All the fun you can have with peach spandex

Two years ago I bought several yards of peach colored spandex.  That was the color that was on sale.  And our son’s OT said spandex was incredible for providing sensory input.  We were up for trying anything.  With rain on the way for months to come, I thought we’d share our list of ridiculous fun that has come from this one piece of fabric…

1.  Spandex Burrito – we wrap a kid up in a snug roll and let them slide around in there

2. Spandex in a knot – we place a kid in the middle of the spandex, tie them up tight in a ball and listen to them giggle and shriek while they find their way out through the hole (while this could sound bad, it has been nothing but crazy fun for us all!)

3. Spandex tug-of-war – this stretchy stuff is perfect for pulling on and having an awesome tug-of-war contest

4. Spandex swing – we place a kid in the middle and each take two corners and bounce kids up and down as long as our arms keep working

5. Spandex sliding – the stuff is super slippery and when running onto it, can send you flying across the floor (again, this could end badly but so far no major injuries here)

I’m pretty sure there are more things we could do with this spectacular piece of material that was well worth a few bucks.  It is hard to get physical energy out in a small house for weeks on end.  This is one way we make it through, just thought I ought to share 🙂

Homeschool “recess”

Since summer never came and now it’s finally here, we’ve been unwilling to miss out on the lovely days when they come…so we’ve been up early, hard at work getting schoolwork finished so that we could head to the park for a brief lunch picnic and play time.

This week our history reading covered Ancient Egypt, which is full of wildly fascinating things to learn about – like mummies:

And in our loose study of geography (it sort of just fits in all over as we learn new things about new places and keep heading back to the map!) we have been focusing on India as my parents just returned from there this week and brought back some darling Indian clothing for the kids:

We ventured to one of our favorite parks yesterday to end the week and watched a screech owl cleaning itself in the bushes, saw countless turtles and waterfowl and ran to our hearts content!

Rylee brought all the supplies for a little science experiment that she made up, she was sure her 2 year old cousin Isaac would want to do it with her.  He enjoyed it as much as she did I think…it was so cute!

My back-to-school toolbox

We’ve been gearing up for weeks and have just one week left before our official first day of homeschool.  I have a 1st and 2nd grader this year along with a preschooler and toddler.  So in all reality I’ve spent all summer planning, pondering and purchasing what I need to at least try to set us all up for success.  Here are some ways we’re forging ahead:

  1. Menu plans – I am back to trying to do two weeks at a time, with built-in emergency/disaster day meals that are practically ready
  2. Grocery shopping alone on weekends – this really helps my sanity, running to the store for 3 things with 4 kids isn’t something I do well – and one big trip alone always costs us less than many smaller, unplanned trips
  3. Writing date nights and girls nights on the calendar weeks in advance – these two things have to be in place for me or the reality of my 12+ hour days alone with the kids puts me over the top (I learned this last year!)
  4. Housecleaner – with an ever-changing income this comes and goes but we agreed that it would be on the top of the list last September and although it was just a basic, every other week 2-hour clean – it helped stay closer to on top of life and blessed my husband as much as me (he likes clean, but he likes his family more – good thing!)
  5. A good purging – broken, old, uninteresting toys/books have made their way to the thrift store, some toys are put away for rainy days
  6. Practice this week at getting up early – our days go better when I’m up before the kids, but it’s really hard for me to do!
  7. An awesome planner – this year I’m using the Well Planned Day planner and I think its going to work very well
  8. Continued effort at exercise, even just 20 minutes a day I feel more energy and all my parts seem to work better 🙂
  9. Grace – it will be what ultimately pulls us through

For any who wonder what we’re using for school this year, I’ll post that later this week.  I always love reading what other mom’s are doing in their homeschool!

The joy of boys

While I’m not an expert on raising boys like my friend Kim who has been blessed with five boys, I am certainly learning a lot about a gender that I considered mostly a mystery.  Growing up with only sisters, I didn’t really know what life with little boys looked like until I had some.  After a strong-willed, sensitive, challenging first boy we were given a soft-spoken, calm, easy-going second born boy.  They are very different.

One reason we are really happy about homeschooling is that boys tend to need to move quite a bit, they can be loud, they often don’t naturally sit still for long periods, they are very curious and they love getting dirty.  Those characteristics, I believe, are intrinsic and don’t need to be fixed or tamed.  The way our American culture has feminized men has come at great costs.  That’s a whole other post and a can of worms I’ll leave closed today.

