29 August 2014

Stealing from Liam's idea the other night, I've written a bit about ten books that have stuck with me.

1) You Shouldn't Have to Say Goodbye by Patricia Hermes. A book from my childhood that opened my eyes to the fact that parents could die while their children were young. I was simultaneously riveted by and terrified by this line of thought. The random fact that they ate Reuben sandwiches burrowed its way into my brain.

2) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I picked up this classic by chance when I was twiddling my thumbs at the end of my pregnancy with Nick. It turned into a tradition to read this near the end of each of my pregnancies. I like the story and it's a big fat book, so it's a good fit with late pregnancy waddle-dom.

3) Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce. I think I would have given almost anything to be Alanna as a girl. She stole my tomboy heart and fuelled my certainty that girls could do anything boys could do. In elementary school, my friends and I had one of our dads photocopy the entire first chapter so we could attempt to memorize it and act it out. I don't know that we ever got past the opening "That is my decision, we need not discuss it!" line, but we had a great time of it.

4) By the Sword Mercedes Lackey. In a similar vein to the Alanna books, Kerowyn embodied the ultimate gender role thwarting badass for me when I was a kid. She could dress and fight like a boy and still have guys fall in love with her. How could I not fall in love with this book?

5) Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley. A heavy book I read for school during junior high. I was drawn in by the tragedy of this family's fate, and the vivid description of the horrific conditions aboard the slave trips will probably never leave me.

6) Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Following a childhood theme, I wanted to be Harriet after reading this book. The closest I ever got was a spy book where I obsessively wrote down every license plate number I saw, which I think ended the day it made me so late walking home from school that my mom was frantic when I finally came home. I listened to the audiobook recently with the kids and it was a much harsher story this time around than I'd remembered.

7) The Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb. I'm cheating by lumping six (seven if you count the new book) into one, but I love them all. Liam got me onto this series a decade ago and it stole my heart. Liam and I actually gave serious consideration to naming Lily after Molly, one of the main characters. I just reread the series  in anticipation of the latest release this month, and it was just as enthralling the second time through. Now I just need Liam to read the new book so we can discuss all the new big things that have happened with dear Fitz!

8) Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I don't think it's possible to live a full-fledged teenage horse obsession without reading Black Beauty. I adored that this book was written from the horse's point of view, and my heart soared and sank with his ups and downs in life.

9) The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. Along the same lines as the above, of course. I read most of if not the entire Black Stallion series. Alec's deep bond with the stallion filled my little girl heart with longing for a similar relationship with a horse of my own.

10) Deerskin by Robin McKinley. Stemmed in some dark beginnings, the story follows the main character as she heals from trauma. The way she just up and ran and ran stuck with me, as did her companion her dog Ash.

28 August 2014

One of my favourite questions (actual favourite, not "favourite" favourite) people ask about unschoolers is what a typical day looks like, partly because it's fun to reflect and partly because I love hearing about how others go about their lives. Our days have a typical rhythm, but there's no set standard of what a normal weekday is around here. Sometimes we're out of the house all day, sometimes we're home for days on end. I make an effort to match our activity level to our needs and energy levels, and so no two days really look the same.

A while back I wrote a post about what a day in our life looked like, and today I thought it would be fun to do the same. And so I give you, a Thursday with the Johnstones.

6:30 am: I wake up to the sound of Bear yawn-whining his desperate need to eat, or pee, or both. I sneak out of bed, tucking the blanket back around Ollie so she hopefully sleeps a bit longer. I set Bear up with food in the dog run and set myself up with coffee and my laptop. When the girls wake they come downstairs for Netflix. Nick wakes and hangs out upstairs with his laptop.

9 am: I process jars of apple sauce. The kids and I picked the apples at a friend's house the other day and cooked them in the slowcooker yesterday. This is the first canning I've done this year and I need to use my friend Google to remind me of how long the jars need to sit in the boiling water. This is usually the time when I get in my daily workout, but I'm in a small funk this week and not quite feeling it today.

Playing the jars like small drums.
Getting all hot and steamy
10 am: Breakfast! Homemade granola and homemade apple sauce. So much yum.

10:30 am: Breakfast table is cleared, so Ollie and I get chopping more apples for the next batch of apple sauce. Unlike yesterday, she manages not to slice herself open with her knife. Nick sprawls on the couch with a book. Lily experiments and creates a Rainbow Loom outfit for one of the dolls.

