Friday, May 29, 2015

Cheek cramps

This morning I came upon Miles and Colsen giggling together.  When I asked them what they were talking about, Colsen said:

"It's our first day of summer and we're so happy we have cheek cramps from smiling so much!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

While Daddy's in Turkey, the turkeys play

Peter has spent the last 10 days in Turkey with a bunch of Wingate students as part of a course they did together this spring.  It sounds like they've been having a fantastic time, visiting sites in both the European and Asian parts of the country.  As I write this, they are currently flying over the Atlantic headed home, so the kids and I are counting down the hours.

I had braced myself for the predictable chaos and broken appliances that usually accompany Pete's long absences, but it has been relatively calm, actually!  I did place one midnight-call to the nurse hotline this past week, and we've had a few minor injuries, but nothing major.  This whole kids-getting-older thing is quite nice!

There were a few times the kids got a little out of control... .like when I found 2 of the kids tied up to trees in our front yard, with this sign being waved at any cars going by:

And I almost had a heart attack when I saw this guy trying to fix a rope swing he had created by doing this:

 And there was a time when I was asked:

“Mom, can you take a picture of my butt-face [brother drew a face on his butt with a marker] and put it on Facebook?”

(I declined.)

And there was a low-point on Friday when I was ready to melt-down about 46 times that day.  I chalk that up to sleeplessness.  It's a little challenging when the youngest child wakes up between 5:30 and 6:30 many days, and the oldest child doesn't go to sleep until around midnight many nights.  There are not enough quiet/sleep hours at night for the chaperone!

But overall, it was a fun week.  I even had my house cleaned for free, and a friend brought us a wonderful dinner -- and beautiful flowers!

We also went strawberry picking a couple times, once with friends and once with some cute cousins...

...And enjoyed a meaningful Memorial Day ceremony in our neighborhood.

Of course, I've also enjoyed plenty of quality time with my kiddos.  (My brother Dan always likes to point out what a gift that is to me when Pete goes out of town.)  I thought maybe all that quality time had paid off when Miles started the conversation below:

Miles:  You’re the BEST MOM EVER.
Me:  Well, probably not.
Miles:  [chuckle] Yeah, probably not.  But… who IS the best mom ever?
Me:  I don’t know.
Miles:  IS it you??
Me:  No, I don’t think so.
Miles:  Yeah, it’s probably someone famous, and you’re not famous.  Wait --are you?  Or is Dad famous?
Me:  No, neither one.  Is that disappointing to you?
Miles:  Yeah.  I’m going to be famous when I grow up

So, it's been a good 10 days.  But we're looking forward to seeing Daddy tonight!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lovely wedding!!

Our whole family has been excited about this day for a long time now, and it turned out even more beautiful and fun than we imagined.  Two friends, Kathryn and Trent, got married.... it was the first of our "TFC" kids to get married so that made it extra-special for us, I think.

The weather could not have been more beautiful... The only disappointment was that Pete couldn't come, seeing as he's in Turkey and all.

Everyone was excited to dress up, which surprised me a little... but I'm thrilled!  Of course Strider had to scowl through most of the pictures, though.

We loved celebrating with so many friends.  God was glorified today!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Violin recital

Colsen and Miles performed in their second violin recital last weekend, and they had a great time.  Unlike their mother, neither of them seem to mind performing, and in fact actually enjoy the stage!

Here is clip from each of their songs:

At the end they all went up for a group shot... all except Miles because, he said, "I already put my violin away,"   Oh well.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

School Daze: What's Strider been doing all year?

While the other 3 kids have been home subject to my voice droning on and on all day, Strider has sprouted wings, and three days of the week he's off and flying at the local classical high school, Greyfriars Classical Academy.  (See him pictured in one of the group shots at the top of the page) He has thoroughly enjoyed this year.

The classes are hard and the teachers are very involved and eager to challenge each individual student, for which we are very grateful.  The headmaster emails us regularly, usually to let us know what kind of shenanigans Strider has been up to that week, and we are thankful that he cares about our son and the man he is becoming.

