Thursday, December 31, 2015

Okay, So Pictures Might Help

Yesterday I was lazy and didn't upload any pictures to accompany my bleg for help. By popular demand, some pictures of my sad, dysfunctional kitchen. Lemme tell you, getting pictures off a tablet and uploaded into Blogger is a pain in the rear.

NB: I didn't pick up before taking these pictures. Yes, I know I have too much stuff out. Yes, we need to purge. I'm trying to figure out how to get there from here.

First a little spin around the kitchen while standing in the middle of it. I stood in one spot and just took pictures in a clockwise circle.

Here are two pictures from either end. One is taken standing right in front of the garage door and the other is my regular view from the supper table.

Here's where it starts getting real. This is what the inside of our pantry looks like. For real.

Kroger had a fantastic sale on Delallo products, as you can see.

The top of the fridge is just piled. Something could be done up there, but what?

The inside of the only cabinet that isn't just dishes and glasses. Honestly, we have too many cups and mugs and plates, but I don't know how many to keep. What if you need it, ya know?

This cabinet is where I want to mount a solid magazine rack for storing devices. However the rack would need to be eleven inches wide at maximum (unavailable at Target). The bookshelf under this spot sits on top of a vent so we have to be careful what we place here. Also that wallspace there is less than two feet wide.

This is the only spot I can figure to add a magnet for knives, and it is only fourteen inches wide. This is over the drying rack.

This is another possibility for mounting something, but there is a lot going on in this spot. It is the main place for unloading the fridge and pouring drinks and where the toaster is. So I don't know.

Here is where I want to put a hook for Dave's cast iron egg pan. It get used every single day so doesn't really need put away, but it would be good to have a place to stick it that isn't on the stove or the countertops because it gets in the way when trying to cook other things.

Here is the other cabinet on the other side of the sink. It's full of mugs. I'm not sure what can be done with it.

The other side of the mug cabinet is the busiest spot in the house so I don't want to add anything that might further frustrate traffic there.

Another spot that could be arranged differently if I can find another spot in the house to put this table. Finding another spot for the table is questionable without getting rid of furniture, but I don't want to discount the possibility. This is the back corner in the kitchen behind the table. It is not very accessible and tends to get piled, as you can see.

So there it is. That's our kitchen. What do you think? Throw out your ideas.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Kitchen Organization

Dave did not buy me a Christmas present this year. In the days leading up to Christmas, he was unusually cranky and busy with work. I won't lie and say I didn't notice that nothing with my name on it was being wrapped. I was curious about what was going on, but decided to take a wait and see stance. Finally Christmas arrived and he sheepishly handed me a card. He thought this card was insufficient and his distaste for it was the cause for his days of crankiness.  However he was wrong about the insufficiency of the card.  Inside the card was a note explaining his Christmas gift to me was to give me the freedom to buy whatever I need to organize the kitchen to my liking. This kind of gift is right up my alley.

The kitchen in our house is a sad afterthought of a hallway added by the builder because you obviously can't sell a house without a kitchen, but likely they expected nobody would ever eat here. But we do.

My question for you is what should I buy? How do you make your kitchen functional?

My ideas include:
  •  a hook that will hold our most used iron skillet on the side of a cabinet
  • an electrical outlet with both plugs and USB charging outlets
  • a solid magazine rack on the side of a cabinet to contain our various devices. This has to be smaller than 11 inches wide though.
  • a knife magnet. But again, I only have about a 14 inch spot in which to mount it so it has to be smaller than that.
  • Some large bulk storage containers. Something like this. How many? And for what?
  • I have one set of these canisters. Is one set enough? What do you put in them?
Some areas that needs solutions are:
  • cans
  • potatoes, onions, garlic
  • baggies, foil, wraps
  • anything else I haven't thought about
We do have a couple of lazy Susans we use for spices. A pot rack mounted from the ceiling is completely out. It just wouldn't work in here.

So help me brainstorm and figure out what we need!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Homeschooling: The First Semester

Our first semester of homeschooling came to an end this morning amongst the cries of the fifth-grader railing against the injustice of having more work to do than the second-grader and, "They had better not be allowed to go outside until I am finished!!!!!"

We have had quite a ride this semester. Our lives have flipped upside down since August. We've had missteps and successes and are slowly finding our way around our new normal. Honestly I still have weekends where I am flabbergasted I don't have to go to work on Monday.

What has gone well:

The girls love having checklists to work from. They know what is expected at the beginning of the week and they work down their lists everyday. If they know they want to have extra time one day, they can work ahead. If there is something they want to push to later in the week, they can switch it around and do something else first. The goal is to do the basics everyday and have the entire list finished by Friday. Checklists are winning.

I love the schedule. I also am struggling with the schedule. But mostly, I love not having to roll out of bed at o'dark thirty. You may think this has more to do with me not driving into work, but if Grace had to catch the bus, it comes by our house at 6am.

Olivia does her table work first thing in the morning. She is usually finished before I even have my first cup of coffee. I just have to check it. The only subject that suffers a bit for her promptness is the cursive practice.

The general camaraderie developing among the children. They still argue and fight like most siblings do, but they are also playing together and creating their own games and stories and inside jokes. I love this very much. 

What was a plain mistake:

I absolutely should not have started school before I could really start school. I was off of work for our first week of school and it went wonderfully. They were excited. They paid attention. THEY DID WHAT I ASKED THEM TO DO.

Then I went back to work for a month. I spent that month flapping my wings in their general direction imploring them to do some work while I was never home. Then I was home and decided not to immediately force the issue while we found our footing again. More ineffective flapping in their direction. Another month passed. Then we buckled down to get to work.

Their attitude had changed from diligence to reluctance. Reluctance, not necessarily in doing the work that looked the most like what they are accustomed to doing, workbooks and such, but reluctance in that they realized there was no outside authority figure enforcing a standard. There was just me, their mother, whom they are well practiced in ignoring when desired.

I knew we would have this battle eventually, but it was disheartening to have to wrestle with it right off the bat when that first week, two months prior, had gone so well. They learned immediately that they could goof off and the adults in charge would call it school. It is a well known discipline technique to start strict and then give some slack. We did the exact opposite, not that we have ever made it to level strict.

I know that I was afraid of them getting too far behind. Not really. That's not it. I was afraid that since everyone was in school, they would feel behind by not doing anything. And that the other adults in their life would worry we weren't starting school. And that I'd have to answer too many questions. It was easier to do "school." This was a mistake. I should have just baldly stated that we weren't starting school until mid-October. The End. Well, I didn't know.

The area where this reluctance shows itself the most is in writing. In August I could ask Grace to write something and she would write a full page or more. Now I am lucky to get four sentences out of her. It isn't that she is incapable. She just doesn't want to do it.

What we are working on:

We are still working on the schedule. I am still trying to figure out what to do when and how. Who gets my attention first? There is only one of me and two of them with another one being added next semester. They all want my attention first in order to be finished first. I can help one to the wails of the other one. Nobody likes going second, ever.

