Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Awards, a Project, and a Traffic Jam

A Traffic Jam
Yesterday was a very busy day. It began with Bright Futures, and since Mark was home, I decided to leave the kids at home. As I sat in traffic for two hours, a few questions surfaced:
How do people do this everyday?

Why am I the only mini-van out here. Don't moms work for a living anymore?

Why didn't I bring my kids so I could cruise down the HOV lane?

How do people do this everyday?

What is the name of that movie with Michael Douglas where he gets so fed up with the traffic he just starts shooting?

Why didn't I bring my kids so I could cruise down the HOV lane?

A Project
I rushed home after BFA, gulped down a fast food lunch, loaded up the kids, and we headed to our last official co-op day of the year.

It was a fun day, but we still had the end-of-the-year celebration to come as well as the Geography Fair. While at co-op, I noticed some of the kids had already brought in their Geography Fair projects, and they were pretty grandiose. Since I hadn't pushed Alex to put a ton of effort into her project on deltas, I wanted Alex to add a few finishing touches on her project on deltas, so after co-op we rushed to Office Max, purchased a report display board, and basically started from scratch printed out a couple of things, glued a few papers, and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when we were done.

Our Her project turned out pretty well.

Not bad for 45 minutes work.

Let's see...what lessons did I teach my child through this project?
1) It pays to procrastinate.
2) Sometimes you have to compare yourself to others to get motivated to do well.
3) Mom enjoys doing projects.

OK, so I won't be writing a parenting or homeschooling book anytime soon.

At the end-of-the-year awards ceremony for co-op, the kids always receive certificates of completion. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I requested that mine say something along the lines of, Congratulations, you've passed the [number(th)] grade seeing as how we still have 55 school days to go, but anyway.

Some of the boys sat all together but, surprisingly, caused no trouble at all. What is funny is that Jacob began the evening with us. Then at one point we noticed he was gone--he had snuck over to sit with his friends. He sure has come a long way from the timid little guy he was a year or so ago!

After the ceremony, the kids all got to show off different projects they have worked on throughout the semester. Alex had made three bas relief clay pieces that were on display from her geography class. She also had a scrapbook to show off, but we forgot to bring it back for the ceremony.

Jacob showed off his Literature Pockets, which were all about Caldecott winners. Michael was also in this class.

Michael tried his best not to be a part of showing off his nutrition abacus, a class both boys were also in.

And Audrey showed Michael and her daddy her lapbook about the Five Senses.

Next and last for co-op for the 2009-2010 year: Field Day!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dinnertime Reading

I've always loved school. I'm kind of weird that way. And I thought teaching my kids would be easy because of my love of school. My first learned to read so quickly, I was still busy patting myself on the back before I realized she really is just a freak of nature and not the norm. By the time that realization hit me, I was knee-deep in frustration trying to teach the next one to read.

I've researched. I've interviewed other moms. I've fretted. I've worried that something is wrong. All this worry because he doesn't share one ounce of the enthusiasm for academia that practically oozes from my pores. He doesn't want to learn unless it the lesson is on Legos. He has shown no desire to pick up a book and read it just for the fun of it.

Don't get me wrong. When a friend gave him one from the Wimpy Kid series, he toted it around with him for awhile, read a few pages, recounted a couple of really classy fart jokes. He even filled in some of the pages of the Do-It-Yourself Wimpy Kid book I gave him. But typically he only turned to the books upon my prompting.

Then last week his daddy came home with a suitcase full of books. His travels had taken him up to his brother's house, the brother who just got married and whose new wife had cleaned house in order to move to a new home. She sent all of her daughter's old books back with my husband. Among those books was a tale about Patches the dog. Michael was immediately drawn to this book because his heart has still not healed from the loss of Max, a fact which still causes me much guilt and angst.

On his own, Michael picked up the book, and by his very own choice, began to read the book. And then he carried it with him wherever we went, including out to dinner. Most of the time we like the kids to leave their books and games in the car so we can enjoy a family dinner without everyone's face covered by a book or an electronic device, but I most certainly was not going to dampen his enthusiasm by forbidding that he bring Patches to the dinner table.

So the Academia Enthusiasm still may not ooze from the boy's pores, but at least there are signs that it's in his blood somewhere. And, well, we may have issued a rash bribe promise that if we see him continue to improve in his reading, we may consider a dog somewhere in the future. Not a puppy, but a dog. We'll see...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I've got the homeschooling blechs

If you're not aware of my teeny, tiny obsession with curriculum and books, you must be new here. Welcome. I was over at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers this morning and had to chuckle when Kris noted,"Isn't it funny how the curriculum that we're so excited about now will be the stuff we're tired of looking at by this time next year?" It was a nervous chuckle, though, because I know how true that is.

