Friday, December 13, 2013

K4 Update... as Requested :)

Hello friends, accidental visitors, and faithful readers... which I probably have none of because it's been so long since I blogged that it wasn't even in my browsing history anymore. Yikes.

Siblings, Friends, and "Classmates"
Several friends have asked me to post a little update on our school year-- what's working, what's not, what it looks like, etc.  So, between bites and sips of my lunch (the first time I've sat down all day) I'll try to crank this out. :)  Here is my loose "road map,"as posted several months ago.

I. love.  homeschooling.

Wow.  I can't believe how much I love it.  There are days when I feel myself teetering on the brink of a mental breakdown, yes... possibly days when I've fallen over INTO that chasm, truth be told, but that doesn't change how much I love it. I loved teaching before, and naturally tend to fall into it, and now that it's my own child whom I'm watching "get it," it's even more fun.  I love the classical approach.  I love teaching by asking questions.  I love guiding her to learn to work alone.  I love incorporating academic learning into real life easily because I'm aware of all she's learning academically.  I love having dozens of opportunities to discuss the Gospel, the Bible and her soul every day.  I love watching my children become friends and playmates because they are together every day.

Our basic curriculum outline:
Phonics- Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Math- Saxon Math K 
All Grammar-  Classical Conversations (this teaches kids nuts & bolts "facts" of history, English grammar, Latin, science, math and the fine arts)
Handwriting- Cursive First
World History- The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages:(Vol. 2) 
Science- Herbs Coloring Book

I am super chill this year with school in general.  By SC state law Eowyn doesn't have to even enroll in school until 1st grade, which for her would be in 2016 (Sept birthday), so I'm mainly trying to get in the swing of things for my own sake as well as hers.  We also have two toddler boys running around our house, potty training, playdates, and sickness regularly disrupting our "routines."   I am taking the advice of Susan Wise Bauer (author of The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home), who recommends focusing on basically math & phonics the first year you homeschool, along with plenty of reading (both aloud and independently if your kids are readers).  She then recommends adding another subject or two the next year (or semester if you're really doing awesome), rather than trying to tackle everything all at once and getting so burned out that you give up on homeschooling.  Only try to juggle two things instead of 10?  I'll take it!
Weekly Story Time at our Local Library ("Mo Willems" Day)

Our weekly schedule loosely resembles this:  Classical Conversations co-op on Monday mornings, which includes fine arts & science; Tuesday- "full" homeschool morning (1 hour); Wednesday- ballet (1 hr) & library story time (30 min), Thursday- BSF Bible Study (super quality kids' program there); Friday- "full" morning Friday or Saturday. We often fit in a reading lesson, history chapter, math or science activity, or some motor-skill work on non-full days.  I also LOVE the approach that's explained in the CC book, of just assigning 10-20 min independent work to kids per subject, and training them to occupy themselves.  So in line with what little kids are actually capable of doing!

Classical Conversations-  I am very impressed with it... I LOVE how customizable it is, how low stress it is, and how much the responsibility is on the PARENTS, without compromising quality or accountability.  I love that we go once a week and that motivates both me and Eowyn to press on when we don't feel like it... that she sees she's not alone in having parents who expect her to do __, and that she has a chance to function in a classroom setting.  The "presentations" she has to give ever week (basically show & tell) are genius.  She is already, at age 4, learning to be a public speaker, to take her audience into account... that is not exactly what most preschool programs focus on!  Most of all I love that I am with her every step of the way.  Maybe it's because I'm still in the nursing-babies phase, but it literally hurts my heart to think of her being away from me for long periods of time.  You just never know what kind of creeps and messed up people are out there.  They'll have to go out on their own soon enough, and I want them to be strong and ready when they do!!!  So I love that I'm with her to help her learn to navigate right now.  We listen to the CDs in the car and that's about all we do for CC, along with checking out books and DVDs that dovetail with our science, history and fine arts as much as I can. Honestly for science we do more with biology-- our herb coloring book (we touch, taste, smell, pick the actual herbs we color); we read about various animals & go to the zoo; she helps me in the garden; and I want to eventually get Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game, because then I will have arrived at True Hippy Parent status. ;D  No-- actually because I make a lot of our "medicine" from dried herbs and herbal essential oils it's very natural for her to start learning herbs now, and it just seems kids love biology at this age!

our "sentence game"
Phonics-  100 Easy Lessons is what my mom used and it's working fairly well for us, though I supplement it because E seems to need it.  She stresses herself out blending sounds sometimes so I often "scaffold" her-- sounding the words out with her-- and make free use of extrinsic motivation (also known as bribery).  We have done a raisin or fruit snack for each word read, and now she can earn a quarter for each lesson she completes (working to buy a Barbie doll!)  I bought the Bob Books (Set 1) on consignment for a few bucks and she enjoys practicing in those. I made our own word family card game (Ex. __an written on a large index card, with letters m, c, p, f etc on small cards so she can change them and read each new word) and sight word cards (names of our family members, common words like a, and, the) and we often make our own sentences with those so she can gain confidence & fluency. She also has some books on tape (yes old-school cassettes) and often "reads" along with those.  If you haven't read The Read-Aloud Handbook, get it... it's so super encouraging for just how much you can let slide and as long as you are reading to them/surrounding them with books, THEY WILL BE FINE!!!  And it has a great section of book summaries.  I think we'll be set to finish the 100 Easy Lessons by next school year's start (K5), because I plan to go through the summer with it, which will have her reading on a 2nd grade level.

