Thursday, February 28, 2013

Just a Thursday.

It's gloomy outside, and mama is recovering from a particularly bad day yesterday, rife with shredded nerves from a teething baby who wouldn't sleep, the lateness for an orthodontist appointment that followed, the speeding ticket that followed that, the subsequent failure to make it to the tooth appointment on time, and one very sad Mirth who has to have her appliance in a full 6 weeks longer as result.

cutting up gelatin-Grace's squares are pretty darn perfect. 
Today is better. There is tea with honey, a baby who slept curled into her mama's belly all night contentedly, roasted acorn squash and kale chips, and a tour of a raw milk dairy farm waiting for us late this afternoon. Perhaps I'll squeeze in a 30 minute run, as well.

Lark making mazes. <3 
Lark is in her bedroom on the top bunk, listening to The Chamber of Secrets on mp3. Earlier this morning, she pranced into the kitchen lightly and trilled, "I notice we've eaten a lot of sweet things lately. I think we should eat less sugar. Let's eat vegetables for lunch!" :blink blink: It'll be hard, but I think we can manage it. She's also been pushing the baby around the house on an upside down lego table, sleigh ride style, Electra giggling all the way. She's in a remarkably easy/cooperative phase right now, and she's constantly making me giggle with her insightful observations.

To my complete astonished delight, Mirth pulled out one of her old stories and decided to type it out, editing grammar/spelling as she goes and adding illustration in Paint as she goes. I'm treading lightly, so as not to disturb the magic that's going on there; too much input, and I'll pop it. ;oP When it happens, her projects are so thought out and organized, as long as no one puts too much pressure on her and jinxes it. She just asked me if I wanted tea, because "I'm making myself some. Every good writer needs tea."

 A recent homemade joke of hers, "How do you tell an asian elephant from an african elephant?" "Read the SIGN." :OP

Grace is sprawled out on the rug, doing a Montessori activity a friend recommended, and instructing her sisters on the finer points of emotional validation as she goes. ("Mirth! I lost my key. I lost my key. MIRTH. I lost my key." "OK, wow, you lost your key! Great! -.-" "You can't say 'great' when someone loses their key! You're 'sposed to say, 'Oh, no! That's so sad!'") I'm snickering here. Extraverted feeling at work here, folks. She's started drawing really detailed art writing very small, perfect, amazing letters and words. Her first word was 'poop'; no surprise there. She still flips out over small physical setbacks, but is able to work it out herself or respond to humorous explanations of *why* the frustrating thing might be happening. She loves it when we anthropomorphize frustrating objects like her pants: "Sneaky PANTS! You're trying to trick us, but we're too clever for you! We've CAUGHT you trying to be lumpy!" This usually produces a knowing look and giggles.

Electra is mostly just bumping along the floor in a sideways crawl, inspecting things as she goes, and chirping for 'nanas whenever she sees one. Of all the foods she's tried so far, bananas are her favorite, I think. She also seems to really love the soft parts of popcorn, chia pudding, beans, sweet potatoes, and curried anything. She repeats almost any word that strikes her fancy, but the ones she uses to actually tell us things are: bow, dat, dis?, mama, dada, Mirth's name, sis, mo', cat, some and the sign for milk. Her favorite is funny noises: hissing like a cat, "whistling", clucking her tongue, making a pee sound at the potty, "mop-mop-mop"ing like a fish, and imitation of pretty much anything else she hears. She tends to wake up dry in the morning, so we've started taking her to the toilet, signing "pee", and she empties her bladder there...Lark tends to come along and cheer, and Electra grins proudly with all her teeth and claps for herself.

It's so much fun to watch her develop relationships with all her family members...each one is different from the next, and she's quickly learning who to go to for what. One of her many nicknames is "Babber Nabber the baby grabber".

That's all for today. Just wanted to get those thoughts down. <3

Monday, February 11, 2013

A pretty day in February

magnolia tree tent

(they also make excellent climbing trees...)

Lark is a tree climber extraordinaire. I've never met anyone so in her own body or at home in a tree as my girlie. Her sisters are also excellent climbers, mind you. She just has a certain nimble sprite-like quality that surprises me..somehow, even though I feel it's the motherly thing to do to remind her to keep her focus, I rarely ever worry about her falling. She's just sure-handed/footed. She somehow manages to look dreamy

Mirth climbed the tree long enough to say she did it, and was off the fish in the pond some more. :OP Busy, busy.

