Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Study in Eyes

Louise's eyes are definitely blue- and yet, they are distinctly different than the blue eyes of Grey and Micah. So I started trying to find pictures of all my kids eyes to compare... and of course I got carried away. So here you go.





Then I made this little collage, like a crazy person with lots of free time. (I don't have lots of free time and am also hopefully not crazy.)
What do you think? I think Lu's eyes are shaped the most like Grey's eyes. August and Micah's eyes have a sorta downward slant on the outside, but are SUCH different colors, and Micah's eyes are so heavily lidded.
This is apparently how I exert my mental energies, comparing my children's eyeballs.


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Grey and Louise, a Love Story

Grey and Louise love each other. They love each other more than any of my other children love each other. I suspect they love each other more than either of them love their parents.
I find, my feelings aren't hurt.

Grey was reading out loud to Louise, and I pulled out my camera. I love the natural evolution of pictures here.

As Grey read, he became distracted by Louise and started talking sweet to her and trying to make her smile.

He (obviously) was forced to abandon his book, and pay more attention to her. And give her kisses.

Also, as a bonus: I try to take pictures of my children and they try to be as annoyed by it as possible.
Little do they know, I even love their annoyed faces.

How I love this young man boy!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Dandelion Wishes

Thank goodness we have a busy single mother and city council woman living next door! Besides being an awesome human being, she also has a fairly unkept yard- which keeps the Pitcher family from being the only slobs on the block.
I think all the very tidy old people on our street use their hedge trimmers EVERY DAY.
And we mow the lawn... well, almost never. Like, thrice a summer? Some of us have other things to do! Like keep children alive and be civically engaged! (We are not civically engaged. That would be our neighbor.)
But a few weeks ago, I looked over the back fence and noticed a veritable dandelion paradise. As the sun was sinking, I herded my children over into the neighbor's yard to stage a photoshoot.
Dandelions are good for something! (Also, they're good for bees. Also, I just kinda like them in general.)
Well, I didn't herd everyone. Grey was resting on the couch with a newly broken leg! Which I was pretty convinced wasn't broken. Despite my pleading, he refused to hobble over and blow weed-seeds around the neighborhood with us. Looking back, I find I can forgive him. facepalm
Louise also went to bed. But I forced my other children to participate!

At first, it was just fun to run around and blow out dandelions. After about 15 minutes, I asked Micah, "What are you wishing for?"
"What do you mean?"

They didn't know that you're supposed to make wishes when you blow out a dandelion! I guess I'm failing as a whimsy free-spirited mother.
I explained about the wish-fulfilling abilities of dandelions. Micah promptly picked another dandelion and whispered, "I wish I could always be kind!" and August, ever the mimic, picked one and also said, "Be kind!"

They're really good human beings.
I always wish for a million dollars or surprise thunderstorms, but I guess I've got a lot to learn.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Five Months Old + A Baby Blessing

Like magic, Louise continues to grow bigger. I recently was thinking: babies get cuter, smarter, funnier, more fun, easier, and better at everything as they get older.
And yet, those first few months are still somehow the best months of all. 
I'm trying to not be a really giant drama queen every time Louise crashes through another milestone, but it's tough. 

At five months old, she is so happy. I love these pictures, because I feel like they're so accurate to her personality. She is constantly smiling, chatting, and trying to get the attention of the people around her. She doesn't like being held facing me, she always wants to look around! She is definitely an extrovert, she gets excited and happy whenever we are with people. In Sunday School, our class sits in a circle and she sits on my lap. When she's awake, she spends the whole hour looking around the room, panting in excitement, and occasionally bursting into excited laughter. She's so happy to be surrounded by smiling people!
She laughs and giggles very easily, almost constantly- especially at her brothers. They can make her laugh much harder than Travis or I can. She loves her brothers and doesn't mind if they flop her around or are too rough or too noisy. She loves it all! Soon she'll be wrestling and crawling after them. 
On a few occasions when she's been face to face with other babies her size, she gets so excited! She starts panting and trying frantically to grab on to them. I predict she'll be one of those girls who loves baby dolls.
She is basically a baby doll, too. Everywhere we go, little girls come out of the walls and inch up to see her. "Oh! What a pretty baby! Can I hold her?" is something I hear every single time we leave the house. She has those big blue eyes and rosy cheeks that make her irresistible.

