Apology to the Masses

I thought I would post some of our activities over the past couple of weeks in an attempt to assuage the guilt I feel that comes from knowing that my children lead such isolated; uneducated lives. I have listened to the naysayers out there that believe homeschoolers are not only thinking outside of the box…a dangerous perspective, to be sure…but that we are also dooming our children to a life of isolation, keeping them from those valuable experiences that school brings.

Oh, I hear you great mob of society.  I type this here, now, in a fit of anxiety, with a fair dose of hand-wringing, knowing that you must be correct. How in the world can I teach my children anything of value if I am not a certified teacher? I only went through the entire educational system myself, but that clearly can’t account for any learning or knowledge to pass on, though I completely understand how it is an adequate, nay…superior educational foundation for my children over anything I could possibly teach them.  Naturally a sterile environment that shows a picture of, say, the life cycle of a butterfly is by far a better method to reach understanding of the process than actually watching a butterfly go from egg, to larva, to pupa and ultimately bursting out in all it’s glory into full-grown flight.

How will my children ever LEARN?!

And lets not forget about the socialization!  Oh…the socialization. I hang my head in shame. My children are terribly alone, with no way to learn how to interact in an environment with children of their own age all doing the same thing at the same time. Alas, I have only been able to provide them with a strong family bond, friends of all ages that they must learn to cooperate with, and a gamut of real-life instructors that not only do, but teach, as well.

Sigh.

I truly lament how sheltered they have become and it is high time I take some responsibility for this fact.  I now admit to you all that my children have learned to take life into their own hands and mold it and shape it to be what works best for them, rarely resembling anything mainstream. I plead forgiveness and understanding from the mainstream not to judge too harshly that my children have not learned to blindly follow the pack like so many other automatons have done.

How could I raise free-thinkers like these? Have I no shame?!! Surely, we must be doing it all wrong. After all, the masses usually know what’s best, right?  It can’t possibly be education if kids are, gasp…enjoying it, right?  Right?

Hmmm….maybe the proverbial “they” are correct, after all.  Oh, how could I have let this happen?

 

IMG_8487Apple picking at the orchard.  I’m sure there is no educational value in this whatsoever.  What a waste of our time!

IMG_8485Just look at those poor, sad, unsocialized faces.

IMG_8529All in at Devil’s Lake.  No suits needed, apparently.  I now see how “weird” my kids are.  That is totally unacceptable and I’m sure this sort of free-spirited attitude will have long-standing repercussions well into adulthood.

IMG_8513Learning how to row…not as easy as it looks, but I’m sure they could have figured that out from watching someone else do it instead…in a picture…in a textbook.

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IMG_8490Apple orchard bounty.  This can only lead to no good.

 

IMG_8541Better start making some apple things!  Sigh…see what I mean about “no good”?  Just more time-consuming stuff getting in the way of “education”.

 

IMG_8556Putting the final touches on the card they made together (to give to a non-existent friend for his birthday party, since, you know, homeschoolers don’t have friends.)

 

IMG_8596Trip to a llama farm where we received instruction from a veterinarian on all manner of farm life and llama care.  (It’s certainly too bad we only had the experience of the veterinarian; farm owner to teach the kids at the site, rather than a textbook.  That would have been so much better.)

 

IMG_8595Oops.  Missing those opportunities to make friends again.  My poor awkward children.

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IMG_8707Field trip to Norskadelen, a Norwegian settlement site, as part of our hands-on learning of pioneer life.  I know.  I know.  What could they possibly gain from this?  Is she frolicking?!!

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IMG_8690Look closely.  We’ll see this again later…in miniature.

 

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IMG_8708Oh, and one mustn’t forget about all that free time my kids get to do things that are fun, creative and just plain interesting to them.  Goodness knows there isn’t a lick of research to show that kids need that!  Ugh.  Those should be workbooks.

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Avatar 4 elementsAnd because my kids got into a spurt watching Avatar: The Last Airbender…terrible parent that I am…I took the opportunity to impart a little fantasy-to-reality by letting them draw, talk about elements, write, spell and read…all while skipping that stuffy indoor classroom.  What will become of these kids?  I think the damage I’ve done must surely be irreparable.

 

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IMG_8722Ah, and here we go with that creativity run amok again!  Oh, and violence.  I’ve allowed the promotion of violence as my daughter studiously gathered “ingredients” and wrapped them up in homemade leaf-bombs to prepare for a war with those imaginary friends of hers that were visiting later.

 

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IMG_8737And another sad attempt at haphazard “learning”:  making nature inspired owls, after we tried our hand at baking up some yummy cinnamon-sugar owls that morning.  We even read a few books on owls and had some writing practice…”O is for owl”.  Alas, this didn’t come as part of a full unit of directed study, so I’m sure it doesn’t count.

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IMG_8756In a timely fashion, going along with our pioneer theme, we were lucky enough to get genuine buggy rides from a friend’s family.  The kids got to run on the farm with a variety of animals and even saddle up and ride a horse, but I’m sure none of that compares with riding on a school bus every day.

 

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Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding (1)

Horseback Riding (2)

Horseback Riding (3)

 

And with all that pesky free-time I allow them…

IMG_8422A pioneer covered wagon,

 

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IMG_8807some lovely llama pictures,

 

Homemade ice cream (1)

Homemade ice creamenjoying pioneer-style homemade ice-cream that they vigorously made (shook) themselves,

 

Lincoln Log Pioneer Homestead (11)

Lincoln Log Pioneer Homestead (10)Look familiar?

 

Lincoln Log Pioneer Homestead (8)

Lincoln Log Pioneer Homestead (7)and creation of a pioneer village.

How dull and noneducational.  There must be better ways to gauge whether or not my girls have gleaned anything from all these trips and things they’ve been taking.  I know…standardized testing!

Yes, my poor, unsocialized, uneducated, friendless kids taught by their ignorant, free-spirited mother and an even more layman group of educators in their fields.  I can clearly see now that I must really be doing them severe harm by choosing this homeschooling lifestyle.   😉

Whirlwind Vacation – South Dakota

Over the summer, we had an opportunity to take a short vacation to South Dakota.  We took our time getting there.  Two days drive there, two days drive home and two days to actually spend in the area of our vacation.  After all, there were 6 of us piled in the car and me, being pregnant and all, made for frequent stops and roadside stretches.  So, we decided to make the most of all that and sight-see along the way.  It’s amazing what you can cram in during a short time when you map it all out and scoot from morning til dusk.  It was tiring, but well-worth it all.  I only wish we had more time to enjoy there.  South Dakota is a beautiful area with such a diverse landscape that I often found myself just staring out the windows in admiration.

Day 1

First stop, Sioux Falls, where there was a lovely park aptly named Falls Park.  It was beautiful, but it was also a very hot, muggy day out, so we weren’t there terribly long before continuing on our journey.  The kids had a blast there, though, wanting to climb on all manner of dangerous ledges.

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Picture the roar of the roar that accompanies the awesome power of such a water formation!

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Day 2

Next stop, the Mitchell Corn Palace in the morning…a unique place celebrating all things corn.  Every year, artists map out new pictures to cover the walls of the palace.  It’s fascinating.  The inside, however, is mostly a giant, albeit decently priced, gift shop.

 

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Next we stopped off at the 1880 Town, which was very cool.  We had lunch inside an actual railcar.  The barn housed paraphernalia from the movie set, “Dances With Wolves”, which was filmed nearby.  The town had original and refurbished buildings and was essentially laid out as it was over 100 years ago.

