Friday, February 28, 2014

What Willie Wonka Will Do For Your Children

Audio books have proven to be one of our favorite things for riding in the truck and running errands.  Most local libraries have a fantastic selections of classic and new audio books alike.  So, audio books have become a staple for us.  This last time we visited the library, I snagged Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  Blossom1 and I had each read it recently and were charmed.  The audio version was exquisite.  (I appreciate the silence it creates in back seats.)  And, I love how their imaginations are working, inventing and creating pictures. 

There's another aspect of listening to audio books together that I hadn't been counting on. I never want to lose touch with our children.  I don't want to be the stranger in the room that has no way to relate with them.  This is so important to me because I believe that relationship is how Christianity is passed on to our children.

When I realized that listening together led to discussion, I danced a little happy dance (in my mind). 

Over lunch, we were talking about what fruit to eat and Blossom2 wittily noted that we wouldn't be eating "snozzberries."  Of course, that led to more references to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory story.  Finally, we ended up comparing and contrasting the various characters in the book.  The lessons to be learned are many.  One character has a problem with gluttony.  One character is a TV couch potato.  One is an excessively obnoxious gum-chewer and then, the hero of the story is grateful and good, even though he has so little.  I was stunned at the insights my children gleaned from the story.  My mind raced along with them as they evaluated each character and their parents' choices, all the while, I was making mental notes to continue choosing books chock-full of moral strength and virtue. 

Later, when one Blossom (who shall remain nameless) was being particularly selfish, another Blossom chided her with, "You are acting just like Veruca Salt... I want, I want, I WANT."  It certainly wasn't complimentary.  I smiled and held my peace. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Everybody's Got a Broom

I think I've already told you about our new Family Game Nights on most Friday evenings.  The girls just love it.  In fact, yesterday, at the dinner table, Blossom3 piped up excitedly, "Oh, is tonight family game night???" 

"No Honey, it's only WEDNESDAY."  :)

They love the silly games and fun food.  However, the other day I hadn't quite prepared enough games, which is to say that I didn't take my normal five minutes on Pinterest to come up with a few more crazy ideas.  They were clamoring for more games...

"What are we playing after this cotton ball race, Mommy?"

And there I was, cool as a cucumber (outwardly), racking my brain for something easy, fun AND with supplies we've already got in the house, all the while, trying to concentrate on blowing my cotton ball across the kitchen floor so Blossom2, Blossom3 and I can beat Daddy's team.

"A BROOM!  Everybody's got a broom!  We can play LIMBO." 

Oh man.  The giggles.  The wiggles.  The silliness.  I think I got the Mom of the Century award for coming up with that one. 

And we played it again last night.  Just for fun.  Just while we were all chilling in the living room at the end of the day. 

Just try it.  The laughs together are totally worth it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Winter, Creatively.

The weather has been perfect here for lots of winter fun.  And, we've been enjoying it, one way or another.  The snow has gotten so deep that sledding is a little tough, so we have improvised with a luge course.  (The Olympics have certainly inspired us!)  This pic was taken at the beginning of the track building process.  The course became faster and more packed down the more we (mainly the Blossoms) used it.  And, it eventually led the whole way down to the tree line that you can see in the distance. 
I've finally decided that Mommy just needs to quit saying, "I can't."  Yes, there ARE real limitations to the season that includes a little Baby Blossom.  However, we still CAN do things together.  So, we luged!  (I don't think that's a word.)  And, Mommy had compassion on Baby Blossom's eyes with this creative arrangement.  Did Baby Blossom and I stay outside for hours upon hours?  Nope.  But, we enjoyed the hour or so that we did clamber through the deep snow in the brilliant sunshine.
More togetherness.  That's what matters to us.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Blossom3's Book Recommendation

Recently, we came home from the library with The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg.  What a find this book has proved to be!  Blossom3 discovered it and we've enjoyed reading it over and over again.  I'd say, "Heart-warming and amusing, all in one," but that might sound a little too cliché to be believable.  Except it's true.