Another schedule issue is that while Olivia works fairly promptly, Grace can drag her work out all day long. Given that she objectively has more work to do than Olivia since she is in the fifth grade, it is frustrating indeed for me when she drags her feet. We experimented with a few different techniques, but I have found, sadly, the best way is to stand over her until she is finished which might be as late as 4pm. If I have other people or tasks pulling my attention away, she also wanders away. It drags on and on. By the time she's done, my enthusiasm for doing anything else is about gone too.

I think she gets a bit distracted by the other kids in the house and works better after two them go outside and Marian takes a nap. It is quiet then and she focuses, but then she is also angry because *she* is not outside. I am not sure how to get her to focus while the circus swirls around her and I am not sure how to improve her mood when she has to stay behind to finish her work.

I also want to expand our readalouds. The first problem we are running into with the readalouds is the other homeschooling families on the street. I want to get the written work done before settling down to read, but then it's lunch--how I am detesting lunch these days--and then we read. Inevitably by this point in the day, either my kids are busting to go play or other kids are out on the street.

Once the friends outside have been sighted, my kids are D-O-N-E. They half-heartedly listen as they listlessly stare out the window like caged animals. There isn't much joy in reading to children who are itching to leave. I've tried closing the curtains. If we do the readalouds first and the written work second, they aren't as sharp for their work and the same problem emerges of having to enforce while they wish they were anywhere else. I want them to enjoy learning, but it's hard when friends are frolicking nearby. Having so many homeschooling families here is a double-edged sword. Nobody thinks you are weird, but it isn't unusual to have a neighbor child knocking on your door at 11am.

The second problem with the readalouds is that I have no endurance for it. We read a chapter out of a novel at a time and I am dying by the end of it. I try to squeeze in another short story after the chapter, but then I am pretty much finished. My voice starts to hurt and I am ready to quit. I don't know why I have so much trouble reading out loud. It's not like I don't talk a lot regularly. I do. But regular talking doesn't seem to wear my voice out the way reading does. Obviously I am doing something wrong. Pentimento, I'm in need of a voice lesson. :)

I want to add more history and science and the easiest way is to add them to do more readalouds, but see voice problem above. The girls are also campaigning for more hands-on science learning which makes me a little twitchy. I keep putting them off by saying we will do more next semester, but now next semester is staring at me. I want to get the area where I keep these kinds of supplies organized before we started getting into science, but that hasn't happened yet. Digging through unorganized boxes of stuff with children clamoring about is not my idea of a good time.

Writing is also something that needs more attention from me. Like I said before, at the beginning of the semester, they would write extensively for me and now not so much. I am not intent on them writing reams, but I want them to produce something every week. Up to now, I have had an open-ended weekly deadline for them to write a bit about anything they have read or listened to over the past week. The open-ended nature of the assignment led them to pretty regularly blow it off.

What is challenging but exciting:

One of my main motivations in homeschooling, besides the schedule and the family time and the ability to shape the influences on my children, is to protect them from the spoon-feeding ways of the school system. They are accustomed to having everything thoroughly explained by a teacher before attempting to do any of the work. Because they catch-on quickly, they rarely experience frustration with having to figure something out on their own. It's all already been explained.

That's all well and good until you are in integral calculus at university, thought you understood the lecture, took sketchy notes, are trying to complete the homework, and, holy crap, you realize you have no idea what you are doing or even how to begin to figure it out. Isn't that a fine kick in the pants? Not that that ever happened for real. Cough.

Anyway, I want them to learn how to figure it out and struggle with concepts without being given explanations that others might need, but they do not. It isn't that I object to teaching and explanations. Not at all. It's just that if they can figure it out on their own, I want them to have that experience, but it is hard to come by in a school setting.

Over the past few weeks, Grace has declared more than once that she is bad at math. She is not bad at math. In fact, I gave her the Saxon placement test to see where she is and she is a year ahead of her grade level. Math is now the subject where they are most exposed to concepts before getting explanations from me. This is frustrating for Grace. She is accustomed to having the concept and explanation in hand and now she doesn't. This frustration is making Grace think she is doing poorly in math. She isn't doing poorly at all.

On one hand, it's great news she is frustrated. This is exactly what I wanted. Heh. On the other hand, I do not want her to get discouraged. I need to figure out how to allow her to struggle and also reinforce to her that she is doing just fine. I am wondering if I should start giving her math tests. We haven't done any testing because I know what they are doing and how well they are understanding and I adjust on the fly. But a function of testing I hadn't considered is that it lets the student know where she stands. While I am getting feedback on her progress, Grace is left floundering from one concept to the next. As soon as she understands, we move on, but I don't think that she *knows* that she understands. Does that make sense? Are occasional tests the answer?
What comes next?

Next semester we will add Sam to this mix. I don't even know. Letters and sounds and numbers and counting. Is that it?

We will add more science and history to the reading, but I'm not sure I can bear experiments yet.

I will be more consistent with writing deadlines so they actually write. I am not terribly concerned with quantity, but I do not want them to fall completely out of the habit of putting original thoughts on paper.

Hopefully the schedule will continue to normalize as we find a rhythm that works for us.

And there it is. We survived the semester. Hooray! I think we have all learned and grown from our experiences, but I am ready to take a few weeks off. All in all, I think we are doing well. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Inverted Family Tree

I want to tell you all about what I've been doing these past few weeks, both on the housekeeping and homeschooling fronts. Getting to the computer upstairs is harder than it might seem. We purchased a small laptop for downstairs to ease the congestion on the main computer and to allow me to access the Interwebz without leaving the main scene of action in the house. Behold!

I will tell you all about these things we have learned and discovered soon enough. For example, it is bad idea to eek out a few more days of school right before Christmas when nobody on the street is doing it and all the kids are playing outside all day long. Note to self. But sometimes a post unrelated to anything going on grabs your attention and demands to be written. This is one of those times.


My maternal grandmother* had four children. In order for those four children to be replaced, she would need to have eight grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.

This people math is the basics behind zero population growth theories. The idea is that you shouldn't have more children than are necessary to replace the people who already exist. Of course, proponents would probably be happy if you never reached that number. Even though I reject the philosophy behind ZPG, I was essentially raised with these ideas. My parents, for whatever reason, were very conscious about not exceeding their "limit." My brother exists, in some small part, because there were open slots available from cousins who did not exist. I am repulsed by the idea that my brother might not exist if the quota had already been filled.

My maternal grandmother had nine grandchildren, which replaces her children plus one--the open slots enabling my brother were on my father's side of the family--and it just so happens I fall exactly in the middle. There are four grandchildren older than I am and four grandchildren younger than I am. Assessing the state of our extended family as I enter the final likely years of my fertility, I am distressed. She should have sixteen great-grandchildren, but as of now, she has eleven.

My oldest four cousins produced one child between them. I have four children. My sister has three children. My brother has zero children. My youngest two cousins have three children between them. It does not seem likely that any of my cousins will have any more children. It isn't that they all suffer from infertility. There is a lot of sterilization going on here. I know because they tell me.

So here we are at eleven. We have five missing people, at a minimum, on my mother's side of the family. Our family tree is inverting.

