Friday, August 31, 2012

An Ordinary Day

It occurred to me the other day that A) I haven't blogged in a while and B) I certainly haven't done a 'regular day' post in a while.

I present to you... a regular Monday:

Lil' Miss works on a free write and a math sheet (she's a multitasker)
Lil' Mister does his math work on the whiteboard
The cats love to come up and visit the school room... 
... and lounge on the cold tile floor
while I give the dog a treat to demolish.
I put several loads of laundry through the cycle, and
coffee fuels everything, with some homemade creamer added.
I hard-boil some eggs, too, to see me through the week for breakfasts.
I don't usually put lunch together (as evidenced by the surprised look on the boy's face),
but I had time and we had leftovers, so they got spoiled.
The wee girl insisted I take her photo before she practiced her violin.
We fold and put away the laundry so that all the chores are done
and once the public school gets out, the kids disappear outside with the neighbors' kids.
It's not always an exciting life around here, despite the fact that the neighborhood kids love to find out about our latest projects (K'Nex machines for science and Ethiopian food for dinner to tie in with history, for example), but it's comfortable.  Even ordinary days have magic in them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's Over, and Other House Updates

Today was an interesting day.

First, we closed on our old house.  The house-selling ordeal is over.  It wasn't pretty, and there's a very frustrating and slightly ugly saga attached to it, but it's over and done and we have the check (OK, we had the check but I got a lil' bit nervous about having the check in the house all weekend so I made Oz take it to the bank already) and we don't have the keys and I will hopefully never talk to the buyers again.

After Oz and I finally made it back home (my mother-in-law had come over to watch the kids), things got better.  First I put a pot of stew on - beef stew made with Guinness - and got M1 started making some mini strawberry cheesecakes.  While he was cooking, the doorbell rang and two neighbor girls wanted to play with M2.  I sent her off, and a few minutes later I saw one of the neighbor boys circling around the cul-de-sac on his bike, so I sent M1 out while I finished up the dessert.  I popped the stew in the oven, and then peeked out the back door to check on the kids.

They were doing fine, so I came back in to start some soda bread to go with the stew, but I left the back door open so I could hear what was going on.  A couple minutes later, the shrieking began.  I walked to the back door.  The first thing I noticed was the number of kids - 7 at first count, which was NOT the number that was there when I had checked a few minutes prior.  The second thing I noticed was the two moms standing around watching.  I recognized one of the moms but not the other, so I left the butter to soften for a few minutes (I know, it's soda bread and the butter should be hard, but I didn't let it get too soft and it was amazing bread when it finally got made... soft and light and wonderful) while I went down to say hi.

Have I mentioned our back yard is the neighborhood gathering place?  I can't remember, but at the risk of repeating myself, our back yard (as well as the yards of the neighbors on either side of us) is the neighborhood gathering place.  We're on the creek.  Creeks = children.  It's a fundamental math rule.  And we have the youngest kids.

Turned out that the shrieking was due to the fact that the boys were trying to catch a giant spider in a net and the girls were pretending to freak out while circling like voyeuristic vultures.  The mom I didn't know is the mom that lives next door.  She has a 12-year-old son (and two older ones; the 12-year-old is the youngest).  My son was already playing with the two boys from around the corner - their mom was the second mom outside - and M2 was playing with the two girls who originally rang the doorbell.  A few minutes later two more girls who live nearby came over and joined them.  I had to do a quick head count.  My two munchkins, the two boys from around the corner, the next-door neighbor boy, the two girls from the house behind ours, and the 'new' two girls.  Nine.  There were NINE kids in my back yard.

I've never had nine kids simultaneously and spontaneously appear in my back yard before.  And yet there they were, all playing happily together.

It was fascinating.  I think we're going to like it here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Happiness and Math

We have changed math curriculum for M2.  We started this year using Math Mammoth, because I honestly and truly thought that she would enjoy it.  She likes worksheets.  She likes colors.  She even liked a spiral approach (she'd been using Saxon at her old school and loved it).