She still only has two teeth, and isn't mobile. She can sit up by herself, but gets tired or loses her balance within about 10  minutes. She can roll (and does instantly) when she's on her stomach, but hasn't figured out back to front yet. She doesn't like tummy time, and get frustrated with me very quickly (as pictured!) if I keep flipping her back over on to her stomach. 

Louise is getting very good at grabbing things, and her favorite things to hold on to are her toes and our fingers - all of which go right into her mouth. She's not as drooly as my other kids, but she is just as anxious to eat as they are. She gets very offended if we dare to eat in front of her without handing over our food. 

She chews on apple slices, watermelon, and bananas while we eat. The bananas are her favorite thing in the whole world- but slippery! So everytime she drops her banana, she SCREECHES. Also, she can scream SO loudly, and she does it when she is clearly not hurt, but angry. I'm a little worried about my ability to deal with future toddler-tantrums from this one!
She is a pretty good sleeper- amazing during the day, usually taking 2 three-hour naps! At nigh she sleeps about 12 hours, but wakes up twice to nurse. Which means I'm still getting up every night at 1am and 4am. But she sleeps so well in between eating and goes to sleep without any help, so I can't let her cry it out or anything. She obviously knows how to self-soothe and is actually hungry!

A few weeks ago, she was finally blessed at church! Mormons traditionally do a baby blessing when babies are a few weeks or months old. Similar to a Christening, it's a public prayer given in front of our congregation- typically given by the baby's father. Travis gave a really sweet blessing, and our families were able to come and participate. 

Some of the things Travis said in his prayer were that Louise would grow and develop normally and to be strong and happy.  That she would develop spiritually, find her talents, desires and purpose in this life and use them to build the kingdom of God.  He blessed her with a desire to serve and be aware of the needs of others around her, and to find joy doing so.  To love the scriptures and rely on inspiration of the Spirit and the leaders of the Church. And to have a desire to make and keep covenants pertaining to the gospel and help with the building of the kingdom of God.
Louise with her Dad and both Grandpas on her blessing day. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Education and Such: Validation

I like to imagine that I don't care what people think, that I do what I want because I want to or because I think I'm doing the right thing, regardless of the naysayers.
And I do. But, I also would like to be validated.

I am homeschooling because I love it, because I think it's beneficial for my kids, because I believe that God has called me to do it, and for so many other reasons. And yet, when another mother questions me or expresses doubt in my abilities- I get all fired up. I am annoyed that she doesn't agree with me, I start to worry if I'm doing the right thing- despite the many times that I have been assured (both by my Heavenly Parents and by the fruits of my labor, as it were) that this is a good thing for us now.
When I am questioned, I start thinking up defensive responses for next time. Next time someone says, "You should enroll August in preschool, he's not learning anything," I will just whip out this article about how delayed academics is better for little boy-brains. That will show them!
And then, I start to feel panicky. Well, that might make this other mom feel guilty that she taught her 2-year old the ABCs.
When obviously, with the exception of abuse or neglect- we should just assume that all mothers love their children and are doing what is best for their particular family. And none of us need to prove ourselves to each other.

I recently initiated my 6-year olds into "the grown up club."
I wasn't sure if they were ready. They had to be clued in to a lot of "grown-up tricks and secrets," and they were warned, being a member of the grown up club isn't always fun. Usually it means less fun! But they decided they were ready for the responsibility.
Some of the rules of membership in this highly exclusive club?
Well, you have to take care of littler kids, stick up for people who need a defender, play with someone that looks like they need a friend. Let little kids have turns before you, share what you have, and try to be a peacemaker.
These rules were fairly easy for my kids to accept. The most difficult rule was the rule that is actually difficult for almost every member of the grown-up club, even the actual grown-ups.
It's the "Okay, Crazy" Rule.
The rule is this: When someone disagrees with you, when someone says something that you don't believe or is offensive, you don't fight.
You don't scream, "MY NAME ISN'T MEATBALL PANTS!" until they begin to call you by the right name.
You shrug your shoulders and say (or think), "Okay, Crazy." And you move on.

