It is impossible to properly and thoroughly heat a house that is made of solid rock.  Trust us, we’ve tried.  We’ve bought space heaters.  We have hot water bottles and heating pads.  I leave the oven door open after baking to let the dissipating heat radiate through the downstairs.  We have a portable propane gas heater that takes the chill off if it’s run for an hour or so, but leaving an open flame in our main living space (or to run all night in a bedroom God forbid) doesn’t mix well with three kids ages six and under.  It stays cold, period.

Now, put us on a few airplanes and fly us a thousand miles north and what do we have?  Colder weather, of course, but we also discover carpet.  This lovely, soft, cushioned, heat-retaining substance that caresses our feet and covers our floors and softens our falls.  Carpet has been a game changer for us on this trip, so much so that I don’t dread getting out of bed in the morning and haven’t worn my ‘house slippers’ (which I brought with me on this trip) when I walk around inside.  It’s the most mundane of items to most people, but it’s number one on my list today.

 

FaceTime

With my husband overseas and 15 hours in the future, we’ve been relying on technology to keep us in touch.  The kids ask to “FaceTime Daddy!” every day but we’ve only been able to connect twice.  It has been precious to see the kids’ faces light up when they see Daddy appear on the screen.  Of course they fight and scramble over who holds the phone and then tears ensue, which slightly ruins the whole purpose of the video call.  Regardless of sibling squabbles, I’ve come to appreciate the gift of technology and the instant boost it gives to a relationship during our time apart these past few days.

 

All the Other Things

Here are a few other life-lines that are floating around me these days:

Wood-burning fireplaces.  My parent’s house has one and I might have single-handedly contributed to the deforestation of the planet this week.  Worth it.

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Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents.  When we live far away from family, time together is special and cherished.

Utility services that work, and work fast.  The power went out the other night.  I was prepared for the world to end.  And then, it came back on.  Just like that.  I basically witnessed a miracle.

A day to indulge.  Yes, yes I did.  I had dreamed of it for weeks, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

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This bakery is a local legend and absolutely lives up to it’s reputation.  Also, mine was the brownie in the corner.  That’s it.  Promise.

Books.  No further explanation needed.

Cold water from the tap.  The freezing temperatures mean ice-cold water straight out of the sink.  We are used to drinking room temperature water from a filtered, purchased water jug.  It’s been a treat.

Sisters who fly across the country just to help.  My younger sis made the trip south for less than 24 hours just to help us make the trip north to my parent’s house.  It made all the difference.

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It may be cold, dark, and wet most days, but my life is full of light.  These little things add up to make a big difference.  Especially to my sensitive little toes every morning.


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