Friday, April 30, 2010

Crafty, Clever and Cunning

Another nod to Jena, who has had a few extra years on me to clarify what she means by "unschooling" and her article here on Simple Homeschooling shows her skill.

In particular I loved this:

Another concern I hear is that unschooling is for lazy parents. But really, unschooling is for crafty, detective parents who teach without anyone realizing it. It’s for parents who are constantly searching out experts and opportunities to feed their little learning machines.

Exactly. Couldn't have said it better myself!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Junk Food Wars

As kids mature they desire control over their worlds, their choices. It's normal, natural, inevitable and healthy. But at ages five and three their good judgment hasn't caught up with their desire for control. That's why God gave them loving parents to make sure their blossoming choices fall into proper and healthy lines, especially in the area of nutrition.

Kids' growing bodies NEED balanced nutrition to grow. They need proteins, whole grains, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, dairy, fiber. But what do they crave? SUGAR.

I'm not one of those health-nut moms who bans all salty or sweet snacks from the house. Rather, I'm trying to teach moderation and good choices. Lately, though, both my kids have chosen the arena of food to try testing the loving-parent-boundaries and they are testing HARD. They remind me of horses newly put into a paddock surrounded by an electric fence who go along the fence in each place and test to see if the fence is turned on.

My kids have waged a ongoing military campaign to see if they can minimize good, nutritious, healthy food and maximize the sugary, sweet, salty, fatty, preservative-laden junk food.

Today my daughter waged a major silent battle at Shari's of all places. To add insult to injury, we went there as a treat for the kids, but I wouldn't let her choose a bowl of Lucky Charms for lunch. She'd eaten only cereal for breakfast and I was not going to let her eat only cereal for lunch too. So we compromised on a smiley-face pancake accompanied by some sausage and bacon for protein. Not exactly a sugar-free entree, but better than Lucky Charms.

Stubborn Curly Miss sat sweetly abstaining from eating more than just a couple of syrup-laden, whipped cream covered bites. Although she has loved this dish in the past, joyfully eating an entire plateful, this time she sat primly, sending the message that this was not her first choice and she would not partake.

Little Mister lacked even her subtlety. "I don't want this. I want goldfish crackers instead."

Thinking she had scored a strategic triumph, Curly smiled when the meal ended and her plate of food remained almost untouched. Her smile faded, however, when I requested a to-go box and loaded pancakes, sausage and bacon into it. "Looks like we have plenty for dinner," I said maddeningly. Two can play at this little game.

Then my three-year-old piped up. "How about some Marshmallow pie, Mommy?"

Uhm, no.

The storm clouds gathered, the lower lip began to tremble... I saw the huge fit coming on.

Time for Commander Mom to send in a preemptive strike. I put on my meanest Mommy frown and reminded how we don't throw fits when Mommy says "no." Then I pulled out one of the most powerful parenting weapons in the Toddler Arsenal. Distraction.

"Can you help me carry this out to the car?"

It always amazes me how well this works. The clouds lifted, the sun came out, his little face broke into a big grin and he trotted importantly ahead of me, bearing his precious burden. Mommy: one, Junk Food: zero.

At home later I realized that the battle earlier may have gone my way, but the war is far from over. We had not been home long when a small voice drifted up the stairs toward me. "Mommy, I'm hungry. How about a cookie?"

Resisting the primal, frustrated roar coming up in my throat, I said tightly, "Not when you did not eat your lunch bites!" Then I headed back to Tactical Maneuvers and introduced the dreaded HEALTHY SNACK. Apples. Cheese. Carrots. Mommy: two, Junk Food: zero.

Despite my triumph earlier, I can feel my resolve wavering. I must stay strong. My poor, unfortunate daughter, forced to eat the sad remains of her lunch for dinner will likely sit in a miserable lump, tears on her pixie face, reproach shining out of her dark eyes. But, no, I am a mean, horrible mommy and I won't give in. Well, maybe I won't. Hopefully, I won't. Wasting food is...

Oh, heck, maybe I'll just give her Lucky Charms for dinner.

No, dadgummit! This is hard! This is one of those parenting gray areas where I feel like either I'm being a total control freak if I stay hard-nosed about enforcing something as ludicrous as eating for dinner the untouched lunch, but a failure if I give in an allow her passive-aggressive routines to work. Why can't she just eat her lunch when it was lunchtime?

I need some Lucky Charms.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Where's Hubby?

Working a 10-hour-per-week job has its perks. One perk is that I don't actually make enough money to consider it useful in the family budget. So I get to have a little play money. And I get to share a little play money with Hubby whose paycheck actually comprises the entire family budget.

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Tonight the man is up in Spokane hanging out in the city, going to a concert and whatever coffee shops and bakeries strike his fancy. He'll stay in a hotel, be pampered by their in-house breakfast and have 24-hours without chores, meetings, computer code or diapers.

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Call it a personal day. Call it a mental health day. I call it well-deserved. Hope it's a lot of fun!

Floor Puzzle



I picked this puzzle up on sale one day and pulled it out for bored children yesterday. After three times through, even Little Mister knows most of the state names and locations. I guess it will save time once they hit third grade...

