A Week In The Life of Our Homeschool

If you would have asked me last year what I thought I would be doing RIGHT NOW, the answer would have been: NOT homeschooling my kids. And yet, here I am…homeschooling my kids…and I actually kind of love it. No, I really love it. I love watching my kids learn–and learning along with them. I love playing teacher again. I love the way our boys’ relationships with each other and with us have strengthened. Homeschool has been a good move for our family, and I’m glad we made it.

We are still very new to this whole homeschooling thing, though, and I get a lot of questions from people about it.

How is school going?
Overall great, with plenty of hiccups and meltdowns along the way.

Are you exhausted yet?
Ummm…YEAH.

What do you do all day?
Stuff…I call it “playing with a purpose”.

Our days are surprisingly packed and the weeks have been flying by. In order to give you a better picture of what school looks like for us, I’ve put together a little tour through our week. So pack your bags and come along with us for your first week enrolled at the Peterson Learning Academy!

Day 1
On Mondays I introduce our weekly themes: our book (with our curriculum, Five In A Row, we have a new children’s book each week. We read the book every day of that week and base our activities around the themes found in the book), letter of the week, and Bible verse.

This week’s book is Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack, a classic book that has been enjoyed by four generations of children. The book is about a little boy who is trying to find the perfect birthday gift for his mother, so he asks all of the animals he meets if they have a gift for him. The main themes from the book that  we focused on this week were farm animals, forests, and birthdays (mostly because I wanted an excuse to eat more cake).

IMG_7020

After reading the book through one time we jumped right into our farm animal theme. We started with a matching game where the boys had to match animals with their products.
IMG_6851

Then we went outside to “milk” our “cows”.IMG_6854

Even though our cow udders were actually latex gloves and our milk was actually water, we still had a lot of fun (and we all agreed that we would not want to wake up early every morning to complete this chore).IMG_6856

Once our cows had been properly milked we measured how much water…er…milk…made it into our buckets. Despite a significant amount of liquid being lost to squirting themselves and each other, we did manage to pour enough into measuring cups to complete the activity.
IMG_6863

All that milking made us hungry, so we headed back inside to make a snack–farm style! We made our own butter by pouring heavy cream and a pinch of salt into a jar…IMG_6864

…and shaking, shaking, shaking like crazy!IMG_6867

Just when we thought our arms would fall off from exhaustion, the butter came together and we were able to enjoy some toast with VERY fresh butter.
IMG_6871

With tummies full of butter we were ready to move on to Messy Time (I have boys, so “messy time” is a suitable term for our artistic endeavors). Today we made “cow udder art” (ok, I’ve gotta think of a better name for that one…). We filled some more latex gloves with paint, poked holes in the ends of the fingers, and squirted away. They are very modern. I think I’ll sell the completed pieces to an art gallery and add the money to the boys’ college funds.
IMG_6873

After messy time we did a little work with our letter of the week, “o”. The boys love using their “dibble dots” (Bingo stampers), so we did a dibble dot letter tracing page to work on fine motor skills.IMG_6846

Monday happened to be a school holiday for the other kids in our neighborhood (Darn! We almost forgot to celebrate Columbus Day!). In the afternoon we met up with a bunch of the kids to go for a creek walk in our neighborhood. IMG_6876

Day 2
This was our “forest day”. After doing calendar time and reading our book again, we packed up and headed out for a day exploring the woods where Mr. Bear lives. There are several great hiking trails within a few minutes of our house, so we didn’t have to go too far to find a good forest. 
IMG_6892

The boys wanted to climb every tree we came to. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.IMG_6893

We hiked (and by “hiked”, I mean I hiked and they walked for short spurts between rides in the jogging stroller) a little over a mile to a small lake.
IMG_6897

The boys went “fishing” with poles we’d made that morning at home (they caught lots of little green plants and muck on their lines but, sadly for them, no fish).
IMG_6900

They also had fun exploring this exciting “tunnel” we found near the lake (and my, how it echoed!).IMG_6913

During our walk we made a nature board. I had painted several colors along one edge of the board and the boys worked together to find nature treasures of every color that we then taped on to the board. Their favorite finds were an acorn, multi-colored leaves…and an orange peel that someone had left on the side of the trail.
IMG_6926

When we returned home we made a page for our memory books (3-ring binders that we’re adding to all year). Today’s page was on the colors of Autumn and we used our color nature board to help us complete a poem about the different colors we see in nature at this time of year.
IMG_6993

Day 3
Our day started with the boys “reading” books to our dog, Bota, while I made breakfast.IMG_7011
Wednesday mornings are usually spent at our church doing either Playhouse (a fantastic morning just for preschoolers–they have open gym time with bounce houses, ride-on toys, gymnastics equipment, climbers, Play-doh, puzzles, crafts, stories, and circle time) or MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers). This was a MOPs week, so the boys went to their Moppetts group where they do a little Bible lesson, craft and games with other children their age. Meanwhile, Mommy went to her “class” where I learned how to take stunning iPhone photos while noshing on an uninterrupted hot breakfast and chatting with my friends.