Originally, our Miss Nancy - Children's Librarian Extraordinaire - directed us to the works of Steven Kellogg.  We've found the Pinkerton series, which follows the capers of a lovable Great Dane and his family, to be good fun.  Then, Kellogg's book, Yankee Doodle, was on the display in our Children's Library for the 4th of July.  We've borrowed it countless times because of its patriotism and humor.  (Our apologies to the other patriotic library patrons.  It is rarely available around the 4th and Memorial Day because of us.)  Additionally, the Blossoms are part of a local book-a-month initiative and received Kellogg's work, The Invisible Moose in the mail.  It's another read-time-and-again favorite (that includes a love story - awwwwww). 

But, back to The Missing Mitten Mystery.  We brought it home.  Mommy fell in love with it right away.  Daddy read it that evening and commented, "Hey, isn't this the Yankee Doodle guy?"  The other Blossoms recognized Kellogg's trademark illustrations at once.  And, we're hooked.  No one has complained when Blossom3 wants this book read to her again and again.  No matter who does the honors reading aloud, they appreciate that this work truly captures winter-time fun and the vivid imagination of a child.  Take a trip to your Children's Library and check out the works of Steven Kellogg.  Blossom3 thinks you'll be hooked too.

Side Note for Age Range:
Blossom3 is 4 years old.
Blossom2 is 6 years old.
Blossom1 is 8 years old.
And we won't tell you how old Mommy and Daddy are. 
Just go get the book.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Blossoms' Update

Baby Blossom (just about 10 mos old):
Favorite Activity - Gleefully pulling books off of bookshelves and paper plates out of the cupboard.
Most Recent Quotable Quote - "Growl.... grOWL!" (When told that a lion says, "ROAR!")
Latest Accomplishment - Balancing while standing up and holding on to nothing!

Blossom3 (4 yrs old):
Favorite Activity - Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles!!!  That, and any other special activity Mommy plans for her.  A sink full of blue water and some plastic animals was a big hit.  The kitchen sink brimming with snow, along with some scoops and measuring cups went over pretty well too.
Most Recent Quotable Quote - "But Mamma, TOR (four) is a BIG age!"
Latest Accomplishment -Discovering that snow turns into water!!!  (She loves sharing her newfound knowledge.)

Blossom2 (6 yrs old):
Favorite Activity - Disappearing into her bedroom to line up all the castle stuff and imagine stories.
Most Recent Quotable Quote - While observing Olympic pair skaters doing a lift, she stated, "That's looks TERRIFYING... actually, it's looks terrifying and FUN!"
Latest Accomplishment - Picking up Borrowing and Carrying as if she was born knowing about math!

Blossom1 (8 yrs old):
Favorite Activity: Disappearing into the dining room corner nook to read.  And, organizing her sisters to play as she directs...
Most Recent Quotable Quote: "Here Blossom2, you go down first." (When faced with the very, very, very large State Park sledding hill.)
Latest Accomplishment - Playing Beethoven from her Auntie's old piano book.  Skiing in the yard with Mommy's cross-country skis.  (It's not likely that Mommy gets to use them right now.)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Getting Out - Fireside

Fresh air.  It just isn't as easy to come by in the winter as at other times of year.  I start to feel like some sort of slimy slug if I don't get out.  While the "bigs" and 1 "little" can get out without me, what can poor little Baby Blossom do in the snow?  Certainly not crawl.  (think face plant)  Sit in a stroller?  (Maybe if I could train Jake to pull it!)  But really, the snow's too deep for that... that leaves Mama holding her.  And, as I was trudging down to our woods through about a foot of snow, holding my snow bunny, I thought, "Whose idea was this?"  (Ironically, it was mine and Daddy's.)

Then, I got down there and got busy helping to gather wood, get a fire started and enjoy the winter scenery, and I was at the opposite end of the spectrum.  Oh, being in the woods... getting a fresh perspective.  Breathing clean air.  Being woodsy.  Listening to the Blossoms' thoughts.  Working side-by-side with Daddy.  Making memories together.  Sipping delicious hot cocoa fireside. 


PS - I lugged a walker down there and plunked Baby Blossom into it.  She LOVED observing the activities.  A sip or two of hot chocolate didn't hurt either. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Day In the Life of...

