Friday, November 28, 2014


"Christmas is here mom, right?" Audrey asked me this afternoon.  

"No.  No, it's not."  I said, as if I knew what I was talking about, in the midst of tiny snow flurries and avalanches of Black Friday ads.  

I suppose we all have that holiday: the one in which we wish we could linger a little longer, because it feels as if we've only touched our toe into the pond, barely rippling the water before it's time to dry off and tread elsewhere.  

For me, that holiday is Thanksgiving (my husband's favorite).  I could drown myself in piles of colored leaf-bedecked magazine and pinterest pages and not come up for air for days.  I dream of children's Thanksgiving parties with pilgrim hats and felt Mayflowers adorning a gourd-clad table.      

I dream.  However, the reality is, between the Halloween costume-sewing extravaganza, fall/winter birthdays, and the gravity-like pull of Christmas, Thanksgiving gets short-sticked around here.  I have one toe in Thanksgiving and body parts flailing everywhere else.  

But, last week, before the yuletide pull became too much, we took a moment to hang some leaves from the fireplace mantle.  We found the free leaf printables here.  The kids took turns telling me what they were thankful for, and I printed their answers, name, and the year on the back of the leaves before tying them with cotton string from Command hooks across the fireplace.  

My favorite responses:

"Sneaking candy out of the pantry without telling." - Jack

"Our baby.  Pumpkins.  And drinks." - Nathan

I feel as if that one could have been written by a couple of thirty-somethings with three kids and a baby.  "Our baby. (Our little) Pumpkins.  And drinks."

"Family.  Quiet time." - Jason

Jason is thankful for oxymorons.

I wrote "laughter" on the back of my leaf.  Thankfully, my family never disappoints.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

School Daze: A Quick and Hazy Recap of 2013-2014

When you're a homeschooler, you choose your start date for the year.  Some choose based on a date on the calendar (e.g. after Labor Day).  Some begin as swim lessons or family camping expeditions come to an end.  Others of us receive signs.  

Literally.  My daughter handed me a sign.  I received the above sign mid-July.  As usual, I wasn't prepared.  (I had this crazy, sparkly, rose-colored vision of cleaning and organizing the house before the start of school.  However, we were still firmly planted in we're-not-sleeping-through-the-night-but-decided-to-paint-two-rooms-and-not-clean-up-our-mess-because-we're-dorks-who-mistook-ourselves-for-superheroes territory.)  But, I'm a firm believer in following the enthusiasm, and not getting in my kid's way when she's trying to bring about a good thing.  So, the first Monday in August, I gathered my crew around the dining room table.  I told them that we were beginning school.  I told them that while I had all of our new materials, technically, I wasn't ready.  I issued a warning: things would change as I got more organized and figured things out.  Then, I handed them each a mug swelling with steam.  What I lack in organization, I make up for in hot chocolate.  

Today, we have over a dozen days of school under our belts.  The house is still not organized, and with a baby who sleeps three hours one day and only forty minutes the next, neither are we.  But we're attacking our days with enthusiasm, and our fair share of chocolate.  

Before we dive into the field trips, projects, and our hopes for this year, here's a brief recap of our 2013-2014 school year.  In pictures:

(School picture day.  We met up with friends at a local park for a little photo session.  In my typical disorganized rush, I forgot to make a "first day of first grade" sign.  Luckily, we had just gone on a field trip hiking through an old quarry where we had picked up fossils and this big rock as a souvenir.  I grabbed the rock, some paint, and a brush and constructed Audrey's makeshift sign in the parking lot of the park.  I love when a make-do mistake becomes a perfect reminder of time well spent.)

I like to begin and end each year with a special field trip.  We began our 2013-2014 school year with a drive out to Conner Prairie (Jason in tow) to the one-room school house to find out how kids got their school on 1836-style. 

(Indiana Jim's Reptile Experience)

We ended the year by celebrating with some of Audrey's favorite creatures: snakes (and some other reptiles at a local library hosting Indiana Jim's Reptile Experience).  

(Rhythm Discovery Center)

But, in between, we made some noise.

(Nathan holding a magnifying glass and piece of rock used for a geology streak test, while wearing his trusty duck-taped rain boots.)

Looked beneath the surface.

(A weather experiment in progress.  Fill ball jar with hot water and let sit a minute.  Pour out water, leaving an inch standing in jar.  Place a colander of ice on top.  Cool ice meets warm air, and wah-lah: condensation and fog.)

Let things start brewing.

(Homeschool Program at Indianapolis Museum of Art in honor of Bees and National Public Gardens Day)

Got our neurons buzzing.

 (Gingerbread house contest at Conner Prairie)


 (Gingerbread homeschool Christmas party with  friends.  This is Audrey's creation.)

Applied what we learned.

 (Another picture from school picture day. 2013-2014 was the year of dresses with boots.)

Created our own style.

(A butterfly we watched metamorphosis from a caterpillar.  You can see the chrysalis at the bottom of the picture.) 


(Planting azaleas at IMA National Public Gardens Day.)

