Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Earlier in the Spring, Brian bought a jalapeno at the grocery store. He makes a wicked spicy cheese sauce for dipping nachos in.

We saved the seeds and planted them. Surprisingly (only surprising because I have visions of genetically altered produce being pawned off on unsuspecting Canadians when it is filled with seeds of different, yet related vegetables - so who knows what you would get if you used grocery store produce as seed stock) a good number of strong, healthy stalks grew. Even more surprisingly (to me, Brian has more faith) the stalks flowered and sprouted little jalapenos.

We harvested a large, green jalapeno a couple of weeks ago. Brian whipped up his cheese sauce. No zip. No spice. Not even a tickle.

Since Google is our friend, Brian poked around on the Internet until he found some valuable pepper growing tips. Apparently, if you want hot jalapenos, you need to have stressed plants. Then, you leave the peppers on the vine until they are just about to turn red. Only then should you pick your peppers.

So we stopped caring for the plants. No more watering unless it rained. The leaves drooped and wilted. We kept them crowded in the planter. Just yesterday, Brian harvested all the peppers. We seem to be in the middle of a heat wave here in Ontario, however, frost is just around the corner. Better safe than sorry, so we picked the peppers.

Hopefully we left the jalapenos on the vine long enough to get good and hot. I never was one for spicy things, but 10 years with a guy can change you. I don't mind the odd spicy dish to liven things up.

After...A Week Later

Ho-ly! A week has passed. A WEEK! A week. How'd that happen?!

September is wrapping up and I'm still feeling somewhat organized. How'd that happen?!

The kids have each begun one of their two chosen activities. The organized chaos of hockey has ended as 60 kids have been divvied up onto four teams. Now there is only 30 small people on the ice at any given time. Workable. I worked the kinks out at swimming and Kori is happily swimming in a small group of 4 kids. She is in level 3 and the other children are in levels 4 and 5. This is good as Kori can see the more advanced skills demonstrated, she has more instructor time and she even likes the kids in her class. Extra-curricular Utopia.

October is shaping up as well. Doesn't it look organized? I like stickers. It makes scheduling easier. Really. Both kids will start soccer in October. I've heard from Kori's coach, but not Rai's.

I like October. I like to go to the apple orchard. I like all the pumpkins and squash and gourds. I like coloured leaves. This October, I want to knit and do some final bits of canning. Someone please remind me of these goals before the end of October, will you?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


My September calendar has been looking a little naked. There's a good reason for that, though.

The kids had their choice of 2 activities to sign up for this Fall. Hockey for Raiden and swimming for Kori were givens. I am so happy that Kori has finally found something that she likes to do.

The kids made their choices fairly quickly and easily. They chose to forgo their Cubs/Guides and do indoor soccer instead. This will be Kori's first foray into team sports.

So we were all set with our choices. The only drawback is that scheduling is a bit delayed. We never hear what the hockey schedule will be until the absolutely last minute. It makes scheduling other activities very difficult. I tried not to stress about it this year. Indoor soccer is marginally better. At least we know that Kori will be playing on Thursdays and Raiden on Tuesdays. Start dates are up in the air.

Things have worked out not too badly. The hockey schedule has been posted 6 whole days before we 'need' it! Monday: hockey. Tuesday: swimming, Rai's soccer. Thursday: K's soccer. We try not to schedule anything on Fridays and I particularly like having Wednesdays off as well. Wednesday is a good library/errand/grocery day.

So I am off to fill up my calendar. I feel so grounded when I have a full calendar.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What We've Been Up To...

Being blessed with well meaning relatives, come holiday time, my kids are spoiled with copious amounts of chocolate. Most of this I send to the freezer so that it is not devoured in a gluttonous single sitting. The hoard was getting fairly mountainous so I made fudge one night. Brian, who doesn't have a sweet tooth in his head, actually liked it. So we made more. I now have fudge in my freezer.

Actually, a lot of it has been given away. Brian took a bunch to work where it quickly disappeared. Here he is stirring the third batch we made one evening. He's very efficient in the kitchen. Otherwise, Brian is back to a regular schedule at work - five day weeks. It's a strange time of year. Longer weeks feel somehow shorter due to the shortening days.

Here's Kori doing her math lesson. I've changed the structure of our lessons. She has her independent work and her lesson. I keep the lesson short and to the point. Everything else is independent work. Unless it involves chocolate, as this lesson did. Then she's ok with a longer lesson. I'm sure Saxon die-hards are rolling in their graves, but the format laid out was causing grief. Instead of the tedious counting aloud, she writes out some number patterns on the back of her meeting strips. As we're establishing our Fall routine I think this format is best. During Friday's lesson, she even asked me to explain something to her instead of putting on the brakes and quitting. So it seems that our goal of finishing these math books by March Break is a bit more reasonable after an ok week of regular lessons.

