“Childhood is not preparation for life, childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live, a child is living.”
-Professor T. Ripaldi
I can’t believe I did it again. Another 9+ months whizzed by with not a spare second for blogging. I feel like I blog the way I clean my house: it all piles up until I have to just buckle down and cover everything at once. I’m working on that, by the way. Thanks to Flylady I’m at least getting an idea of how to systematically tame an out-of-control household. Anyhoo, let’s see, where were we. Oh, yes:
This past summer was a fantastic mix of laziness, chaos, drama, hard work, and adventure. It seemed as though we were in a pool or on a wooded trail every day. If we couldn’t find a pool we just made a mud hole and jumped in it.
Redneck Swimming Pool
Dax kicked off the summer season by announcing that he really wanted a haircut. He was tired of people confusing him for a girl. I was disappointed, because he expressed that he liked his long hair, but he was made to feel like he had the “wrong” hair. I tried to explain that if people thought he looked like a girl that was their problem. That was their mistake. David did his best to drive that same point home. We support Dax in whatever appearance he chooses.
Nevertheless…So, he got a new do. Moving on: The kids started taking swim lessons at Nitro, and in 2 months they both made HUGE improvements. Dax became an independent swimmer, and advanced all the way to Station 9 in the two months we took lessons there. He came a long way from where he started: not even wanting to go under water. Jace is ready to get back to swim lessons, so if the budget allows we will get him enrolled this spring. He made tremendous strides as well, and by the end of the run he was doing the “starfish” which is holding his breath for 5 seconds and floating face down underwater with arms and legs outstretched. I burst into tears when he was finally able to get there. He worked so hard; as did those instructors (bless their hearts).
We played in Barton Springs, Deep Eddy, Bull Creek, Onion Creek, and several chlorinated pools around town. We also frequented the splash pads around town:
Butler Park, Pease Park, Brushy Creek Park up north – we went everywhere!
Swimming in the creek
One of my favorite homeschool activities is our PEMDAS group. It’s basically a STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)
Our PEMDAS group meets monthly and investigates a scientific question or principle using experimentation and the Scientific Method. It’s all hands-on and the kids really enjoy it. The experiments we have done recently involved engineering and
Mary’s didn’t make it…
Constructing the egg containers
A fun exploration of structural engineering utilized newspaper, cotton balls, spaghetti pasta (uncooked) and rubberbands to encase an egg which was then dropped from several different heights onto different types of ground. The kids got to make up their own contraption for encasing the egg but could only use those aforementioned materials
Mark dropping one of the contraptions
to do so. In the end there was only one winner, and her design involved a parachute, which slowed the fall and gently plopped the encased egg onto the hard ground. It was a success, and she was stoked to have found a winning method!
We also learned about “sublimation” and the various states of matter at another meeting. We applied those principles by making root beer and utilizing dry ice! In addition to the experiments and science talks, this group also meets regularly for field trips, park days and parties. We did a “Not Back to School” party in August where all the homeschool kids got to celebrate not having to go back to school! We played at a splash pad and mingled over the snacks and treats, rode bikes and played on a playscape. Charmed.
‘Not’ Back to School – Little Texas Homeschoolers Party
Campfire Group Visiting Mayfield Park Trail
We continued with our Camp Fire group, exploring trails and attempting all sorts of various crafting activities. Dax and Jace LOVE their Camp Fire friends, and I’m excited that our group is growing and branching out. There are so many
State of Nature
opportunities to explore nature in this town. Check out the Texas Nature Challenge and Austin Families in Nature for opportunities to get out and connect with the world around you.
Hiking some random trail
We have a plan for upcoming camping trips (the next being sometime in March, which reminds me – I gotta reserve our site!!) and we are always finding new places to explore!
As far as curriculum goes, Summer was fairly “relaxed”. I didn’t
Get to work, Jace!
start the math program I had intended to start on with Dax. We simply did not have time because there was just too much to do.
In mid-July, s**t got real.