I was really proud of my sweet Gracie girl, too. She's a little methodic in her climbing (like her mama), and while she's got an increasingly good command of things, she tends to freak out a little when she feels stuck (like her mama). And, also like me, she doesn't want anyone to help her. So, "Help, help, help!!" but also, don't help, I've got it! So, after I went up after her (and that didn't do) and daddy extracted her from below with me braced on a limb above, she begrudgingly allowed herself to be settled into the fluffy dirt floor of the magnolia tent. She came and found me, and said, "I didn't do it. I can *never* climb again." So I assured her she could whenever she felt ready to, and that I hoped she'd always climb every tree she felt ready to climb, if she wanted to. And she purposefully went right back and called out, "I'm stuck in the very same SPOT!" So, I ran over and realized she'd done it on purpose. Oh, I recognize that stubborn drive to untangle problems by one's self. :OP So, I stood on the ground and called out instructions/suggestions, and tried a few times to put a hand on her leg, and she started yelling, "No, no!!! I want to do it my SELF!" with the angst that only a 3.95 year old can muster. And she did it. She made it all the way down by herself. I could have swooned over the look of competence and happy all over her little face when she announced she'd done it. Never lose that feeling, Gracie lady. :hearts:

Electra was thrilled with the loamy dirt, sticks and magnolia-cones (I don't know what they're technically called) under the tree...we spread out Barefoot's trusty wool Masai blanket inside the "tent", but what fun is it to stay on the blanket? ;OP

Love that Lark is waaaaay up above and Electra is way down below...both cheesing for the camera, LOL
We also caught some crrrrrazy big fish from the pond (my dad reeled in the biggest), and then went home to celebrate Electra's very first birthday. Happy Birth Day, my sweet lovey! She has the best grin known to mankind. I cannot see her smile and not want to grin back at her. Also, her sisters designed and did about 80% of the cake decor themselves, much inspiration and technique drawn from CakeBoss and NerdyNummies a la youtube.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Gelatin prints!

This was an absolute blast! Very messy, very process oriented, good for experimentation. 

First, we made a block of plain gelatin (followed the directions for 6 packets, using hot water only), and were careful to sponge all bubbles off the top. When it was set and rubbery, we plopped it out on a plastic cutting board and went to town. 

First, we rolled on a thin coat of watered down acrylic paint onto the gelatin block (or you could smear with your hands), and experimented with empty space by putting down paper cutouts, mesh onion bags, string, rubber bands, etc. We lay the blank sheets down directly on the gelatin block and gently pressed the paper down with our hands, then peeled it off to reveal the print! 

Then, we experimented with layering effects. After they dried, we experimented with adding some fruit cross-section stamps. Fun! XO)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February Unschool Photos....

lots of cooking
Lots of pony pretend and books on MP3 for this one...Lemony Snickett, Holes and Harry Potter books are the latest. 

lots of  Lego
Harry Potter-a-thons (and legos in general, actually)

lots of climbing!

Letter drawing, unprompted. She likes to keep adding them and laughs when I try to sound them out!
Garden planning for our community garden plot...square ft grid, learning about diameters, how much space each kind of plant needs to grow time, we may do all sticky notes so we can rearrange them

Latin roots, a la Harry Potter and Star Wars
And plenty of this, too. :OP

Monday, January 7, 2013

"My Six Year Old is Out of Control"

Said myself recently while on the phone with a friend, as I watched 6yo Lark teasing and snatching and giggling and running into walls in effort to escape the (well deserved) rage of her older sister.

My friend asked me how much big muscle movement she'd gotten in the past few days. Oh. I always forget that about six year olds. 

Mirth at six
They need (in my opinion) 4-5 hours of big movement a day, most days, more than that. That's a lot of movement. They need it like air and food and water and anything else we wouldn't blame them for losing their marbles over not getting; mine tells me on a regular basis "I just feel FEISTY inside, and I have to move my body!!" It's true. They literally need to. Otherwise, you get that wild-eyed, "I can't hear you, I'm too busy looking completely INSANE" thing that people that age have going on when their parents are too tired to remember that they need to move like mama needs cream in her chai. 

Feed them real food, keep them in a predictable routine and give them AMPLE opportunity to let their muscles do hard work and they're completely different creatures. No joke. They won't be docile (what fun would THAT be? ;oP), but they will be more likely to be able to hear basic instruction and settle themselves at bedtime. I'll take that, please! 

So, back to Lark. After a good hike, a wrestling session with Barefoot Man, several rounds of giant floor puzzle, 3 hours in the play tunnels at a local restaurant and 2 hours digging/hauling in the dormant garden, she's starting to find her bearings again. That's in the past 24 hrs. Yep. Let that sink in, self. That's how much it can take. 

