Most Beautiful Opportunity

My Aunt Lois was absolutely the most beautiful person I have ever met. She was gullible, but good-natured. She enjoyed a good joke (and a good number of corny jokes). She was caring, giving, inspiring, courageous, joyful, and kind. I can remember her exact tone of voice when she came with me to try on new outfits. If there was one outfit in particular she liked, she would say, “Oh, Kim… I love it!” Her voice would be soft and deep on the “Oh, Kim…” and it would rise up on the “love” and fall deep and warm again at the end. She was a teacher and she always told her students that their best work was most beautiful. She affirmed them so frequently with that phrase that at her funeral there were many cards given, signs displayed, and speeches made to show their gratitude to the woman who had made them feel like they were most beautifulMost beautiful meant most inspiring, most meaningful; “I am so proud of who you are.”

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Today has been the most beautiful day we’ve experienced so far in Wisconsin. It is spring. The temperature is in the upper sixties, there is a slight breeze blowing every so often, the sun is out, the grass is green, the daffodils are blossoming, the trees and bushes are budding out, the birds are singing, and the insects are coming out and passing through.

We did school in the front yard and on the screened-in porch this morning. The kids were swinging in their tree swings and we were singing our folksong at the top of our lungs! While they were swinging, we watched a wild turkey meandering through the neighbors’ yards. Then we walked around our yard and inspected the bushes, flower beds, and fruit trees for new growth while Hula Girl and I took turns reciting a poem about spring. We saw a monarch butterfly, a small white butterfly, and a dragonfly. After our nature study, we went into the porch, where Monkey Man and Sugar Plum dug around in some potted plants and rearranged the chairs while Hula Girl and I worked on her writing. Last, we went back to the front yard to swing again while I read today’s literature selection to Hula Girl.

While Sugar Plum had her nap, the big kids ate lunch outside and then whiled away their early afternoon barefoot in the grass. It was with much chagrin that they retired to their rooms for their rest time; I would not have made them do it had I not needed a shower!

This afternoon we will be meeting up with a new family for a playdate at the park. I connected with the mom in an online group for people who use Ambleside Online as our curriculum for homeschooling our kiddos.  And, bonus, they actually live in the same town as us! This is exciting because we have met very few homeschool families in our area, and no other families who use the Charlotte Mason method at all.

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Homeschooling has been going well overall. We took quite a break this past year after Sugar Plum joined our family. Hula Girl did a stint in public school while we were settling in here in Wisconsin, and I pulled her back out at Thanksgiving. We took the month or so between Thanksgiving and New Year off so we could focus on family and festivities, and started back up in January with a modified schedule to cover some of the material we had previously skipped or done poorly due to me being pregnant or us having a newborn in the home.

Lately I have been on a quest to really get a full picture of the Charlotte Mason method- her educational philosophy, her goals, and her means by which to achieve those goals. I have been reading blogs and articles and books and forums; I have been listening to podcasts; I have been consulting with the (two) moms I know in real life that also use Ambleside Online. It was a great time of learning for me, but I reached my threshold quickly. There are SO many ways that different families can focus their time and energy as homeschool allows for freedom and choice! I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that people have come up with to organize, streamline, and enhance their educational atmosphere in their homes. I couldn’t handle looking at yet another way to organize a nature notebook, or another binder for keeping lists of things, or another bookshelf filled with books for mothers to read (on top of all the curriculum to read to or pre-read for our children)! It all started to feel very “keeping up with the Joneses” in that I would never be able to organize our curriculum and materials in the most beautiful way, or create perfect nature notebooks filled with most beautiful sketches, or spend hours every day reading to cultivate my own heart and mind to embody the most beautiful thoughts, feelings, and motivations. To put it simply, there is no way I will ever have time to have the most beautiful everything, and that was downright discouraging.

I met with a seasoned homeschool mom, who told me that I am doing well. I explained the ways I was planning to implement a few things, and what I envisioned for our homeschool journey, and she assured me that we would do well! She gave me courage as she reaffirmed that this is my school, my family, my relationship with the Lord, and that my best is the best for my family. Even though I’m not creating showcase-worthy sketchbooks or filling our bookcases with hardback, leather-bound versions of all our textbooks, homeschooling is still the most inspiring and most meaningful thing I can provide for my family, and that makes this journey most beautiful for me. It might look different from other moms’ versions of school at home. It might look crazy to our neighbors (“Don’t your kids need socialization?”). It might look like an unnecessary burden (“That’s what public schools are for!”). But I get to watch my children mature, I get to feed their minds interesting things to ponder, I get to be witness to their incredible ideas, and I get to know their hearts more deeply and completely every single day. It is a most beautiful calling and opportunity, and I am so grateful that this is my life.

 

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Carry On!

