Grocery Shopping

It must be late August.

I went to the grocery store today—gloriously without children, allowing me to people-watch instead of children-watch.  And I know it must be late August because we live in a college town and the students are back.

Some of them were shopping with their moms.  I wish I could recreate the perfect worried-mom accent for you, but since I can’t, you’ll have to read this out loud with a slightly nasally, overly anxious tone to get the full effect.

“Oh, honey.  We should get you some Ziploc bags.  Which size do you think you’ll need?  No, I really think they’ll come in handy.  Gallon?  Or sandwich…. no, sweetie, nobody uses quart bags; let’s go with gallon.”

Some were new roommates shopping together.  I can spot them a mile away; they seem sort of disgusted by each other, but shy about it, and can’t agree on anything, so they politely argue.  My college roommate and I barely hid our disdain for each other (and by barely, I mean that her friends used to literally SIT ON ME when they came over in the middle of the night), so we really didn’t shop together.  Like, ever.  Had we had to live together a second year, I’m sure we would have just had assigned times we could be in the dorm room.  The only thing we ever did together was leave a container of yogurt out for an entire semester and occasionally joked that it was a science project.  (Really, it was just lazy.  Or stubborn.  I guess I don’t remember whose yogurt it was… which means it was probably mine.  I’m gross, y’all.)
I love watching new roommates together because it reminds me of Kullervo and I when we first got married.  Our first grocery trip was a disaster.  Butter or margarine?  The wrong answer could lead to an annulment.  He actually thought full fat mayo was better.  Hello????  I won that battle.  Later on, Friends would back me up on my decision.  “You know what?  It tastes the same and my pants fit better!”

I’m pretty sure that Kullervo and I both left the grocery store wondering if we’d rushed into this marriage thing (we did), and if we were going to make it (we have).
I stood in the grocery store today watching these people and wondering if they were going to grow into being the kinds of friends who finish each other’s sentences… or if their sole good memory would be a smelly standoff that grossed their actual friends out more than it did the other.

When I was in the produce section, I ran into the old-friends roommates.  These are people who have made peace with their butter-lovin’ friend, who have accepted that the other actually thinks Pepsi is better, and so they spend their time at the grocery store throwing food samples at each other.  Because, college.  I only got hit with one piece of cantaloupe, so I considered my artful dodging my workout for the day.  There was also the pair who were bickering in the snacks aisle.  Megan has been on a juice cleanse for three weeks (!!!), and Jenny was loading up her cart with Fudge Stripe cookies because they were her friend’s favorites.  They told me so.  I laughed and told them they were my favorite people at the grocery store today.

And then there were the not-really-cooks.  One set was a (presumably) newly-married couple, another was a set of roommates.  These were not people who cook or bake very often, so they sat in the flour aisle trying to determine if they needed dark brown sugar or light brown sugar.  IN THE WHOLE AISLE.  And the couple stood in front of the spices, cart sideways so they blocked the way, trying to find smoked paprika.  And, did she think they could just use regular paprika?  Did it really have to be smoked?  What does that even mean, anyway?

Flour wasn’t on sale, so I just turned around and avoided the whole scene.  Although the newlyweds were kept crossing my path through the whole store, and the husband kept apologizing.  I hid in the baby food/tampon/diaper section.  Newlyweds NEVER go down that aisle, and I’m always amused that those items are kept together.

It was entertaining to be able to enjoy the grocery store (which, disappointingly, was not playing Richard Marx or Chicago today, so my usual method of clearing an aisle by warbling along with the canned music wasn’t working), and to experience the variety of scenes of new college life in one place.

Thank goodness I left the kids at home.

Special Nights

Tonight was Hazel’s ‘special’ night.  She gets it once a month.

I read about this on a blog at some point—I wish I could credit it with a link, but it was just a passing blog post in the sea of too much information.  In any case, it wasn’t my idea, but we have adopted it as our own.

The idea is this: we have a lot of kids.  It’s hard to give all the kids individual time.  And as they get older, it will become even more challenging with sports and social lives and more sports and life.  And as much as I think our kids benefit from each other’s company (most of them are much better than I am at playing pretend), I know they also crave alone time with Kullervo and me.

Enter: their special night.  On the date of their birthday each month, the kids get to stay up late.  And if that date happens to fall on a Friday or a Saturday night, they get to stay up extra late and watch a movie or play a longer game with us.  If their date falls during the week, they’ll stay up long enough to read an extra chapter of whatever book they’re reading with me, or to play a short game, or hang out while we do chores.

Even better—Oliver and Hazel’s dates are always a week apart, so their weekend, extra-late nights always fall in the same month (which makes delayed gratification that much easier).

I didn’t realize what a game changer this would be.  The kids look forward to their date with a ferocity that surprised me.  So much so that it isn’t something we take away even for the worst of behavioral offenses—for them, right now, it’s too big a deal.

