Monday, August 30, 2010

Rough Days

David is always bemoaning the fact that it's still summer, and he wants winter. Or more preferably, fall when the pumpkins are ready (his birthday) and then winter...when the snow is ready. I'm telling you, it's tough for him...getting through the rest of summer.

I mean look at him.
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Putting on a brave face.

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Finding ways to deal with the hardship of melted, not frozen water...
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Sledding in the water, in stead of the snow.
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I mean, sure you can ski in the summer on water, but he's not big enough for that yet. Skiing on snow is about his favorite thing in the world.

I mean, it's tough to be 4 these days.
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You all feel so sorry for him, right? Me too.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Our First Week of Homeschooling

A shift in the weather and a nip in the air made this week feel even more like the first week of school. We didn't start with all of the subjects this week, but we started with most. Next week we'll add math and "home ec" as I'm calling it where Silje will start to learn basic crocheting first.

Our day starts with breakfast and the kids listen to Knut read from the book of Mark before he goes to work. Then the kids run upstairs to clean their rooms and get dressed. It's never been easier to motivate them to do this! Now they know that when their rooms are clean and they are out of their p.j.s, they can start school.

Our first subject is Bible, and I've loved the "Leading Little Ones to God" book that we got from Sonlight. It's the most in depth children's devotional I've run across. It's not a book about being nice or obeying your parents. It's a book about God. This week our lessons have covered things like we can't see God (because he's a spirit, and because of his glory), but we can see him through his creation and works. The pictures in the book are very, we'll say "vintage" but the content is wonderful and the kids sit very well for it.

Then Silje works on her memory verse and handwriting which is Psalm 1:1 this week. She's supposed to memorize the first 6 verses of Psalms over the next 6 weeks, and I decided to combine this with handwriting. Let me just say, I'm amazed at her handwriting improvement this week. Simply amazed.

I impressed on her that she was writing God's word, and when she writes the Scriptures, she should take extra care to do her best. She took those words to heart and is writing beautifully.

The first day, she made several mistakes, and I corrected her in where certain letters started on the lines, and such. She kept looking up at me in amazement and saying "I never knew that!" Neither she nor I was frustrated by her constant correcting the first day, but she always erased when something was wrong, let me write it, and then insisted on erasing what I wrote so the whole verse could be done in her hand. Every day she wrote the verse every other morning, she did so without mistake--not even one little eraser mark. We were able to do more reciting of the verse to take it more to memory.

Once I got Silje set up with her handwriting exercise, I work with David with his phonics. This has been his favorite subject, and he read his first story about a fat cat and fat rat who sat, sat, sat. I've been having things available for him to do throughout the morning, but I haven't been requiring him to do any of it yet. I do encourage him, but I feel as a 4 year old, his primary job should still be active playing. His favorite activities are his phonics lesson, mazes (pre-writing worksheets) and puzzles. Lots and lots of puzzles!

The activities I have for him are mostly around encouraging him to use a marker or pencil or crayon more, as I would really like to see him write his name this year. His favorite by far, however, has been an extra pentagram puzzle with different animal shapes to form. He calls it his "magic puzzle" because it's a puzzle that fits together several different ways.

Elias is a pretty independent player, and although he was crabby the first day due to still recovering from our trip, he usually plays with a bucket of toys I set out for him, although I have had to give in sometime during our school day, and put on a Vegi Tales for him to keep him happy while we finish up our last little bit. It's only a 30 minute show, and he loves them.

Anyway, after Silje is done with her Bible memory/handwriting, we move onto grammar, or sometimes reading. I made a big adjustment this week because we got the first week's worth of lessons done the first day. Seriously, I had put together this big grouping/sorting activity they wanted me to do with toys and food and clothes all piled up on our dining room table. The portion assigned for that day took us literally 1 minute and the kids would have looked at me like I had 3 heads if I had stopped there.

After we finished the first week in the first day, I once again looked over the curriculum, and decided to skip to week 5 for the rest of the week. Weeks 1-4 were very repetitious of this same sorting activity, with just switching out the items in the pile. It was a lot of work for me, and to be honest, the kids weren't that into it. So on Tuesday we started week 5 and it has been going really well.

