Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's Unschooling. Really.

OK, so we didn't do any schoolwork Tuesday or Wednesday... but it's ok. We were unschooling. Really, we were!

Tuesday wasn't a good day for me. Blobby was practicing his Mommy Torture skills and I could barely walk. I was in so much pain. Ugh. So I just pretty much sat in front of the computer all day. That probably wasn't the best decision on my part due to the chair involved, but oh well. It really wasn't *that* bad until later. I think sitting on the hard computer chair all made it worse though.

The kids spend most of the day playing with LEGOs. It wasn't just regular LEGOs though. Cameron got out the big ones "for Greyson" almost first thing in the morning but all three of them played with them all day. They were quite creative too and made an entire zoo. The giraffe was the best. :)

Late in the day we went to an OB appointment. Everything looks good. My GBS test came out negative so that's a relief. My file has been faxed over to the hospital so I don't need to bother pre-registering. She did say that Blobby could still flip over again, if he's the stubborn sort, so she'll check that again next week. But with all this pain shooting down my legs recently, I'm willing to put big money on a giant head resting very low down there. I was complaining about how my MIL refuses to come down until a few days before my due date because she doesn't want to get stuck here waiting for four weeks like she usually does and the OB offered to induce me at a convenient time. I thought that was nice of her, but I am definitely against inductions of convenience and she was happy with that too.

Next was soccer and that was what did me in. Sitting on the ground for an hour is not my body's idea of fun. Cameron was a super star though. He made 4 of the 5 goals for his team - not that I was counting though, lol. He kept getting talked to about hogging the ball though. He got in a couple good passes, but most of the goals were him taking it from one end to the other, lol. Next time, I am definitely bringing a chair. I never wanted to bother carrying one but that hobble back to the car after sitting on the ground was not fun.

Wednesday was much better. I spent the morning cracking the whip and making the kids clean the house. It was *just* clean on Monday and then one day of me just letting them be and it looked like we hadn't cleaned in a year. Seriously, I got motivated because if I went into labor there is no way I would've been able to ask someone over to babysit. No way. I would've either had to spend early labor cleaning up debris so it wasn't quite so humiliating or just pile everyone into the car and dump them at someone else's house. Now, it's not so bad and just looks a bit lived in - not like something that would get my children taken away from me, lol.

Next we all piled into the car and went to the grocery store. Thankfully, no one was horrible there. Yay. I can't tell you what a rare treat that is, lol. I also got done half of the work that I need to have done by next week for our homeschool group. I should be able to whip out the rest of it in an evening. I'm not sure I'm motivated to do it tonight. Maybe tomorrow. The kids spent their time playing with the giant treasure chest that was the centerpiece of Cameron's party. They collected treasure; sorted treasure; quantified treasure; hid treasure; found treasure. It really was educational stuff. I loved how Cameron sorted out and piled up all the different types of treasure. I wouldn't have been surprised if he whipped up a quick bar graph of his holdings, lol. Maybe next week. ;) Then they played Senet. And now they are drawing pictures of the video games that I won't let them play because no one has done any bookwork. Bwahahaha.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Raspberry smoothies...mmmmm

Oh wait, that was supposed to be a blog title not a Twitter post. But we just got back from the farm with a basket of ripe raspberries and then blended them up with the handful of blackberries we had leftover from Friday, some raspberry sorbet, and milk. Yummmm. It would've been better if the vanilla ice cream that I had thought was in the freezer was still there but somebody appears to have eaten it all. At least we had the sorbet.

So, let's see.... what's new? Friday we dropped the ball, of course, and didn't get school done before the park. We did get the living room semi-straightened though and that was my big priority for the day. At the park we went on a huge blackberry adventure and everyone came back with full bellies and half-full containers of fresh, ripe berries. We had forgotten to bring a container with us so we had to borrow one, but this week I'm going to bring a huge one. On the latter half of that trail, there were so many berries that were not quite ready yet. Oh man, there's going to be a berry bonanza this week. I have lots of recipes in mind to make so maybe I should bring two huge containers and make sure everyone has a full stomach so we don't eat too much of the loot.