Last weekend, when it should have been Oliver’s night, I had had a really long day full of people and activities and I was totally spent.  So we agreed to postpone his night until this weekend.

So, last night we watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire with Oliver.  He loved it.  And getting to snuggle with my boy as we watched, and getting to watch him squirm with the emerging romantic interests in the movie, and hearing him make connections and tell jokes and play off of our jokes is fulfilling in a parental way I hadn’t realized existed.  This is a kid who is growing up, and it turns out he’s clever and he’s funny.  And we stopped the movie partway through to discuss and make connections about Harry Potter stories and Christianity and the lessons we can learn as Christians from the books and movies.

Tonight we watched We Bought A Zoo with Hazel.  We’ve actually seen it before—it was the very first movie that our kids ever saw in the movie theater.  Hazel didn’t remember it (she was two), and watching her watch the movie brought me so much joy.  She still hides her head under a blanket during any intense parts (and if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll realize there really are none… but she hid anyway).  She still gets all giggly whenever there is romance.  And she loved that the child in the movie was her age.  The most cringe-worthy moment in the movie happened when Matt Damon (can we get a collective ‘ahhhh’?  No?  Just me?) was talking about how his daughter still believed in the Easter Bunny… and Hazel said. “Um, I still believe in the Easter Bunny!”… and the daughter in the movie steps out and asks, “What’s the deal with the Easter Bunny?”  …awkward silence…


The kids really look forward to their special nights.  But I don’t know if they realize that I do as well.  And I imagine that as they grow older, these nights will become even more significant in their lives—and in ours—and in the relationships that we want to have with them.

So, if you have a bunch of kids (or, you know, one)… try having a special night set apart for them!  Again, I didn’t come up with the idea, but I wholeheartedly endorse it.  Especially if your kids are as cool as mine.

14 Years

I remember the first time I saw you.  You were sitting on the stairs of the church building at college, and you smiled at me.  That smile… I don’t even know if you really even noticed me.  But I noticed you.

I remember the church dance that you didn’t ask me to.  I daydreamed about you asking me… for AGES.  And I daydreamed about dancing with you, even though you didn’t ask me.  I daydreamed that we danced, and then you kissed me.  We didn’t go to that dance together, and you didn’t dance with me.  I actually got incredibly sick, and you sat next to me, against the wall, and I was so aware of all the places that your body touched mine.

I remember a snowball fight with you, and you caught up to me and grabbed me, and the snow should have been cold, but I was pretty sure I could never be cold if you were touching me.

I remember calling you at midnight on your birthday on the first day of 2001, and you weren’t home, because of course you weren’t… and I woke up your parents.  And I was mortified to have bothered them, and mad at myself for sitting at home, waiting to call you on New Year’s Day.

I remember when you asked me out, FINALLY, the day that I had decided that I was going to get over you.  And then you kissed me, in your car, with the snow falling.  And the next day I wasn’t sure if I could ever look at you again, because what if you had kissed me and it hadn’t meant anything to you, when it had been everything to me?  But then I saw you, and you smiled at me.  THAT smile.  My smile.  And I knew that I would marry you if  you would only ask.

I remember when you were thinking of proposing, but you were going to wait to meet my family first.  But then you got the ring, and it burned a hole right through your pocket, so you took me to the Steak & Shake and got down on one knee and asked me if I would marry you.  We ran inside, absolutely giddy, and because nobody proposes at the Steak & Shake they showered us in free desserts and Steak & Shake swag (such as it is).  And we were GIDDY.

I remember when I moved into the studio apartment in a relatively seedy neighborhood, so that when I drove home from your house in the evening, you’d call me to make sure that I made it in okay.  And one time when I fell asleep before we talked and didn’t hear the phone, you drove in the middle of the night to check on me.

I remember kneeling across from you at the altar while your grandfather asked us to repeat our vows, and then you kissed me.  And while we kneeled, gazing at each other—for what seemed like an awkwardly long time—you smiled.  I’m sure I did too, but you smiled and I just wanted that smile for the rest of forever.

We were barely adults when we got married, and we have grown up together.  And watching you grow, into a more and more incredible, kind, and loving husband, into an amazing father, and into a man of God has been inspiring.  You make me better, in all ways, and you forgive me for all the ways I fail.  You smooth out all my rough spots, and you love me better than I realized one could.

I want to wake up next to you forever, I want to see you in the passenger seat on all my road trips.  I want to continue to roll my eyes at all of your bawdy flirtations forever, so I’m glad you tell me you’ll never stop.  I want to witness your ridiculous machismo when we’re at the grocery store and you won’t let me help carry the groceries, and I want to keep laughing together at all of the jokes we’ve been storing up for years.  I want to be your partner, and support you in all the ways that you need, the same way you do for me.