And it kind of hit me hard because I've been planning lately. For next year. Yes, I know it's only March. Honestly, the reason I've been thinking ahead to next year is because I am so very weary with this year. I'm trying my very hardest not to buy anything--yet--because as I noted in a comment for Kris, I do not want to tire of year 2010-2011 before it even arrives.

Next year will hold an added element of fun and interest that should help keep it alive. You see, I have found my soulmate when it comes to obsessive-too-early-planning-for-the-next-year. We were comparing notes and realized our science choice was identical. "Why don't we get together once a week next year and do science together?" my friend suggested. Let's see...divide up the work, gain an opportunity for some adult interaction...That's a no-brainer. Of course, there is the socialization factor for the kids which is an added benefit, though they are already so socialized that point is moot.

Well, then we got to comparing notes on history. "You know," she said, "our history choices are the same too. Why don't we get together once a week and teach the kids science and history?" Then we started talking art curriculum. Well, I won't go through the conversation again, but now we have all the plans in place to have a day in our very own little academy with science, history and art on the lesson plan book for that day. I think it'll be a lot of fun.

Of course, as we talked and planned, our ideas began to snowball and some of our choices have changed. In fact, in the area of history we are now undecided on what we will teach. So we have a little day outing on tap for Monday wherein we will venture out to a couple of different homeschool curriculum shops in our area to see what's out there. Of course, I'll hate going, but if I have to, I have to. I'm just trying to think of a way to count this as a field trip.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tea for Three

We went to a tea party this weekend. No, not the kind that took place on the lawn of the White House. A tea party with my two favorite girls in the world. Alex's American Heritage Girls troop hosted the tea. We invited our BFFs, and we had a great time together. After we feasted on the various dishes all the moms brought in to share, we had a couple of games. The girls took part in a relay meant to improve their posture: it was a race they completed with a book balanced atop their heads. While they took part in this, we moms wrote down stories from our past, which we thought our daughters would not be familiar with. Later these stories were read, and the girls had to try to match the stories with their moms. Alex guessed mine. Like mother, like daughter, I suppose.

My story centered on a nasty wedge of tomato my parents were making me eat. I had passed at least an hour at the lunch table, the red piece of fruit glaring up at me. My parents had long since gone off to take their afternoon siesta as is the custom in Africa, and I was left to my misery, trying to conjure up the courage to stuff the slimy, tart thing in my mouth and gulp it down without gagging. I failed to muster up such courage. I could hear my dad snoring in the other room, and evil finally took over. I quietly pushed my chair back on the cement floor, stealthily opened the screen porch door, and snuck outside. I headed around to the side of the house and tossed the offensive tomato under a bridge that stretched across a ditch. Then I quietly let myself back into the house and cleared my plate like the responsible, helpful daughter I was. For weeks after that day, I would sneak around to the side of the house and cast furtive glances under the bridge. I was terrified a tomato plant would grow under the bridge and give me away.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ramblings from a Mad Woman

I've had more than a few ask me why I haven't blogged in awhile, including my own mother-in-law and husband. Sometimes, friends, I just don't have anything noteworthy to say. Of course, there have been many Seinfeldian moments when I have blogged about nothing anyway, but I really just haven't felt like it. Blogging is kind of up and down for me. I try to document the fun and important times in my children's lives, but at the same time, you'll be shocked and surprised to know that, typically, I don't like to just ramble on and on about the mundane details of my daily life.

Other times? Well, why not? So here goes:

I used to blame my lack of writing/lacklustre writing on the fact that my writing energies were being used up on my Write4Homeschool curriculum. Not the case. I'm so behind on it. Someone asked me the other day how it was going, and I told them that, honestly, I don't have a desire to work for a living. I just want to be a princess.

I have the springtime, just-past-the-middle-of-the-school-year, can't-this-year-just-be-over-so-we-can-move-on-to-the-next-one? blues. Am I already looking at curriculum for next year? Of course! Haven't ordered it yet because, well, it's only March, but I have my budget all worked out, and most of my decisions made.

I am nervous for my oldest boy to take the Iowa test this year. He still hates school. I may have made it worse yesterday when we were talking about this test. I pointed out to him that he still has NINE AND A HALF years of school left (and that's before college!) and what could he do to make those NINE AND A HALF years more bearable? "Not take this test," he said. I tell him often that he is perfectly capable of excelling in school if only he had a good attitude and would apply himself. (Don't I sound like the teacher/parent I never wanted to sound like?)