Choppy choppy choppy

All dolled up with cinnamon and honey

The Rainbow Loom Baby Bikini
11am: I fill jars with zucchini and pickling brine, then process them. Nick alternates between being in his room and coming downstairs to show us the magic tricks he's just taught himself. Lily and Ollie work on some Rainbow Loom charms and then some paintings based on a craft book we took out of the library.
Sisterly paining. Let's not discuss the doll, because I just don't know.
1 pm: Lunch. Lily amazes me with her mad food skills and packs away four bowls of mac and cheese.

1:30 pm: My friend, coffee o'clock. I get a few minutes to read my book and then I read some children's poems out loud to the kids until they're bored of listening to me.

2:30 pm: I process four more jars of apple sauce from the apples Ollie and I cut up this morning. The kids make some paper cut out penguins from the craft book. Lily reads some books to Ollie on the couch. Nick collects plants to continue building a braided rope he's been working on this week.

Rope braid. 

3 pm: We all go down to the bottom garden and I do some weeding. I feel guilt over how neglected this new garden has been all summer and I wonder if I'll actually get any squash from it. We check the potato plants for potatoes but don't find any big enough to dig up yet. The girls play on driveway gate. Nick goes bushwhacking and brings me back nettle for tea.

Jack, hunting for untold treasures in the potato patch.
The gate game. I think the goal is to hurt your sister without your mom catching you. Or something.
4 pm: We run into our next door neighbour as she's taking her garbage out. My kids help her toddler feed carrots to the horse. Our neighbour invites us over and we hang out and drink iced tea.

5 pm: Ollie has a massive meltdown about leaving neighbours to come home. Much crying. Much trying to run away from me. Much not fun.

5:30 pm: Ollie is mostly done freaking out, mainly thanks to Nick. I'd jokingly offered him a nickel to cheer her up and he took me up on it. And then came to collect his nickel. The kids play some strange game involving the stairs and the couch cushions while I cook supper. In the midst of the chaos, I get the news that a dog we'd fostered earlier this summer was put down today. I take some time to process and then talk to the kids about it.

6 pm: Liam is home and we eat supper. Yay Liam! Yay supper!

7 pm: We pack up kids and dogs for a walk. We stop for the mail and walk the loop of the subdivision. Ollie meets a woman collecting her mail from the other mailbox and they become instant friends. We notice that a piece of mail delivered to us belongs to aforementioned neighbour. Children gleefully offer to deliver it to her. They're sent up the long driveway with instructions to return quickly because it's late. They don't return quickly. When Ollie finally gets in the house she presents me with her bike helmet holding a bunch of freshly picked rosehips.
Ollie takes getting the mail very seriously.
Cool teenagers don't need shoes on the road.
Extra awesome points because they fed grass to horses at two houses on our walk.
8 pm: Snack time. Shower time for the girls. Probably should be shower time for Nick as well but it's late. Much loudness. Much straying away from actually getting to bed because there are suddenly all these exciting things that need to be done right now. Nick comes down to say goodnight and promptly acts like my kiss on his cheek will actually kill him.

9:30 pm: The children are all asleep. The cat scratches at the door to come inside, then at the kitchen cupboard to have her food dish refilled. I find myself an evening snack and work on updating my food co-op order for next week's groceries.

And that there is as typical as a typical day gets in our life. We do some things together, and some things on our own. The kids learn all day through exploring things that have captured their attention and imagination. We eat, we work, we fight, we laugh. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

26 August 2014

Today was a day of sniffly tired people and cancelled plans with friends. In the end we had a really nice cosy at-home day, which is exactly what we needed.

One of the things we did today was to start our first Five In A Row (FIAR) book. Liam downloaded Lentil by Robert McCloskey off of Open Library for us and put it on my Kobo. The girls and I snuggled up on the couch and took a read through. It felt extremely odd to be reading a children's picture book off of a Kobo, especially when a few pages in things started looking like this:

And this:

Fortunately not all of the pages were funky, and we were able to read the book (although I did have to use my imagination a few times to decipher gobbledy gook).

In the end, it really did feel like something was missing by not having the physical book and the full-page pictures. We're going to try pulling the file up on a different device for upcoming days with Lentil, but after this book I know we'll be striving to work only with the books we can get paper copies of.

