Messy Moments

Scott’s been out of town for a week and it turns out I need that man! I knew this, of course, but nothing brings the message home quite so well as serving up pancakes for dinner… at 8pm on a Sunday night with multiple children crying.

By and large we’re hanging in ok, but I caught myself saying out loud to no one in particular tonight, “Why does it have to be so hard?!”  The answer, for me, is that hard things help us grow and this life is all about becoming better and helping each other with our “hards.”

Without a handsome husband to keep me company after I put the kids to bed, I’ve been cleaning out a backlog of photos and notes on my computer.  So often the photos I share are the shiny ones because those are my favorite bits of life.  But the truth is my life as a mother is better encapsulated by this quote by Jenkins Lloyd Jones:

“Life is like an old-time rail journey—delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”

The Fuller Story

There are many messy moments of motherhood.  Sometimes the kids are making the messes and sometimes it’s me.  Often those messes are tangible and sometimes even gross, but they also come in the subtler forms of short-tempers or crowded schedules. My own imperfections encountering lots of minor crises over the course of a day can cause relational messes if I don’t guard my tongue.

Last week, we rolled up to piano lessons just barely on-time but with a wailing, hungry baby in tow.  The student hustled inside just as I discovered that baby had gone past the limits of her diaper and made an awful mess of herself and the carseat.  I used every last wet wipe we had cleaning things up, then as I was nursing her I heard a yelp from one of my other kids in the back of the minivan.  Instead of sitting and reading a book, this child had flung themselves into the way back and bloodied their nose.  Every last napkin in the glove box got used up on that new problem.

This was a messy moment.

But by the end of the 45 minute lesson, the baby was fed and in a new outfit, the bleeding stopped and we were all laughing and playing tag on the sidewalk.  I was grinning and panting and tickling my son in the fall sunshine in the middle of the afternoon and I thought (not for the first time), I have an amazing job.

It is on task for me to play tag in my line of work.  It is on task to have an impromptu picnic at the park, to read aloud and snuggle for hours, and to get lavished with sweet notes and sloppy kisses.  But those notes wouldn’t be half as sweet if they didn’t pop up amidst the messier moments.

I got a heart-melter of an apology note today, hours after my son’s butterfingers made us late for piano lessons and had me on my hands and knees cleaning oats and water off the whole pantry floor.

I wasn’t a bit mad, and only consoled him in his tears of surprise and frustration. But hours later, his heart was still sore from breaking a beautiful bowl and he labored over a note for 15 minutes, asking me how to spell each word and writing it down carefully because he’s six.  Hard helps us grow.

So, here’s to the messy moments!

What follows is a smattering of photos that capture a portion of our everyday messy moments alongside the shiny moments I would normally be more inclined to share and remember.

  • My kids are all pretty great travelers, and our two year old was positively angelic on a recent flight.  She just sat there and read her “mazagine” the whole time.

However, keeping track of them all at an airport can be hectic. This picture below was taken a few minutes after we left Josie behind accidentally and a nice lady held her hand and brought her over to us.  Doh!  Does it look like our kids are about to dart off in four different directions? They probably were…

  • My kids LOVE playing in the snow…

until they don’t:

Please note the mismatched mittens, pajamas, and rainboots.  We are not going to make it on a Lands’ End catalog cover anytime soon.

  • Kids get sick. It’s the ultimate experience of knowing how very much they need you as a parent, and simultaneously realizing the buck stops with you in terms of cleanup duty. Blech.

  • One gorgeous summer evening we had an impromptu family date at the park with bikes.  Scott read aloud the last chapter of a great series (Fablehaven) while the kids hung on every word.

We picnicked and played on the playground until after dark.  But, we ended that particular evening with one kiddo insisting they needed to use the bathroom and refusing to use a portapotty, weeping loudly, and ultimately going in their pants a looong way from the car. Cleanup, Aisle 4.  Someone watching us usher worn-out kids to the car at the end of the evening would likely have a very different impression than the people who walked by and smiled at us as we read aloud and picnicked as the sun set.

  • Yeah, that’s the butternut squash I roasted for dinner one night, which I dropped unceremoniously on the sink faucet & sprayer.