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IMG_7904This guy was great!  We carried on a nice conversation with him about the beauty of simplicity.

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Is it just me or is that a radioactive symbol?  That just makes me think of toxic salt.

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I want a playhouse that mimics this schoolhouse someday.  It’s so darn cute!

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We actually hit the Badlands on this day, too, before arriving at or cabin in Rapid City.  Because we also stopped in the Badlands on the way out, I’ve just grouped all those pictures together.

Day 3

We hit up the Reptile Gardens, which boasts housing the worlds deadliest snake, among other things.  This was good fun for the kids, too.  There was plenty to see, including a few shows.

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Next up was Bear Country.  It is a large, privately owned reserve that housed free-roaming bears, among other animals.  It was really neat to see the bears just wandering about, blocking cars at their whim.  Some even acted as sentries, guarding the gates, making it difficult and a slow-going process to pass.  It was hilarious.

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We made a pretty quick stop at Cosmos Mystery Area, which seemed to have strange anomalies with the way things behaved there.  The trees would grow and bend in multiple directions and things seemed to take on impossible characteristics, such as water running uphill.  Optical illusions played their part, but I have to admit, that there is a very strong pull inside the shack.  It was difficult to walk through and I even felt a little strained and nauseous once it was all done.  In retrospect, pregnancy was probably not the best time to check that place out.  It was neat, though, for sure.

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Last stop of the day:  Mount Rushmore.  The girls, as young as they are, didn’t get the full significance of this, as we did, but still had a good time.  They probably enjoyed running up and down the steps of the outdoor amphitheater the most.

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Day 4

We hopped on the 1880s Train and took a nice scenic ride through the countryside.  It was relaxing and lovely to see so much of the beauty of the surrounding nature, but I think the girls would have been perfectly content with about half the ride of what we actually got.  I concede that it was pretty long without anything very exciting happening.

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After our train ride, we head on down to the Crazy Horse monument.  It was also very interesting to see, knowing that when (if) this ever reaches completion, it will be an awesome sight, dwarfing Mt. Rushmore in size.  We spent quite a while here, simply because there was such a massive museum area…a lot to explore.  There was also a nice show put on by a local Sioux, who incidentally told a different perspective about the Battle of Little Bighorn.

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Doesn’t Tater Tot just look so excited here?

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Bison or buffalo or whatever, just out roaming the plains.

Last stop of the day:  Mammoth Springs.  It was fascinating to see the actual excavation area with mammoth bones, among other creatures.  Silly me, though, didn’t take a single picture of the excavation site.  Don’t know what I was thinking, so only museum stuff for sharing our memories.  Oh well.

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The girls brought back a meteorite-type thing that they could excavate and find the treasure inside.  They really enjoyed this and chipped away determinedly at that thing for quite a while.  Tater Tot had the focus of a paleontologist.

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Day 5

On our way back home.  We stopped off at Wall Drug, apparently a kitschy place that we “just couldn’t miss”, according to others.  It was a decent place to eat and a great place to spend money, if we were so inclined.  My son got himself a Katana sword there.  Go figure.

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Our final scenic stop on the way home:  The Badlands, round two.  On our way in, we drove through and stopped off at the top of the hills and it gave me heart palpitations just picturing one of my kiddos slipping down one of the crumbly sides of the steep rocks.  I was a bit of a nervous wreck and suggested climbing from the bottom, which we did on our way out.  This was probably the favorite activity for all four kids of all the things we did on our vacation.  Did I mention my kids really, REALLY enjoy climbing?

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And that was pretty much the extent of our super-short, cram-packed, fun-filled family vacation.  We highly recommend it to anyone, but remember…enjoy the journey and it will become part of the destination.  🙂

First day of school?

Well, today marked the official first day of school for our district, but I feel as though it is a bit of a misnomer…at least when discussing homeschooling, and even more so, unschooling.  It’s not as though my kids were home all summer and then this was the day I shipped them off for the start of their school year.  In fact, the way we do things around here, we never really stopped our “schooling”, or rather, our learning, all summer.  It just sort of keeps going, ebbing and flowing with our lives.  However, Boo Bear has requested to do 4K this year, which is a 4 day a week, 3 hour a day program, where she rides a bus to her school each day and enters a structured program with more little ones her age.  She loves this and I think much of it is because she is my middle girl.  It is one thing she realizes she can have in which her older and younger sisters can’t partake.  It’s a thing all her own and she relishes it.  So, why deny her?  Truth be told, I’d rather her just stay home, but I also can’t deny that it cuts down on the potential for sibling arguments and attention-grabbing for just a few hours on those days, and that’s not so bad.

In any case, as far as state standards go, Boo Bear was starting her first day of 4K and Tater Tot was beginning her first day of 2nd grade.  As we move frequently and state standards vary, I figure it behooves me to at least keep track of these labels, though we really don’t put much concern into grade levels around here.

But, I digress…again.  We decided to mark the day with a couple of “school year” pictures and just had fun.  It was a long day and I nearly didn’t realize it was time to start making dinner by the time our activities were completed.  So, here’s a look at our day:

3:30am – Why on God’s green Earth am I awake now?  Why?  Hmm, could it be that Sweet Pea has made her way into the bed again and has been restless, pushing and shoving me on my sliver of bed all night?  Oh look…even better, she has migrated to the head of my bed and has…yes, that’s definitely what I feel…peed on my pillow.  Awesome.  Might as well get up.  Note to self:  try to actually remember to pull sheets from the bed after she wakes up.

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4:00am – Finally get out of bed.  (Okay, so I really didn’t want to get up yet, but couldn’t go back to sleep.  Of course.)

4:30am – Tiptoe out of the bathroom, dressed and feeling pretty energized despite the horrid hour.

4:35am – Scroll through e-mails, Facebook and the weather for the day.

4:45am – Decide I’m going to give the girls a super nutritious, energy-boosting, special breakfast for the first day of school.  Head out to pick up some Dunkin’ Donuts.

4:52am – Arrive at Dunkin’ Donuts.  The drive-thru is open, but the doors don’t open for another 8 minutes.  Well, I must go in.  How else can I stare at the massively overwhelming selection of stuff and attempt to contain my drool long enough to tell the girl at the counter to give me about twice as much stuff as we can possibly actually eat this morning?

4:55am – Decide to run to Wal-Mart to get the black ink I need for the printer.  Head back to Dunkin’ Donuts.

5:10am – Yes I’ll have 3 sprinkles, a couple of chocolates, some sugar-coated, etc. etc…this will give us a good flat dozen.  Oh, but hmm, I think we will get a 50 count of those filled donut holes, too…and a large iced coffee.  (My kidney stones are back.  Coffee is a big culprit.  I am pregnant.  Little Man certainly doesn’t need it.  But.  But.  It’s 5:00 A. M.!  And there’s donuts!  Okay, just this one time.)  What?  Oh, yes.   That’ll be it.  Oooh.  What’s that?  Iced apple cider.  Sounds yummy.  I bet Bubby would like that.  Ah, okay.  Yeah, give me one of those, too.  A large.  Whew, finally.  That is plenty!  Ring me up, girlfriend.  Wait…are those coconut-covered donuts….?