The book was enjoyable and Ollie, of course, had a string of questions about the story and the vocabulary as I read. When we finished the book I read a section from the FIAR text. The other day when I was mapping things out I'd flagged the section on the sense of taste because we have both lemons and dark chocolate in the house right now.

For each of the kids, I made up a plate with a lemon wedge, dark chocolate, salt, and sugar to exemplify the tastes of sour, bitter, salty, and sweet. They were most excited about the chocolate (because Mom doesn't usually share her hidden stash) and enjoyed going back and forth between the flavours. 

Ollie definitely learned the vocabulary word "pucker".

Once they'd had a chance to go through each of the foods and exclaim such things as "Salt is salty!" (thanks, Lily), the kids started to mix and match. I think my personal favourite was when they were dunking their lemon wedges in the salt. Yum yum! Goofballs.

All in all, today was a nice intro to FIAR for us. It was a simple enough experience that I had an easy time adding it to a day where I wasn't feeling great. It also lent itself well to both Ollie who was in it from start to finish to the older kids who drifted in and out as they were interested. Hopefully we'll get an opportunity to get back into it tomorrow!

Some days, I'm the kind of mom who is patient and engaging. Yesterday was not one of those days. I was grumpy and impatient and extremely short tempered. I went to bed early last night and I'm blogging a picture of our family where we look as loving as I want to act today. And go.

24 August 2014

July 2014 Spartan with Liam. So. Much. Mud.

I like to run. Most of the time I do, anyhow. Sometimes I despise running. But let's talk about the times I like running.

I started running during high school, I think as a combined result of having done running for rugby training and having read the book Deerskin which features a character running long distances. 

When I first got started running I would trek around my parents' subdivision with no special equipment or any real idea of what I was doing. I didn't know how to track my distances (where were all those smart phones in the 90's?!) and I'd never heard of interval training. Sometimes I'd take my chunky bulky Walkman so I could listen to my radio mix tape. 

Over the next years, I ran on and off without any clear intentions or goals. I knew that I took delight in being able push myself and that my body felt good when I got up off my butt. In 2002, a fellow classmate and I decided to take on a running training program as part of a self-care project for one of our classes with the end goal of running a half marathon. Six months after getting serious about my running, I completed my first half marathon in a time of 2:13. I lost a few toenails and suffered heat stroke, and I absolutely loved it.

A few years later, my friend Vanessa talked me into running another half marathon with her. We navigated the waters with the support of a local Running Room clinic and in 16 weeks we ran our race. This time around, Vanessa and I crossed the finish line with a time of 2:21.

My third long race I trained for and ran was another half marathon just last year. I talked my friends into entering the world of half marathons with me, and we trained through the summer and autumn for a late October race. My finish time this go around was 2:22.

Last year I also branched out a bit and also completed my first triathlon. It was a nice short race to get introduced to the sport, and I really enjoyed the new mental and physical training aspects that were brought up by adding the biking and swimming into the race.

Earlier this year, I'd given serious consideration to tackling a full on marathon this year, which coincidentally would have been today. I was feeling strong heading into the early spring since I had an entire winter of solid crosstraining under my belt and I'd run the half marathon distance on a whim during a regular weekend run. For a few reasons, including my limited time to work out away from the kids and my uncertainty as to how I'd juggle the training hours during our summer travel, I decided that this wouldn't be my year to take on this goal. I know that running a full marathon is definitely a personal goal and I think I'll more easily be able to handle tackling it when the kids are older.

As for my actual running goals for this year...I still don't know. Other than the Spartan race which we completed in July I haven't signed up for anything. My friends and I have been looking at some possible races and we've started getting some weekend runs in together again, so hopefully we'll pin something down and work towards it soon!

23 August 2014

With the coming school year nearing, I've been collecting books and curriculum for the kids that I think they'll enjoy. Without really intending to, a couple of books turned into a few more and now all of a sudden I have four cardboard boxes in my livingroom and my coffee table is completely lost under a sea of books.

Between some books I bought from friends, a couple of Kijiji ads for curriculum, and the local library booksale it didn't take long for things to add up. We've got a mix of curriculum, reference books, fiction readers, and picture books. My goal this week is to cull our bookshelves (blasphemy, I know!) and rearrange the different areas in the house where we keep books so that everything gets a home.

