Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Your _____ Year Old Books

We are in the midst of our birthday season in our house.
I think in a way, this is like my own personal New Years. I’ve never done much reflecting or planning ahead as the calendar year flips over. It just didn’t seem like I was ever in that mode at that point. I think I used to use the school years' shifting for that type of reflective and planning space. And I guess that having summer babies fit right into that same schematic.

So I’m entering our new year over here.

And one thing I love doing around now is reading these books written by Louise Bates Ames.

I’ve mentioned them at least once on the blog, way back when I first came across them, five years ago. But as I was reserving the right ages for us this year (eight, six and three), at the Library today, I thought, “You know, these deserve their own blog post.” So I’m writing it.

Ames focused on stages in child development and wrote a book for each year of childhood, up until age nine, and then there is a book for 10-14 year olds.

I personally had no experience with children before becoming a mom (outside of my own childhood of course.) So I really wasn’t coming to the table with much. The discovery of these books is something I feel deeply grateful for. Had I not found these I would be SO MUCH more: lost, overwhelmed, worried, and exhausted. And I’d likely be inadvertently hurting my kids emotionally and developmentally, because I would not have had a clue about norms and therefore would have had unrealistic expectations for them.

I first found these when my oldest had somewhat recently turned three. And it was a GAME CHANGER. Oh how I wish I had found them earlier. I regret my lack of knowledge during her infancy (however I did have a few baby books and websites so I kinda felt like I knew what was going on), but I was LOST during her second year. That was a hard year for me I had just added our second daughter to the family, was getting NO sleep between the two of them, I was lacking in social support and I didn’t know what two year olds did. I was muddling through that year -- just blind and struggling. I didn’t know why she did anything she did. I didn’t want her to do a lot of it. And I was just not connecting with her at her level. That year we had some very confusing battles of will in which neither of us were coming out ahead.

I can honestly say that an ENORMOUS weight was lifted off me and our relationship once I just happened upon these books on the library shelf. 
They are written so well. And they give an excellent base to work from to year each. 

In my experience so far, they have been pretty spot on with each of my three kids at each age. Of course each of my kids have their own personalities and temperaments so it plays out uniquely. But what’s absolutely interesting to me is that each age has it’s own personality. (Hence those subtitles, Like “Your Two Year Old: Tender or Terrible” ) And actually, the younger years especially, have two different types of personality per year -- like a three year old will act very differently than a three and a half year old. (Oh man was that helpful knowledge because with my oldest it did change like over night and if I wasn’t expecting it I would have been very concerned.)

The books are set up to explain the ages uniqueness. I don’t have any in front of me right now so I can’t quite remember the layout. But it spells out tons of helpful things, like what they will be learning. How their focus will be either internal or external at that stage. It explains what are normal fears for that age. Normal stresses. Common interests. How they view the parents at that point and why. How they view other children. 
It’s just a ton of helpful information that helps normalize every day. It helped me let go of taking tons of things personally, and just open my hands (metaphorically speaking) and let them develop. It took away some of the mom guilt I was deep inside of. 

A couple examples of stuff that mattered to me:

I remember specifically in the three year old book it talking about how it can be very helpful for the mother to not be in the room when the three year old is eating. I cannot tell you how much of a blessing that was for me. We had just figured out food allergies so I didn’t know what I was doing in the kitchen, and she is a highly sensitive kid overall so she’s very picky about food and textures. And the food battles we had been having were awful. I felt so much guilt lift with that permission the book gave me, and it brought us so much peace. We had an open kitchen to our living room. So I would set her up with her plate and then go over to the couch with the baby, and she’d eat. It was like magic. And it was relaxing for both of us.

I also remember the book mentioning that three year olds love the word “surprise.” Oh my goodness was that ever true with her. (She actually stayed obsessed with it for about another year or so. Constantly “surprising” me EVERY time I walked by which of course could get on my last nerve, but at least I knew it was a normal kid thing and could remind myself that when I wanted to lose my mind.) But I also was able to use the word “surprise” in my favor - by saying things like "I wonder if you can surprise me by eating up your lunch while I’m not looking?” Oh the joy that would light up her eyes -- she was thrilled. It was so helpful.

So the book doesn’t give a lot of specific parenting techniques -- but it equips with concepts of where the kids are at at that point. Like in those examples above. Those types of examples are about as specific they ever get to giving you something you can do. The rest is just saying things like “At this age nightmares are not uncommon.” or what have you. And then you can adjust your sense of what to do accordingly.

At the end of the books they even have a tiny chapter on what they birthday parties might be planned like. (Things like how many kids they would do well with having come that year. How they might interact with each other. How long to make the party for their attention span. That kinda thing.)

These books were written in the early 80s. So they look dated in the photos. And occasionally read from another era. (But it’s my era -- so it’s an easy translation for me.) But realistically most of it reads timelessly. 

I can usually feel my need to pick one of these books up. It hits me the hardest with my oldest (since I don’t know what’s coming.) I can feel myself getting more and more baffled by what she’s doing and it makes me feel like I need to correct her a ton, I don’t feel in tune with her, and our relationship feels strained. If I don’t catch it, it just spirals down as we each get exhausted by this. When it dawns on me that it’s the fact that I don’t know what’s normal for her (or the other kids, if it’s kinda been lost in the back of my mind) right now, I get one of these books. Some times it’s a new year and I need new info. Sometimes it’s just time for a refresher. And I come out of it so much more equipped to be patient and understanding.