This year Strider has taken history, aesthetics and literature, all focused on the time period between Ancient Greece and the Medieval years, as well as geometry, theology, and biology.  At home he's supplemented these courses by doing an online French class and a little bit of logic (we'll be doing more this summer).

His first round of final exams are this week and he seems to be alarmingly undaunted by the whole thing.  I have been doing my best to try and impart to him some of the stressfulness I have always assumed must accompany finals week, but so far it's not sticking.  We'll see how he does!

He is quite proud of himself, though, for turning in his final literature/history paper on time -- a full 5 pages of a research paper on the fall of Rome.

In addition to classroom time and pulling stunts to earn him some demerits and detentions, he has also been busy with football in the fall, debate in the winter, and golf team in the spring.  He also has had some of his first forays into the working world with a stint as a dog-walker and now some assignments as a referee for a local kids' sports league.  He's chomping at the bit to start Driver's Ed, but lucky for us the state has cut a lot of its funding to local high school programs, so that may not happen soon.

He's taking the ACT in a few weeks, though, so he can put all of his eager energy into that instead.... right??

I can't believe this guy is almost finished with his freshman year of high school.  Crazy.

Monday, May 11, 2015

School Daze: Extracurriculars

This past Saturday, here was our schedule:

Football tournament (Strider) in Weddington (two trips)
Violin concert in Wingate
Ladies tea (Rayna) in Concord
Soccer games (Colsen and Miles) in Lake Park
Horseback riding (Colsen) in Matthews

By the end of the day I realized we had turned into one of those families who I always thought was crazy.  Way too much driving all over the county, and way exhausting!

Most of the year has not been that busy for us, but somehow the past few months have had a large number of extracurriculars. On Monday we've had violin, Tuesdays is co-op and Strider had golf team practice, Wednesdays is gymnastics and Speech and Debate Club, Thursdays is Rayna's dance class and Strider's golf practice, and Saturdays are soccer, football and/or baseball reffing, and horseback riding.  

Soon everything will slow way down.  Can't wait for that!

(Miles is #6 above)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Weirdest Mother's Day dessert ever?

A few weeks ago Mor-Mor told me about a dessert her mother used to make (circa 1930's?) which only had one ingredient, and she suggested I make it for my kids.  She told me to buy a can of sweetened condensed milk and then put it, unopened, in a pot of boiling water.... for 3 hours!  Then, cool it, open it and serve it, she said.  Her mother used to serve it in fancy little tiny glass dishes, with a little whipped cream and nuts sprinkled on top.

Fascinated by this possibility, I looked it up online, and sure enough it's a real thing!  So we tried it, and I brought a can of it to our fancy annual mother-grandmother-great-grandmother-sister lunch.  The milk caramelized in all that cooking time, and it came out very rich, thick, and delicious!

Our server probably thought my request for a small dish of whipped cream was bizarre, but he probably already had serious questions about our group before that anyway.  Everyone had a little spoonful of the dessert.  Strange but tasty!

Meanwhile my kids were thoroughly enjoying the second can that I had left at home for them.  :)  The most interesting caramel pudding ever!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

School Daze: Our normal school schedule

It wasn't long ago that I was bemoaning how hard it was to corral everyone and teach them all.  The wide range of academic/age levels was frustrating, to say the least.  Having toddlers or babies at home while homeschooling is not easy!

But I am happy to say the perseverance was worth it and in the last couple of years we have finally hit the sweet spot.  Strider is off doing his own thing, school-wise, but the other 3 are easily grouped in together for a lot of our activities, and the four of us can enjoy most of the day together, reading and learning cool things.

