Friday, December 30, 2011

GREAT question!

So tonight at bedtime, Monkeyman & I were doing this thing we do, where we jokingly compete for who loves who more:

Monkey:  I love you!
Me:  I love you 7 times more than that!
Monkey: I love you 10 times more than that!
Me:  Well, I love you 35 times more than that!
Monkey:  Well, I love you 100 times more than that!
Me:  Oh yeah, well, I love you 1,000 times more than that!
Monkey: I love you 100,000 times more than that!
Me:  Well, I love you a million times more than that!
Monkey:  (pauses) Hey, what is the last number?

"Last number" meaning:  "What is the very highest number?" so he can use that to outdo me.  It just struck me as a really great question - I love the way his mind works.  I told him that there is no "last number" and explained the concept of infinity and he thought that was really cool.  "Oh, like on Toy Story, right?"  And I replied that yes, when Buzz Lightyear says "To Infinity and Beyond" he means "On and on, forever."

So that's our math lesson for the day - a review of the concepts of "greater than" and "infinity".  :)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lost my kid at the mall today...

...for about 30 seconds.  The longest, most terrifying 30 seconds of my life.  This is the first time I have ever lost a kid in a public place.  Although I generally abhor malls, we made our annual trek there with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nieces, to visit Santa.  We had just arrived and gotten in line.  I took off Bug's coat, and in the moment it took me to stuff it into my bag, I looked up and he had vanished.  Completely.  I looked around wildly in all directions, and saw no sign of him.  I asked Monkeyman if he saw where Bug went, and he said no.  I thought of all the different ways he could have gone, all the nooks and crannies he could disappear into, and I was instantly reduced to a blindly panicked mother animal.  I ran back and forth across the fence surrounding the train next to Santa, to see if he had gone around either corner... nope, no Bug.  After a few more frantic moments a woman asked me, "Who are you looking for?" and I replied, on the verge of tears, "A little boy in a green shirt."  She pointed... "Is that him?"  And there he was.  He had squeezed into a small space between a bench and the fence, to get a better view of the train going around inside.  The crowd of people around the bench and the bench itself had blocked him from my view entirely.  I know it can't have been more than 30 seconds, possibly it was even less, but it felt like forever.  I was so relieved, tears sprang to my eyes as a few kind moms expressed sympathy and said words to me that I barely heard, about having had similar experiences.  I had to hold onto the fence to steady myself for a moment.  Every day I feel lucky to have these amazing boys, but for the rest of the day today I felt extra grateful to have my Little Bug in my arms - even when he was grouchy and clingy, I truly didn't mind a bit.

I can't even think about the small number of parents who have had this same experience... only to not have been so fortunate to be tucking their kids into bed later that night.  I can't even go there.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tuba Christmas!

So, today we went to Tuba Christmas for the first time ever.  What a cool experience.  These events are all over the country - if you have the opportunity to attend one - do it!  They are free concerts consisting of hundreds of festively decorated tubas (and euphoniums) playing Christmas songs.

Monkeyman, waiting with excitement: "Only three minutes until the show starts!"

I know this cell phone pic doesn't do it justice, but here are between 400-500 tubas being played by people ranging in age from 10 to 87 years old, with nearly 3,000 people in the audience singing along.  Quite the sensory experience.

Here, the house lights were briefly turned off to showcase the lighted decorations on many of the Tubas.

Quick close-up of a couple of the tubas we passed on our way out.

We will definitely be going again next year.  Next time I will come prepared with:
1. A better camera (I wasn't sure if I was allowed to bring my good one but many people were taking flash photos and it wasn't an issue.)
2. Binoculars, so Monkeyman can study everything on the stage more closely, and
3. Jingle bells.  Many people brought them and enthusiastically jingled them throughout the performance.  An older lady sitting behind us kindly lent hers to Monkeyman for one song and he was in heaven!

