You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2012.

A favorite time of year…


Walking around the straw bales today…


A magical world… Eric loves this tractor, which he calls his “motor beep.”


With you, my heart finds eternity…


We watched The Nightmare Before Christmas (one of Katie’s favorite movies and a gift for her birthday) and carved Jack Skellington from our white pumpkin.


A couple of days ago, Eric lined up all of his Hundred Acre Wood buddies and played blocks while Katie and I were at the market gathering ingredients for her birthday dinner and our Halloween feast.


Tonight: a festive and fun evening with BearCub Buddies! Our hostess, Erin, threw an amazing party! We all had such a blast! The energy of twenty-seven kiddos is awesome and fun. Here, Katie and Eric painted their mini pumpkins with glitter paint.


Glitter body paint in a snowflake design!


Superheroes, knights, ninjas, queens, princesses, dinosaurs!


A courageous Narnian queen (Lucy) with a sword!


Eric rides a “neigh.”


Caramel apples and spiderwebs.



We’re so thankful for this season, and for the chance to develop friendships! We hope everyone has a happy Halloween tomorrow!

Five years ago today, after eight and a half hours of non-medicated labor and feeling every beautiful and sublime sensation of her birth, my little Pumpkin Girl emerged into this world at 12:40 PM three weeks early and changed my world completely. After cuddling with her for a few minutes, I was parted from her for many hours while she had oxygen and cleared her small lungs and developed her robust cry. When at last she could breathe free and clear on her own, they brought her to my room at 2 AM on October 30th. I held her small hands and cuddled her and sang our special song and knew this love would be eternal.


She is sweet, funny, fierce, sparkly, creative, cuddly, intense, intelligent, beautiful, imaginative, loving, wild, poetic, and beaming.


With Aslan, her favorite friend.




Katie poses with the life-sized Harry Potter we made last year after we read the whole series together. We’re big Harry Potter fans here!


Daddy brought her a basket full of flowers when he came home from work—she was so full of joy!


Decorating her cake


Cake designed her cake…she wanted chocolate cake with yellow frosting to represent Aslan. We spent the afternoon baking it together and then she decorated it with various sprinkles.


American Girl books!


Opening her necklace from Amie and Boppa.


Chemistry set!!!


Birthday dinner


Katie chose her dinner: breaded and baked chicken, steamed carrots, roasted broccoli with roasted cherry tomatoes, and mashed potatoes. And apple cider, of course!


While waiting for dinner to finish cooking, Katie and Eric played “school” with Boppa. “School” is kind of a big deal around here—they play it even when we aren’t homeschooling!


Eric laughed wholeheartedly at a game Boppa was playing with him. A child’s laughter is so pure…


Playing with presents




This was the first year that she could read her birthday cards herself!

Happy 5th Birthday to my Baby Kate! I will love you forever and ever!

We made many memories at the McGaugh Academy this week!

Our neighborhood lost power right before sundown. When I was little, I was always asking my parents to turn off lights and have nights with just candles lighting our way (I am such a romantic, so lost always in my books. Even in middle school, I was a creature of another century). I remember that a highlight of my childhood was convincing my parents to let me carry an old-fashioned candle upstairs to bed. Bill’s iPhone 5, which took this photo, makes the room look ablaze with light, but really the power was out. It just so happened that our chicken had JUST finished roasting before our power loss. I finished the mashed potatoes and the maple butternut squash and apple on the stove, working all by candles. A poetic pioneer adventure… We ate by candlelight, and we read a handwritten letter from our cousin that happened to come that afternoon. A handwritten letter from a cousin by candlelight? I had a little purr in my heart because we were so clearly in a book! I love those in-a-book moments. We also read some Aesop’s fables by candlelight. Does it sound strange to say that I felt my heart sink just a little when the lights came back on? In fact, the first thing I did was turn them all back off…and then I finished washing dishes by candlelight.

My mom helped Eric and Katie make cookies. I was outside cleaning the garage, finding rodent droppings, and becoming convinced that my family is all going to perish from hantavirus. But that’s another story… Inside, my mom let the children create, which I love! Eric made cookies his way, and Katie made up her own recipe. My mom was a facilitator, but they did not use a recipe. Katie has cooked long enough to know basic principles of baking. She even replaced some of the sugar with honey, and they didn’t use much butter. Eric kept his simple: cinnamon and chocolate chips. Yum! Katie invented an apple-chocolate-coconut-raisin-spice cookie. Extremely tasty. I’ve never put apples in a cookie before! It works!

