Thursday, December 11, 2014

I'm Still Here

So... it's been a while.

How have you been?

Me? Well, I'm ... ya know...

Tired.

That seems like such a 'mom' thing to say right? The cop-out answer to the 'how are you?' question. "Oh, ya know, tired". Maybe even a feeble laugh for good measure.

The fact is, unless your kids are quiet, well-behaved, love-to-sleep angels... like..99% of the time...which isn't actually healthy for kids to be like... then you will feel that nagging, exasperated, swelling, weighted feeling that is simplest to express as just... 'Tired'.

One would think that this should pass after toddler-hood. It did for a while. But child-hood seems to have brought forth a whole new set of obstacles.

Let's try to remain positive for a moment...
- Toby sleeps through the night. If he wakes slightly, he falls back asleep.
- He doesn't nurse. There was a time when I was sure he'd be in college before he stopped.
- He has only twice had a bathroom accident, when he was first toilet training. Never since. He wakes up early and creeps to the bathroom himself.
- He gets himself dressed. He knows what clothes he likes, picks them out, matches them, dresses himself entirely.
- He eats lots of good food. Always has.
- He's all about safety gear. Hard hat and eye glasses and ear protectors always when doing work. Even if it's pretend work with Lego.

But even so... as I said... there are some new obstacles.

Yes he sleeps through the night, but I must be the one to put him to bed. Always. Don't be late. Don't think about going away for the weekend. Cause he just won't sleep. Or he'll cry til he passes out, and not in a good way. He's smart enough now that he knows I don't actually go to bed when he goes to bed, I go downstairs. And heaven forbid if I'm not there when he has a once-in-a-blue-moon anxiety attack.

No, he doesn't nurse, but now he argues. I used to able to curb a tantrum by sitting on the couch and lifting my shirt. Now there's just screaming. He won't come sit on my lap. I'm not allowed to touch him, but I MUST pick him up THIS MINUTE. Without touching him. Or coming near him. Or talking to him. Or looking at him. BUT DON'T LEAVE THE ROOM. Sit here. Let me push your back with my feet. DON'T GET UP, WHERE ARE YOU GOING??

Yes, he's great with the toilet. But he must never ever ever wipe himself. Why? Because he might get something on his finger. And no, folding the toilet paper to cover his hand is NOT the answer. It MUST be rolled into the tightest tiniest ball possible. But since it's in a ball, his fingers might get dirty. Oh, and this ball MUST consist of EXACTLY 1/3 of a toilet paper roll. Cause, duh, any more than that would be a waste. But any less MIGHT let some wet through.

He gets dressed on his own... but that also means I may never ever have another opinion about his clothing ever again. We went to three weddings this summer. The first was a novelty, so he dressed the part. But in the car the jacket came off. After the ceremony the vest and tie came off. At the dinner the shirt had to be unbuttoned. We left in t-shirt, pants, and running shoes. The next wedding was granted a button up shirt, nothing more. The next wedding he refused to attend.
He has  yet to put on winter pajamas. He has been wearing shorts and a t-shirt since May. He insists he's warm, but maybe I could turn the heat up a bit... and bring him some blankets...and tea. Oh and also, those boots and coat he said he loved? Well, something has gone HORRIBLY wrong, and they can't POSSIBLY be the same ones we bought because they feel weird. Yesterday they we're too big, now everything is too tight. But we should go outside. Like now. But sorry no, those snow boots are unacceptable. Why aren't we going outside yet?

He eats lots of good food, but has suddenly decided he's picky. He can't eat anything apple-cinnamon flavoured, even though he used to love it. But he LOVES apple crisp. He will ONLY drink soy milk on his cereal, cause that's what Grampa has, but can't tell the difference if I put almond milk on when he's not looking. Fish is forbidden, unless it's canned tuna. Chicken is okaaaaaay I guess, as long as it doesn't actually resemble chicken. Like if it's chicken thighs all chopped up with some kind of sauce, we're good. But no strips of chicken breast. He loves baking cookies, and pretends to like eating them, but never eats more than one. Then the whole batch just kind of...sits. Spinach salad used to be be a favourite, but now it's awful. Just awful. Brussels Sprouts on the other hand... load em up.

He's all about being safe, but will happily walk through a construction site barefoot. But will then complain about all the sharp things in his feet. He needs the right gear for the job but won't wear weather appropriate clothing. Rain boots? In the rain? I'm pretty sure that's why flip flops were invented. Don't really care that it's 2 degrees out. But go out in flip flops onto dewy grass on a 30 degree morning?? Well THAT my friend calls for some rubber boots! Maybe even a raincoat for good measure!

