Thursday, April 30, 2009

$5 Swag Photos!

Yesterday, I went to a jewelry/accessory sale at Children's Hospital. Everything there was $5 each. John helped me take a few pictures of my new fashion trinkets...

This is a very messy and eager Hannah modeling a necklace I purchased. The green earrings I'm wearing in some pictures below came with it. Hannah is still wearing that necklace right now. I may not be getting it back.

This was a full length shot to show the cool shoes I already had and the $5 "magic" shirt. I'm so diggin' this thing. It fit Hannah. And it was disturbingly pretty on John! It has some of my new yellow signature color in it.

This is a closer pic to show my bracelet and two rings. Five dollars each! Aren't they great?!

This is a really pretty turquoise and purple necklace. It has matching earrings but I put the big square hoops (?) on to show them to you all. I also got a large, white, wooden, painted bracelet that I forgot to photograph. I'll post when I get a picture of it. You may have to click on this photo to see the squares.

So much fun! :D

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What a Girl Wants!

You all remember what happened with my hair, right? Well, since then I've gotten interested in becoming hipper. I told you I needed a whole new personality to go with my spikes. And that personality had started to wane as my hair grew long enough to lose its oomph. Five weeks is entirely too long to wait between cuts with this sort of 'do. (I used to occasionally put off cutting my hair for up to 6 months.)

So yesterday, my dear hairdresser, Frankie, fixed my spikes to be sassy and bold once again and my desire to accessorize reignited. By the time you are reading this entry, I will have gotten up to run at 4:45 and then driven to Seymour to meet my sister-in-law at 6:30. We are going to the $5 accessory sale at East Tennessee Children's Hospital. I don't even know all the details but it supports the hospital and there are $5 purses and jewelry.

I'll be wearing a lime green tank with a short cropped denim jacket with cap sleeves and a white denim skirt and lime green kitten heels. I'll also be wearing a hot pink purse and earrings. This is all an attempt to be edgy enough to complement my hair. Only part of me thinks I'll just look plain, old doofy. I'm always afraid it's going to be obvious to everyone that my hairstyle was completely accidental. I'm out of my comfort zone trying to match the height of fashion my hair has reached. But in a totally fun, hot pink and lime green sort of way.

Last night I decided yellow would be my Spring wardrobe signature color. I've never really had a Spring wardrobe or a signature color. Do you see what Mr. Crazy Scissors has done to me?! So I'll be looking for some FAB yellow accessories. Of course, I'll photo my finds. You, my loyal followers, will be the first to see them.

So now I should say something glamourous and trendy as I sign off ---

The Holl-ster has left the hizz-ouse.

Really.... I mean, I teach Sunday School.... what was he thinking?!?!?!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My "Babies"

Hannah has made friends with my feet and subsequently, my hands. It all started when my toes "talked" to her one day to keep her busy while I was looking at something. Immediately, the idea that something even remotely life-like was talking to her was irresistible. She stopped what she was doing and regarded my feed in a whole new way. She froze, bent down with her face inches from my feet and said, "Hello... what did you say?"

Well, who could resist the fun amusement that was? I wiggled my toes and spoke at the same time. That was the first of many conversations my appendages have had with my daughter. Of course, my feet are smaller than Hannah, thereby putting them squarely into the category of baby. And woohooo, they were twins! She found an improvised imaginary bottle and "fed them" and rocked them and covered them with a blanket.

It's been months and my feet are still her babies, especially if I'm wearing sandals. When we get into the car, she asks if my babies are coming with us or if my babies are hot or cold based on the weather. If I sit cross-legged, she worries if the babies are okay. I just have to remind myself to speak life into an inanimate object not attached to me the next time I need to keep her busy for a few months.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Evader

Since we stayed in a hotel last week, there was a lot of excitement and consternation over the elevator. Elevators are always exciting anyway. We don't encounter elevators on a daily basis and here we found ourselves inside a moving, steely box multiple times daily.

There was the rush out of the hotel room and the race to be the first to push the button. Then there was the attempt to guess which set of doors would open. There was the rush to determine which floor number to push and be the first to depress that number. There was also the coup de grace of being rewarded with a backlit glow acknowledging the floor selection.

Hannah adored the elevator on a whole number of levels. For one thing she is obsessed with letters and she recognized several letters on the control panel. She loved the power of choosing and engaging our path to the destination. She looked at the shiny ceiling and identified each passenger by his reflection. She also loved trying to peer down in the crack between the floor and the elevator itself each time the doors opened.