Math- I am a die-hard Saxon fan as I learned great with it myself.  It's a no-frills program that works well for us, mostly because I am not afraid to combine or skip lessons as needed (NOBODY NEEDS TO DO ALL THE PROBLEMS), and I am used to making my own simple manipulatives (preK teacher to the core).  I use our pocket calendar and Dollar Tree items as counters.  Even with us only doing math twice a week, we are flying through the book, which is great at only introducing one concept a day and reviewing often; we have been doing a lot of these concepts for the past year and a half informally (I didn't even mean to-- we just did) so it's very doable for us to combine 2-3 lessons.  I have Melissa & Doug Pattern Blocks and Boards as well as a magnetized pattern block set Ryan brought back from Prague that I often "assign" her for 10-20 minutes (shower time!!), Melissa & Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Clock, Dollar Tree number workbooks, and a jar of buttons of all shapes, sizes & colors which I'll give her to sort.  I always put them away just before she's had enough of them so she thinks they're grand fun when we get them out!  We have Duplos and hardwood blocks to play with, and a pool & water table set up in the summer (my mom has Tinkertoys & Lincoln Logs) so they get a lot of incidental math play that way too.

He's learning from the best... at least he thinks so
Handwriting-  as she has not had much interest in penmanship we have not done much letter writing; mostly we've done the numerals. I made a saltbox and she traces letters & numbers in there, and I have a fun little wipe-off tracing game for her to practice pen strokes.  I think in the new year I'll make some sensory bags with hair gel & shaving cream and let her use those too.  I printed off and laminated some cursive handwriting tracing & practice sheets off a website to make your own, so we use those with whiteboard markers.  She also regularly does watercolor in coloring books or paints crafts, all to strengthen her hands.  We don't do all this daily... just here and there, and at her own pace.  At this point she really needs a lot of tracing & dot-to-dot work; copying is beyond her right now.

Bible- We use the materials listed in my previous post, and right now are really enjoying our Jesse Tree as a guide for our morning devotions!  
budding ballerina

PE-  She gets 1 hour of ballet/tap each week, and I make SURE they go outside daily if at all possible.  I notice with her that I generally have to push her a little bit to be active.  She'll do my work out videos and even go running with me (key phrase). At the park she'd rather me push her on the swings for an hour instead of running and climbing.  Unless there are other little ones to play with, that is. She is SUCH a people-person. Liam, well... I usually find him on top of structures that should make me faint.

Speaking of which, I can tell that Liam is going to be raring to write and read VERY soon.  He already begs and pleads ("I wite? I wite!") to get to write along with Eowyn and usually gets to hold a little white board (thank you, dollar tree) and doodle proudly while I work with her, or he colors on our easel.  He loves books and singing and tries to do ballet moves... I plan to keep him home another year and then enroll him in the same mothers-morning-out church preK program Eowyn did for K3 the following year, and then start CC in K4 in 2016... but we'll see.  :)

Any questions you have, please ask!

"I wite? Peeees??"
Did I mention climbing?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Why You Might Choose to Cloth Diaper

Post #2 in my little series explaining the meaning being the madness of some of my "weird" choices. :)  Again, this is in no way intended to condemn, belittle or ostracize those who've gone a different route-- just trying to explain my own reasoning.  

Diapers.  They happen, even to the best of us.  They stink. They need changing.  Usually about 5 times a day.  For a few years.  Yeah, even on your perfect angel child.  (Cue Dinosaur Train song "Every Dinosaur Poops...")  Hah.  [Note: As if to prove my point, I just had to take a break to change a truly loaded dipe.  Thanks, son.  Keepin' it real.]

So.  Why in the world would anyone CHOOSE to revert to cave-man ages involving diapers that must be not only reused, but washed?  Isn't that disgusting?  Unsanitary?  Extra-poopy?  Time consuming?  Wasteful of water?  Well.... maybe not so much.  Here are the reasons why many parents (ourselves included) have chosen to be so "unmodern" in the diaper arena:

1.  Money don't grow on trees-- I'll be honest; this was the first jaw-dropping motivator for us as young parents.  When you go shopping for those cute little plastic packages & see the prices increasing with diaper size even as number of diapers per package decreases, you quickly realize that a much larger portion of your paycheck than you ever thought will literally be thrown into the trash.  There are several articles calculating the cost of disposable diapers, from $800 for the first year alone if you bought Huggies, to several thousand over the 2+ years most American kids are diapered.  True, there are ways to save, from diaper subscriptions to coupons to buying generic brands ($425-600 is this couponing mama's best estimate,) but there is no way to beat reusable.  It is entirely possible to diaper your child, birth to potty training, for $100 if you use the cheapest option (or make them yourself, or even use household items) & restrain yourself from buying any more.  Most families spend more like $200-400 for their "stash," buying a mix of used, new, more expensive or cheaper styles, using coupons, buying in bulk to get free shipping and/or freebies (sometimes splitting them with friends), and getting amenities like a diaper sprayer and wet bags.  Where the truly spectacular savings comes in is when Baby #2 comes along (or when Baby #1 doesn't potty train as quickly/easily as you'd like, though, cloth-diapered kids usually train earlier!)... you spend nothing.  We have spent around $300 for both kids, birth to potty-training, and I foresee our current stash of diapers lasting easily through 2 more kids!  Or, if we don't have any more, I could easily get most if not all of my money back by reselling them, or bless another mom by just gifting them along.  [I hope to post soon about our own favorite diapers, how we care for them, and where to get them.]