Raiden's hockey has begun. It's the 'pre-season', or so I've been told. As the first practice was barely-controlled chaos, I'm hoping for improvements. At this level (I'm such a bad hockey mom, he's a pee-wee? I think?) they will split the kids into four teams and have rotating round-robins throughout the regular season. Then there is a tournament to wrap up the year with an out of town team. He's playing in the Christian league which means no weekend, late or early games. The focus is on skills and learning the game, not standings and points. This also means that home-town hockey is starting up as well as NHL. Lots to keep track of for Raiden. Quietly, in my mind, I call him my little statistician. Where he gets his love of sports is beyond me. Perhaps it's the competitiveness that draws him in. He's excited for indoor soccer to begin and he dragged me out this morning to see my brother play touch football. Rai was on the sidelines for the whole game, sitting on his soccer ball, taking it all in.

I got a present. The happy thoughts about my present are eclipsing just about everything else that is going on in my life. I've liked these red dishes for a really, really, long time. They're a little pricey so I usually just walk by them in the store, check them out and move on. When in the store this weekend, I moved on from the shelf and Brian snafued a box and that was that. We'll need to get another box in order to have enough dishes in the cupboard. And I'm planning new placements and perhaps something else that matches to spruce the table up a bit. New dishes and planning table settings are just as endorphin inducing as moving furniture around. Other than my new dishes, I have to say I'm feeling pretty excited about our school year. This last two weeks with my pre-planned school schedule in place has gone much more smoothly than I anticipated. It's scheduled enough to keep me on track, yet flexible. We didn't get to a couple of things I had in mind for Friday, and I'm not freaking out. Perhaps we'll do them this week, perhaps not. It's all good.

Nuk is still tearing up cardboard. Of particular enjoyment is a take-out drink tray. She has shown some recent interest in swinging her knotted ropes around like they're weapons and then chewing them to her heart's content. So now, along with all the hair she's blowing, I have string to pick up too. Fun.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hugo's Here!!

I'm so very excited. Over the summer I stumbled upon a review for The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Our library did not carry it so I requested it through the inter-library loan service.

It arrived today! I had to rush to the library this evening. I arrived 15 minutes before they closed. Noone looked very happy to see me. I picked up a few interesting books pertaining to our school work this week in record time. I also picked up The World Without Us by Alan Weisman for my mom. After reading the jacket, she'll have to wait until I finish it before she can read it. But I digress...

Pardon the glare. Photoshop is not yet part of my repertoire. Doesn't it look nice? The story is set in Paris, 1931. A young lad is living secretly in a train station and he gets caught up in a 'intricate, tender and spellbinding mystery'.

The thing that drew me in is the author's use of the images to further the story. There are over 500 pages, yet about half are illustrations. For example, chapter one is 61 pages long. Only about 5 pages of text, though. I quite like the artwork. From a quick sneak peek (I'm not supposed to read it until the kids and I start it together) much of it is set up like an artistic storyboard, telling the story one page at a time.

I expect we'll get through this pretty quickly as the kids are anxious to start our read-alouds again. I've been terribly negligent in that area of late. Purposely negligent, though. And only for a week. The week before last, we finished our summer read: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Flexibility Demonstrated

When extolling the virtues of homeschooling, people are usually quick to go on about the flexibility of such a lifestyle. Yesterday at our house was a picture perfect demonstration.

We had a bit of a late start, but I had school work pulled and ready to go for whenever the kids were ready. Brian returned to work after his lunch break and my brother-in-law, a SAHD, called. He hated to ask, but something had come up and could I run over and help with the baby for a couple of hours. So the kids and I donned raincoats and off we went to borrow a car to get to Uncle's. Three hours of toddler taming ensued.

(At one point, I was sitting on the couch, thinking of my own kids' toddler years and wondering exactly what it was that I had done all day as my two chased their cousin. It all came back to me pretty quickly. Little kids run around getting into things and eating constantly.)

Raiden at one point held his cousin and carried him around. Raiden has always avoided such a situation before. He thought cousin was wiggly, heavy and strong. Kori, in her ever constant bid to be 'in charge' of the baby, found herself catching mostly-eaten apple. She was not impressed. She much preferred picking out fresh tee-shirts for the boy.

When we left to return home, it was pouring. We returned our borrowed vehicle and walked home. In the rain. And everyone knows walking in the rain encourages downpours to become torrents. Raincoats don't do anything in that kind of weather. The kids figured a play in the rain was in order since they were already soaked to the skin. I think they had fun....
After pouring out and drying off, we had just enough time to squeeze in a math lesson each.
So, although we didn't get to all the 'scheduled' work I had planned for today, we had a full, busy, unexpected day. Scheduled work can wait. In the past, I would have attempted to cram as much as possible into the last minutes of our day. This year, I am feeling more organized - I am more organized - and it's easier to let it slide. I know that math is a priority for us to finish. The kids have discussed it and they'd like to be done their math books around the March Break. That means at least five lessons a week. So, in our available hour, we did math. And there's no stress or anxiety about the other work that will get pushed to today, combined with something else or just left out altogether.
See? Flexible. Lessons in Helping Others and Family Time rather than Language Arts and History. It's all good.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Only Monday

It's Monday. I had to check a few times just now. Seriously, it's still Monday. It feels like it should be later in the week. At the very least Tuesday.

