2019-2020 Homeschool: What’s Working For Us This Year

It’s hard for me to start a post about our homeschooling… I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start… it almost sounds like how I feel about homeschooling in general! HA, I jest (sort of)! I don’t pretend to be an expert on any of this, and I don’t presume to advise anyone on this process. This post is only to share what I feel is working for us this year, as some readers may find a tidbit or two inspiring. Hopefully I will cover the most important things here, but I question if it’s really possible to cover everything… I will try my best. Feel free to comment or message me if you have any questions or have suggestions for more topics to cover in a future blog post!20200125_151218

I suppose the first step in any venture is planning. I do not currently use a teacher planner. I have tried a few versions in the past, and the whole process felt bulky and redundant to me. We are currently using individual student planners. I plan their lessons about two weeks out (at most) in their personal planners, and they work from there. Sophia reads her planner on her own and completes many of her tasks on her own, ahead of schedule. Adriana is in the process of learning to read, so I am more hands-on in reading her planner, and going through the lessons with her. I do use a regular planner for my personal use… to organize my life, family events and commitments, and any to-dos I may have for homeschool or otherwise. My personal planner catches any tasks that may need to be done that don’t necessarily fit into the student planners. This year I am using a Hobonichi Techo Cousin, and I love it. It has some quirks that may deserve their own blog post some day. I have used the Erin Condren (Hourly/Neutral Format) in the past, and also really enjoyed it. Yea… sounds like I may need to do a specific planner post! I don’t like officially planning much more than a week in advance, because I have found that when LIFE happens, all the plans get thrown in the air, it it is annoying to white-out and re-write months of plans… however, I do review all the materials we plan on covering at the beginning of each school year, and get a feel for when we should be aiming to hit certain curriculum milestones.

Speaking of materials to cover, let’s talk about curriculum. In short, I don’t use one! No, I’m not un-schooling… I just don’t use any of the big, formally planned curriculums you’d typically see for sale. The backbone of my lessons has always been the Brain Quest workbooks (Sophia’s, Adriana’s). These are not designed to be used alone. I suspect they are meant to supplement or review, especially over summer break. However, I feel that they cover a well-rounded list of concepts for each grade level, so we work through them and whenever one of the kids gets a little stuck on a topic, I dig up supplemental information to help reinforce that area. Being that my children are only in first and second grade (Sophia is registered for second grade, but is using third grade material), I am currently able to supplement their weak areas on my own by explaining slowly, using manipulatives, and making up more examples. I also use Teachers Pay Teachers as a wonderful source of supplemental worksheets, activities, and lessons. I know very well that I won’t be able to “wing it” as much as they advance further and further academically, but it is working fine for us for the time being. Over the past summer, I slowly accumulated a whole collection of old school math textbooks AND the corresponding teacher manuals to go with them! I have these sets for first through fifth grade math!!

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The teacher book has the corresponding student pages in the center, and lots of extra information and activities and suggestions in the margins!

Unfortunately, I can’t provide links as these were all eBay listings… once I nabbed them, the offer was gone. But I am providing that information here to show you that with a little creative thinking, and some hunting around, you can find all sorts of valuable education materials, and for a fabulous price. This is especially true when your students are young. Sophia does her math work in a separate notebook, but I think Adriana’s first grade math text was designed to be written in… needless to say, I want to preserve it for future use, so I photocopy all work pages and keep them in her school binder. I think next year we will purchase a proper English/Language Arts curriculum for Sophia, as I am feeling that my explanations of grammar and language are not as helpful as they should be, and I just don’t feel confident with that subject anymore. She is doing fine for now, but it may be time to start using a professional curriculum for that subject. I feel I am a strong math teacher, and with the excellent resources I’ve already acquired, I doubt I will need to purchase anything more for math until middle school. Adriana is using a unique supplemental text to help her learn to read. It is a reprint of a McGuffy reader from 1863! Yes, 1863! Practicing a bit of this every day works well for her, and she is making beautiful progress. Luckily for all of us, this seller keeps listing reprints, and they can be purchased for (as of this writing) $5.99 and free shipping! It is legal to reprint these texts because they are so old that they are now part of the public domain. If you purchase one, please let the seller know I sent you!

But how do I juggle all this responsibility with a burgeoning “threenager” in the house??? Badly, let me tell you. It is hard to get anything done with someone that age running around. Every toddler parent already knows that! In fact, we struggled a great deal during the first half of this school year, as it was almost impossible at times to accomplish anything other than deal with issues related to her. She’s slowly growing and developing, and starting to fit into our routine better (instead of the other way around). Still, I often save lessons that need more focus for nap time, or I sit with one student, while the other plays with the toddler and keeps her as distracted as possible. I have tried using the TV as a babysitter – there, I freely admit it – but she is two, and not interesting for long, which I think it perfectly healthy. I also set up coloring and “homework” for her to do, but that doesn’t keep her occupied for very long either. Mostly, we are all just doing our best to stay patient and roll with the punches as we wait for her to grow out of this phase!

Other than that, I try to make sure that sitting down to do book work does not take up a large amount of our day. I feel strongly that children, and adults for that matter, learn best by living. I do my best to include the children in every aspect of my day, answer their questions to the best of my ability, and take time to research answers when I feel unsure. We are not part of a co-op, but frequently visit the library and participate in many extra-curricular activities in our community.

Christmas 2019 Children’s Gift Guide

Up front, I feel the need to apologize for this post. Firstly, because my writing feels awkward after neglecting my blog for so long. Secondly, because I came up with this idea abruptly yesterday, and need to hastily post so that my readers can actually have a chance to read, shop, and have their items delivered before Christmas! So without further ado, let’s get to it! I will split this into two parts. The first part is a list of items (and links) that I have already purchased for my kids. Most of the items have already arrived, but some are not here yet. The second part is a list of things that I am confident they would enjoy… items that are still on their wish-lists but haven’t been purchased yet because even the most doting parents can’t buy absolutely everything (and it wouldn’t be good for the children if we did!). Most of these links are to Amazon listings, thought I am not affiliated with Amazon…. I just do a ton of shopping there! I will also add pictures of items as I am able, but I mostly want to get the list and links up without delay.

Items Purchased

Toddler Rapunzel Dress : I bough this for Gabriella, my youngest, months ago. However, I feel the need to share it here because of how well it has held up, and for such a fabulous price! Much of the dress is actually made of cotton, which I feel it rare these days.

Magnetic Bookmarks : You can find all sorts of styles if you do a little searching, but I have been using and loving this set for a while now. This is a great stocking stuffer for all avid readers, especially those who read on-the-go and struggle with other bookmarks slipping out.

Chatterbox Magazine Reprint (Entire Year 1901) : This gift may especially enthrall the reader with a diverse vocabulary and appreciation of history. Chatterbox magazine is a delightful publication for children that was published from 1866 to the 1950s. Those of you that know me already know that I boast an impressive collection of antique books and magazines. It is important to preserve, enjoy, and learn from these works, however it isn’t feasible for everyone to own original copies. Many copies are available to read for free online in the public domain, and some are actually available as reprints…… of varying quality. I have spent my money on many poorly-printed copies, but this particular brand/edition is one that we already own and enjoy. This volume contains all the issues that were printed that year. It contains beautiful illustrations, short stories, puzzles, poems, and nostalgia. (Suitable for Grown Up children as well)20191211_16572120191211_16573920191211_165758

Original Tamagotchi : Yes, my dear Millenial comrades, THAT Tamagotchi. The one from our youth! The one that took the entire planet by storm and was banished from most schools. I forgot how the girls heard about this “old” toy, but I looked up videos of it to show them how it worked, and they were enchanted. So I will have one for each of the older girls waiting for them in their stockings. This is the very design I purchased for them (iridescent mermaid vibes), but it comes in many colors.screenshot_20191211-173230_amazon-shopping.jpg

CD Player/Boombox : (::EDIT:: I ended up returning the CD player I originally linked because it was simply TERRIBLE. CDs kept skipping, the buttons were oddly placed, and the radio had no reception. We replaced with with a better (albeit more expensive) one and are thoroughly pleased. We also like that the new one has a cassette player as well!)

I’m not sure how many households own CD player/radio/boomboxes anymore. Our children don’t have tablets, digital music players, or cell phones. We have on TV in the living room and one desktop computer in the office, and my husband and I each have a smart phone. Both my older girls really enjoy listening to audiobooks together, and now they will be able to do so in the quiet of their bedroom instead of straining to hear amid the hubbub of living room or office activities. Which brings me to the next:

Portable CD Player : This item was, I believe, a Christmas gift from last year to Sophia (the oldest). I chose this one because it was the cheapest, and I wasn’t sure it would be wise to invest a lot of money for an electronic item for a child…. and with a grabby toddler in the house. I’m including it in this list because it has held up marvelously! I’m especially amused at the double-takes we get when she uses this “retro” device in public. She loves listening to audiobooks with this on car rides, or even in the house.

