Sunday, November 29, 2015

Livvy: fifteen months

My sweet girl.  I have said it before, and it's just so true every time we go through it: I LOVE one!

They are too hilarious, precocious and adorable the whole year.

Olivia began walking just a few days after the 15 month mark, making her my latest walker of the bunch.  She isn't much of a talker, either.  Where Leah and Logan both had somewhere around 50 words or more, she has just a small handful.  Primarily, "MAMA!"

I asked the pediatrician about her words, and she told me that it's no surprise if a third or subsequent child is a later talker or walker.  Obviously, it's not a "one size fits all" situation, but third children have more siblings around who will pick them up and talk for them, so it happens quite often.

She loves to make animal noises, however.  She knows duck, dog, monkey, lion, tiger, elephant, cow, pig and a few more.  She loves to find animals in books.

Speaking of books, her favorite book is Olivia, and every time we get to the part where Olivia paints on the walls, she says, "Uh-oh!"

Even though she's not much of a talker, she is definitely eager to communicate.  She grunts, points, uses sign language and gesticulates like crazy.  If you don't happen to understand what she's saying, she will absolutely lose her crap on you and start yelling, screaming, kicking and throwing herself every which way.  I kid you not.

Actually, there's rather a lot of yelling and crying in Livvy world.  It's hard to be a baby!  Especially when all you want in the whole world is to be an only child and have Mom all to yourself... but in reality, you're the third child.  If she's not entertained, she spends the whole day following me around, crying and begging me to pick her up.  And Heaven forbid I should try to go to the bathroom on my own.  Yowza.

She has finally begun to branch out, and will let other people hold her for short periods of time.

Although, she is still insistent on being with me.  Her favorite spot to be by far is perched on my hip.  If I try to pick her up any other way, she pushes me and shifts herself so that she's straddling my left hip.  It's the best way to travel.

She is pretty good at keeping herself busy.

Of course, I've also gotten wiser over the years about the things that will occupy a new toddler.

The sorting, exploring, pulling things out and finding ways to get into anything they can.

I've got your number, kid!

She is an awesome sleeper, napping for 2.5-3 hours and sleeping from 7 to 7, quite often longer.  I am sooooooo grateful that this one sleeps.  She demands a lot of attention during her waking hours, but is easy to put to bed and almost never needs me in the middle of the night.

She absolutely adores her blanket, and will not go to sleep without it.  She pulls it up over her face to go to sleep.

Speaking of sleep, she sucks her thumb, but literally only as she is falling asleep.  And the blanket has to be over her head.

She holds the blanket with her fingers, and puts the thumb in her mouth.  Otherwise, it's no deal.

She has 8 teeth in, plus she's in the process of getting several more, including those molars.  She is the world's worst teether; it can take literally a month for a new tooth to push through.  And she's miserable the entire time.

This baby loves to dance!  She will grin and wiggle and shake her groove thang as soon as she hears music.  It's adorable.

She's the perfect midway between Leah and Logan, both in terms of looks and in personality.  She is feisty and loud and demanding like brother.  She does things on her own terms.  She loves animals.  But she also loves letters like Leah.  Loves to help tidy up and put things away. Follows directions.  And, of course, isn't super social, where Logan was a social butterfly.  And, like her brother, she never ever stops chattering all day long.

And, those siblings of hers are her world.  Her very best friends.

She wears 12 month clothing, size 3 diapers and size 3 or 4 shoes.  She's just itty bitty, in the 18th percentile for weight.  Her head is only in the 85th percentile - which, for a child of mine is tiny!

On her good days and her bad days, we are just so grateful for this little one.  She brings so much joy to our family, and we know we're lucky to have her!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Every good and perfect gift

As I sat in my rocker, cradling my giant belly and enjoying my nightly quiet time with Livvy, who was invariably making her presence known from the inside, I used to whisper to her verses, song lyrics, sweet affirmations and stories that came to my mind.

The nursery was peaceful in the quiet of night, with the day's tasks done - or done enough - and the other two sleeping soundly in their beds.  It was a moment of peace, a moment for me to pray, reflect and speak blessings over my tiny one.  And every night, always, the verse that came to mind to end our time together was this one from the book of James: 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows. 

Now, this verse hangs in her nursery, above the changing table.  

There are so many good and perfect gifts that He gives us to celebrate.  So many moments in the lives of our children that we can delight in.  So many opportunities to plant wonderful memories deep within their souls to store up and treasure for the rest of their life's journey.  

Halloween and Christmas always stand out for me among holidays for the fun and joy they bring, but really, Thanksgiving is a magical time of cherished traditions and marvelous reflection.  I absolutely love the model of joyful service.  The sights and smells of a meal truly prepared with love.  The bustling of family members.  The rhythm of the year played out in familiar traditions which remind us that we are simultaneously unique and that we belong to one another.

This Thanksgiving was such a wonderful time of fellowship and togetherness. 

