Delighting in daughters

Her blanket is in the van and its dark and late and my foot has a tiny piece of glass in it and I don’t want to limp outside to get it.  She is too tired to argue so she gently takes my hand and cradles her cheek with my palm just like she would with her blankie.  She holds on to my other hand with her tiny one and I watch her eyes flutter.  Mine keep closing from a longer than most day of the hardest work.  But I will them back open to make sure I don’t miss getting to watch her fall asleep.

There is something delicious and other-worldly about little girls.  Her lips are a perfect tiny rosebud and her curls hang all around her face.  She reaches out to touch things that aren’t there and makes the softest little sounds as she drifts off.  Her skin is unblemished and untouched by age and I soak in all that she is in this moment.  She possesses a tender, sweet spirit and I pray for it and her to be protected in all the years to come.  That somehow she can cultivate and grow in her feminine, soft loveliness in this ever-so-mixed up world.

The older daughter, my first born, she has this intangible ability to sense how people feel around her.  Maybe that’s why she went to all the effort today to set up a tea party in the family room for us girls.  She thought of everything.  Put Ray LaMontagne on the CD player and a fan on for ambient noise.  Tried to light candles but couldn’t find a lighter.  Put a table cloth over the old card table and sprinkled rose petals from the yard all over the table.  She played two roles even, server/waitress and the friend joining us who was running late.  She switched between roles throughout our lunch.  Made sure to tell me I would be so impressed by the baker who’d made our cookies we were eating “she has FIVE kids, can you believe it? and she made these delicious cookies and they are gluten free!”  I grinned big and marveled at her nine year old self, play acting and still managing to compliment me in the most darling fashion.  There were even little umbrellas in our iced tea!  I rode the happy of our tea all day long.  I replayed it all over and over and was unceasingly thankful that I am blessed with these two daughters.

Planning to eat

Sounds so simple doesn’t it!?

But it isn’t.  Put into the mix five children, two of which need to eat gluten-free diets and a mama who strives to avoid massive amounts of sugar or anything processed.  Then move a mom who loves to cook from her tiny kitchen where she learned to love cooking into a big kitchen with a new place for every cooking item.  Sounds lovely I know, and it is, but I’ll admit I’ve been lost in this wide kitchen since we moved.  The mental effort to think about where each thing is at every meal and then to figure out what we could/should eat has totally exhausted me.

I’ve been heaping guilt on myself for not getting into a great cooking groove here much sooner.  Told myself over and over how lovely this kitchen is and that it should all be a breeze.  That always helps motivate doesn’t it?!  But instead I have simply lacked the mental capacity to figure out the what, the how and the when to our meals.  I might come up with a great idea but lack the ingredients to actually make it.  Or I might find a yummy recipe but too late to actually get it on the table for dinner.

I have planned meals before, a week at a time never longer.  But like many things I try to do, the grind of actually doing it week after week wears on me and unless it is inherently usable, practical and (don’t laugh) looks nice….I probably won’t stick with it.  This is precisely why my homeschool planner needs to not only be highly functional but also pretty.  I’m serious!

Enter Plan to Eat.  I’ve seen it advertised and read reviews of it many times over.  I couldn’t justify spending money to do something I can do myself.  But once I actually took the time to see what it could do that I can’t, it was worth trying for certain.  I wrote this email below to the Plan to Eat creators as my feedback after a week of my free trial:

So far so GREAT.  I have made it a whole week without a frenzied email (or text) to my husband asking him to grab Papa Murphy’s or Teriyaki on his way home from work.  It took me about 5 hours of inputting to get started but SO worth the time invested.  It has brought a sense of peace to my day knowing, “just look at the list on the fridge, that’s the dinner plan” AND to know I had all the ingredients because I had shopped with the Plan to Eat list in hand.  Why didn’t I do this sooner!?

I still have a couple dozen recipes that need inputting into my recipes list on the Plan to Eat site.  And yes, it’s taken a lot of time.  But once in there, its just a matter of clicking and dropping meals to created a menu that is perfectly suited to my family.  Many of my recipes are from websites and I could just cut and paste the link and voila the recipe was listed for me instantly.

The highlight (besides being able to make 8 dinners in a row – for the first time since we moved) was when my sis and her fam decided to come for dinner last weekend and I just shifted to a meal that was easy to double that I already had the stuff to make!

