Thursday, September 3, 2009

Homeschooling.... our style!

I have been meaning for some time to blog about our homeschool and never quite got to focus has been parenting and the things I learn along the way from my kids but to neglect our homeschooling would be to neglect a big part of my parenting journey!

We are unschoolers.... yep there I said it out loud for all to hear! Not that it's a secret really it's just that as an unschooler you have to be careful where you use that term because it brings to mind some pretty unpleasant things for some folks. To tell you the truth even if you talk to a bunch of unschoolers you will get all sorts of definitions and even the occasional aspersions cast towards other unschoolers that aren't doing it "right"! I claim the term because it does trip off the tongue easier than eclectic, relaxed, classically based, child led, attachment parenting, collaborative schooling!

Let me try to explain what I "do". You see for some folks that "un" part trips them up... they think I lie abed all day watching the soaps and reading steamy romance novels while my children run a muck and in the end are only capable of flipping burgers at Burger King once they graduate! Ok now I know there might be people that are offended by that but not a one of my children has claimed as their aspirations to flip burgers at any burger joint so this would not be their dream job. If it was then I would make sure they were the best at burger flipping they could be! I do guide my children in their behavior and in their education, not in the whack them to keep them in line sort of guiding but in the constant discussion of their goals and my goals and the continual effort to synch at least some of them at some point in their development. I find that around early high school my kids arrive at a place of figuring how how they are going to get where they want to be as an adult. They usually initiate the material and how to make it all look like traditional courses that a college can understand when evaluating their readiness to be a student there.

I have always maintained a resource rich environment... this is not the same as "I have alot of stuff" (which I DO but there is a method to my madness and the AMOUNT is not the operative term here!) I make sure that there are lots of interesting items available for my kids to explore. I can spend as much money or as little money and still have the same well rounded environment if I am attentive to the quality of what I bring into my home. A $2000 microscope isn't superior to a $200 microscope or even NO microscope at all if it's not available in an interesting way. My kids love to play games so we have lots of games, my kids like self contained activities so we have lots of those around as well. I LOVE to make file folder games and all kinds of those things so we have tons of those. We have lots of books and manipulatives. My schoolroom albeit messy currently (still not sorted from the move!) is a cool and interesting place to hang out and explore.

This year I have purposed to be a little more "step ahead" than my kids because my son is now 8 and getting to an age when he really really wants to know about everything. He is frustrated that I can't make a cool science experiment appear from thin air instantly! To solve that frustration I have purchased the books "Science Experiments in a Bag" book 1 and 2 ... coordinating a swap currently so soon I will have at least 25 experiments at the ready for him! I have always used a loose interpretation of Sue Patrick's Workbox system where I have boxes filled with activities for the kids to access if and when they want to. I haven't been using the system in a while but have pulled it back out for the two youngest this year and they are really digging it!

I am including some pictures with this post.... I can't figure out how folks seem to get pictures up and labels to coordinate with them so you will just have to figure out what I am talking about... at any rate Ainsley has a folder system where she can clearly see what each activity consists of and when it's finished. Jack's system is more straight forward with bins he can see what's in there and what's required to do the activity and so forth. I have also been making lots of the Evan Moor hanging centers so enjoy those pictures as well!

So anyway for our family the whole unschooling thing is having a prepared environment that respects that children learn every minute of every day and allows their interests to run their course in their time frame. So here ya go... a glimpse into our day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Peace College Move In Day!

Well this was a big weekend... ok that was THE understatement of the century! My eldest headed off to college this past weekend. Her dorm move in time was 8am so we packed the car Friday night and were all set to go with the addition of her toiletries and laptop on our way out. We took all the kids and Dad joined us for lunch.

I have to say that this college has it all together for move in day. I remember my move in day... there were a zillion people all trying to accomplish the same things at the same time with no help from anyone other than your parents if you were lucky to have them along! We pulled into the parking lot this past Saturday and checked in under the white tents, got our packet of information and parking passes and were then directed to get into the car line. We then waited briefly for the security folks to direct us to the proper place to park. We were then converged upon by a big group of girls who are upperclassmen who quickly unpacked our van and placed everything on the properly numbered tarp. After we were unpacked I moved the van back into the main parking lot and those same girls began taking all of Sarah's belongings upstairs. Move in times are determined by your last name so the traffic was light and everything went smoothly.

We had a bit of a wrinkle once upstairs because Sarah's assigned roommate had suggested a roommate switch because she had met someone during summer school and they really wanted to room together ... Sarah and the other girl didn't know anyone yet so both were happy to regroup. The problem came when we discovered that the "all clear" for the room switch had not be thoroughly executed by the roommate as she had told Sarah. After a bit of back and forth and a little frustration everything was sorted out and all 4 girls were happily situated in the proper configuration.

There were moments of butterflies and being overwhelmed but we got everything unpacked and set up. A few additional shopping trips were needed for things forgotten and not thought of in the first place! I returned with yet more things that were forgotten the next day but I think they are all settled.

On Saturday when we left Jack was very sad and began to cry... we knew this was going to be hard for him because he is so close to Sarah. Once Jack began to cry Sarah began to cry which made me cry which made James cry... all in all we were all a mess! We headed home where Jack discovered Sarah had left her Teddy bear at home (which she intended ) he was very concerned and carried it around all evening. Later Anna offered for him to sleep in Sarah's bed which made him happy.

We are all sad and miss her but she isn't too far away. I can't be too sad because this is her time to be young and free and do exciting things. We are so proud of her and all she's accomplished and all we know she will accomplish over the next four years!

We love you college girl!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Birthday Cake for Breakfast

We celebrated Jack's 8th birthday on Monday (July 27th) with a yummy cake made to his specifications along with taking his food allergies into consideration. Jack is allergic to dairy, soy, tree nuts and egg yolks which as you all can imagine makes birthday cake a challenge. When he was little I found a recipe for "Grandma's Terrific Vegan Chocolate Cake" which we have used for many years with great success. He can also have angel food cake but let's face it that just isn't as much fun as the cakes he sees his siblings have each year. This year his request was simple he wanted yellow cake and he wanted blue icing. Simple request really if you aren't challenged by avoiding all the things that can stop him from being able to breath! I searched around and found a serviceable recipe and altered it to fit our needs hoping that it would turn out and not flop or be a brick (a real possibility for a dairy free, soy free, egg free cake!) I was even able to alter a butter cream icing recipe to a safe replica and tinted it blue! All in all the cake looked just like the cakes that everyone else has and tasted really good too!

Yesterday Jack came into my room while I was on the computer and asked if he could have cake for breakfast... I said yes before I fully processed what he asked and then thought well really why not? I mean honestly? We eat doughnuts, poptarts etc for breakfast (well some people do it's not our norm here because typically my crowd doesn't like really sweet stuff) Today once again he asked for birthday cake for breakfast and I said yes.

I did a little fretting yesterday about whether I should have been okay with birthday cake for breakfast and had lots of friends say they thought it was cool. One friend said "no one ever regrets being nice to their children" this particular sentiment was very meaningful coming from this friend because you see her daughter Hannah died when she was 9. I can't imagine loosing a child and how that changes the very essence of a person. Not only did my friend lose her child but a few years before her daughter passed her husband died. She's said many times how glad she was that they had not spent their time together as a family sweating the small stuff... they enjoyed each other, they danced in the rain, they ate cake for breakfast!

This is my aspiration... if God forbid anything happens to anyone in my family I do NOT want to be sorry that I missed seizing the joy of every day life. I do not want to only remember times I said no, I want there to be so many yeses that I can scarcely remember the nos! I want to remember laughing together, hugging, kissing, and yes eating birthday cake for breakfast!