Whew! Has today been tough for everyone, or is it just me (and a friend who texted me halfway through the morning)? Things were getting along swimmingly and then at six thirty, Hula Girl decided to come out of her room to use the restroom. I kind of forgot she was in there, and at seven, Jonathan found her… with Vaseline smeared ALL OVER HER FACE. Then when he told her to go back to bed and wait for her sun to come up (on her Gro-Clock), she spent the remaining time with her light on, out of bed, cutting paper into a million tiny pieces all over the carpet, her bed, the furniture, and so on.

Breakfast was rife with complaining. “My pancakes are too hot! Now they’re too cold! I want more honey on mine! Go get me a vitamin! You forgot to give me another pancake and I’m still hungry! When will it be done cooking? I want MORE orange juice! I don’t like strawberries! I wanted mango! My chair is too far to the left!”

Schoolwork was completed with much chagrin. I took a stand on proper letter formation during copywork. She was writing a “u” with a line straight down from the middle for a y (see pic below). This is NOT correct. Here’s how that conversation went:

  • Me: Oops! Honey, you formed that “y” incorrectly. Why don’t you look at mine and try again?
  • HG: Oops! Silly me, okay! I’ll try to make mine match yours.
  • Me: Oops! You did it again! It seems like your hand muscles have been practicing the incorrect way to write it. Please stop writing and trace my “y” on the next page so you can learn to do it properly.
  • HG: But I ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO IT!
  • Me: Oh, does yours look like mine? No? Okay, let’s try it this way. Trace mine a couple times and then try it on your own.
  • HG: NO! My hand muscles are sore!
  • Me: Yes, I understand. When we try to learn to do something better, it takes a few times before our muscles get used to doing it properly. Did you know Daddy went to the gym the other night, and his muscles are sore today?
  • HG: He did? He has sore muscles?
  • Me: Yep, and he LIKES having sore muscles. It shows that he’s been working hard. Let’s see if you can work hard and earn your sore hand muscles.
  • Then we made a few funny faces at each other, just to ease the tension. Next, she traced my “y” and wrote her own a few times.
  • HG: MOMMY! I DID IT!!! I WROTE Y WITH A TAIL THE RIGHT WAY! I LEARNED HOW TO DO IT AND MY MUSCLES ARE SORE BECAUSE I WORKED HARD!!!!!
We made game-show

We made game-show “Ding ding ding!” and “Buzz” noises when we looked at the top two and circled or crossed them out. The bottom row of y’s are her own. This was hard-fought, my friends.

I normally wouldn’t make a mountain out of this kind of molehill. But proper letter formation is a must when learning to write in cursive, which will be in a couple years. It also slows a kid down when she has to pick up her pencil just to form another part of the same letter! She’ll thank me someday, but until then…

After that small triumph, the rest of the day was miserable.

Hula Girl told me to SHUT UP today. I have one guess as to where she heard that: “The Dream” in Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together. She has not ever heard anyone say it out loud except for in that book, which we happen to have as an audio book. Apparently she decided she had had enough of me talking to her while I did laundry, so she went storming into her room, slammed the door, and yelled at me. Oh, my.

I calmly went in, sat on her bed with her, and explained to her that our family doesn’t use words like that. I told her that they were unbecoming of a young lady, and that she would have a consequence for saying them to me. She spent quite a bit of time in her room, cleaning and so forth, and then she came out for lunch in a happy mood.

It lasted all of four seconds.

She made her PB&J, with permission, and then I gave the kids some peas on the side. I turned to cut up some apples for them, and I heard a pea hit the floor and Hula Girl yelled, “Pea fight!” I took the peas away, and she ran after me, grabbed the bowl, and spilled them all over the floor. Her next move was to scream and cry and tell me that I had hurt her. How? “You held the bowl when I wanted to grab it and you hurt my fingers.” Oooooookay. Then she tried to hit me, which I blocked while saying, “I won’t let you hit me.” Then she hugged my waist and bawled while I rubbed her back and said, “You’re having a lot of big feelings today and you’re misbehaving left and right! Something must be bugging you!” And all she did was cry.

After lunch, which was very short, I put Hula Girl right to bed. I read her some poetry about self-discipline, table manners, and finally one about perseverance.

God gave me the poem about perseverance as an answer to a desperate prayer I’d prayed earlier in the day, during which I begged God to show me how to show her my love. After reading the poem to her, I was able to tell her that I would ALWAYS persevere in my love for her. I told her that no matter what she did, no matter how poorly she behaved, no matter what words she spoke to me, I would always love her. I told her that I love her more than she will ever know until she becomes a mommy herself someday. I told her that I was thankful that God let me be HER mommy, because SHE is exactly the daughter I need. She cuddled up onto my lap and told me she was glad to be my daughter. I was happy to reply that I was beyond thrilled to be her mommy.

