Wednesday, February 28, 2007

But what about math?

Rose: Mommy, what is four plus four?
me (barely conscious and wishing she would let me sleep in a little later): mmmmm
Rose: 1, 2, 3, 4 [pause] 5, 6, 7, 8 - Eight!!! Four plus four is eight!

I gotta tell ya, that woke me up quickly. Rose just turned four years old last week. My eyes were closed and I can't tell you for sure if she used four fingers and added them twice but I think that's what she did. Voila - multiplication. lol

She's also highly musically inclined and Hubby pointed out that with the pause in the middle of her adding, she could have been rhythmically adding.

Rose: Matthew, are you still hoping the baby is a boy?
Matthew: No, I hope it's a girl.
Rose: Why?
Matthew: Because then on Boys Night Out, I don't have to worry about anyone else hogging Daddy!

Monday, February 26, 2007

It's a girl!!

And did you see??? One of the three names they've selected as "possibles" is Jade!! Now, is that awesome or what? :) After all, an Asian elephant should be named Jade over Emmy and Hana, don't you think? LOL

Rose's Birthday pics!

Rose isn't much of a smiler for the camera. When I asked her about it this morning, she said she was too tired that day to smile. I know the feeling. ;)

A new stuffed MEERKAT, who she has named "Mozart, when she was a baby".

When she got this boxed set of plastic horses, she actually hugged the box. Awww..

These are the cupcakes I made for her party. I have to send a big thank you to my friend, Stacey (check out her hilarious blog about mothering young kids), who does tons of cake decorating and always sends me great ideas to help my last-minute projects.

All in all, a greatly successful party!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

More Meerkats

Rose: And Mommy, I need more stuffed meerkats because they have BIG families!
Me: Yes they do.
Rose: And I can put them... [surveys her room] my red bucket. [pauses to think] But I need a lid for it because they like to go down in the ground in their burrow.
Me: Yeah. We can make a lid.
Rose: [still thinking] But how will they get out?? [answering her own question] Can we make a hole in the lid so they can get out?
Me: Sure.
Rose: Just like the hole that Flower makes for her family in the burrow!!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Duck, duck, goose, goose

After weeks of freezing cold temps and above average snow and ice, this week feels like spring. It's been really beautiful - high around 60, sunny, not too much wind - just my all-time perfect favorite weather. So, since the kids and I have been stuck inside, sick, for about 6 weeks, we decided to go to our fabulous St. Louis Zoo. It's huge and one of the last few free zoos in the country. We get a membership every year and go many times. I've lived here all my life and have had hundreds of trips to the zoo and yesterday, I can say without a doubt, was my very favorite day there ever.

Typically I don't like to take my very young crew downtown by myself. I usually invite another SAHM and her kids to go with us, if it's not the weekend when Hubby can go with us. But my usual gal isn't a homeschooler so school got in the way and for some reason, I decided to just go with the kids by myself. Worried that we might have to leave early because of my sciatica, I packed a picnic lunch and we headed off. I asked the kids which animals they were hoping to see the most. Rose immediately claimed "all the big cats", Matthew wanted to go to "the Herpetarium, so I can see my favorite animal, which are SNAKES!!!", and after asking several times, Jade said something that sounded like her word for "bear" so we went with that.

One of the biggest perks of homeschooling is that you don't have to jam in all the fun "summer stuff" into only 3 months when everyone else is trying to do the same. We had the zoo basically to ourselves. Both kids immediately grabbed a zoo map so they could help navigate (though I have the map in my head). First stop...the bears. Jade practiced saying 'beeeeeeeer' until I think I was calling them beers too. ;) We stopped to watch the polar bear sleeping and a zoo keeper came by, calling out to the bear, "Wha-cha doing? Sleeping, Hope??" She didn't twitch a muscle. The zoo keeper started to leave and I asked, "What did you say her name was?" "Hope" I mentioned that I guessed the warm snap of weather made the animals a little lethargic, as it had done me. She said Hope had been playing a lot this morning and then something that's never happened to me... "If you guys are going to be here for a bit, I'll see if I can get her to play." We heartily agreed and waited to see what she'd come up with. While the kids and I speculated about a water hose, she came around the walk-way with a hard plastic fluorescent ball, bouncing it hard to make the slap-slap-slap sound against the pavement. Hope heard THAT. She immediately jumped up and started to get excited. We watched her play with that ball for a long time. She even poked a hole in it pretty fast with her claw and when that filled up with water, she picked it up and held it with her front paws and drank out of it as if it were a coconut. Rose was absolutely enthralled watching Hope play and do somersaults in the water with that pink ball. All this activity had drawn a small crowd of moms with preschoolers. Matthew read the exhibit sign and saw that it said that polar bears are "nearly threatened" (their endangered status) because their ice caps are melting, 'possibly due to global warming'. He furrowed his eyebrows and said (rather loudly), "We just HAVE to figure out a way to stop global warming! We need to find more ways to use the sun, wind and water for energy and stop using all the machines that create pollution!" I immediately saw the mothers around me straining to see how old this very young voice was and then I felt 'the look'. That one that says I'm a crazed green-loving mother who drills this stuff into her kids heads. Nope. I admit, we do recycle what we can and we have, very briefly, discussed saving energy, pollution, etc. But what came out of his mouth was as much a shock to me as it was to them. We had a great small discussion on global warming and pollution. I find myself constantly asking him where he learned something and the answer usually comes with a shrug, "I don't remember". So I've tried to stop asking. I suppose the answer doesn't really matter but I find I'm curious where he picked it up from.

