Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Beautiful Site

Now that David can read simple books, and Elias can sit through a story, these boys have found something new to do together.

Photobucket

It's a beautiful site.

Photobucket

And it's not wrestling.

Photobucket

But I'm sure someday, these two will figure out how to make it into a full contact sport, or at least some sort of competition.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mai Tai

I've been so good about working through my "almost finished" pile in my sewing room. My goal has been to finish one thing a day, or at least put a significant amount of work into a longer project. I've been doing better than expected, and have actually finished 5 or six things some days. The day before yesterday I finished a whole pile of Knut work clothes that needed mending, and even some ski things of his. I hate that kind of work and I'm so glad to have it out of my creative space!

Speaking of my creative space, my sewing room has been going through a mini-makeover. Clutter was starting to take over, and pieces of projects were just strewn everywhere. I used to have a policy of only having enough fabric on hand that fit in the cupboards in my sewing room. Well, when things get messy, things start to pile up. Part of my problem is that not everything was fitting in the cupboards anymore. So some of my top projects have their supplies stacked in my "almost finished" pile as well. I'm on a fabric spending freeze until I get myself back on track here.

Photobucket

Then there's the other storage issue. Up until now my patterns have been organized in a plastic tub/filing cabinet. Then there's the yarn issue. There's the tub of cheap yarn, and the tub of scrap wool yarn that I use to embroider some of the wool items in my store. Then there's my slowly growing reference book library of some amazing crafting books that I use a lot while I'm sewing. Some of my favorites are a cute applique book, a quilting encyclopedia, a pattern alteration guide, a guide for sewing clothes especially for children. All of these have amazing information that I pull out often and I wanted to add a bookshelf to my space. Then there's the scrap problem, although I wouldn't define it exactly as a "problem." When I work on projects, more specifically projects involving cotton woven fabrics, like quilting fabrics, I like to keep as many scraps as I can for future quilts. I keep them fairly organized, per instructions of www.quiltville.com

Anyway, I got this little cubicle unit with a little opening for a bookshelf, a fabric bin which is now full of "almost finished" things. I have no problem having this bin, except there's this bin and the entire top of my washing machine that has almost finished things. I'd like to cover this bin with coordinating fabric leftover from the bulletin board I covered that's hanging right above this unit. However, I can't find all my leftovers. To me that's a red flag that my fabric problem is really in need of containment! I'm sure I'll find it one of these days. I just don't have time to look for something when there are plenty of projects looking for me.

If I can just work my way down to just this bin, I'll be happy. Then I got some shelves in another cubicle which has a drawer for my various elastics, one is full of buttons, another with trims and bias edging, still another one with all of my double pointed knitting needles. It really organized all the things that were shoved in the one drawer in my sewing desk. Target didn't have 2 deep drawers, so I had to get a rain check for one, and for the time being my ribbons will just have to sit there. Then I ordered the bottom left bin which is actually a filing cabinet to hold all of my patterns, and replaces the other tub. It's a bit smaller than my other tub, but it fits the space so much better, and fits with the other cubicles I got.

The next 2 things I want to do is to paint the cupboards in the room white, (I'm thinking this will get done after this baby is born) and to make a fabric cover for my serger, to protect dust from getting in the gears. Plus it will look cool. I'm still undecided if I want some sort of valance in the room, or if I just like as much sunlight to flood in as I can.

So last night, I needed to get something off of my "almost finished pile" and the project I picked wasn't even started, but wouldn't fit in my cupboards. My "almost finished pile" also contains my "get done before baby" projects, and since this one was relatively simple I decided to make something from scratch because I'd been so disciplined to finished all of these tedious little projects. I had just finished mending Knut's work clothes and my machine was all hooked up with the denim weight needle and color thread, and this project included denim as well, so it saved me some set up time.

Photobucket
It's an Asian Mai Tai. Since Elias was born, I've learned so much about the parenting technique of baby-wearing and let me tell you I love it! I don't wear Elias anymore, but in his first year, having him always there and always close made it so easy to teach him things and soothe him while I was doing dishes, gardening, or helping one of the other kids. It was great as we needed extra bonding to catch up from all of his hospital issues, and we sure got it. I used a ring sling with him mostly. My problem with that is that it only pulled on one shoulder which wasn't an issue for a long time, but as he got heavier it became more and more difficult.

I also have a Baby Bjorn which I like, and find comfortable, but I don't think my kids find it quite as comfortable as I do. When they're not as comfortable, it kinda defeats the purpose of holding them to soothe them. Plus, I can only wear the baby on the front with the Bjorn, and I prefer to wear a baby on my back. On the front, the weight pulls on my back, and the heavier the baby gets, the more I hunch over. On the back, the weight pulls on my abs and I feel like I'm getting a good ab workout...something that any new mom is eager to squeeze in.

So this is the kind of carrier they use in Asia, and can be worn on the front, back, or hip.

Photobucket

Mine is reversible and I used a pattern that I've been holding onto for way too long. So I can either have the designer Amy Butler fabric facing out, or the lightweight denim. This was a great "stash buster" project as I let go of some fabric I've held onto for way too long, and it came together so fast. Really there's the waist strap, 2 shoulder straps, the front panel, and the pocket. That's it. There's some hidden "X" supports on the inside, but it's not too complicated.

I also whipped together a Moby wrap out of some $1 Walmart knit fabric I've had for I don't know how long. Really, you don't have to "make" a faux-Moby. There was no sewing involved. I took 5 yards of fabric (I think a real Moby is 5-6 yards, but I'm small so I thought I could get away with only 5...plus that's all I had) and cut it in half "hot dog style" as my kindergarten teacher used to say (length-wise). Viola, 2 faux-Mobys for $5. This fabric does not unravel, so I didn't have to serge the edges, although I wanted to. I didn't, though, because I only have white serger thread, and the fabric I used is chocolate brown and I didn't want that much contrast. Buying brown thread would have added about $20 to the cost of my project, and I liked the sound of just $5 from a few years ago better.

I'm happy to say that with my daily work on this goal of finishing all of these projects my pile is down by half, and I even have one Christmas present almost finished! My goal was New Years to get it all done, and I'm surprised how fast these "5 minutes to finish" projects are just flying out of my sewing room. O, it feels so good!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Big Brother

Elias has been working on some molars. For the most part, besides running around like a madman with his fingers in his mouth, he's been pretty good about it. Going to sleep has been a bit more tough for him. It takes a bit of Tylenol. Still, there are times when he gets up in the middle of the night crying and just needs to be picked up. He nuzzles his head into my neck, and I hold him in the rocker, and his body goes limp in my arms.

There's nothing like holding a sleeping baby. Knut and I have kinda an informal system when I take care of a newborn in the middle of the night, and he takes care of the older kids during the night. That way, when I'm getting up every few hours with a newborn, I can sleep straight through one of the older kids having a wet bed, a nightmare, or needing a drink of water. The older ones rarely get up at night, so he's still doing pretty good as far as workload.

For the most part, I love getting up in the middle of the night to snuggle a baby. I know when I was first a mom, I was so eager to get my baby to sleep through the night. To an extent, I'm pretty sure all moms are eager for some uninterrupted sleep. We're so eager to them to roll over, and crawl and walk, and even talk. It's good and normal, I think, to desire to see them develop into the person they were designed to be, but I think with each kid, I have pushed them to these milestones less and less.

If they potty train at 18 months or 4 years old means about a hill of beans in the long run. When they walk, roll over, or sleep through the night means less to me now. I don't worry because they will do it, and while they're not doing whatever is the next thing to do, I can enjoy that stage of their babyhood. I don't know exactly what I'm trying to say.

As I was holding Elias last night, it was way up high on my chest, with his little bum sitting on my big tummy, I was thinking of how life will be different with a new baby. When the new baby comes, Knut will be getting Elias' midnight snuggles. I'll be too tired from getting up at night with the new baby. Already, I hold him less during the day, and hold his hand as he's walking in parking lots and such.

I guess I'm trying to say, I wonder how it's going to be with a new baby in the house. Silje survived David coming, and David survived Elias coming. I'm sure Elias will survive. Not only that, I think having another sibling will be good for him. It will help develop his character, force him to grow up a bit. O...there we go. My baby will be growing up. He won't be my baby anymore. Not in the "youngest" sense.

When talking with other moms who are adding their second and third child, and feeling nervous of how it will change their older child's world, let me say, that anxious feeling is still there for the forth. Even with the full knowledge and experience you've had before of everything turning out fine, it's still bittersweet.

This new little love will be arriving in about 2 months. I'm sure I'll be overloaded on baby snuggles and midnight feedings. It's just silly to say that I'll miss getting up with Elias, as few and far between those times actually are. He's not going anywhere, just like David and Silje didn't go anywhere either. I still get to snuggle with each of them.

He's almost 2 now. I know he's not a baby anymore even without a new little one coming, but it seems to be so pronounced this way. Everyone notices that he's getting bigger. We stopped by our favorite ski place the other day to get the kids measured for skis so we could keep our eyes out for the right size of used children's skis for this winter. As we entered the building, our friend the owner said "Where's your littlest one?" We pointed at Elias who was tottling all around the room. His eyes got big, and he said "No! This can't be your little baby!" Yep, he's getting so big that he's not even recognized as a little baby anymore. He's a little boy now.