Moppetts wore out little Jacob and he fell asleep in the car on the way home. While Jacob was napping, I took advantage of the quiet to work one-on-one with David. David has his own handwriting book that we are going through this year and he completed the “o” page for our letter of the week.IMG_6998

Then David did a letter building game, working with our letters of the week from this week and last week.IMG_7004

We had just enough time to do our “writing project”–thank you notes for his birthday party that we had last weekend!IMG_7007
After Jacob’s nap the boys worked on some animal puzzles together.IMG_7023

Then it was calendar time (a group activity where we go through the days of the week, counting, patterns, and graphing using our daily calendar). I’ve also been incorporating a song or poem each week that goes along with our theme, and this week’s poem is about farm animals. The boys used our farm puppets to help act out the poem.
IMG_7025

Next, we caught up on an activity that we ran out of time for last week when we were studying Corduroy. We made a page for our memory books that involved measuring and weighing their teddy bears.IMG_7030

Finally, we had Bible time. We’ve been using our Awana Cubbies book for a lot of our Bible time activities, and today’s story was about God creating the animals (quite fitting since we’ve been learning so much about animals lately!).IMG_7033 

Day 4
Now that we had heard our story several times and were getting quite familiar with it, I gave the boys some time for dramatic play. We started by talking about setting and we looked through several of our favorite books so we could identify the setting of each story. Then we got out the butcher paper (thank you, Melodie!) to draw a mural of the setting in Ask Mr. Bear.

IMG_7038

After our setting was complete, we hung it up and set up a “stage” so we could re-enact the story with puppets. The boys had a great time making their puppets move and talk just like the characters in the story.
IMG_7043

After several versions of the puppet show we worked on a letter-o craft project (they made an o-shaped octopus with Cheeri-o suckers on the tentacles…the vast majority of the “suckers” ended up in their mouths, though, so we counted this as snack time. Bam. Double-duty art project.)
IMG_7047

While they were content at the table with bowls full of Cheeri-o’s I had them color a mini farm animal book. The pattern of the text is so simple that they can “read” their own books–they really enjoyed getting to read to me for a change!IMG_7048
Day 5
Friday fun day! Since the plot of our book this week centered around a little boy trying to find the perfect birthday gift for his mother, I thought it would be fitting to have our own birthday celebration (note: Friday fun day also apparently implies that we got to wear pajamas and/or Halloween costumes all day. Homeschool for the win.)

I try to do at least one cooking project with the boys every week, so we headed into the kitchen to make birthday cupcakes (shhh…they were actually banana muffins, but don’t tell the un-birthday boys).IMG_7052

While our muffin cupcakes were baking we made a collaborative book. On each page they dictated while I wrote who they would like to give a gift to and what it would be. Then they drew a picture of the gift in the “gift box” at the bottom of the page and taped a piece of wrapping paper along the top edge of the gift box. It’s a really fun book similar to a lift-the-flap book that I’m sure they’ll enjoy reading and re-reading.
IMG_7053

We also played some balloon games. The first game involved rolling dice and bouncing the balloon the same number of times as the number they rolled. Once they got the hang of this we added a second dice and they had to add the numbers together (David could do this on his own, but Jacob still needed some help counting and adding the larger numbers).IMG_7064

We also did an experiment with balloons and FIRE (this one definitely had the wow factor going for it!). I blew up two balloons—one with just air, and the other with air and about 1/4 cup of cold water. We made predictions about what we thought would happen when the flame touched each balloon and then tested out our theories (the air balloon popped right away and the water-filled balloon lasted awhile longer before exploding). We talked about how heat changes things and they gave me examples of things they have seen changed by heat. Then we went back into the kitchen to check on our muffins in the oven to see how heat had changed THEM!IMG_7071

The boys decorated their birthday muffins with some frosting and sprinkles (eh, why not…) and I gave them each a birthday candle. We sang “Happy Un-Birthday To You” and they each made a wish before blowing out their candles. Then they licked their plates (and fingers, and table) clean.IMG_7072

While they were eating their cupcakes I got out their baby books and showed them the only completed sections in the books–their very first birthdays. We compared the size of their baby footprints to their giant boy feet and the size of their newborn ID bracelets to their giant boy hands. We looked at pictures of their tiny little selves and Mommy gushed about how stinkin’ adorable they were. Mommy may have also cried. Just a little.IMG_7079

After our snack we went back to our book and found all of the gifts that the animals suggested Danny give his mother for his birthday. We listed each gift on a whiteboard and then came up with rhyming words for each gift. I have a little rhyming song that we like to sing any time we rhyme, so we sang several verses using our gift rhymes.IMG_7084And thus concluded our week of Ask Mr. Bear (and with it, our unit on bears). This afternoon we’ll go to the library to return all of our bear books and check out some new books for next week’s study of pumpkins!