In grammar this week we learned our jingles/chants to go with nouns, verbs, and sentences. We read a story about the Sentence Kingdom, where all the words wanted to live. Words from all over the world would try to form together and go before the Sentence Council to see if they could follow the 3 rules of becoming a sentence. The words that passed the test got a thumbs up from the council, and much prestige, but the words that failed a test got a thumbs down and everyone taunted them by calling them a fragment, fragment, fragment. The words traveled to Nountown and Verbville to get more training on how to become a sentence, and soon, in the end, a little group of words passed the test. Silje was charmed by this all and giggled through the whole story. We got to do some kingdom-like crafts to go along with it, so I guess so far the grammar program is a hit.

For history and geography we've been studying differences in people groups. We've been all over our map studying about how there are over 6,000 languages, and studying peoples who have no Bible in their language. We learned about different types of money, flags, governments. We took out my old passport from when I was a teenager, and found the countries with stamps in my passport on the map. We learned about visas too, and how different countries have different sets of rules. It's just little bits of information here and there that we're reading in our books, but she's really enjoying learning all of these little facts, and is always full of lots of questions!

We do spelling too. We started on a 2nd grade spelling list and she started this week with words with the short "a" sound. She got 100% (plus her extra credit word) on her spelling quiz on Friday, but she really studied it and was really nervous about it so I'm glad that I found a level where she can excel, but she still feels challenged.

After talking with several homeschooling families, I was told to expect about 2 hours worth of work for early elementary ages, and have so far found that to be pretty true. We still need to add in math and another elective, and we're usually done in about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If the kids don't interrupt much, I still have time to get to town if needed, get in the garden if needed, etc. All of this can be done before lunch! Depending on the number of interruptions, either by the kids or because I really need to get something done quick, the day is done as early as 9:30 am, but took us to 11:30am another morning. My goal for this year is to always be done by noon. (This does not count electives which I have prepared for the kids to do while Elias takes his nap. Silje does her Chinese on the computer during nap time, and when Elias is sleeping is the easiest time to get science projects done too.)

So far, the most difficult challenge has been the kids whining when school stops for the day. That has to be a good sign.

It has made our day more orderly and easier altogether. So far the days are easier than when we weren't homeschooling. I'm sure that will change at some point. For now, we have constructive, fun things for the kids to do that is sometimes independent, and sometimes needing me. We're all together which has been good for dealing with fights and squabbles and behavior by nipping them in the bud without me having to come in to a situation that is out of hand. It's been quite nice.

So far, homeschooling gets a thumbs up from me! Week 1! Done!

(I'll have pictures of the kids working on their things for next Friday's homeschool update. I promise!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

This is the Life

At the risk of completely jinxing myself, I just wanted to say that I love to wake up to a clean house. I woke up this morning and my house was clean. There are few greater joys.

I had a warm breakfast of cream of wheat (one of my favorite pregnancy breakfasts...I'm always short on iron when I'm pregnant). It's especially good when the house is a bit chilly because we left the windows open upstairs all night, and it's about getting too cold at night to do that. However, there's something very fall-ish about waking up in a chilly house and having to put on socks before you head downstairs. It makes me think of back to school season and sharp #2 pencils, and brand new books that crack when you open them wide, cozy sweaters, and the comfort of routine returning after the adventures of summer.

I don't know if it's fall I love so much, or the change of seasons that you get up here. It's like you don't get much of a chance to get sick of the weather because it changes just when it should. Well, winter lasts a bit long, but not long enough if you ask David. He asks me every day now how much longer he'll have to wait for the snow. He cried last spring when it melted. Like his father, his skis are calling his name too. It's not fall yet, but you can start to feel it coming in the air.

We continued our new habit of Knut reading from the Bible while we all sit around the table eating breakfast before he goes to work. We talked about our assigned passage for the day, and then he got his boots on and headed out the door.

Now the kids are getting dressed and cleaning their rooms before we start school while Elias and I are playing with cars and he keeps getting hit with tickle bombs.

This is the life.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I wasn't kidding

I know much of my family is waiting to find out how our first week of homeschooling is going. I'll only say, awesome, and leave it at that for now. I'm very aware that many don't need a daily update, and I simply don't have the time for that, but I'm hoping to share our homeschooling highlights on Fridays, just for fun.

