Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Golden Field

It was a sunny bank holiday here (Memorial Day in the U.S.) and our friend James Greig invited us to join his family on a nature walk near our homes. He wanted to take his kids, Alistair and Izzy, as well as ours to the "golden field," where buttercups take over during the month of May. Steve was in a class just then, but I happily brought Naomi, Josiah, and Ethan.

The Greigs brought along some nature guides, with the goal of finding and identifying various wildflowers. They also packed a lovely snack picnic of hot tea (a necessity for every British picnic!), "squash" (like Kool-Aid), and zucchini bread (which I'd made and given them earlier as a thank-you for babysitting).

Naomi and Josiah were very happy to have an outing with their friend Izzy (who is in their Sunday school class). It was great for me to see all three of them enjoying each other and having a good time. Ethan did not want to stay in the stroller (he'd been napping just before we set out), but instead got out to run ahead of me. What energy children have!

After jumping and running through the field of buttercups, the children's socks, shoes and/or toes were tinted yellow with pollen. We found quite a few species of flowers and later at our picnic, were able to identify many of them. Naomi even spotted an orchid!

In addition to flower-identifying, we looked for little critters. We found that a previous visitor had left some parsnips just outside what looked like the entrance to a rabbit tunnel. We saw many rabbit pellets, and Alistair even found some mole holes, but we never did see a critter in the flesh.

We were out for two hours and by the end, Ethan was losing steam. We'd all had a great time and were ready for a late supper. God has blessed us with sweet friends right on our own road, and has also given us the gift of living in a beautiful part of Oxford. We are grateful...

The Golden Field - pics

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Latest Kid Pics

Naomi's new teeth are getting bigger all the time.
Ethan is our silly boy!
Josiah has just lost two teeth in two days this week!

Monday, May 25, 2009

What I Like About Living in Oxford, England

Hearing so many languages, everywhere I go (French and Arabic seem to be some common ones)
Convenient public transportation
Historical significance everywhere!
Learning about famous local authors (Lewis Carroll, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, etc.)
Being relatively close to London and the ocean
Different UK accents
Always being offered tea
Bike lanes
Beautiful gardens
Amazing architecture
Itsy-bitsy cars
Elderflower-flavored soda
Fizzy lemonade
Ethnic restaurants (even though I never eat at them!!)
Sidewalks and pedestrian crossings
Environmental awareness (recycling and bring-your-own bags at the store)
Fun spelling like: tyres, kerb, pyjamas, neighbour, centre, and realise
Having so many neighbors right around me
Diversity of churches
The Thames and Cherwell Rivers -- waterfowl, walking paths, lots of boats
Concerts and plays (though I don't go to those either!)
Being able to cycle to my store, shop, and come back in under an hour (but I can't carry much on the bike!)
Our church (we love, love, love our church!!!)
New friends

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Okay for Now

To allay fears, I wanted to write a follow-up to my last post. Yes, I was desperate. Yes, it was scary. But yes, I'm still around and thankful for the prayers and encouragement of many.

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of when Steve proposed to me right here in Oxford, and he's planning something for tonight. A friend from church will come over to stay with the kids.

We've had a really fun time during our last couple movie nights with the kids. We watched "Sword in the Stone" last night, and "Dumbo" last week. I'd forgotten how hilarious Disney made their movies. The kids and I laughed so hard! I love hearing the kids bust up laughing.

Ethan is now saying "Dada" and "Mama" consistently, not only for us, but also for items of large size (compared to smaller sizes). He was doing some beading the other day, and called a big bead "Mama" and the smaller bead was given his squeaking sound for "little." He's trying to say "Iya" for Josiah, but it comes out sounding more like "Ira." He's also been doing lots more signs and animal sounds. We just got word that Ethan and Josiah are officially "in the system," waiting for an assessment appointment with speech and language therapy.

I've made some decisions about home-schooling for next year, and am trying to find stuff as cheaply as I can. I'm going to use a math program called "Math-U-See" and an all-subject curriculum called "Adventures in My Father's World," for everything else. I hope that it helps me to have this structure set up. I'll keep you posted...

Monday, May 18, 2009

another day?

I don't know if I can make it another day. I feel like my whole world is out of control. I know in my head there are many steps I could take to help it get better, but I just don't have the will or the energy. I want to sleep and never wake up. I don't want to struggle and battle and feel like a failure every single day. I know this is wrong. But I can't seem to get it right.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What I miss about the U.S.A....

Cool Whip
good Mexican food
tortilla chips (available but not high quality)
root beer
frozen fruit juice
frozen lemonade
libraries (with organized children's sections,
quality children's books,
free video-borrowing,
and toys/puzzles/learning sets available)
swings with curved, flexible seats (here they are hard and rectangular)
central heating
Christian radio
Medicaid-provided counseling
graham crackers
M&Ms and Snickers (available, but expensive)
ranch dressing
math tutoring in a system I'm familiar with

And about Virginia...
starry skies
sweet tea
Pet World
Woods Creek
great playgrounds
my car

Monday, May 11, 2009

Teaching "Tots"

As I'm thinking more about how to teach my kids next year, I'm exploring various blogs and websites, and have found the following one to be especially helpful. This mom not only teaches her older son, but includes intentional "teaching" time for her 3 year old. Go to her site for terrific ideas. I'm inspired!!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Disco Fun!

