Monday, August 31, 2009

After her last visit, my niece left her camera behind. The day after she left, I put her camera on the table by the door. A day after that, Dwayne said he'd take it to work and mail it to her from there. That effectively took Sarah's camera off my mental "to do" list.

But, that didn't stop me from noticing that Dwayne didn't do it either. He kept forgetting to take it to work and every morning, when I would straighten up the table by the door, I'd see the camera there and try and keep the things I was thinking about him from coming out from under my breath.

A few mornings ago, however, I was cleaning the table as usual. I moved the coupons to the edge, so I'd remember to take them to the Jeep when I went shopping. I moved my gardening gloves and shovel over so I'd grab them when I got home and weed a little before I got busy doing something inside. And, I noticed and straightened the AFAA papers that I needed to complete for my certification process.

That's it. That's all I noticed.

Fast forward an hour and a half. I check my email. I notice Dwayne has written me to tell me he has sent the camera to my niece.

That is when it hit me. I hadn't noticed the camera there when I cleaned, but I also hadn't noticed that it was gone, either. The fact that Dwayne had taken it to work completely escaped me.

At that moment, I realized how often I only notice the things he doesn't do.

I usually can't even begin to see where my husband is coming from when he complains that I only see the negative, like when I complain about the fact that he didn't cut the grass rather than realizing he didn't have time to cut it because he was helping me with the kids.

Now, if Dwayne only noticed when I didn't cook dinner or when I didn't clean the house or when I didn't stay on budget or when I didn't do laundry, I think I'd go crazy.

But, every now and then, something like this happens and I have a moment of clarity and I feel sorry for him because he has to live with me.

But, like I said, this only happens every now and then.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I've been taking Norah to the Y at least once every other week to practice swimming. I'll wait for Dwayne to get home, feed the baby, put dinner in the oven, then go. Norah and I are usually back in time to eat dinner with her dad and before the baby gets hungry again. Dwayne is always happy to help. He knows Norah needs to learn to swim and this way, I am saving us the most money.

I was paying for Norah to take formal lessons at the Y and actually saving quite a bit of money on them because I am an employee. But, I realized I wasn't saving any time by paying someone else to teach Norah how to swim. I still had to get her dressed, get her in the car, get her to the pool at a time that was always inconvenient for me and sit and be present for her entire lesson.

So, somewhere between racing to get her to gym and sitting, staring at the tiled floor while she swam, I remembered that in addition to discounted lessons, Norah has free access to the pool at other, also inconvenient times and also because I am an employee. I figured if I had to be there at an inconvenient time, I might as well wear my suit under my clothes and just go ahead get in the pool with her, saving all the money I was spending on lessons for something else and using the time I had to be there anyway to teach her myself.

And, our homemade lessons are working out pretty well. I don't have any formal training in teaching kids to swim, but like many other things I'm teaching Norah myself, consistency seems to be more important than anything else.

I am happy with my swim-solution, but a little frustrated with myself for coming up with it. My need for efficiency combined with Dwayne's desire for frugality creates these sort of "solutions" for our family all the time.

And, sometimes, quite frankly, I'm a little self conscious about our family's "can do" spirit. It feels like we have what the evil Bingley sisters on Pride and Prejudice call "an abominable sort of conceited independence." I'm already teaching Norah how to read, write, count... I was really hoping to credit someone else, anyone else with teaching her how to swim. That way, at least, the other mom's who sit contentedly and watch someone else teach their kids how to swim would stop looking at me like I have a third eye.

I'm like that mom who takes over their daughter's girl scout troop because the other mom who was in charge didn't plan the meetings efficiently enough. I carry a clip board more often than I carry a purse. Sometimes I don't like this quality in myself, but most of the time, I just can't help it.

Maybe T-ball will go better for me. Dwayne and I are thinking of signing Norah up next spring. I never played T-ball, can't even hit a ball with a bat. So, I have high hopes that I won't possibly be able to think that I can do a better job with the practices than Norah's coach.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

I was adding wheat germ to Norah's quick oats. She asked me what it was and once I told her she yelled, "Mom! We can't eat germs!"

Friday, August 28, 2009

Margarita pizza on a whole wheat crust.

I plan my meals, we get paid, then I go shopping once or maybe twice, if I forget something, which happens sometimes. Some fortnights I don't plan as well and after a little more than a week I am faced with a dilemma: to shop again or not to shop. I usually have plenty of money left in my wallet to shop. Such is the case, I've discovered, when you stay away from restaurants and eat every meal at home. But, I hate shopping with two kids. It was bad enough with just Norah. But, now that I have Avril, too, shopping is doubly painful and with two kids the distractions grow exponentially. And, I feel like shopping again would be a failure, of sorts. So, I usually dig in and take inventory of what happens to be left in my cabinet, fridge and freezer and get creative. The other day I had only whole wheat flour, mozzarella and one tomato... a little research on the Internet and Viola! Margarita pizza! Though this exercise is usually pretty painful because I have to do without what are essentials to us like sweet tea or milk until I shop again, staying away from the grocery store is good, since it forces me to take risks in the kitchen that I wouldn't otherwise take, like adding sour cream to meat loaf in place of milk or using Lima beans and chickpeas in baked beans instead of just pintos. And, I often end up rediscovering things like oatmeal or muffins for breakfast in place of Norah's bowl of cereal-as-usual. And, now I've unlocked the mystery of gourmet pizza! For a house wife, this one's a personal triumph. The fancy pizza joint no longer has power of my family!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