That said, I’m looking forward to these ages’ books getting check back in and reserved for me. I’ve been feeling that shift again.

Anyway, I was thinking how of all the things I’m happy about inside my parenting, these books are right up there at the top of the list. And I always recommend them.

And if you are curious---

Other than these age books, the two most influential books for me for parenting on the whole I wrote about here.
(And the age books mesh SO WELL into those two other books. The combo effect of them all together is just so empowering.)

As well as “The Highly Sensitive Child” (which is really only useful if you or your child is highly sensitive -- but if it applies then it’s REALLY helpful) -- which I wrote a bit about in this post.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Netflix's "Abstract: The Art of Design"

Last night I decided to try watching Netflix's Original "Abstract The Art Of Design." 
And being me, I skipped ahead to episode 8 which had the interior designer.

Have you watched it?

When thinking of anything to tell you about it--
I'm rendered either speechless, or just rambling incesently about how inspiring it is.
Ilse Crawford is....
I'm sitting here silently pondering what to say here...
Do I go over dramatic and say she's my new hero? 
Do I try to sincerely convey how inspiring she is?
 I'm honestly just  dumbstruck.
She spoke both words in my heart, and words my heart needed to hear.

If you have any inclination towards interior design, or if you enjoy hospitality, or if you feel strongly about your home or workplace being a haven....
Turn this on sometime.
You're in for a inspirational treat.

Blake watched it with me and was also very impressed.
He's not particularly into interiors, but he teaches design to his engineering students. So it was applicable in that regard.
Early in the show she says that "Empathy is key in design." I remarked how cool I think that is and Blake told me that's what they teach their students. 

The way she speaks of humanity is just so deep. Which is wonderful in this context  -- because often design is looked at as shallow. But it is anything but.

(I'm looking forward to to the whole series. But this one I'm definitely watching  again!
And I'm definitely looking into her books.)

Let me know if you've seen it...or when you do.
I'm dying to gush with someone over it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Summer Recipe

I've been in the mood for pasta salads. And recently I needed to make a gluten free side dish. So I decided to make a pasta salad, substituting rice for pasta. I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but honestly it's absolutely delicious. I think I like it more this way.
So I decided to spread the word.

This dish is, vegan, dairy free and gluten free. (And top 8 free)
It's less of a recipe and just more of a very versatile idea.
You can use any veggies you like. I used:
  • Broccoli 
  • Cherry tomatoes 
  • Bell pepper 
  • Onion 
  • Basil
Chop to desired size, toss together.
Add a can of rinsed canilini beans.
Cook two cups of dry rice according to directions and add when done. (I used my rice cooker.)

And I made a lemon and olive oil dressing to coat everything with. I didn't measure exactly but it was along these lines:
  • One lemon zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 clove of garlic minced 
  • Salt and pepper 
Mix together and pour over the salad and stir to coat.
Place in the fridge for a couple hours to chill.

The texture of the fresh veggies by the soft rice and creamy beans is so satisfying. And the lemon vinaigrette is so refreshing yet savory.
I haven't been able to get enough.

You can easily switch it up to lime or even orange dressing. Swap out the veggies for what you have on hand. I'm partial to the canilini beans for their mild flavor and texture, but it's another thing you can vary. As well as types of rice, or going back to pasta.
It's a great summer dish!
I highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Expanded Garden

Unrelated: Who watched the Royal Wedding?
Me and the girls woke up early to see it this morning.
1) I really enjoyed that special girl bonding time, it was really sweet.
2) That wedding knocked my socks off. Wow, so much absolute romance and amazingness. I'm a little love dunk right now.

Anyway. Here's our garden this year. 
After learning a few things last year I put my tomatoes in their own pots this year. I hadn't realized how big the got so they didn't allow for anything to grow next to them last year.
I went with one cherry tomato plant and one Roma tomato plant.

I found these obelisks at Farm and Fleet...I'm really happy to have found something size appropriate and lovely.

Next is my herb garden. Right now I have rosemary and basil from started plants. And I'm crossing my fingers for the seeds of l: Dill, purple basil, cilantro and flat parsley to sprout up some more.

Along the left of my trellis are pickling cucumbers. Along the right green beans (which I planted from seeds we harvested last year...feeling like a pro!) And carrots in front of that.

This year I'm giving the zucchini its own space and won't be killing it by stuffing it's leaves up into a trellis with novice inexperience.

I'm trying strawberries in baskets... so far some are hanging on...nigh have to buy more...

Over to the side I have some peppermint (I hear it's best contained so it doesn't take over.) And I need something to go in the empty pot.

We have more yard work planned but the garden is making me so happy! Plants are starting to be a big source of joy for me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

What We’ve Been Using For School This Year

Well guys, I’m getting stuff done around the house -- but in fits of starts and stops. So a couple things are close to reveal time. But not there yet.
I think once Blake wraps up his semester at work, we’ll finally get the finishing details on the kitchen crossed off and done.
And other than that I’ve been working on the garden. I added a couple things this year and so that’s the hold up on showing you. My extra pots aren’t in yet. (Well that, and I just stuck the seeds in the ground so it’s mostly still dirt with just a couple started plans in there. It might not be exciting to see yet.)
But man have I been LOVING planting! It took so long for spring to come this year, so I’m just reveling in it.
I’ve also been adding things to the flower bed in the front yard. A few spring bulbs and I’m trying out a few annual seeds in there….Fingers crossed that…1) they grow 2) they look right where I put them. I’m still learning. Either way I’m super excited!