He likes to do what the big kids are doing all the time. He talks a lot more now, but with his own set of words. For instance, food is "Ummm! Ummm!" and he acts like he's chomping. Cars are still "Brrmmm Brrmmms" and water or milk has become "Mo Mo." He still says "no" 100% of the time, which means that 50% of them actually mean "yes." If you ask him if he wants more, and he says no, and you don't give him more, he'll get very upset.

He loves to point out pictures of "Bo" (boats) or "Bi" (bikes). One of my favorites is when he points out a bird and gets an enormous smile on his face and then says in a very high pitched voice "Teet teet! Teet teet!" He "moos" when he sees a cow, and says "woof woof" and then pants when he sees Lena. When she bothers him, he takes out his stern finger and shakes it at her saying "Doe Doe!" which reminds me of Gus from Cinderella.

He says "Haaa ooooo" when he gets a hold of one of our phones, and loves to wave "bye bye" to people. Don't even get me started on his obsession with wearing shoes all the time. He'll bring me his "oos" and "ocks" whenever he wakes up. When it's time to eat, he'll set down his cars that are always with him on a shelf and say "bye bye, brmm brmms" and then promptly marches to his chair.

Yes, my little boy is getting bigger. I suppose the main thing this new baby will bring to him is the title of "big brother." He has shown more love to babies than either of the other 2 ever have, and I know he will just dote on his little sister. He doesn't strike me as a jealous kid, rather very very nurturing.

He'll be a good big brother. We'll all be fine. I'm sure of that. In a logical, unemotional way at least. The emotional me is going to snuggle his little body over my big tummy as much as I can

Friday, September 24, 2010

Belly Pics

Since I got my hair cut, actually had at least some make-up on I thought that today would be a good day for Knut to take a belly pic of me. (And of course, Knut had to get a picture of the gorgeous corn field in the background.)

Photobucket
Not too bad for 28 weeks. I'm finally starting to gain some significant weight, and that's no surprise to me since I've been hungry pretty much all day every day. I seem to always gain the vast majority of the weight in the third trimester. I think I about gained the same amount of weight this last month as I have all the previous months of the pregnancy combined. It's really been tough to keep the kids on their snack/meal schedule when I constantly have food in my mouth. However, if I let them eat food all day, I can't, because I'm too busy getting it ready for them, cleaning it up after them, and when that's done and I get to have my portion, another kid comes up and asks for some. So really I'm at the point of either hiding my eating as much as I can from them, and constantly saying no, you have to wait for your snack time. It's mommy's snack time now. Actually it's always mommy's snack time. I'm such a mean mom.

This baby is extremely active. I feel her move almost constantly. Seriously, I don't know when she sleeps. She gets the hiccups now a lot too, which is fun. We're still not any closer on deciding on a name. We've narrowed it down to 3, but can't seem to narrow it any further. We may just wait until she gets here and see if that helps us decide. Names have been moving up and down the list here and there with such fluidity that it may just be the one that happens to be in the #1 spot at the time of her delivery that she ends up with. We've never gone to the hospital with more than 2 names on the list, and normally we're leaning towards one.

Elias was the closest we've ever had to an undecided. At the time of his birth, we were 60% leaning towards Elias and 40% towards Ethan. So Elias it was. He pulls the name off pretty well, so I think we did okay. Ironically, Ethan didn't make it on the list this time if this one were to be a boy. Go figure.

Photobucket
Yup, stickin' straight out. I'm not really liking how the lady styled my hair today, or maybe that's just me critiquing pictures of myself. I hate posting pictures of myself. I will anyway. That's how much I love you guys.

Homeschool Friday

Is it Friday already?

We had a picnic with our homeschool group this last Sunday, and it was fun for all of the families there to get together. The kids are really starting to make friends, and so am I. It was Knut's first time meeting about everyone there, but there were some acquaintances there that made it fun.

Silje had her first piano lesson, and another choir practice. (Although she was 15 minutes late for the 30 minute choir practice. I lost my keys and was searching all over with all of the kids strapped and waiting in the car...I hate that. Wasn't exactly a supermom moment.) She's loving piano, and is still talking about it. She's so excited that if she works hard, she'll have something to perform for Christmas this year.

We encountered our first bit of trouble this year when Silje had to take her English grammar test on Tuesday. Before the test, we reviewed the material. We practiced classifying 3 sentences together. (Well, she did the last 2 all by herself.) Then she did some journal writing before the test started.

It was the first time she froze for a test. She's had grammar tests before, but she just froze this time. I gave her the test paper: 2 sentences to classify, and 3 sets of words to label as SYN or ANT. We went over the questions together like we've done in the past to make sure she knew what each one was saying. Pretty short and sweet. She started out okay. She labeled the subject-noun, and the verb in the first sentence. Then she froze. Was the next word an adverb or an adjective? I knew she knew this.

So she turned to me and asked me which one it was. I reminded her this was a test, and I couldn't help her. She knew this too, but continued to panic. The more she panicked, the more her brain shut down and she couldn't think. I told her that if she didn't know the answer, to put down her best guess. That's when she started crying. Her body shook as she was terrified of guessing wrong and failing the test.

I didn't know what to do! I couldn't tell her the answer. I knew she knew the answer. We'd done these exact sentences the last week, and she had done 2 similar sentences all by herself not even 5 minutes earlier without mistake. I tried to comfort her, but ended up getting frustrated myself because all she would do is sit there and cry, and wouldn't write anything down.

So finally I left the room. I thought she needed to process this herself. She had to learn how to push through and overcome this test fright. I wasn't helping. The more I talked the more she cried.

Within 5 minutes, she brought the test to me and asked if she got it right. She did. 100%. Relief washed over her face, and we sat down and talked about it. You see, Silje still struggles with perfection. I'm told this is a common trait of an oldest child. In her mind, getting a single thing wrong on the test is the worst case scenario. Out of all the tests/assessments that she's had in the last 5 weeks (she's only tested in Bible memorization, math, grammar and spelling so far) the only thing she has missed has been one extra credit word on a spelling test. Sure, she's smart. For her, though, that's not good enough. She wants to be perfect.

It's not that I want to sit down and tell her it's okay if she messes up a lot. But that's usually what I have to tell her. I remind her that if she gets something wrong, that doesn't mean she's in trouble, but it lets me know that's where we need to work. I don't expect her to be perfect, but I expect her best. I expect her to try. Sometimes we have to make a lot of mistakes in order to get our best to come out. It's called practice.

I'm sure we've all froze on a test at one point. When you look at a question that you've seen before and your mind goes blank. It's a lonely feeling. It's so helpless. Although I wish Silje didn't have to go through that, I'm glad she got to go through that in a place where I got to talk to her about it afterward.

The mom in me wonders if I caused it. Did I put too much pressure on her? Was I being too strict or harsh? Is it really necessary to give her tests when I know she knows it?

I think learning how to get through test-fright is a skill in itself. She'll have to take tests all through school, and for college entrance. We'll probably have her take the state tests as she gets older, to compare her progress to other students in the state. It's optional in our state for homeschoolers to take state assessment tests, but I think it would be valuable information to have.

So the tests stay. We'll have to continue on working with Silje that her best is what's important. While we're so so so proud of her getting 100% after 100% I can't wait to tell her that I'm proud of her 95%. There will come a time when she'll have a tough subject that she just can't wrap her brain around and she'll need to push through and try her best. Right now, when something difficult comes her way, she shuts down. She'd rather not try at all, then get less than 100%. That is what I don't want. I don't want her to not try things that she can't get perfect the first time every time.

So besides that drama, things have been going well. She finished up her first huge unit of Chinese, and was so excited to move onto unit 2, with a whole new set of words to learn. Math has been going very well, and she recently told me it's one of her favorite subjects. We are approaching parts that need more explanation and instruction, and I told her that soon we'll have to slow down to doing just one math worksheet a day. She pouted about that, and pleaded with me to keep doing 2 lessons of that a day. I'm guessing that's a good sign! However, I do think I'll slow her down in the next few weeks, and spend more time going in depth in one lesson, than getting the best parts of 2 lessons put together. Plus, we're starting to do addition drills now, and I think doing 2 sets of those a day will be too much.

I've been easing up a bit on holding her back on only a chapter a day on her readers. She really loves to bite off more than that in a day, so I've been letting her read more, and have picked up some good library books to fill in between the assigned books in her curriculum. She just finished a fun book on the Pony Express that she enjoyed.

We studied the Dongxiang people of China for our people group (without a Bible in their own language) this week, and she really enjoyed doing a bunch of "China" things, especially the Panda bears! We continue to study different types of homes around the world as well, and learning how other people live all around the world. Her geography, particularly in Asia, amazes me. She can point out so many (but of course not all yet) of the countries in that part of the world on an unlabeled map.

David has been keeping busy, and spends most of his day building things these days. He still works on his readers every day, but we haven't moved ahead in his reading program at all this week, and I'm totally fine with that. I'll say it again, but I think this type of play is exactly what a boy his age should be doing. From Legos to Tinkertoys, he builds the most amazing "inventions" and explains to me what each one does.

He's also given the responsibility to play with Elias while I have one on one work to do with Silje, and I honestly think he's been liking some responsibilities that normally get handed to Silje. Of course, he's not always so compliant, but I see his ability to nurture and care for others growing, as well as the bond between the brothers. Requiring him to care for someone else has really been good for his attitude, and I really like seeing how this has been developing him.

