Chiara 17 months

I keep having these moments when I watch Chiara do something only a “big girl” could do- like climb up a step stool to wash her hands, or give another baby a Paci, or make jokes that crack her brothers up, and it hits me, my baby isn’t a baby anymore! So, an update. So I can remember.

The largest change has been her desire to communicate. She is signing with her hands, speaking more words, and more than anything making constant facial expressions! This is a girl with a flare for the dramatic. She’ll often scowl, just for effect, and then smile and through her head back with glee afterwards. She likes to look out of the sides of her eyes, or lower her eyes and look up through her lids. She has gained great common of both her eyes and lips, and is often impressing us with her new use of them!

She’s discovered and embraced the power of the step stool. She now likes to join me when I’m baking in the kitchen, likes to get up to the sink to wash her hands, or just climb up to explore what’s on the counters. (Sigh!)

Chiara continues to LOVE books. She will often bring one over to me, then gesture for us to move to the couch- my designated reading spot. I She loves to curl up with me and point to all the animals, birds, and flowers. She’ll sign all the words she knows and squeal loudly and point any time she sees something of interest. One day she picked out a large pile of books, and it was so hilarious watching her try various methods of getting her six or seven books from the bookshelf to my lap. She tried stacking them, but she didn’t have enough balance, she tried holding them horizontally but they kept slipping out. She eventually gripped three in one and and three in the other and worked her way over, dropping and picking up as needed.

She is moving out of her anti-social stage. She will now wave and say “Hi” or wave goodbye. And will smile and flirt with people around us. She tends to be warmer with men then women.

These days, Chiara is about as likely as her brothers to be running around the house wielding a sword, protected with a shield and helmet. Her brothers LOVE when she joins in their play and will pretend to run from her, or gently duel with her.

One of the most joyous progressions has been her comfort with her brothers. Scotland has been more playful and gentle with her of late, and she has taken to her quieter pattern. Several times the past two weeks I’ve been able to say, “Scotland will you take Chiara and play with her for a few minutes while I finish this project?” (I’ve been painting our front door, a tricky one to have a toddler assist with.) He happily agreed and invited her down to play our out to ride bikes, including her in his play, and comforting her when she needed. It’s been so sweet to see, and SUCH a help. She’ll give the boys hugs at night, and sometimes just go up to them to cuddle of her own fruition.

Words she’s saying are: Momm-ee, Daddy, Shooz (shoes), “Shoes on!”, Ahwahnsum “I want some!” She’s also used that as a question- offering me food and saying “Ahwahnsum?!” Zeezuz (Jesus), dog, uh oh!, wow, Owee! (She will often yell this at the boys or another child as an accusation of hurting her. “Owee!!” I swear she’s said “Stop!”  before. Peez (please), Cheez (cheese, yeah, No (in varying volumes!). Now if she squawks and complains, I can say “Chiara will you please use your words?” And she’ll sign something instead. Usually between signing and using yes no questions I can figure out what she needs. But thanks to her increasing communication her tantrums have decreased substantially. She signs: Drink, water, eat/hungry, kitty, dog, rabbit, up/pick me up/I want out, Hold me, bird, diaper change, and then she does a lot of pointing to indicate her wants.

Chiara Loves shoes. She will often request to change hers a few times a day. She also requests that her hair be done, and if she had her way she would wear #allthebows. The above picture was from a sweet afternoon when Scotland helped get her up from her nap. He thought it would be fun to “dress” her (though she was dressed), So he opened up her drawer and let her pick, she picked this skirt. He then led her to her closet and apparently she picked out these shoes, and these hair accessories. He happily obliged.

She’ll now join the boys for their racing games up and down the hall. They also play chase. I’ve been so impressed by the boys willingness to be slow and gentle or change their game to include Chiara.

Scotland will often ask Chiara if she wants to dance while he plays the piano. She’ll come over to the rug and twirl and run and stop or back bend over the couch as he jams. And he’ll cheer “Go Chiara!”

I let Chiara pick out her own books at the library a few weeks ago. I was surprised that she understood the privilege! She was thrilled with “her” books, and wanted to read them everyday. (The boys had each helped her pick one, and they were equally proud of their thoughtful selections. One was a book on baby bunnies, the other on baby animals.)

She loves bugs, and her instinct is always to hold them. One day while I was nature journaling she was watching a patch of ants with her cousin Tells. The two of them would place their little pointer fingers to the pavement until an ant walked up, and then they’d squeal with delight as it crawled all over their hand.

She loves slides.

 

 

 

 

Happy 10 Years to Us!



