Monday, May 31, 2010

Seeds, sickness and Avatar

I've been sick since Thursday night. I'm throughly convinced it's one of those uber-mega-super bugs that ravages bodies for a ridiculous long time. Max has been sick since last Monday. I caught it from him, which is what happens when a virus incubator sleeps ontop of you for three nights. And vomits on you frequently. Which is okay. It's what mommies are for. But I'm a little disappointed that nothing much got done this three day weekend. Now, Olivia isn't feeling well. And so the cycle begins.

Before all this illness began I did order a Hydrofarm JSV2 2-Foot Jump Start T5 Grow Light System to start some indoor seeds. I did an experiment with snap peas a few months back. One set of peas grew indoors, another outside. The indoor ones sprouted fast but their shoots were thin and stringy. The outside peas, while taking a good extra week and a half to sprout, were thick and stalky things that actually lived to produce quite a lot of snap peas. So, I've determined I have inadequate lighting for inside sprouting/growing. I read a lot of reviews on the light and think, for the price, it was a pretty good deal.

Today, I'm going to go rummage through the recycling and pull out the myriad of yogurt containers we have sitting about. Drill a hole in the bottom of each and set up my new grow light on the top shelf of the homeschool room. I don't know if I'll get to planting today, but its a start.

There are huge holes in the garden where things have run their course or didn't sprout. I've neglected tending things since Thursday save for just a few minutes outside to water and check things out. The tomatoes can probably be harvested but the stink bugs have been at them so I'm not sure what's salvageable there. Tomatoes are going to be a greenhouse plant in the future. I know there are some banana peppers growing and a new watermellon on the trellis that needs extra support. I'll know more when I get out there.

I'm not 100% today, probably more like 45% with it, but life with kids, and on a homestead (however meager) go on. Rabbits need nails trimmed, the dog needs a bath, garden needs tending and the house needs to be cleaned. I have today "off" from schooling the kids which is just an extra day for me to get it together. I've watched more TV over the past three days then I have in the past six months. It's boring. But I did finally figure out what Avatar was all about.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A New Adventure

I'm mapping out our homeschool for next year. With year round school, I have to get a jump start on the learning plan or December will run past and I won't know what I'm doing come January.

We work our school year by the actual calendar year, starting in January after the holiday's cease and ending in December before Solstice. This gives us flexibility in our year to take time off for other things that don't coincide with the public school system calendar. As long as we get in the 180 days of school for the year, I feel we've met Florida's (very relaxed) standards.

Next year I think I want to try something different than what we've been doing. For once in my parenting life I'm not pregnant or with a newborn. And there's no chance I will be. Max will be two come the start of our next homeschool year. Powered by his own feet and needing only limited "baby" supplies, I think we'll be able to do a lot of trips and outings that just aren't possible with a new baby. I'm excited about that.

With our quest to become self-sufficient homesteaders I think we've neglected one vital aspect of the journey; the kids. They've overheard our talking and share our goals insomuch as a kid can. They like the idea of having goats, chickens and horses, but they don't really understand what a dramatic change this will be in our lives. I want to rectify that.

So, this next school year, starting in 2011, I am going to change up our regular school goals of working to advance to the next grade level. I got a wonderful book from MOSI called The young naturalist's guide to Florida. by Lantz and Hale. The book is great, starting with information on the state and advancing through 32 lessons on the various ecosystems, envionmental careers, recycling, watershed and more. I plan do to one lesson a week, taking the kids to explore each of the areas the book discusses. I'd like to get them involved in 4H so they can learn more about the animals we want to raise. I want them to get dirty (which isn't really a hard task to complete) and dig into the Earth around them to understand why what we want to do is so vitally important.

We will still do math and reading and all the other lessons needed to raise intelligent and educated kids, but I want to change our homeschool ideals to match the ones in our lives. It's a new adventure and I'm exicited to start it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Daily Affirmations

There are days, like today, when I look around the house and see how dependent we are upon modern conveiniences. Everywhere I look it negativity seems to jump out at me. My mind sways back and forth from the luxury of ease to disgust with how things got so far out of hand. My eyes dart from child to child, seeing each of them being "entertained" by something electronic. I walk through the blowing air conditioner to the kitchen and glimpse my non-electric coffee maker and laundry lines.

