Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Another Year

It was a birthday weekend.
We stayed at the beach, one of our favorite places.
Sunday we dressed up and went for Brazilian BBQ.
Monday we ate a late breakfast at The Beachcomber; the sun was shining!
Then we spent the afternoon on the beach with more sun.
Late afternoon was pool time.
After that we went to a Japanese marketplace and bought baumkuchen.
Baumkuchen isn't Japanese, but I first had it in Japan and the Japanese are quite fond of it so you can usually find it at Japanese bakeries and markets.
Dinner was at Lucille's.
Yesterday we spent the day at the Disneyland Resort.
(When I was a kid it was just Disneyland.)
All day ... more than 12 hours.
Lunch at the Blue Bayou was lovely and I had my first Monte Cristo sandwich; I'm not sure how I ever missed this before.
(Oh wait, I was a vegetarian for 18 years.)
We arrived home very late and very tired; it's a long drive.

Today we are very out of sorts.
(That pretty much means that I am grumpy and unmotivated.)
We slept in and never found our groove.
We picked up the dogs and found out that Puppy Girl's illness is worse so it was off to the vet late this afternoon for tests.
They don't know what is wrong and I am worried.
I managed to cook dinner, which is good.
Papa was running late for his meeting and didn't eat with us, which isn't good.
 We really like Papa.
Some of the laundry has been done, but I never managed to get groceries.
I should probably bake bread tonight before I go to sleep.
That'll be late anyway, it always is.

So another year has passed.
I actually like being the age I am now; I feel like I have learned a lot and take that wisdom with me.
Wisdom ~ I never knew what it meant.
I find myself respecting those who have spent more years on this earth than I have.
I understand better how they have come to know what they do.
I see that many things change but people really don't.
I know myself so much better than I did a couple of decades ago.
When you are young people say that you need to find yourself,
but they fail to mention that time is the only way to do that.
You aren't really finding anything; your refining who you are.
After all, we are all someone, young or old.
But time can bring us to authenticity because we learn to get past distracting emotions like anger and resentment and find truth.
We know what we make mistakes and we accept responsibility.
It's all good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Really Knowing

One of my favorite aspects of home education is having the opportunity to really know our children's friends.  Not just their friends, but the families of these friends.  We know the people, their homes, their values, their struggles, their hopes.  We know that we are all different, but very alike in our desire to do the best we can for our children.  We trust each other.

Oh, to know these kids!  We remember when the younger siblings were babies and toddlers.  We celebrated new babies being born.  We hear the first words of the little ones and remember when they needed to be pushed on swings and caught at the bottom of slides.  We look back to when so many of the children were turning six years old and what a magical year that was (and how worried we all were about reading); now that group of kids are all turning twelve (and they read, each of them getting there at their own time and in their own way).  Twelve!  We watch them grow physically, but also emotionally.  We see the maturation of the oldest kids as they become teenagers, young men and women.

We go to birthday parties and feel comfortable with the adults and stay too long because the kids don't want to be parted, even if they will see each other again in just a few days.  We promise them extra play dates just to get them out the door.  We feel renewed and exhausted at the same time.

I pick up a child for a play date and know that my friend will get an hour or two of peace and quiet while her little one naps.  I send the children back by having them walk the 3/4 mile and see the joy on their faces at the independence they have earned.  I get some peace as well, even if I don't get any quiet; the sound of laughter is a reward as well.

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Easy Week

So, J-Baby and I both came down with T-Guy's cold.  J-Baby has only had a couple of colds over the years and isn't accustomed to being congested; he moan and groaned all day Tuesday like he was dying.  All he could really do is listen to audiobooks and watch science and nature specials.

We made it to PE on Wednesday; it was nice to get a dose of sunshine and fresh air.  I had just started with a sore throat at that point; yesterday and today I've felt downright cruddy so we've continued with "educational television" schooling this week.  The boys have read, listened to audiobooks, listened to music (loving Beethoven's Wig), watched a science/nature program daily (I'm still me and can't plug them into a screen for more than an hour daily). drawn pictures, designed a new baseball game involving Pokemon cards, gone to Rain (I was heavily medicated, lol), and of course talked to us about everything they are doing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You Can Ignore This (I'm Just Thinking Out Loud)

The pool season is nearly upon us.  Okay, it's two months away, but I am a planner.  Last year we really enjoyed late afternoons and early evenings at the pool.  Sometimes the boys and I would go early and Papa would join us after work, and sometimes we waited for him to come home (just a little early) before we all headed over together.