I hope you enjoyed coming along with us on our week of learning. Until next time!

XxX Allison

The Beam

11953226_10101447015406580_355199927160422586_n

So, there’s this book.

It’s called For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, and I’m so in love with it. If you haven’t read For the Love yet, then do yourself a favor and go out and buy it. Right now. (You can thank me later.) This book is so good that you’ll actually want to skip watching So You Think You Can Dance after the kids’ bedtime just so you can soak in more of those wonderful words. If For the Love were a food instead of a book, it would be dark chocolate cake smothered in cream cheese frosting. I dare you to take just a bite, but guaranteed you’ll devour the whole thing in one sitting.

I may be a bit biased because the book is written by my blogger idol, Jen Hatmaker. She is perhaps the wittiest, most honest writer/speaker/liver of life that I’ve ever met (ok, I haven’t actually met her…not in the physical sense…but I cyber-stalk her and kind of want to be her when I grow up and a friend of mine once sat by her on a plane …so that all has to count for something, right?).

The book covers the hilarious (there’s a whole chapter on the appropriate-ness of leggings, tights, and yoga pants. She speaks straight to my heart.) to the more practical issues we all deal with in life. One topic in the book really got under my skin, in a good way. It made me take a critical look at my own life and make some actual changes. So what is this powerful topic of personal change? A gymnastics balance beam.

The balance beam is a metaphor for the balance in our own lives–particularly the lives of busy modern-day moms. As Hatmaker observes:

Here is the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self-care”, served neighbors/church/world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior.

You can’t balance that job description.

Amen! Hallelujah! It’s so true. We are constantly shown the best side of people–on social media (When’s the last time you updated your profile picture to how you look RIGHT NOW? ), on TV (I’m pretty sure most celebrities don’t forget to take a shower for 3 or 4 days in a row), and even face to face (I put on “real clothes” and “makeup” when I know I’m going somewhere where people might recognize me).

What we don’t see is the other 99% of peoples’ lives that are happening outside of the glimpses we catch of their highlight reel. Those times when they lose it with their kids and/or spouse. Those times when they stuffed a Lunchable into their kid’s lunchbox and called it a day. That week when she didn’t touch a broom or a vaccuum or a toilet bowl brush because she just didn’t care. That time she looked jealously at the working mom and felt she wasn’t doing enough. That time she looked at the stay at home mom and felt she wasn’t doing enough.

And isn’t that the truth? We set expectations for ourselves based on what we think the perfect life should be, and we see how much other people are just killing it…and it’s slowly killing us. We often see the best in people but fail to see that perfection simply doesn’t exist. We are striving toward a goal that is unreachable, and we are destined to fail. You can’t be the Pinterest mom AND the CEO mom AND the Martha Stewart mom AND the PTA mom AND the marathon mom AND the…you get the picture. You can’t and I can’t and nobody is.

So where do we go from here?

The balance beam! As Hatmaker points out, “We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.” Just as you can’t possibly make it across a balance beam if it’s too crowded with STUFF, we can’t possibly make it through life if it’s too overrun by the unnecessary (I was in gymnastics for 6 years and I could hardly make it across that dang beam with NOTHING in my way). Some things we do for all of the wrong reasons–they need to go off the beam. In some areas we are sacrificing a Good for a Best–they need to find room on the beam.

Wow. Seriously, easier said than done. This idea of taking things on and off my beam got me thinking. I looked at my own crowded beam and I knew that there were some things that had to change. Here are a few of the things I pushed off my beam, and some that I pulled back on:

Off the beam: 
-Extra volunteering/leadership. I’m usually one of the first to raise my hand when they need someone to help out and, honestly, I love doing it. But I can’t do it all. And maybe someone else can even do it better. I’ve chosen a few areas where I will consistently serve, and I’m saying no to the rest.
-Late nights. As much as I love the moments in my day that are just my own, and even though my husband is the living definition of a night owl, Mama needs her sleep.
-The kids’ school. This was absolutely my hardest off the beam decision, and it took us nearly a year to make it. Traditional school wasn’t working well for David or our family during this season, and we had to take it off the beam (Goodbye mornings to myself! Goodbye lovely teachers whom we adore! Goodbye “normal”). Which brings me to…

On the beam:
-Homeschool. Hands-down the most rewarding–and exhausting–thing we’ve put on the beam this year. A total lifestyle switch, and it’s taking up a lot of room on my beam.
-The gym. I hadn’t joined a gym in about 6 years, but I needed some scheduled exercise breaks during the week…without my kids. The gym gives me 90 minutes of kid-free exercise every day I can manage to drag us out the door–enough time for a barre class and a solo shower: win-win!
-Writing. I enjoy writing, both here on the blog and for my own self, so I’m carving out specific time during the week where I can make that happen.

There are other things I’m still working on moving on or off my beam, but change takes time. One step at a time, I will make it across this balance beam called life. Even if I do fall every now and then.