My two handsome men at Katie’s soccer game.

Part of our Autumn Leaves unit: making “thankful trees” and using fingerprints as leaves. On the back, we wrote the people and experiences for which we are thankful.

My two painters. I picked up these maple leaf painting kits for a dollar apiece at Target when we went with my cousin Kd a few weeks ago.

We’ve read books and watched videos on why leaves change colors in the fall. We collected various leaves around our yards, used Montessori cards to identify shapes. (Shapes like “cordate,” “ovate,” etc. lend themselves also to mini-Latin lessons on roots).

We also used our leaves to make leaf rubbings! I had fun with this, too!

One morning while I was tidying up, Eric was allowed to use his LeapPad. He went to get his play keys, and, holding both keys and Pad, said he was “Daddy.” Then he wanted to pretend to get into his “grey beep.”

We’ve been printing out so many assignments, crafts, pictures lately that I had to find a way to slow down on our ink consumption. I printed out three different addition sets and laminated them. Katie does a column every morning as a warm up before we embark on other math. When she is done, we can check it, erase it, and reuse the card. Both Bill (a math teacher) and I are very much on the side of math drills. I grew up on them in my elementary school, and I loved doing my times tables under a time limit. Otherwise in math this week she has been working on identifying numbers 21-30 (from our textbook, easy). We supplement with geometry, addition of numbers 1-10, and actual analogies made from math concepts. (Like old school SAT types of analogies, which we believe train the mind). She loves the analogies. In fact, I only had five for her the first day, and she begged me to do the next set as well. I am happy that her mind likes that groove.

Katie asked for some time in the kitchen to create whatever she wanted, and she came up with two pumpkin cakelets (one for herself and one for Eric).

Eric has been involved in our math and science this week, as well. We use the unifix cubes to practice counting, adding, and pattern making. They have proved a useful investment.

During one of Eric’s naps this week, Katie and I built a farm/stables/barn. Her idea.

We received a handwritten letter from our friend Ashley in Colorado this week, and she included Halloween stickers! My kiddos have been using those for posters, and we’ve put some on Katie’s work, also. So we wrote her back!

Making a glittery pumpkin to send to our friend.

Mud pie for sale? Any buyers?

Katie’s Obama/Romney poster for the debates. I think I might have mentioned: she is very much interested in the debates and this election. I usually keep my politics to myself, but she has really been encouraging a whole family interest in the election this year. I can’t wait to take her with me to vote so she can see what that is like…

We are now on our last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Katie’s costume as Queen Lucy Pevensie is complete, and she wore it for the first time to music class on Friday. Part of it includes a crown I had made of natural materials and beads for a costume I was planning to wear when I was pregnant with her. In fact, I had spent the night before she was born making the crown and watching Camelot (the musical). Still teaching and expecting Katie to be born close to her November 16th due date, I was planning to be Mother Nature at work that week. Then she came on October 29th, and my life was forever changed. I never wore the crown, but I kept it. It is surreal to see her wear it this year…as she turns five-years-old on Monday.

We’ve also kept up with our social studies and our language arts this week, of course, but I have no pictures of those!

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to support the TVHS Mock Trial team (my old team—we went to the state level competition in 1998, my senior year). They had a fundraiser at Rubio’s. Some of my friends (who were on the team and who became lawyers) now help my friend Jen coach the team. Several of Bill’s math department colleagues were there, as well. I loved feeling connected to everyone, and feeling still a part of the TVHS spirit, both as a former student and as a teacher. I’ve lived so much of my life on that campus, when I think about it—it is part of who I am, as are the people who have been part of it with me.

Our soundtrack this week has been Taylor Swift’s new album, Red. That might be another blog entry all on its own… I love every song, and there are not many albums about which I say that. She is a bit darker on this album than usual and takes some risks. I become so emotionally invested in music, and the stories Swift tells resonate with me. Although many of her songs are about her love affairs gone wrong, her lyrics invite me to interpret her songs in my own way. I think of phases of my life that I have moved on from, or of break-ups I’ve had, or of falling in love with Bill, or friendships that have evolved, or humanity itself, or people I know who might have experienced a feeling in one of her songs. In fact, I’ve been staying up way too late this week listening to her album on repeat and just soaking in every note and letting her music take me on thought-journeys.