In June, Tom and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. By sheer serendipity we were in Victoria for the Foutz family reunion- the very place we honeymooned. It was sweet to get to re-live some of the emotions I felt that first week of marriage, and then to lay them against my emotions today. My life was so centered on Tom at the time. He was my greatest joy, delight, and interest. That week was euphoric for me. It was full of adventure and exploration- climbing Mt. Rainier, bounding over waves on a zodiac boat watching orcas, afternoon tea at the Buchart gardens, my first fancy French restaurant, crabbing, tide pooling but mostly being every minute with my dearest friend, Tom. Now, Tom is still my dearest friend, and in many ways it was bittersweet to remember just how much time we got to spend together back then. We don’t do anniversary gifts, but we did, unintentionally, give ourselves the greatest gift we could have- two weeks of vacation for Tom. We took one week from the 2016-2017 medical year and one week from the 2017-2018 medical year and sandwiched them together. Tom works so hard and such long hours that in many ways these past four years have made a bit of shell of him. He’s always burdened down with stress and fatigue. All things considered, he handles it well. Even I hadn’t realized how much it has transformed him until the last few days of our vacation when, fully rested, fully disconnected from his work, he emerged- himself. My Tom! That joyful, adventurous, thrilling man I had married. Our drive home was like old times, when we’d drive to New York City to visit his sister- talking the whole nine hours. I watched with girlish pride as he wake boarded, mountain biked, and rock climbed. He cheered when I got up the first time on the water skis, and the look in his eyes when I pulled myself up on the boat afterwords – took me back ten years. In some ways Tom and I’s relationship was based on novelty. He treated me to a long and adventurous courtship. During the three years that we dated we visited Boston, NYC, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. He took me to operas and Broadway shows. I played pool for the first time in a pool hall! I ate my first Ethiopian, Indian, Greek, and authentic Italian food. He toured me around Italy and Switzerland. We explored the stars with powerful telescopes and spent evenings discussing politics and social issues. We attended orchestra concerts and visited jazz clubs. At that time he largely organized our activities. Funny, I’d never thought of it, but now things have flip flopped. I largely plan our family’s outings now, and thanks to the intense love for novelty and exploration he planted in me, we’ve done a pretty decent job of exploring Seattle, now with children.

Unfortunately, too many of those adventures haven’t included Tom. I’ve sent pictures back of the boys and I on Jetty Island, or all three kids and I on the beach of the Olympic Peninsula. He didn’t get to be there when the boys spent over an hour bathing in the natural pool on the beach off the Oregon Coast, nor has he seen Snoqualmie Falls, or even the Woodland Park zoo. But he’s been there with us all the while- sending encouraging texts, and thanking me for taking such good care of our children. For this reason it was SUCH a delight to get to spend two weeks, together, exploring again. We took three ferries, kayaked, hiked, kissed behind a waterfall, swung on a rope swing over the ocean, explored downtown Victoria, and shared the Buchart gardens with our children in Canada. We mountain biked, kayaked, rock climbed, skied and wake boarded in Utah. Together. It was the best 10 year anniversary gift we could have given each other.

Pioneer Day

One of the things I have most appreciated about our move to homeschooling is how it has helped me maximize on opportunities for learning. Pioneer Day seemed like one of those opportunities. I have always loved family history, I have fond memories of Sunday afternoons spent with my Dad in his downstairs office, bent over his huge 3’x3′ family group sheet. I remember the first time I saw the name Kjersten printed in his neat script and exclaimed- “Hey! That’s like my name!” I’ve felt an important link to my Danish and Swedish ancestral lines ever since. And I’ve wanted to share that passion with my boys, but have often failed to interest them.