But while you continue to patiently wait for me to show you anything of excitement around here. I thought I’d actually finish that post about the homeschool stuff we did this year.

If you don’t homeschool, you can of course skip this post. But there are a couple things you might still be interested in either way -- so whatever you think. 

It’s perhaps an odd time of year to write this post, as school is coming to a close for most. But that means I can give you a better take on how these things went for us. And if you homeschool, you can consider the info over the summer.

So here goes:

The cool thing about homeschool is how much you can adjust it to fit you. At first that can be VERY overwhelming because there are ENDLESS choices. And that can feel like drowning when you don’t know what you are doing.
When I was choosing kindergarten curriculum  for the first time I can’t tell you how much effort that took shifting through ALL THE CHOICES. There are so many styles and options inside each style. I read and read and read….And then what I picked, it turned out not to fit us that great. whomp whomp. It was ok, I still thought it was a good program. But it just didn’t fit us in the right places. (The math was too easy, and the reading was too hard. And the extras just didn’t feel like us -- or at least me.) (For other kids I’m sure it’s great.) But I suspect that is normal -- especially with a box curriculum. And it was a great jumping off point. It really did help clarify what we liked and didn’t like. (It didn’t happen overnight, but we kept adjusting course until it made sense.)

So the stuff I’m sharing today is stuff we’ve found for us. Some of it might inspire you, and some of it may totally NOT appeal to you or work for you.
And as always, some of it we might just swap out as we go along and change.

So that said let me start with the stuff you might life even if you’re not homeschooling. That way you can check out after that, if you want.

In my last blog post I shared about Artventure -- that’s a great tool, and totally usable outside of homeschool.

A friend pointed me to Sarah Mackenzie and her blog called Read-Aloud Revival.
She homeschools, but her blog’s platform is that in any life situation reading aloud to your kids is one of the best ways to form solid connections as a family and create good memories and prepare kids for success. (So this is for all families.)
She has A LOT of resources on her website, like a great free booklist to point you towards great choices to read with your kids. (There’s a link at the top of her homepage -- where it says: “Get the free booklist: Join 80,000+ subscribers”).
She’s got a new book coming out about why and how to read aloud to your kids.
She’s got a podcast. 
And tons of helpful blog posts.

We like to start out our homeschool day with the kids listening to me read to them. And per one of Sarah’s tips -- the best way I’ve found to get them excited about this is letting them use stickers (i can find some cool sticker booklets at the dollar store a lot of times -- and I’ll stock up) or color while I read. I used to think the only way for kids to hear a story is to sit still and listen -- and, well, that didn’t equal kids who wanted to listen. But I just didn’t know. Seeing Sarah explain it totally opened up my world and my kids too.

If you’re not homeschooling you might want to check out of the blog post now. But you can still hang out if you want. This history curriculum could very easily be added to your general read-aloud books if you like history.
We’ve been using Beautiful Feet Books - History Through Literature.

As someone who really admire’s the Charlotte Mason concept of homeschool (But isn’t a sticker about it.) I find the idea of history through literature ideal.
I base that on looking at my own self in school. When we would read our history texts books I would retain nothing, because it meant nothing to me, it was just dates and facts. (And I don’t retain numbers very well at all.) BUT in my texts books back then, about once a chapter there would be an extra little box -- inside they would speak in story form. And those boxes would transport me back in time, I found it so interesting, and I would remember it like glue and I loved it. (And usually that part was not on our tests! Go figure.)
As an adult, recently (in the past two years or so) I've fallen in love with history through literature. If I can see history as people, well then it’s just a sea of intrigue, and I just would love to know every bit of it. Honestly I crave it these days because I feel so enriched getting that kind insight. So I figure all that’s applicable to my kids as well. Humans are creatures made for stories.

Now, on a decision note: I found history to be the hardest thing to decide on. Many homeschool choices let history be the “spine” of the curriculum -- meaning you can teach different age ranges the same chunk of history at the same time (digging deeper as they get older) and so they let that kinda form the group portion of school and let it influence other parts of the schooling. So it felt like a big deal choosing where to start.
 I also live in a University town, surrounded by academic thinkers. So I can feel extra social pressure on all schooling fronts, but history has it’s own unique issues. I’ve seen and heard a lot of varying opinions on how to do history with kids. Some people are staunchly opposed to starting with US history, because they want their kids to think globally and know that the USA isn’t the center of the universe. Some people are wanting to make EXTREMELY certain that inside of American History we don’t white wash our national sins.
Both those concepts are lovely to me, and I totally agree.
When I had to sit down and deiced what I’m doing. I had to think about the hearts that live inside my house. And I will tell you, that my kids have sensitive souls. (Case in point, we accidentally read the one of additional" Little House On The Prairie” books, not written by Laura Ingalls Wilder,  where it talks about her baby brother dying. (Didn’t see that coming. Would have skipped that book.) My oldest cried the ENTIRE night. Wept.  And she needed to talk about it for something like two weeks, and then some.)
    History, is brutal. It just is. Humans have been awful to each other in so many ways. And my kids aren’t ready for how entirely brutal it is. And I’m ok with that emotional vulnerability right now. And I’m also ok with them learning history’s brutality when they are ready. We’ve touched on the starting points, but we haven’t dug in deep at 7 and 5 years old.
   So in my thinking, American History (while Definitely NOT perfect, at all) is less aggressively violent than more ancient history.  So that’s why I went with American History, despite the strong idea that global thinking is good.
   As far as not white washing goes. I’m doing my best. But I’m also not making that the focus of our lessons. We discuss wrongs when we see them. We try to read stories from the perspective of either side of fences we come across. And we talk about that in kid sized portions. But I’m also not trying to bog down their worlds. They are super loving kids, so focusing on hate is too much.
    I’m happy with what we’re doing for us.