And grew.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I'm Not Sick...

Jason spent last week working in the United Kingdom.  We had been blessed with a really long stint of no travel on his part, and frankly, we were both out of practice.  He forgot his razor and cell phone with the international calling plan.  I forgot how to put older children to bed on my own while nursing an infant, and thus, faced a child rebellion (prisoner of war: me) his first two nights away.

What I did remember was the penchant for tears that dropping Jason off at the departures gates elicits from my children.  I was prepared.  I had a container of ice cream in the freezer and sugar cones in the pantry that I planned to serve - for dinner.  I had a movie and popcorn planned for dessert.  A fun getaway was set up for Monday.  I was prepared to dull their pain with distraction.

I forgot about the Daddy's Traveling Addendum to Murphy's Law.  It goes a little like this: If Jason is traveling (especially to a location where it would be impossible to travel back the same day), something will go wrong to interfere with my well-laid plans.  A car battery will die in a parking lot with an infant tow (London), we'll end up in the ER (twice: once for Nathan - San Francisco; once for me - Germany?), I will end up digging a three-foot deep trench in January when a pipe breaks (Japan), or one to three of us will end up vomiting (too many occurrences to remember all of Jason's locations).  I should know better than to make plans.  I should really know better than to tell the children I've made them.  Someone in this family isn't very smart.  She might be writing this blog.

The night before our getaway, Jack got sick.  We had to postpone our plans.  Suddenly, the kids (especially the one who knows how long a week-long business trip is) had new pains needing dulled.  Naturally, the worst thing about your little brother being sick (and canceling your plans), is that your mother won't allow you to invite friends over to your house.  Not even for a tea party.  Not even if you dress up like Pippi Longstocking in preparation for a tea party.

Luckily, she'll let you have your own.  She'll lend you a tablecloth and a cinnamon shaker to use as a vase. (She'll have flash forwards of rehearsal dinners yet to come as she watches her sons set up the picnic table in the backyard.)  She'll trick you into eating your apples and slices of turkey by arranging them as parts of a butterfly on a plate.  (And, by telling you that you can't have the blueberry muffins you just made if you don't eat your butterfly.)  She'll give you full reign over the muffins.  When you tell your little brother that he's too sick to add some sugar on top, he'll say, "I'm not sick.  I'm amazing!"

He'll be right.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Perfect, The Good, and The China Fairy: A Week (or Several) in Review, of Sorts


A few Saturdays ago, Audrey and I had a tearful (hers) discussion as I combed her hair following her bath.  Her friend, China Fairy, had been in an accident while running and no longer had two legs.  Audrey worried about her value and kept mentioning things her friend could no longer do.  Accidents happen, I told her.  Sometimes, limbs are lost.  Someone doesn't lose their beauty with the loss of a limb.  You don't lose your value just because you lose something.  You're still a child of God no matter the sum of your parts. 

It's not a conversation I thought I'd be having with my seven-year-old - about a "Barbie".  I don't even like Barbies.  But, this one was special.  Jason had brought it home from China, which made her irreplaceable.  So, like any mother who doesn't know when to quit, we had a talk about amputees and the fact that when unexpected things happen, you just have to continue doing the things you want to do, whether you think you can or not.

Luckily, the rest of us are faring better than China Fairy, the only things we've lost being sleep (the adults), attention (the children), and teeth (Audrey).  But, I've found myself lingering on that bath time conversation and the point of doing those things you want to do, whether you think you can or not.  Writing blog posts is one of those things I want to do, but often feel that I can't.  It's low on the priority list.  At the end of each day, I think the computer will still be there tomorrow, and if not, I won't feel sad about having missed out on this phase of its life because I chose to prioritize five someone elses. I also have a habit of (as my husband phrases it) "letting the perfect get in the way of the good."  I want to post chronologically.  I have a hard time writing a blog post introducing the not-so-new-baby when I've yet to write the end-of-the-school-year wrap up or a summary of Jack's third birthday.  Blog posts are passing me by.  I'm beginning to feel like a candidate for Hoarders if they had a Hoarders of the Mind edition: too many thoughts, too little organization and letting go of said thoughts.   

But then, China Fairy lost her leg and I began giving pep talks that I'm not living up to.  And folks, I can't continue to be plagued by thoughts of a Barbie, even if the broad did come from China.  So, here's my blog post: the imperfect, discombobulated good that I'm capable of today (take that, Barbie).  

(For those of you not in the habit of keeping up, a couple of side notes:
1.  Audrey is 7 1/2, Nathan is 4 1/2, and Jack is 3.
2.  You will notice references to a child named Ethan.  He is our third son, born in May.  I had planned on introducing him to you properly with a blog post all his own.  Someday, he'll tell his therapist that his brothers were introduced with their own posts, while he was introduced as a mere footnote.  I will attempt to defend myself by telling him that he was not introduced in a footnote, he was introduced in a parenthesis.  Footnotes are stodgy: parentheses are mysterious.  Chicks will dig it.  He will mail me his therapy bill.  His counselor will use us as a case study for her latest book.  It will be chock-full of footnotes.  I digress.)