As we made our way down to see the rest of the bears, there was a man with a demonstration cart so we stopped to take a look. He had pelts of polar bear, grizzly and kodiac, as well as a bear skull. He gave us some information about the different pelts, the uses of their teeth and let us touch all of it. Rose liked being able to touch bear skin. Matthew, my texture-sensitive and germ-a-phobe kid wouldn't touch them. Rose got a very worried look on her face and asked, "Where did you get the bear skins?" The demonstrator explained that they got them off of bears that had died already. She was very relieved to hear that. He told us that the black bears are actually expecting, something that hasn't happened in a very long time at our zoo. And he showed us a stuffed bear about the size of a TY beanie and said that was the size of a newborn bear. He mentioned that bears go into hibernation, sleep through labor and wake up with a newborn baby bear next to them. We already knew this but I patted my 7 month preggo belly and asked him to sign me up for that deal anyway. ;)

We moseyed our way through the outdoor ape section (where there were no apes - I suppose it was still too cool for them to be outside). In the concrete walkway, the zoo had made animal tracks and foliage impressions before the concrete dried and the kids and I had a fun time trying to determine which animal made each track. Surprisingly, the hardest for them to figure out were the bird tracks. The only guess I got on what made that stick-like impression was that they were arrows pointing to the other tracks. ;) I made a mental note to point out the wood peckers feet next time we visit the bird house.

We stopped to look at the pond, full of geese. The pond had a small island in the middle, where all the snow had melted and there was dry land. Part of the pond was still frozen and part wasn't. We shivered when we saw the geese swimming around in the icy water. Rose saw a black swan and was disappointed there were no white ones like in The Ugly Duckling movie Grammy gave us. After a few minutes, we watched a group of geese climb up from the water onto the ice, sit down and try to take a nap. "Look at those silly geese!! Sitting on the cold ice instead of the dry warm island," I said. "Maybe that's why I call you guys 'silly gooses' sometimes because you're as silly as a goose sitting on ice."

We then met up with Hubby, who works not too far away. He met us there on his lunch break and we all had a nice lunch talking about what we'd seen so far. When I told him about the global warming discussion, Matthew piped in with, "You should read more about global warming in my Ranger Rick magazine, Daddy." Aha! I should have known it was that ol' raccoon. ;) I piped up that scientists don't even agree that global warming is actually happening but that some think it is. Matthew says very confidently, "Well, I believe it's happening because I trust myself and that's what I believe."

After saying farewell to Hubby, we headed to the herpetarium (funny...and sad...that this word is not in my browsers dictionary!). The lower level of the herpetarium is small and enclosed so I let Jade out of the stroller to run around a little since she'd mostly been in the stroller or a high chair so far. They have carpeted steps so small kids can get a better view and, silly me, I put her down on a step. Apparently she didn't realize this was a step and fell right off and banged into the stroller. She cut her lip and cried a bit but she was ok and soon was off trying out every single step in the place, as most 2yr olds would. We spent a very long time in the herpetarium - much longer than I've ever spent before. Matthew read most all of the signs and retold the information to us in his own words. Rose, with her eagle eyes, found most all of the animals that were tricky to find before the rest of us did. Jade was ecstatic that she could climb up and look in the windows just like the 'big kids'. I even learned a lot more about snakes and reptiles than I ever wanted to know, just following the kids around listening to them.