So you see... I'm tired.
Not just sleep deprived, because I do actually sleep, but tired of arguing. Tired of trying to make myself stay very very calm and rational. Tired of trying to think two steps ahead of unpredictable. Tired of making plans, but knowing that they probably won't stick. Tired of being a mediator for myself and a 6 year old.

And with that, I disappear again.
Hopefully for not as long.
Depends how tired I'm feeling.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Day of 'School'

 First Day of School

7:30 am - Wake up... barely

7:50 am - Get actually woken up by Toby crawling in to bed beside me

8:00 am - Grumbly stomach forces me out of bed

8:30 am - Do dishes and wonder if I'm ever going to make the zucchini relish I've been saying I was going to make for two weeks.

8:35 am - Find lost Lego piece upon request

8:40 am - Resume dishes

8:45 am - Take apart stuck Lego pieces upon request

9:00 am - Get roped in to building Lego

9:20 am - Receive text message asking if we are free to play at the last minute.
(Yes, anything but more cleaning!)

9:35 am - Bake banana muffins

10:30 am - Leave home

11:00 am - Learn about electrical circuits 


11:15 am - Discover that reading upside down is WAY better than reading sitting up


11:20 am - Finally get the circuit to work properly


11:30 am - Disappear and play make-believe games

12:05 pm - Look for the moon through the clouds... or possibly just spy on the construction equipment driving up and down the road


12:30 pm - Remember that it's lunch-ish time.
Spend an hour eating sweet potato soup, jambalaya, watermelon, and banana muffins


1:30 pm - Go outside at kid's request (and now that it's done raining)
Kids disappear and play games in the tree fort and on the swings

2:15 pm - We're presented with a garden harvest


2:30 pm - More harvest shows up at the table


2:35 pm - Break open some beans and determine that they are too far-gone to eat, but not ripe enough to harvest the seeds yet.

2:55 pm  - Find a dead mosquito on the table and study it up close.

3:00 pm - Go inside because it's now wet and cold. Have another snack of muffins.

3:15 pm - Kids disappear to 'rehearse for a play'

3:30 pm - Watch performance of 'play'


3:53 pm - Realize what time it is and remember that dinner is a thing that needs to be made at home.

4:15 pm - Actually leave

Home - make dinner and cut up zucchini to maybe get the relish done tomorrow...


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Growing Goodness

A month or so ago I read a piece about making a list of the top five things you want your child to learn.
This doesn't necessarily mean 'math/science/history', though not dis-counting those, but can also entail morals and values that are strong in your family.
It's harder than you think. There are so many things  you want your kids to experience, it's hard to narrow it down to only the top 5, especially when you drop the barrier between 'school subjects' and 'life lessons'.
While I have not narrowed down my list whatsoever, the one solid point, that I actually got from the original piece I read, was that I was my kids to know how to grow and prepare their own food.

At first you think, ok sure, how hard is it to stick a seed in the ground? You trying to turn them into a chef with all this kitchen mumbo-jumbo?

Maybe to some it sounds less important than knowing how to manage finances, or memorize the periodic table.

But someday, and I think we're seeing hints of this already, it's not going to be easy to find good, safe food in our grocery stores, if at all.

I was brought up living next door to my Opa, whose entire life has been agriculture. He tended kilometers of tomato greenhouses when he lived in Holland, and even ended up looking after his brother's gardening jobs when they skipped out to go swimming. When he moved to Canada all he knew how to do was farm and moved across the country earning money at what he did best. For years he worked on the Holland Marsh here in Ontario, and has become one of the provinces foremost experts on carrot and onion crops.
This spilled over into home-life where we would grow over an acre of experimental vegetable varieties each year that had to be kept in top shape in order for the trials to be worth it.
In his 'retirement' we still manage almost as much garden space, but mostly 'personal' experiments now with some new variety of potato or another.
I wasn't in the garden much when I was little. But I still watched. And Toby has a drive to just dig, so we were given our own plot when he was young. I knew a lot from watching, but still learned a lot.
Keep your rows straight so the irrigation hose doesn't have to jog.
Keep your rows even so raking and weeding the paths is easier.
Keep the dirt on the paths loose to prevent weed growth and not trap the vegetables in the ground.
Label everything.
Keep track of the day you plant every year.
When the food is ripe, pick it every day.

This style of farming may sound daunting. And I'd be lying if i said it wasn't.
Sometimes I wish I didn't know what I know so I didn't have to be so picky.
But the truth is, it works. Nothing fails. Everything tastes good.