The Flintstones; Complete First Season : The girls caught a glimpse of the Flintstones while we were on vacation over Thanksgiving. They were both absolutely tickled by the “modern” caveman culture, so I immediately browsed for the DVDs on Amazon. I also nabbed one of the recommended items, which was:

The Jetsons; Complete First Season : The girls have never seen this show, and I’ve only seen a few episodes in my life, but if they thought the Flintstones were entertaining then I’m willing to bet they will enjoy this set as well!

Nova Natural Dollhouse Family : While I am providing the link for the family as a set, I actually purchased all the members separately so I could have more options on their individual features. It was only a few dollars more. This was my most expensive single purchase and I flinched as I paid, but Adriana (Second-Born) has owned and ADORED the dollhouse girl from this series (pictured below)… so much that the poor doll is absolutely disintegrating from all the love she’s enjoyed. I find that my girls prefer this size doll because they can be easily stuck in a pocket or bag, and are easy for tiny hands to manipulate. This gift is mostly for Adriana, as she is the most doll-obsessed member of the house, but I know the others will be delighted to see these as well.

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Her name is Vasilisa, and we all think she’s charming. Adriana named her after the story of “Vasilisa the Brave”
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I wasn’t kidding about her being “heavily loved”

Now that I’ve mentioned her name, here’s a link to the book that inspired it. The illustrations are divine, and anything from this artist would be welcomed by most children!

Training Chopsticks : My older girls like to insist they know how to use chopsticks and don’t require Western utensils when we go out for sushi. Then they drop food all over the place. This year, they will finally learn how to actually use chopsticks, and practice at home. Hopefully this set will help them practice the basics on their own, without me needing to split my time and attention even further at meals.

There are a few more items the girls will be finding under the tree, but I either couldn’t find links, or the items are simply too goofy/personal to list here.

Wishlist

Here’s a few items that the girls are hoping they will get. Perhaps another relative will get them, or perhaps they will have to wait. In any case, I hope this list gives you some ideas!

Tamagotchi ON : This is the newer, souped up version of the Tamagotchi, featuring a larger (and COLOR!!) screen, more activities, and an ability for your pet to interact and even visit other linked Tamagotchis…. and they can even get married!!! Aawwww!!screenshot_20191211-171413_amazon-shopping.jpg

Portable CD Player Belt : This gift isn’t for the socially faint-of-heart, but First-Born wants it so she can keep her hands free while listening to her audiobooks on her CD player. It is a perfectly sensible (if deliciously nerdy) request.

“My Other Shirt Is Made Of Mithril” : No doubt you can guess which child this is for. I really don’t need to explain any further… but I do want to say that this shirt is on my own wishlist as well!screenshot_20191211-171432_amazon-shopping.jpg

Melissa & Doug Dollhouse Castle: There are two in particular that caught Second Born’s eye: both the “girly” castle and the “boy” castle. I put both in her wishlist and we will see if any relatives are enticed by either. Otherwise, I may get one for her birthday in the summer. The hope is that her Nova Natural dollhouse dolls will fit. I think they are technically a little bit too big, but I don’t think it would be enough for her to notice or mind.

More Nova Natural Dollhouse-Sized Dolls: Second Born in particular just loves these dolls and is especially exited about the medieval series and the Nativity series. The links I’ve provided are for the sets, but the dolls may also be purchased individually, and there are many more dolls in general, as well as more members to add to each set, so please browse around if they caught your eye!

Toddler Harness : I admit it, Gabriella is a runner. So yes, I am “that mom” that is shopping for a child-leash. Judge me if you want, but these two harnesses caught my eye (and hers as she shopped with me!): butterfly harness, unicorn harness. If a relative doesn’t get them, I certainly will because this kid is a firecracker and my goal is to for her to at least survive to adulthood.

Like most kids, their wishlists are basically endless, but I do hope that this post gave you some ideas, and maybe a few chuckles. Seasons greetings to you all!

Two Sides to the Picture

By Alice B. Haven, published in Godey’s Lady’s Magazine; February 1859.

 

The farm-house at Highwood was a pleasant picture to any one who could appreciate rural quiet and picturesque shading of sky and foliage, with the neutral tints of the low building itself, and the great moss-covered rocks, to the right, that excited the wonder of all who saw them for the first time. Mrs. James, the farmer’s wife, could not understand the raptures of the town ladies and gentlemen, who had been out the last season to look at the place. Highwood was for sale; and when the visitors had been over the house, Mrs. James naturally asked them in, as she came back with the keys, and gave them the best the cottage afforded;  so that she had many a compliment for her butter and bread, as well as the brown house, which she thought extremely plain and old-fashioned. That was its peculiar charm. The low, sloping roof, now shaded by a huge apple-tree, one mass of snowy blossoms – the Virginia creeper and straggling May rose, that were nailed against the dark wood-work of the porch – the tidy door-yard, with its clumps of snowball, and lilac, and sweet syringa, all of the taller than Mrs. James – and then the bald, gray rocks, huge boulders of granite, riven and rugged in their old age, though draped, in summer, by clinging blackberry-vines – made the little work like a vingette of Birket Foster’s, especially this warm spring day, the first in which Mrs. James had ventured to bring her sewing and sit in the open door, to watch her two boys – twins they were – scrambling over the rocks, while she, with her willow basted of mending, served as a nursery gateway for the eighteen-months baby, playing with empty spools, in the little square landing at the foot of the stairs – three boys, four boys in all, for the oldest had followed his father out to the field, on some household errand. The neighbors all pitied Mrs. James when the twins came; she “seemed to have her hands full,” with her husband, and boarding one of the men, and three little children underfoot. She was poorly all the spring after their birth, and had some very miserable thought herself, before the nurse left her; but her children were all healthy, and every one admired the new-comers so much, for people came from far and near to see them, that by the time they were out of arms a little, Mrs. James began to be very proud, and pity people who did not have twins! She had the kindest husband in the world, too – industrious, frugal, though always willing to spend for the comfort of the house and his family; never out of temper, that is to say, with ordinary provocations, and as fond and proud of this wife as in the days of their courtship.

Ordinary observers might have considered the little woman’s lot a very happy one; but she had her own troubles, as she used frequently to say, “No one could judge for another,” and Mrs. James inclined to be “low-spirited.” There was the house people admired so much; she only wished they were obliged to live in it. The kitchen was the coldest place, in winter! and the roof leaked, do all that her husband would to discover and repair the mischief. The village carpenter said “it was no use patching such an old shell – the whole thing ought to come off;” but the place was in the hands of trustees, and Farmer James could not afford to undertake so formidable an expense, on his own account. The down-stairs bedroom was so small – that was another thing. When the trundle-bed was out, there was scarcely room to turn around, and “dear knows what I am to do!” And here Mrs. James sighed and shook her head, glancing into a very probable future.

There were trowsers, and aprons, and stockings to be mended, in that basket, before she could touch her spring sewing, and her husband’s Sunday shirts, she had noticed, when putting away the clothes, were “beginning to break.” Plenty of work, for one pair of hands, you will allow, considering that she set every stitch herself, besides doing the most of the housework. Mr. James was very reasonable – all men are not – about extra help. The woman who came every week to wash was frequently called in for Saturday’s cleaning, and always helped in the fall, when there were hams, and sausage-meat, and lard to be attended to; in fact, Mrs. James always felt at liberty to call on her, knowing that she was in no danger of cross words and black looks when she asked for “Betsey’s money.” Her husband knew very well what an industrious, tidy little woman she was, and that she never wasted a penny on her own clothes or the children’s.

“If there wasn’t so many of them, and boys, too,” thought Mrs. James, presently, as she adjusted a patch on the little gray trowsers of one of the twins. “It’s very hard that I should have so many children; there will be five under seven years old! only think of it! I don’t think there is another person in the world that is to be so much pitied.”

Mrs. James was suffering from a very severe attack of her besetting malady, “low spirits.” They had become more frequent of late, though she had always been a little inclined that way; so frequent and so long-continued that her husband began to get very uncomfortable about her, and came home tired, at night, from the heavy spring work, dreading to enter the house, lest he should be met by sighs and forebodings, with a covert personal thrust now and then, which disturbed him more than his wife ever dreamed of. In fact, she had no idea how this infirmity of temper had increased upon her, or she would have been shocked. How often she had heard her husband say, in the bright days of their early married life, that “he hated a fretful woman as he did a wet spell of weather in haying time.”

Highwood had been sold at last. Mrs. James took down the great bunch of keys, for the five-and-fortieth time, one raw March morning, and put a thick shawl about her, to accompany some visitors over the house. A tall, handsome gentleman sat on the lower step of the piazza, when she came up the sweep, and a little lady not much taller than herself, but so light and graceful that she seemed to float through the dusky hall like a sunbeam, when the door was open, sat above him, while he warmed her frozen little feet in a travelling-shawl.

