Hey Mamas: Ditch the Directions

Pssst… Hey Mamas, can I talk to you for just a second? Okay, maybe 10. If you are reading this, it is likely not the first blog or social media post you have ever clicked on. Chances are, if you see something that starts with “Hey Moms” or “Parenting Tips” or “How to Potty Train Your Kid in 12 Minutes” you jump on it like a 5-year-old on bubble wrap.

They are all over the web. Parenting tips, tales of woe, warnings for the masses. My recent favorite is “5 Things you are probably doing that are harming your children”

No, I haven’t read it. I don’t read them. You probably shouldn’t either, at least not without a grain of salt (or a glass of wine).

Let’s make sure we are all clear on this now. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PARENTING EXPERT. Sure, there are expert parents, and maybe you can learn a thing or two, but just because they got their Sally to sleep in a big girl bed by 18 months with no problem, does not mean you are a horrible failure because Timmy is three and still clinging to the bars of his crib.

Tips are great, but when I see something about potty training, or how to stop temper tantrums written by a woman with a blog and a 5-year-old, I giggle. She hasn’t experienced the terrible 8s yet. She hasn’t had another child, she hasn’t begun to uncover the world of temper tantrums. More importantly to my way of thinking, she doesn’t know how her methods will effect him as an adult.

Or how about this; all the coverage “getting your body back” is getting. I’m sorry, where did my body go after children exactly? Did I donate it? Have I lost it somewhere between Aldi and Target? I didn’t lose my body, I got more of it. Most of the women posting pictures of their post-baby bods either have a genetic advantage or 26 hours in the day to fit in their workouts. Kudos to them, but ladies, that is just not going to work for everyone. That doesn’t mean you give in to a lifestyle of pizza and couch sitting, but for heaven’s sake the next mother I know who posts an “inspiration” photo to Pinterest of a 5′ 10″ woman with rock hard abs and an obvious aversion to all things carbohydrate is getting a personal phone call from my therapist. Rock your mama body! You grew a human. Even Superman can’t boast that particular power. (Even mamas who didn’t actually give birth will see some changes, it’s a mother thing, be proud your biology is responding to what your heart already knew, you’re a mom!)

No mother is going to be perfect and I honestly think we are all making ourselves neurotic reading all of these articles on the way our daughters will grow up with self esteem issues if we let her play with princesses, or how our boys are going to grow into violent, confused men if we don’t allow them time to play with dolls (do you see the weird dichotomy there?). Turn off the noise and learn your kids! Forgive the grammar, but it’s an appropriate phrase. Stop looking at all the “advice” and start letting your kids show you who they are. Let them tell you what works and what doesn’t. Give them the grace to be human. Realize they are not just miniature versions of you or your spouse. They are individuals. They will fail, so will you. That’s not a negative, just a fact. Show them how to get up, dust off and try again, and then drop to your knees and thank God for his grace as you extend it to yourself and your family.

You click on these posts because you want to be a better parent. That’s commendable. You’re not likely to find the answers here, or anywhere on the web. Listen to your kids, pray about it, ask a trusted friend who actually knows your family. Don’t let a woman you’ve never met (like maybe me) tell you that you aren’t up to par. Chances are, her kids need therapy too.

Until next time, keep calm and mama on!

(PS. I do realize this whole post is slightly hypocritical. You don’t have to pay attention to me. Isn’t that great?!)

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Day One

Technically, it’s the end of day two, but day one tuckered us out to the point I couldn’t find a coherent thought to write yesterday. After two days of homeschool I’ve already learned so much!

