Pea Harvest

Among the many things I [over]planted in my raised garden beds this year were tomato plants and peas. I had one beautiful tomato growing earlier this week and what can only be presumed to have been a squirrel got hold of it before it could get out of the green stage. That put me square into the red stage. We need to get a chicken wire fence up asap, but I'm pretty helpless in that department and Craig's still out of town (but he comes home tomorrow!) so I decided it could wait.

But then these peas – the heat is so intense I'm losing my pea plants. It could be a combination of the heat, the fact that I planted too many in the same area, and also that I had nothing for them to grow up (I'm new at this, cut me some slack). So when I saw these tonight and also knew the plants are about to kick the bucket and that some furry villain might come and help themselves more than they have already I decided to go ahead and pick them tonight.

Here's what I had. They are small, but they are mighty:

Small, but proud

Okay, so they aren't really even mighty. But they are mine and I planted them and they grew! And look how cute they are in their little pod here:

Peas in a Pod

And here, my friends, is what I got from my pea plants this year. And I ate them all by myself. Raw. They were yummy.

The Whole Pea Harvest

So. Fully aware that this year's garden is still an experiment, but one I'm counting on seriously learning from so as to know exactly what to do next year, I figured whatever we grow will be for immediate consumption. Any preserving will be done via farmer's market. Bring in the green beans:

Green Beans!

I felt sorta like Ma as I cut off the ends, blanched them, cooled them, dried them, and bagged them. Four pounds of green beans. So really that's not that much but it felt like something the other night.

Puttin' em up for winter

Tomorrow I need to figure out what to do with the eggplant. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but now they are staring me down. I'm not sure what I should do. Can I do something to them for the freezer? And I think the zucchini has sweet bread written all over them. Though I do like to saute them in butter as a side dish. Yum.

Anyway, that's that. I'm thinking about going to a canning class next month via University of Missouri Extension. We'll see how that goes.

Oh, and Craig comes home tomorrow night. Yay.

Father’s Day

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If not for friends making plans for their husbands/father of their children today I would have totally forgotten. Craig is still out of town and I don't call him unless it's emergency-like. We wait for him to call us when he can.

But we still love him and we can still let the world know. He's a great dad. And we miss him. We hope he has a good day today.

And to my own dad, Dad – I mailed your birthday/Father's day gift on Friday, so unless a miracle happened (and I highly doubt it) you will get it tomorrow or Tuesday. You too are a great dad and we miss you too and we hope you had a good day today too.

Irony…

…is putting up a post about family time on WORLD Mag on the same day my husband is out of town, my two older kids are in day camp and my two younger ones are at Grandma’s and I’m chilling out on the couch all by myself.

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Last week I helped host a three-day homeschooling seminar here in my town. In addition to the parent training, we provided educational camps for the children to attend, and my own four attended as well.

What this meant for us was that for three days in a row we had to be dressed and out of the house by 7:30 in the morning, with lunches packed to boot. It about killed me.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m whining about our three-day exposure to what most of America does on a daily basis. What we went to was worthy enough of our time. But what we gave up was significant. For three days we experienced this great rush to get out of the house and then we went our separate ways for the next eight hours. When we got home we were all five completely exhausted from the day and retreated quickly to isolated activities.

I used to read in parenting magazines that what was important about time was quality, not quantity. Seriously? How does one obtain quality time when the bulk of one’s energies have gone toward other things all day long? I don’t buy it, not one bit. Yet, conversely, I’m not advocating that quantity is all that matters either. You can’t have really one without the other. Relationships are built on both.

Sometimes I wonder how our life would be different if my kids went off to school each day and I had that time at home. Would my house be cleaner? Would the laundry be put away? Would I have all this free time to read and write and create?

I have a quotation by Olga Masters in the signature of my email. It reads, “Many people have said to me, ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write because of that.’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.'”

Sometimes I need three-days of packing lunches in a rush and hustling kids into the van early in the morning while still brushing their hair to remind me that I believe that. Because I do.

 

Fast Food

I know my tendency when cooking for only 1 grown-up and many kids is to not really cook that much. My tendency is to also get super tired super fast, so super fast food is the default.

On my way home from working the bookstore today (Katie and Millie worked it with me the entire day!), I was tempted to stop somewhere. Instead of a restaurant, I decided it would be okay to go to Trader Joe’s and get some convenience foods for the next few days. I spent less money for better food (not exactly healthy food, but better), and will still feel like I’m catching a break because I don’t really have to cook it.

I covered the 5 basic food groups:
1. Chinese
2. Mexican
3. Italian
4. Milk
5. Blueberries

I think we’re set. Next stop, the library for a new cache of movies…

Somewhere there’s a bathtub with my name written on it. But not before our Mandarin Orange Chicken comes out of the oven (in less than 10 minutes now…).

Homeschooling Options, An Insider’s Perspective

I’ve been homeschooling our girls for, oh, a while now and, while I’m no expert (oldest is only going into 5th grade), I’ve learned a couple of things.