So, today, we dedicated the whole day to Pioneering. The goal was to spend all day outside, which we largely achieved, excepting for nap time. We “hunted” ‘fished” (Wow! were the boys thrilled that their mother was allowing them to go around shooting things! Even helping them aim their bow and arrows at “rabbits.”) We washed laundry by hand and hung it to dry. (I hope I’ll never forget Anders’ enthusiasm when he checked the clothes line in the afternoon and found his shorts dry!) We ate a meager lunch of “What we could forage along the trail (as well as from our fridge), carrots, celery, and peppers with bread and butter and a small cup of pistachios. It was an odd, simple meal, but the boys didn’t complain, they loved getting to peel the carrots and cut them themselves, and loved eating plateless, on a picnic blanket- tearing off hunks of bread and smothering it liberally with butter- despite my reminder “Anders, I know you’re excited because we haven’t had butter in such a long time, but if we eat all the butter today we won’t have any tomorrow! This was a lucky trade we made to get this butter in the first place!” Scotland in particular got into the acting. He solemnly proclaimed “We’re just grateful to have something to eat.”  He kept saying things like “At that time boys my age shot guns,” or “rode horses” etc. We fetched all our water from the “stream”- hose, and gathered buckets of water for washing from the “lake”- plastic swimming pool. After lunch we headed out for the nearest trading post- Safeway to see if we could trade some goods for some cream, milk and eggs. At first Scotland recoiled- “But that’s so far, and that’s a very steep hill.” I took him by the shoulders and with the same serious “pioneer” voice I had been using all morning I said, “Scotland, you are my oldest son. I need your help. We must go to this trading post to get cream for butter.” He went off to get ready and returned with resolve, shortly later telling Anders, “Pioneers don’t complain!” We made our trek to Safeway and back with much joviality and interest. (I love walking or biking places we usually drive because we all notice new things, and it makes our neighborhood seem all the more interesting.) After nap time, the boys made their own whipped cream- by shaking cream in pint jars. (Chia even got in on the action in a baby food jar!) Then while they busied themselves with various imaginative scenarios- mostly centered around displaying physical prowess. I cooked dinner- mashed potatoes and steak (cooked outside on the grill.) We ate our third meal outside, and finished it off with vanilla cream scones topped with whipped cream and fresh blueberries- plated and served by Scotland. We then spent the evening as the pioneers would have enjoying music (Tom’s guitar), dancing, and playing outside. It was a lovely, and something we ought to repeat more often. The boys are now sleeping soundly in the tent, as I reminisce on a most successful day.

A few lessons that stand out are the realization that my boys thrive on more physical learning- washing clothes while telling stores of my ancestors, walking to the store as we talked about trade posts and how people traded goods. They were also so thrilled to be given more responsibility. Scotland prepared much of lunch. When I suggested that he prepare the dessert- he was delighted and performed his task beautifully. Too often I stifle their development and joy by not sharing the load of household responsibilities.

Once again, I was reminded of the deep learning that goes along with reenactment. It’s the part of unit studies that I think is so powerful. Anders immediately made the connection between our Japanese unit study and our current study of pioneers. I haven’t seen a more effective way to spark interest and self directed learning than by completely flooding the environment with one subject.

I’m often overwhelmed by these sorts of studies. They seem like they’ll take too much work. But beyond a bit of brainstorming, and to be fair a bunch of reading up on my pioneer ancestor’s stories last night, I did little prep for this unit. It wasn’t visually beautiful the way some of the homeschool feeds are on Instagram, I used what I had around, and added things as we went along. But, if anything, that added to the effectiveness because the kids felt like they could contribute as well- It was Anders ideas to go hunting, and Scotland wanted to forage for berries. They liked helping to define the rules for “Pioneer Day,” and delighted in the otherness of the day. It was one day out of our norm- and yes I dedicated the entire day to the cause, but I’m so glad I did, because I can tell by the warmth in my heart that this is a day that will long linger in our memories.

Our girl, Chia

Don’t mind her bed head, I’m kind of crazy about it. This girl, she has all my heart. (Even when she picks my flowers!)

Inspired by my brother, Devin, I decided to get my “big” camera out and enjoy a photoshoot with these two. Too bad Anders was sleeping. . . well just a good excuse to drag the camera out again later this week.

Our boy, Scots

Oh how I love this kid. Any how well these faces portray the ever changing volatility of this kids emotions. He’s always enjoyed a good photo shoot.

Family Picture- 2017

I finally got my act together and coordinated family pictures. They are our first official family pictures ever. (Oops!) Tom went to my family’s reunion for the first time in five years, and knowing my photographer brother, Devin would be thereI was determined to make it happen. (Last time Devin was in town I planned to do some, and Tom was only home on evening early enough to have light, and it poured that day! Needless to say our attempts at setting up a studio in the garage were unsuccessful.) I was so thrilled with the results! Thanks Devin for taking time out of your vacation to shoot these for us! (The pictures from the previous post with these outfits were part of this shoot.)

A lengthy update on our children

It’s been a while since I just wrote an update on what the kids are up to. I’ll start with Chiara, as per her birth order, she’s often most likely to be left out.