Just to say, that I am constantly learning and doing my best to allow the boys to be who they are.  Boys.  Messy, loud, creative, busy, active, wild, physical boys. This ‘boy nature’ doesn’t always fit well in an all day classroom setting and watching our boys be who they are is one of the great delights of home based learning for us.

Some days this means taking a snail break for Caleb:

Being outside is very calming for this high-need boy we have.  He needs time alone outdoors to help him reorganize. He collects snails by the dozens and carefully watches them and cares for them for hours a week right now.

Sometimes, like today all the kids find something to do together after we get some ‘table work’ done.  There are some fuzzy, friendly bees buzzing in a jar next to my hand while I type this.  The kids spent almost 2 hours capturing, studying, observing and being amazed by the incredible bees living in our rhododendron blossoms.

Audrey found a caterpillar on our walk today, brought it home in my coffee cup and carried around until naps.  She insisted on eating with it at lunch time:

Sometimes, boys at home means pain and sadness.  When we aren’t enjoying nature or good books, things can and do go awry.  Like last week when Kyler bit out of frustration at the injustice of his situation:

Or also last week, when Caleb silently took a pen to every single key of the precious piano that I grew up playing on:

And I was so very upset that I forbid myself to utter even a word and when Caleb was in tears because I could not speak to him I finally wrote him this note…

Lastly, in case you want to know, ziplocs can hold bees nicely in a pinch should you run out of mason jars….and mama’s can move very fast should a bee escape in the kitchen!

What would Mrs. Piggle Wiggle do?

Absolutely one of my favorite things about homeschooling is the feast of words which we are indulging in together daily.  We are discovering old books from discard piles and thrift stores that hold magical, rich stories with all sorts of vocabulary words that sometimes I don’t even know how to say.  Today we’ve logged over three hours of reading aloud together or the kids reading their books to me.

Yesterday we finished Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald.  I remember reading her when I was young, it in fact is older than my mother even, written in 1947.  Now reading it as a parent my perspective is so different.  The kids were so tickled listening that I couldn’t even get them to pick a favorite chapter, they found them all so funny!  I think the most laughs came from the “Answer-Backer Cure” chapter when the cure was that the sassy girl who talked back to everyone had to live with a snappy parrot who was even ruder and more disrespectful than she was.   It was easy for me though to pick a favorite paragraph, let me share…

It certainly was fortunate for Patsy’s mother that she thought of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, because although Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has no children of her own and lives in an upside down house, she understands children better than anybody in the whole world.  She is always ready to stop whatever she is doing and have a tea party.  She is glad to have children dig worms in her petunia bed.  She has a large trunk of scraps for doll clothes and another large truck full of valuable rocks with gold in them.  She is delighted to have children pick up and look at all the little things which she keeps on her tables and when Hubert Prentiss dropped the glass ball that snowed on the children when you shook it, she said “Heavens, Hubert, don’t cry.  I’m so glad this happened.  For years and years I have wanted to know what was in that glass ball.”  Mrs. Piggle Wiggle takes it for granted that you will want to try on her shoes and go wiggling around on high heels.

There are rich parenting gems in there I believe, the one that stopped me in my tracks was that she was always ready to stop whatever she was doing for a tea party.  It is the easiest thing in the world to go about the day, do the tasks at hand and miss the little sweet moments of actual, purposeful interaction with our children.  I am constantly reminding myself of this and taking note of time spent with each one.

The no-nonsense, reality-based discipline of Dr. Kevin Leeman is what came to mind as I read this book to my kids.  It made me want to dig out the book I read by him last year “Making Your Children Mind without Losing Yours“.  His basic premise is that parents need to let reality teach kids the consequences of life.

While Mrs. Piggle Wiggle address’ many common ‘ailments’ of childhood like kids who won’t bath, kids who fight with their siblings or kids who take too long to eat – I want to know what she would prescribe as the remedy for “Binky-itis” for my 3 1/2 year old boy who is absolutely, interminably in love with his binky.  It’s not in the book sadly.  And I’m starting to wonder if he’ll be taking his binky to college…with a dreadful overbite to go with.

Fall craft time

With a house full of sick ones we are laying low this week but it’s nice already doing school at home because we can still plug along on books and some things as we snuggle on the couch and drink tea together.  If anything we read more because everyone is slow and droopy.   I don’t have to fret about who can go to school and who can’t, how to make up work and all that.  So thankful (again) we are in this journey of learning together.