I'm excited to dig into the curriculum that I found for the kids, because I think I've picked up some things that will give each kid a chance to have something happening at their level while giving lots of opportunity for everyone sitting in on things. My goal is to offer more structured learning opportunities for the kids now that everyone is old enough for me to properly divide my attention and now that Nick is on the cusp of his high school years.

Starting from the bottom up, I have a copy of Five In a Row for Ollie. It's a really neat looking system based on a selection of some classic children's books. The format is to read the book with your child and then do activities which draw from the themes in the books and touch on social studies, art, science, and other areas. I've got a copy of the first book we'll start with, Lentil by Robert Mccloskey, as well as some notes jotted down about which activities we'll use from the book. I've also found a few (ok, maybe more than a few) printables and further activities on Pinterest we can also use.

Along the same lines, I also picked up a copy of Beyond Five In a Row. This text is the same format as the previous one, but aimed at an older age bracket. Depending on how things go, I see this as either being something both girls work on with me this year or else something we set aside for upcoming years.

For my middle Lily, I found some Konos books. I purchased both volumes one and two (for a small fraction of the full retail price, yay!) which gives us a large amount of info to peruse. These books are set up so that the student is presented information broken down into themes and topics. These are covered through family read-alouds, individual reading, writing assignments, and various activities. From what I've seen of it so far, I appreciate both the guidance in choosing materials and the flexibility it offers. The suggested schedule has the student covering about 10 hours of work each week, but we'll definitely be taking a much slower pace than that. I can see this curriculum drawing all three kids into its activities.

For my oh-so-grown-up Nick, I found some physical science books from BJU press to fit in with Nick's area of interest. I've taken a read through some of the teacher manual to get a feel for the material and to see how we would approach things. In the opening chapter, there is an emphasis on how belief in God and the pursuit of scientific knowledge go hand in hand (since it's a Christian science textbook and all). I was dismayed to see a line addressing how the earth is thousands of years old because the Bible says it's so, and dismissing the scientific view of the earth being much older than that. I discussed my concern with both Liam and Nick over finding information in this text so early on that I disagree with. I've decided to take it as an opportunity to encourage and support critical thinking (something Nick enjoys!) and we'll see if the rest of the information is a bit more factual. If it ends up being ridiculous we'll just scrap this curriculum and I'll remain grateful that I purchased it used for a good price!

And there you have it, the bookish learning opportunities I plan to build into our year! I'm looking forward to getting things rolling over the next weeks and seeing what the kids do with all of this.

22 August 2014

(Full disclosure: major Filofax geekery ahead.)

There's something delightful about pens and paper. Kobos, iPads and laptops are amazing and convenient, but they lack a certain quality that can only really be captured with paper.

Over the years, I've used many different forms of agendas. In junior high, our school gave us each spiral-bound paper agendas customized to our school board. I loved being able to glance at a visual layout of my schedule and the things I needed to do. I think even more, I enjoyed looking back through my year and remembering events.

Since those days of the spiral-bound agendas, I've cycled through different tools. I've printed out blank calendars to keep in binders, I've lugged around gigantic Franklin Covey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People binders, and I've gone completely digital with my phone. Through it all I've always cherished having a great wall calendar where I could glance at a representation of my life, and which I could set out on the table each month to fill out.

I wasn't entirely dissatisfied with the calendar app I was using on my Android when I came across a picture of someone's Filofax set up and began to mentally salivate. I loved the concept of my own little book where I could keep track of not only my schedule but all sorts of things. The Filofax binders are beautiful and as I investigated further online I learned that their uses were as endless as people's creativity.

After much internal debate about if I was ready to make the leap back away from a virtual calendar, I settled on purchasing a personal sized Filofax in the Malden style. After much anticipation in parcel tracking (and maybe a few hours of perusing Pinterest and YouTube...), my Filofax arrived. I excitedly opened it up...and realized I'd ordered the wrong size. D'oh. Somewhere in my excitement, I'd clicked on a pocket sized Malden (81mm x 120 mm) instead of a personal sized Malden (95mm x 171mm).

Purple pocket Malden
Rather than going through the process of shipping it back and ordering another, I decided to make a go of it with the smaller size even though I was worried the pages would be just too small for fitting everything in. Fast forward a bit, and I admitted defeat over the size, Liam offered to use the Malden as his own organizer, and I purchased a different Filofax that was finally a personal size.