Monday, April 26, 2010

What we did last night

He's cutting the first two teeth. So...
He's waking up crying several times a night. :(


I held him and rocked him.


And rocked him.


And held him.




There is life beyond teething....

right?


(No extra charge for gratuitous green bean picture. Just threw it in there because it's better than a red, screeching, sad baby picture.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Playing With Education

It occurred to me the other day that the method of education employed by the enthusiastic Maria in The Sound of Music actually resembles unschooling. Taking the children out of their uniforms and presumably out of their textbooks as well, she created a playful exploration of their world. Oddly enough, I have never once heard her methods criticized nor have I seen people sorrowfully shake their heads and predict ignorant doom for those seven Von Trapp children.

Recently, ABC did a segment on Radical Unschooling so people have been talking more about it. Most of the comments I have seen are negative and I thnk the story itself tends toward sensationalism rather than good, balanced journalism, unfortunately. Although I certainly don't agree with all of the philosophies and practices employed by the families in the segments, I do think that children learn better when given a certain amount of freedom to follow their own interests and the employ play in their learning.

Several years ago I had never even heard of unschooling and the idea of creating "school at home" filled me with loathing. I was determined not to homeschool my kids, particularly my strong-willed daughter. However, when the time came to actually teach her, I discovered a bright, willing mind in an eager pupil. Drawing on my own training as a public school teacher, I took into account her personality, learning style and abilities. Hubby and I had long conversations about the learning that was most meaningful to us as children. Almost always, we remembered lessons by our parents in subjects initiated by ourselves as being far more memorable and meaningful. Slowly, the idea came to us that we could make our children's education look more like that. We would follow their interests to the greatest extent possible while still maintaining academic goals for them. I did not know how long we could continue this; some moms such as Jena from Yarns of the Heart have made it work successfully through high school.

I guess whether you call it interest-led learning, a tailor-made curriculum, eclectic homeschool or plain old unschooling, it worked for Maria and it works for us.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Multiracial Family

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Last week when I got the dollhouse for the kids, I really wanted to get it locally. We have a lovely toy shop downtown that carries quality toys and I'd hate to see it ever shut down. So I got the house there even though I could have found it cheaper online. Along with the house, I got a Plan Toys Family. It fit the traditional white family with Dad-Mom-Son-Daughter.

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Our family, however is becoming less and less traditional. Rather than waiting for Little Sister Bear to come, I went ahead and ordered two more kids. The closest I could find were the Ryan's Room "Friends and Family" dolls, but they work just fine.

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Now, when Baby Bear gets big enough to play and when Little Sister comes, the kids will all have a "me" doll. Until then, whoever plays with the dollhouse will have a choice of friends.

Morning Hug

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This morning I handed the baby to Hubby for a hug right after he awoke in his crib. He put his little head on Daddy's shoulder as if to say, "I sure love you, Daddy."

Eavesdropping

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Now that warm and sunny weather fills my back yard, I love to send the kids out there to play. At age 5 and 3, they no longer need constant supervision, but my house doesn't have very many windows that look south into the back yard.

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For a while I sent them out there then went to the window in the bathroom every ten minutes, checking to make sure no one had disappeared or was bleeding.

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Call me paranoid, but I needed to make sure they stayed safe or my Mommy-radar would go into overdrive.

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After a few anxious weeks, I devised a solution. With extension cords and our baby monitor, I have electronic auditory surveillance of the back yard. I sit calmly in my living room feeding the baby or doing chores and listen to their playful chatter.

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Since they forget I can hear them, it often becomes a bit comical to listen in on their conversations. Still, I think it makes them feel secure to know that Mom is only a shout away.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Ultralight Family Packing

DSC01887Traveling with kids intimidates me. Whenever we traveled in the past, we always packed extras of everything, including the kitchen sink. Everyone had a suitcase along with bags and coats and pillows and toys and books...

That is changing. Between my discovery of ultralight backpacking and the necessity of wrangling more children, I have decided to amend my ways and create:

Ultralight Family Packing
.

No longer do we take everything including the kitchen sink. We simply can't. We're going to Portland for a week on the train in May and there is no way we can wrangle three kids and five suitcases. Nor do I want to try.

So this last weekend was a test. We traveled to CdA for an overnight trip and took only one small suitcase and a backpack. For the entire family, baby included. We pared down our list of items to absolute necessities. We did not take pillows. The kids took one toy each. We brought just enough diapers to get by. I did not pack extra socks.

And you know what? We had a fantastic time! The kids didn't get bored once. We swam and ate delicious food and watched the hotel TV. We explored and visited friends. We attended church in jeans and nobody minded. We slept well.

Now I'm excited to visit Portland and not be loaded down with excessive junk. We'll pack the bare minimum again. Who knows, we may not even take a stroller. We used the soft babypack all weekend anyway.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Never Too Much Love

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This morning we met Miss A for another visit. Since our finalization, I imagine she was a little apprehensive that we wouldn't keep doing visits, but I want Baby Bear to know her and know how much she loves him.