  • That’s the spare tire I put on the minivan myself after getting a flat on the freeway in December. I was morning sick, had four kids in the car, and had never changed a tire before, but I got ‘er done… only to discover the spare was super low on air. So we limped to a gas station, filled it up and then got a new tire put on.

  • Don’t let their smiles fool you.  This kid didn’t listen about staying away from a ditch while we were looking at slabs of granite, fell, and got soaked in nasty, murky ditch water.  We had to strip him down to get him home.
  • No picture, but I had what I can now call a “messy moment” this past spring as we were moving out of our house.

    My husband’s friend had come to help with the heavy stuff and I was fully aware that our house was an absolute mess. Not just a mid-moving mess, but also a just-returning-from-an-ill-timed-vacation mess plus a super-sick-for-months pregnant mess, plus a we’re-trying-to-finish-building-a-house mess, plus I had a two year old, and well… I homeschool and I’m not a naturally neat person to begin with.  At that point I was just doing my absolute best with each day and carrying forward, but I did a full stop when I saw this friend look around at the state of our house.

    I saw it through his eyes and realized he’d never been to our house before and he thought this was our normal!  Even adjusted for being in the middle of a move, it was bad. I could read the genuine pity in his eyes.

    But it was like someone seeing our minivan in the driveway of the piano teacher’s house and watching me mop up blood and poop like a crazy person and assuming that was our normal. No, these are messy moments. Yes they and their embarrassing, chaotic companions have been part and parcel to my experience of motherhood but they don’t tell the fuller story.

    Side note: There very well might be a more elegant way of raising kids but I’m the mother these five have so it’s my way or nothin’ for them. 😉

  • These kids were good as gold and sweet as pie for dozens of appointments with subcontractors. They’d set up shop with their books or audiobooks and wait patiently… most of the time.  But that didn’t mean we didn’t have bloody noses, incidents of vomit, tantrums aplenty, squabbling and whining on many occasions.  We did!

  • With kids, my house is constantly being “reorganized.” It’s not that unusual to come across something like this.

Or this:

I have a couple of kids in particular who can’t seem to stop themselves from touching absolutely everything.  It can be frustrating.

But it also means I come across things like this:


  • I think this last photo, a view from our new house, sums up my experience as a mother pretty nicely.  There’s a portapotty and a whole lot of unfinished projects (landscaping) in the foreground but there’s also a spectacular view and a fleeting double rainbow if I look past the mess and pay attention.



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The Haven Tour – Part 3 of 3

Find part 1 here and part 2 here.

If you head upstairs, you find a landing where we now have a couch on the left and a built-in bookcase (notice a theme?) on the right.  With the couch there, the window is centered on the space, but it looks a little wonky in this picture.  We have a big solatube at the top of the stairs so there’s always a lot of light here and it’s a major gathering place. Yay! We haven’t figured out what to do with the smaller landing on the other side of the stairs… it’s possible that’s wasted space, but we love the loop for running around!

Two of the three kids’ bedrooms are nearly identical.  They have double closets with pair doors (much more easily shared than a single bypass closet).

The third bedroom has a bypass closet plus a dresser.

The kids’ bath has two long counters, two sinks, and two full mirrors so a lot of kids can be in there using it at once.

My favorite parts of the laundry room are: 6 pullout vertical drying racks (next to the window on the right) and a shelf for every room’s laundry (next to the window on the left).

Plus, I’ve got a space for damp dirty stuff, a space for a laundry sorter, and a place to hang hangers up so stuff can get hung immediately out of the washer or dryer. Oh and a great sink and sprayer. Basically, I fussed a lot over this room and I love it!

This picture is unfinished but it gives the idea:

The master has a window seat, which is where I dreamed kids would come hang out and spill their guts.  This has definitely already happened.  The lampshade is missing in this picture because a bird flew in an open window during construction and pooped on it

No mirrors in the bathroom for this photo (and for the first few months after we moved in…)

The master shower has two heads (one is a handshower and you can’t see it from this angle); it is designed to be easy-to-clean. So far so good!