Good night, everyone!

What follows are some thoughts about the past few days… I want to keep track of some of these thoughts yet do not yet want to turn any of these into a longer essay. My thought-life the past few days has been richer than it has been in awhile, for which I am so grateful. A little brainstorm…

…handwritten letters to people we love…

…numerous rounds of nausea for each of my kiddos…in the crib, in the bed, in the middle of the night, down the front and back of my college t-shirt, twice on favorite blankets…

…twists of fate…

…the scent of bright fireplaces on a cold night…

…turning the other cheek, crying through the night at the less glorious parts of human nature and unanswerable whys, waking up to little hands and eyes recentering my world…

…a fun visit with Mrs. G (our homeschool ES), who described her preparations for Christmas and her eight Christmas trees, which I have been imagining ever since…

…blasting Taylor Swift… “You, with your words like knives/And swords and your weapons that you use against me/…Well you can take me down with a single blow/But you don’t know what you don’t know…” And then suddenly seeing myself from outside myself and laughing… Those moments in life when you can zoom out and see yourself in the context of the Whole are always so illuminating…

…A rich inner thought-life about the possibility and struggle for true unconditional love, not only toward those for whom it is easy to feel such love (husband, family, children, friends-like-family) but also toward those for whom it is not easy to muster it… Will this ideal elude us all? Perhaps it has to elude us, and we have to realize that it does, in order to grow into people who know how equally flawed we all are…

…Pumpkin ice cream with a bit of chocolate drizzle over it…

…”Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that, even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.” Thank you Mr. Kurt Vonnegut…

…My mom coming over to help with my two ill little people yesterday afternoon…

…Not judging…compassion…remembering always to ask, “What burdens does this person have that I know nothing of?”…

…Remembering that all actions and reactions have ripples…A favorite thought from C.S. Lewis: we only ever get to know our part of the story, and we’re never told the whole of someone else’s story… We may question our role in her story, or she might question her role in ours; when it comes to the end, we only know the part we were given and what we chose to play out on our end. Did we take whatever ripples there were and try to use them for the good? Did we try to continue the goodness, or did we shut down? Can we take something negative that happened to us and turn it into a goodness that benefits someone other than ourselves?

…Friends from all ages and places in life who make my life richer through philosophy and discussion…

…News about babies in my friends’ lives…

…Singing, cuddling, and giving thanks for and with my children every night…

…Joking with my husband…

…A husband who reminds me never to let the negative into my world…

…Two days in pajamas/relaxing clothes and orange juice and nowhere to be and no pressure to produce and Sesame Street marathons…a much needed break…an unusual heaven…

My apologies for disordered thoughts…I have not slept much the past couple of nights, for various reasons. Yet  I am up too late because I have words in me aching to burst out. These words here begin to appease the flurry within…but you know how words are: demanding little things until your hands give them life. It always feels to me that my words write themselves and my hands merely deliver them, almost like the words put themselves together at some place deep within me and then want to leap out from my center. There are some thoughts in this “rough draft” blog that I might later change into a more private poem of sorts…

With pumpkin math and apple tasting, not to mention the rain, we’ve had an autumn-filled week at the McGaugh Academy! Here is a bit of an overview of subjects Katie covered this week:

Math: addition, review of geometric solids

English/Language Arts: fiction and nonfiction texts themed around apples, The Silver Chair, Halloween books, reading comp passages and accompanying questions (she is mostly an independent reader with respect to these passages, which are beyond K level), and fact vs. opinion work. She LOVED our fact vs. opinion work this week.  We were constantly evaluating and discussing various statements, and then on Thursday night we tried to listen for facts and opinions in the vice presidential debate (one of her special interests).

History: Johnny Appleseed, history and science of apple varieties and growth

Science: states of matter (identifying, classifying, how we change states of matter); apple growth, varieties, and pollination

Art: she worked on an entry for a Music Together competition (had to draw a picture of her family making music at home), plus there was plenty of free art, music time, and the putting on of plays (acting out our favorite stories is one of my kiddos’ favorite hobbies).