We were close to Big Cat Country so we kept climbing the "big hill" until we arrived. The first one we saw was the magnificent tiger. He was pacing around his paddock and even let out a few growls, much to Rose's delight. Most of the cats were basking in the sun on this warmer-than-usual day so we saw they pretty well but the neatest sight was the Amur leopard. He was just gorgeous and he's typically very hard to find in his habitat but on this day, he was pacing around too and we were close enough that I could touch his fur if I reached...not that I did. ;) He was also making noises and Rose was just mesmerized watching him. Rose was quite disappointed that the cheetahs weren't in this area. I explained that they were on the other side of the zoo by the elephants and the other Asian animals. The cheetahs are also typically very hard to spot - they like to hide away from the crowds and it was getting to be quite late in the afternoon. I asked her if we could look for them next time we came and she somewhat sadly agreed that was ok. We rounded the corner and got a quick biology lesson from the zebras (it IS almost spring, ya know).

So we'd seen all the animals the kids really wanted to see (except the cheetahs). But I suddenly said that I'd like to know if they have any meerkats. I guessed that if they were anywhere, they'd probably be in the Children's Zoo. If you've been reading my blog for any time, you know we just adore Meerkat Manor on Animal Planet and Rose's favorite gift for her birthday was a new stuffed meerkat, which she promptly named, "Mozart, when she was a baby".

Back at the bottom of the "big hill", we decided to ride the train. Being off-season, they only had one train running so we had about a 7-10 minute wait. Standing in lines of chain-link at the end of a long day will try the patience of almost any parent, as I was quick to notice around me. Fortunately Rose decided to entertain herself by going underneath the chains and declaring herself a duck. I said that she looked more like a silly goose. After a quick moment of pondering, Matthew quipped up, "Mom, this is a great day. You should blog about it. And I know what you should title it.... "Duck, duck, goose, goose". I think he was right on target. As a member, I get a number of Anywhere Passes. Zoo admission is free but a few sections require $2-4/person to enter such as the Children's Zoo, the train and the Sea Lion Show. Usually tickets are bought at the train station but there was no one in the booth. When we got ready to board, they just waved us on so we got to ride the train without using up any of our passes (something that typically happens off-season, I've noticed).

Matthew and Rose sat in the seat ahead of me and Jade. Jade was downright giddy about riding the train and could hardly contain herself. At the train stations we stopped at, we discussed that it was time to head home. Rush hour would be starting soon and the zoo closed at 5pm anyway. Rose said again that she wished she could see the cheetah but it's a long walk to get to them and she decided to be happy that she got to see all the other animals she wanted to see. As we came around a bend on the last leg of the train, there in all his beautiful glory sat a glorious cheetah, sprawled out in the sun, staring at the train as we passed. Rose and I couldn't have been even slightly happier. What a great ending!!

As we left the zoo, Matthew asked a worker if there were any meerkats in the zoo and he told us they were in the Children's Zoo. Matthew wanted to go back so that I could see the animal *I* wanted to see and I told him I was willing to wait until our next trip to seek them out. "We'll go on a meerkat hunt next trip," I told him.

The day just couldn't have been more beautiful. I don't even remember having to walk through ONE person's cigarette smoke, which is definitely a blessing, especially when pregnant.

On the way home, I wondered why this trip to the zoo was definitely at the top of my list. One reason was the special treatment we got because we came during off-season but I think the biggest reason was that I didn't rush the kids through. Typically when we go with other families or our own, we have an agenda...we want to see this animal and this one and eat lunch and these other two animals and walk past the rest and leave by this time and I seem to spend the day saying, "Come on, Matthew...Rose, we're leaving this exhibit now...etc." But on this day, I let the kids lead. I literally followed them around and didn't urge them on even once. When they wanted to spend 5 minutes searching for that lizard in the herpetarium that I thought didn't exist, I didn't rush them on. We stayed and searched for 5 minutes and found it. We even made it through the gift shop without anyone begging to buy something new. The kids weren't crabby, despite missing their naps; there were no tantrums about anything - it was just plain easy.

