Monday, September 1, 2014

I'm Blessed

I know it's Labor Day, and schools around here aren't starting school tomorrow, but we're starting today.  It just works for us.  I got my lesson plans set for the week.  We have worked through our lessons differently each year.  Some years I have detailed schedules charted out, and last year each child had a "to do" list that they worked through in their own time.  My personality is more go-with-the-flow and Silje's personality craves structure.  So she requested this year that we returned to a charted schedule for school subjects.  Reluctantly, I wrote out a new schedule, one for home days, and one for days we go to town.  I kept it as loose as I could.

Still, as we start school today, I've been scared all weekend that it just won't work.  The little girl will need her diaper changed during a grammar lesson, or nap time won't go as scheduled, etc.  Some subjects may run long, and others we may not get to at all.  Yes, I recognize the need to have more structure, and the security it brings the kids, but I also see the need to be flexible, and meet the needs of the moment as well.  It's an impossible balance to achieve.

I guess that's what's been bothering me.  I want this school year to be perfect.  I want it to be glorious.  I want my children to remember this school year in their old age as one of the best years of their lives.  If only they didn't get in my way of making this happen so much…

This obsession with perfection has been haunting me.  It's so impossible.  I look at this new schedule, and I think: "It's never going to work.  Why do I even try?"  I want to throw out the schedule, because flying by the seat of my pants is something I can do.  It drives my kids mad, though.

This tension between structure and freedom, perfection and failure, law and gospel, has been mulling in my brain for a few weeks.  In Christ, it is all perfect.  It is all complete.  But it isn't, is it?  I still have to teach my kids.  My day still falls apart.  I fail my kids constantly.  Wrapping my mind around the idea that Christ has said, "It is finished" is still so difficult for me.  As a Christian who grew up in the church and was mentored by so many people of faith, I'm still struggling with it.  The idea that we don't have to perform, we don't have to please God.  We don't have to be perfect because he was perfect for us.  He has done it all for us.  It's one of the most profound thoughts there is.

I had a moment of clarity this weekend when I was driving Silje over to a sleepover at her friends' house.  She was talking about school starting, and I admitted to her that I was a little nervous about school starting.  When she asked why, I said, "Well, we're doing this schedule this year.  And it's good.  We need more structure.  Structure is good.  But it can be bad.  Like, imagine if America had no laws.  Everyone could do whatever they wanted to everyone else."

"That would be scary." She said.
"Right.  So no laws is bad.  No structure is bad.  But what about when this structure just chokes you.  It's like this hard law that has no compassion and no wiggle room.  That's bad too."

"Like in Les Mis." she said.

Yes, yes.  Like in Les Mis.  Knut and I took Silje to see Les Mis on stage this summer, as our local community arts theater put it on, and several people from our church, including our pastor was involved in it.  It was one of the most spectacular plays I have ever seen, and has always been a favorite of mine, but this performance was just amazing.  I would expect this level of acting and singing…oh my goodness the singing…in some big city theater.  It was just amazing.

Since we knew so many people involved, we asked them beforehand how they deal with a few of the more delicate story lines, and how child appropriate would it be if we brought Silje.  We heard there was about 2 swear words, and they handled the prostitution pretty tastefully.  We prepared her for some of these scenes ahead of time.  Plus I prepared her for the violence of the battles and that there may be guns shooting fake bullets, and some blood perhaps.

"It's okay, Mommy.  I can handle it.  I've seen Annie."

Bless her.  Yes, she's seen the movie Annie.  She thinks she's seen it all now, since that movie has a drunk woman and some intense scenes.  Bless her.

Anyway, when we were in the car on the way to the sleepover, and I was sharing with this 10 year old how I was nervous about the schedule, because I knew it would fail.  I knew there would never be a perfectly kept day.  I didn't want her perpetually frustrated that our day isn't going how it is written.  I wanted her to know that I recognized her need for structure, and I was scared of failing her.  You see, it's impossible to keep the law.

Just like Les Mis.  If you don't know the story, you must immediately remedy that.  This tension is so loud throughout the whole play/book.  Most of all, besides a tearful story of redemption, it's a story of the world's desperate need for grace.

"It's okay Mom."  She told me.  "We'll have the schedule, but grace will rule the day.  It always does.  I'll stay flexible.  I don't want to be like that police officer in the play.  What was his name?"


