So that was Summer…

I blinked, it seems, and here we are winding down August. This summer has been an unusual one for our family in many ways. Some unexpected circumstances this Spring meant drastic changes to our budget, and kept us close to home and looking for free/cheap activities to enjoy during the Summer. But it was good. Better than good, really. No matter how much you spend and what far away and exotic destinations you travel to (not that we were planning anything too fancy before), there is just no beating a lazy summer evening at home with the ones you love; puttering around the garden, kids running through the sprinklers, catching fireflies, gathering around the firepit as the sun fades to roast marshmallows and hot dogs…

I finally got around to editing and uploading a summer’s worth of photos, and since I’m usually much better with pictures than words, I give you:

“Our Summer in Snapshots”

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As if Summer were attempting some sort of last hurrah, the temperatures have soared into the upper nineties this past week. Until then, we had actually been experiencing one of the coolest, most pleasant summers I can recall since moving to Arkansas. Downright Springish, complete with a few light sweater mornings in July and early August. (Unheard of and quite welcome since the AC in my 13 year old, 170k mile Subaru has been out all summer, and a new compressor was not in the pared-down budget!)

Despite the smothering heat, I can feel that we are on the cusp of fall. Apples are beginning to ripen and pop up at roadside stands and farmer’s markets. A few of the early trees are beginning to turn, and those long, light-filled summer evenings are gradually becoming shorter even as I cling to every last ray of golden sunlight. But the most exciting sign of the season by far? We are in the midst of all things “back-to-school” with a brand new homeschool kindergartener! (And “playschooler,” as I have dubbed Zeke so as not to leave him out! We’re intentionally delaying a formal preschool program, focusing instead on, well, allowing him to be a kid. But obviously he will be exposed to many more school-like activities than Miles was at his age, simply due to the fact that he’s the younger brother, and that’s okay:)

We’re a couple weeks in now, and all I can say is this: homeschooling is exciting, rewarding, occaisionally overwhelming, downright hard at times, completely natural and easy at others, gratifying, fun, rigorous yet flexible and laid back, personalized, spontaneous, surprising, and more… and it’s only been a few weeks! We’ve spent time learning at home, at the library, at extracurricular classes, the park, the store, the zoo, the woods, the lake, with friends, and individually…We’ve dropped everything we thought we were doing in a day to follow a spark of interest in, say volcanos or luna moths, or to go on a spontaneous butterfly hunting expedition… You get the idea!

There are a myraid of reasons we ultimately decided to homeschool, many of them deeply personal, and I’m not here to extoll the virtues of any one type of education system over another, or even go into details about the specifics of why we chose this path. This is what works for our kids, our family, at this point in our lives. It’s not for everyone. But it is exactly what we need right now, and after the many hours and sleepless nights I have poured into researching, planning, praying and preparing, I am confident that it will be academically, socially, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually beneficial for my children and our entire family. (In other words, I have thought this through thoroughly, and I am not interested in unsolicited, nonconstructive criticism or advice. Thanks!:) We are all excited to be on this journey and to see what the future holds.

Wishing you all a wonderful last few weeks of summer—get out there and soak it up! And whatever your back-to-school season looks like, whether it’s public or private or home school, college or vocational, any combination or none of the above… happy learning to you!

Spring Snapshots

So this is what it has come to. An entire month+ worth of photos to catch up on in one post. Photos that have nothing to do with one another. No rhyme, no reason, no theme… Just a bunch of photots.

But it is Spring. The Sunshine, green grass, and fragrant blooms are calling, begging us to go outdoors. There’s a garden to tend, chickens to care for, and still much work to do around the house and yard. There are activities—both planned and impromtu, fun and not so fun—all bidding for our attention, and “working on the blog” just doesn’t often make the cut this time of year. And let’s be perfectly honest: I’ve become so sporadic with my posting that at this point, I doubt that anyone but grandparents and aunts are following anyways. Enough about that though, I know that the photos are what grandparents and aunts are really here for, so I will get started with no further ado:

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug this is the face of one happy, happy boy.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug our daily bounty of eggs spans such a beautiful spectrum.

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug just a few treasures found in the yard

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug my fave <3

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug blood moon. We woke Miles up to watch with us, but he was tired, and cold, and ultimately less than impressed. I enjoyed it though!