There are so many options available to homeschoolers it almost makes your head spin. There’s the “do- it-yourself” model in which you don’t use outside resources that much. There’s the “hold my hand, I need some help” option, which is not to be sneered at – it has its place. And then there’s the attempt to find the balance of the two. I feel like I’ve been in all three places and I get asked fairly frequently my thoughts on my experiences.

Namely, I get asked my perspective on the two-day school versus what I’m doing now with Classical Conversations. They are very different animals, but I do have some thoughts for those Googling either one of those phrases (you know who you are, mysterious Internet researchers).

No Outside Program:

First of all, we’ve gone without programs for several years. Being new to St. Louis in 2005, I joined a homeschool group so I had access to resources and I did handfuls of things with various people, but the kids really changed from thing to thing. The moms who had been in the group for a long time weren’t always open to new moms joining in (and it wasn’t really even that they were being exclusive, but when you already know people it makes sense they are the ones you talk to at events, right? I get that). I just didn’t know anyone, nor did my kids. It was like starting over again every time we showed up anywhere. We did this for the first two years here, but it was hard.

Two-Day School Option:

For the 2007-2008 school year we went with the two-day school option. I was doing a fair amount of work for God’s World Publications that fall and I really needed the help. Conversely, much of what I earned that fall went to pay for the two-day school (the two were purposely tied together).

That type of school has its place for certain families and I don’t regret our participation that year: it was a good experience and our girls really enjoyed their time with friends. It indeed kept me to an accountable routine each week, and we finished school at the end of May like most school kids do, which was really nice that year. The school used Sonlight curriculum as its base and that’s what we use too, so it was a natural fit that year.

The cons for us were really cons for me: I really like more flexibility in my homeschooling than the two-day school allowed. Because of their need to keep the students at the same place academically, they gave us a weekly schedule. The girls went to school on Mondays and Thursdays, and I got a list of what we had to do on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. There was no deviating from this list because, if we got behind, the girls would be behind when they went to school.

Also, because they only went two days/week, the school took no breaks other than a two-week Christmas break and a spring break. Our family needs breather days built into our schedule (it’s part of the reason we don’t normally finish at the end of May, as we take little breaks all through the year). I like doing this, and since we didn’t get to do that last year, we were gasping and panting through much of it.

Then there’s the cost: for two days/week, the cost was pretty expensive. The job I had that fall was intense and the pay matched, but it was temporary. I get paid for what I do now, but not at the level that would support another schooling option like the two-day school option.

Also, the pro of Sonlight also became a con when considering a second year with this school. The year they spent there, M and C were in the same class and doing the same Sonlight level; K was in a different class and doing a different Sonlight level. This wasn’t so bad (I sort of plan to do two cores each year anyway, one with the olders and one with the youngers), but had they gone back this year all three would have been in a different class and in three different Sonlight cores. I don’t have the capacity to read three complete cores to my kids in one year – just isn’t going to happen. This was another factor in our decision not to re-enroll.

Classical Conversations:

About the time we were making all of these decisions, the whole Classical Conversations idea came onto my radar. I read Kerry’s blog about it and it piqued my interest. I then saw a booth at the conference I went to that spring and it sparked my brain even more. I had two friends who were also interested in it, and before you knew it we were off and running.

I periodically look around to see what other families are saying about Classical Conversations on their blogs, and I'll tell you: there’s a real love/hate relationship with the program abounding on the Internet. I have no problems with people deciding it’s not for them – none at all. It isn’t for everyone and I say that to just about everyone who emails me with questions. I would just caution those who are so negative to try to do a better job giving a pro/con perspective rather than just a negative one.

From our perspective, we’ve loved it this year. Our program was a starter one and we had 7 families involved; it was the perfect first-year size. The academics are good and the weekly memory focus is a very nice thing for our family. The girls loved seeing the same kids each week, developed strong friendships there, and are totally thrilled that we are doing it again next year. This is probably the first time they have consistent friends to do things with and there’s peace in that for my kids.

The complaints I’ve seen on the Internet are mostly that the info flies over the heads of the little ones. Well, yes and no. I in no way expect my 5-year-old to understand anything at all about square roots. I don’t really expect her to explain the Dred Scott decision and its implications to anyone. But I’m totally happy that, if given the year 1803 in any context, she can rattle off the following: “In 1803 the purchase of Louisiana from France prompted westward exploration by pioneers such as Lewis and Clark and congressman Davy Crocket.” We can all do it. And for a 35-year-old who previously had no context for when the Louisiana Purchase happened or by whom or really for what purpose (have I ever mentioned my own horrendous history education in the Oklahoma public schools?), I’m happy I can do it, let alone my 10, 8, 7, and 5-year-olds.

I’m happy they have these facts cemented in their brains because when we read about these events later they will already have a rack of pegs of information from which to hang new information. It all fits together and makes sense in a historical timeline in their brains. We could read all this stuff for sure, but the memory focus they get from CC is a super valuable resource I wouldn’t want to be without right now. Is it for everyone? Absolutely not! But could it be the right thing for many? Sure thing.