I've been reading "Homeschool Day in the Life" series over at Simple Homeschool and it's been very interesting to glean tips and info from other people's routines.  I'd like to share a glimpse into ours:

Between 5am-6:45am:
Baby Blossom wakes up to nurse.  She's an early riser and I try to stay on her schedule.  I have some personal time with God during this time.  I also help Daddy get out the door if I can, though I do much of his morning prep the night before.

Daddy headed out the door and the other 3 Blossoms start to filter into Mama & Daddy's room.  I sing out, "Bring your Bible and journal" and we have personal devotions all in Mommy's bed, snuggled under the covers.  Then, we have devotions together - some verses, some discussion, some songs and some prayer... all with Baby Blossom crawling over everyone and grabbing their pens. 

Get dressed and start chores.  They grab their chore packs and I assist where necessary.  Otherwise, Baby Blossom stays with me and I do some morning prep in the kitchen after I've gotten ready.  Making breakfast, getting stuff out for supper, checking my daily to-do list, throwing in a load of wash, etc. 

Breakfast!  We sit down together.  Then, everyone finishes up their chores.  I switch wash and nurse Baby Blossom.

School!  They work on what's in their Independent drawer, while I alternately work with each Blossom individually on what's in their Assisted drawer.  Blossom1 is in 3rd grade, Blossom2 is in 1st grade and Blossom3 is in preschool.  We usually take a quick snack around 10:15am.  I try to have 1 special activity for Blossom3.  Otherwise, she plays quietly in the schoolwork, her bedroom and in the dining room, doing puzzles. I nurse Baby Blossom sometime in there too.  If she naps, great.  If not, she plays in the schoolroom with us.  When we break for lunch, they do a few more chores, including my favorite, "QUICK CLEAN," which prevents the house from turning into a complete disaster zone.  I switch wash, answer an email, make a phone call and squeeze in another chore if I'm not nursing.  By this time, Baby Blossom is usually pulling stuff out of cupboards and squealing for snacks!

Lunch together!  I love the conversations we have!  No technology at the table, no answering the phone during meals... it's just us.  Together.

Glory Hallelujah, it's NAP TIME!  Blossom1 & Blossom2 read books in their bedroom, if their schoolwork is done.  Blossom3 sleeps in her bedroom.  I either nurse Baby Blossom and catch a catnap or, I nurse Baby Blossom in the schoolroom and semi-supervise the bigger Blossoms finishing up their school work.  No matter how it turns out, I try to use this time to read and rest.  I force myself to feel no obligation to do any more housework during rest time.  Mommy needs to recharge and so do the girlies!  I've found that even the bigger Blossoms truly benefit from some quiet time alone. 

Rest time is over.  Usually schoolwork is done by now.  I correct all their work, write goals for tomorrow, separate it all again into Independent and Assisted work, go over mistakes and have them correct every single wrong answer, misspelling and grammatical error.  Yes, I am a stickler, maybe a slave-driver.  (Perfect practice makes perfect!)  Whenever this is all done for the day, I move on to focusing on my own chores and preparing supper. 

Teatime.  It doesn't always happen.  Sometimes Blossom3 needed a longer nap, sometimes there are piano lessons to think about, but we love an afternoon reconnect time.  Just a graham cracker and a cup of tea with Miss Rose, Miss Elizabeth, Miss Jo-Jo and Little Miss Twinkle.  I'm Mrs. Tiggywinkle.  Enter the English accents and some giggles.  Good times.  They clean up.  I work on the house, or nurse, or hold Baby Blossom, or pull her out of whatever chaos she's currently creating.  We do another QUICK CLEAN shortly before Daddy gets home.

Our favorite time of day - Daddy's HOME!  Screaming, giggling, hiding, general all-around delight!  Mommy works on supper, while the Blossoms play outside or inside.  They meander in when I call them to help me and tackle their supper chores.

Supper all together!  Blossom3 likes to drag this out as long as possible by dawdling instead of eating.  I retire to the living room to play with Baby Blossom on the floor and chat with Daddy.  Blossom1, Blossom2 & Blossom3 clean up the kitchen.  I launch a few instructions and reminders from where I sit.  They're are surprisingly proficient - a fact that inspires me to continue to train them to work.