My Jack began his life as a miracle and continues to be a miracle to me every day. It took alot of years to conceive this very wanted child. We did everything to assure his health and well being, we had an amniocentesis , ultrasounds and every test to assure his health. When I began to have complications at 32 weeks we were panicked that we would lose him. After a week in the hospital it was determined that he could not stay inside any longer that the chance that we would both die was high. I developed a complication called HELLP syndrome which is very dangerous to both mother and child. Fortunately the best cure is to deliver the baby.

Jack's birth story was as different from his birth plan as night and day! We had planned a quiet birth in a birthing room with our midwife. We got an induction with all parties fearing for my survival. My midwife was wonderful though and took charge and advocated for me with the fetal maternal medicine specialist who allowed the induction rather than the c section he preferred. I have fast labors so that was our argument to save me the recovery time since Jack would surely spend a lengthy period of time in the NICU at 7 weeks premature.

At 4:20am he arrived.... crying (a good sign meaning his lungs were pretty good!) weighing 4 lbs 8 ounces... big for a 33 weeker! Actually HUGE for a 33 weeker! He managed to breath on his own and had no big issues. He spent 7 days in the NICU (I was only released one day before him since I was still very ill!) which is phenomenal for a baby who is 7 weeks early! He grew quickly and well and despite a few developmental hiccups has done very well!

When I look at him and think about what could have happened... how he could have never grown into this big 8 yr old boy (about the same age as Hannah at her passing) how he could have had a whole host of issues that plague premature babies.. cerebral palsy, lung issues, brain bleeds and all those things that we avoided by the grace of God I am so thankful. So thankful to be his mother and to have him here in the mornings to ask "Hey mom can I have birthday cake for breakfast?"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Catching up and Graduation Update!

It's been a while since I have written anything... life has been busy with all the graduation stuff, the getting ready for college stuff, summer, lots of birthdays and all that sort of thing! Technically there isn't really an excuse for it because I have been spending plenty of time at the computer just haven't been using it to do anything productive!

Ok here are the updates... we had the graduation for Sarah and everything went wonderfully! We had lots of friends there to help celebrate... I managed to get through without an "ugly" cry and everything worked like it was supposed to ! The day was one we will remember for many many years to come! It was like a warm blanket of love, care and support from all of our friends and family that shared the day with us.

The following weekend Sarah and I were off to her college orientation weekend ... she had a blast and my brain began to melt after two full days of information overload! She's all registered for her classes now and has her room assignment and has emailed her roommate. We are in those last weeks of summer before she heads off for the fall... it's all gone so fast!

We are headed to the beach in another week or so for our last vacation before having to factor in school schedules... it's been a long time since we had to pay attention to any one's calendar other than our own! Lots of changes coming !

So nothing terribly philosophical today just a hey let's catch up and get back on this blogging thing!

Lots of pictures from the graduation so enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Graduation girl!!!!!!!!!

Well it's upon us.... THE graduation looms large and just a few days away! I have spent the last few weeks in tears on and off and let's be real folks... some occasions of just gut wrenching sobbing! My girl is all done with high school... all done with our homeschooling and leaving us to live in a dorm on a college campus! The upside is that she is not far away so I can see her during the week if I want to drive downtown and tempt her with non campus type food (although I toured the cafeteria and it sounded better than what's been coming out of my kitchen lately!! )

We started this whole planning for THE graduation months ago talking about what we wanted and didn't want... we designed invitations and made them, then gathered addresses and sent them out to all of our friends and family hoping that a good group of them could join us. I booked the hall at the church, located a sound system to borrow, a projector to show the slideshow I planned to make and so on. Our family has been so blessed with so many people who are also excited about this big step in our life and have graciously loaned expensive equipment to us and encouraged us in our plans.

The slideshow has proven to be more of an undertaking than I originally appreciated... we have friends that do all sorts of really cool things with this nifty computer feature... I am no Bill Gates but I thought I could muddle through. BOY!! The actual software for building the slideshow wasn't so difficult but once I had my masterpiece all together the actual getting it from the computer onto a DVD that I could play proved to be a really confusing process! We consulted a friend who cleared it up for us but then had difficulty getting our software to behave and play nicely. I downloaded multiple other programs that were supposed to do the same thing and found them to be useless and confusing. FINALLY I found one that worked but hey this free software puts a watermark in the middle of each slide (so my precious girl's baby head was tattooed with the company logo! ) I really didn't want to BUY more software that was only for this one thing so I plodded on. Again I we finally got it onto a DVD and guess what? Music skippage! UGH! So I spent another day fighting with it and I think I can now say FINALLY FINALLY it's on a DVD and the music seems to be behaving! Now I just have to figure out how to hook up the projector and I am in business!

This whole process has been interesting because I have really been surprised at myself .... deep down I am a big ole crybaby! I was okay until I started stringing those baby pictures together leading up to the present day.... then adding all that sappy music that you just have to have for such a thing... the first time through by picture 3 I was sobbing... not just shedding tears, not silent weeping I mean SOBBING! I had to close my door so the kids didn't think someone had died! During the whole making of process I had to watch it over and over to get things just right and each time I was in tears! Hubby finally watched it and immediately complained about how he couldn't be expected to watch this and not cry and how cruel I was to make him do it... I reminded him that I was going for desensitization hoping that I would have seen it enough by the big day that I could make it through without making a mess of myself! Right in the midst of that blubbering fest the mailman had the nerve to show up with the diploma, cap and gown! Luckily the girl was away at the beach so I didn't have to see her in it right away!

Yesterday she did try it on and it was really cute how giddy she was about the whole thing... the dry humor as she tried on the mortarboard ...."gee mom who put one of these on their heads and said 'yeah this is a great hat for graduation' ??" This followed by snorts and guffaws and ultimately for mom at least more tears!

This is one of those "really big things" in life... I am so proud of our girl, she's worked hard, been accepted at a very nice private women's college with a very generous scholarship and she's a great kid to boot. Yep I wish I could just dust off my hands and say "job well done" but oh it's not just my job... too many others to name were involved in arriving in this place. The major player has been the girl herself... she's made the right choice so many times when she didn't have to but wanted to do the right thing. She's taken on growing up with so much grace and poise, she hasn't been afraid to say when she was overwhelmed or unsure, she's always trusted us to give her the freedom and guidance she needed and we have trusted her to take that freedom and use it well.

So here's to my girl, Sarah Elizabeth , our graduation girl! (Junie B. Jones would be proud!)

Thursday, April 30, 2009


My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint. ~Erma Bombeck

OK I know this will come as a shock to everyone but I don't like to do housework... I mean if it was meant to be fun wouldn't they have named it something else?? Like house whoooppeeeee or housewheeeeee! ??? Unfortunately I wasn't smart enough to have hidden my dislike for housework from my children... if I had it to do over again I would have been doing some serious housewhheeee whenever they were around so much so that they would be BEGGING me to allow them the pleasure of scrubbing the toilets!!! Remember when our little folks wanted to wash the dishes? Most of us were so busy all we could think of is the mess they would make, would they do a good job etc.... now they are older and wiser and no one is lined up by my kitchen sink begging to wash a dish! I figure my house is just clean enough that the health department wouldn't shut me down if they arrived to do a surprise inspection.