2. Diapers don't grow on trees-- by this I mean they are extremely "unnatural." Yes, there are now brands of disposable diapers with fewer chemicals, etc, and for this I rejoice!! However, they are pricier and they aren't most people's go-to.  In most diapers (Huggies, Pampers, CVS, Luvs) reside the following chemicals:  sodium polycarbonate, dioxin (carcinogen & endocrine disruptor), toluene, xylene, ethylbezene, styrene & isoproplybenzene (respiratory irritants), not to mention plain old plastic and bleach.  Considering that infants wear them around the clock while they are developing incredibly quickly, this is concerning.  If there's ever a time to avoid toxins, hormone disruptors and carcinogens, it's childhood.  Also, since disposable diapers don't breathe as well as natural materials, they have been found to raise the scrotal temperatures in little boys, to the point where researchers fear it will cause lowered sperm count (possible infertility) later in life.

3. Diapers don't turn into trees (decompose)-- right now the average American child contributes a LOT of diaper waste to our landfills, estimates ranging from 1/2 ton- 2 tons over its diapered life.  Then, those tons of diapers (usually with feces in them) sit around for at least 500 years. Honestly, diapers haven't been around long enough to decompose, so we don't really know how long it will take. We don't tend to think much about our trash, but it doesn't evaporate when the garbage truck comes by!  Waste is a big deal environmentally.  Even if it doesn't affect us personally, it will affect someone, a someone who is our "neighbor." I think I'd rather leave other legacies... [While critics of cloth diapers argue back that cloth diapers use more water (to wash), I would point out that water is endlessly reusable.  Land, however, is not.  We only have so much of it.  Also, the amount of water used to wash cloth diapers is about the amount that person will use for the rest of their life (through plumbing & clothes washing).]

4. Diapers don't help trees (or the environment)-- The process by which diapers are made is also quite environmentally unfriendly, using both crude oil and wood pulp, and producing large amounts of chemicals as by-products (usually dumped into water).  This is a figure from 1991, so it may be less now, but this source estimates 300+ lbs of wood, 50 lbs of petroleum and 20 lbs of chlorine are used to make ONE baby's diapers for ONE year. I like how this mom put it here.
"Dear Customer,
Our diapers are made from a variety of non-child friendly products including bleached paper pulp, petrolatum, stearyl alcohol, cellulose tissue, sodium polyacralate, and perfumes. Some or all of these ingredients may cause adverse reactions to the wearer, including reduced respiratory function, so please exercise appropriate caution when using our product.
Our products are not biodegradable or environmentally friendly and they may contribute greatly to environmental pollution. Although recycling disposable diapers is a possibility, we do not, at this time, use any of these available methods as the monetary costs are too great. Thank you kindly for using our products anyway.
Sincerely,  A Large Disposable Diaper Company"
ok enough about trees... :)

5. Poop is gross anyway-- changing cloth diapers is only marginally grosser than changing disposables. Either way you've got to wipe off the poop.  I've found that cloth leads to fewer blowouts, so it's less full-body poop wipe-ups (yay!).  Then there's the question of what to do with the poop.  With disposables, most parents don't do as they "should" and dump the solids into the toilet, but rather throw the whole thing into a diaper genie or trash can, where its smell will linger.  With cloth, you "deal" with the poop by somehow getting it into the toilet, flushing, and then it's gone.  At least you don't have to smell it for days!  As for whether or not it's gross in the washing machine, well, I wash puke-soaked clothing and all sorts of other filth in there.  I'm just thankful I don't have to scrub by hand!   Hot water, detergent, white vinegar, enzymes, periodic oxygen or chlorine bleach, and UV (from the sun) are all disinfectants used to clean cloth diapers (and your machine) quite effectively of fungal (yeast), bacterial & viral particles.

6. Cloth diapers aren't that hard-- there are some that look just like a disposable diaper, and so are very easy to figure out.  Even the most "intimidating" (flats & covers) only take a few seconds for a pro (tri-fold or bikini twist, then snap or velcro the cover shut).  Throw the bin or bag full of dirties into the washing machine every 2-3 days, rinse and repeat.  I like to line-dry most of mine (UV disinfects!), but am thankful for the dryer too.  I really like diaper laundry; it's so fluffy and cute!  Babies bring lots of laundry... and then little kids do... and then boys do... so it's best to get in the habit of staying on top of laundry, right? :)

Fellow CD-ers, what were your primary motives?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why You Might Want a Natural Birth.