I suppose today could have been worse. Something really bad could have gone wrong. In fact, I really don't have much to complain about in the grand scheme of things.

I read somewhere today that someone was envious of homeschoolers. You could tell that her view of homeschooling was one of gentle family time and togetherness. Of low-stress days and sibling love. When I read this message on a forum I really, really wanted to reply to it.

I wanted to shout about how utterly rotten you feel some days. How totally inadequate you feel sometimes. Not only as a parent, but as the primary Guide, Example, Teacher, Sherpa, Chef and Storyteller to your kids. I wanted to tell her about how wrong things can go. About the negative and stubborn attitudes; about biting your tongue off to avoid ultimatums; about making your kid cry because you told them the truth and feeling like a big, dumb meanie because you wouldn't change a word.

I scraped the bottom of the parenting toolbox today. However, I did not lose my cool. I did raise my voice a little. I figured I was somewhat justified as Child A hauled off and kicked Child B, followed by the immediate flight of Child A from the local area. Where was I you ask? I was about 8 feet away pulling our school work for the day off the shelf. How laughing and tickling turns to such violence in 3 seconds is beyond me. They were getting along so well.

Ok, so that I get some sleep tonight, I think it would be cathartic if I were to tell you of the good things that happened today. It'll also use up my available Internet time so that I am not further tempted to dash that one mother's enamoured visions of homeschooling.

Good Thing #1: We were up, showered, ready for the day, housework done by 9a.m.
Good Thing #2: Math was finished before 10a.m.
Good Thing #3: Kori likes the scarf I knit her enough for me to fashion matching mittens for this Fall.
Good Thing #4: Pork Tenderloin on the BBQ for dinner was amazing.
Good Thing #5: We delivered fudge to friends.
Good Thing #6: Kori is signed up to swim this season.
Good Thing #7: The kids have forgiven each other, me and are ready for tomorrow. Which is only going to be Tuesday.

See? Not a total write-off. The only niggling worry that is not going away is how can one little child not like anything, no matter what, even if they chose it for themselves. How can she find the energy to disagree, argue, counter and test consistently? All. Day. Long. When I asked God for focus and direction, I didn't know she was going to come with extensive lessons in patience and tolerance.

On a lighter - yet still serious - note, make sure you head over to Cristina's and check out her comic #134 and her very relevant (to me) message. As much as I whine and complain, I know I'm doing the best thing for our kids. I know having them in school would not be as forgiving a place to experience growing pains. And Lord help the individual who tells me to toss the kids in school. I'm that close to losing it.

But, onward and upward to tomorrow. My dad always used to tell me that tomorrow is what I make of it. As memorable and true as that might be, he did tell me that before I, notably, had children. But I'll try. I'll get up and look in the mirror and tell myself - even though it's only going to be Tuesday, for Pete's sake - what a good day it's going to be. It's all in my attitude. And if my attitude is telling me to start our day off with a walk to Tim Horton's for muffins, well then, I guess we'll start there and see how it goes.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

The Kids Are Filthy

We got down and dirty for the 'first' day of the season. The picnic was splendid. The weather was gorgeous. The company was refreshing. What else can you ask for?

The treasure hunt was a huge hit. Great job, Lyn! The clues rhymed and made the kids think just enough to make the hunt interesting, but not overwhelming. Lyn could probably box it up and sell it, it was that good.

And what picnic would be complete without a group picture? This one was full of flipped eyelids, fart noises, turned up nostrils and other general unruliness.

A successful day, all around. Pleasant reminders of the reasons we choose to homeschool and many thoughts of appreciation at being able to do so.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Welcome, HomeLearners!

The 2nd Annual Picnic is Tuesday. I'm so happy that fellow homeschooling Mom, Lyn, took the reins this year. I'm really looking forward to it.

In preparation, I made a sign. Well, two, really. I'm happy with how they turned out. Noticeable, bright, to the point. I will affix two garden stakes to either side and with my trusty hammer, I will plant them when I arrive at the picnic. Note to self: pack hammer. And staple gun for emergency fixes.

P.S. The letters really aren't crooked on the sign...there's an extra piece of bristol board under there messing up the visuals...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

My Furry Toddler

This is 'Nuk. 'Nuk is five, going on 2.5 in people years. She likes boxes. Actually, she likes all things cardboard. However, boxes are special to her.

Not very often does she stick her head in them, though. This box is very special. Can you guess why?

Is she weird? I mean, does anyone else have a dog that tears strips off boxes...and then tears up the little strips...? I suppose I should be grateful that she's drawn to cardboard rather than socks or small children.

Not much distracts 'Nuk from her objective. What is it about cardboard that makes her want to destroy it? Really, I'm perplexed. It's strange. Strange like how Raiden used to play with spoons strange.

See?! Little tiny bits of torn - not chewed - cardboard. Between the box bits and the hair (did I forget to mention that 'Nuk is currently blowing her coat?) it's like having a toddler all over again: Constant vigilance required to keep the floor hazard free.