Today, I forgot about the "Okay, Crazy" Rule. I didn't scream "I'M NOT A NEGLIGENT MOTHER" at anyone. I didn't even start Googling any statistics. I was, blissfully, interrupted by my horde of children and got to leave a conversation in the painful middle.
But then I came home and sent out identical texts to several women, begging them for validation.
"I'm not a negligent mother, right? I'm annoyed and I deserve to be, RIGHT?"
And they all promptly responded and reassured me.
For which I am appreciative.

But then, one of my friends sent me another reminder. She texted me a beautiful picture of a painting that she's working on, titled "She decided to ask up, not around."
And I remembered.
I don't care what other people think.
Or, rather, I shouldn't.

I recently read Teaching from Rest, which I would highly recommend to any Christian homeschooling mothers (it was more religious than I expected, but delightfully non-preachy).
I don't have my copy in front of me, so I can't quote it. But there was a section that really touched me, where the author asked, Whose "Well done" are seeking? You cannot serve two masters, and God and the world want very different things from you. If you're seeking to please and be praised by one of them- the other will probably be disappointed in you. If you're trying to impress everybody, it's unlikely anyone will be impressed. If you want God to be pleased with you, then stop trying to impress your mother-in-law and neighbors and do what you know God wants you to do.
(Note: My mother-in-law and most of my neighbors are actually fairly supportive and non- judgmental, so I'm intentionally singling out NO ONE.)

As we near the end of our first year of homeschooling, I am feeling really introspective about school and trying to evaluate what is next for us. Was this year everything I hoped it would be? Is this still the path that our family should take?
I know the answers to those questions already.
Yes. Yes.

This last year was amazing, it was hard and tiring, but it was also joyful and fun. We all learned and grew closer and I am excited to continue that for at least another year.
As a friend recently told me, no one ever hands you a medal that says "You survived a Wicked Hard day as a mother!" (read that with a Boston accent).
I want to be validated for doing what I think is right.
But sometimes I just have to do it without the validation I think I deserve.
And I suspect, as a homeschooling mother, I'm just going to have to get used to people thinking that what I'm doing is crazy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Education and Such: Curriculum

Yikes. I read through my last post and it was such rushed, train-of-thought style writing! This is what happens when I try to frantically record things in my free time.
Ah, remember the days of naptimes for all?
Those were the days when I could occasionally put together a well-worded sentence and crank out 5 blog posts a week. Although, maybe you noticed. This is my FIFTH blog post this week. Basically I haven't written in three years but I'm currently feeling motivated to write down things so I don't forget.
Yesterday I took pictures of all of our school books, so I thought I would share them and what sort of work we do every day.

First, here is our loop schedule (and an example of our daily to-do list):

The every day tasks (at the top) are the things we do daily (duh).
The tasks at the bottom are rotated through. We usually get through the whole list in about 4 days.

So, under The Arts, for example, I have listed Music Study, Shakespeare, and Picture Study
That means, every time we get to The Arts in our rotation, we do whichever of those is next. We don't do Music one day, Shakespeare the next, etc. We usually study The Arts once or twice a week. (Like how I'm making The Arts a proper noun? Me too.) That means that, really, we're only doing each of those tasks about twice a month.

For The Arts (now I'm just saying it to amuse myself!), we use Shakespeare Stories for kids which are Shakespeare's plays written as children's novels to help them familiarize themselves with the names and stories, etc. We also read Shakespeare's poetry on occasion, but here's the real thing: I don't love Shakespeare, so I'm not that into reading his poems. We listen to the podcast Classics for Kids to learn about famous composers, and then listen to the music by said composer (thanks Amazon Prime Music) throughout the month. We read chapters about artists from the book Vincent's Starry Night for artist study, and have ordered (but don't actually have yet) several picture study packets from Simply Charlotte Mason.

Earlier this year, Grey and Micah learned their address as part of "geography," and next year we will probably study more about different parts of the world- but as of right now, we are still trying to understand maps. 
We checked out this book and workbook from the boys' school, called Legends and Leagues. It has been really fun and helpful for the boys to learn about maps.
I have also ordered (but have not received and therefore cannot give a review of) these Pin it! Maps. We also read SO MANY books, as you might have guessed. So whenever we read about a place besides where we live (so basically with all books- since very few take place in Utah), we look up the place on our globe.

