School’s Out!

School's Out

Most years we set a good pace for getting through the school year. While enthusiasm ebbs and flows, we are able to maintain a reasonable level of engagement and can push through the less-than-stellar moments.

This year, though, has been different. While Leah was mostly keen to keep up with our school schedule, Adam seemed to have used up all his energy reserves by April. Forget keeping a steady pace. It’s been more like limping — and now crawling — towards the finish line.

School's Done and So Is Adam

But today the finish line has been crossed. Thank goodness — because Adam is just done.* Completely over school. And so, there aren’t any big cheers for finishing another year — rather just a quiet sense of satisfaction (and even relief!) that there are no worksheets or group projects in the foreseeable future.

Summer Vacation, we are ready for you. We’re ready for camping and birthdays and lazy days. We’re ready for sleeping in and staying up late and spontaneous adventures.

But most of all, we’re just ready to enjoy time together as a family, checking a few things off the kids’ bucket lists (and ours, too!) and making the most of our less hectic schedules.

Here’s to a great summer!

* It probably didn’t help that Leah finished with school a few weeks ago — I’m pretty sure that made things even more unbearable. Next year I’ll plan to sync up schedules a bit better.

Knitalong, Take Two

Flotus Shawl in Progress

I don’t think I’ve ever met a craft-along that I didn’t like, at least initially. The thought of knitting or cross-stitching or sewing a particular pattern with a group of other people, all at the same time, is fun. You can compare project notes as you go, help each other pick out the perfect yarn or fabric, and generally offer support when things don’t quite go as planned.

Right now, things are definitely not going as planned. I’m taking part in Shannon Squire’s League of Busy Bs, a year-long knitting extravaganza that includes easy-to-follow patterns that are perfect for picking up and putting down a dozen times a day. Basically, these are the ideal patterns for me right now to work on during daily trips to the playground or sneaking in a few rows between whatever adventures Leah has planned.

The first pattern is FLOTUS, which my West Wing-loving self immediately wanted to start knitting. (And, truly, this shawl is about as close to American politics as I want to get right now!) Lucky for me, I had two gradient sets of yarn in my stash (Gumballs from Knitted Wit), both of which were perfect for this project. I settled on the Hyacinth set and paired the six minis with a skein of Sterling. Beautiful.

Hyacinth Gradient Set

And then I started to wind my yarn. The fifth mini was cut in multiple places, giving me six small pieces of yarn, none of which was more than 10 metres. Ugh. (I can’t figure out what happened — my best guess is that I was overzealous when opening the package and snipped the skein.) The thought of all those joins made me cringe but I decided to power on.

Except it turns out that this super-easy pattern was too much for my brain yesterday. I’ve somehow managed to mess up the first grey stripe — and I don’t know what came over me but I decided to be a good knitter and weave in my ends as I knit, so trying to rip back the individual sections and reknit them is a bit more than I can manage at the moment. After all, this is supposed to a low-key, low-stress kind of project.

So I’m opting for Plan B and starting over with the second gradient set. Enter Buckle My Shoes — in all its teal loveliness. One could actually argue this is more my colour anyway.

Buckle My Shoes Gradient Set

Thankfully there’s no real end date for this knitalong, which means I feel no pressure to get caught up particularly quickly. This time around I’m going to read the pattern a little more carefully and enjoy the colour changes as they happen, no matter how many playground visits it takes to knit.

Must Knit Socks

Vinings Socks in Progress

Two weeks. Apparently that’s how long I could last before I needed to cast on for a pair of socks. Who knew? I really thought that I was over socks for the moment and that the myriad other in-progress projects (including — but not limited to — a hat, a scarf, two shawls, a blanket, and a sweater) would be enough to keep me occupied. Alas, it seems that my knitting bag feels empty without a pair of socks on my needles.

And do you know what else is feeling kind of empty these days? The house. Without Leah here, it’s strangely quiet and I really miss her. Thankfully, she was kind enough to leave these hand tracings for me so that I could give her daily high fives.

