Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Stress

Well, I debated about posting this, thinking that it might be better to maintain my image of having my act together, but decided to go for reality. If you read here long enough, I am sure you will realize that I am anything but together.

I love the Christmas season. I really do. But for the past 4 years, it has been mostly a matter of survival for me. Four years ago, I had the worst Christmas season...I wore myself ragged, staying up late, trying to do I don't know what. I wound up getting depressed and taking a lot of it out on Jeff and the kids. It was not a happy time and I never want to go there again. Jeff called me on it and I luckily got help (more on how in future posts). Since then, my goal has been to survive the holidays without becoming a raging lunatic.

Each year has gotten a bit better. I have scaled back on my expectations and this year I hit the turning point...I found myself surviving fairly well and wanting to start thinking about how to actually enjoy the season. I have also started thinking about why we try to cram all this wonderful stuff into a short period of time...why don't I send out more pictures of the boys to family during the rest of the year? Why don't I write more letters during the rest of the year (actually I guess that I kind of use this blog to accomplish the same thing - letting folks know what is going on with us). Why don't I try to get together with friends more during the rest of the year? Why don't I do more baking during the rest of the year? Why don't I have the boys send more of their creations to family during the rest of the year?

I was talking with a friend who said that part of it is that doing it all at this time of the year makes it more special. Maybe. But I am thinking that what our family needs is to try to have more special times throughout the year which might take some of the pressure off of Christmas and allow us to have more space to focus on what makes the season special for us. I am not talking big things...I read about one family that made DIY ice cream sundaes every full moon. Little things that are meaningful and special, but not draining. Then maybe it would not put so much pressure on Christmas. I think I need to think about this a bit....

Some things that I learned this year:

  • It is OK to not put out all the Christmas decorations. I usually go all out...decorations all over the house. This year I put out two boxes worth and meant to get the rest out the next day, but it never happened! And I still think the place looks great. My snowmen are up in the family room, the advent calendar, the boys stockings, the Christmas tree, the door hangings on the boys doors, my Santa from when I was little, the wreath on the front door, the icicle lights. The neat thing is that usually by now I am feeling very claustrophobic with all the decorations out...but this year I am still enjoying them! I also usually dread the time putting them out and putting them away, but this year it only took a couple of hours during which the boys and I really enjoyed rediscovering our favorites.
  • It is OK to not get the Christmas cards out until after Christmas. I have been enjoying writing our family letter so much more since I took the pressure off myself to get them out.
  • If the computer program you use to make the Family Calendars is not working because you have a new computer it is OK to give IOUs and finish up later instead of staying up until 2am in the morning cursing the printer.
  • There is no need to stress over the presents you are giving. Everyone appreciates the thought.
  • Wrapping presents goes much faster and enjoyable if you get to watch your new Pride and Prejudice DVD while your husband entertains the kids.
  • It is much better to wrap presents before Christmas eve. We actually had a wonderful relaxing evening.
Well, I am sure that there is more, but I have to go get my Christmas cards out....

For Cat Lovers

My Mom sent me this and I just thought that it was hilarious (and true of course). I think that most cat owners can definitely relate....I might need to run this by our two kitties....

And, yes, I do plan on getting back to blogging about the boys soon. I am still trying to get my Christmas cards out, but once they are gone, I have a few ideas ...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Cool Christmas Light Display

A friend sent this video to me back around the end of November...I have just noticed that it has been made into a Bud Lite commercial. Go figure.

I can only imagine how much time it must have taken.....Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

What a nice relaxing day. The boys woke us up a little after 8am, opened their stockings and dragged us out of bed to open presents. We took our time, enjoying each other's presents. The boys had decorated wooden picture frames with my Dad and his wife Dawn last week and they were just thrilled to have presents that we had no clue about. The weather turned out pretty was raining and very gray. The boys were disappointed because they wanted to try out a glider and rocket they had gotten and could not go outside. Luckily there was more then enough to distract them inside.

My Mom had gotten Kyle an "Experiments with your Cat" kit which was a big hit. They really liked the effect that catnip had on Lapis and Sammie. We made pink lemonade slushies with the ice cream maker and Jason made plastic bubbles with "Super Elastic Bubble Plastic" which he loves. Kyle's favorite present by far was the collection of 20+ Lego Minifigures that I had won off eBay (is Mommy good or what!). Kyle has this thing for those little guys...he loves carrying them around and comes up with all sorts of stories for them. The Antarctica books from Uncle Vern and Aunt Nancy were a big hit as well (they recently had taken a trip to Antarctica and the boys have found their trip really interesting). Jason got the new gold bionicle that he had been hoping for.