"Yes, Javert.  He clung to his law so fiercely, that when he was offered forgiveness, he didn't know how to handle it and ended up killing himself.  I felt so sorry for him.  It's like forgiveness broke the law in his mind, and got in the way of justice.  The main guy…?"

"Jean Valjean?"

"Yeah.  He was a good guy, and he knew that compassion was the most important rule to keep."

My goodness, she blesses me.  She's only 10.  She continues to be an old soul.  Yes.  Compassion will be the most important rule.  Grace will rule our house…it always does, according to her.

I'm blessed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yarn Along

I finished Ingrid's Tiny Tea Leaves while my parents were here.  It basically just needed ends woven in, and I do still need to sew on some buttons.  Like I did with Silje's Tiny Tea Leaves I did years ago, I did button holes the whole length of the front instead of just 2 at the top.  I just love the simple little pattern, that goes so quick and is so cute.  I'm now full steam ahead on my first hat design now for my collection, after recouping my knitting mojo through this project.  Sometimes you just need rows of stockinette stitch to ponder knitterly things.

I'm still reading The Egg and I and actually making some good progress.  I'm laughing so hard reading this book and I don't know if it's because I also raise chickens, or if I'm also a farmer's wife.  I feel like I know people in this book, mostly because some of them are just like people I know in real life, and maybe that's why I think it's so funny.  I don't live in Washington State, though, but I certainly want to visit it even more after reading this book.  In fact, her descriptions are so amazing, that I feel like I've already been in the mountainous wilderness up there.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm Blessed

This morning has a Fall-ish feeling to it.  We felt the need to put on slippers and wrap ourselves in sweaters.  It will likely warm up soon, but there is definitely a change in the air.  I'm tempted to put up Fall decorations, but Knut still forbids it.  I'm not sure if he's ready for Fall yet.  :)

My parents are on their way home today to Arizona.  We've had a really good time, like always.  As always, we put them to work, as they always insist on "doing life" with us when we are here, instead of pulling everything to a full stop and "vacationing mode."  It works best that way with little kids around.  We did spend some time out at the lake, though, and played lots of games and stayed up late talking a few times.

Last night we reminisced over all the things we have done when they have visited us.  We have taken them to a wedding of our friends, and a funeral of Knut's grandpa.  Over the years we have involved them in painting the summer kitchen, peeling wallpaper, fixing a chimney, and now, siding the barn.  They do probably 30 sink loads of dishes while  they're here, as I barely have a chance to say "Oh, I can do that, sit down" before it's just done.

It's not done yet, but one of the 2 difficult sides got done, and a lot of the second difficult side.  All the curves and windows and doors made for lots of tedious measuring.  So I heard.  I just watched…mostly from the kitchen, trying to keep up with the garden produce…still.

I also invited over some of Knut's cousins for the afternoon who are only in town once a year, and we missed them last year.  Then some of my mom's cousins were in town the next day, so we had another day of visiting and passing around stories.  Lots of pie has been consumed.

The day my parents got here, Silje excitedly took out her bunny, Muffy, and we watched her hop around the porch as Silje told them all about her beloved rabbit.  We stuck her back in her cage, and went on with things.  The next morning, we found her nearly dead in her cage, barely breathing.  We got her out, called the vet, and before anything could be done, she died.  I have no idea what happened.

Talking to a rabbit breeder, this sometimes happens.  Apparently baby rabbits are as touchy as baby chicks.  Sometimes there just isn't a reason.  She had spilled her water in the night, and her feet were a bit wet, but that is the only thing we can think of that happened that was bad.  Could a few hours of wet feet do her in?  Granted, she was not in the hutch we were planning for her with the softer bedding, yet.  Oh, the guilt that goes with all of the should-have's in our mind.

Later that week, I got a message from a local breeder who didn't have any rabbits to sell in the breed that Silje wanted awhile ago.  She said she was about to visit her friend 2 hours away, who bred the Holland Lop bunnies Silje wanted, and had some does available.  If we wanted any, she'd be happy to bring some back for us.