Chiara- 15.5 months:

In the last week Chiara’s communication skills have exploded she’s now signing: bird, drink, bread, please, thank you, ball, diaper change, hungry, sleep, and thank you. She’s following instructions beautifully. In fact, yesterday, I was telling the boys “It’s time to go. Get your shoes and socks on then use the bathroom.” She went and got her moccasins and brought them to me, and then I found her in the bathroom standing next to the toilet in “peeing formation.” At first I didn’t understand, and went to pick her up, but she was adamant about the toilet, so I removed her pants and diaper and helped her sit on the toilet. Congratulating her on her good listening. She is getting quite a sense of humor and giggles freely. She’s especially ticklish under her chin and at the tops of her thighs. We have a nightly ritual of tickling and wrestling on the bed before I put her in the crib, she laughs and crawls away to the end of the bed and then I’ll grab her feet and pull her back, she’ll laugh and then I’ll tickle her and she’ll giggle all the more. She had gotten into a bad habit of hitting and squawking at people. So we’ve been really working on “gentle hands” and kindness and I’ve been quite shocked at how quickly and adeptly she’s changed her ways. She’ll go from a furrowed brow, harsh sound and swatting hands to a gentle smile and soft hands. She’s started dancing- spinning around in circles and raising her arms up and swaying. She loves books now, especially if they contain animals. She gets so excited when she sees any animal and points and says excitedly “Daddy!” (Dhddy) is her most used word. It means doggy, Daddy, ducky, and anything else exciting. She also says Yes, No, Shoes, Jesus, Mom, Mommy, and Daddy. She calls cows “moo.” Her favorite books are the Farmyard Tales Books.

She loves shoes and wants to put hers on as soon as she wakes up. (A trait my Father would be proud of!) She will also bring each of us our shoes when she notices we’re getting ready to leave. She often requests I put bows in her hair.

Her hair has gotten long enough to require being tied back or it hangs in her eyes, yesterday she was pushing it out of her eyes. It’s long enough to go in a pony with a little clip upfront, but I haven’t done it yet. It has a darling curl that looks both feminine and crazy.


She loves her daddy and will squeal and run up to him when he gets home.

She’s navigating the stairs and goes up and down them independently. She’s walking even running a bit now and is so thrilled with her competence and ability.

I babysat a three week old baby yesterday and she was SO interested, peeking into the ERGO every few minutes and gentle touching his head and squealing, her eyebrows lifted and her eyes bright.

She loves to make us laugh and has a silly face she’ll make at the dinner table to make everyone laugh. It involves squinting her eyes, scrunching her noses, and making an exaggerated smile her chin held high. She’ll hold it for a long time.Iit really is hilarious and we all laugh every time, even when she repeats it over and over.

She loves tiny things, and especially loves putting tiny things in bags/socks/ anything that might contain them.

She can draw quite successfully with the IKEA colored pencils, and likes to do so when her brothers are doing art. She loves taking the tops off the markers. She holds a pencil correctly.

In the last week she seems to have warmed up to strangers, but in general she plays coy or is rude. She often grumbles and turns away when people greet her and she swats at kids when they coo and get close to her. She is very expressive with her lips and will often form them into an “o” and turn her eyes down when people look at her.

She’s quick to tantrum and throws herself onto the floor over the smallest frustrations. As her communication is improving these seem to be lessening, and I’ve really been trying of late to listen and give heed to her requests. She’s clearly appreciated being more respected and listened to.

She’s discovered the raspberry patch and b-lines it for it whenever she goes outside hoping to find a tasty morsel.

She likes to walk down the steps at the front and back door- holding on to the railing so she doesn’t have to crawl down.

She loves flowers. She’ll point them out a walks or in books. Yesterday, she came in all excited to show me the two handfuls of fuchsia blooms she had picked from my pots. She was confused when I didn’t share her delight. (She’s really improved at just looking at flowers and just putting her hand gently under them instead of picking, so I was sad for the regression.)

Her relationship with the boys is complicated, she pretty apprehensive of Scotland, he tends to want to control her too much- picking her up and just being too active and loud. Though she loves to play a game where she swats him and he over-acts the injury. (Oh dear!) He, however, adores her and is always declaring how “cute” she is and how much he loves her. Chiara and Anders have these sweet interactions from time to time. I’ll find them playing and giggling together. In the last short while I’ve seen her go to the boys to comfort them when they’ve been crying- patting them on the shoulder.

She still a Momma’s girl and loves to be held, comforted and nursed. I had about weened her, but then she got sick and I started nursing her during the night. She got to the point where she wanted to be nursed, but only if she was lying down next to me- not sitting up! Now that her illness has passed she’s not nursing anymore, but still asks for it when she’s tired and I can’t put her down (like at church.)