I think that's the draw to unschooling for me. When we (as in, Hubby and I) let our kids lead, it's just plain easier all around.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Say the words "computer/console game" in a group of parents and you'll get a very mixed reaction, and possibly a heated discussion, from it. Most parents feel the need to limit their kids time on these types of games. I understand why schooled kids are limited - they have chores and homework to get done before bath and bed. Frankly I'm surprised there's time for dinner in these homes! LOL And the same goes for the school-at-homers. These are the families who homeschool but it looks just like a school room with one room dedicated to "school" and curricula and schedules, etc.

I personally see a great value in games, whether they be board games, RPGs or console games, though I'm well aware that I'm probably more in the minority on this issue. The unschoolers I've come across typically think well of games but most other homeschoolers see them as 'twaddle' (I just love that term from Charlotte Mason!).

It's funny that I can tell what kind of message board or group of homeschoolers I'm with just by their questions/complaints to each other. If I hear, "How much time do you allow for games?", I know that I'm in a group more geared towards school-at-home.

Now I know some of you non-homeschoolers are thinking I'm off my rocker. But step outside the box for a minute...

1. What do my kids learn from console games? Well, at this point in their lives, we're still making most all the major purchases so we do utilize discretion and look for things that are appropriate for each child. Matthew is in love with his Star Wars Lego II game he got for Cmas. Have you ever sat down and really watched the games your child is into? Don't look from an "educational value" perspective - just watch and see what he/she is learning.
In this particular game, Matthew has goal setting. He wants those big ticket items that you have to collect so many of these smaller items to get. His particular goal right now is to get enough studs to 'purchase' a new special character.
He also develops eye-hand coordination. This is probably a given but don't knock it. Eye-hand coordination will help with his writing skills and small motor skills and it's not one to overlook easily.
He does learn teamwork in this game. Each character does a special thing. He can change characters at any time during the game so if he has to use the Force on one object here, he switches to Luke or Darth...and then, 2 minutes later when he needs to crawl through a small shaft, he switches to a Jawa or Yoda. He learns which characters are most effective on each level, depending on their skills, and how to work them together to reach the goal.
He does a HEAPING TON of problem solving. Which character does he need to switch to in order to get to that high ledge? Does he need to Force someone up there with Darth or use someone who jumps really well or use Boba Fett with his jet pack? Each level in this game is one problem to solve after the next. I admit that Hubby has been stuck many times himself (so it's a great game for kids and adults I love looking at the Lego creations!).
He develops concentration. While that can be said for any child engrossed in a game, it's true. Kids today are so scheduled (and mostly in 1/2 hour and 1 hour spans) that it's probably difficult to ask them to concentrate for much longer than that. True, he's not concentrating on the years Taft was in office but when have I ever used that in my adult life? Hmm...can't say (not that I remember anyway).
He also gets a good dose of creativity. He will often pause his game and run upstairs to build one of the ships or people out of his own Legos. This is a form of artwork...and building...and creativity...and has spurred a huge collection of his own creations of Star Wars characters and ships. I should take a pic of some of them and post them.
Probably my favorite thing he learns from this game (or any game) is that sense of accomplishment. When he completes a level, I can just see his self-esteem jump a notch higher. And to me, that's one of the most important things he can learn. HE did it. HE figured it out. HE is proud of HIMSELF.

2. What do kids learn from RPGs (role playing games)? Matthew played another Star Wars game on our console, "Knights of the Old Republic" for a while. This game is fairly linear (meaning there's not too much room to move from the main storyline) but you do get to make a lot of your own choices. This one is neat because you can play it on the good side of the Force and do 'good' things to raise your 'good' rating or you can play the dark side and do 'dark' things to raise your rating. He didn't play this one all the way through though. I think Star Wars Lego I came out around then and that was the end of the RPG. He also enjoyed Morrowind, which is very non-linear and you can greatly stray from the main storyline. It requires a LOT of reading (which is another added bonus of RPGs) and really gives kids the option to make lots of choices. In todays world, they don't get to make many choices (sometimes even as an adult, I don't feel I have many choices either) and I would assume that's part of the draw of RPGs. The skills they learn listed in #1 also apply here as well.

And if they're doing the real RPGs like D&D, Traveler, etc., they get the benefits of #3 in there as well as a HUGE dose of creativity. Let's not forget to add the benefit of just plain fantasy and 'what ifs' - these are also important for kids to have time to expand their minds and think about other possibilities.

3. What do kids learn from board games? Well, this is a no-brainer. Playing with another person develops intra personal skills, the sense of winning/losing and how to handle those both well, many are heavily math based and require lots of reading - the list goes on and on. Most homeschoolers agree that board games are highly 'educational' but fail to see the good in other games. I wonder why that is?