“A very imprudent creature for a married woman,” Mrs. James remarked to her husband, when describing the pair, “for she had on thin-soled gaiters, and the frost not fairly out of the ground, though to be sure they rode from the depot. But everyone knows what a house that has been shut up for three years is, though I have done my best to keep it aired. A little thin velvet mantle, too; she was glad enough to get that shawl around her before she got out of the house. I don’t believe he’s so very fond of her, either, for all he had her feet wrapped up in his lap; for she seemed to hesitate so, when she began to say what she would like to have done, and had to give up to him in every thing. He’s selfish, you may depend.”

“You women jump at things so,” said the farmer, nursing little Joe, the baby, on his knee, while his wife was busy about supper. “I guess you’ll have a chance to find out, though, for he seemed to have pretty much made up his mind to take the place. He talked as if he had plenty of money, too: and that’s comfortable; the old place needs a fortune put upon it.”

And plenty had been spent, judging from the extent of the repairs and the beauty of the decorations that went on from the moment Highwood passed into Mr. Livingston’s hands. Everything was guided by the most finished taste. Out of doors, the lawn, the shrubbery, and the garden began to brighten, a green-house  and grapery glistened in the sun, a monster stable, with all manner of odd little turrets and weathercocks, was built: while all over the farm, barns, and fences, and walls were placed in the most thorough condition, to the delight of the farmer’s heart. But the change in the old house was the most magical of all. Bay windows and casements lighted up the interior, the drawing-room glowed with frescoed panels and gilded mirrors let into the wall; a conservatory, and even an aviary were added to the dining-room; delicately tinted French paper replaced the green stains of the chambers. Curtains, and carpets, and pictures, and elegant suites of carved furniture did the rest.

Mrs. James watched all the proceedings, from day to day, with the most vivid and womanly interest. Once or twice Mrs. Livingston had been up to give some orders to the upholsterers, and had asked her to see that they were executed; so she was not intruding when she went from room to room, and from floor to floor, wondering, admiring, and – we grieve to write it – at last, envying the mistress of all this elegance. The family were to take possession soon. Mrs. James had been over the house for the last time, that morning, and delivered up the keys to the housekeeper, who drove up from the city in the beautiful carriage she had just seen aired and brushed in front of the stables. The housekeeper seemed inclined to be very friendly and communicative. There were to e six of them, in all, she said, besides the coachman and gardeners, a French cook and waiter, both men, a laundress, and seamstress, and chambermaid; five in the kitchen, for of course so fine a person and Mrs. Root did not class herself with the rest of the household.

“And how many in the family?” Mrs. James had ventured to ask.

“La! as to that, we never can tell from one day to another, my dear,” returned Mrs. Root, patronizingly. “Sometimes only them two, sometimes nobody but her, and then again a house full for weeks together, that keeps us all flying, with no end of dinner company when we are in town.”

“No children, then?”

“No, indeed, which is a great comfort; for, between you and me, nurses have been the very bane of my life; they get spoiled so; the mothers think they could not live without that particular individual, because, not knowing anything themselves about children, they believe all that’s told ’em; and they indulge the youngsters so, that, the minute I complain of any of their topping ways, and they are going to be sent off, all of ’em set to, and cry, and scream and stamp, and say that their dear Margaret or Ann sha’n’t go; and the mother gives in for peace’s sake. I’ve seen enough of it; and one of Mrs. Livingston’s recommends, when she came to engage me, was that there wasn’t any children.”

“Not a care in the world,” thought Mrs. James, recalling this conversation, as she held up the next article in her basket to search for thin places – “not so much as a baby to look after – all that heart can ask. Look at that house! the very cook’s room with a carpet, better than my only one down on that front room these eight years! all those books, and pictures, and flowers, and birds to amuse herself with – plenty of company, if she gets tired of being alone – that elegant carriage, and a horse for a side-saddle besides, and not a hand’s turn to do about the house. It doesn’t look to me fair that I should be slaving so from morning till night. It’s nothing but work! work! work! from the minute I’m out of bed, till I get in again.”

The time had been when Mrs. James, so far from grieving over the necessity for her industry, was very proud of it. When her husband came from the store Saturday nights, as he did sometimes, and repeated the compliments he had received, as well as the liberal payment for her butter and eggs  which she could always have for herself and the children – how proud and happy it had made her! When the minister’s wife said, “I declare, Mrs. James, you are the smartest little woman I ever knew, to keep such a neat house and nice-looking children – Mrs. Phelps and I always speak of it when we come here” – she was so elated that she carried her head half an inch higher the next Sunday morning, walking into her pew with Peter and the twins, as neat as hands could make them, and reflecting on the baby and the roast beef left at home in charge of the hired man. She used to say, in those days, “what if she did work hard, she was well paid for it, dear knows! and somehow sewing rested her from housework; and there was the man to help her churn; and Peter, little Peter’s father, wasn’t like some men, but took as much care of the children when he was in the house as she did.”

Mrs. James did not have a very happy summer. The work dragged, somehow; she never suspected how much willing hands do to make it go lightly; the mending-basket never was emptied from week to week; the children’s dress and her own was growing more careless; and, worst of all, her husband often came home, not cross- that was not his way –  but moody, and gloomy, and silent, instead of whistling and singing about the house, as he always used to do. If he would have answered back, when she poured out her complainings, it would have been a relief – but he only got up, and put down his newspaper with a slow sort of sigh, and walked out of the house – especially when she began to worry about not getting ahead any, and so many mouths to feed,  and so many children always under foot. That was the burden of her lamentation, commence where she would.

It did not help the matter any to spend so much time in watching the doings at Highwood, and listening to the gossip of Mrs. Root and the head gardener, who came in quite neighborly. She could see the house very distinctly from the side windows, and even distinguish the light figure of Mrs. Livingston from the guests, as they walked the piazza in the cool shade of the morning, or strolled down to the greenhouse, and came back loaded with spoils. Later in the day, the open landau, or the low coupée, sometimes both of them, would be driven with a dash and glitter up to the entrance; and the ladies, in the lightest of lace mantles, and flouting flounces, and gay little French bonnets, were driven off, leaning back with that listless, careless manner, as if it were and every-day matter – as, of course, it was – their hands crossed before them in pretty helplessness, laughing and chatting among themselves, and unconscious of the existence of any other human being out of “their set.” Sometimes Mrs. Livingston cantered past on her saddle-horse, looking very lovely in her round hat, and plume, and full-green riding-habit.

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Mrs. James admired and envied her most on these occasions. How many “changes of raiment” she must have! snow-white peignoirs in the morning, with fluttering ribbons and elegant embroidered petticoats, a different dress for driving out, and still another for the evening; so with all her guests. There were no young people in the family who lived at Highwood when she came there; only an infirm couple, very advanced in life, who went out but little, and saw no company. This was the first time Mrs. James had ever come in contact with merely fashionable people, who lived apparently for the enjoyment of the hour. Now and then, she would have a nearer view. For novelty’s sake, Mrs. Livingston would walk over with her visitors to see the pretty little nook in which the farm-house was nestled. Words seemed to be insufficient for the praises they rang upon it, and its mistress, and the sturdy little ones tumbling about on the grass and rocks, and looking all the more picturesque for their torn straw hats and check aprons. Little Joe especially became the favorite with these grand people for his bright eyes, and red cheeks, and tangled curls; and oftentimes, when Mrs. Livingston chanced to be alone – for it was noticeable that her husband seldom remained at Highwood when there was no company – she would send for the child to pass the morning with her, so that he lost all shyness, and was ever ready to go to the “pretty yady,” as he called her. Mrs. James heard, from these birds of passage, that she was to be envied her snug little house and beautiful children; but it did not convince her in the least.

Mrs. Livingston walked over, one afternoon, and sat down, in her quiet, familiar way, on the porch, where the sewing-basket was regularly placed. The summer was almost gone; indeed, September had come in, but with a  moist, oppressive heat, that seemed more like August. Dinner was cleared away from Mrs. Jame’s tidy kitchen, the table set back against the wall, the yellow-painted floor swept free of dust or crumbs, the dishes all in their places on the dresser. There were white half curtains at the windows, just moved by a most welcome breeze that was springing up; and Joe’s per kitten slept in the sunshine by the outer sill. Mrs. Livingston could see into the room from her seat on the porch; and its orderly quiet rested her, for she had left a house full of people at Highwood, who had done nothing all day but lounge about and complain of the heat; and she had yet to go back and dress for a long fatiguing dinner; and in the evening there would be the sharp click of the billiard balls, the jar of dancers, or the monotony of the card-table, whether she felt like exerting herself or not. She was in her morning-dress still – an India muslin robe, trimmed with lace, and lined with violet silk. Bows of violet ribbon fastened it at the throat and waist, and looped up the flowing sleeves. What round white arms! how soft and slender the hands shining with rings – diamonds, and a single emerald even more costly – clasped idly about her knee! Yet the face had a worn, listless look, except when it brightened at the voices of the children. Mrs. James stitched away in silence. Mrs. Livingston always said: “Now, don’t let me disturb you; I shall not come again if you do.” And, whether by design or not, she never did intrude on washing or baking-days, or before the house was settled down, and the afternoon’s clean apron and collar could be put on.