So with all that elevator chafuer service, I had time to think. (Yeah, right) Why did they love so much this device that Hannah called the "evader"? And why was I so fascinated with her name for it? I thought about how an elevator could be like an evader. I think it is a diversion. It is an escape from the mundane. It's a little space-aged-feeling departure from what is normal.

The doors close, shutting us off from the place we've just been. Once those doors are closed and we begin to move, we can't go back without first going somewhere else. When the doors open, we are in a new place. It make look similar to the floor we just left, but we all know something has definitely changed and it's not just the elevation.

There is music in the elevator which doesn't match the music in our ipods or the hallway. Cellphone service usually ends in the elevator making it one of the last few places to evade this technology and continuous contact with society at large. I think somehow an elevator seems like we're cheating. We're being transported with almost no effort on our part.

When we climb up or down stairs we are aware of the work of moving from one place to another. We see and feel that progress in our straining muscles, lightly sweating bodies, and the glide of the handrail underneath our palms. We count stairs and flights of stairs.

The elevator is not like life. We do not leave our current spiritual or emotional circumstance only to be moved anesthesia-like to the next level. When we sleep through these transitions in real life, there are consequences. If we want to move a level, real life involves stairs: cold, hard, cinder-blocked, echoey, musty stairs. An elevator is a great, fascinating mirror-topped, soothing-musacked departure from reality. This time, can I be the one to push the button on the evader and feel that ticklish dip in my belly as gravity tries to remind me that I won't always be so lucky or so evasive?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Pivotal Kitchen Experience

What does a family of whole-fooders with food allergies eat when they travel as often as we do? Well, we start by finding a grocery store in town. Most of the time, we stay in a hotel that has a kitchenette. That takes the need for extreme creativity way down. Residence Inn by Marriott and Staybridge are two of our favorites. If we didn't have to worry about allergies, we'd take advantage of their free breakfasts which offer some "real food" choices alongside the super-processed cereals and pastries.

Our current kitchenette boasts a refrigerator, dishwasher, two stove eyes and a microwave. There is no need to worry about the all-important work triangle when designing a kitchen this small. Every thing is within reach from one position. In fact, I found I could load the dishwasher while browsing in the fridge and watching some nitrate-free bacon fry in a pan. The most important cooking skill in this type of kitchen, may well be the pivot. Once that step is mastered, the hotel cooking dance is a breeze.

A nice feature of hotel kitchenettes is the brand-new nature of most of the equipment. I have some fear that hotel kitchenettes may fade out of existence as they are obviously, severely underutilized by guests. The hotels shoot themselves in the feet with this particular issue. Staybridge offers a reception three nights a week as well as breakfast every day. It is apparent to me. most of the time. that I am using virgin cookware: shiny, unmarred pots and pans. Nearly universal to hotel stove tops is the weird two-eye configuration where the elements are off-level and you have to press them down into place before turning them on. Occasionally they'll spring back up during cooking! It makes the experience a little more exciting. But, not to worry, one can just pivot from whatever else she may be doing in the kitchen and deal with the launched burner.

Our current hotel was not expecting our family to stay in this room. Though we have a skillet, a saucepan, a large pot, two knives and a cutting board, we have table service for three. This works out alright for plates as Hannah simply uses a smaller bread plate for dinner. But it means that someone is using a spoon when a fork is called for, or a fork when a spoon is called for. That's been the adventure du jour for this particular hotel cooking experience.

Most of the time, we also have a table, not so in this efficient suite. The kids get their own version of mini-tables (end tables) in front of the couch and someone sits on the bed, plate in hand, while the other lucky duck gets an office chair at the desk. Heads or tails: you can choose appropriate silverware or the desk. It's a balancing act to maintain fairness. With Theo off to work before the kids are awake most mornings, the distribution of tableware (sans table, mind you) becomes easier as the number of people equals the number of dishes and cups for breakfast and lunch.

The other morning, based on what was left in the glass selection, I poured three servings of apple juice. Hannah drank from a coffee cup and John was offered a choice between the wine goblet and the 8 oz glass. I explained that they both contained the same amount but that .... I was going to say that the glasses were just different but John nodded his head knowingly and said "...but this one is classier." Goblet it was, for my nine-year-old son who is so well-versed in all things classy. I drank out of the short glass suddenly aware of feeling a little like a second-class citizen. I should be so lucky to drink from a goblet.