I can honestly say that my kids can't say that their mother ever put them off because she was doing housework. I think when they are older they will appreciate that there was never any "good" furniture they weren't allowed to sit on. There was hardly ever a freshly mopped floor they were banned from walking over although now and then there was a dirty footprint that remained for weeks until I mopped again after someone walked over the floor and was surprised to find it wet from being cleaned rather than wet from the latest spill!! Also my kids didn't have their nostrils assailed by the acrid smells of bleach, ammonia and other cleaning products. My hubby likes the smell of pine cleaner .... I like the smell of living! I figure he gets a live tree at Christmas so that's my contribution to his desire to smell pine!! My threshold for dirt is much higher than James'... that's the main reason he usually does the vacuuming, mopping and laundry. I can't complain that my husband doesn't help with the housework but I certainly can't fault him if he complains that his wife isn't much help!

As my kids get older they will sometimes have those "got to clean this crap up!" meltdowns that we all have.... I have to say it's nice to see them have one now and then since I often wonder what the level of filth would have to be to illicit some action from them! The sad thing is that I think my kids probably have the "clean" gene and I have just snuffed it out! My Grandmother is a clean freak... there were chores my Mom wasn't even allowed to do because she might not get it good enough! When she and my Dad got married there were things she didn't know how to do that he had to teach her since he had grown up one of the oldest of 7 kids and knew how to do most everything involved in housekeeping.

I don't know why I can't seem to get it together I mean I am an adult, I wasn't raised in a messy house yet I keep a messy house!! I don't think I am lazy, I mean I find time to all sorts of other stuff! My room was messy when I was a kid... my father would threaten to back a dump truck up and use a shovel to clean it out once and for all! I always sort of hoped he would! I found it overwhelming! I am sentimental and keep too much stuff and then I don't have any sort of system for keeping the stuff... I mean really there has to be a system out there ?? I worry that my kids will either grow up, move out and live in a pigsty or be neat freaks because they are scarred from their life of living in clutter! Can't they just be balanced? I am sure I am screwing them up with yet another of my shortcomings!

Anyway I keep hearing that kids rarely say they would prefer a clean house over real time spent with their parents and that older adults rarely lament their lack of clean laundry over spending time with their kids so hopefully we will all turn out ok! I would much rather spend my time messing things up with my kids than keeping everything museum clean!

Oh well I suppose I should go and clean the kitchen and unpack a few more boxes to assuage my guilt!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Autism Awareness

I haven't posted in a while and realized today as I was reading a friend's blog that I have almost let all of April get by without getting in my plug for Autism Awareness Month.

Just a few simple facts... 1 in 150 is the rate of autism currently... that means essentially that everywhere you go every single day you are likely to come across a person with autism. That most likely you have a family member somewhere in your extended family that is living with autism! The rate of autism is higher in boys than in girls.

The most important thing I think people should know about autism is .... if you have met one person with autism ... you have met one person with autism! The next time you see a mother struggling with her child in a public place please be kind and consider that you may be witnessing autism and not just a poorly behaved child or an inept parent!

People with autism struggle with sensory issues...meaning that the world is often too bright, too loud, too intrusive and just too TOO for their comfort! They struggle with speaking and understanding...some are nonverbal and some are very chatty but may not always make sense as they do not understand that what is in their brains isn't in everyone else's brains at the same time. They don't understand personal space or social norms....those nonverbal cues the rest of us get escape their notice. Sometimes their cognitive abilities are less than others and sometimes greater. Most of all it's pretty hard to be them so be kind and gentle.

Today I became an Internet stalker...yep folks that's my confession! It's kind of a long story exactly how that came about but here goes! I have a friend who I have known since our oldest children attended preschool together. She was in nursing school at the time and I often helped out with childcare when her regular provider was unavailable. She was there when my child was diagnosed with a genetic syndrome and then later with autism. She was supportive but at a loss as to what to do to help me. Being my friend was the best thing she could do and she did it well! She remarried and had more children and moved to a town 30 minutes away. She realized when her daughter was just a few years old that something was amiss. Soon she called and told me those words every mom in our club dreads hearing "We received bad news about Catharine today..." she began.... " they think she has autism" My heart shattered into a million pieces for her and for the beautiful Catharine and for my sweet Ainsley.

This was followed by her determination to find answers to help her child... special diets, therapeutic riding programs, medications, supplements, therapies of all sorts. She sent me a card during that time explaining that she now understood why I would sometimes drop out of her life for months on end because sometimes it's so easy to get so focused on helping your child and sometimes in wallowing in self pity that you forget your friends. She was now a card carrying member of the club. She got it. How I had wished for a friend who got it! Now I was so sorry and worried that God had misunderstood my wish!

Flash forward a few years and my family relocated 3 hours away followed by her husband being deployed to Japan and her going to Pennsylvania to live with her parents while her husband was away. A few years in we just lost touch! Today I was determined I was going to find her... I searched Facebook and didn't find her but did locate her son which said he was now living in the town we had both started off in. I had been looking for her in Northern VA , Maryland and Pennsylvania where I had thought they were planning to live once her husband left the military! With this new information I Googled my friend's name and found her listed as a helper in a local soccer league and then more listings in her church newsletter. I found an email and sent her a short note explaining how I found her and hoping to reconnect. She responded also happy that we had found each other again!

Another thing I found while stalking her was an article she'd written for a magazine her sister in law started. She also has a child with special needs although I do not know what her diagnosis is... I just remember them being in those beginning stages of "hmmm something seems off with my child" when I last saw them. I am frequently amazed at what superhuman lengths those of us in the club go to to help our children and to share information with the world. We all want a world that can embrace our children and see beyond their deficits and see their gifts! In a perfect world having autism or Down Syndrome or any other diagnosis thought of as a disability would just be one more thing we know about that person much the same as knowing their family is Irish or they have blue eyes.

I have heard Mel Levine speak many times and I once heard him comment that childhood is the only time in life that we spend so much time focusing on our weaknesses rather than our strengths! As adults we gravitate towards things we do well or enjoy and no one chastises us for not being good at everything yet we do it to children without a thought! My child is an amazing artist ...just amazing and sometimes it just sort of aggravates me when people say "wow I can't believe she can draw like that" when their expression somewhat adds "since she has autism, is mentally retarded, has a genetic syndrome" Everything our children can do is somehow diminished because they have a special needs diagnosis.

I read an article today by a mother of a child with autism where she called autism an intruder. She isn't fond of this intruder and is tired of people making nicey nice comments about it. I agree with alot of what she says! I have a friend who grew very tired of people patting her and saying "well God just knew he was giving this special child to a wonderful mother who could handle it" and once replied to some poor well meaning church lady "well if that is true in my next life I am going to come back as a horrible b*%$#!" I have to agree that I sure hope God isn't sitting up there deciding which of us are "good" enough to receive such a child! I can't imagine that God would intentionally make any one's life hard or use a child to teach other people a lesson. That would be too cruel!

My child is perhaps the wake up call I needed to help me sort my priorities, to help me slow down and appreciate life more. She's perhaps the help I needed in showing my soft underbelly to the world that thought I had it all together. She's made me "more" and I strive daily to help the world know she isn't "less" because of a label.

So the next time you see a poor harried mother dragging her screaming child through Wal-mart or trying so hard to reason with a child intent on having every variation of My Little Pony all at once cut them some slack... you may be seeing a mother who is a card carrying member of my club ! I bought a tshirt for a friend's child that read "I am not a brat, I have autism, Please be kind to my mother" . Hopefully one person will see that and take a step back and offer help or better yet not offer "help" because spanking does NOT cure autism!

If you are happy and you know it... flap your hands!


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Aging Siblings

Two weeks ago my grandmother had a heart attack and subsequent triple bypass... during this time I went home and spent the time helping out as I could. I don't often get to spend time alone with my parents so while the occasion wasn't happy the resulting closeness was a welcome event. My dad had been away on a trip with his younger brother to visit another younger brother in Missouri and returned early in the week so he could be around when his youngest brother had surgery for prostate cancer. (which went well according to the surgeon...we wait and month to see if they got it all!)