We had a nice relaxing day, ordering pizza for dinner (had to go with Pizza Boli's since Pizza Hut was closed!) since we had our big dinner the night before and had leftovers for lunch. The boys are now in bed (well, Jason is up in his room anyways!) and I am getting ready to start on our New Years day cards (one of the ways that I stayed sane this year was to not go crazy about getting everything done on time. Much better this way (the kids liked having a non-crazy mommy this year) and hopefully none of our family and friends will mind!).

Here is wishing everyone a wonderful holiday time. All our best from our family to yours.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Jason turned 9!

Wow. My oldest baby turned 9 on Friday. Hard to believe. 8 still seemed "little boy". 9 is not quite big boy yet, but definitely getting close! Who would have known that 9 years ago this little (well, not really so little...he was 9 pounds!) bundle that we brought home was going to become the wonderful boy he is today. Well, we knew that he would be wonderful, but had no idea of how that wonderfulness would manifest itself. ;o)

The Jason of today is incredibly bright...he seems to instinctively understand the "big picture". He grasps concepts quickly and makes them his own. His mind is always working. He loves good stories (we go through audio books like crazy). He is a boy of extremes...he either loves something or hates it. He has ups and he has downs...rarely any in betweens. Because of this, he really enjoys life and has an enthusiasm about things that is wonderful to watch. Jason is high-energy and bouncy. He knows what he wants and how he wants it...and how to advocate for it. He can be challenging, but this trait has helped me grow as a parent and a person. And I am thankful for it.

I have noticed over this past year that he seems to be coming into his own...dare I say it, showing some signs of a growing maturity. He is more accepting of structure and limits...we have been butting heads less. He seems to understand why he needs to have some limits. We seem to have come to a good balance in our relationship...and I am enjoying it while it lasts!

While at a holiday party, a friend was asking if we did the combo birthday/christmas present thing (he had a December birthday as well). I reassured him that most definitely was NOT the case. This kid had a kid birthday party (played laser tag), celebrated his actual birthday by choosing where to go for dinner (and getting to make most of the decisions that came up that day) and finished it off with a family birthday party with the grandparents. All before Christmas. It definitely helps that my boys are the only grandkids on both sides of the family. There is definitely no lack of attention for birthdays or Christmas.

So Happy Birthday Jason! We are glad that you are here. And you are loved.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Listen if you dare....

I can blame this one on Jeff...ever since he saw the diet Dr Pepper ad, he has had that song on the brain. It was driving him nuts when no one at work seemed to remember the Muppet skit it was based on (we aren't that old are we??). So he spent most of this evening trying to track it down. And thanks to the wonders of the internet, he even found video!

Fair warning....once you watch the Mahna Mahna skit, the song will never leave your head!

And again, thanks to the power of the internet, I found some more history about the Mahna Mahna guy....

And yes, thanks to the internet, two grown people can blow an evening researching this kind of exciting and important trivia and re-live a good memory from our childhood. :o)

Don't say I did not warn you!

Kyle's Parody: The Stinky, Stinky Cheese Man

The Stinky Stinky Cheese Man was like "A Ha Ha! I am the Stinky Stinky Cheese Man! You can't catch me!" He runs up to a mouse and says "A Ha Ha! I runned away from a kid who is a little girl kid and a little boy kid and a dad and a mom".

He runs into a chicken and he was like "A Ha Ha! I am the Stinky Stinky Cheese Man. I ran away from a girl kid and a boy kid and a mom and a dad and a mouse".

Now he runs into the Chicken Licken story. And then he met up with Chicken Licken. "A Ha Ha! I am the Stinky Stinky Cheese Man. I runned from a girl kid and a boy kid and a mom and a dad and a mouse and Chicken Licken".

Next he runs into the Tortoise and the Hare story. And he met up with the Tortoise and the Hare. "A Ha Ha! I am the Stinky Stinky Cheese Man. You can't catch me! I runned away from a girl kid and a boy kid and a mom and a dad and a mouse and Chicken Licken". The Tortoise and the Hare didn't go after the Stinky Stinky Cheese Man.