Such a precarious peak I sit on. Tilting one way then the next. Towards modern efficiency one moment and then back to old fashioned hard work. A teeter-totting life. What is better? What is right? Do I want my kids growing up even further attached to outlets and remotes? Do I want them packed away from what life is really like? What are their kids lives going to be like?

My head swims with all the ways I could be royally screwing up. All the things I haven't done, haven't gotten close to doing and haven't yet realized that what I am doing is wrong, not for us.

Then I glimpse what I have accomplished. The little things that give me the daily affirmations that I am moving in the right direction. That even when I don't do everything completely right all the time, most of what I do is right for us. I'm going forward, even if some days it's ever so slowly. Yesterday, it was experiencing a public school recess first hand. I left the playground shocked and unnerved with the horrific behaivor I witnessed. Racial slurs, sexual harassment, assault all wrapped up in ten minutes of fourth grader "play". It was a confirmation that homeschooling is best for us.

Today, it was the plumping fruit on the plants in the front yard. More cherry tomatoes got harvested, watermellons are plumping, banana pepper babies are growing, little things that tell me I'm on a good path. That I'm actually walking on it. Those little daily affirmations that spur me on, solidify my resolve and make light a heart heavy with uncertainty.

All I have to do is look for them.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Poor Boy

There hasn't been much going on the past few days, Max has been sick. He's the only one (cross your fingers) so far. It started Sunday night and he's still hot and vomiting today. A doctor's visit is most likely in order. He just lays around looking pitiful and occassionally vomits on me.

I want my climbing, busy baby boy back.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Homestead Realities

I love reading homesteading blogs. I love perusing journeys of those that live without TV and off grid.
Who shun shopping and grow all their own food, including the milk, meat and eggs. I love hearing about people that pack it all up and head out to a slice of Earth and make it happen. Who spend their free time shitting in holes while they build their tiny houses from scratch with the materials of the land or all the stuff they've stalked on Freecycle. I love it, I really, really do. But there is one key difference between these idylic scenarios and my life.

They. Have. No. Kids.

Not a one. Zip, zero. Nil. Or, if they do, they're at least or close to teenagers. A second or third set of hands that can actually lend a hand to build. People that are, virtually, adults. That can occupy themselves and have sense to stay away from dangerous stuff.

I don't have that. I have kids, toddlers, babies. Piles and piles of children at the ready to stick their hands in wet cement or dump buckets of screws on the ground. The complete opposite of helpful when it comes to home building.

Don't get me wrong. I love my kids, I love their ages and their tripping ways. I wouldn't have it any other way. But it's the lack of information, support or guidance from anyone else that's done it this way with kids that has me frustrated. Even the articles I read regarding this subject don't have this view point. I can't just pack it all up one day and say "Hey, we'll live off the land and if we can't find food, oh well!"* People will take my kids away and I really, really don't want that.

We have to have clean, fresh water. We have to have a climate controlled place for the kids to retreat to in the 100 degree weather. We have to have a steady supply of nutritious food, clean clothes, adequate restroom facilities and beds. Each of these, and a plethora of others, has to be hashed out, created or purchased before the next step -or even the first- can commence.

So, we'll be taking this in little baby steps, something we're well familiar with. Figuring out all the minute details that will help make our homestead a reality. I just would have liked to see someone else do it this way first.

*I'm not saying that people that do this are being nonchallant and haven't planned out what they'll do for food, shelter and the like. Just that we can't have quite the same freedoms as others.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Case of the Mondays

For the most part, I look forward to Mondays. It's the start of the new school week. It's laundry day, which with the gorgeous weather, my new lines outside, my new deck and my discovery of Soap Nuts has turned a chore into a task. Big difference. It's also the day that I mentally map out projects that need to get done around the house both in the homestead, school room and sewing studio.

Yesterday, I made a test batch of these Crayon Wallets

Which the girls just love to pieces. So, now I have a new project to stock in my Etsy store.

Today is also the first day after the Sunday mail hiatus. I love mail. I got a lot of mail today.  Last week I got a custom order request for five of the block toy bags in my shop. The fabric I need to make them came today along with size tags for the pants I want to make this week, cell phone lanyard things to make Lego brick zipper pulls, the Zorb and organic bamboo for cloth mama pads and some Pul for wet bags. I also got the organic bamboo cotton jersey knit to make yoga-esque pants. And to top it off, I got another Starbucks Free Drink reward coupon. Nice!