5:30am – Back home.  Chat with hubby for a bit.  Look at Facebook a little more.  Go ahead and eat some of these heart-cloggers and sip my oh-so-bad-but-oh-so-good coffee.  Remind myself to relish in this moment because it’s not going to happen often.  Start running through my mental list and adding to look up Dandy Brew or something of the sort and try out the fake stuff sometime.

6:00am – Head into the girls’ room and give Boo Bear a little morning snuggle-tickle wake up call.  She is excited and it doesn’t take her long to wake.  Sweet Pea senses from the room on the other side of the house that people are awake and comes in to join us.

6:08am – A little more snuggle time on the couch to finish waking up and a diaper (and full-clothing change) for Sweet Pea.  Oh yeah, she peed.  Remember to get those sheets.

6:15am – Girls are excitedly picking out their donuts and happily stuffing their faces.  I think I can already see their pupils dilating.  Look for a small insulated bag to hold Boo Bear’s daily water and snack.  Find a perfect one meant for baby bottles, but it just seems so plain.  Ask Boo Bear if she would like Mommy to decorate it for her, receiving an affirmative.  Get the paint markers and draw a flower as per Boo Bear’s specifications.  Tater Tot comes out of the room, having heard everyone (or sensed a craft going on) and asks to do some decorating, too.  Later they can all decorate, if they want, I tell her, but we need to get ready now.  She spies the donuts and excitedly fixes herself a plate.

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6:35am – Girls get themselves ready.  There are teeth to be brushed, knots to untangle, clothes to put on, shoes to find, and a backpack to inspect.  I check the clock.  Amazingly, all seems to be running smoothly so far.  Time to take a few pictures!

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7:00am – Girls are good to go for the day.  Daddy comes up and informs us he has decided to stay home long enough to see Boo Bear onto the bus this morning.  Pack up energy balls made a couple days ago and a bottle of water and feel good that I have a semi-nutritious snack to send with Boo Bear to school.  Ignore the fact that these also have some sugar in them.

7:10am – We all head out front to play in the driveway and wait for the 7:15 school bus.

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7:35am – The school bus pulls to the curb.  Daddy has looked at his watch about 6 times between going outside and now.  It takes a while to iron out all the kinks of establishing a route, plus all the parents are slowing it down to ask questions and take pictures and all that.  What?  Yeah, I hear ya.  Hang on a second while I pose my child and take a picture of her at the bus steps.

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7:42am – Daddy runs inside to take a shower.  I grab my purse and the school supplies I didn’t realize I was supposed to bring during the open house and hop into the car to head to the preschool.  I did tell my daughter I would see her in on her first day, after all, but figured she should start her routine of riding the bus.

7:50am – Arrive at the school.  The bus still isn’t there.  Take the time to talk to the director about whether or not it’s possible to NOT have Boo Bear in school on certain days.  Breath a sigh of relief when I am told it’s whatever works for us…apparently much more flexible than when they start “actual school”, which she won’t be doing next year, by the way.  Happy to know that Boo Bear can now continue to attend our homeschool co-op every other Thursday, which includes really great field trips.

8:05am – Bus finally arrives and little ones unload.  I peek out the window and see Boo Bear standing (mostly) in line, smashing little berries she has pulled off the nearby bush.  She looks up and sees me and breaks into a huge, Mom-heart-swelling grin.

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8:10am – Pose for a picture with Boo Bear for the director.  Help her find her hook and begin establishing her routine of folder and food out and into the cubby, name tag on, hands washed and finding an open table with something cool to play with sitting on it.

8:15am – Give another hug and well-wishes for a good day.  Take another picture from the hall and give another wave.

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8:23am – Back home.  Daddy is already at work.  Sweet Pea is crying because Daddy didn’t change her poopy diaper and instead walked out about 10 seconds after saying he was going to change it, according to Tater Tot.  Mommy explains (in kid-friendly terms) Daddy’s ADD must have kicked in.  Change poo.

8:30am – Clean up the kitchen and empty the dishwasher from the night before.  Actually remember to strip the sheets and get them into the wash.  Bubby makes his way upstairs and grabs some donuts.  Show him that he has cider, too…well, half the cup, because it is really yummy, so I’m keeping some.

9:00am – See that it’s a nice day and think we should do something fun outside.  Start looking for a blog post with an activity I remember that I think would be fun.  Gather up the supplies for that.  Go see if the oldest and youngest want to work on my proposal, reminding myself not to even mention the word “math” in the delivery.  See that they are engrossed in felt crafting and decide not to disturb their already directive, focused play.  Tater Tot is making some pretty nice accessories for her scene.

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9:10am – Loaded the new ink into the printer and printed out pioneer activity sheets for the craft we are doing in our co-op class this week.  Make another mental note that I will need to make the old-fashioned molasses cakes tomorrow or early Thursday morning.  Look all over the house for the special cutting tool that I know will make cutting the Oregon Trail much easier.  Finally find it in the first place I looked, initially overlooked.  Finish prepping the craft and get it all together in a folder.  Feeling pretty darn efficient this morning, overall. Bubby heads out to work.

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10:00am – (or thereabouts)  Girls are still happily engrossed in their chosen activities.  Figure there isn’t really enough time to do the math activity I planned before I have my 11:20 OB appointment, so decide to just wait until I get back from that.  Besides, then Boo Bear can do it with us.  Contact my friend that has agreed to come over and watch the girls and get Boo Bear off the bus for me.  Piddle around on the computer a little more.

11:00am – Friend comes over and her girls and my girls promptly increase energy and octave levels three-fold.  Chat for a minute, grab the cider and head to the car.  Accidentally spill the cider on my garage steps, proceed with a G-rated curse because, well, I REALLY wanted that cider.  It was so good.  Mentally brush it off. Hey…it’s been a good day so far.  No crying over spilled cider and all that.

11:22am – Only a few minutes late for check-in, despite the cider incident.  Speaking of cider…I wonder if it would be rude to get another one before I go home?  Nah, I can wait. Besides, I just asked my friend to watch the kids for the appointment, not for me to get a crave fix.

11:55am – The appointment was short and all looks well.  Run (not literally, of course) upstairs to the PT department to pick up my, um, belly sling thing, to alleviate all the swelling going on down there this pregnancy.  They are out to lunch from 11:45-12:15.  Of course.  Shrug and tell myself I can pick it up some other time.  I don’t feel like waiting.

12:05pm – Back home.  The kids are all out back playing, pulling each other around in the work wagon that they made into a “covered wagon” the other day.  They are out in the field again pretending to be explorers/ settlers of the prairie.  Boo Bear is home.  Ask her how her day went and receive a happy reply.  She had fun and made friends and all that good stuff.  My friend hung out just a little bit more before taking her littlin’ home for a nap.

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12:15pm – Inside to make lunches that we eat outside because it is such a nice day.  Opened up the the patio umbrella and watched a poor little disturbed bat fly away haphazardly, clearly out of his element in the broad daylight.  The girls were fascinated by all the moths that were tucked up in there, too.  Sweet Pea yelled at them to go away, to no avail, and Tater Tot hypothesized that the bat liked it there because there were so many moths to feed on.

12:35pm – Cleaned up the lunch stuff and sent Tater Tot out with some chalk to prepare for our next activity.  The girls created quite a lot of art in the short time I was in.