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We got to meet her sister, Miss T, who hadn't seen Baby Bear since he was first born. Both girls commented on how much he has grown!

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A doting Grandma and Grandpa got to visit too. This baby has so many grandparents he is going to be spoiled rotten! Not that I mind one bit.

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Looks like he doesn't mind either. Someone to give him attention and play with him never goes amiss in his book. Miss A showed me the scrapbook she made and letter she wrote to him.

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To me, the gift of roots is one of the most precious gifts an adoptive mom can give her child.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Walk, a Trike and a Sunset

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Spring is here and our evening walks have resumed. Walking downtown through the gathering dusk has taken on new meaning to Curly Miss who used to ride in the stroller.

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This year she decided she was big enough to ride a bike downtown and the one she chose was the red tricycle. Although her knees hit the handlebars when she pedals, she felt quite pleased with her ability and took off ahead of us along the bumpy sidewalk.

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At the downtown playground, she rode her trike around the square while Hubby played on the slides with Mister. The sun sank into the trees while Mister giggled and chased Daddy.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Making Tiny Things

Since I was a child myself, I have loved miniatures.  I loved to play with minuscule toys and create tiny doll houses or invent microscopic worlds.  I used to pretend that little people lived in my back yard, among the giant blades of grass.

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Now my children have attained the age where they want to play with little things too.  When a new wooden dollhouse entered our family this week, they needed not just dolls and furniture but details!  So I got out the play dough and went to work, making toast with butter, toast with jam, glasses of milk...

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...a jar of peanut butter...

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...chicken nuggets and forks and corn.

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It all went carefully into the play kitchen where the dolls will have healthy meals to eat.

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Although the house had four dolls, a Dad, Mom and two kids, there was no baby.  So I went to work again, making a little tiny baby doll wrapped in a warm blanket.

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Conveniently he was put to bed in his crib and unlike the real thing never cried or fussed again.  Sweet is the imagination.

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To my amusement, the kids set up a Homeschool table and a computer for their dolls.  Curly, with an insatiable thirst for drama, made her doll climb up on the roof, fall off and get hurt, then rush to the hospital.  I cringed.

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Thankfully, Little Mister's play revolved around going to the swimming pool and blowing bubbles. Imaginative play can be very revealing when it comes to personality observation.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On a Nice, Sunny Day in Spring...

On a nice, sunny day in spring, the kids and I took ourselves to the park. Now I find the park to be one of the most boring places on the planet, right up there with doctor's office waiting rooms and high school Spanish class. To counteract the boredom, I took along my iPod and my camera.



Bear in mind that when shooting pictures at the park I use a sort of faith-based method of photography. Due to the glare, my sunglasses and blurriness, I can't actually see the subjects in the viewfinder beyond a vague outline, so I line up my shot, pray that the autofocus behaves itself and shoot. Then I take 30 more shots for good measure.



Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Often I get home and find that the grass just in front of my daughter looks gorgeous and crisp, but the child herself, along with her tricycle that she insisted on riding through the thick grass look blurry.



It gets closer, like this one where it chose the tree. Perhaps I can chalk it up to some sort of artistic statement and to be honest, I think the texture of the tree bark looks really nice. You have to be flexible when you use this method.



Shooting from several yards away has its distinct disadvantages in another way.  There's no knowing when the kid's looking toward me, which in the case of Little Mister happened not once.  I got about 567 shots of the back of his head, sometimes with a hood, sometimes without. 



Then, once in a while a shot like this jumps onto my computer screen from my camera and suddenly all is right with the world.



Sometimes, it just happens.  The color, the focus, the expression of impishness.  It makes me so glad I brought my camera to the park today.



Then, when everything works just right, there are simply other priorities than portraiture.  It's okay.  A boy's gotta do what a boy's gotta do.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Baby Dedication



Baby Bear's Dedication service had been scheduled last November. We invited friends and family and I carefully picked out fancy clothes. The day arrived, two weekends before Thanksgiving but Curly Miss ran a high fever and we all stayed home. The other Cody at church who shares not only a name but also is the same age as Baby Bear was dedicated that day and we missed out.

Skip forward to yesterday. Our pastor set another dedication service but forgot that we had missed the last one. Several new babies at church had arrived since Thanksgiving and he figured it was time again. At first service we discovered what was going on! We talked to the pastor, not wanting to wait another five months for Baby Bear.

To make a long story short, we went ahead and joined the other two families at second service for a spontaneous Baby Dedication! How far I have fallen since Curly Miss, who wore an heirloom dedication dress with formal announcements sent out to friends and family.

Baby Bear wore a cute sweater vest and because he had already been at church for several hours, he slept all the way through it.

But the date, the first Sunday after his adoption day, seemed so appropriate, I wonder if someone somewhere wasn't planning on our behalf anyway.



(We did not even have our camera! A huge thank-you to our friends who shared the four remaining pictures on their camera with us.)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Kites



Our town is known for the wind in the spring. Unfortunately it's also known for its chilly, unpredictable weather.



We went to the soccer field to fly kites. It ended up that Hubby and I flew kites while the kids sat shivering in the van.



Then we drove to the grocery store and got some ice cream.