Wednesday, May 30, 2012

End of the Year Report: 2011-2012 School Year

We made it!  Bluebird's 2nd grade and Penguin's Kindergarten years are officially over, and I'm giddy with relief over that reality.

I printed out last year's End of the Year Report and placed it in my homeschooling binder in order to remind myself of the things I wanted to change this year.  I'm glad I did because it helped me to focus when I started feeling like I didn't know what my next move should be.  Those things were:
  1. More activities.
  2. Not playing chauffeur for everyone.
  3. Doing something about my allergies, which were making me sick for at least twelve weeks out of the year.
  4. Not scheduling homeschooling to take place on trips/cutting back on travelling.
  5. Implementing an Errand Day.
  6. Spending less time on my hobbies.
I'm so glad I wrote those thoughts down at the end of last year so that I could consciously work on them throughout this year!  Here's how I tried to improve things around here:
  1. Activities--I bombed this completely.  We had a few memorable moments, but I struggled throughout the year to just get the basics done each day and then get the laundry, cleaning and meals done.  I also repeatedly ran into the problem of just not having the extra funds to purchase the supplies or admission rate of activities.  Between Michael not getting a raise in years, the cost of allergy serums, and the rising costs of everything else, my once-sufficient homeschooling budget has slowly been sucked away into other budgetting categories by our pesky insistence on eating food and not being naked.  It's a lame excuse because I see other homeschoolers making activities work for them on squeaky budgets; I assume I just need to suck it up and put more handmade effort into our lessons...you know, with all that free time I have lying around.
  2. Chauffering--Ironically enough, this was very simple for me to stopOur second car died last February and it's near impossible to give people rides to places when you have to share your car with your commuting husband.  We got to spend lots of time at home this year.  Yay us.
  3. Allergy Shots--if you're on the fence, please allow me to exhort you to go get them!  I made it through last August & September (my worst months, usually resulting in losing my voice and horribly congested lungs and ear infections) with just four days of moderate symptoms.  I've gone through this spring season without a single anti-histamine, although I do sneeze a lot, which is totally fine with me.
    The downfall about allergy shots is that you're sort of having an allergic reaction every week when they give you a shot.  In the beginning, you get 1-2 shots per week...for at least six months or so.  They made my arms swell up and throb horribly, and in order to get the swelling to go down I had to rely on good ol' Benadryl, which knocked me flat and made me sleep terribly at night.  But it's been worth the year of annoyingness.  Now it's Michael who's using the prescription allergy eye drops and popping anti-histamines, not me.
  4. Travelling--We did not attempt homeschooling on trips this year.  (The trips were far more enjoyable that way!)  We also cut back on travelling, both as a family and with Michael in regards to work.  After our trip to Canada last August, we've gone up to Michael's mother's house twice.  And that's it.  Like I said already in regards to the chauffering:  We got to spend lots of time at home this year.  Technically, this is a win.  A very responsible win.
  5. Errand Day--I tried.  And I really didn't like it.  We lose that day of school, the kids clamber for extra things to be purchased and there were many an unscheduled drive-thru lunch or snack.  And with being at home so much due to the one-car thing, staying home on Saturday as well just made me batty and I would claw my way through the front door just to go somewhere.  I think Michael doesn't really mind running around on Saturdays, (especially in the cold months) so I'm thinking that an Errand Day may not be a permanent fixture in Brooketopia.
  6. Spending less time on my hobbies--This last year saw 16 finished projects (some pretty big ones!), compared to 13 the year before.  Hmmm.  I'm just going to say that I became much faster with the knitting (and I wasn't knitting up a black Echo Flower Shawl this year either!).  However, I did pack away a fair bit of crafting supplies in the past couple of months as a way to lessen the temptation.  I'm proud of that step, bittersweet as it may be.  (In twenty years...)  I've also stopped attending my Knit Nite group, which I'm hoping will free up some time to do more Cultural Nights in the coming year.  I'm optimistic about the direction I'm heading in regards to this list item.
This was a hard school year for me.  Not for any particular reason, but just because I think I've approached my threshold in regards to how many kids I can have and still keep my life in order.  :)  Homeschooling last year wasn't too terribly bad because Monkeyboy took those blessed naps twice a day, which opened up a lot of hours for us to do intensive one-on-one work uninterrupted.  Sure, I complained about how much time nursing took up and a myriad of other things, but it was way easier than this year when he was awake more and into many more things.


