My Beamish Brood

My Beamish Brood

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Summer Birthday Girls

 My two girls have birthdays just over a month apart, and in our busyness this summer I forgot to post about either one! Today I will finally remedy that oversight.

Audrey turned FIVE on June 17! She celebrated a ballerina-themed party with a bunch of her friends and family. It was so adorable to watch them all play freeze-dance, "Don't let the balloon touch the ground" and all kinds of games of their own creation. Audrey, of course, spent the day in full ballerina get-up, complete with ballet shoes... for one day only they were allowed outside, lucky girl.

While it was exciting to watch Audrey turn five, I didn't get the feeling that she's growing up too fast. She has a maturity (and an attitude...) beyond her years. If anything, five still seems too young for her! But I won't for an instant try to rush this time. I will cherish the fact that a teddy bear with its own wardrobe of clothing was the best gift she could possibly imagine. I will relish the memory of her opening a pink frilly nightgown and jumping with excitement. Sometimes in the midst of parenting my strong-willed little girl, I forget how young she is. I love the sweetness in these photos; they remind me that sweet and strong can (and do) coexist in my dear Audrey.

A month later, on July 27, Edith turned three! We celebrated with a "Snack Dinner" (Edith's choice), presents and cake. She received a Wild beach towel and fleece blanket, a new swimsuit, and a stuffed triceratops from her Uncle Ben that she promptly named "Jellycat" (Last year's gift from Ben was a stuffed cow that received the name "Puppycow"... so there's that).

I assumed Edith would choose a hockey-themed cake for her birthday, but she surprised me and requested a Thomas the Train cake! This was doubly sweet because her sister's third birthday cake was also Thomas-themed. Sometimes I notice more about my girls' differences than their similarities, but at the end of the day, they are best friends.

It is so fun to see how excited the other kids get when one of their siblings is celebrating. They love making the day special and going out of their way to show love to the birthday kid!

Happy belated birthday, girls! I love you lots and lots!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Family and Friends on the Fourth

Two months have already passed since our epic trip to North Dakota for the Fourth of July. Lots has changed- a new auntie has been added to our family, a new friend has been born, a beard has been lost... but I still need to pause and back up to that weekend among great friends and family before I move forward!

We are grateful that Patrick and Anne went to school so near Ryan and Maggie, because we could make just one drive and see eight amazing people! The first day we were there, Patrick and Anne generously offered to babysit all the kids so we could go out on a double date for possibly the first time ever. What a treat! Ryan and Maggie took us to a delicious spot for dinner in downtown Bismarck and we go to catch up without the interruptions from so many little voices... and Pat and Anne survived the evening. Good sign, good sign. 

Audrey and Edith fell in love with Mara and adopted her as their big sister. They were never far from her side the whole weekend, imitating her mannerisms and asking her opinion on every matter under the sun. She is a big deal in their book!


We kept ourselves busy during this visit, making two trips to two different lakes, visiting a fish hatchery (fascinating!), swimming at the public pool, watching a parade, watching fireworks, getting ice cream, and just being together. I'm exhausted thinking about it, but I'd do it again in a second.

We were well-fed throughout the week with amazing breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Maggie was Superwoman, keeping everything running smoothly even when pregnant! Patrick and Anne joined us for as many meals as they could, and Audrey and I even got to go flower girl dress hunting with Anne and find the dress Audrey would wear less than two months later for the big day!

As always, the visit went too quickly and it was soon time to return home. Edith still talks about her friends "The Rells", and we can't wait to see them again!

Renting kayaks at the lake
Feeding the fish at the hatchery

Soon-to-be-Auntie Anne painting nails on the Fourth

Red, white, and blue!

Our sweet Godson, Kieran

Monday, July 17, 2017

Extra, Extra

Paul and I made the decision early on in parenting that we would actively guard our family's time together. We have had the kids involved in a smattering of activities over the years, but the bulk of our evenings and weekends are dedicated to time together. In the last year, however, our kids have started to show interest in very specific activities, so we decided it was time to follow their lead. I have always had a mild fear that my kids would miss out on their calling because I failed to introduce them to it at the right time, but it has become abundantly clear that they will find their way in spite of not trying out every activity under the sun.

In  January, Audrey started ballet classes at St. Paul Ballet, and it has been perfect! For young kids, St. Paul Ballet offers drop-in classes on Saturday mornings, early enough to not interfere with other weekend plans. The drop-in option was perfect for us! When we were around, she could go to ballet, but if we had other plans or were out of town, she didn't... and we only had to pay for the classes she attended! Her teacher Miss Siri became her hero, and she can't wait to start again in the fall!

Lucian took a soccer class at the YMCA this spring, and then his dream came true when we signed him up for Team Soccer this summer! He and his buddy Augustine are on the Yellowjackets, and it is a BIG DEAL. Actually the league is through West St. Paul Community education and is super low-key, but they get to play actual games, which is what Lucian has been waiting for his entire life. He is on cloud nine.

And then Max, my boy who just wants to perform, was given the opportunity to be in a real live play! Community Ed in a neighboring town put on a performance of Peter Pan and Max signed up and was given the role of Michael! He had to memorize over 40 lines, and I was a nervous wreck. But he remembered every line and delivered them with confidence and enthusiasm! Way to go, Max! Grandma Yantes was even able to make the trip up to see him perform, and we were so glad to be able to share the experience with her.

