Monday, September 18, 2017

Letting Go

I have been trying to declutter my personal spaces. So today when I came across a plastic ring in my bedroom I decided to give it to Evan because he collects such rings. After giving him the ring, I suddenly remembered why I had had the ring. It was a memento--a game piece from the Pretty Pretty Princess game. 

When Kara was young (oh so long ago) she would play this game with her cousins. The goal of the game is to acquire a complete set of jewelry--ring, bracelet, necklace, earrings, and finally--to win--the crown. Kara's boy cousins found it hilarious to play the game. Bentley and Jake were similarly amused with the game when Viva pulled it out.

However those days are long gone. Viva is past her princess phase and the game was taking up too much space, space needed for new games, so I took out a ring and I threw the game away last year. (There were broken and missing pieces, so I didn't give it to good will.) It was hard to let go, but I did--except for the one pink ring.

After I realized what I have given away--a precious emblem of fond times in the past--I panicked and asked Evan if I could have the ring back. He gave it to me, but then changed his mind and wanted it back. I tried to explain to him why it was important to me--because we had had it since Kara was little. He just looked at me and said "Then you've had it too long." 

That pretty much sums up decluttering. I gave him the ring back.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Time with Thea

Everyone wants to spend time with Thea. Fortunately cats like to nap most of the day and our kitty likes to nap on the main floor where the kids are hanging out (she is VERY social), so it works out great for kitty bonding time. Meanwhile Ramses has taken to napping during the day on the spare top bunk bed in the older kids' room, so no cute photos with him.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Fall Flu

It is that time of year when children generally return to public school, swap germs en masse, and end up sick. You would think one of the advantages to homeschooling would be that you'd miss out on this annual fall traditional, but it doesn’t work that way when you have five children engaged in different activities outside the home. The children have been mixing with their age mates at Scouts, church, karate, dance, little kid parkour, etc.

Bentley went down first and he went hard with a hacking cough, Jake soon followed him with the same ailment. Lincoln went next with a high fever and impressive listlessness; Viva followed soon after with the same symptoms. Evan held out until the end of the week and then joined his siblings with symptoms from both groups. Kara, Mark, and I had milder verions. Great-grandma has held steady against the germs! Matt was out of town last week and is gone again this week, so he stands a good chance of missing out, too.

I'm hoping since we've been attacked by the flu dragon early this season that we are done until next year! (Okay, I know it doesn't work that way, but a person can dream.)


It's Tuesday now and things are not improving yet. The older boys are still not back to karate and it's been a week. Great-grandma has started to come down with it. Lincoln visited the emergency room this morning because he has croup...yet again. It's his bane when it comes to the flu. Sleep would be good for all of us!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Labor Day Adventuring

The holiday weekend always fills Matt with wanderlust (really, most days of the week do.... !) and the weather cooperated for him this year!  Between the five kids there were enough volunteers to keep Daddy happy, active, and adventuring for most of the weekend.

On Monday they found a glacier and checked out the wildlife conservation center.  On Saturday there were biking trips (I think Evan & Jake opted in?) - Lincoln opted out, but he had a full day Seward train and boat excursion on Monday and he's a bit of a homebody (like his Mom!) so he was needing some more downtime!

The little guys did check out the playground on Monday to get some fresh hair, I like this picture Opa took:

Monday, September 04, 2017


When do skating and swimming go hand in glove together? When you join Dimond Athletic Club (in the basement of the Dimond Center Mall) to have access to their swimming pool and you get free ice time at the mall skating rink! So when we swim more, we skate more which means having to fit two more activities into the weekly schedule which is not easy. 

We haven't been members of DAC for two (?) or more years. I remember taking Lincoln and Evan to the pool there when they were quite little, but they never went skating. After karate became a necessity (Bentley and Jake wanted black belts), we didn't have time for other sports. However, it was past time for Lincoln and Evan to learn how to swim, so I insisted on going back to DAC and since we're swimming there, we are also skating there. That makes perfect sense, right?

We skate because the older children like to skate and free ice time makes skating irresistible...without the free admission from our DAC membership we would have to pay $25 (not including skate rental) every time we skate there. We still have to rent two pairs of skates, but $7 is a fantastic deal compared to $32.

Some days we skate and then swim!

How is the skating going? Everyone likes it. Lincoln wants to take lessons which I shall try and work out with Kara. The older ones would also like a few lessons (to relearn how to skate backwards and maybe pick up a few new skills), but I'm not sure we can fit those into their schedule between their school work, karate, dance, scouts, music lessons, music groups, and swimming. You just can't do it once.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

First Chapter Book!

