Thursday, October 31, 2013

Toys, toys, toys!

The upside of moving is that I have finally, finally conquered the toy beast.

Between Seven's plastic allergy (and the tossing out that had to be done), purging, flooding, and just plain clearing out, I have been able to pare down to the barest of essentials when it comes to the items designated for play.

I can't tell you how much happier I am now that nothing in my house is shaped like a miniature electric guitar that lights up and plays show tunes when you push its buttons, or has Dora's face emblazoned on it, or screams at me from the shelves of Fred Meyer to buy Just One More! to add to the collection of fifty others littering the floor of my living room.

We still have Legos. And teeny tiny little wood doll house pieces. But we have been selective-- purposeful-- in what we've let into our home. And y'all, it has been so freeing. Not seeing a mound of seldom-used junk cluttering up the house and, in truth, my kids' imaginations ... it's just priceless.

There is hope, folks. There is hope.
Here are a couple of posts that have encouraged me in regards to the choices we've made as a family:

A mom who took her girls' toys away a year ago talks about the effect this has had on their lives.

Thoughts on less toys by a minimalist.

And, in case you're curious, a tour of our toy shelves:

These, plus a toy kitchen, dollhouse, and accessories, are what made the cut-- not counting puzzles and board games. How about you? What are your kids playing with these days?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Ten years ago, we bought a dog. After a year of no family pet, we were ready to dive back into the world of four-legged family members. Well, Mr. Blandings was. Truth be told, I was not that much in favor of a new creature mucking up the carpet and needing to be fed. But I've always thought that pets are good for kids and heck, I grew up with a dog, so ...

So we bought a dog.

The breed was somewhat incidental as far as I was concerned. I had always thought I'd go for a golden retriever, but (laugh with me now) I preferred something a little less hairy. We tossed around options, did some research, polled some friends and, in the end, went with a German Shepherd from a very fine breeder.

The dog was expensive. I remember at the time thinking, "Mutts can be awesome dogs. And they're practically free." 

Little did I know that that money was some of the best I would ever spend.

Gabe, as we called him, grew (and grew and grew) into a fine dog. From the beginning, he patrolled and herded and kept my kids close. He never tired of fetching balls, running laps, watching over preschoolers as they raced trucks, or acting as a pillow during movie time. He was a dress-up toy during their early years, and a patient ear during the turmoil of early puberty. He went on hikes, loved camping, ate more than his fair share of cheerios, and even found himself featured in a kids' film or two.

He was the background noise to my older kids' growing up years. 

And now he's gone.

I've never been especially sentimental about animals. Growing up around farmers will do that to you. An animal serves a purpose, does a job, or is a product. There's little romance in knowing the name of the bacon you'll eat next winter. Even family dogs failed to make it much beyond the level of hired hand in my house as a kid, and as a mother busy with small children I have little room and compassion for anything that doesn't have give back, if you know what I mean.

But Gabe? Gabe gave back. Oh, I was a cruddy enough dog owner. I hated his hair all over the floor and lamented my twice-daily vacuum routine in our common areas. I was impatient with his need to have his nose in everything and be aware of every little coming and going in the house. I was never fond of the massive mounds of poo he produced, either.

But I loved that dog. Never as much as he deserved, though.

Gabe's health failed drastically over the last weeks of his life, and I found myself with the chance to, in some small way, repay him for his kindness to the people I love. I helped him stand when his legs refused to lift his weight, helped him stretch when his back was too sore to accommodate. I don't begrudge a moment of that time spent with him, but it did have the sad effect of leaving a huge hole in my days. Like Logan, who has found himself wandering aimlessly, waiting for his friend, I find myself looking for Gabe every time I open the front door. 

He was a good dog. A great dog. A good friend.

We miss him. 

Monday, October 28, 2013


In further pursuit of fiber as therapy, I cast on a project I had long aspired to create for a babe of my own: the classic Pebble.  Since the pattern is written for a newborn-three month size, I tinkered and tweaked and set about knitting up a vest for my 24-month-size Reuven.

I overshot more than a hair, as you can see. 

Mani can actually fit it, though it's on the snug side. So, for now, Seven gets to twirl and dream in a very blue Pebble meant for her baby brother!