So I told her to bring us two.  Get right back on the horse, right?  So "Princess" and "Pepper," our 2 new bunnies are now cozy in the chicken brooder, which is a much larger, more cushy bedding space for rabbits.  (Pictures to come.)  All of that happened during this week's visit as well.  The bunnies can have that big space until we get new chicks this spring, and hopefully we'll have a bigger hutch for them ready by then, as we'll get a buck down the road from this breeder as well.  Watch out 4H, Silje will be at the fair with rabbits next year, by hook or by crook.  It has been quite a roller coaster week of emotions for Silje.  I was so blessed to be able to just hold her and mourn with her as she cried, and I was so surprised and delighted that we heard news of new available rabbits at just the right time.

The kids are heartbroken to see Grammy and Papa go today, too.  They pour so much time into each of the kids while they are here.  We can't wait for them to retire and turn into snowbirds, spending their summers up here near the farm.

Oh, I love my parents.  I'm so blessed when they are here.  I'm also so excited to be starting a new school year with the kids next week, and the knitter in me is squealing for joy that the weather is turning cold.  What can I say.  I live in a cold place and love it.

I'm blessed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Yarn Along

I'm working on a "Tiny Tea Leaves" cardigan for Ingrid.  It completely is an impulsive knit, as it wasn't in the plans to knit at all.  I was in-between some projects, and had so much going on at home that I needed more of a stress-relieving knitting projects rather than figure-it-out-designing knitting I usually have on the needles.  I was going through my patterns looking for a toy knit to get a head start on Christmas presents, and found this one instead.

I am using some stash yarn, which is half acrylic, and half nylon.  I know, I never use acrylic anymore unless I'm doing a baby blanket, because in general it makes my hands ache.  It just has no elasticity to it.  I made Solveig a baby sweater in this yarn, and this is the leftovers.  When the yarn store by me went out of business, I decided to add a bit in the same dye lot to this leftover yarn, so it could stretch to one more project.  It IS really soft yarn, though I don't think I'd buy it again.

Since my other girls are really into bright colors these days, and Ingrid is the only one who lets me dress her without a peep as to what she looks out, I'm going to enjoy this soft pink for as long as it lasts.

She really could use a sweater, and I haven't knit that much just for her, and the Tiny Tea Leaves is such a satisfyingly quick project, especially after my fingering weight, color work, adult sweater.  I'm loving this speed.

I got to finally use my new needles for the body.  For my birthday I got some chestnut interchangeable needles from Dyakcraft, but it took several months for this custom order to be completed and mailed out to me.  Oh my word, they were worth the wait.  They're heirloom quality, and smooth as can be.  I feel a little bad that I used them for the first time using my cheapest yarn, but it was what I wanted to "use up" and the project that I wanted to do.  I'm just happy to actually be working from my stash, and I believe this is the last of the acrylic.  So the needles will have to submit just this once.

Right now I'm working on DPNs, though, from the Fringe Association, which I also got for my birthday…last March and are finally getting used.  I swatched with them a bit before, so it's not quite their maiden voyage, but they are very lovely as well, and have been very good for staying on gauge with the wooden needles.

I'm returning to The Egg and I which I never finished before.  I was getting sick of going through school readers, and picked up a "me" book to read before bed to unwind.  Though this book is so funny, I'm not sure how it is for helping me unwind.  It's the story of a chicken farmer's wife in Washington state in the '40s or so.  I love her voice, and her humor.

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Apple Cider Vinegar - How to Use It, How to Make It

It's nearly apple season!  The kids have started to grab some apples off the apple tree during their play time, and I know that applesauce making will soon be commonplace in the kitchen.  I experimented with making apple cider vinegar with apples from the store earlier this summer, and now I'm all set to make some big batches for the first time now that apples are ripening in our yard.

We go through bunches of apple cider vinegar around here.  Here are some basic uses:

-Add to chicken water.  This works to drive the chickens to drink more, which is good for general health, and also serves to keep the chickens intestinally healthier.  Just a little capful or so per gallon or two is enough.

-Homemade salad dressing Yum! (with other ingredients in a recipe involving an oil of course.  Don't just pour apple cider vinegar plain on a salad.  Yuck.)

-Pour into a small bowl and leave on counter when processing lots of garden produce to prevent the fruit flies from overtaking the kitchen.

