thoughts at night

Conscious of my thoughts
like wind whistling past
barely noticed.
Trickling down my ear canal
tickling my brain stem

How do I decipher the words spelled out
like ink in water

What words are these that demand in whispers
They come at every side,
a constant stream of consciousness
or is it unconsciousness?


homeschool room tour

I finally have what I've always dreamed of: a homeschool room! When I say "always dreamed," I mean that this dream goes back to when I was eleven years old and my parents were looking to purchase a home in San Antonio. While looking at one house that had two living areas, my mom exclaimed, "This would be perfect for a homeschool room!" and thus, the dream began. I knew I wanted to homeschool my own kids someday (yes, at eleven, I already had plans to someday have many children and teach them at home) and I've always been someone who likes homes and spaces and finding beautiful, functional ways of doing things in those spaces. I loved viewing model homes with my parents, and to this day I rearrange my furniture just about every six months. I blame it on being a military brat.

In the back of my mind, probably in a corner labeled Dreamy, Yet Unattainable, were visions of a room full of shelves and globes and maps and old, dusty books. A table for sitting down with my morning coffee, a place to recite Bible verses and continents and math facts, to read aloud Charlotte's Web and Peter Pan and Jame's Herriot's Animal Stories, a place of my own where my children could complain about my coffee breath as I lean over their shoulder to help them with handwriting, just as I did complained to my own mother. Ah, memories. A homeschool room for a real homeshool mom, slippers and coffee breath not optional.

When we first moved into this house, I thought about turning our extra room off the dining area into a homeschool room, but we have so much music equipment and art supplies crammed in there that it became more of our home office/creative space. (That's putting "creative space" very lightly... it's a mess right now and not really conducive for creating much of anything!) Slightly disappointed but otherwise understanding, I turned the bottom of my grandma's hutch into our "school cabinet," and that's what we've been using for the past 5 months.

For those five months, we've done traditional text-book schooling. Pennsylvania has a wonderful charter school available to homeschoolers, using the Calvert curriculum, and they sent us everything we would need -- even a laptop! So for a while, we didn't need much space. It was a tight squeeze, and with my aging, almost-thirty-year-old eyeballs that have never been all that reliable in the first place, sometimes it was hard to see what I was reaching for in the recesses of the Homeschool Hutch, but it worked. Then my mom said, "Hey, I've got a ton of y'all's old picture books and school books down in the basement if you'd like to take them home!" and that led me to rethink our approach to homeschool all together... but I'll leave that for another post!

After several visits to my mom's that ended in returning with one or two or three armfuls of books each time, I realized I didn't have anywhere to store this beautiful collection. What's more, I wanted them to be accessible downstairs, where the kids spend most of the their time, not up in their rooms stuffed in their already over-flowing bookshelves, never to be enjoyed by the whole family. One afternoon, after staring at our dining room for several minutes trying to come up with a plan, I realized we had the perfect place for a long shelf, right under the window! I scoured IKEA for the perfect shelf, and found this one for just over $100.

What's In Our School Room

After lovingly filling it with all of our school books and living books, I decided to bring down some toys for Chase to occupy herself with during school hours. These puzzles and sets of toys had been up high in the kids' closets, because when I can't keep an eye on every little toy my children take out in their room throughout the day, toys with several pieces just end up being huge mess makers. But down here in our homeschool room, I can make sure she takes out one at a time and encourage her in the habit of cleaning up after herself. I love this memory game I found at a thrift store, which features adorable pictures of children from around the world. Another favorite was a gift from my sister, a word game called Very Silly Sentences. This is more for River and Austen's age, and I highly recommend it! It makes language and grammar fun and interesting. For Chase and Austen, I also have several wooden puzzles, pattern blocks, lacing beads, and in the hutch is plenty of paper, crayons, watercolors, and playdough... lots of activities to keep a toddler occupied, and we have more upstairs that I can switch out when need be.

As far as actual school supplies, I keep flimsy lesson manuals and work books in a basket so they don't fall over and clutter the shelves. All my books on childhood development, education, and teaching different subjects, and well as our informational books and story books are now easily accessible in the shelves. River is reading pretty well now and I see him pick up books he's never been interested in before, simply because they are available! That's so exciting to me. I hope to raise voracious readers.

Also kept in baskets are flashcards in individual baggies, and some math manipulatives, and in the middle basket I have replaced those things with copy paper, writing paper, construction paper, and a few notebooks. Finding out a way that works best for us is trial and error. If I think I've found the perfect storage solution for something, I won't really know until I've had it set up that way for a few days and see how it fits into the flow of our school day. For instance, I had the paper stored in the hutch with the crayons, which made logical sense to me, but I found myself having to get up several times a day and walk around the table to search for paper that hadn't already been scribbled or painted on. It wasn't easy to keep it all separate and organized in the hutch. Now that it's in the basket, I can turn in my seat and grab a page, and paper that has been turned into artwork goes into the hutch. I still have to come up with some way to sort all of the artwork my kids create! So much paper...