I don't remember where we were walking, but it had just rained.  Audrey had on a pair of pink, everyday, slip on shoes. "Mom, this is the first time you've permitted me to walk through water in my church shoes."  

At seven, she's figured out the proper use of the word permitted.  She has yet to figure out which shoes are "church shoes" and which ones are shoes of desperation when her mother can't find any other pairs.

"Nate, if you're going to live with me and run a farm, you're going to have to stop eating bananas."  (Upon discussing their future plans to open an, apparently, banana-free farm together.  Audrey used to love bananas.  She no longer does.)

Audrey couldn't find her shoes.  I had told her to put them in the closet.  She hadn't.  I told her she couldn't ride her bike until she found them.  She still hadn't found them when I told her I had to go to the post office.  "Look in the post office for my shoes!"

A morning conversation:

Audrey: Did they still use wagons to get around when you were little?
Me: No.
Audrey: They had cars?
Me: Yes.
Audrey: Had airplanes been invented?
Me: Yes.
Audrey: What hadn't been invented?
Me: The Internet.
Audrey: What's the Internet?

Audrey asked if I had ever tried to get a book published.  I told her about a Glimmer Train writing contest that I had submitted a story for that won third place, garnering a few lines of print in their Fall 2005 edition.  She got very excited.  "Everyone on the world reads magazines, so I bet everyone on the world has read your story," she said.

I explained that this was most likely not the case.  (I also began contemplating why we say "in the world" instead of "on the world".)  A few moments later she said, "I want to publish a book.  There's just one problem: I don't want to do the work."

Audrey lost a tooth on July 7th.  While getting ready for bed and stashing it beneath her pillow, she told Jason she had something to tell him about what she had read about the Tooth Fairy in a book.  "It's not really a Tooth Fairy," Audrey said.  Jason braced himself.  "It's a Tooth Witch."

The next morning, she told me that she sometimes wonders if the Tooth Fairy is parents.  She said, "No one believes in fairies, but suddenly, it's the Tooth Fairy and they believe.  But I don't know what the parents would do with the teeth.  Throw them in the trash?"

Then, she told me that sometimes she can hear us talking at night and we talk louder as it gets later.
"What do we say?" I asked.
"It just sounds like mumbling."
"What do you think we talk about?"

She lost another tooth July 10th during a slumber party with her brothers.  She came downstairs all smiles, holding up the tooth.  "I'm so lucky.  Nate boxed me in the mouth!"

We were having a side of edamame at dinner.

Jason: (looking at me) Are soybeans good for you?
Me: It depends on who you talk to.
Audrey: Well, we're talking to you.

We had a little slumber party at my parents' house with one of my nephews in attendance.  The boys had been playing with foam swords, running through the backyard, between the pine trees, around the garden, and into the woods.  A favorite play area had been the wood pile.  I didn't think much of this until Audrey came running in to tell me that the boys had dismantled my dad's neatly piled stacks of wood.  The kids came in for the evening and my mom began giving them baths.  When it was Audrey's turn, she asked about the wood pile.  She asked if Audrey had participated moving the logs.  Audrey hesitated.  "If you did, we need to make sure we get you washed off, because there was poison oak on some of those logs," my mom told her.

"Well," Audrey began, "I was a volunteer.  When I saw them, they looked like they were having so much fun, so I volunteered to help them."  (But no, she was absolutely not a participant, just a volunteer.)


Excruciatingly long backstory: On January 24th, the kids began building a castle in the kitchen.  I didn't think much of it, because projects of this sort crop up in just about every room of our house, everyday.  The castle, on the very sturdy footing of our hardwood floors, grew quickly.  Jack, wanting to to be in the thick of building as much as anyone, ran for the bathroom step stool.  He placed it next to the castle.  He climbed up.  He leaned to add something to the castle.  He slipped.  He screamed.  And he didn't stop.  He didn't stop screaming when I ran to check on him.  He didn't stop screaming when I told him that the elbow he landed on would stop hurting soon.  He didn't stop screaming when I scooped him up and laid him down on the couch, and when I covered him with a blanket, he kept his arm underneath it and refused to move it.  Jason was on his way home from work, so I waited with Jack, thinking that having spent a childhood playing football Jason would be able to tell if something was dislocated (the worst case scenario that popped in my mind).  By the time Jason got home, thirty minutes later, I had given up hope that Jack would stop screaming.  Jason scooped Jack up, settled him in his car seat, and drove him to the hospital.  He called me a few hours later to tell me they were being transported by ambulance to the local children's hospital, where Jack would undergo surgery for a broken elbow.  Jack spent several weeks in a cast and was afraid to move his elbow for several more after the cast was removed.

Current story:
Nate: (at lunch) Remember that time we built a castle with boxes and Jack fell off the stool and broke his arm?
Audrey: Yes.
Nate: Let's do that again.  (Turns to Jack) But this time, Jack, we don't need your help.