This week our temporary mini-kitchen has produced bacon and eggs, rice-pasta with grass-fed ground beef and red sauce, Thai curry salmon, and buffalo burger patties as entrees. Side dishes have included fresh green beans, salads, sweet potato slices fried in coconut oil, brussell sprouts (don't knock them till you've tried MY recipe), corn and broccoli. We also got a small grass-fed roast hoping there'd be an oven available. Never fear, the hotel has propane gas grills available in the courtyard. We'll grill it tonight. It's been marinating in half a bottle of salad dressing for two days. There have also been copious amounts of grapes, grapefruit, apples and bananas. When our creativity sags, we have allergy-friendly bread and peanut-butter.

We celebrated my birthday while we were in Atlanta this week. Without an oven and some of our staple ingredients, making an allergy-friendly cake just wasn't an option. While we can occasionally find cakes that are safe for one child or the other, quite elusive is the pre-made soy, dairy, gluten-free cake. So we enjoyed some coconut milk ice cream and some safe cookies. We had no candle though. The kids suggested I try to blow the cookies off of my ice cream. Ummm, how is that a win for the birthday girl who would have lost her cookies AND had to clean up the mess??? I ate my ice cream from a goblet (classy, you know) while sitting at the desk. I ended up with the fork but a girl can't exactly have it ALL, can she?

Stay tuned for our next adventure in cooking away from home: Parking lots and whole foods. They aren't mutually exclusive afterall!

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Favorite Accessory to Wear: Hannah

Imagine cuddling and carrying your baby while she is just about weightless. Imagine the soft feel of fabric around both of you. Enjoy keeping her at eye level where you can interact almost constantly and teach her your language and how to interact socially. Imagine never lugging a car seat carrier or trying to maneuver a stroller through double doors or into a bathroom. Imagine parenting and nursing handsfree. I still wear Hannah but not nearly as much now that she's so independent.... I love babywearing.

She's nursing in two of the pictures below. Can you figure out which ones? Now that you are looking you probably can....but if I hadn't let you in on it, it still would have been a secret between just Hannah and me. How's that for discreetly nursing a toddler in public?

(You should be able to click on all of these images to see them larger. Enjoy!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

John vs. Cactus

I couldn't resist after mentioning these pics in yesterday's post. Gates Pass in Tucson, AR.

The first photo is 2002.
The second photo is 2005.
Same boy. Same cactus. We gotta go back soon and measure again, don'tcha think?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Homeschooling Vacation

We've travelled enough since John came to be our son that he once drew a picture for our preacher and it had the Marriott logo in front of our house. Hannah was six weeks old for our first 9 hour car trip. When John was five, he wistfully spoke of our old house back in California. (We've always lived in TN). We have pictures of John two years apart standing beside the same cactus in Tucson, Arizona.

So last week, we made an impromptu visit to Theo's grandmother (89 1/2 years old) in Warsaw, IN. My sister-in-law and mother-in-law were already going. So the kids and I sort of invited ourselves after Hannah mentioned she wanted to see Gram-Gram just like Audrey was. So we loaded up the truck and moved to.... well, you get the idea. Hannah made her suggestion on Easter Sunday after lunch. We were in the car Monday morning at 8:00 AM.

I didn't even attempt to do any school last week... oh well, many other children were on Spring Break anyway and we homeschool year-round just so we can do things like that. We drove home Saturday and were back on the road Sunday. This week we find ourselves in Atlanta, GA.

Ahhh, back into our normal routine. LOL But I did bring school with us. I've learned the quickest way to John's heart is through his stomach. I can speak to his well-ingrained survival habits by feeding the child good food on a routine basis. Food however is not the way to his mind: video games are. I've learned that I cannot force John to learn. But, I can withhold any videos or video game privileges until he has completed a certain amount of work. This week he's complained several times that he simply can't do school because he's on vacation. The poor boy. I've tried to explain that he's on vacation because he home schools.

Don't worry, I have one more bit of incentive for tomorrow. He has new goggles and the pool begs a little readin', writin' and 'rithmatic.

Power Outages

A couple of weeks ago we had a pretty intense thunderstorm. It was 9 PM dark at 5 PM. The wind blew. The muddy ruts in the backyard filled with rain. I saw some neighborhood cats and dogs go two by two past the house. And then the lights flickered.

Immediately my mood lightened. I was giddy as I started lighting candles. A rainy day doesn't normally make me feel happy. (Cosy maybe, not happy). It wasn't the rain lifting my spirits... it was the potential power outage.