Monkeyman definitely enjoyed it, but he did get antsy during the long-ish periods of storytelling between songs.  We went with another homeschooling family with a boy just a bit older than Monkeyman, and both of them began to have a hard time sitting still - and they suddenly, simultaneously developed an urgent need to pee.  So we took them to the restroom and then let them explore the outer parts of the concert hall for a few minutes to let them burn off some energy.  This turned out to be a good workout for both of us moms, too - the boys were dashing up flights of stairs as we breathlessly, laughingly tried to keep up with them.  We also inspected and tested the elevators several times to be sure they were in proper working order.  Thankfully, we could still hear the performance wherever we went.  Monkeyman actually said, "Hey!  We can still hear the music out here so we don't need to go back in!"  We did finally go back in, and the break did help the boys manage to sit through the rest of the show.  Afterward, some of the performers were milling around and we were able to see a few of the tubas up close.  One young musician played a couple notes for Monkeyman as he stood right in front of him, and he was fascinated by the deep, powerful sound.  I wasn't sure where the overall excursion fell on Monkey's personal "boring-to-exciting" scale... until, on the way home, he fervently begged us to stop at a music store and get him a tuba.  He was dead serious, which was quite amusing!  So I'm now considering looking into renting or buying a used brass instrument of some kind for him to try out and see if he's really interested...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

 Good stuff... just had to share.  Came across both of these at Silver Outlined Window.  (Click to see full-size if you can't read 'em.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Dear Santa...

Today I helped Monkeyman write his first letter to Santa.  He dictated and I wrote:

"Dear Santa,

I want a scooter, and I need a helmet and knee pads for it.  And I want a drum set.  Oh, and I want a dirtbike Wii game too.  I want a guitar.  I want my drum set to have cymbals.  Let me think some more.  I'm thinking about having a pet, like a little dog.  I can like Noodle and another dog too.  I want him to be white and brown and red and yellow.  And green.  I want a toy clock that's blue & yellow, with buttons on it.  I want it to be a cuckoo clock with a goose in it.  I want a new toy train to go on the train table on the porch.  A new hat that is red and yellow and blue.  You should give me all these things because I like you, and I like toys.  Also, I'd like my scooter to be red and yellow and blue and green.  So whenever we go to a park, I can have a scooter to ride on.  Also a toy computer with a whole bunch of games on it, with Legos on it.  Also a Lego forest with a whole bunch of guys that swing around on some ropes.  I think that's all.  Thank you.


PS.  My Mommy wrote this for me but I told her what to write.

PPS.  Bug would like a toy piano, that's red yellow green blue indigo and violet and orange."
This was exciting to me because it's kind of his first "writing exercise" and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what he came up with.  I did try a few times to gently steer him away from all the "I wants" but he wasn't having any part of it, he just had to get his thoughts out.  (Ah well, he's five.  Maybe a bit more decorum next year?)  I think I'm going to come up with some prompts and have him dictate some stories for me, until he learns how to write fluently himself.  I've read about others using this method, and after this exercise, he seems to be ready for it.  It was fun for both of us, and he seemed quite pleased with himself for "writing" that whole long letter.  When he decided he was done, he signed his name and we put it into an envelope which he then "addressed."  I wanted to save it forever, but he is intent on giving it to the mailman tomorrow.  (I did scan it so I have a copy at least.)  Monkeyman was planning on standing out front and holding his hand up *makes a STOP gesture* to get the mailman to stop and take his letter.  However, I assured him that just sticking it in the mailbox and putting the flag up will get the job done just as well.  Gotta love the magic of Christmas!**

**Yes, I know I'm an Atheist, but I have to agree wholeheartedly with Leanna's recent post at Life on the Hill - I have always loved Christmas and I will always celebrate it.  I love sending cards, baking cookies, putting up the tree, decorating the house, driving around looking at Christmas lights, spending time with the people who matter most to me, and finding ways to show my appreciation and love for them.  I don't need to be a Christian to do any of that stuff.  Also, although it may seem like a contradiction to let my kids believe in Santa - it is only a temporary belief.  I think a little bit of magic is okay in childhood.  Some of my fondest early memories involve the wonder of Christmas and I don't think I ever felt damaged by eventually finding out the truth.  Actually, I think that realization may have played a part in helping me realize that certain other things weren't real either - much, much farther down the road...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hiking Highlights - Nature Realm

F. A. Seiberling Nature Realm, Akron, Ohio  11/1/2011

This is a park that we've been to before and it's one of our favorites.  Besides having the most scenic trails, there is an excellent visitor's center with great exhibits, live animals, and a wonderful gift shop.  Part of the reason we came here for our last hike was so that we could go right in and get our hiking sticks when we completed our Hiking Spree.  The weather this day was autumn perfection.

