My Beamish Brood

My Beamish Brood

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Our Element

For the moment, I will feign ignorance and pretend that it won't be snowing later this week. We took our first hike into the woods, and that means spring is here, no turning back! Monday was absolutely gorgeous, so we took off as soon as Lucian woke up and made for the bluffs. Audrey was a pro in her backpack; she was awake the whole hour-plus that we were out, but that girl didn't make a peep. She's been a lover of the outdoors since day one. 

We had our doubts about Lucian's ability to complete the hike. See, our hiking path goes downhill a long way first... then the uphill hike comes at the end. Not ideal, but it's worth it for the discovery potential. Caves? Check. Waterfall? Check. Railroad track? Check. Lake? Check. Old brick oven? Check. I could go on, but you get the drift.

Anyways, Lucian has never made the whole hike on foot before. He's not exactly a ball of boundless energy like his brother, and he gets pretty stubborn when he doesn't want to do something, so we weren't sure how it would go.

He LOVED it.

He threw rocks, hauled sticks, jumped over puddles, and was generally much more daring than I was ready for him to be. On the way back up, we sang the Alphabet Song from Super Why over and over and over... and over... and over again, per his request, and that got him all the way to the top! What a trooper!

Max would have never come out of the woods if we didn't make him. All winter, he pointed out the head of the trail every time we drove by it. "Those are our hiking woods!" he would exclaim. He was beside himself when we told him we'd finally get to go exploring again. This was not a bit surprising. What did surprise us was that our kid who won't sit still for a picture to save his life suddenly wanted to pose for photo ops every 20 feet!

"Take a picture of me! I'm Jesus carrying my cross up the hill!"

Take a picture of me with my bow and arrow!"

"Take a picture of me sitting on this tree stump! Take a picture of me walking the plank! Take a picture of me! Take a picture of me!" Who is this kid??

The crowning jewel was, for me, the fact that we got a decent self-portrait of all five of us together. Sure the photo quality is poor, but look at those adorable children! And look, you can see all of their eyes! And there are no fingers in noses! Score. Double score.

Look out world, we're out of hibernation!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kids Around the World

Japanese Tea Ceremony
It's been awhile since I've given any update about school around these parts. We've had a great year of dabbling and following Max's interests, while being sure to incorporate plenty of letter and number basics (most often in the form of word games, which Max loves! Hooray!) Our curriculum has been dictated by Max, covering such broad-reaching topics as pirates (surprise, surprise), Ancient Egypt, pets, outer space, the human body, Under the Sea, famous artists and famous scientists, and now Kids Around the World.

Using a cool map with velcro labels from Grandma Yantes, we learned the names of the continents and oceans. Starting in Asia, we chose a few countries on each continent to study more in-depth. We then moved to North and South America, Europe (including Austria, of course!) and now we're in Africa. In each country we learned about the games children like to play, stories they would know, foods they are likely to eat (I even made borscht!) and how to say "hello" and "goodbye".

The biggest takeaway for Max has been that kids from different countries really aren't that different than kids in our own neighborhood. They might eat different food and play different games, but they are more like us than not, and we are all one big human family! Sadly I won't be able to fulfill Max's new wish and travel to every country we learned about. I sure would have liked to add some field trips to this unit.

Nigerian Animal Mask
As we wrap up our first year of homeschooling, I am so excited to tackle Kindergarten next year! I have found a great Catholic phonics program that I'm thinking about trying, and beyond that I think we'll continue our Max-led curriculum, seeing as his hunger for knowledge has not lessened a bit! Who knows what we'll study come September? He continues to surprise me.

Like anyone, I have my fair share of crazy, hair-pulling, hide in a corner, plug-my-ears-and-sing-loudly-to-myself type of days (Wait, you don't have any of those? Oh...), but I truly love having my children around me and around each other! Max and Lucian are such great pals already, when they are not dumping water on each other and trying to run each other through with swords, and I can't wait to see how their relationship blossoms with each coming year.

I've said since the beginning that we are taking homeschooling one year at a time and we will re-evaluate each summer, but I'm happy to say that year one was a resounding success! 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A What?

During college, I was a camp counselor for two summers. One of the games I remember playing was called "Whosit-whatsit". To play, everyone sits in a large circle and the leader has two objects, a "whosit" and a "whatsit". The leader hands the object to the person on her left and says, "This is a whatsit." The person to her left replies, "A what?" and the leader repeats, "A whatsit." The person then turns to his left and repeats this information to the next person. When that person responds, "a what?", the first person turns back to the leader and asks again, "a what?" As you have probably guessed, the leader repeats "a whatsit", which is echoed by the first person to the second person. Confused yet? Just wait.

The leader then takes the second object, the "whosit", and repeats this pattern to her right. Somewhere in the middle of the other side of the circle the two objects cross paths, causing crazy hilarity. The poor person who is caught trying to hand off a "whosit" at the same time as someone is handing her a "whatsit" is faced with a few seconds of pure chaos.

This game occurred to me a few days ago as my two wonderful boys were both vying for my attention, alternately asking me questions and telling me absolutely vital information. It sounded something like this:

"Mom, I have a question for you." (Lucian)

"Yes, Lucian?" (Me)

"Mom, do dragonflies really eat mosquitoes?" (Max)

"Yeah, Max, they do." (Me)

"Can I have a glass of milk?" (Lucian)

"Is it because they like us? Are dragonflies nice?" (Max)

"Yes, you can." (Me, directed at Lucian)

"Yes, they're nice?" (Max)

"I want the blue cup." (Lucian)

"No, that cup is dirty. Here's another one. Yes I guess they're nice." (Me)

"What did you say?" (Max)

"I want lots of milk. Not just a little." (Lucian)

"Why are they nice?" (Max)

"You can have this much. I don't know, Max." (Me, handing Lucian his cup)

"Can dragonflies get into the house? Are they usually blue? I like blue, but red is my favorite color" (Max)

"I like blue, red and orange." (Lucian)

"I don't know, Max." (Me)

"What did you say?" (Max)

"I like blue, red and orange. Those are my favorite colors." (Lucian)

"What did you say?" (Max)

I could go on. But I won't, for your sake. This is my reality, sometimes for what seems like hours on end. Lucian simply hasn't developed an understanding of the word "wait"... and Max just doesn't want to.