On my father's side of the family, the situation is much the same. My paternal grandmother had 7 children which would require 14 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren to hit replacement numbers. She had 13 grandchildren--close--and thus far eleven great-grandchildren, seven of whom belong to me and my sister. Since I am one of older cousins in this group instead of in the middle, it is harder to make long term pronouncements on how many children there will eventually be. I can say that as of right now, my four oldest cousins have four children between them. Twenty-eight does not seem likely at all.

Since the concept of replacing yourself was near growing up, I have thought a lot about replacement numbers and how many children are required to achieve it. I have also wondered if I personally have an obligation--in the best sense--to have more children since no one else seems willing to do it.

I know I cannot carry the weight of my entire family. Even if I had a goal of making sure the numbers were at replacement minimums, it would be impossible. I don't have that much fertility (or energy). If I felt like we were DONE, done, I doubt I would be worried too much about it. You can only do so much.

But here I am at age 38. I will be 40 in 18 months. It feels like a deadline. As I sit here discerning my unenthusiasm for pregnancy along with all the other factors of life, I wonder if the abysmal number of children in my extended family should play any role in our decisions.

Since I am willing to love and raise a baby, despite my hatred of pregnancy, do I have any obligation to do it again in light of the fact that my cousins, as a rule, won't? Does anyone else think about these things? Am I the only one?

*My grandmother died in 1999, but I wasn't sure how to treat the verb tenses so just bear with me here.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Immediate Book Meme

I've been thinking about this ole blog frequently and failing to visit it frequently. I have several posts bouncing in my head and yet am not managing to sit down and pound them out. And lo, MrsDarwin comes to the rescue. Here's post full of hopeful promise that I'll soon be posting regularly again.

1. What book are you reading now?

Stillwater, by Cat Hodge (It's on Grace's Kindle so it's slow going as I negotiate who gets the device on any given day.)
Ida Elisabeth, by Sigrid Undset

For the homeschool:
Jenny and the Cat Club, by Esther Averill
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (An aside: How long does it take for other people to read a longish book aloud to their kids. We've been hitting at this book since August and it feels like we are going painfully slow. Problem is I can only read about a chapter at a time before my voice gets too uncomfortable.)
Robin Hood

2. What book did you just finish?

33 Days to Morning Glory, by Michael Gaitley
Shadows on the Rock, by Willa Cather
Ward No. 6, by Anton Chekhov (A short story, not a book, but I say it counts.)
The Entire Collection of Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel.

3. What do you plan to read next?

The Rule of St. Benedict

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales (Argh, this book. I like it, but it always seems to get pushed aside by more pressing matters.) 

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Leisure The Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper
Elisabeth Leseur- Selected Writings
Crimson Bound, by Rosamund Hodge

6. What is your current reading trend?

Second grade readers and Life of Fred math books.

Monday, November 2, 2015


I promise I haven't fallen off the planet here. I am having trouble getting to the computer with a keyboard. The tablet drives me mad and the upstairs computer is not convenient or is occupied. I am hoping we can get a smaller downstairs computer soon. Black Friday is coming. By the time I do get to the keyboard, it is late in the afternoon and I am staring into the abyss trying to recover from hours of 'on' time. Anyway...

On the homeschooling front, I have created a checklist template for the girls to work from. Prior to the week, I spend an hour or so putting together their tasks for the week and print it off. They work from their checklists and this is working reasonably well.

Help me understand curriculum. I ordered a few workbooks and curriculum several weeks ago. Overall I am happy with what I ordered, but I am somewhat surprised by what publishers consider a year's worth of work. The map workbooks came in and there are only twenty to thirty lessons in them. These won't last a year, not even close. The girls both love them so it will be hard to keep them down to one lesson a week.

The grammar program is only supposed to take fifteen minutes per lesson to keep it bite-sized, but you could do two or three lessons in fifteen minutes. There's just not a lot there. Grace was upset by how short the lessons are so we decided to double them up. I suspect I'll have to buy the next level up in January. Again, we both like the program, but there's not a lot there.

The only thing I bought that has close to what I expect a year's worth of curriculum to contain is the Seton math book. Am I missing something here? Even the copybooks will take strategic stretching to make them last the whole year.

Is this deschooling for all of us? Are our expectations so out of proportion that we don't feel comfortable unless we drill, drill, drill? I don't know. Right now, they have maybe an hour's worth of work to do everyday. Maybe. Is that enough? Of course with wrangling two girls, a toddler, Sam, and the endless rounds of required food, that hour's worth of work can take all morning.

Math with Grace is becoming something of a problem. She doesn't love the Fred books and tries to avoid them except when she decides she likes them and then binges through the lessons. She is frustrated with Khan because it presents problems before she knows how to solve them, but then she resents having to ask for help. She wants lessons presented and then problems to solve. But the idea that I note what she is struggling with on Khan and then have a table lesson apart from the computer was not met with enthusiasm. More deschooling? Age-appropriate boundary pushing? I don't know.

Math used to be her favorite subject and now she growls and cries about it. She is pining for a workbook like Olivia has. On one hand, I think the dynamic of struggle and understanding is good for her. On the other hand, I am not sure I should press this too hard right now as everything is changing. Maybe I should just buy her a math workbook and be done with it?

Olivia is thriving like I always suspected she would. It isn't problem free, but her issues aren't hard for me to tackle.

On the housekeeping front, my alarm clock is a failure. I just don't want to set an alarm. Maybe I should. Maybe I will set it for a more moderate 7:30. That sounds better. I can't sleep the morning away, but I also don't really want to drag myself out of bed. The morning muffin really mitigates my need to be out of bed. We will see.

I have hit a roadblock with the cleaning. I desperately need to get going on the kitchen again, but mentally I just can't seem to do it. When we finish with school and lunch and the readaloud, I just can't bring myself to go to the kitchen and clean. I need to do it. I still haven't developed a meal plan which mentally seems to hinge on finishing the kitchen.

I had such a good momentum on cleaning a month ago and then it all went to crap. A month ago, I was letting the homeschooling slide and now we have developed a much more solid routine. Related? I think so. Argh.  Still working on the transition.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Something Like a Plan

I am still trying to come to grips with a schedule.  I am still struggling to use the printer. Part of my problem is the absurdly stupid fact that the printer is out of ink and I need to change the cartridge. It is enough of a deterrent that I keep thinking I'll change it later. Stupid.

Anyway, after my panic of last week, I have all of a sudden been granted the ability to think about homeschooling in a concrete way. When I had hours and hours at work to do whatever I liked, I couldn't make my brain plan what I only had the vaguest concepts about doing. Homeschooling mothers would invite me to look at their materials and I would smile and nod and glance through it without the slightest idea of what I was looking for. Even when I was finally home from work, the whole homeschool planning thing was elusive. But now, as I begin to discover what our days will be like with me at home with them, I am suddenly able to make decisions about curriculum.

So what are we doing?

In math, both girls were working in Khan Academy until Olivia, inconveniently, finished the second grade program. However, she is definitely not ready to move on to third grade math. The basic addition and subtraction facts are not cemented in her mind yet. She understands the concepts and gets the right answers, but doesn't respond immediately and needs more drill.

