My Beamish Brood

My Beamish Brood

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Family Photos 2017

I don't know why it took me until three years ago to start getting our family's photos professionally taken, but if I had known how much joy it would bring me, I would have started long before! My dear friend Jess, owner of Jessica Shurts Photography, is an unbelievably talented photographer who seems able to effortlessly capture the personality of our family every time she lifts her camera. When I take photos of my children, I don't feel like they ever do justice to how I see my children when I look at them. But when I look at these pictures, I see my children with all of the silliness, enthusiasm, and joy that I want to remember about them when they are grown. (And Paul and I look o.k. too, I might add...)

I have nothing much to say about these pictures, except that they make my heart so happy to look at, I just couldn't wait until Christmas to share them with all of you! 

(and also, just look at Blaise's expression in every photo. I dare you not to laugh out loud!)


Monday, November 6, 2017

School Snapshot

As promised, perhaps more for my sake than for yours, I am back to give you a snapshot of an average school day in our little one-room school house. We are into November now, so I can say with some confidence that I have finally stumbled upon the recipe for success in our homeschool days, at least as far as consistency is concerned. I'll be honest, there are some years where I was much more creative with my lesson planning (ahem, threekidsago, cough, cough) but I have never managed to hold to a schedule as well as I have so far this year. 

When I say the word "schedule", I mean it in the loosest possible sense. There is very little that happens at an allotted time during our days, but I have learned to take activities that need to get done and pin them to something that will always happen no matter what. And that usually means food. So this year, our days look something like this:

6:00 Mom awake, morning prayers, drink coffee by myself
6:30-7:30 Everyone else wakes up slowly, eats a bowl of cereal or lays on the couch reading. Their only task is to get dressed by 8:30.
8:30 Real breakfast is served (YES I'm cooking breakfast every day! This is new!)
   Monday is oatmeal
   Tuesday is pancakes
   Wednesday is eggs
   Thursday is cereal (we have a church class in the morning so we need to get out the door)
   Friday is yogurt and granola
9:00 I play our school song (This year it is Multiplied by needtobreathe- just try listening to this song without dancing!) while we clean up the school table from all of the mad crafting that inevitably went on the day before. I've found that I just can't make sure the school table is clean at the end of the day, so I've enlisted the kids to do it for me! I mean, with me... hey, it was their mess anyways!
   Then we begin with prayer, followed by our subjects that everyone learns together (history or science). Then the girls are excused... but they don't usually leave... and we do some math or English. 

It is unbelievable how much has changed in my motivation to do school each day, simply by making sure breakfast is served at 8:30 (or, let's be honest, 8:45 or even 9:00) and then we transition directly to school from the breakfast table. The kids don't have time to get engrossed in other activities, I don't have time to get distracted by dishes or laundry; we drop everything and go to school! Just like normal people! 

After this, the kids are free to do what they want until lunch time. Sometimes I serve a snack, sometimes I read a story, sometimes the kids scatter instantly to every corner of the house. I call them back around noon for lunch, which I usually eat while I'm preparing it. We all sit down at the table and if Blaise is in a good mood, I read a chapter from our current Boys Book Club book while they eat. If it doesn't work out at lunch, I read it during afternoon snack. 

After lunch, I have my ideal schedule and my actual schedule. Ideally, one of the kids would read a story to Edith while I clean up lunch, then I would put her and Blaise to bed and the rest of us would have D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time for about 20 minutes. This has happened in reality about twice. Children are notoriously bad at following my plans for their nap schedule, believe it or not. When it does work out, it's dreamy. But when it doesn't, we roll with it.

Following D.E.A.R. time... or C.T.K.W.E.E.D.W.T.W. Time (That's "Clean The Kitchen While Everyone Else Does What They Want" Time), the three big kids usually do our afternoon assignment lists. The trick to making assignments more palatable is to either A. Have a child like Audrey who would like nothing better than to practice her handwriting and math all afternoon or B. Put something they enjoy (i.e. something on the computer) at the end of the list. 

Max's current list looks like this:

-Math Worksheet
-Handwriting Worksheet
-Read 1 Chapter of assigned book, find one word you don't know
-Practice Taekwondo
-Practice Piano
-Duolingo (online Spanish class)

Lucian's list:

-Math Worksheet
-Handwriting Worksheet
-Grammar Lesson
-Read 1 Chapter of assigned book
-Practice Taekwondo
-Practice Piano
-Typing Lessons 

Audrey's list:

-Handwriting Worksheet
-Reading Lesson
-Math Worksheet (sometimes)
-Practice Piano
-Starfall Phonics (online)

Once their lists are completed, they are free to do whatever they like for the rest of the afternoon. Often we have afternoon snack and storytime together, sometimes we play board games together, occasionally we do an art project, but most days the kids entertain themselves with all sorts of creative pursuits that don't take any guidance from me. 

