Saturday, July 23, 2016

Watering the Dogs.

Over lunch today, the boys told me about a recent walk that they took with the dogs.  They were over at the playground near our place and noticed that the dogs were thirsty.  Sadly, they'd forgotten to take the dogs' water bottle with them; but, happily, they'd brought their own.

Matthew had an idea.

He lay down on the ground and opened his mouth as wide as he could.  Seth filled his mouth with water from their water bottle.  The dogs then had a good drink right out of Matthew's mouth.

Ever so creative, that oldest child of mine.

I was laughing too hard to reprimand them for such utter grossness.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Overheard this morning

I was in the kitchen earlier today, listening to conversation between Seth and Lizzie; they were working on a puzzle together.

At one point, Lizzie said to Seth, "I wonder what dog language Charlie and Finn speak?"

Seth:  "Hmm...well, Havanese obviously, because that's their breed..."

(pause)

Seth (continued): "...and I think maybe a little Shih tzu, too."

:)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Summer Day Camps

It's that time of year again...time for summer camps.  For some kids this is the norm throughout the summer; in our household it means a huge level of excitement about the days the kids will get to experience carrying a backpack and a lunch, maybe riding on a bus, and doing something (hopefully) super fun!

I haven't been without my kids since last year's summer day camps so it's a rather novel and exciting thing for me, too.  Last summer, the kids were in two weeks of day camps, which meant that I had two weeks on my own during the day.  I had so many projects on my list to get done last year but the first week was almost an entire write-off for me because on day 2 of their first camp, I started to cry and I spent the next four days crying.  I think it was my body's way of releasing of all of the previous year's stuff that needed to come out.  I felt rather silly spending all of that time crying my heart out in my little library, but I clearly needed the time to do just that.  By the time their second week of summer camp rolled around, I was back to myself and got quite a few things checked off of my to-do list.

I was rather apprehensive this past weekend, anticipating the kids' first day camp this week.  Would I be ready and set to go, tackling my long to do list?  Or would I dissolve into tears the second I dropped them off?

Well, as it turned out, after I dropped them off yesterday morning for day #1, I was feeling very emotional.  But this was tempered by the fact that I had some workers coming to the house ten minutes after I got home, and so I tucked away those feelings while they were still at the house...though I was constantly aware of it.

When the workers left the house several hours later, I have to say that within seconds of their leaving the house, I did break down into tears - I couldn't believe how fast they came...it's like I was waiting to be alone.  I ended up tucking myself into my trusty library chair with a blanket and both of my dogs, and just cried and cried and cried.  I had about 2.5 hours on my own and I decided to let myself have that time to feel what I needed to feel and to cry over what I needed to cry over.  I'm rather hoping it doesn't consume my entire week, as it did last year, but if it does...well, then it does.  Who knows, maybe it becomes my annual sob fest when the kids go away for their first week of summer camp.  Because I'm so rarely alone, I don't often have the 'luxury' of time in which to process feelings or thoughts; so when I am alone, it's like my body has a visceral response to being along and my feelings overtake and even overwhelm me for a time.  But it feels generally healthy.

This year the kids are in day camps for three whole weeks!  I haven't had that much time to myself since before I had children and, although I anticipate missing them, I also think it's going to be great.  I'm going to work on a bunch of projects, but I'm also going to take time to read, go for coffee with a few friends that I don't get to see very often, and maybe watch a matinee movie or two.  It's going to be good.

:)

Monday, July 4, 2016

Kinda Funny: A Homeschooler Sings on America's Got Talent.

Someone forwarded me the link to this singer, performing for America's God Talent...thought it is rather funny...even though he also reinforces the usual stereotypes about homeschoolers!

Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Classic Adoption Zinger

(I wrote this yesterday, soon after the event in question)

Just had a zinger from Lizzie...been waiting for this one.