I have invented my own category of school work. Some other names for it might be Creative Writing, or (if you're Charlotte Mason) Narration. I like Storytelling, because I feel like it is more accurate to what we do. The boys aren't doing a lot of creative writing because their physical writing ability doesn't allow for much, but they do have a great desire to express themselves and tell stories. Charlotte Mason gives Narration great importance and I struggled to teach my kids to do what I thought Narration was: to summarize what they see or read.
Guess who hates it? That's right. Five year old boys. Our conversations went like this:

Me: Okay, can you tell me what's happening, so I know you're understanding what we read?
Grey: Louis is in the bathtub instead of a bed.
Me: Okay. That's the last sentence that I read. What else has happened since you summarized.
Grey: I don't know.
Me: Louis got a job, right?
Grey: Yes.
Me: What's his job?
Grey: Playing the trumpet.
Me: Playing the trumpet where?

And that would just go on and on and be terrible for all. So instead, I give the boys opportunities to tell stories without trying coax anything out of them. We might talk about it, which helps them remember various things, but there's no hinting, "And what kind of boat was it? And do you remember why that's important?" The greatest trick for my specific children has been to remove myself from the process. I give them my phone and ask them to record themselves telling a story and then bring it back to me. I then write down what they say in the video and they have a story that they "wrote."
Currently, the boys are each compiling a book of Fairy Tales as told by them. We read a story together and complete an art project for it. They are responsible for writing down the title of the story and one line from the text. Then I transcribe their version for us to reread forever.
This idea was taken from Brave Writer, which is not really a "curriculum," so much as a collection of ideas to teach your child how to express themselves. I really like it and have used many of her tips- however, I'm not sure that I would pay for it! We got it for free through the boys school.

Poetry Teatime:
This is another idea from Brave Writer, although something that we actually did occasionally before I read it in her book. About once a week (Tuesday Teatimes!) we try to have a poetry tea party. We gather a bunch of poetry books, snacks, and fancy hats and sit around and read poetry together while sipping (basically) sugar water.

If you look closely at my loop schedule, you'll notice I don't have a History lesson on there. Currently, the extent of our History lesson is listening to the audiobooks for Story of the World. We listen to it all the time in the car, and it's very interesting and even I am learning so much! The boys definitely absorb a lot, too. The book is read by an overly-enthusiastic narrator, who - let's be totally honest- sometimes sounds slightly drunk because he's being so dramatic in his storytelling. And it is, as the title suggests, the history of the world told in stories.
Each chapter is a different topic in chronological order, including religious stories and folk tales of different parts of the world. We've currently been listening to the stories of Rome. Beginning with the legend of Romulus and Remus, past Julius Ceasar, Ceasar Augustus, Constantine, etc with a chapter focusing on Gladiators, another Chapter focusing on Rome Gods, and another on Roman architecture.
We also have an accompanying activity book and if there is a topic of special interest to my kids, we will do an activity or color the maps for the chapter.
I think it would be super boring and tedious to read aloud to the boys myself since we already read so many other books, so the audiobooks have totally been worth it to me.

There are so many Handwriting curriculums out there, but we have liked these Handwriting without Tears books. They are great for learning the formation and pattern of writing letters. However, they're also just boring workbooks and my kids are not that interested in workbooks (nor are they generally helpful). So the things that they like best are when they write actual letters and send them in the mail. Even letters started to get too difficult, though. My kids want to say so much more than they have the actual patience to write. So Thank You cards! I bought a few packs of basic cards with envelopes for the boys and they write lots of little notes to people for their handwriting work. I also have them keep a journal or log where they are required to write a single sentence about something we did. For example, Grey wrote about our recent trip to Vernal, "We saw petroglyphs and dinosaur bones." That's all. But I try to incorporate handwriting into lots of other tasks (like copywork with their Fairy Tale Narrations as mentioned above.)

When the boys were learning to read, we would do a chapter of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons a few times a week. It was awesome and totally worked! At about lesson 80, it clicked for my kids and we stopped using that book and started just reading. Now they read me a story every day for their reading work. Books like Frog and Toad or Mercy Watson are our favorites.