Now it’s your turn, friend–what are you pulling on or pushing off your beam?

The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady: A Parody

caterpillar

The other day I was reading to the boys (for the gajillionth time) one of their favorite books: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For those of you who may not be as intimately familiar with the story as I am, it follows a tiny caterpillar from the day he hatches from his little white egg through his journey as he eats different foods every day getting nice and fat for his grand finale: building a cocoon and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly. It’s a classic story, and one that I find myself relating more and more to now that I have my condition (condition = pregnancy).

I feel for the poor little caterpillar–he’s just hungry all the time and it is his JOB to eat and grow so he might become more beautiful. As such, I’ve decided to adopt the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s mantra: I, too, have dedicated myself to eating and growing so that I might become more beautiful (or produce a more beautiful baby?). You see, I take the whole “eating for two” thing very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that you might mistake my food consumption for that of two competing sumo wrestlers rather than that of an average sized woman and a nearly-1-pound baby. Not to brag, but some might call me a professional double-eater.

As an illustration, here is my own version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar–tweaked a bit to mark my own glorious transformation. I now present:

The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady

In the light of the moon a tiny baby was formed in her mother’s womb.IMG_6600

One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and–pop!–out stuck the mother’s belly as the tiny baby began to grow.11953069_10101444379903150_5148467840828573354_n

Growing a baby is hard work, so the pregnant lady started to look for some food.

On Monday she ate through one piece of apple pie à la mode. But she was still hungry.
IMG_6413

On Tuesday she ate through two brownies, but she was still hungry.IMG_6558

On Wednesday, she ate through three slices of pizza, but she was still hungry.FullSizeRender (2)

On Thursday she ate through four graham crackers smothered in Funfetti frosting, but she was still hungry.IMG_6522

On Friday she ate through five pieces of deli meat (microwaved to steaming, first, to remove the possibility of Listeria poisoning), but she was still hungry.FullSizeRender (3)

On Saturday she was a good girl and she ate through six tangerines, but she was still hungry.IMG_6557

On Saturday she ate for dinner: one chocolate pudding cup, one heaping scoop of Nutella, one salami, one plate of spaghetti, one bag of popcorn, one buttery croissant, and one bottle of sparkling mineral water.

That night she had a stomachache!FullSizeRender (4)

The next day the pregnant lady ate salad. After that she felt much better.
custom_buffet_italian_salad_m

Now she wasn’t hungry any more–and she wasn’t a little lady any more. She was a big, fat pregnant lady. She crawled inside her cocoon-of-a-bed and read celebrity gossip magazines while her devoted husband rubbed her swollen feet. She grew that baby for nine whole months. Then she went to the hospital, got an epidural, and pushed out…

…a beautiful baby!76245_689686136550_5492270_n

Now she wasn’t a Very Hungry Pregnant Lady any more. She was a Very Blessed Mommy.
483145_10100265633934520_1483364940_n

The end.

A Photo Tour Through Our California “Mountain” Home

IMG_6485

Ah, home sweet home. This week marks one month since we moved into the house we now affectionately refer to as River House (even though the “river” that supposedly runs behind our house is currently only a dry creek bed. I’m sure the massive El Niño they’re predicting for this winter will take care of that in no time, though).

It was a bit of a gamble moving out here–we’re getting a steal of a deal on the rent (by Bay Area standards, not by normal human standards), but the house is in the “mountains” (Californian for tree-covered hills). Even though it is physically quite close to civilization, there is an absolute feeling of remoteness. Though only two miles separate River House from town and the rest of Silicon Valley, the two places sometimes feel like they are worlds apart: Mountain people drive trucks instead of Ferraris; in the mountains you hear crickets and cougars (yes, large wild cats share our property) instead of The 101 or 85; in the mountains your gardener is Jesus, not Jesús from Ramirez Brothers Landscaping. And even though we’ve only been here for a month, I kind of love it.

I know you’ve all been curious to see what life is like out here in the boonies, so here’s a peek inside our little mountain life.

We are probably the only house in the mountains (or anywhere, for that matter) that has a large cement goose wearing a dress and an Irish welcome plaque at the front door. You really can’t miss us.
IMG_6490

Once inside the threshold you enter the Great Room. Turning left you’ll see our living room and school corner. My favorite part of this room is the massive vaulted cedar ceilings and the river rock fireplace (we’ll talk more about the necessity of that fireplace in a moment).IMG_6503

To the right of the living room is the area we’ve set up as the dining room and, beyond that, the kitchen.
IMG_6507

I love our kitchen at this house! It’s spacious and bright and, as of last week, fully functional. See our brand new fridge? This was a gift from our landlords two weeks after we moved in…after our old fridge died. We went 4 days with no working fridge which made storing food and eating fresh food a bit of a challenge. The ordeal gave me a greater appreciation for my pioneer ancestors. With the help of our generous neighbors offering us space in their fridge and a chest freezer in our garage, however, we persevered and survived the Great Fridge-pocalypse of 2015.
IMG_6481