So far the kids are behaiving relatively well, the garden is looking good even if there were a few stink bugs on the tomatoes and other than Max being a little sick, we're all fairly healthy and are recovering from a fabulous weekend of a barbeque on Saturday that turned the kids from this:

To this:

And a wonderful Children-led church service on Sunday.

Where they had the fabulous idea of putting on a play. Where they didn't have any lines. Or any mud.

Here, here for good weekends and even better Mondays!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Recycled modular decking -phase 2

The last of the boards have been secured to the pallets (though I ran out of scews, they're attached in the center and are stable and sturdy for now). We're having some people over for a bbq tomorrow so this is it for now. Eventually, I'd like to add at least 2 more pallets to the right side end.

We had an old bale of hay from months ago sitting on the side so I used that to spread over the walkway between the house and our property fence line. It was just weeds (which are still poking out of the hay) and bare dirt.

Total costs:

7 Pallets $10 (5 @ $2, 2 free)
Extra Wood $12 ( we had some laying around from other projects and we bought some cull lumber and got 10% off for being military)
Screws $4 (we already had these on hand but if you didn't...)
3 Chairs $48 ($16 a piece at Lowes)
3 Pillows $2.97 (.99 at IKEA)
Table we've had this one for years so I'm not sure I think I paid $10 new for it
Bug repellant coil holder .65 at thrift store

TOTAL $87.62 for approx 84 sq ft of deck/walkway space and all the fun extras

A Homesteader's View

This is a view I see a lot throughout my day; The area in and around the kitchen sink. It's where a lot of little things happen.

It's where I check the laundry.
I check the temperature that's attached to the window which helps me determine if I need to go out and cool down the rabbits or if I should wait to go out to the garden.
It's where I rinse the veggies and fruits (see the strainer of blueberries on the left?)
It's where I get the water for my cold brew non-electric coffee maker (far left).
I keep the bagbalm there at the ready on the windowsil.
I handwash stoneware, cast iron pans and large-family-sized pizza sheets right in those tubs.

It's where a multitude of things happen throughtout the day that, though they aren't unique really when seperate, combine to shape the view of my homesteading journey.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to make a recycled Garden Hod -tutorial

Okay, so I admit it right here and now that I am not a carpenter. I never said I was one. I have zero carpentry skills. I usually have the guys at Lowes cut my wood for me when I have a project. Sad, I know. But I have scrap wood and power tools that are MINE. Which means idle hands get to mess around and make kinda crappy looking wooden things. This makes me happy, I won't apologize.

I made a table out of mdf once. It rapidly fell over. I've gotten much better*. I promise.

Today, I took about twenty minutes and I made myself a garden hod. I saw one in the Lehman's catalog and it's very pretty. And too expensive for me when I harvest about 3.4621 ounces of stuff a day. I love Lehman's but there are a couple nice ones up on Etsy right now that I urge you to check out if you must buy one. Support Handmade!

There is one pretty tutorial on how to make these particularly useful garden baskets but it requires more skills than I have and I have to buy materials and/or make fancy wood cuts. If you want to make a pretty one, go ahead. Go, I'm not stopping you.

For those of you that stayed, we're making a hod with straight lines and spare parts that I really didn't even have to cut. I used my cordless circular saw a total of once. We're that kinda scrappy and simple over here.

First gather up all the scrap wood you have laying around and stick it in a relatively neat pile along with all the tools you need. I have a power drill, power circular saw, a power screw hole maker (I told you I'm not a carpenter), a recycled formula container of scews and not pictured, a ruler and a colored pencil stolen from Alex's homeschool desk.

Line up your wood to make sure they're all relatively the same length. Looks familiar, huh? These are all the scrap pieces from filling in the pallets for the deck. These will be the bottom and sides of the hod.

Cut one piece of wood into two equal pieces, like below. Here is where that one saw cut came in. I think it was about 8". These will be the ends of the hod.

Line up your first piece of wood along the bottom of one side on a short end of the end cap piece. Predrill a hole all the way through into the side board with the power screw hole maker thing.

Do this all the way around. Attaching first one side then marking with the ruler and pencil on the other to make sure the side spaces are mostly accurately spaced. The bottom spaces are going to be less wide than the sides but still wide enough that you can use the basket as a seive, to rinse off dirt and debris from your harvest.

Finish up the other side.

Then attach a handle to the top. I looked around for a fallen tree limb to make it even more recycled but all the wood around here is too rotten and I didn't like cutting off a new limb from a healthy tree. I left space on the sides to get in larger items and I still have to go over the edges to smooth them out so I don't hurt myself on it.