Not pictured on this house tour: a secret room and a secret passage. Ha!  For those you’ll have to come visit. Did I mention our guest bedroom has an actual bed in it?  Well, so far it only has a mattress in it, but the bed is in boxes in our garage so that’s pretty close.

We poured an unreasonable amount of thought and effort into designing this house and I have very few regrets about the decisions we made. I see some picky things in these pictures that I would have changed after-the-fact if I had the chance, but mainly I’m so happy to be done building.  It just about wore me out! 😛

Now to work on landscaping…

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The Haven Tour Part 2

Find Part 1 back here.

Wrapping around the family room, we have lots of smaller spaces that are constantly in use around here.

First, the music room is connected to the family room by double sliding glass doors so we can hear (and see!) people play the piano but not get drowned out by their playing.


It has a built-in bookcase for piano music and lots of homeschool stuff:

Here’s the view from the music room looking back towards the kitchen:

We call the next room the “Map Room.” Here’s why:

It is not a very big room but it has a projector, a cool wall map, monkey bars on the ceiling, a closet to stash all the audiovisual stuff and toys, and at some point we’ll get around to assembling a loft bed that will function as a fort + access point for the monkey bars. The loft bed goes in this niche next to the closet:

Next up, you walk behind the stairs and see the bookcase, which is definitely no longer empty!

First door is the guest bedroom.  We have had so many people come to stay since we moved in and they are universally pleased that they can sleep on a legit (soon-to-be-Murphy’s) bed instead of the air mattress we offered them for the last 14 years.

We included a desk here that gets used daily for homeschooling in quiet. The closet is also the home of all “Big Kid” projects like origami, Snap Circuits, Lego kits, etc. when little kid interference is risky.

Next comes the guest bathroom:

And finally the library:

Again, this isn’t a big room but it’s perfect as a spot that’s close by the action of family life yet quieter.  Scott spends time in here in the evenings when he’s reading, and the kids and I will often duck in there and close the (glass) door so we can have a little head space without totally going MIA.


Posted in Home Building, Life as we know it | 1 Comment

The Haven Tour – Part 1

Several of you have asked for pictures of our house and I’m happy to share, but please don’t:

  • Think because it’s immaculate in the pictures that it’s immaculate always (ever?) now that we live in it.  With five kids growing up there and homeschooling happening, we live in it.
  • Feel any differently about your own haven. Comparison is the thief of joy and I’m not posting here as a humble brag. We spent 14 years living in rentals (some pretty darn shabby) and I think it’s really true that a home is what you make of it. How welcome and comfortable you feel there is much more about the way you treat each other there than about the size or newness of the space.

I absolutely love living here because it’s beautiful, easy to maintain, and so functional for our family.  I don’t yet always love having people over, because sometimes it feels like if I live in a fancier house I should magically be a fancier person.  But I’m still me: blissfully clueless about interior design and fashion, acutely aware of the unwashed oatmeal pot from breakfast when you stop by after lunch.

This mismatch with my surroundings is probably augmented by the fact that I’ve gotten decidedly less fancy this year as we scrambled to finish the house, finish a difficult pregnancy and add a fifth child to our family. That phase of life looks more like toddler accidents on the floor and jiggling a crying baby while talking on the phone to contractors than it looks like anything on pinterest. That being said, I love this beautiful life. We’ve made so many sweet memories already in our few months of living here and it does feel like our home.

The Front

This picture is still while it was being worked on (no front steps, unstained front door, etc.) but it gives the big picture. Our house is 3900 sq ft, 5 bedrooms, no basement, 2 big attic storage areas.


We’re going to start at the backdoor, coming in from the patio or the garage. This room has already seen soooo much mud already! On the right, just outside of the frame is the door from the garage. Straight ahead gets you to the patio. The left wall has a pass-through to the pantry for groceries coming in and for food going out to the back porch.  There are two solatubes in this room, which we love.  You can see one in this picture.


Here’s the more lived-in version:

We’ve also added hooks on the left wall for wet stuff.

Here’s the other half of the mudroom (garage door on your left, doorway into kitchen on your right):

The desk is our “e-space.” The corner you can’t see to the far right will have lots of cubbies for homeschool storage.  Currently it looks like this:

You can see two pictures up that we have a half bath in our mudroom, complete with tape on a newly installed mirror.  My pregnant self is reflected in the mirror.