The kitchen is so spacious that I actually have empty drawers and cabinets–and that’s saying something considering we own such obscure kitchen gadgets as an apple-peeler-corer-slicer and a Turkish coffee station.IMG_6519

Remember how we’re living in the mountains, and it’s full of wonderful surprises? Well, no tour of our kitchen would be complete without the inclusion of our little kitchen friends, the ants. And the gnats, but they’re too small and too fast to snap a photo of.IMG_6518

Off the kitchen is one of our five decks. This one is currently housing our BBQ…and a drying rack with our swim gear.IMG_6512

Speaking of the decks, we spend quite a bit of time out on them. This is Bota’s deck (she allowed a guest for the photo op):IMG_6514

And the boys’ play deck:IMG_6130

Back inside the house, we’ll finish the tour of the top floor of the house. Just off of the Great Room/Kitchen set up is the master bedroom (or, if you ask the boys, The Boys’ Second Bedroom):

IMG_6471Notice the utter lack of grown-up bedroom furniture. We had sold half of our bedroom furniture before we moved to Ireland, and then we sold the rest of it this summer so we wouldn’t have to move it. This was before we realized that we actually need bedroom furniture for absurd purposes like HAVING FURNITURE TO USE. Our mattress is currently sitting on the floor, I’m using a Rubbermaid container as a night stand, and I literally found Jon’s nightstand in a dumpster. It’s actually pretty cool, because we feel like we’re in college again. Not to worry, though, because our real Grown Up furniture has been ordered and is en route as we speak (!).

From the bed you can see our two private decks and gas fireplace–once you look past the Rubbermaid nightstands, it’s quite the retreat. IMG_6469

The white door you can see to the left of the fireplace is our closet. It’s a massive closet with ample storage for our clothing (and our full suitcases and boxes full of clothing, because it turns out bedroom furniture like dressers are actually useful for things like holding your clothes).IMG_6473Continuing on through the master suite you come to the master bath. The soaking tub is so inviting to my achy pregnant body but, unfortunately, I can’t use it. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but California is in a DROUGHT, which means there are water restrictions in place. And by water restrictions, I mean our mountain home is basically siphoning water from the city through a straw and if we go over our allotted amount, the water police will come knock down our front door. And they’ll fine us thousands of dollars, but whatever. Alas, the soaking tub will have to wait.
IMG_6510
Finishing up the tour of the master suite is our…office corner? I don’t even know what to call it. We have a dresser, filing cabinets, boxes of crap we don’t want to unpack, a bookshelf, school stuff, and a random office chair (with no desk) crammed in there.At least there’s a pretty little deck to go stand on if you want to get out of the mess!
IMG_6472This is also where we house our modem (for the world’s slowest internet) and our landline telephone (because we don’t get cell phone reception at the house). See, it really is like we’re in college again.

That wraps up the top floor of the house! Now, down to the first floor.

The boys’ bedroom is the first room you come to at the bottom of the stairs. We have their bunkbed set up so they can practice their climbing and diving skills from more precarious heights.
IMG_6495

Opposite the bunk bed is the boys’ dresser and reading corner. Pay special attention to the most important addition we’ve made to the bedroom: our eye in the sky camera.IMG_6496

Since the boys are now residing on a different level of the house from the parents, we considered it prudent to install surveillance apparatus. The camera allows us to capture all of the bedtime moments when the boys are anywhere but in their beds.IMG_6425

Next door to the boys’ room is the nursery/storage room/guest room/play room (don’t ever let me be your interior designer). This is the nursery side of the room (Yes, we are 4 months early, but it was just easier to set everything up than store it):IMG_6475

The closet in this room is stacked floor to ceiling with baby paraphernalia: IMG_6477

The opposite side of the room is currently acting as the boys’ play room (because this room has a door that locks, thus containing the mess and the temptations).

(Not pictured: the center of the room, the “guest room”, where we will set up our blow-up air mattress for anyone who wants to brave a visit).
IMG_6476

Also downstairs is the boys’ bathroom. It’s cute, but it smells like pee, so I try not to go in there.IMG_6474

We also have a lovely laundry room downstairs with a utility sink (an absolute necessity with children, I’ve decided).IMG_6479

One whole wall of the laundry room is lined with floor-to-ceiling cabinets. The cabinets are chock-full of electronics equipment (What, that’s not what you store in your laundry room?)IMG_6480

Outside of the laundry room is a linen closet and our game closet. We rarely play games, so I find it absurd that we own this many. Anyone want to come over for a game night soon?
IMG_6478

If you go down the hallway past the laundry room you come to our garage. It’s pretty well organized with storage along the walls, infinity toys on one side, and a narrow sliver of empty space down the other side where Jon can maneuver his car inside to park (it’s a very shallow garage, so it’s quite amusing to watch this transaction take place).IMG_6494