It doesn’t matter how hard this gets. I don’t care how many times she hurls insults at me. I am her mommy, and I’m going to show her grace and love. I’m going to fight to show her Jesus in me. I’m going to win, because that is my mission as her mother. She must know she is loved and treasured and that Jesus is her loving, gracious savior.

Here’s the poem I read to her, but more to myself, which steeled me and gave me strength:

Carry On!

by Robert W. Service

It’s easy to fight when everything’s right,
And you’re mad with thrill and the glory;
It’s easy to cheer when victory’s near,
And wallow in fields that are gory.
It’s a different song when everything’s wrong,
When you’re feeling infernally mortal;
When it’s ten against one, and hope there is none,
Buck up, little soldier, and chortle:

      Carry on! Carry on!
   There isn’t much punch in your blow.
You are glaring and staring and hitting out blind;
You are muddy and bloody, but never you mind.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   You haven’t the ghost of a show.
It’s looking like death, but while you’ve a breath,
       Carry on, my son! Carry on! 

And so in the strife of the battle of life
It’s easy to fight when you’re winning;
It’s easy to slave, and starve and be brave,
When the dawn of success is beginning.
But the man who can meet despair and defeat
With a cheer, there’s the man of God’s choosing;
The man who can fight to Heaven’s own height
Is the man who can fight when he’s losing.
   
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Thing never were looming so black.
But show that you haven’t a cowardly streak,
And though you’re unlucky you never are weak.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Brace up for another attack.
It’s looking like hell, but – you never tell.
      Carry on, old man! Carry on!

There are some who drift out in the desert of doubt
And some who in brutishness wallow;
There are others, I know, who in piety go
Because of a Heaven to follow.
But to labor with zest, and to give of your best,
For the sweetness and joy of the giving;
To help folks along with a hand and a song;
Why, there’s the real sunshine of living.

      Carry on! Carry on!
   Fight the good fight and true;
Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;
There’s big work to do, and that’s why you are here.
      Carry on! Carry on!
   Let the world be the better for you;
And at last when you die, let this be your cry!
      Carry on, my soul! Carry on!

The Chicken Dance

Wednesdays are always hectic in the mornings. The kids get up at 7:30, and we have to leave by 8:20 in order to get to Hula Girl’s dance class on time. This 50-minute chunk of time seems adequate time for most people to eat, dress, brush teeth, and leave, but TODDLER TIME is sooooo sloooooow. Somehow I put breakfast on the table at 7:35 and the kids still aren’t even halfway done by 7:55. 20 minutes into breakfast, and they’ve eaten like half a bowl of oatmeal and a few strawberries. I find it’s best if I just give them a quick breakfast and then plan for a larger morning snack than usual on Wednesdays.

Regardless of the hectic nature of the morning, yesterday I made sure to review our memory verse, read our poem for the day (“At the Sea-Side”), and pray for our sponsor kids. The kids so enjoy these activities at breakfast time. Monkey Man enjoys the poetry, and Hula Girl likes talking about what kinds of things our sponsor kids are doing, how the weather is where our sponsor kids live, and how we can pray for them. And of course both kids love the chance to show off their memory skills.

A couple days ago, I posted that Monkey Man doesn’t really join in memory verse recitation with the rest of us. Well, two hours after I published that post, kid was spouting off the entire verse. I knew he was able to do it, but he just wasn’t yet. He has decided to jump on board with family memory verses. It’s so much fun to see the kids gobbling up God’s word and taking it to heart. I even got the chance to correct their behavior using scripture yesterday when they were bickering. l asked them to say Ephesians 4:32 with me (“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you,”) and then I asked Hula Girl what she needed to do in order to obey. She stopped arguing, said, “I forgive you, Monkey Man,” and they hugged it out.

Another awesome part of doing family memory verses is being able to address deeper spiritual issues. The other day, Jonathan got the chance to explain God’s forgiveness through Christ. Hula Girl was asking, “What does it mean that God in Christ forgave us?” Jonathan explained that Christ died once for all, and that our sins are forgiven because of HIS sacrifice, not because of any good thing we’ve done. She liked that a lot.

Anyway. Dance was great. The recital is coming up in two weekends, so the girls are really just working on fine-tuning their performance right now. Their sweet teachers are great at what they do, but this time of year is just crazy with so much going on. We will all be glad when the recital comes and we take the summer off.

After dance, we went to Starbucks to get hot chocolate and then we went and picked up the dance teachers’ gifts and cards. Our final errand was to get Monkey Man’s hair cut. To say the hairdresser loved him would be a major understatement. She was amazed at his speech and how sure he was with himself. He wanted his hair to be short on the top so he could “put gel in it like Daddy.” He also asked her to blow dry his hair (SO funny to see a hair dresser blow-drying a tiny little boy’s inch-long hair strands!), and he asked her to put gel in it when she was done. She got a kick out of all his requests and so she indulged him. He was definitely spoiled.