Just to show you, though, that I wasn't kidding about our pumpkin vine, I thought I'd share some pictures:

Yes, that is our pie pumpkin vine in the middle of our garden. You see, 2 summers ago, I was thinking that I hated spending the money on pumpkins at Halloween time, but they were just so festive, and not in a demonic way. Just fun. So I decided to grow a jack-o-lantern pumpkin vine. That year we got a handful of pumpkins. 3 good ones, at least. So the next year we decided to do it again. However, we got 19 pumpkins. (I know I've written this all before, I'm just reviewing.) We couldn't get rid of them all and we made some delicious pumpkin things with it, but many went bad.


These are not jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but pie pumpkins which are a bit smaller with a yummier meat to them, since we're now addicted to all of those pumpkin recipes that we tried last year. If you can see, the far right of the garden is my asparagus plants which are done for the year. A bit to the left of that in the back are the 10 tomato plants that we're harvesting now. We have "healthy kick" roma tomatoes with twice some of the vitamins of normal tomatoes, and "big boy" tomatoes which are huge now, but not red yet. Beating back the vine away from these tomato stalks have been a daily job. The vines have wrapped around, grown inside, (Knut found 2 pumpkins growing INSIDE of the tomato stalk one day) growing over, under, around...you name it. There was a cucumber vine that was much smaller that got swallowed up by this pumpkin vine. It's under there somewhere.

This is the left side of the garden. The vine overtook the broccoli plants, which are fortunately done, but we haven't been able to get them out yet. It has grown over the beets and the green beans so we have to beat them back there, too. If you notice the dead plants to the far left, that was our peas which have been done awhile, but we've been gone and haven't had a chance to take those vines down yet. Basically, Knut and I walk around the perimeter with cutters and just cut the vine to save the other plants, but the vine is just back the next day, wrapped around some poor plant, and invading the grass around the garden as well.

Today when I was walking around the perimeter of the vine, trying to contain it, I counted over 20 larger green pie pumpkins. That's just the perimeter. We're going to blow away our record of 19 pumpkins last year. Like I said, there will be enough for everyone!

Just for fun, I'll show you the jalepenos I picked from the garden this afternoon. This was a new crop for our garden this year, but I was hoping to try my hand at making salsa, so we planted 3 of these plants. Fortunately I found out these freeze really really well. I need to find a salsa recipe or 2 to try out, though. I'm guessing pretty soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Trivia

What do Robert Frost, Agatha Christie, Margaret Atwood, Jonathan Edwards, Hudson Taylor, Blaise Pascal, Claude Monet, William Blake, Stonewall Jackson, Ben Franklin, Daniel Webster, Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Gen. George Patton, Lousia May Alcott, Andrew Carnegie, and Elias Howe (inventor of the sewing machine ;) ) all have in common?

They were all homeschooled.

Today, is our formal start. I mean, Silje was reading chapter books before entering kindergarten, David has known his colors, shapes and letters for quite some time. I suppose they've been taught by us for a few years now. Today, however, formal school at home begins.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bringing the outdoors in and indoors out!


Yesterday was crab apple picking.  With our apple trees dying left and right lately, we're determined to savor what is left!  For those of you who didn't know, crab apples don't just make tasty snacks, but they make the BEST apple cider when pressed.  We just need to borrow a press from a neighbor, and cider will be ours (frozen) for winter. 

However, my freezer is officially full from our enormous garden harvest this year, so Knut and I are debating about either buying another freezer, or storing some things elsewhere for the winter.  Is a bumper crop of everything considered an emergency, so we could take money from the emergency savings?  The beans still aren't done for the year, I have no room for any freezer meals right now, and don't even get me started on the pumpkins again. 

You know, the pie pumpkin plant in our garden with its sights set on taking over the world. 

I had plans to freeze pumpkin bread (my favorite!), roasted pureed pumpkin for pies this winter, for soups, pumpkin cheesecake.  Did I mention that everyone I know is entitled to 1 or 10 free pie pumpkins this fall?  I'll keep you updated.


O the helpers were plentiful!  Pictures of David, though, were few.



