Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Stupid Tired

I was catching up on some financial paperwork yesterday by reconciling a couple months worth of statements from a credit card account.  I was absolutely astonished when I realized that we had almost $30 of interest charged on that account in February.  I quickly looked to make sure that I hadn't somehow missed a payment...  but no, I had paid the card on time.  I checked the following month and the previous month, and they both had on time payments, plus another $20 worth of interest paid.  What on earth did I do?  Was there some mistake?

After a little more digging, I realized that somehow I had only paid 2/3 of February's credit card balance.  We always pay our balances in full, and I always do so by clicking the "pay statement balance" button on the bank website.  How did I somehow change this amount?  How did I not notice this?

I'm noticing more and more strange things like this.  Things put in strange places, words that just can't come to mind, ending up in places in my house, holding things that don't make sense and not knowing why...  but what is far worse are the times when I blow pass the exit I was supposed to take, or miss a turn to a place I know well.  I'm trying to drive slowly and to never tailgate because I know my reaction time is not ideal... but can I guarantee that I'm always remembering to do so?  And what about those times when I find myself creeping up on the car in front of me because I've become inattentive?

Last night was a pretty average night.  I nursed Hannah, then put her in the crib at about 9:30.  She woke at about 11, then I nursed her and brought her into bed with me.  She was awake again at about 1, then 3, then 5, then up with me at 7.  She's 16 months old.  She slept better when she was four months old, and then it gradually got worse until it settled into this sort of pattern in October or November.  Some nights are better, it might only be two or three times...  but then other nights are worse.

Do you see a problem here?

I've come to realize that even though I have five children, I never really learned how to handle infant sleep.  Not that they're all the same, but my strategy has long been to suffer and wait it out.  And eventually they do learn to go to sleep alone, and to sleep through the night.  Some learned at around 16 months, and others took until 2 or even two and a half.  We're not one of those families where all the kids are in and out of bed with us all night, or up half the night asking for a glass of water.  Everyone else sleeps in their own bed and sleeps through the night without any hassles.  Everyone but the baby toddler.

But you know what?  I'm tired.  Really, really tired.  I'm not sure I have it in me to wait it out again. I'm not as young as I used to be, and maybe that's part of the problem.  But I'm also really stretched right now too, far more stretched when there were just little people around.  Right now I can go from a conversation about the probabilities of extraterrestrial life and if such life would have a soul to the latest and greatest plans for the drawbridge outside to "Mom, can I have a snack?" to "Mom, will you read me a story?" to "Ahhh!" with little arms waving in the air.

All in about three minutes.

And while I'm trying to make dinner.  I think.  At least that's what it looks like, because there are veggies everywhere and I'm holding a knife.  But I have to search my mind pretty hard to try and remember what exactly it was I was doing.  Or making.  And I've become too tired to try and focus enough to follow a recipe most nights.  I just cook by instinct.  Thankfully I've been cooking long enough that my instincts are pretty decent.  And people are still eating and complementing me on their dinners, so that's a plus.

Ages and ages ago, back when our thirteen year old was a wee little one who never wanted to nap or sleep at night, I read a lot of Dr. Sears.  And I'm starting to think that perhaps that was a mistake.  I know they had a gaggle of kids - more than me, if I remember correctly - but somehow I can't help to think that I've been led astray.  Or at least my memory of those books has led me astray? Entirely possible.

But I looked at his site a little while back, and I was struck by how much fear-mongering there is in what I was reading.  Do these things, or BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN!  Subtle bad things that you won't notice or realize until it is TOO LATE!  I'm simplifying and exaggerating, but nonetheless...  my impression of what I was reading is vastly different as a mother with thirteen years experience than that brand new mom over a decade ago.

And I'm left wondering...  perhaps there are subtle bad things that can happen to a child if you don't co-sleep and nurse all night long on demand and all that sort of thing.  But aren't there bad things that can happen to my marriage because I'm so tired all the time?  Bad things that can happen in my relationships with my other children, because I'm forgetful and short tempered and inattentive and sometimes just can't get up the nerve to gather all of those energetic little bodies together and try to do what I'm supposed to do with them?  (And what was that anyway??)  And what about all these little lives who are trusting me behind the wheel as I try to get them to Atrium and clay class and field trips and the grocery store?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The Commonplace in My Day and Family

The first couple quotes in my Commonplace are from 2012.  I put it aside for a time while I struggled through a tough pregnancy and a difficult post-partum period.  I picked it up again about a year ago, and while I am not as consistent as I'd like to be, I have copied about 40 pages of quotes in the last year.