I have been using Beautiful Feet’s Early American History Primary Pack.
However, I didn’t purchase this pack. I’m using the book list as a reading guide, by getting those books at the library. (And we’ve also added in other stuff I’ve noticed that looks good off the shelves when I’m getting things.)
I’ve had Blake get me a few of these harder to find book’s from the University’s Library -- which has been handy because some of the books aren’t the easiest to find.
I’m not using the study guide at all. Just reading the books and some times adding in extras when we are excited. And we’ve all been loving it. Jasmine says her favorite subject is history. And honestly it’s my favorite to teach.
     When we read Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Blanche (found a Free PDF book online) I learned so much. It was probably my favorite book choice off the list. When I was a kid, we pretty much: made pilgrim hats, learned they came to America, the end. But in reading this book we they started with their lives in England for a few chapters, we went with them to Amsterdam, and spent tons of time with them on their journey and getting accustomed to life in a new world. And along the way we did a lot of googling on the side. I honestly didn’t know anything about Amsterdam, so as we read about the streets made of waterways, the fields of tulips, the windmills, we googled. It was so fun.
To offset the story we added in a few books from the perspective of Squanto. The best one being "Squanto’s Journey.” (I didn’t know Squanto had been captured as a salve before returning home to America, and yet still helped the Pilgrams. Again -- wasn’t taught that stuff as a kid. But this book made it child comprehendible and emotionally appropriate for their age.)
   We skipped the Matchlock Gun. It seemed like it could be too much for us. (Maybe it’s not. But I just skipped it based on looking at the book description.)
   We are currently at Abraham Lincoln.
I’ve been pretty happy with the books.
A few are a little bland -- which surprised me -- since the point of the curriculum is non-bland history.
If I do it again later, I think I’d swap out a few for better choices. Mainly:
 "A More Perfect Union” -- that was barely story-form -- more textbook like than the rest. I’d definitely look to see what else we could read. Maybe the signing of the Declaration of Independence is just a bit too advanced a topic for this age range to really discuss a whole lot more than it happened and was important. I don’t know. But I’d skip that book next time and do it differently.
  "George Washington’s Breakfast" was a little cute, but could easily be skipped. It was a book about a boy wanting to learn what George Washington had for breakfast.
 “The forth of July Story” was a little dull, but tolerable. I’d probably look around before jumping right to it again.
 But for me “The Year of The Horseless Carriage 1801” was the strangest book in the mix. It is JAM PACKED full of information in a way that we hadn’t experienced yet -- it covered things happening over a lot of the world -- jumping around without much explanation. (Stuff I could process fine -- but things the kids weren’t following well -- they wouldn’t have followed it at all without lots of stopping and map looking and explaining I had to add.)  It name dropped like crazy -- talking about Napoleon, Beethoven, Lewis and Clark & Sacajawea, Toussaint, Robert Fulton and a lot more without doing much explanation on some of the people. It tried to fit in gobs of facts, and dates, and happenings. And just kinda felt like an odd duck in this book line up. In the other books we had focused in much closer on persons, places and events. I mean it’s an intresting book -- but it just didn’t feel like the other books at all. So we read it, but I didn’t expect the kids to retain it. It was my biggest head scratcher in this set of books. I wasn’t sure why it was included. I learned some stuff. But I’d book shop this chunk of time next go around. Maybe throw this book into older grades if it made sense to do so.
   So we just have 3 books left to look at and we are done. We’ll see how much we like those ones.

The website says it can be a one or two year study. We’ll have it done in one year. But I didn’t used the course guide.

I haven’t decided what we will do next. I’m about to sit down and consider. I’m leaning towards doing more world history next. But I could keep forging ahead after Lincoln and do more American History. We’ll see.

But I know I’m happy with starting out here for us -- especially since hearing my kids talk so fondly about history. I’d love to be able to keep their love of learning alive throughout their schooling.

For science I’ve gone the Charlotte Mason route thus far.
I asked my husband (A College Lecturing Professor) his thoughts on this before I proceeded. I was kinda nervous to go this direction because it’s quite different than the public schools. But he was all in favor, as he feels it cultivates a scientific mind, with curiosity fueling discovery.
With Charlotte Mason, in the lower grades science is nature based. After that is when you get into the science facts and heavy stuff.
I don’t know it just resonated with me and my thoughts on childhood, as well as just personally being always inspired by nature’s beauty.
So for this year I’ve gotten the “Pond and Stream Companion” and we are going through that. As well as using our Nature Study Notebooks we are making. (Our favorite of this was of course when we found caterpillars and let them pupate! I was every bit (or more) excited than the kids.

Again, I haven’t decided what we will do next. I do have a hard time trusting this is enough science, while still really admiring the concept. So I’ll be wrestling that out soon.