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We decided to do our project in the driveway instead, where there was still space to draw, but a lot more direct sunlight.  Had Tater Tot measure out and tape off areas for an orthogonal hypercube.  It took a little trial and error and adjustments to get our angles right, but we pretty much got it in the end.  Halfway through, as the sun really started to heat up and I was mentally lamenting that we didn’t either a) do this in the morning or b) have any more room on the shady back patio, Tater Tot suggested some juice pops, so we went inside and grabbed some.  I worked on the last of the taping off of the ‘cube while the girls slurped away on their quickly melting pops.  At some point, Tater Tot went back in and also got out the last of a milkshake she had from the other day (that was frozen solid and they ate more like a popsicle held up by the straw).  Somewhere in my mind it registered that this was even more sugar for the day, but I let it slide.

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1:10p – Boo Bear went inside at some point and didn’t come back out.  I figure maybe she just got too hot, but I go check on her to be sure.  I will save her the dignity of the accompanying picture (which of course I had to take), but will share the scene.  Poor little thing went in to poo, which she did, but must have been so tuckered out from her day that she fell asleep on the potty, her head leaned over onto a nearby step stool.  I giggle, take said picture, then proceed to wipe poopy booty.  She wakes then and gets a second wind, opting to go back out and finish her chalk drawings, rather than finish up a nap somewhere, more, um, comfortable.

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1:20p – Back outside.  Tater Tot and I color in the rest of our ‘cube and the girls get to pull away the tape for the great reveal.  There were oohs and aahs and I think it turned out pretty sweet, although time consuming, and I was definitely getting a little (okay a lot) on the sweaty side.

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I informed the girls that there was a second half of the project and to meet me in back while I got the supplies together.  In the back, we set up an area and I pulled out the toothpicks and marshmallows and explained that we were going to make two cubes and put them together.  This activity, I knew, would be a winner, because any time they get to use marshmallows to make something they get to eat the marshmallow creation they make.  (Yes.  I know!  Sugar, sugar, sugar.  I swear it isn’t usually like this!)  Sweet Pea stuck a few marshmallows with toothpicks, then quickly decided that the toothpicks seemed pretty unnecessary in the endeavor to eat the marshmallows.  Boo Bear made a nice creation that started out looking mostly like a cube.  Tater Tot made her cubes and then I instructed her on how to connect them.  Once complete, I tried very hard to twist and maneuver that thing to lay down into the one dimensional pattern we drew, but had no luck, so I just showed them the blog where I got the idea and that family’s success.  The girls then ate their creations (and apparently the rest of the bag, too, I realized a bit too late).

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3:00pm or something – Time is sort of blurring into one long project now.  I clean up from the marshmallow mess and the girls start coloring and building their own backyard “tables” and such, off in Pretendville again.

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3:40pm – Somehow time just keeps getting away from me.  Realize how late it is and rush in to figure out what to do for dinner.  Throw together a curry chicken, broccoli, noodle bake and stick it in the oven.  Decide that I’m actually getting exhausted about now and probably swollen to double my size, so I lay down for a few minutes and prop my feet up.  Shortly thereafter, hear the neighbor come over to play in back with the girls.

4:20pm – The girls get bored in our yard and ask to go play in the neighbor’s yard.  I relax a bit more, then get dishes out for dinner, while listening to kiddos scream happily from across the street.

5:00pm – Dinner is ready.  Scoop out the girls’ to cool.  Daddy comes home.  Bubby comes home.  Decide to let the girls play a little longer before calling them home for dinner.  I eat, because I feel like I’m starving for some reason, and have some uninterrupted talk time with hubby before the girls come home.

5:40pm or thereabouts – The girls come home and sit down for dinner, which they barely eat.  Not surprised, really. The curry turned out a bit strong and I’m sure they are filled with sugar now. Never mind how picky they can be to begin with.  Whatever.  Decide not to stress about it as long as they don’t start whining about being hungry later.

6:20pm – Time is getting away from me again.  Cleaning up from dinner and realizing the girls still need a shower.  Get them wrangled in there, stressing to make sure they wash their hair too!  Finish the kitchen clean-up and realize I never put the sheets in the dryer.  Run downstairs to do so only to thankfully see that Bubby has done that for me and they are already dry.  Put his load of clothes in the dryer and stick my pillow in to wash next.  Go make the bed.

7:15pm – It’s later than I wanted to get the kids to bed, but not too bad.  Attempt to see if Sweet Pea and Tater Tot will sleep in the same bed if I lay with them for a moment, only to realize after a lot of alternate giggling and shoving that it wasn’t happening.  (It was worth a shot.  It would be nice if Sweet Pea would get back out of my bed again.  At least she could sleep in her own crib in our room through one full night.  That would be great.  Please!)  Take Sweet Pea to our bed and lay with her for about 5 minutes, then tell her I need to get Tater Tot ready for bed.  Cross fingers that she doesn’t cry when I walk out of the room.  Let out held breath when her exhaustion or rare moment of acquiescence allows my departure without fuss.  Go back in to big girls’ room and give Boo Bear another kiss and tuck her in.  Back out on the couch for a little reading, while Tater Tot makes another scene…sort of a Halloweenish one…on the felt board.  She has been mentally rushing Halloween the past few days, excitedly thinking of costumes and making holiday crafts.

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8:15pm – Get Tater Tot tucked into bed.  Feel bad that we didn’t have stories tonight, but it’s just been a long day.  Turn on “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie and Other Stories” cd for her to listen to.

8:22pm – Read a little more Facebook and post some pictures of our day in an unschool thread asking for just that.  Realize I’m not going to last much longer tonight.

9ish pm – Daddy and I both head to bed.  I lay there for a while waiting for my mind to catch up with the exhaustion of my body, mentally voicing my silent ritualistic pleading of, “Please let Sweet Pea sleep through the night, preferably in her own bed, and turn my brain off so I can sleep, and let me not have to pee 20 times tonight…oh, and don’t let me wake at some inhumane hour again.  Please.”

And our super, happy fun-filled day is complete.  Bonus:  Everyone slept great!  :0)

Confession. I get high. A lot.

stressed tired momma

I have to confess something.  For so long now, I have been suffering the side effects from a substance that I willingly injected into my body.  I knew full well the long list of these potential, and even probable, side effects before I did it and I did it anyway.  I don’t even feel guilty about it.  I mean, my goodness…I should, shouldn’t I?  After all, I have a family to consider!  I allowed this deterioration of my body and all to get another fix!  Why would I subject myself to this:

  • abdominal discomfort/ pressure/ tenderness
  • acne
  • allergies
  • anemia
  • backache
  • bleeding gums
  • blood clots
  • blurry vision
  • breast leakage/ enlargement/ tenderness
  • buttock and leg pain
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • clumsiness
  • constipation
  • cramping
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • dizziness/ faintness
  • strange/ scary/ vivid dreams
  • enlarged/ varicose veins
  • excessive bleeding
  • excessive salivation
  • excessive vomiting/ nausea
  • extreme pain
  • eye changes
  • fatigue
  • fluctuating body temperature
  • fluctuating emotions
  • fluid leakage
  • food aversions/ cravings/ hunger
  • forgetfulness
  • gas/ bloating
  • gum disease
  • headaches
  • heartburn
  • hemorrhoids
  • hip pain
  • increased heart rate
  • increased susceptibility to infection/ sickness
  • insomnia/ increased restlessness
  • irrational fears
  • itchiness
  • loss of bodily functions
  • loss of desire
  • mood swings
  • mucous discharge
  • muscle cramps
  • navel soreness
  • nosebleeds
  • pelvic pressure
  • perineal aching
  • perspiration
  • pubic bone pain
  • rashes
  • rectal bleeding
  • red palms/ soles
  • rib tenderness
  • round ligament pain
  • sensitivity to smells
  • shortness of breath
  • skin tags/ skin changes/ skin darkening
  • snoring
  • stuffy nose
  • swelling
  • thirst
  • urinary tract infections
  • urinating frequently
  • urine leakage
  • vaginal bleeding