Anyway I also spent many hours sitting with my mom and her sisters and her aunt waiting for the cardiologists and surgeons etc to take care of my grandmother. It's an interesting dynamic to watch my mother and her sisters.... her older and younger sister are so completely different from her and her now deceased brother. My mother is easy going, quiet, thoughtful, intelligent and when crossed can whip out a temper that will surprise even the most prepared. Her sisters are loud, opinionated, not terribly bright, selfish and whip out the legendary family temper so quickly and often that no one takes them seriously most of the time. My mother's youngest sister has never had a child and it shows so apparently in situations like this where you have to push through being tired, you have to put off being hungry because other things are more important at that moment... not her... when she was tired at the hospital she went back to the hotel and went to sleep, when she was hungry she left and had a meal, when she was bored she went shopping. I kept checking my location because she behaved as though she was at a poorly chosen resort for a vacation that wasn't going her way. My mom's oldest sister holds the distinction of being the only human on the planet that has suffered...she lost her husband to cancer several years ago and that was a very sad and horrible thing but come on let's get some perspective other folks have had hard things in their lives too. She is always more tired, hungry or has suffered more as a result of whatever ailment is being shared than anyone else. I try to treat both of them as I do other people with special needs... they can't help being the way they are and we all love them anyway even when the way they behave seems to make no sense!

Anyway the point of this wasn't to point out family members and their personality flaws but to appreciate the special time of spending alone time with my parents. My Dad is getting along in years... not really old enough to be considered elderly at 65 but his health is beginning to decline some and it's just odd to see him having more problems getting around, not as strong as he once was , his vision poor and so forth. He had a bad case of gout while I was there and honestly the man is so stubborn I almost had to sit on him to get him to stay off of it! He was determined to visit his brother which required a 30 minute drive in one direction and lengthy walk into the hospital to find his room... he refused the wheelchair that I offered... then he wanted to visit my Grandmother which required another 30-45 minute drive in the other direction and another long walk. That night his foot was horribly sore and swollen and he wondered why!?

We spent the next day sitting around a lot and talking which is always fun. Every time I learn more about my dad and his childhood and other experiences. It's funny the things I didn't know about my dad and the things I thought I knew but didn't. He was pretty funny talking about how when he was a kid his family would visit his aunts who lived in other areas often with all of them ending up visiting at the same time at one aunts house. The boys used to make fun of how the aunts would sit around comparing ailments, medications and general health. My Dad said his recent trip to his brothers they suddenly found themselves sitting there comparing medications, blood sugar levels, what their doctors said that conflicted with what the others doctor's said and so forth! They immediately got up and went sightseeing to shake off the feeling of having aged !

My Dad and his brothers spent lots of their time debating and "traveling" by Atlas. During their week together they often ended up calling in an "expert" to settle an argument or to verify information since the brother they visited had just recently given his computer to his daughter and didn't have Google to consult! One night they called my mom to have her Google Lake Erie to settle an argument about some geography they vaguely remembered from childhood travels. Another night they called a cousin to jog their memory about a place they had visited in West Virginia and could no longer remember the name of. Then yet another day they called their elderly aunt in New York to ask another geography question about something that was near her house they all remembered differently from childhood. I just imagine how entertaining being a fly on the wall during those debates would have been! They are all very opinionated, smart and stubborn! They all claim the others are too stubborn to admit defeat but since they all think they are right no one thinks they should admit defeat! HA!

Spending time with my parents like this especially with their siblings makes me think about my kids and wonder what it will be like when they are all older and dealing with all the things that come into your life as you go through life. I think lots of families end up "assigning" roles to children that they continue to play out as they grow up... the "pretty" one, the "smart" one, the "responsible" one etc. I mostly hope my kids will grow up and still love each other, still respect each and care deeply about one another. I wish I had a crystal ball to see into the future when I may not be here and know they appreciate one another that they value their relationships with their siblings and maintain their closeness. My children have a factor that some children do not in that they will all be involved in making decisions for the care taking and well being of their special needs sibling. I sometimes feel guilty that I may be leaving this burden to them but then I see them going out of their way to compliment their sister, to admire something she does well, to envy her thick, beautiful hair she is letting grow out, to listen to her tell them about a video game or movie for perhaps the 100th time. No one is making them love her or make concessions for her... they just do and for that I am exceedingly grateful!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Darn Trash day!

We have now been in our house over the course of 3 Tuesdays.... Tuesday is trash day.... for 3 1/2 yrs we didn't have trash service and schlepped our own garbage to the nearby dump. This usually took place whenever it piled up to the point the lids wouldn't fit on the trash cans and the neighborhood dogs, raccoons and opossums began to argue over our leavings! Hauling trash isn't a favorite activity of anyone at our house either so the passing of the buck has become an art form. The ever so cleaver "I'll get the trash Mom after I go to the bathroom". Either my kids are in the need of a much higher fiber diet or they have learned which things let them temporarily off the hook.

Twice during these last 3 Tuesdays I have yelled downstairs to the only mouse a stirring in the early morning hours to throw on some clothes and haul that cart to the curb ... hopeful that perhaps the banging and clanging I heard earlier wasn't the garbage truck. In fact last night Hubby even said "tomorrow is trash day isn't it?" I affirmed his statement and absolved myself of further responsibility thinking that since he had spoken the truth he would take care of the follow through. At 10am this morning he called from work and said "I forgot to put the trash cart at the curb this morning". So once again poor Anna (you see I have told you all before nothing good comes of getting up too early!) had to grab something to throw on over her pj's and haul the cart to the curb. In case you are wondering... that banging and clanging early this morning... well it WAS the garbage truck so now my cart sits neatly at the curb placed according to regulations but still full of last week's garbage!!!!

Now I am not casting blame on anyone because Hubby goes to work at 3 or 4 am (I am never sure because I am only conscious enough to kiss him goodbye and roll back over!) so I can well imagine he has many excuses for not thinking about that garbage cart! Heck I am impressed he can drive a manual transmission car at that hour much less remember chores! Of course the chance that we will EVER remember which day recycling is picked up is almost nil... they even gave us a nice neatly color coded magnet containing this information but since it's every other week and we are the gold zone and not the green zone ... what are the chances REALLY that I will remember?? Maybe my motivation will come when the first bill comes from the town containing all these charges I am now responsible for paying for water, sewer, trash, recycling etc?? Let's hope I have some motivation some where!

I used to think that I could keep my house clean if I assigned certain tasks to certain days or that even I could get my kids to help by assigning certain chores to them to be done on certain days. I quickly found out that the panic that I felt when I forgot bathroom day just when mop the kitchen floor day arrived wasn't worth it! I usually ended up with it being Friday or Saturday and every single thing I had written down as a "to do" for the week was still "un done" !! I even tried Flylady and let me tell you her emails got downright annoying! I don't operate well under nagging!!

I have always hated being told what to do ...heck I think that's the main reason I homeschool! Nothing got me steamed up faster than some 24 yr old Miss Teacherpants telling me what was best for my children when she had known them all of 4 days! There are things of course that we all have to be told to do that make sense to us ... file your taxes, pay your taxes, get a driver's license etc... you know under the whole "it's the law" kind of thing. I don't want the government telling me how to raise my child or educate my child so that's where I draw my line. There are lots of folks that don't like income tax but that's not a battle I feel I am going to take on. I would rather fight for my right to educate and raise my children as I see fit and let someone else wrestle Uncle Sam for his wallet.

