My Beamish Brood

My Beamish Brood

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Carving Company

As Halloween approached this year, I was feeling a little down because it was looking like no one would be joining us for pumpkin carving. For as long as we have lived in our house, we have shared the pumpkin-carving duties with some special person or other. Our helpers for the last two years, Chris and (now Father) Grant are no longer in the area. Bummer! But we planned to make the best of it... me juggling a baby and a camera, Paul helping with the carving and roasting the pumpkin seeds. How it would have actually worked, I have no idea.

Then Uncle Patrick called the Wednesday before Halloween, asking if he and a friend could crash at our house on Thursday night on their way to visit friends in Winona. Thursday night, pumpkin carving night! But they weren't planning to arrive until late, long after the pumpkins had been carved and the kids pajama'd.

After dinner I went upstairs to print templates for our pumpkins when I heard the door open. Hours earlier than they thought, Patrick and Dan showed up just in time for carving! They ate a quick dinner and settled right in: Patrick helping Lucian carve a ghost on his pumpkin, and Dan assisting Audrey with her lion. She took to Dan right away, and they were best buds for the rest of the visit. (She's quite the charmer to everyone but me...)

Uncle Peej was barely recognizable with a lion's mane of his own. (Cut that hair, dude!) And I feel infinitely more cultured now that he introduced me to the term "Man Bun"... file that under "hairstyles I never needed to know or see".  Oh well, we love him just the same! I couldn't help feeling a little jealous that he has better hair than I do, or my daughters ever will. But enough about Patrick's hair. The kids loved the quick visit, and we are looking forward to spending much more time with their uncle at Christmas!


Why yes I did go trick-or-treating in costume this year!
Olaf, ghost and lion pose with their matching pumpkins

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pick a Little

Do you see those smiles? DO YOU SEE THOSE SMILES??
This fall we were able to celebrate my very favorite season of the year in my very favorite way... not once, but twice! Apple picking! I look forward to it all year round, and so do my kids. At the most random times throughout the year they will bring up our trip to the orchard, asking if we are making plans yet. Then at the first hint of fall, they turn it up a notch. If ever there is a year where we don't make it to the orchard I think they'll disown me. Heck, I'd disown myself!

To me, there is nothing quite as magical as strolling through the gnarled apple trees, eating our way from one end to the other. The fall weather makes me feel giddy, like I could just drift up and out of my skin. And the apples! The apples. There is something about an apple straight from the tree that puts it in a class by itself. Honestly, they are not always the most delicious; some varieties and some years are much better than others. But they are by far the best. Every one of them.

With all this in mind, you shouldn't be surprised that we took over 200 pictures during our two trips to the orchard. Deciding which ones to share with you here has been nothing short of devastating. Just imagine: for every beautiful photo you see here, there are thirty more that just barely missed the cut.

We went once with Maureen and Liam when they stopped through on their way back from visiting Kelley and Tim. We went on a Wednesday and we were nearly the only people in the entire place! Then we returned with my parents on a weekend; it was much busier, but there was face painting! Are your kids obsessed with face painting like mine? I don't know what it is... I could never stand the feeling of paint on my face. Aaaand... there was wood fire pizza. That made up for the crowd, hands down. Both trips were amazing. As I look out my window at the snow, I can't believe we're already through another fall and on our way into winter. But I know the questions will start soon. "Mom, when are we going apple picking?"

Grandma and the grandkids

My dad's apple artwork caught the attention of the tractor driver ("That's the best thing I've seen all year!")

Brothers. I love this.

Liam Doolittle chills with the goats

Grandma and Grandpa with the girls
Me and my sweetie sipping apple wine in the middle of a sunflower field... talk about poetic!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Teaching My Fish

"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire" -St. Catherine of Siena

You probably wouldn't guess it from looking at them, but these pictures document my worst day yet of our homeschooling journey. In fact, while it got nominally better after that day, I came dangerously close to throwing in the schooling towel after the first two weeks. It's probably a good thing I wasn't blogging then because I would have written something halfhearted, trying to sound positive about the whole thing. A little ways out (and a few normal to awesome weeks under my belt) I have a bit more perspective on what went wrong, what I could have done, and what I just had to live with. 

Let me start at the beginning. I get super excited for the start of each school year. I make crowns for the kids, I wrap up their school supplies, together we choose a saint and a quote for our year. This year it is St. Joseph of Cupertino, chosen by Max for his gift of levitation during prayer. At first I was a little unsure of this saint as our school saint... he wasn't known for his brains; in fact, he failed at a lot of things he tried to do. What kind of role model was that for our school year? And then it hit me: he's perfect. He was an incredibly holy man who loved God with his whole heart. Isn't that what I want for my kids? One of the great things about homeschooling is that my children don't have to strive to meet academic standards before they are ready so I am free to focus on what really matters: faith, values, and character development. So Joseph of Cupertino was added to our litany of saints and I began praying for his intercession in our schooling.

