Ebbing Tides

Back in the glory days of blogging, I used to love to scour people's blog rolls on a never-ending quest to find other fabulous blogs to enjoy. And I did. So many times it paid off in spades. (Why spades, I wonder. I'm guessing it's to do with cards and trumps and something, but honestly I would rather collect in any sort of actual currency even over trump cards. But I digress.)

One of the many, was the blog of Melissa Wiley, which I found in the sidebars of The Llama Butchers. Melissa was (is? Probably still is.) a friend IRL, I believe, of Steve-O. Which matters not a whit, but the brain stores the information and so it must out.

Melissa is an author, but that's not what her blog tended to be about. No, she was (and is) a homeschool mom of many. And one of the things that she wrote that has stuck with me through the years, was a commentary on how their homeschool had seasons of high and low tides. And in the high tides, all the work was done, education was attacked gleefully each day (I might have added the gleefully - these are children we're speaking of). There were lesson plans, and tests, and quizzes. And Formal Learning that was so rigorous that the letters really did need to be capitalized.

And then there were the low tides, where education still happened but in a looser, friendlier way. Books were read and discussed. Play was outdoors and it was enough that they found a cool bug or leaf or twig and spent time analyzing it and learning the deep secrets of nature or cartoons or whatever interest was theirs at the time, even though it didn't tie back directly to a standard of learning or one of the inevitable pop quizzes that people who don't homeschool (and who think it's weird) like to trot out upon hearing of our choice.

"What's the square root of 256?" they like to shout. And my not-quite-ten-year-old, who is still in the fourth grade, shoots me a quizzical look and stage whispers, "What's a square root, mom? Is that part of the capillary action that brings water from the ground into the trunk and leaves of trees?"

He's not advanced in math, but we do call him nature boy around here. If there is something to do with flora and fauna, chances are he has a random fact to share with you.

Elder boy, whose interests lie firmly in all things military -- weaponry, history thereof, wars and battles -- will likely be able to suggest several actions where 256 plays a role (number of soldiers lost, times the weapon was used, I don't know. But he does.)

It's a tricky thing to balance, and the words of Melissa Wiley have been echoing in my head this week as the golden light of fall beckons the kids outdoors with cries of, "Can't we play just a few more minutes?" And minutes turn to hours and before long, the day is lost without any of the textbooks cracked. No problems calculated. No essays written. 

But there is so much to talk about. The weight of the pile of leaves youngest buried himself in. The smells and textures. The worms and other bugs they found. The differences in shades of reds and yellows and golds and even greens. How the bark on this tree is split and the other is smooth. There's the defensive fortifications eldest has constructed from spare plywood and storage tub lids and his battle plan for the next time his friends come over for a war. There are plans for disassembling and modifying this Nerf weapon with parts from the other and how he needs a new spring to increase the speed of the bullets when fired and how changing up this, that, or the other brings about a better performing gun.

And there's me. On one hand, amazed and delighting in their explorations. On the other, dying because my carefully arranged plans call for a certain number of pages in each book to be accomplished each day so we can finish by a certain time. Me, the lover of Formal Education and the smell and feel of worksheets and online teaching videos who has children who love Informal Education with a furor that matches my own for the opposite.

So we walk the tightrope. And yesterday I could sense it and today it came full-force that shifting of the tide. We're slowing down in time with the shortening of the days. The tide is ebbing. So, I'll pivot and tell my type-A worry wart who's wringing her hands about the pages going undone that it's all right. We'll read the history of WWI -- the one that challenges even me with some of its conclusions (because really, are there people who disagree that what was done to the Armenians was genocide? Apparently, based on this book, there are. And while I think that's bunk, it provided for many teaching moments and side research and conversations that would never come from three pages a day to get through by May.) I'll dig out The Life of Fred and we can read about math, even if we aren't putting pencil to paper. Perhaps it's time to make another trip through the Wardrobe into Narnia as well, and look for Jesus in the face of Aslan and remember what it means that he's not a tame lion.

