September 29, 2007

A Great Day

Friday was a great day. We started the day with a 5 mile bike ride to our service project for the day. It was a glorious day to be outside and a nice bike ride. The one down side to biking with young kids is it is hard to gain momentum. Pulling the trailer is enough of a workout without the added challenge of needing to stop mid hills and every so often to keep pace with Ciaran. Still it was a lovely bike ride.

We try to do at least one service project a month during the school year. This month we spent the day packing meals for children. The kids were glad to be back into the routine of it. Even Sirah does her part, she has been helping pack meals since she was two. The kids really enjoy the service projects we do. I am hoping to add more in as they get a little older.

After we got home we spent the rest of the afternoon at the apple orchard with our homeschool group. This apple orchard is a favorite with the kids. Along with lots of great apples to pick there are lots of animals to pet and hold. They held baby chicks, ducklings, kids, and lots of other baby animals. They fed cows and saw pheasants and ran with the chickens and hens. They loved this. At one point Sirah got head butted in the tummy by the mama goat. She is okay and was happy once we were on the wagon ride. The kids got to pick some popcorn to keep until New Years before we pop it. We bought 19 pounds of apples and 12 pounds of squash. Can you tell what we will be having for the next few weeks?

We picked Serona up and headed out for a walk at a favorite pond until the sun was setting. We headed home for a pizza and movie family night. All in all it was an excellent day.

Weight Loss Update

Well it has been 11 weeks since Serona and I committed to changing our lifestyle and began Weight Watchers and more regular exercise. You can read all about Serona's happy feelings in the beginning.

Things have improved since then, we have had ups and downs and frustrations along the way. But so far I have lost 20 pounds and Serona nearly 30. We have made some positive changes and are starting to feel the results. A long way to go in slow steps but it feels good that we have accomplished what we have.

September 27, 2007

Today's Highlights

Starting the day with:

Rhiannon saying to Ciaran - "Did you know that poop is a solid, pee is a liquid and farts are gases? If you did all three at once we would need to create a new element."

Walking into town to run errands, stopping for a picnic lunch under a tree and reading stories there and naming cloud shapes.

Stopping on the way home to do a nature notebook drawing on a fairly busy stret corner, cars wondering what we are doing.

My kids all dressed in kimonos from Japan using their fans to hide their faces.

Ciaran doing his math problems on the trampoline. Stopping jumping only long enough to write the answer on the board.

My personal favorite of the day:

Going to the post office wearing this t-shirt and getting comments about being out with the kids and how helpful my t-shirt must be in them learning. It comes out that we are homeschooling and the moment the word is mentioned the whole busy room suddenly went silent as people tried to figure out what to say. We just smile big and tell them to have a great day!

September 26, 2007

Hours of Entertainment

Our neighbors got teepeed last night. Ciaran was outside playing lightsaber duels with his friend. The toilet paper was an open invitation for them. I found them knocking it down off the trees and saw my neighbor come outside. I went over to talk to her and told the boys to go home. She said they might as well play in it if it was already there. So I handed the boys a garbage bag and told them as they played they could help by picking it up and throwing it out.

They have literally spent well over an hour knocking toilet paper out of a tree with lightsabers and cleaning up the neighbors yard. It won't be perfect but you can see grass again and all the shrubs have been cleared and as high as they could reach and knock down is cleared out of the tree - they even came in for another bag and the other four kids here went outside to join them.

What a fun way to lend a helping hand!

September 25, 2007

The Sweet Spot

I don't play golf much to Serona's disappointment. I still can't see the point of spending hours on a course chasing a ball and frustrating myself. I have heard that when you hit the sweet spot and watch the ball soar into the air it makes it all worth it. I can't speak to that. What I can say is I have a secret sweet spot that is much easier to achieve than the perfect swing.

A child sitting in my lap snuggled close and listening to read aloud stories. That is it for me - today I actually plucked Sirah out of playing with her siblings so she could come sit in my lap so I could read to her. While the activity no doubt benefited her it really was all about me today. I just needed that time, that quiet, that closeness, that sweet spot that makes it all worth it.

As my four year old sits in my lap and I realize I have just a few years of this left I want to cling to this. This is the sort of thing I know I really will miss when they grow up because I have spent so much time doing it and loving it. Sure my 8 year old will still sit there but only for short periods of time as she gets uncomfortable and I imagine these moments are quickly coming to an end with her. I have spent so much of the past 8 years with a child in my lap reading to them that I can't imagine the loss when this time passes, so I am trying to treasure it even more than I usually do.

So as I read Molly Lou Melon, Marvin. K Mooney, The Seven Silly Eaters, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Glitter Kitty for the millionth time I will love those moments and be thankful at how easy it is to feel the joy of that sweet spot without ever stepping foot on the greens.