When Naomi was invited to her friend Izzy’s 7th birthday party, we were thrilled! When we were told it would be a disco dance party, and that all the others coming were from Izzy’s school class (of which Naomi is not a part), we were a bit nervous. I asked Naomi if she really wanted to go to the party, knowing these details, and she replied that she would go if I would go too and stay with her.

So on Saturday, the two of us went to our first disco … and had a blast!

Naomi was shy at first. She stood against the wall, watching all the other kids. I offered to dance with her, figuring she would be happy with me as a partner, but she stubbornly stayed glued to the wall. The music was loud, the room was dark (with fun, multi-colored, moving lights), and there were about 20 other kids racing around. I did not blame her one bit for hanging back and watching! I would have done the exact same thing probably.

Then Izzy’s mom Emily (whom Naomi knows fairly well) got all the kids to grab hands, forming a big circle. Naomi and I joined up with the others and we all ran around in a ring. This seemed to break the ice for my shy daughter, and I smiled inside to see her laughing. After that, I couldn’t stop her from dancing!!

She played the few organized games (musical bumps and pin-the-horn-on-the-unicorn) and creatively did her own dance moves to the free-dance music. She was even one of the winners of the “dance competition.” (Thank you, Emily, for affirming my daughter in that way!) I made a few bathroom runs with small groups of girls, and Naomi stayed behind in the dance studio, dancing away (instead of clinging to me like I was afraid she’d do). I could kick myself for not having brought my camera along. I don’t know when I’ll next see her being so free and having so much fun!

We had a nice “tea” (sandwiches, chips, veggies, grapes, cakes), took a group photo, and then Naomi helped Emily and me pack the goodie bags. (I’ve discovered that in England, you send home a piece of the birthday cake as part of the treat bag. Note to self for Naomi’s upcoming party!) When we got home, she said it was the best birthday party ever. (I asked her why, and she said it was because of the food.)

I could not have been more proud of my Naomi. All the kids there knew each other super-well, having seen each other everyday at school for the past few years. There was my daughter: American, new, home-schooled, and a stranger to all but Izzy. But she’d jumped right in and had a great time. Maybe her shyness is gradually receding…

Friday, May 8, 2009

Duck, Duck, GOOSE!

On our way home from town on Wednesday, the kids and I stopped in "Parson's Pleasure" (a small riverside section of the huge University Parks) for a much-needed break.

Every Wednesday is a marathon for us, as it's our "in-town" day. We attend an unstructured play-time at a church in City Centre. We buy a week's worth of fresh fruit and veg at an open market. Sometimes (as was true this week) we visit Central Library and pick up a new load of books. By the time we come home, we're tired -- of being inside, of walking, and of pulling/pushing heavy loads. Now that the days are longer and warmer, it's hard to pass by Parson's Pleasure without stopping for a nice rest!

We always see many waterfowl when at this park: coots, ducks, geese, swans. This time, though, as the kids ran through the green grass, they spotted a dead goose by the water's edge. They begged me to let them take it home with us, wanting to pluck it and cook it (!). I have to admit that I did consider it (taking it home; not cooking it). I thought we could perhaps disect it for an interesting biology lesson. We all stroked its feathers, and I considered the options (including seeing how much it weighed -- it was heavy!), but in the end I decided to leave it.

As Naomi has spoken of wanting to pluck a bird's feathers for many months now, we attempted to "pluck" a few on her behalf. I didn't realize how difficult it would be, though! I had to yank and twist with all my might to get just one feather, as did Josiah for his. Naomi was so happy that we'd plucked two feathers, she proclaimed it the best day of her life. (Yes I do have a drama queen for a daughter!)

All in all, it indeed was a good day. I was grateful to not carry home a monstrously large bird, but slightly disappointed that we missed out on a chance for dissection!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Homeschooling Quandries...

I can not figure out what direction to take our homeschooling. I've written to friends, asking for their recommendations. I've looked online. I've thought about pros and cons of various styles, philosophies, and methods. But nothing is clicking for me. The pieces are not falling into place, revealing the best answer for my own family.

I should probably spend some time journaling, heart-searching, praying, listing. I should probably also ease up a bit. I tend to be an "all-or-nothing" sort of person, therefore thinking that I need to have this all figured out by next school year and that there is one BEST way eluding me which I need to find. But as my friend pointed out, there isn't an "only" way. My kids will learn, whether I use the classical method or unit studies. And if I try something next year, and it doesn't work the way I'd hoped, I can always change for the following year (or sooner!)