We have dinner when their Daddy gets home, and then the kids have chores to complete before they are free to do what they want after dinner. We usually start winding down around 7:30 with prayers and stories, and then on a normal day the kids are in bed by 8:00. 

Looking at our daily schedule all laid out like this, it actually looks like we accomplish a lot each day! One of my biggest fears as a homeschooling mom is that I am going to fail my kids by not teaching them what they need to know. While other kids go to school for 7 hours a day, we never "do school" for more than three hours, four days a week. But we accomplish a lot in a little time, and we make a point to make learning a way of life. It might not always look like school, but those little brains are growing all the time. I can't wait to see what they become some day!

Late night flash cards with Dad

Audrey loves choosing the letter of the day!

Making apple pancakes... while Edith falls asleep at the table 
Learning doesn't have to happen in a classroom

Sometimes we light things on fire in school...

Learning from a sibling

Lucian is very self motivated in his piano practicing

Outdoor D.E.A.R. Time with the neighbor girls

Our Book Nook

And yes, we do schoolwork at the table sometimes

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Blaise's First Year Blazes By

Oh my poor fifth born! It's November and I haven't yet posted about your FIRST BIRTHDAY!! 

I promise you, my dear Blaiser, that you are loved just as much as your siblings! We dote on you, we adore you... I just have less time to write about it is all. Please don't be mad. 

On September 6, 2017, Blaise Lawrence Yantes turned one year old! He was the first of my children to walk before their first birthday, and he hasn't stopped moving since. He is a sports lover; he was throwing and bouncing balls before he took his first step. He pushes a hockey stick around in front of him wherever he goes, and he is learning to kick a soccer ball. There's not a sport in existence he won't try. 

The other main love of his life is fruit! So instead of opting for a store-bought, thickly frosted, artificially dyed sugar bomb like I did for Edith's first birthday, I went the way of fruit and cream on angel food... mmmmm, his tastes are much more similar to mine. Blaise devoured the fruit, but it took him awhile to discover how amazing the cake was. Once he did, there was no stopping him!

Then it was time to open presents. Realizing this was Blaise's first gift opening experience, his siblings graciously offered to help him with his wrapping paper. It took him awhile to get beyond the fun, brightly colored, crinkly paper, but he was pleasantly surprised to discover what the bags held! He got a couple of puzzles, a book (appropriately titled "Ball"), and... his very favorite...

A brand new playground bouncy ball! 


I have a feeling we may start finding this ball in his bed one of these days. Who needs stuffed animals when you have a green alien bouncy ball?

Blaise, my little man, I hope you know how much you are loved! Every morning you have four siblings (and two parents) who just can't wait to see you! You are a joy to be around, you keep us in stitches with your antics. You aren't about to let yourself be forgotten; you have discovered your vocal chords and you intend to use them. But even though you're a bit loud, and a bit of a bruiser, often your big siblings would rather be beat up on by you than hugged by me. You are their little treasure, and mine too. I love watching you grow, I love your mischievous grin, I love your independent spirit, and I love your snuggles. Thanks for being YOU, Mr. Blaise!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Here I am, suddenly embarking on my fifth year of homeschooling! I have a fourth grader... how is this even possible? In many ways, I still feel like I'm making everything up as I go. But in some very important ways, I am finally beginning to feel like I have a handle on things! Each year it seems that some little piece has fallen into place, and now, when my oldest is almost 10, we actually have a basic flow to our days. And I actually stick with my plan more often than not. Yes, I know, some people can make a schedule and stick with it like glue... I am not one of those people. If I could describe the perfect personality for homeschooling, in all honesty I am missing a lot of the traits I would list.

And yet God has called us to this path, and I am loving the journey! What I lack in organization, I make up for in enthusiasm. And I love, love, love to learn with my kids. I'm hoping they'll end up ok even if we don't do math every day at 9:30. Even if our chalk wall is a constant mess of scribbles and half-erased drawings. Even if lunch sometimes (often) consists of jelly toast and frozen peas.

Our first day of school seems so long ago now! But we followed our usual routine and began our school year by having a yummy breakfast, opening wrapped school supplies, and taking first day of school pictures. My crowns were a little haphazard this year... I may have been putting them together in the morning as kids were waking up. But they got done and the tradition continues! 

So without further ado, our yearly introductions!

