August 27, 2015

books we've loved

Sometimes it feels like all we do is read. We do the nightly read aloud which is always from a chapter book and then sometimes I read aloud at breakfast or lunch (when people are having a hard time being nice to each other, or mama is just done). I will frequently put on a Sparkle Story or other audio book in the car, and Laithe has been known to spend hours listening to Magic Treehouse books on cd up in his bedroom while playing Lego and introverting. And Guthrie, I feel like I'm constantly saying, finish your paragraph and put the book away!
Honestly, I sort of have mixed feelings about all the reading. I know, crazy, but it's how I feel. 

I rely heavily on homeschooling friends (who all read all the time too, oh the reading aloud...) recommendations and blogs and utilize Goodreads to keep me organized. I really don't like to be without our next book on the shelf at all times. So, I wanted to post what we have enjoyed these past few months with the kids being 8 and 5.*

The Cricket in Times Square  - We loved this! It was an easy read and I felt like it was fully accessible to Laithe. I did edit a bit of the written in Chinese accents/language because, well, it is an old book. 

The Wanderer - This was a little more complicated. A lot of people rave about it, but I had mixed feelings. There were some really tough subjects (death, adoption, repressed memories) and I was nervous about how the author would handle it at the end, but it was fine. The one thing we all really enjoyed was that it's written in diary entries by two kids with very different voices and viewpoints.

A Bear Called Paddington - I picked this up after we'd seen the new movie and also at a friend's recommendation. It was as charming as I had hoped it would be and a good bedtime read. 

We're also making our way through the Little House series, but stopped when we got to The Long Winter -- because you have to read that in winter. Obviously. 

The past couple weeks though we've read the first two in the Series of Unfortunate Events. Whoo boy, mixed feelings on my end, but the kids loooove it. Even if it gives a certain young man nightmares. I appreciate that it's written, sort of, in the way of fairy tales; in that there are archetypal characters, but I didn't entirely appreciate explaining what an autopsy was. A few of the tropes the author uses get sort of tiresome, but I think the kids really like the predictability of them and I get that when those tropes are present and used repeatedly it makes some of the subject matter feel less scary. Hmmm. And seriously, if we weren't firmly in the realm of playing all orphans all the time already these books have solidified it. And in case you were wondering, even the most patient mother will glare if she hears (after a particularly long and trying day) "so let's say our parents died and we were orphans and then our dogs' parents died and they were orphans too..." one too many times. Because really??

Next up is Tuesdays at the Castle which was recommended by the same mama friend who suggested Paddington. I'm really looking forward to it and Guthrie has just finished a trilogy by the author. 

Speaking of Guthrie - here's a short list of what she's really raved about the past few months. (the list does not include that Judy Blume book about self esteem I tried to get her to read. sigh.)
  • The Familiars (recommended by homeschool friends) this was her first real series beyond the Magic Tree House and at almost 400 pages each I was surprised that she both kept with it and was able to answer questions about the plot in detail. 
  • Dragon Slippers - and this was her first "i wish there was one more book to say what happens to them." I also caught her reading the last chapter of the last book before she started it. I stopped myself from demanding "WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THINGS HOLY ARE YOU DOING?????" I said it in lowercase instead. It took restraint. 
  • Anything by Grace Lin.
  • And the American Girl series. I think she's a bit out of them now, but I notice that she balances the long books with a few short books in between. I do the same. I'm having her read the Addy series for our unit on Civil War before our trip in a couple weeks. 
  • There have been several small books about cats and dogs and magic. And sometimes ponies. I am choosing to just kind of gloss over those ;)

Any further suggestions? I feel like I comb blogs and pester friends for recommendations all the time! 

*so aside from language exposure and comprehension as well as complexity of plot I would say that the kids are almost on the same level for what is appropriate for each of them. Part of it is first and second kid and part is just very different personalities. It's been interesting to watch. 

August 5, 2015


Just a couple more weeks remain in our summer break. I can feel how we're all starting to crave that structure that comes with formal school time, but not just yet. We're headed out on a road trip for most of September, so my plan is to have a short unit touching on some of the topics we'll encounter on our trip -- the civil war! the Wright brothers! the ocean! the mountains! I'm getting excited.