Bookshelves update.... my family has agreed that MAYBE they will fit but so far it hasn't been motivation enough to get the shelves out of the garage and into the schoolroom. There are still 2 1/2 walls that need painting so that has to be done first. Frankly I think they think I will forget about it if they stall long enough.

Obviously they aren't very observant! HA!

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Extreme" Parenting

I am contemplating parenting today (it's about time since I claimed in my blog name that was what I would talk about!) and thinking that it's just amazing how much some people can completely miss the point! To me there is a whole spectrum of stupidity related to parenting ... a whole list of "types" if you will. I have long been clinging to the premise that no one sets out to be a bad parent... no one intentionally wants to screw up their kid. I have even given wide berth to abusive parents allowing that everyone does what they think is best and alot of times even in abusive situations some of those parents truly don't know that smacking their kid around is bad, or leaving them alone too much is bad, or screaming at them all the time is bad. If you were parented that way and never exposed to good parenting then that's your frame of reference. Doesn't make it right or OK but it doesn't necessarily make you some monster.

I have always thought if parents spent more time helping each other and supporting one another then we all might do a better job. I think self awareness is helpful though as well. I think some folks don't see what they are doing as a parent can be harmful if done in extreme ways. Now just for a chuckle let's examine some of these forms of "extreme" parenting. Now my types aren't going to fit any sort of mainstream parenting books because basically the way I parent doesn't fit any particular mold either!

The first type that comes to mind are the "mini me" parents... you have seen them... the baby is 6 months old and dressed in blue jeans and a golf shirt with his hair slicked into a real man-do! Their 3 yr old is wearing high heels, a mini skirt and halter top and looks like a "mini hoochie" instead of a preschooler! They are yelling at their kids for being kids... they are embarrassed when their child fails or isn't the best, fastest, brightest etc because it reflects so badly on THEM! They feed their kids only the foods THEY like, they take them only the places THEY like, and disparage anything the child expresses a fondness for unless THEY like it (read VALUE IT) too. Their kids often become bullies or become so anxious and depressed they can barely function or are miserable overachievers. My kids all have a few friends like this... one friend has applied to a bunch of colleges she isn't the least bit interested in because her parents wanted her too. When asked where she WANTS to go she hasn't the foggiest idea! One child is a honors student in a "gifted" school while her mother comments she doesn't know how she managed to get in or how she manages to bring home straight A's and screams at this kid to stop being "so damn WEIRD" ... same mom endorses the step daughter who is "cool" but now is in a group home because she's gotten into so much trouble (doing drugs, running away, dating a way too much older guy, stealing, lying etc etc) . WHAT THE HELL???

Then you have the "drill sergeant" parent... we have all seen them and some small part of us has envied the absolute obedience their kids exhibit (for a tiny second at least !) until we look into these poor demoralized and often ANGRY kids' eyes! These are the parents who tell their kids what to do every waking moment, never ask their kids what they want, they buy them clothing, food and provide shelter for them and in return the kids do whatever they are told without question. They go to church (which sadly is the place that some of these parents THINK they were taught how to be such good parents!) and never consider that their kids might have a different belief system or ever even allow that their kids question anything about their chosen religion (sometimes these folks cross over into the mini me's!) . We have all known these parents their kids are often revered in the neighborhood because "boy that family has it together... that mom/dad has CONTROL of that family". What we as parents often don't see is their 12 yr old in the bathroom at school putting on the makeup that she was forbidden to wear when she asked at home, their 14 yr old trying out pot or beer because when he asked WHY he shouldn't' experiment he was just told "because I said so" and a few years down the line the now 15 yr old daughter shows up pregnant because she was told "not to" have sex rather than educated about sex and birth control and decision making. These parents don't allow their kids to make any decisions because they control everything and often the parents are so afraid their kids will make a mistake and it will reflect badly on them as parents (the mini me crossover again) that they can't consider giving up any of that control. Their kids are often sneaky and secretive because their parents don't have open communication with them. They also can be raising kids that are so naive they get into dangerous situations because they don't know anything about the world since the control is often so tight they aren't allowed to experience anything until they finally get away. We all know the girl that was an angel in high school and during Freshman year in college is out drinking and carousing all night! The one that flunks out by sophomore year? Or the boy that drinks so much he ends up in the ER because no one ever educated him about drinking but just told him not to? What happens when the parent isn't there telling them what to do?? These parents don't give their kids any tools to navigate the real world... they don't give them a safe place to make the wrong decision and learn from it. This is the parent you would NEVER call if you were out with friends and drank too much to drive home... you would rather risk your life and those around you than face calling that parent and asking for a ride.

The "un" parent.... these parents are often so selfish and self absorbed that they don't realize they ARE parents... they drift through life hoping the rest of the world will deal with their kids so they don't have to stop what they want to do and deal with them. I think we have all been trapped at the park or birthday party by the 5 yr old that is so starved for attention she's decided she's your new best friend? The one that walks up and says "I am thirsty" or " I have to go potty" ...while you are asking where her mother is she's crawled into the host's fridge looking for sustenance. The kid at the park that seems to be there alone and asks to be pushed on the swing or joins your picnic uninvited? These parents when asked why they don't stop their kids from doing something obnoxious or annoying will say "well if the person is annoyed they should tell them to stop" NO Lady this is YOUR kid this is YOUR JOB to parent him not complete strangers while you talk on your cell phone and your 3 yr old toddles down the green way into the woods alone! Sometimes these parents will even suggest that their "relaxed" parenting is allowing their kids freedom to explore and figure out who they are, that they don't want to squelch little Johnny's psyche by telling him "no". Well let me define personal freedom for you in case you are fuzzy... YOUR freedom ENDS where another person's freedom BEGINS! I think all kids need limits... they need to know that there is an adult in charge to help them through the things that are beyond their social navigation skills. They need to feel safe and know that someone "has their back" in all situations. Letting your kid figure it out for themselves with no help is NOT OK. These are the people that abuse the attachment parenting title.... let me clear it up for you.... if your 3 yr old just toddled into the woods because you were too busy talking to Mary Jo about last week's mom's night out then you ARE NOT very attached! Attachment parenting means you are available to meet your kid's needs, you are in tune and attached to them helping them navigate the world at their pace and comfort level... you are allowing them to decide when they are ready to wean, to separate from you etc. You UNPARENTS need to STOP abusing this beautiful process!

The "best friend" parent.... this is seen often in single parents or families where one parent works or travels alot or is just fairly disconnected from the whole process. The available parent makes the kids their best friends, they don't have their own friends and pretty much make sure the kids don't either unless the friend can join into the circle that includes the parents. Sometimes in extreme form this is the parent that buys beer for the kids and their friends because they are all buddies. Often these kids are burdened with all the talk about finances, relationships, job stress and everything else. These parents don't seem to think that burdening their kids with all this "adult" stress is harmful. Sometimes they are even more adult than the parent doing the worrying themselves about the bills, or the other kids while the parent is off partying or making other bad decisions knowing that their "best bud" is back home holding down the fort. Sometimes these parents are the "cool" parents in the other kids' eyes because they don't care if their kid drinks, or they are open to discussing their kid's love life on a more intimate level etc. So... if you are advising your kid's friends about which boy to date, sharing drunk stories, and even making fun of their parents along with them you MIGHT want to check out a pair of big girl panties. There comes a time to grow up and provide some guidance for your children... you can be best friends when they are adults too .... while they are kids PLEASE be their parent! You can have a close bond with your child but still be the responsible adult. Kids NEED parents to be in charge of things like paying bills, maintaining the home (chores won't kill them but they shouldn't have to worry about where the new roof is coming from!) . Kids need parents to help them learn to be adults.