I think this year has marked the beginning of a new era. Next thing you know, I'll have a collection of "(Fill-in-the-blank) Mom" bumper stickers on my car!  In all honesty, though, it has been a joy to see them begin to express their diverse personalities and find out what makes them tick. They have also been incredibly supportive of each other, which just makes my Mama-heart melt. I have always known that I love my kids, but I am beginning to realize more and more how much I like them!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Learning a Thing or Two

The time has come for my annual year-end recap. This has become my tradition mostly because at about this time each year, I suddenly begin to wonder if we actually did anything all year. It is almost funny how it happened like clockwork. I spent the whole year feeling like I was actually staying on top of things. I went in with a better plan than ever before, and I stuck with my plan more consistently than in the past. And yet, when May rolled around, I suddenly panicked, thinking that we must have wasted the whole year. "The math book isn't done! The science book isn't done! Lucian's phonics book isn't done! I don't know if Audrey and Edith learned anything all year!"

So now I will take a step back, take a deep breath, and take a look at the photographs I took throughout the year. We did some amazing learning this year, and all of the kids made leaps forward! I am so proud of all of them, no matter how many pages are left in our math book.

This year was the first year I let myself buy a math curriculum and a science program. I realized that with the chaos of five kids, three of whom are preschool or younger, I was dropping the ball on lesson planning week after week after week. I noticed Max was feeling frustrated with math, and I finally decided I didn't have the time or tools to teach him what he needed. So we invested in Math-U-See, a hands-on math curriculum that speaks Max's language. Lucian too has been enjoying it, especially since there's enough of a workbook component to keep him interested. On top of that, we are still reading Life of Fred, a series of fun math stories that make math relevant to real life.

We completed the second volume of our beloved history book, Story of the World, which took us two whole years to get through! What an accomplishment that was. This was easily everyone's favorite subject this year, so I began a search for a science program that would have a similar feel, and I came across Sassafras Science. We have only had it for a couple of months, but I think it has filled in the science-shaped hole in our curriculum in just the right way. Our schooling works best when it revolves around stories, and Sassafras Science (while not the highest quality literature...) is an engaging story about a brother and sister who go on a science adventure. It comes along with experiment ideas, workbook pages and lots of extras to expand on the chapter if we choose.

I think the most helpful addition to our school schedule this year was the simple act of putting a list of goals on our chalkboard. There are so many things I want to do each day that I often suffer from decision paralysis. When I forced myself to choose the top five items that should get done and write them in a conspicuous place, it became much easier to motivate myself when I had an actual box to check in a place where everyone could see it!

Our daily goals are as follows. If we do three of these items, I feel as if our day was a success. If we do all five, I feel like we hit it out of the park!
1. Morning Prayer/School: When I start playing our School Song, the kids know it's time to gather. We begin with prayer and then I tell them the subject of the day. Usually this time is devoted to either math, science, or history, but on occasion we will bring something else in, like an art project or some poetry.
2. DEAR Time: Drop Everything And Read! It is exactly what it sounds like, and it is exactly as amazing as it sounds. As long as Blaise and Edith are napping...
3. 10 minute speed clean: I pick the room, we take a 'before' picture, we have a cleaning frenzy for 10 minutes, then we take an 'after' picture. If the pictures are different enough, they're done!
4. Read Aloud: If I could choose one list item to do, it would be this. We read aloud all the time. I realized just how much I read to the kids when I lost my voice for a week and had to figure out how to parent without being able to pick up a book. It was tough!
5. Assignment List: I write up a list of independent assignments for the boys each day, including subjects like handwriting, math worksheets, assigned reading, and active items like jumping on the trampoline or going outside to bike.

D.E.A.R. outside in the sun

On a good week, we get in probably 3 days of actual school. I have a hard time motivating myself to start in the morning, and I still have a baby and a toddler... so it seems like more often than not we just don't do any of the things we're supposed to do! And some days I find myself hiding behind the couch because four out of five kids are trying to yell at me about something.

But writing down our ideal helps me remember that we actually do a lot. I am proud of what we have accomplished this year! I hope you enjoy the photo recap of our most photogenic school moments of the year.
Halloween candy science experiments

Max drawing the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Natural Science

Stuffed Animal election

Pattern Practice (She did learn something this year!) 

Learning about illuminated manuscripts

Solar System Science

Lucian teaching Audrey to count

Moon Phase Oreos: always a favorite

Cave Painting


One of our favorite read-alouds of the year! 
We spent weeks conversing in Morse Code

Claymation craze!

Everyone loves playing the piano

Floating egg science

Many hours have been spent studying the world map in the dining room

Chemistry made a comeback around here
  Library cards! Having his own card turned Lucian into a voracious reader overnight!

And of course: reading.


And reading. 


Everywhere and anywhere to anyone


It melts my heart to see them enjoying this time together! 

If I had nothing else to show for it, the bonds the kids are building with each other around reading together is worth every moment of stress and struggle that comes with homeschooling. I wouldn't change a thing.