Thursday, May 26, 2016

{p,h,f,r} Homeschool Method Research and Other Stuff


No commentary needed :-)


Tom recently wired up some extra speakers in our house.  Now we basically have surround-sound on the whole bottom floor!  There are wall-mounted speakers in the corners of the living room, dining room, and kitchen - and Tom fished the wires through the walls so everything's nice and tidy.  They all hook up to our stereo, so I can play listen to anything I like, and actually hear it as I travel through the house cleaning up during the kids' naptime.  It truly does "spark joy" for me, to use a term from the Kon Mari method (which I've been loosely following for the past year to tidy my house).

Recently, I've been listening to this podcast about the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling: A Delectable Education.

There are a lot of great ideas here, and now I plan to take a Charlotte Mason inspired approach to homeschooling next year.  Sly will be in "first grade," so it's starting to get real!


We're big thrift shoppers, and one of our favorite things to do when we just need to get out of the house is to check out a thrift store.  The other day, before going to Goodwill, we allowed the kids to open their piggy banks to get out a few dollars - in case they wanted to buy something for themselves (but only if Tom and I approved it first!).

Linus found his item right away:

haha!  We ended up telling him he wasn't allowed to buy it, though.

But then when we were up at the register paying for things, Linus reached into the pocket of his little 2T shorts, and whipped out a crisp $100 bill!!  Everyone of us - including the cashier and the people in line - gasped.  It was so incongruous to see a toddler holding that much money, as if it were nothing.  Sly explained that he had helped Linus pick out his money, and thought he'd given him a $1 bill!


Some days, mom just doesn't feel like being a short-order cook for lunchtime.  So I put together what the kids excitedly call "making a platter."  Basically, a hodge-podge of whatever's in the fridge and pantry.  The kids love it, and actually....I'm starting to think I should just do this every day!  SO much easier on me.

And lastly, If you have any stained wood in your house, and don't already use stain markers, you have to get some!  I use these everywhere - on our trim, floors, and  furniture.  As long as you use a stain color that's pretty close, they work wonders at hiding scratches.

Check out this before-and-after I took the other day


Monday, May 16, 2016

Those Rude Comments at the Supermarket

I've always hoped to have a large family.  So for years now, my ears have perked up whenever someone was discussing life in a large family, in hopes that I might pick up some tips.

One aspect of large family life I've tried to really prepare myself for is all the rude comments you get when you're out in public, especially - for some reason - at the grocery store.  We've all probably heard the stories of having to fend off endless questions such as "Are they all yours?", "So are you done now?" and "You know what causes that, right?".  I've read all the articles and blog posts about other mothers' frustrating experiences with strangers in the supermarket, and tried to memorize each of their suggested responses - the ones for days when I'm feeling charitable, as well as the ones for the days when I'm feeling snarky ;-)

But the strange thing I've come to realize is that the more children I have, the less comments I hear from strangers out in public.  Occasionally, I run out to a store with just Flora while Tom watches the big kids.  I feel like I can't walk down an aisle without at least one person telling me how cute and sweet the baby is.  During the past schoolyear, Sly and Stella were both in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd class one morning a week.  While they were in class, I'd often take the opportunity to run some errands with only half  of my kids.  I would still get quite a few comments about the two of them, and lots of people would ask Linus if he liked being a big brother, whether he loved his little sister, etc.

But most of the time, I have to take all four of them with me, subjecting ourselves to the possible scorn of whoever happens to be at the store that day...And I get nothing!  I feel like people don't even look at us!  It's like when you're out somewhere and notice a person who is somehow well outside the norm, and you try really hard not to look at them because you don't want to seem like you're staring....but then you're not natural at all, and it just makes things more awkward.

So I haven't really had the chance to be "tested" in the moment by a rude comment*, and see what sort of response - whether a snarky quip, sweet correction, or fumbling mumble - I might give.

I've pondered about this, wondering why no one has said anything rude about my family size yet.  The positive way of looking at it is that perhaps I just give off an "air of confidence," and look like I know what I'm doing, so people don't feel the need to tell me how to live my life.  A more negative way of looking at it is that perhaps my RBF ("resting bitch face," in case the term is unfamiliar.) deters them, because it gives off an air of "don't mess with me."  Or maybe they do think my kids are cute and great, but are afraid to say so, because they don't want to encourage me to keep going :-P

*A I do, on occasion, hear the popular line, "you have your hands full!", but I don't think this is rude at all - it's quite true, actually.  So I smile and reply, "yep, I do!"

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Our Mother's Day Tradition (Revisited)

[Note: This post is largely recycled from two years ago, with some updated photos/info]

Mothers Day (or is it Mothers' Day?) just passed last Sunday, so I thought I'd share one of the ways our family observes it each year.

