Saturday, January 30, 2010

Making mudpies

Our record of making park days this fall/winter has been dismal. Between illnesses, travel, and the stinkin' weather, we've only made about one out of every four or five park days. That a pretty bad showing for a gal who brought her 3 day old baby to park day!! ... but that was September. This is January. So this week, even though the forecast said a 60% chance of rain, even though it was bound to be muddy even if it wasn't raining, even though I had had a sore throat all week, we went for it. None of the kids was sick (except one small runny nose) and it wasn't raining at the moment. So we went.

Apparently everyone else had the same idea! It was a very crowded park day! After only about an hour, we were all itching to move so we set off on a grand adventure. We thought we were taking a short walk, but the boys took the lead and soon we were committed to The Big Hike. (The Big Hike is usually reserved for blackberry picking in late summer.) The rivers had all wiggled out of their banks. The bridge was barely above the water line. The paths had all been dissolved into mud. Giant impassable ponds lurked behind every bend. But it was fun! We had such a blast. Some of the kids were skating in their mud-caked sneakers while others had given up entirely and were tackling the trail in bare feet (or was it a bear-like feat?). We adults did our best to tread lightly and stay above ground. The kids stopped caring long before and splashed right through the center of the flooded paths. I think they probably had the right idea.

Despite the mud and the muck, the weather stayed nice through the majority of the hike. It was only during the last quarter-mile that it started to sprinkle on us and then, just as the parking lot was in sight, the sky opened up and dumped on us. LOL! Greyson, who had been one of the lead hikers the entire way (!), finally hit his limit and just stood there shivering in the cold, wet, parking lot. Poor guy. I had to carry a damp, tired baby in one arm and a soaked and cranky Greyson in the other! But we got everyone stripped down to the bare essentials and wrapped in blankets for the ride home and all was good. Hot chocolate sealed the deal on a perfect rainy day.

Gotta love it when you can embrace the weather rather than fighting it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life is a cabaret, my friends

I was going to say, life is a circus, since we went to go see The Moscow Circus yesterday but I think a cabaret is friendlier sounding. (Of course this house is sounding pretty circus-like at the moment!)

So let's see, what's new. The Moscow Circus show was fun. Parts were a bit sultry for a "school show," in my opinion, but the kids didn't notice. Well, they didn't know they noticed but I saw Cameron react when the hula hoop girl ripped off her pants, vest, and cap to reveal a lacy red dress slit up to there, flowing brown curls, and a pout that reached to the balcony. I mean, it was a pretty stunning transformation and he's *almost* to the point that he gets why men like women, though far away from it himself. If that makes any sense.

Today was nothing particularly exciting, just lessons on top of lessons. We started out with a trip to the library. Cassia got more fairy books. Cameron got a Star Wars book. I picked up some random easy readers for Cameron to read to Cassia. He can read well enough to enjoy a chapter book now, but I'm pretty sure he's skipping about half of the words. Giving him the assignment of reading to his sister, to help her, is really my way of checking and making sure he's reading what he thinks he's reading. Devious, I know. ;)

We are hosting a Flat Stanley from New Jersey right now so we took him to the library with us and had his picture taken with our favorite librarian. Stanley was sent to Cameron but he thinks it's completely silly and so Cassia has been his true host. Next we took Stanley to music lessons and we he got his picture taken playing Middle C on the piano.

Cassia has been taking piano lessons for three weeks now and is doing a great job. She loves the homework and the practice and her teacher said she is doing so well that she doubled her work load! They were making up a practice chart and the teacher asked how often she was practicing. I rounded up a bit to 10 minutes, twice a week. She said that she was doing extremely well for only practicing twice a week. And then Cameron's teacher came out and told me that he told her that he "doesn't have enough time to practice." Uh huh. She followed that up with "How much tv did you watch today?" Hmm, he didn't really have a good answer for that one!

It's funny how he was the one who begged and begged and begged for violin lessons and now that he has them doesn't seem the slightest bit interested in playing. Cassia, on the other hand, never really showed much interest, can't carry a tune in a bucket, but is now a budding musician! Who would've guessed. This really just solidifies in my mind that you really need to try out as much as you can whenever you have the opportunity. Who knows what is going to be The Thing!

Next was ballet. Today was the first day of the new semester and Cassia's first day in The Purple Class (a.k.a. Threshold Level). I've heard it's a much more serious class and she said it was very different but that she still likes it. They always say that only about one girl in ten sticks with it to the actual upper division classes. I always wonder.... Yes, it's my dream that she become a famous ballerina, lol. I'm really curious when it will stop being her dream too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Double project day

Phew! Today was a busy day. We had back-to-back 4-H projects, one of which was led by me, followed by gymnastics.

The project I led today was Primary Cooking and we made lots of different hors d'oeurves. I set up 4 different stations in which the kids could make (1) toothpick hors d'oeurves, (2) canap├ęs, (3) finger sandwiches, and (4) chocolate covered pretzel sticks. The kids really seemed to have fun and got very creative! I tried to stress both the beauty of the finished product and the convenience of it. I think I said several times that the main point of hors d'oeurves is to feed your guests while enabling them to walk around without making a total mess of your house. LOL, I hope they really understood the importance of the "no mess" part. ;) I'll put the pictures at the end.