She knows she only gets her passy during her nap time, and when she wakes up I’ll say “Leave your passy in your crib,” and she’ll take it out and drop it down. Today she went into her room got her favorite blankie with the silk sashing and her passy and brought it out. I asked “Are you ready for a nap?“ She nodded. “I’ll put you down as soon as I finish reading this book to the boys.” She alternated between lying down on one of the decorative pillows and sitting on my lap, until I had finished reading. She then happily went to bed, cooing and giggling as I tucked her in, and pretended to have her kitty and Hopsy (her stuffed bunny) kiss her and hug her.

Anders 3.5 years-


Anders is such a fascinating kid. He is both the most gentle and the most wild. He is the most helpful and the most defiant. He has a real desire to please and do things right, but when he is pushed beyond his limits he goes into what we have recently called “beast mode.” Anders it he boy says things like “Wow! This is my favorite food Mom!” Even when he’s not sure he’s going to like it. He’s the boy that always says please and thank you. And is generally upbeat, grateful, and appreciative. “Thanks for making this, Mom!” But he gets pushed around and manipulated a lot by Scotland and his response is generally to yell, “Stop it Scotland! I don’t like that!” He’s always been a loud boy, and he’s all the louder when he’s upset or frustrated.

Anders knows the rules, and keeps them in the forefront for all of us. He’ll often remind Scotland- which he hates. “Stop acting like an adult!” One afternoon he said as we were driving home late after a full day. “What are we going to do when we get home? Go to bed! Are we going to fuss? No! Are we going to fight? No! Are we going to brush our teeth? Yes!” He yelled this out to the whole van of siblings and cousins.

Anders is a writer. He has memorized the order of letters in his name and can write his name beautifully now, with all letters capitalized but small. He has great dexterity and is detail oriented and diligent with his handwriting book, and workbooks in general. He learned how to play Hot Cross Buns on the piano this week, well I guess just the first half, but being able to play his fingers independently has been a big deal for him. He enjoys doing “his studies” he knows his numbers up to 10, and can count up to 12 before he gets mixed up in the teens. He knows the alphabet and what many of the letters say. He knows the days of the week, and the months of the year. We are doing a combination of “How to teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons” and “The Ordinary Parents guide to teaching reading.” He loves to play “Go to the Dump” with us. He matches cards and Scotter and I work on addition facts. He draws well and has drawn some very intricate and detailed train scenes.

Anders is jovial and has a chuckle that could rival Santa Claus. It’s loud, boisterous, and uninhibited. He’s very mature for his age, and being as tall as the average 4 year old is usually assumed to be older than he is. He is verbal, and can carry on a great conversation.

He loves Star Wars. Tom has been reading the boys a comic book version and it is Anders’ favorite thing. Some of his favorite books this year were “The Gruffalo,” “Green Eggs and Ham,” “The Napping House,” and the “Farmyard Tales” series. He loves to listen to them in repetition, because he memorizes them and then loves to “read” them back to you. I’m constantly amazed at how well he remembers exact phrases on each page.

Anders has a keen visual memory and sense of orientation. He is always looking around when we drive and will often shout out, “That’s Baskin Robbins! We biked there!” or “I know this place, we bought wood there.” etc. After not having been in Utah for 3 months we were driving down a road and he said, “Hey, this is where we picked up garbage!” (And sure enough, he had joined Sabina’s family to do service there.)

Anders loves to bike. He got a strider for his 2nd birthday which he had mastered by the end of the summer. We were slow to move him on to the pedal bike. But last month we removed his training wheel and let him get used to balancing on his bigger bike, and yesterday we put the pedals back on. He’s great with the balancing and pedaling, he just needs to figure out how to get started without falling over. It’s been so fun to be able to joy along by them as they bike.

Anders LOVES trains. And while his interest in playing with them everyday has waned he still lights up overtime he sees one and says “I Love trains!” He also loves anything with a hitch. I really made a point of supporting his interest in trains, and I feel like I haven’t been as aware of what his new interests are.

He’s sweet to glom on to others’ interests. When I pointed out a bird singing on a branch and drew his attention to how it lifted it’s head and puffed out his breast, he marveled and later shared our find with his Dad over dinner. He’s very supportive of Scotland, and I fear gives in too often to his whims and desires. He’s often unwilling to suffer Scotland’s tantrums or berating for his own interests.

Anders admires Scotland so much, and will often defend him even when he was the victim. He loves sleeping in Scotland’s room, though for a while Scotland was scared to sleep in his room so he always slept in Anders’ room. He thrills when Scotland will treat him as an equal partner and they can have the most fun together. I love hearing their clever conversations and how they bounce of ideas to create a vibrant and complex playscape.

