Thursday, October 24, 2013


A *pretty* girl, doing a picture study of a *pretty* picture. She is sketching "Pot of Geraniums" by Henri Matisse. Can I tell you how much I love our curriculum?

A *happy* birthday sign for me! Can you guess who made each square? Henry finger painted that first greenish blob. Tess did the hot pink and purple one. Jack, Mr. Sensible, did the simple blue one. Mary Claire smeared a little on that yellow one and Maria helped her put a pink footprint on it. And then Maria painted a watercolor on the last one.I am 39 now!

my *funny* still-sightless baby. I may never get a nice picture of her again.

She just scwinches all up every time she sees that camera flash coming!

And for *real*, here's evidence of our real troubles...our latest issue with Jack is naming calling. They just roll out of his mouth at the littlest frustration. So we have started having him write them several times on the dry erase board as a consequence. It has taken a while, but I think it is helping. I have even heard him catch and stop himself a few times.

round button chicken

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

contagious learning

It is popular, in homeschooling circles, to do rabbit trails and "delight directed" unit studies. Usually this involves some careful planning and strewing of beautiful materials by Mom. We use a curriculum that isn't really conducive to that kind of thing, per se, and it gets harder and harder to find time to add anything extra to our days. But I have found this spontaneous child-led learning can still happen if you are on the lookout for budding interests and then provide materials the kids can use independently. Maria spent the first part of this semester making an insect pin board for biology. She is not a fan of bugs, really. But the younger kids were enthralled with her collection. Jack, especially, has become a little obsessed with them, and he is taking Tess and Henry along for the ride. I can't tell you how many insect homes I have made out of emptied containers and jars (and how many containers I have found lying around the house, lid removed). I have looked up articles and videos for Jack, procured books from the library and our bookshelves, and printed off coloring pages. And just like that, with very little effort and absolutely no planning on my part, we have a little rabbit trail going.

I just had to share this hysterical picture, if just to show how spontaneous these moments are. I took this just last night. I was giving the baby a bath, and Jack brought me the laptop and asked me to let him look up different insects. He is not allowed to use the computer without direct supervision, and he had been asking me all day to help him do this, so I let him sit with me in the bathroom and do this while I bathed Mary Claire. Tess and Henry quickly joined him. So there they all are, hunkered down on the messy floor of our tiny bathroom. Yes, Henry is, as my Grandma would say, nekked as a jaybird.He's waiting for the tub, you see. While he eats his dessert. Why? What do you do while you are waiting for the tub?

Anyway, that's our version of unit studies. It's not pretty. It's not pin-worthy. But at least it happens!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Yep...still got it!

Me, feeling around my shoulders and neck- "Where was that mole I was watching again?"

John- "I don't remember. Come here, I can feel it when I hug you."

Me- "Damn, that's so sexy."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

{p,h,f,r} sisters edition

Here's a *pretty* little girlie that joined me on the deck this morning after planting 40 tulip bulbs. Yesterday we planted 40 daffodil bulbs. Next, 3 flats of pansies!

And here's a couple of *pretty* girls watching the fish at the library where we escaped one rainy afternoon.

Here's Maria keeping Mary Claire *happy* this morning during our morning rosary. I always feel like we should be kneeling or something. But then I think, "Is this a hill I really want to die on?"

These pictures crack me up. Mary Claire had stuffed her cheeks full of apple, like a chipmunk, and I was trying to get a picture...

..but she has learned to be ready for the flash and kept closing her eyes.

These are only about half the pictures I took trying to get one with her eyes open.

Behold, the poor sightless baby!

Here's who I shared my bed with last night, a *real* sleeping beauty in her polka-dotted pajamas and bright yellow tutu. Notice our cat Dinah has joined us as well.

round button chicken

Sunday, October 06, 2013

A day in the second shift life

So, I am getting up by 8:30. Actually, I'm getting up *earlier* than 8:30, but I would like to get everyone to sleep until 8:30...I'm trying to retrain the kids' clocks a little bit and we aren't quite there yet. So, if they wake up earlier, we lay in the dark living room until 8:30 or when they start openly rioting for breakfast, whichever comes first. At 8:30 I wake up Maria and send her off to shower, get coffee going, and make breakfast. I don't wake John up, but I stop trying to enforce silence.