It’s been 14 years since our wedding day, and you still smile that smile at me, and I still melt every time I see it.  I can’t describe it—but your smile is full of love, and a little bit of shyness, and a little bit of cockiness, and I love it.  And I want to see that smile as it ages, as the lines become deeper and your face becomes ever more familiar.

I want 14 more years with you, but more than that, I want a whole lifetime.  I want to dance with you on our 50th anniversary, and I want you to kiss me the way you didn’t before we were dating.  You are the love of my life, and I want you to always know it.

I love you, sweet husband.  Happy anniversary.

Dear Kristin (advice on pacifiers):

Dear Kristin!

I am here to tell you all about pacifiers!

First, some unsolicited advice:

Everyone has an opinion.  EVERYONE will have an opinion about your parenting and your baby and your relationship and your choices, and inevitably they will think you’re doing it wrong.  You aren’t.  You are just doing it differently from them.  You, your daughter, your family are all different from everyone else’s situation and they need to shut up.  A good Southern ‘bless your heart’ needs to be firmly in your arsenal.  So does ‘Piss off’, but only if you’re feeling particularly British and will say it with an accent.

OK, so, pacifiers, with the understanding that this is what worked for me, and what I’ve found, and my opinions.  Take what works for you and leave the rest.  :)

In my experience (four c-sections), my babies all were born tired.  None of them wanted to eat the first day they were born.  They just wanted to sleep.  I did not give them a pacifier (Oliver being the exception because he was in the NICU and I don’t know what they gave him because I couldn’t get up to go see him).

On the first night/ second day, they started really breastfeeding, and it’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable and it’s beautiful and it’s weird and it’s hard.  You will be learning how to shove your nipple all the way down your baby’s throat, she will be learning how to not gag but still eat.  At first, you will not produce milk, but colostrum, which is the absolute best thing for babies.  Whatever the hospital tells you, your body knows that the baby was born and your body knows that your baby was born full, and she will eat when she’s hungry, and your body will give her what she needs, even if it doesn’t seem like enough.  They really only need a couple of drops of colostrum every couple-to-few hours, or whatever your body makes for you baby.

My worry with offering pacifiers at first was always that it would cause nipple confusion.  My goal was always to wait until breastfeeding was established, especially because when Oliver was in the NICU and they were putting who knows what into his mouth, we then had six months of intense pain during breastfeeding.  (I think that is partially due to a possible lip tie that was not ever looked for and my Raynaud’s syndrome that I didn’t find out about until later.)  So, when Hazel was born, I didn’t give her a pacifier in the hospital.

The second night in the hospital, Hazel wanted to nurse all. night. long.  ALL. NIGHT. LONG.  I was in the hospital alone with this tiny parasite who only wanted to suckle.  In letting her suckle all night, I destroyed my nipples, which led to more pain when I got home.

Same thing with Henry.  (I’m apparently a slow learner.)

With Fitz, on that second, hungry night, I held him almost all night long, and breastfed him every two hours or so.  But I gave him a pacifier when he stopped breastfeeding and he fell asleep that way (and I did too).  He was the only baby for whom I did not ever have any breastfeeding pain (but, to be fair, Henry had only stopped nursing a few months before Fitz started, so that might have played a part in it too).

We gave all of our kids pacifiers when they came home.  Babies like to suck on things; it brings them comfort.  They cannot constantly be sucking on my boobs because I have other stuff to do.  I’d love to be a mother in some stock photo gazing adoringly at my newborn constantly, but there’s all this life that happens that demands me to look away.

Oliver and Henry were never that into their pacifiers.  Oliver would use his to fall asleep, lose it, and generally not care.  Transitioning him away from it when he was old was a non-issue because it wasn’t his THING.  Same for Henry.  It was a useful tool, but not his special lovey.

Hazel was another story.  Hazel loved her pacifier.  When she could talk, she called it her “Fada” (pacifada).  It helped her sleep (like a sweet dream) as an infant.

Fitz also loves his Fada.  Ideally, he would like to have two or three in bed with him at night, and he will rotate them to see which is the best before settling on one (seriously–it’s pretty adorable).

So, yes, we use pacifiers.  The pros are that your baby will sleep, and that your baby can have something besides you to comfort her.  That’s huge.  HUGE.  The cons are that some babies don’t love giving them up.  They drop them (throw them) and you have to go find them.  Some people worry about how pacifiers affect speech and a possibility for dental issues.  And I think other people worry about how it affects breastfeeding.

