Monday, September 30, 2013

Autumn Quarter Meal Plan

I used to follow an elaborate method of meal planning until a few years ago when I just couldn't keep up with it anymore.  My weekly menu planning time ceased to exist for some reason, and we've been in a bit of a free fall ever since.  I'm not one for chaos, so I've decided to give a quarterly meal plan a go.

I've planned out four weeks' worth of meals, and we'll go through the rotation three times:  October, November, and December.  I'll get good at making the same things over and over again, and I won't have to sit down to plan out the next week anymore.  It's just done.  Go shopping and cook.

Here's what I'm planning on making (over and over) for the next three months:

(CP) = Crock Pot

That's just dinners.  I'm very intrigued by this method of preparing lunches for the week, and I'm going to start planning to implement the practice in the coming weeks.  Food is too basic, too...easy? be stressing over.  I'm tired of trying to decide what's going on the table anymore!  I need to reserve my energy for conversations, teaching (so mentally exhausting) and just enjoying life.  This is something that can be simplified that won't cut corners because it's simplified.  I'll let you know how it's going as we go along.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Weekly Report: Week #6
It'll get better.

Sorry about the horrible blurring of the other kid...
his head doesn't really look like an explosion.
I'm looking at October with hopeful eyes.  Big, ridiculously exaggerated eyes of optimism that October will bring a change.  A change in attitude, a change in energy...some sort of positive change that will make this school year blossom.  Bring it, October.  We love you, October.  September has kind of just peed all over our plans and we're just tired of its antics.

We're moving along like molasses.  Slow and steady gets the job done, so we're sticking with it.  I was glancing through the random files I've uploaded from the ol' camera, and random pictures I've posted to Facebook, and realized that we have photographic evidence of stuff being done.  (It's just, that by Friday, I'm too tired to remember that we did do stuff during the week!)

Learning how to do the "Witch's Broom"
cat's cradle...thing at Kaya book club.
Bluebird kept busy with her archery club, and both she and Penguin are participating in a "Kaya" book club which meets twice a month to discuss the next book in the series and do little activities and crafts.  The both of them also have piano lessons once a week and enjoy going to those together.

I've been trying to focus a little more on enjoyable learning time together--our morning devotional has nearly doubled in length with the addition of some much-appreciated read aloud time.  I knit while I read aloud (I lay the book flat open on the couch, for those of you who asked) and Bluebird has caught the knitting fever as a result.  Our read aloud right now is The Fellowship of the Ring.  I think we'll take a break when we finish and read something that appeals more to Junebug and Monkeyboy.

There's been a lot of individual reading going on around here in the last few weeks as well.  So far this year, Bluebird has read Across Five Aprils, Lincoln: A Photobiography, and right now she's working on Behind Rebel Lines: The Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy.  Penguin has read numerous books about Abraham Lincoln, but most came from the library and I cannot remember their titles--I do remember one called Looking at Lincoln.  She's working on a children's version of Treasure Island right now.

Junebug is still enjoying Kindergarten.  She loves her penmanship book and usually does 4-6 pages a day, even though I say she only needs to do two pages.

We have a busy week ahead next week!  Hopefully I'll remember to take pictures!

Monday, September 23, 2013

I garden for the knitting

For the first time ever, I have my fall flowers planted before October.  There's purple and green kale, yellow and purple pansies, and cream, yellow, and orange chrysanthemums.  Our front door doesn't usually get a lot of foot traffic, but it is this autumn simply because I love to walk by all my flowers.  "No, Brookelets, we're going in through the front door so Mama can gaze adoringly, yet again, upon the beauty she has planted around our home.  If you gaze adoringly with her, she'll probably give you hot chocolate and pat you on the head while you drink."

And what's the point of having an autumn flower garden if you're not going to use them as background for knitting pictures?

Who doesn't look at flowering kale and envision how wonderfully it would pair with pumpkin tweed?

I'm amongst the crowd of people that possess no ability to deny themselves of pumpkins.  If it looks like pumpkin, smells like pumpkin, or tastes like pumpkin...I probably already own it.  I am powerless in the face of anything that reminds me of a pumpkin.