I adore losing electricity. I know it might be my hippy leanings... but it stems from my childhood. When the power went out, it meant candles and creative cooking. In the winter it meant we huddled up together in sleeping bags in the same room. I love the quiet, close bonding it brought about in our family. It meant we played board games. It meant no one had anything to do but BE together. (No surprise my love language is "quality time".)

Some of my favorite memories are about being without electricity. We lived in a campground in 1988 and housed a group of tent-camping boy scouts in our apartment. We ate instant pudding because we couldn't cook. And after my mother mother's cabin fever reached it's highest point we walked to the grocery store. That is something we would never have done had there not been 15 inches of snow on the ground. During the ice storm of 1993, my future husband drove about a 1/2 mile or so from my house and walked in to whisk me away for a hot burger and a nice shower at his family's house.

The other night though, we didn't lose power. But you better believe, we did play a good game of Sorry. I'm thinking I might have to schedule some power free evenings on purpose.

P.S. Please don't tell my husband. He works for TVA (The largest public power utility in North America.)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

I'm Upset With my Sister-in-law

Last night we had a traumatic experience involving Hannah's food allergies. No emergency room trip was involved, but the event has spurred several conversations amongst family members. This afternoon on the phone, my sister-in-law, Krista, and I rehashed the events surrounding the incident last night. I mentioned blogging about the event. And then she got "all up in my kool-aid".

She said that the information and experience I had as a mother of a child with food allergies was important and I needed to write about it. And that while my blog was entertaining, a wider audience needs this information. Then she used that burdensome word "gift". And there was something else about freelance and parenting magazines. She also mentioned my experiences as a mother of a child with Bipolar and so on.

Since we hung up, I've been preoccupied. Krista's comments have made me uncomfortable. I have that churning, exhilarating, exhausting thing happening in my gut. I feel like Frodo the moment he knew he had to leave the Shire. I'm in that part of most movies where there is a pivotal moment in the character's psyche when he knows/accepts a coming change. This is the part where inspirational music plays and I tear up and time is compressed as Rocky gets in shape and Nemo's dad decides he will stop at nothing to find his son.

Many things have nudged me toward this moment in my development. I've always been a storyteller and have enjoyed engaging those who have been willing to listen to me. I have felt stirrings of recognition as I've read others' writings: I have a voice like this. My favorite teacher told me she looked forward to reading my first book someday.

I once dreamed of being a freelance writer. My imagination fancied myself an unwashed, bath-robed mother of many, mopping up orange juice from my recently finished manuscript. I saw a woman dedicated to her family but who had something she absolutely must share with the world at large. But I had no idea what on Earth that woman wanted to say.

I started writing for myself and joined a group for creative writers in college. It was so nice to be around others who wrote. But the professor in charge said some very hurtful and damaging things about my writing. They weren't just editorial suggestions but personal attacks on my religion and choice of subject, on the value of my writing at all. I hope he was using some misguided approach to improve my writing. What it did, instead, was to quell my desire to write for anything but the assignments necessary to earn my degree.

Thanks to the Internet and such weirdly specific discussion forums as "Crunchy Christian Mamas" and parents who homeschool children with Bipolar Disorder, I began to write again. I found a loyal group of readers and fellow journeyers at simple living forum where I wrote about and discussed our family's transition to whole foods.

The changes wrought by our diet have been so phenomenal that several people have suggested I write a book. John's therapist insists we should write together how diet has affected John's stability. I know our personal story is a compelling one. One friend questions each time I send her a long email when my novel is coming out. About the time I dismiss her comments as joking, she writes an email to say she really means it and believes I should write a book.

My cousin, Molly, wrote a book and I find myself impressed and a little jealous. She's living my dream, including the many children (well, I don't actually know about the bathrobe). I've yet to read her book. I need to order it. But I've been supremely impressed by her insights on her blog and some of her other writing.

The time that I spent quieted by a sharp-tongued teacher has not been dark. I have been observing and participating in most of my dream. I've developed new dreams and goals in addition. I've encountered challenges I did not anticipate. I have a wealth of life and commentary about that life to share. And I'm finding that my voice refuses to keep its peace.

Krista's kind but piercing and convicting words today have inevitably tipped the scales as their weight is added to the weight of those aforementioned comments. During that conversation, she may or may not have recalled that some of our earliest interactions (years before I met and later married her brother) were as fellow journalists on a middle school newsletter. I certainly know she's been a "victim" of my commentary on all sorts of topics from homeschooling to vaccination to marriage. She knows I have a voice. And I thank her for using hers to let me know and for screwing up my comfortable writing-just-on-the-internet life.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours

My children have no concept of the typically figurative interpretation of the statement: You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.    For them, it is no esoteric exercise representing what it might mean to reciprocate favors for one another. It is a literal and enjoyable proposition. It is a beloved practice involving exposed spines and finger nails.  