Then I started hearing friends talk about reading levels and math curriculum. I saw teachers on Facebook posting about their classes, and I began to panic. Max isn't reading yet! He doesn't know all of his basic math facts! He's behind! I pulled together the different parts of my curriculum with the goals of reading and math at the top of my list, edging out inspiration and love of learning.  It had been easy to follow the trails of Max's interests when he was in preschool and kindergarten; no one expects a kindergartner to be a fluent reader, and a four year old who is obsessed with the Hobbit sounds really impressive! But suddenly there were expectations, and frankly I was terrified that my son would be labeled "behind" his peers when I know how brilliant he is. As Albert Einstein so perfectly stated it, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." I love that homeschooling allows my children to learn at their own pace, without being labeled or put into a box. 

But for some reason (pride, I'm guessing) I was still trying to put my kids in a box. The first day of school started and I had the kids sit down and practice writing the letter 'a'. Max balked. Lucian ran away. Audrey wanted a snack. And Edith cried. I spent the rest of the day fuming, mad at myself for failing on my first day, mad at the kids for not doing what they were told. I'm sure Max was dumbfounded. School for him had always been the highlight of his day. "School" meant the time when we learn about things that are interesting, and while Max is interested in a lot of things, writing the letter 'a' is not currently one of those things. 

After a few days of powering through my original plan for the week, I threw in the towel and started from scratch. I loved homeschooling last year, why had I psyched myself out enough to almost ruin it for everyone? With such a rough start it took awhile to get back into our groove, but I'm happy to say that we're on track once again. I am listening to my children, working with their interests, and having a grand old time. We have kept some of my original curriculum pieces in a drastically modified form, and I have discovered the wonder that is Pinterest to find better ways to inspire my kids to learn those things that I do believe are essential.

And I tell you what, Max is on the road to reading. He still has a long way to go but we are making steps at his pace, and he never needs to think that going slow is a negative. Even more important to me, though, is that he is once again telling anyone who asks that school is his favorite time of day.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Home Alone

Back in June, in anticipation of our new arrival, my in-laws did the unthinkable: took all three of our kids to visit them for a full week! I know my kids are pretty good kids, but even good kids can be exhausting. Thankfully their grandparents are saints, they have an amazing uncle who still lives at home, and they had an auntie, uncle, and cousin visiting at the same time. They were kept busy doing all of the fun things Rapid City has to offer while I stayed home and organized, cleaned, cooked freezer meals, read books, and spent time with my husband alone. We went out to restaurants! We went for walks! We sat at the dinner table and talked to each other!  Aside from my enormous baby belly, I felt like a newlywed again.

Maureen and Monica, wonderful women that they are, made sure to document the trip for me and gave each kid their own photo album from the trip. In the front cover was a day-by-day account of everything they did so I could get a better picture of how they spent their time and so I could ask the right questions. A (very) small part of me wished I could have been there to experience all the fun, but the pictures were more than sufficient.

Months later, we have welcomed a new baby sister and things are beginning to get back to normal. I have cooked my way through all of the freezer meals, the house is turned upside down again, and my life is loud and crazy. But the time of preparation and relaxation while the kids were away was unforgettable. More importantly, my kids got some quality time with their "Grandma and Grandpa Far", as they've nicknamed them. Having grandparents 600 miles away is a bummer, but they all made some amazing memories while I wasn't there to interfere. Thank you, Maureen and Paul! Thank you, Monica and Glenn! Thank you, Liam! You're all amazing.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Abundant Blessings

In July we welcomed our beautiful new baby Edith Clare into our family, and in August we enlisted the help of a pile of friends and family to welcome her into the church! Paul's family came from far and wide (South Dakota and Chicago, to be exact) to celebrate with us, and Edith's Godparents, along with their three children, traveled from the far reaches of North Dakota to stand with us at her baptism. What a blessing, what a joyful time!

My parents opened their home and pool during the visit, so we made good use of it. I can't think of a time when there have been more children piled in that pool! Max and Mara reconnected and became fast friends again, and they've now begun exchanging pictures and letters. Maybe a few too many hearts drawn on the pictures for my liking, but hey, at least they're separated by hundreds of miles!

We shared a baptism day with our dear friends John and Sara, who were baptizing their new twins! It was such a beautiful blessing to be able to share that moment with them. The baptismal font was surrounded by little kids elbowing and jostling to see the action; it was perfect.

Then the celebration continued at a nearby park for brats and hot dogs. The kids played on the playground and the grownups sat around chatting and enjoying the food. For a day that had over a 50% chance of rain, we were amazed that we only had to contend with a few drops right at the end of the day!

We made a point to gather the four CYC couples for a ten year reunion picture. The eight of us met their spouses in the summer of 2004, working as counselors at Catholic Youth Camp in McGregor, MN. We all got married in '06 or '07, and we have remained friends since then. Now, fourteen kids later, we are sharing wonderful- and busy- lives together. All of us ended up in the Twin Cities except for Ryan and Maggie, so when they made it to town we had to seize the opportunity. Pretty stellar work for a decade, if I may say so myself!

It's only been a few months, but I wish I could go back and live this weekend over again! Thank you to everyone who helped us celebrate the most important moment in Edith's life so far. And thank you especially to Ryan and Maggie for agreeing to the important role of Godparents. She is blessed to have you.