Thursday, July 21, 2016

On Having and Reading Little Men

"Yes, I know many people think boys are a nuisance, but that is because they don't understand them.  I do; and I never saw the boy yet whom I could not get on capitally with after I had once found the soft spot in his heart.  Bless me, I couldn't get on at all without my flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little lads, could I, my Teddy?" and Mrs. Bhaer hugged the young rogue, just in time to save the big inkstand from going into his pocket.
Nat, who had never heard anything like this before, really did not know whether Mother Bhaer was a trifle crazy, or the most delightful woman he had ever met.

At a recent trip to the used bookstore I picked up a copy of Little Men, by Louisa M. Alcott.  When I brought it home I realized that I already had a (sadly unread) paperback copy on my shelf which then led to a purging of my bookshelves of doubles and other books that probably weren't worth reading again as well as promises to myself to do a better job at actually reading the books that I already own, but all of that is neither here nor there.

The important thing is that I am so glad I finally sat down and read this book.

I'm going to go ahead and say that Little Men should probably be required reading for any mother who finds herself entrusted with her own "flock of dear, noisy, naughty, harum-scarum little lads" but especially if she's also attempting to homeschool them.  When I read Little Women as a girl I obviously wanted to be Jo, but now reading this follow up book about the school she founded, grown up me desperately wants to be grown up Mrs. Jo.

Since I finished reading it I've found myself asking, WWMBD (What would Mrs. Bhaer Do?) daily.

When David wanted to set up a popsicle stand in the front yard on a random weekday, WWMBD? Well, obviously she would encourage him and his entrepreneurial endeavors.  When I find myself about to scream at my unruly brood, WWMBD? Um, probably she would not scream--that was never actually addressed in the book but I'm going to go out on a limb and say no, Mrs. Jo is not a screamer.  Should I spend a(nother) *quick* five minutes (hahahaha) checking in on social media instead of engaging with my little ones?  WWMBD?  Also not explicitly addressed, but again I'm thinking no.  

"It takes so little to make a child happy, that it is a pity in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands or lonely little hearts."

I am so glad I listened to my inner Jo and let David run his overpriced popsicle stand.  He was able to earn the twenty dollars he was shooting for so he could finally buy the lego train set he's been begging for since he found out there was such a thing as lego train sets and he's so proud of himself.  It was also adorable to watch him take his scissors and cut the tops off of the popsicles for his customers.  Incidentally, Henry wanted to earn money too, but instead of selling anything he asked me if I would take the label off of the mail box he had made earlier that day and replace it with one that read "Poor Box."  Um, no.  It would have been interesting to see the differences in earnings between the two of them had I let David slave away selling popscicles in the sweltering heat while Henry lounged in the grass beside him with his poor box looking for donations but in the end I thought not.  In our neighborhood Henry might have actually come out ahead and that's not exactly the lesson I was attempting to impart.    
In short, if you're looking for a little mothering or homeschooling inspiration I would definitely read Little Men--also, my own little men have very different temperaments :)

Have you already read Little Men?  What did you think?

"I am not so ambitious as that, father.  I only want to give these children a home in which they can be taught the few simple things which will help to make life less hard to them when they go out to fight their battles in the world. Honesty, courage, industry, faith in God, their fellow-creatures, and themselves; that is all I try for."

Saturday, July 9, 2016

A Trip to Our Favorite Spot

With the foot injuries and car repairs we've been dealing with, my poor children have gone just about nowhere for the past two weeks.  When the van's in the shop we're pretty much limited to things within walking distance since I can neither drive Chris's vehicle nor can I fit all the children inside it--that is if I remember to get the stroller out of the van.  Which I didn't.  

By the end of week two of housebound status, Henry was begging to please go to the beaver park once we got our car back.

Wish granted.

He even got John dressed in an outfit matching his own in honor of the occasion.  The beavers at this nature preserve are allowed to completely run amok which is pretty amazing.  You can see in that first picture where they've taken over that bench with their epic construction skills.  The beavers are nocturnal so we've never actually seen one in action before but this time Henry spotted one sitting just off the path in a little pocket he carved out of the crazy summer growth.  I took several very unsuccessful pictures of the beast in which I was able to capture a bit of his fur and that's about it.  I really wanted to pet it to see what his fur actually felt like since it looked like it might be pretty prickly but on the whole I decided against it.  Wild beavers are probably not as friendly as Narnian beavers.  Although I suppose Narnian beavers wouldn't appreciate being petted by strangers either.

