October 30, 2008

That Kind of Day

"Mommy you are wearing your slippers!" Sirah tells me in the parking lot of Target around 10am. Sure enough she was right I was wearing my wool slippers. To my defense it could have happened to you too - they are cork based slippers and being a nearly full time Birkenstock wearer I really did not realize until we were at the store.

"Mommy you are still wearing your slippers" I am told at 2pm at campaign headquarters - we have not gone home yet, again at swim team practice and then on the way home from church at 9pm! It sort of became the running joke yesterday and I guess shows the kind of day we had that I intially forgot to put on shoes and that I never had time to go home and change into them until 9:30 at night when I should have been putting on my slippers.

I look at it this way - atleast I was wearing comfortable footwear on a crazy hectic day and I gave my kids something to laugh about. I don't know that anyone else noticed and no one said anything if they did.

I am taking the day off to enjoy the nice weather and just spend some time with my kiddos. Today I will remember to wear my birks instead of slippers. Tomorrow when I start running and don't stop until around 9pm on Tuesday I think I will be glad for my day off and maybe even for my test run of my slippers. If no one noticed them before maybe I can get away with wearing them all day while campaigning :)

Make sure you get out and vote!

October 25, 2008

Day in the Life of a 7 year old boy

Thought for something different I would blog today just about Ciaran and his day. He woke up well before the rest of us, got dressed, ate cereal, finished his Star Wars book and convinced his sisters to play a game of Blokus with him all before I even got out of bed.

Immediately upon waking he asked if he could play a video game, if I would play a board game with him or play anything with him. Not fully functional or awake yet he realized that was a hopeless cause and went to find someone else to be with and do something with.

We headed off to the local gym for weekly swim lessons. Unfortunately Ciaran could not finish his swim lessons as he has 10 stitches in his arm from last week. He was whittling a stick, missed the stick and whittled his arm with the knife instead. I took the girls to their swim lessons and Serona took Ciaran to a local pond for a nature hike. They had a really nice time together and Ciaran found a frog, a tiny peeper frog. Could he possibly have been any happier? Thinking they were all hibernating already he was very surprised and happy.

They picked us up at the gym and we headed to our local campaign office to meet and have a picture taken with Senator Coleman from Minnesota. There were a fair amount of kids in the office but we had prepped our kids ahead of time about the kind of behavior we expected. They were all very good especially Ciaran even when he saw other boys his age running around the office he stayed with us and was very good. Rewarded with candy from the office he was content.

We stopped on the way home to deliver a lawn sign and he preferred to run the two blocks home then to get back in the car. Upon arriving home he wanted to play again. He kept himself occupied in the backyard with swings and then hitting a wiffle ball and running after it. Next we had a catch together until he could catch and throw accurately 100 throws, he does love baseball. Next it was time for basketball - first several games of HORSE and then 3 one on one games. I was tired, he was not.

He kept playing basketball by himself for awhile, rode his bike some and then ended up in the backyard on the trampoline for awhile. He then told me how there was absolutely nothing for him to do since no one would do anything with him at that moment. Every suggestion made was denied for some reason or another until he realized I really was not going to get up and play with him (Sirah was asleep on my lap on the deck) and I was not going to let him have screen time while it was nearly 60 and sunny out (knowing there are precious few days left). He wandered off and convinced Maria to do something with him I think and then the two of them talked Serona into a game of The Hobbit, which lasted several hours.

I made one of his favorite dinners, black beans on a tostada with mexican cheese. Serona and Sirah had made brownies earlier in the day (while we were playing sports in the yard) so he enjoyed that treat. Bath time and now they are upstairs dancing to Soul Coughing all together. Likely he will do some reading before bed from either Encyclopedia Brown or the Capitol Mystery series.

There you have it Saturday as experienced by Ciaran our 7 year old energetic and very social son. Not a perfect day for him in his mind I am sure since he did not get to see friends beyond his family and he had no video game time. Still overall a good day I think.