Grace is working through the 5th grade level of Khan and enjoying it. She will spend hours working on math if I let her. I sometimes let her.

I think Khan is a solid program, but my basic complaint is that it grants mastery status without enough drill. If you luck out and get four or five questions right in a row on a topic, they say you have mastered it. Well, you might have or you might not have. It makes me nervous, anyway.

I looked at the Saxon Math and I honestly had to say, even if I think this might be a superior math program, I do not have the wherewithal right now to sit and whittle down eleventy billion problems a lesson into a workable number of problems for us. So maybe Saxon in the future, but not this year.

A friend has a collection of Life of Fred that she has graciously allowed me to borrow. I want both girls to work through at their own pace. Grace is less than thrilled with this idea so I am not sure how hard I am going to push it. She is deeply offended by the notion of starting at the beginning because that is what the program requires. She is also unnerved by only having a handful of questions to answer in any given lesson. I just want her to have an alternative version of math since I don't think Khan drills enough. But she so loves the Khan. So we shall see. I am going to work with Olivia through Life of Fred and then I ordered a Seton 2nd grade math workbook to give her extra practice where I don't have to sit with her. Just drill.

In reading, I am sitting with Olivia while she reads through the primary Pathway readers. I have been told that in 7th or 8th grade, they turn into anti-Catholic screeds, but the early grades are sweet stories about a family where it is normative for children to do chores and obey their parents and play with their siblings. So I like it.

With Grace, reading is a something of a discipline problem. If it's a book, she will read it to the exclusion of all life including sleep and meals. I don't have a solid program for her except to hand her an assortment of books and say, "Here, read this." And she will.

For Grammar, I decided to get Grace the Fix-It workbook from IEW. It is a program where you examine a story line-by-line so you get grammar in the real world and not just artificial sentences.

Olivia is going to use printouts from It is just a snippet of grammar a day to keep her in the habit. (This requires a printer.)

We have the first book of  the Memoria Press Cursive program that both girls have been hitting licks at for two years. We will now buckle down and actually work the program. I expect to have to get Book 2 in the spring. (Also need the printer because we only have one book.) In conjunction with the handwriting, I got them each an appropriate copybook. The second level book for Olivia and the Latin Cursive for Grace.

In social studies, I bought these map workbooks in Grades 2, 4, and 5 for them to practice geography and map reading.

So there we are.

My thought is that they will do math, reading, and grammar everyday and alternate handwriting and maps Monday through Thursday. I will also add some time for readalouds every day and I want them to write a little something about what we read once a week. They are also going to Grandma's on most Fridays to learn sewing and cooking.

The girls and I have talked and they have indicated that they would like a checklist to work from everyday. I need to create a template and then I will be able to actually plan weeks at a time instead of this catch-as-catch-can that has been our model these past few weeks.

Here we go.

Friday, October 9, 2015


I was supposed to be on a schedule by now. I started the week with high hopes and my alarm set. My long term goal is 6:45, but as an interim step, I set my alarm for 7:15.

Monday morning came and the alarm sounded. I promptly hit snooze a time or two, but I was out of bed at 7:45. Not great, but not terrible. Monday proceeded decently. School happened.

Olivia was up sick on Monday night/Tuesday morning and I blew through my alarm and slept until 9am. I worked with Olivia on her subjects, but I have no idea what Grace did except not school. She had a doctor's appointment and that was the end of that day.

On Wednesday, we had a bank appointment in the morning and school was shot for the day. I did get a bunch of discount meat on sale at the grocery. Yay.

On Thursday, we had a friend over and school was shot for the day.

On Friday, the girls went to Grandma's and school was shot for the day.

We need more structure for schooling. I need to know what we are going to do before the day starts instead of just flying by the seats of our pants everyday. If I have to make them wait on me, I lose them. Sometimes they leave mentally. Sometimes I turn around and they are out playing in the street. Read-alouds have fallen right out of the day. I want to print out activities for them, but by the time I get to the computer with the printer, Marian is usually napping. The printer is right next to where she sleeps and there is not an option to move anything. Getting upstairs is harder than I thought it would be. I need to have everything printed before the day starts. I guess I should do a mass printing over the weekend to be ready for the entire week. That means I need to figure out where to keep this stuff until they need it. I need to carve out school planning time.

I have not moved forward at all in the kitchen project since I burned the skin off my hands a week ago. Not because I am waiting for my hands to heal, they are just fine. I still need to clean the stove and the closet under the stairs and the pantry. But somehow the times I think I am going to move on in the kitchen just don't seem to happen. I have achieved the level of keeping the sink and countertops relatively clean and clear, but can't seem to move to the next level yet. The kitchen floor is tragic.

I have not taken over the meal planning or cooking yet. This needs to happen. Like this weekend. I cannot function when I have to decide what to make on the spot. I need to know ahead of time otherwise we will eat spaghetti sauce out of a jar every night of the week. This means I have to carve out time to meal plan.

Laundry is behind. I have figured that two loads a day all week keeps us up-to-date with the laundry and yet I am behind on the laundry.

The alarm is helping me get out of bed before 8am, but I still haven't gotten up as early as I would like. Mostly because I am not going to bed early enough. Because? Because I am awake at night and nothing is making me go to bed. I don't think anything will ever change me feeling energetic at night and stupefied in the morning. I move so slowly in the morning. I putter around, barely thinking, and do the things that must be done, and then, before I know it, it's lunch time. It seems like as soon as I get finished with all the things that have to be done, it is time to cook another blasted meal and everything gets paused for two hours.

I have sketched out a rough draft of a schedule that I need to refine and finalize and print on card stock. Card stock means I am serious. Right? We must find a rhythm to our days. And, like it or not, I am the one who must set the tempo.

I feel like I have been dropped into a compressed timeline where regular people would have had years to develop a routine and rhythm and coping skills. I am simultaneously trying to learn to efficiently keep house and clean and manage four children and manage myself without a dictated schedule and learn how to cook and homeschool two kids at once. I don't really have years to learn this. It has to happen relatively quickly. I know it is unreasonable to expect to be an expert a month into it, but right now I am flailing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Housecleaning Follies

I have kept it no secret that one of the reasons I was the one who was chosen to go out and earn a salary is because housecleaning is not my forte. My standards are high; my technique is amateur; my working tempo is largo. It is difficult for me to walk away unless perfection reigns. Perfection never reigns so I perpetually feel behind and substandard and spend an eon getting there.

It just so happens that late last week, I decided our microwave and stove needed thoroughly degreased and cleaned. I don't have a great before picture. Pretend this is it:

I have a history with cleaning microwaves. When I took time off of work before Marian was born, I desperately spent two hours cleaning every crevice of our microwave after I had cried bitter tears over the fact the midwife was going to see our dirty microwave. This was the sum total of my nesting activity.

I put together a cleaning solution of vinegar and dishsoap, zapped it in the microwave, and commenced with scrubbing every surface of the microwave, starting at the top. Order of operations, of course. I soaked a washcloth and worked until I needed to rinse and resoak the washcloth. Repeat until my bowl of solution was empty and then mix up some more. As I worked, I kept remarking that the vinegar was burning my hands. I would rinse my hands in some water and then soldier on.