Her behaviour of late has been rather difficult again and she has been constantly challenging me in an effort to assert authority over both herself and me.  It's always extra hard when her alpha is strong.  I've been trying to work on our relationship in an effort to help her alpha subside naturally, but there are times when nothing seems to work (at least in the short term...long term is likely more hopeful).  And so today I had to gently call her on a few rather horrid behaviours by pulling her away from an activity that her brothers and cousin were engaged in.

I pulled her into the office with me and gave her a hug and told her that we were going to take a breather together for a few minutes.  She wondered why and I said that I'd noticed that she just seemed a little on edge and that maybe I could sit with her while we relaxed together for a few minutes...she could rejoin the others soon.

And then there it was, arms crossed over her chest and chin protruding just a little:

"Well, you're not my real mother and you're not as important as my other one so I don't have to listen to you."

Woosh.  Wind out of the sails.

It was just a heartbeat of indrawn breath for me, though.  Because when you are someone's mother you know just how to respond as if on automatic pilot.

"I am indeed your real mother, my love, and you do need to listen to this mother."

Then I pulled her resistant little body just a wee bit closer to me and whispered so that she had to bend in to hear.

"And I also know how much it hurts that your first mother can't be here on earth with you any more.  How I dearly wish she were."

She melted against me for a second before remembering that she was mad at me.

In both my head and my heart I knew it for what it was...her frustration that I was in charge and that she wasn't allowed to behave as she determined.  Her default is always to think that she has to take care of herself because, deep down, she fears that if she doesn't look after herself then no one will.  It puts us at loggerheads on occasion because, of course, I'm the adult and the one charged with her care - despite her fear, it's not she who is in charge.  Hers is not a logical position because of course we will take care of her and love her no matter what; but it's the default of her heart based in the primal wound that will never ever never ever go away:  She has already experienced the loss of everything important in her life (including her mother); and she is prepared to go it alone again if necessary.  So I understand.  I really do.  There's not one part of me that is upset about it.

But still...

...it's just so right there.  So at the surface.  So ready to use in memory of a mother who was her mother for barely a year of her almost nine, a mother that she has no conscious memory of.

It's a good reminder for me that I really don't have to scratch much below Lizzie's surface to know that her wound is still there...will always be there.  Precious child.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Worst Time of Year for Homeschoolers

Every year around this time, the kids and I go through a big adjustment...it's the time of year when public schools are coming to a close for the summer months and we have to adjust to the new reality that, wherever we go, masses of other people will be there, too.  For some reason, it's always a shock to our systems when this day hits.

For ten months of the year, we get to go wherever we want in relative quiet.  We don't have to wait in lines and we get lots of attention from the staff of wherever it is that we are visiting.

Yesterday, the kids and I drove about thirty minutes out of the city to visit our favourite Aquatic Centre.  Usually when the four of us are there, only a handful (maybe ten?) other people are in the pool - often other homeschoolers.  :)  I figured that yesterday would be our last hurrah before we stopped going to public places for the next two months.

We arrived at the pool just as public swim time was starting and were delighted to see that, sure enough, there were only about five or six others in the pool.  Awesome.  We started playing our usual game of tag in the lazy river, and had a few minutes of lobbing volleyballs back and forth.

Suddenly we heard a noise.  Like a thundering sound.

What was that? we all wondered, looking at each other.

We soon found out.

Pouring out of the change rooms and thundering towards the pool were what looked to be the contents of about four greyhound-busline-size buses...kids and kids and kids and more kids were exploding in our direction.  It was unbelievable. Within thirty seconds, we went from a delightfully serene swimming experience to deafening levels of sound and utter chaos.  Kids screaming, tired teachers yelling that the kids should stop screaming and follow them and stop running.

The kids and I must have looked hilarious.  As the masses encroached on our space, we four gathered together and hunkered down against a far wall of the pool, a wall which happened to be the divider between the main pool and the lazy river.  As we huddled there, side by side staring at all of these people suddenly just everywhere, they all swarmed around and past us as they raced towards the lazy river and the stairs beyond that led to the water slide beyond.  Within seconds, the line for the water slide went from one to over 40 kids; the lazy river was so body-to-body full that I didn't know how the lifeguards could manage it until I noticed that at least six extra lifeguards suddenly materialized and climbed into the water to keep watch at closer proximity.