Regarding the cons:

  1. Some babies don’t love giving them up.  When Hazel was 2, we started saying she could only have it in bed.  If she wanted it, she had to get into bed.  (That sometimes led to voluntarily early bedtimes for Hazel.)  When she was about two and a half, we told her she had to give them up.  She really didn’t want to.  I took her to Toys R Us and told her to pick out whatever stuffed animal she wanted that we would name Fada, to become her new comfort object, and I told her we would have to throw away all of the fadas in the house because she wasn’t a baby anymore.  She picked out a horrific, giant stuffed gerbil with a skirt which she immediately hated because it was the reason she had no fadas anymore.  There were a couple of hard nights.  I would infinitely trade a couple of hard nights with a toddler (which, let’s face it, you’re likely to get by virtue of having a toddler) in order to have a few hours of peace with a baby who only wants to suck on the boobs that you’re pretty sure may never look normal again (don’t worry, they will).  I anticipate that I will have to go through something similiar with Fitz, but we aren’t there yet.  :D2.  They drop them/throw them.  They just do.  They throw them, then they cry because they don’t have them.  Yay for experiments and learning and object permanence and the chance to do some extra squats.  I can’t fix this problem, except that if it isn’t their pacifier, they’ll be throwing something because, science.

    3.  Speech.  Babies don’t talk.  And when they do start speaking, you can avoid speech problems (related to pacifiers) by telling them to take that junk out of their mouth to talk.  Restricting it to bed helps (although some kids (like, say, Hazel and Fitz) are sneaky and go get them and ferret them away, but then they are taking a hit from their drug of choice and not trying to talk to you anyway).  But, just like I don’t let my kids talk with a mouth full of food, or a mouth full of a sippy cup or fingers, I don’t let them talk with a mouth full of pacifier.  Out of all my kids, the one who has the most speech issues (that I can see, anyway) is Henry (who still doesn’t bother to say his Rs or Ls), and he wasn’t a fada-addict at all.  Some kids have speech issues.  Others don’t.  I don’t know that pacifiers really make that much difference.

    4.  Dental issues.  My kids have had multiple pediatric dentists and none have been concerned about pacifiers.  They are much more concerned with bottles of milk or formula in bed, and about not brushing their gums after breastfeeding before sleeping.  I do not personally wake up my sleeping infant to wipe their gums.  They can have some freaking cavities if they will JUST. SLEEP.

    5.   Breastfeeding.  I nursed Oliver for 15 months, and he stopped on his own.  I nursed Hazel for 18 months. I nursed Henry for 22 months.  And Fitz is still nursing at almost 18 months with no end in sight.  I really think that if you offer the breast before the pacifier to your newborn, it won’t affect breastfeeding.  I do think that Oliver had nipple confusion as a baby, but I think that was also due to the other nonsense we had with him being given formula and bottles and just the level of unprepared that I was for breastfeeding and what it should be like.  Being apart from him at first for days was hard, and I did not have supportive nurses in the hospital.

So, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with pacifiers.  I will admit that when I see kids that are Henry’s age out and about with pacifiers in their mouths, I have a hard time not starting to feel judgmental, but I try to remind myself that I do not know their situation.  Some people just judge.  But I promise you they will judge you no matter what you do, and you will never please the illusive them, so you should just do what’s right for you guys and feel comfortable in your decisions because let’s face it–you probably think they’re doing it wrong. :D

So, that brings up the obvious next question:  Which kind of pacifier is best?

The hospital will often give you this kind:

That was the kind we continued using with Hazel until we traded them for a creepy gerbil.

I think we used that kind with Henry the whole time too.

We started using those with Fitz, but at some point we got these instead:

We didn’t switch for any particular reason that I remember (probably the fadas all went missing and that was all we could find at the grocery store).  That’s the kind he uses now.

I don’t think the type matters; some kids are pickier about their type than others.  Personally, I don’t like the type of pacifier that looks like it’s too small for a baby’s face and leaves marks on their face from being too small.  I don’t care how cute the design is, it’s not a good look for a baby.  Obviously that’s my personal, judgmental opinion.

Tips and tricks for pacifier use:

  1. Babies need to learn to use a pacifier.  They are born pretty dumb–they can eat and breathe and poop and that’s about it.  And they don’t do any of it well.  So, they have this strong sucking instinct but no instinct for keeping the pacifier in.  You might have to hold it in for them until they learn how hard to suck to keep it in themselves.  This is normal and doesn’t mean you’re plugging up your baby (well, it does, but not in a negative way).
  2. There are all these things they make to help your baby fail at throwing it.  My sister uses a clip for her pacifier (it clips the pacifier to the clothes so when spit out, it stays attached.).  I was never a competent enough human to figure it out.  You are probably more competent than I am, and this could be huge.  There are also stuffed animals with a pacifier attached (I believe they are called wubanubs).  They are great, but I found them to be heavy for my kids.  Great for baby wearing (snuggling with a baby AND a stuffed animal?  Fine by me!), but I really wasn’t competent enough to use that either.
  3. They will get lost.  Somehow, when your baby is screaming you know you have 19 pacifiers somewhere in the house, they will ALL. BE. MISSING.  You can look, or you can send Sean to the store to buy more.  One day, it will be like they all reproduced and they will all turn up in the same weird, inexplicable corner.  Until you need them, and they will ALL. BE. MISSING.  I do not understand this phenomenon, but it happens.  Especially the Soothies–they roll AND they are translucent (read: impossible to see in the dark).