For our final, "hiker's choice" hike, we decided to do both the Cherry Lane and the Fernwood trails.  Here's the Cherry Lane Trail marker.

And here's the trail marker for the Fernwood Trail.

I love this pretty suspension bridge.

Side view of the bridge

That thing in Monkeyman's hands is his homemade bug cage.  He found a wooly bear caterpillar in our yard as we were leaving the house, and he insisted on bringing "his friend" on our hike.

A nice man offered to take our picture for us on the bridge.

Little boy / big tree
I love "looking up the big tree" shots.

Big, beautiful red-tailed hawk we saw.  It glided right over us before landing in this tree.

Finally - here we are with our hard-earned hiking sticks!  The Metro Park lady asked if I wanted one for Bug too, but I declined because I felt like that would be cheating, since he rode piggyback for most of the hikes.  But I have since changed my mind and plan to go back and get him one because he WAS there for all of the hikes, and I don't want him to have one less shield on his stick than we have.

I forgot to take a pic of ours, but here's what this year's shield looks like.  (Image credit:  Every year we will earn another shield to add to our sticks.  :)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hiking Highlights - Goodyear Heights

Goodyear Heights Metro Park, 10/30/2011

This was the first time we'd ever been to this park, and I have to be honest - although it was nice, it was my least favorite of the ones we've visited so far.  There are houses all around the edges of the park, and you are pretty close to them at many points on the trail.  It just doesn't give you that feeling of being secluded and surrounded by nature that is my favorite part of the experience at other parks.  That said, we did have a nice time.  We brought along my husband's BFF's son, P., who my boys always enjoy hanging out with.  I love that this little group of boys, ages 2, 5, and 10 can play together and be buddies, despite their broad range in ages.

Alder Trail marker

Monkeyman and P. making me nervous

I know of trees around Ohio that were twisted, bent, and/or knotted by the Native Americans as signal trees.  This tree doesn't look old enough to be one of those, but I have to wonder if human hands didn't have something to do with its funny shape.

The park has a large marshy area with a long boardwalk running through it, which all of the kids liked.  At the end of the boardwalk is an observation deck with great views of the whole marsh.  (I didn't get a chance to take a pic from up there though, because I had to chase Little Bug.)

Great pic of the boys  :)

Monkeyman found this natural hiking stick somewhere along the path.

When Bug got tired of walking, P. volunteered to carry him for a while.  I sure do like having him around!

...but eventually, P. got tired of carrying Bug.

I like this one, even though it's blurry.

Okay, I've only got one more hike to report on and then I'll share an update of what we've been doing lately!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Not My Best Thanksgiving...

Well, I know it's too early for New Year's resolutions, but I'm making one anyway:  Develop a Thicker Skin.

Yesterday I had my first conversation ever about homeschooling with my dad, who I see maybe once or twice a year (Thanksgiving and/or Christmas) and the only contact we have outside of that is the occasional random comment on Facebook.  I would characterize our relationship as amicable but with a strong dose of disinterest on his part, which I have just come to accept.  Not at all surprisingly, he does not agree with our choice to homeschool our kids.  What did take me by surprise though, was the condescending and downright mean way he treated me when we discussed it.  We were at my Aunt's house, surrounded by my extended family - some of whom I barely know - and I felt very awkward and completely put on the spot.  I was already frazzled by the multiple comments of a couple elderly relatives who were complaining about un-disciplined children and how their mothers would have tanned their hides if they behaved that way, etc.  (Monkeyman and his cousin were playing and laughing and generally being 5-year olds, nothing outrageous, but I can understand how annoying the laughter of children can be when you are trying to celebrate a holiday...)  So I was ready to get outta there and was beginning the process of leaving when my dad says to Shane, "So I keep seeing Jenny make posts on Facebook about homeschooling... you guys aren't really gonna do that, are you?" and when Shane replied that yes, we were already doing it, he looked at me and asked, incredulously, "WHY would you want to do that?" Trying to keep it light, and hoping to avoid having the whole conversation just then, I laughingly said, "Because I was public schooled!"  To which he responded by launching into the standard "what about socialization/what about discipline/what about sports/they are gonna be screwed up/etc" conversation.  If you're a homeschooler you know the drill.  But it was the way he said these things that really hurt me.  As if I am just completely stupid and have no idea what I'm doing.  Every question was asked as if it were an accusation, not as an honest query by someone trying to understand a different idea or way of thinking.  And all of this open criticism of my parenting, in front of all of these people - coming from someone whose effort in parenting me was practically nil.  Also, my other (childless) aunt kept jumping into the conversation in agreement with him, in the same tone.  I felt like I did "just okay" in defending myself - I think I made a few strong points - but I know I was visibly flustered.  The final dig was when I gave up on the conversation, and I said, "Well, I have a blog where I write about all the stuff we do, if you're interested," and he just chuckled and said "No thanks!"  In other words, "I don't give enough of a shit about you or my grandchildren to learn any more about what's going on in your lives."  I responded, "Well, okay - just have an opinion but don't research or learn anything more about it then, that's fine," and that was the end of the conversation.