4. What about twaddle games that are pretty much the shoot-the-bad-guys? Matthew has a few of these. We started out with a console copy of the old arcade games that Hubby and I grew up with. Matthew quickly decided that Gauntlet was a great game (along with Joust and PacMan and Pole Position) and this was probably the first game he really got interested in on our Xbox. The Christmas he turned 5, we got the upgrade...Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. It has the same characters and 'rules' but the graphics and characters have a more modern look to them. So a typical parent walking by would see that he's an archer, shooting bad guys and avoiding 'death'. But if you sit and watch more closely, you see that he's learning all the things stated in #1 as well.

5. How much time DO you allow your kids to play games? I allow them however much time they want. Oh sure, when we got the new SWLegoII game for Cmas, it seemed that was all Matthew did for two weeks. But then it died down to maybe 30 minutes a day, on his own. I can't say I blame him. When I get a new toy, I probably spend a lot more time with it the first week or two than I ever will again. I know the week I got my bread machine, we had fresh bread every day. Now I use it maybe once a week or once a month. It was a novelty and even though I hadn't tried out every recipe by the end of that week, I knew the gist of it and was willing to move more slowly through them. On the rare occasion that I feel he's spent too much time or someone else wants use of the TV and I ask him to put it up when he's done with that level, there are no arguments. There is no huge scene that I've witnessed in other families. "Ok Mom." Is that his personality? Big fat NO there to those who are thinking that one. lol But because he has unlimited access to it, there's no rush and drive to spend ALL his 'free time' doing only that. There are just as many days when I find him curled up on his bed reading a book or building a new something out of Legos or helping his sister scrapbook or chasing the baby around the house. In the grand scheme of things, it's not excessive. It looked excessive in those first two weeks after Cmas but again, I can't fault him for that. I looked like a crazed bread maker at some point and probably played with the notion of becoming a professional baker that week too. ;)

It seems, at least in my family, game systems are typically more for the boys than girls. Though Rose does like to play the games, she prefers to watch Matthew play rather than get in there and do it herself. But perhaps that's just her personality. She seems to like to create with her hands - she loves to scrapbook and do almost any craft you suggest. My brothers kids LOVED the Putt-putt games. We purchased a stand-alone Princess game (mostly to use on road trips but you can plug it into your VCR at home too) for Rose and she rarely, if ever, plays it. It's almost beneath her - matching and memory games, etc. Got it at Wally world for $10-20 and it's a plug-n-play. They have others too - Matthew loves the Star Wars and Batman ones.

From a Mom standpoint, the other good thing about gaming systems that my friend brought up is that it's a lot less mess than Polly Pockets or Legos. ONE cartridge or DVD - not zillions of small pieces for the baby or dog to choke on. ;)

In closing, I find that all games (console or board types) are very 'educational'. I really hate to use that word at all anymore - how can we really separate educational stuff from non-educational stuff? We're all still LEARNING from those things that teach 'bad' things. We are being educated every second of every day. How can you possibly categorize things that way? My kids have educational cereal - they compare and contrast the shapes, colors, textures, tastes and read the back of the box and we look up the links that are listed. Their shoes are educational..."Wow Mom - how does it light up?" But that's another entry for another day. ;)

If this is a new concept to you, I encourage you to sit and watch your son/daughter the next time they play a game you don't think is worthwhile. Ask them about it - see what the goal of the game is, what their current goals are, what they're learning about it (and let me know what *you* learn). You just might be surprised.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Great article!

I came across this article today in my homeschooling message boards - it seems this article has crossed *every* one of them. It's called "The Power (and Peril) of Praising Our Kids" and is not about homeschooling. This should be read by any parent out there...and might go a long way to telling you a lot about your own self perceptions as you grew up too.

Read it. I know you'll find it interesting whether you agree with it or not. ;)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Hearts Day

Romance, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

I consider myself a fairly simple woman in the grand scheme of things. I don't ask for diamonds or expensive world trips or new cars or even new shoes. Romance to me is showing that you care. That you took some time to think about what I might like, and did it or bought it. Yes, that means that 'service projects' go just as far as something new and shiny off my Amazon gift list. It could be something as simple as a hand-made card or a note telling me why you fell in love with me. It could be a hard-to-find item which I had on my list that took you some planning and forethought. Mopping floors, cleaning the toilets when I'm so pregnant that it hurts to bend down that far and putting the kids to bed are daily romances to me, that my sweetie does over and over again without even thinking about them. So when it comes to a gift giving occasion he seems a little lost sometimes, not knowing what I 'expect'. Big gifts are great, don't get me wrong. I've gotten monitors, printers, fun cooking gadgets, bread makers and massages and those are extremely appreciated. Sure, I'd even love to have a Mother's ring or necklace in the future at some point. But romance to me is in the everyday things.