Today I finally conquered a project I've been wanting to do for awhile.  The chandelier in our dining room was gold, and I really wanted a bronzy one to match the fixtures in the rest of the house.  I saw on an HGTV episode years ago when we still had the channel, that if you spray paint it in just bronze, it looks flat, but if you give a little shimmer over the bronze with copper spray paint, it adds depth and looks more like real bronze.  So if you come to my house, pretend it looks real.  ;)

Not your average Saturday laundry drying on the line!  (The tape is just painter's tape, you know.  We don't actually have bright blue candlesticks on it.)

Our vegetable garden isn't the only harvest being brought inside.  Right now, we have a gorgeous bouquet in nearly every room on the main floor, and there's still enough color left in the garden to be pretty.  O, I just love this time of year!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home Again

We're finally back from vacation, and I have the final installment of pictures to post. I think I left off on the beach, right?

After that, we took the kids to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I've never been to either, but since Silje will be studying a bit about immigrants this fall, we thought it would be a fun place to go.

The kids probably most enjoyed the ferry out to the different islands!
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Although, Silje probably liked the Barbie exhibit at Ellis Island the best, with Barbies from around the world.
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You know, like the Chinese Barbie,
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and one of Mommy's favorite, the Norwegian Barbie:
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The museum was a bit difficult to navigate with strollers, but it was really fun, and they've done so much good restoration in the last few decades. To be honest, Knut and I probably enjoyed this more than the kids, but to be fair, the kids did amazingly well, and we were so proud of them.
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David was my only willing person to pose with Lady Liberty. We had a little lunch on the lawn here, and then headed back "home."
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We wished we could have hit New York City after our this excursion, but the kids were nearing meltdown, and the babies had barely slept and the pregnant mommy was feeling a bit weak, so we headed home. Maybe next time.

The next day, we just went to church, and enjoyed being with each other, for one last day. Elias is a baby hog, and loves to smother babies with love, so we had to keep a close eye on him!
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It was very very tough to say goodbye, but Monday morning, we headed for Michigan.

We stayed at my cousin Jen's house, along with her husband and 7 children (all 9 and under). The kids were in heaven with so many playmates to play with, and so much room to play around! We stayed there all day Tuesday, and the kids had fun taking care of their horse, jumping on the trampoline, and they even put on a little program for all of us adults, just like Jen, her sister and my siblings used to do for my parents. Man, it brought back memories! I haven't seen my Uncle and Aunt who live across the corn field from Jen, or her sister Bethany (who we found out is now nicknamed "Bootie"...a trend started by Jen's husband) for close to 20 years, so it was a very happy reunion. They used to all come and visit us in Colorado when I was a child every year and we always had a ton of fun.
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Knut has never really gotten to know anyone from my dad's side of the family, and was totally smitten with all of them, so again, this was yet another destination that was tough to leave.

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(SHHHHH!!!! Don't tell Grandpa, but Elias rode a Deere there.)

They had a girl, "Libby" who was just Silje's age. They were inseparable the entire time, and Libby let her where matching p.j.'s with her the last night. Libby also let her sleep with her American Girl doll, which I think was a really big deal.
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Waking her up early Wednesday morning to leave, she was in tears, saying she didn't want to go. I must say my eyes teared up as well, as I just told her "me neither, Hunny. Me neither."

The ride home was very long as we decided to drive around the Upper Peninsula, but it was so beautiful that it was well worth it.

We stopped for lunch on the beach of Lake Michigan, and it could not have been a more perfect day.
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We didn't get home until midnight, and yesterday we spent the day recovering and trying to clean up. With us having a tough time leaving each stop we were at, I was surprised how relieved I felt to sleep in my own bed again, and be in my own home.

The kids are anxious to start homeschooling this Monday, and our garden is still being taken over by pumpkins. I think we're going to have to beat that plant back daily now until they are ripe. Anyone who lives near us, don't buy pumpkins this year. Come take ours. Our record of 19 pumpkins last year will be a joke this year. We have way way too many! As I'm typing this, the kids and Knut are picking apples, so I think life will continue to be busy as we are preparing everything for winter. Our 10 tomato plants are extremely heavy with green balls right now too, so I better clear my schedule. Ahh, it's good to be home!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vacation Update #2-The beach

Yesterday we finally arrived at our destination state of New Jersey. Although Knut has been to his brother's house before, I never had, and I'm enjoying seeing all of my sister-in-law's amazing decorating talent, and our twin nephews who seem to be twice as big as when we saw them last in May!

