Room for Learning

Our days are structured around learning, so it is no surprise that the #1 factor in choosing our new house was (for me anyway) the place where we would “do school.”  Now, to be fair, our work happens all over the house, and much of it doesn’t look like school at all.  However, when I saw this sunroom, I envisioned cups of tea, good books, finger paintings, and sunshine.  Here is how our “school room” looks when it is all tidied up and ready to go.

You pass through the French doors to enter the sunroom.  The sweet rocking horse was given to us by the house’s previous owner.  She said that it was enjoyed by her children and made by her sister.  I love having it in our school room.

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We already owned the loveseat, and it fits perfectly at one end of the room.  To give you a sense of the size of our room, it is only a little wider (maybe three feet) than the loveseat itself.

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The big school table is actually a “retired” library table with two big drawers at the front.  I love that it came from an honest-to-goodness library.  We adopted it from a friend, and it couldn’t be more perfect for our purposes.  Bins beneath the table hold our books and supplies.  The wool, braided tote on the radiator holds our percussion instruments.

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The flowered tin is my sticker box from when I was a child.  I still have stickers in it from when I was six or seven years old, plus many new additions.  The little metal buckets are from the Target dollar bin. 

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The wonderful owl puppet was a Christmas gift to our oldest son from my parents when he was four.  He adored it when he was little, and the owl still brings a bit of charming wisdom to our days.  The alphabet puzzle is a Melissa and Doug toy from Aunt Kristy and Uncle Jake.

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We love to use magazines in our homeschool.  We typically use National Geographic Kids and Highlights.  The microscope is a “talking microscope” that we really enjoy.  It was a gift from my in-laws, and it is used very frequently!  The books are ones that we are using currently.  We did a unit on the library.  We’re slowly reading through the Little House books, and you’ll notice our Story of the World (Volume 2) history book and the accompanying activity book, plus some fables and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories, perfect for spring.

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This board is the Everyday Display from Creative Memories.  Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but I’ve seen them on Ebay for good prices.  The board is magnetic.  We made the rainbows  for a unit on refraction and shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

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I hope you enjoyed your tour of our sunroom.  We love it!

A Change Is Coming

A Change Is Coming

These lovely paper snowflakes were made in a flurry (ha!) of excited activity at the start of winter. We made them as a little homeschool project, and they were a huge hit. As much as I love them, I cannot wait to replace them with some springtime art. We need a good dose of sunshine in these parts.

Grace

“Please remember to give yourself grace if things aren’t just how you feel they should be.”

These are the words sent to me by a new friend in my neighborhood, a fellow homeschool mom and a fellow Christian.  I sent her a word of encouragement via Facebook inbox one day, and she sent me a lovely note in return–saying exactly what I needed to hear on our first day back to school after our new baby’s arrival and Daddy’s return to work.  That was mid-January.  We’re over a month into “normal life,” and it’s been quite a roller coaster.  There have been plenty of high soaring moments–newborn smiles, visits from family, beautiful snow, exciting sled rides, the discovery of fun places in our new community.  But we’ve had lows–sinking, where-is-the-bottom kinds of lows.  We’ve had illness–nothing serious, but when my kiddos aren’t 100%, I’m terribly on-edge and praying for a return to good health.  I haven’t been myself either, and you know the saying.  When mama ain’t happy…

Homeschooling has been rough during this wintery back-to-school transition.  Because I haven’t been feeling great, I haven’t been very fun or creative in my school planning.  We’re covering the basics and waiting (not so patiently) for a break in the weather.  Simply being outside is education in itself, and I can’t wait to explore our new yard and begin a little gardening project.

For now, I’m keeping my friend’s words close.  I am not always generous with myself when it comes to doling out grace, but thankfully, I have a Lord who is exceedingly generous in that regard.

Babymoon

My first three kiddos are summer babies.  They spent the first three months of their lives in little Onesies.  They rarely wore socks, and we took them outside for walks every single day of their brand new lives.  Our current bundle was born on a very warm December evening, but since then, the weather has been mighty chilly.  Such a different experience!  And the whole fact of a newborn in cold-and-flu-season brings out the almost-germaphobe in me.  Let’s simply say that several factors have brought us to being inside a lot, and we are all feeling antsy.

I, for one, am craving the normal run-around of our usual life, but at the same time, these three weeks have been a treasure.  I know why people call the newborn period a “Babymoon.”  It is a period in time that you can never recapture.  It’s a process of falling in love, getting to know a new family member.  It’s a time to close out the rest of the world, trim down responsibilities, and just BE.

As sweet as this time has been, like any honeymoon, the hibernation has to come to an end.  Cory went back to work this week, and we returned to our (modified) homeschool schedule.  The meals from kind friends have come to an end, and I need to get back to meal planning and prep.  This is good progress, and don’t worry; we still have tons of cuddle time.

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Hello, Baby. Hello, 2014.

He’s here!  Our fourth child– joined the family on December 22 at 8:34pm.  He was born at a birth center in a quick, natural birth.  I was supported by my husband, a midwife, a nurse, and a doula named Amy.  We were a good team, and I’m thankful for all the hands that helped to welcome our son into the world.  I deeply wanted to give birth at home (planned this time!), but when we were making decisions about this birth, I didn’t know if we would have a home yet.  Therefore, we planned for the free-standing birth center, and I can now say that it was the next best thing.  The environment was simple and private.  That is pretty much all I need.

