This is our 'shoe spot'. We used to have a big pile of shoes, then a box of shoes. It was jumbled and confusing and we had wet grass bits everywhere. I had been complaining about it here and there, straightening it as best I could, wondering aloud how much a shoes rack would cost or how hard it might be to make one.
So on Thanksgiving, my sweet husband went out to the garage and built me one. I thought he was just cutting and sanding boards to lay across bricks, so e and I found and washed six bricks. E went out to help daddy, and they came back (looking mighty proud) with this!
I love the cleared floor space and ease of locating both shoes in a pair. I love looking at this space, amid the chaos of my other current projects. Simple as it is, it calms me. Even the six bricks that have yet to go back outside look almost as if they belong.
Now back to the other projects....
I call this a typical day, but really there is no typical. Ever. So perhaps I should say this was our Monday.
E discovered duct tape as a new art medium and looked up tutorials for ideas. My quilting supplies were re-purposed.
I finished E's Santa hat, so now they can be 'dudes'. Minecraft did a major update, so building roller coasters was the screen time for the day.
Lots of time outside- it has been so nice. Our plasma cars, Ketchup and Mustard, get much use.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts
All await the birth, from the greatest to the least.
This week we are loving on the birds a bit! Strands of cranberries, and tomorrow a pinecone bird feeder.
I don't know how this fits in- glue dipped yarn wrapped around balloons. They have yet to pop the balloons.
Finished bow tie!
I let e unravel my hat so I could re-use the yarn that a dear friend gave me. Here the new hat is almost finished! Nothing fancy, but it suits me. Also in the pic are the clove oranges we made before breakfast and a few duct tape creations. Bead necklaces strung during quiet time, the tape measure from hanging pictures the day before. This table tells all!
We made Christmas cards out of the nifty folding snowflakes created at a dear friend's house last year.
And I started spinning! I have so much to learn. :) I'm also finishing up e's math squirrels for her math block in January. Pictures to come...they are adorable!
Ever since the day I walked into one of my fourth grade classrooms during my first year of teaching and saw giant, 3D snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, I have wanted to make them for myself. They were so big and beautiful, gently turning above each set of desks. So now, 13 whole years later, I finally did! And they are beautiful.
Grandma sent us some greenery fresh from her yard in Oregon! Pine, scotch broom, Oregon grape, juniper. A little bit of home. Thanks, Grandma!
E is rocking this meet thing. He is strong and confident and in. his. element.
At one point near the end, one of the other mothers told me my E had the top all-around score so far for level 5 of our gym! He ended up with two third place medals. He looked totally stunned. :)
It's all him. He lives for gymnastics. When I was a kid, I was in all sorts of different activities. The ones I loved most, dance and gymnastics, I wasn't that good at. I am grateful beyond words that E has found not only what he loves, but where he excels.
e is still looking for her thing. She enjoys gymnastics, but not like her brother. She liked martial arts, horseback riding, swimming, and ice skating. She rocked piano, but needs a group activity. We've talked her into trying out for a children's chorus in January, and in preparing for the audition, we have realized just how strong her ear is. She loves to sing. Maybe, just maybe, this will be her thing.
This month we are taking a break. It's all craftiness and baking and enjoying the not-winter weather.
We made gingerbread men. We tried pomegranites. Yum!
I knit e a Santa hat without a pattern. It didn't measure up to her expectations at first, but now she won't take it off! It's more of an elf hat, especially without the pompom. I look forward to making many more. E has already put in his request.
e has many secret crafts going on in her room. Apparently Mama Bunny and Buttercup the horse are supervising.
Borax crystal snowflakes, oh my... very pretty!
E and I are reading Kringle together. e decided to opt out after the first chapter, feeling like it might be too scary.
Today begins the Advent week of plants. Grandma is sending some Oregon greenery, and I have many plant crafts up my sleeve. Today it rained and blew, so tomorrow there will be many damp leaves to admire.
I found a space for Mary's path! Each day the children remove a stone and move Mary and Joseph forward. By next Advent I hope to have made a felt star path for her to follow. Maybe as a table runner.
I am behind in my posting. It has been a busy weekend! Yesterday E had his second meet. He placed third in floor and vault, and 6th all-around for level 5 ages 9 AND 10. This boy of mine was made for gymnastics!
But let me back up. On Thursday we attended a Navy Fleet Band Christmas concert. The Navy does things differently than the Army, and my children were quick to pick up on the differences. For instance, no National Anthem. No Christmas in Sarajevo. No commentator with a deep voice (where does the Army find all those baritone men?). No medley of service songs where you stand up when you hear your song (my kids enjoy that most of all- standing up to sing 'and the Army goes rolling along') and clap for all the people in the other branches. And no sing-along at the end. The concert ended with a long, slow, dramatic piece that was not familiar that almost every child in the audience found impossible to sit through. No Stars and Stripes or rousing rendition of Rudolph. Sigh. It's hard to please a musician or his family, lol. It was lovely to be out after dark as a family, and to have C sitting with us rather than on stage. The percussionists were fun to watch, Santa showed up, and there was a mini-parade of brass.