For ten minutes the four of us sat, veritably traumatized, against that wall.  Very amusing to the average passer-by, I'm sure.  But we were stunned, disappointed.  (We learned later that a school was enjoying a field trip.)

After ten minutes we were done.  Even my normally-very-loud-and-never-stops-talking Lizzie was complaining that it was "just way too loud" in there.  We bolted.  First, we ran for the sauna room, hoping that it would help us dry off quickly...and we laughed when we opened the door because sitting inside were four men (the only men present in that building, I do believe) who were just sitting there and who were "hiding out" from all of the noise, hoping to remain undetected.

And then we ran for the relative serenity of the change rooms.  Changed into street clothes and got the heck out of dodge.

How to people do that?  How do you bear the line-ups and the sheer noise level of being so packed in together?  Do you get tired of waiting in lines and of being limited to vacation seasons to get any fun in?

We homeschoolers are so spoiled by having the run of most places from September through June and, though it sounds awful to say so, we vastly prefer it that way.  It's just that we're not limited in our experiencing of things to the timing that is necessitated by school - we don't need to think about spring break, summer vacation, or Christmas holidays.  In fact, for the most part, when we take a break or a vacation, we choose to do so during the school year...it's so much easier and more pleasant.

As we drove away from the pool a little while later, disappointed that our swimming experience was cut a little short, we all sighed and lamented that, once again, it was the end of the school year.  But it also gave us a chance to think of one more reason why we're so glad to be a homeschooling family.  We decided that we wouldn't go back to the public pool until our not-back-to-school day after the labour day weekend in September.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Poop...in the Van???

Conversation in the van a couple of hours ago; we had just left the city and were driving on the highway.

Matthew:  "Mom, I may have to use a bathroom in a few minutes...gotta poop."

Mom:  "Matthew, really?  We just left the city where there were about 100 bathrooms available...you couldn't have thought of this one minute ago?"

Matthew:  "When you gotta go, you gotta go.  But no worries.  I can hold it."

Mom:  "Good.  I think you're going to have to, for about a half hour."

(silence for a minute or two)

Seth (laughing, but laughing with an edge of horror...he undoubtedly knew what was coming):  "Matthew, why are you putting one of the dog's poop bags down the back of your pants?"

Matthew:  "Well, I said that I needed to poop.  What better reason to use a poop bag?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Honestly, that child.  I can just never predict what crazy or weird thing he's going to do next.

(And no, he did not do the deed.  I yelled at him to stop before he proceeded any further.  But had I not put a stop to it, I can guarantee that he would have given it his best shot.)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Photos from the Past Month

Here are some photos from the past month that I particularly like:

Playing "Pie Face" as a family...all five of us got pied!
 

The dogs:

Charlie...needing extra cuddle time with me since Finn joined the family: 

Lizzie with Finn:

Phinnea...aka Finn:


The kids at their piano recital:




The moms and kids of our Learning Centre:


Moms preparing "Leaf Trees" to recognize our three graduates this year:

Our three graduates this year:

LC kids painting LC kids:

Free rides:

Kayaking in the reeds with Learning Centre friends:

Learning Centre beach day:



Some Pictures of the kids:



What our kitchen table looks when I'm reading out loud to the kids:

Matthew's freshly washed and combed hair:

Me standing directly in line with a friend's antlers:

A few photos of my favourite flowers...lilacs in the yard:


  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Finn

Well, we've had our second dog for about six weeks now.  She's just over 3.5 months old and is doing great.  The vet, with good reason, calls Finn a "tank of a dog" - despite being so young, she's already almost Charlie's weight and about 3/4 of Charlie's height.  Now, Charlie is a little on the small side for both height and weight (any suggestions on how to fatten her up a little would be much appreciated...she's finicky and a little too thin and very active, and nothing I do seems to help her to keep that extra couple of pounds on her), but Finn is just all belly and waddle!

