Friday, February 25, 2011

Thoughts on "Serving Two Masters"

It's that time of year again--gray weather and cold temperatures keep us indoors and the walls of our home start to feel a little suffocating.  Enthusiasm for everything falters, leading one to spend serious effort on pondering and contemplation of the direction their life is heading.  All in all, it creates a bump in the road, but the course thereafter is better adjusted, so the delay is very productive.

I've been dealt a couple of "blows" in the past few months that have turned out to be such great blessings in disguise.

First, Michael's car broke down, never to be revived.  It could have been avoided, so there was a lesson learned in the immediate situation; but the resulting consequence was that we have become a one-car family.  At first, it was such a burden!  Michael still needed to get to work, so he took the van.  I was "stuck" at home, literally.  The first month of "confinement" was stifling!  However, now that we've been a one-car family for a few months now, I am so thankful that we have gone through this challenge.  I've learned to enjoy being at home and not look for a "quick out" when things become boring or hectic.  Our fast food consumption has diminished significantly because I can't just load up the kids and go through the drive-thru when I don't want to cook.  I've learned how to pare down my outside of the house "to-do" list to a minimum.  I have been forced to work "with" my children through difficulties instead of changing our focus and going and doing "something fun" to diffuse the tension and ultimately ignore the problems.  I am more family-focused now as a result of actually staying home.

Generally, when  people hear that we're a one-car family, their first concern is that of safety.  I've decided that it's a moot point.  If something truly life-threatening were to happen, I'd still call an ambulance whether I had a car or not.  Everything else can generally be treated with peroxide and a band-aid.  If we have doctor's appointments or the like, then we either drive Michael to work in the morning or he carpools with a co-worker so we can have the car.  No big deal.  When summer comes around, he'll carpool more so we can drive into the mountains for our weekly nature hikes and drive to whatever field trips we may want to do while the weather is nice.

The second blow hardly even counts as a "blow" per se:  We've been sick the past few weeks, making everything in this house come to a grinding halt.  It happens to everyone, but I make a point of using illness as a time for deep contemplation.  We happened to catch a marvelous cold this time around; it took a week to really develop into its full-blown state, then hung around for a miserable week, and now we're on the tail-end of the recovery week.  This has afforded me three entire weeks to think.  I'm grateful for the experience.

The resulting summary of my three week pondering session:  I'm serving too many masters.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other."
(Matthew 6:24, but I actually came across it during my scripture study of 3 Nephi 13.)

In my personal and family life, I'm torn between serving God and my family (which count as the same thing, in my opinion), and serving myself.

In homeschooling, I'm torn between two different educational philosophies:  the Classical model and the Thomas Jefferson Education model.

Upon further contemplation of the principle of serving two masters, I've realized that almost always the servant will deviate towards serving the "easier" master.  That's an eye-opening realization for me because I don't want my family or myself to take the easier path; the easier path never yields as much satisfaction or as many meaningful rewards as the more challenging path.

Looking at my "masters," the two easier overseers are: serving myself and following the Thomas Jefferson Education model in our homeschool.  The more challenging options are: serving God and my family, and following the Classical model of education.  I would so much rather reach the end of my life and look back on a life filled with laboring for the "right" things, rather than a life devoted to finding the easy way out and focusing on non-consequential activities.

And while I would like to sit and write more on these thoughts, my family calls for me.  Hopefully I can elaborate soon in the future.

This post is linked to Raising Homemakers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Learning to Weave

I have eagerly anticipated the commencement of studying the Greeks.  Partly due to the fact that the Greeks are kind of awesome and partly due to the suggestion in our history curriculum to learn how to weave as an enrichment activity.

I ordered a Harrisville Easy Weaver B (18" wide), which comes pre-warped, for the girls and me to learn the craft upon.

I've done most of the weaving, but Bluebird will put in a few rows here and there, and Penguin likes to watch and give the shuttle its last little push to get it through the shed.

If I could do it all over again, I would have ordered the smaller size (10" wide).  I think the large width of our loom is slightly intimidating to the girls.

Bluebird has done her share of Loopy Loom potholders, so she already knew the technicalities of weaving.  I think, after we finish up this pre-warped project, I'll let her choose the colors and size of the next project and see how that goes.

Weaving is a lot quicker than knitting, and she's always worried about how looooong it takes to complete things.  Weaving may be the perfect sort of hobby for her.

Friday, February 18, 2011

"The Wedding Shawl": A new Brooketopian drama series
Part One: Picking the Pattern

So, my brother got engaged to his girlfriend, Carly.

And I was very happy for the two of them.

But a little sad.

Because I am a bit selfish and wished I could help with the wedding, but I can't because I don't live in New Zealand or Canada.  (Boo.)

So I had the brilliant idea of how to weasle my way into the wedding...I would knit.

See, Carly's planning on wearing a strapless dress, and the knitter in me automatically screamed, "Cold shoulders!"  True, it will be summer, but summer evenings can get a little chilly.  Sometimes.