Highlights of the Week

I used to blog every day and I miss it actually. But I accept there are seasons to everything and this happens to be an extremely busy season for our family. I feel like it is a never ending season but I know it will end one day. For starters it is going to get a lot easier in just 11 days. Why? Because the election will be over and my work will be done one way or the other, but for the next 11 days I am going to be very busy. Then it will be done and my kids will be glad of that to be sure.

Still even with politics in the mix we managed to have a really good week. Just the highlights. I will leave out the bickering, fighting, resistance to math, adult temper tantrums I threw and all the other things you don't want to hear about. I mention them just so you don't think I live in a fantasy world when you read the rest of the post.

Monday my nine year old daughter and I went horseback riding with several of her friends and one of mine. I have not been on a horse in 10 years and that was my first time other than pony rides when I was really a young child. While I am a beginner my daughter is not, nor were several of her friends. But I mustered up the courage to go despite my fear of heights (yes I am aware a horse is not that high off the ground) and even with my back issues. I am glad I went, it was a perfect fall day, the last of the fall trees were pretty to see and the ride itself was fun. I could not have done it without my friend Jen there though, she talked me through it when she could tell I was nervous - I was definitely worse than the girls even the ones who had little or no experience. But it was nice to share that with my daughter and her friends and a perfect way to enjoy a fall day.

Tuesday had a very rough start and led to everyone fighting with everyone else. I decided to change tactics and we all headed to the arboretum for school. I packed a bag of school books, sketch books, a jump rope, blankets and picked up Taco Bell for lunch. We headed to some of our favorite spots and took turns sketching, doing math and other subjects as well as collecting leaves, exploring and jumping rope. The memory of sitting under a canopy of fall leaves while my 5 year old read to me from her phonics readers is a memory I am sure will always stay with me. It really was a great way to spend the afternoon and we actually got more accomplished then I thought we would. We got some strange looks as my kids spread out all over the place but they were well behaved had fun and were learning what more could I possibly ask for? Oh and my G1 phone came which I was very excited for as I have been waiting for it for a long time and our house cleaners came so for the first time in nearly a month I had a clean house - truly a great day!

Wednesday was a rainy day we went to the gym and the girls went swimming with friends while Ciaran and I went rock climbing. Okay he climbed and I cheered him on - remember the whole fear of heights thing? That one I don't think I can get over as easily. Then they headed to a friends house while I went back out to the barn from Monday to pick up my wallet that had fallen out on the trail ride. Note to self - do not put anything in your back pocket while horseback riding. Praise God they found it. Church group that night followed by a treat of an ice cream shake on the way home.

Thursday we had a solid morning of school and then the kids all headed to their various homeschool book clubs, even Sirah is in one this year. I found myself in a very unusual position - I was alone in my house and it was clean I really had nothing I needed to do. Sure there were lots of things I could do: make campaign phone calls, laundry, writing, blogging, etc but I decided to do something I never do - I went for a walk. I put on my headphones and headed out on a crisp fall afternoon all by myself. I walked as fast or slow as I wanted and listened to music without any concern about if anyone else liked it or should listen to it. I looked at the leaves and took in the air and the blue sky and I was just thankful. As I walked past our local school I had the "Is this what I would do if they were in school?" thought. It passed by quickly but it floated through my mind the idea that all of them would be gone all day long now - too much to think about. While I enjoyed my few hours alone I was really happy to see their smiling faces and hear all about their book clubs. Last night the kids were all in bed by 8pm but I went from room to room reading to them I read the younger two a chapter or two from our current book (I always have a special book for each child which just I read to just them)which took about an hour and then Maria and I finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone last night. It was fun to read it with her and we talked about the book and the various characters, choices and events of the book together. It was fun to see her experience the book and world it creates for the first time.

Today was our homeschool cooperative. The kids are taking various classes. Maria is taking Managing Money, P.E, and Betsy Tacy. Ciaran is taking Clay Sculpture, PE and Reptiles and Amphibians (could he be any happier?). Sirah's class reads a Five in a Row book, does crafts and activities around it and then have PE. This year my contribution is playing games with 5th-9th graders and then talking about current events with the teens in our group, very fun and very easy for me. After coop the older two went to various friends homes and Sirah stayed home and watched Aristocats (her current favorite movie). I spent the remainder of the day until dinner (which we ate at 8pm) making campaign phone calls trying to get volunteers for Get Out the Vote in our area. The kids played Wii and when Serona came home we had family night Pizza and a movie.