The first time she came, the mistress of Highwood had been shown into the little, stiff best room, where the chairs stood at precise right angles with each other, and no article of furniture seemed capable of changing its situation any more than if screwed to its place. Mrs. James was in a a flutter, too, and excused herself to put on a barège dress and worked collar, in which she looked as little at ease as her best room. But Mrs. Livingston asked to be shown the house, and admired the kitchen, and sympathized with the leaky roof, and promised it should be attended to, and suggested a way of enlarging the bedroom, by taking in a deep pantry, or store-room, and adding an outer kitchen for the heavy work, with the milk-room at one end. Finally, she established herself in the doorway, just where she was sitting now, and when she came alone, after that, refused to be entertained anywhere else. By degrees, the stiffness and flutter of these visits wore off, and Mrs. James sewed and talked, and insensible fell into enumerating the hardships of her lot, which always seemed aggravated by the sight of Mr.s Livingston’s dainty toilet and abundant leisure.20181029_130719

“Come here, little Joe,” the visitor said, holding out her hand to the flushed, half-pouting child, who had rolled out of an afternoon nap and the low trundle-bed, and stood, barefoot, on the floor, eyeing her through his curls.

The sulking little face visibly brightened at the sound of her voice, and the assurance that his mother’s visitor was no other than the pretty lady he loved next to her; and, edging shyly along, he was soon seated in her lap, and playing with the bright rings that were an endless wonder and amusement.

“That’s just the way it goes, Mrs. Livingston,” signed Mrs. James, preparing to get up and bring the child’s shoes and stockings; “it’s nothing but waiting on one or the other all the time. Here I’d just got Peter off to school- he’s begun to go this quarter – and washed Johnny and Tommy, and put on their clean aprons, and just as I get about ten stitches done, up wakes Joe, and all to go over again; and by that, their father sends for me to hunt up something out of his tool-room, and then it’s time to put on the teakettle; and so it is.”

“They keep you pretty busy, I’m sure,” said Mrs. Livingston, cheerfully, “but you wouldn’t part with one of them, for all.”

She said this a little nervously, and watched for the answer.

“I don’t know about that; wait til you come to have four all of a size.”

“I wish I had six, for that matter, rather than none; I shall never have any children.”

“You’re young yet; you can’t tell.” And Mrs. James thought “people never do know when they are well off.”

“I am older than you, and have been married quite as long, Mrs. James.” It seemed scarcely possible, so matronly was the one, so slight and girlish the figure of the other still. “Oh you don’t know, you can’t tell how I envy you! I never come here without it,” said Mrs. Livingston, a moment after. “There can be no more love, no happiness like it. Childless! you don’t know what a terrible word that is. I could bear all the rest,” she was going to add, “and perhaps it would not be so if he was a father;” but her chief bitterness was unspoken, only her face wore a convulsed, miserable look, that Mrs. James marvelled at, but could not understand. “I don’t read my Bible very often – not as much as I should, I know – but when I do, it always opens of itself to the story of Hannah, or Rachel. Perhaps you wonder at them as you do at me. I have prayed, but God has forgotten me!” And she hid her face in the child’s fair hair, as she bent down over him, and strained him closely to her.

Mrs. James did wonder. Could it be possible that children were really a blessing, and not a trial, after all?

But Mrs. Livingston was not unpractised in quick self-control. Her daily life had taught her that, perhaps, of all the people she called friends, who had eaten at her table, and slept under her roof, that summer, no one had ever seen so far into her heart. When she lifted her head, a moment after, there was only the winning, coaxing smile of one who comes to ask a favor and is seldom refused. How much anxiety it masked no one could tell. “Well then, since children are only a trouble, so much the better for me,” she said, lightly, “so much the more hope that I shall get what I have set my heart on, and Mr. Livingston consents to. We want to rid you of part of your burden, and carry off little Joe. Say ‘Please,’ pretty, my boy, and come and have me for your mamma, and a little pony with a long tail, and a hat and feather like mine. Oh what fine times we shall have!”

It was said gayly enough, and the child clapped his hands at the prospect of the pony and the plume. A quick pang of jealous fear shot through his mother’s heart, and she put out her hands involuntarily to take him away.

“I am quite in earnest,” said Mrs. Livingston, more quietly, still retaining the child. “I have always had a fancy for him, and when I saw Mr. Livingston’s notice was attracted, the plan flashed into my mind, though I never should have thought of it, if you had not told me so often what care and trouble you have with so many. We do not wish to rob you, either. Mr. Livingston tells me to offer you five hundred or a thousand dollars; and if that is not enough, to give the rest a start in the world; and poor little Joe will not be missed among so many. Tell her to say I may have you, my boy; she does not care half and much for you as I do.”

But the face into which she looked for consent was only blank with wonder and dismay. Part with little Joe! Give up all right and title to the baby who had never slept from her arm since the day he was born? Let him be called by another name, and taught to forget that she had borne him? Was Mrs. Livingston trying her? Perhaps she was only jesting, after all.

“I do not think it would answer,” said the petitioner, taking hope from the silence, “if we were to continue to live here; but perhaps you know that Mr. Livingston has decided to go abroad – to go to Europe – in November, and, as we may stay some years, to sell the place. It is his way” – for Mrs. James forgot the boy, for a moment, in wonder at this unlooked-for intelligence. “He is never contented long in any place. I never allow myself to get attached to anything, only this child; I could not help that; I tried to, but you do not know the craving for innocent baby kisses, and fond words, and the patter of little feet about a great, lonely house. If he were to grow up here, it might make you and him unhappy when he came to understand it; but as we are going away, and he will have our name, he will never know anything of it, and I am quite sure you will trust me to take care of him, and educate and be proud of him!” Mrs. Livingston spoke fast and eagerly, not exactly understanding the manner of Mrs. James, who only rose and called the child into the house to be dressed, in a harsh, husky voice. grasping his arm so tightly that he screamed and struggled to get back to his friend; but she was going. “I will not take any answer to-day,” she said. “Talk it over with your husband. Mr. Livingston says he is a man of so much good sense and judgement; he will not fail to see how much better it will be for the child, and how it will relieve you, especially when there is another to look after. My boy will be crowded out, any way. He loves you and his children so much that I know he would not let his own feelings stand in the way.”

How much he loved his children, no one but their mother knew; how strictly he corrected their faults, and upheld her weaker rule over them; how patiently he waited on them in their babyhood; and how thoughtfully self-denying he was, to provide for their future, and the education to which he had always aspired. Mr. James would never listen to it – that was one thing; and, assured of this, his wife began her wonderful story, when he came in at night, by this time allowing herself to dwell, with not a little pride, on the destiny that was offered to this child, glorying harmlessly, as she supposed, in the position and heirship that were laid tribute at his feet, only to be rejected.

“He’s going to sell Highwood, and go abroad. Yes; he told me so this morning. I always thought he was a restless disposition, though a more liberal man I never knew; he sows money wherever he goes. Well, it may be the best we could do.” And the farmer folded his arms, moodily.

Mrs. James could not believe that she understood him. “About Joe, not the farm, I mean,” she said.

“Ay, for the little man and ourselves, too. A thousand dollars isn’t to be found lying at the door every day, and there’s one chance in ten, that the next landlord may take a fancy to keep us here. ‘Twon’t be to easy to be set adrift in the world, and there’d be one less mouth to feed.”

Mrs. James felt her heart swell with an anger and resentment that, for the moment, was almost madness – a wile terror, too, for she knew her husband’s firmness of purpose too well to think of opposing her will to his. But she would in this case. No man would rob her of her child. What was a father? What claim had he on the life she had won and nourished through weariness, and fear, and suffering? She would brave him to his face if he dared to think of it. She would leave him, and follow her child to the ends of the earth. “One mouth less to feed!” Heartless, selfish calculation! She would work her fingers to the bone before that should part them.

Great drops of perspiration stood on her forehead, as she tried to keep an outward self-control, and heard, for the first time in all her life, taunting words, only her own fretful repining, cast back at her from one who had heretofore borne with her infirmity so patiently.  Even after her husband was asleep – for the first time in all their lives without any good-night kiss, for she was too angry and miserable to claim it, and he too sullen to offer the token of affectionate good-will – she lay awake and wretched, clasping her child as closely as if some great peril threatened him, and wetting his hair and soft baby face with her salt tears. All the blessings of her life seemed to stand before her upbraidingly; and she felt as if they were vanishing from her sight.

