Sunday, September 28, 2014

No Particular Order

I didn't even realize Humphrey was in the crib until I had already put a sleeping Caroline down. They all stayed cozy for the duration of the nap. 

Skirt in progress the other day:

Skirt almost completed in the same day:

What the rest of my kitchen looked like as a result of my taking the time out to sew:

Goofy girl won't keep socks on, good thing it still isn't very cold here:

W and I put together an awesome train track. Probably my personal favorite toy. 

This is what $300 looked like at the grocery store. OY. But at least it was a nice quiet trip with only a sleeping C for company. 

And lastly, we have our first visitors here with us! It was a thrill to pick up my parents yesterday, and I'm incredibly grateful that they made the cross-country trip. 

That's all for now. More soon! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Updates from Munchkinland

There are about 87 other things I should be doing right now so I'll make this quick but I wanted to share an update from the schooling front. We are now happily ensconced in the school routine. The first two weeks were a reminder to me as much as Amy that adjusting to a routine takes time. I had to resist the temptation to say "wait! I changed my mind! Let's homeschool!" And I'm really glad we are where we are, because Amy loves her class and it is proving to be an excellent experience for her. After getting to know her and her skills Amy's teacher suggested that Amy could try doing second grade work. (Her class is one-room-schoolhouse style, with several grades under one teacher). Amy was all for the challenge, and the work has proved easy for her, so yesterday we decided to make it official and Amy has now skipped over first grade and is a full-fledged second grader! She was SO excited, and, lacking a camera, I had to content myself with a fabulous mental picture of her this morning, at her new, bigger desk with bigger chair and fancy second-grade nametag. We are all pleased! 

This boy is doing fabulously at preschool as well. It's a very low-key program and seems mostly play focused, which is just fine. He and Amy also are getting a hefty helping of Bible instruction, for which I am very grateful. But oh man, this guy and his guns. Or blasters. Or whatever. Yeesh. 

And last but not least, Miss C who is getting quite close to walking. She is currently keeping me on my toes by not taking the same naps two days in a row, and also refuses to sleep in her own crib at night, preferring to snuggle up between me and D... but that's okay, we'll get there, right? Otherwise she is just super. And desperately needing my attention right now, so off I go, have a great day folks!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Walking Distance

Though I cannot say that we live in a really fantastic neighborhood, I do find it really enchanting how close we are to so many things. Like the grocery store, the back corner of which you see in that picture up there. Half a mile, less than a ten minute walk. Such a novelty! One of these days when the big kids are both in school I gave a dream of walking to the store to "pick up a few things" ...but so far I haven't had the occasion of needing "only" a few things at the grocery store. It is still nice to know I could. 

Even closer than that, a mere two blocks over, is the town swimming pool.  Indoor pool within walking distance? Another score!  The kids and I checked it out for the first time today and it was quite nice, especially because of the shallow end being a perfect 2.5 ft depth, just right for my little non-swimmers. William is signed up for swim lessons beginning in October and I think Amy gets swim lessons through school at some point. Now, if I could just find a time to go swim laps on a regular basis we'd be all set. 

Oh, and this was Caroline's first swim. She found it all rather soothing, and snuggled with me quietly the whole time. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blackberry Wreaths and Pumpkin Bars

We spent some time in the yard today, tidying up a bit, trimming things.  Don found a pole saw in the shed and lopped off a bunch of crazy blackberry vines growing Jumanji-style over the top of the other crazy-tall shrub that surrounds the side of the house. The scale doesn't translate well in this picture, but these vine pieces were all at least six feet long and were easy to twist into some really pretty wreaths. The largest is at least 20" in diameter. I am curious to see how they look and hold up as they dry. 

Also of note from the weekend so far, very fabulous pumpkin bars that William and I made on Friday. The recipe was the kids' request, as they remembered the bars our neighbor brought us when we moved in here. It wasn't hard to find a recipe, and I even cut back on the sugar and halved the amount of frosting without sacrifice. They are amazing and among the five of us we ate half the pan the first day. If I get back to blogging from my actual computer and not just the iPad app, I will try to find links for the recipes I've made lately. Until then, Happy weekend!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Be Still, My Heart

Oh, I have waited for this day. Yesterday, to be exact. The day when William decided that he could draw, and made a picture that really and truly looked like he wanted it to. 