The weekend was spent converting the computer/school room (which had turned into a loose paper and craft supply junk yard) into The Purple Palace... aka the Cassia/guest room.

We're going to move all her stuff in there now, but it will house MIL while she's here in September and then it will be all for the Spoiled Little Princess after that. I think it's unfair and sexist that she gets her own room simply because she is a girl while the other three have to share, but DH says it's just because I'm jealous that I never had a Purple Palace when I was a kid. ;) He thinks the boys will dig living barrack style and she would be miserable trying to find room for her Barbies amidst the LEGOs and trucks. I agree, but think she should have to do it anyway for character's sake. She already thinks she's a princess - why should we have to prove it to her too?? I at least think the kids should be split two and two with C&C in one room and Grey and Blobby in the other because I think that the age difference is more important than the gender difference. I mean, how is Cameron going to feel in five years at age 12(!) having to share with a 5 and 7 year old? Wouldn't he be more comfortable with someone closer to his own age? But regardless, this is how we're doing it and that was how the weekend was spent. We're also going to cover an entire wall with bookshelves so the room will also be The Library. LOL, I think we just need a bigger house. Six bedrooms anyone??

Monday I actually had a really productive morning and got the kitchen cleaned, everyone showered and dressed, and school started all before noon. It wasn't until about 1:00 that the contractions/aches & pains started in and told me it was time to give it a rest. That's a big improvement from most days where I can barely get started before my body is telling me to shut it down. Weekends (where I basically just hand everything over to DH) are a good thing.

For school, I started Cameron out with math to do independently while I finished up the kitchen. He was finishing up the last two pages of the review section, which was word problems, so I left him to read them and work them out on his own. He actually did really well, except for the Singaporian names, lol. It was also nice to be doing something else and just calling over help when needed instead of sitting there impatiently breathing down his neck waiting for his brain to come around to the right conclusion. It reminded me of the way we did math about a year ago and I think it works much better that way.

Next we did phonics. Cassia went first and read a couple small stories with short vowel CVC words. She did pretty well and was having more success than usual in sounding things out and actually coming up with the right word. We only did half the lesson though because it was a pretty big struggle. I am proud of how well she is doing though. Cameron started the second to last lesson in the book and did fantastically with the huge words in it. Well, he did ok with the huge words but did fantastically with the other medium sized words which used to look huge to him, lol. He's really gained a lot of confidence in reading and has actually taken to reading books to Cassia every now and then. I love that. :)

We didn't have time for anything else though before gymnastics because Cassia's phonics took a lot longer than I anticipated. At the gym, Cassia was the only one who showed up for class! It was great because they really got to focus on her form, which is my one big criticism of her current coach. She tends to look away a lot and doesn't really seem to care if they do it right. Granted, the kids are only 4 - 6, but I'd still like to see them learn to do it the correct way. Today though, Cassia got lots of extra help in making her legs straight when she does those funny little half cartwheels, keeping her shoulders straight while she walks sideways down the balance beam, and keeping her arms flexed while she swung with an "earring hold" on the rings. She also had extra time to do some of the things she wanted to do just for fun like little performances on the high beam, lol. It was so cute. She did lots of tip-toes and "beautiful ballet arms" and DiDi even showed her how to do a little pirouette on the beam. In fact, she did a Cassia version of pretty much everything she saw on the beam in the Olympics, lol. I don't think she's ever had a better time in class. Cameron did great in class too, but by that time I was too busy chasing Greyson around in circles to watch too closely.

On the way home from the gym we stopped at our local farm for the first time in waaayyyy too long. Mmmmm, the bounty. I had a really hard time stopping myself at 6 lbs of produce and a single basket of berries... but that was all the cash I had! And then it was home for raspberry smoothies and blogging or cartoons, depending on who you are. Well, Greyson tried to go for the cartoon option but only lasted about 3 minutes before he crashed over the arm of the couch. I am actually surprised he made it that long. He usually falls asleep either during gymnastics or on the way home, lol. And now it's time for me to start dinner. Talk at ya later. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Day 3

Day three of my resolve to "do school everyday without exception" and I've already failed. LOL, like we weren't all expecting that. It's ok. I'm going to blame it on the Brain Sucking Baby that is currently residing on top of some nerve in my pelvic floor. To my credit, I suggested school two or three times but the Brain Sucking Baby and the 90 degree day conspired against my will to fight the opposition. Said opposition consisted of multiple and quickly fleeing cries of "in a little bit!"