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug um, could he get any cuter?!?

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug we did naturally dyed easter eggs again this year, but this time boilded our dye materials right with the eggs and let them soak overnight.

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug We found this little guy in our front yard (near the busy road) and relocated him to the wooded aread in back. Did you know box turtles can live to be well over 50 years??? And that you can tell their age by counting ridges on the shell? (Our turtle friend is ten years old!)

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Bolt likes to pretend like he’s serious and sophisticated in photos. Don’t let him fool you, he’s just a big goofball.

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug I’ve been wanting to make these forever, and I finally got around to it!

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(My most recent project 52 photos. More here.)

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug helping in the garden. I love these Spring nights: rushed supper, barefoot boys outside all evening, late bedtimes…

“Choo choo!” Trains all day, everyday. Stephen often takes Miles to spend time with him on Saturday mornings, and leaves me to spend some precious one on one time with Zeke (which we usually spend playing with trains/walking to the tracks to watch trains/reading about trains…)

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We had a little visitor in our yard this week! We found him in our front yard near a busy road and observed him for a little while before relocating him to the woods behind our house. Zeke was very excited about his new friend!

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Miles, of course, had a bazillion questions about turtles, most of which I could not answer. So we did a little research. Our turtle friend is a three toed box turtle, which we learned can live more than 50 years! Based on the number of ridges on his shell, our turtle is approximately 10 years old.

A little trip

The boys and I took a little road trip up north recently to visit family (unfortunately, Stephen was not able to come along due to work circumstances). I don’t have many opportunities to see my sister, Katie, and her family, so when I heard they would be in Omaha for the weekend, I decided to make the day’s drive (rather than the two days it takes to get to Wyoming) to see them. A little planning and scheming later, and it turned into a two day drive anyways when we decided to meet up (along with
my mom and Uncle Curt) at my Grandparent’s ranch in South Dakota.

This living halfway across the country from my family thing? Yeah, it pretty much sucks. I hate the way that every time I see my neices and nephews, they are inches (and inches) taller, and that my boys don’t get to have a close relationship with them. I hate worrying about my parents’ and grandparents’ health as they get older, and knowing that it would take me so long to get to them if they needed me. And I hate that I can’t give my sisters a hug through the phone when sometimes a hug can say what no words can. Yet the distance beween us makes me appreciate these precious times that we do spend together even more. We are family, quirks and all, and I love this bunch fiercely.

So up to Omaha we headed, the boys and I, leaving in the wee hours of the morning so they could sleep as much as possible. As much as I missed having a tag-team driver and grown-up conversation partner along, I really can’t complain about the drive. The boys were great, and the long expanses of highway afforded me more quiet time to just sit and think than I have had in a long while. The only hiccup was a bit of car trouble in Kansas City (if you’ve followed me for long, you probably have heard me refer to the “Kansas City Curse,” so this was not totally unexpected.) This time it turned out to be nothing more than an O2 sensor that tripped the check engine light on my 14 year old Subaru (thank you, ethanol fuel). I kept right on going…

We actually made it to Omaha fairly early in the afternoon, and well ahead of my sister who ran into snow along the way. A chance sighting of a road sign for the Union Pacific Railroad Museum (and a little boy who LOVES trains) led us on a mini-adventure in the downtown Council Bluffs area.

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The official museum was wonderful (in a really neat old library building), but the Rails West museum was the real hit; a hodge podge collection of model trains and railroad memorbelia in the old station building (with trains flying by every few minutes) and a field full of old train engines and cars in their rusty, crusty, unrestored glory that visitors are free to explore. We climbed all through them- nothing was roped off. The boys got to sit in the engineers seat, ring the bell, sit down for a “meal” in the dining car, pretend to sort letters on the mail car… They loved it!

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This is the face of one very happy train-loving little boy.

The next day, we met up with Katie and headed north again, to South Dakota, and to one of my favorite places on earth. Homemade pies, the same old family stories retold for the hundredth time (and embellished a bit each time), afternoon domino and card games, hiking in the gulch with our own resident tour guide… Papa and Grandma’s home is one of my very favorite places on earth.

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Grandma sent me home with a few starts from her Christmas cactus (that I will attempt to not kill). According to her, this thing has been blooming for three solid months!

