Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Food for Thought

"For uncommonly excellent results, one must have uncommonly excellent habits."
~ Dr. Douglas N. Graham

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

From the Bookshelves

Here's a glimpse at a few of the books the girls, my husband, and I are reading this week....

Little Women (The Classic Collection)Family Book - We are all listening to Little Women on audiobook, and the three older girls are reading along with their paperback copies. I had my doubts when we started the book, as we are listening to the unabridged version and thought maybe the language, subject matter, references, etc., might be too confusing and detract from the storyline. Boy was I wrong - the girls love the story, and at any confusing points we stop and discuss their questions.  I still believe this book to be best for middle school age children, but it can certainly be enjoyed by a wider age group.

Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us SafeDad - My husband is reading several books at the moment. The first, I passed on to him a few weeks ago and I highly recommend it to everyone: Organic Manifesto: How Organic Food Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe. If you live on planet earth, you need to read this book. He is also reading an old Stephen King classic, Firestarter. As a young adult, I read the book several times and I know I've seen the movie though I don't remember it. We might make a date night out of the movie at some point this month.

Soak Your Nuts: Cleansing With Karyn: Detox Secrets for Inner Healing and Outer BeautyThe Namesake: A NovelMom - I always have a stack of books on my desk, and this month is no exception. Instead of overwhelming the blog with my list of reading, I will choose the three on top of the pile. First, I just finished reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love Lahiri's descriptive and eloquent writing style. She has a way of conveying the emotions and thought of her characters in a succinct manner, yet with enough figurative language and beauty that I am transported to their world. Next on the pile is The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory. I am actually listening to the audiobook while I work in the mornings. While I enjoyed The Other Boleyn Girl, I'm having a harder time getting into this book. It could be the fact that I'm not reading it, that I'm distracted by my work as I'm listening. I'm not sure. At this point, I like the book but am not in love.  And the last book I'll mention this week is Soak Your Nuts by Karyn Calabrese (I cannot believe this woman is in her 60s - she looks amazing!). This is health and well-being book and I've literally just cracked it open. I'm interested in reading the book as I heard a radio interview with Ms. Calabrese and found her fascinating.

Heist SocietyDD 10 - My oldest, like me, has a stack on her nightstand. She reads several books at a time and can usually be found with her nose in at least one of them. Currently, she is working through The Adventures of Tom Sawyer , which she got into slowly but now claims is one of her all-time favorites. I am planning to bring the book to life with some websites and projects. She is also reading Laurie Halse Anderson's Chains. When she is finished, I plan to read it as well. I thoroughly enjoyed Anderson's book Fever 1793when I read it for a book discussion and I hope that Chains is as good. My daughter says she likes it but finds it sad and a bit scary. And lastly, she just finished reading Heist Society by Ally Carter. I read this book first and gave it my stamp of approval. My daughter enjoyed it, but wasn't blown away by the book. I think it's a cute beach read for teens and mature pre-teens.

Tales of the Frog Princess Box Set, Books 1-3DD 9 - My social butterfly is devouring several books this week. First, she could not put down The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker. She even set her alarm for 6am to finish reading it this morning, promptly picked up the second book in the series, Dragon's Breath, and started reading it during breakfast. My oldest was the same way when she read them a few years ago. She is also reading Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary as well as Henry and Ribsy. She loves anything Beverly Cleary, and she may well have read these before. I had to pry one out of her hands the other day to get her in the shower.

Stuart LittleDD 8 - My quiet child has been re-reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J.K. Rowling for what I believe to be the third time. She simply loves the books and all things Harry Potter. I've noticed that she sticks to the first three books in the series, and I think it's because as the books progress the themes are meant for an older, more mature audience. She is also reading Stuart Little by E. B. White, which oddly (after reading Harry Potter) she finds to be scary. I thought she would love the tale - as I did at her age - especially because she loves animals, animal stories, and tales of adventure. She may decide she likes it better as she read on.

The Random House Book of Easy-to-Read StoriesDD 7 - My youngest is reading Really Truly Ruthieby Valerie Tripp as Ruthie is her favorite American Girl and she hopes to one day own the doll. She is also reading Polar Bears Past Bedtime , one of the Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne. She is just now getting into the Magic Tree House novels despite her great reading skills. I'm glad as I think we own almost every book ever published! During quiet reading time every night, she also reads stories from one of her favorite books, The Random House Book of Easy-to-Read Stories. She and my 8-year-old will sometimes each read a page aloud to each other (a la You Read to Me, I'll Read to You ).

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Balancing Act

My busy bee 7-year-old had a blast today using her balances (we have several). She also created a fort out of her table and used it to hide all manner of interesting items to be tested on the balance. I give the makers of the big balance (I believe it is Learning Resources) credit, as the thing is still working after a year of love and abuse by the girls.

Note to self: Do a better job hiding the candy purchased for art and science projects (we don't do candy for consumption other than special holidays as it makes my children insane ... and causes cavities) - Miss Busy Bee has apparently been chowing down on the candy and hiding the evidence under her bed. I found over EIGHTY Smarties wrappers between the dust ruffle and the wooden slats of the mattress frame.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Rethinking my Thinking

I usually like to post art projects on Fridays, but as our week was a whirlwind involving my mom and sister taking the girls to the beach for 2 1/2 days, we didn't get one in this week. However, all the time to myself got me thinking - or rather rethinking - my situation with my youngest daughter. My youngest just turned seven last weekend, and from the minute she was conceived the child has been, for lack of a better word, different. She is different in many brilliant and wondrous ways. She is extremely gifted, very witty, undeniably creative and original. She sees things differently than most and is not afraid to explore. She doesn't worry about doing things "the right way" and she certainly is not afraid of failure and trying again and again.

