Sunday, October 30, 2011

In Which the No-Fun Mom Has Fun

We made it OUT OF THE HOUSE for a day of family fun. I think this is the FIRST actually fun day we’ve spent out of the house as a family since Lola was born. Gasp!!! I wasn’t sure it was possible (maybe it’s because I’m not a fun mom), but I was absolutely determined to give it a shot.

Our favorite aquarium was having a holiday event. It was only $2 + 2 cans of food per person for admission. Admission is usually over $60 for our whole family. I looked at the weather forecast. It has been rainy here, but the forecast said partly sunny and 62 degrees for Saturday at the coast (with rain Friday and Sunday, so I hoped they were right!!).

Now, I knew that spending the day driving to the coast and back was a considerable commitment in the effort department (because I’m not the fun mom). It also was a bit of a stretch considering this was a costume event, and, as of Saturday morning, the boys had no costumes (where is the fun mom when you need her?).  But we persevered.

Morning came and I dragged the costume bin out of the attic (where most of the boys’ toys live since they don’t like to pick them up—remember, I’m not the fun mom). I helped the younger boys put themselves together. Levi was all cloak and dagger. Without the dagger. And just a blanket for a cloak. But he was dressed in all black under that ‘cloak’ and felt good about it. I bought Lola’s costume weeks ago. Unfortunately, the tights didn’t really fit when we put them on her before heading out the door (and they got a hole in the knee a little later) and she wouldn’t allow the cute hood to stay on her head, but who’s complaining?

Speaking of heading out the door, we were on our way only two hours after I had hoped to get going. Not bad. Not bad.

Lola took a nap on the way (the upside of leaving late) while the rest of us listened to an audio retelling of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

We arrived at the aquarium right in the middle of the day. The weather was GLORIOUS. I was so afraid the crowds would be unpleasant on a cheap event day with beautiful weather, but it was just busy enough to feel like a party. We had a GREAT time.

Aquarium (3) Aquarium (2)  Fun and GamesAquarium (1) Lola Bug

We were all in need of a meal by the time we got out of the aquarium, so we headed down to Mo’s on the waterfront for some clam chowder. It was perfect timing. The restaurant wasn’t busy, and we had a great view. The kids each got a cute little shark toy with their meals. They all thought that was just terrific.

Mo's (1)@ Mo'sReady to OrderSweet Lola

After our late lunch wrapped up, we headed to the beach. Russ humored me and let me pick my favorite little spot. It is a secluded, gorgeous little beach. The sun was shining through an odd mist. The sky was lovely blue.

The boys played. Lola was quick to remind me that she hates sand. I distracted her with the blue beads she got as a prize at the aquarium (she’s a sucker for bling) just long enough to get her picture, sans smile. We watched the mist and clouds roll in.

into the mist Beach Play Beach DramaBeach in the MistBeachMore BeachBeach Baby 3Beach BabyBeach Baby 2Beach Baby 4into the wild blue yonderWater PlayLola and MommyBeach Joy

Then we loaded the kids back in the truck and had a lovely drive home through the changing autumn colors and occasional drops of rain. I read aloud a chapter of Treasure Island as soon as we were out of the curves. Lola sacked out almost immediately and did well until about the last 15 minutes.

And that is my account of a successful, lovely, FUN family outing.

Drama King

Levi Drama

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Detectives: Take 2

Book Club 1

I posted last month about our new parent-child literary analysis book club. Several people have expressed interest in more information because they are hoping to start their own book club. I won’t post every month’s analysis, but will keep you updated on how things are going. I’ll share this month’s book, though, in case anyone would like to see another book presented.

I reviewed our book detective mission with the group. We talked briefly about the definition of ‘genre,’ how we are treating all fiction as mystery, that we have to look for clues to find out what the author is really telling us, and that listening ears are our most valuable detective tools!

My sister read The Bear That Wasn’t by Frank Tashlin.

I drew the story analysis diagram on the white board. (I’m rewriting all our notes in a large tablet after the meeting so we have it for our records. The white board was much messier that this. Wry grin.)

We had the kids try to remember what each circle represented.

First up: Exposition. We asked the ‘W’ questions. Who? What? (What did he look like? What did he say?) Where? When?