  • I love my children– Really I do. I love being a part of their learning process. I love that I am learning about who they are and how they learn.
  • My children drive me crazy– Really they do. They are just, like, here, all the time right now. Underfoot, knocking on the bathroom door, jumping out of my closet, under my desk. Everywhere.
  • I’ve learned new phrases– such as: get your elbow out of your brother’s throat, don’t chew on your sister’s hair, and my personal favorite; the math blocks do not belong in your nose (I really thought we were beyond that stage).
  • I may have overdone the curriculum: I’ve actually had a suspicion building for a few weeks in this regard. We bought the Sonlight Core, and it is a stout curriculum. We purchased it because I really wanted something that was all planned out for me. I had no faith that I could create my own with any success my first year. However, in addition to the core package, which included two full boxes of books and binders, we also got a spelling program, handwriting, math, science and phonics curriculums. Those who are veterans just shook your heads with a knowing smile, didn’t you?
  • This is going to take time- I was told by so many moms that trying to mimic school was their number one mistake, but kicking that habit is going to take some time. G-Money even started our first day by finding a buzzer and ringing like a bell. Oy.
  • My boys do NOT work independently- Suggestions welcome on this one. I know I need to find some time to work each child individually, but what to do with the other? Right now they just want to play.
  • My patience is better– not perfect, but better.
  • We can do this- After two days, we’ve had ups and down, laughs and tears, but we have ended both days cuddled up reading our books and looking forward to tomorrow. This is not going to be an easy path, but I’m pretty optimistic about the big picture.

Here are a few snapshots of Day 1

We started the day by cooking a big celebration breakfast. Gluten free pancakes...best we've made yet!

We started the day by cooking a big celebration breakfast. Gluten free pancakes…best we’ve made yet!

 

Yummo!

Yummo!

My "class"

My “class”

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This is going to be fun

This is going to be fun

A little walk before we got started for the day. I'm so in love with this picture.

A little walk before we got started for the day. I’m so in love with this picture.

Cause who can get enough of this face?

Cause who can get enough of this face?

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Our first lesson: Frog are slimey and hard to catch.

Our first lesson: Frog are slimey and hard to catch.

History on the Hammock. I think it's going to be a thing.

History on the Hammock. I think it’s going to be a thing.

The Spice of Life

Among the myriad of things we’ve changed in our lives in this past year, one great addition has been our garden. I have never kept a plant alive before, but I’ve kept my three kids alive so far, so I figured, how hard can it be? Ha! Those of you who garden are laughing at my naivety aren’t you?

After finding a raised bed we liked on the Pioneer Woman’s site, (Raised Garden Bed How To) we went to work constructing one in our yard with the help of my very handy daddy. We then went to our local garden store and shopped for dirt (oh how the mighty have fallen–just three months ago I was shopping for power suits).

I was so proud when all my plants bloomed gloriously. I had thoughts of running my own organic farm dancing through my head. The op-ed piece in the newspaper would read like this:

“Former Corporate Mother Becomes One with Mother Nature”

There would be pictures of me holding my 18lbs cucumbers, surrounded by birds and butterflies and looking serene. 

Enter the deer. The deer were very impressed with my endeavors as well. It was like I planted them their very own snack bar. The destruction was swift and brutal.

susanna and the deer We are so used to the deer around here, I forgot about them…yes, I realize that makes no sense.

Anyway, I was then on a mission: Bambi Must Die

Okay, not die, but get the heck out of my tomatoes. After rigging a makeshift fence our garden is back in bloom. But now there is another problem. What does one do with all these tomatoes?

Friends suggested sauces and salsas. I buy those things in a grocery store ladies. How do you make the stuff?

Again, Pioneer Woman to the rescue! Click to see recipe

We made several changes. A big one being we used our own ripe tomatoes and not something out of a can.

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The other great thing about cooking is that it turns out it is awesome for kids who need work with their fine motor skills. Willy Man helped my by peeling the garlic and the onion.

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My child had never seen actual garlic before. Seriously, I’ve failed this portion of motherhood.IMG_0731

Once we had all our ingredients (including a quick trip to our corner store for some cilantro), we were ready to mix.

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Great hand strengthening exercise for Willy Man. We had him squeezing limes into everything last night. Lime water anyone?

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Grinding peper was another good one…I see a lot of cooking in our homeschool future. Fine motor exercises are meant to help with handwriting…and hopefully getting those pesky Capri Sun straws into that little hole.

Our final result was ridiculously spicy (note to self: less jalapeno and cilantro next time), but very tasty. 

In case you are missing this….I MADE that salsa…with tomatoes I grew…this is crazy! Next grinding my own corn for corn chips (not really)

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Broken Beautiful

What do you do as a parent when you’re kid thinks he’s broken?

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After three years in school, this is what my son has decided is wrong with him. He’s broken. Specifically, his brain is broken. He can’t concentrate, can’t sit still, can’t tell people what he feels when he feels it, He has heard it from teachers, from coaches, and sadly from his own parents.