Lincoln and Evan have finished reading their first chapter book, Rise of the Dragon Masters. The book is from a new series titled Dragon Masters by Tracey West. The book was 90 pages long, but had illustrations on every page. It was the perfect book for our beginning readers!

Lincoln and Evan read the book separately. Evan finished the book first because he chose to read more pages every day. He's more than half finished with the next book in the series. Lincoln isn't a reluctant reader, but he's not as dedicated a reader as Evan.

Good job Lincoln! Good job Evan!

(Bentley and Viva are reading the series, too, and Thea chewed on the lower right corner when she found it on her favorite sleeping couch. It's a popular book that is for sure.)

Friday, September 01, 2017

Berries on Another Mountain

Squinting into the Sun
(It's so annoying when the best place to stage a photo is into the sun.)

It was Wednesday again, the day our schedule is a little more open to go berry hunting. Kara picked a likely location from the berry picker group she joined. We headed off to South Fork Eagle River Trailhead. It's not too far away, but Kara took us on a twenty minute detour because the directions given assumed more knowledge of the Eagle River area than Kara has. We eventually made it to the parking lot and piled out.

We started up the trail (and all mountain trails do lead UP), but since all berries next to the trail were long gone, we wandered off the main trail looking for a good berry patch. The pickings were slim to very slim.

There are FOUR berries in this photo. 
2 nagoon berries (lower half of photo, one is half hidden by a leaf)
1 dogwood berry (edible, but insipid so never collected)
1 crowberry (close to the dogwood berry, but 80% hidden)

We went down the main path a little further and then I suggested we just go straight up the mountain because that worked for us last week at Arctic Valley. Sure enough, the higher you climb, the better the berry patches, but it still wasn't great picking. I won't be adding this location to my list next year.

nagoon berries


I concentrated on picking nagoon berries, but I didn't get enough to make a batch of jam. They will be juiced with the other berries. I don't think most of my pickings were ripe because a few berries were translucent and juicy, but most were solid and hard. 

Bentley picked mostly lingonberries. There were small patches here and there, but no mother lode. Mother lodes are the goal of any dedicated berry picker. I'm still educating Kara and the grandchildren on this concept. It would help if we could find a mother lode--then they would totally get it. It's a special experience to find The Mother Lode. People travel hours to return to epic berry patches. They do not share their location with anyone (not their best friend, not their adult children, not even out-of-state family).

Kara stayed lower on the mountainside picking crowberries. (She has a bad hip and tries not to unduly aggravate it). I took the children a little higher. Viva, Lincoln and Evan spent half their time eating grass instead of picking berries. They formed a grass eating club. (When Viva appointed Evan treasurer and explained his duties I had to ask how she thought their club was going to make money. She said they'd do other activities and maybe rename the club.)

After a while Jake and Evan went down to join Kara. Jake picked berries under a pine tree and got sap in his hair. Eventually I sent Viva and Lincoln down to Kara and I finally forced Bentley to abandon his berry patches. It was getting cold and windy on the mountain. We had a combined yield of a little over six cups of berries. Six cups for seven people is not a good yield, but that's okay because we had a great time outdoors.

On the ride home we tried quizzing the children about how much they enjoy berry picking. Did they like last week's (sunny!) adventure better than this week's adventure? Jake, who asks when we're going home five minutes after we hit the trail, gave last week a 10 out of 10 and this week an 8 out of 10. Evan gave this week an 80 and last week a 10. Kara took that to mean that he really, really like this week, but upon further quizzing, I think he was rating this week on a scale of 100 and last week on a scale of 10--in any case I'm not sure how well four year olds understand 1-10 or 1-100 scales (even if they can count to a hundred). The other children all gave our excursions high ratings.

No. 1 Berry Picker!

B is scowling because I'm taking a photo.
J is smiling because we're headed home.
Photos don't tell the whole story!

Down the Trail 

Berry picking is the perfect excuse to clear your calendar and get outside!

One last photo: Alaska doesn't have the best fall tree colors, but if you look to the ground cover, you can see some amazing changes! (Bentley brought home a couple of the red leaves because they were so beautiful.)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Berries on the Mountain

On Tuesday there was a little sun, so we took advantage of it to go berry picking at Arctic Valley. There were a lot of cars when we arrived, but it certainly wasn't crowded on the mountainside because mountains are big!

The kids had to play in the stream near the parking lot:

Then we started to scale the mountain looking for berries. The pickings on the lower mountainside were slim:

The higher we climbed, the more berries there were to be found.

