Monday, December 03, 2018

O Christmas Tree

For a couple years after we moved to the Rez, we got our tree at a corner lot in town because they were affordable and easy to find and there were no other more fun options that I knew of.  One year, the tree we got at that spot completely died and began losing its needles about a week later, so we ditched it, (cried a little at how irritatingly difficult life can be), bought a new one, redecorated and that one made it a couple more weeks through the season.  We began buying them at a local farm and garden store after that, and even though they were a bit pricier, the trees were always nice and lasted most of the month.  As I look back at photos and read old blog posts from those times (2014 and 2015), the memories flood back from the different years and times we walked through, many of them very hard. 

Now the Lord is doing something new in me and in my loved ones.  Our "new house" (of two years) is a symbol in my heart and mind of the promise He makes to restore to us the years the locusts have eaten.  This home is not my home, and the beauty He surrounds me with every day is only a pointer to the great Beauty of His own heart.  He is doing a new thing and a very old thing and it shouldn't surprise me but it surprises me just the same. 

For the past couple years we drove by a field full of spindly little trees on every trip to town.  In the summer they looked like nothing but slowly they are growing to something.  This year I noticed a big sign out front:  "U-Cut!"  Yesterday afternoon we hopped in the car and headed those five minutes up the road. Free cocoa, a wagon ride, a glimpse of Santa's reindeer, and several games of bean bag toss later, Jesse was loading our tree on top of the car and the girls finished up their last game of ring toss before clambering back into the car.  

Decorating the tree is a big special deal in the Dempsen house.  The lights are dimmed, a spread of exciting food is placed on the table: deli meats, fancy cheese, chex mix, cookies, crackers, fruits and veggies and dips.  This year we made a new addition:  fresh tamales from our favorite place in town and we're never going back!  We munch and spend the evening together, reminiscing about ornaments as we pull them from boxes, recalling the times of plenty and the lean times, and finally, sitting and gazing at the twinkling lights, and making fun of mommy who keeps secretly moving ornaments, we rest and admire our adorned tree.  We've carried the tradition on from my own family (even from my mama covertly moving ornaments and being lovingly jeered at).  Rosie, who has the fewest ornaments of anyone, hung hers and was more interested in cuddling with her daddy on the couch while the other girls and I kept playing with the ornaments.  I loved glancing over and seeing her with her arms around his neck, nestled into the crook of his arm.  They both looked so peaceful and at home together. Millie, in her walking boot with hardly a limp, smiled her toothless smile so big, and I noticed a new tooth just peeking through the top gum.  And Lyddie, flitting here and there, asking constantly where this or that ornament came from, picking her favorites, never silent, always looking for just the right spot on the tree.

This tree, another new thing, another unlooked for joy.  All those hundreds of days driving by, this tree was growing and waiting for us and we had no idea.  And most likely next year's tree is tucked in among the others waiting for us still.  Gifts are waiting around the corner in unexpected places and I look forward to seeing the new things God is clapping his hands over like a parent on Christmas Eve, just eagerly anticipating the look on his daughter's face when she realizes what He's done now. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Swallows and Loop Scheduling

To remember:
The moment we realized that Able Seaman Titty (in Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome) was going to be the hero of the day by unforeseen circumstances.  Peals and shrieks of excited laughter, rolling around the couch with excitement because all had seemed lost and then... it WASN'T!  If you've read it, you know the moment I'm referring to!  If you haven't read it, you should.  That's that.

Is it really nearing the end of October again?  The girls are creating all kinds of drawings of mummies and vampires and Frankenstein's monster and leaving them scattered around the house.  Break Week finally arrived and I've been rapidly trying to plan out the next seven weeks which will take us to CHRISTMAS!! This weekend really has to see the end of the Red Riding Hood Cape I'm making for Millie since Halloween is speeding toward us so fast. 

My Auntie and her daughter sent the girls a box of goodies with blessings for Millie's healing, and I'm so thankful!  I had hours of peace today as they played with reusable stickers and imagined stories.  What a blessing to be loved so well by our dear ones.  Thank you, Jodi and Hannah.  

Here's a little chat about homeschooling and scheduling while I have a moment. 

 I indicated that I'd try to write a little about loop scheduling if I had a chance, so I'm going to give a quick rundown of what that is.  I was intimidated to mess around with a different way of scheduling because ultimately, scheduling our school traditionally (e.g., planning out what exactly we'd be doing each day of the week) technically was working for us, the girls were learning and we were working through what I wanted to accomplish each year thus far.  Only it wasn't really working, because I was always feeling behind and run down - or cracking the whip and rushing through things so we wouldn't get lost and "behind." That's not how I wanted our school days to go.  Enter loop scheduling. 

A. We have our daily subjects:  math, spelling/phonics, copywork, foreign language, Scripture and poem memorization, poetry. Those are easy to schedule per day.  But we have many books to read, and lots of beautiful rich elements to the curriculum that I felt were getting pushed aside or lost because I never had a good "schedule" for them.  For example, I longed to teach the girls piano lessons last year but it never seemed to happen because I didn't have a good way to plug it into our school day, and I didn't have a lot of non-school hours to devote to more formal teaching. 

B. This year I made a list of all the "Riches" (the beautiful, enriching parts of the curriculum).  For the riches, I just listed them on my daily plan with a check box next to each one, so we have things like Drawing, Piano lesson, Composer Study, nature study, picture study, handicrafts, etc in a list together.  Three mornings a week we spend an hour working on one of those things: whichever is next in the list to come up.  We don't skip, or move on without working on each one.  This has ensured that we are actually doing all I'm planning.  Even in a week where we only get to our riches twice, we just do the third one at the beginning of the next week and so on. 