Romance is when he bathes the child that has just puked everywhere because he knows I'm highly sensitive to smells. It's when he folds the load of laundry that's been sitting on the couch for a couple of days because I've been too busy or tired to get to it. It's when he takes my vehicle in for it's routine checkup so I don't have to haul the children and entertain them while we're sitting forever. It's when he stops by the grocery store the day after I do my "big shopping" because I forgot some major milk. It's when he updates my computer for critical updates (BTW, Microsoft just released like 20 critical ones - you should check it out if you haven't!) because he knows it's tedious to me and I would put it off until I got a trojan and lost every single one of my precious pictures. That is real romance to me. It's not the Hollywood hold-on-to-the-end-of-the-ship-until-it-sinks's so much more.

So on this Valentine's Day, I'm sending out lots of happy thoughts to you. I hope you have a great day with your sweetie.

And to *my* sweetie, who did the simple act of unloading the dishwasher for me before he went to bed at 2am after a hard days work and then a long night of studying, I'd marry you all over again in a heart beat. Because *THAT* is true romance to me.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie.

Yes, it's our anniversary today. Thirteen years. THIRTEEN. Wow that makes me sound O-L-D. lol But alas, he married me when I was a young thing so I'm not as old as that sounds. ;)

Anniversaries are a day to reflect on the journey. Dh and I knew each other as teens - he went to my church and I knew who he and his brothers were. I was dating someone at the time and I remember my mother telling me often, "That Rick (DH) really likes you." I brushed her off, thinking she was trying to push me, as all daughters do around that age. He was a friendly guy but as I said, I was dating someone and not looking for anyone else.

I went to a local community college and his brother had been dating my best friend for a while. His brother, Jay, and I ended up in the same horseback riding class and got to know each other well and became pretty good friends. Jay ended up inviting me to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert with his church Singles group and I did what any girl would so - skipped my shorthand class that night and went to the concert. It wasn't technically a "date" as he'd also got a ticket for his brother, Rick, as a birthday present and another friend as well (but I do like to tease him about it).

I hadn't seen Rick in several years. But I remembered him as a rail-skinny, thick glasses, afro hairstyle white boy. I remember standing in the church parking lot, waiting to board the bus when Jay saw someone get out of their car and start to walk over our direction. "Oh, there's my brother - I'm glad he made it in time." I looked at the man coming towards us and said, "That's not your brother!" He said, "Uhhh...yeah." I said, "Your brother, Rick??" He said, "Yeah, why?"

Apparently running had been good to him. He sported contacts and a modern haircut and was all grown up. I was, to say the least, knocked off my feet...and very interested from the moment he appeared. I don't know who started the conversation but we had a great one there and back from the concert (including a great concert, btw). The more I talked to him, the more impressed and intrigued I was. I had been half-heartedly casually dating someone who was really more of a friend than anything and when Rick called to ask me out, I was ecstatic. We had a very romantic first date - he took me down to the riverfront where there are lots of very old shops (most were closed except a few bars and restaurants) and we just walked and talked for hours. I don't have a clue what we discussed that night but the more he talked, the more I wanted to know. It was '92 and he had graduated college the year before and had come back home to help a friend start his business. I was starting my 2nd year of college.

We dated heavily for almost a year when he asked me to marry him. I was headed off to camp for 4 weeks that summer to serve as a counselor. Before I left, we went to see Groundhog Day at the dollar show and then he took me back to the riverfront where we had our first date. We walked and talked for a while and then he sat me down in a beautiful gazebo. The stars were particularly sparkly that night and there was romantic music coming from a nearby Italian restaurant. He instructed me to close my eyes and he appeared with roses and a ring. It was a beautiful proposal and I wouldn't change a thing about it. We decided to get married the following February, giving us both time to know each other better and giving me time to finish up my Associates degree.