John has been a long-time partaker of all that is back-scratching and rubbing. Recently, when he's asked for a good scratch, Hannah has jumped in on the action. I find myself confronting two exposed backs and eager sighs as I wear my nails down tickling their spines. The requests were endless. Then epiphany struck. I suggested they scratch each other's backs.

Ahhhh, I suddenly have so much more time for myself. A few minutes ago, John asked politely if I might indulge his itch. I said I would when I finished checking email. Suddenly, Hannah, who had been reading a running magazine, piped up "I be happy to. I be happy to, John John!"

When it was her turn to receive the service, she said "Soooo nice. Sooo nice, John!".

Now that they have the concrete application, I'm going to work on helping them to generalize to other sibling cooperation. I know. I'm not holding my breath either. Not everything is as satisfying as a good back scratch. Hey, could you go a little to the left? Yeah... right there, ahhh.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I Feed my Children Frozen Peas

Yeah. I know. I'm amazed, myself. They love them. That's why I find occasion to tell as many people as possible that I do this. I say it with a sense of wonder and amusement. But I never get the appropriate response. It's usually, "I fed my children frozen peas, too. There's nothing wrong with that. Don't feel bad."

Um, I don't feel bad. I'm seriously amused and trying to share something quirky and unusual about my children with you. I can typically clear up the confusion with this question: "But were they STILL frozen when you gave them to them?"

Then... I get the right response. "They eat them frozen?" Yes, that's what I tried to tell you a moment ago.

It all started because Hannah has two habits. One is an undying adoration for peas. The other habit is standing on a chair at the counter while I cook.

One day, I poured some peas into a pot but left it to the side while I tended something else on the stove. Hannah quickly lifted the lid and grabbed a handful of iced peas. I expected her to shiver with disgust and spit them out. To my confusion, she exclaimed with joy. Then she grabbed some more peas. I stopped her from eating the whole pan by offering her a bowl of her own frozen vegetables.

A few days later, I was on my way to Bible study and needed to pack her a snack. I packed some frozen peas. I explained to the care provider to give her the peas while they were still cold. I assured her that Hannah would, weirdly enough, eat them with great relish. When I returned to pick up Hannah, the woman said with amazement, "You weren't kidding about those peas. She ate them like candy!"

Hannah has made frozen peas seem so good that even John has developed a taste for this bizarre snack. I don't mind at all. It's healthy and super easy to fix. My kids come to me begging to eat frozen peas. Who could resist the weirdness and healthfulness of it all? Not I! Although, sometimes I insist they clean their rooms before they are "allowed" such an extravagant food.

(By the way, frozen corn is another crowd pleaser. Even their cousin, Audrey, finds it irresistible.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sleeping and Peeing at the End of Pregnancy

I posted this on a forum at the end of my pregnancy with Hannah. I'm posting it here to dedicate this post to my two friends, Charlene and Sabra, who are both at the end of their current pregnancies. My prayers are with both of you ladies. May you find some joy and commiseration in the story below.

It used to be, I believe, that I might occasionally awaken in the night to relieve myself. I would slowly come to, sometimes after a dream involving urination and I would reluctantly hop out of bed and make quick with the duty only to return to the blessed warmth and dreaminess of the place where I had been peacefully resting only moments ago. Sometime after dawn, the memory of having used the restroom in the middle of the night will be as hazy as the plots of my dreams.

And now, that process also seems hazy as I wake with a certain urgency and quickness. I am confused about where I am, what time it might be, and which hip aches the most right now. There is no confusion, though, that the urgency comes from a place below the enormous mound of my abdomen. I throw back the covers in the last quick movement of this process and with determination begin my journey.

First, I take a breath and flip my legs and arms toward the edge of the bed, willing my middle to make the transition with me. Sometimes, I fall short of my goal and find my self stranded and flailing on my back. When this predicament occurs, I find a deep breath, a good grunt, and another lead-with-limbs-and-hope-the belly-will-follow maneuver is necessary.

At last, I am upright and again I am confused: what time is it? Surely it must be nearly daylight as my body feels I've made it past four such battles already. Squinting reveals digital numbers 4:07. I make the calculation and come to the conclusion this is a round trip. I must return at least once more to languish in my bed before morning or find myself dosing off just as the other members of my household begin to rise.