For math we've been using the Math-U-See program. I like it, since it's very hands-on and one-on-one. I loved math in school (to an extent) and I like the patterns of numbers and shapes, but it's very visual for me. I like quilting, because it's so mathematical! But if I am just handed abstract numbers, I flounder. I like the way that this program is set up to help kids identify the real-life attributes of numbers (as opposed to understanding them abstractly.)
Below is a picture of the boys' box of math manipulatives and some example pages of work that they're currently doing.
We also play lots of math games. We have Sum Swamp, which my kids love and also play lots of dice and card games. We used our Montessori hundred number board all the time earlier in the year when the boys were learning number recognition and patterns, but it hasn't been used in a while now. I have my eye on a few various games to learn about telling time and using money, but we're not quite there yet.

We actually haven't done any spelling work besides just reading a lot and learning some sight words, but I picked up these Explode the Code workbooks from the boys' school this week. So far, they're really into it and it's teaching them things that I never actually said like "AEIOU are vowels."
Again, I don't love workbooks, but my kids sometimes like them. As long as it's not a chore for me to force them to sit down and fill out their busywork, I'm okay with it...

Hands On:
The last topic on my loop schedule is called "Hands on," which is only because I couldn't think of another name for it. It includes things that I hate, like science experiments! Okay. They're not so bad. But my kids want to do a science experiment every dang day. Some, like dissecting owl pellets, take many hours! We seriously spent about 3 hours dissecting an owl pellet, cleaning the bones, identifying them, and rebuilding Vole skeletons. 
Other "hands on" projects, like the sea shell set below, are much easier and don't actually include any work on my part. Pictured below is a Sea Creatures Discovery Kit that we checked out from the school. We checked out one about fossils last week, and it included plaster of paris and a small plastic dinosaur for us to make our own fossils. 

Nature Journaling is also included in the hands-on section, because it's always a huge fight. My kids love nature and want to learn and record things about the world around them. But they, like their mother before them, are not that into trying to draw the things they see around them. The inevitable imperfections of such a task are really stressful. So we started just gluing in pictures from the internet and then writing down things that we learned! Now Nature Journaling is totally fun. It might not look as fancy or be a precious heirloom, but that's okay.

Whoa, you guys. I did not think I was going to be able to actually finish this super long post. But I did! And now I have a record of all the things that we do every day!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Education and Such: Schedule, Routine, and all my Many Charts

As we are nearing the end of our kindergarten and voyage home school year, I wanted to write a bit about what we did and didn't do over the past 9 months. Some things that worked, some books we've loved, the schedule we've fallen into, etc.

Last year at about this time, I was obsessively planning for this school year. This is, no joke, the actual schedule that I wrote down for the boys' kindergarten year:

Daily Schedule:
7:30- 9, Breakfast, scriptures, memorization, Poetry
9-9:45 clean up breakfast, make beds, get dressed, etc (take turns doing yoga / individual reading time)
10-10:45 SCHOOL
10:45-11:15 snack/ free time
11:15-12 SCHOOL
12 Lunch
Afternoon, read aloud during snacks or at bedtime (Biographies/Lit)

MW Math, Fairy Tales, Art, Journals/Thank you notes
TTH Science, Scriptures, Geography, Copy Work
Daily: History (biographies), Narration & Artwork, Reading practice
Mid Morning: Reading Practice, Math/Geography, Art/ Copy Work
Late Morning: Journals/Scriptures, Fairy Tales/Science, Narration & Art Work
Afternoon: Reading together (alternate biographies / lit)

Want to guess how long we followed that schedule for? LITERALLY NOT EVEN ONE DAY. 

Just reading that schedule above makes me cringe. I invented that schedule based on lots of other homeschool moms' schedules, based on what I was pretty sure we were supposed to be doing, and based on my naive assumption that I could just have lesson plans constantly ready every single day. 

Honestly, most of our year, the schedule looked like this:

8am: breakfast, scriptures
9am-7pm: reading books and running around

Okay. That's a slight exaggeration. We did some school-work, and most of the time when we were "running around" it was to science museums, aquariums, hikes, etc. which I consider pretty dang educational. But they are kindergarteners! People were constantly asking me, "How many hours a day do you do school?" Um. Like 15 minutes?