He's been more willing to color lately, which makes me very happy. He never uses his right hand anymore for writing or coloring. We've been trying to determine if he's right or left handed and have naively been watching him while he eats to tell. Sometimes he would use his right, sometimes his left. One day, Knut asked him if he could put his fork in his right hand. Aghast, David refused. Knut asked him why, and David explained that the fork goes on the left side of the plate and the spoon goes on the right side of the plate. They do not cross over.

So with that misunderstanding cleared, up, we have let him use whatever hand he desires to draw, and it has been his left hand 100% of the time. I'm a little apprehensive about teaching handwriting to a leftie. I suppose I'll figure it out when I get there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest

As Knut was able to start harvesting the soy beans last Saturday, and continues on as long as the weather allows. Harvest in our household continues as well.

For instance, here is my harvest of tomatoes today:
Photobucket

Add to that the tomatoes that I stuck in the upright freezer, per the instructions of Knut's aunt who told me how to freeze the tomatoes whole, and then thaw overnight in a pot of water, and then the peels come right off and it's ready for canning.

Photobucket

So I think it might be time to process some tomatoes. A process I've been putting off. Tomato sauce is better with peppers, so I picked a peck of peppers off our pepper plants to go with it. (I actually don't know how much a peck of peppers is, but it's fun to say. A pail of peppers might be more accurate.
Photobucket

I have some peppers in the freezer holding off for this process as well, if I need to dip into that stash too.

The apple tree is still heavy with baking apples, and I know I need to get on that too. To be honest, I'm having trouble keeping up. There's no rush getting them off the tree yet, though. I'm trying not to stress over all the things that need to get done, and take it just one job at a time. Still, I think I'm going to have to up my once a week mass cooking to 3-4 times a week mass cooking, or even daily for the next week or two. I need to figure out a way to break down all these jobs so I don't get overwhelmed.

Speaking of freezers, have you seen my stash of apple bread and banana bread in there for this winter?

Photobucket
Or as my family's going through them, for the next week or two?

I had to steal a few loaves as I had forgotten that I was supposed to bring treats to church last week. I think there's plenty of room for pureed roasted pumpkins and pumpkin bread (my favorite of the breads I put away for the winter). Wouldn't you know, but our monster pie pumpkin plant seems to have some color too.

Photobucket
Don't tell David, though. We told him it's his birthday when the pumpkins turn orange and his birthday is still a couple weeks away.

I figure I'll have to test one out. You know, to see if they're good first. Now what do you do with a pie pumpkin? What to do...what to do...what to do.

I have an inkling for what we're having for dessert tonight. Do you? I mean really: priorities people. The tomatoes can wait...let's have some pie!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Working Through

I'm continuing to work through my "almost finished" pile in my sewing room. I'm doing a bit of alternating between finishing one thing (or two!) and then getting a part of a longer project done. Last night after I finished a pair of longies and matching hat for Nerdy Gerdy Boutique, that had been sitting, waiting for finishing touches for about a month and a half, I started a Christmas present. I cannot share what that is for obvious reasons, but I can say that it's turning out much better than I had hoped, and I'm looking forward to making a bunch more of these! I think.

Just for fun, though, I should really share the longies that I finished, and the little matching hat to go with them. They're just little ones. Size small. Awhile back I promised myself that I was really going to work on learning how to do the "fair isle" technique in knitting better. Knut really wants me to make him a Norwegian sweater, and I feel like I need to perfect this technique just a bit more before I take on a project that...expensive. This is not the first time I've tried this technique, but it's the first time I've done it and it's a bit presentable.

Photobucket

I'm putting this in my store as "second" which means it's second quality. It's discounted that way. There is nothing technically wrong with it, but as I'm not as experienced with this technique, I feel as though the stitches pucker here and there when it is stretched. I've done some more projects with this technique, and I continue to improve, and I think I've figured out how to fix that problem. Managing the tension of 2 strings of yarn is a bit trickier than just one! I'd love to get this to someone who wants a deal, and doesn't mind things that probably only the maker would notice about it. It's been awhile since something new hit the store, and it feels good to keep that going.

Photobucket

Friday, September 17, 2010

Off Season Training

David has discovered how to train in the off season.

Photobucket
He just could not wait to ski any longer.

Photobucket

Knut has been coaching him.

Photobucket
He's focused. He's ready. Bring it on.

Homeschool Friday

Homeschool keeps plugging along. Our fun new things were that the kids got to go to a homeschool group on Tuesday, as well as Silje joined a children's choir that also rehearses on Tuesday. Tuesday was...crazy.

I foolishly thought I could get all of my errands done on Tuesday since we were already in town. After attempting to do it, and pushing my boys especially past their breaking point, I think this would be unwise to attempt on a weekly basis. Homeschool group is only twice a month, but choir, and soon piano lessons, will be weekly. It was too much running, too much rushing. Elias had to skip his nap and he was beside himself. I felt I was being very unfair to him and expecting too much from him.

He did fine at homeschool group, and even made it through the grocery store while Silje was at choir. By the time we picked up Silje, and made two more stops, he ended up just looking, whimpering/half crying, while sitting in the cart at our last stop. I let him sleep an hour in the car when we got home, but that was clearly not enough for him.

The next morning he woke up and didn't know what he wanted. He didn't want to be held, he didn't want to be put down. He wanted food, but not in his mouth. He'd reach for a toy, and scream when we gave it to him. So I ended up putting him back in his crib and he sat and enjoyed the solitude for about 30 minutes before he started calling for me is his normal cheerful Elias voice. I think if I remove the errands from our Tuesday run around, we'll be able to take a slower pace, which might help him manage no naps on that day. (He'll get a nap on the off weeks that we're not at homeschool group. I'm only asking him to skip naps twice a month, but I know that's so tough for him!)

Silje however, was in heaven on Tuesday. She exclaimed it was "the best day of my life!" Not only did she love homeschool group and make lots of friends, but she loved choir practice as well. The age group she was in at homeschool group did a lesson on basic first aid and emergency planning. They got to go inside a real ambulance, and got to bring home a book on household safety tips. (Um, she has already started planning fire drills and monthly alarm tests, as well as drew an "escape route" map of our house in case of fire and ran around making sure everyone in our family knew the plan.) She also started learning the rules of volleyball in gym. It was only 2 hours, but it was so much fun! During the gym time I was able to sit and chat with a few moms and it was so much fun to make friends who are in very similar situations as me!

Having her be in these activities was part of our schooling plan. I kinda chuckle when some people I've talked to about her loving these activities sigh and exclaim "O good! She will have a chance to socialize!" I think it's kinda a joke among homeschool moms as this is still a huge homeschooling myth about the un-socialization of homeschool kids. There has not been one study to support it, and in fact the opposite is true. In most studies I've come across, homeschooled kids tend to communicate better with other children, WAY better with adults, and tend to get along with their bosses better in the workforce.

I think people assume that because we decided to homeschool that equated to us deciding to lock our children in a cage from the world until they are 18. That could not be further from the truth. We hope that homeschooling will open up their eyes to the world in a way that public school couldn't. Putting her in these activities was in our plan from the beginning, and not in response to a huge worry. No one said "but if you homeschool her, how will she learn math???" Um, we get a math program. Duh. However, the "if you homeschool her, she won't know how to socialize with her peers!" was a common comment. Again, I'd like to say that homeschooling does not equal cage. We had a "socializing" program in place too. You know, besides the human relationships she has day in and day out in our home and family as well. Relationships with more peers does not really equal better relationships with peers. Sorry, small tangent is done.

As far as school goes, Silje added Adjectives to her grammar program. She also took her first grammar test and passed with flying colors...again. Spelling also, awesome. Doing the smushing of 2 math lessons a day is turning out to be a success, although I think I need to make sure I'm not removing the "fun" parts of the lessons. She makes no complaint about math, but I can tell it's not her favorite. I still wonder if it's the program, or if she's just still not at the new information point yet. What we're doing now is better than what we were doing before, so I'm content with that for now. I think I'll be able to make a better judgment of the program when she does actually reach her "level."

David's reading progress has slowed down a lot in regards to moving forward, but not in enthusiasm. Now that we've finished the kindergarten reading program already and I opened up the 1st grade set, he is not catching on as fast. So for his 30 minutes that used to be all new information, has turned into about 15 minutes of new information, and then I stop him before he reaches the frustration point, and have him spend 15 minutes reading his kindergarten level books. He still wants to move forward, but he forgets sometimes that he's only preschool age. A 4 year old taking on a 1st grade program is ambitious for him to do, and he is getting it. He just needs it in smaller quantities. So the new information that he gets daily has shrunk, and he gets to spend more time just sitting and enjoying the books he does know how to read. I'm very happy with this.

The biggest problem this week was my motivation level. The beginning of the week I was feeling fine physically (besides the cold), but was being terribly lazy. We still did school, but it was later in the day, and I let the kids watch way too much t.v. in the morning. We lost the routine of the house and the kids starting running wild which wore me out and made me feel even less motivated. I started getting discouraged. On Wednesday night I read back through my post about the widows mite, and realized that I may not have much motivation, but if I can just give a little, God will take it. I don't always remember this myself.