After working for 90 solid minutes, I had to quit, but I sadly was not done. Here is the microwave in its sad, half finished condition.

The grate left soaking in the sink:

This grate vexes me. There is grease in there. I see it. It needs to be scrubbed away. It won't dissolve on its own. My fingers are too big to get in there. I know it is still dirty. I *know* it is. I don't need to spend multiple hours figuring out how to clean what I cannot reach, right? Right?

The next day and the next, I could not finish the job. Then a strange thing began to happen: my hands began to peel. I may or may not have inadvertently given my hands a chemical peel with the vinegar. My skin may have been peeling so badly that it may or may not have been referred to as "hand dandruff."

I learned my lesson. Soaking bare skin in soap and vinegar for over an hour is maybe not a good idea. I decided I needed kitchen gloves. At the grocery, I picked up a fashionable pair. On sale!

Now I could finish the job!

I scrubbed for probably another hour. Dave could smell the vinegar wafting out of the house as he drove by on the lawn mower. I broke off the lightbulb underneath as I unscrewed it to change it out. After a while, I deemed the job 'good enough.' It is not perfect. The lightbulb base needs removed and replaced. There is still grease in the grate that I cannot reach, but I will not make perfect the enemy of good. I consider the microwave finished.

Isn't it beautiful! I probably spent three hours working on it. Sigh. I never claimed efficiency, but it is clean.

So I regaled a friend with the tale of the epic microwave cleaning and she wondered exactly how much vinegar I was using. I showed her my bowl that I filled with vinegar solution multiple times in the course of the job.

After regaining her ability of speech, she told me I should just spritz it on with a spray bottle, let it rest a minute, and then wipe it up. That I shouldn't need more than a 1/4 cup of vinegar to get the job finished. Apparently using a quart of vinegar to clean a microwave is overkill. Um, oops?

And now I know.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The New Normal

It has been four weeks since I was at work. I promised myself I would not try to impose any kind of schedule for four weeks. I would not impose a bedtime. I would not set an alarm. I would not force the school planning. We would do a little math and a little reading every day.

People ask how homeschooling is going and I mumble about a soft start. My focus has been on piddling and cleaning the house.

Day by day, I have awoken without an alarm, done a bit of schooling, done a bit of cleaning, stayed up as late as I cared to, and basically done what I wanted. Wow, we need a schedule.

Oh, how I wish I was a morning person! The truth is I struggle to be functional in the morning. I wake up groggy even when I have had plenty of sleep. I have known this about myself for a long time (forever), but I had hoped it was just a remnant of sleep deprivation. It's not. I hoped coffee would fix it. It doesn't. Left to my own devices, I am dressed and ready to face the day at about 11:30am, just in time to fix lunch. The day evaporates. If I could run on my own schedule, it wouldn't be a problem, but the children need me to stop spending half the morning staring into the middle distance. I need to establish our new normal.

The first step is making myself somewhat functional in the morning. I am never going to be one to jump up at the day, but there are things I can do to ease the day into motion instead of wondering what happened to it. Through some trial and error in discovery, here are some things I need to do to make my mornings work:

  1. An established bedtime. Going to sleep whenever is just pushing my day around. I need to be off the computer by 10pm to give my brain time to shut off so I can go to sleep around 11pm.
  2. Set the morning alarm. Sob. I still need an alarm in the morning, but I can set it reasonably and not the crazy early of worklife. I am thinking 6:45am might be a good wake up time.
  3. I need to say morning prayer before I do anything else. When I say I'll get back to it, I don't. Ever.
  4. I need to get dressed before I leave my room. Pajamas are a cozy way to let the morning slide right on by. Even when I plan on showering later in the morning, I still need to get into regular clothes as soon as possible.
  5. Contacts are required. There is something about having my glasses on that makes it hard for me to focus. It isn't that I can't see, although the fuzzy periphery might have something to do with it, it is that glasses signal rest time to my mind and I follow suit.
  6. A time limit on the morning Internet. Due to my previous work habits, I am very capable of spending hours refreshing the Internet. I need a hard stop time and make myself abide by it.
  7. Shoes. I don't feel like I can work without shoes on. The shoes need to be put on immediately after my Internet time is over.
  8. Breakfast. This meal cannot be pushed to whenever. We need a time we will not pass before eating. Nobody functions well on low blood sugar and late meals. I want the breakfast prep to start around 8am. 

So those are my first goals for our new schedule. Most of them center around disciplining myself in order for the day to flow. If I am ready to go in the morning, I think the rest will be easier to tackle. The alarm will be set on Monday morning.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


I have been home from work for two weeks now. The first few days were blissfully lazy. I did not do much of anything except let the days sink in like a long vacation. After several days of laying low, the realization dawned on me that company was coming soon and the entire house needed to be cleaned. Activity sparked into my days. I cleaned and organized and organized and cleaned for over a week. It wasn't perfect or as thorough as I would like and I never actually got to the kitchen myself--hopefully it wasn't too shocking or horrible--but we welcomed the Darwins into our home, nobody got hurt, and everyone had a spot of floor on which to sleep. And good times were had by all.

Through the years we have lived in this house, hospitality has not been our strong suit. Basically we never invite anyone over unless it is family for a child's birthday party. The essential reason is because I am never organized or put together enough to manage for either myself or any potential guests. Who wants to dig out a spot on the couch in order to sit down? Hospitality means making your guests comfortable and I have never felt I was in a position to make anyone comfortable here who wasn't already inoculated to the mess.

The other hesitation I had in inviting people over was the inevitable fallout from dealing with the aftermath. No matter how organized or clean the house is in anticipation of a visit, there is always extra clean up after company leaves. That's just the way of things. In the past, that extra clean up would stretch into an absurdly long amount of time. I always had to go back to work on Monday which meant the clean up never started in earnest for a week. But in that next weekend, I still had my normal allotment of clean up as well. The house would be put back in order only partially and slowly over the next handful of weekends.

One weekend party or quick trip away translated into two or three or four weeks of extra clutter and the accompanying stress that extra clutter brings. There was no margin in the schedule. The less we did or the less people were over, the easier my life was. There was no such thing as a quick get-together. While I was not happy about this state of affairs, I felt constrained to change anything. The schedule was what it was.

In a conversation I had with Amy a few weeks ago, she said that soon, once the house was cleaned up the first time, I could have people over and it wouldn't be a catastrophe. She was right! Thankfully, she was right.

After staying up too late because of a pile of giggling girls in the living room and getting up too early because of girls on a mission to extract every moment of fun possible, I felt very groggy on Thursday after the Darwins continued on their trip to warmer climes. I didn't panic because of a perceived conflict between rest and picking up the house. (NB: No worries, not a big mess, just the regular little bit when ten extra people have been in your house.) Instead I took a nap and spent most of the day resting. On Friday and Saturday, we had commitments that kept us out of the house most of the day. Still I did not panic. We will have to be gone most of the day tomorrow. Still not panicking.