Here’s a more recent, lived-in pic that from the beginning of August that shows the wall-mounted toilet and sink (easy cleaning, people!), the tile wainscoting (which has already come in waay too handy), an inflatable beach ball (also comes in handy, apparently), my toddler who can wash her hands “by yourself,”  and my freshly postpartum self in the mirror.

The e-space then:

and now:

(My laptop often sits in that second spot, and the printer lives in the bottom drawer.)

The Entry

Here’s a view of the front door of our house, from the bottom of the stairs:

The mudroom is to the left, past the eating area (that’s a dutch door out to the front porch eating area):

And the kitchen, with a sink looking out over the back patio. That door is to the pantry.

The main sink, again, this time showing our cookbook shelf:

A different view of the kitchen, showing the prep sink:

The wood trim and cabinets in some of these pictures looks pretty dark, almost espresso, but it’s actually a medium brown more like the side of the island in the picture above.

Here’s me in the pantry, finishing the butcher block counter:

I’m going to level with you: The pantry is one of my favorite things.  We keep appliances we use often on the counter so I don’t lug them around. The counters are the right height to stack two layers of buckets underneath. Plus, I just really love keeping extras of our staples on hand, so it’s a happy place for me. (We also planned the island to have storage on the backside, which I also use for food. Mmm. Fewer trips to the grocery store with small kids. )

Back to our view from the bottom of the stairs, if we turn to the right you’ll see the family room:

And a view back towards the kitchen from the far side of the family room that shows the LED strip lights hidden in the trim.

That leaves five more rooms on the first floor, which I’ll cover in part 2 of the tour.  (5 smallish rooms you say?! Yep.  A big part of our home is open, but we also knew we’d love having some different spaces for different activities so that’s what we built.)

That’s it for part 1! I don’t have many “lived in” photos for the next parts of the tour, so you’ll have to imagine a thin veneer of abandoned socks and much-loved stuffed animals over most of it. 🙂

If you’re building or just strangely fascinated with this, feel free to pepper me with questions in the comments. I’m happy to answer anything I can in an attempt to make the building process less stressful for you. We put lots of thought into the dimensions of each space, the materials we used, etc. because we really wanted this house to last well as we raised our kids. It’s been a wild ride!


Posted in Home Building, Life as we know it | 2 Comments

Blog changes

I’m still working on getting Lauren’s birth story written, but I wanted to give a heads up that my blog is going to change pretty dramatically here soon.

What I think I’ll do is make lots of old posts private, meaning they won’t show up on search engines and they won’t be visible to anyone but me.

Here’s why:

I’ve been writing in this space for 12 years.  It’s been sporadic lately, but in total I’ve published 627 posts, and they are still getting traffic from search engines and other sites, plus hits from people who browse my site archives.

I wrote posts about becoming a parent, starting homeschooling, switching to a plant-based diet, and many many other things over the years.  Perhaps predictably, my views on many of these things have changed over time. I’ve matured (I hope!) and mellowed with experience and I no longer feel like I agree with some of the things I wrote in years past.  Specifically:

  • I would not recommend starting homeschool the way I did!  I did too much too soon, worried about the wrong things, and didn’t soak up the childishness of my first child as much as I would have liked.  Someone looking for homeschooling help may read those posts and follow my (bad) example. I’d much rather they read posts like this one: Dear Mom who wants to give her 5-year-old a classical education .  It could be that everyone has to learn the way I did, by trial and error, but I hate to steer them into error.
  • I would not recommend teaching your 3 year old to read while she cries and engages in power struggles.  I still think that was the *right call for the particular child I wrote about, but I would not (and haven’t) take(n) that route with my other kids and I am continually surprised by how much traffic my old posts about that experience get. Seven years later, the child in question is a voracious reader and we have a great relationship. So no harm was done, but I still would not recommend that approach to a broad audience… yet that is what my blog still does because the Internet doesn’t forget.   *This child still tends to get emotional with really hard things (advanced math puzzles now, which she loves) but she and I are now on the same team instead of on opposite ends of the table.  I learned how to make that happen through the process of teaching her to read.
  • We still eat a predominantly plant-based diet but my recipes have gotten better with more years of experience. I would no longer recommend some of my old recipes because there are simpler, more delicious ones out there. 🙂