There was a used curriculum sale at co-op today. I told myself I wouldn't take any money and that I would just walk on by. But I drive right by a bank on my way, so I took out a $20 in all ones. I spent that and also wrote one check. But I got a LeapPad for my learning-to-read baby...a LeapPad and SEVEN books with it for $25. That's a deal you can't pass up.

Sunday we did a Kid Swap with our friends. Our girls for their boy. The girls had a magical time playing with their new chicks. I hijacked some pictures from my friend's FB page:

And that, my friends, is all I got.

P.S. ~ You know how I mentioned before that my house was a wreck so it was just about time for a house showing? Wouldn't you know on Saturday we were at Sam's enjoying our free free sample lunch and we got a call. The realtor wanted to show the house in 2 hours. We went home, did a frantic cleaning, and were on our way out for ice cream when the showing got canceled. Hey, at least my house is clean.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Random Thoughts

I survived another Tuesday. Don't get me wrong. I am blessed by my Bright Future kids, but coupled with co-op, it makes for a long day. And the commute downtown has gotten rather old. Of course, when I signed up to do this last August, I assumed we would sell the house and move 1/2 hour closer.

We haven't sold the house yet. Two years on the market. I don't think we're going to sell the house. Yes, we've had a few showings here and there. Those always come along when the house is a disaster and needs a good cleaning.

I think it's about time for a house showing.

I was in bed for two or three days last week. When I finally crawled out, it didn't just look like a tornado went through our house. It looked like the tornado traveled a few hundred miles and then dumped all of its loot in our house.

I'd love to do some spring cleaning, but life has been too busy, plus there's been all this not-feeling-good stuff. I'm finally beginning to feel Human again, so perhaps there is some spring cleaning in my future.

It feels like spring here. Can you believe it? Two inches of snow a week ago, in the 70s today.

I pulled myself out of bed twice last week. To go to the same place. To do the same thing. Friday, our homeschool group went to Stars and Strikes for bowling. We got a package deal: two games of bowling and a $5.00 arcade card. Not a bad deal. 'Course my kids do not have the patience for two games of bowling. Seeing as how the Princess bowls granny style and, thus, her ball takes a few hours to make it down the alley, I suppose I didn't really have the patience for two games either. She's awfully cute when she bowls, though.

Unfortunately, two out of four of my children were able to snag a stuffed toy from the claw machine, so now they think they are worth the money.

We went to Stars and Strikes again on Sunday to meet some friends for $1.00 laser tag. We had a great time. Two out of four of my children tried to score more stuffed toys from the claw machine. They failed miserably.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Stubbornest Boy

Once upon a time there were two brothers. Most of the time they got along famously. They played, they built, they schemed. But one night they didn't get along so well.

On this particular night, their mom was not feeling very well. She made dinner anyway, but after she put it on the table, she retired to her room for some Peace and Quiet. Since their mother was absent, the two brothers who usually got along famously figured there was no need for any manners, and they promptly began to call each other names.

When word got to the mom by way of the two brothers' little sister of the insults the two brothers who usually got along famously were hurling at each other, she called them into her room.

After a short lecture on The Importance of Speaking Highly of One Another, the mother instructed the two brothers to say something they loved about the other.

There was silence. So the mother, in all of her wisdom, rephrased the instruction making it very clear to the two brothers that they were to say one thing they liked about the other brother.

Still there was silence. The mother let the silence pass for a few moments before resuming her viewing of the nightly news. After a few moments, she stopped the news and once again prodded both brothers to consider stating one likable attibute of the other one. It was then the older brother, anxious to resume his play, stated that he liked the younger brother because sometimes he plays Legos with him.

"And what about you?" prompted the mother of the younger brother.

There was still silence. So the mom sent the older brother off to play, for he had been obedient and fulfilled the mother's request.

The younger brother remained silent.

The mom, weary and ill, sat back and resumed her observance of the day's events, occasionally stopping to ask the younger brother if he was ready yet.

He remained silent.

A couple of times, the mother called the older brother into her room and said to the younger brother, "Have you anything to say yet?"

The younger brother remained silent.

The mother even threw out a few threats, possibilities of missing out on the next day's bowling outing with the homeschool group, threats of that nature.

The boy remained silent.