Only time will tell if I can keep this up.  I promise to post again after a month has passed.  For now I’m consulting my cute little print out on the fridge (that I drew on with markers to make more colorful!) so that I know we are having Broccoli Cheddar soup for dinner tonight!

The view from here

He pulls me along and we poke our toes in the sand.  His blond fuzzball head covered obediently with a hat and his ever so pudgy fingers squeeze my hand tightly as waves lap at our feet.  I spent his first year trying to find ways to soothe his colicky, high-need baby self.  I’ve spent this first part of his second just trying to keep up with him.  He will change his world someday, whatever that world is that ends up being his circle.  He refuses to be a spectator and will not let life or adventure pass him by.

I say a silent thank you while I walk with this youngest one on the beach, a thank you for a husband willing to do hard and sometimes unpleasant work for our sake.  Driving day in and day out, every month a new sales quota to meet.  Missing our mornings, our days, sometimes our dinners and our lazy summer beach days.  What a burden we are to his man-shoulders.  One I know he gladly, willingly bears but I am foolish to forget that we are heavy on him.  Just as easily as I let the days ahead loom over me and tempt me to be overwhelmed, he too just might feel like there is no end in sight, no respite from hard work.

This moment walking on the beach with my toe-headed little boy is perfect.  I don’t want to forget.  I let him walk me as long and as far as we can go.  I push every thought out of my mind and delight in the way he holds onto my pinkie finger.  Someday he will be taller than his not-so-tall mama.  I’ll look up to him.  I’ll tell him he has what it takes and he will let go of my hand.  And I might choke up thinking about holding him night after night while he cried and fussed about who knows what.

But for today, I’m loving my view from here.

Our homeschool year

This post is as much for me as it is to share, as I type it out one more time it helps me see the flow and get (more) excited for what is to come.

The new school year holds more for me as teacher-mom than ever before.  I have 4 official students this year (though trust me, Phineas is definitely a learner, he is outside right now watching brother search for caterpillars and giggling every step of the way!).  While I am fighting the temptation to hyperventilate while I finish up our schedule, I am honestly really excited for all that is to come.

Here is our synopsis for this 2012-2013 Strovas family school year:

History:  Story of the World Vol. 2: The Middle Ages – This is our history ‘spine’ and we will do all sorts of fun and interesting activities and mapwork and reading in relation to where we are on the timeline.   Each of the oldest three will create a history notebook to chart time and collect their work as we go.

Reading:  Hard to list a curriculum here for the olders, I can’t keep enough books on hand for them to read.  They will be offered a continual feast of quality books that challenge their reading and thinking.  For Kyler and Audrey we are going through the PAL reading program from the Institute for Excellence in Writing which looks to be a great deal of fun and I am thrilled to get some focused fun/learning time with the two of them.

Geography:  no specific curriculum, but plenty of it built into other subjects

Grammar:  Daily Grams workbooks for Rylee and Caleb, First Language Lessons with Kyler at a leisurely pace…but at these ages my much more experienced friends assure me that reading excellent literature and observing good grammar is more important than crazy amounts of grammar drilling.

Bible:  For Bible as a subject, we are excited to try something new and use the Picture Smart Bible materials.  Each day the kids will listen and observe and follow along with me in creating a ‘picture’ of every book of the Bible.  My dad would love it, he has a penchant for diagrams and really it’s like a beautifully written diagram of each book.

Science:  We are using Answers in Genesis this year.  Starting with The World of Animals in fall, then The Human Body in winter and in spring we will do The World of Plants.  It is perfectly suited for varied ages and teaches Creation science in a wonderful way.  The oldest three will keep a science notebook to catalog their studies in this area.

Writing/Copywork:  There are abounding opportunities to practice writing, but specific writing practice will be given daily in correlation to history and literature studies.  The oldest two are in a literature co-op this year where they will develop their writing skills a great deal I expect!

Math:  Rylee and Caleb are using Teaching Textbooks (which we LOVE) this year while Kyler (and Audrey as she is interested) will dive into Right Start Mathematics (hands on, lots of games, I think it will be great) .  All are well suited to the kids that are using them….at least as well as I can tell.  Some of my students do not love math at all and no curriculum in the world could change that!

Spelling:  Trying something new here in this department this year, Spelling Power looks promising and the only way to find out is to give it a try.  Sequential Spelling didn’t work too well last year.

Art and Music study:  With one focus a week, we will talk and observe and learn about either a famous artist or composer.  But as often as possible (think daily!) we will go about our learning with a smattering of classical music, just because we can!