The "velcro" parent... this parent has taken attachment parenting to an extreme, they mean well but are missing some of those autonomous signals that kids give off. If your kid's legs are hitting the ground from the bottom of the baby sling then he MIGHT be ready to explore a bit on his own! This parent is usually a worrier... they are so sure that someone will be mean to their kid, that the kid will get hurt, that germs are out there, that someone will take their kid etc that they sometimes make their kid a nervous wreck. They are the mom's at the first day of school crying on the front steps while their kid is dragging the teacher down the hall trying to get back to them... in kindergarten we see a lot of this but when the kid is in 7th grade the other kids might make their lives a little rough! This is the kid that desperately wants to spend the night at a friend's house but by the time they arrive the mom has spent all day warning them about all the things that could happen and reminding them a zillion times that when they get too scared to stay all night she will come pick them up that there's no way the child can make it all night. Now let me take a moment here to explain that I know there are kids that don't do the sleepover thing well... they try and sometimes it works out for them and sometimes they don't do so well ... these kids usually have parents that have said "you can call me anytime if you need me" and when/if called try very hard to help the child navigate the situation, they support the feelings this child is having and try to help in whatever way they can. This is VERY different from the parent who says to the child " I know you won't make it all night so just call me when you fail". These also seem to be the parents that at some point get so tired and overwhelmed of being available for their now neurotic child that they begin to employ the "sneak exit" which is when you take your kid somewhere and when they aren't paying attention you leave! It saves the parent the crying that they taught the kid but now are tired of... it makes the kid pretty miserable in case you are wondering ! It also makes the kid no longer trust you because you have just shown that you will lie to get away from them. This can start a whole other level of separation anxiety for the parent and child.

The "I am so important" parent is one that I see SOOO often in my area... these parents are SO important they just don't have time for parenting. But don't worry about their kids this "so important" parents can afford to hire someone to do it for them... isn't that fortunate?? You have Dad who is some high powered executive/doctor/lawyer/business owner and works 30 hours a day and travels 8 days a week and never takes a vacation with the family. You have Mom who is just so completely overwhelmed with her schedule.... my heart really aches for this mom.... can you believe she has to manage the nanny, the housekeeper, the gardener, do the shopping, make appointments for the dentist, doctor, plastic surgeon, therapist, hair stylist, manicurist, facialist, massage therapist etc, she has to deal with interior decorators, contractors(you practically have to keep on on retainer so if you need a quick addition to your 6500 sq ft home you don't have to wait!) , she has to interview new nannies, tutors, handle paperwork for getting little Johnny into the BEST schools, juggle the scheduling of little Johnny's tennis lesson, baseball game, lacrosse club, tutor, Cotillion, golf lesson, play dates and so forth and sadly ALL ALONE! ??? I tell you it's amazing she ever has time to have lunch at the club, go to the spa or play tennis herself! Also can you believe her child's school will NOT let the nanny take her turn as Lunch mom? TWICE a year she has to go to the school and help hand out lunches.... it can sometimes take an HOUR! These are the kids that run directly past mom into the nanny's arms when they are upset, some of these kids become real jerks because sometimes that happens when it's made clear to you you aren't a priority in your parent's lives! We all know kids that have 2 expensive sports cars, vacation in exotic places, wear all the latest fashions , have the best toys, attend the best schools, know all the "right" people and sadly are miserable and just want a little of their parent's attention. Sometimes they learn how to do that by getting into trouble because attention is attention! Sometimes they learn that they aren't important and take other risks because they figure no one cares if they are around or not. I am not just picking on wealthy people here because I know plenty of solid middle class and even some fairly poor folks that still seem to mistake material possessions for love. Your kid doesn't need another lego set... they need a parent that will listen to them, hug them , spend time with them doing things or nothing at all. Every moment of your child's life doesn't have to be packed with activities for you to be a good parent. Kids need time to just be kids! Don't sign your kid up for tennis because you wanted to play and never got to, don't assume they will enjoy playing violin because you always wished you could. Before you go out to another meeting on a week night instead of helping with homework and spending time together really think about what's important!

I am sure there are other types of "extreme" parents but these are the types that I seem to see most often that cause me concern. I have vowed that this blog is about sharing information and observations that will hopefully help someone else parent in a more meaningful way, that it will help me examine my parenting and remember that my kids are HUMANS who have their own ideas and needs. So here's my idea of what a good parent is or should strive for in this new not so extreme parenting type.

The "intuitive" parents ... these parents are available for their kids, they put their relationship in a place of importance so that their family is stable and loving, their kids never doubt that they are important and aren't burdened with being "TOO" important. They have open communication with their kids and discuss everything... no topic is taboo, nothing is secret. The parents know their kid's friends and their parents, they know where they kids are and who they are spending time with. They help their kids navigate new situations and share concerns when things don't go well. They provide an example of how to treat others in the way they treat their kids and all those people around them no matter who they are. They teach moderation in all things by teaching their kids to be good stewards of money and of the earth. They are connected, available and thoughtful parents who know when their kids are happy, sad, anxious, angry and can discuss it without judgment. They provide enrichment that supports the interests of their children, they allow their children space and freedom to figure out what they like and don't like and how they want to go through the world. They find ways to say yes... they find ways to facilitate the needs of every member of the family without one being more important of valuable than another. They teach empathy and respect by giving it. They value their children as unique individuals that have likes, dislikes, fears, dreams and goals. They don't use their position as an "adult" to squash the desires or dreams of their kids. They validate their kids' feelings no matter what the feeling is. They avoid the desire to control, protect, shelter their kids from the real world but help them find the tools to navigate at their own pace the wider world. They guide decision making but do not influence it above the opinions of their children. They allow their kids to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. They do not value the opinions of the world above those of their family. They love their kids beyond all reason and want the absolute best for them at all times. They do not judge their children in ways that break down trust and respect. These parents are the soft place to fall that children need. These parents teach their children about the "real world" without throwing them to the wolves because they teach them that family is your safety net and the world is the world.

Hopefully this will influence you to examine your parenting on a more conscious level... think about relationships and people before you think about material possessions. I have a friend that lost a young child to cancer... she often tells other parents when they are worried about something being a big deal to think about whether this particular thing would be a big deal in the scheme of the world if their child was to die the next day. It certainly puts it in a different light if you consider it that way!

Hug your kids you can NEVER love them TOO much!


Friday, March 20, 2009

A Friend's Grief

Today finds me still in boxes and just sort of paralyzed by the magnitude of everything! My best friend just found out that her drug addicted sister (who's first child my friend adopted and is raising since his mother didn't KNOW doing heroin was bad for a fetus!) has been charged with causing the death of her 3 yr old. Authorities found lethal doses of Methadone in this child's body. Needless to say my friend is devastated! I can't even describe to you the hysteria and profound grief in her voice as she called me yesterday in the morning to relate this news. It was the type of grief that just knocks you down, the type of emotion that seems unfathomable to survive.

When she first learned of this child's existence 3 years ago she called the authorities and informed them of this person's child rearing history, of the fact that she had already adopted one child this person had lost custody of. She talked to Child Protective Services, the local police, caseworkers , even private investigators and attorneys and was only able to learn that her sister was already under investigation, that being a drug addict doesn't make you a bad parent (ARE YOU KIDDING?) and that nothing could be done until she HARMED this child by abuse or neglect! What is it in this country that makes it okay for someone who is a documented drug addict (by virtue of having a methadone prescription you are sort of admitting that ok?), who has already lost custody of one child because of neglect and endangerment to give birth and be trusted with that child??