This list isn’t even exhaustive!  And, to make matters worse, that’s not only while the foreign substance remains in the body.  Eventually, the body expels it, which is a painful process where the body goes through the worst type of withdrawal.  Then….THEN…as if that weren’t enough, comes the post-trauma, long-term side effects, which range from mild to severe and can last YEARS!  These can vary so broadly from person to person, that you can’t even predict what will specifically happen to you!  Here are just a few that have been documented (not in alphabetical order):

  • irrational fears
  • sleeplessness
  • forgetfulness
  • depression
  • feelings of self-doubt
  • constant worry about the future
  • comprehension issues
  • inability to sustain one continuous thought at random points in time
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • feeling incompetent
  • more nightmares
  • anxiety
  • difficulty functioning at previous level of ability
  • stress
  • AND completely unknown potential future side effects!

And on and on it goes!  You must be judging me now.  I know you are.  Who could blame you?  Why would I, a relatively sane person with obligations and responsibilities, choose to subject myself to such a long list of side effects and truly life-changing repercussions?  And to make matters worse, this isn’t my first time.

But, before you judge me too harshly, please let me explain what I get from this.

It is the best high ever.

I’m talking a truly mind-altering, full-on euphoria.  I can feel the most love I’ve ever felt and want to dole it out it in equal kind.  I feel a new sense of pride, selflessness, hope and wonder.  I get the best physical sensations and have a new-found appreciation of the senses and what they are exposed to.  I feel like the luckiest person on the planet at any given, random moment…and I can feel like this for the rest of my life!  Can you really blame me for wanting to bring this kind of happiness, wonderment and fulfillment into my life?  Is it really so hard to believe that I would take all those terrible side effects for these ultimate feelings…not once, not twice, but FIVE times now?  Some might call me an addict and I suppose I am, in a way.  I will never be able to take back or change any of the health issues I have put upon myself, but I would never want to.  It’s completely worth it!  And maybe you think I’m in denial.  You may even be plotting an intervention.  But, I don’t care.  I might even do it again.  And believe me.  I’ve talked to others.  I’m not alone.  I know lots of people that believe the high is worth it all.  You know who you are.  Don’t deny it.

After all, motherhood may be wrought with “side effects”, but those little foreign bodies are all worth it in the end and you and I both know it.  😉

pregnancy side effects funny

 

Pinterest-Inpired Crayon Art

Pinterest. I love you. I wish I could say you spark my creativity, but more often than not, you just make me spend excess amounts of time admiring everyone else’s. However, I’m pretty good at duplicating projects and then putting my own spin on them (when I actually get around to it).  Here is a fun example of a craft I had been wanting the girls and I to tackle for a while that we finally checked off the list.

The girls had a great time with the process, from tearing off the paper to getting to use the blow dryer.  And Sweet Pea had a fun time photo-bombing me with silly faces.  She even instructed me to stick my tongue out for my own photo op, since, apparently, a normal face just wouldn’t do.

Crayon melt art

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Crayon melt art (3)So we unwrapped a bunch of broken crayons, and I tried to use as many of those aggravating, cheapo, non-coloring crayons as possible.  They melted just fine.  We hot-glued them on a couple at a time, as the glue hardened quickly, then it was just a matter of propping and heating them up with the blow dryer.  The “canvas” we used was actually the frame from another picture that my girls peeled off at one point in time.  (There was the tiniest little corner that was raising up on it, so naturally this was an invitation to go ahead and peel away the entire $50 print.)  In any case, I figured if we didn’t re-adhere that picture, we could use it for something else and that something turned out to be our crayon art.

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Crayon melt art (10)In the end, I decided to prop it on it’s side and hot-glue on some clothespins to make it a functional piece of art.  I like when things pull double-duty.  We are all very pleased with how this turned out.  Anyone else have any crayon art creations?  We’d love to see them!  Show off your bad mamma-jamma DIY skills in the comments below.

Parks, Pain and Pessimism

I have recently purchased a new bike for myself, as well as a two-seater trailer for the kiddos.  My first attempt on the bike was a success considering I haven’t really been on one since…oh…middle school.  I didn’t fall off or maim myself or anything!  However, it literally only took me a couple of blocks pulling the girls in the trailer to figure out that, ONE:  I needed a different seat.  Who knew lady parts could hurt so much from merely sitting on a seat?!  And TWO:  I am really, REALLY out of shape.  Really.  Oh, the aching, burning legs!  What in the world was I thinking?!  Who in their right mind waits until they are several months pregnant to start a new strenuous activity?    Apparently me…but I never claimed to be in my right mind anyway.  So, moving on.

I didn’t get a lot of use out of the thing for the next several weeks while my bruised ego and bruised…um…well, you get the idea…healed.  However, around five months into the pregnancy, it was another lovely day and I spent a good chunk of it giving myself a pep talk that I truly could actually make it to the park that’s a mere 2-3 blocks away without killing myself.  And, lo and behold…I did.  Yay for me!

Tater Tot rode her bike and I pulled Boo Bear and Sweet Pea along behind me, only needing to stop for a mini-break once along the way.  (Pathetic.  I’m aware.)  But…we made it there and back even.  So that’s what counts.

We had a nice time at the park, as we usually do.  This one is nice because it is nearby, but also because it is on the lake and because it is a very simple park.  There isn’t much to it and that is precisely why I like it.  Without all the twists and turns and slides and thingamabobs of a fancy super park to continuously entrance the girls, they actually take time to observe and appreciate their surroundings.

Butts ParkThe girls were picking leaves pretending that they were parts of a gourmet meal they were going to prepare.

Butts Park (1)A favorite area is the dock.  The girls can spend quite a bit of time just running back and forth on it, tossing rocks and leaves and other debris into the murky waters beneath.  They spotted a fish floating sideways near the surface, which I initially said was dead, but then it wiggled itself along, much to my surprise.  Judging by the redness, I’d say it was a fishing throwback, but it was still valiantly hanging on.  Maybe it’ll heal up and survive after all.  The girls also noticed all the green “stuff” floating on the water’s edge and wondered what that was, so we talked about it.

Butts Park (2)Sweet Pea decided to show me her shoes.  Not sure why she wanted to at that moment, but I thought it gave an awfully cute photo, nonetheless.

Butts Park (3)Boo Bear enjoying her own “give me a smile for the camera” moment.

Butts Park (4)Tater Tot picking more leaves, this time to be tossed into the lake to watch them lazily drift away and to see if any fish will actually eat leaves, something they were curious to know.

Butts Park (6)Another cute non-pose.  Boo Bear was just hanging onto the pole, staring out at the water for a long moment, lost in her own thoughts.

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Butts Park (11)We took pictures of several different mushrooms and identified them in our nature book once we got home.  The girls successfully identified the aptly named puffballs and we are almost, but not entirely, certain that the others are a common, very poisonous brand of mushroom.  (The name escapes me right now.)  These little boogers are everywhere and now make me a bit nervous as Boo Bear likes to pick them and even though she knows to never eat anything she has just randomly picked, the nature book actually cautions about touching them at all, warning you to keep hands away from your face and wash them immediately.  Wow…talk about giving me a bit of stress over something abundantly available and pretty innocuous-seeming.  In any case, it prompted the girls to look at some of the other mushroom species noted in our book, which they found to be interesting.  They would like to see inky caps or witches butter someday.