I've tried several different ways of using it.  I've copied as I read, which was a dismal failure since I tend to read and nurse Hannah.  I spent about four months setting aside a morning or two a week to copy from that week's reading, which was successful until the baby decided that waking 3-5+ times a night for months on end was really the way to go.  I tried valiantly to still get up early even with this, but had to concede defeat in the face of sheer exhaustion sometime around the beginning of December.  I'm still struggling with this, but I've hit upon a solution that is working even better for me and has some additional benefits as well.

When I read, I either lightly draw a line in the margin of the book and circle the page number or mark the text with the highlight feature in the Kindle app.  If it is a physical book, the line is light enough that I can erase it without damaging the book.  The bulk of my reading is in ebooks, however, and the highlight feature is so convenient.

I've found the best time to copy these quotes is while I'm helping Gregory (9) and Nathan (6) with their math and copywork.  We do these subjects in the early afternoon once the baby and toddler are down for naps because I have a really hard time helping kids with this sort of work while they are  climbing on me.  However, I don't need to be - and shouldn't be! - spending all my time watching my kids' math and copywork because I tend to micromanage the work.  And if I don't have something of my own to work on, I tend to jump up and start working in the kitchen, washing dishes, tidying, or the like.  I need something reasonably simple and interruptible to keep me at the table so I can be present and accessible.

A great solution for me is to bring over my Commonplace, a book or my iPad and open it up.  Nathan really likes seeing me do copywork, because I think it somehow makes his easier to bear.  If I'm copying from an ebook, I really like using kindle.amazon.com because it shows just my highlights and notes in one place across all my books.  I don't lose my place in the book I'm reading, and I'm not trying to switch around from one section or another in the book.  It makes it easy for my to look through what I've read recently, pick what I'd like to copy, and write it down in my Commonplace.

I seldom write out more than two quotes at a time, but by steady effort I'm gradually filling the pages.  And after seeing me do this for a couple months, Emma (13) asked me one day, "Mom, do you think I could have one of those books too?  I think you call it a Commonplace?  I'd like to have a place where I could write down some quotes too."

Emma's Commonplace (age 13), copying from Tolkien's Silmarillion

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What a Difference a Storm Makes

We finally had our first storm of 2015 and we were able to visit the South Yuba River the day before it hit and the day after the weather cleared.  The contrast was fascinating, and we all marveled at how much of a difference the storm made in the river and the surroundings.

The river last Thursday

And just about the same spot on Tuesday

A great swimming hole on Thursday

And on Tuesday (notice how the sandbar is completely under water now!)

And some very unhappy looking moss

Looks much happier on Tuesday

And look at the amazing emerald color of the water

But of course that's gone by Tuesday

We also spotted two California Poppies, a small patch of Fiddle Neck, and what I think is a type of Larkspur and a type of Brodiaea.  It seems so early to see those flowers, but with how warm it has been I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  

Friday, November 7, 2014

7 Quick Takes: Things I'd Like to Write Longer Posts About

I feel like I have a blogging logjam.  I have lots of things I'd like to write about, but between  perfectionism and a full life, I'm finding it ridiculously hard to do it.  So, I'm at least writing a little, and perhaps this will help me to get going.

I decided to use Ambleside Online this year and we've just finished our first term.  I made a few substitutions and modifications, but I tried to stay as close to the proscribed plan as possible.  It has been a great choice, and I'm really glad we're doing it.  It has made my yearly and weekly planning so so so much easier, and our educational journey is stronger for it.   I really want to write a post about our substitutions, and what we've done to make the curriculum more Catholic.

I've also implemented a version of Celeste's naptime school (I got to meet Celeste and her children a couple weeks back - what a lovely experience and conversation!  She's the first CM homeschooler I've ever met in person, and the first non-family blogger. It was so nice to be with someone who gets what I do!).  I've broken up our morning time into several pieces to make it easier with the littles.  I'd like to say that there are no more time outs during morning prayer, but alas that is not the case.  But still, a fantastic change for our family.  Emma stays in with me in the morning and I work with her while the boys go out and play.  I think a longer post about what exactly this looks like - naptime school with a bigger range of ages - would be a good thing.