My marching orders firmly established I realize skyrocketing intensity in my need to urinate as my unborn child descends more firmly onto my bladder. I find myself crossing the width of my king-sized bed in the gray glow of my room. It's funny how the bed doesn't feel this large when I'm in it.

I find myself thinking I must waddle faster. Then I realize that the slow, rocking motion I make now is so much more than can be described with the silly word: waddle. Honestly, ducks are able to move quite quickly in their cute gait. My movements resemble that of a splayed-legged paper doll or sleepy circus elephant. I rock to one side so far that I feel the fluids in my inner ear adjust to maintain a sense of up and down. Just before I capsize to the left, everything shifts and I rock just as far to the other side and a few meager inches closer to the bathroom.

I grit my teeth and muse that I am quite reflexively using my arms to aid in balance. Are extended arms really necessary? This is no tight rope performance. This is a swath of perfectly ground-level carpet which is thankfully much wider than my pendulous self. Yet I contemplate whether working without a safety net is wise after all.

It occurs to me that rocking like this is what many mothers do when they walk with their newborns. Is it the body's reminder of the few weeks before the baby comes? Is it a kind of muscle memory perhaps to establish that the mother is still the person she once was: on some level?

I find I've made it to porcelain destination bathed in the lighting color that only an amber street light makes through a lavender curtain. It is comforting, that color. It greets me many times each night. It is a slight reward and cloudy reminder of day after my sojourn from the darker bedroom.

My thoughts wander from the colored light streaming into the room to the relief which was the impetus for finding myself here on the cold toilet. I don't remember the warm feeling of urine leaving my body. Sitting here I wonder what all the urgency had been about. If I had to pee before, I certainly don't have to now.

But I remember all the trips that have come before this one. I know that as soon as I lean forward enough to stand and return to my bed, that the urgency will return. So I will myself to release the necessary muscles and find suddenly that this trip will include a bowel movement.

In my birthing class, the instructor explained that I might feel rectal pressure during the pushing phase. I wonder what that will be like since there's a great deal of said pressure now. I also remember that most of my nighttime journeys end this way. Oh well, I resign, doing a "number 2" ensures I will also empty my bladder.

It is over quickly enough and time to wash my hands and trek back to my bed. On my way, I decide to stop at the computer and record these thoughts. At 4:19 it seemed only logical. And now, at 5:11 it seems my folly is a lot less reasoned. After all, nearly fifty percent of the population already knows everything I've typed above. But again, there is acclaim for writing about the "human condition". Perhaps then, there is also an importance to writing about this particular "condition" as well. If so, I have offered my "due" diligence.

Good night! It is almost morning.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Open-mouthed Kissing

It has been our Sunday tradition of late to eat popcorn and gather 'round the computer (we have no TV) to watch a movie in the late afternoon. We pick some family movie to download from Netflix. We usually default to what is acceptable for nine-year-old John.

We practice developmental parenting as much as I've practiced developmental education with John in our homeschooling journey. This means that we tailor our instruction as parents to what the children need and are capable of at that particular time in their development. There are no hard and fast rules as to what age is appropriate to make their own peanut-butter and jelly sandwich. There is no one right age to ride a bike, stop nursing, start walking, run a marathon, learn to read or climb trees. We pay attention to our children's development and then support and assist them as they move forward.

For very young children, we've not worried very much about movie content. Instead we rely on signals from them as to when the guidance part of PG will come into play. We are never certain what those specific signals might be. But, rest assured, we know them when we see them. Today, my friends, was that day in the Laughner household.

We watched Gracie. It's a great movie about Elizabeth Shue as a young girl. She fought passionately for and earned the right to play soccer on her high school boys' soccer team. As part of the story development, she has a few wayward moments where she smokes, cheats on a test, sneaks out at night, and... well, makes out with a boy. The thematic elements of this film, however, overrule our personal concerns about these particular issues, especially as the heroine ends up choosing the right path and those bad decisions are not glamorized in the least.

We know that John enjoyed the ability of this young woman to overcome great odds with determination and perseverance. You could watch his entire body join her as she struggled to train and face great opposition from her family, the community, her school and her team. He was jubilant as her family, especially her father, eventually rallied around her to help her be the person she was meant to be. It was quite inspirational.

Hannah was a little bored as it wasn't packed full of action or animals. She was climbing on me and sitting on the back of the couch. She went to the kitchen and got herself an apple. She was clearly not that interested or engaged in this cinematic presentation.

