These Days

These days, I’m hungry.  Always.  Hungry.

At 1 week, Bjorn weighed in at 7 lbs, 11 oz, down 3 oz from birth, which is normal.  At 2 weeks, he was up to 9 lbs, 1 oz.  He’s now 3 weeks old, and I don’t have a scale, but he looks and feels bigger every morning.

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I’m just so hungry.  This boy is determined to eat every moment these days.

He’s starting to get little elbow dimples.  It’s adorable.

These days we are doing school.  Even though it’s work, I don’t regret this decision to start early for a moment, even after having a baby.  My kids have had some topsy turvy days the last month or two, and it was wearing on them.  Being shuffled around houses of family, out of routine, with different rules, being entertained constantly…they need some grounding.  They are having so much fun, and have returned to their normal school routine with a big sigh of relief.  Things aren’t perfect, but they are better and more sane when we have routine.

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When I exasperatedly asked Knut a week or two ago, why the kids were hanging on me so much, he responded “They miss you, Gretchen.”  I asked how that could be since I was constantly at home, and they were constantly around.  How can they miss me when I just wanted a break from them.  “You’re here, but you’re not here.” was his response.  As soon as he said it, I knew it was true.  My kids missed hanging out with me, doing our thing.  They behave better when we are doing our thing.  It kind of came down to dealing with them in a thought out, planned, and fun way, or dealing with them in a discipline/punishing/acting out sort of way from them being needy.  I picked the first choice.

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It may sound like a stupid decision, but I know my kids, and I know the limits of my sanity.  People think that homeschooling moms don’t feel the end of summer “man alive, my kids need to be back in school!!” push like other moms do.  We do feel it.  At least, I do.  Even though we are the ones teaching them…they need some focus.  So school it is.

These days I’m watching less t.v. at night, and reading more.  I’ve been on a continual non-fiction path the last few years, and had a lovely dive into some light but lovely fiction when I read Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society recently.  It reminded me how much I love good fiction.  So I started reading some of the kids’ fiction books in preparation for school, and it just wasn’t hitting the spot for me.  But this last week I picked up Hannah Coulter as “anything from Wendell Berry” has been on my reading list for over a year.  I keep hearing his name over and over again in reading circles.

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This book is like a big sigh of beauty.  It’s not too heavy and makes me fall asleep, or too cheaply written either.  It’s good and lovely.  It’s one of those beautiful books where the characters are instantly your friends and you don’t want to read it too fast, because you want to hang out with them for as long as you can, but you don’t want to put it down, because it’s just that good.  So when the kids are in bed, and I should probably be trying to catch up on sleep, I read a few chapters, and feel the beautiful words seep into all my broken cracks of the day.  Oh, this book is lovely.

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Knut is building a woodshed in the back of the house, out of scraps from other projects in the last few years.  We have some scraps of metal siding from when we redid the barn siding, and he found some old poles from the feed lot his dad had when he was a kid.  So that’s what he’s been working on these days around the house.  Next he intends to fix up the foundation of the old summer kitchen, which will be great.  The little kids have loved helping him with that during their free time, and I’m loving them all being outside with him during their free time.

The big kids haven’t been wanting to work outside as much.  One of Knut’s skiing buddies who also goes to our church, loaned the big kids his 3D printer for awhile.  This friend is a former biathlon olympic competitor, and is going to learn how to fly helicopter’s next, and is the prime example of someone who just does things and just keeps learning and being curious.  He seems to bring that out in my kids (and Knut) as well.  David and Knut took a class about 3D printers at the library earlier this summer, so David has some idea of what it can do.  This printer is different than the library’s, though, and Silje and David haven’t actually figured out how to use it yet.  But they’re learning a lot via YouTube and just trial and error about 3D printing and related technology in the meantime, so it’s all good.  When Knut’s is inside from the woodshed project, I’m sure he’ll figure it out for them.  Right now they’re doing what I call “The Edison Technique” and figuring out 1,000 ways something doesn’t work.  I think we just need to have the owner of the printer over so he can show them.

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It’s been very handy to have something to dangle in front of the kids saying, “As soon as you finish your school, you can tinker with the 3D printer.”  I feel like the smartest and most devious homeschooling mom when I dangle learning in front of my kids as bait to get their schoolwork done.