Max, 4th grade
Favorites: Reading, drawing, paper crafts, puns and wordplay, Taekwondo, music
Goals: To earn an orange belt in Taekwondo, to publish a book like Grandma
Last Year's Goal Accomplished: Max acted in a play this summer!
Things to Remember: Max has shown amazing focus and dedication in his Taekwondo training this year. It is exciting to see him work really hard at something that is difficult but that he loves!
First Day of School Book: The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Lucian, 2nd Grade
Favorites: Soccer, the MN United, numbers and patterns, backyard sports, chess, board games
Goals: To beat his dad in backyard soccer and chess, to learn a new song on piano
Last Year's Goal Accomplished: Lucian has become a fluent reader!
Things to Remember: Lucian has the heart of a servant. Every time a sibling needs something- whether it be help with spelling a word or a comforting hug after an owie, he is there. He is receiving his first Sacraments this year, we couldn't be more excited!
First Day of School Book: If You Made a Million, by David M. Schwartz

Audrey, Kindergarten
Favorites: Ballet, gymnastics, biking, playing princesses with Edith and the neighbors, curling up in sunbeams
Goals: To learn to read, to dance on pointe shoes...someday.
Last Year's Goal Accomplished: Audrey rides her bike like a pro with no training wheels!
Things to Remember: Audrey has become very affectionate this year! She writes cards and draws pictures for everyone she loves, and she is always asking for kisses and cuddles. I could get used to this!
First Day of School Book: Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

Edith, Preschool
Favorites: Hockey, Wild player Zach Parise, coloring, stickers, playing princesses with Audrey and the neighbors, singing, telling stories
Goals: To learn to skate, to cover the entire house in a layer of stickers
Last Year's Goal Accomplished: Edith is VERY close to being potty trained!
Things to Remember: Edith keeps us in stitches with her stories and adorable mispronunciations. My favorites are "Cinderella" (umbrella), "Alligator" (elevator), "Hole-and-Tell" (Hotel),
First Day of School Book: I can't remember! That was two whole months ago!... oops.

Blaise, Baby
Favorites: Balls and hockey sticks, peas, his siblings, toilet water
Goals: To learn how to get places faster, to figure out a way into the bathroom when the door is closed.
Things to Remember: Blaise was carrying around a hockey stick before he started walking. He is the sportiest kid I've ever met. His first word was "Ball" and he constantly has one in his hand or is pushing one around on the floor with any stick he can find!

We are a busy bunch! I hope to write more soon about the flow of our days, but for now I'll leave it at this little snapshot of my brood. What a great combination of unique personalities I have surrounding me! 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Wedding Bells

We have a new auntie in the family!! The first time I met Anne was at 11:00 at night after a seven hour car ride, when she and Patrick stopped at our house so Peej could finish a paper that was due before midnight, on their way to Chicago. She was sweet, funny, and laid-back, and I told everyone right away that if my impression of her was that good under those circumstances, she was sure something special!

Thank goodness those two hung on to each other, because now she's a part of the family! We celebrated Patrick and Anne's wedding in Chicago at the end of August. What a blast! Anne's family is delightful, I only wish they lived closer so we could get to know them better. 

We stayed at the same hotel with all of Paul's family, plus some other close friends. Max and Lucian even got to hang out and play some pool with the Fathers, which they thought was the coolest thing ever. We spent lots of quality time with cousins, aunties, uncles, Grandma and Grandpa between all of the wedding festivities. I wish we could do it all over again right away!

Audrey was excited and honored to be a flower girl in the wedding! After seeing her new auntie in all her wedding finery, she is now convinced that Anne is some kind of princess. To top it off, she got to watch Anne do Irish dancing at the reception in her wedding dress! Audrey thought she'd died and gone to heaven. Combine her love of dance with her love of all things fancy, and Anne is currently her favorite person in the world. 

The wedding itself was held in a beautiful Chicago church, and while I can't speak firsthand about most of the ceremony (I spend 90% of it chasing Blaise in the back), what I saw was prayerful and beautiful! The wedding was undoubtedly Christ-centered; I watched the couple humbly kneel before the altar for the entire Mass. Wow.

 The reception was held outdoors at a small zoo in the Chicago area. A few sprinkles at the beginning of the evening made people a little nervous, but then everything cleared up and the night was perfect! A low-key buffet dinner was followed by delicious cake and dancing. About halfway through the reception, my parents (who took a train down to Chicago for this purpose alone!) came to pick up the kids so Paul and I could have a few hours of carefree celebrating. 

Patrick and Anne, we are so excited for you. I can't wait to have a front row seat watch you grow in love over the years, and to hopefully watch your family grow as well! We love you both!!

 The mothers of the bride and groom                          Waiting for the newlyweds to appear
Liam and Audrey doing some Irish dancing

All the girl cousins!

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!