 Here is the finished Hod!

Here it is with the harvest from today!

Have fun harvesting!

*"much better" is a relative term meaning now I over do stuff so much that it will not ever fall apart. Though it might not be even, straight or plumb (I do know what that means.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Garden News

The summer garden is in full swing. While I've had some set backs; the dog eating some plants, a couple stink bugs eating the 'matos, a few plants getting burnt in the sun, sprouts not sprouting, things are going fairly well in my little seventy square feet of city dirt.

When I dug up the ground that was covered with creeping grass and a multitude of weeds and laid down my simple garden frames, I knew I was in for some weeding since I didn't use anything to kill off the unwanted growth. So far it hasn't been too bad. Some stray grasses and weeds poke through here and there, some worse than others but a quick pull and they're gone. If I stay on top of it, it's really not a problem.

But somewhere during the earth turning and seed planting, I got an unexpected surprise. A shoot came up near the snap peas and lemon grass, a place I didn't plant anything and I didn't know what it was. It didn't look like a weed.

I have very limited plant knowledge but this didn't seem to be something I wanted to yank out just yet. It wasn't close enough to harm the other plants by choking them out so I let it be. I could always pull it later. Plus I had a fair idea of what it could be.

It grew. It vined. It got little flowers on it. And yesterday I found this.

And this.

These are the kind of funny things that happen when you garden with kids and don't crouch over them, watching like a hawk that they do everything exactly as you tell them. Seeds get planted that you don't know about and you get plesant surprises in the form of baby watermellons. Watermellon being one of Emmy's favorite food groups, I'm really hoping these babies thrive and she gets to savor the labors of her works. Even if they weren't what was intended.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, my Man.

Yesterday was the celebration of the birth of my first child. My first son. The only person on the entire planet that was responsible for making me a mother. Wow, how time changes things.

He just turned eight.

He has big boy adult teeth that are a little too big for his still little kid mouth.

He has to share his room with a baby. And doesn't complain.

He does third grade Math and fourth grade Language Arts. Even though he's supposed to be in second grade. He's my little Einstein.

Or my little Tesla. I haven't figured out which. Though he might also be a Jedi. Or a race car driver. Or an Astronaut. Or some other thing where you could build bombs and singe off eyebrows (his words, not mine).

And he's obsessed with the computer. And he loves his sisters. Even when they butt in on his photo shoot.

And years and years ago, he used to look like this.

Oh, where did my little baby go? Now, I have to say Happy Birthday, my (almost) Man.

My mind's abuzzin

I really need to step back, organize and figure out what needs to be done on a daily basis. Right now I feel like I'm on a tilt-a-whirl. It's a good kinda feeling; excited, a little scary, wrapped up in the motions and just a little nauseous.

I'm finally getting projects done.

Which is a good thing except I keep thinking my dance card has a free space and adding new projects to it that I've been wanting to do for a long time. You can actually see the top of my sewing desk now. I'd like to keep it that least for a little while.

We've gotten into a groove around the house. All the laundry is washed, sheets have been changed, the kids have been getting dressed when they're told (well, mostly) and making their beds in the morning, a couple sewing projects have gotten finished or close to it, homeschool has been easy and most of the errands have gotten done without much fuss.

So, of course, I decide that I need more stuff to do. Why I can't let things just slide I don't know. There are so many things on my list of stuff to learn and things to do. I want to learn to make soap. With lye. I want to make new quilts for all the kids, I just threw in a batch of homemade dog biscuits in the oven, I tried to can some strawberry jam. We're having a bbq on Saturday and I'm sitting here on the verge of looking up homemade pasta recipes. I have the semolina and we're almost out of pasta.

We might be changing our homebuilding plans from pier foundation and stick frame to slab and concrete. So, add in the multitude of research needed for that. Yesterday, I bought all the supplies on Etsy to make reusable cloth pads. And still last night, I bought fabric to make dresses for the girls that weren't even close to being in the queue of projects. I'm contemplating starting new seeds to add to some spots in the garden that things didn't sprout.

Why do I do this to myself? Why can't I be idle? I don't know why, I'm not sure I'm meant to not have a project in hand. I suppose this is a wonderful attribute for a wanna-be farmer but darn it if it doesn't get my mind buzzing with all the possiblities of things I could learn or things I could do when even a minute spot opens up in my schedule.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Lines

When we were out buying more wood for the Recycle Pallets into a Deck project I picked up some retractable laundry lines. I had quite a few lines up before but we had to take them down to build the bunny hutch and with the new walkway we, well...clotheslined ourselves on the hanging ropes. Often. 

