Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to school...

Those last few weeks of summer are always bittersweet for me. Most of the time, I can reflect on the sweet memories made, or the silly projects we undertook. But there is also that wall that you hit when everyone has had WAY TOO MUCH free time!

School started around here four Mondays ago. We had a perfectly blissful first week. I kept our calendar clear, just five days at home, children cheerfully waking, doing chores and school work. I was incredibly inspired as we wrapped up week 1. 

Real life came crashing into our lives during week 2. Twice I had to leave the house for doctor appointments during the week, both for me, both once a year appointments with specialists, which I have learned the hard way not to try and reschedule (since that usually involves another four or five month wait for the next available appointment). Our schedule disrupted, attitudes were off, my expectations were misaligned because of our glorious previous week... no one was sad to see the days for that week crossed off the calendar. 

Week 3 found us playing a little catch up from week 2. Attitudes were a little better. Kids were moving slower than I planned for in every area, especially chores and eating! By mid-week, things were looking up, we were doing well completing lessons, and then Caleb nearly broke his finger. (I can say nearly now because I know he didn't, but before the X-rays I was pretty sure he had, as his pinky was crazy tender, swollen, turning black.) Of course, to be sure, a doctor appointment had to be made, X-rays were required on the other side of town, and I came home to find the rest of the kids had either not done their work or had been so chatty they hadn't paid attention to it. Friday's lesson plans were dropped and we spent the day redoing Thursday's work. 

The good news is that we have persevered despite the lack of "perfect" days. That might not sound like a big deal to you, but it is HUGE improvement for me. In years past, I would have already thrown my hands up in the air, and been wishing for a few days to catch my breath. But, instead, I am looking at my own heart and seeing God working on my attitude, correcting my unrealistic expectations, tearing down my fear of man (in how we look and what we should be doing, how much progress we've made), cultivating patience and love for my children. 

I am also looking at how I planned things. In a perfect world, we would do school five days a week and be finished each day by 1pm. But, things haven't been going perfectly (outside of week 1) and I am seeing some adjustments that need to be made. I am going back to planning a four day week to do five days worth of lessons. Day 5 will be for playing catch-up or trips to museums and parks. Homeschool bribery at its finest, "Finish school by Thursday and Friday will be zoo/museum/park day!" This will also benefit us when the days come sporadically for symphony concerts or plays, rarely on Fridays, which will force us into a four-day week for lessons anyhow. 

Another big change for me is that for lesson plans this year, I have left all the computer-based planning charts behind. (Gasp!) I am handwriting plans each week, spreading out what we have to do on our curriculum into bite sized pieces. I am writing in pencil, and I keep track of how we are doing by checking stuff off. (Why does checking off boxes always feel so good?!?!) I am also keeping a list of every book we finish this year... All of a Kind Family was the first to be marked down, many others to come, and each completed book is like a cheerleader in the crowd for a homeschool momma's heart. 

New routines are in place too, and the kids have really embraced them. Family devotions are done before breakfast, and the kids are the ones who get out everything we need so I have no excuse to skip it. We are listening to the Proverb of the date during breakfast, and I read a YWAM missionary story while they clean up breakfast. We listen to a few Pslams during lunch, then turn on a Lamplighter Theatre drama for 15 minutes. I read our literature book while lunch chores are completed. Those few things have been helpful anchors in our day, opportunities to regroup and restart if the previous block of time had been a particular struggle. 

We are also keeping two days each week completely free of commitments. This is new for me. I love being able to just jump up and run out to do this or that. But it has proven to be a disruptive freedom, so I am striving to exercise self-control to stay home, as well as, learn to say "no" to too many extras. There will be exceptions, like this week where we have planned a day trip to visit friends on one of our "no commitment days", but it was the only day that worked and it's been two years too long since we have seen them. 

So, here goes everything... 2014-2015 has begun! How has your school year started? 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I always forget...

Whenever I finally grow overwhelmed with the clutter in the spaces in my home, and I clear the calendar so that I can dig in and purge, I always forget the "before" photos. I guess that is part of the reason that I don't have some amazing monetized DIY blog, instead I have a haphazard-when-I-get-around-to-it-Mommy blog. :) 

If you have come over in the last few weeks, you would have probably tripped over bags of randomness or stacks and piles of things to be taken for donation. One particular day, I was purging and watching my neighbor's two boys, and when she came to pick them up I had so much stuff in the hallway I couldn't open the door... that was a little embarrassing... Most of the time the in-process mess has been a little less fire hazard-like. 

The bar in my kitchen, a constant battle to keep people from "dumping" stuff on it has remained neat and tidy for a week! 

I am almost completely done, in the entire house of rooms and closets, every room in the entire house has been decluttered and purged but one, the master bedroom. So, tonight I am sitting on the floor of my bedroom closet contemplating how to make this small space work for E and I. I don't really require much, most of you know my "uniform" of a tshirt and sweatpants, but I do actually have a few "real" clothes that are shoved in the back of the closet. 

To make more space, as well as continue on the purging train, I got rid of all the clothes on my side that were heavily worn, no longer my "style" (which is a very loose term seeing as how I live in sweats), or things that haven't been a good fit for a long while. The whole event caused me to want to go out and buy a few black pairs of pajama pants and call it a day. Alas, two big bags out of the way, and there is already some breathing room in our small closet. 

If there is anything this whole house purge has shown me is that my home, while the largest I have ever lived in, has very little closet or natural storage space. So, I either need to love something enough to look at it regularly, or need it daily, or it needs to go be a part of someone else's home. And seeing as how I have saved my bedroom and closet until last, I am finding where most of the needed items which are not on display have ended up. 

School starts around here on Monday... I am hoping that it is not an unrealistic goal to have my bedroom cleaned out and purged by then. We shall see. And if I could only get those picture ledges installed in the living room... Well, that may be unrealistic. :) 

When the purge is done, I will post some photos. Clean, tidy spaces just make me so happy. :) 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Seemed like a good idea...

I thought that I would purchase ebooks for school this year, especially for things we would need more than one year, for more than one child. It seemed like a good idea until I hit print and left the room, and returned to see this...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Not fast enough...

We just recently joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and I am having to figure out how to use up our goodies, which includes trying new things. Tonight's experiment was inspired by a few items in our basket... Cucumber, watermelon and mint. The watermelons were small, organically grown in Austin, and the cucumbers were huge! And I was clueless about fresh mint. 

But here is what I threw together... I cut up the watermelon in small chunks (taking great care to remove the seeds), then I cut up the cucumber in equally small chunks. I plucked a handful of mint leaves and minced them up. I cut up some romaine hearts and spinach, then tossed them all together with some feta cheese. All the while, some applewood smoked bacon was cooking in the oven. 

Plates made, bacon crumbled, everyone dove in. Comically, our two youngest thought the watermelon chunks were tomatoes and avoided getting many in their salads. When the identity of the red chunks were revealed, they dove back in for more salad. Some added salad dressing, I ate mine without and it was phenomenal! 

Lots of work, yes. Best salad I can remember eating in a crazy long time, yes. Devoured before a photo could be snapped, yes. You'll have to use your imagination. Sorry! 

Trying to use more of the mint, and add stars to my imaginary "Mom of the Year" plaque, I followed dinner by making a plain Greek Yogurt Mint Chocolate Chip Smoothie. The only ingredients not listed in the name are honey, milk, and ice. Can I just say I love my Vitamix? Because I totally do. 

I am looking forward to more culinary delights as my CSA experiment continues. Tri-color carrots, okra and beets are next. :)