When Sly was a baby, Tom told me about a nice tradition from his family.  His paternal grandparents had fourteen children (!).  Every year, the family all gathered out on the front porch, and had a photo taken.  Tom remembers visiting his grandparents' home as a young child, and seeing years' worth of those yearly family photos, all framed and lined up on the wall chronologically.  He talked about how neat it was to see the family grow and change each year.  We immediately decided that we should start up the same tradition ourselves.

We put our camera on the tripod, set the timer, and snapped our first photo right then.


We realized that we'd have a better chance of remembering to take the picture each year if we associated it with a specific date.  Since Mother's Day had occurred a few days earlier, that became our official family photo day.






(These might look familiar to the five or so people who have been following this little blog since its inception, since these are all my past header images.)

Side note: I think it's funny that you can tell what the weather was like that day based on whether I have bare feet or tights!

love that we're taking these pictures each year.  And I think there's something appealing to the "homemade" aspect of them - we don't have to worry about dressing up or hiring a professional photographer each year.  We just set up the tripod and go - come-as-you-are.  And having my family indulge me once a year and sit down for this photo (okay, I won't lie, we take about ten shots, and I choose the one I like best!) is truly one of the greatest Mothers Day gifts I can think of.

My only wish is that we had thought to start it our first year together, when it was just Tom and I.  That would really kick off the photo series well.  So instead, I put one of our wedding photos on the wall above my growing line of photos.

Lined up in our hallway

If anyone likes this idea, feel free to steal it and start the tradition in your own families.  It's never too late!  And I'd love to see how your picture turns out :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Simple Pleasure of Fitting Three Car Seats in a Row

We finally broke down and got some Diono Radian carseats!

I'd been hearing about these for awhile now from other moms.  Not only are they known as a particularly "safe" seat (which, frankly, I'm  not as concerned with as I probably should be), but - best of all - they are ultra slim, so you can actually fit three in a row in a car!

Since Flora was born, our minivan was basically at capacity.  We had the two big kids in the back row, and the two little kids in the middle bucket seats.  But now we're able to put three in the back, and take out one of the buckets to free up a big space for groceries, strollers, or whatever else we want to haul around.  Plus, it's a very convenient spot to kneel when buckling people in.  And if we are blessed with a fifth child in the future, we will not have to worry quite yet about upgrading  to a huge 12-passenger van!

Ahh, it's truly a thing of beauty!

Annoying coffee stain, courtesy of Tom's long-lost travel mug that we discovered under the seat when we removed it


I've written before about how unfortunate it is that something like "how many kids can we fit in our car" ends up determining ultimate family size for some people.  And truly, in this day and age, that can be a very legitimate concern.  Very few parts of the country are still built on a "human scale," and most of us are dependent on cars to get around and do our daily activities.  While taking public transportation everywhere might be an option in some places for a single person, it's a much different matter if you're trying to haul around four little kids and all their paraphernalia.

But really, how sad is it that a piece of technology that humans didn't have/need for most of their history, has now re-shaped our world so much that it prevents some families from having more children?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

{p,h,f,r} Our Never-Ending Renovation Project


The kids have been bringing me lots of weeds beautiful flowers from around the yard recently


I caught the boys enjoying some quality literature together on the couch.  Actually, Waldo is veritably enjoyable.  But the highlights magazine?....ugh.  Why did I like Highlights so much as a kid?  We currently get all three Highlights iterations (Hello, High Five, and Highlights) in the mail as gift subscriptions for the kids.  I don't like any of them.  The stories and the art are just *not* that great.


Flora's second-ever smile, caught on camera!  Also, I love love love little girls' vintage clothing.  I have lots of great outfits like this from our local flea market.


We have been working FOREVER on Stella's bedroom.  We started last May, expecting to be done by the end of the summer....not realizing that Tom's job would become incredibly demanding this past year, leaving us very little time or energy to spend on the room.  So for almost a year now, Linus has been sleeping in the playroom, and Stella in the spare room.  I'm SO ready for this project to be done so I can turn it into the girls' room, and we can finally move onto something new.

The to-do list for the room
Remove old shellac from trim and doors
Stain the trim and doors
Poly the trim and doors
Remove gross carpet
Sand floors
Stain floors
Poly floors
Replace lighting
Replace outlets
Repair wall around heating vent
Paint ceiling white
Choose wall color
Paint walls
Find dresser - Stella
Re-finish dresser - Stella
Find dresser - Flora
Re-finish dresser - Flora
Find nightstand - Stella
Paint nightstand - Stella
Find headboard - Stella
Paint headboard - Stella
Find area rug
Make curtains

Still a lot of work to do!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On Truly Liking Your Kids

I follow Catholic All Year on Facebook.  The other day Kendra shared an article on there about parenting and included some personal commentary.  Towards the end, she said,
"All I hope is that at the end of the day, despite my failings, my kids know that I love them and I like them. No matter what."
That idea has been going through my head all day.  It contrasts with a line I know I have heard many times: "parents should always love their kids, but they can't always like their kids, and that's okay." And I've been telling myself for a few years now that this is true.  That as long as I love all my kids, work for their best interests, and carry out my duties as their mother, that everything will be fine.  After all, "liking" someone just comes down to feelings, which is not ultimately as important as loving, which is an act of the will.