It's been so long since I've blogged.  I miss it.  And I haven't.  I've been quite present online, whether on diaperswappers or Facebook's newsfeed or various forums or discussion boards, or Instagram or craigslist... to the point of having to seriously limit myself.  But blogging, not so much.  I've been seldom opening the computer between one thing & another (smart phone, hello!), and when I do it's usually for a specific task, like DOULA CERTIFICATION COURSEWORK!!!!  (might be slightly looming over my head)  All that to say, I do have a few posts rolling around in my head-- mostly ones that will be helpful to my expectant mama clients.  It's on the brain, what can I say?  If you choose to read this, please know that I am NOT in any way suggesting that those who go a different route-- whether by choice, happenstance or emergency-- are failing, stupid or "wrong."  I'm simply trying to explore the rationale behind the choice, since you know we get asked it! :)

Childbirth-- it's a big deal for most women.  It's something they either look forward to, fear, find inspiring, find intriguing, or find disgusting.  Or, more likely, all of the above in varying degrees.  Movies portray it as a scream-fest involving a scared husband watching his wife being wheeled away as the doors slam in his face, her threatening divorce until she gets an epidural, then sneezing and popping out a pink clean chubby baby (and all the moms say "no way is that a newborn").  Why would anyone want to endure THAT unmedicated??  Isn't it so dangerous, so painful?  I mean, didn't women DIE all the time from childbirth a hundred years ago?  Well... not exactly.

There actually are several reasons why mothers might chose a natural birth, despite having access to medication & technology.  Here are a few I thought of, in no particular order:

1.  God is smart.  He designed birth, and it's a complex, intricate, miraculous process that even the best doctors don't fully understand.  From what begins it to the hormones that regulate it to the way various organs in both baby & mom change radically throughout the process, it's just really really cool.  For thousands of years, women have given birth.  What about the Curse, you ask?  Didn't it mess up childbirth?  Well, yes, women's main role-- as relational care-givers-- is now hard.  But the pain in child-bearing extends far beyond conception, labor & delivery.  It's just as seen in rebellious toddlers, in horrific accidents taking teenagers, and in sending your dearly beloveds off to take their place in their own families.  We mothers will always suffer in so many ways.  But pain & death doesn't summarize motherhood any more than sweat & frustration summarizes work (the arena where men were cursed)-- and neither does it summarize childbirth.  Yes, things can go wrong there, and yes, there is much that we humans can do with the intelligence God has given us to intervene skillfully when those things do go wrong (placenta previa, shoulder dystocia, maternal hemorrhage, etc), but, just as in the rest of life, stuff usually goes the way it's supposed to go.  Great sermon from John Piper on the suffering of motherhood.

2.  Women's bodies were made to birth.  Not only do we have all the right organs, we have all the right hormones & instincts.  This is the fundamental difference between [most] OB/GYN perspectives and a midwife's:  the former views pregnancy/labor/birth as one of many pathologies of the female reproductive system that must be "treated."  Midwifery views it as a natural process, and trains practitioners to watch for warning signs of problems & otherwise just empower women to labor on their own.*  I'll briefly touch on a few aspects of the intricacies of birth:
- the hormone cascade, in which oxytocin (mood-altering bonding hormone & pain killer), prolactin (milk-making hormone), adrenaline (strengthening hormone) and beta-endorphin (opiate & analgesic) all are precisely released.  There is no way to artificially mimic these-- synthetic versions can't cross the blood-brain barrier so can't act as pain-killers, and once the cascade is interrupted  it's difficult to get the train back on the rails, so to speak.
- the beginning of labor itself, which I've blogged about before.  Pregnancy generally lasts longer than the 40 weeks we've come to expect (especially in Caucasian first-time mamas).
- position & its effect on pushing, which is far more instinctive than we Westerners tend to think it can be.  Laying flat on your back is probably the absolute worst way to push, yet if you are medicated & monitored, catheterized and hooked to an IV, it's about the only way you can push.  Women who are unmedicated and thus in tune with their body's instinctive positioning will usually choose to push in a crouched, standing, hands-and-knees or squatting position.
- baby's rotation as it descends, which can be affected by Mom's position while in labor.  Again, an unmedicated mom will be in tune with what she needs.  Here again laying still on a bed is not helpful.  The "wrong" position will be agony, the most helpful will provide relief.
Recommended reading: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin

3.  Birth is empowering.  Just like people voluntarily climb mountains, bike across the US, and run marathons, so there is joy in physically, mentally & emotionally "pushing yourself" and seeing just how far you can go.  The bear went over the mountain, why?  To see what he could see!  And probably, to see what he could do.  When women are properly supported in labor, they are admired, affirmed, and encouraged, perhaps like never before in their lives.  They are doing something unique that no one else can ever do:  bring forth that child into this air. The incredible endorphin rush after birth had me saying, seconds after my daughter emerged after 45 hours of labor "let's do that again!"  I have never forgotten the incredible sense of accomplishment and thrill I got from birthing each of my children!  Anything worth doing is hard, and we know that deep in our bones.  After my first natural birth, I felt inducted into the kinship of all the mothers before me, including my own mother, grandmother, and even that teenaged girl laboring in a barn in 1st century Palestine, bringing forth my Savior.