We enjoyed our traditional Thanksgiving breakfast (Casey's favorite - "Awesome Breakfast") and the kids watched the parade and played while I prepared the meal. 

I love to prepare food for my family.  I know that in some ways, it seems like a silly little thing, but the truth is that it brings me such genuine joy.  

And, a first for us - and not just at Thanksgiving, but for pretty much any event we put on - we were actually ready ahead of schedule this year!  That's a huge victory!  We're usually rushing and running around frantically at the last second to have it all done.  Instead, this year I actually had time to get dressed and put on makeup - what a concept!

We were blessed this year to be joined by our friends, the Bratchers, whom we've known for about a year and a half.  Leah and Grant were in class together last year where they became fast friends.  Grant's mom Lindsey and I became good friends, too, and I'm so grateful to have such a fantastic friend on this homeschooling journey!

They were supposed to travel to see family this year, but as it turns out, she is expecting twins and wasn't up to the trip.  Which sure worked out wonderfully for us!

We were joined by my sister, brother in law and their two boys, my mom, and Casey's parents as well, and it was just such a fun time of togetherness.  It was a snowy Thanksgiving, but for me that always adds to the cozy atmosphere.

The kids were so cute, and exhausted themselves running around and around and around the house. It was adorable to hear their sweet, exuberant laughter as they played and chased each other.  

I hung the chalkboard with this garland, made up of photos of all of our family as babies or kids, but Casey had the great idea to have everyone write something that they are thankful for. 

There was A LOT to be thankful for this year in our family!  We hope that you had a blessed Thanksgiving, and that we all remember throughout the year just where those blessings come from.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

A tale of a busy husband, and our thankful tree

My poor husband is for sure going to give up and stop coming home.

For reals.  Because, you see, every time he comes home, his wife hands him a to-do list that's like thirty lines long.  And she doesn't pick nice, simple tasks.  She really puts him to work.

What a Scrooge, right? 

In my defense, it's because my house has been in the same partially-finished state for the last two years.  We made a ton of progress in the first year we lived in our home, but since then... well, we've had another baby and started homeschooling and Casey traveled like 275 days a year.   

We put together a really adorable kids' room for Leah and Logan (which I still haven't taken photos of) and re-did the nursery for Olivia (which I still haven't taken photos of.  Are you sensing a theme yet?), but almost all of the other home improvements have been put on hold.  Sometimes it feels like an indefinite hold.

So, when Casey had a few days off before Thanksgiving, I set him to work.  Because, this year?  That dining room was getting it's final face lift.  It's time!

While that project is still in progress, I can show you one of my favorite little additions.  This is one of my favorite November traditions.  Two weeks before Thanksgiving, we start our Thankful Tree. 

This year, because of our re-model, it has a new home in our almost-finished dining room (see the baseboards there?  SCORE!!!!)

Every night at dinner time, we each take time to discuss and record what we are thankful for that day. 

It didn't take very long for that tree to begin overflowing with all of our blessings!

I so enjoy the process of intentionally pausing to reflect and appreciate how very full our lives are.  We have so much to be thankful for!

I'm pretty sure this tradition has been popular for a while, and to be honest, I don't even know where I came across it.  We've been doing it for a few years - maybe three now? - since Leah was old enough to participate.  

But this is definitely our best version so far.  

It's so fun to hear the sweet expressions of gratitude from my children's hearts.  There are a lot of your more "standard" thankfuls, along the lines of I'm thankful for my family, food and home (which are still important to remember!), but also the more specific ones where we really get to hear their individual voices come out.  Those ones are my very favorite.  

From Logan: I made an "I" with legos today.  My Scoutie toy.  Pumkin bread. Mac and Cheese. (As you can see, his currency is food!)

From Leah: My brown teddy.  My warm sheets with snowflakes on them.  Going to the store with Mommy.

It is awesome to pause and reflect.  More than that, though, it is just wonderful to hear my children's voices raised in praise as they think about their own blessings.  It's a tradition we'll hang onto for a few more years!

Friday, November 20, 2015

The little homeschool week that could(n't).

So, some days.  Does anyone else ever feel like this?

I mean, I know that there were days I used to drag my weary body out of bed in order to go to work.  There were days that I really felt like I was just play acting at being a teacher, and somebody was definitely going to catch on at some point. Masters-schmasters.

But mostly, as a working adult, you're forced to soldier on.  Some days maybe more successfully than others.

One thing I'm struggling with in this homeschooling game is how much emphasis to place on academics.  Just how much is enough?  How much is too much?

I know that sounds silly, but please remember that mine are still little.  I mean - little.  And we do school pretty close to year-round in some form or another.  And, in all honesty, part of the reason I believe in school at home so passionately is that I firmly believe that - with all the best of intentionswe are too-often drowning our little ones in academics when they should be spending more time in play.  (There have been so many examples in various academic publications I've subscribed to over the past decade.  This is just one that I've loved, for reference, and don't even get me started on how much I love the Finnish model.  Swoooooooonnn.)