I bought 40' lines (there is very little chance we will ever use all forty feet in this house, mainly because our property is only 30' wide but they can be taken down and moved with us) and put them up this afternoon.
It came with screws I felt were grossly inadequate for the job. See shiny screws on left? Bad. See my replacement screws on right? Much better.

I had to predrill holes into the hundred year wood that holds our house together. I stood on a chair to get the lines up high enough to walk under but not so high I needed a stool to put up the laundry. I also hung them above the airconditioner so when it kicks on the hot air will serve an actual productive purpose.

On a side note, I'm resisting the urge to paint them to look like fish. Tell me I shouldn't.

All in all, it took about fifteen minutes to screw in all three lines and the hooks on the opposite side. I also predrilled a hole into the fence before screwing in the hooks. I really love my power tools.

It was rainy today; sprinking off and on. So I have to wait to try them out. These give me a ton more linear feet of drying space than I had before and they retract. A huge bonus when various spiders spin webs across lines every single night. I used to take a stick and swipe it across the lines every day last summer before I could hang clothes. Some looked like tiny crabs with red spikes on their backs. Eewe. Plus these lines are coated so they won't get mildewy or wet.

I'm very pleased with the quality of the retractable lines even if they cost about a bajillion times more than the simple loose hooks and length of rope I initially had in place. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be airing my clothes outside!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I've been a project making fool this past week with actual completion. Now that I've had two sales in my Etsy store I'm all eager to get more stuff listed. I finished two quilts earlier this week.

I made all the quilt blocks for Olivia's birthday quilt yesterday. I'm trying out this new method of quilt as you go but modified a bit. I made the squares first and then sewn them onto the individual batting squares. This is the largest quilt I've ever made. It's just smaller than a twin.

I'd like to make quilts for all the kids eventually. I'm really bad about making stuff for other people or for sale and my kids get the shaft. I have to get a flat sheet for the backing, sew the squares to themselves and do a binding. I might, if it seems too small, add a boarder before finishing it off.

I have another quilt (that was supposed to be for sale but I messed up on a portion so it's mine now, but I think that was subconcious since I really want that quilt anyway) that needs to have the last of the binding finished which I'll be taking to church with me today to do.

I finished up the zippy bags, all seven of them, for the store too and one already sold!

The pallets have been finished except for the very last one and a  portion of another. I have to knock off a few boards that are cracked. I'm going to put up a tutorial on how to stream line the process along with the finshed results soon. Though, I'd like to get at least a replacement pallet (or more) before I completely "finish".

I also made eight pints of strawberry jam syrup, read three books, bought new laundry lines and visited the aquarium with a friend and her daughter.


whew! Can't wait to see how productive I'll be this week!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Recycled modular decking -phase one

There's a big huge movement on making things out of pallets. And since we're oh-so trendy over here *snicker* we made a project, too. Here is phase one of our modular deck/walkway. (please excuse the messy yard)

Leeloo is trying it out. I used leftover wood from the bunny hutch building project, a 3" piece of wood I found in the shed, a couple pieces of a wooden table and chair set and two scraps of beadboard siding. It's not complete yet, but it's a good start.

I lined up the boards on one end and predrilled holes for the 2" wood screws. On the end that hung over I used a handsaw (I'm going to have the best biceps ever) to chop off the extra. At the very end we pieced together 20" boards to fill in as much as we can before having to buy any wood. Overall, I like the look of the mulitcolored boards. They're really heavy so a strong wind or a hell-bent kid won't move them around but still able to be moved by two adults.

Costs: we bought 5 pallets from the local farmer's market so we could pick and choose which we wanted. He charged us $2 a piece, so $10 there. The other 2 were free. Since we just found extra wood laying around the house I'd estimate the cost on that to be about $8. We also found a half used thing of weather sealer to finish it with.

With screws, sealer, boards and pallets I'd estimate the total cost so far being about $22. If we had found all the pallets the cost would be about half.

Each pallet is 40"x47" or roughly 3x4' giving us a total deck size of 84 sq. ft. I'll be doing more work on this over the weekend and will update as I move along.