I love this space because everything is in one place, and that makes all the difference in the world to how our days go. It's easy to clean up after lessons and set the table for a meal, and I love how things are sort of hidden in the shelf, because I've never been a fan of having a bunch of kids' toys out in plain view. I do love beautiful spaces, and this way, it's functional for myself and for the kids!


life lately

I have been so bad about taking a picture a day... but I've been pretty great about taking pictures in general compared to how I was doing before the new year, and even if I'm not in the mood to, so I'm proud of that. And more often than not, I get a picture that I happen to love, even if it's not technically correct (90% of my photos aren't, anyway).

I've been feeling this pull to do something different with all this. I'm not crazy about running a Facebook page... it feels really strange to me to post on it, because while I have a good number of likes and views, but not a lot of interaction, I feel like I'm talking to both an audience and an empty room... at the same time.. if that makes sense. It just doesn't feel like me. I prefer posting on Instagram. And as for my 365 project, I will post on my photography page and Instagram when I feel like it. I know this sounds like such a silly thing to spend time thinking about, but seriously, I have not really known what to do for a while. I kept my page unpublished for nearly two years on Facebook and didn't miss it once, so I think I need to just be true to what feels comfortable for me.

I really do want to blog more, but I only have energy for one main focus at a time, it seems. That's being human I suppose. I have really been researching and changing how our family sees and lives education, and from the moment I wake up in the morning until my kids go to bed and America's Next Top Model takes precedence, I am listening to audiobooks and asking questions on forums and reading blog posts about homeschooling! I have a brand new excitement for educating my kids, and I feel like after getting six solid, meaty months of real, live homeschooling under my belt, I know what I really want for our family and for my kid's little minds. I'm looking forward to sharing more pictures and about our homeschooling journey very soon!


it's possible that i'm not a morning person

I wrote this when River was three years old. It made me snort laugh, remembering my cheery, talkative toddler who is seven now and hasn't changed a bit, except that now he can get his own breakfast. 

My son is driving me crazy and he has only been up for an hour.

I always thought I wasn't a morning person. Okay, in all fairness, I'm probably not. My husband would definitely say I am not. I hate waking up early, I am a grump in the mornings, and I cannot function properly until about 11 am and after three cups of coffee. I'd say mornings and I don't do well, but the truth is, people and I in the mornings don't do well. There is nothing more annoying than a person trying to cuddle/have a conversation/demanding things of me early in the morning. And my family is a very cuddly, talkative, demanding one.

It was 8 am this morning when River brought his cheery little butt into the kitchen, propped himself up on a chair like a little squirrel, and said, "I'm hungry and thirsty. I want something to eat, and some water." First thing in the morning, every morning, this child wants to eat. He wastes no time. He is famished. I just got up thirty minutes ago and finished making John lunch and seeing him off to work, and would love nothing more than to make a pot of coffee and sit down on the couch wrapped in blankets and books. However, I suppose as a mother my job is to feed my hungry kid, so right away, I pour him a glass of water and get to making some Cream of Wheat. Fifteen minutes later, he has gobbled it down in its entirety.

As soon as he is done eating, he announces, "I want to go make a train track. Can I bring ALL the pieces in the living room and make one in here?" I tell him no, there are too many pieces and it would make a big mess, but his room is all clean so he has plenty of room to make one in there (I literally just finished cleaning his room last night after I let life happen to it for over a week. It was one of those things where it was messy and we had a few really busy days with no time to clean it up, so I kept putting it off until it got so bad that not a single toy was in its proper place and they had all practically been dumped and strewn around the room. It took me an hour to clean the whole room, and put every single toy piece back with its mate, back in its box, back in its place. I digress.)

Again, all I want to do is grab a cup of coffee and continue my "waking up process," since apparently it takes me about three hours, but I can see that going to his room with him to build a train track should promise me at least thirty quiet minutes after, with him in his room and I on the couch with my coffee. So I trudge to his room and set up a pretty cool track, one that he should love and appreciate. As soon as it is complete (I took it apart and started over at least once), he decides that he doesn't want to play train tracks after all, he wants to be in the living room with me.

"Okay," I sigh. "You may be in the living room with me, but I want my quiet time. You have to be quiet."

"Okay!" He yells. Everything that comes out of his mouth is a yell. I less-than-gently remind him that I'm right here and he doesn't have to yell, especially because his sister is still sleeping, praise the sweet Lord in heaven.