We love Singapore Math.
I really let Blake take the lead here, because math is not my subject, and it definitely is his. But when I brought it up, I did specifically show him Singapore math because it seemed like something that, had I used in school, I would have actually understood math somewhat. (Math always went right over my head in school.)
He really liked what he saw so we went for it.
And I gotta be honest, sitting along side the kids while they do it, has improved my math reasoning. It’s set up in a really cool way -- the concrete, pictorial, abstract - building on each level. It’s been very good for me to relearn in this fashion. It’s something I didn’t anticipate happening -- myself learning alongside them, but very much appreciate it.
For Kindergaten we used their cheep basic books.
The older grades have a lot of choices, we picked the U.S. Edition.
And this kids have never complained about doing math. They genuinely enjoy it. They are doing very well with it. And I find them naturally looking for Math in everyday moments and regularly discussing how it works. It’s pretty cool.

My oldest has not come by reading easily. And up until this year we’ve tried a bunch of things, we were making progress, but nothing was really working. Like we just couldn’t find the “click” or “ah ha” --it was just all painful, begrudging, kind-of-sort-of progress. But I could tell it wasn’t actually making any sense to her -- she was just muscling through and kinda pretending she was doing it, as best as she could. I’ve recently started looking into dyslexia and feel we may be dealing with a mild form of it.

When looking at Sarah's Read-Aloud-Revial’s blog (I talked about before) she said if she could go back in time she would have used "All About Reading" for all her kids instead of trying other harder ways with her older kids.
I went for it.
All About Reading is not cheap. But they have a full money back (besides shipping), after a whole year (you used up the stuff and everything), guarantee. (Must be purchased from their website.)
So I figured, what the heck, we need something to help us.

Honestly, it’s been wonderful.
I have seen SO MUCH improvement in my oldest. And while she still whines a lot of days, we are definetly past that “this just doesn’t make sense” spot, and things are really starting to come together. She’s actually been whining less and less as we go along. And she’s been reading more and more outside of school time. I still think we are behind her age range, but we are definitely moving towards average reading level. I know we would not have made this kind of progress without it.
And my five year old is doing great with it. She especially loves the cutting out activities and games.

It’s set up really well. It’s been so great for us. I couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Actually, after I started looking into dyslexia I learned that this program is set up in the most suitable method for learning to read with dyslexia -- imagine my relief when I knew I already owned the right thing and was headed in the right direction without fully knowing it yet.

I bought Level 1 for both girls, and at the beginning of the year my five year old couldn't keep up. So I let her go back to some more basic “Go for the Code” workbooks we had before we did any more. But after that break she was ready to go and has been doing great.
Side note: We also ordered Ziggy (He’s the puppet mascot for All About Reading -- we ordered it separate, because he doesn’t automatically come with the numbered levels-- my kids get so into puppets. He motivates them so much, it’s kinda hilarious. They like to talk about how he’s not real, while yet talking to him like he is. It’s cute. He’s a big motivator.

Anyway -- I won’t be asking for my money back on this program. I will be ordering the next level very soon.
Honestly, it’s very easy for me to do -- it’s set up well. After the initial first day of looking through of the program when it arrives, really all you have to do is pick up the manual and go every day.
If you aren’t homeschooling, but feel like your child might need a boost in learning to read I’d say this would be a great way to go. You could add it in 15 minute chunks to your evenings and see some huge improvements.


I got "Handwriting Without Tears” -- honestly the only reason I did this was because my VERY literal daughter was trying to copy computer font when writing and so I was looking for something to break that habit. I just got the workbook -- none of the extras. We finished the printing book, and I’ve been having her just write for practice on lined paper. I have the cursive book next. (I know schools are kinda ditching cursive these days, but I want them to learn it.) But I think I’ll save it for 3rd grade -- since that’s why I did cursive as a kid.

I got “Telling God’s Story: Meeting Jesus” (Teacher’s Manuel and Activity Pages) because, as I mentioned before some of the Old Testament is honestly just really confusing and not really child appropriate -- I learned the stuff as kids in church, but when you think about it, it’s heavy.  So I like the idea of starting with Jesus.
Honestly I’ve let this part of school fall to the wayside for a while, because I know we are learning Bible stuff on Sundays and Wednesdays and I’ve had to budget our school time a bit, when talking toddler antics -- meaning school happens when naps happen. But I like the program and plan to go back to it.

Picture Study:
We got one of Simply Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Portfolios, specifically James Whistler.
Honestly I haven’t gotten to this yet, but I am looking forward to it.

Spanish: We got a super cheap Spanish workbook we do sometimes. But It’s not really ideal. We’ve barely used it. I’d like to figure out something better. It’s hard when we are not up to reading spanish yet and I don’t speak it. But the kids are interested in learning it. So I’m not really sure what to do. (Any suggestions?)

We’ve read Robert Louis Stevenson at times throughout the year.
We also like the Complete Book of Flower Fairies by Cicley Mary Barker to mix it up sometimes. (The girls of course appreciate all things Fairies.)

(Charlotte Mason doesn’t like the idea of crafts for craft sake, but learning useful skills, which I think is cool.)
So far the girls have learned how to chain stitch crochet. And they like those old school rubberband looms. They even figured out (on their own!) how to connect the squares together to make a quilt. Pretty cool.
And Jasmine actually taught herself how to knit recently. She’s left handed, and I’m right handed, so I did my best to show her but then just kinda stopped because she was overwhelmed. But she went back on her own and got it. I’m not sure it’s totally right -- but she’s making little squares!

So that’s what we’ve been doing this year. Hopefully you found this post interesting and or helpful.
I’ll try to get some more home related things posted soon!
Thanks for hanging out in the mean time.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Wonderful Art Resource

Hey guys,
The kitchen is coming along. It’s really close. But just can’t quite show you yet….sorry!

So for today, I wanted to show you something we’ve been using for school. Its a really cool online art class called Artventure.
(This is not a sponsored post, FYI. Just something we love.)

This is an amazing resource for anyone who’s hoping to give their kids some art opportunities at home, but isn’t set up to teach that skill. So clearly, it’s a wonderful resource for homeschool situations. But it’s definitely great for anyone who wants extra art instruction. (I believe it’s even used in some school settings.) And I can definitely see it being a wonderful addition to long summer days, when they kids are getting bored.

It’s put out by a women named Kirsty, who's from Australia. (I love her accent!) She’s an art teacher who walks you through learning to draw. The lessons are set up in groups of difficulty levels (My kids are still mainly using the easiest level, sometimes my 7 year old wants to try the second level.) (But if I wanted to, I’m sure I could benefit from spending some time with the higher levels on my own time.)
     So you pick out a picture, and Kirsty will show you each step of drawing it, and painting it. It’s made so that you watch it through once seeing what see does. And then you watch it a second time doing it along with her, pausing at the pause cues, so you can do that step along side her.

My girls have SO MUCH fun doing these. One lesson will occupy them for somewhere between 15-25 minutes. And often they ask to do more than one. So far we just use crayola crayons and watercolor paints.
    My seven year old can do it 100% on her own. And my five year old can do it on her own about 85% of the time -- but depending on her mood, sometimes she can get overwhelmed by something she finds hard, and then needs some support through that step.

Here’s some examples of our projects:

5 Year Old’s. (Notice the Moana reference that she added?)
5 Year old's
5 Year Old's
5 Year Old's

7 Year Old's
5 Year Old's
7 Year Old's
7 Year Old's
7 Year Old's

I have seen a HUGE improvement in their overall art skills since we started this. They love to draw in their spare time (without Artventure, in notebooks and things) and their drawings are getting much more advanced than they would have otherwise.

In my opinion --The biggest part of anything creative is learning to see. And then it’s just understanding the process of bringing it outside of you. Artventure is a wonderful way to give that to kids. I’m so happy we started this. It’s WELL worth the price.
It might seem like it’s just teaching them to copy something so that it’s not really teaching creativity. But that’s not the case -- it’s giving them the skills to implement all the creativity they already have inside.

This is a dragon my seven year old recently drew in her bed the other night (there is no Artventure lesson on this kind of drawing.) I don’t think she would have been able to create at this level before we started Artventure. She may be more naturally inclined to drawing, but this is an explosion of skill since she started. I know I never drew anything like that from my imagination when I was seven (...or older.)

Artventure is a website subscription, which you can buy in varying amounts of time. (3 months, 6 month, or 12 months.)
The price is really reasonable. Our year subscription equals out to costing $5 a month. That’s a single Starbucks! I say that’s worth it. (But FYI you do pay for the year all at once.)
(Since it’s from Australia the price is listed as AU , but that means it’s a bit cheaper in US dollars. And it’s just as easy to pay either way.)
The website is really well made --cute, very user friendly, and has been easy for my kids to use on their own. We’ve had no technical issues with it at all.

It’s a great gift idea for someone(s) in your life, too!

If you are intrigued, there is a free 48 hour trial period so you can just check it out and see how it works for you. (Make sure you start your trail at a good time, so you can get the most out of the 48 hours.)

Just wanted to pass that idea along to you, since it’s so great! Happy Creating.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Getting deep, with socks...

So the kitchen is still on it’s way. The tile has been grouted. But sometimes we find a spot that needs adjusting on the fill, and have to go back. Then we need to seal the grout and caulk around all the edges of things. I posted a teaser photo on Instagram. I’d like to wait until at least the caulk is in before I blog it. Just for that wow factor caulk provides. (The stuff is magical.) And the room still needs more touches after that, but I figure I don’t want to keep you waiting forever.

Anyway, in the mean time, I thought I’d write up this random post on socks.

The thing I find really interesting, is that it took me a really long time to do this silly little change. This sock arrangement is something I have wanted to do for at least four years, maybe longer. But so much inner dialogue stopped me from doing it. And it’s JUST socks.

And that’s a big part of why I’ve been so quiet on the blog... stuff like this. I’m a work in progress right now, and it’s a very delicate place I’m in. So delicate it messes with socks. (ha!) And well, everything.

    It’s just been a time for reprieve from eye balls for me. The last few years have been a lot to manage, and managing them in front of people was even more to manage. The back to back sequence of my difficult pregnancy, followed by my brother’s death created a situation that made me feel simultaneously alone, yet entirely too checked-in on. It started creating this situation where I was depending on the blog for an outlet of my real self, and I wasn’t finding people in person to be that real with. And then when I would be that open and real on the blog, it would cause a whole lot of chain of reactions from relatives who started to worry about me. It was hard to convey that I was fine, I just was processing. And the processing’s value was over powered by the energy it took to constantly deal with everyone’s feelings but my own. I finally had to take stock of this and realize that in order to value myself I needed to shift this dynamic.
     I have. Quite a bit actually. I’ve found people to be real with in person. I’ve started valuing myself. And I’ve been quiet in the places where I’ve needed that space to heal. 
     A lot (but not all) of that space has been online. Its been really good for me. And honestly if I could go back in time, I would have NEVER signed up for Facebook. Oh the complications I could have kept out of my life! I signed up as soon as I got married. And soon after that I was a mom. I hadn’t figured out social media yet. It was WAY too much pressure on this girl in those new situations. I wish I could have lived my life without knowing who could get their pre-maternity pants on before me, and who was getting whole nights of sleep before me, and all the ways I was “doing it wrong” in mommy-war-world. I could have just been myself, quietly in my own house, in my own world, minding my own business, totally unaware of how I measured against anyone but myself. Wouldn’t that have been nice?
    That’s not to say, this kinda stuff stresses everyone out. It doesn’t. But it stressed me out. And due to a lot of my own stuff I brought to the table. 
     I was carrying around a lot of things. But the biggest heaviest thing I was carrying was the idea that I had a say in how other people feel. Not just that I had a say in it, but that I was often a major impactor of other people’s feelings. And not just that. But that I had an all encompassing job in life, to do everything I could to not negatively impact anyone, in any way, by anything I did.
   (Now there is a bit of truth in this large concept. Like walking up to people and saying awful things about them would not be a good way to live. Or constantly talking poorly about people when they aren’t there, also not a good way to live. And, yes, I do impact the people I live with, with the way I treat them.)
   But my deal was not that stuff. I thought this responsibility was SO MUCH MORE than that. I thought if any action I took brushed against anyone at all, in any small "wrong way", I had committed an atrocious sin. 
    The easiest example was my weight loss. I couldn’t see myself losing weight, as possibly inspiring anyone else to make healthy choices. I could only see how I “caused” jealousy. (Lesson -- I didn’t cause that feeling.  I have no control over how anyone reacts to anything. They are the ones who decide how to react to things.)
    But this same thing was down DEEP in my bones. So deep that I couldn’t agree to be myself in many areas. Because... what if myself, was the most hurtful thing in the universe? What if my very being was unbearable?
    It’s the strangest thing, really. Because in tons of areas, I’ve been totally ok with not being “the norm.” (Like a lot of people think my house purchase and subsequent years of making it over, is crazy. And that didn’t EVER phase me. This is my choice and I love it.) But in other, sometimes unexplainable, random things, I’ve been paralyzed.
     It’s actually less strange than it initially seemed to me. Things like my house, which caused people to think I was crazy, were easy for me -- because thinking someone is crazy is not jealousy. Most things I’ve been afraid to do or be are things I was afraid that people could be jealous of. And my concept of what might make a person jealous was fairly enormous. And if it wasn’t jealousy I was afraid of, it was irritation. If I was afraid my choice could irritate someone, I was afraid to take hold of it, or at least say that I did. And my concept of what might irritate person jealous was fairly enormous. So I’ve boxed so much of myself in. All while thinking I wasn’t because “Look at me, I can makeover a house, and DIY thrift store shorts…. I do weird stuff other people don’t  -- so clearly I’m, me.” 
     (Now I will say, on big things I’ve over-rode this protocol. Like when I chose to do a home birth or home school. Even if that brushed many people the wrong way. For big things I can power through because I can look at the big picture and say it’s worth it. But for little things I didn’t see myself as valuable enough to do it then. If it’s not changing the course of my life, well let’s not bother rocking the boat. But enough small things add up to start impacting a life.)
     It’s taken me some time to examine my way of looking at life, hold it up to the light and start to see it more realistically.
   And it’s been really relieving.
    I’ve been able to set a lot of false guilt down. I’ve been able to start letting go of what’s not mine to control. (Guys, it’s been SO good, finding out I’m not supposed to be responsible for stuff, that I’m not responsible for! Do any of you know how exhausting that is, carrying stuff that’s not in your control? It’s physically heavy. I came home from counseling one day, honestly floating -- like when you take roller skates off, after a day at the roller rink -- because I was given permission to let a HUGE weight go.)
   It’s not always easy to leave these things set down. After I set each idea down, initially everything inside of myself says “You know, that actually IS yours to carry. PICK IT BACK UP!” I can’t even begin to tell you how hard that battle is. Panic attacks and withdrawal symptoms hard. Some of the heaviest lifting I’ve ever done. (All so I could NOT carry something. So ironic.)

     And that’s part of my quietness online too. Just battling myself over here.
     But I’m starting to win.
     And I’m starting to change. 
     And I’m starting to breathe.
     And I’m starting to figure out who I am, when I don’t need to be this undefinable entity that’s impossible to be. An entity who’s main goal was to basically be unseen because I thought being seen was hurtful. I’m starting to see my general being isn’t a weapon of mass destruction, just on the verge of decimating all in it’s path. (Honestly, that what I thought I was doing when I lost the weight. Or made a big purchase. Or walked out of the house looking nice.) And so I’m starting to accept my general being enough to ask myself: what do I really like, what do I really want, who do I really want to be? I don’t even know the answers to those questions yet. But I’m starting to. 
     I’m starting to see that being who God made me, is the point of him making me that way. It’s not selfishness or hurfulness. It’s not a determent to other’s. It’s a gift to them.
     (Guys, my Meyer’s Briggs profile is starting to shift. Like this is major change.)

ALL this major change….
leads me to socks.
I’m letting myself, be me.
And well, me hates trying to match up socks. ESPECIALLY, and mostly, because the mysteries of the laundry cycle mean about 60% of our socks don’t have a match most the time.

I have wanted to, for years, switch to all white socks. No matching up required. If one get’s lost, it’s not going to impede the finishing of the laundry.

What was keeping me tied to these socks?
The idea that I’d disappoint anyone. Such as:
  • Anyone whoever gave us socks, at anytime. Or who’d like to give us socks in the future.
  • My kids. Who might miss some of these socks.