Fabric Overload

I have admitted before that I have a little issue with hoarding fabric. It's a teeny issue really. I mean just because some nights we can't use the dining room table because I have fabric strewn on top isn't that big a deal. Right? Or the baskets of fabric under said table that prevent the kids from fully pulling up to it, isn't anything to worry about. I mean they have little legs, they don't need that much room anyway. Really, those pieces of potential could make us money once I get around to actually making something out of them. Really.

I was doing well. Truly. I was keeping my fabric purchases to a bare minimum getting just what I needed to finish a certain project. Until a few weeks ago. Oh, that fateful day! When my absolute favorite quilting store got flooded and sent an emergency message to all on their emailing list. The entire fabric collection in the entire store was forty. percent. off.

They needed help. They were asking me to help them out of this horrible situation. What was I to do?

But they closed at five and Rob didn't get home until almost six. I was twitchy sitting here, telling myself it didn't matter. I didn't need the fabric that I would never ever find at such a deep discount anywhere ever again. I didn't need Alexander Henry or Amy Butler's perfectly coordinating threads that would go with the current project I was working on. Oooh! And what about all those other projects I could make with everything else I could finally afford? It didn't help that I had gone so long without designer fabric purchases. It didn't help that we had just gotten paid, either. But Max was asleep and it was already 3:30. I couldn't wake him up to shuck three kids around a teeny fabric store that was sure to be jam packed with other fabric enthusiasts. Could I? Maybe.... No. No, that's not gonna happen.

The providence stepped in. Rob got off early and waltzed through the door not even five minutes after I overrode my internal hoarder. If that wasn't a sign I was supposed to go then I don't know how else to interpret that. So, I went. And I fell off the wagon. Hard.

I admit defeat at the hands of an amazing sale. I actually did better (read: less worse) than I thought I was going to. But the floodgates have opened and last night I spent an hour refolding and rearranging the fabric stash. It's funny how I look at something, even bought years before, and remember what I wanted to do with it. Which project whatever fabric was destined for. So, I'm working hard to actually get those projects completed. Heck, I've already sold one quilt and have a few things listed in my etsy store.

Today, I work on finishing another project that's been sitting around. Today, I'll use more of my stash. Today, I'll try to minimize my fabric overload. It's the best I can do.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I finally got a photo of myself that I didn't actually take by extending my arm as far as it would go and wildly shooting in my general direction. And then grimace at the results where 99.9% of the photos make me look like a moron. There are so few photos of me.

Which is alright, I guess. I'm not really that photogenic. Though it's a little strange that all our family outings are surprisingly vacant of a mother. I am absent from our memories. Every. Single. One. with very little exception. Why? because I'm usually the one frantically snapping photos of the kids as they run around doing incredibly cute and/or silly things. It's hard to be in photos when you're the one photoing.

I want them to have the memories. It's important to me to ensure that they grow to adults and have a good strong past to share with their spouses and children and grandchildren. There are very few photos of me as a child. They got lost along the way, through innumerous moves and downsizing. There are huge gaps in my childhood photos. I was a baby, toddler, school aged child and then pre-teen. Jumps in history with little connecting threads. So, as an adult and mother, I'm now overcompensating.

I take hundreds of photos of my kids a month. The only problem they'll have is to decided which month the snapshots were taken. I have them both printed and digital, at home and online, so there won't be an excuse to loose them.

I have photos of everything. Everything. And plenty of blackmail photos tucked away to ensure they treat me right when I'm the one that needs a diaper changed.

Life is good, even if I'm absent from the memories.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Because we're nerds wherever we go.

Physics at the dinner table. Macaroni Grill is the best, if not for the food at least for the ability to draw out inventions whenever the mood strikes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

IXL at Math

If you haven't heard by now, we homeschool. Three of the five are school aged and Emmy likes to tag along most days because she can't stand not having the attention. Most days are great and we finish our lessons in a couple hours. Then, there are days when I want to run screaming for the hills because a kid just. doesn't. get it. Our most recent issue was with Alex's math. His public school grade is second but we made it half way through the third grade curriculum before a metal curtain shut down his brain and math just wasn't moving in or out.

We tried to move on. We tried to go back and review the last bit of chapters. It wasn't working. I was getting completely frustrated and disturbing amounts of failure was sinking into me. Then a friend (where I get a lot of my brilliant ideas) turned me on to Holy wow.

We signed up for a month at first. To test it out, get our feet wet and see if we wanted to plunge in the deep end with a full year membership. The kids love it. I love it. I just signed four kids up for a year. (Yes, four. Remember Emmy's need to do what the big kids do? She's got her own login, it's the princess crown.)