At one point, feeling quite creative dangling at wit's end, the mother opened a Word document and typed in a fun font:

Dear [older brother],

I like you because

"There," she said to the younger brother. "All you have to do is type in one word, we'll print it out, and you can give it to your older brother." In all of her wisdom the mother knew that sometimes it is easier to offer written words rather than verbal ones.

The boy did not move. He just sat on her bed and remained silent.

The mother left to clean up the kitchen after The Dinner That Had Started This Whole Thing, instructing the younger brother to come get her in the kitchen if he was ready to tell the older brother what he liked about him.

She cleaned the kitchen and returned to her room.

Where the boy still sat silently.

By this time, one hour had passed.

So the mother watched Jeopardy, every so often asking the boy if he was ready to talk. The boy's older sister came in and promised him a lofty position in an imaginary game if he would just talk to his older brother.

The boy remained silent.

Finally, with visions of the boy spending the rest of his life in her bed with nary a word, the mother said, "You have two choices. You may tell your older brother with whom you usually get along famously one thing you like about him, or you can sleep alone in the playroom tonight."

The boy remained silent.

Until the mother announced, "OK, everyone, it's time to get your pajamas on and get ready for bed."

At which point the boy mumbled to his older brother, "I like you because you're funny."

Substitute Teacher

There are no sick days for us Homeschool Teachers, a.k.a. mommies. No phone number to call in the early morning hours to retain a substitute teacher. No Substitute Plans folder to lay on our desk in case of our absence. Nope, we just make do.

Or have an Alex.

Alex gently awakened me yesterday morning, my breakfast in her hand. She knew from the previous night that I was feeling a little under the weather. I spent most of yesterday in bed, and she freshened my glass of ice water on the hour.

She did all of her school work and then, with the use of her new AHG handbook, made up a motivational game to get the boys to finish theirs. The appendices of her new book are full of silly songs. The boys, silly boys that they are, are drawn to such songs. She made a deal with them. For every certain number of assignments they completed she would read the words to one silly song to them. They finished their work with no complaints.

She offered to make lunch and dinner, but I dragged myself out of bed just to remind everyone I'm still here and to make both meals, such as they were.

She finished all of today's schoolwork last night so that she would be free to help today.

This morning, she once again brought me breakfast in bed. Then I heard, "Come on, Audrey. I'll get you breakfast, and then we can do school, OK?"

Feeling a bit better today, I ventured out to the kitchen to pretend to get something so I could observe my substitute teacher. She sat with Audrey going over the alphabet cards, but not just going over them like I do. Really getting into each one. They reviewed the sounds each letter makes, and Alex discussed each picture on each card. "Look, Audrey! An iguana, just like my Webkinz! You know Jared, don't you?"

So I guess what I'm trying to say is a household does not really need a mommy to run; it just needs an Alex. 'Course this mom is sticking around so she can watch her Alex in action. It is such a precious memory, one I wish I could more effectively imprint on my brain with these words. And I say brain not heart because, well, it's already been captured there.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Note to Self: Baking Edition

Dear Self,

Next time you have a cold and a sharp craving for chocolate chip cookies smacks your taste buds, do not make them yourself. Because after the cookie dough is complete and you begin shoveling it in your mouth take a little taste-testing nibble, it will taste very bitter.

This will cause a chain reaction of events:

First, you will check the recipe, which will do you no good because you know as well as I that amidst the Chaos that is your domain you're not really paying any attention to what you're doing. Therefore, reviewing the recipe will just be like looking at it for the first time.

Next, you will retrieve all of the soiled measuring cups from the depths of the Pit of the Kitchen Sink to confirm that teaspoons are teaspoons and tablespoons are tablespoons, though for all you know since both are out, you could have used the tablespoon for salt after all.

After this check, you will begin to feel guilty remembering that not too long ago, you were lecturing a certain young lady about double-checking measuring spoons and recipes for capital and lowercase T/ts and what if you are the one who totally messed it up this time?

Just in case you might have made such an error, you start dumping in more sugar, you know, to counteract any extra salt that may be lurking in the mush.

But it still tastes so bitter.

Finally, once you have determined you must have done it all right because, really, how hard is it to follow a recipe, especially one you've made 2 million 345 thousand 602 times and therefore should have it memorized by now, although it's a grand thing that you didn't try to do it from memory, you resort to asking a not so little little person to taste test for you. She tastes it and exclaims, "Wow! That is REALLY sweet!"

You ask, "It's not bitter?"

"No," she emphasizes, "it's REALLY, REALLY sweet!"

So, in conclusion, Self, next time just resist the craving and have some carrots let the not so little little person do the baking.