I check on the kitchen progress and put my Mommy touches on it.  Between them and me, we've packed Daddy's lunch.  I set up his coffee and breakfast for the morning.  They play for the rest of the evening, until I lasso them to put away their clothes.  I love their free play time - time to invent, imagine and explore.  Usually I'm folding wash right about now and finishing up a few small tasks.  I don't like to do a lot of housework after supper.  I like to be available to watch their ballerina, ice-skating and animal shows or whatever else they come up with.  Maybe we work on our big puzzle... it doesn't always work out that way, but that's what I shoot for.  There's always nursing thrown in the mix too.  I also try to do prep work for the morrow - Daddy's prep, packing the diaper bag, laying out clothes, whatever is necessary for a smooth next day. 

I sing out "Jammies" and they scramble to comply.  There are more bedtime chores, including another QUICK CLEAN.  I try to move into the quieter activities to help us all wind down. 

All the girlies are corralled back for our bedtime ritual - pray, sing a song and talk about our favorite parts of our day.  I nurse Baby Blossom and it's quiet.  More reading and chatting with Daddy, since he's usually recharging in the quiet time too. 

Bedtime for Mommy & Daddy... we fall into bed... that is, after I do some more tidying up and take care of anything else I see that it is still undone.  We usually collapse into bed with a sigh of relief, longing for rest in order to get set to do it all over again the next day.

Praise the Lord for days full of working and training our four girlies for Him!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Puzzle and Its End

At any given moment, you just don't know when you'll find any one of us at the dining room table working on this project.

A retired teacher friend assured me that puzzles are EXCELLENT for spatial awareness.  I'm still not quite sure what that is, but without a doubt, I can SEE that doing puzzles helps your mind.  So yes, there's a scientific name for the fact of what I've witnessed in our Blossoms.

Look closely at the picture below.  Yes, there is a piece missing.  Uh-oh.  We prayed.  Yes, we prayed to find it.  And just as I was about to break out the big searching, Blossom1 discovered it inside her over-sized hoodie sleeve.  There was rejoicing all around.   

And, it tied in to an excellent discussion.  Just as we were all SO EXCITED to find that one puzzle piece, that is how God feels about people.  Like the lost sheep.  Like the lost coin.  They remembered the stories and made the connection, which meant so much to me.

And now, they want to tackle the Snow White puzzle.  We'll see...

Monday, February 10, 2014

4 Things I Learned from our Low-Spend January

On and, I discovered the concept of a no-spend January/Pantry Challenge as a way to boost your budget in the New Year.  I took the idea to my husband and we made it work for us.  I think it was more of a Low-Spend January.  We tried not to buy anything non-essential.  We tried to cook out of the pantry and freezer as much as possible.  We tried to use up what we already have.  We had things come up and still, it was a valuable tool that just may end up in our annual post-Christmas repertoire. 

#1 - There's plenty to eat here. 
I do rely on a well-stocked pantry.  It is my boy-scout in my back pocket. Read: Always Prepared.  At least, that's what I shoot for.  But, there's always something that gets shoved to the back and that's what we attempted to use up.  We ate well.  This wasn't the month to make Daddy's favorite Tomato Seafood Soup, but we still ate good, wholesome food.

#2 - Spending can quickly become a habit. 
I shopped online this year more than ever.  Baby Blossom had much to do with that, but I also found that it was easier to stay on budget per item because I knew I could shop around to find the thing that met my expectations AND stay in our budget.  A month and half or more of shopping and buying online gave me a spend mindset though.  That's fine once a year (with parameters) but now, everyday life is back and we simply cannot support a habit like that.  I was glad for the self-imposed restraint.  We're back to having the internet as a tool, not a master.

#3 - Just don't go.
If you aren't spending, just don't go places where you can spend money.  Ahem.  I'm talkin' 'bout me and thrift stores and dollar stores and wonderful bargain places.  They are places that help us throughout the year, but we've got clothes to wear and food to eat.  It was our Low-Spend January, so I stayed away. 

#4 - You get results. 
We saw about $200+ of savings on grocery bills this month.  It's tempting to think... oh, let's do this all the time.  I can see that it isn't sustainable.  There's nothing in the house now.  Even Daddy noticed how much we've used up and how badly we are due for the grocery run tomorrow.  I appreciated his words of praise.  It was worth it.  Stuff that would've met the garbage soon because it sat too long in the pantry was eaten.  Rolls in the freezer didn't go to waste.  Less waste, more saving this month. 