It was time to move. We were ready to move on from our little house on the prairie and get a grown-up house, near the grown-up job. This was a pretty huge deal because we had lived in this house for 11 years. Our kids knew this as “home”, Did I have reservations about selling our homestead and moving?
HELL NO. Get me out of here.
So, we put the house on the market and after some drama it sold in about 2 weeks. Dax and Jace were really excited to move to a new house, though I think they were a little melancholy once it sank in. The good news is that after what seemed like an eternity, we
Last picture of boys at Rotunda
finally closed on the sale of our new house, about a week after we moved out of our old place.
My dear, sweet, talented hubby spent a lot of time and effort (along with my dear, sweet, talented sister-in-law who helped immensely) fixing up the bathroom and transforming much of this house into the beauty it is today. I just love our new place and it feels more like home than any house I’ve ever lived in (okay, no offense, Juniper Cove house of my childhood – nothing compares 2 U…).
Simultaneously, my little Jace turned 4. It was the same weekend we had the movers come empty our house. He didn’t get much of a party, but we did host our Thursday playgroup at the pool and kids brought presents and homemade cards and I made some terrible rainbow cupcakes
Happy Birthday, Jacey-Jace!
with all-natural food coloring (don’t ever, ever bother trying to make all-natural food coloring work for rainbow cupcakes). Jace had a great time at his party, and I think I only took one or two pictures because kids and water just make me nervous, and I wasn’t thinking with my “documentary” thinking cap that afternoon. Anyhoo, we had a repeat birthday celebration at my mom’s, as we usually do because Grandpa’s birthday is one day away from Jace’s. Good times. My baby turned 4. This can’t be happening.
Meanwhile, we moved. I was giddy-excited because we actually had movers to move the heavy stuff and David was spared the back-breaking two-man-lifts. He usually tries to do that kind of stuff himself – I think that’s part of the reason he has all the gray hair. I’m the other part of the reason for that but NEVERMIND! 🙂 Everything was falling into place. The pieces were coming together. I was beginning to have daily contractions. Things were dicey, but wonderful.
Busy Busy Airport!
We decided to make one bedroom into an office/library/homeschool room, which is basically a constant work-in-progress. We got a small table that serves as the activity center and there the kids do everything from math work to painting – it’s truly multipurpose and I love it! By the end of summer, homeschooling had taken a back seat to a very fast-approaching deadline:. We had a baby due October 11th, and by August it was crunch time. We did very little in the way of education enrichment for several weeks, but that didn’t stop Dax from falling madly, deeply in love with a game called Chess. He and Jace were gifted a very well-loved chess set from their Great Aunt Pip, whose grandsons used it extensively and also loved to play. I showed Dax some basic moves (I had to Google everything because I am NOT a chess person) and his appetite for playing this game became insatiable. Luckily there’s this wondrous group of people who are in something called a “chess club” and Dax really enjoyed going (AAH CHESS CLUB), as did Jace even though he
wasn’t interested in playing chess. Over the next couple of months Jace developed an appreciation for the game as well and the two play together regularly. The sad part is, now that we’ve been going to chess club for like 4 months, Dax is starting to wonder why he hasn’t won any matches. 🙂 I simply refuse to pay for private lessons. I mean, there’s plenty of time for that. I do worry, however, that by not getting him the guidance he really needs in the game he is going to lose interest. So, therein lies my dilemma. I keep telling myself it’s silly to worry too much about that stuff, but you know how the mom guilt is basically limitless.
Jace’s passion these days is reading books. “Reading” meaning, being read to. He loves the little Serendipity books, written by his Grandpa! His favorite so far is a book called “Buttermilk.” Buttermilk is a little bunny who is at the mercy of her own imagination, and the world gets pretty scary when the sun goes down and shadows get long. Eventually her
Grandpa Reads to Jace
dear poppa bunny makes everything right in the world, and shows her (and my little Jace) that there’s really nothing to be afraid of. I have probably read this book 485 times, and Jace never gets tired of it. I think it has helped him with his fear of dark, spooky corners in his room – but he is still kind of afraid of those things. Aren’t we all? I think I still am, sometimes. Summer transitioned silently into the next season, virtually unnoticed.