So I talked to Carly and pathetically grovelled for the honor set forth my intention to knit a shawl for her wedding day.  (I stifled the urge to skip about the room when she enthusiastically accepted my offer.)

I spent a few hours looking up shawl after shawl, and compiled a list of eight different patterns that I thought she'd maybe like:
  1. Swallowtail:
  2. Luna Moth Shawl:
  3. Birch:
  4. Echo Flower Shawl:
  5. Queen Silvia Shawl:
  6. Summer Shawl: (detail shots) (shape) 
  7. Forest Path Stole:
  8. Myrtle Leaf Shawl:
Then I emailed another two choices a day or two later because they were too pretty to leave off of the list:
  1. Purity
  2. Citron:
Carly narrowed it down to two designs (Purity and Forest Path Stole), but was having trouble deciding on which one to go with.  Being the inpatient knitter that I can be, I gave her 37 hours to make up her mind.  (Yeah, I really did!  But only after she told me that she was terribly indecisive and needed a "cutt-throat" deadline.)

Thirty seven hours passed...and no email from Carly.

I posted a mocking Facebook status update: "Dost my eyes deceive me? No lace decision? Oh, now I'm sad."  (Reading that now makes me think I should have used "mine" instead of "my.")
She replied, two hours later, with: "I"M SORRY!!!!!! (If you are talking about me lol) Decision being made NOW!"

I had an email within that hour to tell me that her choice was something completely different from what she had previously narrowed her choices down to.  I laughed out loud.

Michael asked why I was laughing and I told him that Carly chose a pattern that wasn't one of the two she was previously considering.  Michael laughed too.

The pattern that Carly ended up choosing, drum roll the Echo Flowers Shawl!

Tune in next week for Part Two: "The Yarn" of the Brooketopian drama "The Wedding Shawl."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Junebug!

As Michael says, "It's hard to believe that's she's three...she's been wearing 3T clothes for so long now that I find it hard to believe she hasn't been three all along."

That about sums it up.  She talks very well for her age, has very pronounced opinions and has been acting like a three year old for some time now.

Her birthday fell on Sunday, so we had her birthday celebration the day before on Saturday.  She received some Thomas the Train toys and Thomas the Train pajamas (which she has worn every night since, and carries around the house all day long...I'm going to just have to break her heart and wrestle them from her soon in order to wash them.)

Dad took her and Penguin to see "Tangled" at the movie theatre while I stayed home with Monkeyboy and Bluebird.  (Bluebird is afraid of movie theatres.)  They had lunch at McDonald's and had to leave the movie early because the movie was too scary for the girls.  (Did you know that a movie theatre will issue you "rainchecks" if you have to leave a movie early?  Handy bit of info!)

We then had her favorite dinner--meat, salad and macaroni & cheese.  She picked out ice cream cupcakes for her birthday cake and we had a lovely time figuring out how to eat them.

Sorry 'bout the pink bib, Monkeyboy...but that's what you get
when you're the first boy after three sisters!
My sweet & sour little girl.  She's the spitting image of my granny, who also happens to be her namesake.  (Kinda weird how that one turned out...)  She gets frustrated with her older sisters and has learned how to tell on them in a calm manner, which I appreciate.  She still loves Anansi the Spider and has an adoring interest in gingerbread men.  She's a cheerleader for her sisters' accomplishments and is quite confident in her own awesomeness.  Her other nickname is "Pot-Bellied Fire-Breathing Dragon," but she has lost her little toddler tummy, so I guess she's just our little dragon now.  I'm curious as to how that personality streak will play out as she matures.

Some of my favorite photos from the past year:
Oh, Junebug!
Sisters at the Park

Love you Junebug.  Hopefully this next year is as spirited as the last ones have been.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Family Fundraising

As I'm sure you can imagine, raising four children on one income can be challenging.  We've been making do with cramming all six of us into the top floor of our house and made plans to finish our basement this summer in order to alleviate the "sardine can" feeling of our home.

However, my brother announced that he will be getting married this year.  Transporting six people to the wedding's location will be a considerable strain on our finances, and the money set aside for finishing the basement will be our main source of funding for the trip.  We believe that family relationships are more important than having nicer things, so it's not too big a deal or sacrifice to use this money for the opportunity to be present at my brother's wedding.

But we still have six people living in half a house.  We've moved Bluebird and Penguin into the unfinished bedroom and they don't seem to mind that their walls are made of studs and insulation covered with plastic.  We are "making do" just fine.

At dinner tonight, our family started brainstorming ideas for raising funds so that we can both travel to the wedding AND finish our basement this year.  Here's what we came up with:

  • sew little pillows and sell them
  • lemonade stand
  • take orders for homemade rolls and deliver them to neighbors in the evening
  • craft for commission/open an ETSY site
  • tutoring
  • sell starter plants
  • install rock garden walls
I think we've got some pretty good ideas!