Leave Highwood! the quiet home that had seemed as much theirs as if they owned every foot of the soil – the vines and wild-flowers she had planted and trained! the shadow of the trees! even the daily sight of those great granite rocks that she could fancy in the moonlight, rising in their sharp but familiar outlines! her home where all her children had been born! Though what was that to the threatened loss of he husband’s love and the child, if a separation worse that death was to come between them? She pictured it to herself. If he died now in his babyhood, her eyes would have the last look of love, the waxen fingers clasp her own before they were reached out to the shadowy messenger. Her hands would robe him for the grave, and lay him in his little coffin; but to live, and never see him, never know of his welfare! or, if they met, to be looked upon with the cold indifference of one who sees a stranger, and perhaps with contempt for her humble lot in life! So she tortured herself, until the moon went down, and left only a hopeless darkness to her straining eyes.

It was very hard to rouse from the unrefreshing sleep that came at length, and go about her morning duties with that weary heartache and no word of comfort from the lips that had never denied it to her before; but her husband kept the same gloomy silence, only saying, when he went out; “Send for me when she comes again.”

Mrs. James had heard of people who prayed, as for life, in great extremities; and she tried to pray now; as she went about her work, never losing sight of her child, and now and then leaving all to take him in her arms, and make him repeat again and again the promise that she put into words for him, that he would never leave her, words that had no meaning to him, but comforted her, nevertheless.

Oh, how slowly the morning wore on! She began looking across the lawn long before the dressing-bell for breakfast sounded at Highwood, and trembled with every step, while Mrs. Livingston still slept under her fluted muslin canopy.  She too had, “prevented the night-watches,” but with an older and heavier grief than her neighbor had ever dreamed of – a new revelation of her husband’s selfish heartlessness, from which the child she coveted promised her relief. It was wonderful that he had allowed her in it; but, like the outward devotion which he paid her at times, it was a fancy of his exacting, capricious nature.

Not that Mrs. James intended to send for her husband as he had desired her to do; far from it! Mrs. Livingston should at least hear a mother’s denial of any temptation of wealth or position could offer; and, though she prepared his mid-day meal with the exactness and punctuality of habit, she would not sit down before it, and dissemble the pain and sorrow he had caused her, but, taking the child, went into her room, shut the door, and lay down upon the bed, burying her face in the pillow in dreary wretchedness. She did not hear the door open softly, or the the loving, pitiful expression of the eyes that filled with tears – they had known but few in a long lifetime – at seeing her lying prone and exhausted with the conflict she had passed through – passed through, for she no longer felt anger or resentment, or opposed her will to “the giver of life and death,” who had appointed her lot; so that, when she became aware that her husband was kneeling beside her, she did not resist the arms that drew her closely to a great, manly heart, but lay there, sobbing heavily; while the disordered hair that fell around her face was pushed back, and smoothed by hard but kindly hands.

“And so you thought I would take him away from you, that bribes or want could make me part with one of them! It was a hard lesson, Mary; and perhaps I was too cruel; but I only meant right; I wanted you to see that it was easier to say than to do, to spare any of them. Here’s last night’s kiss, and here’s to-day’s, and there’s one to ease you up a little. Don’t take on so now! don’t! don’t, when you see I did not mean to say yes, any more than you did!” And so Mrs. James came slowly to understand how her husband’s firmness and sense had taken advantage of the offer to teach herself knowledge, and bring back, if possible, some of the old cheerfulness that had once made his home so happy.

When the apple-blossoms whitened the dooryard next spring-tide, Mrs. James sat under the shade, and sang at her work as in years before. It was harder still that when Mrs. Livingston first came and sat there beside her, bringing, unwittingly, envy and discontent to lodge under the sloping roof. There was “another to do for,” a baby girl, whose cradle was brought to the door-step that she might be under her mother’s watchful, loving eyes. Little Joe scrambled over the rocks with the twins now; and many a sad rent was the consequence; but his mother repaired them willingly, with pitying thoughts of the poor lady who had seemed so cruelly disappointed when his father refused to let him go, remaining proof against tears and entreaties when the bribes had failed.

Mrs. Livingston was an exile in a land whose beauty could but bring partial forgetfulness of her lonely lot, the slave of another’s capricious will. Mrs. James dwelt securely in the house she had learned to prize through fear of loss, upheld in the fretting, multiplied by the cares of life by an affection she never doubted, and fully repaid for them all by the clinging caresses of her little ones, and the bright day-dreams of their future that came and went in the floating shadows around her.

WIR: July 22-July28, 2019

Monday, July 22

I made it to the gym this morning for a cycling class and absolutely crushed it!! It’s amazing what a shift in hormones and little sleep can do! Gabriella has been doing better about sleeping at night, but I still need to work on going to sleep earlier.

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These are the padded cycling pants I use!

To be frank, I really didn’t get much done around the house today. I washed a few loads of laundry, hung them on the line to dry, folded them as I took them off the line, and put everything away. Other than that I was rather lazy (other than the 20 million little things that must be done for the children every day) and loafed around on YouTube for a substantial portion of the day.

We had sockeye salmon, mashed potatoes, and mixed-greens salad for dinner. We also tried some frozen sushi from Aldi! When I saw it at the store, I was convinced it must be awful, but I was so impressed by the sheer audacity of carrying such an item that I decided to give both options a try. They turned out really nice!!

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Gabriella is exploring the frozen packages.
SO COLD
“Why do they feel like this????”

Tuesday, July 23

It’s been a really long time since I did a “Tea Party Tuesday” post on Instagram… it’s been a while since I did a tea party at all…. today is the day that’s getting fixed! I made a chocolate cake using my oldest, and most favorite recipe that just so happens to be vegan! It is from The Joy of Vegan Baking, and I have mentioned it many, many times on my Instagram. The icing was a regular non-vegan buttercream that I tinted pink, and sprinkled with nonpariels. I used the baking strips that I mentioned in my “perfect layers” post.

“The sandwiches look nice, but when can we have the CAKE??”
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Good times with good friends.
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Eating my sandwich, but eyeing that cake reeeeally hard.

Wednesday, July 24

This morning started well enough when I did get myself out of bed to go to the gym!! Things took a turn when no instructor showed up. I considered working out on my own, but I really don’t feel confident with the equipment or working out in general without someone there telling me what to do and keeping an eye on my form, and my bed was still so warm and soft and cozy… with my husband still sleeping all cuddly-like… so I decided to go home and snuggle back up and fall back asleep.

We made homemade chicken tenders for dinner! It’s a recipe I’ve been toying with for a couple weeks, and I find it rather plain and uninteresting, but it is a total smash-hit with the kids and husband so…. I guess I will keep making it..?

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My sweet little “helper”… really not helpful.

Thursday, July 25

Gabriella has an annoying habit of triumphantly stripping off every stitch of clothing, including her diaper, and hurling all articles as far away as she can.

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…….. why?

We received this playpen as a gift from relatives before she was born, and we have used and abused this thing and it’s still going strong!!

We went to the pool around noon, and brought a small picnic lunch that the girls thoroughly enjoyed: leftover homemade chicken fingers (with ketchup for dipping), chocolate pudding cups, and some Annie’s gummies.

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Not at all a flattering photo of me, but I refuse to catfish you. (You can see Gabi is enjoying the chicken!)

Friday, July 26

I’m writing this on Saturday evening, and for the life of me I can’t remember what we did on Friday…….. I vacuumed the house..?

Saturday, July 27

Today we took the girls to a local American Girl Doll club activity, and went grocery/miscellaneous shopping at Aldi and Walmart. Hubby suggested we visit the beach tomorrow, so we started preparations for that!

Sunday, July 28

We went to the beach at First Landing State Park and had an incredible time. It’s always exhausting doing this sort of things with little kids, but it was really good bonding and fun time for all of us. I’m wearing the bathing suit I mentioned in a previous blog post which is unfortunately sold out in this color but does come is several other colors, and my “Mama Bear” hat is from Amazon.

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I managed to get her to take a 30 minute nap in my arms!
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Surveying the scene with Daddy
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Gabriella wants to hog the binoculars, and she can’t even use them right!
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Endless D-R-A-M-A with this family, lol!

WIR: July 15-July 21

Monday, July 15

It feels weird starting this little routine up again after abandoning it for several weeks. Gabriella has fallen back into a mildly annoying routine of multiple brief wakings during the night, which (combined with my habit of going to bed at midnight… or later) is making it hard for me to rationalize waking up at 4:40 in the morning to drag myself to the gym. I really want to prioritize fitness, especially as I continue to age.. but before I can prioritize fitness, I have to be getting enough sleep. I’m going to try to get myself to bed earlier so that, even if she continues this frustrating habit, I will still get an acceptable amount of rest each night. Not great, but acceptable. We are setting the bar as low as possible without making it dangerous for me to operate heavy machinery. It’s hard because this is my only “adult time”…. I don’t socialize basically ever, we don’t use a babysitter or relatives to watch the kids… this is my only time to just hang out with my husband. And since we had kids almost immediately, I really value what little alone time we manage to wring out of our schedule.