I was so hurt and angry I cried all the way home.  Which just pissed me off more because I let them get to me.  Which brings me back to my thicker skin resolution.  I'm shaking it off today and getting over it.  I know that people are going to be critical because we are making unconventional choices.  I know that and I'm okay with it.  It's just that you expect your own parents to have a little more respect for you, to give you the benefit of the doubt and try to see your perspective a little, and not treat you like a complete moron.  That part just really caught me off guard.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hiking Highlights - Silver Creek

Silver Creek MetroPark, Norton, Ohio  10/25/2011
This park is the one we visit most often.  Usually we do the shorter trail (1.1 miles), but the trail listed for the hiking spree is the longer one (2 miles).  It was the boys' first time on this trail and I wasn't sure if it would be a little too much for them (or for me, with Bug on my back part of the way) but we all did great.  I hadn't been on this trail in years and I had forgotten how much I love it.  It alternates between winding through forests full of tall, old trees to winding through wide open fields with great views.  Part of the trail runs along the base of a dam but we left the trail and climbed up to the top to take in the view from the observation deck.

Chippewa Trail marker

Bug walked about half of this trail before getting in the backpack carrier.  Here he is taking off at full speed.

None of these pictures do the leaves justice, but they were breathtaking.

One of my favorite spots on the trail - actually it's just a little ways off the main trail.  This little pond feels like a secret, hidden place to me.

Monkeyman likes to pose on every rock and tree stump we come across.  This is one of my favorite pics of him, ever!
Little boy in a big field

Monkeyman took this pic of us on the observation deck of the dam.

And here he is, in full spider-boy mode.

I'm really not that big of a self-portrait taker, honest - just trying to document the excursion and this is the only way to get shots of Bug when he's on my back.  Not trying to be like all of those narcissistic teens who seem to be everywhere these days.  (If I was, the shot would be a reflection in a bathroom mirror with a toilet in the background.  Those shots are always *so* classy.  But I digress.)  I do LOVE this pic of us, though!

View from the dam.  Bug yelled, "HI GEESE!" and waved.

Monkeyman tracing the letters in the sign

Pretty colors

...still more to come!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hiking Highlights - Deep Lock Quarry

Deep Lock Quarry MetroPark, Peninsula, Ohio  10/9/2011
This was one of my favorite hikes.  The weather was beautiful - a picture perfect warm fall day, and since we went on the weekend Daddy was able to come with us too.  Our schedule is always so crazy that it seems like we don't get to do stuff together as a family as often as I'd like, so this was nice.  Also, we'd never been to this park before and it was very cool.  Its name comes from the fact that it contains both the deepest lock on the old Ohio & Erie Canal, and an old sandstone quarry as well.  

Quarry Trail marker

Discarded millstones along the path

Part of the quarry - view from the bottom

King of the mountain!
King of the mountain #2!  Monkeyman is standing on a pile of unused stones on the floor of the quarry.

View from the top

My boys.  It made me a little nervous being up there with the kids, but I love this pic!

Another view from the top

Discarded piece of equipment along the trail (some kind of giant wedge).  I would have missed it if Shane hadn't noticed it.

Brothers in the woods.

Another section of the quarry that you can see from the path if you are observant - I nearly missed it.

Bug walked over halfway this time - here he's taking a rest.

Shane and Monkeyman disobeying the sign and checking out the lock more closely...

Monkeyman loved hearing his voice echo in this tunnel.

Special treat - we got to see a train from the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad go by.