There's a darling little cabled pumpkin baby hat pattern making its way around Ravelry, and I succumbed to the cuteness.  Problem is, none of the local yarn shops that I'm willing to drive to for a spontaneous yarn purchase have worsted-weight orange tweed.  (Insert sad face here.)  I picked up some Rowan Felted Tweed instead, but the DK-weight was not working with the pattern. So now I'm just knitting whatever cables I want to knit.  I'm excited about how this hat is going to turn out.  Pumpkin + cables + tweed = Perfect autumn knitting.

You know what else is perfect autumn knitting?  Aran cables, paired with rust-colored chrysanthemums:

Oh, the simple joy of undyed, Aran wool, the quintessential material of knitting season.  It's traditional, it's elegant, and it's cozy.  Sometimes I wonder why I knit with anything else...until I see shelves of tweed yarn...or a skein of silk/merino laceweight.

My hollyhocks, those wonderful heralds of summer, have begun to turn brown and cast their seeds into the wind.  As they begin to fold into themselves for their long winter sleep, I couldn't resist the urge to photograph them, drowned out by the afternoon sun, in contrast to this little token of life and joy:

A little one will join a friend's family in the next week or so, and I was feeling like celebrating its impending arrival with handknits.  Just a simple little hat, so tiny that it covers my fist with very little room to spare.  Just a squishy little thing, only usable for a couple of weeks before it will be too small.

Sort of like my autumn don't get a lot of time with them, but they're beautiful and make me smile, which makes them a good thing to include in life.

Baby hats, tweed, pumpkins, cables, cream wool, and jewel-toned pansies...autumn is so lovely.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Weekly Report: Week #5
This is what normal feels like.

I had a conversation with a friend recently and she said something to the effect that her life felt stagnant.  Knowing her background story, and witnessing what her day-to-day life entailed, I countered with the argument that her life was anything but stagnant...that perhaps, after all the years of high-stress situations and chaos, anything less than a 24 hour drive-thru circus act felt like wallowing through pudding.

As I walked home from that conversation, I decided that the stagnant/normal feeling also applied to our own life right now.  We're just living and breathing and doing the work in front of us.  Lessons get completed, books are read, and errands get ran.  It's not exactly post-worthy.  Or maybe it is?  Daily life and all--how fleeting it all is, capture it before it's gone, etc.

In all serious though, how many pictures can one handle of kids sitting around a table doing schoolwork?  It's just not my definition of engaging, so I'm slow to post more of the same.

More school was done this week.  Hurrah for Brooketopia!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weekly Report: Week #4
Ten Things

1.  It's sagebrush pollen time.  Bluebird and I have been walking through metaphorical pudding all week.

2.  I think we also had a cold making its way through the family, which was the wonderful cherry atop all that metaphorical pudding.

3.  Bare necessities completed.

4.  Still liking Saxon 54.

5.  Really need to kick up the Civil War stuff a notch.

6.  Took the kids on a nature hike today at the big waterfall.  Wouldn't let them get in the water, which was very disappointing for them.  Far less disappointing, I would think, than hypothermia and walking back to the car in frigidly wet shoes.

7.  Monkeyboy is suddenly obsessed with counting.  I have to let him count my fingers all the time.  It is freakin' adorable.

8.  Bluebird and Penguin have seemed reluctant to practice piano, so I took them to the music store today to pick out new music.  Penguin now has a collection of easy Halloween songs to learn, and Bluebird picked out the music to "Brave."  ("Brave" is above her ability level, so I also purchased some Halloween songs on her level, and the Christmas collection that matches up with her lesson know, for when she starts screaming at the "Brave" book just in case.)

9.  Bluebird is in our homeschool group's Archery Club, and totally loving it.

10.  I discovered that I can read a book out loud AND knit at the same time.  My life...just...the perfect.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Weekly Report: Week #3
Civil War Days and Raspberry Picking

Here we go again!  We got in two weeks of schoolin' during the summer before deciding to ditch the idea, so this week was another go at gearing up for the "new" school year.  It went a lot better this time around, for which I'm very grateful.