September 22, 2007

Nature Notebook Class

This semester for our homeschool cooperative I am teaching a great and easy class for the 2nd-4th graders, nature notebooking. On the first day I gave a general overview of what nature notebooking was and what sorts of items they might want to include in their books. I gave them only two rules for the book.

1. It doesn't have to be perfect.
2. If God made it you can draw it

Only God made it perfect so all I want you to do is draw from your heart and mind what you see in the way you want to. Then we headed outside.

We had a lovely but breezy day to be outside. Thankfully some flowers survived our first frost in Minnesota and they were able to sit outside near the flowers and sketch. There was a wide variety of what was sketched - trees, spiderwebs, flowers, berries, landscapes, leaf rubbings, moths, grasshoppers, bees, and on the list went.

I think this will be a lovely class - as the kids gain confidence and continue to enjoy themselves. It was a sight to see the kids all spread out in different spots sitting quietly sketching. Some worked very quickly and went through several pages drawing individual items such as a single berry on a page. Others sat for a long time and created complete landscapes.

We encouraged each child to draw for the entire time no matter how many items they sketched and to put the date, location, and time on their pages so they can refer back to them later. They all seemed to enjoy themselves and this is a time I will look forward to each week. In case of unpredictable Minnesota weather I will have field guides, books and pictures for them to sketch from indoors when needed.


We just dropped Serona's sister and our 17 month old nephew at the airport after a wonderful visit. We had a great time just "doing life" as she said. They are wonderful and very easy house guests. We went hiking, walking, to the children's theater, out to eat, and just did all the normal things we usually do. The visit went far too fast but we enjoyed ourselves.

It was fun to have a little one in the house again - made Sirah look so much bigger than she normally seems to me. Since she is the baby of our family she seems so young but then seeing her next to our one year old nephew she seemed so much older. The kids were overall great with their cousin. At times needing reminding to play and help him out but often doing it on their own because they enjoyed it.

If he had a ball and our little Leap Frog Fridge magnet ABC player he was content no matter what. I spent an evening alone with him and we had fun together. We even went to the Mall of America right after the tornado sirens went off and they had evacuated the place - making it a perfectly empty time to visit.

Sadly we only get to see them once a year or so but we made the time count. It was lovely to have them here to spend our days with and have some companionship throughout the day. We will miss them - but maybe we will head out their way again soon. After all Southern California is a lovely place to visit, if only we could afford to move there.

September 7, 2007

Just Add Water and Dirt

The weather was just glorious and as you know our morning was not so we headed outside to meet friends at a park. The rest of the day went swimmingly. The kids played at the playground, found a geocache, had a water fight in a nice big water pile, climbed a nice big dirt pile while completely soaking wet, swung on swings, took turns with Ciaran's skateboard, and played a game of baseball with an imaginary ball. We were there for hours and they were soaking wet and rather dirty at the end of the day. But who cares? It was a perfect day to be a kid and do kid stuff. The day ended with one of the moms bringing Dilly bars for everyone. What a day to be a homeschool kid - at the park all afternoon leaving when others are getting out of school. Next time must remind myself - solution to a bad day: just add water, dirt, sunshine and friends - who could ask for more? By the way these are not our kids but not a bad representation of what they looked like at the end of the day.

FOR DADS ONLY - Thoughts on Internet Security and Kids, from a Dad's Perspective

Hey All. This is Serona, DH of Tenn. I wanted to chime in on the topic of internet security for kids in our homes is concerned. Lots of folks in our small and large circles of friends and spheres of influence are asking about this. As a techie and early adopter of internet technology I think my $.02 is worth about $.04 or so.

This missive is intended for folks with kids who are increasingly using the web for school, play, and friend interaction/maintenance/generation. The questions I hear a lot are along the lines of "what internet filter should I buy?" or "how can I protect my youngster from < insert appropriate scary internet thing here: naked pictures, naughty words, creepy older men posing as 12 year olds etc. >?"

Gang, it's not that complex when you think about it.

Family internet security is like sex. Rather it's like sex ed.

Let me explain.

First, you should know more about it than your kids do. If you don't get this about sex then something is probably seriously amiss and you should stop worrying about internet and take your son/daughter out for some quality re-get-to-know-you-again time. In the tech industry we say, "RTFM" (look it up)

The same applies for understanding web technology as it pertains to your kids' usage. Here are some (but only SOME) of the basics you should know (because your kids already do):

Common Browsers: MSIE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc. They all have tutorials, help files, etc. This is the basic biology - the parts of the body.