I remember hearing once that women generally have more words that they want to use during an average day than men. Early in our marriage, this was definitely the case between me and Paul; anyone who knows him knows that he is a man of few words. But as my two little boys have gotten bigger and more talkative, I feel as if I use all of my words for the day before lunch! Now more often than not, my time with Paul is spent in glorious silence. Ahhhh, silence... something I never truly appreciated until it was gone.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Under the Weather

Stuffed-up Audrey with voice-less Mommy
We have been sick, sick, sick since before Easter. At various times, various members of the household have battled ear infections, pink eye, hacking coughs, sore throats, explosive sneezes, gross diapers and the accompanying diaper rash (that one wasn't me, I promise), and just about any other cold symptom you can imagine. Just as one thing would get bad enough to consider more intervention, it would dissipate and be replaced by something else. We aren't dying, we have no definable diagnosis, we're just sick.

And with that comes short tempers and zero patience that has far worn out its welcome. If I hear one more blood-curdling scream in my (still aching) ear because I won't let Lucian have a piece of candy, I may just pack up and move. The whining, oh the whining! The blaming Mom for everything! Just this afternoon Max informed me that he was moving out to the garage because "You say too many things that I don't like." All of this is, of course, exacerbated by the fact that I should be able to kick the kids outside to play in April without first bundling them into their snow gear! Come on, thundersnow?! Is this some sort of sick joke?

At book club on Wednesday, in the midst of all of this unwellness at home, my friend Sarah brought up a blog that she reads about a mother of six who is expecting number seven. This woman apparently has it all together. She homeschools, she keeps her house immaculate, her children are well-dressed and well-behaved, and she seems to be a truly joyful and prayerful person. I found myself fighting back thoughts of jealousy (Why can't I have it all together like her?) and doubt (I'm sure there's something we don't know about. She must be putting on an act). But on my drive home, I realized that the only correct response to someone that is "getting it right" is humility and thankfulness for God's blessings on them. Yes, I'm sure she isn't perfect. No human being is. But she's doing a lot of things right that I'm not doing right, and instead of jealousy I should be trying to emulate her.

So as I drown here in a pile of dirty kleenex, I am attempting to ask for God's grace every minute... because ohhhhh man do I need it.  And just as the snow will melt someday, we will be well again and this whole mess will seem like a foggy, highly-medicated dream.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


He is risen! And how fitting that we finally have the slightest sense of spring in the air. The thaw has begun just as we celebrate the triumph of Christ over death and darkness. Alleluia!

It is amazing what God can do in just a few short days; I feel like I slogged my way through this Lent, finally getting around to Confession on Holy Thursday and then (surprise, surprise!) everything began to turn around. Mass at St. Joseph's that evening was beautiful (and long). I was trying to hold it together as Lucian whined loudly and continuously about how tired he was and Audrey tried to do gymnastics in my arms. But even with all of the distractions, amazingly I still remember the homily! And to top it off, there was an older woman behind me who made a point after Mass to tell me how wonderful my children behaved. I mean, she really meant it. I was pretty shocked, but boy it was nice to hear.

On Good Friday I joined two friends for a prayer vigil at the Planned Parenthood in St. Paul. This was my third year at the vigil, which is a collaboration between many Christian churches in the area. Hundreds of participants process in a circle while taking turns carrying a large wooden cross. Every half hour a different pastor led a group prayer and reflection. My friends and I noted how difficult it was to pray a rosary with all of the external noises from the counter-protest, and it made so clear to us how distracting the voice of the world can be.

In the evening, the whole family went to the Living Stations of the Cross put on by the Servants of the Cross in Oakdale. The stations were geared toward children, and the participants ranged in age from 6 to 23. Max barely moved a muscle during the entire 14 stations, and the first thing he said when it was done was, "Can we come back every year?" He and Lucian have acted out their own version of the Stations at least twice a day since then.

On Saturday we traveled to Marshall to spend the night with my mom's parents, and the boys got to fly their first kite of the season. Leave it to Grandpa to find a pirate ship kite! We were treated to a delicious dinner and the kids thoroughly enjoyed being doted on by four grandparents and an auntie!

Easter morning began with preparations for Mass; the kids were extremely excited to finally sing their Alleluias again! Miracle of miracles, we got everyone to 9 am Mass on time. The kids were amazing during church... I'm wondering if it had more to do with their excitement about the Resurrection or the eggs they knew were hiding back at Grandma's house? Ahh well, either way it was great for us!

And now we are in the midst of the Easter Octave. We have all been sick in some form since Holy Saturday, and I don't know if the end is in sight yet... but we are still doing our best to squeeze as much celebrating into this season as we can. At the very least, we are making it a point to greet each other with Alleluias whenever we have the energy.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Let's go fly a kite

Megan's fun idea: shaving cream egg dyeing

Indoor Easter egg hunting
Easter beauty!
Max with his pals, my cousins Logan, Sawyer and Kellan
Grandpa's birthday fell on Easter this year!