I had a bit of an epiphany with my daughter last week when she was struggling to write something for a school assignment.  I told her it didn’t have to perfect or permanent, and that that piece of writing could be as private or as public as she wanted.   She breathed a sigh of relief when I suggested that we could delete it after she wrote it, if she decided that’s what she preferred.  When she felt that weight of permanency off her shoulders, she started writing and ended up being happy enough with it that she shared it with the family.

When it comes to my kids and messes, I often think how easily stuff gets wiped clean and we get a fresh start.  Even a big mess is relatively temporary.


That said, I don’t want to delete the whole blog.  Instead, I’d like to keep some older content up, and hopefully get back to posting more regularly.  I believe that having the option of privatizing any old stuff will help me post more.

I enjoy having this space for reflection and for keeping far-flung family and friends a little more connected.  I would also love it if I could encourage others on their parenting / homeschool / healthy-eating paths through what I write, and I think keep content fresh will better accomplish that aim.

Posted in Life as we know it | 3 Comments

Our First Week with Lauren

I’ll circle back to Lauren’s birth story and hospital stay soon, but I wanted to write up a little bit about the last week while it’s still fresh and new in my mind.  I know from experience that the details will blur together with the passage of time and the decrease in consistent sleep and I don’t want to lose them forever.

Lauren made her appearance early last Saturday morning, and we headed home from the hospital as early as we could on Sunday morning.  As soon as I walked in the door of our home with her, she was the star of the show and has been ever since. All of her siblings are constantly honing in on her wherever she is in the house.  They want to be close to her, to watch her sleep and stretch, to hear her elephanty noises and tiny sighs.  They gaze at her admiringly, note new expressions and cheer when she holds their fingers. They seem to sense how fleeting these early days are and my heart’s happy when I see them soak her in.  Spending time with Lauren is as close as any of us can get to heaven right now.

Who She Is

The more I get to know my kiddos as they’ve grown, the more I realize they truly came to our family whole and completely themselves. The same personality they had as babies generally persists into toddlerhood and beyond.  (One notable exception is Josie who screamed for her first year and then totally mellowed out. I’m still not sure what happened there… )

So it’s with a lot of interest that I watch Lauren and imagine what the coming years will bring. So far, she is a people person.  She will completely relax when she’s got human contact, and fuss when she thinks she’s alone.  She’s a generally calm kiddo who will just be awake and watchful when she’s not sleeping.  She’s quick to smile when she’s dozing and hears me talk to her or hears a sibling laugh.

She’s got one adorable dimple that I discovered several days after she was born.


There are few more important topics when you have a newborn in the house.  Lauren was tricky in the hospital because she kept spitting up and choking on colostrum, which would wake us both up in a panic.  But since she’s been home she’s rarely spit up and seems to spend 2 blocks of time between feedings each day awake and the rest of her time pretty much sleeping soundly.  Since she gained nearly a pound between discharge and her doctor’s mid-week checkup, I decided to let her stretch out her nighttime feedings. She’s waking up once in 8 or 9 hours, nursing and going back to bed.  So basically she’s doing 4 and 5 hour stretches at night (2.5 to 3 during the day) and I’m loving it while it lasts.

My Recovery

Of course the sleep is helping lots, but I feel like my recovery has been a bit more challenging than with the last couple of babies.  It took me a good four days to stop feeling weak and dizzy, and I’m still not back to my normal energy level.  I had lots of fatigue during this pregnancy before I started supplementing with iron, and I wonder if blood loss at delivery played a role.

I am doing a better job this time taking it easy but part of that feels mandatory rather than precautionary.  I have no stitches or birth complications to deal with, and engorgement lasted just a couple of days, but I’m still choosing rest rather than joining the rest of the family on excursions and activities.  My dad took the kids on romps in the woods, to Enchanted Forest and to the Space and Aviation museum, and I happily waved them on their way and took some naps while they were gone.