C&C did play a rousing round of golf around the house though. The piles of debris became the hazards that they had to avoid to get the best points. They also played a couple board games. And watched some Olympics and Discovery Kids. And a little Days of Our Lives (shhh!). So the day was not completely lost for them... just me. No, that's not true either because I did do laundry despite my best efforts to avoid all things laborious today. Oh yeah, I also vacuumed the dining room after Greyson decided to throw a plate across the room, smashing it to smithereens. *sigh* That boy's got a temper some days.

If I can manage to go to bed at a decent time tonight, I'll try to rally the troops for school first thing in the morning before we hit the park. I *do* tend to have some motivation first thing so there is a small hope for that. Small, but hope nonetheless. ;)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NOT Back to School!

Well, our local public schools started up today and, once again, I did not send any of my children. I could've gotten rid of two of them this year, but alas, I'm kind of used to them being underfoot all the time. ;)

We "celebrated" the day by going to Cameron's 7-yr check-up. He's fine - slightly below average in weight and off the charts in height. He passed the hearing and visions tests. He successfully peed in a cup and asked the doctor neurotic questions about itchy skin and eyes that have trouble focusing first thing in the morning. (The eye thing she chalked up to him having light eyes. She said her green-eyed DH and DS are always complaining about brightness and such while her brown-eyed self can't even remember to wear sunglasses. Sounds a lot like me.) The first thing the nurse said to us was, "What's up? Why aren't you in school today?" Cameron answered that we hadn't started yet, meaning that we would get to it later in the afternoon, but of course she misunderstood and started wondering when his school started and which one it was. I guess there just isn't that much to small talk about to a young child besides school? I don't know, I have a hard time shutting him up about "stuff" and school is rarely one of those topics, lol. Anyway, she didn't look at us like we had three heads when we said that no, we homeschool but she did do that "oooohhhhhh" thing that means that she's heard about "those people."

The next phase of the "celebration" was breakfast at IHOP. It's never as good as I remember it being, but it was eggs and pancakes that I didn't have to cook. That's always a good thing. Cassia actually cleaned her plate which is a shocking event, so she obviously could find no lack of quality in the happy face pancakes. Again, the waitress asked us why the kids weren't in school today. I happily answered that we homeschooled and were out celebrating Not Back To School Day. This time though, the reaction was that of an understanding smile and reassurance that that's probably the best way to do things. She then told us that she had been homeschooled through part of high school. I've been meeting quite a few young ladies recently who have shared that fact with me. The front desk "girl" at our dentist's was homeschooled for junior high.

Next on the list was an OB appointment for Blobby and me. He's definitely head down now and pretty much engaged. Dilation is starting in the tiniest little bit, which usually doesn't happen until about 39 or 40 weeks for me, so things are moving along quite nicely. Maybe this little one will make his appearance somewhere around on time? The kids were psycho-crazy while we were waiting for the doctor to come in (couldn't have anything to do with sugary pancakes and syrup, could it?) so by the time we got home I was ready to hunker down with the remote and attempt to catch up on my Olympics. DH wasn't into watching it all weekend so now I'm like three days behind and running out of drive space on the TiVo!!

Several hours and a disappointing 5th place finish for the Branagh/Youngs beach volleyball team later and we got started on schoolwork. It was a "short" day where we only did phonics (short /u/ CVC words for Cassia with accompanying drawings to draw and caption, eg "I run in the sun" and more multi-syllabic monstrosities for Cam), grammar (contractions), and math (review section on multiplying 3s and 4s and adding and subtracting money). Cameron was NOT the most cooperative student today. We had several long talks about why he needed to learn how to read and why he needed to cooperate when I said he had to do X. Finally, the reason that won out was that if he wasn't going to cooperate with my way of doing school then I would have to send him to another school. I really thought I'd have a few more years before I had to pull out the "public school threat" but, there it is.