Anders used to always jump up and dance the minute the closing credit song would play after a movie. With his chubby cheeks dimpled with his smile and his eyes playful he’d spin and jive. It was my favorite part of family movie night. For some reason he’s stopped, and I had to lead the dancing last time, but after a while both boys were active participants.

Anders’ dearest friend is Hazel.

I’m trying to decide what I should do for him this fall. I did joy school with Anders when he was three, and I keep feeling like Anders needs a few more things that are just his. But the thought of adding something as structured as a coop preschool also sounds overwhelming. So I might just schedule a weekly playdate for kids his age, so he can have an opportunity to get together with his own group of buddies. He’s academically far advanced because of all our “studies” this year, so I’m not worried about that.

My main worry for Anders is that we take advantage of his contentment to often. That because he’s willing to jus smile and say OK we don’t give him his proper due. It’s the quinessential middle child situation, he always gets the hand-me-downs. His brother is often making fun of him, or ridiculing him, and he just grins and bears it much of the time.

Scotland: 6.5 years:

Scotland is at a challenging and exciting age. If I focus on all of his “issues” it can really cripple our relationship. When I focus on all the things I love about him, and the fun new things we can do together now that he’s older, I adore him. Some of the things I just love are: his endless curiosity, his desire to create, his endless imagination, his desire to play have fun and celebrate, and his often futile attempts to love on his sister. The thing I’ve realized about Scotland right now is he’s lacking impulse control. So when he goes to give Chiara a hug, he squeezes too tight, when he wrestles with Anders he’s too rough, when he teases me he does it to the point of annoyance. Since realizing this, I’ve been able to help him more, giving him tools and ideas for ways to monitor his body, and the feelings of those he’s interacting with.

Scotland is much more emotional now. His anger can flare up over the smallest things and he often lashes out with hurtful phrases “I don’t want to be your son any more.” “You’re the worst Mom ever.” “I HATE you!” Or with physicality- slamming doors, hitting, screaming. I’ve talked to many mothers who’s children this age are going through a similar thing, so I’m trying to stay calm about it, and not blow it out of proportion. But saying it is challenging is a understatement.  

But with those low emotions come some wonderful highs. He is a child who loves to explore, experiment, be funny, build, party, play with friends, read, learn, play music, and be outside. He has jam sessions on the piano several times a day. He’ll get up and improvise- extending songs he already knows or compose his own, singing the lyrics he creates to to go along with them. This makes me SO happy. All I want for my children is for them to love music, and to utilize it to bring joy into their and others’ lives.

His reading has exploded this year and he’s now reading small chapter books in a few days. His favorites of late are the Magic Tree House series and the A-Z mysteries series. He still loves his audiobooks, and has listened to “The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place.” “James and the Giant Peach.” “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” and “Harry Potter” just to name a few. I love how he pulls facts from these books to connect and understand the world around him.

He’s loving his gymnastics class and I’ve been impressed by his willingness to push himself. He likes that the class is challenging while also free. He seems to enjoy the boyish banter amongst the boys and is often chatting and competing with his other classmates.

Edmonds Heights has been a great experience for him. He made many great friends. His teacher called him an “absolute gem.” He never once complained, and always came home with much to share.

He likes the freedom homeschool offers. And I really feel it is the best spot for him, despite how challenging it can be for me. He thrives on short lessons with plenty of exploratory time afterwards- which has taken some adjustment from me, since I always want to cram more in. Instead of leaving him “wanting more.”

He loves to be outside, and it makes my heart sing when I see him kneeling beside the flower garden deep in some imaginary realm. He still loves to pick wild flowers, is always the first to harvest the garden, and is continually planting some new seed.

 

Homeschooling: A year in review

Smiley scotsFirst grade here I come!

Anders last day of school

on to pre-school!

Chiara with Pitcher

Working on breaking those teeth- hence the juicy chin! 

Magic School Bus Class 1
Scotland’s Magic School Bus Class showing off the insects they made.

presenting bugs

Scotland’s Magic school bus teacher, Erin Zackey, dresses up like Ms. Frizz- wearing clothing that coordinates with what they’re studying that week! She’s amazing!

Pict with ms Trish

Scotland’s Storybook Stem teacher, Ms. Trish. He loved all the building challenges in this class. 