So I just started organizing a few things on my kitchen counter Wednesday night, and pretty soon I couldn't stop! I then organized the pile of homeschooling supplies, then moved onto cleaning out the hall closet I've been meaning to get to, and finished off the evening by gutting out my sewing room and putting everything back together into a nice clean, inspiring place once again! By Thursday morning my motivation surprised me with how much I was getting done both school-wise and household chores-wise. Whether it was nesting or "getting out of my rut" it was quite refreshing to not only get things done, but to feel motivated to get things done again! I'm not sure how long the feeling will last, but I'm hoping to ride it for at least a few days!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Squishiliousness Part 2

I know I told you you'd see the whole set of dress, booties, and bonnet when this is done. However, I finished the booties today, and couldn't help but sharing them.

Photobucket
I stuffed them with fleece scraps, so pardon the lumpiness. I just think seeing them stuffed is a little bit better than seeing them flat. They weren't made to be flat, you know. They were made to fit around chubby little round feet.

These Mary-Jane booties designed by Bekah Knits were made with lilac colored pima cotton dk weight yarn for the main portion, and ivory fingering weight 75% bamboo/25% nylon yarn for the "fake" sock that is attached. While I must say that both of these yarns are incredibly soft and silky and have great stitch definition, they are also very slippery and tend to split a lot, and show every single split! So I wouldn't recommend this type of yarn for a beginner. Definitely at least an intermediate knitter.

I have some extra bits of yarn in these weights in acrylic and wool blends in really fun colors like ruby red or black in my yarn stash, so I may decide (if I have extra time before the baby come *insert hysterical laughter here*) to make a few extra of these booties just for fun, and not for matching outfits like this set is for. I think yarns with those contents might "grip" better when knitting and it might go a bit faster.

However, the reviews from this pattern say they are great "stay on" booties, and I can't wait to try them out. They seem a bit big to me, but they're made in size 0-6 months, so I suppose that seems right, as I just finished a bitty newborn outfit. The dress they go with are 3-6 months, so logically they should fit at the same time.

Photobucket

The pattern itself was not too tough, but was a bit tedious for my taste. I only pick tedious patterns when the cuteness overcomes me, and that was the case here. However, there were 3 seams, 13 yarn ends to weave in, and 1 button to sew on per shoe, so not exactly the instant gratification that you get when you "finish" knitting like my last post.

Like I said, though, the cuteness overwhelms that pattern fault, so I will definitely be using this pattern again.

Last night I cleaned my entire sewing room, and organized it. Now that I have that fresh clean start, I plan on working through my "Gretchen's too lazy to finish any project" pile and turn it into a "finished and finally out of my sewing space" pile. Some of the projects in this enormous pile will take 5 minutes to finish. Others a few hours, but I'm hoping to at least finish one project a day. About half of them are for my family, and the other half are store things that I started but had to interrupt because of a custom order that demanded my attention sooner. Then after the custom is done, I have forgotten about it, and start a new one. Then the cycle continues. Then of course, there was the unfinished projects that I started when I was on the sewing/quilting retreat last spring (how many months ago now) that couldn't be finished due to me forgetting some essential piece at home.

So I'm working towards my goal of getting completely rid of this pile by New Years. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Catching Up

Taking full advantage of the camera on loan to me, I thought I'd post pictures of our newest blessing:

Photobucket

Sharon said she thought I should give the piano a name like my sewing machines: Sassy Pfaffy, Sergio, Lady Katherine of Kenmore, and Selma (who is of course retired...saved from an untimely death and is on display on top of my kitchen cupboards). I hardily agree. I'm working on it. Any suggestions are welcome, though.
Photobucket
(the spot you see on the picture I think is the camera, not the piano...I checked!)
The kids have enjoyed "playing nicely" on it in the mornings while no one is napping. Silje will hopefully start her piano lessons next week, depending on when her music books arrive in the mail. Still waiting. Until then, she's pouring over Knut's old beginners piano books.

It amazed me how instantly this piano changed the feeling of our living room. We still need to hang a picture over it that I've been saving just for this spot. I need to figure out what to decorate the top of the piano with. I've been saving things for so long with no where to put them, that it will be fun to go through. I already know what Christmas decorations will go here, but it's a bit early for that. I think eventually, I want to make a small hardanger runner to lay on the top. Or maybe something less...lacy. We'll have to see.
Photobucket
I know. This is the second picture that I have in my house that my mom has in her house as well. I couldn't help it. My mom inherited it from her mother because she always liked it. I've always liked it too, and actually wrote down all the information I could find on my mom's last time I was there so I could do an ebay search to find one for myself. However, I happened to find this print in a very nice frame last time I was thrifting at Goodwill in my small little town.

As soon as I saw it, I knew it was supposed to go over the piano. Not only have I always loved this picture, but it reminded me of the story Sharon told me about how her father gave her the piano when she was a 6 year old girl. It makes me think of Sharon, wanting Silje who is also 6, to learn to play so badly. It makes me think of dreamy days, enjoying simple pleasures that our age of video games, wiis, television, and instant everything seems to forget. Things like playing a piano, picking flowers, reading books to each other, and staring at a fire in the fireplace.

Surprisingly, the kids have not been annoyingly pounding on it at all since we've gotten it. They take turns, and always touch it gently. I know David will have a tough time with knowing Silje know how to play it before him, but I also have no doubts that he doesn't have the patience to learn to play it yet. He'll need at least another 2 years before I consider sending him to lessons.

The bad thing about having the piano now, is that it has brought to my attention how messy all of my homeschool things look piled up next to it. If you give a mouse a cookie... he'll want to buy nicer looking storage for the homeschool things so the room looks as nice as the piano. However, I have hopes that when I get around to reorganizing the back hall closet, and shifting some things in there to other closets that make more sense, I'll have room in that closet for some of the homeschool supplies, and they won't be out in the open looking messy anymore. That at least is the hope.

We've been saving for new furniture for that room for almost 2 years. By December we plan on buying at least a new couch for that room. I'm thinking we'll actually wait until January because that's when all of the huge furniture sales come. Knut also has plans to finish the facing of the fireplace (if we could only agree on the style) and soon... this room will be complete.

Can I just say, I cannot wait for Christmas this year. We weren't home for Christmas last year, and this year will be the first one we'll put the tree in this room. (The year before we put our tree in the dining room because there was literally nothing but boxes in the living room.) This year, we'll be home. We'll have a tree, a new baby, a fireplace (though Knut told me not to get my hopes up about having the mantel done for stockings to hang on) a piano with a child playing some one-note-at-a-time carol. *sigh* I can't wait.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Squishiliousness Part I

We had a busy busy day today, but I'll save all the fun details for this Friday. For fun though, I thought I'd post PICTURES of my most recent finished project for this new little baby. This is her "taking home from the hospital" outfit, made in the newborn size, and will probably be used when we're out and about this winter, when she's under the cozy little car seat cover.

<span class=

The pattern I used is called "Small Things Romper" and "Small Things Bonnet." What I loved about both of them is they are completely seamless. Everything is knit in the round, or the edging is done as you knit. There was nothing to seam together or finish off when I was done. Weaving in a very minimal amount of yarn ends and adding buttons was about it.

<span class=

The pattern came with options, and I chose to add the fold over hands and fold over feet so everything is nice and toasty warm on the inside. For the bonnet, I used the "pixie" option which gives it a little pixie point in the back instead of rounded and formed to the head. The neck of the bonnet has a slight curve which makes me think of the sweet little curve of a baby's head just above the neck that I just can't wait to kiss!

It's made out of 50% merino and 50% baby alpaca wool. The color is hand-painted (see the slight variegation?) in pink sapphire. This yarn is seriously buttery soft, making me swoon in the yarn store, and I'd been saving it for a few months until I found just the right project for it.

Photobucket

It is very simple and classy, I think. I was thinking about embroidering a little flower on the bonnet and one of the legs of the romper, but Knut and I both thought that the beauty in this one is the simplicity, and I finally decided to leave it as is.

Photobucket

It does have a slip-stitch detail that makes it look like a little braid is connecting all of the edges and I think it just looks so polished. I definitely enjoyed knitting up this pattern! With worsted weight yarn, it went so quick, and with so little finishing work, it was quick satisfaction.

I have another baby project that's sooo close to being done. It's size 3-6 months. It's all knitted up, but since it was not knit in one piece like this romper, I have to seam all of the knitted pieces together. (Ugh. It's so pretty but I just hate seaming and finishing work...which this project has in abundance!) That set has matching booties and while one is done, the other is only half done. The bonnet for that one came out a bit small, and I may redo it using larger needles. So keep watch, that one will be posted in the next few days I hope.

Sliding... Warning: I ramble

I've been sliding. Not on the playground, but with everything. I don't know if it's because I had to finish 2 back to back custom diaper orders, and dealing with supplier issues all the while. I don't know if it's because the third trimester is soon upon me and the bliss of being to move around with ease is starting to fade.

I don't know if it's because I've had this cough for 2 weeks. When I get a coughing spell, I'm not getting enough oxygen and my vision gets dark and I feel faint-ish. So I sit. Then I get a headache. So I've been sitting down a lot, trying to catch my breath...which is a theme in this pregnancy. It was bad before, but after a coughing spell it's really bad and I think it's best that I just stay put in a chair until the light-headedness goes away. It's way better than last week, though, and I think I'm nearly over it.