I hope this helps!  :D  And if you have more questions about pacifiers, I may have answers.  And if you have any questions about anything, I’m here!

Dear reader,

Are you wondering why this obviously-an-email post is posted here instead of sent privately to someone, maybe someone named Kristin?  I did send it just to her, but she thought it was funny.  And since I’m narcissistic enough to want everyone to think I’m funny, I’m posting it here too.  She might have more questions (She’s going to have her first baby soon!  And I get to be an aunt again!!!!), and if I continue to be funny, I will continue to publish my responses.


It was February 22, 2008, Silver Spring, Maryland.


I sat in my hospital room, looking down on this tiny human entrusted to me.  Kullervo had left, gone home to take care of Oliver and put him to bed.

I felt so much better than I had after Oliver was born.  Oliver’s birth was a messy, brutal butchering of my body.  I didn’t see him for more than a day after he was born because I couldn’t get up and he was busy being dubbed biggest baby in the NICU.  After Oliver was born, it took me weeks before I could walk around the block, months before I could breastfeed without intense pain, and years before I could think about the hospital stay without getting angry.

This was different.  I could walk around my room the night Hazel was born.  I had nurses who helped me figure out the best way to move around, the best ways to breastfeed, and who were supportive.

But, the night of February 22, I was alone with my daughter for the first time.  It was quiet.  I was restless.  My world had stopped turning, and I was frozen into the moment of contemplating motherhood of a little girl.

I hadn’t wanted a daughter.  Girls are a terrifying proposition as a parent—all the pink, PMS, and middle school girl drama.  I was sure I would mess everything up, and any daughter of mine would grow up to hate me.  I was certain I would fail.

It started out so quietly though.  Baby Hazel was a lovely sleeper, and I paced my hospital room.

The rest of the world kept turning.  I called friends and family to chat, and nobody was that interested in me, or Hazel, and everybody was busy with their own goings-on.  I felt sad and lonely, and a part of this huge event that was turning out to be so mundane for everybody else.  So I prayed.  I took my apprehension, my nerves, my post-partum big feelings to God.  And He comforted me.

Seven years later, I am so glad to have this sweet girl in my life.  Hazel is incredibly bright.  She’s ridiculously competitive—to the point that she has trouble playing any competitive games because she gets so upset if she loses.  She gets cranky (read: really, really mean) if she has too much sugar, and weepy when she’s tired at night.  She is easygoing, kind, and generous.  She knows exactly what buttons to push to make her brothers furious, and exactly what to say to diffuse it when she’s done toying with them.  She can answer 25 math problems in under a minute with beautiful handwriting.  She loves to play pretend and read Babysitter’s Club Little Sister books, and can’t watch a movie that has an ounce of interpersonal tension without hiding under a blanket.  Hazel is freakishly strong, funny, and silly.  She works really hard at gymnastics, practicing her skills constantly around the house.  Hazel is incredibly compassionate and concerned about taking care of other people’s feelings.

Hazel is just the right daughter for me.  She challenges me to be a better mother, and she forgives me when I mess up.  She has always had an exceptional memory and uses it to beat us all at games and memorize Scripture passages.  She loves to read The Jesus Storybook Bible and her book of Psalms, and she can articulate questions she has about God in such a thoughtful way that we all pause, and then turn around and be so silly that we forget how much she just stunned us.

My world didn’t stop turning seven years ago when I had Hazel, but rather changed directions.  And the change has transformed me into a better person as I navigate being the mother of a daughter.  There really is so much pink, and my tutu-wearing daughter loves it.  There really are too many princesses, and my little girl loves them.  She loves Sleeping Beauty and adores the characters from Frozen.  She doesn’t love them because the media tells her she should—she just loves them.  She also loves animals, playing veterinarian, and playing video games.  There really will be PMS, and the middle school drama starts early—like, kindergarten.  My seven year old has already struggled with body image issues, as her muscular body has caused other little girls to ask why her legs are so big.

There are so many girl-specific issues we are going to have to deal with as Hazel grows up, but I always go back to my hospital room back in 2008.  It was me, alone in a room with my little girl, praying for answers and help and comfort.  I still pray for answers and help and comfort.  And I receive.  I receive so much.  And I thank God every day for my little girl.

Photo by Blair Stokes Blanks

Photo by Blair Stokes Blanks


I’m an introvert.  Absolutely, no doubt about it, introvert.  Many times, when I share that with someone, they will tell me that I am not an introvert, or I certainly don’t seem like an introvert, or that maybe I think I am an introvert, but I don’t fit the profile.