She is still working in Explode the Code, too, to help solidify her phonics foundation. It’s all well and good that she can read most or all of what I put before her; I also want her to be able to understand how the words are put together. She needs to be able not only to use the tools (even innately), but to know what to call the tools. I am one of those English teachers who believes every student needs a formal grounding in phonics, grammar, and word origin. Poor Katie. 🙂

I also have been doing my share of learning this week, enrolled in two classes (Philosophy of Teaching; and Brain-Based Learning) through River Springs for a Parent Certification program. Although I have a credential, I think it is important to participate in this program. I’ve been writing mini-essays and doing various assignments this week. All four courses as well as a couple of “electives” (these could be a range of assignments, from reading books and writing reviews to attending conferences) and a final project are due June 14th. I’ve whittled away at much of this, but between these concerns, my cold, a full week of homeschooling and extracurricular activities, and life…well, this week has been very busy! Still, it is Friday now and we’ve made it. Placing one foot in front of the other and working hard always gets us to where we need to be, right?


Ready to taste test our eight varieties of apples! The kiddos had to assess for color, texture, crunchiness, juiciness, and seed count. We also ranked our favorites and least favorites. We took pictures of each apple, and then we made a huge poster with our results.



Eric counts the seeds… He is able to say, “One, two, three, four” now in order. Sometimes his “two” almost has a bit of a “three” sound to part of it, but he is now making the distinction more regularly.



Katie works on her Music Together submission.



Watching the first part of the vice presidential debate with my dad. She said later that it was challenging to keep track of all they were saying, but she did notice their behaviors. As I have good friends and dear family on both sides of the political spectrum who read this blog, I will try to keep my comments neutral here. Still I will say that, entirely on her own, she did have some critique to offer regarding rates of interruption and more.



We love Kara, our music teacher, so much. Katie was excited to turn in her artwork this morning.



Kara is always so interested in the kiddos and how the kiddos explain what is important to them.



Eric (brown cords, blue knit sweater) helps with the “Hello Song.”



“Here is the Beehive”



Playing bells



Drumming for “Mississippi Cat”



Sister and Brother drum



More instrument time

And here is one from last Friday:



We have been excited to visit the local pumpkin farm again this season. It is a natural place for fun and learning. Eric took his first ride on a “neigh” last week and has been asking and asking to go again!

(Checking in for SPREE)

With just a nip of October chill in the air this morning, Katie and I headed to Murrieta for our first River Springs Charter School SPREE (Student and Parent Regional Educational Events) of the school year! Of the many reasons that we chose to conduct our homeschooling through River Springs, one of the greatest advantage is the chance to take classes and go on field trips with other River Springs homeschoolers. This morning Katie had a three hour class and I took a separate three hour class. We checked in, and then I took her to her room and I went to mine. No big deal, right?

Actually, it was…at least for me. Of the 4 years and 344 days that Katie has been out of my womb, there has never been a single time—not a single one—when she has been with a caretaker other than me, Bill, or my parents. That’s it. In all of her life, I have never hired a babysitter or left her for any length of time (short or long) with anyone other than the four of us. My brother David did watch her along with Bill for about half an hour when she was about a month old. There you have it. During the period that I went back to work for several months to finish out my commitments, my mom and dad watched her at their home, and I have entrusted both of my children to them on numerous other occasions.

Every other class we’ve ever had, I’ve been right there. In the same room. Following along, or just watching (as she got older).

I realize just how fortunate I am to have my parents so close, and how equally blessed I am to be able to stay home with my children and to be able to rely on people I trust completely. I’ve never had the gut-drop feeling that I imagine would come with having to drop my children off with people I don’t know well. It must be one of the most difficult feelings a mom experiences, and one that you are even stronger for having worked through.

(With Mrs. G)

Today as I dropped Katie off in her classroom, I had this little zap right in the very center of my body. I will not see her for three hours! I thought. Will she be okay? I had prepped her on what to do if she needed to use the restroom (ask a teacher for help, preferably during a break in the lesson), if she needed help on a task (raise your hand), what to do with her jacket (hang it over your chair). I took pictures, some deep breaths, and a large view of the situation. She was beyond excited, especially since one of her teachers was none other than our very own Mrs. G. As I lingered in the doorway after our kiss and hug, she was already highly involved in the excitement of the room. There was nothing for me but to go on my own way…and let her just be.