Tonight we had pork chops for dinner. The meat is from either Cypress Grove Farm or Windhaven Farm, I can’t remember which. It is super fatty and I adore it. I used the leftover rendered pork fat in the skillet to saute some asparagus. After removing the asparagus, I sprinkled some Trader Joes garlic salt over the veg. I need to type up my pork chop recipe. It’s super easy, and we rely on it almost once a week.

sauteeing the asparagus

glistening with fat

We split the chops up between the five of us. I nobly forgo most of the meat, as long as I get a bone to gnaw on (*hint* the little bit of meat closest to the bones is literally the best ever). I also made a basic lettuce salad with my homemade dressing, sort of Greek/Italian.

Tuesday, July 16

Last night, my husband talked me into turning off my alarm and skipping the gym this morning. Neither of us have slept well for days (weeks… years?), and even though I did get to bed a little earlier last night, it was still pushing midnight. I’m frustrated about my selfish little routines very frequently getting shelved, but sleep does come first, and I’m glad I stayed home to catch up on Z’s. All the kids slept well last night.. other than the older two gabbing secretly in bed until 10:30, until I caught them and gave them a scolding… and they all woke up a full hour earlier than usual.

We did at least do some homeschool lessons. Our “school” is leisurely in session year-round, so that we can take breaks when we actually want/need them. Right now we are going through their Brain Quest activity books and making sure they are both totally complete before the school really revs up in the fall. Sophia’s book is for the Second Grade and has only nine more pages to go… today we finished out the multiplication section, and tomorrow we will move on to the introduction to division, and then I think she has a couple money activities. Barring some catastrophe, she will likely be finished with her book by the end of the week. Adriana’s Kindergarten book has more pages to catch up on, all related to phonics, and some writing and sight words. All the other subjects in her book are completed. She doesn’t work very well under pressure, so I push her less and give her more time to complete things. I’ve noticed she’s been getting a little more thick-skinned lately, though, and I think she will start advancing a little quicker once I can start drilling her a little harder without risking an emotional collapse. She has been hungering to really read on her own, so I think she’s finally motivated to tough it out during lesson-time to achieve her goal. As usual, I simply meet them where they are.

I was really hoping to pick up my old teenage routine of tanning in the back yard during Gabriella’s nap, but it started thundering right after I put her down… it is back to bright sun, so maybe I will stop typing here and head on out (with the baby monitor close by). I hope I don’t seem juvenile, but I can’t help turning back the clock a little in summer. I took advantage of post-Independence Day swimsuit price reductions and got a couple new one-pieces from American Eagle (this one for $19.98 and this one for $29.97… though I see that as of this writing, it is now $19.98!! I got both in Small Long), and I can’t wait to prance around in them. I also ordered some bikinis on insane discount from Abercrombie & Fitch, but I won’t write about them until they arrive and I’ve had a chance to try them on.

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I correctly assumed my husband would appreciate the tie feature at the bosom of the suit on the right…. as does the toddler.
suits back
They are both snug-but-wearable, especially in the privacy of my backyard. I can’t wait to hopefully debut them soon at the local watering-hole!!

As far as housework, I haven’t done much. I washed the couch slipcover and hung it on the line to dry, but haven’t put it back on the couch yet. Sames goes for the girls’ bed sheets. I also did LOTS of weeding throughout the garden. It was blazing hot and I was dripping sweat within minutes, but something about pulling weeds is addictive.

For dinner I will be making my homemade meatballs and spaghetti. We have a lot of kale that needs to be used up, so I think I might might a kale salad to accompany the meal… there is some summer squash and zucchini that needs to be used up, so I might slice and grill those (perhaps along with some firm tofu) and eat that in lieu of pasta. I’m not trying to suggest that I have given up on pasta!!! But I think today I will abstain. I’m on a nice weight-loss streak this week, and want to gently keep it going. My goal/hope is to lose 10 pounds by August 17. If I keep on the trajectory, I will be just fine. Telling myself “it’s only a month” makes it seem more achievable. Realistically, I will probably keep going beyond that, but if I do make my August goal, then maybe I will take a break and plateau for a bit.

*Update* I did not end up going tanning, opting instead to finish this entry, enjoy an afternoon cup of coffee, and then start on dinner.

Wednesday, July 17

I woke up before my alarm (before my 4:40am alarm, how miserable is that?) from my husband’s snoring. I got myself to bed by 11pm, but had a hard time falling asleep so “early” so I ultimately didn’t get much more sleep than usual. I might have fallen back asleep if it hadn’t been for his snoring… I figured I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep with all that racket anyway, so might as well roll on out to the gym.

As soon as the class started, it was obvious I wasn’t myself. My period is expected in a few days, so I assume this must have been due to a PMS shift in hormones… #testosteronehasleftthechat

I was a wobbly, weak, emotional mess and could barely pedal with even a light resistance on the bike. I DID stay on the bike and pushed myself for the full hour, and by the end of the class I’d managed to find a small amount of my usual pep. It was nice to get that endorphin boost during a generally crummy time of the month. Hubby will be out of town for the next couple days, so I won’t be going to the gym, so this morning’s session was especially valuable to me.

Within the next couple weeks, I would really like to start getting back into weight-training. I used to do basic weights LOOONG ago, before marriage and kids, but I’ve forgotten everything, and the machines in this brave new modern era are different than the implements of torture to which I was accustomed back in the Dark Ages when I was young. It would be nice to set up an appointment with a personal trainer, at least for a few sessions to get me on track, but they cost money and not likely to want to meet me at 5am. If you have any suggestions or tips on getting back into all this, I’d love a comment here or on Instagram.

The weather is sunny and bright, and I think us girls are going to head to the pool this morning!

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The big girls are both in Ambercrombie & Fitch bathing suits that I recently purchased on sale. (Gabriella isn’t in her swimsuit yet)

After the pool, Gabi took a great nap and I cancelled all my duties and laid out in the sun in the back yard and worked on my tan. My leg tan…. I kept the rest of my body and face covered… I really felt beachy and committed to doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day, but the Mom and Homemaker in me couldn’t let that slide, and by the end of the day I did end up vacuuming downstairs, and scrubbing the downstairs bathroom. We had homemade chicken fingers for dinner and they were a raging success! I’ve been toying with recipes and it seems that today was the day I got it right! Too bad I never write down my experiments… hopefully I can replicate it, and get it typed up here to share with you.

Thursday, July 18

Today we are going to go in-person to deliver Sophia’s test results to the local school board to fulfill our requirements for homeschooling in our state. We also delivered our “Intent to Homeschool” forms for the two older girls for the upcoming academic year! I will have a First Grader and and Second Grader. It’s exciting and terrifying, and the weight of this responsibility is impossible to forget.

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My OOTD to deliver homeschool paperwork.

I wore a brown dress by The Limited that I purchsed second-hand through Clothes Mentor. Last time I posted this dress on social media, it was too tight to actually wear around, and now it’s starting to gape! Especially on the upper part of my body.

I wore my Sam Edelman “Gigi” sandals and carried my Michael Kors “Jet Set” bag (as usual).

Friday, July 19

I had a bunch of housework planned for today, but we went to the pool instead and had a great time. We are all getting brown really fast. For as pale as I am, I thankfully don’t burn easily, and it seems the girls enjoy this attribute as well. I purchased my bathing suit on Amazon (size Medium) but the company that makes it does have their own website that might be worth checking out! It came in a few colors and some floral designs as well.

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Saturday, July 20

Hubby’s parents have a BJ’s membership and recently added us to their account, so today we drove over to the Chesapeake location to check it out. We used to have a Costco membership and really loved it, but cancelled it when we moved too far away to make visiting practical. BJ’s seemed very similar and we found lots of products that we like, although the diapers weren’t quite as economical as our current options (Amazon “Mama Bear” diapers and Aldi “Little Journey” diapers), so we probably won’t purchase diapers from there. They were still well-priced and we may purchase from them if we are already there and very short on diapers. Out of the brands they carry, we prefer Pampers, and I believe the price averaged out to 27¢ per diaper, size 5.

This reminds me! I posted a while ago about our downstairs bathroom, and featured a diaper pail for our cloth diapers. So why are we purchasing disposable diapers at all, you ask? We have always used a mix… disposables for naps, night and travel. Cloth for regular at-home time. We recently ditched the cloth diapers though, because the elastic wore out of the G-Diaper pouches, and we weren’t sure we wanted to bother repurchasing if this is our “last child” and she’s close to potty training anyway.

“Last child”. Yea right. Second-Born was “definitely our last child” as well, yet here we are.

Maybe I should just order new G-Diaper pouches and stop lying to myself.

While we were already at BJ’s I visited the local branch of Plato’s Closet to see their selection. I’ve been to other locations that are dripping with second-hand clothes from Abercrombie & Fitch and American Eagle (my preferred casual brands), but this location had almost none, although I dug around for quite a while. Oh well, at least now I know!

We completed our weekly shopping at Aldi.

Sunday, July 21

The girls and I attended church last week, but unfortunately will not be attending today due to a combination of sheer physical distance, and my husband’s overall disapproval of Orthodoxy. I consistently try to toe a respectful line between my own religious beliefs and his, especially with regards to the children. It’s an unpleasant challenge, but it is what it is. I will do the usual Bible study and prayers on my own at home.