Another new thing for this year - Sabbath Schooling.  We are doing formal lessons for six weeks, then taking a week off.  That rest week (this week is one of them) is fantastic.  "Rest" is a bit of a misnomer though, as these weeks are very full too - but full of different sorts of activities.  On Monday we had term exams and Atrium, then went to Costco (I go every seven weeks, as it is over an hour away), getting home at 9:30.  I've also canned 10 quarts of applesauce, 8 cups of apple butter, cleaned and reorganized part of the pantry, did a huge stuff dump onto paper, planned and prepped for Monday's co-op meeting, set up all the Term 2 work for next week, installed a 47 tile Flor rug in our family room, and...  well, there's probably more, but that's the stuff I can remember right now.  Of course there's the laundry and the meals and the dishes.  Phew.  It is nice to see it written out because I've been feeling like I haven't gotten all that much done this week.  It is easy for me to focus on what I still need to do this week!

And another new thing - Mystie's interval planning.  Absolutely brilliant, and it goes along with the six weeks on, one week off thing so well.  [edited - I at first said 6 on, 6 off, which contradicts the 3rd point and is incorrect - we're doing 6 on, 1 off]

Ever since I read Jennifer Fulwiler's Family First Creative (her free ebook for pre-ordering her wonderful book) I've been wondering what my creative endeavor is - what fuels me?  And really, I don't know.  I finished that book feeling like there were a lot of great suggestions, but it made me realize that I can't quite even answer the question that it begins with - namely, what is it I even want to do?  And if I'm generally content managing my home and homeschooling and all that entails  and trying to do a good job of it, am I somehow selling myself short?  Do I need to be doing something more?  Should I be?  Do I have a responsibility to do more than this?


Awhile back I had a post about how I was breaking up my reading into categories and how wonderful that all was.  Well, I still think it is wonderful, but when I started also trying to read all my books as well as pre-read for Ambleside's Y3 and keep up with Y7 as well, everything just fell apart.  There are no where near enough hours in the day available for reading that I could keep up with a list like that.   Now I'm trying to find space to read three books of my own- something having to do with education, something faith based, and a general non-fiction book.  Right now those three books are Consider This, by Karen Glass, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic by Matthew Kelly, and well, I just finished the The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and haven't figured out what my next non-fiction read will be.

I wrote recently about a little hike we did as a family, and I've also been wanting to write about a day trip we took about a month ago.  Can you guess where we went? 

As you can tell, the weather wasn't all that great, so we didn't get to see the Blue Angels fly much, but we still had a wonderful day.  We visited the Golden Gate Bridge, watched the ships sail into the Bay, walked down to Crissy Field, walked through the Palace of Fine Arts and then back up through the Presidio.  We walked over nine miles!  Justin, our three year old, was in a stroller most of the time, but even Nathan (6), who is not the most willing of walkers, persevered and did it.  It was a long day, but a wonderful excursion.  I'm hoping to do day trips to SF every few months, now that we've shown we can do it.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Family Hike

Obligatory Baby in the Ergo photo
Hiking with five children, ages 12, 8, 6, 3 and 10 months, is a daunting process.  However, my husband and I decided to make it a family priority, so we persevere. As with most things, we are getting better at it with practice.

We eat like hobbits on Sundays, eating a light first breakfast, attending the 8 am Mass, then coming home and cooking either sourdough pancakes or waffles.  This last Sunday Matt and I had planned a hike after our second breakfast.  The sky was dull and grey, and there was intermittent drizzle that sometimes threatened to turn into actual rain.  We looked at each other, wondering if we were really up to hiking with the kids in the rain.  I declared that I didn't want our family to be fair weather hikers and my intrepid husband agreed, donning his rain hat and jacket to go put our cheaper-than-upgrading-to-a-Suburban hitch mounted platform on the back of the Tahoe.

Ah, finally there and ready to go!

  Challenges ensued - a bolt had vibrated off our ancient hand-me-down jogging stroller, necessitating a scrounge for something that would suffice as a quick fix, the three year old's rain boots wouldn't fit with his warm socks and we discovered that somehow he only has sandals, church shoes and rain boots that fit right now, the six year old was determined to wear shorts no matter what - but despite the temporary setbacks, water bottles were filled, jackets were found, appropriate shoes were placed on feet and everyone eventually piled out to the car.