It's all about balance, and it's something I'm still working to find for us in our school day, week and year.

This last week, I was just burned out.  My kids were burned out.  And, Casey was home - which truly is a relative rarity in our world.

It started innocently enough: they were playing so nicely on Monday, that I just let them keep playing.  Sure, we read books.  We always do.  But we didn't sit down or do anything formal, and everyone was completely content to go at his or her own pace.

And then, Tuesday came... and they were still so happy to play!  To run and rough-house and tackle their daddy.  To color and paint.  To snuggle.  To play dress-up.  So we let it be.

Now it's Friday, and I can't say we've "accomplished" anything more than what I noted above.

There is a piece of me - that piece that was accustomed to thinking it necessary to soldier on - that is hugely unsure about how wise it is to just drop everything and play.  My teacher brain is still trained to measure outcomes and evaluate effectiveness.  To start at point A and get to point B.

My mothering brain jumps into overdrive with warnings and flashing lights: if they're illiterate and can't multiply fractions, it will be your fault!!!!  What if they live with you until they're 30 and can't function or hold down a job?  

And then another part of my brain kicks in to argue with my other self: what if you listen to the signals they are sending out?  What if you give them the chance to explore?  What if they play and laugh and enjoy one another and nobody stops them?  What might they learn about themselves?  About each other?  About their own creativity and inquisitiveness and imagination?

I want them to strive for excellence.  I want them to know about hard work, integrity and following through when things get tough.

But... maybe those are lessons that don't have to be taught today?

I know this won't be the last time I struggle with that balance before they're done.  Beyond that, though, I'm pretty sure that having the ability to drop everything and enjoy each other in those unscheduled, unscripted moments is one of the absolute greatest joys and benefits of homeschooling.
This week, we're running with it.  More than that.  We're relishing it.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Strassner Academy: Week 10

Well, I have been rather poor about documenting our journey over the last few weeks.  I got so accustomed to having Casey around in October, it came as quite a shock when he went back to work.

We've had doctor's appointments, dentist appointments, gymnastics and ballet to contend with.  The kids did a lovely presentation in front of our co-op about their trip to California, and particularly Disneyland.  I tried to persuade them to speak about something a little more personal, but they were so excited and enthusiastic telling everyone about their favorite rides, I of course gave in.

Last week, we learned the story of Moses and studied the letter I.  We did a really fun crayon and watercolor fall leaf painting.

Leah studied the pyramids and did her class presentation on Pharaoh Kufu and The Great Pyramid, which tied in nicely with the story of Moses.  She has also been hard at work on Geography. 


She is learning to draw the continents - we call it "blob mapping," because it is just a loose approximation, but it really helps to conceptualize where in the world things are.  

Those were about the only photos I took from last week... so moving on!

This week, we dove into the story of David and Goliath, and R is for Rock.  
The battle is the Lord's! - 1 Samuel 17:47

The kids absolutely loved this lacing project, which we used to create David's shepherd's pouch.

We dipped Logan's little race car in paint and drew letter R's, then cut footloose and did freehand race car paintings.  

We painted rocks using several different techniques.  

We played letter review hopscotch. 

But the most fun activity of all was reenacting the Goliath tale.

We measured the wall, which, luckily is 10 feet tall - plenty of room for Goliath's hulking nine foot stature.  Earlier in the week, Logan had made Goliath out of a paper plate, googly eyes, a puff ball and some pipe cleaner.  It didn't take much to secure him in place.

Then, we took aim, cried out "THE BATTLE IS THE LORD'S!!!" and let our stones fly.

So... let's just say, they're not exactly crack shots as David was.  

Plus, you know, they're a little bit lower to the ground.  Definitely held them back - nine feet is really high!

It took them a few more tries than the five stones that were in David's pouch, but they did eventually get him square between the eyes.  I think they even managed to knock him off the wall!

And oh my goodness, they had SO much fun!  This little activity ended up being replayed, over and over, for a good half an hour.

This week, Leah worked hard on Eastern Asia.  Geography isn't exactly my strong suit, but we're working through it together. 


She's really coming along with her Geography, particularly because there is so much of it to learn.  Even more so because many of the cultures we're learning about are ancient ones this year and often different from their modern day counterparts (okay, so this week isn't a good example of that!)

The last two weeks have been busy and chaotic, and I'm even though he hasn't been gone very long, I'm already looking forward to Casey's return!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Because it wouldn't be fall without it

Well, it is November.  With Halloween over, and the need for a spooky front yard atmosphere past, it was time to do a little fall cleaning.

Since it was nap time for the others, I enlisted my little helper for a very important job only she could do.

And boy, did she ever deliver!

She was rather pleased with herself, and she and I raked the leaves several more times so that she could delight in undoing it all.

That little face.  It always seems to be fall when I reflect on just how much she's grown!

I changed my font at