The kids had been up late, so I was surprised to see Nathan up at 7 a.m.  "Why are you up, honey?" I asked.

"I just wanted to see you."

Nathan: When are we going to have pot pie?
Me: I'll have to get the stuff this weekend and we can have it next week.  Do you want pot pie?
Nathan: Yeah.  I want pot pie for Halloween.
Me: Halloween is far away.  Do you know that?
Nathan: I know.  It will give us a long time to get the stuff.  (Bless him.)

I have a habit of trying to get the kids ready for events without telling them about said event in case we have to bail at the last second due to an inconsolable baby, or a broken elbow, or a lost shoe, or a diaper blow out, or a dead battery, or a sudden fever, or a tornado warning, or a lost key - you get the idea.  I was taking the kids to an event at a local park, but I hadn't told them about it.  What I told them was that they needed to get sunscreen on.  They wanted to know why.  "Because you're going outside," I said.

"Are we being too crazy? " Nathan asked.
"Do you need to feed Ethan and pump?"
"Do you need some time by yourself?"

Jason is trying to cut back on his soda intake (one 24-oz. bottle a day).  The last time he went shopping, he brought home 12-ounce bottles instead of his usual 24-ounce ones.  Nathan found one in the refrigerator.  "Soda for kids!"

We were having tacos for dinner.  Each child likes to top his/hers with different fixings.  Nathan was preparing his.  "Just give me a handpile of tomatoes."

Audrey was telling Jason about a book she had been reading, in the excited state she reserves for literature (and soccer, and minecraft, and parties).  "I love you, Audrey," he said.

"Audrey, I love butter," Nathan said.

Nate was the first, and only kid up.  He toasted us a bagel to share, spread it with cream cheese, set it on the table, and pushed two chairs close together.  He asked me to get him a vitamin.  I did.  He asked where my vitamins were.  I explained that I take my vitamins at night.  Then, I snuck into the pantry to grab a dark chocolate chip.  I sat back down at the table.  "You smell like chocolate," he said.  "Is that your vitamin?"

Yes.  Yes, son, and I take them all the live-long day.

I had just wrapped Nate in a towel following his bath.
Me: Do you want me to put lotion on you?
Nathan: Yes, but not on my wee-wee.
Me: I wasn't going to put it on your wee-wee.
Nathan: Do people usually put it on their wee-wees?
Me: I don't think so.
Nathan: Yeah, it probably wouldn't be appropriate.
Me: Probably not.
Nathan: Yeah, I've been thinking that for years.

Nate and I had the rare opportunity of going by ourselves to get his haircut.  We were taking advantage by catching up with one another in the car.  "Mom, what do you want to be when you grow up?"


"I accidentally like all of you guys."  (Announced to the room at large.)

Date unknown
Other than water guns, we don't have toy guns in the house (Technically, Jason has a Nerf gun hidden in the closet so he doesn't have to share or have the foam bullets ripped apart.  It used to be kept at the office, back when they had cubicles, for all of his gun fighting needs.  At work).  The boys have remedied their lack of toy guns by creating guns out of any materials they can find, namely Legos and K'nex blocks.  Jack had made such a gun one afternoon.  He sauntered over to Jason with the gun and pointed it at him.  "I will not kill you," he said.  "My gun will kill you."

"I want to be a superhero when I grow up.  I want to be Batman!"

Jason offered to run by the store and asked for my grocery list.  I told him to get fruit, but I wasn't sure what kind.  I explained that I needed "Audrey fruit."  I also explained that I have no idea what that means anymore.  Audrey used to love bananas.  Now, she refuses to be in the same room with a naked banana.  Once that puppy is peeled, sitting next to her on her brother's plate, she takes off with her plate to the dining room table - destination: party of one.  She used to love grapes, apples, and oranges.  She would eat pineapple, cherries that didn't come in a jar, and try blackberries.  But lately, we're down to three options, the Audrey trifecta: raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries (with dried cranberries tossed in when those options aren't available).

Typically, she's forced to eat a few bites of a fruit she'd rather not have before moving on to something else she'd rather eat.  But there's something about a mama surviving on five hours or less of sleep a night that causes her to simplify (and by simplify, I mean eliminate as much whining and table hopping as possible).  She starts to buy just the foods she knows won't repulse the children.  So when Jason asked what fruit to buy, I said, "I don't know, maybe try peaches?  Maybe Audrey will like those."

The kids were in the kitchen with us.  Jason turned to Audrey.  He explained that the fruit fuss was going to stop.  The glory days of mama making one snack to satisfy her and one to satisfy the boys was over.  We were returning to our normal policy.  If I served something she didn't like, she didn't have to eat it, but she just wasn't eating.  "I don't know what game you think you're playing, but we're not going to play that game," he said.

"We're playing hide 'n seek," said Jack.