When we got home from our errands, Hula Girl disappeared to her room to work on her projects (she loves to write notes to people and glue them to pictures she’s created) and Monkey Man laid down on the couch to listen to an audio book from the library. We had a hot lunch of soup and popcorn! Then it was rest time.

When the kids got up, we spent about 10 minutes on Hula Girl’s reading lesson, and then we read 20-something books from the library. It is so cozy to be snuggled on the couch with those two little people. Monkey Man leans his head on my shoulder while I read; Hula Girl holds the cat on her lap and drapes her legs over mine. We put a blanket over all of us (the cat included, we wouldn’t want to forget Riley), and we read until we’re out of books. It took an hour and a half yesterday.

Our final activity before Jonathan came home yesterday was letting our youngest baby chicks out of their brooder for a while. I tried to keep them contained to just a blanket on the floor, but they were WILD. We have five little chicks who are 5 weeks old; our “big girls” are 9 weeks old and out in the coop already. The “little girls” are not as tame as the “big girls” because they were older when we got them and hadn’t been handled as much as young chicks. They were literally flying all around the playroom, and three of them even climbed up on Hula Girl’s head. Monkey Man enjoyed fishing them out from under the train table and the futon, and I just walked around cleaning up any messes. Oy. After 20 minutes of that, we rounded them up and returned them to their brooder so we could all get some rest! Thankfully, Jonathan is in the process of moving them to their bigger brooder in the garage as I type this, so I won’t have any more chickens living in our guest room. Ever.

Wednesday was not very school-heavy, but it was certainly educational. Every day is educational, in one way or another. And who says academic lessons are the most important lessons?

Rainy School Day #2

Hula Girl has really fallen into the rhythm of Kindergarten quickly and easily.

On Tuesday, we worked on our memory verse as a family, and then when Jonathan left, I sat down at the breakfast table with the kids and we read our poem for the day (“A Thought” by Robert Louis Stevenson). After poem reading and prayers for our sponsor brothers and sisters, we turned on our hymn (“All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night”) and tried to sing along.

After breakfast, we worked on laundry and getting ready for the day for about a half an hour. Hula Girl was so funny, asking, “Mommy! What should I wear?” I told her she could wear anything she wanted to wear but that it needed to be warm enough to go outside. She replied, “Mommy, I can change to go outside, but I want to look fancy for SCHOOL!” Haha, she is really taking her job as a student seriously!

Once we finished our chores and got cleaned up and dressed, we completed the following work:

  • Literature- “Wolf and Kid” from Aesop’s Fables
  • Math- Math-U-See (MUS) Primary level, lesson 12D (dealing with place value)
  • Literature-Whale” from Just So Stories
  • Copywork- “tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” from Ephesians 4:32
  • Reading- Lesson 4

This really only took us until about 10, and so we were left with the rest of the day stretching ahead of us, full of opportunity. Since we’ve had such rainy weather lately, and it’s been so cold to boot, we spent the day inside. We made a blanket fort, we read a mountain of books, and then the kids had an hour or so of roomtime while I vacuumed and cleaned in preparation for my women’s book group on Tuesday evening.

After rest time that afternoon, we bundled up and headed out into the rain to go meet Hula Girl and Monkey Man’s new swim teacher at the Y. Hula Girl is a hesitant little girl still, and we’re starting lessons this week. I thought it best to go meet her teacher a couple days in advance so she knows who to expect. Her teacher won her over just by standing there; after all, what four-year-old isn’t going to be charmed by a young blonde teacher who wears an ELSA BRAID in her hair? Bonus points for Miss J, who happened to be wearing glasses, as well. Hula Girl loves glasses. She can’t wait to wear them someday.

After the Y we stopped at Walmart because somehow our coffeemaker broke last week. I’m still thinking it’s coincidence that it broke when we tried to use it after I had made coffee for the first time ever. When I made coffee, it worked. Coffee came out. Nothing weird. But the following night, it was broken. I didn’t touch it the night it broke. Let’s just be clear. 🙂

Sorry, I got sidetracked. I was going to explain how cute my Monkey Man is. When we went to buy the coffee maker, he was dressed as a firefighter, with the jacket, hat, and boots. He was also wearing a stethoscope around his neck, because fun. This older man at Walmart stopped and said, “Oh, hi, Doctor!” Monkey Man turned with his hands on his hips and said, “I am not a doctor. I am a firefighter.” The man didn’t really hear him, so he chuckled and went on his way. But Monkey Man kept calling after him, “Man! I am a firefighter! Man! Do you hear me? I am a firefighter, Man!” Bahaha. After that, anytime anyone stopped to admire his get-up, which was a LOT of times (cute kids FTW!), he pre-empted the entire conversation by saying, “Hi, I am a firefighter. Not a doctor.” They’d all laugh and he had a grand old time. He loves to talk to strangers and tell them all about his life.

