Sunday, May 31, 2015

We began and ended our weekend shuffling back and forth from the car dealership as we attempt to get the air conditioning fixed on the van.  It's been two weeks since it went out and the main thing I've learned is that it's really too hot to be driving around this area without a.c.  So far, the main thing the mechanic has learned is all the things that are not wrong with it but as of Friday they've had no luck figuring out what actually is wrong.  Having my car in the shop is always troublesome since it's the only vehicle we actually all fit in.  We rescued it for the weekend so that we'd be able to go places but we had to take it back tonight.  We normally go through a process that involves Chris driving the van over and then taking their shuttle to the metro and then walking the almost mile back up to our house.  Of course that doesn't work on Sunday when no one is at the repair shop.  Tonight we ended up going rogue and all driving home in Chris's car with the big boys double-buckled in the back.  Is double-buckling still a thing or is that completely taboo these days?

The rest of the weekend was spent garage saling, visiting with an old friend, learning to ride bikes without training wheels and playing checkers.  A lot of checkers.  David figured out the bike immediately.  Henry, not so much.  We also realized that both boys need new bikes.  Well, David needs a new bike and Henry gets the hand-me-down.  Such is the life of the second born.  I scored a Britax carseat for John for pennies at our neighbors' yard sale though so I guess Henry isn't the only one suffering from never getting anything new.

Now that we have one competant bike rider and one hopefully soon to be competant rider I have a fantasy of heading out of the house in the summer as soon as the boys are up and riding bikes up and down the Mount Vernon Trail just me and the kids.  Of course that would mean that I too would need a bike, and some some sort of bike rack on the van since ours is on Chris's truck.  In my dream life I have this bike that holds two littles on the back or the bigger version that can hold even more kids.   I feel like bike riding would be the perfect solution my current problem of never getting to excercise because I have too many children to be able to afford a gym membership and childcare.  I guess that wouldn't be a problem if I was a runner but, I'm not.  I do do a lot of going up and down stairs and dead lifting heavy things/children so at least there's that.

In other news, our little lady has almost mastered the art of unassisted sitting.  That fading bruise on her forhead is evidence of the almost factor.  She has mastered glasses grabbing and really wet kisses though.  And also being absurdly cute.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Forests Are For Exploring

I don't know about you, but when we're having a bad day, or week as the case may be, the best remedy for us is to just get outside. Luckily we have no end of new places to explore here.   We pack a lunch, explore the trails (and sometimes the footpaths which is how we ended up at this particular creek and is also what I get for letting the six year old lead the way through the underbrush), build a fairy house if we find a place that's just begging for a fairy house and even pick up a nature treasure or two.  What we don't do is bicker and poke and fight and all around intentionally irritate our brothers.  Somehow being out in nature takes the fun out of all of that.  Who cares about how many times you can touch your brother before he loses his mind when there are rocks to throw and dams to build in the creek?  Or in John's case, trees to hug?

In other related thoughts, can anyone identify our nature treasure?  I told the boys my best guess was some sort of chrysalis but my internet searching to confirm this has been in vain.

Nature study.  It goes so much more smoothly when you actually know what the nature is.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Fairy Houses

David loves fairies.  Books about fairies, pictures of fairies, but mostly he loves fairy houses.  When left alone his fairy houses are mostly piles of bricks and rocks and he's always asking me to make something a little more fancy with him.  I usually decline, not because I don't also love fairy houses, but because his ideas tend to get the better of him and then he turns grumpy when I can't/won't make them come to life.

"No David, we can't turn the cooler into a giant fairy mansion."

"No David, I can't make that six story fairy log castle you saw on Pinterest that probably took a thousand dollars and two years to complete."

Well, he's been asking for such a long time and he did sit in front of the azalea bushes for twenty minutes straight trying to catch an azalea fairy and we have dabbled in fairy houses successfully before so I thought now might be the time to give it another go.  After all, what's more fun than trying to wield a hot glue gun while not letting your toddler burn himself and unsuccessfully calming your baby by giving her random things you find on the patio to chew on?

It's kind of amazing, right?

We used an old log that Chris and the boys had been chopping with an axe and that I wouldn't let them throw on the fire because I knew it would be perfect for this kind of thing.  I gave it a shell roof patio and David scavenged the yard to find bark pieces for the doors and sticks for the supports/decorative elements.  He also found a random wind chime that previous renters must have left behind that would clearly help entice fairies into their new abode.