I feel completely relaxed about getting to the house. I know that come Monday I will have plenty of time to walk about and do what needs done. And then by Tuesday, it will be done. No stress, no drawn out process of incremental improvement, just time to get it done. Margin.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Insurance and Everything After

On Monday we had an appointment to sort out one of the most joyful aspects of self-employment: individual insurance policies. There is a local insurance agent who has been highly recommended repeatedly so we asked her to come over and help us out. I expected to talk about insurance options and HSAs and dental and vision insurance options. Instead she sat at my kitchen table for two hours and filled out an online government form for me. I was annoyed. I can fill out government forms by myself. Heck, I even do my own taxes. I guess I am not the normal client. She gets rave reviews and I came away thinking most of her clients must be incurious.

By the time our appointment time was finished, we were the proud owners of a shiny new Obamacare account and not much else. We signed up for a basic medical insurance product to carry us through the rest of the year, but no other burning questions were answered because first, the stupid website was an insane maze of redundant questions--shocking, I know--and second, the agent did not even attempt to broach any other subject beyond setting up an Obamacare account. She didn't ask what our concerns were. She didn't ask if we had any questions. She just asked data questions in order to fill out a form, showed us the options that popped up, clicked a few buttons, and left. I was not impressed. The old adage still holds true. If you want something done right, you must do it yourself. I figure she got a little bit of commission from whomever pays her for driving out here and I'll figure out the rest myself.

So if anyone has any knowledge about how HSAs work, if they are even available on individual plans, and whether or not it is worth it for adults to get dental and vision insurance, let me know because I am going to spend the next few months trying to figure out the answers to those questions.

What was really stunning about our trip through Obamacare is how much money is being given out by the government. Mind blowing. The EITC is peanuts compared with this sum. Without government subsidies, the policy we bought would be over $900 a month and carry a $4000 individual deductible, but we get it for $450 a month with a $2000 individual deductible. Apparently the government thinks we are really poor. No, really. There are six levels of subsidy and we qualify for level five or the *almost* poorer than dirt level. I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that fact.

Not to belabor the point but we make around the median household income in the US. How can the median household income in a rich country be considered so poor as to need five levels of assistance among all the other assistance?  I am caught between being happy about having a reasonable monthly payment and being wary of the overarching implications of such a subsidy policy. Could we afford to pay more? Probably. Would it really suck and make it hard to afford to do anything else? Yes. I admit it pricks my pride to have the money offered to me and to actually need it, but I also worry about whether or not the country can afford such a generous policy. My gut instinct is that we cannot.


Most ridiculous series of pages in signing up for Obamacare: Dave had to affirm that he was the parent of Grace <click> the parent of Olivia <click> the parent of Sam <click> the parent of Marian<click>. I had to affirm that I was the parent of Grace <click> the parent of Olivia <click> the parent of Sam <click> the parent of Marian<click>. I had to affirm that Grace was my child <click> Dave's child <click>the sister of Olivia<click>the sister of Sam<click>the sister of Marian<click>. I had to affirm that Olivia was my child <click> Dave's child <click>the sister of Grace<click>the sister of Sam<click>the sister of Marian<click>. I had to affirm that Sam was my child <click> Dave's child <click>the brother of Grace<click>the brother of Olivia<click>the brother of Marian<click>. I had to affirm that Marian was my child <click> Dave's child <click>the sister of Grace<click>the sister of Olivia<click>the sister of Sam<click>. And after all those clicks, it all popped up on one page and had to be confirmed one more time. There is a reason it took two hours to sign up for an account. Money well spent for website contractors, I'm sure.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Today is the one year blogiversary of this ever-so-humble abode. Last year, I wasn't sure if I would have much to say. I guess after a hundred and thirty something posts, I've managed to say something after all. Hopefully it hasn't all been bilge. Goal for the coming year: Redesign away from a standard plug and play template.

Today is my parents' anniversary. Today is also exactly 40 weeks before my birthday. <cough>  You know if I had been born circa two thousand and something instead of circa nineteen seventy something, I would have a different birthday because no way would a doctor nowadays allow a mother to go two full weeks overdue. I like my birthday where it is.

Today is also the first official day of my unemployment. Or nonemployment. Or entrance into the nonmarket economy. Or the beginning of my life unencumbered by a job.

Who could have known all these things would align on a single day?

This is the day I have waited on for years. Today is the day I can begin to plan and live the rest of our lives. I feel like I should have something profound to say, but I don't. The only emotion I can conjure is profound gratefulness. And panic about housecleaning and cooking and homeschooling. But mostly gratefulness that this day, which I thought might never arrive, is here. I thank all of you for coming along on the ride with me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Road Not Taken

The postings have trailed off because the inspiration is light on the ground. I am still driving into work everyday, but I am doing exactly nothing here. When I put in my resignation, it was decided it would be a waste of time to bring me into the new system so I complete a one-off task here and there, but mostly spend my day clicking around the Internet until I can drive home. I have quietly slipped out of the workflow here, but will still man my desk for the next seven days after today.

At home, everything is poised and waiting on the moment I no longer have to come to work. It is ripe with anticipation, but not a lot of action or angst. Just waiting. It is much like the last few weeks of pregnancy when you know the time is near, you have prepared as best you can, and you are waiting for that moment to arrive when the rest of your life can begin.


It occurred to me last week that since my co-worker was promoted into management, his position is open. Given my qualifications and experience, I am the most likely candidate to have filled that position. I am just speculating. I resigned before the subject could even be broached, but it isn't unreasonable to think I might have gotten the job. That I was likely to get the job.

How funny is it that the issues that have plagued my employment here could possibly be resolved right as I am walking away. The open position has much more decision-making responsibility and comes with the promise of doing real work instead of my previous situation of half-filled days with nothing to do. It would also be a twenty thousand dollar raise. We would finally be in a position, financially, to stop treading water. To be able to actually save money. To afford a vacation more than once a decade.

But this is not the road we are choosing to take. It isn't the one I want to take. I am fully at peace with our decisions and am excited to finally get going, but I didn't expect the opportunity I am rejecting to be at its brightest luster right at the moment I take the other fork in the road. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Back in the summer of 2013, I was postpartum and unhappy about having to go back to work. I despised my commute which could stretch upwards to three hours a day. I felt like I was slowly losing my mind. I listened to political talk radio. I listened to independent radio. I listened to sports talk. I listened to NPR. I listened to nothing. Each choice was good for a small stretch of time, but soon the existential despair of the reality of my drive would creep upon me once more. Recovering from childbirth on leave gave me a brief respite from the grind and also a keen understanding of the sacrifices my job and commute demanded from me. So, as I said, I was unhappy about having to go back to work.

I had seen that Darwin listened to audiobooks during his commutes and I decided this was a fine idea to ease the boredom and despair. Before my return to work, I visited our local library, signed up for my own card, and began browsing their audiobook selections. It turns out this is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

I am now in my final weeks of working and I am currently listening to what I think will be my last book while commuting. The addition of audiobooks to my commute transformed it from a soul-destroying daily life suck into an inconvenience that, at least, comes with entertainment. I listened to books that I would have never had time to read on paper. I am also, by nature, more of an aural learner so listening played right into my strengths. I listened to descriptions my eyes would have glazed over and more fully imbibed the stories than if I had only been reading. I am so grateful to have stumbled upon this way to pass the time.