I wrote about that day for Amy several years ago and as far as I'm concerned this is a milestone every bit as exciting as the first steps. It is a moment of exploding confidence and ability to capture the world as they see it.  For Amy drawing has been a journaling and story-telling device, and she has filled many, many hours with markers and paper, mixing classmates with Star Wars characters. 

William took a few months longer, but now he's churning out an impressive number of pictures of people jumping into swimming pools. This was the first one:

That's William in red on the right. And he even pointed out that drawing worked upside down, too, as him doing a headstand in the grass, blue sky above. 

And here's Don and I (he even gave me a yellow outfit, my favorite color):

Incidentally, all this swimming pool business stems from the fact that we have an indoor pool just two blocks from our house, and William can hardly wait to go. Today we signed him up for lessons! 

This drawing thing is yet another reminder that kids always, always achieve something when they are ready to and not a moment before. And then it is a piece if cake.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sweetgrass and Wheatgrass

I don't think I ever blogged about the field trip the kids and I took this spring, shortly before the end of school. In fact, Amy actually skipped a day of school so we could go to Boone Hall, a Charleston area must-see that we were running out of time to see before we moved. Anyway, it was a great day and while we were there I finally indulged in a Sweetgrass basket to remember our time in the low-country. 

I am so very glad I did, because now it sits on a table here in the PNW and whenever I find myself missing the south I just take a whiff of this basket and the sweet and, er, grassy smell takes me right back to a South Carolina. 

On a completely different grassy note, have I mentioned that we have a greenhouse in our backyard? It isn't very pretty and like every other building in this town really needs a coat of paint, but the inside is warm and bright and just lovely and I can't wait to start some seeds come springtime. I have always wanted a greenhouse. 

Saturday evening Don grilled and the kids played and I escaped in here for a short but, drink in hand, to put the little plastic pot of wheatgrass from the grocery store into a more attractive pot. It was five minutes of gardening bliss. 

We have not been allowing our cats outside so I'm hoping they'll enjoy this as a little kitty-friendly greenery in the windowsill.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Random Bits from the Weekend

I skipped out on posting the last two days so I have a whole boatload of miscellaneous moments to share tonight. Get ready, there is very little cohesive in what I'm about to post!

Say hi to Benny! As usual for us we are totally late to the party and have only recently watched The Lego Movie - which was completely adorable and clever - and now the kids have been going through our Legos trying to make all the characters. Thanks to all of Don's vintage Legos we have an authentic Benny on our hands, complete with the cracked chin piece on his helmet. 

Next up, also in the category of "late to the party" I finally caved and joined Pinterest. Over the summer I bought my brother's old iPad mini from him for cheap and have found it highly entertaining and useful for many things, not the least of which is looking up recipes. And that led to my signing up for Pinterest to keep everything I find in one place. One could of course make a career out of surfing through all the pretty ideas collected there but it has been rather inspiring, and this weekend alone I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and for dinner tonight two different kinds of quesadillas. 

Don and I thought the kale-white-bean and corn-black-bean quesadillas were both fabulous, but Amy wasn't quite as much of a fan, and at one point she stated "This quesadilla is really slowing my dinner down" in such perfect deadpan that Don and I laughed and laughed, and Amy got all full of herself and wrote down her own quote after dinner: 

Anyway, the upshot of all that is with the combined forces of iPad and Pinterest I'm feeling much more inspired in the kitchen these days. Go figure. 

Moving on. Earlier today we investigated a little park downtown. Pretty pond with lots of seagulls, ducks, and geese. Crackers in my purse = happy birds and kids. 