Isn't this the greatest drainage pipe you've ever seen?  I'm looking forward to hiking here when there's some runoff.

We decided to try a local canal trail so Matt could push Justin (3) in the jog stroller rather than carry him in the backpack.  I had Hannah (10 mo) in the Ergo, and since the trail was reasonably flat, we brought Nathan's (6) bike.  He loves his bike, and is a much happier person on hikes with the bike than on foot.  This also allows us to keep a faster pace, something that makes the older kids and parents happier too.
The brand new suspension bridge over Deer Creek.  It is nice and bouncy with some great views.

We had some rain on our way to the trail, and a little drizzle now and then as we hiked, but overall we did quite well, proving the Swedish proverb that there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.  We only walked a little over two miles, but we decided that was sufficient for the day.  Justin and Nathan were starting to venture near the edge of whiny-ness, and it seemed best to turn around while spirits were still high.  And little by little, hike by hike, a family culture of being outdoors and hiking together is born and grows.

A tributary to Deer Creek, with some beautiful sculpted rocks and just a little bit of water.  Everyone wants to go back once the water starts flowing again in this area.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Nature Notes: Spotted Owls and Black Raspberries

Last month we were privileged to see a spotted owl twice.  First Nathan (6), then Gregory (8), spotted the owl's movement out the window around dusk and we were able to watch the owl as he perched in a tree right next to our house.

On June 16th, we unfortunately found a decapitated owl chick on the ground near a large cedar.  In comparing it to photos online, we felt fairly confident that it was a spotted owl chick.  It was about 8" long (err, sans head) and had been dead awhile.  We speculated a great deal about what might have happened, and wondered mightily where the nest might be.  We also wondered if there might be another chick.

Last week, we were visited by this guy!  Nathan noticed him and and we were able to watch him fly to several different perching spots around our house and listen to him call out.  He was about 12" tall, and seemed about 2/3 the size of the adults we had seen last month.  He seemed quite interested in watching us, cocking his head and observing us quite closely. The owl chick's wings were fully feathered, but he was still covered with down on his body and head.  We probably got to watch him for about 30 minutes, before it became too dark to see him anymore.  We heard the same call for several nights after that, but have not heard it the last couple of nights.

We also have been picking black raspberries off our property in the last few days.  Last year we found a small section of berries that didn't look quite like blackberries, and were ripe several weeks before the blackberries should be ripe.  We did a little research, and found that they were black raspberries.  I had never heard of such a thing, but we thought they were quite tasty.

We watched for them eagerly this year, and as they started to ripen we realized they had spread and were all over the hill where we originally found them!  Last year we were only able to pick a tantalizing handful or so, but this year we've been able to pick enough to bring a cup or more back home.  Granted, it still isn't a huge amount by any means - we won't be making jam from them anytime soon! - but it was enough to snack on, add to our pancakes yesterday and have some in our oatmeal.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What We're Reading: June Edition

I'm still plugging away at my reading plan and enjoying it as well as finding it fruitful.  I am starting to look ahead at the upcoming school year and wondering how I should work in reading the kids' books.  Do I add some of those to my reading plan?  Do I block out additional time to read their books and maintain my own plan?  If so, where does that time come from?  In the spring I did a combination of both, adding books I thought looked particularly interesting to my reading plan, and making some time here and there to quickly read through other books.  It wasn't entirely satisfactory, but perhaps this is the best I can do.

My Current Reads
Bible:  Colossians - I think I've slowed down a bit on my Bible reading, although I'm still reading every day.  I tend to read half the book rather than the whole one in one sitting.  I've found the best time slot for this is immediately after I get up.  First I pray Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, then I read from my current book of the Bible.  It is about a 20 minute practice, and that way if Hannah wakes up when I wake up, it keeps me from falling back asleep with her as I nurse her.  I'm trying to establish a habit of reading from the Gospels before going to bed, but I'm not doing very well in this.

Fiction:  Still reading Waverley.  But I'm about 3/4 of the way through!

Poetry:  The New Morning: Poems by Alfred Noyes.  This poet came to my attention when Emma and I were talking about The Highwayman and I looked up more information about it.  I particularly enjoyed his WWI poems, and some of this sea poems.  I'm in the miscellaneous section of poems at the moment and finding them somewhat a mixed bag. (perhaps that's appropriate?)