We start off the day with basic tasks like making beds, etc., and with violin practice.  Then, when all the screeching is over, we gather on the couch for some Bible time and history/geography.  This year we memorized a few passages together (Psalm 8, since we were studying astronomy; part of Romans 12; the last few verses of Isaiah 40, and Psalm 34).  We learned the states and capitals and some of the physical features of the U.S., as well as the list of U.S. presidents in order, and some history sentence-songs.  We also reviewed the poems they were memorizing and read the history assignments for co-op.

Then, it is "Table Time."  After a quick break (which is usually the boys flying out the door and playing for 10 minutes or so), we gather at the dining room table and everyone has their own workbooks to do.  They each do handwriting, sometimes from dictation, sometimes in a workbook, as well as phonics/language arts, spelling, and math.

We also do some of the Table Time altogether.  I try to do at least one lesson for everyone with my trusty white-board (love that thing).  So through the year we've done various grammar lessons, or math concepts like Roman numerals, rounding, fractions, etc.  It's nice that they all are at about the same level for those kinds of things!  At least one day a week we also do a science/astronomy lesson.

Table time takes us through one more break and then to lunch -- which the kids are always excited about.

Miles recently bought this picture frame at our neighbor's
yard sale as a gift for me. Then he found this photo, cut it to
fit the frame, and put it in before presenting it to me.
I told him I wished I could see more of him in the picture,
but he said he just wanted it to be a picture of me reading to him!
After lunch and chores, we re-gather back on the couch for their other favorite part of the day (and
mine, too):  Read-aloud time.  We always have a novel we're working through, and sometimes some extra reading assignments.  This year we've read 13 books together and are currently about to start our 14th.  I think the favorites of the year were "Sign of the Beaver," "The Story of George Washington Carver," "Farmer Boy," and "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."

By this point in the day I am always pretty much overdue for a break and can barely keep my eyes open.  So I usually set them all at the dining room table with the rest of their workbooks that they didn't finish in the morning, or some supplemental worksheets.  Then I go take a 20-30 minute nap while they completely ignore my instruction and cause all kinds of havoc.  Then I come down and yell at them all and make them sit back down at the table until they actually finish the assignments.  Or not.  Then they're just in trouble for the rest of the evening.

Things generally all apart by around 2 pm here.

But by then it's almost time to go pick up Strider or run to speech club or violin or something like that, so I give up.  Inevitably the kids end up going next door to sit on our neighbors' porch with them and they laugh and talk for a long time while I get dinner started  (I'm very thankful for those neighbors!!).

Anyway, that's pretty much our time together each day.  I really do love this stage of life and LOVE getting to learn alongside my kids.  It really is the sweet spot.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

School Daze: Co-op

I realized I haven't blogged as much as I used to.... but it's not from lack of activity here.  (Maybe it's because of too much activity?)  Our days have been quite full, primarily full of SCHOOL.  So, I thought I'd do a little mini-series on what our school days have been like this year.

We've been meeting with our "Engage" school co-op again this year on Tuesdays, and it has been such a blessing to us.  The other teachers put so much effort into each lesson; we've been thankful for all the in-depth and hands-on learning.  This year's classes for the elementary kids were:  Astronomy, U.S. History, Literature and Poetry (American authors), Art, and Picture Study.

 The best part, in my opinion, was all the projects that the kids did!  It's so much easier to do projects in groups instead of relying on me to do them at home.  :)

Here are a few of the shots I captured throughout the year:

Making volcanoes:
Sending rockets into space
Reciting the pledge each week:

(Even on Crazy Hair Day, above!)

Making dioramas of Lewis and Clark's expedition, I think, or maybe steamboats or something?:

Getting ready to do something messy:

Yarn art projects:

Making "galaxy" t-shirts:

Playing some sort of relay game in the gym:
Painting on the "ceiling" like Michelangelo did:

And then there was Science Presentation Day:
These 2 did a project on Constellations
Colsen's project was about scale -- the relative sizes of the sun and planets, and then the distances from the sun of all the planets (if the sun was 1 cm big):

It is definitely an active and fun group!  We are grateful for our time with them.