I have often said it floors me that anyone can give birth but you have to have a license or permit to do almost anything, build something, have a business etc. Another thing that constantly amazes me is how multiple children can grow up in the same home and turn out so differently. How something inside of a person can be so broken that they do unspeakable things?? How even the smallest dysfunction within a family can cause so much harm in one person's life and be overcome by another. My friend and her sister were raised in an affluent area by older parents who adopted both girls because they could not have their own children. My friend says her parents really knew nothing about parenting and really should have never had children. Perhaps they are not to be credited with the wonderful person my friend is nor the dysfunctional person her sister became.

My friend is one of those people who never had anything bad to say about anyone, she rarely gets angry (but when she is WATCH OUT because she's a redhead!), she is emotional and passionate, extremely bright and articulate and just all around a person you want on your side. She's had more than her share of bad luck in the past couple of years beginning with a serious motorcycle accident in which her husband lost his leg and almost his life. That was an incredible time of grief and trauma for their whole family while he recovered and struggled to regain his ability to provide for their family. They have struggled financially to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. It has worn on my friend, she's often been depressed and felt hopeless during this time. She's hung on though and found lots of ways to stretch what money she could get her hands on. This week things were looking up as her husband began a new job and she was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately the light was a train with the news of the death of this poor innocent child!

There will be more days of grief as more is learned about this situation but if you are the praying type please pray for comfort and peace for my friend, pray that this child who has left us was loved during her time on earth by those around her, that even as her mother caused her death that she did not suffer other pain prior to this horrible end. Send positive energy and light if that's your belief system as well because my friend... she could use all of that she can get as well. I am finding that adulthood is filled with times like this when there's nothing you can say that helps, nothing that gives the magnitude of comfort you want to give to your suffering friend, nothing you can provide that can fix or make it better. Time has a way of healing us... the period of time required varies and sometimes it's really hard to imagine ever feeling better but we do eventually heal enough to be thankful for the good things and able to live with the bad.

Peace and love to little Jessi.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Best Boy a Mom Could Ever Have!

The unpacking continues and we continue to find things that have been lost for a long time and wonder where the "new" lost things have gotten to! My bedroom lamps seem to be MIA and while hubby is a patient man he does go to work at 4am so he would rather not spend his first few hours in bed under the overhead room light! My lamps were somewhat shabby so replacing them really isn't a hard decision to make but wow have you priced lamps lately??? I just need light to read by not light for a photo shoot or to do neurosurgery under!

We are finally getting Jack's room original plan had been to leave his room as is with a new coat of the general house basic of creamy light taupe.... nothing doing! When Sarah and Anna painted their room lime green his wheels began to turn... then Ainsley's room became pepto pink and he was done being patient. "I want my room blue" he declared and I knew I was done! You see when my boy asks for something I can't resist! Not because he's a boy, not because he's the "baby" but I don't know just because he is Jack! There are some kids that just have that "something" about them! My friend Wendy has a kid like that. He's the type kid that when you look at him you just smile! He's just one of "those" kids! My Jack has always been a real looker... our pediatrician has commented many times that he's just a "spectacular" looking kid. He knows he is cute too and he isn't afraid to use it! He learned the big anime eyes and poked out lip at a young age! He would say "peease??" and really there was just no way to say no!

I think there IS something about the kid that you kind of know is your last one. It took us quite a while to get to that "last" child at our house. After six years of trying we had figured we might be done and need to give up. Little did we know that moving 3 hours away, giving away most of your baby stuff and deciding to live in the tiny farmhouse on hubby's grandfather's farm was the key to fertility! I developed complications at the end of my pregnancy and Jack arrived 7 weeks early after a ten day hospital stay and near death for me. We were so fortunate that he had very few issues and was able to come home with us after a short stay in the NICU. His development has given us concerns at times, his health has sometimes been questionable due to asthma and dangerous food allergies but in all he has thrived and grown under the way too adoring eyes of his family.

Jack is the youngest grandchild and first grandson so he holds a special place in the hearts of my parents.... my Daddy loves his granddaughters but something just lit up in him when he found out he was going to have a grandson. Because of Ainsley's genetic syndrome and my "advanced" age (35!!) we had an amniocentesis to help us plan his birth. Many kids with 22q are born very sick and have to have complicated heart surgeries immediately after birth so we weren't looking to select the perfect baby but to prepare should we have another child with a genetic disorder. I was home alone when they called and I first thought "oh boy this has to be a bad omen... home alone and the results are in!" The genetic counselor cut to the chase right away letting me know that my baby was healthy, free of any genetic disorders and asked if I still wanted to know the sex. Of course! She told me it was a boy and I burst into tears! Poor woman I know thought I had lost my mind and asked if I was ok !? I said yes I was fine and very happy to have a boy to join my 3 girls! I hung up the phone and called my husband... no answer! I called my mom ... no answer! I called my grandmother.... no answer! I called my husband again! NO ANSWER! SO I called my Dad and he answered so he got the honor of being the first to know that Jack was on his way! He was just tickled... he kept saying "now that's something .... isn't that something?" My great grandfather was named John and called Jack, my husband's grandfather was named Jack so we had long decided that any boy we had would be named John and called Jack. Both men were amazing men... they loved their families, worked hard, and lived upstanding honorable lives. Both of them had that "something" that twinkle we see in our Jack.... they could tease with the best of them! My dad regularly calls Jack "Jack the ripper" not because he is a sociopathic killer but because he is soooo active and "rips" around everywhere!

My brother refers to Jack as "the chosen one" which really cracks me up because he is at least 50% responsible for him holding that status! My brother finds Jack hilarious and loves to egg him on to all sorts of shenanigans! Thanks to my brother Jack learned to climb onto the roof of the golf carts we use to get around in my parent's vacation home community at around age 4! He also taught him to dive from the top of the cabin of the boat which is a little high for my taste! Jack can spin a yarn.... a gift his great grandfathers' had as well! He can just spin it out with his eyes big and make you believe whatever he is saying no matter how implausible is completely true. These aren't whoppers like "my sister broke the window and yes the bat that hit the ball is now in my hand but I was just removing it from her so she didn't do more damage" they are full fledged yarns.... ask him about sometime if you want to laugh until you wet your pants! His imagination is unparalleled at our house....he can be found hopping up the stairs cursing himself for inventing invisible ropes that are now tied around his legs and further cursing his lack of insight in inventing invisible scissors capable of cutting the invisible rope which he now can't find because after all they ARE invisible! We seriously never know what he may come up with!

As is typical with most little kids raised in houses with teenagers we are frequently embarrassed by his language. We are further impressed by his usage since he often uses these words more appropriately and accurately than the teens he learned them from. I have never been more keenly aware of how provocative prime time television is!! We love 2 1/2 Men but they push the envelope so frequently now that the boy on the show is a teen that we now have to shoo Jack from the room to avoid answering questions like "what's sex?" or " how DO babies come out?" Not conversations I want to have with my 7 yr old on the fly during the commercial breaks ! I will have to say other than the swear words he picks up he does have an awesome vocabulary mostly because he has never been talked to like a baby. Our friends are often impressed by his vocabulary but I am sometimes frightened by how bright he is! I am going to really have to hustle to keep up with this one!