(Time to let her go do her thing)

I hurried to my own room and got focused. Every once in awhile I would get this flutter in my stomach as I thought about Katie and what she was doing. I was fortunate to be at a table of mothers who really know their stuff. Several of them had three or more children. Some of us had two. Some of the activities they shared absolutely blew my mind, inspired me, and impressed me. Incredible. That kind of achievement lights a fire under me. I met a woman named Hayley (three students, runs her own science labs, full of great ideas) is inspiration for what I hope to be doing in a few years. I love people who push me to want to be better.

Our seminar/workshop/class focused on better practices for teaching math. Our presenter, Gina, had me at hello. She is a credentialed, classroom-experienced teacher who has homeschooled her—wait for it—SEVEN kids, one of whom is now in grad school. She is now the Academic Achievement Advisor for River Springs. I enjoyed everything about her presentation style, and about her personally.

Gina gave us a shocking statistic, born out of their extensive research the past few years and work they have been doing to increase the API of River Springs: 33% of homeschool parents report not teaching math at all during the day in their homes. Wild, huh?

We had to make a sample lesson plan at our tables using the CRA method (concrete, representational, abstract) that modeled how to deliver a solid math lesson. My table nominated me to write and to present up at the front, so I felt all the sudden that I was back at TVHS. It was funny, because the other tables kept commenting on how straight and nice my handwriting was on the butcher paper. I guess I don’t think about it much anymore, because it took a year to develop that in my classroom (when I first started teaching, I wrote at a slant). I got to feel like Beth Cann today (hi, Beth! Beth is the producer of the most elegant and precise on-the-board writing I’ve ever seen, and her handwriting trumps mine by a mile).  Just being in front of a classroom again brought back so many happy feelings…

So I had fun. There’s always something positive during staff development, right? When Gina brought up Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, I had the biggest homesickness for my CSUSM cohort—the people I went to “teaching school” with so long ago (because I remember exactly how many of us were sitting when we first talked about that). In fact, I almost laughed out loud remembering some of our antics. I am always going to have a teacher’s heart, and I often miss my colleagues, especially those in this district, too…but right now that teacher’s heart is being given to my kiddos. I’m glad that I will still get some of the enjoyment of the bigger institution through River Springs.

And what did Eric do today? My dad, fresh off his half marathon yesterday, took Eric to Toddler Time this morning. They made a pumpkin during craft time and had a great time. I really missed being with Eric today, but he was in excellent care. Since they visited with my mom afterward, they actually got home after Katie and I did. When Eric came through the front door, he ran into my arms and gave me a huge hug and was eager to start telling about his class with Boppa.

What a great morning for all of us… and what a privilege it is to be my kiddos’ teacher.

The scent of Stanford University in the autumn is of redwood and pine and eucalyptus, old books and new pencils, newly cut grass and crisp northern air. Stanford University in the fall is heavenly. In fact, the campus is heavenly all the year through. I’ve not been back since Katie was about twenty months old. We went fountain hopping, saw my old dorms and houses, peeked in the rooms of many of my favorite classes. Stanford will always be partly my home, and I miss it. The energy and curiosity and joy of learning on the Stanford campus take my breath away.

Stanford held my 10th reunion this weekend. Pregnant and due with Katie, I missed our 5th and vowed to make our 10th. A beautiful dinner on the Quad… football… Classes Without Quizzes (taught by Stanford profs)… seeing old dormmates and friends…

For half a year I thought we would attend. I want my children to frolic there. I want them to taste the vibrancy of mind there, so that they know what they are working for. It doesn’t matter to me whether they attend Stanford or choose some other university, but I do want them to feel and see how alive such a campus is, to revel in the vibe that celebrates hard work, learning, and following intellectual passions.

Then in August, we had to make choices. First there was the choice of cost:  we took a long two week trip last summer and were thinking about an elaborate Disneyland/Grand Californian trip this autumn (and on the horizon, a trip for the Yoder reunion this summer in Indiana). Do we add yet another costly excursion? Each event at the reunion required tickets—for all four of us. Some events (Dinner on the Quad) added up quickly. Would the kiddos be able to sit through Classes Without Quizzes? Would it be better (for us) to try for a spring trip and add in visiting with my high school friends and aunts who happen to be in the Bay Area?

