Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day thoughts...

I must admit that military service is something I have a hard time wrapping my head around. It's something I could never do. Just signing myself away to the government and saying, "Ok, I'm yours - do with me what you will." and then being handed weapons, trained how to use them, and given orders to end the lives of other humans. And what gets me is that every soldier on every side has the same perspective - he is the good guy and the others (as he's been told by his authority figures) are the bad guys. But the guys on the other side - they're not evil monsters. They're people. Just other people. They have people they love, and people who love them back. Perhaps they have been born into a culture that has brainwashed them to hate other cultures and to love causing death - but this doesn't make me hate them, it just makes me so very sad for them. I don't know what the answer is, but it doesn't seem like my country's current course of action is moving the world any closer to peace.

Although I am deeply grateful to the fighters throughout the course of history who have made the ultimate sacrifice for my country, today I keep thinking of the generations of mothers, wives, and families who have had to experience that unimaginably awful knock on the door. When a soldier has died, his problems and pain are over... but theirs goes on, every day, for the rest of their lives, while they continue on without their precious loved ones. I would like to thank them today, and say that my heart hurts for what they've had to endure. I desperately hope that the various colonies of ants on this anthill called Earth can somehow, someday figure out how to coexist without killing each other.

PS. I don't mean to sound un-patriotic, and I mean no disrespect to our soldiers... just sharing my honest thoughts on things.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Great article from The Onion: "Increasing Number of Parents Opting To Have Children School-Homed". (Just in case you've been living under a rock, The Onion is a joke news site - it's satire, not real!) The very last line is the best part...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Random tidbits from my day...

So I'm kind of an atypical homeschooler. Besides the other stuff I've talked about, I also generally hate cooking and detest gardening. But I DO like making my own bread from time to time (it's practially a law that you must do this if you're a homeschooler), so I did that today. It was an enormously exhausting amount of work to dump those ingredients into the bread machine, but I did it. Whew! *wipes brow*

Ta-da! Be very jealous, because this bread is super yummy and my house smells SO good! I used my favorite recipe out of my beloved bread machine cookbook which I discovered at a used bookstore for $4. Here 'tis (adapted for a 2 lb loaf):

Oatmeal Bread
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp oil
3 Tbsp maple syrup
3 cups bread flour
1 cup wheat flour
2/3 cup oats
2 1/2 Tbsp powdered milk
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp active dry yeast

Dump the stuff in the machine, in the order listed. Turn on machine (basic 2 lb setting). Go do other stuff for about 3 hours. Take bread out & let cool. Eat bread.

This type of cooking is just perfect for my skill level and attention span. Actually that's my real problem with cooking; I get bored waiting for things to cook so I go do something else to kill time and then forget I was cooking. I could probably do a whole other blog called "Sh*t I've ruined in the kitchen" or something to that effect.

Another cool thing that happened today was that we met this guy while we were out cruisin' around:

He was strolling across the road, and being that we're homeschoolers, and on no one's schedule but our own, we were able to take the time to stop and rescue him from the fate of becoming a turtle pancake. I brought him over to the van to let Max see him up close, and he was fascinated. He noticed the plates on the top of its shell and gingerly felt them as well as the smooth underside. (Don't worry, I made sure he stayed clear of the head area, lest his poor little digits become turtle treats.) He checked out how its legs were all tucked in and also noticed the long "fingernails" and was very respectful of them. For a moment I was tempted to bring Mr. Turtle home, but we don't have anywhere to keep him, plus it just seems mean to capture a wild creature to turn it into a pet - and he'd already had enough stress for one day, wondering if these weird, pale two-legged monsters were gonna eat him. Once we completed our turtle inspection, I gently placed him in the weeds far off the side of the road.

Bye Mister Turtle! Nice to meetcha! Now stay away from the roads ok? I definitely see some more in-depth turtle studies in our near future...

Oh yeah - moments before we discovered the turtle, a deer had jumped out in front of us and ran in a straight line up the road ahead of us. I slowed down to keep a safe distance and we followed him for a few moments before he zigged... then zagged... then did one of those graceful, slow-motion-looking leaps they do, and disappeared into the brush. I have a thing for deer - I just love when I get to have a peek at one! It constantly amazes me that such large animals live so closely among us yet stay nearly invisible most of the time.