Now Silje is coughing, and I stayed awake listening to Elias breathe for a long time last night because it just didn't sound right. (After you've spent weeks of his life standing by his side studying how he breathes, you learn a lot of the technical parts of what's the right way and wrong way to breathe, and I can usually listen and feel his chest and know immediately if he's going to have to be back in the hospital for lung issues or not.)

He sounds fine this morning, until he gets excited, and then his breathing gets strained and asthma sounding again. Still, I haven't heard his unsafe breathing sound yet, so for now I'll watch him. He's not even coughing. Call me overprotective. He was born with underdeveloped lungs. When he was a few months old, he was hospitalized with RSV, and when he was over a year old, he was hospitalized with a cold that settled in his lungs because of his previous problems. This winter I'd really like to avoid having him in the hospital, and his doctor is optimistic that he's old enough now that we might easily get away with just having nebulizers at home should he get a cold.

Part of it is I'm coming off of a long period of time of staying on top of things, and I'm sitting around too much. My hips hurt a lot, and I just can't. So I knit while I'm sitting, so I can still feel productive. I have borrowed a friend's camera, but still need the cord to download pictures to the computer, so you'll have to wait to see the little baby squishiliousness that is coming off my needles these days. I like to think that I'm knitting on the outside of me, and God's knitting on the inside of me. We're both knitters.

Because of my cough, I've been drinking hot liquids all the time. I've taken up coffee again. My body can barely manage a cup a day without feeling buzzed. I know I'm not doing myself any favors by letting myself give into my addiction again, because I know my body does not like me on this stuff, which is why I gave it up years ago. Mornings have been so so tough to get out of bed lately, though, and the thought of a hot cup of coffee spurs me on. I'm trying not to feel guilty for this indulgence, and enjoy it until my body starts complaining again, and I'll start the painful process of weaning off of it again. O, how I wish I could just drink this all day long!

I feel that so much clutter in my life is leading to this sliding, and overwhelming feelings. I have plans to simplify. I've turned down any more diaper stash orders until after this baby comes to allow me to make some things for my family that I've been meaning to do, and start on Christmas presents, which I try to do homemade as often as I can. (I'm really excited about the Christmas projects this year. I wish I could post about that...but alas, family reads this blog and I can't give away secrets.)

So as I'm getting ready to do all of the projects, it came to my attention how cluttered my sewing room is with unfinished projects. I have longies for the store that only need ends woven in for them to be ready for the store. Other things only need buttons sewn on. Last spring when I went on the sewing retreat, I started several projects that I couldn't finish because I forgot a few supplies at home. They are still sitting there, unfinished.

So my goal for the next few weeks/months is to rid my sewing room of all unfinished projects. My end goal date for this is New Years. Wouldn't it be so nice to start the new year with no "hangover" from the previous year? I'm really excited about that. I need to get my house in order, first, though.

I also have plans to go through at least one more closet and reorganize before the baby comes. I've been making myself wait until the third trimester to go through and wash/sort my baby girl clothes. It's always fun to go through baby clothes and swoon, and that's coming up soon. I'm looking forward to that.

I've been really bad about school and television this week. I'll confess. Mornings have been so tough for me that I've been letting them watch t.v. before school while I sip my coffee in peace, and yesterday we didn't start school until 10am because I just didn't feel like it. We were still done by noon, but still. Silje wasn't as focused, and since they started the day watching t.v. they bugged me to watch more t.v. all. day. long. I'd much rather them play in the morning while I get things together so that their eyes are open to all the fun, creative things that they can play inside and outside. When they start watching t.v. all they want to do is watch t.v. Then it turns into an annoying whiny day...and the kids are worse.

Harvest is coming soon. I'm so not ready for meals and taking over Knut's responsibilities for awhile. I haven't filled up my new freezer yet, but I think tomorrow I'm planning on making a huge batch of many chicken pot pies, so that will be a start. Soy beans could easily be ready for harvest at the end of this week. Soy bean harvest isn't so bad, though. When the dew falls at night, the beans get wet and when they are harvested wet they get mushed in the combine, and mushed beans don't have much value. So they stop at night, and often can't start in the morning until the dew is gone. It's the following corn harvest when things get crazy and we barely see Knut unless it rains. Even then...not too much stops corn harvest. A lot can slow it down, but very few things stop it.

Knut said that the corn is drier now than it was when it was harvested last year. It still could have a month left in the field too! We are very happy with that, and hopefully that means that harvest won't drag out through December this year. I have good memories of it being done by Halloween just a few years ago. Wouldn't that be nice! Unusual, but nice!

Anyway, back to my sliding. I haven't been doing my dishes before I go to bed at night. That's part of the problem. You wake up, you see your messy kitchen, and you just want to run away and hide. My other problem is that because of Silje's Tuesday activities, I'm going to be running errands in town on Tuesdays instead of my traditional Thursday errand running day.

There are a few reasons I have an errand running day. You see, if you go to a store with a list of items that you need for the meals you have planned that week, you save so much more money than going to the store 3 times a week. That's 3 opportunities to pick up things that just look good, but aren't on your list. Or you have so little to buy that you don't feel like you're spending more if you just pick up that package of Oreos. Not to mention how much gas it saves us by only running errands once a week. I'd say, easily $50 a month. Maybe more.

Sorry for the rabbit trail. Anyway, moving my errand running day screws up my weekly to-do list. I know I've posted before how I have certain jobs that are done weekly and are assigned a day. I am not naturally a clean/tidy person, and work really really hard to keep life a bit organized. It does not come easily. Anyway, when I used to shop on Thursdays, that meant that I cleaned out the fridge and did all my meal planning on Wednesdays. That also meant that I did all of my mass/freezer cooking on Fridays when all of the meats for large batch meals were thawed in my fridge and didn't have to wait in my freezer until I could get to them.

Moving my errand day to Tuesdays while Silje is at choir means that fridge cleaning day and mass cooking day also need to be moved. When I did that, the load of chores needing to be done on Mondays was overwhelming, and there's very little to do on Fridays. My brain is a big hormonal bowl of spaghetti these days, so this problem was a bit overwhelming for me. Go ahead and laugh.

I spent much of the morning yesterday while Silje was doing her independent school work, on the phone with my sister who is the queen of organization. When I was a child she would organize my closet so all my clothes faced the same direction and were in rainbow color order. (Think Silje, but an adult.) She helped me problem solve my crisis of messing with my "system" and helped me evenly distribute my weekly chores a bit better. Man I miss her! I can't believe her little twin girls are 5 months old now and I still have not held them. They'll be nearly a year by the time we can get down there. Sometimes living far from family is so so hard. Little Jack-Jack has started preschool now too. He has to be so grown up!

So today instead of cleaning my kitchen before school, I'm blogging. I'm continuing on my new trend of avoiding responsibility which really needs to end today. Avoiding responsibility in my job only lasts as long as there are leftovers in the fridge, and we ate the last of them last night. Pretty soon, my family demands to be fed. Annoying, I know. In order the make the food I need to clean my kitchen, and once I clean the kitchen, I notice the floor needs to be swept, and it turns into one of those "If you give a mouse a cookie..." type things where pretty soon I'm all the way back at work.

Sadly, I just finished my cup of coffee. That means my rambling must be done.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blessings

Sometimes God just blows me away. The details that he pays attention to...the things that you'd think wouldn't be important to him. Sometimes, he just surprises me with a present that blows me away. I don't know why I deserve it. Well, I don't. It's just grace. Why now? Why this? Why me? I ask those questions a lot. This is no different.

Knut and I have been on the hunt for a piano for about a year or two. Leisurely on the hunt. We'd like one for the kids to practice. We basically had 2 issues: we had very little money to spend, and my husband was very, very picky. I think we could justify spending a few hundred, but the ones he wanted were a few thousand. Very much out of reach.

I'd go on craigslist.com a few times a month and see what there was out there. Knut just dragged his feet with the whole matter. Whenever I found one I liked and was within our price range, he'd bring up the hassle of driving out to that town, looking at it, deciding to get it, bringing out a farm truck to haul it, getting guys to help him move it, etc. I mean, I know that moving a piano may not be the most fun in the world, but if we want a piano, he'd have to think about the fact that one will have to be moved eventually.

He didn't like the idea of getting one without knowing the history of it. He thought maybe we should have the piano in question approved by a piano tuner/expert before we purchase. That of course was just more money, and many of the ones I like were snatched up before all of that could possibly be arranged. Knut is not a snatcher. He's a sit and think about it for weeks and if it's gone it wasn't meant to be kinda guy. He looks very very carefully before he leaps.

A few people offered us pianos. However, the pianos that go for free often do for a good reason. Knut wanted one that would hold it's tune well, would look nice in our house, had nice keys, nice insides, etc. He said he's moving only one piano into this house and it better be good enough to never have to be replaced.

I began to believe that we were never ever going to get a piano. However, we didn't need one yet. I tried to let it go, and hoped that when the time was right, we'd find the right piano that would please both of us. One that was in perfect condition for Knut, and one that was free or cheap for me. (Don't get me wrong, Knut didn't want to pay an arm and a leg, and I didn't want a piece of junk. Those just kept being the excuses one of us would give to talk the other one out of pianos we were considering.)

A few weeks ago we got a call from our friend Sharon. Sharon and Grant live a few miles from us, and have been very dear to Knut and I for years, and I believe us to them as well. They watched Knut grow up in church, and we hit it off amazingly well when I started going there. She was delighted to find out we were dating, and when we broke up for 2 weeks that one time, she cried. She wanted so much for us to be together.