Other than that, I plan on making pulled pork in the Instant Pot for dinner, along with homemade dinner rolls to use as buns. I have a mountain of ironing that I need to tackle…. and who knows, maybe I will sit down at my sewing table for five minutes.

Or maybe I will put off working on my dress for another 5 weeks.

Probably the latter.

WIR: May 27-June 2, 2019

Monday, May 27 (Memorial Day)

We enjoyed a leisurely morning (as leisurely as can be had with three young children, one of them a toddler) at home, and at noon went to Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery. I always have mixed feelings when honoring veterans… I am grateful that many have volunteered to risk their lives in the hope that they are protecting loved ones, and serving their communities. I am grateful to those who did not volunteer, those who were drafted. I am very grateful to those who willingly ran towards danger in foreign lands, only to face abuse and discrimination upon returning home. I am also angered that their service is needed at all. I feel angry because I do not believe all wars are just, and many people suffer greatly…. only to have the same problems and tragedies repeated again and again.

Remembering veterans always pushes me in my developing understanding of Christian pacifism. Is war ever ok? Is it ever justified? If one is truly pacifist, and knowingly endanger others by refusing to take up arms… is it really pacifism? I don’t have answers, and almost certainly never will in this lifetime. But Memorial Day always makes me pause, and question. I even grieve, even though nobody in my family has fallen on a battlefield. I really hope the warriors…. all warriors, both friend and foe, lived and died for truly worthy causes.

I also remember the nameless civilians that are inevitably harmed and traumatized by war. The children that have grown in horrific wartime conditions… and struggled to survive when the war was over, but life was still far from normal. I am grateful that my children live in a peaceful place, and that my country is generally at peace… but I am forced to remember the many people that are suffering even as I type. How our lives are so different, and yet we are fundamentally such similar beings. The unfairness of it all angers me. Will it ever stop? Will another war make it stop? Is pacifism just a form of burying one’s head in the sand…. a form of willful ignorance, maybe even cowardice?

My own impotence angers me.

But I can’t be angry too long, because:

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Tuesday, May 28

Just finished my fixed hair post (the follow up to my messed up hair post), and now I need to spend the rest of the day prepping for some friends who are coming over for dinner tomorrow!! It’s a family of seven, I believe… my husband used to work with the patriarch of the crew.

I’m tentatively planning on making fresh hummus with fresh cut veggies to dip (I should really get my recipe posted on here), baked mac-and-cheese (also need to type that up), and Paula Deen’s peach cobbler, dinner rolls, and lemon meringue pie (but using my own tender pie crust recipe). I also might make a salad, but I’m not sure. My mouth is watering just thinking about it all! Hubby will be grilling steaks and doing boring manly stuff. Who knows. I will track the interesting things here. Things that do not include his boring-manly-grilling-stuff.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to dabble with YouTube but so far haven’t come up with a style that really feels authentic to me. I am really inspired by the filming styles of congcongh, sueddu, Liziqi, and might toy with something in their genre… so I’ve dusted off the camera and am gathering some footage relating to this dinner… we will see how it turns out. I have so much to learn, it is dizzying. And EVERYTHING is made harder with a toddler in tow, especially one as forceful as Gabriella is turning out to be! Whew!!

Add to that a literal mountain of ironing I need to deal with, and vacuuming the house (at least I got the upstairs and steps done this morning), general cleaning, and….. ::cough:: learning how to make bound buttonholes so I can make some progress on my current sewing project (you can track it on @the.seamy.side.of.life).

Wednesday, May 29

Yesterday, I made dinner rolls, most of the lemon meringue pie (the crust, and lemon filling), and hummus. I got tons of footage for the possible YouTube video!! It’s stressful learning a new skill, especially when I’m already under pressure getting things ready for an event. I know most people hardly consider friends coming over for dinner as an event, but Hubby and I are very excited and we love going all-out as much as we are able.

Speaking of Hubby and “Boring Manly-Stuff”, he grilled all sorts of things… pork, a couple different cuts of steak, chicken wrapped in bacon, and some sort of sausage or kielbasa. I don’t know. If it doesn’t have sugar and/or cheese (or bread) I honestly couldn’t care less.

Today I made baked macaroni and cheese, peach cobbler, and whipped the egg whites to top the pie. I think I need to add more cornstarch to the recipe… I’ve made this pie twice, and both times it didn’t set very firmly. It tastes amazing, though!!

I did a marvelous job of filming… until the guests arrived! Maybe this means I’m not meant for social media stardom, but I couldn’t help but turn the camera off. I want to live my life and interact with my guests! I had every intention of stealthily filming a clip or two of the finished dishes and some of the fun the kids were having, but as soon as everyone got to chatting, I put filming out of my mind. I’m a little frustrated that, since I didn’t film any sort of ending, all of my party-prep footage is now useless. Maybe I shouldn’t say “useless”…. it’s true I probably won’t be uploading a completed video this time, but I have to admit I did learn a lot about the best places to put the camera, which angles I prefer, etc.

I did snap a quick pic of the completed peach cobbler and lemon meringue pie right before I started serving them…

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I made the meringue while the guests were present, and I think all the kids were amused when I solemnly ordered them into the kitchen….. only to had them a spoonful of “cloud” to eat. I think I caught them by surprise, and it was a nice ice-breaker. We then torched the pie, and that was also a crowd-pleaser. Sugar and fire have a way of bonding people.

There ended up not being a lot of leftovers… at least not the dishes I made. My husband basically grilled an entire farm so we do have a lot of meat leftover. I’m honestly considering storing some of it in the freezer, because there isn’t any way we can eat it all in the next few days.

Thursday, May 30

Doing NOTHING feels so good right now. This won’t last long, as I really do need to finish cleaning up from yesterday, and just housework in general. But I don’t have a hard deadline looming over me at the moment, and it feels good to work at a leisurely pace. I don’t even have a deadline for lunch or dinner, since we will be having leftovers! I will need to get back to my brisk routine tomorrow, since life with kids in the house is always busy, and we have a few exciting things coming up….. Adriana’s party, for one thing, and a possible trip to Busch Gardens.

And also a surprise guest that only Hubby and I know is coming……. 😉

The rest of my day will be spent cleaning, ironing, and I would like to wash my bedsheets. Having fresh sheets is a luxury I’m obsessed with, and I like having them freshly cleaned every three or four days. Ideally, I would have fresh sheets every day, but the water bill would be insane. The weather is bright and sunny today, which means I will also get to dry them on the line! The scent of sun-dried sheets is unbeatable. I always sleep better after putting freshly sun-dried sheets on my bed.

Sunday, June 2

I’ve taken another *surprise* social media break. I burn out way too easily… I think my frustration about the YouTube attempt mentioned earlier really got to me more than I expected it would. I just feel like all my attempts at building anything are futile. My daily life is so stuffed with laundry, SO MANY MEALS, diapers, baths, dusting, vacuuming, homeschooling… tantrums from the toddler and bajillions of questions from the older ones. I already have so much to do, why do I add other projects to it? Dreams and “goals” seem pretty pointless when I have no time to put into achieving them. To be honest, I’ve been also feeling like my dreams and goals are pretty stupid to begin with. But I won’t bore you with my moaning any more.

We just got back from grocery shopping. Our cart was full of mostly baking ingredients. I’ve probably bit off more than I can chew…. AGAIN.

Adriana has actually not picked a birthday cake! But she selected from my cookbooks many recipes of foods that look like something fairies might eat. Lemon pound cake, blueberry pie, rugelach (she said they look like woodland logs!), cookies in the shape of leaves, a cream tart with slices of poached apples arranged to look like roses, a plum galette… I can’t remember it all! But I am excited to try, as it all sounds delicious.

We will also have a visit from Teeny Tiny Farm!!! They came to her party a couple years ago and were a big hit. This year we are getting the simple Pony and Friends Package, and I have been informed that they do have a unicorn horn that the pony can wear so that it resembles the unicorn from the movie we are drawing inspiration from.

We will have a special, surprise house guest at the party….. but unfortunately we might not have many (or any) kids… we’ve had friends move away, and we live rather far away from most of our old friends anyway, and I didn’t want anyone to feel pressured to trek out to our house at 6pm. We do have a neighborhood family that we enjoy playing with, and I will invite them, but with the understanding that the timing might not be great for them either.

Maybe it’s not such a bad thing… maybe the best thing a middle child can have for her birthday is attention from family, and a party and pony that she doesn’t have to share….. Queen [Titania] for a day, indeed….

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She wants a swig of homemade Indian chai leftover from a big sister. It’s never to early too learn how to use good china!

 

WIR: May 20-26, 2019

To be honest, I don’t really know what this post is about. I thought I experienced an epiphany, but now that I’ve started typing, I feel a little foolish. My idea was to start… journaling, I guess? Journaling publicly online? I guess that’s what blogging really is, right? So far, I have only ever posted about specific topics on this website (recipes mostly), but maybe I’m missing something. I don’t read any blogs, so I haven’t a clue how they are supposed to work…???