Low tide isn't my favorite time, but there's a part of me that recognizes how much we need it. So I'll try to embrace it and float along.


Leaf it to Beaver

I figure if Robbo gets to make leaf puns about raking extravaganzas, then so do I.

We spent about three hours on Veteran's Day blowing and raking leaves down into the forest. There were piles made and jumped in. Sleepy pup got in on the action and had quite a bit of joyous delight. And when all was said and done, the yard was basically free of all leaves.

Cue wind and rain overnight.

Friday morning, we woke up to a covered lawn that begged the question, "Have you even considered raking leaves this season?"

But of course they were wet, so they needed to wait until they were dry. We were also scheduled to head to Dad's on Friday afternoon to do his leaves (just off the porches and patio, with some bonus patio power washing thrown in for good measure.)

But wet. So we punted, ostensibly until Saturday.

But rain. Again. Just enough to keep the leaves immovable.

So we're aiming for tomorrow for Dad's and maybe, if we're motivated and the batteries hold out (the teenager version of God willing and the creek don't rise) our own. If not, ours will wait until Tuesday. Or whatever.

Our trees are all nearly naked, so maybe waiting will work in our favor in terms of number of times more that we have to attack the project.

We shall see, I suppose.


Falling leaves and a chill in the air

The maples around the house have finally started to turn, and drop their leaves. I love this part of the year.

The boys spent some time outside this afternoon raking and leaf blowing as well, which is always fun for them. And lucrative. Because we're raising a couple of money grubbers. (I kid. I'm happy to pay them for their work. And I'm happy that they are learning that there is no payment sans work. This whole idea that one should not have to labor to live boggles my mind.)

I dug out my long sleeves today as well, finally giving in to the weather rather than continuing in my T-shirts and sporting my sweatshirt because I was cold. I swapped the boys' clothes over two weeks ago, so I'm not sure why the holdup on my part, but there was some kind of mental block for my own.

I am, at this red hot second, in a battle of wills with the youngest about vacuuming the basement stairs. He wants to empty the dustbuster first and then do it. I contend that it's fine and he should empty it one time after finishing both stairwells. As he needs my help to open said dustbuster, this is a battle I fully intend to win.

I realize how stupid it is reading it, but this boy. He will fight you on EVERYTHING. And if he doesn't get his way, it's an epic showdown. As evidenced by right now him having sat on the stairs he's to be vacuuming for the last hour and a quarter.

He could have vacuumed the stairs twelve times, minimum, if he'd just obeyed.

And that's the crux. 

Today this is my hill to die on. Maybe it's stupid. (It probably is.) But I'm so tired of him thinking everything can and should be a negotiation. Because that's not how life works.

So really, life continues apace.


Ghosts, Goblins, and Ghouls. Oh my!

We had friends over for dinner after Awana last night and then our kiddos and their kiddos glommed together in a group with me and t'other mom to wander the streets and beg for candy.

The kids brought in quite a haul -- all of them had to stop and empty the smaller collection bucket into a grocery store bag at least once.

What we're going to do with all that candy remains to be seen, particularly since we didn't manage to give away all the candy I had purchased for that purpose. I'd say we easily have 3/4 of it left.

And also I gave up sugar (again, I know. It is what it is. One of these days maybe it'll really stick.) three weeks ago so it's just taunting me. 

Anyway, eldest dressed as a Navy seal. Youngest was a Na'vi from Avatar. 

I went as Jake from StateFarm, because I can manage red polo and khakis and even made myself a nametag because I have mad Word skills.

The other mom was like "If I'd known you were dressing up, I would have too!" And honestly, I had just assumed she would be, because she's that kind of mom and I always feel a little stodgy and inadequate around her. Thus the preemptive costume. 

Ah well.