-keep full strength in a small spray bottle in the first aid box.  (I use a travel size spray bottle)

  • We use this as a natural spray on sore throats for humans.  It tastes nasty, but nothing scares a scratchy throat away faster.  I prefer a cup of tea, but if that doesn't work, time to pull this out.  I learned this from a homeschooling podcast, as the mom talked about dealing with reading all day long to your kids, and how it's hard on your throat.  It really works.
  • We also spray this on the dogs every few days in the summer if the flies won't leave them alone.  Both dogs have gotten sores from flies in past years, and we've found this to be a great addition to their flea/tick medication.  We have on occasion use it on the cats too, but they will really hate you for it, and they normally keep themselves free of flies much better than dogs anyway.
  • We use it for bullying with the chickens.  Occasionally there's a chicken who is constantly bullied by the other chickens to the point that all of her neck feathers are missing.  Sometimes it gets to the point of getting bloody or scabby.  Once chickens see blood, it only gets 500x worse.  Then they really go in for the kill.  So in the early stages, or the recovery stages, we spray full strength apple cider vinegar on the neck.  Not only does it cleanse the area, it gives the bully who dares peck on the wound a huge mouthful of yuck.  Chicken bullying slows down in a hurry after that.
So want to know how to make it in a Weck jar?  Just like other fermentation, you're going to need the jar, a cover that fits, 2 metal brackets, and a glass cover that is for the Weck jar a size smaller to hold the apples under water inside the jar.  I've found that this process works really well in a liter size tulip jar, with an extra lid from, say the 1/5 liter mold jar.  

Step 1: Give all of your kids an apple for snack.  If you have 5 kids like me, this works great.  This might have been about 2 days worth of snack scraps.  Honestly, I don't wash these scraps or anything.  They go straight from the kids' sticky fingers to the jar.  Or you can make an apple pie, apple sauce, etc.  Basically you're looking for any apple scraps: cores, skins, etc.  If you want organic apple cider vinegar you need to use organic apples.

Step 2: Put all apple scraps gathered into a liter size Weck tulip jar, with an inch or two of headspace.  

Step 3: Cover completely with water, and lay the extra small Weck jar lid on top of the apple scraps to keep them under water.  

Step 4: Put regular glass lid on top, DO NOT PUT ON THE RUBBER RING, but DO put on the metal brackets so that glass lid doesn't move off if the bottle gets bumped by accident.  You want it covered, but not air/water tight.  So leave the seal off.  The fermentation process releases a gas.  So you want air to escape, but no air to get to the scraps.  The weight inside will push the apples underwater so they cannot get the air, and it will allow the excess gas to escape without any pressure building up.

Step 5:  Store jar in a cool, dark place (warmer than a fridge, but out of the sunlight.  Walk around your house and look for a dark safe place not close to a heat source.  Ours sat on the cleaning product shelf in a back hall closet).  Leave for 3-7 days.  I've left mine on a shelf for 2 weeks by accident and nothing bad happened.

Step 6: The jar will now look cloudy, and there should be a foam around the top.  If there is mold, scrape it off, and discard.  That means that it was stored in too warm of a place, but all is not lost.  In this picture is was just broken up apple seeds that didn't strain out, and I just picked out with a spoon.  Just discard the mold, if you get any.  The white foam is good.  That's the "mother."  Think proofing yeast for bread…it means you have good yeast going on there.  It's the fermentation process eating up all the sugars in the apples.  At this point you want to strain out and discard all of the apple pieces, and keep the precious liquid and foam that is nearly your apple cider vinegar.

Step 7: Find a smaller Weck jar, and wash in very hot, soapy water.  I used 2 mold jars that were 1/5 liter size, because that was the closest to grab when I was doing this.

Step 8: Pour that precious liquid, with foam and all, into the clean jars, cover with lid and metal brackets, but again NO rubber seal.  Do not heat up the liquid.  You are not canning them, and you don't want to sterilize this liquid, or you will kill off all the yeast.

Step 9: Put the jars holding just liquid back to that cool, dark spot it you were storing it before.  

Step 10: Leave on the shelf for about 6 weeks.  It will darken, sometimes develop more foam, settle with "stuff" floating around the bottom, and eventually get that strong vinegar smell.  At that point, you can add the rubber seal to your Weck jar, (optional, it doesn't matter) and store wherever you store and use your apple cider vinegar.  The yeast has eaten up all the sugar, and is now shelf stable.