Preschool and Homeschool Plans

We’ve been able to just jump right in to school this year. Hula Girl is such an eager student; memorization and absorption of new material comes so naturally to her. I’m always a bit wary of doing too much too soon with her; after all, she is only four years old and I know that at this point in her life, free play should be her #1 daily activity. However, she just adores preschool time and asks for it even on weekends. Little Man even gets to participate, and he so enjoys it! Soon he will have his own curriculum to work through. I’m so excited to teach both of them every day.

Here’s a general rundown of what our preschool time looks like each day:

  • 15 minutes- Reading and dancing or doing finger plays or clapping along to children’s songs and nursery rhymes from What your Preschooler Needs to Know (Little Man joins us for this part, because it’s fun and he’s going to start the activity book in August!)
  • 5 minutes- Copywork- Hula Girl copies down short passages from our morning’s devotion or the week’s nonfiction reading in her copywork notebook
  • 15 minutes- Math- We are using the Math-U-See Primer Level to introduce math concepts. We do about 5 minutes of direct instruction on the day’s topic, and then she takes 10 or so minutes to complete the accompanying worksheet.
  • 5 minutes- Core Knowledge Activity Book 2– This book is full of short, fun activities to reinforce literacy, writing, math, and other subject areas appropriate for preschoolers. Hula Girl already completed the first book last year.
  • 10 minutes- Reading- Hula Girl is currently teaching herself to read the Dick and Jane books. We sit down for a few minutes at the end of preschool and she attempts to read one chapter. I help her sound out words she’s unfamiliar with and then she reads through the story two or three more times, until she feels confident that she can read it well. She takes several breaks to practice reading that story throughout the day, and when Jonathan comes home, she reads the new chapter to him- always flawlessly.
  • *10 minutes- Nature Study- Hula Girl observes her science projects or something out in nature (like a bird sitting on top of our truck) and sketches her observations in her sketchbook. I help her with labeling and write the date, her title, and what observations she wishes to include. Little Man sketches in his notebook as well; however, his sketches tend to resemble Morse code. 😉
  • *10 minutes- History, Science, Music, or Art- We read a short excerpt, listen to a song, or view a piece of art and discuss. Oftentimes we will then take the next thirty minutes or so to create something inspired by the historical event, scientific information, composition, or artwork. These things might include hats like Abraham Lincoln wore, diagrams of our vascular system, choreography to complement the music, or simple art projects which resemble the inspiration.

*Nature study, history, science, music, and art do not happen daily. When we drop “reading” as a subject (when she’s fluently reading without much assistance), she will be using reading to access all her history, science, music, and art information on a daily basis.

So far, this system is really working well for us. Hula Girl’s favorites are math and nature study, and she really enjoys reading (I’m not sure how she couldn’t like reading as we’ve spent approximately 25% of her life snuggled up together reading books). Next week, I plan to move Little Man’s roomtime to the mornings right after breakfast, so Hula Girl and I can work on preschool uninterrupted. It’s difficult and a bit silly to try to plan extra activities to keep him occupied during this time as he only wants to be doing exactly what his big sister is doing. She, being the perfectionist she is, can’t handle his stray pencil marks on the corners of her papers and it’s really hard to explain place value when every other word out of my mouth is “Stop!”

We have an opportunity coming up for next year to place Hula Girl in a homeschool program at a charter school in Colorado Springs. She would attend school once a week and they would focus more on the art/music/PE stuff while also emphasizing basic literacy skills. Honestly, I feel like her greatest benefit would be improving her social skills. She has been really outgoing lately and has wanted to talk to and play with every single child she meets. I am still trying to work through whether or not it’s justified to commit to driving an hour one way every single week just so she can “do school” when our intention all along has been to homeschool. I feel like we can probably find her some groups of friends around here with less of a commute.

Another issue is that she will be a new five at the start of the school year and although she is quite mature for her age intellectually, she is just developing some social skills other children developed a while ago. Her very shy nature kept her quite isolated from other children for several years. Her recent outgoing behavior has been wonderful but also illuminating in some areas. We discuss many interactions I observe and I am working to teach her to act graciously and sensitively to other children. She catches on quickly, which is a relief!