What's that?  You wanted a close up of the button bistro set?  It's my favorite part and also the most likely to meet an untimely end.

The whole project went much better than I expected.  Even Henry got into the action and didn't once scream "I don't believe in fairies" to force David to clap furiously in order to save whichever fairy might have just fallen down dead.

All afternoon David kept thanking me for making fairy houses with him.  It was really sweet.  Of course he's also now got a list of all the other fairy houses we need to make in order to complete his fairy village.

That boy.  He's got big ideas.

Now if someone could just give me a preemptive intervention before I hop on over to Etsy to find specially made fairy garden materials that would be great.......

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A War Guys Party

When I asked Henry what kind of birthday he wanted this year, he promptly replied "a war guys party."  Of course you do.  The boys affectionately call their army men "war guys" so an army man party it was.

We kept it small and just invited four other families.  Of course when you run in Catholic circles such as ours four families equals seventeen kids so the party wasn't what you'd call cozy, or manageable, or calm......

I was pretty excited that I found these gummy army men for the cake but Henry almost cried when he saw them.  Maybe my take on his sprinkle cake wasn't sprinkly enough for him?   Or maybe he just hates gummy army men?

It's the children's gratitude that makes these parties so worthwhile. 

Well, there's still the internet.  You appreciate my efforts, right?

I wasn't sure what to do exactly for a war guys party but I found an idea for a capture the flag type game on a woman's blog who is clearly much better at throwing amazing vintage war parties than I am.  I scaled it way down and made two teams--the good guys and the bad guys.  The bad guys had captured twenty-five army men and were holding them hostage in their fort.  It was the good guys job to rescue them and the bad guys job to stop them at all costs.  Each team was provided with marshmallows dipped in flour to use as weapons and then the chaos began.

If you were wounded in battle you had to report to the medic who promptly bandaged you up and sent you back out into the fray.

The whole thing devolved pretty quickly into a giant marshmallow fight but I think the kids had fun anyway.  And also ate a few really questionable marshmallows.

The only other thing Henry specifically requested was a giant homemade blue pinata, you know, no big deal.

It was filled with lolly pops and army men....which was also a disappointment to the birthday boy.  Apparently my candy to toy ratio was way off.  In my defense this was a nut free birthday so my candy options were more limited than usual.

He got over it.

All in all it was a pretty successful and very tiring party.  And also I can't believe this little man is already five.

Friday, May 1, 2015

On Drawing Lessons and Determination

Fridays are for drawing lessons, although in reality they haven't happened in a while.  They're in that category of non-essentials that tend to get bumped when the homeschooling days get crazy.  David has been asking for them again though and since it's pretty much the only type of lesson he's ever actually requested I grabbed a how-to-draw-dinosaurs book from the library this week and made it a point to schedule it in.  Well, since it's always been scheduled in I suppose it would be more correct to say that we just actually followed our schedule but let's not quibble over semantics.  

We've been working on the idea that everything we draw is just made of different types of shapes or lines--a curved line here, a straight line there, a circle for a head, etc--a la Drawing With Children so this book fit right in.  David was especially proud of his dinosaur and proclaimed that it was the best one because it was "more creative" than the one in the book.  Of course if "most creative interpretation" is the the determining factor of whose picture is best I think Henry wins hands down, or spikes up as the case may be.

Now, David is of the temperament that wants to do things exactly right the first time and if he can't he doesn't want to bother trying at all.  I can't imagine where he gets that from.  I have talked with him again and again about the need for practice to get good at anything and the lectures never seemed to be doing any good but apparently the lesson has been sinking in after all.  In the past I couldn't give my best effort in this particular area because he always seemed to see my drawings as a direct insult to his.  I think we may have turned a corner now and my (fairly mediocre, but definitely better than your average six year old) ability is more of an incentive to keep working than a signal to not even bother.  I guess it's just one more reminder to take the long view of education, and parenting in general.   Children probably aren't going to change drastically as the result of one lecture, however eloquent it may be--and if it's one thing I do well it's an eloquent lecture--you'll just have to take my word for it since generally no one is listening.  But all the little lessons and reminders and moments do add up and one day you look up and realize that it's been working, and they're getting it.  There's hope after all.

Now if I could just get him to apply his new-found ability to persevere to his handwriting practice I might really have something to celebrate....
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