Category: Education

Happy Birthday Rachel

Today my oldest baby turns 12.
The time went faster than I could imagine when she was my chatty little thing who wanted all the attention, all the time.
She is now a chatty big thing who wants all the attention all the time,
Iceskating 2010
but who also loves to give the perfect gift, be silly and creative, is determined to be herself regardless of what others think (and she REALLY doesn’t care what her peers or the world thinks about her or her style),
Rachel's birthday
who loves good books and movies, who totters on the edge between growing up and staying a little girl.
Rachel's birthday
She loves little girl (and boy) things still but not as much as she once did. There is a constant struggle within between the lure of grownup things and little girl things.
Rachel's birthday
We were going to take everyone to Chuck E. Cheese for her birthday– because she likes tradition and that is something we have done for a few years now but then migraine for Daddy meant that Daddy couldn’t go. Instead she chose to go out just with me to our favorite Chinese restaurant (where, unlike most places, she can easily eat) and then to T.J. Max to look at clothes, Claire’s Boutique to spend some birthday money on fake hair (she wore a pigtail that matched her hair but with purple shiny stuff running through to church this morning), then Michael’s for some watercolor paper. She had almost spent that money on a Fur Real kitty but after time and some thought went for the things she really wanted and enjoys.
Rachel's b-day cake
We are on the verge of adulthood here and the conflict within is a struggle for my childhood loving daughter. The cake she originally wanted was to be a cake decorated like the pond with a Cabbage Patch Kid ice skater on top. At the last minute she changed her mind to flowers and pink icing– a grown up cake, but she kept the sparkler candles instead of going for more sedate ones. It is interesting to see how she is developing, choosing deliberately each step of the way, when to go with her grown up urge and when to stick with her childlike one. At times we feel like we live with Katie Kaboom and yet the kabooms are getting less often as she settles into this new semi-grown up person she is becoming.

Snow Play


Snow is pretty.

Iceskating 2010

Snow on ice after ice skating is pretty. I took a ton of photos of it because it reminded me of cubism.

Iceskating 2010

The creepy hole in the ice for pouring water over said ice to make it smooth is not pretty, and is rather nerve wracking.  It actually has a nice layer of ice over top and and huge bump of ice all around– no one is going through (and there is a rope nearby) but still, rather scary.  And that is my dad cleaning the ice so it would be nice the next day– keeping the ice nice when it is snowing is lots of work.

Iceskating 2010

James stole my phone and took a photo of me ice skating.  So that is me.

Iceskating 2010

And that is Rachel.  She fell, and laughed.

Issac sled riding.

Issac spent hours trying to perfect a sled riding track (with my help.) Lots of physics involved (slope, weight, gravity, angle, etc.) as well as lots of physical labor (I had a tiny metal kids shovel that I was using to perfect the ramp so he would go all the way down the hill instead of off to the side.)

More snowy photos (and ice skating photos to come.)

January 2010 so far

The theme of January this year is snow.
Lots of lovely, fluffy, soft snow.
Snow globe sort of snow.
Snow at Night

And lots of sled riding in snow (ice skating soon I think.)
And video games.

When the kids are not outside playing in the snow or shoveling the driveway (a new favorite service for Rachel) they are spending lots of time play strategic or exercise related video games.  Lots of Star Craft, Garry’s Mod, and Tales Runner going on here (for after spending time outside) and lots of Wii Resort and Wii Fit Plus  combined with all sorts of pretend play and contests for when it is just too cold to play outside. For example, yesterday the kids set up a plane in the living room to make the flying game in Wii Resort more fun and so everyone could join in.
Playing Star Craft
The Girls
The kids did spend some time watching movies but other than Issac’s current repeat obsession with The Goonies and the kids’ repeat watching of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising there is not so much of that right now. In the meantime we are focused on spending 5 min a day upstairs and 5 downstairs cleaning 1 room as quickly as possible. A good habit to develop and each kid has a chance at a reward for doing their very best. We are trying to develop an attitude of service in a household where chaos is more comfortable than order and schedules and lists DO NOT WORK. This suits us well and keeps the house in relative order. We have also had much less complaining than with our previous attempts at this. (If they complain then they get 1/2 hour instead. And I have also found that they are willing to go the extra mile and really work hard in this time, stretching it well beyond the necessary 5 minutes to get the job done.