We make our way to the living room. My cup of coffee that I poured in-between Cream of Wheat and train tracks is cold. I sit in my spot beneath the lamp in the corner, coffee to my left on the table, laptop on lap, blankets in place. All is silent. Until River comes in with a book in hand, and begins situating himself on the couch next to me, while audibly explaining everything he is going. "Alright. I got my book. I'm just going to climb up here, and get under these blankets. Ahh. It is so cold. But these blankets are warm! I love you, Mama. I like being nexta you. Now, let's read. What is this book about? Hmm. The little boy was walking down the road... and then he saw a little tree, and..."

RIVER. Please. I told you, I need quiet.

"Oh sorry, Mama."

The rest of my "quiet time" is spent half-reading, half-listening to a solo game of rock, paper, scissors, answering random, slightly philosophical questions, and giving unenthusiastic responses to things a 3-year-old finds extremely interesting at 7:45 in the morning. That's right, I had almost forgotten a quiet morning is an impossibility for mothers, unless I want to get up at 5am. Which I do not want to do. Because, as I have clearly stated, I am not a morning person.


actually, you probably will really miss these days

We still call her "the baby." I still breastfeed (all day and all night). Her hands still have that sweet, plump, dimply look to them. She is definitely still the baby of the family, but it just occurred to me that I only have a few precious months left of Chase's babyhood. For real. She will be three in ten months, and while I'm definitely not counting, because I haven't counted any time in Chase's life, it's inevitable and will be here before I know it. Probably before I'm ready.

Yes, Chase is my one child with whom I haven't counted down the days or months until dates or milestones. I barely accepted in time that she was almost two. With River and Austen, weeks before their upcoming birthdays, I had already started thinking of them as the next age. But with Chase, instead of looking forward to the next phase, I've soaked up and truly enjoyed every one we are in at the present. I learned the hard way with River, and even with Austen a little bit, that time is fleeting, children aren't as grown up as they seem to a new parent, and I will desperately wish for some way to go back and enjoy the baby they once were.

This is the time when they grow so fast. They change so rapidly. As life would have it, you can go months without seeing a friend, years even -- and when you are reunited, it's as if time hasn't passed. They look the same. Probably talk the same. As far as their mannerisms and personality, they don't change much. Way to state the obvious, right? But children... children change so quickly, you can blink and they are spouting off brand new words like "spicy" and "full" and "itchy," and suddenly they know their colors and they can run for more than 10 paces without falling on their face. Their chunk melts away and they lose the rubber-band-around-the-wrist look. Their hair grows and they can wear it in a ponytail all of a sudden and look like a twelve-year-old even though they are two. How the heck is that even possible? And this could all happen in a month.

And then there's that blog post or meme or whetever going around that reminds all parents that there will be last times... the last time you pick them up and carry them on your hip, the last time you hold them on your lap, the last bedtime story, the last ouchie kiss, the last time they fall asleep in your arms. If that isn't a knife in your heart!

Of course, there is always the grandma with good intentions, reminding you -- after your Facebook rant about how Bobby clogged the toilet with three rolls of toilet paper after feeding the dog his entire lunch and streaking through the front yard naked -- that there are "the good old days" and how you'll "miss them" and to "cherish these moments." And we puff and think easy for you to say, Debra. When was the last time you had to wake up to a screaming, soaked toddler at 4am?

But y'all, I think we need these reminders. Not because it's wrong to feel like we're going crazy, and definitely not because we shouldn't vent or be honest about how hard it can be... because motherhood is tough, and if there's a mother who doesn't feel like that every now and then (or 90% of the time) then I don't want to know her. I think we need reminders because, and call me sentimental here, but as hard as it is, I think the beautiful moments outweigh the crazy ones. Definitely not in an even, paved-road way. But for every bumpy stretch there will be really gorgeous sights to see. Ones that will catch your breath. We don't want to miss those and then realize later that we could have enjoyed them while we were too busy complaining about all the pot holes that should have been filled.

I missed so much of River's toddlerhood. Between learning how to be a mom of two, to dealing with a colicky baby and postpartum depression and a move across the country, I didn't have the time or emotional capacity to see what was in front of me, this beautiful child who was still very much a baby and needing a mama who was more patient and slow and understanding. Sometimes I get angry at the past me, because I would give anything, anything to go back and do it all over again. I truly would. I would live through the sleepless nights, the vomit, the scary moments, everything... if it meant I could get a re-do and really enjoy River as a two, three, and four year old. AND GUYS. That's saying a lot because if you know me, you know how much I hate the threes. Phew.

I'm trying not to make that mistake with Chase. But lately, I'm finding it's easier to complain. It's easier to be short with her and get annoyed with her clinginess, her quirks. But then I look at the curve of her cheek when she's nursing, her little, bulging tummy when she's waiting for the bath to fill up with warm water, or I notice the way she smells like milk and sleep when she wakes up... and I'm reminded that I only have a little bit of time left. Just a little bit. A blip in comparison to the rest of her life. Because someday she really will be twelve, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, and she won't need me to rock her to sleep. So for now, it's okay. It really is.


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