Before the concert, we helped dear old St. Nicholas fill a few shoes. I was worried that it would ruin the magic for e, but on the contrary! She was curious who might have filled hers, since we filled someone else's. :) The kids were excited to sneak up to a friend's front stoop in the dark, and it only got better when we saw the shoes J and S had left out- clog slippers! They knew their friends would love the goodies and wondered over how I'd known what to put on their year's accomplishments scroll. Advent magic!
When the children woke up, they found that the horse had been quite messy with the hay. In fact e came to the conclusion that the horse ate the plate instead of hay and carrot! I love how she thinks. Imagine her reaction when in her shoe sat the same treats she had put into her friends'. Was it that I had filled her shoe? Nope. It was simply amazement and joy. I love this girl.
In their shoes, e and E found scrolls listing some of their year's achievements, nuts, apples, chocolate coins, and clementines. Even E, who steadfastly refuses to enjoy the magic, smiles when he reads his scroll.
I finished two projects in the past week!
I finished removing the wallpaper gunk from a section of the kitchen and painted the wall orange. Orange! I love it. It is so warm and inviting. Inspired, C installed GFCI outlets to complete that section's transformation. One wall down, one to go. At least in the kitchen! I still have the dining room and Guinea's room covered in old wallpaper, and the bathroom. Bit by bit, it will all get done. Right now I just can't stop admiring this orange wall!
My second project was mixing essential oils with coconut oil for easy-use salves. I heated coconut oil just to melting (76 degrees), poured it into cups, and added the essential oils. This picture was taken before the coconut oil hardened again. I'm new to essential oils, but in the past two months I have seen amazing things! Lavender oil stopped my nerve pain from shingles when even IBprofen wouldn't touch it. Peppermint and eucalyptus have kept asthma and coughs at bay for both E and I. I'm so thankful for a natural alternative, and can't wait to try our new salves!
And November is gone! Tonight my children will set out their shoes with hay and carrots for St. Nicholas and his white horse. In the morning, I'm sure they will find the hay scattered (the horse is usually a bit messy), nuts, a clementine, chocolate coins, and a scroll listing some of this year's achievements. Last year a wonderful friend sent us a sweet book about Santa and St. Nicholas- I'm off to open the Christmas box now so we can read it tonight! I am loving this gentle slide into the Christmas season, as opposed to the sudden leap of other years. Blessings.
First light of Advent is the light of stones.
The light that shines in seashells, in crystals, and our bones.
The second light of Advent is the light of plants.
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance.
The third light of Advent is the light of beasts.
All await the birth, from the greatest and the least.
The fourth light of Advent is the light of humankind.
The light of hope that we may learn to love and understand.
So far this week, we have turkey bones soaking in vinegar (to learn the importance of calcium!) and we've picked out the stones that will line Mary's path. I'm not sure where to lay her path, though. So for right now, we just admire the pretty stones and tell family stories about rock-hunting and my grandparents and how amazingly beautiful this Earth is.
I wish everyone a peaceful Advent, full of quiet reverence and preparation.
The Thanksgiving bouquet my mother-in-law sent us graces our table.
The heavy-duty fort serves as refuge and hideaway for artists, airplane engineers, and breakfast-eaters. It also muffles sound quite well.
Daily walks have once again become the norm. Sticks, leaves, squirrels, pinecones, rocks, acorns, clouds, sky....sometimes even frost.
Advent has brought some stillness to our table. Every day we light the candle, say the verse, and listen to the next Sparkle Advent story. Lovely.
Today I am thankful for my family. As I sit with G on the kitchen floor while C reads to the kiddos tonight, I'm thinking about the times life almost took a different path.
Like when my midwife couldn't find e's heartbeat at 40 weeks. When I couldn't feel her move. When I saw the complete knot in e's umbilical cord, but held a healthy baby in my arms. Like when the neurologist told E he wouldn't be here to do silly tests if he hadn't been wearing his bike helmet. Like when E reacted severely to DTaP.
And before that, all the little (and big) things that could have gone differently but instead came together perfectly for C and I to meet and marry. That was no small task.
Then there's G, and her 6 or 7 near-death experiences in the past few months.
There is a plan and a purpose for everyone, and for that I am grateful. But I am even more thankful that the plan includes holding my family close for another Thanksgiving.