Browsing/ web mechanics (e.g. how scientific diagrams of flowers, sonnets by Shakespeare, and naked girl pictures can all appear on your computer screen) You need to understand THE BASICS of how web pages, images, chat/IM dialogs are transported through the aether to your screen. I'm not talking about knowing the guts of HTTP or how IP packets are routed through hops. I'm talking about things like the fact that the "internet" is a series of "request" and "receive" commands that display on your screen. This means you cannot receive anything that you did not ask for. (now it gets complex - because you can actually "ask" for things that you are not aware of - even without being "hacked"). This is like understanding that babies don't come from kissing but usually as a by-product of certain frictions between humans of opposite sex (don't bother me with the exception cases right now).

If the kids in the family understand that they cannot accidentally see something they shouldn't without having asked for it - even if they don't realize they're asking for it, they will

A) be more careful in what they ask for ( e.g. careful with multiple-meaning search terms, etc)

B) be less likely to try to bamboozle you with teen-techno-web parent-N00b speak. (e.g. "that web site must have been H4X0r3d Mom!")

Second, Communicate. Give age-appropriate information that is designed to be built upon. You don't give your 5 year old daughter all the ins and outs < irony / > of sex. You do give your 5 year old daughter an understanding of privacy, good-touch vs bad-touch, and how to care for her young healthy body. You do give the mechanics and maybe some general rules of sex and sexuality to your (insert family-determined appropriate age here) year old daughter. In between those ages you gradually provide detail/additional information
exception cases, strategies for avoiding (insert bad sexual behavior here), and strategies for encouraging (insert good sexual behavior here).

It might be Judo that you teach, or how to call mom for a ride home from a bad date, or how to keep the boyfriend at (insert 1st, 2nd, 3rd base here as governed by parent) or maybe more Judo. Similarly, teach your kids how to tap the plethora of information available in age-appropriate manners. This also involves giving them gradually increasing measures of freedom and privacy, but only as they earn that privilege from proving that your trust in them is warranted. You don't let your 9 year olds go alone on a skinny-dipping blind-date (duh!). Why in the world would you let your 9 year old have text-chat sex on the web? The answer is that you wouldn't! "I DON'T!", you exclaim. But how much do you know about what they're doing online? "YOU DON'T!" I exclaim. That's why you are asking about software filters instead of asking about how to be a better parent.

Remember, it's not "spying" if there is no expectation of privacy.

Third, realize that, like sex, the web is FUN! But it is only SAFE when you 1) know what you are doing and 2) are doing "it" according to the standards that govern healthy behavior. For us Christians, that means sex is good and fun when it's between a man and woman married to each other. For us web surfers/users it means the web is great when we follow the rules and expectations set by our families - not some software program. But by jebus it is a blast! Where else can you chat in real time, for free with friends / family on the other side of world/country/town? Where else can you find the answer to ANYTHING (and usually a video to go along with it)? Where else can you publish your creative thoughts, engage people smarter than you in conversations on topics that interest you, verbally spar with people with whom you disagree and explore the side tracks that hyperlinks provide (if you don't know what a hyperlink is, see the First thing, above). But, like sex, the web can be used appropriately and inappropriately. Like sex, there are certain things that simply should not be done with strangers or friends or even best friends forever. Like sexual endeavors, using the web alone can be a stress relief, or a tension creator. If you've talked with your (older) kids about masturbation (yes, I SAID IT!), good grief, why are you NOT talking to them about when and how it is appropriate to use the web.

Gang, there is lots of technology pitched and sold to parents that preys upon fears of kids seeing pictures of naked people or reading dirty words or getting raunchy or profane or simply annoying emails. The reality is that this will stop some stuff but never all. So what do you do when those words or pictures, or emails get through? There is no substitute for being a parent. If you web experience is currently inundated and overrun with NSFW images and content, or your kids are web-camming with strangers at odd evening hours chances are your issues go deeper than a filter.

I'm not down on filters (really) but I'm down on technology as nanny or parent or overseer. Be a parent first. Use technology as a tool, to your advantage.

You use your knowledge and experience of sex to inform the ways and methods you use to teach your kids about it. Use your knowledge and experience of web based technology to inform the ways and means you use to teach your kids about that as well. If your knowledge and experience with the web is behind that of your kids, then by-gum, get some. At least you can't get all those nasty diseases we heard about in health class from the internet.

Thanks for reading.

Recipe for Failure

Take one dehydrated mom and add

-1 son with low attention, high energy and something in his ears preventing him from listening

-1 daughter who wants to talk about everything not related to her work (ear piercing, friends, what she wants to do later)

-1 daughter who wants me and me and did I mention me

-And I forgot to mention 1 daddy who lovingly gives his darling children nice big frosted sugar bombs on his way to work right before we start school.