And, well, I guess that's about it. I had another bit to share but it is long enough for its own post and I am feeling a little too rambly this evening. Will report back tomorrow!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I am finding it endlessly enlightening to have a large-ish age difference between my oldest and my youngest child, because the contrast brings such perspective to different situations. There are plenty of days when the care of a baby seems so intense, compared to the maturity and self-sufficiency that my older two (sometimes) possess. And then there are other moments and conversations with the big kids that make changing diapers and nursing and keeping small objects out of reach seem so blessedly simple. 

Amy didn't do any extra-curriculars last year on account of the early morning and long school day that was kindergarten. This year school doesn't start quite so early, and she is of course a whole year older and wanting to try new things, so at her request we tried out a cheerleading class this afternoon. 

And she absolutely hated it. Even though she really did a fine job keeping up with a bunch of kids older and way more experienced than her, she was still in tears because she can't do a cartwheel and doesn't want to go through the process of learning it. So then comes the interesting part for me to decide when it is important to encourage stick-to-it-tivness and when to allow a graceful retreat from a "for fun" activity that is clearly not fun. 

For the record, I don't think I will insist on this one; I was only moderately impressed with the program anyway. But as Amy continues to explore new things I know this conversation will come up again. 

Diapers may be long gone for two out if three children, but I am pretty sure the challges of parenthood have only just begun. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Big Girl (and Her Brother)

Look who rode in the shopping cart like a big girl for the first time this afternoon! She was very pleased with the new arrangement, and I must say it was nice to not go through the exercise of transferring her to the front carrier or lugging the whole car seat into the store. Probably could have done this sooner, but I'm finding that there's something about a third child that makes me very inclined not to rush things along - it all goes fast enough anyway. 

Oh, and have I mentioned just how crazy Caroline is about her brother? Don't get me wrong, she loves Amy, too, but there is a special genuine fondness for William, and the feeling seems quite mutual. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A Puppy Tale

Today I would like to tell you a story about a small puppy (actually, two small puppies) and one very devoted little boy. 

When we were about to move from South Carolina, I took great pains to tuck Puppy away in my personal bag, and did not allow him out at hotels in the car or anywhere, because I feared tiny Puppy would get lost in the shuffle and we'd never quite know where he was. He has gone missing once or twice before. 

And he went missing again. But this time it was after we were safely at my parents' house. I made a big presentation of "look who came with us, here's Puppy, take good care of him!" and with that William tucked him in his bed... and then no one could find him. 

Surely he would turn up, we said, but he didn't by the time we left, and still has not. Puppy is off on some adventure, and William has been very sad. 

So, enter eBay and a Puppy doppelganger. I had Puppy II in my possession for a few days before I decided how to present him. I'm a terrible liar, and didn't really want to pass this off as THE Puppy, so I wrote a cute note introducing New Puppy to William and left it all for him to find after preschool today. 

But the funny part was, even with this whole story, William didn't think anything other than that this was his one and only Puppy, and was so incredibly relieved to have him back that I didn't feel it necessary to overly explain, so I just went with it. 

Amy, of course, was suspicious and insisted that the handwriting on the note looked a lot like mine. But I just played dumb and said it was all quite a mystery. 

I guess all that really matters is that my boy has his puppy again, and someday perhaps this Puppy will meet his long-lost twin. 

Monday, September 8, 2014


How come it has taken me so long to get matching shirts for these two sisters? 

These were on the clearance table, no less. Win! 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Sunday

Greetings, sorry to miss yesterday. Too grumpy to blog. Long day, yada yada. 

Better now, had fun day at home with the kiddos. Last night I finished the last eighteen inches of binding on Caroline's quilt. She is snuggled under it at present. 

This girl is going on nine months. Lately she's found herself standing without holding on to anything, just for a few seconds, but longer everyday. My goodness! She is also fond of taking everything out of the bottom of the pantry. 

I can't seem to get the pantry organization right, or maybe we just have too much junk. Hmmm. 

Quilt complete, I am returning to a neglected knitting project, and squeezed in a few rows during C's morning nap. Thanks for the help, Ollie. I wanted to start another sewing project but my machine really needs service, and finally we have a local place to take it, so that's on my list for the week. 