9am- We eat breakfast, and hopefully John joins us during this time. So far he has. After breakfast we move to the living room for the rosary. It's a rough time of day to get used to saying it, but if I don't peg it to a mealtime or something like that it will never get done.

10am- Jack showers and I get everyone else dressed, finally. I start some laundry, and Maria gets going on her schoolwork.

11am- Once everyone is dressed, we do an alphabet path or liturgical year project. So far these have been *really simple* this year. We also do PE with our new homeschool PE program. I am *not* a PE teacher, but Jack needs to work on these skills, and so we are trying this program out. My time is so limited that we are only doing half a lesson at a time.

12pm- I make our main meal now, our "dinner", so this takes some time. The kids play outside while I do this and boot the laundry.

1pm- We eat and clean up, then I take Tess, Henry, and Mary Claire upstairs. I read to Tess and Henry from our Alphabet Path picture books while I nurse Mary to sleep. Then Tess and Henry go back downstairs to watch a DVD. Jack reads for 20 minutes and then can join them for the DVD if he wants, or he can play quietly. Maria is in charge of juggling this downstairs while I get a quick catnap Mary to sleep. John leaves for work by 1:45.

2:30- *FINALLY*, school! Well, Maria has been doing school, but finally, school for the others. I do phonics with Jack, then any reading/phonics and memory work with Tess, then give Tess her math sheet while I do math and memory work with Jack, then finish up with Tess. Henry is doing some table work during this time, or just running amok. Snacks are doled out at some point in there. Mary Claire wakes up from her nap and joins us, and at that point we move outside and do school on the deck. Oh, and somewhere in there we all stop and listen to the sung chaplet of divine mercy while we do a pick up of the main rooms. It works nicely because the kids know they are done picking up when the music stops. :)

5pm- This is supper time, but it's quick and easy stuff. Really quick...think oatmeal and fruit, muffins and yogurt, refried beans and cheese nuked in a tortilla, that sort of thing. Maria has her own stuff some of the time, other times she eats whatever I make for the littles. I read a liturgical year book to the kids while they eat, then eat a salad and fruit. I have to say, it's really nice having such a quick meal this time of day! We clear and clean up the table, and Maria does the kitchen later. I also boot the laundry somewhere in here. I try to get three loads in a day. If I am all caught up, I may not have three loads, but with diapers to do I usually do...

6pm- I finish school up with Jack while the littler kids do some table work.

around 6:30-7- Jack and Maria take turns practicing piano and I give baths to small grungy people. I put on our cd from Making Music, Praying Twice cd once piano practice is done, and I put out some coloring sheets and crayons, usually something related to the liturgical year or alphabet path we are doing. They do these while I'm bathing someone else.
Then it's time for a dessert and teeth brushing. This is, easily, the most difficult time of the day. I'm tired, they are tired, I just want to be done and I'm far from it. Henry, especially, is manic and crazy during this time.

8pm- prayers and Bible reading in the living room, and then bedtime for little people. I put Tess and Henry in first with Cat Chat or a Glory Story to listen to. Maria is bedroom enforcer while I take Mary upstairs. Jack gets to watch a netflix show during this time, having recently been awarded a later bedtime. I have do my exercise dvd during this time if Mary can play nicely...this depends on how tired she is...and then I take a shower. I call Jack upstairs and read aloud to him while I nurse Mary to sleep. Then Jack goes to bed.

Hopefully before 10, I am checking in w/Maria. We correct her grammar, discuss any papers we need to discuss, etc. We also have a religion discussion on Mondays. Other than Monday's discussion, I don't spend more than half an hour working with her right now unless she is having a problem. She is very independent this year, taking online classes and dvd courses. On nights we finish especially quickly, we might watch a show on netflix. I spend half an hour working on laundry folding, do any paperwork I need to finish, and anything else on my to do list. This is the theory anyway. In practice, Mary Claire often wakes up during this time and I end up back upstairs with her and fall asleep. Hopefully she will settle in soon, and then I will be up when John comes home around midnight and visit with him briefly before getting to bed by 1am.

So, that's what we are working on. It's hard, mustering up so much energy at the end of the day. But I'm giving it a go.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Our second shift life, part 2

I think I will write up a part 3 too, a kind of "day in the life" post. But for now, here are some changes we've made...