Outside the garage we have our yard. Yup, that’s it. Our property line extends 6 feet on either side of the house and is backed by the (dry) creek and a canyon wall, so this is the entirety of our outside space.IMG_6488

You may have noticed a wooden fence in front of the house (see the photo at the top of this post if you need a refresher), and you may have thought that was a nice little fenced-in yard. You would be wrong. What that is, my friends, is the propane tank enclosure. Because we live off the grid in the mountains, our main heat source for the house is propane gas (what?!?!). Since moving here, I have had to endure propane safety lessons with the gas company and join a propane users support group. True story. Thankfully it’s still FREAKING 100 DEGREES EVERY DAY HERE, so we haven’t had to try out the whole propane gas heat thing yet.IMG_6482

Now, I mentioned earlier that the fireplaces were important, and now you know why. With propane being our main source for heat, and propane being VERY EXPENSIVE, we are told that we will be relying on those fireplaces more and more as the seasons change. As such, we are stockpiling wood scraps and collecting them in aesthetically-pleasing boxes around the outside of our house. You’re welcome, neighbors.IMG_6483

Now, with all drawbacks (bugs, propane, water restrictions, slow internet, no cell service, no yard) aside, River House really does suit us well. Every time we walk out our door we are greeted with nature’s playground:IMG_6493

We have woods and canyons and creeks to explore. It feels very much like the Northwest, and very much like home.IMG_6441

And, though you can’t see the houses or the people very well in this photo, we have incredible neighbors. Neighbors who invite us over for dinner and let us borrow their fridge when our fridge dies and who invite us over for bonfires and s’mores and whose kids have Power Wheels drag races with our kids in the street. The neighborhood is teeming with children the same ages as our boys and we’ve all made fast friends. It’s a wonderful tight-knit community, and we feel lucky to live here.IMG_6486

I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour through our mountain home, and let us know when you’re ready for a visit! I’ll even blow up the air mattress for you.

Mommy Pet Peeves

11999062_10101459520865540_8476582905123875094_n
As much as we all love our children and the joy that is parenting, there are certain things that come with the territory that, quite simply, DRIVE US NUTS. Every parent has their own poison, myself included. Those things that can interrupt a perfectly lovely moment like nails on a chalkboard–our pet peeves. Since confession is the first step toward recovery, I would now like to air out my top mommy pet peeves:

1. Rogue Tiny plastic toys
Whoever decided that it was a good idea to market tiny plastic land-mines-disguised-as-toys to children has got another thing coming to them. I would like to suggest that, before they release a play thing to the free market, all manufacturers should submit themselves to case testing where they are blindfolded and forced to walk barefoot through a room littered in their creation. I can not even tell you how many times I’ve bruised my bare foot on a forgotten Lego or tripped over a miniature plastic army guy on my way up the stairs. I swear, tiny plastic toys are designed with the express intent of inflicting physical pain on unsuspecting parents. I’m coming for you, Mattel.

2. Leaving one square of toilet paper on the roll

We have a house rule that whoever uses up a roll of toilet paper must exchange the empty roll for a fresh one. It’s a common courtesy so that nobody is ever left high and…ahem…NOT dry. Clever people in my house (names withheld to protect the innocent) have found a way around this: just leave one square on the roll. I mean, I get it. They didn’t use up ALL the toilet paper–why on earth should they be expected to replace the WHOLE ROLL? After all, one square is a totally acceptable amount of toilet paper to handle any and all potential bathroom needs the next patron might have.

3. Dishes sitting on the counter next to the dishwasher

God has blessed us with this incredible invention that has revolutionized modern life: the dishwasher. All you have to do is 1) Put your dirty dishes into the dishwasher 2) Pour a little soap into the dishwasher soap receptacle 3) Push a button, and  4) Come back an hour or so later to racks full of pristine dishes. Simple as pie, easy peasy–right? Wrong. As it turns out, step 1) Put your dirty dishes INTO THE DISHWASHER, is mind-blowingly difficult. Approximately 99.9% of the dirty dishes in our household migrate to the counter directly above the dishwasher, and there they sit indefinitely. I can only assume that last bit of opening the dishwasher door and shoving the dishes inside is an overwhelmingly taxing expenditure of energy. My poor family could not possibly be expected to put themselves through that misery. Bless them, they must know deep down in their hearts how much I love the challenge of moving dishes from the counter into the dishwasher, and I can only express my most sincere gratitude to them for helping me to grow in this area.

4. Grocery shopping with children
I would totally avoid this one if I could, but for some reason all of these little mouths keep wanting to be fed. And so, the grocery store must be addressed.