Book Club 2

Next: Rising Action. What was the problem? (We asked several questions here.)

Book Club 3

Then: Climax. (One mom (a really fabulous CC tutor who is used to making things memorable for kids) suggested that we climbed to the top of our mountain to use our ax.) We clarified with another mom that the climax isn’t the height of the action, but rather the first moment that we realize the conflict is going to be resolved, for better or for worse. It is the turning point of the story. The climax doesn’t happen at the same place in every book. Sometimes it is in the middle. Sometimes it is at the very end, and the denouement and conclusion are only one or two sentences long! When do we know the bear is still going to be a bear, no matter what others have told him he is (a silly man who needs a shave and wears a fur coat)?

Book Club 4

Denouement. What happens next? What is the result of the climax? What loose ends are tied up?

Book Club 5

Conclusion. How does the story end? Was a lesson learned?

Book Club 6

Theme: What was the author really trying to tell us about? Is there something we can take away from this story? What is the universal idea behind the story?

Book Club 7

A mom pointed out that the bear is actually TRYING to be himself throughout the whole story. We kept it simple and wrote the theme as ‘be yourself’ but discussed the idea of perseverance in believing in who God created us to be—even when we are a fish out of water, and even if/when we aren’t (ever) able to convince those around us.

We decided to introduce the idea of conflict this month. We talked about the main character. Even though he was a bear, he was given human traits (as was the mouse, Anatole, in our story last month). Conflict is expressed as Man (protagonist) versus something else (antagonist). We wrote the options on another white board and briefly discussed them. Man vs. Man. Man vs. Self. Man vs. God (or Fate/Destiny). Man vs. Nature. Man vs. Society. (We didn’t talk about Man vs. Machine/Technology or Man vs. Supernatural.) This is often posed as a question: Will the factory men (society) be able to convince the bear (man) that he isn’t a bear?

Book Club 8

Our meeting lasted about an hour, which is our target time-frame. Holly and I have a picture book picked out for our next meeting, but after that we plan on offering the other families a chance to chose the book and lead the discussion (either one or two moms or a parent-child team) if anyone is interested in doing so. We’ll stick to picture books for a few more months and then try our hands at a chapter book to be read ahead of time.

And that is about it! Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Swim, Levi. Swim.

Swim, Levi, Swim

We spent a couple hours at a mini meet. Just the way I like them. Mini, I mean. So much easier than full days spent at a packed swim venue. (Not so terrible when I was a newlywed coach’s wife. Not so wonderful as a mom of 4 little people.) Russ is in charge of Levi, which is nice, as well as helping out with the team and competing himself! Luke likes to wander around unattended (sigh), but both Leif and Lola need a lot of mom attention. Today there was lots of room on the bleachers, so Luke and Leif spent some time drawing together. I had the playpen up for Lola, which meant my hands were free to hold a camera. And there weren’t 500 people in my way. Wahoo!!

Hanging out at the swim meet Lola hanging out at swim meet

Levi seems to really enjoy being on the swim team. He swims three days a week for an hour each day. It is so good for him. I think the water is good for him. The exercise is good for him. Learning swim skills is good for him. Being a part of a team is good for him. Competition is good for him (both winning and losing). Spending time with his dad is good for him. All around, it’s been a great fit.

Levi swimming

And a picture of Russ leaving the young whipper-snappers in his dust. (Nicely done, Honey.)

Russ swimming

At the Fire Station

Field trips haven’t been much of a priority lately. I’m not big on hauling around three boys and a baby to do something ‘fun.’ It usually isn’t. I guess I’m not the fun mom. That, and we have a lot to do during the week! After spending much of our Monday at Classical Conversations, it’s tough if we have another thing scheduled during the week. Even if an outing should only take an hour or two, it seems the whole day is shot before I blink an eye!

When we had an opportunity to go visit the fire station, though, there was no way I could say no. Luke is so determined that he will be a paramedic/firefighter when he grows up. He browses the National Fire Protection Association catalog like it was a toy catalog (and circles everything). What a goose.

So we managed to get out the door (sans baby) and had a wonderful time. Those firefighters are great sports, for sure.