Because I"ll be honest - I often have a very difficult time truly liking one of my kids in particular.  And that's my eldest, Sly*.

It pains me to say it.  But I really struggle with him.  Our personalities are fairly different, and I think neither of us understands the other very well.  Tom seems to have figured out how to "crack the Sly code" and fully win his little heart. There's no doubt in my mind that Sly likes Daddy better than Mommy these days.  And there's really no one to blame but myself.  While Tom feels frustrated by all the same personality traits and bad habits that I do, he is able to see past them and recognize how much it is outweighed by all Sly's good traits.  But I just don't have enough patience, and I haven't devoted enough time to actually trying to get to know Sly and understand him and like him for who he is....and I was hoping that maybe he just wouldn't ever be aware of it...

But of course kids know when you don't always like to be with them!

I started to think about my own situation.  I've suspected for a few years now that my dad doesn't actually enjoy my company all that much.  It took getting married to really bring this home for me.  Because when Tom and I get together with my dad, I can see such a contrast between how he responds to each of us.  He really likes Tom.  My dad and Tom have a lot in common (I think I followed the old "women tend to pick guys who remind them of their father" pattern), and my dad really enjoys talking with him.  I've noticed that when I talk with my dad, he either seems to not pay me much attention, or else he instantly "corrects" what I'm saying or tells me how my ideas are wrong.  I don't think he's conscious of it at all, but he ends up just shutting me down a lot of the time, and making me very hesitant to share any more thoughts with him.

Now don't get me wrong, I am certain that my dad truly loves me.  I could go to him with any problem, and he would help me without a second thought.  But I don't feel like he enjoys being with me a lot of the time, and it does hurt my feelings.

I don't want this for Sly.

I do certainly love all my kids.  And maybe I don't have to like them all the time, but darnit, I want to like all my kids!  I mean, we're stuck with each other for life, afterall.  Everyone in the family could be so much happier if we all really and truly liked one another and enjoyed each other's company, despite our individual faults.  I imagine how wonderful it would be if as the years go by, we all wanted to spend lots of time together, and couldn't think of much else that would be more pleasant.

So I'm resolving to make a serious effort to get to that point.

I've been brainstorming how to build my relationship with Sly.  Here are some ways I can start to understand my son better, respond to him better, and learn to like the person he is:
1. Make eye contact when he's talking to me
2. Say "yes" more often to his requests
3. Make a conscious effort to give him the quality time he always craves
4. React with firmness but not anger to his misbehavior
5. React with patience and not annoyance to his.....annoying behavior
6. Remember that even though he's my oldest child, he's still only five years old, and cut him some slack when he behaves like a normal - childish - five year old
7.  Tell him spontaneously that I love him (instead of just before bedtime or other partings), tell him that I like spending time with him, tell him the qualities I like about him

*I debated with myself about mentioning Sly by name, as this is a very personal post.  I mean, what if he comes across this one day?  Well, I'm hoping that if he does, he will not only be assured of the love I have for him, and also maybe think it's a little funny.  Because hopefully by then we will both have changed so much in our feelings towards one another that it will seem a little unbelievable that there was really a time when we struggled so much to always enjoy each other's company.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

{p,h,f,r,} Flora in Eastertide

I'm not sure if I've ever participated in this time-honored series that's hosted at Like Mother Like Daughter, but I do always enjoy seeing others' posts of this sort, so I'll throw in my own little contribution this time and see how it goes.


A plate of Easter eggs that I keep on the dinner table.  The fully painted ones are wooden eggs that I've collected from here and there.  The white ones are real blown eggs I made and decorated with colored wax.


Lots of happy things these past couple weeks.

We had our traditional wedding anniversary dinner late at night after the kids went to bed.  It's the one time a year we splurge on the really good steaks from the butcher's case.

Flora got baptized, and our good friends from college came into town to be her godparents.

 And....a baby in a lamb hat.  If that doesn't make you happy, nothing will :-)



Flora conked out on Tom's lap while he drinks a beer.


When a baby falls asleep on a Boppy pillow on your lap, but you have things to gotta do what you gotta do!  We've gotten pretty good at finding objects to slip in and substitute for our own bodies/arms/warmth, effectively tricking our babies into staying asleep when we need to put them down.