Leah's Hands

So sweet, right? I was touched and thought I would return the gesture, painstakingly tracing my own hands for her to take on vacation. No. Leah was absolutely horrified with the idea, shoving the cardstock in between some books and vowing never to look at it again. She basically thought this was the worst thing I’d done in recent history. Okay, then. On the positive side, I’m pretty certain that Leah isn’t homesick. She’s an out of sight, out of mind kind of girl.

While Leah’s away, I am getting a little vacation as well while Adam’s at school. One that’s mostly filled with knitting, reading, and the occasional chore that I’ve been putting off until I had a quiet house to myself.

Daybreak in Progress

Chores aren’t terribly exciting, though, so I’ve mostly been knitting. Ever since I knit Adam his Man Shawl last year, I’ve had plans to knit a Daybreak for myself — I was just waiting for the perfect yarn. These two skeins of Victory Fine from Knitted Wit arrived a couple weeks ago and I immediately knew that while they were beautiful individually, they’d be even more incredible together. So far, I seem to be right. I’ve had to drop down a couple needle sizes to get a slightly less drapey fabric — which means I’m going to have to knit several more pairs of stripes to get the size I want.

Fingers are crossed that I’ll have enough yarn to make it all work as I envision. If not, there’s always a backup plan.

School’s Out!

School's Out

We did it — Leah’s last day of school has finally arrived and I’m honestly not certain who is more proud. Ten novels, 150 math lessons, countless picture books, nearly 400 spelling words, twenty-odd science experiments, and several hundred years of history later, we are done.

And just in time, too. Tomorrow Leah heads off to Disney World with her grandparents for a week of fun and excitement, so we pushed through the last few lessons this week in order that she could leave knowing she had finished everything school-related.

School's Out

While I never really expected us to be a homeschooling family, I’m so happy that we made that (enormous) leap last year. I may frequently bemoan the lack of adult interaction in my days but I wouldn’t trade anything for the time I have been able to spend with Leah as we tackled school together.

One of my favourite things about this past year is the realization that school happens everywhere — it hardly needs to be relegated to a desk. Some our best learning experiences took place in the kitchen or on the front porch or at the playground. Truly, the world is our classroom and I hope to more fully embrace this idea next year. We started off tightly tethered to workbooks and checklists but once I let go a little bit and let our learning opportunities develop more organically, Leah really flourished.

School's Out

I’m not entirely sure what our summer holds for us — Leah has a couple weeks of VBS scheduled and maybe another week of camp happening but that’s about it. Adam will be camping with Cubs and Scouts for a few weeks and will possibly need the rest of the summer to recover. This year I wasn’t in a huge rush to register the kids for things — they want time to play with their friends and take advantage of opportunities for day trips and spontaneous adventures. Sounds like my kind of summer.

Moving Up from Cubs

Moving Up from Cubs

Those lucky endlessly patient Scouters at 2nd Highland Creek are trading in one Roy for another this year as Leah joins as a Tenderpad and Adam moves up to Scouts.

Three years ago, Adam was pretty much terrified by the prospect of joining Cubs — it was all so different from Beavers. In fact, Baloo (one of the Scouters) had taken all the parents aside to let us know just how much more independent Cubs were expected to be. No more hand-holding. Sink or swim. Take complete responsibility for your uniform — it’s your uniform, not your parents’. Pack your own gear and carry it yourself.

I’ll admit, I was a little worried, myself. Cubs sounded kind of like boot camp and I wasn’t sure that Adam was going to enjoy it.

It turns out Baloo may have been trying to scare us over-protective parents. (It totally worked, by the way. I spent that summer really pushing Adam in all manner of things, determined that he wasn’t going to get left behind when he started with Cubs in the fall.) While there may not have been hand-holding, the Scouters invested a huge amount of time guiding the Cubs to develop the necessary skills to function more independently. By the end of Adam’s first year, I no longer even checked his bag to make sure he’d packed everything he needed for camp. He was eight years old and could do it himself. And if he’d forgotten something… well, chances were that he wouldn’t forget again.

Awards for Adam

Last night he was officially welcomed to Scouts. You know, the group in which you get to split wood with an axe. And use a saw. And carry a knife (assuming you have demonstrated the appropriate level of responsibility). But, unlike three years ago, I’m not worried about Adam’s next level of adventure in Scouting. He’s already learned so much about working with others to achieve a common goal and to push himself further than he ever thought possible.

