20 September 2007

A couple of photos

Eirik has become my little "helper" in the kitchen a lot lately. He can reach all the knobs on the stove, he can race to the fridge to climb in as soon as I open the door, and he has started keeping track of my pantry inventory. Rowan taught him this talent, and he has been an eager student.

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"Hand me the beans, please?"

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"Mom, I can't find the peanut butter!"

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"Bad news, Mom. There is no more peanut butter."

These were just so cute, I had to share them.

Fun Lessons

This week we took a field trip to a local PYO apple orchard. We got ½ bushel of apples and promptly made apple pie. Yummy! I decided to include some of Moira's work this time, so here are the two fables from this week.

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Very beautifully done

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Unfortunately, you can see the first attempt she made on the other side of the paper through the writing side.

The format we have been following has been to read or tell the fable and draw the picture on day 1, then she retells it to me and we write a sentence about it on day 2. She already knew The Tortoise and the Hare, so she told it to me on day 1.

The after school program here started up yesterday, and the ladies who run it asked me what they should have Moira do during the homework time. So today I made up some "homework" for her. I made up some spelling words for her to copy. She is now very excited to have some homework.

I also realized that I need to be a bit more fair with Lauren's lessons. Moira whined today that Lauren always gets the fun lessons, and as I thought about it, I can see her point. Moira desperately wants to be independent in the kitchen, yet to whom have I given the kitchen lessons? To Lauren. The banana bread, the corn bread, the apple pie have all been supposedly Lauren's lessons, even though all the kids have helped with them. So I need to try to be less specific about what lesson is whose and let Moira have some "fun" lessons. Now that we have playdough (from one of Lauren's lessons) she has been more willing to play with that instead of begging for her own lesson. I think I will structure it more so that the activity is for every child, Moira gets the fables, and Lauren and Rowan's lessons are to make things out of playdough.

Next week we will take a break from fables to learn about St. Michael and St. George. I plan to bake a dragon bread with them. That should be interesting.

15 September 2007

2 weeks of school down

First, my rioting update. Nothing new. We are holding steady. Actually, I take that back. Terry has gone three days without soda. I think he might be detoxing, because last night and this morning he didn't feel all that great. I know this is really hard for him, and I am very proud.

Okay, on to school. Moira has already begun whining about having to do lessons. But she also whines about wanting to go to school. This week we covered The Fox and the Grapes and The Dog and His Shadow. For Lauren's "work" we made corn bread, planted some chives, and made playdough. I started knitting some toe-up socks for Eirik. I have finished the toes, plus about an inch or so of one sock.

Our daily rhythm is working out nicely. I have made it about three weeks now, I think that must be a record. We haven't let the rain stop us from our walks, either. The first rainy day, we took a "dash around the block" instead of a walk. It was pouring. The next day, the downpour stopped just as we finished up our chores, so we boogied out, and a few minutes after we got back inside, the skies opened again. This morning it was steady light rain, so we decided to try something a bit different. I put Eirik in the sling (as usual), then put on a massively huge cloak I just got back after my husband lent it out about 8 years ago. Boy, have I missed that cloak. :) So then the girls piled under the cloak with me, one on each side and one behind me, and we took our walk that way. I saw more than one driver smile as they drove by at the sight of an eight-legged green cloak holding a baby. The hood didn't keep him as dry as I had hoped, but he didn't seem to mind. He thought it was funny.

The rain has stopped and the kids want to go out, so it looks like I will get some more done on that sock today.

06 September 2007

Rioting update

Well here it has been several weeks without an update, and for that I apologize. I haven't made many changes since I have been struggling to get our day-to-day lives under control and preparing for the new school year (see my previous post for that). We got a new trash can, which I suppose adds to our consumer goods category, but really it was necessary to handle the trash category. Before the riot, we were using a 13 gallon trash can and filling it pretty much every day. When we cut back on the amount of trash that went in there, it could take 3 to 4 days or longer to fill up. That led to the disgusting problem of bugs. As I counted over 200 flies in just my two front windows alone and more buzzing around my kitchen and living room, my dear husband went out and got five fly traps and a smaller trash can. The new one is only 8 gallons and fits neatly under the sink. This solved the problem of bugs since we could now empty it more often, and also the brand new problem of the almost-toddler pulling up on the can and fishing stuff out of it for oral exploration.

As for heating and cooking, I moved the children's play area out into a more public part of the house rather than a bedroom. While it has not had a riot-related effect yet, I anticipate that we will use less heat since the kids won't have an opportunity to play with the thermostat. It also dawned on me that my toaster oven is also an oven (duh!) and will use less energy reheating leftovers than the full-size oven does. I feel so silly for having purchased an appliance for a specific feature, then not using that feature.