Kara and Evan stayed low on the mountainside. I climbed higher with the other four. Eventually Jake and Lincoln stopped climbing to do full time picking. I climbed a little higher, but then gave Viva my phone so she could take photos when she and Bentley reached the top of the mountain. (She wants the photos for an art project.) Bentley said he rolled down part of the mountain coming back, but he laughed about it, so all was good.


Viva's art photos: view from the top! 

Viva's art photos: view from the top! 

selfie at the top

We found tons of crowberries (see photo; not too many people pick these, but we do), some blueberries (these are highly sought after at this location so it was hard to find them still on the bush!), a handful of lingonberries, and ten or so other harder to find berries....which I am sure will add flavor to our jelly. The seven of us picked 13 cups of berries--90+% were crowberries.

It was a great afternoon!

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Moment in Time Today

At 11:15AM today I took photos of what the children were doing--a small snapshot of the day.

Lincoln was doing Legos! 
He prefers to get a little playtime in before doing any schoolwork.
(Don't we all?!)

Viva was meeting with her mother about her schedule for the upcoming quarter.
She was feeling despondent about the time commitment.
I reminded her of her other option: public school.
She was horrified at the idea of giving up even more time!
(None of the grandchildren have ever wanted to attend public school.)

Jake was doing his online math course.
He was chanting something about how brilliant he is.

Evan was putting together a floor puzzle.

Bentley was reading The Mystery of History as part of his assigned work.
He and I had just finished discussing a very tricky math problem.
His online counting and probability course is quite challenging for both of us!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bentley's Suzuki Book 2 Recital!

In mid July Bentley had his second Suzuki recital, a celebration of finishing the second book in the Suzuki Cello series!  The Suzuki method is tough because it requires memorization of all the songs in order for you to "pass" them off with your teacher - I can't imagine remembering that many songs in my head!  Bentley did a lovely job, and he worked hard on a "stretch" encore piece, a version of Gigue by Bach.  Last year's recital featured Bentley and his teacher on cello as the accompanist, this year his teacher wanted him to try playing with a piano.  We were lucky to get hooked up with an awesome pianist, and the performance was awesome!  Great work, Bentley!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Twinkle Beans

For the past 9 months or so the little guys have been studiously working on their "twinkles jar" with Suzuki cello.  Their teacher gave them a mason jar full of beans (800?!) and their job was to move one bean from the jar to another jar every time they played one of their twinkle variations.  It took us a little while... !  When you are done you are supposed to celebrate and make bean soup with the beans.  I thought that bean soup might not seem like a huge reward to the kids (LOL!) so we decided to try an ice cream cake, as they've never had one before!

It was a hit.  Great work, little guys!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Off to the POOL!

Grandma decided we should "seize the moment" and take advantage of the little guys forward momentum from swim lessons, and keep working with them.  We've used the Dimond Center pool in the past (they have a warm therapy pool!) and the membership for the club is "reasonable" (comparatively, as you don't have to sign a year long contract!)

So off to the pool we went!  Lincoln & Evan are making fabulous progress, and the older kids always enjoy pool time.  Grandma and I have even made it over on our own a few times to get some exercise in.  Two thumbs up for summer time activities!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lincoln the Amazing!

Our newest six year old is a delightful little guy.  Here are some of the things I want to remember about him when he's all grown up.... !

He has a great sense of humor.  The wit is a bit dry sometimes, which makes him even funnier.

He is a thinker.  I am always surprised at his insightful comments!

He is normally agreeable, but also not afraid to stand up for himself (a good thing when you have siblings, not a good thing when you have siblings.... !)

He has the best smile.  Love that huge gap in the front!

He is gentle and sweet with the cats.  Always!

He is very creative and sticks with projects even when they are tough (master Lego builder... !)

Another Playground!

Viva has an art class on the west end of town and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to check out a really nice play location on that side of town. The location combines a nice school playground with a lake and wood side trail. We arrived and discovered a new piece of equipment had been added--a climbing wall with a slide. The kids really liked it.

We visited the main playground and they played there a little bit, but soon requested to go down to the lake front. We saw a few ducks and maybe a loon--it made a very odd noise, so I'm guessing it was loon.

Next I forced the kids to take a walk in the woods. I had some complaints about that activity, but I ignored them. Near the end of the trail we found a lot of currant bushes! Unfortunately for us, it's too late in the season and most of them were picked off or fallen off. We only collected a half cup. We also found raspberries (not good ones), watermelon berries (Jake, Viva, and Lincoln tried them), high bush cranberries (not ripe yet), and baneberries! I had told the kids to watch out for them because they are poisonous, but not to really worry because I don't recall ever finding any. Bentley found some--we brought the leaves (not the berries!) home to verify identification.