The thought of going alone was not appealing. I truly like to be with my children. I usually don’t go anywhere that they aren’t. Bill would have had to miss work, and if he didn’t, I wouldn’t want to leave him for so long. Should I do what is in my best interest, or what is in the best interest of my entire family? If it came down to a financial choice between the reunion and our annual Disneyland trip, which one would I choose?

Then there was a second choice to be made. This weekend also happened to be Dad’s half marathon, for which he has been training several months. He has made me so proud and done so much more than he ever thought he could do. Doesn’t he deserve his family there to encourage and support him, to celebrate? How often has he achieved something like this? He always attended every event of mine that he could. I know that if I had been running in my first half marathon, he would have come to support me.

What to do, what to do. When two things that we want are in massive conflict, we do not need to think in terms of sacrifice. It is a trade. We trade something that we want…for something that we want more. Fortunately my heart and mind often are in concordance, and their single arrow shoots ever toward my family. When in doubt, I tell myself, head toward The Family. What is in the best interest of my husband, children, mom, and dad, and extended relations? Usually whatever is in their best interest will be in my best interest, too.

So I let it go. I know I would have had so much fun. I cannot wait to see pictures, and I know my heart will twinge more than a little at missing it. I am happy for the people who got to go. There will be other reunions. And maybe life will happen such that I won’t make those either. We will see. I know I will be back to campus in the next year or two…I hope.

But I learned a thing or two at Stanford when I was there. I learned that if you have a solid ethical and rational basis for making a decision, then you can stand by your decision with all the joy in the world. In the long term, there is no sense of loss, because you acted according to your principles. We can’t all have everything we want all the time, but that doesn’t really matter in the long run. And it may be that someone will always seem to have more, be smarter, etc. If we focus on any of that bogus kind of competition, we lose ourselves. So, we keep working and striving and hoping, and we don’t need to get all fussy/jealous/competitive about it…the way through life is to have a sense of mirth about it ALL. We just need to be here, now. Here, and savoring the simple joys that come to us, or that we create. Here, making the most of what we’ve got. Here, trading one thing for something else and being delighted that we have the ability to make such a trade. It’s almost like being able to see through the Matrix. 😉

So here was my trade: one 10th Stanford reunion for one weekend of beautifully unique memories with my husband, children, and parents. We got to see my dad accomplish a major life goal, and we also got to spend the night at Nana’s (first time for my mom since she was MARRIED 37 years ago, and first time for both of my kiddos). We also kept our commitments to music class and our soccer team, in and of itself an important lesson for my almost-5-year-old.

Life is what we make it. I don’t focus on the not; I celebrate the now. Do I wish I could joined the fun at Stanford this weekend? Part of some other version of me, yes. Am I extremely glad I made the choice I made? Absolutely. Having lived it now, I know it was right for me.

Dinner at Nana’s last night was In-N-Out! We are not usually at Nana’s at night (sometimes we are, on Christmas) anymore, and this was sooooooo cozy! Night at Nana’s reminded me of all the dinners and family birthday parties we had at Nana’s when I was growing up.

Eric is very pleased! All during Katie’s morning soccer game he kept saying, “Me see Nana. Me see Nana.” We didn’t leave for her house until late afternoon, so he was asking hopefully for hours. Both Katie and Eric were excited for the sleepover all week.

Dinner with Nana!

After dinner, we all took showers/baths and got cozy in our pajamas and watched Ichabod and Mr. Toad. I loved bathing my babies in the same tub that my mom and aunts and uncle used to use and that I have used. I cannot find the words to express how meaningful it is for all of us that part of the fourth generation spent a whole night under Nana’s roof.

Eric wanted to cuddle with his Nana. So he took his favorite blanket and his Roo over to her lap. Sweet boy.

More cuddles…. This boy loves Nana with his whole heart. These memories are treasures. I am so thankful that we have them now. What if we had missed out on this? Not possible.