4.  Human imitation is always, at best, just a mimicry-- with plenty of [often unforeseen] pitfalls & side effects not present in the Original.  Think margarine instead of butter, aspartame instead of honey, 'ostomy bags instead of colons... The more we know about birth, the more we realize we don't know about it... and the more amazing it is that so many babies/mamas emerge relatively unscathed in all the impositions various centuries have tried to force on it (Victorian diets of crackers & water & indoor confinements, restrained "twilight sleep," among others).  There are pitfalls & risks at every stage of intervention, from induction (lots of aspects of risk here, from autism to use of pitocin to accidental prematurity), to restriction of food/water intake due to IV use, to use of artificial hormones (pitocin, cervadil), to use of drug-analgesics (such as epidurals), to guided pushing, to use of forceps, to use of surgery.  We simply don't know the long-term effect medications have on infants who receive them (many studies suggest that it's not good), and it's well-documented that epidurals are hard on babies during delivery, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Recovery & long-term health for mom, future pregnancies, health of baby, mom & baby's early relationship, all can be affected by interventions. Recommended reading:  Henci Goer's Thinking Woman's Guide to Better Birth. Recommended watching: The Business of Being Born

5. The skills found in natural labor are very beneficial in other areas of life.  Learning to manage pain, to work through physical exertion, to relax & focus despite circumstance, to keep outcome in mind despite process-- these are all very useful!  Labor can be a tremendously powerful unifying agent to husband & wife, sister & sister, mother & daughter, too.  There is something sacred about any birth, and natural birth is particularly beautiful to be a part of.  Spiritually, I learned to trust God for strength in the moment in a way I'd never had to do before.

6.   Pain is not the problem; suffering is.  There are other ways of managing pain besides drugs-- to either minimize, remove, manage, or remove it from the foreground of experience.  This is a crucial point to make.  While I accept that pain may be a part of most women's labor, just as it is in pretty much any other intense physical feat (distance running, team sports tournaments, weight lifting...), suffering can be avoided.  Those of us who birth without pain meds don't like pain.  We just know that some pain can be managed, gotten through, used-- and true suffering can be avoided.  Some methods include:  hydrotherapy (laboring in a deep tub of warm water is called "the midwife's epidural" for good reason!), aromatherapy, massage, position, use of a rebozo (shawl/sling), emotional support, internal focus, self-hypnosis, sterile water injections, movement (slow dancing, belly dancing, walking, swaying, rocking), and controlled vocalizations.

Mamas who've done this, what would you add?

*Note:  notice how OBs usually talk about "delivering a baby," or even "delivering her of a baby" while midwives usually speak of mothers "delivering their babies."

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Seven Fast, Part 2 (Feb.- Clothing)

If you saw me in February you saw me in one of two shirts-- purple or grey long sleeved--likely with a black sleeveless top under it, and either my jeans or my grey skirt with leggings.  My new black leather knee-high boots & my blue Sperry loafers rounded off my seven articles of clothing.  Why, and what did I learn?  Here's the best I can do:  thoughts on the topic in no particular order. :)

This month's fast was in partial preparation for the "possessions" fast, when I will be trying to give away 7 items every day.  Wearing two outfits for a month really does open your eyes to see how unnecessary the closet & dresser full of clothing are, especially when you remember that you have additional bins of seasonal clothes as well.  I really didn't miss my other clothes.  Sure, there were the "ugggh, I need to wash this AGAIN and I really just want to go to bed" nights-- seven clothes get filthy quickly when you have a nursing baby, a preschooler and make most of your food from scratch.  The low point was the morning I had to unexpectedly take Liam to the doctor early in the morning-- the morning I was planning to wash my clothes-- and all I had clean was the black sleeveless top, paired with jeans.  Did I mention it was February?  I cheated and threw on a wool coat... and then realized (after I'd already spoken with the receptionist & nurse) that my shirt was on backwards AND inside out.  Classy.

Getting dressed was super easy.  No stress.  I really did like that.  

I understand why women wore aprons before.  When laundry was a once-a-week chore, and you owned one or two everyday dresses and one or two fancy "church" dresses, you would want to keep as many stains from happening as you could.  But I would want an apron with at least some shoulder covering as they are always filthy by day's end from dirty little faces all snuggling up against me.  :)

Need is such a relative term.  How many times have I said "I really need a new dress for ___."  Actually, no I don't.  Not only will I not die of exposure without it-- I have plenty of warm clothes-- but  I also have an abundance of outfits to choose from.  I am not a huge clothing-buyer, but even I can get emotional attachments to clothing.  This month helped those "bonds" wither. If I can live for a month on 2 outfits, I can definitely give away half of my clothes.

I learned to mend and make do.  Wearing the same clothes meant they got WORN.  One day my shirt snagged and tore across the back.  Instead of throwing it in my mending pile for the next 4 months (by which time it will likely be too hot to wear it anyway), I sat down and sewed it up that day.  I did get a little tired of my pants by the end of the 4 weeks.  When the jeans ripped in one knee I actually got a bit excited at the idea of patching them-- just so I could get some variety!  Patching jeans is actually pretty tricky with my machine... but I do like the final version and it saved a pair of pants from languishing in my craft room!

I feel so blessed.  What a privilege to have so many shoes that fit, that feel nice, that keep me warm-- enough that I could pick TWO pair, and have many left over!  What a privilege to have multiple PJs, underwear, socks even as I wore the same 2 outfits during the day!  And how amazing is it to have so many warm, fitting and cute options to wear every day!

If you only had 7 items of clothes to wear, what would you pick?  Have you ever done a clothing fast? What did you learn?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Seven Fast, Part 1 (Jan- No Sugar)

Wow, it's been a while.  I have Christmas, and Valentine's Day, and Liam's monthly shoots, and St. Patrick's Day, and everything in between, like doula-ing and natural living, and cloth diapering ...because surely everyone wants to stay caught up on the minutia of our lives, right? :)  My blogging has been on a downward slope every since getting a smart phone.  Facebook is so easy to upload pictures and quips and my children's adorable sayings to-- just a little downward swipe of the thumb and a few touch-screen typies... whereas blogging means I have to open the laptop (which I try to avoid doing while my children are awake if I can).