Really, throughout the year, we would "do school" (ie. work on math, writing, and reading) really well for a few weeks at a time, and then we would do really poorly for a few weeks at a time. The truth is, I actually feel totally fine about that. I predict we will continue that flow of doing a lot and then taking a break throughout the summer as well. It happens really naturally, and it's nice to be able to move at a pace that feels comfortable. And since we will be schooling through the summer, I'm not too worried about falling behind.
Then, inevitably, after not doing school for a few days or a week- we would all start to crave the routine of schoolwork again, and I would probably make a new chart. I love charts! No one is more falsely optimistic than me with a new school chart. 

I made a chart where I listed each of the boys' school subjects with screen time rewards: Do one math assignment, earn 15 minutes of tv/video games. 
That sort of worked, but also- they were earning too much tv some weeks (weeks when we did school) and then some weeks, Travis wanted to play video games with them, even though they hadn't earned their time and so they would play anyway. And obviously that totally undermined my system! They weren't motivated to do anything.

So I made a new chart, where the week was split into five days of schooling. One day might include reading, math, geography, science, and spelling. Or perhaps reading, math game, fairy tale narration, and nature journal. 
Each morning the boys could choose which day they wanted to do, and needed to complete three full days a week or all five partial days in order to get a prize on Saturday (usually their prize of choice was a pack of gum.)
That chart worked for a month or so, but the truth is, we often felt overwhelmed. And many weeks we got four partial days done, and the kids were upset they didn't get to earn anything. 
So on to the next chart. And so on. 

The only thing that we consistently did every single day, through good school weeks and no-school weeks was Morning Time. During Morning Time, we eat breakfast, read scriptures together, recite the poem that we are learning, and talk about our plan for the day. 
(My kids and I all love "the plan." Every day they ask, "What's the plan? Where are we going? Who's coming over?" It helps them to mentally prepare for the day, even if all I say is, "Today the plan is laundry and a walk after lunch.")
We also recently added a book about manners for children, and every morning after reading the scriptures we read a new topic from that book. Today we learned about handshakes. 
We have done morning time five days a week, rarely missing a single day, for about a year. It changed our lives! That sounds dramatic, but it's true. Whether its the routine or the scriptures (a combination of both, I think), it sets our days off in a much better and more unified way. 

Concerning scheduling again:
Things took an immediate upswing when I discovered Loop Scheduling. Basically, Loop Scheduling consists of a to-do list that you just work through and then start over on. So now we have daily tasks (Reading, Math, Piano, Chores are on our daily list) and we have rotating subjects (creative writing, handwriting, science project, geography, music study, art study, poetry, nature journal, Shakespeare, fairy tales, history, spelling, etc)

Each of the boys has a spiral bound notebook in our morning basket (a basket next to the table that contains scriptures, Manners Kids Should Know, daily medicines, etc). Every evening I write a to-do list for the boys in their notebook. Their to-do list includes the daily tasks from the Loop Schedule, 2-3 chores, and 0-3 additional school tasks. 
Today we were planning on going down to Grandma's house fairly early in the morning, so their lists were short:
Put Away Clean Clothes
Unload Dishwasher

They had to do everything on the list before we could leave.  Tomorrow's list is a little fuller. 

Fairy Tale Narration
Clean Under Couch 
Clean Bedroom Closet

They don't always get the same chores as each other, but they are going to work together at those jobs tomorrow because they're a little bigger. 
Instead of holding to a strict schedule, (like 9:15-9:25: Spelling), we now hold to a routine. I'm all about that change! We actually things done now without feeling rushed or behind!

Our routine is this:
When everyone wakes up, we have morning time together. 
After morning time, we all get dressed and clean up breakfast. The boys can start on their chores or piano if they want to or go play for a bit. (They usually choose to do some work here, because they are motivated by knowing what is expected of them for the day and knowing that they can't play with friends until piano and chores are done.)

At 9am, we start school. We do school until the work is done, OR until 11am. If we don't finish everything, I just don't check it off the loop and we continue it the next day. If they finish everything by 9:40, GREAT. They're done with school for the day. 
I set the timer for each boy, too, and spend about a half-hour one-on-one. Usually, during this time they read to me for 15 minutes and then we work on anything else that they want or need special attention with. The other two brothers play together. This lets them all get a break in the midst of the "school day," too- which helps them concentrate when they need to. 