Maybe I don’t fit the image society has of introverts—but that’s not because I’m not one, it’s because society has it wrong.

I’m not shy.

I have lots of friends—the really, really good kind of friends.

I like being around people.

I love being in a crowd, one among many.

…but those things don’t make me an extrovert.

Here is why I am an introvert:

Yesterday, I met with some other homeschool moms at a local trampoline center (which, by the way—was AWESOME).  After that, I brought the kids home, made them dinner, and tidied up the house to get ready for our weekly small group from church, a group of people who come to our house with their kids on Friday evenings to study the Bible.  It was lovely.  We had a great discussion about John 1:1-14, we shared brownies, and the kids all played together very sweetly.  It was lovely.

After everybody left, one of my dearest friends texted me to tell me she was en route to my house with treats for me (yay, dessert and wine!).  We spent a few hours with our friends, with good, real, intense conversation.  We went to bed last night feeling like our lives are so full, with so many wonderful opportunities and people.

But I woke up this morning mentally drained.  There are some external things happening in our lives, changes to our regular routines that were unexpected and sort of lurking in the background, and they seem big today.  I wanted to have a conversation with my wonderful husband, but struggled to want to find words.  I almost fell apart during lunch when the kids asked me a question that involved my having an opinion.

I spent it all.  All of my energy for other people, I spent it.  And the only way to get it back is to be alone, to have time to think and pray and read and write.  I needed to plug myself into solitude, recharge my fuel cells.

I was thinking the other day about homeschooling—this crazy adventure filled with the joy of my kids, the excitement of their lightbulb moments, a home full of love and laughter and learning.  People often think that the greatest challenge of homeschooling is ‘socialization’, but obviously my kids are socializing constantly.  For me, the biggest challenge about homeschooling has been finding a balance between being a homemaker and a homeschooler, and being an introvert on top of it and finding time to be alone in a house of people.  For me, that alone time, the solitude, is as necessary for my well being as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

So, that’s why I’m an introvert.  I love people, I love my friends.  My life is full of incredible people, and I am rich with a home full of love and warmth.  I love that people drop by, I love that my friends feel comfortable in my home.  I would not change that, I would not take any bit of that away.  But, sometimes at one in the morning, after an exhausting day, instead of going to sleep, I find myself folding laundry in silence, alone with my thoughts in the quiet of a home where nobody needs my attention at that moment.

A Week In The Life Of…

What does the life of a homeschooling family look like? 

It’s one of those subjects that homeschoolers love to ask about, read about, blog about, compare, and borrow from.

It’s also one of those subjects that people who don’t homeschool want to gawk at, assuming (rightfully) that it’s a $%^@ show.  It’s also so different from the norm.  A person can make assumptions about life at traditional schools.  Subjects, teachers, classrooms, gymnasiums, recess, cafeterias… we all have a picture in our minds of what that looks like, and it’s woven tightly enough into our culture that it doesn’t actually need much description.[1]

Well, I’m a couple of months into this crazy venture now, and whoa, where did the time go?

I thought it would be fun to do a week-in-the-life-of post.  Gawk away, friends, family, and total strangers.  I wrote this during Halloween week, but was planning on adding pictures to make it livelier… but alas, that didn’t wind up happening.


On Monday morning, we spent the morning with our Classical Conversations (“CC”) community.  Before we left for that, our epic lateness prompted a tantrum (mine), the death of a cauliflower (as I smashed it to the ground in a surprisingly gratifying expression of frustration), sore boobs (once again, mine, because I didn’t have time to nurse Fitz before we left), and a breath of fresh air as we walked into the familiarity of these other families that have chosen a similar lifestyle to ours, who all believe in Jesus, and who all are so willing to freely offer the grace to overlook each other’s shortcomings.

Our three hours there consisted of an assembly (with a family presentation, a prayer, the pledge of allegiance, a pledge to the Bible, and general announcements) before we broke into smaller groups of eight kids per class, 30 minutes of “new grammar” (new memory work for the week over a variety of subjects), 30 minutes of fine arts instruction, 30 minutes for a science lesson/experiment, 30 minutes for presentations from the kids (yep, they give a presentation every week), and 30 minutes of review.  Afterwards, the kids play outside for 30 minutes of recess, and we all meet together for lunch.

When we leave Classical Conversations, introverted Oliver and I are a bit wiped.  This week, Henry fell asleep in the car on the way home, so I nursed Fitz in the car while the kids practiced their tin whistles outside (apologies to any of my neighbors who may be reading this) and Henry got a bit of sleep.  I put Fitz down for a nap, and was able to transfer Henry to his bed, where he also napped.