Our wedding had it's problems, like they all do. The accompaniment tape for our special music singers started on the wrong side and we had to wait while they rewound and played it in the lower key. The runner for me to walk down the aisle was wound backwards and they had a heck of a time getting it out correctly. The photographer had film issues and only 1 out of every 3 pictures turned out so there are some pics that are totally missed - I don't have pictures of each of my bridesmaids/groomsmen walking down the aisle, etc. At the beginning of the reception, a family friend collapsed and suffered a stroke that brought the event to a stand-still. The emergency crew worked on him for a long time in at the reception until he was stable enough to put in the ambulance but it had taken so long that people started coming up immediately and saying their goodbyes. So all in all, the celebratory reception was about 30-45 minutes long. Does any of that matter? No. I married my sweetheart who still continues to intrigue me after thirteen years.

We had THE BEST honeymoon I could have imagined. He surprised me with a trip to Zion National Park in Utah - absolutely beautiful. We stayed at a charming B&B and since it was February, had the park basically to ourselves. We hiked, we drove to Bryce Canyon, the little visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon, St. George and did more hiking. We saw the ghost town where they filmed part of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was jacket weather - my absolute favorite. We dream about going back some day and I can't wait for the opportunity.

Thirteen years and almost 4 kids later, he's still my best friend and I'm so lucky to have him. Thanks for the beautiful years sweetie - may the best still be yet to come. :)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Learning about being dumb

Can you believe we're STILL trying to get over being sick?? I took Rose back to the dr and he said she was just hanging onto her sinus infection and so she got a lonnnng round of antibiotics. Matthew is still coughing some but he's definitely had the most mild version of this one than any of us...hmmm...maybe his germ-a-phobia is a good thing after all. ;) Hubby and I are still getting over the tail end of it too.

In pregnancy news - I failed my GTT (glucose tolerance test) for gestational diabetes. The good news is that my numbers at home look pretty good so I should be able to control it with diet and exercise and not have to use the insulin shots (yay!). Sciatica still plagues me but I'm surviving and with us being sick, we've been around the house anyway so not much running around.

Post for today...
I have a prenatal water aerobics class that I attend twice a week. I posted about this previously but I really adore this form of exercise. It starts late in the evening though (7:45, which is pretty late for tired pg women) and so Hubby gets time alone with the kids on those nights. Last night as Hubby and I were getting ready for bed, he says, "In case it comes up tomorrow, Matthew and I discussed the death penalty tonight." [insert a shocked look from me, followed closely with a i-knew-it-was-coming-i-just-didn't-expect-it-so-soon look] Rose has been a snit the last few days because after we changed her room with Jade's, she hasn't been sleeping at nap time (her new room is west-facing and quite bright in the afternoon sun). And she's still 3yrs old and needs her nap, as evidenced by her behavior the past few days. Apparently Hubby was explaining to Matthew, who had asked, last night why Rose was in trouble. They got on a topic of 'house rules' (this is the biggest area where we differ from die-hard unschoolers, who don't seem to have any house/family rules) and then they broadened that subject to local and gov't laws and the importance of learning to obey rules. Matthew asked what happened when you broke the law and Hubby eventually talked about the death penalty and the various forms of death penalties such as electrocution, hanging and lethal injection. Now the 'old schoolish Laurie' in me thought, "Lovely. Very lovely images to put in his mind, especially just before bed. WHY on earth does a 6yr old need to know specifics? Great kindergarten curriculum. I would have answered his questions in concepts and left details for when he's older." Then suddenly 'unschooling Laurie' thought, "But Matthew wanted to know the why not tell him? We like to answer questions as they come up and we try not sugar coat things." In the end, I agreed with the unschooler and agreed with the way Hubby had answered it. He said they discussed it until Matthew said, "OK Daddy, can we read the story now?" So his curiosity was throughly satisfied and he was bored with the topic and ready to move on.

This got me thinking - perhaps the reason why kids seem to zero in on some concepts/ideas is because it's never fully explained to them. I know that taking your kids to the grocery store is a stressful event...I know it *very* well as I have three children 6yrs and under. You're inundated with "can I have that's" to "oh don't forget I need such-and-such for school/group/etc." and distractions, especially if your grocery list is in your head, aren't fun. So this is probably a bad example but...I have heard so many parents around me in stores who give their kids half-answers or talk to them like the kids should be ashamed they're so stupid.