But first, this summer has been wonderful. Not quite how I envisioned it -- the lazy days have been few and far between. I specifically didn't get all bucket listy for this season, but I suspect that if I had it would look pretty close to what we've done. Which, when I truly think about it, makes me also suspect that we're not just letting this life thing happen to us, rather we're working hard to "do our thing" and that makes me very, very happy.

music in the park * hotdog roasts * pool time * park time * neighborhood walks * trips to the woods * outdoor movie with friends * swimming lessons * gardening & canning * Juniper's 1st Birthday * puzzles * rainstorm dancing * sewing & knitting * a lot of hot glue * some serious screen time * ice cream for dinner * blueberry picking * teddy bear picnic day * voracious reading * all things pokemon * science museum * zoo * baby crawling * cooking * so much playing with friends *

I'm sure there have been many other things, but the best things have been when the grown ups pull a "today we are going to..." as a surprise to the kids. Which frequently ends in a Best Day Ever exhaultation from the back seat.

Here are 8,000 for your viewing pleasure! Ha!


Summer has become the time for Guthrie to read, read, read. I don't know if there's just too much other brain stuff going on during the school year, and it's not that she doesn't read during the year, it's just well, holy cow. Lots of books. And long books. She doesn't bat an eye anymore at 350 pages. She still likes the quick little chapter books too but they're punctuated by other, more complex novels. It's been exciting to watch, if not a bit frustrating when she is entirely engrossed. She's also done so much physically - 6 weeks of track and field put on by our local running club, 4 weeks of swimming lessons, her first race -- with 3,500 other kids. 

Laithe has spent the summer most of the summer upside down. Literally. And memorizing evolutions of Pokemon. Which means I have been memorizing them too. I had hoped that this summer would include swimming lessons for him as well as Guthrie, but he declined. He's not been a fan of deep water for as long as I can remember. However, we got a pool pass this year (which was kind of a parenting rite of passage for me) and he's slowly realizing how much fun can be had. Then last week we snagged a life vest from friends who were done with it and I requested he at least try it out so we could see if it fit and would work for our vacation. There was some anxiety and concern and then there was absolution elation as he realized I AM FLOATING!! And then we couldn't get him out of the pool until it closed and he was purple. He's also been playing monument valley a lot, which none of the rest of us can do very well. 

Juniper is days from walking. She just fell off the piano bench - she had climbed on top of a box, then up to the bench. By herself. She is a stair seeking missile. She's been signing 'more' and all done, waving bye bye and blowing kisses. She's an absolute joy. Actually, she is about the happiest baby ever. Turning one means we're moving towards toddlerhood and though it's not my favorite stage, everything is pretty great with her so...she just pushed our dining room chair over to the staircase though...hmmm.

As I said, we're all doing our thing and it's been lovely.

Enjoy the rest of summer! I know we will! 

April 16, 2015

things are growing

My yard is finally looking springlike! The grass is patchy green (not the grass's fault) and the flower beds are starting to fill out again - both with flowers and weeds. Last summer my weeding took a serious nosedive. I always start out the growing season with high hopes for keeping the weeds under control but it never, ever happens. Ever.

Anyways, tulips & muscari are blooming and almost the quince in the back yard. The forsythia is almost riotous as always. This year we need to seriously prune it. And the bleeding hearts are starting! The front flower bed is still new enough that I get nervous nothing will come back.

{the bleeding hearts always come up so fast}

{tiny violets that most people think are weeds but i love them!}

{astilbe, which i love so much and i have so much trouble growing)

But it seems to be doing just fine. The pasta (hosta) plants are poking up as are the lilly of the valley.  In fact a few days ago I got really excited that my asparagus was starting, but upon closer inspection it was a whole bunch of lilly of the valley that made it's way under the fence into the asparagus patch.  (so will soon be transplanted!)

And then, this morning  ----

{the first asparagus}
 the first real asparagus! so exciting. This is the 3rd or 4th season for this patch so I'm crossing my fingers for a real harvest. The peas are coming up much to Laithe's excitement. Not that Guthrie doesn't like being outside, but Laithe is my helper most often. 

This time of year I'm always so thankful for the extra sunlight and hours outside. My favorite is to get up early and work with headphones on before everyone else gets up. That hasn't happened yet this season, but I'm crossing my fingers it will soon.


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