Some Trail Somewhere
Baby Dragon Love
As we ventured into Autumn we started to get in a groove. This was much easier to do with all the space and comfort of our new house (can you tell I’m stoked about our new place?) which is much closer to many of the places we needed to go. Going to a birthday party meant
Birthday Party at Smudge Studios (Thanks, Willow!!)
a 10 minute drive, not 35 minutes. We can make a last-minute decision to head to the Faulk library for a Lego event, or pick up that book that is always either on hold or checked out somewhere else. I’m just eternally grateful to be here.
We started attending a co-op class through Austin Monday Co-op, and the class was basically an “Around the World” theme. Each week the kids learned about a new country, and they learned the 7 continents. Not 6 continents or 8 – in the U.S. we all just agree that there are 7 continents, ok?? Ok. Moving on…
Story Time at Co-op
They did various crafts, read stories and worked in a group; something I really want them to be able to do on occasion. It was fun and the kids were all super nice. I volunteered for a month, and discovered that teaching and assisting with a pre-K/K-level class is completely EXHAUSTING. By the end of class I really needed a snack and a nap.
Camp Fire group, Northwest Park
Fall was a wonderful time for our camp fire hikes and meetings. The leaves actually do change and fall in some places here (go figure) and we found different scenery to enjoy and leaf-centered crafts to do (or not do, if you’re Dax). We hit up lots of new trails and the kids were testing out new tree-climbing and trailblazing skills together. Fun and nerve-racking to watch.
We joined in on some fun field trips with our LTH group. The most fascinating to me being
Watching some fish eggs hatch
the fish hatchery in San Marcos, TX. We all learned that many of the lakes and ponds in Texas are managed by the TX Dept of Wildlife and are actually stocked with fish bred at this fish hatchery. If you are into fishing you can find out when the lake is “re-stocked” and head out to fish the day after to increase your odds of catching a few fish!
Working on some letters
Paint! Paint! Paint!
By about this time I was getting less and less mobile. This pregnancy was definitely the hardest one yet, and my body was basically warning me to never, ever do this again. I won’t burden you, dear reader, with my list of pregnancy woes, but the point is I had to spend precious energy on things like organizing and chaos-control at home and less energy on exploring the world around us. The perk of that was Dax made leaps & bounds in his
PAINT paint paint PAINT!
reading skills, and Jace rediscovered his love for painting and art. We did more work on letters and and art in one month than I think was done all summer. Which, in my opinion, is fine. Those days leading up to my due date were like the roller coaster ratcheting up to the top of the impending downhill free-fall. On the afternoon of October 11, 2013 that moment arrived.
Remy Fox Dreesen came gracefully into the world at 1:00pm weighing in at 7lbs. 9oz. A repeat c-section, I never had a single experience of true labor, but I will definitely conclude that it was a very painful birth. Remy was lifted into the world by skilled hands, as were my other boys, and I’m content to know that he had a good experience in meeting the world. To me, that’s all that matters. He arrived, perfectly healthy.
The boys hunkering down
The next several weeks were a blur of groggy love and foggy
memories. The endless utility of a newborn peppered with sparks of overwhelming love and joy. Coupled with sleep deprivation, and the re-discovering of baby routines and needs. I savored these days, hours, minutes. I know I won’t have any more of these times. Snuggling with my tiny baby who had no idea what this place really, truly was. Just a human gestating outside the womb through that 4th trimester – so precious. The big boys were also completely enamored. I kept waiting for some kind of “sibling
Dax and Remy
issues” or adjustment period to start. When was Jace going to regress and start peeing in his pants? When was Dax going to start asking me to send the baby back to the hospital? There
was none of that. It was storybook-love, even for these boys who have had my undivided attention for so long. Suddenly they didn’t have an all-access pass for help or attention from me. There was lots of “Shhh, Remy’s sleeping” and “not now I’m feeding Remy” and “please be careful around the baby” – all heeded with <mostly> unconditional acceptance. They cherish Remy, and love him as much as mom & dad do. It’s remarkable, and beautiful and all those things I’ve heard it would be.