Reality was very different.  It generally is, isn't it?  The first few days went well.  I took her back a few lessons compared to where she was so that she could get used to a new format.  The idea was that I could start working with her and we'd both be comfortable by the time she got to new material.  But within a few days, I would print off the pages and within minutes she would be crying because she couldn't understand it or got frustrated with the way it wanted to do things or... anything.  At first I thought that the problem was just that it wasn't Saxon and that she'd do better once she got used to the way that Math Mammoth did things.  I kept working with her and waited for everything to settle down, but it just didn't.

After a week or two of daily fussing, we had a breakthrough.  The colors were 'wrong,' according to my wee girl.  Synesthesia?  Possibly.  I won't lie; it'd be cool to have a synesthetic daughter.  But regardless of whether there's a neurological component or not, she was miserable working with Math Mammoth.  So I started hunting again.

I went through a long list of possibilities.  Singapore?  Doubtful; there's a lot of pictures involved and she didn't seem to like that in Math Mammoth.  Miquon?  Possibly.  It had more potential but still just didn't seem to be like a great fit.  Besides anything else, if there are colors involved in her head and Miquon has grid patterns, shaded squares, etc., she could easily get confused.  So I ruled it out.  RightStart?  Lots of potential, but it's also very teacher-intensive.  If I had been using it with M1, that would have been one thing.  But I'm not.  Teaching Textbooks?  Nope.  Saxon?  Nope.  Spectrum?  It had potential, too, lots of it... black and white, workbook, very straightforward... I thought long and hard about that one.  But in the end I decided not to because...

I went with Math-U-See.  I know.  But M2 also really enjoys having some 'independence' with her math work and likes feeling like the 'teacher.'  I learned that when she told me she liked working with her school friends who were struggling with math.  Part of the Math-U-See process is making sure that the child can teach the concept back to the teacher, and M2 has seen her brother talk *me* through several lessons (on purpose).  Plus, I'm somewhat lazy and already know how MUS works.

Am I going to pick up a Spectrum workbook anyway?  Probably.  MUS isn't particularly good at covering charts, graphs, etc., and sometimes a little escape from the 'regular' work is in order.  I'll probably find one for M1 as well.  But M2 sat down and did the first lesson in Math-U-See Beta today, and it was the first day in weeks she didn't cry during math.  In fact, she finished the page in less than five minutes and can't wait to do another tomorrow.

THAT is the math lover that I brought home.  So glad I didn't kill that love!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What do you do on a rainy Saturday?

This is a question that we in the drought-stricken state of Oklahoma haven't gotten to ask in a VERY long time. I'm sure most of you, location aside, can sympathize.  However, after being awakened by a storm (and a girl talking in her sleep) at 1:36 a.m. and then watching more rain roll in this morning, I was thrilled to tell my kids that we were going to have a home day... and that we were NOT going to sit around and watch TV or play on the Wii or get on the computer or open the DS or veg out in any way, shape, or form.

Not today, baby.

I informed my children that today was a baking day.

It's a testament to my children that they were excited about this.  They were both thrilled to get to help in the kitchen.

The first thing we made were homemade Pop-Tarts.  I whipped up some pie crust and asked the kids what they wanted to have as filling, fully expecting that they would say strawberry.  Surprise, surprise, they are contrary creatures and asked for brown sugar and cinnamon instead.

The next thing we did was make some granola.  I had found a recipe, but it called for toasted coconut and dates; M2 is fond of neither.  So I told them they could each have their own batch.  M1 used the recipe in its original form, which also called for dried apricots and craisins:

and M2 nixed the coconut and dates and went for raisins, chocolate chips, and a dash of cinnamon.  I ran out of honey for her batch and wound up using golden syrup instead, but I think it turned out just as nicely:

After this baked, the kitchen smelled heavenly.  While the granola pans were in the oven, M1 turned to me.  "Mom, we have phyllo dough in the freezer.  Would those make good toaster strudels?"

I wasn't sure.  I'm still not entirely convinced, because obviously these are better suited to puff pastry rather than phyllo, but I did my best.  Here is the result, with the strawberry jam filling that I'd expected them to request earlier:

Now that all is said and done, our pantry is full of breakfast choices.  I don't expect to hear any whining about not having anything to eat for quite some time.