It happened again yesterday, his karate teacher, made him feel broken and incapable of learning (the teacher was not cruel or mean, just not a fit). At 8 years old, he doesn’t rebound as quickly as he did a few years ago from such set downs. He’s had such a great summer at camp, and in a few short minutes, the confidence he’s built working with the horses and playing outdoors, was knocked down like house of cards.

I love all three of my precious little humans, but if I have only one goal this school year, it is to rebuild this child’s confidence. We are going to discover all his strengths and use each and every one to help him move forward.

I will remind him of his heart, which is full of compassion

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I will remind him of his imagination (J.K. Rowling watch out)

Each creation played a different tune as it was knocked down..really cool actually

Each creation played a different tune as it was knocked down..really cool actually

 I will ignore the traditional ways of learning if they don’t fit. If he needs to sit inside a desk drawer and juggle in order to learn…that’s cool…and maybe we’ll become YouTube sensations in process.

I will apologize. I’m going to get frustrated. I’m likely to lose my temper from time to time (please, Jesus, help me), but I will breathe, apologize and keep working to find solutions.

I will do whatever I have to do to show my son he is NOT broken. At least no more than the rest of us. Like diamonds, it’s our cracks and imperfections that show our brilliance when they reflect The Light.

Shine on, beautiful. 

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Survival

Curriculum requires coffee.

Trying to organize all the books we will be using this year. We will be utilizing the Sonlightcurriculum. We have decided to put both boys at approximately the same level. We may change this later on, but being that they are only 18 months apart and G-money will beg to do what his big brother is doing anyway, we are starting like this. We are going to use Core B and C, and take a trip through World History. I was pleasantly overwhelmed by the amount of information and books we received. Now, with the floor littered with books, a 4 inch 3-ring binder (find a happy place, find a happy place), and a large cup of coffee, I am attempting to organize our first couple of weeks. We are not great planners (hence the blog title) so we are going to keep things flexible. I have decided to divide our year into 4 semesters. In an attempt not to completely freak ourselves out with all this stuff, we are going to separate semesters 2-4 and put them away for now. The books we will be dealing with for semester 1 will stay on the shelves. If we need more time to finish, we will. If we zoom through it we will open up box two (it’s like Christmas morning)!

I want some kind of roadmap for the year, but I want to be able to jump off the interstate and explore Route 66 if we feel like it. How else will we see the World’s Largest Ball of Yarn? And really, isn’t that where life is lived? (Off the beaten path, not at the yarn ball)

Next step? Creating activities for AnnaJane to keep her occupied and involved while I work with the boys. I don’t have a curriculum for this, but I do have coffee, so it’s all good in the hood for now.

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Crafty

We have finished our first week of homeschooling…and survived. I feel like I should make a t-shirt. Oh wait, I did! Check it y’all. I got my craft on. Anyone who knows me knows that even the word “craft” sends cold chills down my spine. I have friends who have entire rooms dedicated to all things crafty. I don’t spend time at their houses lest they get any ideas that involve me, glue guns, and scrapbook paper.

For my kids though, I realize I’m going to have to face this fear. Monet we are not, but not bad for our first try.

Star Boxes

We knew we would be ending the week by spending time with my Aunt and Uncle, so we decided to make them 4th of July themed boxes. Our unit study this week was on the American flag, so we spray painted star shaped boxes we got at Hobby Lobby with blue metallic spray paint. Then I gave each boy red and white acrylic paint and let them create whatever they want. Willy-man did the flag, G-Money attempted the flag as well. I’ve decided not to tell him it looks like Japan’s. Susanna and I used straws to create fireworks on her little box.
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Patriotic Tie Dye shirts

Every year I feel like I am running around on July 3rd trying to pick up red, white and blue gear for the kids to wear on the 4th. This year we planned ahead and decided to tie dye our own. G-Money wanted a Captain America themed shirt, and we found this website that gave us a how-to.

Captain America Themed Tie Dye DIY

I thought the instructions were pretty straight forward, but I made a couple of changes. I used rubber bands instead of zip ties. Who has those lying around? She also used some fancy thing called a ciricut to create the star. Round these parts we ain’t so fancy so I used construction paper and scissors.
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We started by selecting several plates and bowels of differing sizes to give us the target.