Oliver and Hazel both took a math assessment (they have them every five lessons), and both did a writing lesson.  I made three loaves of whole wheat bread for our family, and the kids rode their bikes and scooters outside.  When Henry woke up, the weather was glorious, so we took a walk to a friend’s house and spent the rest of the afternoon with her and her three kids.  We came home to dinner and bedtime, and then I spent time making second dinner (for Kullervo and me) and running a couple of loads of laundry.  I also spent a significant portion of the evening scrubbing the entrance way in our home because one of our kittens has decided that it makes for a good litterbox.


Tuesday was a fairly straightforward day.  Henry has preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so after making and enjoying breakfast with all of us, Kullervo dropped him off on the way to work while I put Fitz down for his first nap.

We got down to business—I began working on drinking a large pot of coffee while Oliver documented the last science project we did at home (making homemade ice cream) in his chemistry notebook and I worked on a math lesson with Hazel (using tangrams to cover a larger shape and documenting the different ways and shapes she could use to make it, as well as practicing her simple addition facts).

Then Hazel worked on her science. She chooses an animal from one of our books about animals, reads about the animal, and then writes down a few facts she remembers from what she read.  She also draws a picture of the animal.  While she was occupied with that, Oliver and I did his math.  He was working on learning and memorizing his multiplication facts (the 4s).  We talked about how many quarters were in one dollar, two dollars, and so on.  I had him write the products down.  I then told him he had to cheer about how much he loved his math work.  He wouldn’t, so I made him rewrite it.  We laughed, and he continued to refuse, so he rewrote the math facts twice more after that before I convinced him to get up and do a happy dance.

“You will be an enthusiastic boy, or you will be a boy who knows his times tables!”  It turns out he chose to be a boy who knows his multiplication…

The kids both did English lessons—writing, spelling, and grammar.  After that, it was about time to pick Henry up from school.  In the pickup line at school, we increased our carbon footprint in the car line and practiced our CC memory work that we learned on Monday.

We got home at about 12:15, I made lunch, and after we all ate peanut butter sandwiches and I nursed the baby, I put Henry and Fitz down for naps.  I told Henry to stay in bed for twenty minutes, and then, if he was still awake, he could get up and play in his room.  He did not stay in bed for twenty minutes.  I returned him to bed four or five times, and the last time he got up, I pretended that this time he had stayed in bed for twenty minutes because that routine gets exhausting.  While Henry and I were doing the no-nap dance, Oliver and Hazel read independently.  Henry played in his room for awhile, and then wandered downstairs to wreak havoc on the living room so it would match the state of the bedroom he shares with Oliver.  While he played, I read a chapter of the Bible to the kids and then a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods.  By then it was getting near to 3:00, so I started making a snack for Hazel’s gymnastics class and started preparing dinner for the kids.

Between 3:30 and 5:00, Oliver worked on his Latin vocabulary and his map drawing skills (we are working on our maps of the USA this year).  I picked up one of Hazel’s fellow gymnasts from school, and dropped the girls off at gymnastics.  I came home, fed Oliver, Henry, and Fitz dinner, and then changed for the gym where I take a Zumba class.

When we got home from the gym, I put Henry and Fitz in the bathtub, and then Henry stayed in to play while I dressed Fitz, nursed him, and put him to bed.  Then I put Henry in his pajamas, read a story to him, and we said a prayer before I tucked him in.  I sat down with Oliver, who was all ready for bed, and we read together until Hazel was dropped off at home after gymnastics at about 7:45.  Hazel and I chatted about her gymnastics (yes, it is three hours long) and I read to her while she ate her dinner.  Then I put her to bed and collapsed in a fit of exhaustion.  Just kidding.  Kind of.  Actually, I wound up spending a couple of hours on Tuesday evening trying to figure out how to get a library book onto the Kindle before Wednesday morning, considering that I couldn’t find my library card.


Wednesday was pretty exciting for us—I had scheduled our first homeschooling playdate.  We drove over to another family’s house and spent the morning with our kids playing.  They played outside in the leaves, they built marble runs inside, we had lunch together, and the other mom and I got to know each other better and had a morning break from the usual routines, as well as sanity checks that we are all still normal and socialized and generally capable of maintaining conversations.  It was lovely.  And, since the other kids were 6, 4, and 2, I brought the Kindle with a library book on it for Oliver in case he got bored.

When we got home, Henry had fallen asleep in the car, but when I brought him in, I put him on the couch and he stayed asleep.  This has never happened before.  Ever.  With any of my kids.  So we made the most of it, and did a writing lesson and read together on the couch.  Oliver was supposed to have a soccer game, but it was canceled for rain  Intead, I met one of my dearest friends at the gym to lift weights together.  Thank goodness for great friends who will accommodate my crazy schedule.


Henry had school, so, as usual, we tried to pound through as much school as we could when he was gone.  Since his preschool isn’t free, I feel like it’s important to make the most of the time he’s gone.  It makes the days that he’s home easier because I know that twice a week we will hit all or most of our subjects.  And, as always, in the pickup line we practiced our memory work.