Maternity Leave

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I think my family is finished with me recuperating.  Knut put so much on hold the weeks before Bjorn’s birth, to make sure I was okay.  I had trouble walking after his birth, until I finally got in with my chiropractor, and moving my left leg (something was pinched those last few weeks!) is now easy.  Our church generously sent out meals all of last week.  Tomorrow Bjorn will be 2 weeks old, and I think my so-called maternity leave is over.  Well, I still have some help.  Knut’s mom has still been helping when she can with getting the kids to their activities.  I’ve been so grateful for all the chauffeuring duties she has taken over for me lately.  I don’t feel ready to take care of 6 kids and their varying needs quite yet, but like all things motherhood related: ready or not, here it comes.

I spent a lot of last weekend organizing all of the school things.  I picked which books we would use earlier this summer, and they have just been scattered about the dining room table.  Books the kids picked off the shelf and read for fun were just stacked haphazardly in the general school shelf area.  The school supply cabinets were one of those stuff-really-carefully-and shut-and-lock-the-door-really-fast-so-stuff-doesn’t-fall-out areas.  As messy as it gets, organizing it all gives me a special thrill at the end of every summer.

It gives me this big rush that fuels my heart and reminds me: I can do this!

We will be starting school August 1st this year.  Last year we didn’t start until October, (after canning/gardening season ended) and that didn’t work as well as I had hoped.  I’m playing around with start dates each year, to figure out what I like best.  Since we didn’t do much for a garden this year because of Bjorn’s birth, I’m starting in August because I don’t have a massive amount of canning to do right now as I typically do.  Understanding that having a newborn in the house will make our days somewhat unpredictable, I’m wanting a good cushy buffer to our school days.  I figure if we start a month earlier than usual, I will have more days available during the school year that I can declare a “free day” so I can just rest.  I see many “free days” in our future.

I’ve also jumped on the “bullet journal” train, and have organized all the kids’ school things in a bullet journal for the year, and plan on tracking all of their things that way.  I’m having way too much fun with rainbow colored pens and Washi tape.  Tread Pinterest on this idea at your own risk.

My parents will be here for a week in August too, to meet our new baby.  I’m hoping that we can do some school when they are here, just so my they can see what we do for school.  However, I don’t plan of full days, and actually have it planned as vacation days on my school calendar that I made up.  So if we get things done, great.  If we don’t, oh well.  At least my kids will be in a sane, routines-in-their-days state once my parents get here.  At least, that’s my theory.

Bjorn is proving to be my most laid back baby ever, which as made this recovery pretty easy overall.  He loves sleeping, doesn’t care about the noise, is a great eater.  I’m usually the one waking him up at night to eat after 4 or 5 hours because I’m overflowing with milk, and he’s just sleeping soundly.  I’m turning into one of those pushy mothers who tells her kids, “Eat!  You must eat!”  He’s snuggly, adorable, and easy going.  I see his face getting rounder by the day now.  He’s exactly what you would hope a 6th child would be.  I’m feeling utterly spoiled by him.  I can’t take my eyes off of him, and neither can the kids.  He has many adoring fans.

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Since Bjorn was born, Ingrid has felt that now is the time she wants to be potty trained.  Of course, since that’s exactly (not) what I want to be doing as I’m recovering from birth.  We’ve been trying to get her with the program for over a year now.  She’s been digging in her heals about the whole idea, and I haven’t had the energy to fight her on it.  Now that she’s officially a big sister, she told us she shouldn’t wear diapers anymore, and potty training has been getting some real traction.  She’s not totally there yet, but having her on board with the idea has made it so much easier.

I wish I could take more of a leave.  I wish I didn’t have to remind people in my house that I’m still actually recovering even though I’m up and walking around now.  I wish my children would just play nicely and not destroy things or fight, and not need to be potty trained, and fed multiple times a day.  I wish I had more energy, and that I had better control over my moods and hormones right now.  I wish Knut had unlimited time off, and wouldn’t get antsy or fidgety and have all these ideas for projects, building, and socializing out in the world as much as possible before harvest descends upon him, and he’s locked into work non-stop for months.

But this is life, and while it’s imperfect, I love it.

Summer Schedule

The days are glorious, the sun goes down late, and the temperature is rising.  It must be summer!

I have mixed feelings about this summer break.