So yes, it does take time, but not your time.  The only time "work time" required for this project is washing jars, and pouring water over apples.  Most of the "work" of making apple cider vinegar happens all by itself on a lonely shelf.  It's just another way to get something free out of food scraps.  :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

I'm Blessed

 It's been a stressful few days.  It's about to get a lot better as my parents are flying in today to spend a week with us.  I wished we could get some of this work done when they were here, so that we'd have the extra hands, but this will work out better anyway.  We'll be able to "relax" while they are here…as much as 5 kids and a garden allow one to relax.  Thursday all of the meat birds for the year were butchered.  Also, our internet got fixed.  Not that either of those things required much of me besides people just in and out of my house, and keeping the kids out of workers' way.  Friday I spent the day canning peaches.  Saturday we husked our sweet corn for the year, and baked it and froze it into baggies for the winter.

In the midst of the chaos, after I got the kids to bed one night, and Knut was finishing up some chores, I made myself go outside.  The sunset was just calling to me.

 I walked down to the "old" garden, to assess what needed to get done in the coming days.  It's where some popcorn is growing up.  We've never grown popcorn before, and this is heirloom strawberry popcorn.  It's not strawberry flavored, the kernels are just red.  I can't wait to try it.  I was still too close to home, though.  Too close to toys left out, weeds needing to be pulled, and tomatoes that were nearly ripe.  I needed to get further away.

I ended up across the road, in one of the soy bean fields that has the best view of the sunset.  Though it wasn't my reason this evening, I sometimes go here to pray when I'm upset.  It's just so far away from anything that I feel like I can talk, or yell as much as I want and it's just me and God.

It has this particular tree right smack in the middle of it that always captures my imagination.  Sometimes I dream of running down there, and hiding in it with a book.  Of course, walking through a field is not an easy thing to do, as the ground is not smooth and farmers don't really like you doing it much as it can crush the plants.  People don't realize that these aren't rows of sidewalks.  It's piles of dirt, sometimes mud.  You slip a lot, and need to lift those legs high.  I've actually never walked down to this tree, but I think about doing it all the time.  One of these days I'll make it there.  It's farther than it looks, as I can walk and walk and not appear to get any closer, and really you shouldn't be walking in fields this time of year anyway.

Plus animals hide in the plants, and you never know when you come across a skunk or a snake or something.  I'd rather go walking in the winter out in a spot like this, where I can see what is in my path, but the freezing wind hits so badly then.  That's why I've never made it down to the tree.  Maybe this year.

I walked around a bit where I saw a tractor wheel had been, that made a little path for me to walk.  Even then I tried not to trample the beans.  I thought about what a shame it had been that they had been crushed, and yet how convenient it was for me to have a little path.

Trampled... to create a path.

I dwelled on that concept for quite awhile.  Somedays "trampled" is the best way to describe how I feel.  I thought about how Jesus was crushed to make a way for us.  I thought about all the little plants, or grass that has to die so that paths can be made.  I thought about all the things that were sacrificed for the sake of a path.  It's interesting, isn't it? Clearing a path is essentially cutting away branches, pulling up plants, and trampling down soft spots to make way for firm ground, with little obstruction.

In fact, a good path is one that is travelled often.  It's one where things are repeatedly trampled, repeatedly pulled up, repeatedly put to death.  Those paths are easy to identify, and easy to walk.


As I ponder these things, I wonder what paths God is forming in my life, and for what purpose?  After visiting a friend of mine recently who is deeply struggling in multiple areas, God has brought to mind the story of Job, and "Job's friends."  You know, the guys who visit Job and told him how he must have caused all of this pain in his life, and he must have done this to himself, and if he would just get his act together or call out to God, God would take away all of his suffering, and what was the matter with him anyway?

I know when I'm suffering, I need the friends around me who don't search for ways that I could have avoided my suffering, I need the friends who will wrap their arms around me, so that I don't feel alone. Friends that bring comfort, and compassion.

Suffering often has a reason, though I do not pretend to always know what it is, or how to stop it.  Heck, I don't even know always how to get through it other than fixing your eyes on Jesus.  He helps you breathe.  He keeps you from drowning.  As I walked this path of crushed plants, I thought about how these crushed soy beans made a good path for me.  Their suffering (so to speak) brought me out to the field, brought me time of reflection, and brought me safely back home.

I'm so blessed that I have access to the outdoors.  I have lived in big cities where you have to walk quite awhile to find grass.  Nature is so therapeutic.  It quiets the soul, and awakens the senses.  It's such a gift.  I take it for granted far too much.  The Bible talks about how it declares his glory.