Thursday we did a health lesson (good posture!), math, writing, grammar (diagramming adverbs and adjectives!), spelling, and history. We’ve been reading through the third volume of The Story of the World (because it corresponds with the timeline of American History, which we are studying at Classical Conversations this year).  The chapter this week revolved around Japanese warlords, and after reading about the beginnings of sumo wrestling and how to recreate a sumo wrestling match at home, we watched a youtube video of a sumo wrestling match.  While I’m generally not a huge fan of watching videos on the Internet, it is pretty cool to have access to everything, all the time, and to be able to use real life examples showing things that we don’t have a cultural context for.

Oliver made flashcards of all of his Latin vocabulary from the Latin we’ve been studying at home.  He’d been struggling to remember all of his Latin from Classical Conversations as well as all of the Latin vocabulary from his studies at home, and I thought this would help.  Both kids did some handwriting work.

I did the usual carpool for gymnastics, and then took Oliver to his cub scouts meeting.  I got to enjoy a bit of time with just Henry and Fitz while the bigs were gone, so after I got Fitz to bed, Henry stayed up a bit late so we could play Candyland.  Kullervo picked Oliver up, and then drove down to see a good friend while I put the kids to bed.  I went on a rampage trying to purge the house of everything to help deal with the mess, and listened to the new Taylor Swift album (verdict: I like it).


It was Halloween!  The local elementary school does a Halloween parade around the neighborhood every year (seriously, best neighborhood ever), and Oliver and Hazel dressed up so that we could go watch it.  We hadn’t finished (started) making Henry’s costume yet, so he put on a baseball helmet and a cape, and walked to the parade with a sword and his fireman boots.  His non-costume was awesome enough that strangers were taking pictures of him.  Oliver and Hazel were very excited to see their school friends, and their school friends were over the moon to see the kids.  I wondered if it would make the kids sad that they weren’t going to school as well, or joining with their friends who were all having a great time together, but it seemed to bother me more than it did them.

We came home and did a math lesson.  Hazel learned that if you subtract a number from itself, it is zero.  It’s funny—I hadn’t realized that was something that would need to be taught.  She hadn’t realized there is a distinction between 7-7=0 and 7-0=7.  Things like that always make me realize how easy it is to take everything we know for granted.  And it makes me appreciate whoever taught it to me.  Oliver learned how to write a check (and in so doing, practiced writing the numbers in numeric and written out form).

We also did writing (Oliver took down his longest dictation work ever—27 words/3 sentences—with only a couple of mistakes, while Hazel listened to a passage from Charlotte’s Web and answered comprehension questions about it, handwriting, and grammar.  I made sure to take time to read to the kids because I knew we would not have a chance before bed.

After that, Kullervo came home and we put the finishing touches on our Halloween costumes and joined our block party before trick or treating, coming home, and eating a squash soup before gorging on Halloween candy.

Hazel was a witch.  She charmed everyone she met.

Hazel was a witch. She charmed everyone she met.

Oliver dressed up as Manny Machado, Orioles player.  He limped to all the houses, and got extra candy from many an Orioles fan.

Oliver dressed up as Manny Machado, Orioles player. He limped to all the houses, and got extra candy from many an Orioles fan.

Sweet Henry was a ghost.  He wasn't spooky and wouldn't make ghost sounds.  He was just a ghost.  With fireman boots.

Sweet Henry was a ghost. He wasn’t spooky and wouldn’t make ghost sounds. He was just a ghost. With fireman boots.

Fitz was a spider!

Fitz was a spider!

I got to be Fitz's web!

I got to be Fitz’s web!

Kullervo dressed up as Martin Luther, complete with German Bible and 95 Theses.

Kullervo dressed up as Martin Luther, complete with German Bible and 95 Theses.

And that about sums up a typical homeschooling week.  We have since started a regular, family Bible study in the morning that consists of singing a psalm, saying a prayer, reading a Bible passage, studying a catechism, singing a hymn, and praying again.  Also, there isn’t a playdate during the school day every week, and it isn’t Halloween every Friday (my waistline approves), but we do have to occasionally go to the grocery store or run other errands during the week (or so Kullervo keeps telling me when we have no food in the house).  In any case, I try to hit English and math 4-5 times a week, science and history twice a week each, handwriting when I need to occupy one kid, health about once a week (it’s state mandated).  We listen to music all the time, and do arts lessons at CC.  The kids are also constantly drawing, creating, building, and playing.

[1] No, really!  Look through books that talk about school.  How detailed are the images presented of the classrooms?  Of the cafeteria?  Of the school grounds?  Unless they are remarkable in some way, writers have the freedom of leaving the details up to the imagination of their readers.