He wasn't very cooperative yesterday either when we did the basics. It was all about doing the bare minimum so he could play video games. We had another long talk about the reasons we are doing this and I finally just said that we can no longer just skip days here and there. He loses all momentum and focus. It's not that typical brain cell loss that kids usually go through over the summer, he actually gets a little sharper with many skills after a short break, it's the loss of routine. If we're not doing it every day then every day becomes a bargaining of "do I really have to do this today?" So I laid it out - no more skipping school because it's gymnastics day and we don't get started early enough or don't want to do it while Greyson's awake. No more skipping school because it's park day. No more skipping school because Mommy is tired and just doesn't feel like it. No more. School is in five days a week. (Kind of coincidental I made this grand resolution on the day before the public schools started, isn't it?) And I didn't get any argument today when I said it was time to start school and I didn't get any argument when he had to come back to finish his math after soccer practice this evening because he was dragging his feet too much with everything and didn't get it finished beforehand. I just got a bunch of "I'm tired of reading big words!" and "I hate subtraction!" Let me let you in on a little secret... he only hates subtraction when he rushes through it and borrows wrong. Thankfully, as soon as we make it through the last two pages of this review section we can move on to something totally new and interesting: fractions!

Anyway, back to yesterday, along with the three R's (Reading, grammaR, and math Review) we also read about the Indians living along the Ganges River during the time of Rome (Cameron definitively said that he is not a Hindu because he does not believe that the stories of Ganga and Shiva are true) and started the MPH 4B science books. The first chapter in science is about the respiratory system and so to demonstrate moving air we made aerofoils out of notebook paper and found all the ways we could to make them move by using nothing but moving air. It was pretty fun and even Greyson got into it. Later in the evening, Cameron decided to make a paper airplane and after one particularly nice flight announced, "Behold the power of moving air!" LOL, sounds like something he got from Ms. Frizzle but I'll take it as our science studies spilling over to real life play. The kids really enjoy science and I'm sorry that I let it slip for so long just because we were going to an experimental science class. So what if the topics didn't match up week to week? There's no such thing as too much science.

Due to all our appointments and then soccer practice today (not to mention my mandated tv time), we didn't get to science or history but I said that we would do them both again tomorrow. Now that I think of it, that just might work out best to have short days when we have other stuff to do like gymnastics and the park and then long days where we do as much as we can on days when we're not doing anything else anyway. We'll still get history and science in two or three times a week like we would if we were alternating and we wouldn't end up feeling so rushed all the time. We also wouldn't have days that dissolve into nothing but craziness... which is what most days feel like around here lately. I keep saying it's for the kids, but I think *I'm* the one who needs some structure around here!

Speaking of structure, I know the structure of this post is lacking and probably hurting your brains by this point, lol. So with that, I'll sign off and go watch some more beach volleyball.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

So behind, so behind

I am so sorry to leave you all with nothing new to read for so long. I feel like such a hypocrite when I complain so much when other people (ahem MEESH) aren't updating often enough. But you haven't missed much anyway.

We haven't done much actual schoolwork since Cameron's birthday but we have been busy! We went camping at Pomo Canyon just off the coast. The campground was gorgeous and the company divine. We went with several of our Favorite Park Day friends because our favorite park was going to be closed in preparation for a big apple festival that weekend. We met there on Thursday afternoon and camped until Saturday morning. The kids had a great time exploring all the trees - they even named most of them! On Friday, everyone hiked the Pomo Canyon Trail from the campgrounds to the beach - 2.8 miles! It was a steep hike too! I was really proud of the kids for all making it. Greyson and I drove over to the beach though and served as the taxi back to the campground. I was a little sad at first to be bumped from the hike, but I knew it was the best choice and quickly realized that it would have been quite pathetic of me to even try, considering how winded I got just walking down the stairs from the parking lot to the beach, lol. It would have been especially so since I probably would have had to carry Greyson too. We definitely made the right choice and spent a lovely couple hours digging in the sand.