In the meantime, the painting is actually coming along now that I have the proper colors. It is coming out different than expected, more solid and less surreal but I am happy with my first attempt at acrylics since high school so far.

September in Review

September has been crazy busy with a trip to Alexandria and Ocean City, Penn’s Colony, the Art’s Festival, and lots of trips to the pond. At the beginning of the month we headed down to visit our friends in Alexandria, VA and got to go with them for a day trip to the ocean.This was our first big trip in our new minivan and was a happy and sad time. It was fun spending time with friends but due to the loss of both my friend’s father and my mom within a few weeks of each other it was bittersweet.

The trip also meshed several ideas the kids have shown interest in–my friend has both a guitar and a violin and gave the kids an opportunity to test both out. So now we know that Essie definitely wants to play guitar and that RAchel would prefer piano lessons to violin as she once thought.
Issac at the pond
We also spent tons of time at the pond with my brother (who’s school is on strike).

The kids spent the first half of the month swimming and learning to row and fish and the second half learning to build fires and lean-to’s while James and I worked on his forge.rowJames and forge
And did I mention the invention building kick?
And day time trips to Chuck E. Cheese?

The apparently interesting thing that is opening a new bank account?

And the awesomeness that was Penn’s Colony.

Where we got to see real blacksmiths at work.

And got to enjoy lots of Celtic music.

And in between it all was lots of game playing, reading, audio books, movies, playing, building, dreaming, creating, thinking, considering, discussing, programming…

Where we are and what we have been doing

  • As you already know if you have been reading at all, my mother passed away on July 31 so that has colored our days a lot recently (especially as conflict arose with certain family members due to some emotional issues.)  The amazing thing is watching how the kids have dealt with all of this.  We were blessed to find that they were not at all about the stuff, are mourning naturally, and are, in general dealing with things in a wonderfully healthy manner.
  • Essie playing DS at the funeral home with cousins.
    Essie playing DS at the funeral home with cousins looking on.
  • We have been spending lots of time with family and friends and now that we have a minivan are doing a lot more going and doing.  The kids are thrilled that this includes the library, some small trips to local national parks, and trips to IKEA.  It is exciting to see how their interests have developed since we last were at the library and their excitement about going to the parks and IKEA.
  • The kids have been on a fossil kick (lots of limestone around here), set up a stage in the basement and are planning a talent show of sorts for this Saturday at noon for whoever shows up, have been reading a ton, still programming on Scratch, playing the new Bookworm adventures and Boom Blox, hanging out at the pond with Pappap and Uncle James, and Essie is tweeting regularly.

    James and Issac
    James and Issac down at the pond.
  • Because I picked up a pile of “educational” workbooks, games, and books at the Target $1 bin today they have been working on those and quizzing each other on Wonders of the World.
  • I now have my mother’s sewing machine so the girls are clamouring to be allowed to sew again.  I will have to teach them how to use this machine first but I suspect much sewing will occur in the next few months.
  • Yesterday we discovered a cicada that had just left its nymph form.  It was awesome and the kids immediately had to research so they could remember which type of cicada and what each stage was called.
  • cicadacicada
  • I updated to the new version of Ubuntu yesterday.  It was the simplest upgrade I have ever done–took me less than an hour start to finish and most of that was copying my Home folder over from the backup drive.  The new version is AWESOME.  Just saying.
  • I finished a random painting that has been floating around in my head for a while.  This may be the beginning of a flower series since I am in the middle of one of a butterfly bush now.

    Queen Anne's Lace
    Queen Anne's Lace
  • Issac finally lost the tooth that has spent the last month hanging by a strand.  That same tooth got broken when Essie kicked him while swimming, bled everywhere and STILL didn’t come out.  The next day Rach bumped him in the mouth with a swivel chair and out it came–no blood, nothing.
James and Issac
Issac and James and the missing tooth.

Shopping healthy for cheap

We have gone mostly raw, and almost totally vegetarian in the last few months.  The vegetarian is mostly because organic meat is expensive and my husband discovered recently that it is one of the triggers of a fairly bad allergic reaction he has and which we have been trying to discover the trigger for (that sentence could have been worded SO much better.)  The raw part is mostly because  we have been trying to avoid using AC and the oven heats up the house–so other than quesadillas, grilled cheese, the occasional curry, eggs (just the kids as hubby and I are severely allergic) and fried bread (all using our griddle or the stove top–we don’t own a grill) we have been living on salad, dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruits and veggies, and occasionally thawed frozen ones.  And coffee–lots of coffee.