What summer is for

morning reads with the big sister

lounging on the lamented laundry pile

kids loving on baby kids

the sweetest times with sweetest friends

grand adventures with Nana and Papa

countless hours on the slip and slide

Camping with the whole fam

beach time and snuggles

learning to do new things

finding mischief and making it look this cute

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It has been a perpetual breath of fresh air.  We look forward to starting school here next week but have been tremendously thankful for the slow-down-and-breath-deeply that summer has offered to us.

Heads, hearts and helmets

No brilliant person’s words of wisdom, no fantastically written book, even no astute observations on my part could have ever prepared me for what would happen to my heart when I had children.

What it would feel like to hear tears down the street, to not worry too much because daddy was nearby and to go running down our little lane only to be waved back to the house by the daddy carrying the middlest one who obviously had met much pavement at a very high speed on his bike.  The blood pumping strong I run back toward the house and do what he told me to do “turn around and get all the first aid ready”.  The word “all” makes me start to worry much.  I clear the counter in an instant and realize our bandage supply is meager, it is the end of summer after all.

The pain in his voice as he’s carried in the door makes my insides shudder.  I never knew I would know all the different sounds of ‘boy’ and that only a few would make me feel like this.  His helmet is still on and we gently take it off (we don’t play the “what if he hadn’t had it on?” mind game now, but it comes later).  He is writhing and I want to just hold him but I have to assess the scope of it all.  The impact was obviously head first and then the whole left side.  I see deep open sores on his side and he is holding it so tight, I think spleen? and keep taking mental notes on everything while trying to play calm mommy.  Left elbow maybe broken, lots of blood and road rash abrasions.

We make the decision to head to the ER.  Too many variables not to go.  And he is getting foggy.  Not responding normally to us.  So we pack up and go.

The drive from our new place to the ER that we know and love seems like an eternity.  I pull over on the side of the freeway because he isn’t answering me.  I tug on his foot and he talks back but I know we aren’t in good shape.

As soon as they see him they bump him to the top of the line and send him straight back and there is a doctor there before we are even on the bed.  He is sharp and kind and takes the very best care of my boy.  When he gives me choices on what to do and I waffle and wish my hubby was here to help me decide, he offers to call him right then and there and talk with him in the room with me and we figure it all out together.

The only reason we probably had choices and didn’t head straight away for a CAT scan was because he had his helmet on.  More than once, he said “with that kind of impact, if he had not had that helmet on, this outcome could have been very different”.  As it was he still had a concussion.  And he was badly beat up from his body meeting the road at that speed.

The first hour he is so out of sorts and I wonder how this is going to turn out and would he be okay?  He is in and out of it.  Completely not his normal self.  My mom keeps me grounded and keeps talking to me and we talk to him and we watch and wait.  For several hours.

He finally turns a corner and we go home on strict limitations to his activity and super close watch on his demeanor.  We wake him all night every two hours to make sure he can wake up.  In the morning, the pain of waking up completely undoes him and in doing so undoes this mama too.  He is nauseous and e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g hurts him to tears.  He can’t moved from curled up on the couch.  It breaks my heart.

Dressing wounds also makes my list of “things I did not expect to learn to do”.  But I do it because that is what a mother does.  And it honestly hurts me physically to have to pull gauze out of open spaces of skin that want to grow new into the bandages.

I spend a RIDICULOUS $60 on bandages, bandaids, non-stick gauze and my kitchen counter looks like a Red Cross clinic.  Never again will you find me out of stock when it comes to these necessities.

The days pass and two nights I hardly sleep.  I keep rehearsing our conversation and spilling over with thankfulness that it went down the way it did…

Me:  “I sometimes felt like the dorky mom always making my kids wear helmets, when the neighbor kids mom’s don’t make them wear theirs’.”

ER doctor:  “Well, if you hadn’t done that though, you might not be heading home right now.  Things could have very differently.”

Me:  “Sign me up for dorky mom.  Any day of the week then.”

I can hardly eat anything for several days after.  All the sores and pain and trauma leave me sick to my own stomach even though I’m not the one injured.  But it feels like I am.  And that’s what else no one could make you understand before you are a mother.  When your child’s heart or body is broken, it actually feels like it is you who is broken and sometimes even I think we feel worse than they do.  The whole phenomena is something I’ll never wrap my mind around and forever be thankful for.  The way these little people grow my heart is totally beyond me.