Last fall we made these lovely window hangings inspired by our friend Kim when she made them with her boys  and this year we decided to make them again.  It was so neat to see the way things change in a year.  The oldest two have so much more attention to detail and beauty and picked such a wonderful mix of ‘fall items’ on our nature walk.  We pressed them for two days under heavy boxes then completed these:

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All you need is some clear contact paper, string, a stick, some hot glue and some nicely pressed fall nature items.  Each kid chose different items and placed them on the contact paper just where they wanted them and I punched holes in the top to thread yarn through, glued the yarn around the stick and that’s it!

I really love autumn.  And I love having little artists around who love to make things with me!

Organization = success (sort of)

In the weeks that preceeded our formal beginning of homeschooling this past Monday, I spent a great deal of time trying to brainstorm ways to streamline our daily life and ways to set myself and the kids up for success as we prepared to dive into learning together.

The phrase that kept churning around in my head was that I wanted to “set me up for success”.  I wanted a plan.  I like plans.  Much as I like to let chaos rule sometimes and just make messes and play with the kids, it isn’t conducive to a happy home for very long.  Much as I also like to obsess about cleaning sometimes and get every tiny thing picked up, it isn’t conducive either to a happy home with happy children.

Middle ground.  It always seems to be my goal in most areas of life.  Finding the balance between a cleaning maniac mother who can’t let one thing get out of place and a disorganized, frazzled mother who can’t even find her shoes is the place  I am shooting for these days.

So to help in getting there, these are the things in place that may (or may not) be helpful to anyone else that I wanted to share…

I asked Christopher (nicely) about 3 weeks ago to help me get the house back under control every single night of the week.  I asked that we commit to reigning it in before it got out of control because I don’t believe my kids can learn well when there is complete disorder.  I put very specific stipulations on my request, namely that neither of us go online until the dinner dishes are done, the laundry is put away and the house is generally picked up.  This is a big, BIG sacrifice during fantasy football season and I knew it.  But I also knew it might have benefits that outweighed that hit.

I am amazed at what has taken place since we agreed on that.  If I slack during the day (and granted some days are so darn hard, it’s not slacking it’s just survival), then I am choosing to spent at least an hour maybe more late at night helping regain order.  If I keep myself going on the hour by hour tasks of the day, I am choosing to have little left to do at night and go to bed early or read a book snuggled in my bed for 2 hours.

In 3 weeks I’ve read more fiction books than in the past 3 years of my life.  Not kidding.  I have chosen to do a load of laundry every single day instead of save it all for the weekend, thus creating a monumentous task that I have grown to hate.  I have chosen to spend time each morning and afternoon with the kids doing a quick pick up instead of ending the day with a battle of who’s going to clean which room.

My kids are still getting used to what it feels like to find clothes in their dresser instead of in the ‘clean pile’ in the family room that was usually taller than they were.  So is my husband.  He recently asked me where to find a clean shirt, I replied “folded, in your dresser” and he said “Really??”.  Yes.  It was true.

I also spent several hours two weekends ago organizing our homeschool closet.  I bought rubbermaids in all sizes for each subject and genre of supplies and magazine holders that serve as a spot to put the materials that we’ll use daily.  I did a big run to the goodwill with stuff we don’t need.  I got myself back to planning dinners for the week too, knowing that with school at home I’d need to be really to feed the masses on a constant basis.

I am well aware that the spectrum of daddy’s/husbands runs wide.  Some help a lot, some hardly help.  Some work long days and some don’t have a job.  But the feeling of being on the same page with the one who made this family with me is touching a deep part in my heart.  It is worth the effort and the several tries at communication that it’s taken to forge a new path in this area of our life.

I have two more posts about homeschool and daily life coming up later this week!  We are having so much fun I can hardly stand it.  The biggest reason for that is everything I wrote above….and extra measures of the grace that only God can dole out.

Rainy (snowy) day fun

Snow, rain, cold wind-there was no way we were going anywhere today.  To help with developing arm strength and to provide good sensory input (important for all kids but especially one of ours), we’ve been encouraged to draw on an easel with chalk-messy but fun, to use crayons instead of markers because of how they feel when you write with them and to drive cars along a racetrack that hangs on our wall.  Our OT made this and then we made another one so both boys would have one.  It has proved super fun this week.

Kyler racing two trucks down the wall (while Audrey napped and actually stayed asleep!)
Kyler racing two trucks down the wall (while Audrey napped and actually stayed asleep!)