My copy of Andrew Peterson's new book North! Or Be Eaten came in the mail. When I agreed to review a new children's book, I thought, "A children's book... Sure!" with a wave of my hand. I didn't ask and they didn't tell me that it had over three hundred pages! So, I plan to go ahead and get started, since the review is due on my blog sometime between September 14-18.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our baby girl Avril likes to sleep with a "lovey." We don't let her do this in bed, for safety's sake. But, when she's in her swing or her bouncy seat, we will give her a burp cloth, a blanket, a tag book or some other toy since we're watching her. If it's big enough, it always ends up over her face while she snoozes. If it isn't big enough to suit her, she fusses until we give her something that does, then she falls asleep behind it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The perfect, antique beach cottage with postcard views of the ocean, the rocky cliffs and the beach, salt mists blowing through the open windows, a porch swing with a blanket for the comfortable breeze, plush green grass, flowers big enough for bumble bees to hide in, spider webs, tidal pools with snails, sand dollars, and seaweed, a short walk to the candy store where they were pulling taffy, another walk to Nubble Lighthouse with countless wildflowers along the road, a sunrise through the fog and a predawn walk with Norah. "Shhh! Get your shoes on. Don't wake anybody."

But, I have no photos to show for our recent trip to Maine. True to form, I accidentally erased the pictures I took when I tried to copy them to my computer. Our friends rented a vacation home a stone's throw from Short Sands on York Beach and invited us to come for two days and two nights. Dwayne can usually save me from myself, but this time, even he, the computer whiz, couldn't work enough magic to retrieve the photos I'd lost. So, most of the memories will have to remain in my head.

But, on one afternoon trip to the beach, Norah and I collected over twenty starfish. We retrieved one with almost every wave that broke at our feet. Some were the size of wallets, others were as small as nickles. Norah kept them in a bucket until we found the perfect little place to keep them, a pool of salt water left by an outgoing tide in between some rocks. Dwayne took a picture with his cell phone, but I grumbled because I'd left my camera at the cottage. I didn't even really want the picture he took, since it would be so low in quality.

But, ironically, that picture is the only photo I have to show for our beautiful vacation now. I am thankful for it and consider it God's grace, since his foggy little photo captures my favorite memory of the entire trip, the one I will cherish above all the others.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The neighbors must have wondered why Norah and I were whooping and hollering and dancing in our front yard the other day.

This year's Sonlight books arrived and the box was sitting on the porch when we got home.

Norah jumped up and down, wrapped herself in the shipping paper and twirled it like ribbons while she ran around the house.

She wanted to read them all right away. I let her admire them for a little while, but now they are tucked away on the top shelf, so they will remain new and exciting to her when we come to them in our home school plans.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Mom, can I play that game with my blocks again, the one where I count. You know? What's it called? ...Math! Can I do my math? Pleeease?"

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I just received a new calendar in the mail. It was full of photos of national monuments like the Lincoln Memorial, Mount Vernon, and Gettysburg. I cut out the pictures and added them and a few others I'd been saving to our picture file. It's is a great way to make use your old magazines and those extra or out of date calendars.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mom and Dad, does this remind you of anyone you know?

I hadn't unlocked the door yet and I wasn't moving fast enough for her.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"Some Pig."




The words Charlotte crafted into her web to praise her friend Wilbur. I thought it would be fun to surprise Norah with a web in her bedroom door frame that had a word just for her:

She woke up, looked up, and saw it. She tried to hide her pleasure from me. But, she blushed and was barely able to contain her smirk. She asked "Can I color it?!" right away. That was the first time in history she didn't ask for breakfast before anything else.

So, if your child knows the story and you want to play along, print this sheet and write in a word that fits your child. Hang it over their head as they sleep and they can wake up to praises like Wilbur did.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Norah's math curriculum came in the mail the other day, only one business day after I placed the order. I was very impressed. I inspected everything right away and saw that the wooden case that holds her blocks was broken. I was disappointed. I called the company, ready for a fight, but they gave me no trouble, said they'd send a replacement immediately. I was speechless.

It feels like Christmas in our house right now. I love getting books delivered to my door. And, praise God, we have stayed on budget the last few months, saved several hundred dollars and we were able to pay for our supplies in cash. I could so easily justify putting home school supplies on a credit card. I've done it in the past. But, it feels even better to open the box and know it is paid for.

We chose Math U See over Saxon, after all. My sister in law swears by it and brought it when she visited for two weeks, so I studied it in detail. I think I will like the fact that this program uses repetition only when it's necessary. Norah won't be expected to do ten more problems of the same kind just to prove that she's know how to do them or because "It's good for her." Is it really? There is a place for drill in math, but I think it should be used sparingly, like when kids need to memorize their multiplication tables and whatnot.