  1. I want a break
  2. We didn’t start school until October last year.  It was awesome.  I’m so glad we didn’t put the pressure of school on top of the pressure of end of summer canning/garden harvest.  But seriously, we should probably be going longer.
  3. School kind of fell apart around January, and not much got done.  We picked it up in February, had a stellar March, burned out in April for a bit, and sort of trudged through May like a good swamp hike.
  4. My kids thrive on routine.
  5. Learning is a lifestyle.  It’s not something you do for a season, and then stop doing.  It’s a way of life.
  6. I want a break.
  7. Elias did not get enough teaching time from me this last year.  He should be the priority this summer.  This year, year-round school might look like getting time with Mommy in shifts.  This kid gets February, this kid gets March, this kid gets…  (Just kidding.  Sort of.)
  8. Solveig is chomping at the bit to learn how to read.  In fact, she’s so impatient, she’ll probably pick it up herself in the next months.
  9. Ingrid seriously is overdue for potty training.  She’s so old that I’m hoping it will be like it was with David, and she’ll have it down in a couple of days.  She’s very eager to learn now.  I must seize this.
  10. I want a break.
  11. Oh yeah, I’m having a baby this summer.  No biggie.
  12. Free time, exploring, and learning how to deal with boredom are so foundational to childhood.  I do not want to over schedule.  I don’t want to provide fun for them.  I want them to make their own fun.
  13. I am hot, huge, hormonal, and moody.  That does not bode well with chaos/whining/fighting.
  14. I want a break.

So here’s my plan for working out that mashed group of thoughts for this summer.

  • We will keep the routine that is just the flow of life in our house.  Breakfast, chores, morning hour will stay.  Morning hour will have devotions as normal, and completely different subjects than the regular school year.  We are planning on doing a sketching/art class online from Craftsy together.  The kids helped me pick it out and they are so excited.IMG_4136
  • Other things that the kids claim are family life, NOT school, so that we will keep doing it this summer because it’s their favorite times of day: our morning tea time (snack time) where I read to them a great work of fiction as their mouths are busy chewing instead of talking, quiet time (our all-family siesta after lunch for an hour that keeps me sane) as well as our evening read aloud of a different great work of fiction for the older kids after the little girls are in bed.
  • After morning hour, the big kids need to go do something and stay out of my hair.  They need to leave me alone so I can focus on the little kids who were pushed aside to go run off and play during the school year.  So it’s going to be a flip/flop of age group education prioritization, so to speak.  However, both Silje and David have some catch up still from the fall apart we had around January.  (It was really bad.)  Silje has 2 subjects and David has 1 subject that will continue on this summer until they finish their work.  I know.  I’m so mean.  They will have to work on these without my help, and wait to ask questions/be graded until the afternoon.  It will be a lesson in patience.  We’ll see if this works.IMG_4137IMG_4138IMG_4139IMG_4140
  • Tuesday/Thursday night Tae Kwon Do for the big kids and childcare at the YMCA for the 2 little girls will continue on all summer.  None of the kids want to stop, and I like my 1 hour of alone time twice a week.  They’ll miss practice when they are at camp, of course, but that won’t be too bad.
  • The big kids also need to brainstorm their own ways to make this summer awesome.  They each made a list of things that they would love to do this summer.  After their morning duties are completed, they will pick something off the list they made up, write it on their notecard for the day for the bulletin board, and get to it.  (I’m having them write it down because I’m so muddy-brained lately, that I might forget that one kid is working on a plant identification project in the woods and another is reading all day in her room.  That way I know where they are and what they’re doing, in theory.)
  • In the afternoons, they will continue doing whatever they want from their lists most days.  The smaller kids will also just play.  These are “approved projects” that we have brainstormed together, and they will pull off by themselves.  However, we want to do some outings too.  We plan to visit every playground in our little town, for instance.  We might think of more, but it depends on how I’ll be feeling.
  • The 3 older kids will all be rotating through Bible Camp in the month of June.  David will have about 4 days out there first.  Then the very next week, Silje and Elias each have a camp out there (though their age groups will be in opposite parts of the camp).  Elias will be out there 3 days and 2 nights.  Silje’s Jr. High camp will finish at the end of the week.  Thus…I’ll have some break.  It’s just how their ages/camps lined up calendar-wise this year.

Oh, and according to tradition, we will unplug the television for the month of June.  We’ll see if we make it all the way through this time.  I am allowing the big kids to keep their school computer, but have limited their access to just their computer programing/math site (www.khanacademy.com), their typing instructor game, and chess.  I programed the parental controls to log off each kid after they have been on for 2 hours, so no all-day marathons of even their nerdy games will be available to them.  If they want to work on “school” for 2 hours on the computer, be my guest.  I know.  So mean.