Plum personal Osterley
It's been almost exactly a year since I've been using my personal Osterley Filofax and I love it. Like, love love love it. I can easily keep track of appointments, classes, plans with friends, and other events in the calendar. I write out to do lists in my calendar to keep myself on track with housework, or list the stops I need to make when I'm running errands. I jot down the things I need to have with us when we're heading out the door, which is especially handy on days I've had to bring bags packed for back to back activities and could easily forget something that would throw a wrench into our plans. I also write down my workouts I've completed both to keep track of what I've done and to motivate myself to stick with it.

Because everything is better with paper ninjas and pink glitter tape.
I have different sections where I track things like work notes, grocery shopping lists, to do's, a journal of what/when I planted things for the garden, a food log, my progress with a correspondence course I'm taking, and the books I've read. My Filofax is instrumental to maintaining my sanity when we prepare for travel. I write down everything I can think of that needs to be done and packed, and I transfer these lists onto my calendar days so I can chip away at the work in manageable bits.
A travel week, with meal plans, to do lists, packing lists
For a while I've been contemplating adding a larger Filofax to my life. The A5 is 148mm x 210mm and I love the idea of having all that paper space to spread out on, but I'd shied away because I couldn't see myself carting something so heavy around in my purse (especially since I've actually been using the Malden again as my wallet and only sometimes keeping the Osterley in my purse when I go out).

Recently, I've been feeling the need to build in more structure in our home and work towards growing homeschool portfolios for the kids. And then I realized...my perfect reason for getting an A5! A homeschool/home-specific book would need a lot of space for writing, and I wouldn't have to lug it around everywhere with me.

And so, I'm now happily awaiting the arrival of a Finsbury A5, which is currently hanging out in Miami and really needs to get its butt en route to me. I've been collecting homeschool planner printables and narrowing down which pages I want to include in my planner. A lot of planners include pages that I don't need (like attendance records which are required by some states in the U.S.) or want (like test result records and report cards). My top priorities include an area to jot notes about daily happenings that can be recorded more formally in a portfolio, the actual portfolios, goals, book logs, completed curriculum, and daily routines.

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on my new pretty and seeing what fun things we can do!

21 August 2014

Today Liam and I celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. It's a bit surreal that such a chunk of time has whisked past since the day of our wedding, and yet at the same time Liam is such a central part of who I am that I feel like we've been together always.

I'm grateful for the circumstances that brought us together originally (two people who didn't drink meeting at a bar) and then back together a couple of years later (a last minute party invitation and a car accident that couldn't get in the way).

I'm grateful for how easily Liam and I knew that this was the real deal. We were talking marriage within a couple of weeks of dating and there's been no looking back since then.

I'm grateful for Liam's generous nature, his dedication to our family, and the way he makes me laugh.

I can't imagine a more perfect person to journey through life with. I feel inspired, respected, supported, and nurtured in our relationship, and I hope that I remember to appreciate that each day.

I love you Liam! Happy anniversary!

20 August 2014

Tonight as I snuggled Ollie to sleep in bed, I heard some noises over the sounds of the calming acoustics from Songza. I heard some peculiar squeaking-type noises coming from the deck side of the house, which were sort of familiar but which I couldn't quite peg.

Once Ollie was off to dreamland I slipped away and decided to go investigate. I went out onto the deck, carefully blocking the dogs inside so they didn't "help" me to find whatever creature was making the noises. (They, of course, kept their noses glued to the screen door in case I needed them.)

From on the deck I could hear scuffling noises and more of the squeaking. I crept around a little bit before deciding that the creature must be under the deck. I tiptoed softly over to the side where the stairs are so I could look under the deck from the lawn but then I stopped. The stairs are open-backed and I've seen too many horror movies to mess around with that shit. (Note, when I say "horror movies" I really probably mean "horror movie" or "half of a horror movie" or "a trailer for a horror movie". I can't hack the scary.)

I came back into the house through the screen door, where I used my feet to block the dogs who had more than picked up on the excitement at this point. I went through the house to the front door, where I repeated the foot conversation with the dogs, and went back outside.