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The bowling alley in downtown Huron is charmingly old-fashioned.

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And look! I broke 100 and WON! (First and only time. It will never happen again, I’m sure)

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And how cute are these two?!? My brother in law and Papa, looking through a box of old photos.

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Card games with the nephews.

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Spring arrived in the Ozarks while we were away, and greeted us with a bright, warm smile when we returned.

“Mid pleasures and palaces, though we may roam, be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

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March Moments

Just a few favorite moments I never got around to sharing that were to good to keep to myself:

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug “Hi, Kicka!” (Zekese for chicken)

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Welcome, Bolt!

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I haven’t felt much like blogging lately after having an emotionally and physically rough (and exhausting), couple of weeks, but I’m hoping to get caught up soon. There has been so much going on (in typical almost-Spring fashion) that I want to document while my memory is fresh. Starting with a new addition to the family: our little heeler mix puppy, Bolt. He’s 9 weeks old now, ornery as ever! Miles picked him out from a litter of 10 puppies at the Charleston Shelter. The boys just love him (and he loves them!). He’s even getting along with the cats fairly well (they mostly ignore him. Except when he gets into their food, which apparently tastes much better than dog food). We’re working om training him to have some manners; of course he’s a typical puppy, jumping on us and chewing everything, but he is also very smart and seems to be picking up on cues and words much more quickly than I anticipated. He already sits for a treat, and when I am getting his food dish ready, and even makes it outside to potty most of the time. I can’t wait to find out what adventures are ahead with this little guy!

Five!

Miles turned five last Wednesday. Five. It’s finally starting to sink in. When Miles was born five years ago (yes, I was blogging way back when!), I used to imagine who he would be and what he would be like as he grew; now I am watching him become a smart, curious, imaginative, increasingly independent boy right before my eyes. It’s fun. It’s also a little bit daunting. The past four birthdays, while certainly special, never seemed quite so monumental. He was getting older, sure, but he was still my baby. “Toddler,” “preschooler”—these terms still felt baby-ish to me, and I was okay with that. The physical proximity of a mother to her young child ensures a certain closeness in the relationship as well, but as our kids grow, our relationships become much more complex. They are individuals, and they increasingly make that fact known to us. We have to work harder for that closeness. I’m finding that Miles and I butt heads with much greater frequency lately, but at the same time, my love for him has never been deeper. We talk now. Real conversations about important things (goofy conversations too!) He has opinions and ideas and quirks. He surprises me every day.

Last year, we made a little birthday book in which Miles answered a few questions and drew little pictures. I thought it would be fun to continue the tradition and compare how he has changed in the last year. Miles, at five:
• I am special because… “I am really good at reading.” (he is!)
• What is your favorite thing to do? “Play iPad games.”
• What do you want to do when you grow up? “I’m going to be an author. You can call me Miles Seuss. Or a person who works at Superior.” (Where his dad works)
• What is your favorite color? “Any kind of blue.”
• What is your favorite animal? “Penguins.”
• who is your best friend? “Zeke!”
• What is your favorite food? “Cheese. But I don’t like spicy fish.”
• I love my family because… “They are always nice to me.”
• What is your favorite book? “The Magic Schoolbus in Outer Space.”
• What is your favorite place? “Fun City and my clubhouse.” (His clubhouse is the magnolia tree in our yard)
• Sometimes I wish I could… “Let the kitties in Mom’s studio.”
• When I am six, I will… “Read really, really long books.”

Five is exciting. Five also brings about some tough decisions about Miles’s education. Stephen and I have always considered the possibilty of home schooling our kids. It’s not a far-off possibilty anymore though, and we facing the point where we have to make a decision. Yes or no. Will we or won’t we. And as Miles becomes more independent, I am realizing the importance of including him in the decsion making process. We have a bit more time, and we have yet to decide for sure, but I will say that we are leaning more heavily than ever in the direction of home schooling. Our reasons are many and complex, and I will probably discuss them in more detail later (or not. Maybe.), but this is a Birthday post, so on with the celebration!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Party prep: lemonade in the making.

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug I wanted Legos. He wanted Star Wars (he has never even seen Star Wars). We compromised. And I bought a cake.

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Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Smile nice for the camera? Not a chance! (Love that goofy face anyways!)

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Happy Birthday, Miles!