I also like the fact that Norah can see and touch the math concepts she is being taught by using her unit blocks. Take a look at this page, for example. It shows you how to take twelve of your child's unit five blocks and build a clock face. Each single unit in the five represents one minute. Twelve units of five make up one hour or sixty minutes... The mystery of the clock's face is perfectly unraveled in a way that just about any four year old (or her thirty year old mom) can understand. It's brilliant!

Norah was ready to do her first lesson that day. I was planning to wait till after Labor Day to begin school when all the public schools do. But, I realize we don't have to wait. We home school so we can set our own schedule anyway. We might just go ahead and begin math right away!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We spent Sunday morning making blueberry pies.

While I fussed over the berry filling, Dwayne mixed up and rolled out the crusts.

We make a good team.

We gave Norah a clump of left over dough to play with.

But, after I few minutes it became clear that she was doing a pretty good job.

So, I gave her a small baking dish to try her hand at making her own miniature pie.
I figured she could do no harm.

She pressed the bottom crust in herself and rolled out her top crust
with a little guidance from us on how to make it round.

She made a mess. But, she also made a pie!

She cleaned off her own berries, mixed up her own filling...

and dumped it in.

She used her school scissors to trim the excess top crust,
just like Dad did with his kitchen scissors.

She made designs in the crust with her fingers like Dad showed her.

It's oven ready!

Dad showed her how to braid the top of the next pie.

We brushed the tops with milk and sprinkled them with sugar.


Golden and bubbly.

We kept the plain pie for ourselves, took the pretty one to church that evening for our friends who just had a baby and plan to take the little one to our neighbors across the street.

And, we still have a ton of blueberries to use,
so we're planning to make few more pies for neighbors.

Eat your heart out!

Monday, August 17, 2009

If we were watching a movie as a family, before the TV broke, nine out of ten times it was Transformers. The movie just never got old to us. I would try explain all the reasons why we loved it so much, but I want to get to the point of this post. It has nothing to do with the movie's positive characteristics, of which there are many, but has more to do with the one and only thing we do not like about the film and that is the "evil jock concubines" clothing, or lack thereof, in this scene. I paused the movie in the place we had so much trouble with and took this photo to illustrate my point. We often talk to Norah about the heroine's immodest shirt and skirt, just in case she happens to be under the false impression that we like everything about McKayla or that we will let her walk out of the door to fight alien robots in that kind of tank top when she's sixteen. "Oh no. You march yourself back down that hallway and put on a sensible t-shirt before you even think about driving a tow truck backwards through a war zone." On one of these occasions, when I mentioned how I think McKayla should cover more of her precious tummy with a longer shirt, Norah said to me, "Maybe, Mom, after she was a little girl like me, her parents never got her any more new clothes." I laughed out loud at that. I have admit, Norah's hypothesis would explain why McKayla's shirt isn't any bigger than Norah's size 5ts.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I've been going to gym on Monday nights for my favorite class. The baby is still too young to go with me. She isn't allowed in the babysitting room until she is six months old, so Dwayne has volunteered to stay home with the girls until Avril is old enough and we can all go together.

But, when everyone at the gym sees me come through the door, the first thing they ask is, "Where are the girls?" or "Did you bring the baby?" Always disappointed, they ask for the next best thing. "Can we see a picture?"

With that in mind, I took in a wallet size of the photo above to show everyone last Monday. A teenage girl, 18 or 19, who works at the front desk took the photo from my hand. Sighing, she looked at the picture and said longingly, "I want one of these." To that, I told her, "Oh no! You need a partner. You need to be married to a strong, loving man who will support you and help you with the babies before..."

That is when I saw the blank look on her face, so I stopped ranting for a second. She paused, smirked, then said to me, "I meant I wanted one of these pictures."

Friday, August 14, 2009

We spent Friday picking blueberries at a local farm.

The berries were so ripe they almost fell off the branches. You could wrap your hand around a cluster, wiggle your fingers and they'd drop right into your palm.

We met up with moms and kids from our home school group.
Norah poses with two of her friends.

The beautiful Litchfield Hills.

We came home for lunch and to spend the hot afternoon inside. But, Dwayne was working late, so we decided to go back after dinner. The sun was going down, it was more comfortable outside and after all, we needed a lot more berries if we were going to be able make all the recipes we were finding.

Here's a little home school math for you.

2 pounds of berries before lunch + 6 pounds of berries after dinner = 8 pounds of berries in a day.

8 pounds of berries + sugar + flour + butter + bake time + vanilla ice cream = who knows how many pounds the treats we bake in the next few days will add to my waistline.

No, really. I plan to share with the neighbors. Right now, we owe three sets of neighbors a thank you for gifts they given us within the last month. Have I mentioned how much I love our neighborhood?

Look at that smile and those sun kissed cheeks. She was wiped out. She had a bath and went to bed begging to make a pie through yawns, even as her eyes were closing.