The other day, a mom was in front of me in line at the checkout at a craft store. Her son, probably no more than 8, was staring at one of those small make-it-yourself kits in his hand with a gleam in his eye of expectation. Innocently he asked, "But Mom, how does it stay together?" Mom, in her hastiness, says, "It just DOES," like he was the dumbest child to ever walk the face of the earth. The gleam suddenly changed to shame and when they got to the checkout, he threw it up on the belt with a look of 'who cares anyway?'. I would imagine that he had absolutely no interest in that project (or possibly any other similar project) from that moment forward.

I know we all have these 'mom moments' when the last thing on earth that we want to do is take a couple minutes to explain that we'll put glue here and here and a wire through here to hook onto this and that's how it will hold together - because, as moms, we know that there are very likely to be more questions following that. "It just DOES," seems a fast simple response when we just don't have time for a ten minute conversation. But watching the gleam of excitement and wonder in his eyes totally disappear in her one response made me really sad for that boy. And I hope I remember his face the next time I feel too rushed for a good answer.

Perhaps a better example...
I never cared much for math in elementary school. I didn't hate it or have a hard time understanding it - I just didn't see much need for it in my life and therefore didn't like doing the work. But when I got to high school and went into my pre-algebra class, I was totally lost. I had absolutely no idea what these abstract X's were. I literally could not wrap my head around it. I remember coming home and asking my mother for help. She has always been a math-a-phobe and directed me to my father. My father didn't have much patience and being an engineer, probably couldn't even fathom how I couldn't understand a simple 2x=14 equation. Nevertheless, I didn't grasp the concept at all. His lack of patience and my getting more frustrated and wanting to give up finally resulted in me standing in the corner, crying over how dumb I was, while my father repeated "if 2x is 14, what is one x?". He might as well have been speaking in a foreign language. While my father obviously wasn't a great teacher, I certainly learned something that night. I learned that I was downright dumb when it came to math. I proceeded to really struggle through every single algebra class through school and even had to repeat Intermediate Algebra in college. I detested anything to do with math and even on concepts that I did understand, I did barely enough to 'keep my mom happy (meaning a grade of C)'. Geometry however, was different. I had a teacher who LOVED her work and it probably helped me tremendously that geometry is visual - I could SEE what she was explaining. I actually ended up loving my geometry class, making an A in it (and actually doing extra credit for FUN), and was sad that I couldn't keep learning that instead of the required dreaded algebra.

Would I like algebra if I'd had a better teacher or understood the concept right away? Who's to say? Maybe, maybe not. But I did 'learn' that I was dumb in algebra and gave up on it that night. I did as little as possible to squeak by and that's probably why I had so much trouble with it in college. I know now that I'm not dumb in math and, if I applied myself, I could get through a college level algebra book fairly easily. But why? It's not like I use it...but that's another post and this one is long enough. ;)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The cost of learning

The price of new curtains for your daughter's bay window: $60 on sale

Money saved by purchasing fabric and making them yourself: $43

Having had a mother who taught you the basic skills of sewing at an early age: Priceless

(Thanks, Mom!)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

I have a teenager

Matthew: "Mommy, can I play on the computer?"
me: "Well, I'm in the middle of something right now. Can you give me about 10 minutes?"
Matthew: "I just want to see how many hits my lego site has gotten today."

Great unschooling article

A great article about unschooling that was passed around my list this morning:

My kids and I were just discussing this yesterday (and I hadn't read the article so it was unrelated). Where DO carrots come from? Rose remembered Hubby's garden from the last few years and piped up, “you put seeds in the ground”. Thinking about that myself brought up my own question – “OK, but where do the seeds come from? When the carrots are harvested, they don’t have seeds on them.” I had to look it up. ;)

The answer, in case I’ve piqued your interest (and you got as *great* an education as I did in school [wink,wink]):
Most of us never get a chance to see carrot seeds, however, because the plant is usually pulled out of the ground before it produces them. We harvest carrots in their first year so we can eat the tasty orange root, but carrots are biennials—they produce seeds in their second year.

As I was reading the article this morning, this quote struck me - "If they're focused on one area, the child may know everything about gardening but won't know multiplication tables." I literally laughed out loud. How ludicrous to think that you can learn *anything* about gardening and it not turn into a math and numbers game!! LOL Just shows how flat and stagnant the education system has become in their thoughts. Same with this quote - "My 11-year-old, given his druthers, would never do spelling and always do math." At the very least, if he loves math THAT much, some day he will have to learn to read and therefore, spell, in order to learn more math. It's just amazing that people don't see it. What can we do to explain this better to people??