I suspect the biggest difference was I was much less fit going into this labor than I have been in the past.


Our washing machine drain hose popped out on Monday night and flooded our laundry room, pouring dirty water down through our ceiling into our Great Room.  We have a drain pan and drain installed under the washing machine but a good amount of liquid missed the pan so we had quite a clean up job .  Miraculously, all dried out just fine and a few days later the washing machine was back in working order with a more secure drain hose.

Also, Josie, who has to this point been the world’s easiest two year old, has decided this week that she is going to make up for lost time and cause some toddler mayhem.  It’s really minor compared to what we’ve had from her older siblings at this age, but it caught us off guard because it’s so out of character for her.  The first time she threw herself on the ground and wept and whined, we just sort of looked at each other and blinked.  A tantrum? What?

Comings and Goings

Scott’s sister and nephew came down for a visit Saturday and Sunday and it was perfect timing to meet Lauren and spoil our older kids with attention.  My dad stayed through Thursday, and my sister-in-law Meghan is coming out tomorrow with her sisters for a quick stopover.  The weekend before Lauren arrived we had Scott’s brother and his family stay for a couple of nights.  All this to say, we’re feeling loved despite living in a different state from both of our families, and we’re also feeling grateful we included a guest bedroom in our house plan.


This time has been so sweet for my kids. I’ve seen each of them bond with Lauren in their own way.

They’ve also had lots of time to just hang out with each other with less supervision/oversight/interference from me.

These kids were Bean burritos and were patiently waited for me to come out of my room after I laid Lauren down for a nap:

And this was the scene that awaited me outside my bedroom door after one of her feedings:

My kids always love looking through our blog books and reading about the funny things they said or the adventures our family has had together. But after the birth of a baby I think they’re especially drawn to these books. They want to hear their birth stories, read how excited we were to welcome them into the family, and see how much they’ve grown.

In Summary

This is my view from my chair in the morning when I feed Lauren and it’s pretty much how I feel about life right now.  Building a house was hard in many ways, as was this pregnancy, but both were tremendously positive and privileged events in my life as well. It’s nice to pause, catch my breath and appreciate this new chapter:

This last photo just turned up on my phone one day. 🙂

Lauren has quite a life ahead of her in this family!

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I feel as though there’s been an awkward silence on this blog, even though I know it’s largely one-sided.  I don’t think even my mom checks it anymore!

Here I am, though, clearing my throat and jumping back in.  Rather than attempting to play catch-up in this space, I’m going to lay the current state of things at our house as a foundation for future posts.

I’m pregnant with our fifth child.

I’m not just a little pregnant, either.  I’m this pregnant:

That’s actually a super flattering picture compared to how large I feel right now. But I sent it to my mom and she said my belly was “ginormous” so perhaps the picture is not so far off after all.  That picture was taken at a few days ago and I’m now 39 weeks pregnant.

When I was 39 weeks pregnant with Caitlyn (my 2nd child), she arrived!  Here I am walking to the hospital to have her:  .

As I type this, I’m currently wearing that same purple shirt, the same jeans, and my hair is in the same bun.  (My maternity wardrobe options shrink considerably near the end of pregnancy.) . The little girl with the velcro shoes now looks like this, though:

We don’t yet know if this baby is a boy or a girl, and we don’t even have names picked out yet so I’m hoping the baby stays put at least a week or so more!

One wonderful thing about having a bigger family is that the older siblings get to anticipate the birth right along with me and Scott.  They are all so excited to meet this new Bean, with the possible exception of Josie (2).  Josie would like the baby to stay in my belly. 🙂  For the rest of us, it’s a waiting game at this point.

We moved into our new house 7 weeks ago.

The last time I mentioned building, I thought we’d be moving in February.  It turned out to be 3 stressful months later than that, during which time I was so sick in my pregnancy that Scott had to take point on house building stuff for us (as well as pick up the balls I was constantly dropping).  Now that we’re mostly settled, though, the endless stream of decisions has slowed down considerably and the thought we put into design over the past two years is really paying off in daily living.  I am in disbelief we get to live here!