If you have a child with a naturally physically oriented personality, it can be even MORE. For you myers briggs geeks, if your child is ESTP/ESFP/ISFP/ISTP (aka, the "experienceres/artisans"), they're going to pretty much spend that year in perpetual motion. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that providing enough physical outlet for naturally physical kids during this year may be one of the most important things you do for them as a parent.

If you find yourself (like me) saying, "Be still!! Settle down!! Be Calm! You're getting wild/crazy!", take note and realize what they *actually* need to hear is, "put on your shoes and let's GO!" Those words and that exasperated feeling can cue us to the fact that what they desperately need is an arena to unleash all that big, intense, boundless energy. Sitting still is NOT going to help. This pretty much applies to any age, really. 

wrestling with Papa
So, here's my best list of gross motor activities for 6 year olds: 

-pillow diving (for the coordinated among them): jumping from coffee table or couch arms into a giant pile of couch cushions and/or pillows
-digging holes. Yep. Just in the dirt. 
-carrying grocery bags
-hammering big nails into wood (supervised)
-swimming (my personal favorite, because it really wipes them out FAST with all the resistance from water) 
-rolling downhill
-racing up stairs on all fours, sliding down on rear (Who can do it the most times? Not you, I bet!!)
-collecting sticks
-building dams in streams with sizeable rocks
-jump houses
-play places
-indoor obstacle courses
-cardboard tunnels with flashlights
-indoor hide and seek (write your own rules to suit family needs/limits)
-switching the laundry over for mom (wet clothes are HEAVY ;o) )
-building forts in the woods
-indoor hammock/outdoor hammock
-carrying a sib on their back
-swings/being swung around in a sheet/rebozo/sturdy afghan
-pillow fights
-weed pulling
-carrying watering cans in the garden
-yoga (there are lots of nice free kiddie yoga workouts on youtube!)
-locking arms and pushing against mom or dad's back while sitting
-tree climbing 
-pushing the baby stroller on walks
-indoor trampoline (this was a joint Christmas present from a year ago that gets a lot of love)
-Hippity Hop jumping balls (with handle...this SAVES us in the winter right before dinner, she goes at it for the better part of an hour while I cook!) 

Also, during this year, I just don't give them a lot of grief about the state of their clothes. I buy sturdy stuff and don't sweat it if it gets worn/stained/whatever. Clothes are for living in. Better to have confident hearts and competent bodies than perfectly consign-able duds. 

On a similarly pragmatic note, it takes a lot of decent fuel to move as much as they do, so I try especially hard to make sure lots of fruits, veg, protein and complex carbs are available to them about every 2 hrs or so. Lots of water, too. This is a lousy time for me to try and make a point about food; when they're hungry they're RAVENOUS, and, again, the kids who move the most are often the ones who are going to notice weird textures/tastes more. If they don't love something, other acceptable options are available. (our current obsessions are dill carrots, peanut butter, oat squares and jerky, lol) 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mommy Warriors: reconsider your opponent.

This isn't going to be a "Why I homeschool" rant. This isn't going to be a "Why you're crazy for not sending your kids to public school" rant. This is my (hopefully) calmly reasoned attempt to find a middle ground, and help myself and my fellow sisters reclaim a little dignity and confidence in our own motherhood.

The war is obvious: "That crazy bitch lets her kids walk to the store by themselves!" " Did you see that woman who breastfeeds her 4yo?"  "Her kid can't read yet, did you hear?" "*I* homeschool because I love my children. ""You know that's what drugs are for, right? You don't get a medal for going natural." "Isn't your baby sleeping through the night yet?" "Little Joey only eats organic food." "She's one of those vegan freaks."

It's totally like the Cornucopia from Hunger Games: Julia grabs a breastpump and a briefcase, which she uses to clock Stay-at-home Sal with, only to be tripped and stabbed with a vaccine syringe by anti-vax Moonbeam (who cackles maniacally that now Sal will suffer from autism). Crunchy Kate gets stabbed from behind with a kebab full of conventional meat while making a grab for some gluten free wafers, while two others duke it out beside the jogging strollers over Team TurtleNeck vs. Team Circumcision.

The crappy part isn't just that we're ripping one another a new one without any conscience. It's also that we're crippling ourselves with guilt and suspicion, causing us to miss out on the diversity of relationship and connections that we need to thrive as a community. While most of us wouldn't claim the title of bigot or homophobic (thankfully), we've become a terrifically narrow minded and prejudiced generation of women.

The awesome part is, we're all doing what we feel is best. We draw from gut feeling, research, experience, knowledge of our own situations, how well we know ourselves and our children, and from the unique vantage point of being essentially the manager of our own families. This is true whether we stay at home, work, work at home; adopt, birth fully medicated in a hospital or with bongo drums in the woods; whether we send our kids to public schools, waldorf, montessori, private schools or the living room table; are blended, parent alone, with a husband or with a partner. We love our children. We make best use of the the gifts we have. We are strong women.