We started our study of the Civil War over the weekend, with a trip to Camp Floyd to see all their Civil War stuff.  I posted these pictures in that post already, but then I went back and edited them for a more period look:

We're easing into the year--we did math, penmanship, spelling, grammar, and writing this week.  We also started our study of physics, and started attending a handful of activities that will take place this semester.  Next week I'm planning on adding in another two or so subjects, then two more the next week...until we're running at top speed again.

Tuesday morning, with all three school-age Brookelets working on their math lessons:

Math is going fine.  I am LOVING that Saxon 5/4 is pretty much done with meetings.  Just that little bit of mental math (which I totally support), and a new concept, a few practice problems to complete under my supervision, and then BAM! go do your work.  I start math at 8:30, and we break for recess at 10:00, and Bluebird has been pretty much done with her math by recess each day.  This is such a far cry from Saxon 3.  Luh-uh-ving the independent focus.  Penguin's cruising along through the review work at the beginning of her new book, and Junebug is doing splendidly with her kindergarten math.  I am thinking about bumping Junebug up into the first grade math book, just because I know she could handle it and the writing wouldn't freak her out.  We'll see.

We started learning about inertia and Newton's First Law of Motion, which necessitated the ol' "pull a towel out from under something" experiment:

(It did indeed work--even with a five year old doing the pulling.  The jug was too heavy for the three year old to execute the task.)

And then we talked about friction and constant motion and the like while pushing around an "air puck":

Bluebird and Penguin are going to participate in a book club this semester, and we met with the other girls to pick raspberries this week:

 We'll be reading through the American Girl Kaya series, so the berries will be used for drying, dyeing, etc.

The group will learn about Native American topics, and we moms are busy with brainstorming ideas for future meetings.  Anyone out there have any fabulous ideas you'd be willing to share?  The group is comprised of girls ranging in age from 6-10 years old.

All in all, a fair week.  Onward to Week #4!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Getting the Knitting Cogs Moving Again

It's been a weird spring and summer for me, in that I've had no desire to knit.  None.  I forced myself to finish some projects because I had all that time lying flat on my back while recovering from those lovely herniated discs, but there wasn't a time where I was excited about knitting.  I preferred to just lay on the couch and watch Netflix movies.  I didn't even read a lot.  I'm proud of myself for keeping it relatively together, attitude-wise, during all that yucky back stuff, but I was kind of bummed out during those months.

New socks!
But then, in August, we had a couple of cool weather days.  Very cool weather, the kind of weather that makes your toes start to feel a little frosty.  So I went in search of my alpaca socks, and reveled in the loveliness that is a pair of handknit socks snuggling around very cold toes.  That wonderful feeling, in turn, started moving the knitting cogs in my brain--at first it was a rusty creak ("It would be nice to own more than one pair of handknit socks."), and then a disjointed series of interruptions to my regularly-scheduled thought processes ("Sweaters appear to be in style this year," "I've never made myself a sweater," "Monkeyboy has grown out of his old sweater," "I haven't been to the yarn store in ages,"), all the while speeding up until I've rediscovered my former life as an obsessive knitter who feels greatly conflicted over whether or not to take the knitting with me to the U-Pick Berry Patch.  (Yes, it's true; and I am a little embarassed that I did have to devote a little bit of logic-making to that decision.)

But even with my brain humming along its (now) well-lubricated knitterly paths of pondering, my hands and heart were having a hard time getting with the program.  I'd sit down to knit and find myself desperately wanting to get away from my yarn after a few minutes.  Knitting wasn't fun anymore.  Knitting didn't make me happy.

And, finally, I figured out what it was:  Knitting reminds me, so strongly, of my neighbor who passed away this past winter.