Today marks the last official day of our first year of homeschooling. I’ve felt  emotional all day, in that can’t-quite-place-it, sort of way. This year has been truly life changing, at least I hope so. I am a different person, mother, and teacher now, than I was nine months ago. This year has been ripe with self examination and goal setting. I’ve had to grapple with my weaknesses as a mother and face them fully. I’ve questioned my priorities weekly, and found peace and delight in a lifestyle quite other than I was living last year. My respect and confidence in motherhood has grown, and I rarely struggle with feelings of fulfillment as a mother anymore. As I’ve devoted this year to the education and raising of my children, I have let go of many things- my house is generally less clean, organized, and decorated- but we use it more. I’ve been less social, and yet oddly, I haven’t felt lonely because I’ve felt more oneness and companionship with my children. I’ve been more upset, frustrated, and angry at times, because I feel more passionate and determined. I guess, I feel like, this year, we have made more progress towards living the ‘dream’ I had for my family, than I’ve made before. In the past I’ve struggled to really engage with my kids for longer than short periods. I’d sit down and ask them questions about their LEGO creation for ten or fifteen minutes, or play a few minutes of cars but then I’d be off, cleaning here, cooking there. I’d look back on the day and be the most proud of those moments- when I truly connected, and often truly enjoyed my children. I wanted to have more of those moments in my day. Yet, until, I put the pressure of schooling my children on the table, and placed that as my new priority, it was too easy to let other things rise to the forefront. Before my children, too often, felt like the obstacle, now they feel like the objective. And it’s really taken the drastic experiment, of putting most everything else on hold, to help me realize my dream of more togetherness. I love learning with my kids. I love making music with them. I love reading to them. I love seeing their eyes light up as they relay their new found knowledge. I love hearing my kids read to me. I love doing art with my kids. I love exploring the world together. Now I completely understand that not everyone might love these things. Homeschooling is certainly not for everyone. It might not be for me in a few years. Who knows. But all I can say is it has been a huge blessing to our family this year. Scotland loves to learn. He requests “hard” math problems. He takes a pile of books with him every night to bed. He asks deep questions, and requests further understanding. He’s delighted to learn about history, society, and different cultures. He jams on the piano daily, sings often, and can dive into the most imaginative world in minutes. Anders has been gifted with an invaluable “pre-preschool” environment. He loves writing, requests reading, piano, and math lessons and can discuss our read-a-louds in detail and depth. He and Scotland have formed a powerful brotherhood. Do they fight? Yes. But, how they play! Their duets on the piano, each of them belting out lyrics that build on the others, their duels and “shows.” The way they belly laugh together. They now cry if they aren’t allowed to sleep in the same room (for being too chatty too late into the night.) While typically Scotland leads and teaches, and Anders praises and follows, in the last few months (with much scaffolding) they have started to play with more equality. Yesterday, morning I heard Scotland cheering on Anders after having helped him learn how to climb a tree the day before: “Anders! Woohoo! You made it into the tree by yourself. Wow. That’s really impressive for a kid your age!” They’ve learned to compromise more and find “win-win” situations.

best brothers
Best Brothers!

kids

Anders and Chiara taking a break from LEGOS to find the letters of the alphabet with their friend, Eli. 

pict with Doreen

Anders “class” at Edmonds Heights was Lego Lab, all the bins you see behind him are full of Legos, all sorted by type. Doreen is the facilitator and Anders and Chiara adore her. He would often say “I’ll go ask Do-een!” when he couldn’t figure out how to build something. While he mostly enjoyed the one on one Mom time, he also loved making friends with Sam, Sadie, Corban, Eli, Abbie, and Elias. 

The hardest part of homeschooling has been figuring out how to work with Scotland when he gets defiant. We had some really rough patches this year. Times when Tom would suggest that perhaps we should send him to public school. Those periods have been the most revealing- and thereby transforming. Fortunately, my determination to make things work was more powerful than my frustration. I spent countless hours researching, experimenting, and praying for alternative methods of working with Scotland. As a result, I’ve learned a lot about who he is, what he needs, and how he is motivated. I’ve worked hard to overcome personal habits, tendencies, and weaknesses that have prevented me from giving him and myself the respect we deserve. Our communication has improved, and our relationship has reached new heights of mutual delight. Now, if this sounds like I’ve checked off the box of “Defiant Scotland” I’m giving the wrong impression. This is a daily struggle for us. But I have hope that the more we learn to work together now, the more equipped we both will be to continue to work together when the issues are larger and more important in the future. Most importantly, I know it’s possible; and I know how delightful it is when we come together in mutual love and respect.

Boys in the Tree

This week, Scotland taught Anders how to climb this tree.

Cute Kids

Chiara saying “Hurray for summer!” 

Chiara with car

Chiara, enjoying passing a car back and forth with a friend in the school’s breezeway.

In years past I often felt peace in my motherhood, but also felt like I wasn’t “living up to my potential.” I haven’t felt that since I started homeschooling. I feel the opposite. I have this vision for what I want our homeschool to look and function like, and if anything, it feels unsurmountable.