Grant and Sharon were some of Silje's sponsors at her baptism. Not only that, we discovered that when Sharon was in nursing school back in the day, my Grandpa L. was her pastor. She remembers standing at the train station with the rest of the church, waving goodbye to my grandparents as they left to be missionaries to Japan. She keeps reliving that to me, telling me how significant that moment was for her. I think my grandparents impacted her a lot when she was a young adult, and she nearly hit the roof when she found out I was Dave and Esther's granddaughter.

Anyway, Sharon contacted us in regard to her piano. Her father gave it to her when she started taking lessons when she was 6 years old. As a teen she dedicated the piano to always be used for godly purposes. She's played piano for our church before and loves using her piano as a means for worship. She and Grant have deemed that it's time for her piano to go to a new home as they were preparing to make some changes in their own lives. As she had dedicated the piano to God's use, she felt uncomfortable with the idea of selling it, simply because she could not insure that it would be put to use to serve God's kingdom.

So she prayed about it, and felt lead to give the piano to Knut and me. She said she wanted to bless the descendants of the pastor who blessed her long ago. She said she wanted another 6 year old (the age she was when she got it) to learn to praise her maker with it. Thinking of all the older generation of people I know who used to come over to her house and stand around that piano and sing hymns to God until the wee hours of the morning, she wanted to give it to someone who shared in that heritage.

She called us up and asked us to come take a look at it. While she pointed out it could always use some refinishing on the outside, we could not deny that the musical condition of the piano is pristine. A few years back she even had the piano tuner (that Knut wanted to help us find a good piano) do some work restoring it with a few pads here and there. His praise for the instrument was exactly what Knut needed to hear.

When you look at the list that Knut and I had come up with for a piano, even down to the fact that we preferred a studio piano, we wanted all the ivories in tact. We wanted it to hold it's tune well. We wanted to know the history of it. We wanted an expert's recommendation, and we wanted it free or cheap. There was not a single thing on our list from style to age that this piano did not fulfill. Not only that, but we don't have to drive an hour away to pick it up, or rush to snatch it up before someone else does!

There's no way I could have imagined us affording to buy a piano this nice. I'm shocked that God worked it out for us to get something that left nothing off of our "wish list." While this is not the only thing God has blessed our home with in the past few years, it just gets added to the list of amazing things he has done for us...just because. God does not always bless us with material possessions. We can always look to our right or left and find people who have more than us. He blesses us daily with things that are not material, and most of all, he blesses us with himself. I think sometimes he does something like this to show us that no detail is too small for him, and that he is as real as a wooden and stringed instrument in front of us.

I just have to praise him openly for that. He's given me a story, and I must tell it.

"This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long!
This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Homeschool Friday

We had a short week this week, since we were out at the lake on Labor Day. In our little 4 day week, the kids had a tougher time getting "into" school. The permanence of it is starting to sink in, and the novelty has worn off.

As much of our curriculum is read aloud, it was tough with my dry throat and cough that I've been dealing with. We took lots of breaks, and I've had cup after cup of our homemade hot apple cider.

Silje would probably say the highlight of her week was starting a journal. In science, we learned about the sun, and Silje had to give a speech to the family on why it's not good to look at the sun. In Bible we continue reading through the book of Mark. In English she learned about antonyms and synonyms (which she calls cinnamon) and added the adverb jingle to her jingle repertoire (she knows a sentence, noun, and verb jingle already). She loves singing or chanting along with her jingles during English a lot! We've made up actions to go with them, and she usually can't wait for her grammar lesson because of it.

The highlight for me was when I handed her the new reader for the week: "Keep the Lights Burning Abbie" which is a story about a girl living at a lighthouse with her family and has to keep the lamps in the lighthouse going during a storm that her father is caught up in.

Silje was dressed in her Snow White costume that day. She told me she wanted to wear it for the whole day because it had a hoop skirt, and we had read a story this last summer about a girl in the 1700s who wore a hoop skirt and had such trouble with it. Silje always giggled when she sat on the couch and her skirt would fly up. She learned she had to sit and sometimes even walk differently to accommodate the hoop skirt. (She's had this costume for awhile but rarely wore it since it wasn't pink ;) )

Anyway, she was wearing her Snow White, hoop-skirt costume, and I handed her the book, and she asked if she could get her doll "Abby" and read it to her. Then there she was, in her costume, holding her favorite doll, and reading her the book. She said to her doll "Abby, this book is about you when you get older. You will be so brave." It was just adorable. I'm just loving this.

After talking with Knut's extended family who I consider homeschool veterans, I decided to trim the fluff from each of Silje's math lessons, and combine 2 lessons a day, until we get to a point where we're at the level that challenges her. We're not spending any more time doing math each day, but the "boring baby stuff" is cut out and it's the more challenging parts of 2 lessons smushed together. We'll get done with math earlier this year, or start second grade math sooner by doing this. Still, math has been much more enjoyable for her this way, and her bored/sloppy work has so far disappeared.

The one part in her math book that she seems to have trouble with this week was distinguishing between right and left. She knows which hand is right and which is left, but she has trouble with directions that are right and left. Such as: turn left, turn right. I think we'll do some kind of treasure map or something to work on these directions. See, I'm adding my own ideas into the pre-set lessons now. All together now: OOOOooo, Aaahhhhhh...

In history and geography, we learned about beliefs from all over the world, from tribal customs to the big world religions. I cannot even begin to express how insightful Silje's questions were during these lessons. Not too much gets past her! We also focused in on our Bible-less people of the week: the Brokpa people who live in the Kingdom of Bhutan. We have friends who have a mission opportunity in that part of the world, so it was fun to show her their picture on our fridge and tell her about their ministry.

Since yaks, sheep, and the Himalayan Mountains are all big parts of that country, we went to the library to check out books on these subjects, but only found one lonely book on Bhutan. I'll have to plan ahead better and request some books from other libraries for these kinds of studies in the future. We also did some map coloring and other coloring pages along these themes. When we got home from the library, I just let Silje go through the book (which was actually quite good) with a Post-it pad. She read through the things that looked interesting, and marked 10 of the pages with a Post-it. Well, next time I'll only give her 10 pieces of a Post-it pad. She marked closer to 30 pages and exclaimed "Mommy I couldn't pick just 10! I had too many favorites!" Then we went through the marked pages together and she had to tell me about what she found so interesting on that page.

We didn't do any crocheting this week, as I'm wondering if we should do some fun, easy felt sewing instead, and leave the crocheting for a bit later (although Silje would be devastated to know that I'm contemplating this).

I did sign up Silje for the local children's choir at the Center for the Arts that practices once a week. David will be old enough to join next year. She'll start this next Tuesday. It will be fun to go to Christmas and springtime concerts this year for her. She's really looking forward to meeting and seeing other kids. I'm trying to figure out how to get her to the choir practice since it's right smack in the middle of Elias' nap. However, I'm willing to resign to the fact that he may just have short naps on Tuesdays so that Silje can do this and we'll just have to deal with that.

Piano lessons have also been set up, and fortunately, she'll go straight from choir to her piano lessons so I only have to interrupt naps one day a week. Tuesdays will just be "music overkill day." I know, I know. We've been debating whether or not she's ready for them this year. It just turned out that the exact right circumstances of the right teacher, the right time slot, and the right price, and the right piano, (PIANO?? You gasp! Tune in tomorrow! Get it? Tune in? Hee Hee.) all appeared before our eyes. How can we say no to all of that? Plus, her asking for lessons has turned into a multiple-times-a-day-plea, so we think she may be ready interest-wise.

Silje lost so much knowledge in just the few weeks that we didn't have her do Chinese at the end of the summer while we were gone. She's been spending this whole time doing review and trying to get back to the point she was before. She was so excited when the computer program she does her lesson with finally let her move forward again! (The program won't let her move forward until she scores high enough to do so. When we got back from vacation her scores were so low that she had to keep doing review until her scores went up. That was tough for her.) Now her scores are back up in the 90s and she can start learning new things. She was jumping up and down over that!

David has still had the desire to learn to read, but his concentration was lacking at the beginning of this week. He now wants to read fast, and has a tough time slowing down his brain and forcing it to look at each letter. He wants so badly for it to come easily. So our lessons have been even shorter, but we keep progressing, although at a slower pace. I'm trying to keep it consistent for him, as in daily, but not worrying so much about how long each day. He's still 4, still preschool age. I have absolutely no desire to make him sit and stay on the couch and do a solid lesson from beginning to end until he gets it right. I'm still of the belief that 4 year old boys are just not built that way. When he's Silje age, he'll have to sit and finish a lesson. Until then, we're doing this all for fun. The last 2 days of the week he started putting his all into it again, so I think it will just ebb and flow.

However, I might add that we have just finished our 3rd week of school and he has learned to read every single kindergarten level (level 1) book and workbook already with our Hooked on Phonics curriculum. Next week we're moving on to the 1st grade book and workbook/games, while keeping the kindergarten ones out so he can keep reviewing them. So really...no rush. If the 1st grade material seems to be too challenging, I have plenty of easy BOB books to keep him interested too.