The arrival of Remy essentially doomed our schedule to a series of rain checks and cancellations. We
paused quit co-op. We declined play dates and birthday parties, missed
Hold the Baby
all our hiking trips, skipped science, dropped out of chess, and basically put everything on hold. As in, we just wanted to lay around and hold the baby. Dax asked to hold him about 10 times a day. Daddy had to hold the baby after work. I had to hold and gaze at the baby for so long that poor Dax & Jace had to just play mind-numbing VIDEO GAMES for hours every day. It was… wonderful. “Winter” blurred into “whatever”. Hibernation, revitalization, meditation – Family. Yep, my blinders were on. I tuned out the news, the world, everything.
We did manage to celebrate some holidays. Remy’s first holiday,
Very Hungry Caterpillar (photo credit: Alison Eden)
obviously, was Halloween. He was the cutest caterpillar ever. I came to the realization that October is the best time to have a baby, because most people seem to check out for the remainder
of the year once the holidays hit, so it wasn’t too weird that the Dreesens just dropped off the map for awhile. We surfaced to attend a rockin’ Halloween party and trick-or-treat with the usual suspects. Christmas was the best one yet, and we had a great time seeing all our family. When New Years Eve came around I was sad to see 2013 go. We rang in the New Year with a croupy Jace, and I didn’t even make it to midnight before passing out with Remy around 9pm. All was well, however, because David came in at midnight and whispered “Happy New Year” and kissed me, then the baby. Haven’t missed a kiss since, like, 2001. Those kinds of things are so important to me.
So, here we are. hopefully at the tail end of all the ice storms and freezing temps of Q1 2014. Spring semester is underway and we have committed to the following activities/classes:
- Austin Monday Co-op – Life Science class on Animals
Number Bonds by Dax
- Soccer (informal, only occasional Tuesdays)
- Camp Fire
- Chess Club
- Lego Robotics (Learning Fun 101)
- Nitro Swim Class
- Friday Field Trips with LTH
As far as curriculum, the boys are doing different things. Dax is still on “Explode The Code” book 1. He completed the primer books A,B and C. I’m sort of falling out of love with this phonics program, but we might as well finish it at this point. For math, I started Dax on Saxon K, but realized pretty quick that this was more Jace’s speed. Dax was ready
Jace loves his hidden picture puzzles
for higher level math concepts, so I dug through some used homeschool materials I bought from someone last year (a big box full of random stuff) and found a Singapore Math Primary Mathmatics 1A, complete with text, workbook and Teacher guide. SCORE! We’ve been using that for Dax and he’s on the subtraction unit at this point. Jace is getting through the K-level math with ease. There are a few things I have to go over from this book with Dax, like calendar facts, how to read a conventional clock, and basic things like that. Saxon is a great program, and I plan to transition Dax to the Saxon 1 after he completes this unit with Singapore.
That’s the most formal instruction I do with them. I don’t push writing with Jace. I am
Dax and his first “graphic” novel. It was about an alien invasion.
pushing Dax a little with the writing only because I know he can do it, and often chooses not to apply himself. I keep our lessons brief, and try to limit the time to their attention span. When I lose their attention, we go do something else. Forcing them to sit and toil doesn’t inspire a love of learning at this age. They aren’t prepping for the SAT’s just yet, ya know?
Thanks for catching up on everything we’ve been up to! Now that the “new baby” fog is lifting, my blinders are coming off, we’re seeing some sunshine and stretching our legs. I look forward to the adventures that await us as a family of five.
For more information on homeschooling in Austin or any of the activities mentioned click the links on the right – it’s all there. Hope to see ya around.