Today Rachel and I decided to take a walk but it was raining (trust me, this connects to the topic, really).  So she asked to go to the mall to walk.  Since we are trying to save on gas and are still borrowing Dad’s beast (a wonderful grandma car–a Buick Roadmaster to be exact) and are trying not to fill it with miles so he can sell it, Shamus said we could only go if we could think of some other errand to combine with our walk.  We couldn’t think of a thing we needed at the mall but we did need a few groceries and so decided to walk at Target then go to Aldi for the groceries.  We had a set budget of $66 due to a variety of other expenditures.  I figured this would be a great extension of our recent discussions of budgets and how much money we have coming in and going out.  Well, it was, but grocery prices went up and we went over, by $66 to be exact.  But that isn’t the point.

At Aldi there are tons of cheap unhealthy options.  There are also a ton of slightly more expensive but much more vitamin packed options and those were what we went for.  What did we get for our $132?

  • Lots of preservative free dried fruits and nuts (we have to be careful with this as Rach is severely allergic to preservatives and about half the options have dyes or preservatives–read the labels.)
  • Lots of frozen fruits and veggies (nothing with seasoning packs–just good healthy plain and simple fruits and veggies).
  • Lots of  fresh fruits and veggies–no these aren’t organic but we got a big bag of mixed type of pears, lots of veggies, peaches,potatoes, peppers, and tons of bananas, oh and mushrooms–my kids LOVE mushrooms.
  • Canned fruits and veggies (again we have to be careful as a lot of their canned goods have preservatives or tons of added sugar but light canned peaches and apricots with a little corn syrup tossed in the freezer then thrown in the food processor are much better than ice cream)
  • Crackers.  I got a variety of crackers, some Rach can eat, some she can’t but those and tortillas provide most of our simple starches.
  • Rice, lots of rice.  I make a lot of curry so we needed rice.
  • Pasta.  Aldi now carries whole wheat, extra stuff free pasta for $1 a box.  Brilliant.
  • Cheese. Aldi’s cheese is some of the cheapest, and best tasting around.  No it isn’t organic but we couldn’t afford the raw, organic stuff available to us.
  • Treats for hubby: Nilla wafers, honey grahams, pretzels, ice cream sandwiches–Aldi’s has lower fat, slightly simpler fancy ice cream sandwiches, similar to those from DQ-a whole pack for the price of an individual one, which is his favorite occasional treat.  And these are all things that make him happy–much better than say, Gardettos, Combos, and his other favorite junk foods.

On the way home we discussed why we went over and how to avoid it next time.  We also talked about how hard walking had been in Target.  Rachel figured out that if she had bought everything that she saw and wanted while walking around she would have spent over $500 and we just walked the perimeter of the store–she decided that she could easily have spent over $1000 if we had gone into some of the other aisles.  We talked about how hard it is to shop for things needed, on a budget, when someone is constantly asking for things then moping because she can’t have it.  At the conclusion Rachel decided that walking to Sheetz (her favorite walk because she likes their drinks and smoothies) and walking the mall and Target are not nearly as wise as walking someplace where there is no temptation.  It was a good lesson, though expensive (it is awfully hard to turn down someone requesting mushrooms, peppers, and asparagus.)

Unschooling snapshots: Issac borrows the camera

While waiting for food during our weekly trip to my gandmothers (she likes taking us to what is known locally as “The Deli” where Issac always orders French toast, Rachel gets a burger, and Essie always orders a hoagie and fries, where the waitresses all know us and seem to enjoy the kids, and where grandma never can decide what she is hungry for) Issac was bored.  I handed him my camera and here are the results (they just NEEDED  to be black and white.)

Unschooling Snapshots: Growing up

This is one of the reasons I have cut back on the work I am doing. Tree house
Our oldest is in a place where she needs her mom more and more often.
Tree house
We are spending a great deal of time talking about where she is, where she has been, and where she wants to go.
Tree house
She is growing up quickly. She knows her struggles and is trying to rectify those areas.
Tree house
She is seeking wisdom, learning to be quiet and wait (a hard lesson for this child who was born talking constantly).
Tree house
She is slowly gaining it and constantly struggling with herself, trying to get where she is going, trying to grow closer to God.
Tree house
It is a two steps forward one step back process and it is time consuming and a joy.
Tree house