"OK Stinky Stinky Cheese Man. Don't run into any other stories except yours. I'm the Author" said Kyle. The Stinky Stinky Cheese Man says "OK. I'm going back into my own story. "

And then he's like "Hey, how am I going to get past this icky lake. There isn't any bridges. And he met up with a hippo. The hippo said "I'll swim you across". Then the hippo said "What is that horrible smell?" Then he realized it was the Stinky Stinky Cheese Man. Then he threw him off his back and the Stinky Stinky Cheese Man came apart.

The End.

"No, it can't be The End - I want enough time to be back together!"

"I'm the Author" says Kyle. "OK, not The End. I'll let you just get back together."

The Stinky Stinky Cheese Man gets back together.

The End.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Jason's Parody: The Three Fat Pigs and the Straw Eating Mouse

Three Pigs went into the wilderness to buy themselves some houses. They all got one big house and made it out of straw. The Straw Eating Mouse came up the path. And the mouse said "Let me in by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin. Or I'll just come in." Then the little Straw Eating Mouse ate a hole in the house the size of a mouse and the three Big Fat Pigs ate the mouse for lunch.

And then the Big Bad Wolf came walking down the path and he said "let me in or I will huff and puff and I'll blow your house down." Then the Big Bad Wolf saw the little hole.

The End.

Well, actually not The End.

The Big Bad Wolf said "You are not supposed to end it now. The story's not done yet!"

"Hey, I'm the author here" said Jason. "Well, OK, fine. It's not the end. I'll let you eat the Three Little Pigs."

So the Wolf goes in the little hole and eats the Fat Pigs for supper.

The End. (OK Wolf?)

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

We just read this book by Jon Scieszka and the boys LOVED it. It can be hard to find one book that both boys want to listen to but they were both absolutely cracking up on this one. I think that we will have to pick up our own copy. It is really funny...great parodies of the classic fairy tales including The Princess and the Bowling Ball, The Really Ugly Duckling, Jack's Bean Problem and, of course, The Stinky Cheese Man. I have to say from my perspective, I really enjoyed reading it to them. And it led to what every homeschooling parent loves...a great conversation! We talked about what a parody was, what made these stories funny, what we liked about them. Not in a teachy sort of way, but in a comfortable, natural because we really enjoyed the book sort of way.

This all led to Jason telling his own parody, incorporating elements from the book and of course then Kyle wanted to tell his own as well. I wrote them down and told the boys that I would put them up on the blog tonight. Which led to us talking about what a blog is and who might be reading this. LOL! I think they really liked the idea that their stories would be read by others (even if it is only the grandparents!).

All in all a really fun afternoon. They were so excited and warms this homeschooling mom's heart. ;o)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Better Get Used to It Principle

While discussing the idea of sheltering kids on the Nova Unschoolers email list, someone posted a link to this great article by Alfie Kohn. He talks about how the "Better Get Used To It" principle is used to justify the continuation of bad educational practices and that it immediately shuts down all arguments.

Well, he makes the argument much better then I can, so definitely check it out. And while you are at it, be sure to check out the rest of his site. Great stuff. Really great stuff.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sheltering kids

We recently had a mom join our Nova Unschoolers email list who is not happy with how the school experience in going for her kids. She wanted to find out more about homeschooling and to help allay some of her fears. One of the issues she brought up was the fear that she might be "babying" her kids and that school is necessary for kids to be able to manage in the "real world" (where else will they be able to learn how to deal with those "hard knocks"?).

This is actually a very common argument against homeschooling. "Kids have to learn how to cope in the real world where everything does not revolve around their needs." and "Kids need the discipline that school gives them".

The funny thing is, do people really think that homeschoolers do not want their kids to grow, to be more responsible, and to learn self-discipline? That we don't want our kids to be able to deal with "real life" issues? Of course we do! Thousands of kids are being homeschooled, and you know what? They are turning out to be able to function very well! Even without 12 years of school to "teach" them how.

I wonder if, on some level, the people who make this argument need it to be true...otherwise all the BS they put up with in school was not needed! Or maybe school did help them become more disciplined and focused...but my theory is that it was more their personality type rather then school. Yes, school helped them nurture it, but it was there to begin with. Not all kids who go to school turn out to be disciplined after all.