He constantly challenges what I know about parenting, he is intense, sensitive, emotional, creative and ACTIVE! He has to move, he has to jump, he needs to talk about things, he touches, bumps, and makes noise all day long!! He doesn't sleep much so that makes my days pretty full! He is a different sort of joy in my day... he is often my greatest delight and biggest frustration! His need for movement exhausts me since I am one of those people that needs some alone, quiet, still time each day. His requests for my involvement in his activities is constant, he NEEDS me more than my other kids did. He has to connect with other humans constantly.... he is auditory and kinesthetic where my other kids are visual and kinesthetic. He loves to be read to but hasn't decided that reading is for him yet. He CAN read just chooses not to use that particular power if he can avoid it. He LOVES math (yeah I am raising an alien!) and has one of "those" minds for figures, symmetry, and calculations. I think he will be some sort of engineer or a lawyer (he loves to talk things through and out and convince others to his viewpoint!) or something else great. Currently he is planning to go to Africa to build houses for people who live there that don't have a house. He is also concerned about our local "hobos" and where they sleep at night when it rains or is cold. He laughs easily and cries easily always passionate about everything and everyone. He challenges me to be a better parent every day because he is an instant read barometer of how I am doing... his joy, his disappointment, his contentment, happiness, sadness, excitement, amazement is immediately shown on his face. He tells me a million times a day he loves me, that I am the BEST mom a boy could ever have and a million other things that humans need to hear. I am honored to be his mom! (after all I AM the BEST mom a boy could ever have!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Too much STUFF!

I know everyone is pretty tired (everyone ... have to chuckle because I am pretty sure I have about 1 1/2 regular readers !) of hearing about my moving angst. It's always sort of exciting to think about a new house and starting over and that sort of thing and I am always so disappointed in myself that I am not one of those people you can visit 3 days after they move and everything is perfectly arranged with stuff even hanging on the wall! I lived in my last house 3 1/2 yrs and never got anything on the wall! Pathetic really if you think about it too hard!

I have finally decided it's not my fault... you see my family refuses to do my bidding on my schedule. I think I made a huge parenting mistake in establishing free will and individual thought in my children. Now when I say "hey you know I would really like to get that room painted today " they nod and say "yeah mom good luck with that!" Now I didn't raise a bunch of uncaring, irresponsible children it's just they have lives. They are busy people with friends, activities and all sorts of other things that THEY want or need to get done today too. Maybe if I had raised children that need to be told what to do every minute of the day my house would be cleaner (I could assign chores and punish them if they didn't do them! Wouldn't THAT be fun? Don't think so! HA!)

I will say I am not proud of myself when I do lose it now and then and grumble about the state of things. Last night after a long emotional day at our meeting I came home to a sink full of dishes which included a jar that hadn't been rinsed out that used to contain spaghetti sauce. I picked it up to rinse it out and SPLAT all over the front of my sweater! I admit I said a few choice words to no one in particular (which yes I know was passive aggressive behavior!) about how it would be nice for people to clean up behind themselves by at least rinsing out a jar instead of throwing it in the sink for someone else. There I was fitting and fuming and making a real ass of myself when I spotted a bottle I left on the counter earlier in the weekend. Now my hands work too yet I left something on the counter in the way with no regard for others too. My whole childhood my mother had a poem on the fridge about how children do what they see not what they are told to do. It was the one real thing I knew about parenting going into it but it's sooo easy to forget!

I always think that each new house will bring some miracle of organization to my life. That some new configuration of space will make it all work better. Right now I am delusional because I still have two storage units mostly full of stuff and it seems that the house while still in boxes I can envision everything fitting nicely without stacks of clutter. My Dad is fond of saying "you just have too much STUFF!" I do have too much stuff... I know there are actual illness where people hoard things afraid to let go of anything out of irrational fears and so forth.

My illness is that I love books... honestly people there are some small town libraries that don't have as many books as I have! The small town where I grew up had a nice library but rather small... I think I read every book in it by the time I was a teenager! I LOVE to read, I will read ANYTHING! Honestly I am the person that is reading the cereal box at the breakfast table, the package the toothpaste came in while on the toilet, I have to read to go to sleep at night, I read while I wait for anything anywhere. Both of my parents are big readers, my brother doesn't enjoy reading that much but still in the scheme of the world reads more than the average Joe.

My kids all love books. We homeschool so we have tons of books on every subject. I have curriculum not because we are structured homeschoolers but because I LOVE to collect it! I love the ideas that people come up with, I love the research that leads people to certain methods, I love the crisp new pages of words to read! All of my kids usually have a book in hand whether they are actively reading it at the moment or not it's a sort of security object. In fact my daughter Anna's lovie was a Scuba fish ID guide had pages that could get wet so it went everywhere! She lovingly called it her "ish ook" since she couldn't say f's yet. She carried it around, slept with it, rode it around on her scooters, tucked into her bed when she thought it was tired and cried if it went missing. She's always preferred reference books over fiction so her books tend to be quite large. She owns every encyclopedia of cats, horses, dogs, reptiles, birds ect every written it seems! I used to say she wasn't a kid that enjoyed reading because she seldom reads fiction and because I have always gotten so much pleasure from that type of book I felt she was missing out. These days she will read a fictional work now and then if it includes some type of animal story.

She is my child that seems to know something about everything though so I guess all those encyclopedias did some good! She's also the child that challenges what I think I know about how people learn every day. She's a sponge... she draws in information from all sorts of places and remembers every detail. She can't spell her way out of a paper bag but her Granddaddy is a smart man too and can't spell! She wants to be a veternarian so all her animal interests will serve her well in that arena. She's also funny... I mean REALLY funny. She has a wit that dazzles us constantly. She really SEES through most people with a keen sense of clarity for their foibles. She isn't afraid to make fun of herself but rarely does so of others. She's usually the first one in our family to pick up a bad vibe from a new person and we have learned to trust her judgment in such things. She also is always the first person to realize one of our animals is sick. Every single time we have had a sick animal she immediately picked up on it... our vet remarks almost every time how "healthy" our sick animals are because she rarely sees an animal until they are in really poor shape. Anna always picks up right away that something is amiss.

Anna is my child that doesn't mind hard work... now that she's older she seems to be around less to do work but she is a meticulous bathroom cleaner often pitching my unnecessary stuff off the counter onto the floor where she demands I sort through it and put it where it belongs. Now if I could just harness that sort of attention to detail to the rest of my house I would be in good shape! She keeps her space neat and tidy at all times... her books stacked neatly, her clothing folded and stacked , her shoes lined up, her supplies organized and so forth. Unfortunately I can't seem to interest her in doing that to the rest of the house! Both of my older kids are pretty good about doing things around the house but they are just so busy these days!

I also can't get any cooperation from my family in following my fantasy of where the furniture should go. I insist that the bookshelves will all fit in the large front room we are calling the "schoolroom" in this house. For those unfamiliar with our method ...we always make one room a "schoolroom" in that all of our school related stuff is organized in that one room. It's often the intended formal dining room or living room because we just don't have a need for formal areas in our lives right now. In this house it's a quite large room and I am telling you people my shelves WILL fit if they will just cooperate and put them in there! I have boxes and boxes of what we consider "school" books. When we were packing them and putting them into storage my kids made lots of sarcastic remarks about "curse these dang school books" because those boxes are HEAVY! We have stacks and stacks of boxes of books sitting in the front room (because ya'll remember my family won't put my bookcases up!) and stacks and stacks remaining in storage! We also have bins and bins of all sorts of stuff... math manipulatives, science experiments, craft supplies, themed kits, games, bits of this and that and they too have to go on shelves (which can I mention again are in the garage until my family succeeds in convincing me of my delusional state!) When my schoolroom is all assembled it's a fun place to hang out and find things to do in. Occasionally it looks like traditional schoolwork but more frequently it looks like alot of fun but even more exciting to me is that it looks alot like learning!! Shhhh don't tell the children they are learning!

Now off to find someone to convince of my brilliance in furniture arrangment!