Luckily for China Fairy, the man-in-residence here is a good Barbie surgeon and popped her wayward leg back into place.  She's good for several more miles.  As for the rest of us, we're good, too.  We're not perfect, and neither is this blog.  It took me a week (with interruptions like dropping Jason off at the airport, a sick kid, a get-away to the grandparents, lots of boo-boos to kiss and tears over missing Daddy to wipe away, and a field trip to the Indianapolis Children's Museum) just to get it typed up.  But it's here, and it feels good, especially the part where I get to put Barbie out of my mind.  That part is just perfect. 


Sunday, May 11, 2014

We Can Do It! (Documentation, that is.)

(36 weeks - 4.27.14)

"The last pregnancy should be documented," my husband said shortly after we discovered we were going to be blessed with our fourth baby.  Okay, I agreed.  Then, in true Kristin-form, I did nothing.  Neither did he.  Apparently, neither one of us are too big on the actual work of documentation.  

I would pause on friends' Facebook posts of their baby bumps, comment on their cute bellies, and think, "Oh yeah, I told Jason I'd document this pregnancy."  Then, I'd go back to living my day and never get around to hitting the "pause" button, or the shutter release.  

But, then I saw Rosie - or someone's interpretation of Rosie, taken as a part of a pregnancy photo shoot.  I paused.  I laughed.  I messaged my talented photographer friend, Hilary, and asked for a favor.  She happily obliged.

A couple Sundays later, I got all "riveted up" in what Audrey called my costume (Jason's blue button-down shirt and a red bandana).  Hilary came over.  She laughed.  I paused in front of my yellow wall.  She hit the shutter release.  My crew came in to critique the shoot.    

I looked like this.  Jason told me I needed to work on my mean face, as in, I needed to learn to grow a mean face because, apparently, I missed the day of school where they taught you to keep a straight, fierce face while letting your bicep bulge and your belly hang out.

Some things take coaching.  It's hard to take oneself too seriously.  After all, I'm no rocket scientist.  I'm only growing a human.

(Documentation - done!)

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

Me, neither. 
We were enjoying the squish of mud beneath our soccer cleats and the pop of crocus buds appearing in our yard. 
Rain boots were at the ready and the zoo circled by three kids in a red wagon. 
I bought potting soil.  Lettuce seeds.  Violets. 
The neighborhood kids had emerged from hibernation and ventured into our yard toting soccer balls and thoughts of made-up games.   
Rainbow-colored kites raced clouds against a pale blue track. 
Spring had sprung like an old rusted lock - creaky and slow - but finally ready to reveal its treasure. 
But, then:
The kids got invited to a birthday party for one of their favorite turning-four-year-old friends. 
I racked my brain for ways to spend the evenings curled up, stitching on the couch while watching The Voice and Big Bang Theory with the hubs, rather than sneaking off to peruse toy aisles at Target.
A certain little snowman's carrot nose and twiggy limbs curled themselves around my mind.  I pulled out dinner plates, tracing paper, and felt.  I never looked back.  Perhaps, I should have. 
Really, someone should have warned me to just let it go.
Yesterday, I walked through sleet on my way to an ultrasound appointment. 
I blame Olaf. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Homeschooling: Our Beginning

Recently, a sweet friend asked me how I homeschool a first grader and preschoolers.  I gave her a disclaimer summarizing the top reasons why my example might not be the best to follow before giving her Kristin's Flying-by-the-Seat-of-Your-Pants-While-Homeschooling Methods.  She asked if I had a blog.  I said yes, but not a homeschooling blog. 

I started this blog before we made the decision to homeschool.  I began blogging because I don't make baby books.  Remember those postage stamp-sized ziplock bags that the stylist hands you after she's finished your baby's (or for us procrastinators, three-year old's) first haircut?  I took that golden-curl-filled bag and threw it away.  (I know.  I don't know why God keeps blessing me with babies.  He must really like my husband.)  In other words, I fall a little short.  The blog was my way of showing the kids that even though there are no pictures hanging on our walls and all the developed photos have never made it out of picture boxes into albums, they have filled me up. They have mattered enough to take note of, to scribble a few lines on a scrap of paper so I don't forget.  They have made my footsteps more solid while lightening my days. 

But now we homeschool.  It's what we do.  Everyday.  Even on the days we don't mean to.  It seems fitting to include some of these moments on the blog as a reminder of this time, even if it's just a once-in-a-while recap of our favorite projects and biggest blunders. 

But, first: Why?

To be honest, when people find out that I homeschool, they rarely ask me why.  They ask, "Are you crazy?"  Probably. 

Homeschooling was never my intention.  I had the hours of my children's future school days earmarked.  I was going to attempt writing fiction again.  I was going to get back into mini-marathon running shape.  I was going to go really wild and hang some pictures on the walls. 

Then, before Audrey was even preschool-age, I passed by the New Book shelf at the library.  I  stopped when I saw the cover of Homeschooling: A Family's Journey by Gregory and Martine Millman.  I picked it up.  I have no idea why.  I had only known one homeschooler growing up.  One day he was at my high school, and the next day he was not.  He seemed quiet and wasn't in any of my classes.  I think one of my friends wanted to date him.  She may have.  The end.