We never did carve the pumpkins. I'd say I was surprised, but I'm really not. Youngest is a bit bummed, but he wasn't bummed enough to give up his Xbox time to DO the carving. So whatever. We'll chunk them down into the woods behind the house and let the wild beings feast.


When in doubt, TV

I'm slowly but surely continuing my way through The Amazing Race and Top Chef. TAR is for my elliptical time and TC is often in the evening while I'm fixing dinner or after if I just need a few minutes to let my brain rest while the boys are all playing video games.

In TAR, I'm on season 21. It's one I remember some of the people from, though I did peek at the Wikipedia article and I didn't remember who the winners were. What I did remember were the perhaps most annoying participants of the race: The Twinnies.

Honestly, there have been many mornings where I've hit that 10s skip button when they're getting time on the show. Shrill. Annoying. Catty. Ugh.

And I didn't remember that the Chippendales made it to the finale. Honestly, watching the show as I go along? I'm super surprised.

In Top Chef land, I'm well past the seasons I watched live - being now on Top Chef Charleston. I'm enjoying seeing veterans from previous seasons pitted against the newbies. But there are also moments where I'm like, is this a cooking show or high school drama?

For now, sister has a new biopsy that they're processing/DNA analyzing. And well, that's where we are.

So brain breaks are a good thing.


Sleepy Pup and Sundries

Sunday, the Sleepy Pup turned three. He's such a delight. I'm awfully glad we have a dog again, and as much as I try to pretend we got him for the boys, it's a lie. He is my baby and I am his person and that's really all there is to say about it. 

He's the best ever.

There's not a ton going on here outside of the normal state of things. Dad and sister continue to be of concern. Hubby's family is working on keeping up with the drama by having their own implosions. I'm on hubby's case, just a tad, about scheduling something with his sisters (zoom? phone call? smoke signals?) to talk about the what ifs of their parents. With the warning shot across the bow, so to speak, coming from their dad and his heart scare (which turned out to be pretty much a non issue, but still) everyone needs to get and be on the same page as far as what happens if one goes before the other. Especially as his mom would be completely unable to live on her own. His dad would probably be okay for a little bit.

And of course there's the question of what to do about the youngest sister who, for varied reasons real and imagined, has yet to live on her own or hold a job for more than a handful of months at a go with long, long gaps between any attempt at employment.

Hubby and I kind of feel like we're calling "not it" and stepping back, but of course that only works in theory. No one's sure what the reality would end up needing to be.

I know we took a little mini vacation in September, but I'm ready for another already.


Pumpkin Time

We spent our Columbus/Indigenous People's Day (neither of which are part of our homeschool calendar, but whatever) making a trek down to gather pumpkins from the farm with friends from church. They have four kids in four different schools (2 different public middles, one at a private Christian, and one homeschooled. It is, to me, the perfect example of finding what works for your kid and doing that.) but all were off today.

We looked into the pumpkin patch that we usually attend, but boy howdy, I know times are harder this year, but between the $25/person entrance fee regardless of age and then having to pay for any of the activities (like the slides?!) it was not economically reasonable or feasible to do so. So we went down the road a bit to a smaller, more family-like farm that wanted only $9/person with no additional charges beyond the pumpkins or food you wanted.

Since they opened at 9, we made a concerted effort to be there at opening. It was fantastic. We were all able to get a good bit of fun in before the throngs descended. And by noon, we were on our way to Sonic for lunch.

We got two normal sized pumpkins and one rather large one that I fear is going to be left to me to carve. I enjoy the pumpkin carving process, but I inevitably regret when we go "the great pumpkin" route. Ah well. I'm sure they'll all be too cool for pumpkins before too long (I'm honestly a tad surprised that eldest still wanted his own pumpkin this year because he is very much too cool for seemingly everything else.)

I find myself exhausted at the end of the day and it seems ridiculous, but I'm also seeing that, despite the completely overcast day, I got a bit of sun, so perhaps that's the problem.