Grocery shopping with children is like playing Russian roulette: when you win, you win BIG but when you lose…well, just don’t ever lose. Throwing kids into the mix means you almost always lose at the grocery store game: Have all the children already eaten, slept, and pottied properly? How is the general mood of my offspring on this fine morning? Where do I put the kids–walking with me so that they knock over every display in every aisle we pass through, or in the cart so that I have nowhere to actually put the groceries? Will my toddler throw a tantrum in the middle of the produce aisle? Will my 4-year old swipe cake decorating supplies (again) and stash them in his pocket, only to be discovered once we have safely returned home? Will the forbidden candy in the check-out line incite the next civil war in the middle of my shopping cart? Did I remember my shopping list, my reusable shopping bags, my coupons, my diaper bag, my wallet, my sanity?

And, if we actually make it through the store in one piece, there’s always the check-out line to look forward to. Because if there is anything I can predict with 100% accuracy on a shopping trip with kids it is this: I will always choose the slowest line.

All I can say is praise you, sweet Jesus, for Amazon Prime and Safeway home delivery.

5. Itty Bitty Socks
There are two problems with itty bitty socks: 1) Itty bitty socks are specifically designed to fall off itty bitty feet, and 2) Itty bitty socks are polarized so that no pair of socks that enter a washing machine may ever exit together. I have baskets and bags and bins full of itty bitty socks that have been found lying off-foot or that are anxiously awaiting the joyful return of their partner. Thank goodness we moved to California so I have a decent excuse for why my children are barefoot year-round.

6. Inopportune Sleep Schedules
Fact: 90% of parenting revolves around an attempt to control your childrens’ sleep. Children either won’t sleep when you want them to, or they will sleep when you don’t want them to.

Here are some typical child sleep scenarios (not that any of them could ever possibly have happened to me personally):

It’s your 2-year old’s nap time and you absolutely positively need to return a critical phone call and fold that growing pile of laundry without “help”: guaranteed he’s climbing up your leg instead of nodding off. Your fridge broke over the weekend so you’ve been without perishable foods for the past 3 days, and now that a new fridge has finally been delivered you absolutely positively must go to the grocery store (your favorite place!) for eggs and milk: guaranteed your 3-year old (who rarely naps any more) and your 4-year old (who hasn’t napped in 2 years) will both fall asleep in the car on the way to the store thus making it impossible to complete the task at hand. It’s 9:00 and you’ve had ONE OF THOSE DAYS and all you want to do is curl up in the fetal position and binge watch HGTV: guaranteed the kids get out of bed 5,000 times. You have 15 minutes to get the kids changed, snacked, and driven to the pool for swimming lessons: guaranteed your preschooler is passed out in a state of hypnosis that can’t be shaken.

Guarantees in parenting are few and far between, but at least we can be assured that some things will remain a constant: those things that drive us nuts. In the end, I guess I will just have to learn how to deal with my own mommy pet peeves–perhaps while wandering kid-free through an empty grocery store with a Starbucks hand.

Ready For (Home)School!

IMG_6045

Can you believe it? Summer is OVER, and hi-ho-hi-ho it’s back to school we go. Back-to-school is always a special time of year, but this year is totally unique for us as it will be our inaugural year of homeschool. The butterflies are stirring.

Even though I’ve formally been out of the classroom for the last five years, I still suffer from Teacher Complex A. I can’t walk by the school supply aisle in a store without stopping to ogle the newest offerings, and I have a strong affinity for paper cutters and laminators. I speak in my Teacher Voice when I mean business–even with other grown adults. I’ve been known to opt out of traditional home décor in favor of colorful die-cut shapes so we can practice our letters and counting skills. You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the teacher out of me.

You can imagine how giddy I’ve been these last couple of weeks, then, as I’ve eagerly set up my own classroom at home (and by classroom, I mean I have completely taken over the entire house). This was no small feat considering we just moved into this house a 12 days ago, but where there’s a will there’s a way, amirght?

We’re officially starting school next Tuesday after Labor Day, although we’ve already started tinkering around with some of the school stuff because the boys saw it and were curious and I’m not about to miss the opportunity to capitalize on their eagerness. Since this will be our first year of homeschool, I know that I’ll be making tweaks and adjustments as the year goes on. For now, though, here is the set up for the 2015-2016 school year at Peterson Learning Academy:

IMG_6117

This year we will be using a curriculum (and I use that term lightly) called Five In A Row (FIAR). After reviewing the first volume of FIAR, however, I decided that Before Five In A Row (BFIAR) would be a better fit for us this year since most of the FIAR lessons are geared toward early readers and writers and we’re just not quite there yet.

Each week we will read a different classic children’s book (think Going On A Bear Hunt and The Runaway Bunny) every day for a full week (five days in a school week = five in a row). The curriculum/guide suggests learning activities across all subject areas that go along with the themes of the story. This is called a unit study approach, and I really like this idea for my multi-age preschool (see how fancy we are here at the Peterson Learning Academy?). FIAR allows me to adapt ideas to meet the interests and needs of both boys while keeping the focus on hands-on activities (I have a strong aversion to worksheets and rote seat work for kids of this age, but we can get more into that later…).