He cuddled with her for a long time…

All of us were so excited to have this sleepover, but possibly Eric was the most vocally enthusiastic. When I put him down in his play yard, he got a big smile and exclaimed, “Me sleep in Nana’s room!” He meant that he was sleeping in one of Nana’s bedrooms…actually we were in Aunt Debbie’s old bedroom. My mom and Katie were in my mom and Aunt Jenny’s old room. Knowing Nana was nearby in her room was so magical. We all peeked in on her in the morning. I’ve never seen Nana sleeping before…

We left early in the morning, while it was still dark. The kiddos said goodbye to Nana. Eric loved the owl on her jammies, and he told me more about it later. Here, Eric is putting his head in her lap and saying, “Me see Nana one more” which in Eric vocabulary means, “I want one more time with Nana” i.e. “Let me stay longer.”

We then drove to the Long Beach Convention Center area, parked a few blocks away, and hoofed it to the half marathon. Katie was an amazing walker! Eric took the stroller. We tried to see the start of the wave, but were not yet crowd savvy enough to do so. We then moved to the finish line and staked out a great spot.

My mom might look stern here, but she was really making a joke with Eric.

Katie and I decided to walk over a bit of a hill and try our luck at catching Dad on mile seven. When we finally spotted him, he was zipping along! We were so busy cowbelling and cheering that I got only a picture of his back! It was exciting to see him doing so well!

Hard to see him unless you know which one he is, but this is a picture of Dad right after he crossed the finish line!

Mom and Dad after the run

Dad and me

Eric checks out Boppa

Katie looks at Boppa’s medal. This is what accomplishment and dedication look like, Katie.

I am so PROUD of my dad. He is 59 years old, and look what he did. All his life he never figured himself to be a runner or even an athlete of any kind, and he had the courage to challenge those assumptions about himself. I am so impressed with him. His hard work inspires me on many of my runs. I am so glad I got the chance to see him do this: I know this achievement will be something I remember about him—and that my kiddos will remember about him—long after he has left this place. He made our universe a better place today by reinforcing the axiom that hard work helps us to achieve goals.

We got the chance to fill our hearts up with family this weekend. However old he grows, Eric will have the memory of cuddles with his Nana on a cozy October night. Katie will remember sleeping in her Amie’s and Great-Aunt’s childhood room. My dad will remember that his family loved him enough and cared enough to organize a whole weekend around his triumph. My kiddos will remember that their grandfather achieved something he never thought he could. I will be the keeper of all these points of our narrative and will press this newly formed history close into my heart so that we may never forget.

October is a month for magic. I am eager to experience all the magic next weekend will hold! Hint: it grows on trees…

October now, and we’re really finding a comfortable homeschooling groove. Katie and I are both adjusting to our new morning routine, and we’re finding more and more ways to include Eric (age 2) with preschool work. Eric’s spoken vocabulary has begun to skyrocket, and I feel as though I am starting to observe deep learning in both of them this year.

It helps that Katie loves to learn and loves her schoolbooks. Our amazingly fantastic ES Mrs. G recently ordered Katie two new ELA/phonics-based texts that are more appropriate for Katie’s reading level. We’re now using the Explode the Code series, which we ADORE. Highly modern and also methodical, these particular texts are much more suited to the state standards, the “I Can” goals for Kindergarten, and Katie’s personal readiness. We’re huge fans of Explode the Code. In fact, Katie is so thrilled about her two new books (which we got last week) that she pulls them out for fun, even on the weekend, without my prompting. In the first book, she has worked on her own to page 45 (out of 96 pages). These books are meant to last all year, but I can see that we’ll be moving on fairly soon. Although she came into Kindergarten reading several sight words and short words, her reading is really beginning to roll now. She picked up a chapter book of ours the other day and was flipping through it while I changed her bedding. “Mama, what does ‘informed’ mean?” She also loves to read her explorers book on her own, and I was stunned this week to hear her pronounce “newfound” among other words. She is now at the point where she is reading words that I really have no reason to believe she could read…except I know how many thousands of hours we read from birth onward and how hard she has worked at her phonics even prior to this year.

In math, Katie is on Chapter 8 out of twelve. We began the year on Chapter 5, since everything that came before is material we’ve been covering for years. My plan is to take our time through Chapter 8 this next month and to solidify and challenge her number sense. She is able to use her problem solving ability to work quickly through tasks, but her father and I want some of that to become more innate for her. We spent some time talking about the number line up to 20 in Chapter 7, and how to estimate whether a number is closer to 10 or 20. She can always figure that out, but we want her to become more automatic at feeling this. Once we make it through the math text, we’ll spend the rest of the year bolstering her addition and time-telling skills (broached in Chapter 12 though we began work on these tasks last year) using supplemental material we already own.