So... Seven.

It started with me loving a blogpost about Santa & Jesus by Jen Hatmaker.  That got me loving her whole blog.  I linked to it on Facebook (wow, amazing how much that comes up!), and an old friend mentioned a book she'd written on eliminating excess.  The title was simply, Seven.  This friend, Sarah, invited me to participate in our own 'Seven Fast' in the new year.  I ordered the book and signed on.

You should all beg, borrow or buy the book.  It's laugh-out-loud hilarious while being very pointed and convicting.  I really enjoyed it.  The basic jist of the book is that Jen & 6 of her friends decided to fast in 7 different areas (4 weeks in each area):  food, media, clothing, waste, possessions, shopping, and stress.  One month she ate only 7 foods, another she wore the same 7 clothing items for a month, and in another she gave away 7 items each day. We've loosely imitated this by picking an area each month and fasting, keeping each other in the loop throughout it.

An example of what I couldn't eat...
My first fasting area was food.  Since I'm still breastfeeding Liam (in January he was still 100% ebf) and also already quite restricted in my diet (no soy, no gluten), a seven-food fast seemed a bit too tricky.  I also already make most food from scratch and eat a whole-foods diet, so restrictions towards healthiness seemed a bit moot as well.  But sugar, now sugar, THAT sounded hard to me.  As much as I tell myself that I don't eat much sugar, I still felt quite attached to that little bit.  Meaning... it should go.

So for a month I eliminated all refined forms of sugar.  I allowed myself 1-2 tsp of a honey or maple syrup per day (in baked items or in tea)... and that was it.  Good thing I already drink my coffee strong with cream (a habit I've passed on to my daughter)... anyway.

What did I learn?  Three things, briefly, that I think are learned by all fasting.
1.  It's good to say no.  I think the mental clarity that can accompany a fast can come less from the fast itself and more from the discipline the fast teaches.  When we learn to say "no" to self, just for the sake of keeping our word and doing something that we don't really want to do, I think it creates a frame of mind that's more amenable to godliness.  We can obey better, listen better, wait better.  And that's how God often meets us.
2. Remembering how much I need the Lord.  Every time I wanted sugar for a pick-me-up or for something sweet, I would remind myself that the Lord is my strength, that He's enough, that I can be thankful and I don't really NEED a pick-me-up.
3. Making me pray.  Every time I felt that sugar-craving, I used it as trigger to remember to pray.  Since I wanted sugar a lot, I prayed a lot. :)

So that was my first month of 'Seven' fasting.  More to come.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day

Eowyn LOVED pinching folks not wearing green, and was careful to wear her green headband/bow all day
"So my head doesn't get pinched" :)
If you've read this blog long enough you've read me quoting one of my heroes:  St. Patrick.  No, he wasn't a leprechaun  and no he didn't only wear green.  But he DID bring the Gospel to the very people who had kidnapped and enslaved him, and he DID serve as a faithful pastor to thousands of new believers, using even simple shamrocks to illustrate Truths like the Trinity.  He rocked.  I kinda think of him as the Hudson Taylor meets John Piper of his day.  Anyway... in his memory in our family we all wear green on March 17, and this year I read Eowyn The Story of St. Patrick, More than Shamrocks & Leprechauns. She also got to watch the Veggie Tales "flannelgraph" telling of St. Patrick's story-- which is quite well-done (it's a featurette on "The Sumo of the Opera")!  My sister & I took our babies to the park to snap a few shots of them in their greenery. :)

I now want to re-read That Hideous Strength (CS Lewis) and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Madeleine L'Engle)... both feature the Celts, St. Patrick & even Merlin.  In a year or two we will probably add the "Patrick" chapter of Lloyd Alexander's Time Cat to our read-alouds on this day.  Eventually, we'll read directly from Patrick's own writings (Confession & Letters).  They are inspiring!!

I wonder what foods I can make next year to make the day even more festive...
~St. Patrick's Rune

Do any of you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?  What traditions do you employ?

Friday, February 15, 2013

St. Valentine's Day 2013

Some of the valentines we mailed.  First time I've sent mail to Pakistan!
So glad there are several holidays in winter to break up the monotony of indoor cold days!  I've always loved Valentine's Day as a day to show love to everyone around us (thank you, Mom, for that legacy), and lately have come to appreciate it as a day to remember and show love to the persecuted church!  Did you know St. Valentine was a real man, one who was a champion of Christian marriage, a bold declarer of the Gospel, and ultimately a martyr for his Lord?  Yeah, forget Cupid!

 We had some friends over, read The Story of St. Valentine, More than Cards & Candy Hearts, ate heart-shaped sandwiches & cookies, made valentines to send to Christians imprisoned abroad for their faith, talked about the reality of persecution in our day (just as it was a reality in Valentine's day), and wrapped up in blankets we mailed to Sudanese Christians through VoM's "Blanket and a Bible" program.  I used the Voice of the Martyr's resource pack "Letter Writing Kit" to get the photos, addresses & backstories for several Christians currently in jail, many facing death, for loving Christ fearlessly.

Jillian munching

Two of our other lil guests

Ginger hearts with chocolate buttercream frosting.  Yum.