I will also be supplementing a the BFIAR guide a bit as I find necessary. For Bible I plan on using the FIAR Bible Study Supplement, The Jesus Storybook Bible, and Five Minute Devotions for ChildrenFor handwriting practice (for David only) we’ll use the Get Set For School My First School Book by Handwriting Without TearsI made my own planning notebook because that’s just how I’ve always done it and it works and I like it.

As far as the classroom goes, we have several spaces to choose from. I’m sure as the year goes on I will see how each space works best and we’ll move around all day as it suits us. This is our learning corner where we will do calendar/circle time and work on projects at the boys’ small table.
IMG_6112

I also set up some bookshelves and storage on the opposite wall so I can keep books and supplies at the ready.IMG_6113

The drawers next to the bookshelves contain supplies (crayons, markers, scissors, glue, tape) and manipulatives (teacher speak for Stuff We Use…letter and number magnets, big foam dice, ice cube trays for sorting activities, blocks, felt board pieces, puppets, pointers…all kinds of goodies).IMG_6115

The living room just happens to be in the center of our learning space, so we’ll use the couch and fireplace for story time and cuddle breaks.IMG_6121

Our dining room table will be another great workspace since we can clear it off and have plenty of room to lay out projects.IMG_6123

The kitchen will play a big role in our learning adventures this year. I plan on doing at least one cooking project each week that goes along with our story, so I wanted to make sure the kitchen was accessible for the boys. I dedicated several lower drawers to the supplies they’ll be using most often in our cooking: measuring cups and spoons, baking dishes, bowls, and cutting boards.IMG_6126

Perhaps what I’m most excited about, as far as the actual learning space is concerned, is the fact that we will have nearly unlimited access to the Outdoor Classroom (thank you, California sunshine!). One of our decks will host our outdoor learning stations: a sensory table (designed and built by Jon, our resident playtime architect and Principal Daddy), the “Play Doh Table”, and a big tub of plastic toys and Play Doh tools (plus a comfy chair for Teacher Mommy).IMG_6130

Our new house is in an awesome location for outdoor explorations. We live in a mountain canyon with a creek in our back yard–what else could two little boys ask for? We will spend plenty of time out in nature exploring and using our senses as we learn about the world around us.IMG_5921

Right up the street from us is a large lake with trails and beaches. Yet another exciting venue to explore in our outdoor classroom.IMG_5971

Since reading books will be a big part of our year, we will also be spending plenty of time at our local library enjoying books together.IMG_5925

I’ve joined a local homeschool co-op that a fellow homeschooling friend of mine is a part of, and we’ll be having weekly park days and field trips throughout the year. Not only will the park days and field trips be fun for us, but they will also give me and the boys an opportunity to connect with our peers. In addition to the co-op, we’ll also be attending MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers) or CBS (Community Bible Study) each Wednesday morning, and AWANA on Sunday evenings. We’ll have quite the varied schedule, but I’m sure we’ll never get bored!IMG_3285

I can’t wait to see what this year has in store for us as we embark on this new homeschool adventure together–wish us luck!

IMG_6040

Hope on the Day My Baby Would Have Been Born

1552990676_4692a14513_b

Today is heavy.

Off an on for the last six months I’ve been dreading today because I knew that today would come, whether I was ready for it or not. That no matter how much I worked to let go and move forward, that today would be a difficult reminder. In fact, this day will come every year, and it will be a reminder.

Today is the day my baby would have been born.

I’ve written a lot on here about my miscarriage and, had that pregnancy continued, today is the day our child would have been born. Instead, where there should be presence there is absence, and where there should be joy there is a touch of sadness. I miss the baby that I never got to meet, and I am reminded so clearly of this fact today.

I’m not sure if the pain of losing a child–even a child who I never got to meet–will ever go away completely. What I do know, however, is that there is hope in the midst of pain. Hope in my past, hope in today, and hope for tomorrow.

Hope in my past because I even though I was not in control over my loss, God was. And He loves this child even more than I do. His hands were the first to hold this child, and he will keep her close to his heart forever and always. His heart breaks along with mine, and He sheds tears in time with mine. The reassurance of His plan and His presence–even in the darkest of days–has given me hope.

There is hope in today because I am made new in Christ. The hurt and loss of my past do not define me–rather, they have caused me to seek Him more thoroughly and grow more closely into the person He created me to be. There is hope today because I have much to be grateful for: a new home, the start of a new school year, a healthy family, silly boys who never let me off my toes–even another baby on the way. There is hope in today because at 5:30 this morning I was awoken by the sweet serenade of “You Are My Sunshine” and butterfly kisses from my 3-year old. There is hope today because today is a beautiful gift that I will only get to enjoy once. I intend to do that.

There is hope for tomorrow because the best is yet to come. Although pain is an inevitable part of life, there will always be another tomorrow. My tomorrow is looking brighter than ever, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

So on this heavy day, my spirit is lightened by the hope that remains.

Today, tomorrow, and for always.