The hardest thing about this was meals, because we weren't home at a typical dinner time.  We ended up eating a lot of burritos and taquitos from our favorite taco stand.  Sometimes I would feed the boys a heavy snack so we could eat a late supper and sometimes I would pack a simple picnic dinner to eat at the pool, but most of the time I felt like I was scrambling to get us fed.

Eating the largest meal of the day after work is very American.  It's what we call dinner.  More than a hundred years ago dinner was the noon meal and was far heartier than the later meal, called supper. Breakfast was pretty hearty as well.  In many countries the main meal is still eaten around noon, and as far as I can tell that works pretty well

I'd like to adapt this to my family and our lifestyle.  Because we are home learners and because Papa comes home around noon everyday to share a meal with us it isn't outside the realm of possibility for us to eat a big lunch and a lighter supper.  We don't need a big breakfast, in part because we aren't engaged in heavy physical labor and also because we generally eat breakfast somewhere between 8 and 9 a.m., not at 5!

But again, it isn't what we are accustomed too.  Not that it isn't a good idea or won't work, just that it will take some adjusting to, especially for Papa.

What I envision:

Serving a very simple breakfast, not too heavy.  Cereal or granola for the boys most days.  Fruit.  An egg and toast.  Just enough to break our fast and give us energy, but not so much so as to ruin our appetites for a hearty lunch.

Having our largest meal midday.  I suppose we can still call it lunch. I'll have to come up with some new ideas as some of the longer cooking meals won't work, but I could cook those the day before and reheat them.  Meals such as stew taste even better the next day anyway.  The biggest practical obstacle I see is getting the dishes done and the kitchen tidied after such a meal.  Papa is our main dish washer but won't have as much time, so the boys and I will need to do some of it.

We'd then eat a lighter meal at dinner/supper, more akin to what we would usually eat at lunch.  Our daily salad could be eaten at this time, along with lighter soups, hard-cooked eggs, muffins, cheese, sandwiches, etc.  I could make quiches or frittatas, or simply a big pan of scrambled eggs.  Most of these meals would do very well to take to the pool with us.

Like I said, I am a planner.  A planner who also likes to jump in with both feet, so I think I will start this today.  Seriously.  We're all ill and appetites are low, so I'm going to make chicken soup for dinner.  Then tomorrow morning I will cook a regular dinner meal and serve it at lunch time.  I'm thinking baked chicken breasts, potatoes, and green beans.  T-Guy has a baseball game tomorrow evening so we will have a light supper before his game and a simple dessert afterward.

That simple dessert?  That is going to be the incentive I use to bring my family on board with my not-so-crazy plan.  It could be a cookie or two, a slice of a lunchbox cake, custard, a small dish of tapioca pudding, fresh fruit, and later in the season (once the pool opens) a scoop of ice cream.  Instead of eating dessert on Sundays only we can have dessert nightly.  I think it will work out calorie-wise as we will be quite full from our noon meal and give up the daily afternoon snack.  If the boys insist on the afternoon snack (they are growing, after all) I will be stricter about it being a fruit or vegetable.

So off I go to make chicken soup ...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Perfect Attendance

J-Baby and I were sitting waiting for a children's concert to begin (put on by the local symphony orchestra) and the girl next to me asked J-Baby where he goes to school.  He can never remember the official name of our school (because it simply isn't important) so he told her her was homeschooled.  She said she had perfect attendance this year and he said he did too, because there is "no way to be absent from home".  She gave him a funny look so I just said that there is always something to be learned and he felt validated.