The best part of the trip though was watching Henry ask Margaret if she wanted to hold his hand as they walked on ahead of us.  He was really concerned that she not jump into the marsh.  As were we all.

We ended up the morning by swinging by the pet store so that David could buy a fish bowl, food and water drops for his newest acquisition, a pair of marsh fish that he and his daddy netted.  He's got big dreams of breeding them Henry Huggins style and then selling them for a profit.  I'm supportive, especially since he's financing this endeavor with his own money.  I'm not sure what the local market is for minnows though, maybe as bait?  I guess we'll see......


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Weekend Well Spent


While our Fourth of July celebrations may have been less than impressive, our weekend was not a total disaster.

A week or so ago Chris started making me a raised bed so we could have a bit of a kitchen garden in the back yard, but then he ran out of free wood and stopped.  Later, when he and the boys went scavenging for more supplies, well, long story short, David ended up in the emergency room with an old rusty screw in his foot, which obviously put a damper on any near-future wood gathering excursions.    Being the resourceful housewife that I am, I solved this problem while daddy was at work, dragging the children out on a Craigslist adventure in which we picked up a van load of free wood from someone's deck replacement project.  Chris was very surprised when he got home and so excited to get back to work on my garden over the long weekend, I'm sure.

We put the garden in the only sunny patch we have in our back yard, known affectionately as "the weed patch."  Chris leveled the whole area and dug out all of the random plants that were growing there, as well as the ever present grass weeds that kept popping up no matter how often I attempted to pull them out.  A proper blogger would have given you before pictures but all I have is the after--just imagine a smallish bush/tree, a scraggly rose bush minus the roses, and a whole lot of ground cover with a smattering of weeds and vines throughout--one of which had thorns sharp enough to pierce leather gloves--which I discovered the hard way.   There were also some pretty blue wildflowers that we learned were dayflowers.  The boys had been checking them daily since we read that they only bloom for one day and then the flower dies, which is apparently very exciting.  The kids were upset that we had to dig them out so I tried transplanting them nearby and I think they'll probably make it, seeing that, besides being interesting, they're also a fairly hardy weed.

Anyway, in the garden we put in a tomato plant, a zucchini plant, and a pepper plant and then the other third of the bed was planted with carrot seeds because Henry desperately wants to grow carrots.  We didn't have much luck with them on our last attempt, but we also didn't have such an amazing, deep garden for them to grow in, so perhaps this is our year.  

After he finished the bed for me, Chris was on a very manly sawing roll so he went ahead and cut the wood for a flower press template I've been working on for our homeschool co-op this year out of a sheet of plywood we had in the basement.  And then after all that, my darling husband went to work "mowing" the yard with our weed wacker--which is what you do when the free lawn mower you just inherited won't start and you send it to the lawnmower repair man who informs you they're running about six weeks behind.  Great.

Here's to productive weekends, and (hopefully) gardens......and a quicker turnaround on that lawnmower repair......

Monday, July 4, 2016

On a Rainy Fourth of July

We had a vague plan that maybe this year would be the year,  the year we finally let the kids stay up late and take them out to see some real Fourth of July fireworks--which would probably be a sight worth seeing in DC.  Then we checked the weather and realized that there was no way our vague plan was going to become a reality.  Sorry kids.  It's nothing but sparkling ground fireworks for you this year.  Again.

We have pretty much no family traditions for this holiday, which I know we should rectify.  Next year.  Maybe a bbq with some sort of flag based dessert and a rowdy reading of the Declaration of Independence?   Maybe even with actual fireworks?  This year we settled for setting off our own fireworks before the rain started and playing games with dad the rest of the day.

The kids loved the fireworks even if they weren't real fireworks.  Well the boys loved them and Margaret was simultaneously crying in abject terror and laughing with delight while they were going off all while pointing and yelling "firewors! firewors!"  I think she's still a little confused about all of her various feelings.  The photo of her laugh/crying might be my favorite moment that I've managed to capture with my camera ever.  And apparently in addition to the fireworks Chris actually bought, he briefly considered sparkler swords which sound like a lot of fun and also the beginning of yet another story that ends with us at the emergency room.  I'm glad he passed on those and decided to stick with only a mildly alarming and mostly immobile display.

I did get ingredients to make a fried chicken feast today which would definitely up the celebratory feel of the day, but since it's four o'clock and I haven't started that yet I'm thinking it's more of a BLT kind of night.  Hey, there's always next year.

How did your celebrations go?  Hopefully more festive?  Tell me someone took their kids to a good old fashioned parade with children riding bikes tied with red, white, and blue streamers and everything :)

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