One other small project of the day was indulging the kids in their wish to bake something of their own creation. Sort of - I suggested we make a basic muffin batter, then I split it into two and let them each add what they wanted. That seemed to satisfy, and their little creations turned out pretty well. 

And that was our day, pretty much. These kiddos are good company. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Lego Land

There were many things I could have/should have been doing today, but the honest truth is I spent most of my "free" time today playing Lego. And by free time I mean Caroline napping time, because she tries to eat Lego like it's her job. 

I think I drive Don crazy with the fine point I put on how the Lego gets organized, but it makes me feel like my world is in order when the pieces are all sorted nicely in their drawers. Not easily done (and not yet done) when working with the combined collections of Don's and my childhood Legos plus what our kids have accumulated in their own right. 

I'll let you know if I ever make it to the bottom of the pile. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Local Fun

As much as I didn't really want to come out here, I am having fun figuring out what daily life on the Left Coast is like. Moving around the way we do makes for feeling like an odd blend of tourist and local each time we go somewhere new. Yes, I live here, but I'm not from here... And so what exactly is up with all the teeny little drive-thru espresso huts? I just had to find out. Which resulted in the consumption of this very yummy salted caramel latte while waiting to pick up William from school. I could make a habit out of this. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

New Look

Today's post is brought to you by yesterday's picture of a very smiley baby, who, like all my kids, has never had more than a passing, newborn interest in a pacifier. Yet when I unearthed this one in a forgotten purse, and handed it to her, it became an object of fascination all afternoon. She finds all sorts of other things to stuff in her mouth all day, so why not something that is supposed to be there? 

Forgive me the heavy post from last night; naturally I do feel better about the whole situation today, if still a bit unresolved. Amy had a good day and I think was a bit better rested. She loves recess (recesses, actually - they have several at this school), and loves making new friends. And she's super glad that William will be there tomorrow, too. As I've said on this blog many times before, I find the broad subject of education endlessly interesting to discuss - whether it is for my own kids or not. I am fascinated by homeschooling and very much would like to be part of that cool kid club, and I can see so much benefit in it for my kids and our family. However, I have to reconcile that with my own personality type, my desire for personal space in my day, the fact that my better half is gone half the time, and how to address the needs of each child without over-indulging them either. It's tricky, and for better or worse there are lots of options open to parents these days. When I was a kid I wasn't particularly crazy about school, but no one ever hinted that I had a choice, and I really didn't. It was simply what we all did. 

Which is another long way of saying, I love writing and thinking about school, and along with designing the perfect Lego storage system (another post, perhaps) it is something I like to keep simmering on the back burner of my brain - I just need to give the pot a stir once in awhile to keep it all from bubbling over. Thanks as always for listening. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First Day

Sometimes I think I am really terrible when it comes to making decisions. Somethings I think I am open-minded to a fault, and so persistent when it comes to analyzing pros and cons that I simply don't know when to let a subject be. Sometimes I think I lack conviction, and am too easily swayed by the incidental comments or experiences of others, or by the more purposeful discussion with friends and family close to me. Sometimes I think I have a perpetual case of "the grass is greener". Sometimes I think I have too much time on my hands. Sometimes I think I don't have enough. 

Sometimes it helps to remember that "even a spotted pig looks black at night" and to shelve my thoughts for the night, to be revisited in the morning. 

All the time I have three amazing children, and all the time I want to make the best possible decisions I can on their behalf. 

Which is a long, and odd, way to begin a post about our first day of school. 

Amy and William happily went off to a new school today, William for the first time ever (two-day preschool, mornings only). I picked them both up happy, too. William takes the prize, I think, for best attitude and most detailed recounting of the day. He admitted to crying a bit after I left (his teacher had told me that, too), but was able to summarize his morning in an incredibly mature and circumspect way and decide that on the whole, it was a very good first day of school. Amy, old school-pro first-grader that she is, was predictably positive and had a fine day with lots to report as well. While they were both gone, Caroline napped and I had One. Solid. Hour. totally to myself in my own house. William and I played with the tools in his tool box after a special Happy Meal lunch this afternoon. He couldn't believe his renewed good fortune, to have the chance to hold court without Amy around to interrupt. 