And so we will see how things go over the next few months. Regardless of whether we do the charter school program, we will definitely be starting the Core Knowledge Kindergarten Sequence with Hula Girl and the Core Knowledge Preschool Activity Book 1 with Little Man this summer. I love Core Knowledge as a teacher because it allows me to draw from many outside sources to create lessons uniquely meaningful to my children while giving me a general understanding of what material to cover in each year. I plan to marry the Core Knowledge curriculum and the Charlotte Mason method. With this in mind, I plan to read all the books from the Ambleside Online Curriculum each year just because we have plenty of time and my kids love to read!

I Want to Blog Again.

This morning, my very favorite bloggers, whose blog I’ve followed for the past five years, announced they’re calling it quits on their blog. At least for now. I was pretty sad about it. After five years of almost daily updates, it’s a shock, to say the least. It feels like I’m losing touch with part of my family!

Somehow that experience awakened the beast in my heart again. I want to write about our life. I miss being able to document cute things the kids do, random thoughts, family updates, and my feelings about everything. I know I don’t have a huge following, and likely never will because I don’t plan to specialize in anything outside my own personal interests (i.e., my family). But it was nice to know at least a couple friends and family members could keep up with us.

So. Here we are. Hula Girl is four years and four months old. Gelato is two years and two months old. Jonathan is turning 32 this month, and I’m turning 29 in a few days. We’ve been living in our first house for a year and two months. Riley, our cat, is six years old. Jonathan is working at the same place, but his job is changing in January. I am staying at home with the kids and teaching Sunday school. So much is the same as the last time I posted. And yet so much is different!

Jonathan’s upcoming job is the biggest change in our situation. He’ll still be working for the same company. However, he has recently been trained as a horticultural therapist. Since he has received that training (to be completed in November), the decision-makers at his company have decided to purchase a house for him to use as the location to provide horticultural therapy services. They are remodeling the house right now to include office space, seed storage space, a greenhouse, indoor and outdoor garden areas, storage sheds, etc. Jonathan will be creating the entire program for his company and will serve as the therapist on-site. There will be a recreational therapist on-site as well.

To say Jonathan is excited would be an understatement for sure. Yes, it’s a large undertaking. Oh my, is it. Coordinating with his loan repayment program, current supervisors, the health department, his horticultural therapy instructors, the business office, administrators, and so forth, is a huge endeavor. On top of that, he’s building an entire program! But this is totally up his alley. It’s funny because he never had any gardening inclinations until we were married and I introduced him to it. Better half? You’d better believe it. 😉 I’m just so proud of all he’s learning, and the attitude with which he’s facing this challenge. He just keeps putting one foot in front of the other, without getting overly anxious about things.

The kids are great. Challenging, but great.

Hula Girl is taking dance again, and she’s loving it. She has such beautiful straight legs and pointy pointy toes. She picks things up quickly, and she’s still extremely obedient. Dance is one of her favorite things. She also loves playing with her Elsa and Anna dolls, jumping and skipping around, climbing really high up on play structures, and swimming. She can read, but we don’t push it. She’s a baker at heart- she is awesome at measuring out ingredients and mixing them up. She is still not very interested in sitting still and coloring or doing any kids of crafty activities. Therefore, writing is not something we’re stressing at this time in her life. She HAS grown out of putting everything in her mouth. Oh my goodness, people, when she was three and a half, I thought she was going to die because she was putting anything and everything she could find in her mouth. Soap, lotion, toothpicks, rocks, sticks, leaves, bugs, hair ties, etc. You name it, she mouthed it. And then… she stopped. Whew.

Gelato is… two. 🙂 He is the exact age now that Hula Girl was when he was born. Man, I am so glad Gelato is my SECOND child. He is into everything, but not in a destructive way. I frequently find him pulling a chair over to the fridge so he can get himself a glass of ice water or standing up on a chair near the stove so he can see what’s boiling in the pot. He is always so careful not to spill his water or touch the hot stove. I am so glad we’ve followed the RIE principles with him; he knows that I trust him to know his body’s limits, and he rarely tests them except in safe situations. Other than these situations, though, he is really quite rambunctious. He’s the kid tumbling pell-mell to plant his face into the couch cushions. He’s the kid climbing into the swings and trying to pump his own legs (at two). He’s the kid splashing and screaming in the pirate pool… just because he can. He’s also the kid who is mischievous and will try to get away with… everything. He knows the limits, and he tests them. Not the same ones over and over again. Just all of them.

Both children are snuggle bugs. They enjoy sitting on my lap for hours listening to me read. They’ve recently convinced the cat, Riley, that he should actually like them and sit on their laps. He tolerates them well enough, and hasn’t tried to scratch or bite them at all in months! Hula Girl keeps trying to convince us to keep her door open at night so she can cuddle with Riley in her bed. Santa may or may not be bringing her a kitten this year. (Seriously, may or may not. Jury is out. But it is highly likely that Santa will be bringing a kitten.)