“WIR” is my abbreviation for “Week in Review”. Not a creative title, but that’s what I’m giving you. I have about 700 subscribers on Instagram… it isn’t a lot by most people’s standards, and the number has grown very slowly over the years. This is all perfectly fine with me, as I don’t consider myself a “real blogger”.. just a constantly frazzled wife and mother who likes all things fancy and decadent, but can’t afford it. I’m just fiddling around and having a bit of creative me-time and bonding time with like-minded people online.

Despite my humble online presence, I seem to receive a lot of positive feedback and camaraderie, so… this series (if that’s what it becomes) is for you! For those of you that enjoy my little Instagram posts, and may enjoy a bit more “meat” to it.

Sunday, May 19

Thought of many profound insights to share. My memory was immediately wiped clean as I sat down at the keyboard. C’est la vie.

Monday, May 20

Mostly spent the day trying to catch up on housework after a busy weekend… the usual Monday routine. I also researched some local traveling petting zoos. We are hoping to schedule one to come to Second-Born’s… actually, believe it or not she DOES have a real name…. let’s start that again: Adriana’s birthday. There probably won’t be a lot of people there, unfortunately, but hopefully she can at least have a pony to ride! We’ve had friends move away, and we live in a rather out-of-the-way area ourselves, any many of our friends and relations simply struggle to make the trip for this sort of thing. We do have some neighborhood friends that I hope will make it, but since I am admittedly pulling this together pretty last minute, I’m not holding my breath on their attendance. Adriana has fallen in love with the 1935 film version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yes, you read that entire sentence correctly. So far I have a wig and silver dress for her to vaguely resemble Queen Titania and her fairy attendants (see below).

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It would probably be best if I reserve the bulk of my party-specific info for a separate post, just to keep things organized.

While I did manage to get the blog post up about Sophia’s Easter dress, I still need to type up one for Adriana’s.

Tuesday, May 21

Adriana and I made her favorite blueberry waffles this morning, and tried to do a cute little photoshoot. My photography skills are still abysmal, so the whole experience really only produced a tasty breakfast that First-Born (aka Sophia) inexplicably snubbed, and fodder for my middle child’s already robust ego. We used the recipe from “American Girl: Breakfast and Brunch” and it really is tasty.

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We like both American Girl AND Williams-Sonoma, so this is an excellent combination.
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I use Command Hooks to keep measuring spoons always in easy reach.

Adriana decked herself out in her Williams-Sonoma apron (logical) and an ill-fitting and unnecessary chef’s toque (illogical), also from Williams-Sonoma.

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Oops… should have thought this through a little better.

I hand-whipped some cream to dollop on top, but didn’t account for the heat emanating from the fresh waffles. As we tried to rush through some fancy “Instagrammy” food shots, the whipped cream melted and our plate was left looking more sloppy than elegant. It tasted marvelous nonetheless. Thanks to Sophia’s snobbery, the rest of us enjoyed extra portions.

While the recipe states frozen berries may be used, I personally recommend using fresh. We used frozen blueberries in the past, and the melted juices tinted the whole batter a rather sickly purplish-grey. I think that’s why Sophia was repulsed when she discovered what was on the menu. Fresh berries hold up better in the batter (yes I did that on purpose), and I think they come out looking nicer.

I’ve also filmed a YouTube video about my new Hobonichi Techo Cousin planner. It is currently uploading…. almost 3 hours for a 10 minute video? Is this normal??

Third-Born (known by the family as Gabriella) has barely slept for the past week. I think she had several large back teeth coming in all the same time!! It seems all our suffering has come to an end today, thank GOD!!!!! Her nap started a little before 12:30 and it is now 3:55 and she is still asleep! Poor thing. Hopefully the worst of that drama is finally behind us.

Wednesday, May 22

I cut my hair!!

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I used the “unicorn method”. This was my first time EVER cutting my own hair. At least not since some surreptitious snipping back in grade school…

The rest of my experience is posted here, under the “Beauty” tab, because this was such an ordeal that it does require its own post.

Thursday, May 23

Other than typing this entry, I chilled-out with social media today. I feel like I burn out very easily when it comes to social interaction, and it seems to include social media. Why am I like this? It’s a significant handicap considering I rely on other humans for my own survival, and I even want to socialize sometimes… it just kind of kills me a little inside if I do it for too long. I’ve always been like this. I was the kid that went alone to her bedroom during her own birthday parties. Ugh. Since I can’t think of a solution, I guess all I can do is keep trucking along as best as I can.

The girls did well with homeschooling today, although our lessons have been pared-down to the bare necessities since Gabriella has entered the Terrible Twos (which really started when she turned 1). Adriana is still to young to be required to undergo standardized testing to comply with our state regulations, but Sophia is gearing up to take the CAT6 through Seton Testing Services and if any of my readers have any insight they would like to share on this subject, I would appreciate the input!

I’m going to give the two oldest fresh pedicures, and I want to do my own mani/pedi tonight, but we will see how that goes. It all really depends on Gabriella… I can hardly give my nails time to dry if I am obliged to attend a screaming toddler throughout the evening. But as I mentioned on Tuesday, she seems to be over the miserable sleeping rut she was in for a few weeks.

How could I forget my most exciting news? I have a professional salon appointment set for tomorrow morning at Blonde Salon, to fix the embarrassing cut I gave myself yesterday!!! I’m really thinking about adding long, swept-away bangs….. hmm… this may also be better as a separate post.

Friday, May 24

The haircut turned out fantastic! Jennifer did a great job, and if you are in the area, I recommend her! I will save the rest of the haircut info for a separate post… you’re probably picking up on my love of compartmentalization and organization…

The most exciting event of the day, nay… MONTH… was when I looked out the window and discovered our neighbor had cut down a large tree! My first thought was for the lovely fragments of trunk that were already cut into the perfect height for chairs or tables for Adriana’s fairy party! What could be more whimsical and appropriate for our Midsummer Night’s Dream fête that real logs and stumps strewn about the garden for seating etc… with English ivy still clinging to the bark? Nevermind the fact that the sap is still flowing from the freshly cut wood, and guests may find themselves stuck to their seat at the end of the evening…

I was thrilled about the logs, and then he approached me with a nest he had found in the tree, still with two teeny blue robin’s eggs. He asked if we had any interest in them, otherwise he’d leave them out for the animals. I said the girls would love to give interspecies maternal instincts some exercise (let’s be honest, so would I), so we took them. The girls were full of high hopes, and of course I was too, but after rotating around the sun more that 30 times, I had a realistic expectation that this probably would not result in healthy adult birds. It would be a miracle if they even hatched. But I was determined to do what we could. My children are very fortunate, and have never experienced  grief…. and we haven’t had pets, so their personal understanding of the “circle of life” is limited to cold theory. It is a punch in the gut when actually experiencing it first-hand.

We have zero incubation equipment, so our Hail Mary was human body heat. Sophia cut two compartments out of an egg carton, which we further padded with tissues. We placed the eggs inside, taped the carton shut, and took turns holding it our warm laps, with sheepskins and blankets piled on top to retain heat.

I carefully slept with it in this position at night. It was like when my babies were newborns and we slept with them in bed with us: I barely moved all night…. instinctively aware that there was delicate life right next to me.

Saturday, May 25

I felt absolutely ridiculous after waking up next to a carton of robin’s eggs. I determined to try to figure out if there is any way to see if the buggers were even alive before I invested more of my time sleeping next to rotten eggs. I seemed to remember people holding eggs up to a light source to determine….. something.. what was it? Thankfully I live in the age of Google, and quickly learned this technique is called “candling”. I saw a few videos online, and this 4-minute video was one of my favorites. We used the method on both eggs, and determined that one was clearly a “late death”. This 5-minute video is utterly fantastic and also shows examples of how dead eggs will appear during candling. We took the dead egg outside, and cracked it open to study before leaving it to fate nature had intended all along….. nourishment for another living being.

The other egg actually had movement!!! I recorded it in a YouTube video of my own, but it was really hard to get the lighting right. I could even occasionally see something thin and opaque that appeared to be maybe legs moving against the shell.

A subscriber from Instagram suggested placing the egg in another nest to be adopted. A genius idea!! Only problem is, I was unable to locate another nest. I made a note to myself to keep better track of the nests in our area for this very purpose should the need ever arise again.

Back into the carton and laps it went.

When I candled it at night before I went to bed, I noticed reduced movement. I bundled up with it again at night.

Sunday, May 26

Upon coming downstairs, I candled the remaining egg, and determined it was dead.

I broke the news as gently as I could when the girls came down, but they reacted as I expected. It was a heavy blow, but important to experience and work through. They will work through it, but grief takes time… even for something as “foolish” as a common bird egg. I’m glad they have the compassion and empathy to understand and care. When they are ready, we will take it outside to reunite it with the Circle of Life, and allow it to keep life going for another hungry garden resident.