Finally we passed a guy walking along the side of the road with a red bandanna on his head. Naturally, Max decided he must be a pirate. When we got home, he excitedly told Daddy, "DAD! We saw a DEER and a TURTLE and a TRAIN (yeah we saw one of those too) and a PIRATE today!!!" Many people think we live in a boring little small town, but they have no idea how exciting this place really is!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Little Socialization for Mommy...

A few years ago, in an attempt to learn how to better deal with Max's very intense personality, I read "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. I can't say enough about how wonderful this book is - I felt like it was totally written about him. It really helped me understand how he sees the world and why he behaves the way he behaves. What surprised me though, was that it made me understand a little bit more about myself too. I was familiar with the terms "introvert" and "extrovert" but her description really resonated with me. She says that an introvert is a person who finds that social gatherings deplete their energy, and that solitude recharges it, and an extrovert is exactly the opposite. Most people have some combination of both kinds of traits but tend to lean one way or the other overall. I am pretty strongly an introvert. I usually feel completely wiped out after a social gathering - even one that I have found enjoyable. There are a lot of great people in my life who I care about and whose company I enjoy, but it still requires a certain degree of conscious effort for me to be in a social setting. I am most comfortable when I am by myself, or with people I'm very close to (i.e. Shane and the kids). And that's ok. It's just the way I'm wired.

Yesterday, I got together with a fabulous group of women who I've gotten to be friends with over the past year and half. We started out as a book club, but this time around none of us liked the book much and had abandoned it, so we just hung out for a few hours and had some good quality female bonding time. It was really nice to just be in a room with all of these great people who are all at similar stages of life to me, but with different personalities and perspectives. I truly like and respect each of them. Afterward, on the way home, I realized that I actually felt energized instead of drained, which is kind of a big deal for me. I have always been the kind of person who has just a handful of close friends who I'd hang out with one-on-one, versus being part of a group. So the realization that I had just spent time with a group of people and felt comfortable enough to come away from it feeling energized is a really cool thing. I am so very glad these people have come into my life. :)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Name These Smart Guys!

Just a bit of internet goodness for ya... I just came across these guys and I WANT them! They are from Jailbreak Collective's "Little Giants" series of action figures of great minds from history. Can you name all four? (Click here for the answers.)
Trying to think of a legitimate homeschool-related use for these to justify buying this set... and a few other sets... love 'em!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I did something (apparently) very out of character for me...

So I got a tattoo this weekend. Not on an impulse, it's something I've thought about for years. I've always thought it would be fun to get one, and I knew I definitely wanted something celestial, as I'm a big fan of the cosmos. I went with my amazing sister-in-law, who I adore, on Saturday night and we both got our first tattoos together. We had a great time, and we both love our new artwork. Here's mine:

Just a simple cluster of stars with some pretty swooshy swirls. When I look at this design, I feel like it's totally "me". Which is why I'm surprised by the reactions of everyone who knows me well. The phrase that has replaced "but what about socialization?" as most cringe-inducing to me is now "Wow, I'd never in a million years have thought YOU would get a tattoo." In other words, I am apparently perceived as a total stick in the mud! My brother didn't believe it was real until he touched it. My mom said, "Well, you're just so... traditional." To which I replied, "I am not! I am an atheist homeschooling Libertarian! What is traditional about that!?" Ok, yeah, I know I'm pretty straight laced, and have never remotely been a partier at all. I guess I really shouldn't be that surprised by the majority response... but I honestly didn't expect it. In my own head, the only thing about this that is out of character for me, is that I took a little time for myself and went and did a little something special for me, which IS pretty rare. :)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My favorite Mother's Day gift, or: What?! Max can write?!

My favorite Mother's Day gift wasn't an actual gift, or even the card, but the envelope that the card came in:

This is the first word my son has ever written! And I didn't even know he could do this! I have encouraged him to try writing letters, and I have various letter tracing workbooks and dry-erase things I have offered him, but he didn't really show much interest so I put them away for the time being and planned to try again later. This morning he handed me my card and I just stared at those three letters in amazement. I asked him if he did this all by himself and he said yes, and Daddy confirmed that he did not help Max write it. Then, inside the card:

He signed his own name too! (Daddy signed Emmett's name for him.) Finally, because of my praise & excitement, he wanted to "draw more letters" so I gave him some paper and he sat down to write. I left the room to get ready for our traditional Mother's Day brunch with my in-laws, and I came back a few minutes later to inspect his progress. He had written "Mom" and "Max" again, and then showed me this, saying, "Look, I wrote Emmett!"