Still, there is one down side to all this...

Anyone wanna come do dishes?  Oh, no, wait... that's what I have kids for.

Friday, August 17, 2012

What a Day!

Today has been one for the books.  When we got up this morning, I knew it was going to be a busy day... I just did not even begin to realize how busy.

We did some school, but we had to be out the door by 10:30 because we went to a "back-to-school" party at a friend's house.  The local public schools start back this week or next, and it was a good excuse for a group of us to get together for one last hurrah before the hectic school year schedules start up for good.  (By the way, crab dip and roasted chickpeas, recipes courtesy of Pinterest... NOM).  We left there about 1 p.m.

We came home, finished up the rest of the school day, whipped out some laundry, and did a chore or two before the kids saw other kids running around outside and dashed out to join them.  I went out to say hi to the mom who was accompanying the group, and the next thing I knew, my kids were headed back into the house to change into swimsuits because the mom had offered to take them swimming along with the rest of the brood (6 kids total, including my two... and yes, I do know the mom enough to trust her... and I got her phone number to boot).  They left about 4:30.  M1 apparently told her that they had to be home by 6:30 (true... I usually serve dinner between 6 and 6:30, and I'm thrilled that my son is finally learning that time - even other people's - is important), so they wandered back in the door at 6:29.

We ate dinner, they changed back into regular clothes, and then even MORE friends - M1's best friends, who are twins - came over to play.  One of the neighbor boys asked his mom if he could come over and show my two plus the twins how to hunt for crawdads in the creek, and next thing I knew there were four 9-year-old boys scouring the creek with nets and a plastic water bottle to catch a whole passel of crawdads.  The 7-year-old girl did not choose to participate.  She regaled my friend and I with her hula-hoop and Skip-It skills.

The boys were successful and very proud of their catch.

By the time everyone packed up and went home, it was fully dark.  I put one child in the tub upstairs and one child in my shower and packed them off to bed as soon as it was feasible.  We have more friends coming to play in the morning, and I'm sure both kids will be outside in the afternoon if there are more neighbor kids about.  We have so many friends to be grateful for - it's awesome!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

School Projects

Now that I have both kids at home, I feel like I have a little bit more freedom.  I have freedom to do more intricate art projects because M2 adores those.  I have freedom to spend more time on science experiments because I don't have to be more or less done with school in time to pick another kid up... and having two sets of eyes (or, in some cases, two whole different set-ups) on a science experiment provides more experience and more scope for observation.

All of this makes me happy.

Last week we did several projects.  We started the week by making paper mache animals:

A cat, by M1
A whale, by M2
Then we started work on reports (a paragraph for M2, report for M1) about a scientist of their choosing:

She chose Marie Curie
He chose Stephen Hawking... was there any doubt?
M2 discovered her love of math all over again after Oz hung the whiteboard and she could really visualize her math work in a whole new way:

Finally, the kids invented, wrote, rehearsed, and performed a play of their own making. Because I was involved in a stage manager position, I didn't get any photos, but it was a cute little play with a theme following the adage, "Don't judge by appearances."  They did a good job, and M2 is excited to do it again.  My little drama queen likes drama; whoda thunk it?

This week we're going to finish our scientist reports (writing), make gazpacho for lunch (Spanish, math), and start work on a gears project to go along with our motion unit in science.  Plus I think we'll get to see our (public school) friends on Friday for a Back to School party.  Another good week is about to begin!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Not's to Self

My daughter is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve.  She has her mother's perfectionist tendencies and sometimes has to be reminded to tone it down just a bit.  She's been a bit depressed lately (and also manic, because she tends to do both at once, which is spectacular), and today something I said caught her fancy.  She disappeared into her room and came out 20 minutes later with this:

This is her "Not's to Self"(Notes to Self), a long list of reminders of things that should or shouldn't be done to be considered a good person.  It almost made me cry.  It's well-written but also has rather interesting spelling, so I'm transcribing it to what it's meant to be below.