I slowly walked across the section of lawn at the side of the house that passes under the apple trees while the scuffle squeak noises continued. When I came alongside the deck, I crouched down and peered underneath. Confirming my suspicions, I saw the spiky silhouette of a porcupine waddling about under our deck.

Sort of hard to see, but you can see his silhouette between the 2nd and 3rd steps..
I watched, fascinated and snapping pictures, as he made his way in my general direction. I was where the apples were, and judging by the dozens of chewed up apple cores I'd raked up yesterday porcupines have a love on for the sweet juicy things. The porcupine neared the steps and showed no sign of slowing down, so I walked back across the lawn to the front step. Part of me wanted to stay out of his way because I wanted to see him come out, but part of me also wanted to limit my experience with quills to that time I pulled them out of the dog's mouth.

I stood on the cement pad at the front door, camera ready to capture some adorable photos of this porcupine chomping on apples, when I realized the squeaking noises were happening in stereo. There was a big fat porcupine walking up behind me. I nearly crapped my pants. 

In what I'm sure was a totally dignified manner, I scrambled off the cement pad up onto the steps at the door and suppressed the screaming profanities that wanted to jump out of my mouth. There was one kid left in the house who was still trying to fall asleep, after all, and we were just outside her window.

A few seconds later, Mr. Way Too Stealthy For How Huge I Am popped out from beside my van.

Nothing to see here. Just hunting for apples.
As soon as my dogs saw this guy from their post at the window they lost their minds. Really helpful in the getting that last kid to sleep department, thanks guys.

This second porcupine spent some time near the pine tree, eyeing the apples and myself, before deciding he'd just go hang out at the edge of the lawn near the woods. I crept back towards the deck to see where the first guy was, but when the second guy saw that I was going near his squeak buddy he stood up on his hind legs to stare me down. I considered myself chastised and headed back inside.

It was soon too dark to see what kind of antics those two were getting up to out there. I'm going to assume they're having a fullout apple feast and squeak laughing about the jumpy human they chased back into her house.

19 August 2014

As part of my job as Mom of Children Who Never Sit Still and also as Mom of Teenage Boy, a fair bit of my focus on life is on food. Some weeks I feel as if 90% of my waking time is spent buying, preparing, serving, and cleaning up food. I'm grateful for the food I have access to and can afford, but sometimes I resent the amount of energy keeping our family fed takes up.

And then...there are days like today. Today was a day where food was about more than keeping bellies full. 

All three meals I ate today were in some part grown at our home. Crisp for breakfast has apples and rhubarb that were planted by people who lived here before us. Lunch included kale, green beans, and carrots from the garden. To round it out, supper was made with beets and carrots again from the garden. 

This is my second year growing a big garden and I'm getting a lot of joy from it. During crisp spring afternoons of tucking tiny seeds into pots of dirt I had the chance to dream about the lush green that would again fill the area that had sat as only a snowdrift for months. As the ground thawed, my garden gave me the perfect excuse to spend hours soaking up the sun. Now in late summer, I stand and marvel at all that has sprung up, from the trailing cucumber vines to the corn that towers above my head. Going out to water or pick from my garden feels like visiting a friend.

 When I eat from and feed my family from my garden, I feel like it's a celebration of the blessings at our home. Ollie, especially, is enthusiastic about coming out with me to pick. She'll joyfully bolt outside with a pair of scissors to collect various greens if she hears we're going to have salad, and she takes great delight in picking zucchinis and then cradling and cooing at them as if they're large green babies.

We also picked the apples from one of our trees today. It was probably due to be picked a week or two ago and we lost a lot that fell to the ground and were gnawed on by various friends from the forest, but the mosquitoes were too awful to get out there until today.

The girls and I cleaned off everything except one branch at the top that was out of reach. We used a highly scientific formula that involved a ladder, some buckets, some tree climbing, and a hoe. Ollie was mightily pleased with herself when she scampered up the branches to reach where I couldn't from my ladder.

Garden hoes, not just for the garden.
 I'm grateful for the food and the experiences that our home brings to our family, and I hope that days like this help to secure in my children an awareness of and appreciation for the things that grow in our world.

18 August 2014

It's that time of year. I can't read books by sunlight at 10 pm anymore. Our summer trips have come and gone. There are leaves littered across my driveway. The end of summer is near.