Mix continuously without stop and ask them to accomplish tasks related to school.

Results: I will let you guess but it sure wasn't pretty!

September 6, 2007

The Giving Tree

This book brought many memories today. Sirah and I had a marathon reading afternoon. We read for about a half hour before her nap (about standard) and then she woke up grumpy and not wanting to face the world and decided the way to cope was for me to read to her. We climbed into our favorite leather chair with what I thought was a large stack of books - I had no idea what was to come! We read for two and a half hours straight with two short water breaks for me. She just kept wanting to read and read and read. She picked up The Giving Tree and we read it. At the end I looked down and she was crying, such a very sad cry. She reached up and grabbed my neck and clung. I asked her what was wrong and she said she was so very sad for the tree. She sat in my lap and cried for quite awhile as I comforted her. We had a bit of a discussion after that about giving and taking and about using paper towels in a bathroom - because once she asked me what the "These come from trees" sticker was and it stuck. Her tender heart took quite awhile to recover from reading this book today. I reached desperately for what might be a happy uplifting book and started reading once she had calmed enough. We read until she was calmed down and comforted and then headed to the skate park. I was thankful for the reprieve from reading - I love it but over 3 hours of read aloud time is a lot! Then of course more reading was inevitably to come at bedtime.

The second memory The Giving Tree gave us today brought just as strong of an emotional reaction but in the positive way from Ciaran. Sirah and I were finishing up dinner and I looked over to Ciaran who was "reading" on the couch. He enjoys looking at picture books but has lacked the confidence that unless it is a leveled reader that he is sure he can read every word he will simply not even try to read it. No matter how we encourage it or try to convince him he has been resolute on this point - claiming he is happy just to look at the pictures. I looked over and realized he was sounding out the words quietly to himself. I quickly looked away so he would not catch me watching him. It took a lot to not say something encouraging to him but I kept quiet and looked away.

A few moments later he came bounding over (he rarely just walks) super excited and sat right next to me and said "I think can read this book by myself!" I smiled and said I believe you can do you want to try. He sat right next to me and read the whole book and he was so excited and proud of himself. It brought him such joy and he took some ownership of his reading tonight I think. It is the first time in my recollection that he has chosen to read a book he was not assigned or that he did not know already with certainty that he could read. His excitement and energy was contagious and I was really proud of him and really excited.

So one book brought such completely different strong emotional reactions in my kids in one evening! What a great book it is too. And I choose this picture from the book because it makes me think of both my kids and their reactions today and besides we are a bunch of tree huggers here.

Read to those babies - maybe not for three hours :)

Harry Potter fans

This is cool - too time consuming for me - but fun to look at.

Kind of gives new meaning to a playhouse for kids (or adults). The detail work is really great as you look through the site. They must have taken a LONG time to pull this together.

Now playing: Relient K - In Love With The 80's
via FoxyTunes

It's Just More Interesting

I realize now why I blog more during school season - life is just more interesting. Recent days have brought some interesting and fun moments. One of my favorites was yesterday when Ciaran asked to do a narration about his science lesson on spiders jumped up on the chair and broke into song (show tune style) as he made up the lyrics which were his narration about how a spider plays dead from a wasp. It was a moment that made us all smile and laugh and he did several encores. That is just not normal on a non-school day :)

Sirah gets excited about a necktie, nail clippers and a nutcracker since they will go in her N box for her "fun school" and she can't wait to share it. Rhiannon decided that learning Latin won't be that bad because she can have secret conversations with her grandfather who is a pastor and understands Latin.

The kids built a wall out of play dough together as they acted out the story of Nehemiah and I pretended to be the enemy coming to knock it down. Sirah could not stop laughing and was very cute since she got to be the lookout and was very proud that she was strong enough to keep me out.

Ciaran deciding he had too much energy hops up and gets out our mini trampoline and his boxing gloves and sets the trampoline up in front of the punching bag so he can work some energy out. The kids take turns doing this.

We spend an afternoon at the library gathering our N and O books for the week and listening to Ciaran do his read alouds. A pregnant mom with a toddler comes in and asks the librarian for some help finding books about being an older brother and new babies. The librarian was not real helpful and I walked over with 5 story books age appropriate for her - can you tell we read a lout a lot.

Our day is just filled with random fun moments - the stuff that I enjoy blogging about. Homeschooling also helps me remember that I am creative - just not in the traditional ways. Looking forward to another great year!

Now playing: Relient K - Give Until There's Nothing Left
via FoxyTunes

Now playing: Relient K - When I Go Down
via FoxyTunes