The book intrigued me.  I was impressed by the creative education this couple was building for their family.  I returned the book.  I enrolled Audrey in preschool.  She loved it.  We loved her teachers and the program.  The school day interfered with Nathan's nap schedule, but he was easy-going and Audrey's class met once a week. 

The next year, we enrolled her on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  My husband's international travel picked up.  I gave birth to Jack.  Suddenly, I had two boys missing naps for the sake of drop-off and pick-up schedules.  Preschool mornings, I found myself yelling things like, "Stop playing with your brother and get ready for school!"  I'd silently shake my head at myself and follow it up with forcing my daughter to gulp down her breakfast while chanting at her to hurry.  I loved my daughter's preschool teachers.  I loved their methods for teaching the students.  I hated the mother I was on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I knew I could be better.  I just didn't know how to be better and send my kid to preschool. 

But, I told myself that school was the norm.  Everyone else could figure out how to get their kid to school two days (some of them even five days) a week.  The other parents even looked sane.  Meanwhile, we trudged through school weeks as best we could.  I pulled the kids from their beds and took them, pajama-clad, to the grocery store one night when Jason was out of the country because I realized at 9:30 that it was our turn to provide the class snack, which needed to be packaged, made in a peanut-free facility, and accompanied by four-ounce cups, napkins, and a drink.  I had none of those things in my pantry.

Each morning, Taiyo's mother and I took turns being the last to drop our child off at the classroom door, smiling at each other as if we shared a kinship.  I still don't know that woman's name, but I thanked God for her.  Everyday.  I tried to build myself up for preschool days.  Friends told me that preschool wore their kids out so much that they began napping in the afternoons again.  Mine did not.  She came home wired, acting like a zoo creature. 

I told myself that if I could just get my boys to nap at the same time, at the right time, I could get two free hours to myself on preschool days.  But most days, they finally fell asleep twenty minutes before we had to leave for pick-up or on the fifteen-minute drive to school, had to be woken up to go inside and retrieve their sister, and refused to nap for the rest of the day.  I shook my head in silence.  Again.

The Moment that Broke Me:

Some areas my husband would travel to were easy for our family to navigate.  The plane ride was a quick six hours.  The time zone differed from ours by only three to six hours.  The kids could talk to him at times that worked with our schedule.  They could talk as long as they wanted, filling their dad in on their day's events or plans. 

Other areas - like China - were more difficult.  With a twelve-hour time difference, our days and nights were flipped.  When we had time to talk, Jason was sleeping or getting ready for his day.  When he had time to talk, we were trying to get to school on time.  He called the Tuesday morning of his first trip to China.  We were in the midst of our scarf-breakfast-pull-on-coats-and-load-everyone-in-the-car routine.  I turned my phone over and saw Jason's number.  I wanted to hand the phone to Audrey.  I wanted her to tell her dad her hopes for her brand new day.  I wanted him to tell her about the sights he had seen, the foods he had eaten, and the people he had met.  But I didn't hand her the phone.  Instead, I turned it off.  I got her to school on time.  She didn't speak to her father that day.  The decision settled in my stomach like a stone.  Indigestible. 

The Excuse:

I would love to tell you that I made the decision to homeschool right there: that I'm one of those decisive, devil-may-care, this-is-my-family-and-I'll-lead-them-as-I-please sort of parents.  But I didn't, and I wasn't.  Not yet.  I had to let the idea ferment, read more books, take some soul-searching walks, and pray for a sign, or (more accurately) an excuse.  After all, it's hard to imagine confiding in your neighbor that you pulled your kid out of a preschool with rave reviews and a wait list because you hate Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Then, one day, Jason asked, "How would you feel about moving to England?" 

I loved the idea of moving to England.  I loved the adventure it would allow our family and the opportunity to spend more time together while Jason completed his work in Europe.  We moved ahead with plans to see if Jason's company would support the temporary move.  They would.  I left a message at Audrey's preschool and told them we wouldn't be using her spot in the fall: we might be moving to Europe.  I read books on teaching methodologies and bought curricula.  When friends asked, I told them that due to a possible temporary move, I'd be teaching Audrey in the fall. 

In the end, we didn't move.  By the time the logistics got figured out and approved, Jason's work visa would arrive just in time for his projects to be finished in Europe and new ones begun in Brazil.  Moving to England so Jason could hop flights to Brazil didn't make much sense.  But, I never thought about enrolling Audrey in preschool again. 

The Aftermath:

Ironically, morning is now my favorite time of day.  Mornings begin with little boys coming to snuggle in my bed and tell me what they want for breakfast.  Breakfasts are eaten slowly, often over discussions of the novel Audrey stayed up reading in bed the night before.  Unless there's a music class or field trip to attend, pajamas often don't get shed until midmorning, or sometimes after lunch, which seems to fit this life of ours.  Dreaming is no longer sequestered for the night.  It seeps into our mornings as the kids tell me their hopes for each day.  Anything can happen, and it began like this: I hated Tuesdays and Thursdays (and we almost moved to England, but we didn't).