I still attend my ladies’ Bible study group on Monday nights. It’s been so much fun to get to know the ladies in my group. One of the ladies even has two little girls and we trade babysitting services every now and then. We tried to get all scheduled about it last month, but then there was sickness and life, and this month I forgot. So we’ll see how that goes. 🙂

We’ve also joined a Bible study with a group of older people from our church. They are all into the grandparent days, so they are willing to travel to our house on Thursday nights. This saves us the hassle (and $$$) of having to hire a babysitter, and we so appreciate it! It also means my house has to be spotless at least one day a week. You win some, you lose some.

So that’s that. Hi. I hope to reconnect with some friends and family, so leave me a comment to let me know you were here! 🙂

Dance Dilemma

Now, many of you know that my Hula Girl is a very reserved little girl. Reserved to the point where she is extraordinarily uncomfortable around new people and she doesn’t talk to them for at least 20-30 minutes. Even if they bring her gifts (sorry, Alyssa). It bothers me a lot when other people call her “shy”… she definitely acts that way, but I don’t want her labeled like that forever in her own mind. I generally jump the gun and just explain to folks that she’s reserved and she’ll need a bit of time to warm up. If they respect that, she does well and within a short period, she’s laughing and shouting to them as if she’s know them her entire life.

Another aspect of Hula Girl’s personality is that she is a very quick learner, and she’s a perfectionist to boot. She remembers dance steps after doing them once. She has beautiful technique (for a three-year-old) and makes corrections naturally when her teacher gives them. She can even take what she learns in class and apply them at home- when she teaches me how to dance. She loves correcting me: “No, Mommy, you need to point your toes like this, with your heels together. Look.” Her dance teacher says she has a lot of potential and that she’s really fun to work with because she learns quickly.

For things like dance class, where it’s a weekly event but only for an hour or so, the key for her is consistent exposure. She does really well when the same girls attend week after week with no new students. I try to be really proactive about telling her what changes she can expect if I know in advance. For instance, if A isn’t going to be in class next week, I talk to Hula Girl about it in the car on the way home and on the way back to dance the following week. She likes to be prepared.

We recently had a shake-up in Dance Land. Just before we moved, our dance studio moved, too. Hula Girl would point out the old studio every time we passed it, and look for the new one and shout about its location, too. It took her about four weeks to be able to walk into the new studio and not have to ask me, “Mommy, is this the new studio?” She needs that reassurance.

Then we went on vacation and missed dance for two weeks. I tried to prepare her for her return to dance last Thursday as best as I could by running through her class music and doing a full “class” with her here at home the day before we went back.

And then there was a new girl in class when we arrived. And one of the regulars wasn’t there. Earth. Shattering.

Hula Girl actually seemed to take the new situation kind of well. She walked right in and got on her spot. But that was the highlight of the class. The rest of the time was spent rolling on the floor, assuming first position and then jumping down onto her bottom, crawling like a baby instead of walking on her toes, grabbing the other girls’ hands and holding on so tight the other girls couldn’t make her let go, and shouting all kind of off-topic things to the teacher in the middle of instructions. The teacher had such a hard time with her she even spoke to me after class.

Hula Girl and I had many short talks about it during the week. I reminded her that I expect her to have better behavior. We acted out what to do and what not to do.

So today everything seemed fine.  She told me this morning, “Mommy! I know what day it is! It’s Thursday! It’s Dance Class Day! I LOVE DANCE CLASS!!!!” She knew what she was going to do when we got to the studio, and she knew what expectations we had for her during class. I asked her what she was going to do in class today and she replied, “Listen to the directions and obey. If Miss S tells me to be in first position, I will stand in first position until she tells me to move.”  Okay.

But then. Somehow she just couldn’t handle it. I don’t know what triggered it. One minute she was happily sitting in her spot, waiting for class to begin. The next she was running out of the room crying. She told me she was nervous and that she wanted to go home.

I told her it’s okay to feel nervous and that we’re here to have fun and learn. I asked her if she really wanted to go home or stay in class. She said she wanted to stay but she wanted me to come with her. I asked Miss S if I could sit with her in the corner of the room by the door for a few dances. She obliged. Hula Girl went back to dancing with the other girls and was doing really well, except with a somber face.

I am thinking she was afraid Miss S was going to be mad at her for last week’s behavior and she felt like she had to be absolutely perfect or we’d all be upset. I think she was really feeling pressured by our expectations.

And then… the studio had closed-circuit TV installed so they can shut the door to the studio and parents can observe classes. Today was the first time it was in use. I left the room and shut the door behind me after a few songs and then watched Hula Girl begin to cry and bolt across the room after me.

After a long hug break and a lot of tears, Hula Girl told me she wanted to go home.

So we left.

Once we were in the parking lot, she realized the other girls were staying in class. Then she was very upset because she wanted to be dancing, too.