C. As for the other subjects like history, literature, natural history, science, geography, I also made a loop but some subjects need to be included more frequently than others.  Namely, we tend to have twice as many history and literature readings in our curriculum as we do each of the other kinds of readings, so I made a list where history shows up twice, literature shows up twice and the other subjects show up once.  Then we just work through as many as we can in the daily allotted time for scheduled read alouds.  Voila!  Actually doing it this way has a) given me a sense of freedom and comfortable control instead of always feeling like I was fumbling my way through at breakneck speed and b) we are surprisingly "ahead" of where I expected us to be at this point of the year and I'm considering whether we should slow down a little here and there to make sure we're really absorbing the material, but I think we already are.   The girls are making beautiful progress in piano compared to last year when I just couldn't find a chance to squeeze things in. I am marveling at the beauty and simplicity of taking the Ambleside curriculum and just rescheduling it in a way that fits our needs. 

D. The last thing I wanted to mention is that even though math is a daily scheduled subject, I'm expanding the freedom I've experienced with loop scheduling into math.  I realized one of my girls is really struggling to remember the math addition facts for larger single digit numbers so rather than try to get through one lesson per day, we are going to take some time to just practice rote memorization of the facts, play some math games, and take the lessons more slowly. I might even set aside the curriculum and use Life of Fred again with her for awhile.  I would rather slow down and have her really know and understand the math than worry about grade level and placement which doesn't matter to me at all. She is smart and I know she can catch up, especially if we match her work to her needs. 

I hope that's encouraging to you, friends.  Let me know if you have any questions.  I ran across the conversation in the Wild + Free podcast today that was about loop scheduling so you might listen to it here or in any other podcast app you use.   The loop scheduling topic begins around 15 minutes in.   It's been encouraging to me, and I suspect I'll need to look back at this post in February when I hit the homeschool doldrums.  Isn't February the worst?  It should be October all school year!

Friday, October 19, 2018

how to remove sap from hair and almost die from chili peppers

Okay, so first of all, tree climbing in pines means sap everywhere.  Hands, feet, hair, clothes, forehead, cheeks, arms, belly. 

I've ruled it out for now.  However, here's a handy tip if you ever, like I, have children with sap all over their hair:  Crisco.  Yes.  It sounds disgusting.  Frankly, it kind of is disgusting.  But just trust me:  smooth a tiny bit of shortening into the sappy hair and comb it gently out. 

Then wash the hair with dishsoap before actually showering with real shampoo.  

It works.  I promise.  

Besides removing a whole lot of sap, this week I frozen several gallons of fresh and roasted peppers.  I read that you can freeze whole peppers raw, and since the internet was the source of the sap tip AND the peppers tip, I assume the peppers have to come out fine. Of course the texture won't hold but since they're spicy peppers I wouldn't eat them raw anyways.  Actually, I did eat a bite raw as I chopped them -with my bare hands- before I remembered that I was dealing with chili peppers.  While putting a nibble into my mouth, I must have also touched my chapped lips with my fingers, and then in response to the burning, I seem to have rubbed my hands all over my face, which subsequently burst into flames.  

Not really.  But while I like spicy foods, this pain was extreme.  Meanwhile, Jesse took a bite, chewed and swallowed and looked at me like I had lost my mind as I flew around the kitchen yelping and in search of some remedy to chill the burning.  I honestly thought I must be going into anaphylactic shock as an allergic reaction because there was no other explanation that could enter my mind at that moment for the intense pain I was suffering (not even the obvious explanation of touching my burning face with my chili pepper hands).  

We had to leave the house 10 minutes later, and by the time we arrived at our destination, I wasn't sweating anymore and I could feel my tongue and face again.  All was well.  Needless to say, I plan to use more caution when using the rest of the chilis.

This weekend is green-tomato time, where I pull a hundred tomatoes off the vine and leave them in boxes scattered around the house to ripen. I'd like to say they are in a logical place like a root cellar or a garage, but since we don't have either of those really, there will be boxes in closets and crawl spaces and in the laundry room until we slowly eat through them until January.  It's a relief by the time they're all ripe and eaten, because I get my house back from the garden produce. Maybe there's a better way, but I don't have time to think of it.

Millie's ankle is healing and she will be in the cast for just four more weeks.  Five weeks for a fractured ankle?  Children are amazing.  She is cranky and pretty unpleasant, truth be told, but after a week of mostly immobility, she is now navigating the stairs carefully and can join her sisters wherever they are indoors.  She can't climb trees with them thank heaveans (see above regarding sap) but the weather is cooling off enough and the season is changing so that they are turning toward indoor afternoon activities more often. Legos and puzzles have been our lifeline this week!

We are finishing our seventh week of school tomorrow, or what I call "Term 1A," which just means the first chunk of time before our first Break Week.  OH BREAK WEEK I'M DYING FOR YOU!  I can't wait. Maybe I'll get a few minutes to catch up on housework!  Plan ahead for the next half term until Christmas.  I usually do six weeks and then a break week and now I remember why:  week seven everyone is CRANKY (including me) and ready for a breather.  We do work pretty hard on our school weeks and the break is well earned.  I don't have time to write about it now but I switched to using a Loop Schedule for many of our scheduled subjects this year and love it.  I feel way less stressed about staying on a schedule and trust that we will just get everything done - and we are staying right on track in spite of a half week off in September for vacation and a little spotty week last week with Millie's ankle.  Feel free to leave a comment if you want me to write more about our loop schedule, or just say hello! 
 I am really happy to be back to writing - my amazing husband forces me to take the night off on Thursdays when possible so that I have time to write or work on my shop or do whatever my soul requires.