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Butts Park (13)I pointed out this tree to the girls and had them take a look at it to tell me what they thought was different about it.  Tater Tot quickly noticed how the bark was missing in one area and separated, but still attached, in another.  We hypothesized what might have caused that to occur, ruling out a lightning strike, because there seemed to be no singeing or scarring.  Tater Tots thought it may have been an animal.

Butts Park (14)The girls picked up this leaf off the ground and Tater Tot proceeded to explain to Boo Bear that the holes in it were most likely from a caterpillar.

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Butts Park (16)Sweet pea got a kick out of this moth we spied and the pretty hidden orange under it’s top wings.

Butts Park (17)Unfortunately, the entire time at the park wasn’t completely enjoyable.  At one point, I basically asked Tater Tot to switch swings with Boo Bear so that the two youngest were closer together in order to make it easier for me to swing them.  She didn’t readily do so and so I told her I would remember that sometime when she needed a favor from me.  This sent her into one of her occasional full-blown meltdowns where she fixates on something she cannot change (because what’s done is done).  So we had a long discussion about how the only way to rectify something that has already occurred is to take note of how the situation could be improved the next time around and to improve the behavior from then on.  Rather than accepting that she didn’t make the best decision and moving on, she spent the better part of 20 minutes crying and pouting for essentially a do over and not even for my benefit, but to prevent my turning the tables on her at some random point in the future.  Before it was all said and done, we also discussed new vocabulary terms:  exasperated and pessimistic.  One was Mommy and one was Tater Tot.  I’m sure you can figure out which was which.  In any case, while I was talking to her about her behavior and the way to improve it, Sweet Pea must have taken the above shot of her with the camera.

Butts Park (18)The geese were walking around on the banks so the girls all tried, rather unsuccessfully, to sneak up on them and get a good picture.  Not surprisingly, those geese high-tailed it to the water seeing three bouncy little balls of energy coming their way!

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Butts Park (22)More exploration at the water’s edge.  The girls found a dead fish sans head, spied some dragonflies, and generally teetered along the rocks in a zig-zag across the bank.

Before heading home, I noticed a little honeybee on my shirt, which I tried to get a picture of, but apparently didn’t have the angle right.  I pointed it out to the girls because it was covered in pollen, which they all thought was interesting to see up close.  I had on a blue top with tiny, yellow and white flower-looking things that the bee kept sort of rooting around on, apparently oblivious to the body beneath.  The girls decided that it must have thought they were real flowers.  Whatever it was doing, it seemed perfectly content until I finally shooed it away.

All in all, we had another nice day at the park, enjoying the outdoors, the beautiful day, the nice breeze and all that nature has to offer.  And, bonus, I got a smidgeon of exercise in, with only minimal wear and tear.  😉

 

It’s All About The Number, Baby!

I once had my palm read when I was young.

palms

I was told that I was going to have what, at the time, sounded like some crazy number of kids…6 or something like that.  Laughing, I pretty much wrote off palmistry from then on.  I mean, there was no way I was going to have so many kids!  Right?

woman in shoe

It certainly didn’t fit into my idea that I was going to have a set of twins and that would pretty much be that.  But, here I am…twenty-some years later with baby number five on the way.  Maybe all those creases in my hand said something after all.  So, person I thought was crazy…I apologize.  I never anticipated or planned to have this many children.  I never planned to have my first at such a young age, but I can’t imagine NOT having any of them now.

love napper more

In the last week or so, I’ve had two separate conversations with friends that led me to think about all of this.  In one conversation, I was told by a recent first-time Dad that they aren’t planning to have any more since they are “too old, no offense” to me.  (He and his wife are my age.) only oneIn the other conversation, a friend jokingly stated she bets that she is “the only person I ever feel as though I need to justify not having any more children to”.  She has three living children and hopes to have 6 more between the ages of 40 and 50.

weird lots of kids

This conversation came from my statement that even though I would not have issues with having more children, I am not so keen on the whole process anymore.   The idea of carrying, birthing, and nursing over and over again has, let’s just say, lost its luster.

mom night revenge

I’ve also determined that I really, REALLY like my sleep and that is something I just don’t get much of during those early years.

never sleep againIn fact, my pregnancy cycle as of late has been to wake up several times a night to pee (of course).

bladder baby

Usually one of those is around two in the morning.  The problem is, I can’t seem to go back to sleep after that one.  Case in point, I’m writing this at three in the morning.  I don’t want to be awake.  My body still feels tired, but here I am…wide awake and if pattern persists, I will be for at least another hour.  So, basically that translates to me never getting to wake up at that nice early hour of at least 6 o’clock that I’d like.  Instead, most days, I’m dragging out of bed around 7 something and feeling less than refreshed.

sleep cycle

Oh well, it’s my special brand of insomnia, I suppose.  In any case, this whole lack of sleep thing plays it’s part in my ultimate number of children decision-making.  (Check out this offensive, but funny bed-time book for exasperated, sleepy parents ONLYHere is a reading by Morgan Freeman.)

go the f to sleep book

So, what does that mean for me?  Truth be told, I was still sort of hoping for baby number 5 to be babies 5 and 6.

twins

I was a little disappointed when only one showed up in the ultrasound.  Twins would have rounded me off nicely, figuratively (and literally) speaking.  And twin boys would have given this last little one a built-in, same-sex playmate.  Yes, twins would have been nice (although I’m quite sure I would have lost my mind a little with the logistics of it all).

brain for kids trade

Six kids, for some reason, would have felt like that magic number for me that said, “I’m done and I’m okay with that.”

Brady Bunch

So, do I understand the first friend who said they would only be having one?  Most definitely.  In fact, it was just me and my son for 10 years.  I really believed at one point that he might be the only one I’d ever have.  I still look back on those years with just the two of us with great fondness.

mom and boy

And do I understand my other friend who has ultimately birthed 5 and still hopes for at least 6 more?  Most definitely.  There is a sort of longing, and guilt even, on my decision to stop after this one, though I truly feel it has started taking its toll on my body…things are going on downtown with this pregnancy that just shouldn’t even be allowed. pregnancy aches

I’ll spare you all those intimate details, but suffice it to say…it’s just not right, darn it!  Never mind all the typical aches and pains and the fact that this little booger has caused me about 14 weeks of all day nausea so far.

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No, it is no longer my cup of tea.  But, that being said…I would still have at least one more, if the process could be magically skipped.  And, yes, we have considered adoption and wouldn’t rule it out either, but I’m not personally interested in bringing more government into my home…a process pretty much inextricable with adopting.

ender

The bottom line is this…everyone has their own circumstances and personality which shapes and molds their ideal family number.  This number can change over time…I can certainly attest to that.

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We all have the right to listen to our hearts and our bodies and determine what is best for us…ideally without guilt involved.