Six Star Recognition for Adam

I’m so proud of Adam and all that he has accomplished, like that Six Star Recognition plaque he’s holding. In three years he earned all six stars, 28 badges and nine awards. He has collected canned goods for the food bank, delivered gifts for the Santa Claus Fund, participated in fund-raising events, designed and raced Kub Kars, hiked many kilometres, camped under the stars, and helped with community clean-up days. Beyond those things, though, Adam has developed friendships with some of the Cubs that are sure to last even once his Scouting days are behind him.

And now, let the adventure continue — with the Scouts!

Neighbourhood Beautification with Leah

Welcome to our Home

Every so often Leah notes that compared to other houses on the street, ours is quite lacking when it comes to being pretty. This is quickly followed by asking if we can “make our house pretty” — ideally by planting flowers outside. I love this idea and a flower garden sounds great in theory… but my ability to kill plants just by looking at them renders this plan completely unworkable.

So this afternoon Leah settled on Plan B. Plan B requires no soil, no maintenance, no green thumb, and — to be fair — no longevity. Instead of gardening tools, we set out to decorate the front porch and stepping stones with chalk.

Chalk Work in Progress

Oh my goodness, what a fun afternoon! Armed with a box of chalk and a little imagination, Leah and I managed to substantially increase the curb appeal of our home. Well, at least in Leah’s opinion. I’m not sure we’ve added to the house’s market value in any meaningful way.

I Love You Stepping Stone

What the results may lack in professionalism, our efforts more than make up for in creativity. And colour. If nothing else, our work did get a few smiles from some of our neighbours passing by.

Landscape Stepping Stone

And with rain in next week’s forecast, we’re only a few days away from a blank canvas. Time to start planning our next art series!

Finally Finished

Ringwood Socks

Having eleventy million crafty projects on the go means that I always have something to work on no matter what the circumstance. Starbucks with friends? Shawl knitting! A rare, quiet afternoon while Leah naps? Cross stitching and iced coffee. Watching a movie? Socks. Keeping an eye on Leah at the playground? The never-ending linen stitch scarf.

Of course, the downside to having so many projects in various stages of completion is that rarely do I ever actually complete anything. Sigh. Somewhere between being paralyzed by indecision over which project to pick up and getting sidetracked by new, shiny yarn, I end up with bags tucked in various corners of the house, all full of in-progress items.

Yesterday, though, I (finally!) bound off a pair of socks. Of course, it’s now way too hot to even contemplate wearing them, but at least I’ll have this pair squirrelled away for the fall.

Ringwood Socks

The yarn is from Knitted Wit: Victory Sock in Babbling Brook. I love Lorajean’s speckled colourways — and I appreciate the saturation variation between the socks as I knit from both ends of the skein at once. Personally, I think the colour difference between the two just adds to the awesomeness of handknit socks.

As for the pattern, it’s called Ringwood Socks. I’ve knit it once before and I love that it works so well with hand-dyed yarns. Just enough texture to keep things interesting without competing for attention with the yarn. It also features a dead easy pattern repeat so it’s ideal for knitting while trying to concentrate on something else.

Ringwood Socks

Even though I love these socks, I really had to push myself towards the end to get them finished. And for the first time in several years, I no longer have a pair of socks on my needles (I usually have two pairs going at once) and I have no great desire to immediately wind another skein of yarn. Dare I say it? I think I may have hit my saturation point when it comes to socks. There are so many other projects calling my name that socks just aren’t on my must-knit list right now. We’ll see how long this lasts. My best guess? Only until some squishy new sock yarn arrives in my mailbox.

Swimming Up

Last Night of Beavers

A little over three years ago, Leah was given a choice: she could join Sparks or Beavers. After only a moment’s hesitation, she emphatically chose the latter. Why? Because I like boys, she said. While her motivations may have been slightly suspect, Beavers has been nothing short of amazing for Leah. And now we’ve reached the end of an era: after three years of Beavers, Leah “swam up” to Cubs on Thursday evening.