Some of the parents commented that the project was really fun because it was real food that kids could really make without worry or fuss from an adult. That's actually what I love about leading cooking. I know that even really little kids can cook, all by themselves, if they just have the opportunity and the right recipes. Greyson's specialty is scrambled eggs. He rocks those eggs and is so proud to serve them up to everyone. (Honestly, he's the only one who doesn't get shells in them!) Cassia's specialty is fruit salad. Cameron, well, he hasn't found his specialty yet but I'm guessing it might be steak.

After cooking was The Money Project and they set up a mock doughnut shop! It was super fun and super full of really, really good information. Unfortunately, some of the kids were already amped up on chocolate covered pretzels, lol, and weren't the best listeners... but overall it was great fun. I was so impressed by all the business ideas coming off of everyone. Really, there are some entrepreneurs in that group, mark my words.

After that we rushed off to gymnastics where it was a surprise Star Day! Cassia was so disappointed because she didn't get a new ribbon (first time ever in this class) but the skills are getting harder. There was another girl in her group that was just beside herself with crying. I felt bad for her. The competition of this really isn't for everyone. I'm guessing E won't be in it for much longer. But once we got home and looked at her chart, Cassia and I realized that she probably would've gotten enough stars to move up a level if they hadn't run out of time for the trampoline skills. That made her feel much better.

Have I mentioned that Cameron decided to quit gymnastics? He had gotten to a place where he just wasn't getting very many stars anymore and had really just plateaued in his skills. He decided that he would rather try another sport. (Fencing to start in February.) But today during the testing he was very clingy and hugging me a lot. I was a little concerned and asked him if he was sad that he wasn't down there earning stars too or if he was happy to not have to do it. He grinned and said that he was very happy to not be down there right now. Phew. Good call.

OK, I really need to get dinner started now since it's already 6:30 (eeks!) The pictures from the cooking project are below. Enjoy. :)

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Scientists on the loose - part II

Today we went to the California Academy of Sciences museum. And it was another fabulous day. I love how when it's just us (Mom + 4 kids) out somewhere, they really step up and stick together. Greyson was soooooo into everything that he kept hanging back looking at everything, but all it took was a quick call and he came running right up. He was such a good boy. I love that. I mean, I love that he was a good boy, but more importantly, I love that he knows when to step up and be agreeable, lol. He spends so much time "fighting the power" that sometimes I'm afraid that he doesn't remember how to just go with the flow and enjoy himself. But he does. :)

We spent the day with my friend and her two boys again. Such a nice time. The kids really seemed to get along and it is so nice to just hang out with someone you've known forever. Yes, we don't speak often and haven't actually seen each other face to face in, oh, um, maybe 5 years, but it was still so comfortable and relaxing. It felt like home. I wish she lived closer.

I had an interesting time people watching in the toddler area in the museum. My friend had taken the bigger kids to the planetarium show and I was hanging out with Grey and Linus in the toddler room. As anyone who has spent much time in a toddler room knows, there isn't exactly a lot of adult stimulation in there so people watching is the main form of entertainment. There was the usual "stand back and let your child wreak havoc without ever noticing" parent and the "hover centimeters away and intervene before your child can even look at something that might cause controversy somehow" parent. There was even a slightly frazzled "yes, I know my child is bigger than everyone else and doesn't really know how to control himself but, really, what can I do but remove him from the situation when he goes too far - so stop looking at me like that!" mom, whom I really felt for and got a kick out of watching.

But I noticed two new types today. There was the "set your child up for failure right off the bat" parent who said to the sweet and quiet one or one-and-a-half year old as he approached the play ship's steering wheel, "Now make sure you share if anyone else comes over!" Now, I know that doesn't really sound bad but there was no one else around him! He hadn't even touched it and she was already warning him that he wasn't really going to be able to enjoy it because someone else might come up and they are obviously more important than he is. OK, maybe I'm reading too much into that one but it really rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. It just seemed so limiting and belittling even to set those limits on his fun right off the bat. Personally, I'd rather see him have a good time with it all to himself first and then if someone else approached throw out the sharing reminder. But then again, my kids think they rule the world so maybe I've given them a little too much leeway there, lol.

The other "interesting" parent I saw was actually quite shocking to me. It may have been a cultural difference but I saw this woman get extremely stern and angry because her toddler took off her socks. The little girl (who couldn't have been much more than one) was so cute and said "Socks off!" in a sweet little sing-song voice as she pulled one off and the mother just about went ballistic. "That is NOT appropriate! Put that back on right now! Do you need to have a time out?!?" as she practically wrestles the little thing down on the ground and forces her to put her sock back on. Now, I don't think that she was a violent or abusive mother or anything, but I do think that that was a pretty severe reaction to taking off your socks in an area where they require you to remove your shoes and half the kids didn't even have socks on! And threatening a time out for such a little thing? I'm sure she had no idea what she did wrong. I'm sure I don't either. Some people are just really hard for me to figure out.