Here is my list of audiobooks that have made my commute so much more bearable:

  • 1776 by David McCullough, read by David McCullough
  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson, read by Boyd Gaines
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, read by Sissy Spacek
  • His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J Ellis, read by Nelson Runger
  • Emma by Jane Austen, read by Wanda McCaddon
  • Sum It Up: 1,098 Victories, A Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective by Pat Head Summitt and Sally Jenkins, Read by Sally Jenkins
  • Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution by Nathaniel Philbrick, read by Chris Sorensen
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, read by Alexander Scourby
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, read by Josephine Bailey
  • Mere Christianity  by C.S. Lewis, read by Geoffrey Howard
  • The Great Divorce  by C.S. Lewis, read by Robert Whitfield
  • The Screwtape Letters  by C.S. Lewis, read by Joss Ackland
  • The Problem of Pain  by C.S. Lewis, read by James Simmons
  • Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austen, read by Wanda McCaddon
  • Silas Marner  by George Eliot, read by Rosalyn Landor
  • Tess of the d'Urbervilles  by Thomas Hardy, read by Stephen Thorne
  • Cheaper by the Dozen  by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, read by Dana Ivey
  • Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir, read by Maggie Mash
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell, read by Patrick Tull
  • The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, read by Anthony Heald
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis
  • The Two Towers by J.R.R Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis
  • The Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis
  • 1984 by George Orwell, read by Richard Brown>
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, read by William Hope and Laurel Lefkow
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, read by Karen Savage
  • The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles, read by Ian McKellen
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, read by Alfred Molina
  • The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory, read by Bianca Amato and Graeme Malcolm
  • Beowulf Translated by Francis B. Gummere read by Rosalyn Landor
  • James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney, read by Eliza Foss
  • Inferno by Dante, translated by Benedict Flynn, read by Heathcote Williams
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, read by Donada Peters
  • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, read by Jeremy Irons
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, read by Kate Reading
  • The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones, read by John Curless
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot, read by Juliet Stevenson
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, read by Michael Page
  • Great Expectations By Charles Dickens, read by Martin Jarvis
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, read by Davina Porter
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, read by Tom Casaletto
  • The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne, read by Donada Peters
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville, read by Anthony Heald

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Random Observations

One of the advantages in having a boss of the opposite sex is that you never have to worry about talking to your boss in the restroom.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Touch of Regret

Yesterday I submitted my resignation. This day has been so long in coming and I expected to feel unmitigated glee. And I did feel glee and happiness and joy. There was the greatest Facebook party ever where friends posted drinks, food, and music in celebration of the occasion. Great fun was had by all.

And yet, unexpectedly, also felt a touch of regret yesterday. After I informed my supervisor, who has been newly minted into this position for less than a week, he reassured me it was good decision because a similar decision has been great for his family. There was no sense of hostility or accusation in our exchange, only momentary surprise on his part and then support and appreciation for the decision.

I went outside to walk off some nervous energy and felt that first moment of something hard to identify. I agree with him that my decision is the best one for my family, otherwise why would I be making it. Still though, I know that if he had previously been my supervisor, I would have been much more involved with implementing the latest project than I have been. I know that it is likely he is as mystified by my lack of involvement as I am. In fact when I first entered his office, he almost immediately began telling me how I was soon going to be brought up-to-date on the entire project. I had to stop him and redirect the meeting. There is a little bit of sadness knowing the my situation at work is better now than it has been in years, just as I am walking out the door. My time didn't have to be as futile as it has been.

Later in the afternoon, the next supervisor up the chain of command came into my office to confirm my resignation. He, too, was supportive. He said I was making a good decision for the right reasons and he would try to talk me out of it except that it showed that I had my priorities in order. Hanging in that statement is the completely unintended implication that somehow my priorities were previously out of order. I appreciated his support, but it, at the same time, it also felt a little paternalistic.

In a passing mood that could only come from a woman, I was simultaneously happy and annoyed by their unambigious support. What do women want? Isn't that the question. If they had been hostile, I would be on my high horse about the lack of respect for mothers at home with children. In their support, I wonder if they are happy to see me in my place. You just can't win. It is a touch of madness.

By any objective standard, my career has been a failure. I stayed in this job for far longer than anyone with ambition would tolerate. The only reason I am here now is because I chose to wait it out while the situation at home stabilized enough for me to do what I really wanted to do. From an internal point of view, I know I have been underutilized at work and have only been biding my time. From an external point of view, is there anything that distinguishes me from someone who deliberately chooses the mommy-track? Not really, but it was never my intention.

My supervisor came by later in the day and told me that upon reflection, the timing of my departure would work out alright, but if it had been several months ago, he would have been totally screwed. I am very much aware of this fact. This fact makes my departure easier on my conscience and harder on my ego. I am glad I am not leaving them in the lurch and also tweaked that they will never appreciate my contributions.

I look like someone who worked until I was tired of working and decided I wanted to go play with my kids. There is truth in that statement, but not the whole truth. I believe I was given lesser responsibilities partially because of my status as a mother. (Also because McDonald's is better managed than this place.) I feel some touch of failure in my exit because, in truth, they won't miss me. My responsibilities are complete here. Because I have nothing here depending on me, it feels like those decisions to not promote me and not give greater responsibilities are somewhat justified. They created the lowered expectation and I lived up to it.

I am not suggesting that I should continue working in order to make a societal point about working mothers. I am not crazy. I refuse to be miserable for "society." But it does feel like I have subtly reinforced the stereotype that you cannot trust a working mother who bears more than 1.3 children. There is nothing to be done about it. It is what it is.

In all, I feel joy and a sense of accomplishment but also a touch of regret. I really was not expecting that.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Psalm 116 Redux

I resigned from my job today. You all know how long this has been in the works and the day has finally arrived. This morning, after arriving at work, I opened my Magnificat magazine to today's morning prayer and there, staring at me on the page, was Psalm 116. I am gobsmacked.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The First Few Days

We started our homeschooling adventure on Monday of this week since that's when the local public schools start. We started with a bang because we all woke up sick. Sigh. Them's the breaks.

Here are just a few thoughts from our first few days.

The plan was that Grace would work on math on the computer while Olivia worked on writing and handwriting and then they would switch. The execution of this plan isn't quite as smooth as I imagined. Grace is very independent working on math and Olivia is very independent with writing, but both need a little handholding on the other subjects. In short, neither need my help at the same time and then both need my help at the same time.

Olivia needs help reading the math problems and talking them out for understanding so I need to basically sit with her while she works. Grace is having trouble deciding anything about writing. She says she doesn't know what to write. On Monday, she wrote a short essay on tadpoles, but it has decreased in output and increased in despair since then. I am not sure if I should wait this out or try to give her more structured instructions. I printed out several handwriting pages which she does enjoy, so maybe that's good enough for now. I am also thinking about giving her the psalm from Morning Prayer to copy as a standard alternative if she continues with the writing block.

The only problem I am having with Olivia's writing is that she desperately doesn't want me to look at it. Should I force the issue or just glance to see if she has written something and then let it go? She is very private and secretive so I don't know if it embarrasses her or what.