There are still some rough spots to smooth out … (notice the grout around the sink in my belly shot above doesn’t match the wainscoting? Yeah, that’s the wrong color and the tile guys are coming back out to fix their error.)… and gaps to fill in (No couches yet! Can I offer you a folding chair?) . We sort of rushed the move-in process trusting our builder would finish up the odds and ends after we were living here. That’s meant we still have sub-contractors here regularly, but it’s also given us time to settle in before our baby arrives.

I’m hesitant to post many pictures here and I’m not totally sure why.  Maybe because it feels like bragging? We lived in far more modest apartments/houses for the first 14 years of our marriage and this new house feels totally fancy pants to me!  Granted, we aren’t pretentious people and didn’t choose things that *look* fancy, but the nature of a custom home is that you have the privilege of choosing everything and that’s pretty amazingly privileged.  I’m really happy with how things came together, though, and most especially with how the spaces are being used just how we imagined.

Here’s Mackenzie in the music room (where I can see her and hear that she’s playing but the sound doesn’t dominate the whole house):

We’ll eventually put a chair or love seat in there for listening, but Josie went ahead and dragged a big pillow to that same spot to do just that in the meantime! There’s a built-in bookcase to store piano books in that room and great light and views out two sides so it draws us all in to play.

We started a new homeschool year.

We homeschool year round with regular breaks, like so:

We start up mid-July with “Daddy dates” for each kiddo and fresh books and routines.  Then we do formal learning 4 days/week and generally take a break week every 7th week, plus extra breaks for Christmas, Easter, trips, etc.  That means about 36 weeks of school (6 6-week terms) finishes up at the end of May and we take June as a “Bonus Month” where we study something different as a family. (Last month we read through Around the World in 80 Days and mapped Phileas Fogg’s journey as we went.)  The first two weeks of July are off and away we go again.  This rhythm works really well for our family.

Last year we had so many interruptions with building the house and my pregnancy that we probably averaged 2 days of a school a week (plus we attended a co-op 1/week).  I was really grateful to see that so many of our educational goals still moved forward despite my inconsistency.  Our kids still adore reading, had much more time for creative play and hobbies, and ultimately learned a lot that wasn’t part of any plan.  All that said, however, I’m really looking forward to more routine this year and I know my kids are as well.  It was frustrating for Mackenzie in particular to feel like she couldn’t get any traction with piano and Latin because they both require consistency.

We switched up a lot of our curriculum for this new year, and I get more and more comfortable every year with choosing an approach that fits our family.

Here’s what happens when Mama is too busy packing to do school:

Right now our school day looks like this:

  • Classical music to wake up in the morning (Bach, then Handel, then Vivaldi this year), then family scriptures and prayer.
  • Memory work at the breakfast table (scripture, poetry, Shakespeare).
  • Math/Audiobooks/piano rotation.  I work with one child on math while another listens to an audiobook, then we switch.  I teach two kids piano then they each practice individually while the other does handwriting. My oldest adds Latin to her morning as well. Then play time for all.
    • Math is Beast Academy for 2 kids and Singapore Mathematics for one.
    • Audiobooks are mainly chosen from Ambleside Online’s recommendations (currently Kim, Princess and the Goblin and Pinocchio, for ages 10, 7, and 5).
    • Piano is my own mix of Hoffman Academy and Suzuki.  I’d like to get Mackenzie a legit piano teacher but haven’t yet committed to weekly formal lessons and practice.
  • Family school: Science or history, depending on the day. *The Good and the Beautiful for both subjects.
  • Play until lunch.
  • Lunch loop: I read to the kids while they eat and we loop between composer, history, science, character, or whatever else I throw in there!
  • Language Arts: Each child has a course book and assigned reading. My two oldest also have memory work, spelling, and some time spent on “keeping”. I rotate between kids so I can help each one with the parts that need me.
    • Language Arts course books are from The Good and the Beautiful and include grammar, literature, art, and geography.
    • Assigned Reading comes from Ambleside Online’s recommendation and loops each child through great biographies, nature novels, etc.
    • Spelling consists of a 1/week test from Spelling Power to find 5 words the child doesn’t currently know. Then they spend the other 3 days practicing those words using a Spelling Box (writing the words in morse code, watercolor painting the words, using scrabble tiles, etc.).  I spend ~12 weeks during the year teaching my kids from Logic of English so they get a grounding in phonograms and spelling rules.  The rest of the time is word lists as described.
    • “Keeping” is a way of typing or writing something they’ve learned, observed, or are thinking about. They can choose between a nature journal, gratitude journal, written narration about a reading, timeline entry, note to a friend or relative, etc.
    • Memory Work is grammar or geography depending on the day, and my oldest two work together on this.