"EMET." Not a bad first attempt, both at writing the letters E and T, but at attempting to spell his brother's name. All by himself. Dad wasn't even in the room with him either. We were both floored.

Now here's a little confession. I do have occasional moments, where my confidence wavers just the tiniest bit, and I wonder to myself, can I really do this? Am I organized enough, self-motivated enough, clever enough to educate my kids? And then crazy awesome moments like these happen, where the kid just knows stuff - new stuff - that he has seemingly plucked out of thin air. And I realize that I doing just fine, and that I couldn't keep him from learning if I tried.

Here we are at breakfast this morning. Emmett was thoroughly amused with his spoon - it was either take the pic with the spoon in his mouth, or of him screaming if we took it away... so we went with the first option. This is an exceedingly rare photo, with all four of us in it at the same time... I think this makes a grand total of three in existence. I really need to get around to doing a family portrait one of these days.

Anyways, to all of you amazing Mamas out there - HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY! YOU ROCK! :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Short Answer

I finally thought of a satisfying short answer for why we are choosing to homeschool our kids (though I am probably not the first person to say this): Because raising them is too important a job to outsource.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Second Child Syndrome

Ok, I have been thinking I need to devote a post to my poor, neglected Emmett. To be fair, this is a homeschooling blog and I'm documenting the beginning of actively homeschooling Max... but my other kid is pretty neat too. Today is Emmett's half birthday - he's 18 months old! In some ways it feels like he just got here a few days ago, and in some ways it seems like he's been a part of our family forever. He is a sweet little thing... as a baby he was much more laid back than Max was, but he is now entering that phase of frequent tantrums, due to his intense desire to communicate, but limited ability to do so. I remember reading or being told somewhere that the "terrible twos" are really more like between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, and it sure feels like we are there. He climbs EVERYTHING. Turn your back for a second and he is standing on the dining room table giving you an impish grin and making a guttural "HAAAA HAAAA HAAAAAAAA!". He can run unbelievably fast on those little legs now. And why is it that small children have a need to take everything out of everything? The contents of every cupboard, every drawer, every toy container must be emptied out and dispersed around the house. I have pretty much given up on cleaning up behind him - it's an exercise in futility. I basically let him trash the house and tidy it back up when he's sleeping. It's much better for my mental health that way. He's beginning to enter what I thought of with Max as a "learning explosion." He learns new words and skills every day. He stubbornly insists on feeding himself now and wants no part of being spoon fed anymore. It's messy, but he's getting better at it. Also, he's saying quite a few words now:

Dog-dog = Dog
Ba-Ba = Bottle
Teeez = Cheese! He says this both in response to having a camera pointed at him, or the food being offered to him.
Tookie = Cookie
Bubba = Brother
OP! = Stop! He says this whenever I'm doing something he doesn't want me to do - namely changing his diaper.
Ow! He learned this during his hospital stay.
Hello! He says this whenever he picks up a phone and pretends to talk on it.
Bye! He has said this just a few times, and refuses to say it when prompted.
Cah = Car. He has also said this just 2 or 3 times and refuses to say it if prompted.
He also meows at the cats and barks at the dog. Actually if meowing counts, that would be his first word.

He is developing quite the temper when he doesn't get his way - he had a complete meltdown the other day because he couldn't fit his sippy cup through the door of his toy school bus. Usually I take these tantrums as a sign that he's tired and ready for a nap. He is still napping twice a day, mostly, but the times vary depending on how early or late he wakes up in the morning. Basically after 3 hours or so he is hitting the wall. It makes it difficult to make plans because I'm never sure when he'll be sleeping, but it has always made more sense to me to let the kid's natural schedule dictate things than try to impose an artificial one based on convenience to me. When he gets down to one nap consistently, it will make my days more predictable, but I will only get one break instead of two - so there's always a trade-off.

My favorite thing about Emmett is watching him with his brother. They are so amazing together, so connected, and they genuinely enjoy each other's company. They cuddle and hug and give each other kisses. Em is finally old enough to really be a playmate to Max and they do play together quite well for the most part. The train table is hands-down the best toy in the house, for all ages - they spend lots of time playing trains together now.