Other Reasons We Began/Continue to Homeschool (because, children, I promise, I did have some good ones):

1.  It allows us more family time.

2.  It allows us to choose curricula that best fits our kids' learning styles.

3.  It allows us time to educate the kids about our faith and other atypical school subjects.

4.  They get to go on more field trips, do more hands-on activities, and take fewer tests. 

5.  It forces us to really know what our kids' problem areas are and be responsible for coming up with ways to help them excel. 

6.  We can make time for art, music, and play.

7.  We can take our work outside.

8.  We have more opportunities to learn from everyday experiences: grocery store trips, trips to Daddy's office, historical events happening during school days, etc. 

9.  We have a flexible schedule to see out-of-town relatives more often. 

10.  We have a very small teacher-to-student ratio. 

11.  It's really brought our focus home, and we kind of love it, even more than we thought we would.

The Disclaimer: 

Having said all of this, I'm asked frequently how long I plan to homeschool.  I'm not sure.  I'm not someone who draws lines in the sand and pretends they'll stand firm against the tide.  I believe in reevaluating family dynamics on a yearly basis (and I find that our kids are still at the ages where things tend to change on a six-month basis).  We began homeschooling as a solution to a problem that cropped up three years ago.  It solved that problem.  I can't tell you what problems will come next year, or the year after, and what our solutions will be for those issues.  But, today, we homeschool.  And, just in case the kids ever wonder how it began, now they know. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Spring


(I'm starting to recognize a pattern.)
(Nate has an interesting technique for getting out of a snowsuit.)

(3.13.14-3.15.14: short break from outside adventures for family to catch and recover from stomach bug.)
(This time it's paint on his coat, not mud.  Variety, it's the spice of life.)

Just in case you've been wondering where I've been the last several days: doing laundry.  Lots and lots of laundry.  I think I'm caught up.  Until tomorrow.  It's official: spring has sprung.  Bring on the detergent.  

Friday, March 14, 2014


Someday, they'll kill me for this photo.  But not today.  Of course, they're brothers - the kind who know which stuffed animal will bring the most comfort, and how to torture said animal to elicit instant screams.  They might kill each other first. 

Jason and I didn't walk the short road to parenthood.  Ours was three years long and dimly lit.  Some days, the only things linking us to parenthood were the words we spoke: about hurdles, possible solutions, hope.  Most days, our words dried up: browned leaves, crumpled and blown away. 

Then, on a bright day after Halloween, Audrey was born.  Healthy and vibrant, she passed out her personality like free treats for the taking.  We were a couple of kids eager to fill our bags.  Soon, they were stuffed, full in places we didn't realize had been empty. 

Cheeks coated in sugar, we were hesitant to talk siblings, the taste of dehydrated leaves still fresh on our tongues.  We liked living in the land of Counting Our Blessings rather than the Badlands. We almost decided to call it a family.  But we didn't. 

Had I known the who(s) that awaited us at the end of that big, dark question mark, I would have plunged from that cliff head-first.  But I couldn't see the bare-bummed brothers bath time photo from the precipice, only the harrowing distance of the fall down. 

Today, the boys are four and weeks-from three.  Their accumulated years are small, but their impact large.  After all, without them we wouldn't have these moments, scribbled and saved on scraps in the kitchen drawer waiting for a blog:

Nathan (legs under his covers preparing for bedtime, a puzzle piece held up to his ear): Audrey!  Audrey!  Why can't she hear me? 

In the past year, the kids have been enjoying nursery rhymes.  Audrey checked a book of nursery rhymes out from the library and read them to Nathan.  They decided to write their own.  A game ensued during lunch in which each would take a turn creating and reciting his or her own rhyme.  If the other liked the rhyme, he or she would yell "Nice!"  If not, the listener would yell "Trash can!" (As in, I'm throwing your rhyme away.  Apparently, we're also into tossing out one another's artwork.) 

Over the summer, Audrey would conduct "school" with Nathan.  One afternoon, I heard her yell that it was time for school.  Nathan, next to me and intrigued in his own project, yelled back, "I'll be there in two minutes.  No, five minutes, Auds.  Auds, I'll be there in eight minutes!" 

Nathan had a paper shark that he folded in half and gave to Jack.  Jack put it in his pocket.  Later, Nathan tried to get it out of Jack's pocket and said, "It's broken."

"It's not broken, it's folded in half," I said.
"Well, it can't swim when it's in half." 

Jack was singing one afternoon while standing next to Nathan.  The song contained two words, "Ella Bella," repeated over and over. 

Nathan (looking at Jack, bewildered):  My name is Nathan.  Jack, did you forget my name?

One September afternoon, Nathan and I were reviewing an alphabet movie.  "The 'a' says what?" I asked.

Nathan:  ă.  
Me:  Right.  The 'a' says ă.
Jack :  A dog says 'ruff.' 

Wednesday morning, Jack and I were making banana bread.  He mumbled something about being dangerous. 