 

kangaroo kids

 

So, to all those parents out there that say one and done…I’m so happy for you.  To all those parents out there who say they can never have enough…I’m so happy for you.  And to all those parents with everything in between…I’m so happy for you.  Enjoy your children and your circumstances with all your heart and never regret that you don’t have more or you don’t have enough.  You have exactly the right amount for you right now.

want v have

Love every moment of it (even the inevitable tough ones)!  After all, there is nothing quite as special and perfect as your family…don’t you agree?  🙂

nice normal family

My Slight Addiction

There is a possibility that I have a problem.  I have a tendency to rearrange areas of my home over and over (and over) again.  Sometimes I’m just inspired.  Sometimes I am just on a rampage to try and get more functionality and organization out of all of our clutter.  Most of the time, I think I just succeed in relocating mess.  In any case, it’s something I’ve done a lot.  Here’s a good example:  one glorious week, Daddy took all the girls with him to Missouri to see Grandpa and I got that absolutely rare, much-coveted free time that one can only get without littles in tow.  Bubby was here with me, but he’s not exactly needy like the girls, so it was pretty much me left up to my own devices.  So…what did I choose to do with all this free time?  Nothing…at least part of the time.  I slobbed around and slept when I wanted and woke when I wanted and I literally only cooked one meal that entire time!  It was such a beautiful, though not particularly healthy, week.

I also got in a little shopping (in stores with breakable things) and ate out (at places that didn’t even serve mac n’ cheese).  But, in addition to the relaxing and the perusing, I decided to rearrange things…of course.  I’m in my fourth month of pregnancy at this point, I’m without little ones and could feasibly do whatever I want, so naturally I think it’s a swell time to start moving around heavy furniture.  I get it.  I am taking that first step.  I admit I have a problem.

So, while my girls were busy having a blast with Daddy and Grandpa riding to the top of the St. Louis arch, checking out the St. Louis Science Center AND the City Museum, I don’t believe I was doing what normal people would do in my position.

gateway-arch

City Museum

City Museum (1)

City Museum (2)

Doesn’t the City Museum look cool?  Kind of bummed I missed it.  In any case, here’s how I occupied some of my time:

Decorating (1) - CopyThe office was a big overhaul done earlier in the year, but I picked up that cool frame in the background to temporarily frame magnetic strips used as a memo board.  I went to a great thrift store a couple of times while they were away and picked up chicken wire, along with several items in the next photos.  I plan to put a fabric of some sort in the frame and then top it with the chicken wire.

IMG_7423I picked up the 4-piece wooden panel board to use as a headboard, though I definitely plan to repaint it.  I grabbed the red and blue flower fabric from Hobby Lobby and attached them to two frames I had from Ikea.  I like them, but am already second-guessing them in my bedroom.  I just think I want a more soothing look.  In any case, it’ll do for now and I have since changed it even more (of course).

IMG_7426I snatched away the stand that Daddy had his tv sitting on in order to put it back to it’s originally intended use outside as a side buffet table.  As a replacement I found these awesome old shipping crates and the metal crate and bucket at the thrift store.  He may never understand my attraction to old, used things, but at least he’s learned to live with it.  😉

Decorating (2)

Decorating (1)

DecoratingThe kitchen was a bit of a chore and was all done in order to accommodate that one little strip of wood for hanging coats.  We don’t have a good entry area in this house and so I have been using a coat rack hanging on the back of the door, which really got in the way.  I moved that darn furniture around that table about three different times before finally deciding on the current setup!

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Decorating (4)

Decorating (3)This project was actually completed when the girls came home.  I picked up the cute little horse print and comforter and sheet set (on the right) as a package deal at Once Upon a Child.  Of course, the girls didn’t need either.    It is literally probably the 15th time I’ve rearranged their room!  It’s crazy.  The last configuration had both those beds smushed together, which really annoyed me because it made it look like the room was all bed.  So, we separated the beds, took out the drawers from the captains bed and moved them in the middle, which opened up the space beneath for a fun little nook.  We also took down all the stuff on the walls and reconfigured their placements.  All in all, the girls were psyched with their new room and it’s probably the cutest configuration we’ve done to date.

So, this post is for all of you out there that feel the urge to rearrange, reconfigure, repurpose and generally redo.  You are not alone.

A Low-Tech Day

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Okay, I admit it.  My family is plugged in.  It seems at any given time, somebody, somewhere in this house is either watching tv, playing a video game, piddling on the computer or blasting through Ipad apps.  The kids fight over who gets to do what and when.  My son disappears hours at a time due to the lure of a good video game.  My husband can be known to do the same (until he sees the look in my eyes that tells him I’ve about had my fill of Daddy-here-but-not-here).  I have a love-hate relationship with it all…scrolling Facebook and despising the time it took, posting our adventures on this blog and getting aggravated because something with the photos or the site or whatever other inevitable glitch happens caused 20 minutes to turn into 2 hours.

On one hand, I believe that it is difficult to function in society these days without a good grasp of the technology available.  On the other hand I think…it’s difficult, but not impossible.  There are days when I look upon the Amish families that are abundant in this area with a sort of awe.

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After what seems like too long of a stretch of media overkill, I can be known to dream of getting “back to the basics” and fantasize about smashing X-boxes and tossing computers out the window.  In fact, at one point in time, I came dangerously close to doing just that.

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However, I know that this is impractical in my household…if for no other reason than because the precedent has been set.  We are entrenched.  We are accustomed.  We LIKE downtime, where we aren’t always on the go, go, GO!  And what better way to engage our minds (or not) without much effort than through media outlets?  Tater Tot has probably taught herself half the things she’s learned this year through BrainPop alone!  (An excellent source of kid-friendly, educational videos, by the way.)

However, despite all of this, I desire…no I NEED…nature.  I need to go outdoors and get away from my phone and the internet.  I thrive on simplicity and seek to establish it any way I can in my own home.  I need it and I believe my family does, too.  That is why I try to balance all these conflabbid, newfangled gizmos with plenty of sunshine and fresh air (or barely tolerable snow-covered frigid days, depending on the season).  We get outside and just be.  Those are the days when I truly feel more at peace and at ease with myself and the world.

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Here is an example of one such lovely day that started out with little more direction than “No more Ipad!  Let’s go to a new park”.  We drove around a nearby town and found several…some we had been to, some not.  Boo Bear picked a smaller one that ran alongside a creek.  At first glance, Tater Tot decided it wasn’t going to be a fun park and spent the bulk of the time we sat eating lunch at the picnic table pouting about the choice that was made.  However, once we all decided to bypass the playground area and check out the covered bridge by the creek, a whole new attitude emerged.

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The girls spotted butterflies basking on the rocks and the fluffy tree pollen was in the air, giving Sweet Pea plenty of amusement as she tried to catch the “fuzzies”.  She and I also took a small walk and looked at bugs in the trees, saw a tree trunk that made me think of a dinosaur and spied a bumblebee in the flowers.

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It wasn’t long at all before the girls kicked off their shoes, made their way onto the muddy banks, and finally ended up traversing across rocks in the stream.

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Other kids came and some even found deeper areas and started to swim.  At one point, the girls made some friends and they all were observed trying to use sticks and other items to try to leverage a log into the water in the hopes of using it to float down the stream.  It was fun to watch them brainstorm and carry out methods until they found the simple machine that worked. Much to the girls’ dismay, though, they did not get a chance to see their effort through to fruition. It was time to go and I wasn’t going to let them float down the river on a makeshift raft, so to speak. Not this time, anyway. Nevertheless, the kids all had a great time and Daddy and I enjoyed sitting on the bank watching them wholeheartedly play in the simplicity of nature.