I love that we meet once a week and that the other four days are still my own to plan and implement. I can do what I want with what we learned on Monday – some weeks we did more with the memory work, many weeks we did nothing at all. We continued with Sonlight at home the other days and I felt the two really complemented each other a lot. I plan to do the CC/Sonlight combo again next year.

So, that’s that. Those of you who got here by looking for information on Classical Conversations reviews or are interested in the two-day school option, I hope this helped. If you have more questions, let me know.

Why, No, Thank You, We’re Not an At-Home Daycare

Okay, so funny story #1 I said I’d tell you about? I guess it wasn’t really that funny after all. I mean, initially it was, but in the end it wasn’t.

No idea what I’m talking about? It’s over here at WORLDMag.

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As children across the country have been celebrating the last day of school, my kids hosted their own end-of-school carnival for their friends in our backyard.

I say “carnival” loosely because it was a project envisioned, engineered, constructed, and carried out completely by the kids, all of whom happen to be 10 or under.

There were 17 kids in our smallish backyard. As my only responsibilities were to provide drama control (15 of the 17 were girls) and keep the snack shack in constant supply, it was a fairly easy day for me. The kids did their thing at their various stations for several hours, and I chatted the day away with parents on the deck.

Then a car pulled up in my neighbor’s driveway. A woman rolled down her window and, with great hope in her eyes, called out to ask if I was operating an at-home day care.

I began laughing hysterically at the thought . . . until I saw her hope disappear. She looked so disappointed. I walked over to her as she began pouring out her story: single grandmother with sole custody of her two young grandchildren looking for some kind of a lifeline, wondering if it might be attached to the tree in my backyard.

I affirmed her in her role and acknowledged how hard it must be. I shook my head sadly as I told her I wasn’t aware of any in-home day cares in our neighborhood and that, while we might look like one here, we’re really just four families getting together for an afternoon of play.

Not wanting to send her away empty-handed, I gave her the name of the seminary we have connections with and told her a new seminary wife looking for work might be just the ticket for her. Hope slowly began to return to her life-weary eyes. She thanked me and backed out of my neighbor’s driveway, leaving me to the 17 kids in my backyard having a grand old time.

The five-minute conversation made me profoundly thankful for my situation and equally sad for hers. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” I saw hope deferred in that poor woman’s face. And I longed to give her something better than another “what if,” but I had nothing else to offer.

What does hope look like when extended to a weary grandmother lamenting her grandchildren’s challenges because of her own child’s parental failures? What would you have said? What would you have done?

My Writing Balloon Fizzled

We had four extra kids for the weekend, so that meant survival and not much else (not that those kids were hard – just 8 kids as opposed to the normal 4 takes extra thought. And an extra driver most of the time). Two funny stories from the weekend:

1) Well, I can’t really tell you this one yet because I’m telling the WORLD on Thursday.

2) This conversation held in my van on the way to the swimming pool on Sunday afternoon:

6-year-old boy to his 4-year-old sister: “I’m not sure if we know anyone who isn’t a Christian. Do we? I don’t think we do. Wait! Maybe the Miller’s*!”

4-year-old girl to her 6-year-old brother: “I think you’re right! They aren’t Christian, they are vegetarian!!”

If that doesn’t about make you almost drive off the road, I’m not sure what will. Hilarious. And in case anyone wonders, we did have a quick chat about worldview verses health choices.

*Not their real name

The play the girls are in (The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe) begins this Friday which means all kinds of ramped up rehearsals this week. Rehearsals are going from 6-10 at the earliest (read: we won’t really be done until 10:30 or 11, so bring a pillow while you wait). This wouldn’t be so bad except that Katie and Millie also have day camp this week, so they have to be ready to leave the house by 8:30 everyday. The person who is most affected by this schedule is Katie who is the only one of the whole batch to have to stay up that late and also have to get up early.
Fortunately she’s also the only one of the whole batch who knows herself well enough to know when enough’s enough. She will voluntarily take naps when she’s tired, so I see that happening for her every day this week beginning tomorrow.

I volunteered to help with the cast party which meant I got drafted into being responsible for the cast party. I haven’t exactly done anything with that yet, so I should do that sometime soon. Like maybe tomorrow.

Also, all three girls need black shoes for this production (all the black shoes we own are either too small or completely trashed). Guess who doesn’t sell black shoes in the summertime? Pretty much everybody. Okay, I only tried Target, so I get to go hunting for three pairs of black shoes tomorrow.

I also offered to bake some concession stand snacks for two of the six shows. I’m planning to make some lion cupcakes and turkish delight. Note I said “planning” to make these things. What will actually probably happen is a last minute batch of chocolate chip cookies and/or rice krispy treats. Because that’s just the kind of thoughtful mom I am.

And that just about does it for this first official day of summer. Maybe my writing balloon will blow back up again soon, or maybe not. It’s too early to tell.