I'm blessed with roses, and popcorn in my garden, and freezers and a cold rooms for canning jars starting to groan with being stuffed for the winter.

I'm blessed with paths and trails through the woods and through the fields.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Yearly Long Homeschooling Post

I should laugh at the title of this post…as if I were only longwinded once a year.  Ha!

Last year was really hard.  Not only did we have the normal pressures of homeschooling, we dealt with my injury from the car accident, all 5 of the kids having various degrees of injuries from the car accident, working through some learning disabilities with one of my children, and solving some big problems there.  We did a very extensive standardized test near the end of the year, which our state requires, though we chose one more extensive than we did in the past.  The results were a resounding:

My children are thriving as we homeschool.

I knew, though, that I was not.  I burnt out, crashed and burned, stared at a wall, whatever you want to call it.

To be perfectly honest, I spent hours on my knees, I mean hours at the end of our last school year, asking God if this was really what he called me to do.  I played out in my head what it would be like to send my kids off to school.  I played out in my head quitting this whole homemaker/homeschooling gig and going back to work and being a "working mom."  I get emails from knitting publication editors, I have opportunities to contribute to books.  I could have a job tomorrow if I wanted one.

I walked away from that soul/God searching with a renewed peace that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and yes, it's hard, but it's good.  It's the plan.  Stay the course.  And He will sustain me.  Sacrificing is hard, but on the other hand, isn't it the trademark of a Christ-follower?  How can we possibly be walking in the footsteps of Christ if we avoid sacrifice?

I also walked away with a renewed conviction that I need to be taking care of myself better than I have been, if I'm in it for the long haul.  There must be balance.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  I am not the hero.  I am not the Savior.  I have spent some time this summer reading books from homeschool veteran Sally Clarkson.  I've been having tea, Facebook conversations, and phone calls with friends I've met with homeschool networking who have graduated children and have some wisdom to pass down.  I've been gleaning wisdom from all of them, and soaking in their advice and words of grace.

So I'm making some big changes this year.  They have been hard decisions, as I choose between several good things, to find the right things.  I don't know if these changes are permanent or just this year.  I hope that every year I will be open to change, though, so I don't think anything is permanent.  The first change made was that I'm stepping down as Sunday School teacher at my church.  Teaching 6 days a week it too much.  I love teaching there so much, and get much joy from it, but I feel so much at peace about stepping down that I know God has someone else lined up to take my place.

The second big change is we are stepping away from our homeschool co-op.  Now, we're not stepping away from our homeschool group, or association, which has various activities throughout the year.  We are only stepping away from one of the homeschool group's weekly gatherings.  We will still do some field trips and other activities with them.  I just found I need to schedule in down time at this stage with the kids.  As in, write on the calendar "stay home and play" instead of leaving it blank.  We are adding maybe band, and starting piano lessons for David, and signed up for some nature study field trips.  I have to take away activities somewhere, and we're having to cut deep to do that.

One of the main reasons that we're stepping away from the co-op this year isn't because we don't love it, because we do.  It was so beneficial.  It's just that is the only day a sitter is available for me to use.  I need to make a priority of taking care of myself this year, and that means that taking care of myself has to replace something.  I've arranged for a 17 year old homeschool student to come once a week in the afternoon and finish up a few assignments with the kids while I go to the library and work on my knitting patterns, or have coffee with a friend, or wander around an antique store.  I'm thankful that my knitting business will be able to pay for this weekly down time, and I hope it will enable me to release the backed up pile of patterns that each need loose ends tied up to actually get published.

I'm always a proponent of moms taking time to rest and regroup, but for some reason, I had to work through a lot of guilt in making this decision in regards to me.  I feel guilty for pulling my kids from their co-op to do it.  I feel guilty for spending money on myself when I could give it to someone who needs it more than I do, or spend it on my family.  I feel guilty for needing to get away, and not being strong enough to carry this all on my own.  I finally realized that I was merely having to lay down some pride, and that is normally a good thing.  It wasn't guilt that was plaguing me, it was pride.  It's easy to confuse the two.  It's the idea that everyone else needs help, but not me.  Nope, I'm fine.

I need to take care of myself, and there's nothing wrong with that.  It's okay to say, "Nope, I'm not enough, I can't carry it all, and I need help."  Whew.  Glad to get that off my chest.