And now, I feel like our new life has begun.  For real.  We have our new baby, our new house, and a spankin’ new year ahead of us.  I wanted to share my New Year goals here, but I feel a little silly.  Let me simply say that my goals are specific, measurable, and attainable.  No crazy pie-in-the-sky aspirations for me this year.  I’ve divided them into 4 categories, using the aims of my sorority (Alpha Sigma Alpha) as a framework.  They are Intellectual, Spiritual, Physical, and Social.  As the year progresses, I’m sure that I’ll share little tidbits of my plans and my progress.

For now…feast your eyes on this bundle of Christmas sweetness…

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A Tradition Renewed

When I was growing up, we cut down fresh Christmas trees.  We weren’t exactly on a tree farm though.  More like an old strip mine/wooded area.  It was fun and felt a bit sneaky.  Such rebels we were!  Truly, though, it was a great way to get a tree.  The trees weren’t sprayed with pesticides, and they were left to grow when, how, and where they pleased.  We were never bothered by a single other tree shopper!

From Christmas 2004 until my family moved to Florida in 2011, we went to a Christmas tree farm with Cory’s family to pick out the perfect evergreen.  That first Christmas was also the evening when we saw our very first positive pregnancy test.  As we decorated our tree, we danced around the living room, listened to Bing Crosby, and cracked open a can of fruit cocktail.  Our hearts were full with anticipating next Christmas with a new baby in our arms.

In late November 2011, Cory’s mom and dad drove a moving van down to Florida with our belongings.  To our absolute shock and delight, a beautiful Christmas tree had made the trip–tied onto the back of the truck.  What a surprise!

Last year, we picked up a Home Depot tree in a Florida parking lot.  Not quite as fun.

But this year, the tradition continues.  We bundled up, mounted the big wagon with hay bales for seats, and set out to choose our tree.  A fresh snow and a bit of sunshine made the day perfect.

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Jumping for Joy

We are having a great, quiet Saturday.  It’s the first Saturday since we moved with nowhere to go, and being here feels right.  I gave all three kiddos much needed haircuts.  The boys are watching a Christmas movie, and hubby is grading final exams.  Charlotte is taking a nap next to me.  Perfect.  The only thing better would be watching the rather gloomy drizzle turn to snow.

Boxes are still plenty, but we set yesterday as a deadline for having things relatively “set up,” so today is a day for relishing our efforts and the results.  It’s not perfect.  No, no.  Yet the house feels much better.  For once I don’t feel guilty about sitting on the couch blogging instead of unpacking a box or scrubbing something.  Imagine!

I love these shots of the kids enjoying a mostly empty house on the second day after closing.  There has been a certain joy about our days as we become acquainted with this old, new-to-us house.

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We’re In!

Hello, readers–those who have made it through my long dry spell.  We closed on the house about two weeks ago.  Most of our belongings are here in the new house, but the boxes are many!  We had a loss in our family, so the move-in didn’t happen in one big swoop as I had hoped.  We needed to step away from the work, mourn with our family, and celebrate the life of a sweet grandma.  Then Thanksgiving came.  More days away.  Then there was a weekend of a birthday and a baby shower!  All good things, but the task of settling in has been slow.

Our Christmas tree is up, and “home” is starting to feel like a fitting name for this little cottage of ours.  Yesterday, Cory and I watched the Steeler game in our sunroom/schoolroom.  The snow was falling in earnest, and we could watch it from every angle in this sweet sunroom.  I was filled with the joy of having made it home in time for Christmas and in time for our baby’s arrival.

Waiting…

We have been in a season of preparation and waiting since April.  First, we prepared ourselves for the news of Cory’s interview.  Would he get the new job or not?  He did.  Then we prepared to move.  That preparation was probably the most physically taxing!  We cleaned and packed and prepped.  Then we made the move.  We returned a little over a month later for another round of packing and cleaning.

Once in our new/old state, we worked on settling in and finding some sort of routine.  Not easy!  Then we prepared for Cory to start his job and find yet another new rhythm without Daddy at home during the day.  With that mission accomplished, we prepared for a second year of homeschooling.  It was important me that I have a clearer plan this year, and I feel pretty good about that plan.

We are still in the process of selling our Florida house, and we are making progress on finding a new home.  This waiting and preparation is hard emotionally and mentally because real estate is such a roller coaster.  But we are doing the best we can to wait and prepare in an “it’s out of our hands” kind of way.

And now…we are finally ready to prepare for the most exciting change of all.  We are getting ready for BABY #4.  We are sorting and washing and organizing as we prepare for our newest baby…

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Hunting

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This is my parents’ backyard.  This is the magical place where my sister and I rolled and played and made up stories.  We pretended to be Olympians on the swing set–practicing a sport that never caught on.  This is where we watched for the rotund groundhog who popped his head up year after year.  We named him “Chubs.”  See that skinning pine near the center?  I planted that with my Grandma Kitty when I was very small.  It is taller than all of us now.  This yard is a carpet of soft moss under a canopy of trees.  The sun comes through in a twinkly sort of way that I was thrilled to capture in this photograph.  I love this place.

We are deep in the hunt for our new home now, and I guess part of me is always searching for the yard of my childhood.  I’m looking for the green and the sunlight, and mostly, the quiet.  I’m looking for a place for imaginations to thrive and God’s glory to shine.  I’m looking for the magic.