This is what I want my kids to learn. I want them to know what real food is. I want them to know where food comes from so they understand how much work it must take to fill the shelves of a grocery store. ALL the grocery stores. I want them to be able to feed themselves and their neighbours if there is a food catastrophe some day. I want them to know that cooking is not terrifying. I want math lessons based on kitchen measures and garden hose lengths. I want them to grow good things as they 'grow good' themselves. I want them to know what sharing goodness feels like.

I wanted to have a booth at the farmer's market this year, but in the end decided it wasn't the right thing for us. What we're planning to do instead is be 'open' here saturday and sunday mornings with fresh produce and snacks and my sewing projects waiting at the end of the lane. Ideally we would have started already, but life has a way of getting away on you. In the next few weeks we hope to be back on track, and I hope that those in the area can come say hi :)


Thursday, May 29, 2014

The 'S' Word

Socialization...

Lately, while shopping with Toby on a weekday, I've been getting random people coming up and making a 'pleasant' remark about 'skipping school with mom today'.
I awkwardly laugh, while Toby pretends they don't exist, and say that we homeschool.
Surprisingly, over half the people I say that to think it's awesome and tell Toby how lucky he is (remember, these are random strangers who initially came across as being accusatory), and roll their eyes to me and say something along the lines of 'They make them start school too young anyways'.
The other half kind stand for a moment unsure of what to say and usually end up saying something along the lines of 'ooooh' and then 'Do you think you'll send him next year?' and then 'I guess, as long as he's getting enough socialization...'

I have to bite my tongue in front of Toby because I don't want to turn it into a big deal, or make him feel shamed, or embarrass myself. So I shrug and smile and just say we're having fun with it for now, and then leave quickly.

For one thing, I have no idea if I'll send him next year or not. It's kind of up to him. And asking a 5 year old to make up their mind 6 months in advance is a pointless burden. Yes, I'd like him to go. Yes, I'd like the time to myself. However, I wasn't really getting time to myself last fall anyway. I have to be up early, and at the school on time, and back home at a certain time, and it all flew by too quickly. Now we can stay home if we want, or spend the whole day in town if we want. I can work extra days or work late if someone's around to look after Toby, or because of the nature of my job, I can just take him with me for a few hours.

As far as the dreaded 'S' word...
My biggest fears going into this was socialization and math.
The math fear went away pretty quickly after reading some really re-assuring articles about primary math lessons (after that though, I'm still nervous), but the socialization worry comes and goes depending on how things are going. Some weeks I'm in knots over the fact that we haven't interacted with any kids in, like, forever. Other weeks I think....so?....he's fine.

Having one of the former-type weeks, I happened upon this blog on a website that has constantly been the soothing emotional back rub that I need on this journey.
If you're one of those people like me who aren't intending on clicking over to read the blog, It's on Simplehomeschool.net and it's a great eye roll at the notion that homeschool kids are missing out on being 'social'. Honestly I feel like writing more is redundant because that blog says everything I feel.

Anyway, I got thinking a lot about what socialization actually means, and why western civilization seems to think that the only way to get it is in a room of 30 kids your own age.

so·cial·i·za·tion

  [soh-shuh-luh-zey-shuhn]  Show IPA
noun
1.
a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values,behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.

Hmm...Nothing about the necessity to be with 200+ peers while learning this.

I TOTALLY get how it can be good to be in situations like that for kids to get used to instruction and listening and dealing with chaos, etc. I know some kids crave being in a big group. And small parts of me still wishes Toby would just...go...but then I know how anxious he gets when confronted with chaos. I know That he takes his time eating good food, and can't finish his lunch in the 15 minutes they're allotted. I know he takes a LONG time to warm up to things.
Which, at the time, were all reasons I wanted him to be in school - to 'snap out of it'.
Now I see how happy he his daily and how much he's actually learned in the last year.

If socialization is about learning about identity, values, behavior and social skills....I think we're good.

Identity: Toby has started to be particular about what he wears, even down to his underwear matching his pajamas. He changes from 'play clothes' to 'town clothes' if we go somewhere in the middle of the day... a notion that used to make him kick and scream until mommy decided that we really didn't need that chicken for dinner after all, or finally gave in and dragged a dirty, barefoot, pajama-clad toddler to the grocery store.
He knows what he's in to and what he likes to eat. He has a favourite colour. He knows he's 5 and a half. He knows he's a boy and is drawn to very boyish things. He knows who everyone in his family is and who he is in relation to them.