Finn is a very, very different dog by personality than Charlie.  She is extremely feisty, very determined and opinionated, and isn't shy about putting herself out there!  She feels very free to launch a sneak attack on Charlie (she will actually lie in wait for Charlie to come around a corner and then rear up on her short little back legs and dive on top of poor, unsuspecting Charlie), and will take chew sticks right out of Charlie's mouth and then run for her life as Charlie chases her, and pushes everyone out of her way if she wants to get somewhere first, and eats anything and everything and all of the time!  She's quite the character for such a young little thing.  She's smart, and is going to be a handful to train because of it, but at least she's food motivated (which Charlie has never been) and she takes readily to being offered food in exchange for doing what I ask of her.

She's not one to cuddle for very long periods of time (very unlike Charlie).  She'll lie content in my arms for a while if she's sleepy, but otherwise she'll stay only a minute or so - then in a flash, she suddenly wants down and I need to be careful to maintain a good grip on her because she would otherwise just launch herself out of my arms.  In these moments, if I don't put her down immediately, she growls ferociously (which makes me laugh).  Of course, the alpha in me needs to be the alpha to her, so I often let her just growl it out while she's still in my arms, and then when she finally quiets, I put her on the floor with a scratch behind the ears and a warm "good girl."  She'll be fine - she's just opinionated. :)

Finn's attachment has been a little slower with Finn than it was with Charlie - I think mostly because she is the second dog in the house and peer-oriented to Charlie first.  Also, I think I'm more relaxed with this second puppy than I was a year ago with Charlie.  And finally, I have deliberately stayed a wee bit more in the background this time 'round because I really want Finn to attach strongly to the kids; Charlie is very attached to them, but she is definitely my baby (likely because of my care of her around her surgery last year).  Just recently Finn has started showing me signs that I'm becoming an alpha to her, but it's been slower than with Charlie.  For example, Charlie has never, ever walked through a door ahead of me, or walked up/down stairs before me; I didn't train her to do that...she just did.  By contrast, until the past few days, Finn is just fine barrelling ahead of me and, in fact, forcing her way to the front of the line-up.  :)  I'm not at all worried about this; she's doing great and attaching well to all of us, and everything else will happen over time.

Finn sleeps in the crate on my side of the bed (Charlie still sleeps on the bed with Geoff and me), and has really never made a fuss about being in her crate...she's been fully crate trained since the first week or so of being here.  When we're out of the house, she and Charlie share the big crate on the main floor, which we have thus far divided into two so that they're together but not sharing the same space, if that makes sense.  Eventually I'm sure we'll take the divider out, but I'm not completely comfortable knowing yet how they'll be with each other in the crate without the divider when we're not around.

Housebreaking is underway.  Finn fully understands, when she's outside, that once she does her business, she gets to run inside for a treat.  But, although recent signs are hopeful, I'm not at all confident that she'd feel like holding her bladder if she feels like going, or if I'm delayed by a nanosecond in opening up the door for her.  At least her preferred spot for indoor accidents is the easy-to-clean, hard kitchen floor.  I wish there were a way of speeding this process up.  Everything gets sooooo much easier once a puppy is fully housetrained.  But for now, until she's done, she is not allowed upstairs (unless I carry her up for bed at night), or into the (carpeted) dining room or library areas.  Hopefully it won't take too much longer.  I remember with Charlie that once she made the last brain connection, it suddenly clicked and she was done...I am hoping this will be the case with Finn soon, too.

We adore Finn.  My heart is still somewhat more oriented to Charlie at this point, perhaps particularly because Charlie is so very loyal to me and because the two of us bonded so strongly over her hip surgery last fall; but I do love Finn, too, and our bond is growing.  She's a fun little puppy, and I think she's going to be a terrific dog!