A school day lasts from 9am to 3 or 4pm but includes 2-3 hours of play/lunch/chore time in there depending on the age of the child.

A lot of our curriculum came from The Good and The Beautiful this year and it’s far more “open and go” than anything I’ve used in the past.  I’m loving the independence it gives my two oldest because it’ll enable us to be much more consistent even when I’m busy feeding a baby!

We’re doing cool things that I always wanted to do but rarely “found time” for previously, just because they’re laid out nicely instead of relying on me to come up with them!

Here we’re learning about bones in the human body:


We still memorize several dozen names of bones and dive into bone marrow and blood cell formation (because I am who I am) but we all enjoy it more because we get to play with playdough and make floppy boneless people then add crayons for structure.

Here Mackenzie’s reading in her course book mentioned illuminated manuscripts and so during her Language Arts time, she sat on the porch and came up with her own beautiful initial letter:

I’ve been fairly anti-workbook in the past but honestly, I feel like what she’s doing in her TG&TB coursebook is generally very worthwhile.  Plus, it’s such a win to be able to work with a different child while she’s doing it.

We are not doing a co-op this year but we are doing an online charter school, which basically means testing, weekly accountability, and funds to purchase curriculum with.

This is often what recess looks like lately (as viewed through our kitchen window):

Biking in our unlandscaped backyard, occasionally with a book in hand.

We are still fans of travel. 

Last week we took off on a last-minute road trip to Victoria and pretty much played every day by ear.  We had lots of picnics in beautiful places, saw amazing bugs at the Bug Zoo, a great fireworks show, baby peacocks in the park, and explored the ferry boat with each crossing.

Earlier this year we also spent a week in Chicago with great friends, took a trip to Utah for my mother-in-law’s wedding(!) and even had a glorious date week in New Orleans for my childhood friend’s wedding.  (No wonder homeschooling took a backseat. Yeesh!)

Without fail, it takes us much longer to get out the door for a trip than I think it will and at least a week to get back into the swing of things when we come back home, but I’m always glad we make it happen. As the shirt Scott bought me says, “The diem ain’t going to carpe itself.”

We are still heavy users of the library.

Even when the rest of life seems crazy, you can count on us having 50+ books checked out at all times.

Fortunately, lots of readers means lots of helpers at the book return.  Ever wonder why they have three slots when only one car can go through at a time?  It’s because some people have to use all three at once.  Ahem.

Also fortunately, our library does “Food for Fines,” which allows us to turn a shameful amount of overdue fines into a warm fuzzy feeling as we feed the hungry.  Ha! You can measure how crazy my life has been by the status of my library fines.  Typically I accumulate just a few dollars here and there, but this year even Scott lifted an eyebrow at the number of cans required to wipe our slates clean.

Scott is still my very favorite.

Speaking of Scott, there’s no one on this planet better for me than that man.  He makes me laugh every single day.  These past six months have been rough for me physically, mentally and socially and he’s picked up the slack, encouraged me, provided much-needed perspective, and just made life sweeter.

He’s game for my crazy ideas. Here he soberly doling out our celebratory family root beer when we finally moved out of our rental:

He’s brave.  Check out this guy who abhors spiders, laying it down at the Bug Zoo to the delight of his kids:

He’s silly.  The kids kept bringing him wildflowers and he almost ran out of places to put them.

He’s an excellent doctor.  And did I mention he makes me laugh?

Of course it doesn’t hurt that he’s the father of my children, either.  These kids never smile for the camera at the same time, but other than that they’re absolutely perfect. 🙂

Posted in Life as we know it, Pregnancy, Trips | 9 Comments