The full table

Liam, our youngest Valentine :)

Another friend!

Bouquet fresh from our backyard

Friends had been bringing by blankets for weeks! 
After naps for all, Eowyn & Liam enjoyed a treasure hunt through the house, supervised by our sweet friend from church, "Miss Jen," while Ryan & I got to try a wine-beer-chocolate-and-cheese tasting at The Community Tap.  Really fun!! Ryan LOVED the Beats Solo HD headphones I gave him for Valentine's Day (a prayed-for found deal!), and I'm excited about reading through the book he picked for us to read together!  PS the chocolate at the Community Tap is AH-MAY-ZING!!!!
Since Nina started the treasure-hunt-tradition...

... she did another treasure hunt at her house that weekend! 
 Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Looking Forward to K4...

Several friends who remember my preschool-teaching days have asked me what we're thinking of doing next year for Eowyn's school.  While much is still up in the air-- will we supplement with dance? music? What about staying at the 2-day-a-week-school where she's/we're so happy now? Will there be room for Children's Bible Study Fellowship?-- I am working on some sort of pattern or low-stress plan.

I don't really know how much, when or where.

from The Read-Aloud Handbook, Jim Trelease
What I do know is that we will be doing at least a half hour of more "structured" instruction at home no matter what else we do.  I'm a big believer in the power of doing nothing more than reading aloud to your children and allowing them plenty of creative opportunities-- time outside, dress-up clothes, pretend-play toys (kitchen, babies, paper dolls, trucks), construction toys (blocks, legos, lincoln logs), and art supplies (paint, crayons, cutting, fabric, stickers, chalk).  However, I also know that the more experiences a child has with letters the more likely they are to be an early reader, and an early reader has a great head-start over non-readers.  Somewhere between rigorous formal instruction and the freedom to explore lies my philosophy of early education.  I don't sell children short on learning opportunities, as I think parents tend to do-- but much of this doesn't happen at a desk.  It happens in choosing quiet toys over battery-operated ones.  It happens in pulling up a stool and teaching them to sort the silverware and measure the milk and crack the eggs.  It happens in doing a chore chart and hanging their coat where they can be responsible to hang it up.  It comes in turning the TV off and filling little book shelves with books.  It comes in teaching children to ask questions and answer them too.  It comes in playing with them and in requiring them to play by themselves.  It comes in consistent discipline and the incorporation of Scripture into daily life.

So... without further ado, here is our low-stress "curriculum" for next year:

-- Math:  pocket calendar from Oriental Trading Company-- to learn/review months, days of week, counting, number recognition, weather, holidays, and today/tomorrow/next week/yesterday, using different songs as well as the actual calendar.  We will also practice skip counting by 2s, 5s and 10s with songs (Sounds Like Fun, Discovery Toys), fingers (high-five for 5s, two-handed high-fives for 10s), and with coins (nickels, pennies & dimes).  Other play opportunities include a "store" with her cash register, numbers puzzle and other number coloring pages.  She's already quite familiar with numbers and recognizes the numerals fairly consistently.  If I can find it on the cheap, I will pick up Saxon's K.
-- Reading:  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessonsmodified for a young child without much fine-motor strength. It's quite rare for any 3 or 4 year old to have the muscular strength and fine-motor skill to properly write. This is the reason for big chunky or triangular crayons, finger paint, and fat paint brushes on the market-- littles really just can't do the other stuff well for very long at all. That's a huge reason to really minimize worksheets and do way more "exploration" with many textures and using just the fingers-- whipped cream, shaving cream, sand paper, sand box, finger paint (add a bit of sand or glitter), glue spread with a finger that you then sprinkle with glitter/sand, erasing chalk letters off a chalk board with a finger tip-- all these allow for proper hand motion learning (start here, pick up here, etc), without reinforcing improper pencil-holding or tiring muscles that just aren't ready to hold a pencil. These give letter experiences without teaching something that later has to be unlearned.  So we'll be doing any of the above instead of the writing exercises the book suggests, as well as more standard tracing and my-hand-over-hers writing.  If I can find it I'd love to buy a Handwriting Without Tears manipulative set, but in the meantime we make letters out of blocks and E finds that exceedingly fun!  One more note:  let kids experiment with both hands, as many don't have their "handedness" determined yet.
-- Science/History: What Your Preschooler Needs to Know: Get Ready for Kindergarten... and we use each holiday as a learning point too.  The books from Voices of the Martyrs on the namesakes of holidays are great (just bought their books on St. Nicolas, St. Valentine and St. Patrick)!
-- Writing: Cursive First... I think.
-- Literature:  LOTS of reading!  Picture books from the library galore! Starting on some longer books to be read aloud too.  I refer to The Read-Aloud Handbook and The Well-Trained Mind for ideas.
-- Music-- lots of experimentation with pitched (especially xylophone) and percussive instruments, and plenty of pitch-matching games with me!  We sing songs on sol-fege regularly (a favorite is the "Tallis Cannon" at bed time), and I'm trying to teach her that we do NOT EVER end songs on "ti" or "re"!  We also like the first part of the Song of Aeolus (it's a minor song tune pitched in the relative major, so it's all about "la" instead "do.")  Also exploring madrigals and Broadway songs-- she LOVES the CD of my senior recital right now!  We will go to our first symphony concerts so she can see the instruments up close, and will do fun stuff with Peter & the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals.  
-- Language-- we are reading books and watching DVDs in Spanish (our library has a great selection!), listening to music in Spanish and French, and occasionally reading books in French.
-- Art-- I'd like to make use of this website (Deep Space Sparkle).  Also on my to-do list is a sewing kit for her!
-- Bible-- continued memorization of The Children's Catechism, and memorization of one verse a week using the book My ABC Bible Verses: Hiding God's Word in Little Hearts (Susan Hunt).  We rotate The Beginner's Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible and The Big Picture Story Bible for nightly family devotions-- I look forward to introducing the audiobook versions for her to "read" to herself in the mornings!   We listen to the Seeds CDs, Hide Em in Your Heart, Rain for Roots, Judy Rogers' and other Bible-based songs all the time!  I hope to add in some GT & the Halo Express soon-- if I can find some somewhere!