The great part about her (largely) self-directed (now) pacing is that I am not ever worried that we’re behind. At the start of the year, it felt like we would always be playing catch-up, but once the diagnostics showed where she is really at, I calmed way down. I have faith in us, as well as evidence that all of our teaching/learning last year has paid off. We can keep doing what we’ve always been doing, and it actually works. Whereas I doubted myself at the start of our year and wondered if my preschool teaching would hold up, I can see now that our hard work in her early years has paid off. Sigh of relief. I guess I can teach, after all. Bill and my parents are always reminding me not ever to doubt myself, but I would hardly be myself if I didn’t question my skill set at every conceivable turn 😉  Last Friday, she loved previewing her science work so much that she finished everything (except one page) that we were supposed to do this week. That gives us time to play around with my ideas for lessons, and to incorporate seasonal activities, projects, and learning. We now have time for my fun leaf unit (Eric can join us, too) and my pumpkin unit.

We rave to no end about our Five in a Row core for Language Arts. We study one book for two weeks, and do  several interdisciplinary activities (on top of the other curricula for each discipline) for every book. This week we are reading A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno, illustrated by Kazue Mizumura. Of the seventeen books in our FIAR collection, we happen to have already owned and read (many times) several of them….and Red Clogs happens to be one of those. So we’re extremely familiar with it. That means that we can start going deep with it quickly. This week we’ve been studying all about Japan, learned some Japanese words, and we’ve had discussions about how the artist’s use of color unifies themes in the book. We discovered that the use of color also emphasizes the story’s structure as a reminiscence. Katie also learned about skeletal armature this week, found examples, discussed how the illustrator used them, and made some of her own. She wrote a short composition and illustrated it. This, among many other choices and tasks. The FIAR program is exactly how I tend to think and plan as a teacher, and I find it as fun as Katie does.

For a fun field trip we went to have lunch this afternoon at Shogun, a Japanese restaurant in Temecula. We chose the teppanyaki experience there, and the kiddos were enthralled.


At Shogun. We talked about the use of red in the decor, and Katie connected that to what she knows about the Japanese flag.



Umbrellas in the drinks! Yes! I used to LOOOOOOVE those to no end when I was a kid.



Guess who likes clear onion and tofu soup? This boy!



My mom came along with us, and we loved having her there to share in the experience. Great part about homeschooling? Family all the time…and being able to make memories with them as we’re learning. Love makes learning stick.



Trying out chopsticks (albeit with little connectors to keep them in place)!



In awe as the chef cooks tableside.






Earlier this week: Katie gave her brother an impromptu lesson on the globe. Eric added “Japan” and “China” to his spoken vocab. Katie was overheard saying, “This is India. Repeat after me.” Another reason I love homeschooling? The opportunity for my kiddos to learn from one another during the school day.



On October 1st we decorated the house for Halloween and paid no attention to the triple digit weather outdoors. It’s autumn, and we’re going forward. We also baked our first loaf of pumpkin bread for the season this week. Another homeschooling benefit? We bake pumpkin bread at school. 🙂




After Eric woke up, we took a break from Katie’s higher level work and made a fun autumn-themed scarecrow craft from construction paper and yarn (for the straw). Eric loves doing projects with Katie because he feels like a big boy; Katie loves doing projects with Eric because it gives her a happy nostalgia for all the crafts we used to do when she was younger. Plus, crafts are just fun!



Katie used the paper leaves we had made for Amie’s birthday tablescape to make a garland for the fireplace mantle. (Here, she is doing a little sewing—she loves anything to do with sewing).



A better picture of her garland, which she did herself. All I did was help to spread the leaves out a bit on the thread, but she did the actual sewing of the paper. So pretty.

I tell my children almost every day how thankful I am to get to have this time with them, how grateful I am to be able to share in their learning, and how much I love that they get to stay together on this journey. We’ve had some up-bumps and down-bumps, and nothing is always smooth sailing…but we are definitely passionate and grateful homeschoolers. Our year is rolling along now. Much like in the public school classroom, it took a few weeks to get into the groove and work out the kinks. Next week we have our first big event with the other River Springs families. Can’t wait to meet some of them!