Notes to Self
Clean up everything you get out. Follow mom's directions. Be nice to brother. Try to remember things. Choose fairly. Be nice to parents. Don't forget to brush teeth. Good outfits. Be nice to company. Don't forget your manners. Treat Mom's things nicely. Be nice to animals. Don't whine if you have to do chores. Do not try to annoy anybody. Do not hurt people. Be good in all cases. Do not let Brother [she spelled this 'Bother,' which cracked me up] come in your room. Ask before you do things. Try not to waste electricity bill or water bill. Be kind to self. Do not say bad words. Do not tease. Don't argue. Be kind. Don't sass. Go to bed when Mom tells you to. Try not to get all worked up. Try not to get hurt. Eat healthy. Respect other people's beliefs. Don't brag. Listen to your body. Don't store up fat especially before bed. Don't forget to clean yourself. Give yourself good credit. Give other people good credit, too. Be thankful for what you have. Don't try to hurt other people. Don't over exercise. Break habits. Don't overdo anything. Don't eat or steal anything that's not yours. Only do what's right for yourself. Follow the Golden Rule. Don't try to make self sad. Say sorry (apologize). Try not to cry in public. Be generous. Don't forget to think.

I think she's pretty well grasped the idea of being a good person... if only DOING these things came as easily as writing them down!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mind. Blown.

I met one of you today.  Totally out of the blue, too.  It's not like we had e-mailed back and forth and you were going to be in town and we thought, "Hey, let's meet up and actually be those people who meet other cool folks from the Interwebz!"

No, it was totally random.

This is the first week of the 'fall' session at the swim school.  I say 'fall' in quotes because when it's 107 outside, fall isn't exactly the word that comes to mind, but then again, all the trees are turning brown and losing their leaves, so maybe *I'M* the one who's got it wrong.  It's entirely possible.

I'm digressing again.  I do that when I get excited.  My mind starts jumping around and I can't focus on anything... oh, look, SQUIRREL!

Swim school.  I expected that there would be a few new kids since this was the start of the fall session, and I was both right and wrong.  There were a few more kids than had been attending during the summer, but only one new kid that I could immediately recognize.  I picked him out easily since he got put in M1's lane; M1 had been the only kid in that lane for the past few weeks, and I was glad to see that he'd have someone to swim with.  It didn't hurt that the other kid looked to be roughly the same age as M1 (and also had red hair, which I see as a bonus).

Shortly afterward, I said hello to his mom.  She seemed very nice, and we started talking.  She had been sitting behind everyone, and I feel like it's weird to be turned around backward while talking, so I moved to sit a couple seats away.  She gave me her contact info so we could set up a field trip sometime in the future, and then I passed on mine...

And then she - YOU - said that you read this blog!  I'm not sure if it showed, but you could have knocked me over with a feather.  I don't often imagine this blog having readers; I'm not The Bloggess or Pioneer Woman, and the idea of having any sort of following sometimes just makes me shrug and smile wryly.  To MEET one of you... I can't wipe the stupid grin off my face.  To know that you read and follow this blog is mind-boggling.

Best of all?  I'll see you again soon!  Thanks for making my day!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Settling In

We got the moving done today.  I'm eternally grateful to my husband, dad, and brothers-in-law who spent the day lifting, hauling, and working in the 100-plus-degree heat to help us move.  Thanks to them, my previously empty house now looks like this (minus photos of M1's room... when I entered, I was told, "MOM, no pictures until my room is totally done and looks good!  Get out!"  I couldn't help but chuckle and accede to his request):

M2's room

The other half of M2's room

Casual dining
Formal dining

Half bath - my sister made that drawing years ago... we finally have a place to hang it!

The kitchen

Living room - the TV is on the entertainment unit now,
and Oz is going to hook up the surround sound sometime soon

Master bedroom

Also master bedroom

Oz's office

School room

Other side of the school room
It's been a long, long week, but it's finally over.  The kids are asleep in their new rooms.  Oz is thrilled to have his ottoman back.  I took a lovely soak in the whirlpool tub, and the cats are still prowling around, figuring the place out.  The dog?  Well, he's sacked out on the floor near the end of the couch.  We're definitely settling in.