As his reading desire has increased, though, his desire to color/draw/do anything with a writing utensil has ceased. I'll remind you my two goals for him for the year were to teach him basic reading, and teach him to write his name. One he's very into right now. The other...not so much.

So David and Elias do a lot of racing of trucks around the house, wrestling and giggling, and building amazing sculptures with Tinkertoys and Legos. It's amazing to me that Elias, who is not quite 2 can keep up with David, but he does! Although he can be a little annoying to David, David really enjoys playing with him, and having someone who likes to play "boyish" things with him.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

O How I Wish!

O how I wish I could show you pictures of my garden harvest today. Our Big Boy tomatoes are finally turning red! They are sure living up to their name too! They are easily twice the size of my fist. Just imagine seeing Silje hold one up to her face, and it's about half the size of her face! Mmmmm!

Right now some are being washed and frozen whole in the buckets until I get a free afternoon to can a bunch of them into speghetti sauce, and others I will half and roast with some EVOO today, and then puree. I put 1 cup portions of the roasted tomato puree into freezer baggies to be used in sauces, soups, and other random dishes this winter.

I wish you could smell these peppers. They're not big today, but so very fragrant. Putting your nose up to one of them smells like the entire pepper section at the grocery store.

I wish you could taste some of these apples that Silje and David and I just picked for apple crisp tonight. We picked just enough apples for 2 crisps. One for us, and one to feed the freezer for later this winter. They are so sweet. I cannot wait for cinnamon and nutmeg to be wafting through the rooms of the house.

There's a beef roast right now in the crock pot, and it's already starting to smell too. We'll have roast with potatoes and vegis tonight, and tomorrow I'll use the leftover beef and make some beef stroganoff. (One of Knut's favorite.)

So to sum up: fresh peppers, roasting tomatoes, slow cooked beef and apple crisp at my house today. Now I just need a camera that can convey smells!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Widow's Mite

This last week my camera broke. Sure, we've had it since before Silje was born, which in this digital age makes it prehistoric. Still, I've been saving up to get a good used digital DSLR camera, and had not finished saving yet. I spent some time wondering if I should spend the money I've saved up so far for a camera that I didn't want, but would get me by, or...I don't know. I've been saving the money I've made from Nerdy Gerdy and I've been bound and determined, since it is a "toy" to use this extra money to get something I've wanted, and not dip into our savings for it.

Still, when it rains it pours. First, we recently had to get our well fixed, and then we went on our trip which ended up costing more than we had anticipated, and then we got a new freezer. Did I mention our new freezer? With our bumper crop in our vegi garden this year, we finally decided to do what we've been talking about doing for a few years and bought an extra freezer for our cellar downstairs. This one is an upright that we got as a scratch and dent. It exciting to get something that will make my life so much easier and allow me to once again buy things in bulk when they're cheap (which was getting tight with no more space in our chest freezer). Still, Knut and I were a bit depressed to be buying something so "adult" and "responsible" when if we had a say in it, I would have bought my DSLR, and he would have bought new ski boots.

At any rate, it's no time to just go out and spend money on a camera that is way more than we "need" but something I've been wanting since I took a photography course in high school. Fortunately, one of my good friends has offered me the use of her camera that she replaced awhile ago but still works fine. When I get it from her, you'll see all sorts of pictures again. Until then, bare with my rambling.

All that was a disclaimer to my picture-less post. Man, I'm long winded. How can I have 51 followers who put up with this?

This last weekend we did the traditional camp out at the lake cabin to say farewell to summer. Many of Knut's cousins and aunts and uncles were there, along with parents and grandparents. We pitched a tent outside the very full cabin to sleep in, and sang the favorite campfire songs that they all amazingly know every verse to! (You know, like the one about the hair on the flea on the wing on the fly on the wart on the frog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea?) We had s'mores and stayed up late.

I was a bit nervous about sleeping outside since it was supposed to be cold, and I've had a bit of a cough with this bit of weather change that seems to have hit us. I just didn't want it to push me over the edge to full blown "sick" but Knut certainly couldn't camp out alone with all the kids, and I wasn't about to cancel the sleep-out over a little cough.

The tent held 2 queen sized air mattresses. Knut and I shared one, Silje and David shared the other, and Elias was in his pack 'n' play at the foot of Silje and David's bed. He finally crashed before we got to the s'mores, poor thing, and was so over-stimulated from the day. When we got the older kids dressed and tucked in, Knut and I settled in as well, and then it hit me. The inevitable pregnancy heartburn.

I've only had heartburn with the boys and no hint of it yet with this one. I lay there trying to figure out what to do. I didn't bring my Tums. I didn't bring extra pillows to prop up my upper body for sleeping. Was there a bottle of Tums in the car? I asked myself. Hmmm...

Well, at any rate, even moving the zipper to the tent an inch would wake up Elias again, so I just lay there and stayed put. I don't know how long it took me to fall asleep, but it was well over an hour. It felt more like two. Then my cough came along with it, which didn't hurt my throat nearly as much as it did my stretched out tummy muscles that didn't like to contract for my coughing very much. I tried to refrain my mind from going to that thought... "How did I ever let Knut talk me into this? This is crazy!"

It was about 3:30am when Silje woke up saying she had to go to the bathroom. Sigh. Knut got up, unzipped the tent (which woke Elias) and escorted her to the bathroom. I picked up Elias and hunched over changed his diaper in the pitch black on top of our air bed as it felt full. I rocked him in my arms for a minute, and then laid him back down when Silje was back in bed and run off to the bathroom myself. You know, since I'm already up. Uff da, now that I'm awake I feel my heartburn again. When everyone is back in bed, the tent gets zipped up again, and everyone is back asleep.

15 minutes goes by. Elias starts crying again.

This time I don't get out of my warm sleeping bag, but just gently shush him, and tell him that Mommy is right here. After about a minute, he falls asleep again.

10 minutes goes by. He starts crying again.

Again, I don't want to get up, I shush him and talk to him some more, only a foot from his bed.

This happens again, and again. I don't know how many times. He had this way of timing it to just when I thought there was hope of falling asleep again, he would start crying again.

Thinking of the tents surrounding us outside, and all those poor relatives who were also trying to get a good night's sleep, (and of course myself) I pull him out of the pack 'n' play and bring him to my sleeping bag. This means I can't sleep with my extra pillow that supports my belly and I have to hold him in not the most comfortable of positions. However, after a minute, he quiets down, and falls asleep in my arms.

I try not to cough. For 2 reasons: I don't want to wake him up again, and it makes my stomach hurt like nothing else. Still, I have a sleeping cuddly baby in my bed. Heartburn, discomfort, coughing and all...my little baby is in my arms...asleep.

It's those little moments that I treasure. Motherhood is certainly not a life of comfort, but my heart is constantly overflowing. I want to take joy in every second.

There have been many many times from the very beginning, when Silje was born, even further than that, when I was pregnant with Silje, when I just told God "I have nothing left to give." It's those times when you're sick and no one fills in for you. When you're pregnant and are so hungry and weak but can't keep food down. When you're in labor and do not wish to give any more pushes. When you're in the grocery store and have not one, but at least 2 screaming children and get looks of sympathy or eye rolls from everyone around you. It's when your little baby won't stop screaming after everything you've tried and it's been hours. It's when you've been touched and hugged and banged into and hung on by 3 different people all day and if one more person touches me or starts one more fight while I'm making supper they're going to be sorry, kind of moments.

"Lord, I have nothing left to give."

Well, that's not the whole truth, actually. If I were honest, it's more like "Lord, I have only one string left that I'm holding onto for sanity." You don't have nothing. You have this small little string. Not a scrap of good worsted weight yarn, but like a little thread that hangs from your sleeve. "Lord...this is all I have."

When we decided to homeschool, I think a few people made comments about how crazy we were. Things like "I could never do that!" or the "Good luck" with that certain tone. Believe me, I wondered not so much if my kids would get a good education from Knut and I, but if they would make it without me killing them because we never got a break from each other. I loved sending Silje off to school and being one kid less. I love getting breaks from motherhood like any other red-blooded mother. I think that was my biggest worry. Being with them all day long...all year long.

One of the companies that we got a curriculum through sent me a gift with purchase that really struck me. I didn't know we were getting a gift with purchase...wasn't shooting for it or anything. I'd love to show you a picture but...well I digress again.

It's a small silver pendant of a "widow's mite" that the company owner picked up several of during her last visit to the Holy land. I'm sure it's not worth much. It's not like a priceless artifact that I got as a "gift with purchase." It's small, and beat up brown metal. It came with a note. The gist of it said:

"Sometimes we mothers feel like we have nothing to give...or nothing left to give. When you get to that point, remember the widow. She had very little to give, but what she did have, she gave it to the Lord."

I know that this blog I show a lot of the "highlights" of our family, but rarely do I ever show the low-lights. First, I think it's pretty culturally inappropriate most times. Second, I want my kids to look back on the things I wrote and remember all of these things. I'd hate to write something that embarrassed them completely that I just put it out for the whole world to see. I'd hate to dishonor my husband by trashing him on the blog after a disagreement in the name of "honesty" and I don't always share my short comings because, well, who likes to do that?

That's all to say that although it looks like I do a lot, when I say I'm lazy a lot, I'm trying to be honest. When I say that I sometimes stick my children in front of the television for a break, I don't say for how long for a very good reason. There are many, many times where I feel like I just need to chase a bit of sanity so that I can keep going on.