Of course I spent a lot of time explaining to my friend's kids why food dropped on the floor was still ok for my kids to pick up again and eat. I hope no one's writing a blog about what a bad parent I am!

Scientists on the loose!

Spent the day at the Exploratorium yesterday. SO much fun! One of the great things about it, for me, is that it feels so small. As soon as we get there the kids all go in different directions! There are so many cool experiments. Every, single thing is hands on and you don't really need an adult there to read the sign to you to have fun and take some new knowledge away (though you get more out of it when you do). Apparently though, not everyone feels the same way. I've heard several people say that that place is seriously overwhelming to them. Interesting, huh?

We met an old friend of mine there and her two sons. Everyone was pretty much doing their own thing inside the museum but once we were leaving they all broke out into spontaneous games of tag and "I'll race you!" Those are the universal games that bring all kids together. My friend's husband was saying that playing tag in the Palace of Fine Arts is probably the one memory that will stick in their boys' heads. :) Love that!

Today we are meeting them at another museum. I'll try to blog about it as soon as I get home because even though I did manage to find a few minutes of uninterrupted time this morning, I've lost the feel of yesterday. Late afternoon blogging is more heartfelt, I think.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where does the time go?

You know, just about every day something wonderful and amazing happens around here that I want to share... but then life gets in the way and I don't get around to it. And then I forget. Isn't that awful? Isn't that supposed to be the point of this whole thing? To share the joys of homeschooling and being with my kids 24/7? To appreciate and remember the little things before they slip away forever?

Oh well. What can I do but try? I guess I could aim for shorter blog posts and then it wouldn't be such an ordeal to just do it. That seems to fall in line with the whole FlyLady perfectionism thing. Chores done badly still bless the house. Blog posts that only say half of what I wanted still say half of what I wanted!

So what did I want to say? I forget. It was quiet when I started this and so I thought I would take a few minutes and get a few thoughts out, but now it is no longer quiet and my thoughts have gone the way of the wind. Isn't that always the way? Well here's a new thought then. A FlyLady inspired blog: 15 minutes a day. I need to find a time of day when I have 15 minutes (lol) and have something to share at that point. Early morning is probably my best bet. Maybe I should take notes during the day so I remember the next morning, lol. Sadly, yes, it is that bad. ;)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm baaaack...

OK, last week was a complete write-off. Stupid sickness. And the worst part was that it wasn't even the kids!! It was DH and me. I woke up Saturday with a headache and sore throat and he woke up with it on Sunday. He ended up with a 101 fever, swollen glands, and 3 days home from work! I just ended up with a steady stream of Tylenol and hot tea. My throat finally stopped hurting yesterday. Man, that thing just wiped me out. Nothing was accomplished all week.

Well, no, that's not entirely true. Cassia made some wonderful self-motivation strides. She was drawing a birthday card for a friend (yes, I did still have to take them to a birthday party even though I was sick because THEY weren't) and asked me how to spell "love." Cameron said, "Just draw a heart!" and she replied, "You know, I'm getting too old to just draw a heart for love. I need to learn how to read and write!" Amen, sister! She also just randomly got out an animal encyclopedia and started reading it one day. Another day it was a book on castles. Today it was a book on origami - she made a whole basket of snakes! She's my reader! Of course, she's not necessarily reading the words in these books but she is reading a lot of captions and she is discovering what wonderful treasures lie inside. She also wrote a book based on a cool tangram design and called it The Jewel of Good and Bad. She apologized to me for it "only" being a picture book but the pictures really told the story. I loved it.

Cameron has been doing a lot of puzzling: tangrams, dominoes, Legos, electronic circuits. He's also been reading chapter books at night! Wahoo!! Finally! He read a Bakugan book that he had gotten from the library and when he finished that, he started on one that DH had read as a kid. Something about a haunted something or other, lol.

Greyson has been watching Hero of the Rails over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. He has a friend that he sees during Cassia's ballet class and they spent the entire hour last week playing Thomas trains and acting out that movie. I swear, it's preschooler crack.

Linus has just been trying to do everything that Greyson does. He's learned to jump off the couch (*sigh*) and to roll Bakugan. He can make all sorts of train, plane, and car sounds - way too cute. And he even helps me do laundry. I really love this age (15 months, if you've lost count).

So the kids have been busy, but I've felt like the week has been a bit of a waste for me. Today, I finally feel back on track and I've made up a menu plan for next week so that I can shop from a list at the store tomorrow. I've been much too free with the credit card at the grocery store in the last year and I need to cut down a bit. It's funny how spending just a little bit more than what you pay off each month adds up over the years! The best way to cut corners though is to know what I need, know what I'm buying, and know how much it costs. Hopefully I won't have to start itemizing my shopping list again. I did that for a while and while it was truly eye-opening to see where exactly all my money was going, it was very time consuming. I don't have that kind of time lately.

And speaking of time, I wanted to get a little exercise in tonight which means that I must bid you good night.