Spiritual Reading:  I finished reading The Autobiography of St. Ignatius of Loyola (Which seems to be written by someone else, based on what St. Ignatius told him at different times.  Doesn't that make it a biography rather than an autobiography?  Anyway...) from which, frankly, I expected more.  Perhaps it wasn't a particularly good translation?  The language seemed rather simple and rough in placed.  I've moved onto The Little Oratory, by David Clayton and Leila Lawler.  I haven't gotten very far in yet, but I've been looking forward to reading the book ever since I heard about it.

General Non-Fiction:  I finished Sarah Mackenzie's Teaching from Rest and thought it was an excellent book on homeschooling.  There were so many good reminders in it about what we're really doing in raising our children, and why.  I also liked that it is fairly method neutral.  There's so much there for Christian homeschoolers of any stripe.  And the audio companion was fantastic - the Andrew Kern talk alone was well worth the cost!

On Jessica's recommendation, I picked up Outliers from the library.  I'm really enjoying it.  I have such a weak spot for sociology/psychology sorts of books.  I find it fascinating to probe the interesting things people do, and how people make decisions and how different factors influence people's lives and decision making.  I'm reminded of a quote I read in Charlotte Mason's Vol. 3 last night:
‘Open, Sesame.’—I think we should have a great educational revolution once we ceased to regard ourselves as assortments of so-called faculties, and realised ourselves as persons whose great business it is to get in touch with other persons of all sorts and condition; of all countries and climes, of all times, past and present. History would become entrancing, literature a magic mirror for the discovery of other minds, the study of sociology a duty and a delight.
Mason, Charlotte (2011-05-15). Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series Volume 3 - School Education (Kindle Locations 2620-2623).  . Kindle Edition. 
 Self-Education:  I finished Abolition of Man (hooray!) and I've started Beauty in the Word.  There's so much there that dovetails with the CM volume I'm reading right now, that I sometimes have trouble remembering which book I read it in.

Chesterton:  I finished Manalive, and decided to take a little break from Chesterton.  He has such a distinctive writing style and I feel like I was getting oversaturated and a little numb to it.  I think I'll appreciate him more if I alternate his books with something else.  I have a couple of science books I've borrowed, started, but not finished and I'm going to read those in this spot too.  To that end, I picked Darwin's Black Box back up.

History:  I finished a book The Shadow of His Wings, which was a fantastic story from a German seminarian who was drafted into the German Army, served some time in the SS, and ends up being ordained while he is imprisoned in a British POW camp.  It is a fantastic and incredible read.  I enjoyed regaling the family with stories from it during dinner.  Next I picked up from the Emma's pile, True Stories of World War II, which had some great short stories in it, showing a variety of viewpoints into the war - everything from female pilots in the Soviet Union, snipers in Stalingrad, the Manhattan Project, D-Day, to English spies in France.  A great little collection of stories to give a feel for the vast of swath of different experiences in the war.  I haven't figured out what to read next in this category.  I'm thinking I should probably start in on some of the kids' school stuff, but haven't picked up anything yet.

Charlotte Mason:  I'm still moving along in Vol. 3.  I love coming across quotes I've seen in blog posts in their native habitat, so to speak.  The context enriches them and makes me appreciate her writings all the more.

Emma (Age 12) Current Reads
Emma picked up a few Dr. Dolittle books and the Betsy-Tacy books at the library in the middle of the month and has been working her way through them.  I also let her read The Shadow of His Wings, which we enjoyed discussing.  There's so many amazing stories in his life!

Gregory (Age 8) Current Reads
Gregory has been reading the Dr. Dolittle books as soon as Emma is finished with them.  He also read They Flew to Glory, a non-fiction book about WWI and the Americans who flew for the French before the US was involved in the war.  He's also been reading the  Sister Philomena series by Dianne Ahern.
Nathan (Age 6) and Justin (Age 2) Current Reads
I've been trying to introduce the boys to some of the books on the bookshelves that they haven't heard for awhile (or at all), thinking that perhaps they might find some new favorites.  I am getting a little tired of reading the snowman books over and over, can you tell?  I really want to try some of the folksong books Celeste has been blogging about, but I haven't gotten any of them together yet.  Maybe this week?