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Then we used a pencil to sketch around each.
Once that is done you pick up the t-shirt from the center of the target and put rubber bands around each line you drew. Then dye to your specifications. Again, no fancy craft thingy to give me the perfect star so I used a cookie cutter and scissors.
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We just used basic spray paint, and voila.

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The other kids chose different designs, but I thought all turned out pretty well.

I’m not going to create my own craft haven any time soon, but this was rather fun.

Happy Independence Day!

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First Day

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Today has been our unofficial first day homeschooling. We decided that to combat the summer educational loss and the steamy temperatures, we’d skip camp for two weeks and do a unit study on the American Flag in honor of Independence Day this Friday. I stocked up on crafts (oy.), read up on flag-related books and projects, and coraled my mini-masters for the week.

How is it going you ask? It’s day one. It’s been rocky. Okay, to tell the truth its been a disaster from my perspective. So, during obligatory, quiet time (it’s obligatory for mommy, not the minis), I’m trying to regroup and figure out what went wrong.

First, I woke up early and ran and had my alone (with a friend) time. This was to clear my head of cobwebs so I could be ready for whatever was thrown my way. I also showered, and got ready for the day. This sounds trite, but I’m lucky to get in a shower before dinner since coming home. I wanted to be totally focused on the kids and not my stink.

Then we had breakfast and went downstairs to our playroom. We have a small table, several couches and comfy chairs, our computer, book shelves, craft area (again, oy.) and it’s the only room in the house that is carpeted making spreading out wherever, possible. I’ve read over and over that one big rookie homeschool mom mistake is to make things look too much like a classroom, so instead, it’s just more of a creative kid room. We started with Bible lessons. I was FLOORED at how much they have learned in their private school about the old testament and the Ten Commandments. Willy-man rattled off 6 of the 10 verbatim. I should have been thrilled, instead the doubts were planted: “see they were doing so well, why did you take them out?”

The biggest issue we had during this time was their inability to take me seriously. I got a lot of “awe, mom do we havta?” There was also the littlest of our brood, sweet, sweet AnnaJane who wanted mommy’s attention…now….no, right now!

Then we went to the library to gather our books on the flag. I spent 60 minutes chasing kids down and shushing them. I swear these heathens have been in libraries before, but with mom it’s license to scream and climb the bookshelves (no joke).

By the time we got home, I was searching for the admission director of their previous school on my contact list. Got the little girl down and went to dig into our books by doing a key word scavenger hunt. I though myself mighty creative when I came up with this. Instead of reading the kids focused completely on hunting the words and winning the prize, forget actual comprehension.

Then we attempted a craft. Never use spray paint while wearing white, in 100% humidity, with any chance of rain, around 7-8 year-old boys. Really any one of that list should make the activity a no go.  Assuming the craft survives, we’ll post pictures of it later in the week.

But now, as I sit here with my restorative tea (okay, it’s strong coffee), I realize there was really only one problem today. Me.

For the last 8 years I have been the weekend mom. My job has been to cram as much entertainment, moral instruction, and try not to kill yourself information into a very short time span. My kids probably only knew I could speak about 10 phrases.

  • Get in the car
  • Get out of the car
  • Don’t do ____
  • Leave your brother alone
  • Yes, you have to eat the vegetables
  • Go to sleep
  • Clean up
  • Be patient
  • I love you
  • Or some variation on any of the above

I honestly don’t think I meant to be like this, but with only the evenings and weekends to attempt to get everything on my to-do list accomplished, plus spend time with the family, this is just what it evolved into for me. I’m going to have to learn how to let loose and let my kids be kids while they are around me. They are going to have to make messes, they are going to have to make mistakes, they are going to have get things out of every drawer in my kitchen in order to make the perfect robot, I am going to need an inhaler.

Small steps.

As we move into our afternoon activities, I’ve learned that my kids are Bible scholars, loud at libraries, and terrible with paint cans. I’ve learned that even though they are too competitive and reward-focused for the game I created, they now know 12 new Independence Day related words. We are paint-speckled, but smiling. And really, if that doesn’t equal success for day one, what does?

*Note: our actual school year starts in August, so don’t go thinking this un-fun mom banned summer completely.