It was an entirely lovely and successful day. 

But something is off in my heart. Amy already doesn't want to go back - I think she wanted the thrill of the first-day newness of school without crashing back into the day-after-day school routine that thoroughly exhausted us all last year. 

Did I mention that we have been out of school for an entire 13 weeks? That's three months, 1/4 of a year, exactly, having left an early-ending school district and joined a late-starting one. Thirteen weeks seems to have been sufficiently long enough for me to have forgotten all the things I hated about the school routine. 

There's plenty to like: the routine, for sure. The early bedtime. The time to spend with the younger children. The diversity of experience. And, since this is a Christian school - a good helping of Bible instruction thrown in for good measure. I sure didn't mind those few minutes all to myself this morning, either. 

But the dislike column? Rearing it's ugly head again and making me RETHINK, AGAIN the whole school/homeschool dilemma. Bullets on the dislike column include: 
-Reports of other unruly, snarky children that my angel children must keep company with
-Homework. In first freakin' grade. 
-Even in a three-grade blend, it still sounds like Amy is ahead of things and yet
-The workload, and length of day is tiring for a six year old, no matter how smart she may be
-Detailed instructions from the school as to exactly what a lunchbox may contain
-Playing chauffeur (and stuffing Caroline in the carseat) up to three times a day for drop offs and two different pick up times. And getting Caroline out of the car and back in again at each of those. 
-Packing a lunch, setting an alarm, rushing through bedtime, and generally feeling STRESSED OUT for five days a week. 
-Feeling once again beholden to the school calendar and knowing that we are basically trapped on this weirdo coast for the duration of the school year, because a trip back east would invariably mean missing days of this expensive school that I somehow though would be a good idea to pay for. 

Ahhhh!!! Perhaps it's better I just go to bed and revisit this all after we've all given it a fair shake of more than one day. I'm venting here to avoid venting to Amy and further confusing her own emotions on the subject. Incidentally, none of this applies to William - I really feel that six hours of preschool a week will benefit him, and us, tremendously, regardless of what I decide to do with Amy. My angst is for the full-time student. 

So, that's my story. Now, can I stick to it? What is a mother to do? I was quite convinced for months that homeschooling would be the right fit for us here, then I let a summer of chaos and moving and traveling and visiting and crawling baby and arguing siblings drive me to the proclamation "Off you go! School for all!!" 

We will give this a fair shake, and if nothing else I'll spend a few weeks going through my lovely books already purchased

and see if I can't wrap my head around what homeschooling would mean for us, whether it begins in a month or a year. That's really all I need, enough mental space to wrap my head around the subject at hand. That mental space was really lacking in the last few months. 

Anyway, thank you SO much for listening to this long rambling diatribe from a crazy mom who can't make up her mind about school. See ya tomorrow!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Long Weekend Quilt

Oh happy times! I rather unintentionally found myself in the middle of a new quilt last week and am so very pleased (as I always am) to have made the time for some sewing. 

Here's my little sewing area in the downstairs guest bedroom/playroom. I love the wall color, and it happens to match the fabric in this project. With birthday money many months ago I bought a Moda jelly roll and had plans for a large, elaborately pieced quilt for Caroline, but impulsively decided to just slap them all together into a little crib-sized number, and by doing so could finish the project entirely with materials on hand. Always a win. 

I pieced the strips horizontally on the front and vertically on the back, so it is double sided. The batting is a thick cotton, and I'm hoping this will fool Caroline into thinking she is sleeping under the heavy quilt on our bed, as she seems to be so fond of doing. 

You might notice that the binding is not quite finished - I took these pictures while I had daylight (and a model) yesterday, and planned on finishing the binding last night, but my model had other ideas, so I will wrap up this post up tonight and try again to finish the hand-sewing. It is a thrill to complete a project!