So, tomorrow we'll make our way back to our local bent-n-dent store to restock.  (The children think that hardship is upon us since we ran out of cheese a day ago.  I told them that we can make it til tomorrow.)

This post isn't meant for you to do as I do, but rather to glean some wisdom for your own finances.  Going without flashy food or luxurious entrees won't hurt any of us.  Extra purchases can almost always wait a little while.  Use some wisdom and see how far it goes.

Friday, February 7, 2014

I love sounds

I've always had a thing for the whir of a sewing machine.  Why?  Because my Mom was always sewing.  She took in alterations and she was always creating something for us or our home.  Always.  That noise has the pleasantest connotations for me.  Although the sewing machine isn't going as often as I'd like (in THIS season, though I did manage to whip out some fleece neck-warmers for the girlies and the Rugged, Mountain Man yesterday), there are other sounds that make for happy days here...

- The swish-swish of the washer along with the
- Tappety-tap-tap of Blossom1 working on the computer.
- Contented humming and stories of Blossom3 quietly doing puzzles during schooltime...
- Blossom2 talking herself through cursive and
- Baby Blossom gnawing on the coffee table, then squealing and taking off after the next thing.

I'm thankful I'm here to hear them.  Thankful that I can be the one wiping the cracker crumbs off Baby Blossom's mouth.  Thankful I can be the one applying coconut oil to Blossom3's winter chapped lips.  Thankful I can be the one to snuggle with Blossom2.  Thankful I can hear the dreams of Blossom. 

Just plain thankful. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

That Hair Episode

I don't know if y'all remember that episode back in October of 2012, the one where somebody trimmed Blossom #1's bangs, but nobody would 'fess up about it. 

One evening, not very long ago, I could tell that Blossom #1 had something on her mind.  As I brushed her hair, she mentioned that she had something she needed to tell me.  She confessed that it had been her that had trimmed her own bangs.  She'd been afraid to tell me.  She trimmed Jake's hair too (a fact I'd noticed only a few days after the original episode.  I was starting to wonder WHAT ELSE I was going to find that had been trimmed?  Carpet?  Curtains?  The Goldfish?) 

Immediately, I told her that I forgave her and that I wanted her to be completely honest with Mommy & Daddy... always.  No matter what.   Ironically, she shared that she'd even had bad dreams about that lie.  She must have a sensitive conscience, something that others might make fun of.  This is something I thank God for!  I explained that a clear conscience makes for a very soft pillow.  God wants us to walk blameless.  When He shows us something, confess it.  Take care of it quickly.  Don't wait.  Don't dawdle.  Just take care of it.  Blamelessness is beautiful.

We hugged and she walked away with a light heart.  I did too.  The Rugged, Mountain Man and I marveled at it and thanked the Lord.  It reminds me of my favorite child-rearing verse,

"All your children shall be taught of the Lord and great shall be the peace of them."
Isaiah 54:13

PS - Blossom #1 approved this blog entry to be posted

Monday, February 3, 2014

Nursing Tip

I feel very strongly in favor of breast-feeding.  I don't try to get all up in people's faces about it though.  Of course, if you ask my opinion, I think you know what you'll get.  So, lately, I remembered one of my favorite common-sense nursing tip.  Without going into my whole nursing philosophy, I thought I'd share this one simple tip with the nursing moms out there (or the soon to be nursing moms!) (That's my shout out to my friend, Red and my sister-in-law, the Hazel Eyed Girl) 

When your precious bundle wakes up from a nap, offer Mommy's "milkie" (as the Blossoms call it). 

Since they are usually more cuddly right after a nap, a baby may take in another nursing session!  I find this to be especially helpful for those busy babies that are numbers 2, 3 or 4 in the sibling line-up.  SO MUCH is going on here in our happy little home.  Sweet Pea (and Blossom #3 when she was little) never wants to miss a thing.  Maybe I should call it a power snack... or a way to sneak some more calories in to my Energizer baby.  Either way, my babies almost never refuse a little nursing right after naptime.  Besides, I like another excuse to sit down and cuddle with her.

I don't think I'll close my eyes though.  Who knows what the other Blossoms will think of next!