this is some of the stuff that’s happened here

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School: We’ve been squeezing the more academic bits of school into the spaces of the day when Will sleeps or when we’re gathered together anyway (specifically mealtimes and bedtime).   I find it especially helpful to associate certain things with mealtimes.  We do morning prayers after breakfast, poetry at lunch, and bedtime math (using the iPhone app) with supper.  We just finished up our study of Henri Matisse (we especially like the books Matisse: the King of Color, When Pigasso Met Mootisse, and Henri’s Scissors).  Bea was particularly taken with Matisse’s colorful cut-out shapes and was inspired to try her hand at it on a couple different occasions.  Adeline has been using Xtra Math for extra practice, which we both like.  We recently watched Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and now the girls have taken a fancy to stop motion animation.  We’ve attempted a couple little videos of their Lego people using our Nikon.  Fun!  But it sure is a time-consuming process!

Halloween: We had a monarch butterfly, a bumblebee (for the 2nd year in a row), and a tiny raccoon.  When I asked Bea what she was going to be for Halloween, she said, “My bumble costume that’s my Halloween costume.”  As though it is customary to wear the same costume every year.  Actually, I rather like that idea…

Weather:  Those mums and everything else in the garden is dead, thanks to the dip in temperature to 1 degree last week.  Now we’ve got snow and grayness.  The sun, when there is any, has begun to slant in across the living room floor and illuminate all the dust bunnies under the couch.

Other stuff:  Jake built us a table!  The baby is crawling!  Adeline is about to turn seven!  The girls are slowly taking over responsibility of their laundry!!!  (Note which of those announcements rates three exclamation points.)  And so much more that I’d like to share, but alas, time is not on my side.  If I don’t hit publish now, this post is likely to linger til after Christmas, when none of this would really seem relevant anymore.  So here it is, half-finished (like many of the projects in my life right now – mine and my family’s – most of which are piled on the kitchen counter).

by the book

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I saw this great mud pie recipe book here and then here, and I thought it might be just what the girls needed to get them excited about being outside again — they enjoy being outside but are kind of in that end-of-summer we’ve-done-everything-there-is-to-do-outside place.  Sure enough, it’s been inspiring a great deal of fun and encouraging them to do such things as thread twenty blades of grass through twenty buttons and grinding up sticks of chalk and such like.  Here their dolls are being treated to a meal including boiled buttons, chalk shakes, and molded moss salad.  As a bonus, Adeline can now read and pronounce the words hors d’oeuvres.

Since Bea can’t read, she doesn’t get the same satisfaction Adeline does from following a recipe.  She’s more inclined to improvise.  When she suggested adding some mushrooms she’d found to the button soup, Adeline exclaimed, “No, Bea, the book doesn’t say to add those!”  And that, I think, sums up their personalities fairly well.

young naturalists

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“One way to neutralize [a child’s] fascination with the natural world is to cordon it off in parks and zoos, and then to act as if only the parks and zoos were worth seeing.  Persuade a child that a giraffe he sees once every couple of years is really impressive, but the wren on the fence post is only a drab little bird- though he warbles out a love song in the morning, cocking his stubby tail, and is in general one of the bravest and most cheerful of birds. Persuade the child that the Grand Canyon is worth seeing, or Yellowstone National Park, or Mount Rushmore, or the breakers of the ocean on the Florida coast. But ignore the variations of hill and valley, river and pond, bare rock and rich bottom soil, in your own neighborhood.”

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child  by Anthony Esolen

One thing I hope for my children is that they grow to love the world around them — and I mean “around them” quite literally.  I want them to know what a rhinoceros is and be able to identify New Guinea on a map and to imagine what it might be like to live in the rain forest.  But even more important, I want them to know, really know, the place they live in — and to know that this place on the prairie is just as full of fascinating and wonderful creatures as any tropical rain forest or African savanna.

And so this summer we’ve been working on identifying the trees, bugs, birds, flowers, weeds, and all manner of things that we find in our own backyard, or down the street, or at the lake.  We’ve been using two wonderful books as inspiration: The Nature Connection and We Love Nature.  We’ve observed the life stages of boxelder bugs and watched a black swallowtail caterpillar make a chrysalis on the backdoor frame.  We now know more birds than ever (still using our favorite trusty bird guide) and are learning to identify some by their songs using this (so handy to have the Kindle edition on my phone!).  My six year old can tell the difference between a honey locust, an American basswood, and a Russian olive tree (which is something I couldn’t do as a twenty-six year old).  We are all learning together, and I’m just as fascinated by all this new knowledge as the girls.  And nothing makes my heart swell like Adeline saying, “Mom, I heard a cardinal in the tree and then I saw two red admiral butterflies!  What a lucky day!”

 

the numbers

anniversary10 years.

5 cities.

6 homes.

11 jobs.

1 cat.

2 daughters, 1 son.

4 cars.

7 guitars.

some ups, some downs.