(Also, I don't put this on their to-do list, but I do put it on mine: Reading aloud together. I read them so many books. In addition to picture-books, we also try to read a chapter or two of our current big-kid book sometime during the day. Currently we are reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. This doesn't go on their list because I don't want them to know that I consider it school. It is a treat for all. It usually happens during a lull in the afternoon or during lunch.)

On Mondays, they have piano lessons in the afternoon. On Tuesdays, we have a poetry teatime in the afternoon. On Wednesdays, the big boys attend school through a local charter school. They call it "project school," because they do so many fun things and never do any boring busy work. It's our favorite thing and the greatest find!
And, in fact, because of this school- my kids aren't technically considered home schooled! We don't have to file an affidavit with the state or anything. Instead, I meet with an Education Specialist once a month and the boys take Standardized Tests, etc. It's been a really great comfort to my husband, who is worried about us being held accountable to the nefarious "system."

And so! We are doing school! We do school almost every day!
On the days when we don't start off by working together until 11am, 4pm comes and we still haven't gotten anything done and are all crabby with each other. It's great way to have a routine and keep the house in order. I suspect we'll continue it throughout the summer. At the very least, we'll do it 3 days a week. Although- I guess we'll see how we feel when it comes to it!

I was going to add pictures and such, but it is now 9:20 pm and all my children are asleep. I better get to bed too, since my baby will undoubtedly wake me up in 3 hours. 
Besides, I know exactly who reads this blog (hey guys! Thanks for sticking around. Casey, Josh, Alissa. Maybe my grandma.... ) and this is probably boring to all of you. I wrote it mostly for my own record. 
But hopefully I will find time later this week to write another post about what we actually do during that 9-11am block, curriculums and such. 
I'm telling you guys, this routine is making such a difference. I find myself with free time thinking, "I could write on my blog for a while," and that hasn't happened in YEARS! And yet, I wrote three blog posts THIS WEEK. Amazing. 

Okay. Goodnight my friends!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

August is three!

A day before August's birthday, I was playing with my camera- trying out different settings, teaching myself how to use it. August was playing quietly by himself and I asked, "Will you sit in the window and read so I can take your picture?" He climbed right up into a window seat and was quickly absorbed in a book and oblivious to my camera. About a half hour later, he looked up and asked, "Can you come with me to the trampoline?" We got dressed and headed out- me with my camera again. And I love these pictures of my boy. 

August is hard to describe.
Travis summed it up nicely by saying, "He's kind, oblivious, determined, tough, and sweet."

He is a tornado of energy, constantly running, jumping, wrestling, screaming, climbing, swinging, singing, and always, always "fighting monsters." And yet, he is also so snuggly, cozy, and loving. "I want to snuggle with you! I love to sleep with you! You are my favorite! Let's read a book together!" he says.
August is extremely difficult to understand. Sometimes his words leave us stumped. If we ask him, "What did you say? Tell me again!" he will speak very quietly, slowly, and with extra pauses in his words to help us understand- and that makes it even harder to understand! He picks up all these weird speech habits, almost like he's trying them out. For a week or two he will speak with his Sss drawn out, or spitting when he pronounces a B or P, but then he will stop. It's so funny! Grey and Micah are the best at understanding him and often correct me if I don't know what August is trying to say. But he has a lot to say, whether or not we can understand him! He is often chatting- or more often, singing.

August is extremely determined. He hasn't eaten any food in basically a year. If we don't feed him the food he wants, he just goes hungry- or he fends for himself when we aren't looking. I finid him regularly holding and eating contraband granola bars, fruit leathers, or other "snacky foods" that don't constitute a meal.
He does what he wants, regardless of the obstacles. This hike is too hard? Not for August! The cake is on top of the fridge? Not anymore! That's a big kid scooter? An off-limits toy? A neighbor's dog? If he wants it, he gets it. This is extremely frustrating when he's escaping, breaking rules, or screaming for 40 minutes in a row- but most of the time, it's kind of inspiring! He's a rock climbing, no-fear, self-motivated little trail blazer.