I'm interested in picking your brains as well...what ideas do you have for Family Fundraisers?  I'd love it if you'd consider sharing your ideas in the comments section!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weekly Report: February 7-11, 2011:
Greeks and Goo

We have started studying the Greeks this week, which I'm totally excited about, and we finally did the one science lesson that Bluebird and Penguin have been eagerly awaiting ever since they stole my teacher's manual and read ahead to see what we'd be doing with this curriculum.

Math:  Oh, Bluebird had a lesson that had her sisters hanging on the edge of their seats.  She had to learn to divide equally and the manipulative for the lesson was conversation hearts!  They'd all been eyeing that bag of candy up on top of the fridge since last week when I brought it home from the grocery store, and then one morning I brought it to the table.  Immediate awed silence followed as I calmly began collecting the materials for school that day.  Unable to stand it any longer, Penguin asked "Why did you get the hearts down?" and I told her it was for Bluebird's math lesson.  Penguin and Junebug put on their saddest faces, but before they could start squeezing out tears I informed them that Bluebird's math lesson was about sharing with others and they perked right up.

Language ArtsMoment of Triumph:  Penguin read her first book all by herself!  She is doing so well with her phonics!  She will now get her own astronaut for our "Space Race" and she looks forward to earning her "100 Books" prize...which she still hasn't decided as to what it will be.  She now "reads" to her younger sister and brother any chance she can get:

Bluebird is coming along with her subjects.  She had a lot of homework this week because she dawdles so much and grumbles about her work.  After two days of homework she got the idea in her head to do her work and has seen much less homework as a result.

History & Literature:  As previously mentioned, we started learning about the Greeks this week.  (Actually, the Early Greeks.)  We read about the Mycenaeans and the Minoans and the Greek Dark Ages.  Bluebird made a LEGO labyrinth with an evil LEGO monkey posing as the Minotaur in its center.  Unfortunately, Monkeyboy got his hands on it before I could get the camera out and it was nothing but a pile of building blocks by then time I returned.

We stealthily read through D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths this week and we're almost done with it.  We actually only had one session of history this week; I blocked off the other sessions for more reading time.  My throat is beginning to hurt now, I've read a whole lotta myths out loud this week.
It's getting pretty cool now--we've been learning about so much and hearing new names of people, and with reading the Greek Myths we're starting to see stuff "come together."  It's been really awesome to be reading a myth to Bluebird and have her eyes light up when she recognizes a name from previous history lessons and add what she knows already about that person to what we're reading about right then.  This is why I wanted to focus on the Greek Myths--I think they're important stories and the characters in them show up in so many other works and I wanted Bluebird to have that literary foundation. 

I also have children's adaptations of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and I'm thinking about taking some time off from history in order to work our way through those as well.  I want her to be familiar with these stories!  I love it that she's being exposed to them at such an early age!  Homeschooling rocks!

Science:  OK, OK...there's going to be a lot of pictures to go with this because they crack me up.  We studied polymers this week and our experiment was making goo out of white glue and liquid laundry starch.  I announced, right after breakfast, that we would be making goo once they were finished with their chores and they all ran, screaming excitedly, into their bedroom to get dressed and finished the rest of their chores in less than ten minutes.  (I knew they could do them faster all along!)  I've never seen such enthusiasm over a science experiment.

Art:  We learned about Still Life pictures and tried to draw a vase of "flowers" that Bluebird gave me a while back:

A good week.  I'd write more, but the computer room is freezing and I just wanna get out of here!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just Some Pictures from the Past Few Weeks

Quesnel's favorite time of the week is when I bring home groceries.

Sweet little Monkeyboy loves apples!

We said that they had Rudolph noses.

We apologized and said they had Ladybug noses.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Creepy Little Gingerbread Man

We're experiencing a bit of the Winter Doldrums around here.  In an attempt to buck the gloominess of one particularly gray day, I spent naptime sewing up a little stuffie friend for Junebug.

Pattern:  Gingerman, designed by Cathy Gaubert, found in Fa La La La Felt by Amanda Carestio

Materials:  Eco-Felt, Embroidery Floss

We didn't get to do a lot of Christmas crafting around here this past holiday season, so I think we're making up for it by crafting in January and February and making big plans for this next Christmas.

I originally started this project with the intent of it becoming a little decoration for our home, but Bluebird and Penguin both exclaimed that Junebug would love it, so I figured..."Hey, why not?"  (Her blog codename really should be "Gingerbread Girl," as she loves anything with a gingerbread person on it.)

When she woke up from her nap I presented her with the doll and the two has been inseparable ever since.  Another crafting success.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Christmas Tree Ornament:
Little Baby Redbird

I made the decision that I'm going to be a little more invested in having a crafty Christmas in 2011.  One of the Christmas Crafting decisions I made was to create a Christmas tree ornament each month.  I've marked off the 25th of each month as the starting point, and I don't work on anything else until the ornament is finished.

I joined a group on Ravelry called "Christmas Ornament Knit-Along 2011," and they have pre-selected, FREE patterns for each month.  January's knitting pattern was Bluebird, but I wanted my ornament to be red because it seemed more wintery: