Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Am

I was listening to the talk at church last Sunday, and I was juggling kids and thinking and something struck me about God. I can describe myself in so many ways and whenever I am asked to do so I have to decide which description fits. I am a homeschooling mother, I am eight months pregnant, I am a scout leader, I am a student, I am a writer, I am a crochettest, I am an Educational Specialist with a Charter School, I am tired ... You get the picture. This list can get so long that on introducing myself I often feel I do an inadequate job. For instance, if I say I'm the mother to soon to be six, then the conversation will go one way and I have been told that I can not possibly understand how it is to work, because with that many kids I, of course, stay home. So the next time I don't introduce myself that way, instead I say something else about myself. This response gets misunderstood also and soon when I am asked to tell about myself all I want to say is "I am me." So if I am so many things, what about God, how many things is He? He has many titles and takes much work to understand Him, His nature, His attributes, His desires, His accomplishments. So the thought occurs to me the best description for God is The Great I Am. And this makes so much sense.

Christmas

I didn't get many good pictures from Christmas this year, but here are a few.

The little ones saw Santa at the gym. Seth was so eager to see Santa-not a speck of nervousness with that one.
Decorating the tree. Yes, it is winter but still nearly impossible to keep shirts on my boys.
Logan hands a breakable ornament up to his cousin.
Christmas Eve and the children are waiting to put on the Christmas play. The adults read from the scriptures and intersperse songs, while the kids sing and act it out.
This is what one reluctant actor thought of being a shepherd.
After more singing...look who comes in with presents for the children. Kevin did an awesome job.

Here we are Christmas morning.

The Nutcracker


We took the older children to see the Nutcracker about a week before Christmas. My children are familiar with the music and the story, but had never seen a ballet before. In this version they added an extra dance and used a piece by Strauss, it was funny to see the looks of appall on my children's (and my husband's) faces. "That is not even Tchaikovsky!" The first half of the ballet was where the story was told and was very good. There were some really neat effects with the screens and props. Brennen, who sat next to me, really enjoyed it. The second half of the ballet is where Clara and the Nutcracker go back to his land and see the Sugar Plum Fairy, who entertains them with many dances by those in her kingdom. These dances went on for about forty minutes, and Brennen kept trying to add some type of action back into the story. He could be heard making comments such as, "And next the Rat King comes back to life and throws a bomb at the dancers," "Wouldn't it be funny if all of the dancers crashed into each other and they all fell down?"

After the ballet, some of the dancers came out on to the main stairs and we were able to ask them questions. They dance seven hours a day six days a week to prepare for performances! They also have a team of physical therapists, chiropractors and masseuses. Aubrey asked them if they had any injuries during this year, and they described several. It was a pretty fun experience, even the older boys enjoyed themselves.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Formal Party Ingredient

Oliver and Rachel DeMille offer as one ingredient to raising and educating a future leader that they should either go to or watch their parents go to a black-tie event at least once a year. I don’t know about you, but my sphere of influence does not exactly include the black-tie event crowd.

This last weekend, however, I did have an opportunity to attend a formal holiday party for my husband’s work. We arrived at his impressive home and were greeted warmly by the host. This was a party for the management departments of two of his energy consulting businesses and staff from an emerging third business, so there were numerous people, none of which I knew and less than a third my husband knew. The crowd was as diverse as one can imagine, a young couple in dreadlocks and kakhis with information about homebirths, a Russian scientist complete with thick round silver glasses and bowtie with a charming wife from Greece and stories from around the globe, a Puerto Rican University professor who teaches educational method and wrote a Spanish guide with her husband and daughter, a smiling mingler with a vague job description, but one got the impression had something to do with making everyone feel happy, a woman with nose rings and rings various other places, whose children had only ever attended Waldorf schools, those dressed in suits and formal gowns and those dressed in collared shirts, or blouses.

As we stepped into the large entry hall, several pieces of fine art could be seen. A large print of an Egyptian god in silver, stood next to a Grecian statue. In the dining room hung a still life of a fruit bowl on one wall with abstract and surreal paintings on the other. Family portraits hung in another room, along with a picture of the host with President Bush.

Quickly, the relevance of training our children in more formal manners was brought to my mind as I questioned the proper responses when introduced to a couple, or when I was not introduced and a conversation between my husband and a coworker immediately began, while his wife stood next to him and I stood with my husband. In my real estate training I picked up the need for a firm handshake, and yet so many people had those dead-fish ones, hmm. And what is to be done with the glass when one is finished drinking? What about the shrimp tail when one has just eaten a shrimp and is engaged in conversation? Is it appropriate for the wife of one couple to sit next to the husband of the other couple when both couples are seated on the same couch? This situation arose twice. When we sat near a younger couple they didn’t flinch, but there was an obvious awkwardness when this arrangement came up with an older more formal couple. The thought came to me that I could have used a few more formal parties as a child, but I was certainly glad for the formal parties I had attended at my Great Grandmother’s on Christmas Eves growing up.

As we ventured into one room and watched the string quartet play, I was at least gratified that I knew almost every classical piece (thanks to “Beethoven’s Wig”) and could name each of the instruments.

One thing I did notice, though, is that for all of Hollywood’s depictions of parties with women in revealing clothing, the one lady that wore an extremely revealing top was the one that was the hardest to talk to and not just for me. Our husbands had much in common and spoke at length, and though, I stood next to her I could not bring myself to look at her, much less ask her about herself. Perhaps, this is a lack of social polish on my part, and yet, I noticed that no one else seemed to talk to her either and many tried to avoid looking in her direction.

As the evening progressed I recognized the pattern straight out of the entertainment section in “The Joy of Cooking.” Cocktails and drinks, followed by hors’d oeuvres, then dinner, in this case an intriguing Persian buffet, as the host was Iranian and loves to share his food. This was followed by a later dessert and coffee table. I had always wondered how one party could hold so many different sections of food, I think the key is to have a very long party, and serve the dinner very late, so people are very hungry.

I’m not sure this would be considered a black-tie event, yet like so many things after I have experienced something similar I see the point for the DeMilles’ ingredient for educating future leaders, mostly because I see the wants in my own education in this area. My husband and I decided that next year we would bring the older children and let them experience it for themselves.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another Try at Working With Wool

We painted, drew, glued and colored Christmas pictures today and then we broke out the wool. Last week we had tried making people. We tried again this week using pipecleaners for the base and needle felting where needed. It went much better.


I made this one.

Aubrey set up a home in preparation for her cousin to come over and play with her. I made the smaller two dolls for her and she planned how she would give the little girl doll to her cousin, which she excitedly did as soon as Savannah walked in the door.
Brennen loves the felt and wool. He busily worked on a project he had started yesterday. He is sewing on felt pieces cut in the shapes of the stable, manger, and sun. Yesterday, he sewed on five little pockets that he can put things in. He put his little wool doll and several pipecleaner people in these pockets when he was done. It was very cute, even if it was a little monochromatic.
Brennen also made a wool picture today as I worked on mine.
Here's my first wool picture, before ironing,
and after--I am seeing the need for different background colors, but I like how it turned out. After this I had to stop the kids and insist on moving on to other activities, but I have a request for another day to make more people, to try felting people, and to make a baby Jesus for a cloth manger that we have that is waiting for the Christ child.

Getting the Tree

We don't sleigh ride in California, we are still out hay riding at tree cutting time.



No pictures of the actual cutting of the tree as I was taking a couple little ones to the potty=).

Thanksgiving

We got to go to Utah to visit cousins. Five of my siblings and nineteen of their children were there. It was a lot of fun to see everyone and let the kids get to know their cousins better. The pictures are really bad and we did not get nearly enough of them, but here are a few.
We had to search for snow, but we eventually found it in a canyon. Logan knew immediately to make snow angels. Kevin and the older kids had a snowball fight, until the little ones got too cold.
Aubrey, Emma and Caitlyn carefully walking over the ice on our short hike.


Sethie loved sliding on the ice.
Here is half of the under six set,
here is a few of the other half.
This is my nephew, which I got to meet for the first time. Where did that hair come from?

We also got to take the kids to Temple square, and we did a lot of visiting. We stayed at different houses and so got to visit different people on the different nights. We loved seeing everyone and are counting down until next summer when everyone comes out here for a reunion=).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Great Knowledge

I have a child with a mission. He knows he is destined for great things and he has started early to let the rest of us know...he is two. As we were driving around the other day, he said, "Mom, I want great knowledge. I want GREAT KNOWLEDGE!" I asked him what type of great knowledge he wanted, and told him I would do my best to get him the resources needed, but he just looked at me and said, "I want great knowledge." This morning he woke up, came in my room and said, "I want great knowledge." He took my hand and said, "Come on, I show you." Alright, I thought I can always use another path, an easier one, to great knowledge and here my two-year-old seemed to know of one. So I smiled and took his little hand in mine and he smiled up at me and says very softly, "great knowledge." He leads me through the hall and dining room and into the garage and then stands in front of the refrigerator. I ask, "Is great knowledge in here?" "Open it," he says. I do and his face beams and he giggles as he points... to the eggnog. "Great knowledge," he says. So there you go folks, if you want great knowledge, drink eggnog.

The Gaps in My Education-Math

Like most people I have gaps in my education, and like most people I can’t hit them all at once. But I am feeling the need to hit some of my gaps hard. One of these areas is math. Formally, I made it through trigonometry. I also took a math class in my teacher prep program. This was one of the few classes that I found relevant and interesting. The text book went through many math concepts and showed how to teach them in a project based way. We were assigned to read about half of this book, but it is the one book that I read the whole thing anyway. I did my internship for this class at a Montessori school and learned about some wonderful new ideas to teach math. I got to teach a lesson on fractions at this school where as I told a story we cut green circles into different sections and then in the end we had enough pieces to make a Christmas tree. When I student-taught in a traditional classroom, I got to teach math from the approved California textbook in the traditional, introduce concept on projector, kids copy you, kids try it and you correct them and then they do it on their own, now move on, lots of concepts covered (I daren’t say learned), but no depth. I don’t particularly like the last way, but it is easier for teachers who aren’t with students long or who don’t own the knowledge themselves.

Frankly, I want to own it. So here I go. I’m ready to fill a gap. I now need a plan. I want a historical overview of the discovery of math principles, I want an overview of how it is taught the Montessori way, and the Waldorf way. Let’s see I need a video of an excited teacher talking about these concepts, I wonder what Great Courses has-I love everything I’ve watched or listened to from them (we just listened to the history of World War II on our trip to Utah). I need to tackle Euclid. I have touched on Plato’s thoughts in other subjects in earlier studies, and I look forward to going into more depth on his geometry thoughts. I have “Flatland,” and “Mathematics: Is God Silent?” so I will probably hit those too.

When I nursed my first baby I read every one of Jane Austen’s novels. When I nurse this one I hope to get math a little more. As Blanchard and Johnson of “One Minute Manager,” point out I’m in the phase of high energy and low direction. Perhaps, I can find a mentor before the low energy phase hits…. Mentoring, there is another gap, and the importance of handwork to the development of the whole individual, and color theory, and sewing, and knitting, and the amendments, aaahhh lots of gaps- I think I’ll hit math next.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Our Chore "System"


I thought I’d share the most effective chore system we’ve ever had as this topic has come up on several lists lately. I wrote down every chore I could think of on individual cards. At about 4:30 in the afternoon I sit down and flip through the cards to see what needs done that day. I pull these out divide the harder ones into two piles and put what seems appropriate for a 4 and 6 year in two other piles. I then call the kids in and hand them their pile. They go do all of the chores, bring the cards back when done and I check them and have them redo anything needed.
When the younger ones finish their chores they are free to help the older ones, but the older ones are not allowed to use any coercion methods to get their help. The older ones know that as soon as the younger children are trained they will take on more chores and make less work for them, so they very readily encourage the help and teach them to work. Also, if any of the children are done with their chores they are also free to come and help me with mine. This is most often done when I am baking anything. Kamron gets the most help from the little ones, because he offers time on his bed/fort for those who help him. Aubrey usually just pleads with them, which sometimes works, but we are also working on helping her to get cooperation through other means.
I also no longer pay for extra chores. If there are extra or unusual jobs that need done I write it on a card and hand it to them, during chore time. The kids do get an unconnected allowance for being a hard working member of the family.

A sample stack of chores for the day might be:
Kamron (11yos)
Wash tables and chairs completely
Vacuum all floors
Clean toilet
Clean out old food in fridge, wipe down shelves
Tidy frontroom, look around edges and under things
Change kitty litter

Aubrey (9yos)
Vacuum edges of all rooms with hose
Sweep and mop kitchen floor
Clean entry hall
Take everything, except maps out of car and put or throw away
Take out garbage

Brennen (6yos)
Tidy hall
Pick up room and make bed

Logan (4yos)
Make bed
Use wipe and clean all doorknobs and light switches

During this time I am typically tidying/reorganizing a certain area of the house, folding clothes and making dinner, while supervising or reteaching how to do a chore. That is our simplest, yet most effective method to date.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Overheard at Our House This Week

I took Seth, 2 yro, with me to Aubrey’s dance class. He started talking to everyone. He walked up to a man and gestures to me and says very matter-of-factly, “That’s my sister.” Then he does his fake laugh and says, “Just kiddin’, that’s my Grandma.”

Seth got in the car after church today. He looked at Dad and says, “Dad you are my hero. I understand you.” He has been walking around telling everyone he understands them lately.

I told the kids we were going to have a pie. Four-year-old, Logan jumped up and asked if he could help make it. I took it out of the oven and said it was actually already done. He looked at me and said, “how can you make it so fast?” I smiled and told him I had bought it already made. His eyes grew wide and he said, “Mom, you are so cool.”

Sethie told me a story today. It went like this, “Once upon a time, there was a car. It went fast. Amen.”

Logan asked me today, “If I wash my hands and then they touch each other, are they still clean?”

Three of the kids went to friends' houses, Logan, 4, and Kamron, 11 were left home. Kamron allowed Logan on his bed/fort, where they developed a secret handshake and a secret club. He shared his candy and they played. Pretty soon I hear Kamron say, "Logan, I am so glad you stayed home today, I didn't know how fun it was to be with you." Logan just offered a huge hug and said, "You are my biggest bud."

Aubrey asked me if she was attractive. She then went into the bathroom and came back with globs of gel in her hair. Oh, my. "I want to look really nice today," she explained. Ummm.

Brennen has discovered a new talent-he can burp on demand...loudly. Kamron's friends were over and at first were much impressed, and then after awhile the oldest one said that was enough. See, it isn't just Mom that gets tired of some of the antics of boys.

I taught Kamron's class in church today. What a fun lot of boys! Before class Kamron asked me if I would only be teaching one week or more. The boy next to him, with one of those wrinkled expressions, asked in an undertone if he wanted his mom to teach him. Kamron replied, "Yeah! She teaches me at home, then she could teach me here too, it would be great!" After class, they asked me to teach again next week, Kamron's reply was "woohoo!" It's nice to know he likes having me around.

Crochetted Vests for Fall


My children love to match, so I made the three younger boys these coordinated fall vests. Each vest is trimmed with the color of one of the other vests. I made Brennen's last and didn't realize how tall he was getting, so the stripe got added for extra length as I ran out of yarn, hey it's hard to gauge when you are just making it up as you go=). They love them and have worn them to church for the last three weeks in a row. My oldest asked for one too. He also asked for a suit as he likes to dress up for church. I opted to get him the suit, instead of making him a vest, as I didn't know how it would look on a boy his age. I thnk a knitted vest would look better on the older children, so if I ever learn to knit, maybe I'll make them all another set.


The next thing on the hook is pink... I hope to finish it next week when we are traveling to Utah for Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Anniversary

Kevin and I have been married 12 years! We took a few days to go to Yosemite alone. We had only a vague plan and no reservations. The only thing left was unheated tent cabins which the clerk told us were $100 a night, not willing to pay that we went to the car and called a reservation line and booked one for $50, then went back to the counter and told them we had reservations.

We hiked as much as I could as a six month pregnant lady. Kevin took lots of pictures, getting half dome from many angles. We drove up to a mountain point that overlooked the valley, which was particularly beautiful.

I wish we could have gotten more pictures of the animals. We saw families of mule deer that didn't flinch when we came within ten yards. We had two raccoons come and look at our dinner plates. We saw watched a crow repeat its call over and over in the Sequoia forest, and we saw an animal that had the markings of a raccoon, but the build of a ferret. It was rather nice, slow and peaceful.









Sunday, October 18, 2009

Safetyville

We had lots of fun at Safetyville this week. The kids were taken on a one hour tour. After the tour the kids got an hour to explore and practice what they had learned all throughout the miniature town.
They got to raise and lower the guards for the railroad tracks and practice waiting for the train to go by.
They got to practice dialing 9-1-1 and talking to the operator. The emergency they described was always the same, "my brother broke his neck."
They got to practice staying on the sidewalk.
They learned to stop-drop and roll.
Sethie's favorite part was just hanging out on the railroad tracks. It took a lot of convincing to get him to leave these.

They were setting up for Halloween, so we got a picture with their props.

Needle Felt Pumpkins

I feel like I am in catch up mood lately. You know that phase when you are running behind on everything rather than actively planning and working your plan- ie., doing those things that are most important. Last week I planned to do several fall projects with the children. They have been begging me to do more with the wool, and I keep saying I would get to it. So one day at almost bedtime, I invited them all on my bed and told them we would make pumpkins. I showed the older two how to use the barbed needle and then I helped the younger three. It was so cute to watch them all concentrating, and they were so pleased with their results.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Another House Offer

We are putting an offer in on another home. I would love this one, 5 bed, 3 bath, 3 car garage, two story, quiet neighborhood, near a nature walk and creek, and also a park, has five fruit trees and a raised bed veggie garden on a larger lot. We are offering more than asking but I am not going to hold my breath. To all those who think this is a great time to buy, it is, if you have infinite amounts of patience as your papers sit on a banker's desk for months until they get around to it, in the meantime you have to hope the house doesn't foreclose, and your lender stays in business long enough for the whole deal to come together. I feel like I'm boxing-round two, here I come. Lots of fun.

Brennen Lost His First Tooth

He was coming up with theories as to where the toothfairy gets the money-she flies around at night and picks up all the money people have lost on the sidewalks when they were walking around. Then he told me he knew what she did with all the teeth-she builds sculptures which she then lowers to the bottom of the ocean, so if you swim down there will be many beautiful things to see. He then said, "but the toothfairy could be my mom, it is something I will have to investigate further."

Friday, October 02, 2009

What My Kids Do When I Am Working

So what do my kids do when I am on a webex meeting for work?
They build blanket lands in the backyard...

or they draw all over themselves with inkpads.

I'm grateful for mute.