Bluebird needed full-time school and Penguin only did part-time school, but it felt like my entire days were dedicated to teaching them, at the expense of being able to spend some one-on-one time with Junebug and Monkeyboy.  This fact bruised my heart every day, and it's something I would like to remedy in the next school year.  I can't ignore half of my kids just so the other half can excel.  There has got to be a solution or satisfying compromise to work out in that regard.  I carried way too much guilt (over ignoring the Littles) and disappointment (over slacking with the Bigs in order to accomodate the Littles) throughout the year.


 I typed up a list of goals at the beginning of the year for each child:

Bluebird
  • Finish the Saxon 2 Math bookCheck!
  • Finish both the Level 2 Manual Printing and Level 2 Cursive penmanship booksAlmost, she's a little more than halfway done with Level 2C book.
  • Finish Spelling Workout B and begin working on Level CFail, but I'm optimistic about our switch to All About Spelling--she has started writing a lot more word correctly, on her own, since we started the program a few weeks ago.
  • Finish First Language Lessons 2Almost.
  • Finish Writing with Ease 2.  The program started to wear on us, so we did a little bit here and there, especially since dictation came rather easily to her.  I'm looking to switch writing programs next year, as this one is just sucking the joy out of our lives, despite how much I heart Susan Wise Bauer.
  • Work through the entire Prima Latina bookNope.  I didn't even purchase the curriculum when it became apparent to me, early on, that I was going to struggle to get the basics done.  No sense adding on more work that doesn't really need to be done.
  • Complete The Story of the World 2: The Middle Ages, and accompanying literature suggestionsI'm going to say this was accomplished.  We listened to the history book on CD over and over in the car and Bluebird can answer just about any general question you throw her way about the Middle Ages.  Literature was spotty; between trying to figure out her reading level and financial limitations, I couldn't quite decide on what to hand to her to read.  I'm going to stew on this over the summer.  She did read a lot of books throughout the year, thanks to our trips to the library, they just weren't exactly tied into our history and literature plan.
  • Complete R.E.A.L Science Odyssey's Earth and Space Science, and do some activities out of Astronomy for All AgesFail.  I need to set very specific goals for science or I feel like I'm just stumbling around with no idea what to do.
  • Complete 15 badges for Brownie Girl ScoutsNope, but I am so done with Girl Scouts.  I feel like we have spent a ridiculous amount of time on selling cookies and completing meaningless activities for dumbed-down badges.  We're not continuing with the program.  I don't have the financial and energy reserves for it.
Penguin

  • Finish Saxon K Math and begin working in Saxon 1 MathCheck!
  • Finish Phonics Pathways3/4 done.
  • Finish the K Level penmanship book and begin working in the Level 1 bookCheck!
  • Start Spelling Workout A when she's halfway through Phonics PathwaysCheck, technically:  She has started All About Spelling, Level 1.
  • Read out loud to her: Mother Goose and The Aesop for Children I read a fair bit of Mother Goose to her.
  • Maybe work through A Child's History of the WorldNope.
Junebug
  • Basic Phonics WorkCheck!
 