It took us 3 months, but we finally completed the main lesson block about Native Americans. Whew! We read traditional stories, related housing and food to environment, and touched on some of the geography of the lower 48. This last part is worth mentioning:
For 3 years we lived in Alaska. I refused to put up a map that showed Alaska in a little box near California. We were near the top of the world in a state 1/3 the size of the continental US, and I wanted my children to know it. Everything about Alaska was extreme: the temperatures, the mosquitoes, the berries, the latitude, the dark in winter, the light in summer, the kindness of almost everyone we met. I could feel the earth tilt with the seasons up there. So I put up a satellite photo map of the world. My kids could see where we lived in relation to every other state and country, without the false colors and boundaries and funky sizing distortions of most maps.
Then a week ago I showed E a map of the lower 48. A drawing of the continental US with state boundaries marked. I had removed the boxes with Alaska and Hawaii, for reasons stated above...holy distortion, batman. I started pointing out the different geographical areas to E as if he already knew the basic layout of our country, because, well, I thought he did.
Unfortunately, not at all. He couldn't find a border he recognized in the whole map. Not even our home state of Oregon. Who can't find Oregon? It's the second box down on the west coast. He'd been pointing out Oregon and Virginia to e for years on our wall map...on our wall map. Oh, right. Our wall map of the world with no boundary lines or fake colors. Heh. Without realizing it, I had started with whole and was only now getting to specific parts. Of course he didn't recognize the US without Canada and Mexico and Alaska and the oceans.
So I showed him how it fit on North America, and he got it. Within a few minutes he could pick out a number of states he'd been to, plus others that we'd read about or had friends from. He knew the information in the larger context of a world map, but hadn't seen it in isolation. A gap caused by our lack of textbook use, people. Was it a problem? Maybe, maybe not. But either way it was easily and quickly fixed.
And then my boy took this unfamiliar shape and free-handed it as you see above. Drew it. No tracing. What do you think, mom? He's my son, right?
Then my girl took what I thought was a week's worth of writing and did it all at once.
Plus, she read it to me. Read. It. To. Me. It was a good day. :)
We went to the dr today thinking e was finished with casts. Not so. Here's why:
Here's her original x-ray. Her humorous is broken just above the elbow. Now I see why her arm had a dip in it- the long portion moved in and the short little bit flipped over and out.
So an orthopedic hand/elbow specialist put in 3 pins, re-located her elbow, and cast her arm. He then checked her again in 10 days- see the bone growth around the break below? Like a cocoon. She got x-rays and a new cast. He told us to come back in 3 weeks for the final cast removal.
Remember how I said he's a hand/elbow surgeon? Well, since she is a month past her surgery and only six years old, she was assigned to a pediatric ortho for the remainder of her care.
So today we saw the pediatric ortho. Getting the pins out was terrible...e was so frightened. For the first time ever in a drs office I had to hold her down. She screamed the. whole. time. Not that it really hurt, but it was downright terrifying.
They took the above x-ray with a low-radiation machine right in the cast room. The dr said it looked great, but e needed two more weeks of cast. Why? Because she's a kid. An adult would be in a part-time brace and start physical therapy, but a child...kids fall. Kids bump into things. Kids are rough and tumble. So children stay in a cast another two weeks to avoid re-injury, then they start using the arm. Rarely do they need therapy.
Bad news is no gymnastics until almost March. e is taking it all in stride; she has decided she might like to audition for a children's choir in January.
PS- in the cast room we met a girl who has brittle bone disease. She reassured e that the cast saw won't hurt, and that the pins only take a moment to get out. She was there having two casts removed and another put on, and yet she was so cheerful. On the way home, E told me that there are so many worse things than celiac. Indeed there are!
E has his first EVER gymnastics meet! It was perfect. We arrived early; Level 4 was still on the floor. e drew a lot of pictures. E sat on my knee and watched. Eventually his teammates arrived and he went with them to begin stretches.
The most exhilarating moment was when Level 4 awards were over and Levels 5-7 were told to begin their warm-up rotations. The out-breath of the younger group finishing was in stark contrast to the in-breath of the older, bigger, stronger children that rushed the floor. They were eager to begin. Where before there was empty space was now filled with running, flipping, twisting, swinging bodies. On the floor, rings, high bar, mushroom, pommel horse, vault, and parallel bars boys in slick uniforms ran through their routines. Amazing routines.
My E was not nearly as nervous as I thought he'd be. Three weeks ago he was a wreck. But today, cool and collected.
This is a mushroom, folks. Prep for pommel horse. So levels 5 and 6 do routines on both pommel horse and mushroom to make up their pommel score.
E did awesome. He finished in the top 6 in all apparatus plus all-around for his age and level at his first meet! A great start to the season. His coaches are pleased. I'm happy for him and proud of him. He has worked so very hard! But most of all I'm proud that his achievement comes out of his own motivation. We don't tell him to practice or do better. This is ALL HIM. He eats, breathes, and sleeps gymnastics. So as I watch him, I think how amazing this boy of mine is and pray that I can be more patient and loving in other areas I tell him to focus on...like chores and sitting calmly at the table! One child can't do it all, right?