We also made spelt oatmeal cookies with no refined sugar, maple syrup and honey and molasses, that was sticky and fun too!  I am sick of all our lunches so we tried a new lunch today and it went over far better than I expected.  The idea came from the bottom of MckMama’s post today, we added/omitted as we saw fit.  This was the final product (no pics sorry!):

Tuna Pasta Salad

Drain and rinse one can of cannelloni beans.

Drain one can of tuna.

Cook 1 cup of tiny pasta (elbow or mini shells).  Drain, rinse with cold water.

Chop a few tablespoons of onion, red bell pepper, pickles and carrots.

Add a scoop of mayo and plain yogurt.  Mix well.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Rylee took one bite and said “This is awesome”.  I never hear that from her.  Especially not at lunch.  It was super yummy.  I added extra pepper and kick to my serving.  Kyler turned his nose up to it, no suprise there.

Our other indoor fun which also had good sensory input built into it was making puzzles.  We took old photos, glued them onto cardboard, let them dry, then cut them into pieces to create little mini picture puzzles.  It was great fun and Caleb worked extra hard to cut through the thick paper, it was hard work.  Throughout the day we put the puzzles together several more times.

Caleb working the scissors
Caleb working the scissors
I could watch her 'working' face all day...
I could watch her 'working' face all day...
Puzzle pieces
Puzzle pieces

God, gojis and grace

Given my very short couple of hours of sleep last night, truly the above are what have sustained me thus far today and I know will be what get us all to dinner/daddy time tonight.  And the fact that my sister is bringing us dinner tonight, that too.

Caleb is fairly frustrated with his lack of mobility. The novelty of the black cast has worn off. However, today was one of our most fun mornings in a really long time. Strange so, me with a screaming baby up most of the night quite tired and Kyler with a bad cold and Rylee with very sore six year old molars coming in and Caleb limping around getting used to his lame foot. I prayed this morning for grace today. I’m learning. Really slowly.

Instead of praying for things to go smoothly and perfectly, they never do anyway, I asked for the right responses. Responses that model love and patience instead of anger and frustration. In fact I think it went something like this….”I know my kids will misbehave and won’t do everything I ask them to, I am not responsible for their bad behavior-but I am responsible for my bad responses.” Today, an extra heap of grace was needed. I asked in the dark hours before the sun came up to somehow be an extension of God’s love despite my seemingly useless condition. I don’t understand how but I am so grateful that he listens and answers when I whisper quiet words or when I shout in desperation. He loved my children well today and I feel as though I had very little to do with it.

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Caleb and Rylee decorating "Gertie"
Rylee hanging her cheerio string for the birds
Rylee hanging her cheerio string for the birds

Caleb looking for a place for his bird string to hang
Caleb looking for a place for his bird string to hang
Rylee with the angel girls
Rylee with the angel girls

I’m not sure which is more funny to me, Caleb’s outfit-Lightening McQueen pajamas in midday, a silk train necktie, a Target bag wrapping his cast or Rylee taking her ‘girls for a walk’ around the culdesac-she sure loves taking care of people, even when they are 3 feet tall and plastic!

As for the goji berries, I am so without sleep that I am trying to take a good amount of vitamins and supplements to try and restore my body despite it all. They really are perky little things even if they taste kind of crummy!

Naked trees and hummus

Here is the scoop on the last few days here:

Rylee read her first book by herself-so exciting! Here she is sounding out a BOB first reader book.

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Rylee and Audrey took their first bath together

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We did patterns today with foam shapes, I love that with the instructions “see what kind of pattern you can make with your shapes” they both did totally different things….and Caleb’s more turned out to be a collage

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I am attempting a dairy free day, we made hummus together for lunch it was so fun. The kids never will eat store bought hummus. So imagine my shock when they devoured it at the park today when we drove to meet Daddy for a walk. We ran out of crackers to dip in it, Caleb suggested a spoon, if only we’d had one.

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A sweet nose kiss from my second born…who informed us that though the trees were nearly naked “they aren’t quite naked, that one has on a hat and underwear”

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Rylee enjoying her favorite thing in the world-Audrey (who is, by the way, wearing a size 6 diaper because I forgot the diaper bag, had to use an old washcloth in the car for a baby wipe and could only scrounge up a Kyler-sized diaper in the parking lot while everyone waited for us)

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Christmas card photo? Maybe, if I hadn’t changed the exposure level on the camera earlier today for indoor photos and forgot to change it, leaving this one a tad overexposed, bummer.

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