Now, I live in Canada so I don't want to think about the inevitable season of snow and frigid temperatures a moment before I have to, but there's something delicious about autumn. Maybe it's the death of the all the evil little mosquitoes. Maybe it's the spread of stationery aisles that have popped up in stores. Maybe it's the approaching fall fashion season where you can do things like wearing layers and cozy hoodies instead of just pulling out whatever will leave you the least soaked in summer sweat.

Whatever the reason - or wondrous combination of reasons - I'm rooting for an autumn that stretches on from August until November. (Hey, an Albertan can dream about a non-white Halloween can't she?)

Partly because of my excitement for fall, and partly because I'm avoiding the mosquito-pocalypse that is my yard right now, I've been getting prepped for our coming school year and getting our home more organized.

For our family, stepping into the school year looks a little bit different than it does for most. Because we homeschool, there's no school supply list and no shopping for back to school clothing. I actually sort of wish there was a homeschool supply list so I could justify buying all sorts of new books and papers each year. Ah, the pretties. (Yes, I do usually buy some new supplies even if we don't strictly need them. But I get to wait until everything is on sale so it's totally justified. Right? Right.)

As an unschooling mom, I also don't do the curriculum prep that many homeschooling parents do. Some families will head into the school year with their curriculum for the year mapped out before them. The part of me that loves organization and is in a serious relationship with her Filofax sort of wishes that our homeschooling approach lent itself to neat charts and predictable progress. I know, though, that my children learn best when they have the space to pursue their interests in the manner and depth that calls to them. (Let me tell you about the 20 or so Garfield books we have checked out from the library right now. I don't actually see my big kids' faces anymore. I see the backs of Garfield books.)

Our home is a very go with the flow type of place, but I'm starting to recognize that my stress level goes down when there is some level of predictability and routine. This year, all three kids are technically school-aged (I'm still a bit in denial about my baby being old enough for kindergarten so let's not dwell on this) so we're well out of the season of "Oh my God I can't plan anything because the baby ate my brain by not letting me sleep and wrecked my plans for the day by pooping on everything I own".

My goal this year is to build in more routine and structure, while delegating more personal and household responsibilities to the kids. All while respecting and supporting their endeavours in their educational journeys and fostering their development into well-rounded individuals. Because, hey, if you're going to pick a goal aim high right? I've got some tools I've started using to help me meet this goal and I'm working on getting some more in place in the upcoming weeks. But that, as they say, is a blog post for another night.

17 August 2014

Recently, my parents won an award for their impact on their community. The award came as a surprise to them, after friends and family secretly came together to nominate them for their years of quiet, tireless acts of giving.

It was an eye-opening experience, seeing all of the acts of service all presented together publicly. My parents don't brag about their volunteer work or trot out their accomplishments to build themselves up in front of others. In fact, my mother expressed disbelief that she'd even taken part in as many activities as were listed in her nomination.

Since the night of the award ceremony, I've been thinking of the way my parents live and the way that it's impacted the type of person I've become. My parents have set a consistently generous and humble example in my life and I think it's only recently that I've been able to truly appreciate this.

My parents have taught me that there is pride in hard work. They have taught me to step in when there is work to be done, to lend a hand when there is a person in need. They have taught me that titles like "friend" and "mother" are more significant than titles that can be earned through jobs. They've shown me that while earning a living is important, it's the lives you've impacted not the dollars in your bank account that really count. I've learned from my parents that no person is more or less deserving of respect or caring than anyone else.

I hope that in parenting and living I can make a similar impact on my children, that the home life Liam and I have created enables our kids to pick up on the positive traits we model.

16 August 2014

It's that time of year again, when Liam convinces a few of us that it's a good idea to write a blog post a day for 31 days straight. I've joined the Summer Blog Challenge some years and sat it out others, and it looks like I'm jumping in at the last minute this year.

I'm dusting off this long-neglected blog after stepping away from it three years ago. I need to get a few things straightened out and updated around here, but we'll pretend that my blog is like my house: it's might not be as tidy as I'd like, but it's tidy enough to have friends over.

So, uh, hi 2014 blog challenge. Nice to meet you. I hope you're kind to me. I promise I'll try to mostly write some entries that fall within the realm of insightful/interesting/humorous, and I'm very much looking forward to keeping up with all the other bloggers who will be plugging away with me!

A me, in my natural state of family chaos.


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