This morning we slept in as much as all the kids would allow, and leisurely headed out to the shore. The kids, besides Silje, have never seen the ocean, and so it seemed to be a logical stop. (Silje was only 4 weeks old the last time she was at the ocean, and she screamed the entire time, so I'm not sure if she actually had her eyes open to see it!)

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It was hot when we arrived, and there was a charge to get on the beach, which we found out was limited to only the sand and closed to swimming or even wading in the water due to the high waves today, so we were a bit put off in the beginning. Then we found out that they stopped charging about 30 minutes after we got there, and the lifeguards left a little while after that, making the water "at your own risk" so we hung around the boardwalk and got some ice cream before we settled onto the beach for free.

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Silje quickly got to work collecting shells, and David and Elias played so well the entire time too! Knut and I were bracing ourselves for the kids unending whining since they couldn't go swimming, but they actually did quite well the whole time!

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Michiah and Gunnar seemed to enjoy themselves as well. I'm continually amazed how much these guys smile and how very little they ever cry. I'm not sure I've ever encountered such happy babies. They're starting to coo now, and it's fun having our "little conversations" with them.

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When the lifeguards went home just before we were about to follow suit, we were at our own risk, we took the risk, and got our feet wet.

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Little Elias however, did not enjoy putting his feet in, or the splash of the waves. He much preferred to dig in the sand.

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The little ones finally gave in at the end of the afternoon. It was a long, but lovely day.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vacation Update


Where on earth are we? Well, at the moment, in Maryland. We're on our family vacation right now, and since we have the luxury of a Walmart laptop this year, we can share some of our vacation. How's this for the coolest drinking fountain ever??

The first leg of our journey took us to the home of friends of Knut and I, a bit outside Chicago. The kids refer it as "Fireman Chris' house." Yes, our friend Chris does work for the fire department, but I believe he drives an ambulance. Still, he was more than willing to give the kids a tour of the fire engine.


Each of the kids got their turn to "drive."




Of course, there needed to be a tour of the ambulance too!


Chris and his wife Heather not only had toys at their house that thrilled the kids to no end, but they had 2 pet chinchillas. Our animal lover here was just in heaven. I must say, they were about the softest animals I have ever felt!


The next leg of our journey brought us to my cousin Juliana's. She and her husband Ashish, and their 2 little girls live just outside of Washington D.C. Juliana is actually my double cousin. My dad's sister married my mom's brother...if you followed that. Juliana and I are only months apart in age and have always been close growing up, so this was a very fun stop for us as well.

Today we took the day off of driving and visited the air and space museum, since we're doing a science course on astronomy this year, and visited a bit of the natural history museum as well. That was so terribly crowded though, and the kids were so close to melting down at that point that we didn't get to see as much of that particular museum as we would have liked. David had fun flying in a plane here!


We mentioned to Juliana and Ashish that we didn't bring our stroller, and surprisingly, they pulled out a few extra, including this double stroller that the boys are in, and Silje and her second cousin Safina are hanging off of.


We had a lunch picnic of chicken salad on croissants on the lawn between here...

and here.

Silje and Safina just can't get enough of each other! Neither one of them can talk much without twirling, and they love to dance together. Elias is quite smitten with their younger girl, Serina, but he tends to just chase after her in an attempt to hug her, and in his excitement he growls and scares her away, and then his hugs basically smother her. They have a whole new batch of toys at this house too, so they've been keeping very busy!

This evening they took us to an amazing restaurant that served Lebanese food, which I had never had before but enjoyed immensely! Elias ate off of our plates, and enjoyed it as well. David ordered chicken strips, but Silje surprised us and chose the pita pizza, which I got a taste of and was amazing as well!

We've enjoyed getting to know their little girls, and I must say I love how little Safina calls me "Auntie" in the Indian tradition of her father's origin. "Auntie, can I hold your hand?" It just melts my heart.

So tomorrow, we're taking the morning pretty easy and letting the kids get a bit of last minute playing in before we hit the road for a few more hours, and head up to New Jersey to visit Knut's brother, Jon, along with his wife Kristin and little twin nephews of ours. There we'll spend the weekend, and most likely have much more to share as well! What a fun trip this has been so far!