That being said, I wish Em would slow down with all this growing up already! I love those pudgy baby cheeks, and hobbit-like feet, and chubby legs. I love the baby giggles and grins and squeals. I love holding him close and smelling his hair and putting my cheek against his... but he rarely wants to cuddle with me anymore, always squirming to get off my lap and go play (although he never wants to be very far away from me). Slow down little man!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Data Recovery

I am feeling so proud of myself. I have successfully retrieved the data from the hard drive of my laptop which died two and a half years ago... all by myself! (Well, me and the internet I should say.) *pats self on back* The one thing I was most concerned about getting was the data from a program called MacJournal. It's a very simple program, and just as it's name implies, it's a digital journal. I used it to jot down random thoughts, lists, quotes, websites, stuff I came across, etc. The #1 thing I wanted from there was a letter I had written to Max on his first birthday. And I found it - hooray!!!

Dear Max,

Happy birthday my love, my sweet, sweet boy! I can't believe a whole year has gone by already since the day you were born. I still remember the day so vividly. It was the best, most important day of my life. My first memory is of you upside down in the doctor's hands, with everyone in the room cheering, "It's a Boy! It's a Boy!" And then I heard your first cry and I immediately thought, "Wow. I love that voice." Before you were born I always thought all crying babies sounded the same, but your voice instantly sounded distinctly different to my ear. I could have easily picked you out of a whole roomful of crying babies, by sound alone, with no problem.

Bringing you home from the hospital was terrifying. It's amazing to have this brand new little helpless creature in your care. I was so afraid of doing something wrong. That first night, I was changing you and you spit up and started choking a little, and I pretty much freaked out. I didn't know what to do! Fortunately, your dad calmly came over and put you on your belly and patted your back and you were fine. I have to say, you really lucked out in the Dad department. Your Daddy loves you so much, and he takes such good care of you. I love watching the two of you together... I can really see how much joy you bring him. He can make you giggle better than anybody else. And my favorite thing is when you and Daddy are making funny faces at each other - it's so adorable!

I can't believe so many days have flown by already. It's been so much fun to watch you grow and learn, and just to see your personality coming out. And boy, do you have a lot of personality! You are so smart, curious, active and playful. You're both strong-willed and physically strong. When you want to do something - you are GONNA do it! You love music and water and animals, and you have the most beautiful smile that anyone ever had. Your dad and I are amazed by you every day. We've watched you roll over, then crawl, then stand up, then take your first few steps. You are growing up so fast!

I am so thankful that God granted me the awesome privilege of being your Mommy. I waited until a bit later in life to have you, because I wanted to "live a little" first. But once you got here I realized that I hadn't really lived at all before your arrival. It's sort of like I was only seeing the world in black and white before, and now that you're here I can fully see this whole new world full of color. So I am really celebrating this birthday with you, the first year of our life together. I can't say it enough... I love you. I love you. I love you.

Love always and forever,

And another thing I came across is this poem I wrote in Dec 2007, when Max was 13 months old. I never write poems, but I remember this just popped into my head one day so I wrote it down.

"A Day in the Life"

Wake to the sound of happy babbling each morning,
Stumble out of bed, half asleep...
Then see those twinkling eyes and that open-mouthed grin,
That special smile, just for me!
Now I'm glad to be awake.

He learns to do more every day,
Eats his breakfast with a spoon...
There's banana on his shirt and in his hair,
But who cares?
He's a big boy, doing it on his own!

We chase and play - "Raaaaaarrrrrrrrggghhhhh," "Squeeeeeeeeeal!"
Dump out the blocks and put them in again...
Laugh at the dogs and pet the cats,
Pretend to talk on the phone.

"Wanna go bye-bye?"
He grins, brings his shoes, and sits down.
Run some errands, flirt with strangers,
Watch the stop signs go by as we drive.

Have a tantrum when we get home -
Don't wanna go back in the house yet!
Even when he kicks and screams with such tenacity,
I hope that when he's older,
He'll fight for what he believes in
With the same stubborn intensity.

Now he's in his PJ's, fresh from the tub,
We cuddle together in the dark and rock.
Quietly, we talk and sing.
I smell his hair and hold him close.

I give thanks for every moment of the day,
both the easy and the hard parts.
Everything I do, every breath I take,
I exist for him.
So much love!