I was stuck in this cycle of getting up, spending all day long with 5 kids, finally getting them to sleep, Knut coming home from work at various hours, often when I just get the kids down, and then wanting to actually spend time with me, and then me staying up until midnight or 1am just to experience being alone.  I know there are moms out there who know what I'm talking about.  Then you wake up the next day, groggy and weak, and go through the next day exhausted.  Repeat.  I need to jump off this crazy cycle, and hopefully by scheduling in alone time, I can make some progress to get off the merry-go-round of staying up until the wee hours of the morning.

Other than that, we're just continuing on.  I normally list on the blog what curriculum we are using this year, but I hesitate in doing that because we are using such a hodgepodge of curricula this year that should I list them all, there would be the impression that we are doing all of the parts of the curricula listed, and we aren't.  Though it's tempting to make you "oohh" and "ahhh" and say, "Wow, that's a lot!  I could never do that much!" I don't want any other moms to feel defeated by the illusion of what someone else is doing.   Plus, I simply don't have the time to list every single book, and which pages or chapters of those books we will be using.  There are very few changes we're making this year, so we're doing a bit of Sonlight books, a bit of My Father's World books from last year, a bit of Apologia, a bit of Saxon, though I may switch Silje to Teaching Textbook this year when she finishes the book she is on.  David will likely stick with Saxon.  We are reading "living books" and discussing them.  We are doing a bit from some hand-me down Shurley English textbooks, and some Institute for Excellence in writing.  We will memorize poems, Scripture, Shakespeare, geography songs and timeline jingles.  We are doing some Simply Charlotte Mason art studies as well.

I will say Silje will be going deeper into art.  David will be going deeper into chess.  Elias will be doing some basics as he's kindergarten age now.  At that age I require 15 minutes each of reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Everything else is optional, and they participate as much as they want.  That system has worked very well for us.

Elias is showing himself to be even more into art than Silje is, who is normally our resident artist.  He spends hours coloring, with such attention to detail and passion that I have not seen with the other kids at this age.  He's no prodigy, but it's something he's becoming very passionate about, and he's taken to carrying a notebook around, in case he sees something he wants to sketch.  He has so many ideas for stories in his head that he just sits and acts out through his art.  I'm excited about that, and hope to open some more doors in this area for him this year as well.  This kid is very quiet, and keeps his thoughts to himself most of the time.  So I'm eager to see more of what is in his head through this means of art and stories.

I have also been working hard in getting a better organizational system for our homeschool "stuff."  Last year Knut built in a bookshelf and cabinet.  The bookshelf keeps our school books, and the cabinet keeps our school/craft supplies and manipulatives.  It's great.  However, last year I had school papers floating around everywhere from bookshelf ledges to the dining room table, to random end tables, and in the back hallway.  I don't want to hunt down a math page.  I don't want to go through a stack to find a writing assignment.  So this year I got these pretty baskets, with little chalkboard plaques for everyone's name from Target.  I have one for me, that holds files for each kid, for lessons I have in the works, and some household papers.  Silje, David, and Elias each have a "To Do" folder, and a "Done" folder.  The 2 younger kids just have 1 folder right now for any artwork, or worksheets, as they are mostly playing and will "grow into" their file basket in years to come.

I was so pleased how Knut hung them, because he kept every scrap from his bookshelf project, and the piece of wood he hung these baskets on, so that the weight would be on the studs, was some old moulding he had to pull off the wall to put in the bookshelves.  So it's original to the house and looks like it has always been there.  There's a good space above these baskets that I want to get some vinyl lettering of some quote in regard to learning.  I'm debating between about 20 quotes right now.  Actually I've narrowed it down to a short list about 7.

So it will likely get done in a year or so.  Ha!  That's how long it will take me to over think it.

My goal was to keep the system simple, as I'm not a very organized person and have learned that the more detailed the system is, the less likely I will use it.  So the kids will have a log sheet or worksheet for a particular subject, and will move the log sheet or assignment from the "to do" folder to the "done" folder when they finish it.  That way when I want to find something, it will be in the "done" folder.

In theory.

I have used checklists with the kids in the past, but I've found that they conveniently skip over some lines and I have to go through it pretty thoroughly to make sure they do each thing, and each part of each thing.  So I'll still have to hold them accountable, but hopefully this will help me hold them accountable.

Well, that's my big plans for the year in a large nutshell.