Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And Now on to the Good Stuff!!--Birthday Bliss!!

So after many years, Ryan really knows how to throw me a party!  He took care of me the whole day!
  • He took the kids to breakfast.  Now anyone who doesn't know me might think that sounds weird--shouldn't he take you to breakfast?  NO!!  Quiet house.  Sleeping in time!!  And then apparently, they went shopping
  • They brought home cake....  Butter cream frosting.  No explanation needed.  From a cake specialty shop.  Oh, yeah.
  • ...and Flowers.   Don't tell the kids, but I knew this was coming.  About a week ago, Reed found a craft in one of his Highlights magazines that he wanted to make for me.  He and Ashton (with Ryan's help) made flower baskets from large mailer envelopes.  Throughout the week either Reed or Ashton had spilled the beans more than once.  The other would screech their name in disgust, adding, "You're not supposed to tell!!"  I tried to act as if I hadn't heard anything.  Reed chose a nice colorful arrangement for his basket, that matched the colors he had decorated with.  Ashton chose pink and yellow roses (that's my girl)!!  
  • We celebrated with the kids for lunch.  At Itz.  It's like a Chuck E. Cheese on steroids.  And with better food.  I played the ball drop game and won 250 tickets!!
  • And got a babysitter for supper!!  We did take Landis and went to P.F. Chang's.  Mmmm Mmmm!  Got me some potstickers!
  • And then we went shopping.  He had also brought home some pre-paid Visas for my present earlier.  He was suspect that he might not get me what I would get me.  Well, he was right!!  First thing I went for was the Shark--the steam mop.  He said that he was glad I was getting it and glad that he did not buy it for me (because, of course, it plugs in)!  I also got a new purse/diaper bag, brown belt, and mini food processor.
  • Ended the day with cake.  Remember, butter cream icing.  Too good.  None of us could finish our piece.
  • He put the kids to bed!!  While I Skyped with my friend Jess.
Isn't he such a great guy!?!  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Week Ago...

Last week on Tuesday I was coming down with mastitis.  If you don't know what that is, suffice it to say it's a nursing infection.  Unpleasant, but nothing I haven't experienced with the other two.  The fever is usually the worst part for me.  Wrong!!  This time was much more painful and lasted forever!

At lunch I was fine; by 1:30 I was pretty sure I knew it was coming, even though my temp was still normal.  I immediately got on the phone with the doctor.  

It hit me so fast that I knew I did not have the strength to put Ashton down for a nap.  So while I got in the bath, Reed "read" her two stories ("Ash, you cannot choose just any story, because I only know how to read these!") and tried to get her to lay down.  When she wanted mama to hold her, he got a picture of me and Ryan from the wall, drew a picture of Ashton on a post-it, and stuck her in my arms.  Pretty good problem solving, I would say!!  But alas Ashton would not agree.  She really likes to get her way.  

Meanwhile Landis had (of course) awoken from his nap and was demanding attention.  I hobbled slowly out down the hall and carried him from his crib to a bouncy seat in Reed's room.  I said if he was fussy, Reed could move him from the seat to the floor if he was careful.  With a warning to Ashton to go to sleep, I went back to the bath.  It wasn't long before I could hear Landis was not content and Ashton was not in bed.  Oh, well I thought.  As long as the house isn't burning down....  

In a bit Reed came back to see if I had any ideas of what he could do to help Landis.  The only idea I had was to check his diaper.  "Maybe Ashton could help you," I suggested.  Changing diapers is Reed's worst fear in the world!!  He has not thought it was funny when we have suggested it in the past.  But, bless his heart!  He was willing to do it!!  So a few minutes later when I heard him yelling, "Ashton, you get in here right now!!" I knew the situation had deteriorated and needed my attention.  

So imagine my shock when Ashton is now in bed (avoiding the dirty diaper situation) and Landis is lying ON THE CHANGING TABLE!!  The diaper was changed.  I kissed Reed and cried just a bit when I saw that.  Then I asked two questions: "How did you do this?" (He laid him on the bed that backs up to the changing table, climbed up and then lifted him further)  and "Did Ashton see you do it?" (because that is the last thing I need her doing--thankfully the answer was no).

So, long story shorter, Ash finally took a nap once I promised her ice cream, and Ryan came home once the antibiotics were filled.  Thankfully the kids were taken care of the next two days by other loving people.  I was flat on my back for 3 days and finally had to go back to the doctor and get a second antibiotic!   Yuck! 

Feeling much better now though....

Monday, April 20, 2009

Laundry Lessons

So I have decided I am fed up with doing everyone's laundry.  So I have started Reed on his own!  It may be a bit soon to set him free on the task, but it certainly was nice to at least have him working on it, too!  He will do it once every week and a half, and it will be a money chore for him, so I don't feel too bad.  (One Whole Dollar!)  