 Lessons Learned
  1. Having my schoolroom in the basement was depressing.  I couldn't wait to get away from that dark, cold room!  We transferred the schoolroom up into our upstairs living room and I'm basking in the feeling of being to look out multiple windows.  I wish I had given myself permission sooner to claim the living room for school.  I had worried about not having space for visitors to sit down, but it's been fine; we sit at the kitchen table or by the school table and no one thinks it's weird.  I love having space again.
  2. The first day of a new quarter is a great day to spend deep cleaning and decorating the schoolroom for the season.  It lightened my burdens and also gave us nice things to look at that made us smile for the next few months.  I was glad each time that we took the time to clean and decorate.
  3. We need more joy and fun in our school.  The past few months were so stale and dreary as we slogged through curriculum that wasn't inspiring.  I need to choose/create lessons that are more than reading and reciting.  We are so tired of that.
  4. I need to step up the activities.  'Nuf said.
  5. I need to do more planning and preparation.  I was terribly un-organized this year.  Michael's made fun of me for typing up overly-detailed lesson plans every year before, so I tried to be a little more relaxed this year and it just did not work for me.  I'd get to something, but have no idea what I needed because I hadn't read through it five before as I put my lesson plans together.  I need to make a detailed yearly lesson plan and I need weekly lesson prep time.  I'm a teacher, duh.
  6. Something has to be done about winter.  I really did think it was a pregnant/post-partum/breastfeeding/those-kinds-of-hormones thing, but I was dealing with none of those this year and still nosedived come the third week of January.  I've been beating this problem to death in my mind, trying to come up with different plans of attack ranging from starting our new school year in January, to visiting family or travelling south, to incorporating outdoor activities, to declaring some sort of Unit Study or big project for each month in our winter quarter.  I do not know which to choose, or if any of those options are a good choice.  This does need to be addressed though; everything falls apart around here during those months because I'm just so blue.
  7. I'm craving a more "organic" schooling experience.  I'm still a Classicist at heart, but I'm suffocating under the structured feel of it all.  I want time to lay on the floor and build towers, time for reading enjoyable books aloud, time for field trips that just make my children happy.  They're young for such a short amount of time and I don't want to throw that away because I'm trying to adhere to someone else's educational plan.  I need to tailor my educational philosophy to meet and satisfy my family's wishes and circumstances.  I like having a plan in place; however, I need to make up a lesson plan that is more enjoyable and fresh.  (This is where the desire for more "one-on-one time" with the Littlers fits in.)
Overall
Once again I feel like we didn't rise to our potential, but I was pretty groggy from the allergy shots and dealt with those annoying Winter Blues yet again.  We stayed on-track in Math and nearly met all our goals in the fundamentals, which is pleasing.  We've slogged our way through the year, which says something for our work ethic.

Bluebird writes even more and her spelling is improving!  She's a wee bit ahead in Math and still loves History and Science.  She knows many more particles of speech and handled dictation easily, and she is reading far above grade level.  She has started to do a little more independent work without completing spacing her task and being found in some random location in the house, working on some odd side project.

Penguin is reading!  She likes to write and pens handmade cards to me all the time, phonetically spelling her sweet sentiments.  She did great with her first set of math flashcards and prides herself on being able to read the directions on her math worksheets.  She couldn't do any of that stuff at the beginning of the year.

I'm going to take this summer easy and not start school until August.  I'm going to seek out sources of inspiration and beauty and try to incorporate them into our next school year.  Perhaps a lot of our motivation challenges can be solved with increased effort to include the fine arts in our daily school routine?  We'll find out!

I'm grateful for another year I was able to spend with my children, coaxing them along their educational path.  We learned more lessons about ourselves and we added many more memories to our story.  It's a good life.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Twenty Years
Or, Do I Want to Continue Homeschooling?

Homeschooling while my oldest was young wasn't too terribly different from what all my other friends were doing--we were all teaching the ABC's and 123's in order to give our flocks of children head-starts during their early years at home.  However, now that Bluebird is getting ready to enter the third grade, I'm starting to notice a shift--a lot of my friends' children are all in school or preschool, and my friends are starting to do some rather interesting things now that they have some free time on their hands.  I'll be honest--I'm a touch envious.  They seem so shiny with their nail appointments, book clubs and lunch dates!  I seem so dull with my math drills, curriculum research and peanut butter and jelly lunches.

So I fall back on my tried-and-true deciding question:
In twenty years, what will I wish I had done?

In twenty years, when my youngest has flown the coop and there are grandchildren arriving in our lives, what will I wish I had done with these years, these surprisingly short years, that I have my children with me in my home?  Will I wish I had read to them more?  Had better-looking nails?  Been more consistent with teaching them to do their chores?  Insisted upon a more steady routine of religious instruction?  Had more alone time for myself?  Done more activities with them?  Read more books that I wanted to read?  Sat and just listened more?  Hired the babysitter more?  Painted pictures instead of filling out worksheets?

What am I doing right now that I will be proud of in twenty years?

What am I doing right now that I will regret in twenty years?

This next part is going to sound very judgmental, and I apologize for that because I don't quite know how else to state it:  I have been blessed (yes, I consider this an actual blessing) to have been able to observe people make good, and spectacularly bad, decision in their lives.