I'm so very happy that my dreams came true:  Three kids; two dogs.  I'm done!









Sunday, June 12, 2016

Intentions versus Reality

I feel always in conflict with myself, between what I want to get done during the day, and what actually happens. Does anyone else struggle with this, or is it just me??

On the one hand, I desire to get so much done; to be organized and productive and efficient.  This part of me would love to have a home that looks good and is ready for company to walk in unannounced.  This same side of me envisions getting hours of school work done with the kids every day; not necessarily curriculum, but stuff that helps them capitalize on their interests.  On the other hand, though...sigh...on the other hand, I realize that I will never have a drop-in-unannounced kind of home (recall my recent post about never having a clean house again while Matthew is living in it!). Our home is generally pretty messy - it's getting a little bit better as the kids get older, but not much.  This side of me also recognizes that, for lots of really excellent reasons, we have chosen to mostly unschool and let our kids engage in lots of (invariably messy) things that help them figure life out.

I suppose this dilemma speaks also to where my heart and nature are really at.  On the one hand, a good-sized part of me is little-miss-organized; the person who genuinely enjoys and wants a clean and organized house/life and finds rest and less chaos in that; this side of me works hard all of the time trying just to maintain the sanity that cleanliness and tidiness bring me.  But on the other hand, a big part of me (the most natural part, and likely the bigger part) is spontaneous, a little carefree, a little lazy, a little 'let's-read-and-talk-for-the-entire-day-while-we-drink-tea-kids' kind of person.  

It's a genuine duality in me and I struggle with it every. single. day.  I suspect I am not alone in this.

It is not uncommon for the more natural part of me to get lived out during the days with the kids.  We love sitting around drinking tea and reading books and having great conversations; we talk about everything and I find great joy in having those long and winding conversations where we wrestle with issues and come to no firm conclusion.  These are the times I feel I am at my best as a parent, particularly because I see my kids (two of them in particular) becoming more and more comfortable with who they are.  I also love taking the dogs to the park on these kinds of days and just letting them all - dogs and kids - run free and hard and to the point of exhaustion and collapse...and then we talk (or argue) some more while lying on the grass in the park with the dogs nipping at our toes or climbing onto our stomachs to rest.  I wonder what the neighbours must think of us on these days, if they see us or even care.  For sure we're the unusual ones, lolly-gagging away those kinds of days.

And then other times I get quite anxious if the house is in a state because I genuinely find more peace and calm in a tidier/cleaner home (and for sure this is Geoff's preference...poor fellow).  I can't often deliver on a tidier/cleaner home, but there's no doubt that I enjoy this kind of home more than one that is untidy and, particularly, dirty.  This part of me creates to-do lists for each of the kids and for myself on a pretty regular basis - maybe 3-4 times/week??  On days like Wednesday this last week I don't bother with to-do lists - we went from a morning full of math tutoring to dog walking to a friend's birthday party to dog walking to evening dance recital for my niece...there wasn't much time for anything other than caring for the dogs between events and making meals.  But on at least a few other days of the week, I prepare to-do lists for each of us for the following day, and we all feel rather accomplished when we get to tick things off of the list. :)

Here's an example of a to-do list from Tuesday:
Ruth - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get Ready for the day; tidy bedroom & make bed

Laundry - Seth’s

Time with God

Vacuum upstairs & steps

Devotions with the kids

Math with Seth or Lizzie

Bake chocolate cake for Learning Centre

Math with Matthew

Read out loud to kids (Superkids book)

Learning Centre at Marilyn’s - 1:00-4:30ish

Reading with Matthew

TT for hair cut & highlight - mid July

Reading lesson with Seth

Take photo of kids & dogs near lilac bushes

Reading lesson with Lizzie

TT AIA re: multi-sport camp

Matthew - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get ready for the day:  Wash face; brush teeth; comb hair; dress