That's where the miracle of the widow's mite comes in. I mean, I think I'll always have my "sanity savers." (For me, my knitting, sewing, etc.) I don't think we are meant to throw our rest out the door. A verse that I found this last year really struck me in this point:

"In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat--for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:2 (and by the way, this whole chapter is full of amazing wisdom...and irony. For instance, after he talks about granting sleep, he talks about how sons are a blessing.)

It's the idea of chasing sanity, or holding onto the present because you just can't imagine that you can handle what the future is. It's putting your time and body and sanity on the alter, and saying "Lord, it doesn't look like much, even to me. Still, it's all I have."

It's when we let go of that pathetic little string, fully expecting to fall straight into LaLa Land, and fall unexpectedly onto God's strength, allowing you to do the impossible. Instead of running from your responsibilities for "just a little break" it's settling in to them and asking God to help you several times a day.

Since I've realized this, as I refer to it as "letting go and setting up shop in LaLa Land" I've experienced more joy as a mother than I think I ever have. It's when I stop trying to push my kids away, but ask them to come closer and sit in my lap a minute longer. It's stopping and reading them a story when I'd really love to see what's going on on Facebook. It's wrestling with the boys when I'm tired, reading Silje one more chapter at bedtime when all I want to do is sit down alone and enjoy the ice cream I'm hiding in my freezer.

We all have weaknesses. Secretly, though, we think that's what makes us strong. We call it survival. How many times have you heard "I know smoking is a bad habit, but I just can't survive without them." How many times have you heard "I know this is sooooo wrong, *insert understanding look from friend* but it's the only thing keeping me sane right now."

I know. I've said it. I've believed it. I still sometimes believe it. I'm starting to learn, though, that those little bad habits or as we call "escapes" aren't the source of our sanity. It is what is robbing us from not just joy, but life. An abundant, full, God-breathed life!

So how do I do it all? First off, it doesn't all get done. I'm still not perfect. Life isn't perfect. But I'm learning, that what I can get done, what I will do with my time, may not be much...but I'm giving it to God. That means doing what he says to do with it. It's only fractions of hours here, and a few seconds there. It's not much, but it's God's. It's amazing what he can do with such a small amount.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Second Week of Homeschooling

Is it Friday already? Where did this week go? I meant to blog more. Really I did. I've got some good stuff to write. *Sigh* maybe next week. I'm due to post some kind of belly pic on here soon, aren't I?

I apologize if I ramble a bit in this post. You all are probably used to it. I sort through my thoughts a lot during writing! I promise these Friday homeschool updates will get shorter.

Our week went well, although not without it's bumps along the way. For David already, things are getting old. There are only so many puzzles that we have, and while I have quite a variety of worksheet books and coloring books, he's really still not into coloring and arts and craft types of things. His days have gotten shorter, but as I expected, he likes to play on the floor while I read Silje some of her books, and he pretends not to listen, although I'm pretty sure he's listening quite closely.
Photobucket
I called on my online homeschooling mommy friends for ideas, and one that has really helped was to have him play with board games during our work time. He doesn't know the rules to many of them, but just shaking the dice and counting, and hopping along whatever path the game is is fun for him. I pulled out the Tinkertoys that were put away for awhile when Elias first started crawling, and it's like they're brand new and the boys just love fiddling away with them!
Photobucket
(Here's a picture of him I snapped when I caught him reading instead of playing outside where I had told him to go. Is this really my David?)

However, once he started gaining some traction with his reading, he started adding new books to his collection of readers he can read nearly daily now, and spends a lot of his school time doing so. He's accumulated quite a stack of easy easy reading books that he can read by himself. He loves to read them any chance he can. He spends so much time practicing his letters and sounds and words that when we do a lesson in the morning, he's 10 times better than he was the morning before. I truly am shocked how fast he's picking this up. I knew he was eager to learn to read, but my goodness! He's one of those stubborn, passionate people who once they set their minds to something--watch out. He's decided he wants to read and nothing will keep him from that.

Photobucket
Silje is loving school! I make her read her history "readers" slowly as we work on her comprehension. She's been an amazing reader for years now, but I want to be sure she's understanding all those books she reads. Once she's done with the book, it's all hers to consume at whatever pace she likes. The readers she has finished get read through several times a day now. She really enjoys geography too, as we learn about people all around the world: how they dress, what they eat, what they believe. Her eyes get so big and she is so full of questions.

It's sometimes exhausting to deal with her non-stop questions. It never ends. During lunch, in the car, doing chores, while we're tucking her in at night. She always has a question for me in regard to her lessons. Next week we'll start a weekly library run where she'll be able to check out books in areas that she wants to learn more about.

I've also come up with an "extra credit" book list of classics (that she may not ordinarily pick out) that are not included in her curriculum. If she finishes a book and gives an oral book report to the librarian (who loved Silje's oral book reports she gave over the summer...part of the summer reading program at our library) she gets to pick a prize out of a prize bucket I've been accumulating for her. Little things like sparkly lip balm or stickers. She already has 1 book off of the list completed, and has already started on her second.

As far as Silje's schedule, we've added in math and "home economics" to her schedule to make her day full now. When people have asked what math program we're using and I say "Saxon math" I find that people either really love it or really hate it. Part of my problem right now is I'm not sure which level Silje should be at. I picked level 1 for first grade, and while I'm pretty sure she doesn't know the information for the second part of the year, this first part is all pretty basic for her.

So I'm going ahead with it, knowing that she knows most of this already. This week we worked on how to write the date and read a calendar, as well as count to ten using blocks. The calendar things were somewhat new to her. Counting to ten wasn't exactly. However, she got to use some of the manipulatives and that made it fun for her. I'm quickly learning to skip over things that are redundant, but keep the things that are good review. For instance, she needs to practice writing out the date every day. She doesn't need to show me how close high she can count everyday when the goal for the year is 100 and she did that on the first day.
Photobucket

I feel like I found that fine line between the extremes of boredom and overly challenging for her English program (which Silje and I both LOVE by the way), but I don't feel as settled yet with her math program. So far she's not too bored, but it is only the first week. I know she knows these things, and maybe it'll be just fun for her to know the all the answers the first part of the year. Maybe she won't get bored. We do have tougher subjects. Maybe this will just be her easier one. I'm still thinking this subject over, and wondering what the right thing to do is. Until then, I'm just doing the lesson it has laid out for me each day.

Her coloring is sloppier with math, though. So is her writing. All of her other subjects she puts her best out there. That's what I would do when I was bored in school. I'd slack off in the easy classes because who really cares?

I don't want to skip lessons, because I see the learning approach this program is trying to do and don't want to mess with that. I may soon start combining lessons, though, to make it a bit more interesting for her. I want to use this program a full year and see how it all plays out, but I may switch to "Math U See" in the future so I can compare the two better. Those were the 2 programs I was debating between. Basically, I'm totally sold on all of our choices for curriculums we chose for this year except for math. I'm not convinced we made the wrong choice, though either. There are some things I really do like about it.
Photobucket
Her home economic lessons are a bit trickier than I had anticipated, but I'll admit I can be rather impatient when it comes to teaching things I can do in my sleep. I thought I'd start with crocheting, since I consider it much easier to master than knitting. I was hoping she could make herself a simple scarf for herself.

Granted, learning brand new things like how to hold the yarn with the correct tension, etc is very, very difficult. However, for generations, this has been an appropriate age to teach these hand skills, and I do not feel it is too advanced for her. We've been keeping the lessons super short, and try to stop just short of her feeling overly frustrated. Just like David with learning to read, Silje needs lots of praise to keep having the motivation to continue on with this lesson.

I have a big plastic tub of my old yarn, otherwise known as the "cheapy red heart stuff" that you can get at Walmart. It's one of my favorite yarns to use for big projects like blankets, but when it comes to clothing and such, I like to go for the good stuff. I'll admit, the more I've gotten into yarn, the more expensive my taste has gotten. To work with this red heart stuff again feels like sandpaper on my fingers compared to the wool, cotton, bamboo, etc., yarn I've grown accustomed to from the specialty yarn shop. I've turned into a yuppie yarn lady.

I was considering just donating my cheap stuff since I don't use it anymore, but then I thought that there's so many colors, and although it's not as fancy, it's amazing to learn on, and very, very simple to work with. It doesn't split or slip easily like some specialty yarns do. So I gave the whole tub to Silje and told her that this would be her yarn to learn how to crochet and knit with, as well as use for any other fun craft projects that we do.

You better believe that the first color she went for was pink! There's so much pink and purple left over from the ice cream cones I knitted her for her birthday a year ago last summer. We started working on a chain stitch, but then I decided get the scarf started for her, with one row of single crochet done, and have her learn to single crochet another row. I think it's an easier concept to master, and she can learn how to start a project down the road.

She's still excited about it, though, and that's the ultimate point. I don't want this to be drudgery. I want her to feel inspired. However, before you can do art, you need to master the craft. That will take patience...for both of us.

Elias has turned into my teacher's helper. He likes to clean the boards of our little IKEA easel after class is done.
Photobucket

With his brother and sister both having some sort of book with them all the time now, he's starting to follow suit as well. He loves to "read" me books, and has taken a sudden interest in being read to that he really hasn't been into in the past. Competitive much?
Photobucket
And yes, sometimes he does wear his jammies all day. After all...why not?