From a young age I've have this sort of picture in my head of what was ideal and right versus not desireable.  Luckily, for me, I've been able to watch people make decisions that I consider ideal, and I've been able to watch people make decisions with which I disagreed.  What I love about this is that in the past few years many of those decisions, made decades before, have started to reveal their long-term consequences.  The people who chose family and responsibility over self and amusement almost unanimously lead happier and more stable lives.  They have positive relationships with their children and have interests and a zest for life.  The people who (in my opinion) generally made decisions to cater to their personal whims and desires are miserable and blame everyone but themselves for their miseries.

That realization is what plays in my head whenever someone tells me that I need more time for myself or that I'm stretching myself too thin with "trying to do it all."  (Funny how that same phrase is used in an admirable tone when it applies to a woman pursuing a career.)  On the surface, what I'm doing now seems like an exercise in unneeded exhaustion, but twenty years from now, what will this all look like?

I've met quite a few empty-nesters who wish they had homeschooled.  I've met quite a few former homeschoolers who quit homeschooling, enrolled their children back into the school system and then regretted it tremendously years later, while some of them swear it was the best decision they made.  I've met lots of parents whose children went to public school and turned out very well.  I've met parents whose public-schooled children did not turn out well.  I've heard of two homeschooled children who can't have a conversation with an adult, and have to admit that the stereotype of socially awkward homeschooled kids probably exists because there is substance to it somewhere.  The point is, we don't know how these decisions are going to pan out in the future.

What we can do is make the decision that seems like it will have the best outcome.  For me, that is homeschooling.  It is reading to my children at night and making sure we focus on the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ in our daily lives.  It is loving my husband and being honest with myself about what I should be doing during this chapter of my life.

By the end of this journey, you are going to pay a price.  Wonderfully enough, you get to choose the price:
Sheer Exhaustion NOW, or Regret LATER.

I'm trying to make the decisions that I will be most pleased with in the future; most of which require herculean efforts on my behalf every day, for very little recognition and leaving very little time for myself.

But in twenty years...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Catch-up: Monkeyboy's 2nd Birthday!

Hey, at least I'm posting about it.


Monkeyboy's favorite thing in the world right is Thomas the Train.  He was spoiled with so much train paraphernalia, but he had a big cheesy grin for each of his Thomas gifts!  It was so cute to watch him open up his presents.

My mother sent him his very own hand-crafted baby blanket, which is draped on the chair behind him in the above picture.  As her Charcot-Marie-Tooth progresses, it gets harder and harder to just hold onto a crochet hook, let alone manipulate it, so that blanket is a true labor of love.

I told you they would fit!
The dinnerware is from his aunt, and Granny Dinger sent him some much needed new clothes in size 3T.  (She phoned me the week before while she was shopping for them and kept saying, "I don't know...these 3T's look really big...")

We hung out at home, just playing and enjoying the day together.  He was content to demand treats and hugs from all of us.  :)




What a big boy.  (Literally, he's enormous.)  Thank you for not maiming or killing yourself this past year so that you can progress into the third year of your life.  You keep me on my toes, and you bring a smile to my face with your chuckles and your shenanigans.  I'm so happy to be your mommy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dreams

Another year of school is almost finished, and I'm immersed in the pleasure of dreaming about the next.  I think it's incredibly wise to sit down after each school year and reflect upon how it went and what I wish had gone differently.  Just as important, I think it's wise to grant myself a period to dream as well, before any planning and purchasing of curriculum.

What do I dream about?  I visualize the activities and moments that I hope to create for my children.  Some will happen soon, others may happen a decade from now.  With the dreaming, I can realize what I need to include in our daily lives and lesson plans in order to prepare my children to enjoy those future experiences.