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I like technology and the positive ways it can be used and I don’t foresee my family ever going tech-free, but I truly do enjoy those days when there isn’t an electronic gadget in sight.

Could This Be Education?

I’ve been thinking more and more about the legitimacy and sense of unschooling.  I don’t know that I will ever fully quiet my fears of all the “what ifs” and “but, if I don’t do a, b and c…” types of thing that run through my head, but I am ultimately convinced that unschoolers have it right, at least where my family is concerned.  It is a difficult transition for me in some respects, because I enjoy planning unit studies and I also like feeling in control and seeing results.  With unschooling, results happen, but they aren’t always as easily measured.  On the other hand, I never cease to be surprised by the amount of knowledge my kids acquire all on their own.  Just when I think we are stagnating or I begin to worry that they aren’t getting enough academic direction, that’s when we will inevitably launch into a completely unplanned discussion about a random topic of interest or expound upon something the girls saw on a program or heard in a book that led to a serious discovery or line of questioning.  In none of these times do I sit the girls down at a desk and shovel workbooks or lectures at them.  There are no multiple choice bubbles to fill in and no essays, however brief, to write.  Yet, somehow, some way, despite what might seem their best efforts to play all day, my girls are inquisitive, educated little beings.  Could it be because I give them plenty of time to play and explore and delve deeply into their interests?  Yes, I do believe we are on our way to becoming that family that doesn’t really “do school” because learning is just taken for granted.  It is not set aside as a special time.  It just is…all day…any time.  It is life and we intend to live it.  This is not to say that it isn’t without it’s hiccups.  I can’t help myself sometimes from trying to expound upon something that I might deem worthy that the girls didn’t exactly request to learn.  I suppose that makes us not the best unschoolers on the block, but I think it’s all about balance.  There is a fine line between the give and take of the teaching/learning relationship and it’s a balancing feat to remain on it.  I believe that my girls will eventually learn all they need to be successful, but I also believe that many things are more easily grasped while they are young, so it is a constant internal struggle for me to know when to push a little and when to leave things be.  I think the balance has been struck so far pretty effectively, simply because they haven’t reached the point where any imparting of wisdom receives groans and sighs.  When the glazing of the eyes starts to happen, I know it’s time to switch gears.  I just let the girls do what they do and pay close attention to where their journeys take them, seizing opportunities to turn experiences into education…on the sly.  😉  This is what one of the first weeks of completely stepping back from traditional, directed learning looked like for my girls:

I downloaded a new app on the IPad called Toca Builders that lets kids essentially create buildings in a virtual world in a similar fashion to Mine Craft. 

Tater Tot discovered this and commenced teaching herself how the app works and building her virtual world.  The girls later went outside and decided to build tents with sheets, chairs, sticks and whatever else they could find.  This led to Tater Tot’s question of whether or not they could camp in the back yard.  (Instead of that, we ended up camping at the end of the week at Wildcat Mountain.)

While watching the girls play in the yard from inside the house, I observed Tater Tot problem-solve a situation by trying various methods to get a swing to a position she wanted it by the tree.  She ultimately ended up tying an extra rope to the swing, throwing it over the “Y” of the tree trunk and using it for leverage as a sort of pulley to hoist the swing to the height she wanted it in order to swing down with it from the tree.  Such good thinking and she didn’t call for me once!  I did break my non-directive approach a bit and asked if the girls wanted me to read to them while outside.  I read a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods. 

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They seemed only moderately interested in that, so we haven’t revisited the book since.

The girls decided to complete their alligator craft that was started the week before and completed it with a discussion of what alligators eat (and stickers in the mouth to match).

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Tater Tot drew a picture and began to stick more random stickers on it, but those turned out not to be so random after all, as they were all water creatures in her water scene.

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Tater Tot had gymnastics on Monday night and on the way home, I saw what looked like a group of bats flying overhead.  That lead to some questions that evening, such as whether they stay in warm or cold places and where they sleep.  The next day we pulled out our Usborne Bat book and looked through it together, answering those questions and more.

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We also found a cute little bat hanging out in our patio umbrella around the same time.

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Playing outside again, Tater Tot randomly made up what I believe was a tall tale about a strange looking bug we had seen the day before.  She told me that she “just remembered that her old preschool teacher had told her that the bug was called ‘Cumulus Acclominus'”, (which she accurately repeated to me numerous times that day), and then proceeded to explain the “facts” about the bug, such as it’s preferred climate, habitat and sleep patterns.  Very creative, though I might need to be worried about the nature of it being a “fib” in itself.  She also assured me that I needn’t look it up because she is sure she knows what she is talking about.  lol

The girls are all growing as growing girls do, and so we spent some time together going through the clothing and changing out the size/season boxes. Later, in typical fashion, the girls managed to make another play fort out of my couch pillows.  This is a pretty frequent occurrence, though it really drives me a little nuts. 

I asked if the girls would like to make things out of pretzels and marshmallows, which we did…outside.  This was a fun treat, as they loved to eat their creations once completed.  It was a great opportunity to discuss the difference between 1, 2, and 3-dimensional objects.  Tater Tot did a great job at making some basic 3-d shapes and also decided to make a 2-d house.  (For anyone wanting to duplicate the activity, I would maybe suggest toothpicks in place of the pretzels.  They worked, but just barely.  I think toothpicks might be easier to work with.)

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The girls did some cleaning and picking up on their own, without my direction or request.  Tater Tot began listening to White Fang on audio book each night and finished it within about a week.  She has been very interested in wolves lately.  She even wants to be a werewolf for Halloween.  I went to the Warrens Cranberry Festival here on recently and snagged a really great wolf winter hat/scarf/ mitt combo and even a real wolf’s tail from the local Trapper’s Society for her costume!  Picked up a cute polar bear one for Boo Bear and a nice wooden name puzzle for Sweet Pea, which she figured out how to put together right away.

On another trip outside in the morning, when the dew was still heavy on the ground, the girls noticed the drops glistening like diamonds and we discussed dew, condensation and evaporation.  Tater Tot also found a couple of great spider webs. 

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We tried to preserve one, but it didn’t take to the paper well.  We went inside and watched a YouTube story reading of Eric Carle’s, The Very Busy Spider. I think they found it a little boring, though. 

The girls then wanted to make spider crafts. 

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After that, I made a painter’s tape “web” in the doorway and we played a game of catching the flies in the web, complete with counting practice for Boo Bear. 

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The girls wanted to make bat crafts then, which led to more bat questions, and another visit to the bat books for more bat facts.  We pulled out the Fall decor and started decorating.  Tater Tot also helped me to make a camping list for that trip at the end of the week.

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Soccer practice was on Wednesday night.  Boo Bear skipped out on her soccer again, so she washed dishes with Mommy to make up for the time and money wasted transporting her to an activity she never wants to participate in.  (We haven’t bothered going back.  She just isn’t interested this year.  I believe it’s because they combined ages with an older group for the team and it’s not a girl teaching this time.)

Periodically throughout the week, the girls opted to listen to our lovely little patriotic cd, We Sing America.

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Then the weekend was here and we had a great time camping!  We went on some hikes, rode bikes, roasted marshmallows, talked about what a fire needs to keep going, as well as fire safety, learned how to put a tent together and visited a great nature center to learn about all the local wildlife while there.

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It was a fun-filled, educationally enriching, child’s delight-filled week, with not a plan, curriculum or agenda in sight!  Yes, I believe unschooling is the way for us.