This post is a bit bizarre because the text focuses on our schooling experiences at home, while the pictures mostly highlight their experiences at school. We are part of a public “resource school” for homeschooling families. There Scotland took two classes (each 2x a week) to supplement our home studies. As well as a PE class through the YMCA. For me it was the perfect balance. He got the classroom experience, had teachers other than me, made great friends, and was exposed to new ideas and people without having to send him off for eight hours a day! 

 

Pursuing meaning

I had this great conversation with my brother Devin, a month or so ago. We talked about having kids, and how that has changed our lives. He shared that his colleagues in his psychology program have asked him, why he and his wife chose to have a child when the research shows that having children decreases happiness. He responded that what he is pursuing is not happiness, but meaning. And he assured them that very few parents would say their life has less meaning since having kids. The distinction hit me as profound. Perhaps even more so since reading the book Devin gave me for my birthday “The Happiness Trap.” The book too, a sort of acceptance commitment therapy manual, suggests that our pursuit of happiness is based on the pursuit of a feeling that is, by nature, transient; and the hope for its permanent dwelling within us is unrealistic. The author, Russ Harris, suggests that only when we accept the changing landscape of our emotions can we dwell in a state of meaning which is actually the “happiness” that we desire. I have been a happiness seeker my whole life. And I’ve long held the belief that “If you’re not happy, you’re not doing it right.” Well, mothering has challenged that statement and in so doing, shook me to the core at times. Am I failing at this mothering thing, if I’m not always happy? What do I need to do to get rid of these feelings of frustration, fatigue, and even hatred? Flipping my pursuit to meaning instead of happiness has had, might I say, a life changing, hopefully, or at least year- changing effect. I dislike disciplining my children, but I find meaning in teaching them, and seeing them gain empathy. I hate seeing my children be mean to each other, but I appreciate the opportunity it has given me to hone my skills of patience, empathy, and forgiveness. My life is less happy-go-lucky than it once was, but it is full of so much more meaning.

31

I turn 31 today. I didn’t get a chance to wax sentimental last year when I entered my third decade, (something about having a baby or something) so I’ll do so now. The decade of my twenties was pretty magical. I spent the first half pursuing my dreams of advanced degrees, travel, and marriage. I spent the second half fully absorbed in my career as mother. And now I’m in my 30s. I can’t say it feels weird. I feel 30. For much of my 20s, even after I was a mother, I didn’t feel like a woman. Now I do. I’m not sure what changed, I’m sure some of it is that I feel the weight of life more now. I’m less carefree, more reserved. Motherhood has humbled me and laid bare many of the naive assumptions I’ve made in the past about life and child-rearing. Tom’s residency has been intense for both of us, and too often we’ve given up our own interests and passions for convenience sake. Looking ahead is interesting. What will my 30s hold? What are my goals?  Who do I want to be when this decade comes to a close?

Today, in church I was pondering upon a realization I’d had earlier that I’ve been less pushy about Chiara walking. I remember being much more eager with Scotland and Anders. I kept thinking Come on, you ought to be able to walk by the time you’re one! I’d practice with them, and create situations where they’d have to walk between me and the couch for example. But now, I feel at content with the knowledge that Chiara will walk when she’s ready. It’s clear she’s working hard at it, she’s interested, she begs me to walk with her, I have faith that soon she’ll walk. Today, I was touched by the thought that Heavenly Father probably feels similarly about me. He has faith that one day, soon (in eternal terms) I’ll demonstrate the traits of godliness that I so dearly desire. He sees my effort, He acknowledges my growth and He’s not worried by my slips or falls. This came as a great comfort to me, because much of my big projects for this upcoming decade are in regards to my character and spirit. Full-time mothering has exposed a certain number of serious weaknesses in my character, weaknesses that I’m determined to overcome. I want to be more charitable- when others make it hard, I want to be more respectful- when others don’t seem to deserve it, I want to be more in tune and willing to hear and follow the promptings of the spirit. I want to be better at asking questions and sticking with them until I find answers. I want to engage more, appreciate more, and let negative things fall off my back easier.

In some ways, it’s hard to look back at that girl who was ten years ago, because there are parts of her I really want back. What I need to do, however, is not pine for the past, but rather determine in the now to merge the decidedly happy me of my twenties, with the more experienced and slightly more life-worn woman of my 30s into co-existence.

And so, this year, I determine to think deeper, love more, listen longer, feel fuller, and be more forgiving of myself and others when I do none of those things!