Values: We talk frequently about acceptance and responsibility and the environment. It was Toby's idea to pick up litter on our road on Earth Day. He still comments (and has since he was two) whenever he sees garbage on the ground that he wishes people would just learn to put things in a garbage can. He's very helpful and caring. He knows the value of home-grown food. He's asked if we can plant a bee/butterfly garden to give a place for the bees to go that's not near where we play where they will be happy.

Behavior: I always said I'd never ever bring my kids to a restaurant until they were at least 6. I had witnessed too many meltdowns and embarrassing behaviors while out to dinner through my teens.
However Toby's first taste of 'eating out' began when he was about 9 months old. Yes, he crawled all over me, but then he nursed and settled down. Then I read him a book. Then the waitress brought him his own bowl of (free) cucumber slices to suck on. A few months after that he was introduced to the merriment of french fries. He's grown up knowing how to be patient and behave in a restaurant setting, without me ever having to raise my voice or threaten to never come back.
He frequently grocery shops with me and has always preferred sitting in the buggy to walking beside me because he can see things better from up high. Including him in this task has taught him to behave and be patient while things get done.
Behavior also isn't just about being quiet and patient. It can be about knowing when to run and be silly. He knows grass is for running. He knows slides are for racing and laughing. He knows that being among other kids means waiting his turn and not climbing up the slides or running in front of the swings.

Social Skills: While he still is hesitant to strike up a conversation with strangers (which is maybe a GOOD thing) he talks non-stop at home, using gestures, expressions, and eye-contact.
He has ALWAYS shied away from people in public, but as my mom keeps reminding me, I did too. I still do. But that doesn't make me anti-social and it doesn't mean Toby is doomed. He's only 5.
I admit I've been frustrated with him. Sometimes I want him to just acknowledge a friendly hello, or walk two feet away from me and play instead of insisting I be glued to him indefinitely. I think part of my reason for wanting him to go to school was so he would just not be touching me for a few hours.
The last two weeks, however, have been a pleasant surprise for me. After weeks of moodiness and clinginess and suspected growing pains, he's quietly transformed into this different person.

He gets himself dressed entirely on his own instead of flopping and whining on the couch that he needs me to do it. He goes and plays outside on his own which it a TOTALLY foreign concept in this house, and I love it. He spent the entire day with Anthony while I was at work and they even had a play date, in which Toby was allegedly polite and co-operative to the other kids/adults. Yesterday he walked away to find a table to eat at while I waited for our 'fast food'. He has never EVER walked more than a few feet from me in a restaurant, let alone wandered across a room of strangers without asking me to come. He did the same thing at a small grocery store we were in - he volunteered to put the buggy away, and wove through two lines of people to do so. He wanted to buy something at another shop we were in and used his own money and marched up to the cashier by himself to do so.
Like.... who is this kid? And can he stay around a while?

There's nothing in the definition of 'socialization' that implies you have to be in a giant group of your own age to learn any of these things. Yes, playing with other kids is fun and different than playing with your parents, but should that be a thing that's forced if they don't want to be in that situation?
Kids who end up homeschooling end up interacting with a more diverse age range of 'peers'. They learn early on about household responsibilities and how to carry them out. I think maybe they can end up having more respect for their elders and what they do, than you can ever learn in school.

I'm not at all criticizing those kids in school, or the parents who send them. I know there are certain things that you can't truly understand until you're faced with a situation. Up until last November I was adamantly against myself homeschooling. There was NO WAY it would work out.
There was also NO WAY I would ever co-sleep with my kids, before I had a kid...
There was also NO WAY I would nurse past age 2, before I had a two year old...

Different things work for different people.
This is what works right now.

And I think we're kicking 'socialization' in the butt.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

One Thing Leads to Another


One thing I do like about homeschooling is that we can make a lesson out of anything, and what started out as one thing can turn into another. At Easter, Toby dyed eggs for the first time. Since then he continuously crawls up on the counter and starts poking at the box of food colouring (that STILL hasn't been cleaned up.... sigh...), or coming out to where I'm working with the bottles in his hands asking if we can do more science with them.
So ok fine, I poked through some books and online for colour mixing experiments and came across this paper towel one. The outline on the site just used a few colours, but I figured we'd do a whole colour mixing lesson. Once Toby figured out which were the primary colours, he coloured one of each on each side of our rows.


Next we tented paper towel from the coloured cups into the empty cups. We watched the colour crawl slowly up the paper towels and noted that the paper towel was wet before the colour crept up, which meant that somehow the paper towel is separating out the water from the food colouring, which my inner geek finds FASCINATING.... I'm sure there's a 4th grade science fair project in there somewhere...


 It took about an hour or so, but finally the colours made it up over the hill to mix at the bottom of the empty cups. We talked about how the paper towel was kind of like a straw or a sponge and it sucked everything wet up until there were no more dry spaces.