Have you ever seen what happens when you put a lot of strong women in a room together? 

Yeah. Me, too. 

The Mommy Wars start when we're so invested in our choices that, somewhere along the line, we become convinced that our way is The Only Way. Put a lot of people like that in a room (or chatroom) at the same time, and you have what I like to call a FYMURGUYGHACIYPODSEF. (A Frack Your Mind Up Real Good Until Y Go Home And Cry Into Your Pillow Or Decide She's Evil Fest). Women judge one another preemptively, in order to avoid being judged. The media absolutely plays on this insecurity and milks it (pun intended) for all it's worth. If we can identify the "freak", we can reassure ourselves that we're normal. 

Every person involved in such a war goes home saying the same things: "How dare she? Poor idiot. She doesn't know she's totally messed up. I messed up? Is she right? Am I worthy?" Then, the warriors watch for failures and weaknesses in their opponent, to gloat. They reassure themselves with the hardships of others. They turn their own children into proof of their right choices, and launch into nervous self-doubt when the children fail to produce said proof. The mama warriors guard their islands carefully, separate and fighting windmills like addled Spaniard knights. It can rack us with insecurity about ourselves and riddle us with suspicious thoughts about one another. If we don't attack one another directly, we chose to undercut each other through whispered predictions of each other's downfall or gossip about how insane the next girl is. 

How do I know? Because I've done it before, of course. I've also been a victim.  So has every mother in America. Our culture is constantly morphing and changing, and it's no small task try and stay a step ahead of the game, setting our loved ones up for success. We desperately need the stability of traditions and community to keep our balance, and it can be unnerving when our peers chose differently than we do. Difference is inevitable,however, because that is the very nature of change. Life throws us challenges and we all grab the tools best suited to us individually; that is the strong and beautiful nature of the human spirit. What works for you may not work for me. And vice versa. 

It seems, though, that if we're to thrive as communities, nations and as a race, we would need to value one another's children as precious and important (rather than members of a competitive team) and one another co-protectors and nurturers of our own little ones. There is something to be said in a well-rounded approach, strength in numbers and in having many supportive fibers in the safety net that is a village. We need each other. Your children need me. Mine need you. They need to respect each other with tolerance and dignity, too, because they are the mothers and father of their own generation. Humans are social creatures; our strength is in community, adaptability and diversity. Are we really teaching them the value of those things? 

So, I suppose the question I'm asking myself is: what if we grabbed each other's hands, too? Suppose, for instance, that even though you chose differently for yourself, you chose to support my endeavors, or at least be respectful of the fact that I'm doing the best I can? Perhaps I can chose to wholeheartedly jump up and down with you over your successes, even you're walking a different path than I am. You could value my children's uniqueness; I can treasure yours for the amazing people that they are. 

"You mean you'll put down your rock, and I'll put down my sword, and we'll fight each other like civilized people?"

That's not to say that we can't learn from one another; to the contrary, we absolutely have MUCH to teach each other. We all have faults and areas we need to grow in. Obviously, we won't always agree But how can we grow if we're constantly on defense, demonizing one another? . We also all have something useful and valuable in our perspectives to bring to the table (and to the lives of one another's children). The added bonus of this is that we'd get to act out our own choices with ownership and confidence, rather than in defensive reaction to why someone else might chose differently than us. 

Of course there's a time and place to disagree, or to stand up for what we believe in. But are we really honestly doing that, or are we fighting hard against the thing that really frightens the bejibbers out of us: being vulnerable? A mindless kumbaya fest isn't sustainable, obviously, and that's not what I'm driving at. (Though, at this point, a good wine-induced singalong might actually be the best medicine possible! Imagine if we got over our inflated views of ourselves long enough to have a good, old fashioned giggle fest about what makes us similar!) I'm simply saying: perhaps if we all stopped shouting, we'd be able to hear and observe one another's wisdom, and see the beauty in each mother's approach.

Source. :heart: 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Unschooling 2nd week Dec.

At least this year, I'm a committed unschooler. Which basically means, I'm committed to fully seizing moments of curiosity in my children, letting myself get elbow deep in a mutual passion for learning/self-teaching, and letting them learn by asking questions rather than memorizing answers.

This week, our noses naturally led us to explore: polygons, polyhedrons, addition (for my 1st grader, who's now pretty sure she discovered a new concept; love that!), patterns, momentum, friction, some phonics, lots of reading and musical intervals. Rock on.