We had a great week, lots of fun and even accomplished some good school this week. Hope your weekend is well.

October 16, 2008

My Day at the Capitol By Maria Age 9

When I first went to the capitol I was amazed. Our tour guide was great. I had a lot of fun being with my friends and learning some new things. On our way to the capitol I could not wait to get up those great marble stairs. Once I was there I could not wait to get inside. I ran in and waited for the rest of the group to come and meet the tour guide. When we first went inside I got really excited I just couldn't wait for the tour to be over because a)I had already been on the tour multiple times b) we were meeting our local representative, this was going to be an interesting day.

Inside the capitol my two favorite things were: the governor's room, it was cool and the golden horses one of my favorites symbolizing nature. There were four horses they symbolized fire, ice, water and earth. When we were done with the tour we got to meet our representative, he was very nice. I sat in a democrats chair on the Minnesota House floor. We asked all kinds of interesting questions about the room, about his job, lots of things. It was an amazing experience and I can't wait to do it again.

On the drive home I thought really hard about the things I learned. I learned who founded the capitol, his name was Cass Gilbert. I thought about some reasons why no woman had ever been a governor which stinks. Personally I am on the womans side. I want to become a page when I grow up because they get some real experience on how to govern things and they get to live in a luxurious hotel with a pool. The bad thing is you can only be a page for two weeks. Maybe someday I'll get to be the first woman governor of Minnesota. If I decide to be a page I'd get some first hand experience.

On the way come we had Cosettas for lunch, they were giant pizzas but it was a great ending to a great day. The End.

*Rhiannon has changed her name to Maria...

October 13, 2008

A Full day

We started with driving Serona to work and then headed home to start school. Teaching multiplication of two digits to a 4th grader, addition to a kindergartner, hieroglyphics and cuneiform to a 1st grader among other things. It was a typical Monday filled with moments of resistance to reentry to school. In the end a solid day of school which we finished by about 1pm.

Then an afternoon of girls group here. A rainy day ruined our horseback riding plans to be replaced by an afternoon of charades, Mario Kart, and makeovers for the girls. How much glitter and nail polish can they use along with creative hairstyles with many random ponytails. The laughter and volume was quite high but they had a very enjoyable time.

Pick up Serona from work where the kids worked on their rock collection waiting for him to come out of the building. Then the kids had dinner and an evening with dad at home while I headed off to the campaign headquarters for some voter Identification calling and some GOTV (Get out the vote planning). Headed home for some Guinness and watching reruns of the West wing while I catch up on news and blogging.

I have two current countdowns going for me now: 23 days to the election and 9 days to my new G1 phone arrival! Hope all is well with you.

Books for Boys

"Mom can I finish this chapter?" I never thought I would be so happy to hear those words - but I am. After one child who can not get her nose out of a book those words became wearing believe it or not. Ciaran has finally found some books he is enjoying and suddenly wants to read and not stop! Hooray!

He has read the entire Magic Tree House series - though they bored him after awhile. Recently he read the Boba Fett series and is now reading the Capitol Mysteries and Geranimo Stilton. His favorite book so far is still The Chocolate Touch.

I am always thankful when I find books he enjoys reading. Anyone else have good recommendations for a 7 year old boy?

October 7, 2008

Civics Based Day

Today was an unusual school day. We started the day with contractors above our heads installing our new bamboo floors. It is very loud to be under all the staple and nail guns. Rhiannon worked on some reading for history and science as well as completed her math in various rooms of the house moving away from the noise and chaos of the construction and her younger siblings lessons.