I walked him through the process last week, with little trouble.  But he was very concerned after opening the dryer when the first load was completed!  I had cleaned out the lint trap really well before this load (because there were literally ROCKS in my DRYER!  another blog....) and this load was a lot of jeans and stuff like that.  So when there was no visible lint in the trap, he exclaimed, "OH NO!  My clothes didn't get clean!!!" 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kindergarten is the New First Grade

I have been dealing with a lot of guilt lately.  Guilt over facebooking.  Guilt over laundry.  But mostly guilt over homeschooling.  I'm pretty sure this is part of the process, so I have sought out the appropriate people seeking counsel and reassured myself as best I can.  But I got perhaps the best reassurance tonight from a sister with no knowledge of my need!  

Sue is a recently retired life-long teacher, many of those years in Kindergarten.  She exudes teaching (and encouragement, for that matter) and has always been inspiring to talk with, when I was teaching in public school, and now as a homeschooling mom.  Also, her husband is a college professor, who tells it just like it is, with the driest sense of humor ever!

Sue sent out an email about a preschool that she had observed recently and her assessment of it.  It is a school that uses the child-centered Reggio Approach, which sounds very free flowing and process-oriented.  There is also an emphasis on art.  I was interested in what she saw there, but I was really encouraged by her thoughts about it.  The ideas brought forth really helped me hone my own philosophy of education.  So here it is! 
  • Never underestimate the importance of play!!!!  I am always shocked to hear how little play is used in education anymore.  Even Kindergarten classrooms are getting rid of their kitchen sets and trading them in for more books and pencils.  Yes, they can read by the end of the year, but is this what we want????  (See next point!)  My children love the dirt pile in the yard right now and what they are learning cannot be measured on a worksheet, but perhaps only by the volume of what is brought in in their pockets and shoes!!  [Sidenote:  Yesterday in her long pink Easter dress, Ashton comes to Reed with great excitement about the product of the rain here: "REED, there is LOTS of MUD out there!" *eyebrows raised, head nodding*]
  • Earlier does not mean smarter!!!   I began teaching in public school ten years ago this spring.  I taught only 4 years and left before my first sweetie was born.  I feel that Kindergarten has changed since then to what I was teaching in first grade.  As more and more pressure is put upon teachers (and America) to produce, we are upping the standards for the children (not to mention the useless work load on teachers) because some politician believes it's a good idea.  This is one of the main reasons I have chosen to homeschool: I do not want my children forced into learning things too early!!  The foundations of education are undermined when we impose academics too young!  The children observed by Sue were being taught the process of thinking, self-directing, and problem solving.  Sue's husband pointed out that these were not skills he sees in his college students! 
  • Information has to be meaningful to be educational!!  If there's anything the show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" shows, it's that we bombard our students with countless pieces of useless information in their formative years.  Without meaning, information will be not be retained long-term.  We are not training our children to someday be on Jeopardy, or to top the trivia board a B Dubs!  We should be training them to meet the challenges of an ever-changing society and the problems that arise therein.  Information should be used as a means to an end.
  • Process is more important than product!!!  Okay, I have to remind myself of this often!  The learning is happening throughout the project, which is not always evident in the finished product!  The kids got a 3"x 3" canvas black-line picture with paints and a brush for Christmas.  When Ashton finished hers, it was all black, no picture remotely visible, and she was as happy as she could be with it!!  But her little brain had processed and categorized the mixing of colors and the feel of the paint (yes, she ditched the brush early on!) for use at a later time.  That was the education.  
  • True education is a slow process (sometimes painfully so)!!  I chose a phonics program based on recommendation, research, and instinct.  It emphasizes making sure the child enjoys the learning of phonics and says don't be afraid of the two-minute lesson (yikes!).  So in three months, I was so bored!  And I had in the back of my head the mom who said her public-schooled Kindergartner was reading by the end of the year.  So I rushed it juuuuust a bit, and he was totally frustrated.  So I had to back it off for a while and when we came back to it, it seemed to click. He's not reading books, but he is reading a few words, which is boosting his confidence and heightening his awareness.  Yay!  My boredom (and, frankly, my ego) is worth his success! 
  • Art is way more important that we give it credit!  Sue said that art was a step in many of the processes she saw happening.  I have known this, but too often allow the clean-up or the process itself to scare me out of it, or at least put it off till another day (and another, and another...)!  And perhaps this reminder will help me better deal with the endless number of papers (some products, but many in process) I pick up daily in the name of free expression!  I have mentally threatened to get rid of that paper box many times!
So I'm giving up the guilt and relaxing about the academics!  I will continue to "have school" daily, but without the pressure of what we should know by the end of the year.  And I'm bringing out the paints!  There!  I said it!  And the more dirt on the kitchen floor, the bet---the bett-.... Okay, I can't take it that far!  :)  I'm still the janitor, too!