Some of my dreams right now:
  • Extended travel; really digging into a cultural experience and truly living like a local.
  • Teenagers who still enjoy listening to stories read aloud.
  • Plein air painting in the park with my granny and my children, all of us lined up with our easels and squinting at our thumbs.
  • Each of my children developing a passion for something, and me being supportive of their desire to immerse themselves in that other dimension that falls upon someone who has given themselves over to the creative process.
  • Looking back on all this and being able to say that we enjoyed the journey, rather than just survived the endurance of it.
  • Laughing with my children while we learn to do something together.
  • More family time in which I am truly present in the moment, rather than having my mind be somewhere else.
  • My children working together to perform duet, trio and quartet musical pieces.
  • Blowing stuff up!  (While wearing appropriate eye protection.)
  • Living the kind of life where we can take time to lay in the grass and just watch the clouds, rather than frantically racing to get through to the end of some curriculum.
  • My kids being able to identify flora and fauna.  (Bonus points if they can also name them with their latin names.)
  • Going to more plays and musical performances.
  • Winter activities, outside.
  • Following more rabbit trails.
  • More walks with ice cream cones.  At sunset.
  • Early morning runs, together.
  • Too many cooks in the kitchen.
  • Camping trips--canoeing, grilling freshly-caught fish over a campfire, watching my family's faces in the firelight.
  • The Grand Canyon.  Yellowstone.  Canada.  Cannon Beach.
It's interesting how some dreams change over time, and how some dreams stay the same.  A few years ago I probably would have written a list obsessed with achievement; now, as I am continually bombarded with realizations that my children are growing up incredibly fast, I'm obsessed with enjoying our time together.  I'm no longer interested in creating Super Children--I want to create a loving family that enjoys spending time with each other, even after the children have grown up and moved away to their adult lives.

Now, how to satisfy both the nurturer and the parent-concerned-about-her-children-getting-college-scholarships, that's going to be an interesting question about which to figure out the answer.

Inspire...rather than require.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Catch-up: Junebug's 4th Birthday

I never posted Junebug's birthday post from back in February, which I'm sure will bring up some sort of "You never loved me as much as you loved them!" accusations in the future.

The problem with Junebug's birthday is that it is right next to Valentine's Day and less than two weeks after Bluebird's birthday.  I'm completely done with celebrating stuff when her special day rolls around.  I need to fix this mindset, and quick, for future birthdays!

Back to the topic of this post:  Junebug turned FOUR this year.  FOUR is a bit of a weird age in our home because it doesn't really have any "special" milestones or extra privileges that go with it.  (In the past, they were allowed to play on the computer when they turned four, but we've since denied all children access to the computers and so it's obviously no longer something to look forward to...)

We start out a birthday with letting the Birthday Celebrant open their presents.  We used to wait until evening, but I realized a couple of years ago that the idea kind of stunk.  Since we cancel school on all Brooketopian birthdays, it only makes sense to let the Birthday Celebrant open their presents in the morning so they can enjoy them all day instead of opening them before going to bed and longing after them all the next school day.  Presents in the morning!

Junebug is into Minnie Mouse right now, so just about everything was Minnie Mouse-themed.  She received a dress-up Minnie Mouse doll and a Minnie Mouse piggy bank in a Minnie Mouse "purse"/re-usable tote.


She ate Minnie Mouse pancakes for breakfast, and got dressed in her Minnie Mouse Halloween costume for the day.


For dinner, she selected salmon and Caesar Salad, and we had Minnie Mouse cupcakes for dessert.

She had a good day.


It's weird, I go back and look at baby pictures of her and I almost don't recognize them anymore.  She's always been a smiler, but those early days of babydom are disappearing more and more from her FOUR year old face now.  Slow down, girl!  :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

2011-2012 Weekly Report: Countdown to the End!


THREE MORE WEEKS LEFT OF SCHOOL!!!

My original plan was to school "year-round."  However, every year when we start in on May's lessons I start eyeing the calendar and dreaming of neat things we can do during the summer, only to reel myself in and remind myself that we are supposed to be doing school during that time.  I had a small epiphany this week that *I* need a break!  We have our little week-long breaks at the end of each quarter, but those are spent catching up on housecleaning, preparing lessons for the next quarter and shuttling the kids to appointments.  While we're technically not doing school, it's no break at all for me.  (In fact, I kind of dread the End of the Quarter breaks because they are so blasted busy.)  So I decided to stop with this unrealistic expectation that I can be a homeschooling robot and teach all year long and be happy about the arrangement.  I want need a summer break!

So we're calling the year done on May 25th so we can have some awesome Memorial Day fun.

As such, we're cramming two months' worth of school into four weeks.  Thankfully, we were already ahead in a number of subjects, so we're just going light in those in order to allow for the extra time needed to do double lessons in the others.  You'd think my kids would hate the arrangement; but no, once I explained that we can be done with school and have time off, they were willing to commit to whatever crazy plan I came up with to make that happen.

And, in another effort to sweeten the pot, I've decided that we'll start next school year in August instead of July.  Two months of summer fun.  Our family is in this nice little place right now--Mom's not pregnant or nursing a newborn--so we're going to get out there this year and DO STUFF.  I'm excited!