You guys, she LOVES dance. Absolutely loves it.

It was so hard for her to realize that the choice she made to go home instead of facing her fears at the studio meant that she couldn’t finish dance today.

I could have been harsh about it and refused to take her back to dance. Instead I told her we will try again next week and I took her to Starbucks and got her a pumpkin spice steamer (which she ADORED) and we talked about her feelings and our expectations and what will happen next week. I assured her that I am extremely proud of her for being able to tell me how she feels and for sticking with the choices that she makes (even though she really didn’t have the option to change her mind this time). I focused on the positives- “You did what you said you were going to do today! We went in the studio, put on your shoes, and you sat down on your spot just like we talked about!” I really encouraged her and let her know that if she’s wanting to stay in dance, I will support her and help her feel comfortable there in the best ways I can.

We are going back. We’re going to go early and see how the camera system works. I’m going to show her how I will see her the entire time. We talked about how the camera is like Skype with Ama and Papa- even though they’re not here in the room, we can still see them and hear them. That resonated with her a bit. She relaxed a bit and said, “Oh. You will see me the whole time!”

If, however, she struggles next week, we’re not going to waste money or anyone else’s time. We’re going to take a break.

And this, my friends, is why I really don’t think sending her away to preschool just for the sake of “experience” is necessarily a good idea for her. It will be quite traumatic, and for what purpose? Just for me to get a break? And if I plan to homeschool for real, the experience will be absolutely unnecessary.

Ay, yi, yi. It is difficult to find the balance between supporting her emotionally and challenging her to expand her horizons. Anyone else have experience with a painfully (dare I say it) shy child? Any tips?

Minor Homeschooling Freakout

I’m starting to second-guess our decision to homeschool.

This morning I took Hula Girl to the library for storytime (Gelato stayed home with our amazing friend Joy who babysits the kids and they LOVE her, who was homeschooled by the way). We’ve been going to the same storytime at the same library for two years now. There are several families whose kids are around Hula Girl’s age and now they have littler ones who are around Gelato’s age.

We went to storytime in August just before our vacation, but we hadn’t been back for three weeks. And a lot changes in three weeks. First of all, there is a new storytime teacher. Miss Kirsten is no longer there, which makes us sad. But hopefully we’ll get used to someone new (with her newfangled ways of singing the ABC song and all!). Aside from that, the demographics today were just way different than ever before.

All the kids Hula Girl’s age were absent- gone to preschool. Their moms were chilling calmly with their younger kids and really enjoying the 1-on-1 time with their younger offspring. I asked several of the moms how the eldest kids were liking it, and how the family was adjusting, etc. One hundred percent of the moms said it was going really well and that their child loved it. One hundred percent of them also said it was hard getting used to having their child away, even if only a couple times each week.

This started two divergent lines of thinking in my head:

1. I am a terrible mother for not giving Hula Girl the opportunity to go away to school. I am depriving her of meaningful and fun experiences and she will miss out on all the “normal” things that her peers will reminisce about in college.

2. I feel bad for those kids who have to be sent away from their families to go to school, especially the ones whose moms aren’t working and just staying at home hangin’ out with their sibs.

The predominant thought was the first idea- that Hula Girl and Gelato are going to be deprived of something great by having to stay home with me all the time. And so now I’ve got myself worked up into a tizzy.

Because, let’s face it, it would be GLORIOUS to send my little chickadee off to 3 hours of supervised-but-not-by-me activities twice weekly.  She would have fun and learn, I’d get a break; win, win. And then as she gets older and goes into real school and Gelato gets into preschool, I’d get even more breaks. Win, win, win! And when they both get into school school, I’d get to go back and teach again! Win, win, win, win!

But is that really worth it to me? I want to be the #1 influence in their lives. I want to be the one making decisions about what they will learn and how. I want to be the one who knows their work styles and play styles best. I want to know what they’ve done all day. I want to know which friends they have been hanging out with. I want to know if anything has happened to make them feel uncomfortable or sad (or EXCITED or GLEEFUL, for that matter).

And I want them to learn from me and my mistakes. I guarantee Hula Girl will be a better cook than me- she has already started learning. And Gelato will definitely have a better ear for music than I do because I insist on his hearing it during a lot of his day.

Anyway, I am just feeling all wrinkly and prickly and disheveled and not-sorted-out right now about our schooling situation here. I think I’m also feeling a lot of hubris and trepidation and not-good-enough and can’t-even-handle-her-at-three-how-am-I-gonna-teach-her-until-she-graduates?!?!?!

And one more thing. This has NOTHING to do with this post, but I just have to say it. What’s worse than completing your entire P90X workout? Lifting your son out of his crib later. P90X Chest and Back=OW.

 

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