At the Fire Station Firetruck

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bedtime Stories with Daddy

Bedtime stories with Daddy


Our Family

We celebrated my dad's birthday a little while ago. It was a great excuse for getting the whole family pictures that were waaaay overdue. The last time my whole family got pictures taken together was when Levi was a baby!! Our photographer friend, Bethany Haile, was so kind to help us out.

Have I mentioned that I have the coolest family, ever?! (Yeah, you’re probably sick of hearing about it.) Just this morning I was thinking about how long we’ve all been together. Holly and Casey have been married for 19 years! Ilex is 15, Drake is almost 14, and Ivy is 7. You aren’t going to believe it, but those newlyweds (Shannon and Ben) in the middle? Together for 20 years. Yep. Married for 14. Russ and I have been married for 15 years. Awesome stuff.

Mom and Dad have been married for 42 years!!!

Mom and Dad

The ladies of the family:

The Ladies

Dad always said God knew what He was doing when He gave Dad all girls. And Dad was happy to add boys to the family the easy way. The guys never get the picture taken all together, so I'm thrilled we got this one:

The Guys

And a post is never complete without Lola Love:

Lola ~ 1 year

My mom has more pictures on her blog, Treading on Moss. We totally failed to get a wonderful picture of just our family. The boys were having a rough time standing still, looking at the camera, and managing a pleasant expression (as you can tell from the outtakes on Mom’s blog).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Today and the Hideout Explorers

I would take 100 days like today. Cool morning. Gorgeous sunshine. 70 degree afternoon. A productive day of lessons. The cutest baby girl in the whole world. Leif spending the afternoon running errands with his grandma and working in the yard with his grandpa. A scenic drive through the sun-soaked countryside—fields a shocking, vivid green from the recent rain. Piano lesson for Luke. A play area in the middle of a filbert orchard. Watching tractors dart through the dark passages of the orchard, harvesting the nuts within feet of where we played. (Why, oh why didn’t I have my camera with me?) Levi swinging with Lola. Leif pushing a toy tractor through the gravel. A flock of geese flying overhead. Barbequed steak, roasted cabbage, and spinach and fruit smoothies for dinner. An episode of Psych (or Piescotch, as Leif calls it) before bed. Life is so good.

The boys spent quite a bit of time outside since the weather was so beautiful. My grandpa requested video of the boys showing off  their hideout. The boys were thrilled to oblige, so these are for you, Grandpa! (It was really bright and sunny, and I lack mad video skillz, so you might have to use your imagination.)

And just for random, unedited fun, we'll add in a couple pictures of Lola hanging out, drinking out of her sippy cup, and walking while pushing a stool around. (Still not walking on her own, yet.) Lola hanging out

Monday, October 17, 2011

Six Weeks In

CC Class

We completed week 6 of Classical Conversations today. That means we are already 1/4 of the way through our year! Well, in work if not time, anyway. We’ve also gotten a good start on our other lessons. Not anywhere near 1/4 of the way through our regular year, but I’m happy with our progress. As I mentioned before, I will be posting our reading lists and such on a monthly basis rather than weekly, but I’d like to keep posting general updates or photos as I have time or inclination.

The boys are doing really well in their CC classes. Just as last year, I think each of their tutors is doing a fabulous job. The boys are so comfortable with the routine. In general, things are going so smoothly. That’s not to say the boys aren’t still being their normal boyish selves, but that’s a given. {grin}

Hymns and Art @ CC

It is strange to think that I had a two week old baby at this stage of the game last year!! I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have Lola in the nursery this year and not have to juggle taking care of her while sitting in the classes. It seems that she is adjusting very well to being in the care of others for one morning each week, and it is quite possible that being in the nursery is as good for her as the classes are for the boys.

Recess (Yeah, some days we have a hard time getting baby out of jammies...)

Life and lessons are good at home. We’re just plugging away. There are always ways to improve, things that need planning and organizing, and things falling through the cracks (like, say, dinner), but that’s a fact of life. One thing at a time, one minute at a time. At least my house is staying relatively clean thanks to my new friend, April. {You’re the best, April!!}

Luke and Lola reading

And that’s about it for today’s update, but I have lots more posts to share this week if I can squeeze in some time for blogging!

Levi and a stack of books