I’m not saying no t.v. all summer because: 1) We’ve never made it all the way through June.  2) I’m going to be huge, crankier, and ready to have a baby in July. 3) I will have a newborn and be sleep deprived in August.  And as we know, with any mom in that stage anything goes.  The bar gets lowered to making sure everyone is fed and alive at the end of the day during that stage.  Let’s just be real.

And since I have already decided that Ingrid is just going to rock the whole potty-training thing, and have it done in a week or so, we’re just going to dive in and do it in June.  A bunch of the older kids will be rotating out of the house for camp, and her posse (Elias and Solveig) will be with me a bunch in the morning, and she is rarely away from them.

Oh, and somewhere in there, hopefully July, I’ll have a baby!

Almost Done, Pressing On

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My Pomme de Pin cardigan is so close to being done.  I’m nervous, because this is the part of the project that takes me ages to finish because it’s all the little tedious things.  For knitting, I just need to finish the sleeve cap on the second sleeve, and then I have to assemble it, knit the button band (I haven’t read that far to see the order of finishing), block out the lace so it’s not this little puckering texture as it is now, but the lovely open lace it’s supposed to be.  I haven’t even started looking for buttons for this beauty yet.  I’m hoping to work from my button stash…probably something very simple.

I should be thinking about moving onto my baby-knits.  I’m surprised how much less I’m interested in doing baby knits with this child, because he’s coming in the summer.  It’s a totally different nesting experience having a summer baby as opposed to the fall and winter babies I’ve had the last few times.  I know it will kick in soon.  It might just be after he’s born.  I hope he’s a good baby and lets me knit while he’s eating like Solveig did.  Ingrid wouldn’t share me with yarn so easily.

I finished the best fiction book I’ve read in a long time about a week ago.  It wasn’t a read aloud, it wasn’t a non-fiction book I needed to develop something in my life.  It was just a carefree light fiction that blessed my soul so much.  I haven’t gotten that lost in a book in a few years, where I would hide away every Sunday and try to get as much in as I could.  It was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  If I could find another book just like it, I’d be reading it right now.

But I’m back to my non-fiction stack, and I’m even going to share with you our new read aloud during our morning tea times as well:

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I’m reading a pretty deep book from an online bookclub of classical homeschoolers.  Leisure, the Basis of Culture is a mind blowing book on the importance of leisure in our lives.  I was listening to a quote that my pastor read last Sunday from the Barna group, that used the words “leisure” and “amusement” interchangeably.  I think that we have lost the distinction of these words.  In this book Pieper says that the root word of “leisure” is actually the same root as “school.”  It means to ponder, wonder, think deeply about issues.  It’s that down time of processing, studying, learning.  Amusement, in contrast, comes from the root word “muse” which means to think, but with the a- prefix, which means “no.”  So to amuse basically means to “not think.”  It’s being entertained, having someone else think for you.

So this book is about adding “leisure” to our lives, not “amusement,” and like I said, our current culture doesn’t distinguish between the two.  It’s one of those books that was written ages ago, but you feel like he’s addressing current times.  I’m having to go through this book very slowly, and with a pen.

A Circle of Quiet is something I read at night when I need something slightly lighter.  I’ve picked this up and put it down several times in the last few months, and it’s currently picked up again.  I’ve been inching my way through.  Madeline L’Engle is certainly worthy of underlining all over the place as well, and has deep thoughts to share, but really it’s about her writing  life (something so dear to my heart).  It’s full of humor and delights along with the deep thoughts.  How I wish I could sit over tea with her!

Our new read aloud as we finish up the school year is The Father Brown Reader which I recently heard about.  The kids fell in love with this adaptation of Chesterton’s mystery writings about 2 sentences into the first paragraph.  (I normally don’t like adaptations for kids, but this might be the exception.  It’s so well done.)  It’s completely engaging, from my oldest down to my youngest child, and we’ve been reading on average 3 chapters a sitting because they don’t want me to stop reading.  There’s more in this series too, so I think those are going on my school wish list for next year.  Plus, if I can get my kids in love with Chesterton at an early age, I will feel a special accomplishment there.

So tell me friends, what are you knitting and reading these days?