All of this "differentness" (which I know will serve her well in life and makes her so unique) can be hard on mom. It's not that I want her to conform to some random notion of how a child should be. And it's not that my other three are without their moments. It's that with my youngest, the moments are unending and usually very complicated with a probable side of destruction. She requires near-constant supervision, which is simply not realistic. I need to be able to throw in a load of laundry.  Or take a shower.  Or go out to the garden to water for five minutes and not worry that when I come back in the project my oldest has been working on for five days will but cut into a million different pieces and stuffed under a bookcase. Or that a glue stick has been used to decorate the couch. Or that the piano keys have been covered with permanent marker. (All real-life example and all happened on the same day.) Obviously being negative doesn't work. But NOT getting negative can be hard when you're at the end of your rope.

So in my time alone, I was rethinking everything. I haven't come up with anything too major yet. But I'm tackling the issue from another angle - starting backwards, if you will. This usually works for me when I have a problem or situation and I find myself doing the same thing over and over and getting no where. One thing I'm in the process of deciding is her education path for next year. I feel like there will be a big change coming for her and I, and that it will be a good thing. I have no interest in sending her to school, but I'm rethinking what her days will look like at home. The hard part there is explaining this difference to the other kids. I also have already decided that I need to make a wish board/inspiration board so that when I feel like I'm at the end of my rope I can find the energy to tie a knot and hang on!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sort and Release

As I sort through countless books, I wonder at the weightlessness that accompanies a good purging of material things. I am a certifiable, verifiable bibliophile, yet even I enjoy gaining shelf space and losing the weight of books that will no longer be needed or used in our home.  I'm not ready to rid our home of all books - or even, in reality, all that high of a percentage of books. However, the books we have released from captivity set my soul free. There are 6 large boxes full of books going to new homes. I feel like I can breathe when I look in the schoolroom, now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Year-Round School

So now that we're nearing the end of the year-round school year, I remember why I stopped doing it two years ago:  At this point in the year, it sucks.
  • All the kids around us are out of school
  • It's sunny (for the most part) out
  • We've been at it since September, and even with the extra breaks we've had it feels like quittin' time
  • Most of our extracurricular activities have ended...
... I could go on and on, but I'll stop.

We are finishing up the year and should be done by early July, but I'm feeling done now. Part of it, I know, is that my work schedule is busy and balancing work plus everything else is difficult. But part of it is the weather, the added options (like the outdoor pool), more free time for the kids now that activities are winding down, etc., etc., etc. I know that we could stop at any time - we've certainly covered enough to qualify for the school district. But I've looked through what we have left and I truly want to finish it. So I'm ignoring my truant self for the time being.  And I've already cut down on what we're doing to lighten the load, so it is quite manageable.

That being said - we're done for the day and heading off to the pool!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Deforestation and Endangered Animals

My middle girls finished their studies on the rain forest, deforestation and endangered animals this week by creating message t-shirts. We have talked many times about the environmental impact of damaging rain forests. We have talked about how this affects animals living in the rain forest, and how because we are all connected their lives affect our lives. I like to think that my kids have a good understanding of the web of life, are compassionate to all living things, and that in our family we have meaningful discussions on important topics. But MBtP did something I didn't think to do: each girl chose one animal and made it "her mascot" for stopping deforestation and helping endangered animals. This simple step - making it personal - has gone a long way. And the culmination is a hand-painted shirt (artwork by each respective kid). They are proud of the shirts, and I believe feel more connected to their cause because of their work on the topic for the past few weeks.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Memory Loss

It's happened - I've lost memory. Not my personal memory... but almost. My main work computer has seriously crashed and everything on it may be - well, in all likelihood as we've been told - is lost. It could be worse.  It could be the main HOUSE computer with all our family photos, financial documents, etc., but of course, we have an external hard drive on that. I never got around to getting one for the main school computer, and now all of the things I've purchased over the years - lapbooks, eBooks, clip art, technology programs, games, etc., etc., etc.,; the Teaching Textbooks grades and work for the entire year; all saved photos of school work, art work, science projects; all of my "real" work invoices and client contracts; all of the kids' essays and stories; all of our made-up games and forays into graphic arts ... in short, a huge chunk of the product of our lives, is lost.

And although life goes on an no actual lives are lost, I feel grieved at the loss.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Week (warning: may contain words and/or phrases that sound like self-pity)

This has been a tough week on so many levels.  From small things (internet service going in and out - hence lack of posting to/reading blogs) to bigger things (my Grandmother is in the hospital) it seems like this week has conspired against me. Today especially was "not good." I woke up feeling off, had a bad morning with my work and things not going right, my husband didn't get up to give the kids breakfast while I was working so I was constantly interrupted (I forgive him - he got home in the wee hours of the morning as it's Month-End), found, when I came to make breakfast, that my youngest (though not so young that she doesn't know better) had dumped salt - purposefully - on the kitchen floor (why? we don't know), and blah blah blah... the day went on to go get worse from there, with things like: the same daughter taking a permanent marker to my piano, being stood-up and thereby made late to our (expensive) music lessons, and being stuck in construction traffic so bad that a 10 minute ride took 40 minutes, and generally failing to be a good parent today as I felt tired, cranky, and overextended ...

I should stop. I clearly need to vent my annoyance and I'm sure this is not the place as my problems are not about homeschooling. And naturally there is, as there typically is, much more going on than the small grievance of spilled salt and missed piano lessons. I guess it's just "one of those weeks." I sort of feel like Alexander except that it's been a horrible, no good, very bad week.