I was forcing myself to put in some work on a vest I'm making for Monkeyboy, and as I was knitting, my eyes glanced across our front yard and into the window that I used to monitor my neighbor through during her last few months here.  My thoughts wandered to the crocheting bag I gave her for Christmas two years ago, and I surprised myself with having to choke back a sob at the thought of how she no longer has a need for a crochet bag, and wondering what had happened to it.  Then I thought of knit group, which featured little wise cracks she'd make; and then I saw one of her crocheted afghans laying along the back of one of my couches, which made me think of the bits of granny square advice she'd imparted to me over the years.  And it hurt; hurt so badly that I had to lay my knitting down in my lap and just breathe until I could think about those things without wanting to cry.

It continues to amaze me at how much I miss my neighbor.  You have all these "regular" people in your life that don't appear special on the surface.  They're not your grandmother, your best friend, your roommate from freshman year, or that teacher who woke you up with their words of advice.  There's no "moment" that can be pinpointed as to their significance in your life--they were just there, silently building up memories and bonding slightly closer to you with each seemingly-insignificant interaction that you shared over the years.  It's a love that is rarely recognized in the flesh, and mostly only realized once circumstances change to the point of no longer having it around in its normal form.  It makes me both sad and angry that I didn't realize that I loved my neighbor like I did until she was dead.

And my neighbor is linked to the knitting part of my life, which makes the knitting part of my life hurt right now as well.

I won't quit knitting.  (That would be so many levels of stupid.)  But I now understand why it's been difficult, and that it wasn't just my injury that made me disinterested in what I consider to be my most favorite hobby, over this past year.  It's some weird expression of grief, and now that I recognize it for what it is, it does make a lot of sense to me.

However, the past couple of days have found me, for the first time this year, looking forward to knitting.  Autumn is on my mind, which raises mental images of cabled sweaters, tweedy wools, and marled mittens against a backdrop of fallen leaves.  Boots beg for warm socks as lining.  There are whisperings of Christmas knitting.  The changing of the seasons is diverting my thoughts to the good times that await throughout the next few months.

Those knitting thoughts are happy knitting thoughts, and they are peeking through the sad knitting clouds of mourning that I've been unconsciously carrying behind me.  So I've decided to take those thoughts of my neighbor and frame them in a positive light, rather than allowing my brain to close itself around the dismal interpretation of those thoughts.  I remember my neighbor's smile when she unwrapped her crocheting bag, and I don't allow myself to think on the question of what happened to the crochet bag.  The crochet bag made her happy, and I gave it to her.  That is a wonderful thing.  I am thankful for the crochet advice she gave me, and I'm glad that I have it to bless the lives of those I crochet for.  That's another good thing.  And I will always look fondly upon "Bright White" skeins of Red Heart Super Saver yarn because it was her favorite color to edge her granny squares with, and there are a lot of people in this world who possess the Bright White works of her hands.  She was good.  And I got to have that in my life.  It's just good, all around.

Autumn is approaching, and Knitting Season is beckoning me to move forward...and my heart and my hands are willing to get on board.

Life goes on.

Grief isn't permanent.

Knitting waits for you.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Civil War Study Kick Off, Utah-style

This school year will be a "Year Four" in regards to our 4-year study cycle, which means we'll start off the year with studying the American Civil War.  Here in Utah, we have a state park dedicated to preserving the site of Camp Floyd, which was an army fort built in 1858 in order to house the Federal troops sent out to Utah to put down the "Mormon Rebellion."  The troops were recalled in 1861 in order to serve in the Civil War, and so we have this little piece of history that lines up rather nicely with our historical studies this coming year.

On Labor Day weekend, Camp Floyd State Park hosts "Camp Floyd Days," at which one can get a full dose of Civil War-era activities.  Um, yes, please!  I loaded up the Brookelets early in the morn, and we set out to get our history on...

33 stars!

This guy cracked me up!  He was a wealth of information, and interacted so well
with Junebug that she just plopped down on the ground in front of him
and asked him question after question.
The kids had a lot of fun going from activity to activity, and I stared at all the re-enactors' clothing.  It's a big dream of mine to be involved with stuff like this when the Brookelets are teenagers.  Until then, I'm going to drive them crazy with going to all these sorts of things!

Alright, we've spent some time learning about what things were like in our neck of the woods leading up to the Civil War, so let's let the unit study begin!  Happy Year Four!