He loves to play with his brothers and Travis (he honestly doesn't have many other friends) but is more often completely in his own little world. Daydreaming, playing pretend, building, and talking to himself. He is usually pretending to be Link from Zelda or a little puppy, "your favorite puppy," he says. If he gets absorbed in a book or game, he will play for an hour at a time before we see him again. Often, I find myself worried that he has escaped (again) and headed to the neighbor's house- only to find him tucked into a corner downstairs - lost in his own mind and deaf to me calling him.

August is also very thoughtful and kind, showing his big smile off, bringing treats to everyone, always checking on Louise. He is fairly conscious of other people's emotions. He is violent and impassioned- but feels instant remorse if people are hurt or upset and is (often) willing to sacrifice what he has to make someone feel better.

August is also very musical, he can keep tunes, recognize music, and becomes very absorbed in instrumental music- not dancing, but sometimes karate-chopping to the beat. He loved the movie Moana and after seeing it twice, he could sing along to most of the songs and often requests that we listen to the music. He is almost always singing Primary songs that he learns at church, twinkle twinkle little star, or reciting nursery rhymes to a strong beat.
His favorite songs are Peter and the Wolf, which he can almost recite- and the music to The Legend of Zelda, Skyward Sword.

He loves the Utah Jazz and had fun going with Travis to several games this season. He chants, "Go Go Jazz! Go Go Jazz!" and often requests that we play basketball together- or that Travis plays Zelda with him. He loves Zelda and is very invested in the story. He almost always has 2+ swords clutched in his hands, likes to be called "Zelda Link" and will agree to things more readily if we explain, "This is what Link does. Link loves to ... eat his potatoes, wear his pajamas, hold the baby."
If only that worked with the potty! August is still adamantly insistent that he wear a diaper. He hates wearing it, but the idea of using the toilet is so stressful to him that he cries if I even get underwear out of his drawer. Ah well. I'm sure he'll be potty-trained by four, right?


Louise Mae - Four Months Old

I am feeling mom-guilt over the fact that Louise's milestones are not being recorded as obsessively as the boys' milestones (or, you know, at all.)

She is already four months old and I haven't told you anything about her!
So here are some pictures that I took of her on Easter. She is such a cheerful, smiley baby! But like most babies, those smiles are replaced with concerned eyebrows when the big camera comes out.
Louise at four months, she has rolled over a few times and can "sit up" for a few seconds at a time- though not as well as August could. She weighs about 15 pounds, and is in the 90th percentile for height, weight, and head size! (For proof, please observe those THIGHS.)

She is so drooly, and loves to have things in her mouth. She grabs things (like blankets, fingers, pacis) and then attacks them with the cutest little baby-lion noises and faces. She chews on things with ferocious glee! And no wonder- she already has TWO TEETH!
The two teeth on the bottom came in at about 3 and a half months. I was so surprised- not only because she is so young, but because she exhibited no signs of discomfort. She wasn't fussy, up at night, or feverish. In fact, she slept better than usual the nights before each tooth popped in! I guess she was using up all her energy being happy while in pain, and needed extra rest.
She is very quiet and observant, rarely fussy or sad. She watches us all the time, her little eyes following everything that we do. She makes all these funny little sounds and facial expressions like she's trying to copy us speaking. And I'm sure that she understands many things that I say, like when I ask: "Are you hungry?" and she starts to hyperventilate in excitement!
When Louise is sad- she SCREAMS. She screams like it's on purpose and she's punishing us for letting her get hurt. She really only screams when she is in the backseat by herself, without any brothers to look at her, or when one of the boys accidentally hurts her- as has unfortunately happened several times.

She hates to be in the carseat, but if a big brother sits by her and hold her pacifier in, she calms down almost instantly and watches him until she falls asleep. She loves her brothers and they can get her to laugh more easily than Travis or I. She often squeals for joy at seeing them and instantly calms down if she is sad. As I am writing this, she woke up from her nap. I know that she is hungry and ready to eat, but instead of helping her- I sent Micah in to entertain her. I can hear giggles from both of them!
Louise is still entirely breastfed. She's a good eater and eats every 3-5 hours, day or night. I'm ready for her to sleep through the night, but she's still so little and nice that I don't mind when she gets up.