(Buttons by One of a Kind Ceramics. Ravelry notes here.)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Orzo with Cheese & Broccoli {everyone@thetable}

With Reuven now an entity in his own right at our table, I am loving watching him dive in to new flavors and textures. I am a big proponent of not "dumbing down" food for children.  Their palates deserve to be delighted just as much as ours. Here's a favorite recipe from the Blandings kitchen needs only a few quick dices with a butterknife to be served to everyone at the table, from Daddy to babe. Bonus round for the homeschoolers among us: this is fast and easy enough to make it into lunch rotation, even if your 11 year-old handles lunch prep some days.

Orzo with Cheese & Broccoli
adapted from Skinnytaste

3 cup orzo
2 cups frozen or fresh broccoli florets
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
3 Tablespoon butter
 approx. 1/2 cup milk
Add orzo to a large pot of salted boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes then add broccoli and cook for 2-4 more minutes, or until orzo is not quite done. Drain and then return to the pot. Add cheeses, butter, and milk.  Stir. Add more milk until you reach your preferred consistency.
We've found that the cheese amounts can be tinkered with once you get a feel for the recipe. Some days, it's all about the gooey cheddar. Other days, it's more about the orzo. YMMV.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Water, water everywhere

You know what I love about the early years of homeschooling? It truly is the simplest things that capture a child's imagination and send him spinning into a world of associations and discovery. Give a five year-old a jar and instructions to catch a bug, and you have a week long unit study at your finger tips. 

For this reason alone, we are loving the Sonlight Core P 4/5 this year. The reading has been engaging and in just-right bites for the ages and personalities of my three learners. The topics hit right where their leanings are in this season. The whole guide can easily be set aside for whatever adventure we find more pressing, and yes, there is room for rabbit trails. Like this one, from week two, where the original idea was to try and water plants with solid and sieve-type containers:

But of course, if you give a kid some water, you'll end up discussing ice ...

And, eventually, steam, and rain, and the entire water cycle, and what floats and what doesn't, and how ocean water is salty but the water in the river isn't, and why salmon swim upstream, and ... and... and...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

40 minus 1

... and just like that, I was 39. 

Monday, October 21, 2013


Things have been hard here. Uncomfortably hard. Rock bottom hard.

There have been moments of looking around and wondering how in the heck things got so chaotic and difficult. Moments of trying to find peace, and missing it entirely.

And then, there are moments like this:

When you discover that what seemed like a crab apple tree in your new backyard is, in truth, a bearer of real apples. The eatingsaucingjuicing kind.

And suddenly, a flurry erupts. Children run for buckets and baskets and long rakes.

A cloud bursts, and there is joy spilling all over. And in that moment, you remember that this is just a season, just a moment of life, and that the good stuff will be back again. Soon.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Nothing to fear

I remember the first time I was asked how I could possibly even consider homeschooling high school. Jo was right there beside me, all 48 pounds of her, with her bottom baby teeth missing and the cutest little bob of a hair cut. She had just mastered the art of skip counting by threes and I was pretty sure she was brilliant.

"What are you going to do about algebra?" the questioner hissed, as if at any moment my kindergartner was going to need to solve for x.

And I said I didn't know, because, well, I didn't. Homeschooling a high schooler sounded big and scary and potentially a little crazy and heck, I was just getting a handle on how to explain that there were different continents-- places you had to use a ship or an airplane to reach. How on earth was I going to teach my own children physics?

As it turned out, I really didn't have to worry too much. Just like parenting a large family-- you generally only take on one new family member at a time-- there were plenty of baby steps that led from singing about the Scientific Method all the way up to college French. Tiny little advances. Painless strides. And before I knew it, well ...

I was doing it.

Or rather, they were.

On most days, the truth is, I spend less time actively homeschooling my two older children at home than I do my combo set of preschoolers/kindergarten. Yes-- less time. Thanks to online classes, tutoring with dad and other experienced adults, self-directed learning, and student guides, I am only teaching two subjects to each of my olders-- with plenty of check-ins on other topics, of course. But actively teaching? No. 

That season of curling up on the couch and reading amazing stories has passed with these two. I am so, so thankful that I had it, and that I grabbed onto it with both hands and cherished it while it was here. Because, folks, the days are fleeting. One day you are making pipe cleaner models of Charlotte and her web, and the next you walk into a room where your daughter and son and writing an original song for their Music Theory class.

Yeah, it's about that fast.

So if you're reading this and you're the Momma of littles, or if you're staring down the barrel of 8th grade wondering if you've got what it takes, take heart. You can do this. It's not anything like what you imagine. Everyone's journey looks different but yes, it's possible. And it's worth it. And you know what? It's even enjoyable