Today my goal for the day is to make a morning-routine chart for her... I'll let y'all know how that goes!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chart Love

Much as I love poetry, sometimes a simple chart says it way better.

These three are some faves these days:

-- Essential Oil Use chart --by oil--from Family Essential Oil
-- Essential Oil Use chart --by need-- from Heritage Essential Oils (this whole site is great, as is Linda, the owner)
-- Nutrient-Dense-Food Source chart from the Nourishing Gourmet (the last 2 links in this great little post are to a handy-dandy PDF chart!)

I'm excited about some classes I'll be taking soon... on lacto-fermentation & on soaking grains... enjoying learning about using essential oils, continuing to explore my new sewing machine with new projects, kicking into nutrient-dense-meal prep gear after the holidays and the Newborn Exhaustion.  Just packed away the Christmas decorations a bit sadly... soon I'll have to post about our wonderful Advent & Christmas 2012!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Epiphany 2013

For Epiphany this year we had some friends over to celebrate "the Last Day of Christmas."  I reeeeally wanted to make almond cookies or at least a "Galette des Rois" like I remember from my childhood in France, but everything I found had gluten in it... and I didn't have the time to make every single component (like almond paste) from scratch.  This year.

The kids didn't mind. :)  We made crowns, and I read about the Magi coming to worship the King, and how that was so amazing-- that finally God was telling all people everywhere how to be forgiven! I taught them how to play "Find the Baby King"-- I hid Baby Jesus and we all mounted our camels and trotted off to find him, with me giving "hot" or "cold" clues.  They really got into this game, though the littler ones didn't exactly "get" the hot-cold concept, hah. But they seriously would have kept on playing for an hour.  I should also point out that Eowyn didn't want to be a Magi-- she insisted on being Mary.  Not sure what that means about her mothering skills, if she kept losing her own child...

My friend Sarah (mother of the other munchkins at our celebration) had pulled up some blogs of friends of hers who are missionaries abroad, and we talked about how our job is, in a sense, to bring Epiphany to everyone.  Lots of people still have not heard of the Messiah who brings Light into our Darkness-- and it is our joy to tell them about Him!  I think the kids made the connection better than I expected, between a Baby King revealed to faraway Gentile star-gazers, and a Reigning Forgiving King revealed to faraway pagans today.

Of course I didn't think to take any pictures during the actual party, but I did manage to prop the kids down in front of the tree before we took all the ornaments off and said goodbye to Christmas.  Next year I'd like to do a little celebration every day of Christmas through Epiphany, but at least I'm glad to have managed a party to finish off the season.

[One last thought on the Magi.  I think they really could read the stars.  I think that God really has written --in sweeping, broad non-specific parameters-- His purposes in the skies.  He calls out the starry hosts by name, after all!  I think those ancient magicians (Magi) were onto something-- they studied for years upon years.  I don't mean piddly little horoscopes or personal life-stories; rather epic history foretold.  Rising of good & evil tides.  Scripture from Genesis to Revelation seems to hint at such incomplete revelation   My guess is that Rowling's & Lewis' centaurs are right-- but we have long forgotten how to read the stars.  ...if you really want to cook your noodle, what about Lewis' take on Merlin as an ancient Celtic Christian earth-magician?  Read The Hideous Strength and get back to me.]

“Never," said Hagrid irritably, "try an' get a straight answer out of a centaur. Ruddy stargazers. Not interested in anythin' closer'n the moon.”   :)
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Christmas 2012, Part 4-- Greenville Photos

Tia Christina, Addie Mae & Nina

E with her favorite gift -- a real live DORA backpack!! That Tia Nicole is so good at getting great gifts. :)

Mid-way through our chuchitos, we headed out back for a family photo session with one of my mom's girlfriends, who happens to also be a photographer.  The results were amazing and can be seen over my parents' mantel.  I snapped a few shots of the action myself, just because everyone was having so much fun...
I. love. this. picture.  If you know my parents, you know this captures them so well.

Mom & Linda

Don't ask, because I have no idea.  "Sisters" about sums it up.

Anna giving us some modeling tips... or something...

Liam sporting one of my favorite of his gifts-- a full-body sweater!

Chillin with the Ads.

Not much more entertaining than watching GB with his grandbabies

Flying the babies!

Eowyn trying to tell GB (who was playing her little boy at the time) it's time for bed.

Nicole cut my hair!

Oh my.

Liam going to sleep on Nina

Eowyn thought her brother looked lonely in the pack n play so she climbed in