(more ups than downs)

incalculable love.

the summer that is

Let’s not talk about all the plans I had for this summer.  Let’s not mention the weekly beach trips that haven’t happened, the perennial beds that haven’t been mulched, all those fun programs at the library that we haven’t attended.  And let’s just ignore those hopes and plans I still have for the remaining summer season, which may or may not play out as I want.
Let’s just focus on this: the summer that is.

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These girls.  I can hardly contain my love for these growing-up girls.  I can’t give them the attention they deserve right now (their brother demands more than his fair share).  But I hope they know that they are loved beyond measure.

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We almost had a handful of raspberries this year (here’s the photographic evidence), but something else ate them before we got a chance.DSC_0082DSC_0086

It’s been a rainy summer, and for a while we had a big pile of dirt just hanging out in our yard, waiting to fill the raised beds and be made into a garden.  In the interim it was a wonderful, dirty, muddy place for all the neighborhood kids to play. Mud has played a big part in this summer.DSC_0101DSC_0129

This girl.  She’s a bookworm.
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Look at all that hair!  Will has been losing his hair; he temporarily sported a faux hawk but now is mostly bald.  Bea loves to snuggle him.

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I’ve been having some mental anguish about all the stuff that’s not getting done.  It has been an exercise in letting go, in admitting that I can’t control everything: each time I walk through the gardens while holding the baby, staring at all those weeds that I can’t pull or the eggplant I’ll have to come out and pick later because I can’t reach it now, or seeing how badly the floors need sweeping when I’m holding a sleeping baby and feeling so powerless to do anything (because as soon as I set that baby down he will wake up and I won’t be able to sweep the floor anyway).

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Then in scrolling through the archives of this blog looking for baby pictures of the girls, I came across this post and remembered: Oh yeah, I’ve been through this before.  It’ll change soon enough.DSC_0138

And I’m often reminded of a conversation I had with our elderly neighbor at the last home we lived in.  She had a flower garden that, while still boasting a magnificent array of blooms, was also fairly choked with weeds.  And she told me how frustrated she felt that she was no longer able to do the work that garden required; she was dependent on someone else who didn’t do the job quite as well as she would have liked.  At that time Bea was an infant, and I remember thinking that I knew just how she felt, to be dependent on others when you can’t do the jobs you want to do — but in my case it wasn’t that I was physically incapable of doing the work, just that my time was taken up by this tiny person who depended on me for everything.
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We will have tomatoes!!

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In the early days of summer, the girls spent a lot of time preparing “salads” from the garden — lettuce, spinach, mint, dill, and other herbs, carefully arranged on a frisbee plate or bicycle helmet bowl.
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Hula hooping.  It’s Adeline’s thing.  We even made our own (though they were possibly the most expensive hula hoops in existence, the supplies having come from our friendly local [read: no competitors in town to keep prices down] hardware store).DSC_0096DSC_0192DSC_0177Yup.  Harry Potter.

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DSC_0217We’re using the square foot gardening method this year for everything but tomatoes.

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We finally found a piano!  Not just a piano, but also a piano bench filled with vintage lesson books, just the right level for Adeline.  She’s been over the moon about it.DSC_0110DSC_0183DSC_0185DSC_0239

We’ve got a lot of space in our backyard, but it wasn’t a happy place.  Not a place we liked to spend time in.  We’re slowly transforming it, with a patio expansion, a clothesline, a lattice fence for the hops to grow on (and perhaps some clematis as well).  It’s working: we spend more time out there already.

 

Bea’s day

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Sweet Bea turned 4 this week.  I wanted to make her favorite meal for supper, but thinking about it I realized that I don’t even know what her favorite meal might be.  She doesn’t ever want anything except dessert.  She hardly ever eats at mealtimes.  The only meal she ever requests is macaroni and cheese.  So that’s what we made for her.  But she was so preoccupied by the prospect of cake that she only ate a few bites of it.

Bea is the epitome of middle child.  I think she was even before she actually became the middle child.  She is amazing in so many ways and I love her to bits, but she can also be contrary and defiant and often we focus on trying to correct these things rather than praising the good in her.  Every morning I wake up and think, today I am going to be patient with her, today I will only show her love, today I will shower her with a little extra attention.  And I always fail.  I’m not sure why I thought it would be any different on her birthday.  I wanted to make this day really special and all about her.  Of course, then in her characteristic Bea way she made carrying out that plan very difficult.  She kept walking around declaring, “It’s my birthday, I can do whatever I want!” and proceeding to quite literally do whatever she wanted — to the frustration of her parents.  This was compounded by a needy baby who apparently didn’t know that he was supposed to let his sister have some of mom and dad’s attention on her special day.

But she did enjoy her presents — particularly the make-up kit she got from her grandma and a My Little Pony comic book.  And Jake made his signature mint chocolate cake.  We had a little party with the neighbors, and I know she enjoyed playing pin the tail on the pony with her friends.  (It was such a hot and humid evening, when I got out my camera to take a picture of her blowing out candles the lens fogged up and I only got one hazy picture.)  I think (I hope) in her mind it was a really great day, and that she didn’t sense my own sense of failure.  She’s one amazingly awesome girl, and I’m proud to be her mama.