Washcloths in lieu of toilet paper are working great. I simply moved the bucket for the used ones in the downstairs bathroom to behind the door so the baby (again) doesn't get into them.

Gasoline usage has dropped a bit now that summer is over and I don't have to take the kids here, there and everywhere. I overbooked it in response to the complaint of, "There's nothing to do. I'm bored!" and I think I went overboard. Lesson learned. Terry can't ride his bike to work right now until we get him a headlight and a new pair of shoes so his feet don't hurt every day, so he has been driving. We will get there, though. If I am to cut down to 50 gallons per person per year, that gives me 350 gallons for our car per year. Picking up my daughter across the state on alternate weekends sucks up 234 of those, leaving us with only 2.2 gallons per week left. At 20mpg, that isn't much. I have two choices here. I can either exclude the trips to go get Cait and allot myself 300 gallons per year for the other 6 of us, or I can continue to try to scrunch down our gasoline consumption. Our second largest gasoline use is our biweekly trip to the farm 30 miles away for fresh milk. That uses another 70 gallons per year. That gives us 0.88 gallon of gas per week allotment. One trip out to visit family and we are over budget. I think I will count half of Cait's usage. That gives us 163 gallons per year, or ~3 gallons per week, after getting Cait and after the farm trip. In our car that is about 60 miles, which I think is very doable for us. I would love to get down to 1 gallon per week, with special exceptions for visiting family, who all live 18 to 60 miles away.

Still no word from my landlord about electric and water usage. I haven't made many changes in those categories since the last update though.

Consumer goods is doing okay. I think I may start categorizing snack foods as consumer goods, though. :) We can definitely cut down there.

So that is the update for this month. Stay tuned.

First week of school

We just finished our first week of school here at home. This year I am using Melisa Nielson's curriculum from A Little Garden Flower. They are fabulous. My biggest goal right now is to get a rhythm established so the children have more order in their lives and less chaos. Chaos is one of those things that if it's all you know, it is hard to break out of. Alas, it is all I knew growing up and I don't want to pass that on to my children. We are up to having a pretty good routine set down right now. We get up, have breakfast, do chores (all the way down to the 3-year-old), go for a walk, then come in and do our lesson. By then it has been lunch time, so after lunch the kids have free time until dinner. This has been working very nicely. I hope I can keep it up for the long term.

Moira is starting grade 2 and we are working with fables this month. I tell her a fable on one day and we draw a picture from it, then the next day she tells me the fable, we come up with a summary, and we write it on the paper with the illustration from the previous day. So far we have covered "The Ass and His Shadow" and "The Boasting Traveler." They all got together and acted out "The Ass and His Shadow", with Moira and Lauren being the traveler and the donkey owner, and Rowan as the ass. She crawled away very quickly down the hall and the girls had fun pretending to fight. They held their hands in front of them and kind of waggled them up and down very fast so that their hands collided.

Lauren is starting her first year of kindergarten, as well as trying to do everything that Moira does. Of course, Moira participates in Lauren's lessons as well. I have Moira on a four day schedule and Lauren on a three day schedule. This week for Lauren we read "The Great Big Enormous Turnip" by Alexei Tolstoy (I think), baked banana bread, and made corn husk dolls. I originally planned to make corn bread, but I had a bunch of bananas that needed to be used up pronto, so I made that instead. We made the corn husk dolls this morning from husks we shucked from last night's dinner. Much fun.

Eirik has already pulled out the arms of one corn husk doll, and it is sitting here armless on my desk awaiting reconstructive surgery. I also caught a few pictures of him in my little pantry cabinet which I will post later.

The other day I decluttered the kids' toys. I took about half of the toys and put them in my closet. The first time I decluttered toys it was very easy to chuck half of them. That time I just dumped all the fast-food kid's meal toys into the garbage and there went a huge source of frustration on everyone's part. The second time I purged their toys, I quietly packed away all the plastic disposable toys and waited to see if they noticed. They didn't really, so I chucked them after a couple of months. This time, though, we have been very good at not letting junk toys in the house, so all the toys are ones that I approve of. The problem now is not quality, but simply quantity. So instead of chucking, I plan to rotate through them. There has been far less crying about cleaning up now, and less need for careful navigation through the house. I rearranged the house so that they kids have a designated play area that is in a main part of the house, not behind closed doors anymore so it is easier for me to rein in the mess before it gets completely out of hand.

All in all, it has been a good week.