At one point however, she must have paid close attention. She was sitting beside me and said, "Mommy, let's kiss." This is not an unusual request so I said, "Okay!" I turned toward her to peck her sweet, little, innocent cheek. But I quickly stopped short as I faced a widely gaping diagonal mouth headed right for mine. For Hannah, this movie was not about great character traits. It was all about a fun new thing called open-mouthed kissing.

Back to G-rated movies it is!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Guac Video

Here's a video that was taken the day of the Gawk-a-MOWL-eee entry last week. Enjoy!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The most important writing class: Storytelling

I've held the belief for a long time that the most important prerequisite to writing is storytelling. You might be able to be a good storyteller even if you cannot write well, but you will never be a good writer if you cannot tell a story. Writing is simply converting stories to paper form.

The convention of mechanics and grammar can be developed and taught. But writing should not be taught without regard to the story. I've been making a horrible mistake in John's education. I've gotten distracted by bits of curriculum and standardized recommendations about "best practices" and so on.

As a homeschooler, I have the honor and priveledge to adapt our curriculum and path as I see fit. I've been teaching John first to write sentences in isolation and have begun paragraph construction as the next step. All the while, though, we've totally abandoned the concept of the story.

A story has a beginning, middle and end. It is told by a quickly moving voice when there is high adventure and a slowly-moving voice to convey suspense. There are enough details to entice and entertain but it stops short of boring the listener. It is an organized flow of thoughts communicated from one person to another.

John's storytelling skills are not where they should be. And it's no wonder he struggles with writing. He's certainly been exposed to good stories through literature which has been read to him, but he has not fully exercised his storytelling muscles.

I've come to realize that he has trouble organizing his thoughts into a cohesive, logical unit. His stories are generally long, rambling, boring things without a plot. He focuses on one detail and tries repeatedly to "perfect" that point. I discovered today that I could drive a plot out of him with some well-timed questions. I asked the kinds of questions he'd naturally ask me and I was just as polite. I didn't wait for a pause. I just jumped in there and blurted it out like what he was telling me was the most interesting thing on the planet and I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next or what something looked like or how it worked. At last, he had a story worth telling.

My hypothesis is that I can inspire/cajole John into becoming a great writer once he is turned into a great story teller.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Can't fight this feeling anymore

We think Hannah's having a growth spurt. Her face and her belly are suddenly a little chubbier and she's up about 3 lbs. She's eating and sleeping more than usual. She's been a little grumpy. And she woke up rubbing her legs Monday afternoon. (Growing pains?)

Hannah stopped taking naps quite a while ago, much to my dismay. Now she will occasionally fall asleep in the car late in the afternoon. That is a bad scenario. She wakes up really nasty from the nap and won't go back to sleep until 10pm. So we do everything we can in the car to keep her awake. Because we want her to fall asleep around 8pm.

But this week, she's taken three or four naps. On Sunday, Hannah watched John play video games while she ate some crackers on the couch. You see where that got us. She was difficult to get down that night but not as much as she normally is after a nap.

I noticed yesterday her pants were a little short. My baby is growing up.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Homeschooling: What we are doing today

I've been meaning to add a post about a typical day of homeschooling. Well, since I've had that thought, we've had no typical days. So I thought I'd post exactly what we are doing today.

I try to get up early and get dressed and breakfast started before the kids wake up. Today, I was the last person pulled from the sheets. (Kicking and screaming, I might add.) So I wandered out to the kitchen and made omelettes with mushrooms, onions and spinach and cheese for John and myself. Plain eggs for Hannah. A slice of bacon for each of us. We had 4 oz of apple juice and the kids each had an orange. After breakfast, John was still hungry so he had an apple... he may have also had a pear. He's quite the fruit hound.

John needs to wash his sheets daily and that's part of his morning routine along with taking his medicine. So he completed his routine and fed the triops growing on my kitchen counter. I guess they are a science experiment of sorts. We cleared the table and cleaned up a little, but not much because my heart just wasn't into it.  My heart was into Facebook.

School is "supposed" to start at 8. Today it was 8:45. But only you guys know that. (Wink).

I pulled the footstool close to the couch alongside the whiteboard easel that I "got for Hannah". John sat facing me on the couch and Hannah stood between us as we held hands thanking the Lord for the freedom to learn at home and asking Him to open our hearts and minds to what he wanted us to learn today. First we discussed and wrote the date on the board.  We've been working on spelling the days of the week and the months.  I have a bible story book I usually teach from first thing in the morning. 