Swimming Up

Leah may have started off as a very quiet Beaver, operating in a mostly observational capacity, but this year — as a White Tail — she really blossomed, participating fully in all that was offered. And if it hadn’t been for Beavers, Leah likely never would have:

  • tried snowshoeing;
  • raced a Beaver Buggy;
  • eaten breakfast with Santa;
  • thanked people for donations to Scouting with apples;
  • attempted gumboot dancing;
  • gone geocaching;
  • cooked pizza over a campfire; or
  • a hundred other things that made Thursday Leah’s favourite day of the week.

Officially Finished

Going forward, however, it looks like Tuesday will be Leah’s new favourite day. She’s been attending Cubs meetings for the past month and she is so excited to be moving up with the big kids, particularly since the Cubs go camping. A lot.

Today, though, Leah got to wear her Beavers uniform one last time at this year’s final event: the Beaveree. The day was made a little more special because Adam came to help out with our Colony’s ring toss activity.

Beaveree

Thanks to all the amazing leaders at 2nd Highland Creek who have helped Leah grow as a Beaver. She is well-equipped to join the Cub pack as she looks ahead to thrilling adventures, working on badges, and making new friends. Bring on September!

 

Countdown to Summer

Reading on the Porch

Effective yesterday, school has been relocated to the front porch. Or the playground. Or the backyard. We’ve got just two weeks left of work to do and I’ll happily do school anywhere at this point.

While I generally try to keep distractions to a minimum, having Leah’s scooter in sight seems to have given her the motivation to work through her lessons at a remarkable pace. Honestly, the promise of a playground visit is about the only thing keeping her going right now. (I can’t say I blame her — the thought of getting to sit on a park bench and knit while Leah runs around is what keeps me focused on spelling and science these days, too.)

Round and Round

And just in case I felt so inclined to join Leah in her climbing adventures, she made it very clear that I should stay safely seated on the bench. Don’t try this, Mummy, she said. It’s not safe for adults.

In that case, I’ll just keep knitting on my socks.

So happy was Leah to have the run of the playground equipment today that I had trouble convincing her that we should head back home. Eventually, though, I managed to persuade her with the lure of making chocolate chip cookies. Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, to be exact.

Chocolate Chip Cookies in Progress

Baking with Leah is always messy — somehow she managed to cover herself in cookie batter in the name of quality assurance. The batter totally passed inspection — though it took about half a dozen taste tests to make sure it was good. I appreciate her dedication to quality, I think. We should be grateful that enough batter made it into the oven that Adam has cookies to take to his Scout Troop end-of-the-year party tonight.

I’m also grateful that baking covers off several learning areas for Leah: reading, following directions, and math — with the bonus of a snack at the end. Definitely my kind of learning!

Happy Leah Day!

Leah Day 2016

Anyone can have a birthday, Leah says, but only I have Leah Day.

Today marks our family’s seventh celebration of Leah Day — which Leah has been anticipating for weeks now, changing her mind a dozen times over the menu for our family dinner tonight and asking a million questions about when she was a baby.

For many of these questions, I’ve got answers. What did I like to eat? (Melon. Cucumber.) What was the plane ride like? (Long. Exhausting. Pretty uneventful.) Where did I sleep? (Oh my gosh, anywhere we could get you to sleep. We weren’t picky. Our bed. In our arms. On the floor.)

And then Leah moves onto the more difficult questions. Things like, Why weren’t you there when I was born? What took you so long to come and get me? Basically the questions that break my heart because Leah finds the answers so devastating — and confusing. Even as Leah begins to piece together what it means to be adopted, she doesn’t yet understand the complexities of child welfare policies and due diligence. She’s just concerned that she had to spend nine months of her life without us. (In time, I like to think that she will appreciate the processes in place that helped ensure the best possible long-term outcome, even if they delayed our meeting.)

Right now, though, Leah seems to feel her questions have been answered adequately (at least for the moment — who knows what tomorrow will bring?) and she is focused on us celebrating all that she means to our family. With japchae and ice cream sundaes.

And so today we reflect on seven years together as a family of four and all the ways in which Leah has enriched our lives.

Leah Day 2016

A happy Leah Day, indeed.