First, I should say that I really do best in the mornings. I get up pretty early without an alarm, my energy is highest in the mornings, and I'm really wiped out by the time dinner is over. We have been getting school underway by 8:30, I have been finishing with the younger two students by lunch time, and I *like it that way*! And when John's schedule changed, I really had no intention of changing ours. But then I made the mistake of asking him if he would like for me to be up when he got home from work. I usually am in bed before 11pm, and would be getting home around midnight. That would mean I wouldn't be getting to bed before 1am, a bedtime I haven't seen since my single days, frankly. I didn't really expect him to support the idea, anyway. John is an introvert, and I thought he would like coming home to a quiet house and some time alone. But...he said, "That would be nice." Sigh. I doubted he knew what a big change he was asking me to make. But, I did offer. So I decided to try it. And it is still too new to know if I like it yet. Anyway...back to the changes...

Basically, our typical "evening" stuff is now happening in the mornings/early afternoons. I started by keeping the kids up later and encouraging them to sleep later. I figure the darker, later fall mornings will help with this. I started staying up later myself, and sleeping later too. This helps keep the house quieter in the mornings so John can sleep. Instead of having our main meal at supper time, we now have it for lunch. It is a big adjustment to start thinking of cooking "dinner" at noon, but it is also kind of nice to be done cooking for the day so early. Since John is gone in the evenings, I just put something quick and easy on the table for the kids for supper and fix myself a salad. Since I am doing baths and bedtimes by myself, this helps to lighten the evening a little bit. We also moved our family rosary to the mornings, after our late-ish breakfast. And instead of jumping on school first thing in the morning, I mostly leave that for after lunch and rest time now, and we don't finish until *after supper*...this is something that pains me still. It is hard to find energy for school that late in the day. But I guess I'll get used to it.

There's also this block of time after the kids are in bed and before John gets home. Actually, it's hypothetical time right now. For some reason, Mary Claire is not sleeping well during this time. She will act very sleepy and go to sleep easily, but then wake up shortly afterwards, very cranky and needing me to lay down with her. But I'm sure this is a passing stage. Once she is settling in better, I will hopefully be able to use this time for stuff I *used* to do in the early mornings, like chores and exercise. Again, painful to me to think about doing these things so late, but there is simply no other time to do it with a schedule like this.

So, I'm giving this a shot. We shall see how it works in the long run. I imagine we will finally get used to it just in time for him to be offered a day shift, ha!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

our second shift life, part 1

So, I mentioned over the summer that John was unemployed. He did get job, yay!, but it is on the second shift, boo! Groceries, yay!, no help for bedtime crazy hour, boo! mortgage payments, yay!, exhausting solo evenings of chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning, bathing, nursing, reading, singing, threatening, cajoling, disciplining, wailing and gnashing, boo! I should, in theory, have hours to myself to get all kinds of stuff done, yay!, But in reality, by the time the kids are finally asleep I am too tired to do anything but eat and watch Malcolm in the Middle. Boo.

Now, John is a nurse, and I was a nurse too, so we are not exactly 9-5'ers by nature. Neither of us can expect that kind of job, you know? Working weird hours, weekends, holidays,,,it's all part of our reality, always has been. When we first married, I worked 12 hour night shifts and he worked 12 hour days. Then He worked 12 hour days and I worked PRN. The I quit and he worked 12 hour nights. Then 12 hour days again. And now,,,8 hour evenings. He works 3pm to 11pm. And he works much farther away, which means he has to leave around 1:45 and gets home around midnight. He is working five 8 hour shifts a week instead of three 12 hour shifts. I know 8 hour days are the norm for most people, but we were used to those extra days off and it is a big adjustment! But, his days off are the same from week to week (at least they are supposed to be when he is done orienting), and that is something very nice, to be able to plan when your spouse will actually be off of work.

Anyway, that's the sum of my last couple of weeks, trying to find our new normal. I had to sit down, just a couple of weeks into the school year, and re-figure everything, decide what we wanted to be able to do when John is home and what could be done when he is at work. It required some thinking outside the box and all kinds of flexibility for us. I will be back for a part 2, things we are doing to cope. We are finding our rhythm in this, and maybe what we are doing will help someone else, because I was looking for ideas myself two weeks ago!