Grace has been reading her own books constantly. To the point of maybe having to implement "consequences" if she doesn't get her nose out of her book and do something else occasionally, like come to dinner when she is called. Olivia does not seem to be reading much beyond environmental reading. She reads signs and over my shoulder and as much math as she can, but she really hasn't set down to read on her own.

I want to do more readalouds than have happened this week. I have read to them exactly once. I think this is more a matter of finding a rhythm. I am still carrying the fog of work fatigue with me so I hope when I am home for good, I will find a way to accommodate the reading. I have an energy lag after lunch which is right when I planned to read. If I can push through that, maybe I can have an hour of 'leave me alone' after that? Or maybe I should schedule in some time to myself right after lunch and read a little later in the afternoon during Marian's nap? Any thoughts here?

I got some pushback from Grace about the readalouds because she is now unaccustomed to being read to and she seems to have the idea that if she can read it herself, it is vaguely insulting to have it read to her. Lots of sighing and grumblings, but she listened attentively after getting over the hump that first day and objected when I put the books down. The first books are about frogs, toads, and tadpoles and also The Secret Garden. I want to explore narration more, but that will have to wait until September or October.

One problem we will need to address is getting them off the Khan in a reasonable amount of time. Grace has spent over an hour everyday powering through the math and Olivia wants just as much time. They work until they are fried and then get really grumpy about moving on. I need to set a timer and enforce it, but I am not sure how much time to give them. If I limit it to 30 minutes, they might mutiny. Do you think 45 minutes is a good compromise?

We are currently amusing ourselves sharpening pencils thanks to the sharpener recommended by Mrs. Darwin. Who knew children would argue over who gets to sharpen the next pencil?

On the housekeeping front, I don't think my dresser is going to get done this week, but I have started to hit at the kitchen. It makes me so happy to have a clear spot to make my cup of coffee in the morning. Looking ahead to next week, it is going to suck bad going back to work. I've gotten a taste of freedom this week so going back to the grind is not going to be fun. BUT! I am submitting my resignation on Monday so the countdown is on!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Last Week Off

This is the last week of vacation I will take from work. I received a new block grant of PTO for the entire year in July so I have days to burn. It's funny how you schedule time off with the expectation of some leisure and then it quickly gets filled up.

I have a few goals for the week.

I am still shopping for school supplies. Later today I hope to sit down with the sales flyers and make a new buying list for the week.

We start school on Monday. Instead of being totally ready to go, I misremembered when the library closed on Saturday so we missed the visit I had intended. So Monday, our first day of homeschool will include a visit to the library, a visit to the store for school supplies, a visit to the barber for Sam, and some math, reading, and writing where we can fit it in. Does this bungled schedule make me an official homeschooler?

This week will also find me composing my letter of resignation. I am still hemming and hawing about how to approach it. Should I lay it all out or make nice and go away?

I also get to hopefully visit with an official "Friend from the Internet" this week who happens to be visiting my neck of the woods. Excited! I'll tell you who later because you know, travelling and the Internet.

We have procrastinated our needed Costco trip for months and have also procrastinated the two younger's birthday pictures so we have decided to fix both of these situations in one, long painful trip on Wednesday. Will school happen that day? I guess we will find out. We get to start figuring out how the scheduling will work when we also have other things to do.

As a preliminary step to the grand clean-up that will happen when I am home from work for good, I want to try to take time this week to accomplish one medium sized job in order to whet the appetite for coming attractions. The designated task is the top of my dresser. It is somewhat embarrassing to admit that my dresser top is medium size task of several hours, but there it is. It is the lucky winner because I know my glasses prescription is buried up there somewhere and I want to price out a new set of frames and lenses before I lose the insurance coverage. Do you want the play by play pics?

Lastly I hope to finish my latest washcloth this week. It is a fancy knit 2, purl 2 waffled washcloth. I finally feel like I have those two stitches under my sticks, so to speak, even if I am still relatively slow. I'd like to branch out of washcloths, but I have no idea where to go from here. Tell me what I should make next, what kind of yarn this requires, what kind of needles, and if reading a pattern is complicated. I know nothing here.

So that's my last week of vacation and our first week of homeschooling. Tell me there will be fewer chores crammed in and more school-like activity in the future after we find our rhythm.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Rambling Homeschool Planning Post

While I will still be working until the beginning of September, we will begin our homeschooling adventure next week so the girls will stay on the same schedule as the local public schools. Brave? Crazy? You make the call. I am not married to the idea of strictly following the public school schedule, but for this first year, I think the girls will be more comfortable starting school when everyone else does.

Right now, I am trying to construct a school supply list for the year while the sales are good. Here I will explain the general nature of my amorphous ideas and you, helpful friends, might help me construct a supply list.

For the girls


In the beginning, Math will be Khan Academy. I would prefer to move towards a book curriculum in the second semester, but for now, I only want to establish the habit of working on math everyday. I want them to use scratchpads for their work so they will have something like a math notebook.


Do you need supplies for this? I want to cover other subjects through reading and like the idea of a library checklist. What categories should be included? I have science, biography, history, and fiction.


We will be doing open-ended journaling daily for a set amount of time. I am thinking 20 minutes. Is that too much? I also like the idea of a copybook. How many notebooks do you need to get through a year?


We have the first level of the Memoria Press cursive curriculum. Handwriting is something that was only touched on minimally at school and we would all like to have better handwriting. Should I buy more "official" books or just use the book as a guide and keep the practice to a separate handwriting tablet? I do not expect to get to handwriting until LATER but I want them to have the materials available.


Another thing for LATER, but I was shown a handy grammar website today with lessons already divided out. I want to try to work these in for both girls. More paper?

Practical Life:

I want to especially focus on meal planning, cooking, and establishing a housekeeping routine. Do you need extra supplies for this? I don't think so, but let me know if you disagree.


A friend from church who has an art degree has just offered to teach a monthly art class. This is fantastic news. I know I will need to buy supplies for that, but what do I need to keep at home? Sadly, art has been a weak point in our household. Coloring and painting does not happen very often mostly due to logistics, but I am hoping with the establishment of a housekeeping routine, art will finally become a thing at our house. Should everyone get their own sketchpad? What else? Tape, glue, construction paper, colored pencils. We have four million crayons. I also want to buy one of those outstanding Dover coloring books just because I want one in the house. Should each child get an individual art supply box or does corporate property work decently?


I think I have this one covered. The only thing missing is uncovering the keyboard. If there is something specific that you recommend, let me know.


Sam will be added to this mix at some point. I only note this for purposes of quantity since I am trying to buy for the whole year. You only get a shot at 10 cent notebooks once.

For me

What do I need to make this operation run? I want a portable calendar--Google calendar does not work because I have a dumbphone--and something in which to record the day. I suspect a ream of paper would be helpful and a good pencil sharpener. A whole box of reams? We have a couple of small whiteboards so we probably need new dry erase markers. Sharpies? Ink pens? How many pencils considering we have them falling out our ears. Or do you just buy new pencils on principle to begin the new school year?

Regale me with all your suggestions.