In actual Weekly Reporting, there's not a lot of interesting stuff to report.  We're hitting the books and getting our lessons done.  The accelerated pace leaves little time for the extras that usually fill our free time.  The girls are focused, and the only hiccup in the plan is that Junebug and Monkeyboy have needed some more activities to do on their own in order to leave me free to work with Bluebird and Penguin on their doubled lessons.



Thankfully, the weather is nice so I can just leave the back door open and let them play outside to their little hearts' contents!

I got smart today and remembered that we have a little kid-sized tent, so I set it up and let them pretend to go camping in the backyard!

My little goofballs.  Bluebird and Penguin like the set-up too, as they can go outside and play whenever they finish something up and I'm busy working with the other girl and can't help them get started with their next lesson.  (I am eagerly eyeing the third grade curriculums and their emphases on "independent work.")

Highlights of the Week:
  •  All About Spelling is a hit, so far!  Since both girls are starting at the beginning together, there is some intense sibling rivalry to best each other.  Plus, since there's so much newness in the lessons and activities, both of the girls are really excited about spelling.
  • Speaking of spelling, Bluebird attempted to spell her own words in her dictation exercise today and she did really well!  Normally she completely spaces on the silent "e" rule and the double consonants at the end of a word thing, but she did a great job today.  (They always end up figuring it out, it's just so hard to stay patient during the "getting" part...)
  • Bluebird's narration for her history chapter on the discovery of the New World:
 
Lowlights of the Week:
  •  The house is pretty messy, but I'm doing my best to see the beauty in the messes.
Funnies of the Week:
  • Monkeyboy's shenanigans at lunch today:
He's a snowman.
  • At lunch one day, Bluebird piped up and announced that she was going to marry someone who was half Italian so he could cook her good food.  Penguin added that she didn't want to marry an American because then she'd have to eat lots of meat and potatoes, yech!  (I'm still shaking my head over that one.)
  • While planting flowers outside, Bluebird was bossing her sisters around in playing some sort of gymnastic game in which she had unlimited time to perform her routines but her sisters were "timed."  Junebug was performing her routine when Bluebird cut her off abruptly:
    Junebug:  "Bluebird, that's not fair!"
    Bluebird:  "Sorry Junebug, rules are rules."
    Junebug:  "I should have as much time as you to do my routine!"
    Bluebird:  "Nope, your time ran out."
    Junebug:  "Well, then, fine.  What you don't know is that I have a time machine!  I'm going to go back in time and change the rules and then do my entire routine!  Mwa ha ha ha ha!"
    Bluebird:  [deer in headlights]  "Oh man, you figured out the only way around the timed routine rule!"
Happy Weekend to you all!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beautiful Messes


It's one of those mornings--when you'd really rather just sleep a little longer, have breakfast brought to you in bed and then be ignored for the rest of the day to just sit with your thoughts.  However, I signed up for this thing called "motherhood" a few years back and that's just not how mornings are allowed to go anymore.

So I've stumbled through the house, trying to put something resembling breakfast together and half-heartedly insisting that my children dress themselves and perform the bare minimum of hygenic requirements.  As I go about these duties, I keep tripping over toys and various objects that have been left out by the Brookelets.  Normally, this annoys me, but for some reason today I have been able to see the beauty in the messiness.

What do these messes represent?

Pants in need of mending.
Penguin's doll.
How long will these messes last?

Junebug's discarded pajama pants.
Her two older sisters have worn them when they were her age, and when she grows out of them

they will be given away.

Penguin's "Countdown List" of the days until her birthday.


Will I miss them when they stop forming?







The messes of childhood last such a short time.  Much too soon the dolls and trucks will be replaced with the items of teenager-dom.  The blankies will be folded and put away in memory boxes, and the scribbles will fade and disappear.

A few days ago I was complaining about how hard it is to keep the house clean because we are home, making messes, all day long instead of having that housecleaning window of opportunity that mommies get while their children are away at school.  But after this morning, I'm kind of glad I get to have all these beautiful messes around me all day.  They are a short chapter of my life and I'm so thankful to be allowed the blessing of immersing myself in all the gorgeous, sticky, and cluttered moments of my children's younger years.

I will embrace the beauty of messy childhoods.