Today's lesson was about Ezra and King Artexerxes sending him back to Judah to replenish the temple. I drew stick figures to go with the story. My stick figures are horrible but John insists it is his favorite part of the entire school day. Go figure.

 Hannah was mostly disappointed we weren't studying "Keen Esther" anymore. But since there was still a king involved, she didn't throw a tantrum. I drew small figures representing the discouraged Jews and Hannah was most excited about the "sad, little babies". Hannah either stands to the side while I teach Bible or in my lap on the footstool. Today she did both.

I moved the easel back to its normal position in front of the windows. Hannah kept the wipe-off markers and continued to draw smiley faces and H's on the board while John and I got started on his other subjects. John didn't want to do math first this morning. He wanted to read. OK, I didn't complain.

We negotiated the penny value of several books of his choosing. Throughout the week, I offer pennies as incentives for various activities. On Friday, his pennies can be converted to an equal number of minutes of video game time. He chose to read a Level 3, Scholastic Reader: The Snowball War. We cuddled on the couch as I read it to him first and then he had his turn. Halfway through, his throat got all scratchy so he took a break to get some water and clear his throat. (I love the freedom of taking breaks when necessary and changing the order of subjects when desired.)

John then decided he wanted to read another book about Star Wars. All in All, he chose to read for over an hour. It really cut into time I usually allot for other things. But he doesn't choose to go on a reading binge very often so we went with it. 

During our reading on the couch, Hannah climbed up beside me and watched a couple of you tube videos on the laptop and did some puzzles and lined up some babydolls in front of the white board and taught them about "Keen Esther". She brought myriad toys and books and puzzles out into the living room and my house is now a complete wreck.  

We stopped for a few minutes to give John a break after all that reading and moved laundry from the washer to the dryer and let Hannah play a couple of online toddler games. I read him a chapter from our most recent Hardy Boys book. Then I handed the laptop over to John and he worked on mathscoreHe does so much more on the computer than he has ever been willing to do on paper.

I stayed on the couch beside John and walked him through some of his more difficult problems. He already knows how to do them but I have to wean him from my assistance slowly or he goes into panic mode and refuses to try even simple things. Today was a good day because I could walk away a couple of times and he continued working alone. Once I had to take Hannah to the potty and once I got Hannah some scissors because she wanted to cut paper and add to the already mounting chaos of my living room. But scissors are good developmentally for her and they keep her entertained and quietly engaged.  

Hannah played with her toy piano and stripped down until she was wearing only a shirt.  Then she brought me one of my  baby carriers so she could wear her Barbie.  

He worked for quite a while and had a few minutes of near panic as I had him review some simple addition problems. He lost a video game ticket and earned it back. He came quite close to writhing on the floor but ended up doing more than I originally requested. That frequently happens. He will whine and complain and even cry because I asked him to do 20-30 problems and he'll end up doing a hundred and saying how easy it was. That's pretty frustrating for me because I absolutely KNOW he can do them but he forgets that he can.

At noon, I decided we'd have some baked potatoes with lunch and asked John to go get some washed so we could put them in the microwave. I opened and started this post when he left. I asked what was taking so long and discovered he was slicing the potatoes into wedges (carefully, he said).  I thought it was a good idea and he was demonstrating good control so I allowed him to continue and suggested he preheat the oven and get out a pan. He seasoned the potatoes and put them into the pan and into the oven. They've been baking for a while and I just realized there was no oil or anything on the potatoes so I told him to add some. He's doing an amazing job! :D

I'm justing getting back to writing from lunch. John's potatoes were fantastic! I added a little coconut oil to the potatoes because he was uncomfortable getting that close to the heat. He wanted bubbly cheese so I pulled out some potatoes for Hannah and smothered the rest in cheese and put them back in. We had cheesy roasted potatoes and salad for lunch. Don't forget the dried fruit we ate waiting on the potatoes to cook.

I don't know how much more we'll get done on academics today. We are required four hours of instruction and at this point he's really close to that. So once again, we'll blow the doors off of the four hour standard. He'll do some creative writing (spelling is incorporated into this activity) this afternoon and we'll play go-fish with some state/capital flashcards. I'd like to get to Spanish again today but we might not. And that's okay.

Since it's nice outside we'll go to the park after the school kids are there. And I'll probably get him to work on his latch hook project as well. Tonight he has dance team practice at church. I feel like a bum. But after writing all this, I'm feeling like we may have accomplished more than I realized.