Me: Dangerous?  What's dangerous?
Jack: I'm dangerous.
Me:  You're dangerous?  Why are you dangerous?
Jack: I'm a boy.
Me: Boys aren't dangerous.  Boys are nice.  Just because you're a boy doesn't mean you have to act dangerous.  Who told you boys are dangerous?
Jack: Nathan.

And, finally, some bathtub humor to bring us back to the photo at the top. 

Jack (pointing to Nathan's nipple in the bathtub): Is that your belly button?
Nathan: No.  Those are my dots.

On a separate occasion, Nathan came out of the bathroom grabbing his testicles and asked, "Mom, what's in here?  My lungs?"

Maybe those boys are a little dangerous, at least to unaccustomed funny bones - especially when those boys travel in pairs. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Our Fearless Leader

Sometimes, being a fearless leader is more about donning a fuzzy horse's hat and planting yourself in the snow.  Or maybe that's just us.

Jason is our provider.  He provides the calm steady voice in a crisis, the biggest lap, and the strongest set of arms.  He also provides our daily humor, or at the very least, provokes it. 

A few notes I ran across recently:

(Last Father's Day - let's not even talk about how long I've been hanging onto this scrap of paper)

Jason was resting on the family room floor.  "I better go lay some grass seed.  But I don't want to get up."

"Well, it's your day.  You can do whatever you want," Audrey said.

"Can I lie here all day?"

Audrey snickered.  "If you trust me to do the grass seed."

(August 13, 2013)

Jason was making lunch while talking to Nathan.  "You're a turkey."

"I'm not a turkey," Nathan said.

"You're a turkey, and guess what I'm having for lunch?" Jason asked, moved toward Nathan with his fingers curved into claws.

"Not turkey." 

(Friday the 11th, month and year apparently not important enough to write down, but 2013)

Audrey: It's so nice out, too bad it's too wet.

Jason: Well, Mom might have a plan.

Nathan: Nope.

(On a day Jason was preparing for an overseas trip, presumably after Friday the 11th)

Jason: Too bad I don't have another one of those (pointing to the new Surface he had bought me to replace my old computer) to take with me. 

Audrey: Too bad you don't have another one of those (pointing to me) to take with you.

(A day in 2014.  I was cleaning out the pantry and overheard the following go down in the kitchen from my work - hiding - place.)

Jason (to Audrey):  If you do [garbled muffled garble]* again, I'm going to throw it off a high building.

Audrey:  Where are you going to find this high building?

*I have no idea what garbled muffled garble she was doing.  I do know that sometimes it's good to be the one snickering behind the closed door of the pantry, instead of the strong-armed one.  Or the one wearing the horse's hat.  And that we don't know what we'd do without our equine-wearing leader, except laugh less. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Moving Forward

Last night, I found my little artist asleep in his bed with the etch 'n sketch on top of him.  I moved the etch 'n sketch to his desk.  This morning, I overheard him telling his brother about his latest drawing.  "This is a picture of Daddy as a kid.  See, he has hair."  (He apparently also resembled Johnny Depp characters from the 80's as a child.) 
I just returned from spending a weekend with my little sister's family in California (a Christmas present from the guy captured in the drawing above - Jason, not Johnny Depp).  As I spend this week playing catch-up with housework and schoolwork, Nate's words resonate.  Some of us don't have as much hair as we used to.  (In Jason's defense: he has hair - shaved very short.)  Time marches on.  Except for on this blog, where apparently, time has stood still since December 14th.  I've recorded moments on my camera.  I've recorded a few moments in texts and on paper.  I have recorded nothing here, each time thinking that first I would get to the Christmas blogs, the December birthday blogs, the winter snow scene blogs.  I haven't gotten to any of those blogs.  Instead, I have backlogs.
So in the spirit of moving forward, I'm pulling out the notes on scrap paper and scanning through old texts in hopes of writing down a few captured moments here in the days to come that I don't want to forget.  But first (in full disclosure, lest some of these moments not make sense), I should mention this:   

We've been counting down the days in weeks around here.  Twenty-eight to be exact.  We spent the days before Christmas sharing our news with family and close friends.  Our children spent those days telling anyone in sight. 

One afternoon, I took the kids to a homeschool Christmas party.  The hostess held a nativity before the kids and began retelling the Christmas story.  She reached the part where Gabriel visits Mary to give her the news that she'll soon have a child.  "My mom is getting a baby!" Audrey piped up.  A few of the mothers sitting next to me turned with upraised eyebrows.  Nothing like upstaging Jesus at Christmas. 

Each snowy winter, the kids get out and make snowmen.  Families of snowmen.  This year was no exception.  After the first big snow, the scene out our window looked very much like the ornament above, with the snowmen spaced a bit farther apart.  Audrey was the architect and general contractor of the operation.  "Did you make the baby?" Jason asked as she came inside.

"Oh, I made mama's belly extra big."

That's how it goes as we ease slowly out of winter into the days of coming sun.  Time marches on: and what we're lacking in hair, we're making up for in baby weight.