Ciaran, Sirah and I started studying Ancient Egypt, the Nile and random interesting facts. The lesson was fun and engaging and ended with an actual sword fight between the two with the result being Sirah (White Crown King of Upper Nile) defeating Ciaran (Red Crown King of Lower Nile) and capturing his crown naming her the double crown king. They really enjoyed the lesson and seemed engaged even when we did some map work and talked about things like silt and the direction the Nile flows.

Eventually the noise became too much and after finishing the lessons that require lots of discussion, read aloud and interaction we packed up the rest of the book work and headed out to finish the bookwork in more quiet.

Then we headed to a nearby political campaigning office we are affiliated with for the afternoon. The kids got messy with paint, markers, glitter and glue creating candidate posters while I made some voter identification phone calls. They were rewarded with their artwork being displayed and some potato chips with lemonade.

We headed to a friends house where I taught our weekly civics class - this week our topic was presidential debates and the campaign trail. We discussed what types of activities are going on at this point in the presidential campaign. We broke the students up into different roles and held a town hall styled debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. The rest of the students asked questions about topics ranging from the economy to education to foreign policy. The kids seemed to enjoy it and I was impressed with how knowledgeable the students ranging 2nd to 6th grade were about the issues and candidates. We ended with a discussion about whether winning or losing a debate matters in an election, if there really can be a winner and why the candidates answers tend to be less than clear and direct on many issues. Then I opened it up for random question and answer time where the kids can ask me any questions about politics, campaigning, issues and candidates they can think of. We had some interesting questions like:

What is a whig? What is a federalist? Why don't we have anymore?
Do you have to be a senator to become president?
Have we ever had a female presidential candidate?
How do you get to be Obama or McCain (presidential campaign)?
Why do you have to be a natural born citizen to become president?
What are the criteria for becoming president?
Didn't a president have to step down? Watergate
Can a president be elected more than twice?
How do you get to vote?

There were others but I can't think of them. I am enjoying teaching this class and it seems the students are having fun too. So far we have covered the basic structure of our government, federalism, branches of government, qualifications and responsibilities of major leaders, campaign strategies, life on the campaign trail, voting, electoral college, popular votes, how a candidate gets elected, caucuses, primaries, etc. Some day when I have extra time I will post my lessons from those days. We ended the evening watching the presidential debate as a family until one by one the kids dropped off into sleep.

This time of year we are very active as a family in campaigning and encouraging voters to vote and citizens to get involved however they can. I have friends on both sides of many issues, friends committed to various candidates, passionate opinions between family members and friends and that is all well and good. I encourage all of them to get involved no matter what candidate they support and I encourage you to do the same and to teach your children valuable civics lessons they will remember for the rest of their lives.

My kids have been involved with us politically since they were babies - we have always been active and just like many other aspects of our family life we just bring the kids along. They can't do everything with us but they have seen presidents speak, candidates debate, knocked on doors, delivered lawn signs, and just observed and learned from their parents and they participate in civics and good citizenship. I have been applauded for these choices and I have been criticized for them. I will continue to encourage families to participate in civics as families and encourage my children to be active citizens as they grow up no matter what candidates they choose to support.

My kids are now starting to show likes and dislikes and remember certain parts of their experiences from years past. Ciaran really enjoys door knocking and delivering lawn signs. Rhiannon enjoys learning about the issues and watching the debates more but doesn't like the door to door interactions but wants to be able to make phone calls. Sirah she really likes the art part of it making posters and being creative.

A few lessons along the way. They have learned patience through this, being able to sit quietly and respectfully at an office while many adults are on phones around them or wait for a long time to hear a politician speak about many things that seem boring and irrelevant to them. Their presence has made others realize that children can be present and respectful in unusual circumstances. They have learned that even as a young child they can make a difference and help even in small ways that can have an impact. They have learned about being part of something bigger than them and taking part in something with many other people for a common cause. They learn that even when we work hard we don't always win.

Now I am not going to lie and say it is always roses and what seems exciting on day one wears on anyone after 2 months especially younger ones. But overall I think they have built some positive memories and learned some life long lessons in ways they will never understand from a textbook. Some random lessons I have learned everything is easier with food, time for art, exercise and the book Duck for President.