I decided to start Alex back at the beginning of second grade. This is another reason I love homeschooling, we couldn't go back that far in public school without being held back. He's been working through it fairly quickly but I can see where he is stumbling and we're able to reinforce those lessons. The kids all love getting their bonuses and will even ask to do additional lessons in order to earn the next one.

From a teacher perspective, there are reports and state standards easily accessible for each student/grade/day. They send you email reports to whatever addresses you choose so dad (or whomever) can get daily updates on how the kids are doing. It's got pie charts and graphs showing mastered skills, time practiced and more.

It won't be used for a full curriculum, we'll still need our books later on. But for now this is a perfect solution to our problems with math.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Small Little Gifts

All in all, raising five kids is hard. In essence, there are five little, growing souls that are all vying for the upper hand, a slice of my undivided time, all pushing limits, all day, every day. They're expanding and exploring, developing relationships and learning. And making messes. And sometimes fighting. And enjoying copious amounts of climbing. Like this

and this

Things that drive me batty happen almost every instant and leave me to question the reason I even decided to get impregnanted with the first one, let alone FIVE. In. Six. Years. My body is still a little nervous around me wondering if I'm going to abuse it more by stretching it into ridiculously impossible shapes and then snap it back all in one wild ride of pain. Side note: skin is an amazing organ. Sometimes Most of the time life with a husband that is gone part of the time, five kids, two cats, two rabbits, a dog, seventy square feet of gardening, embarassing amounts of projects and hobbies, homeschooling, college, two additional correspondence courses, a bookstore worth of books and a huge daily dose of music is just, honestly,  insane.

And then there are the little things that push all the craziness right out the window. That make me whole and heal my heart. That remind me why I get up every morning -despite being chronically sleep deprived- and subject myself to what is sometimes flat out abuse*. Moments of perfection. Small little gifts.

Like when I hear this from the other room:

Emmy,  "Everyone be quiet. I telling you ah-tory (a story) in my book. I said quiet! Okay. One a time...quiet Ahl-yex (Alex). *audible sigh* One a pond a timed they has a duh-wagon (dragon). And then you turn the page and they all run away. And a duh-wagon is a mean. He say GRRRR. Just like that. Now, you try it. Quiet, I reading you ah-tory. And then one day he's no mean n-e-mow-ah (anymore) and then it de end. Quiet, Ahl-yex, I not done yet. I still looking at the pictures."

Oh, I love that little three year old. She's like a shaken little soda bottle when she's riled up. They all are endearing, every last one. I couldn't picture my life without them. Any of them. The craziness helps shape me. It makes me strong. It makes me cherish tiny bits of time that are peaceful and quiet. Too much peace and quiet and I get nervous. It means somethings wrong. Deep in my heart I love the rowdy, raucous, loud, crazy life I have, even as I reach for the ibuprofen. It takes a certain kind of person to delve into my world.

People sometimes think I'm amazing (some certain unnamed people better. You know who you are.) but I'm really not. I'm the same as every other mother out there whether they have one kid or nineteen. The second we find out we're responsible for life other than our own we're all essentially the same;

hopeful we're not screwing up
determined to make it to bedtime
focused on getting through the current fight/argument/mess so we can get back to doing the dishes
afraid we're lacking in some terrible way and we won't know it till it's too late
amazed at the life that sprung from us. From us!
sad that it's going by way too fast
graceful as we weave our way through life
flat out brave for just every single thing
forever beautiful in the eyes of our children
Thankful for their children, their own small little gifts

*teething babies like to bite. Hard. Three year olds in a tantrum fit don't care if they kick you in the mouth. Or anywhere else. Six year old girls will scream that you've ruined their lives.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Snack Attack

We like snacks. Sometimes entire meals are made up of snacking foods. The other day I made crispy kale. I hadn't tried it before but it sounded good (and it is, by the way). I cooked it a bit too long though and it was really crispy. So, I decided to crunch it up and sprinkle it on my popcorn. mmmmm. What a treat!

My friend Chellie had posted on FaceBook (because this is the only place I ever interact with people and I'm really addicted to human contact) that she liked those little reusable ziplock type bags but they were kinda pricey. So, I made her some. And made me some, too. Emmy loves them. They hold our dear snacks.

Emmy? Can mommy have one?

Um, not likely.