After we left the campgrounds Saturday morning, we all caravaned to a local beach on the Russian River. Ah, bliss. That felt like park day just in a new location, lol. On Sunday, we all coincidentally ended up at that apple festival so it was almost like another extension of the trip. All in all, it was a great extended weekend. I was glad to be back to the routine of the week though. Suddenly, our busy schedule seemed much more manageable. ;)

Monday we did mountains of dirty, dirty laundry from the trip. And then we went to gymnastics. They had Olympic week and all the kids did some sort of tribute to it. In Cameron's class they had a mini-Olympics of their own and the kids got to run a marathon around the gym, perform on the balance beams (earning a 10 if they didn't fall off and a 9 if they did, lol), and long jump into the foam pit. They had a ton of fun, you could tell. Cassia's class got to wave international flags, crawl through Olympic rings, and do some sort of relay involving roller boards - maybe they were pretending to swim? Then we went to soccer practice, drove through a burger place (shhh!), and then came home and watched real Olympics. I've been TiVo'ing it and spending WAYYYYYYYYYYY too much time watching.

Tuesday we started the day off with a doctor's appointment for me. Baby Blobby has turned around the right way!!! WOOOHOOOO!!!!! I'm very relieved. I was kind of curious about the challenge of delivering breach, but trust me, I'd really rather things just go smoothly. And honestly, I've been so exhausted lately that I'm wondering how I'm going to get through a normal labor. The rest of the day we didn't do much except do some grocery shopping, cleaning, watching the Olympics, and general do-nothingness.

Today, Wednesday, the kids played several board games. They just get in these moods sometimes where they'll want to play a whole bunch of them in a row. We did actually manage to get bookwork done too - shocker, I know - and did phonics (multi-syllabic words for Cameron, short-o words for Cassie), grammar/language (a picture study), math (word problems involving money for Cam and adding to 9 and 10 for Cassia), and history (stories about Roman Gladiators). Cameron really enjoyed the Gladiator stories. He kept telling me about the Time Warp Trio episode with the Gladiators and about the Playmobile Gladiator set and even mentioned the book Archimedes Takes a Bath when we were discussing the Roman Baths. Gotta love that.

We finished the day with soccer practice and Mexican take-out. Cameron really loves soccer and has really bonded with the coach's daughter. They were on the same side for their practice game and every time they'd make a goal they'd give each other a hug and then walk back to the other side arm in arm. So cute. When we were leaving she called goodbye to him and he called back, "Bye!! We really make a good team!"

Now, I've got to get to my Olympics before I get too far behind and run out of space on my DVR drive. Go USA!!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Happy Birthday, Cameron!!

Well, it's official... SEVEN years ago, my life changed. Isn't it amazing what a child does to your life? How things change in ways you never thought they could? I was one of those, Oh I won't let my life change just because we have a baby! We'll still do all the same old stuff and hang out with the same old people, they'll just be three of us! Uh huh. ;) Thankfully, my life has changed much for the better and I wouldn't go back for a second.

LOL, I was looking for baby pictures to share and found this composite I did for one of his other birthdays. A then and now from about 4 months old and about 4 years...
and now my brave and strong elfling hero...

Ah, he's going to kill me in a few years for that. ;)

But anyway.... sorry I've been so scarce. Most of last week was spent in preparation for the big birthday party on Saturday. What I thought was going to be just my dad and a few family friends turned out to be a huge to-do with about 25 guests! We BBQed and made cardboard and aluminum foil swords but the hit of the party was the marshmallow shooting contest. At Cassia's party, Cameron received a bow that shoots mini-marshmallows so we took full advantage of that one! We set up an archery target on our back fence and lined up all 15 kids for target practice. Surprisingly, three of the smallest participants got the best scores and one of them was Cassia! Even more surprising was that Cameron and R12, both self-proclaimed combat champions, got some of the worst scores. It was great fun and I was glad to see the grand prize, a water balloon shooting sling shot, out of the house.

Sunday we went to another fabulous party. There was a GIANT bounce house... need I say more? OK, there was some other great stuff too like sun catchers and really good food (and really good wine for the adults) and snacks and cupcakes and balloons and great friends. It was a good day. It was a great weekend.