Really think outside the box for a moment...I wonder if making kids "learn discipline" for over 12 years actually backfires? I remember hearing an argument that going to school helps teach a kid how to get up on time (a skill they will need if they want to hold down a job). Putting aside the questionable assumption that all kids will eventually go on to jobs that require them to wake early, this argument seems to make sense on the surface - as we know for sure that left to their own devices, kids would never want to get up on their own...I mean look at how hard it is to get kids up for school on time!

But what if kids were not made to get up on time for something that they may or may not like (school) for 12 years? What if they were given the freedom to sleep in sometimes (or always?). What would happen? Well, lots of homeschool kids have this option and it seems that if there is a good reason for the kid to be up (good to them), they can wake up early even without years of training.

I have seen this with Jason (8 years old). Several months ago he asked to have an alarm clock so that he could wake up at 7am and watch tv/play gamecube without having to share with his younger brother (who usually sleeps until 8am). He also asked his dad to make sure he is awake before he leaves for work. Shocked me I can tell you...a kid who wants to wake up earlier? Yup. And what makes this more surprising is that he is more of a night owl and definitely not a morning person! He even remembers to set his alarm clock at night without me reminding him. The reason to wake up is important enough to him. And you know what? This is the discipline that I want him to develop. Self-discipline. Not the "because I say you have to" discipline with artificial consequences (what do grades really mean anyways?)

So it can and does happen. Now, will every kid decide to wake up early? Probably not...maybe some kids will decide that sleeping in is more important and will get a later starting job. Who knows? I just don't think that 12 years is necessary to develop this "skill" or any other skill. I know that as soon as I went to college I tried to schedule as many afternoon classes as I could and I slept many a weekend morning away...often times just because I could! (OK...and sometimes because I had to after staying out too late the night before, but that is another blog post....)

Another problem I have with this "need to cope in the real world" argument is, do these folks really think that we are able to totally construct an environment where our kids never have to do something they don't want to do? Really? If so, please show me how to do it, I will do it for myself! The fact is that our kids will be living in the "real world" (much more so then if they were in school!) and will naturally have to deal with situations where they have to do things they don't want to. Shoot...every day my kids have to deal with that just because I have 2 kids who do not always want to do what the other one wants. They also have classes they take where they deal with other kids (yes...homeschoolers do not always spend all their time at home!). And they have to deal with me as well, as I am sure that Jason will tell you.

The thing is, they will learn much more about compromise and coming to a consensus in these situations because they will have more control over the situation. If they are being bullied, they don't need to learn how to deal with it...they can decide that they do not want to put up with it and drop the activity. Or they can decide that the activity is worth it and I can help them determine what their options are and plan a course of action. The important part is that I am there to help...they are not thrown into the deep end and told to cope the best they can.

Where else in the "real world" other then school (and jail) are you given no choice but to be there? Yes, you often have to deal with undesirable things where you work...but you are still there by choice and you can decide if it is worth working in that kind of environment (and most times you also have some sort of recourse available). Kids in school do not have that choice and they do not have the guidance of a parent that they have if they homeschool. I prefer that my kids look to me when learning how to deal with difficult people and situations...not their peers.

I remember when I first started out and had similar worries...a wonderful hsing friend asked me if I really thought that it would take 12 years for my kids to learn how to wake up early. Or to learn how to take a test or how to ....It was a big "aha" moment for me....

Thursday, December 01, 2005

But how will they adjust to college?

There was a great article in the Daily Nebraskan on how some homeschooled kids are making the transition from homeschooling to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Talks directly to how homeschool kids deal with the whole socialization issue (which seems to be one of the biggest worries of non-homeschoolers). I have heard many will they transition into college if they have never gone to high school? From what I have heard from friends with older kids and read in articles like this one is that, on the whole, homeschooled kids make the adjustment just fine.

What many homeschooling parents find, is that if their kid decides that college is where they want to go, more then likely they will be motivated to get there because it is their choice. What many colleges are finding is that homeschooled kids have a love of learning...they are there to learn, not just get a grade. Many kids also take community college, co-op or self-study courses while in high school, so going to a 4 year college is not their first taste of structured learning. Yes, sometimes depending on the kid there might be more of a learning curve when heading to college, but they do manage to adjust in most cases.

This quote sums up the article (and my personal feelings) very well.
“You’re going to meet people who are homeschooled who can’t (socialize), but you’re going to meet public schoolers who can’t socialize either,” Anderson said. “It depends on the individual, not the method of schooling.”

My kids are still young, so we have plenty of time to figure it all out. But hearing stories from those who have gone before me is very reassuring!