Issue #1: Anyone who ever gave us socks.

          Reasons why it’s still ok to be done with these socks:
  • Having a different set of standards doesn’t equal ungratefulness.
  • People’s joy comes from giving, what the Receiver does after that isn’t in the Giver’s hands.
  • True gifts have no strings attracted. 
  • You are not obligated to receive gifts with strings attached
  • Not all these socks were gifts. We bought many of these ourselves, due to (on my end) fear of accepting and saying what I really want. (And it’s ok to own that, release that, forgive that, and move on.) 
  • It’s ok to let go of belongings that are no longer needed and wanted/ working their intended purpose.

Issue #2: My kids might miss the socks.

          Reasons why it’s still ok to be done with these socks:
  • Initially I was afraid of limiting my kids things in general. I have brought up at many points in counseling different categories, and subcategories, of things I’ve been afraid that if I limit, or eliminate, because I’m afraid that I will somehow negatively impact my kids childhoods. And each time we talk through how I’m not actually depriving my kids of any legitimate needs. That it’s ok to help kids learn stuff by initially doing it for them -- because that’s the role of a parent, to be the role model.  Part of my job as a parent is helping them learn to manage their things. And we’ve discussed how that gives them a solid base for adulthood perceptions of things and money. (I actually never brought up the socks in counseling. I’ve gone through enough other random goofy things questions that I was able to process the socks on my own this time. lol)
  • My kids’ natural instinct is to be hoarders. (Are all kids? I don’t know. Probably not because certain of my kids are much more prone to hoarding than others.) I’d literally be on that show if I saved everything they wanted to save. One of them, as a two year old, had a "special collection" of empty granola bar wrappers. (And that tuned crazier by the day as we had to start opening the granola bars with scissors as to not “hurt” the pictures when tearing it open) Before I even knew it was happening, a whole drawer had been filled up with wrappers. Actual garbage is painful for them to get rid of. She would weep over these things. (And I know the difference between two year old tantrum, and actual mourning. Highly Sensitive Toddlers are something.) It’s been a learning curb for me figuring how, and when, to rip the band aid off in every “thing” area of our lives -- so as to not worry they will actually be on that show themselves as adults, while not breaking their spirits in the process. But I can safely say, that now we have a good working relationship with each other -- she trusts me not to remove more than she can handle, and she’s starting to feel safe to remove things herself as well. It’s been a good journey. I saw the socks as an extension of this journey.
  • I was worried I’d stifle their self expression. After thinking about it -- I had to accept that it’s ok to not express yourself in EVERY way. They don’t NEED to express themselves with socks. And if that’s a deep seated desire in them, they can have that as something to look forward to later in life. (Either as adults, or perhaps when they do all their own laundry at home, well see.)
  • I’m actually giving my kids the gift of more independence in this laundry maneuver. I want to get them involved in more self care and home care now, so that later in life it’s second nature and easy. This simplification of socks makes them more capable of doing more of the laundry on their own. And they actually do appreciate that.
  • I actually left a very limited few “other” socks in their drawers for special occasions. So they don’t have to wear white socks if it will look terrible.

So yeah, after I weighed all that out (Which is again comical. Because LOTS of moms are already on this limited sock train, without the raging internal debate.) I got out ALL the socks and did all the dirty laundry, and matched everything I could up. Pulled my select few special socks out. And bagged up the rest.
Went to Target and bought some white Cat & Jack socks in two varieties. 
These ankle socks for the girls. They pass their sensory inspection -- which is saying something! And the ankle has a sweet detail for a little cuteness. I bought them in medium, which can fit both girls (It’s a little big on my five year old, but it works.) I bought 3 packs for both kids. I figured that’d make sure I’m not cutting it close on laundry slow moments.
And these fold over socks in 2T for my two year old. For now I just bought one pack. For some reason his sock consumption is slower. But might add, if necessary.

Then I figured, while I’m at it, lets try something new. 

We only need socks when we are headed out the door. 
And then it always turns into wasted minutes going back upstairs to get them. 
So I decided to try keeping them in the coat (and shoe) closet.
So far (one week in) it’s been pretty great, and very easy.

I just put a mason jar in the laundry room to hold any single sock, until another shows up. (It will be SO EASY when one does!)

I’m really happy I finally did this. 
My brain has one less sound in it.
As soon as I did this, I felt a deep peace.
These little things bring me so much joy because it clears up so much space inside me, and so much of my time, for what matters. 
The kids did complain for a minute about their only being white. But it was over pretty fast. I let them know we’d keep a limited few other socks upstairs. 

They really do like that it’s so simple to get outside now.

 And they are excited to help with laundry so they liked this easy set up.

(I may get a second bin if it gets tricky having the girl and boy socks mixed together. So far it’s been fine.)

And if ever we are deal with more sizes at once...
I’ve seen the idea of adding color coded thread to the toes. That’s a good idea, I may incorporate if need be.

My five year old (the one who’s most sock-sensory-picky) acted very stressed about the size being generous (but it’s probably only a couple months before she’d need this size and the small would be too small.) But after two days she’s not said anything.

I haven’t given away our other socks yet. Just packed them up and hid them. JUST IN CASE. I don’t know what would make us need them. But I just feel like I need to try this system out a bit before giving the other socks away.

But yeah. That’s my SUPER in depth thoughts on socks. (And my brain.)
Hope you enjoyed the random vulnerability, while waiting on my kitchen. :)

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