Monday, Cameron's actual birthday was a busy, busy, busy day. We started out with a follow-up appointment for Greyson with the pediatric GI specialist. I was expecting a pretty boring, "He seems to be doing fine, just keep up what you're doing and he'll probably grow out of this in a year or two," but what I got was, "He hasn't gained any weight since the last time he was here (3 months ago) and his symptoms are asynchronous with his lab results. Let's do more tests." Apparently, his body reacts as if he has a lactose intolerance but many of the foods he reacts to shouldn't have enough lactose to cause such a sudden and dramatic reaction. The other option would be if he were having an anaphylactic reaction but his labs didn't indicate that at all. Hmmmmm. So, they're sending him for a breath test for lactose intolerance and recommending that he see an allergist to figure out what exactly it is that he's reacting to. She's not that concerned, because he does appear to be happy and healthy and proportionate for his age, but he is putting on weight more slowly than he probably should and she wants to make sure that the food he is eating is actually sticking around long enough to give him the nutrition he needs. She also recommended, again, that I give him a fiber supplement. Ugh. So there's that update.

Next was gymnastics where both kids did fabulously. Actually, all three of them did fabulously and for the first time in about a month, we didn't have to go sit in the car. Yeah! I was talking to one of Cameron's coaches afterward and we were musing back to how far he's come. This particular coach was the preschool director way back when and we were reminiscing about 2-yr old Cameron who would do nothing but run in circles during the free play class. LOL. And then slightly older Cameron who would run in circles during the demonstrations of the more structured classes. And then the Cameron of just last year who said it was too hard and didn't want to bother trying. The Cameron of today though has completed the Roller level of his Rollers & Twisters class in less than a year and was being used as an example of how to do many of the skills for the other boys. You've come a long way baby! Coach Steve said that Cameron is a testament to the fact that crazy boys DO mature. ;) In fact, he was quite impressed that we all survived seven years at all, lol.

And to top off the day, we had Cameron's first soccer practice. Lots of things annoy me about soccer and I should refrain.... but here goes. First off, he misses the cut-off by four days. You need to be "the age" by July 31st, so my seven-year-old, second grade boy, who is tall for his age anyway, is playing the U7 league with a bunch of six-year-old first graders. And the majority of his team this year is girls. Not that I have anything against girls, but he just towers over the lot of them. He doesn't seem to mind though. It was the same last year, but at least last year the coach's son was in the same predicament so it was more of a mixed team.

And then there are the parents. Oh my. There was this one couple there with a little girl who was something between 1-1/2 and 2 who was whining and crying a bit. It was late in the afternoon and you could tell she was just exhausted and didn't want to be there. I could totally sympathize, lol. Well the lovely parents just kept yelling at her and telling her that she had to stop crying or she was "going to be sent to the principal's office" or that she'd have to go "sit on the naughty stool" or in the car and finally that she needed to stop because she was embarrassing her mother. Oh, please. Honestly, I found the parents' behavior embarrassing, not the child's. Finally, the poor girl fell asleep in her mother's arms and then, in between intellectually stimulating conversations about beer commercials and not being able to wait for the kids to be back in school, they kept waking her up so she would be able to sleep later. Sheesh. I really felt sorry for that poor baby. She obviously needed a break and her parents obviously didn't want to deal with her so what does it matter if she naps through 45 minutes of soccer practice? And then, this was the kicker for me, they start talking about their vacations this year. "Well, we went to Disney twice, but I don't count that as a vacation. That's work! We went to the Bahamas for a week and the kids were with so-and-so and oh, that was just heaven." Disney twice in one year is no vacation?? Why go then? What is wrong with these people? Why did they even bother to have kids? Ugh. Not that I didn't thoroughly enjoy our 3 days ALONE on Catalina Island for our 10th anniversary - but I think that's the only time we've ever vacationed away from them aside from the occasional one night away for Knott's Scary Farm or something. Weird. It's just a different mindset, I guess. Anyway, I need to find different parents to sit near next time before that couple drives me insane. ;)

Tuesday we thankfully have nothing planned. Day of laundry awaits. :) And for one final time...