I asked Toby what else soaked up water like a straw.
"Umm... me drinking with a straw."
"Yes, but what ACTS like a straw, and brings water up from the ground?"
"Mmmmm... plant roots?"
"And what do you think would happen if we gave all our plants coloured water instead of clean water?"
"I dunno, nothing? Would they turn colours? CAN WE DO THAT?"
"Dunno, let's try!"
So off we went to town to find some white flowers, and more food dye.
When we came home several hours later the paper towel colours looked amazing.

So now armed with a completed colour mixing palette, we mixed colours again and put them in rainbow order...


And added our daisies.

After several hours we only had a faint tint at best, which was a little dissapointing. Even after an over-night they didnt look much better.

Then I actually read online instructions for how to do it right, and apparently warm water makes the colour absorb faster, and I had used cold water before. This time I also used half the water and twice the food colouring to guarantee some results. After a few hours we noticed a big difference, and after 24 hours the results were spectacular.
(My inner geek would also like to note that in the case of orange and purple, the plant separated out the mixed colours at first, with the tips of the petals taking the lighter primary, and the centre of the flower taking the dark. The longer we waited the more they mixed though)


Toby the asked if we could do the coloured baking soda and vinegar fizzies again. I don't mind doingit but went online again for other ideas and came across this blog.
Though the science behind it isn't really explained, I would assume that by mixing the baking soda and epsom salts, the baking soda would react, but the epsom salts make it last longer. Also the lemon juice acts as the acid and smells way better than vinegar.

Some small fizzies at first....


Then we got more confident in our fizzing..


Then we thought we should make prints like we've done with coloured dish soap bubbles. The dried result was pretty cool because the baking soda and salt dried with the colours and made little star patterns.


Then we got carried away....



 And Toby wanted to know what it felt like to have baking soda explode in his hands. (this was just from a small dusting he had leftover on his fingers and a ton of lemon juice)

 So we 'accidentally' packed in science, art, play, problem solving and math into the past week.... makes up for being outside 'doing nothing' this week :P


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter and Earth Day

It seems the monotony of the last month has caught up to us... or maybe it's because the snow's gone... but the last few days have been packed full of activities.
We don't usually do much for Easter. We used to decorate eggs like crazy when I was younger and we've dried them and kept them because some of them are pretty outstanding, but because Toby is allergic to eggs I've never really pushed the egg decorating thing.

This year though, he's old enough to look at it as an art project and not just as something he's left out of eating.

First of all he reminded me that we bought baby animal cookie cutters to make Easter cookies, so we did that. He keeps staring at these photos of ornate cookies and lamenting that we never put icing on ours, so we decided to paint-ice these ones.

A lesson in colour mixing before we begin.



Our masterpieces.
















After our eatable eggs were painted, we coloured our real eggs.

Toby's first time dying Easter eggs.



















I wanted to use natural dyes, but didn't plan ahead on this one at all so I scrounged together what I had. I found some frozen blueberries that we used for blue/purple, we used tumeric for yellow, and I tried to used some leftover artichoke water for green, but when you mixed in the vinegar (to act as a fixative on the eggs) it turned a horrible shade of apple juice.... so we used green food dye for green...

Ended up looking pretty good!
(Toby's favourite colour is green, can you tell?)



















I hard boiled the eggs, foreseeing one being dropped, which it did. Toby was mortified, but I said it was ok because we could do something cool with it.

This Martha Stewart Spiderweb Eggs idea is in a book I have, so we tried it.
You're supposed to cook the eggs with the blueberries, so ours wasn't as dark, but still cool!




































Because we used vinegar in the egg dye, Toby eventually piped up "Isn't vinegar supposed to explode or something when you put stuff in it?"
I confirmed that he meant baking soda, so we experimented with the leftover dye and a big bowl of baking soda.



















SCIENCE!

The reason I've included Earth Day in this post is because Toby, knowing that the eggs we did would need to be broken so we could eat them before they went bad, still didn't want to get rid of the shells.
I said they're hard to take off in one piece when they're boiled.
He said he knew that, but maybe we could make an art project out of them instead of throwing them out.

So today he drew a picture of the Earth and we made an egg shell mosaic.

















Our Earth Day  activities also included a clean up of the road in front of our house and discussions about littering and looking after the planet.
We thought we'd maybe wander around and get a couple grocery bags of trash, but we ended up with 6 grocery bags, plus three garbage bags we found in a ravine and a bucket full of dried cement. GROSS PEOPLE.



Happy Earth day everyone!