Chore - clean out under bed

Tidy Bedroom & Make Bed/Cot

Chore - tidy craft area in sunroom

Read out loud to Mom - 20 minutes

Walk Charlie with Seth

Math homework - games & read books

Pack bathing suit, etc for afternoon

Devotions



Practice lowercase printing with Mom



Seth - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get Ready for the Day - Wash Face, Brush Teeth, Dress, Lotion, Hair

Chore - vacuum f.room and sunroom

Tidy Bedroom & Make Bed/Cot

Pack bathing suit, etc for afternoon

Reading Lesson with Mom

Chore - fold & put away laundry

Math homework



Devotions



Walk Charlie with Matthew



Lizzie - Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Get Ready for the Day - Wash Face, Brush Teeth, Dress, Lotion, Hair

Pack bathing suit, etc for afternoon

Tidy Bedroom & Make Bed; clear floor



Reading Lesson with Mom



Math homework



Devotions



Chore - empty dishwasher




There are days when everything, by some miracle, everything gets checked off of the lists.  My younger children, in particular, thrive on these kinds of lists and love them...they are the reason I began to create the lists in the first place.  Seth and Lizzie, in part by nature and in part by circumstance of their past, crave a sense of order and routine and predictability and structure that I find hard to deliver at times given the better/bigger part of my nature.   Regardless, we all love ticking things off of the lists despite my heart's pull towards no-list kinds of days.

In order to help me resolve the inner conflict I experience about intentions vs reality, and in particular to somewhat appease the orderly side of my nature, I recently said "yes" to an offer that my parents very generously offered me about 18 months ago and which I have, until now, said no to.  They offered to pay for a house cleaner for me, every two weeks, as they did when Seth and Lizzie first joined our family (when I was so overwhelmed by life that I could barely see my way out of the chaos).  In those early days with the younger kids, I was so very glad for the help that my parents offered; but when that house cleaner retired, I was determined to go without in order that my kids learn to clean.

And the kids have learned to clean.  Each of them can clean a bathroom pretty well, vacuum, tidy, etc etc.  I'm glad about that, and part of me would like to keep things this way, without depending on external help.  But as the kids get older and more creative in their messiness (again, reference previous post!), I find myself becoming overwhelmed and anxious again about the state of the house - and simply not able to keep on top of everything.  So recently, I said "yes" to my parents and I now have cleaners coming to my house for a few hours every other week.

Well, what a joy and a freedom those cleaners are turning out to be.  The kids and I still do chores every day, because the cleaners can't get through my whole house during the few hours I've given them.  But it has soooooo freed me up...I can hardly believe it.  They (the cleaners and my parents) have given us the capacity to enjoy more of those tea-drinking-and-book-reading kinds of days without the anxiety-building pressure of needing the more organized kind of day, and they have given me additional capacity to begin to work on some of those endless organizational projects that I have never been able to get to because I have been spending all of my time until now just trying to get basic house maintenance done.

In the past few weeks, because of the cleaners, I have (partly with the kids, partly by myself):  Cleaned out the entire garage (which has needed it for years...and now we were able to spend hours and hours just cleaning it out and hauling things to the recycling depot and salvation army and giving the garage a through cleaning); cleaned out the main floor closets; cleaned and wiped down the laundry room (including walls, windows, cupboards); worked through our master bedroom; cleaned out several kitchen drawer and cupboards; and puttered at several small, miscellaneous projects.  I have been sooo happy to get so much stuff done while still having a maintained, relatively-clean (not necessarily tidy) house.  It's like a miracle, and I am very, very thankful to my parents for their generosity...we couldn't do this without that generosity.

And so, at the moment, my day-to-day reality resembles a wee bit more my intentions.  I will never have anything resembling a meticulous, drop-in-unannounced kind of house (though, to my friends, I invite you to drop in unannounced anyway because I would rather have you here in my mess than not here at all!).  For now, I can't do everything I might intend to do...but I can relax just a little and let my natural, albeit somewhat messier, self take the reins and enjoy those tea-drinking, out-loud-book-reading days a little more often...and that's ok.