Today T-Guy is feeling under the weather.  I could mark it as an absence because we aren't doing focused lesson work, but that doesn't mean that learning isn't happening.  The boys read The Last Quest of Gilgamesh and started on Gilgamesh the Hero.  J-Baby finished Space Cadet by Robert Heinlein, telling Mike this morning that he was almost finished with it and wished he wasn't.  T-Guy started re-reading the Lloyd Alexander Chronicles of Prydain series, beginning with The Book of Three.  A vintage Dataman calculator game I had ordered online arrived and J-Baby explored its math games.  They watched an episode of Cyberchase.  We're only in the afternoon now; I am sure more learning will happen later today.

The house is strewn with books (literally).  There are the aforementioned novels, a mantel covered in books about Gilgamesh and Mespotamia, math concept books, books about pronouns, and the handful of Scholastic books that Abuela gave J-Baby for his birthday.

The piano has been tinkered with, pictures have been drawn, Lincoln Log homes designed, and Keva Plank towers constructed.  We talked about strangers and acquaintances and who you can accept a ride home from if you are walking, including discussing the fine line between trust and caution.

So yes, they have perfect attendance ~ I love that they have no desire to be absent from life!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Busy and Busier

We had a busy week last week.
Really busy.
We went to Disneyland.
An 11th birthday was celebrated.
Baseball was practiced and baseball games were attended.
Abuela came to visit.
T-Guy and Papa spent Saturday volunteering at the museum.
J-Baby and I thrifted and went to a children't concert.
We cleaned the house and ran errands.

This coming week looks to be busy too;
busy is what baseball season is all about.
Practices, games, batting cages.
Throw in a night for the farmer's market
and my twice monthly massage appointment (my kind of busy),
a birthday celebration for a good friend,
and Train Days at the depot.

In between all that there will be cooking and baking,
cleaning and laundry,
errands and other tasks.
Oh yeah, learning happens in there too.

I'm tired just thinking about it,
but excited too,
because my life is full and happy.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Is it Friday Again?

Wow, the week went by quickly and I didn't even think about posting.  I wonder how that happened?

Let's see; J-Baby celebrated his eleventh trip around the sun, we had baseball Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, we had PE class, we went to the library and natural foods market, Abuela visited, and oh yeah, there were all the other normal weekly things we do at home.

Focused lessons are humming along, and the boys are loving them.  I find myself wishing that I had either 1) a Waldorf resource for teaching Gilgamesh and Ancient Mesopotamia, or 2) researched this months ago and had art projects, verses, food, etc. planned out.  I'm kind of kicking myself for having sold our copy of Live Education Grade 5.  My biggest hurdle is that the boys are already very well acquainted with the Gilgamesh myth, something I didn't realize.

This has shortened our morning lesson time, but it is working out just fine.  The short mornings are just what the boys need to feel that they've done something without feeling that they've done nothing but lesson work.

Math is becoming one of T-Guy's favorite subjects, something I didn't expect.  My boys have been determined to sort themselves into categories even if a school wasn't doing it for them.  It's as if they made an agreement; J-Baby would take math and science and T-Guy would take literature and history.  But lately J-baby's been reading science fiction (the Heinlein juveniles) and T-Guy has been digging into math and I am doing a super secret happy dance.

Monday, April 4, 2011

In the span of 15 minutes the past ten years make so much more sense.

When T-Guy turned two years old we did the standard pediatric visit.  His doctor was concerned that he wasn't speaking much and sent us to see a speech pathologist.  Eventually we had a diagnosis of oral motor planning issues and dyspraxia.  At the time we were told his hearing was normal.

Six months later we hired a private speech language pathologist who looked at his reports and said his hearing wasn't normal, not for a child, and neither was the movement of his eardrums on the tympanogram.  But no one else considered it an issue and there wasn't anything we could do medically.  We continued with speech therapy for a year and then put T-Guy into preschool to work on his language skills in a more natural environment.

His teacher that year (which was only for two months) was concerned about his hearing.  We were too, so we started another round of doctor's appointments and assessments.  But those tests were done in summer and were again considered normal.

At four he had tubes out into his ears to help drain fluid, fluid that had been there intermittently since he was two months old.  A friend recommended a great ENT who saw T-Guy in the late fall/early winter and was willing to accept that this time of year he generally had fluid behind his ear drums.

Those tubes were in place for five and a half years.  Toward the end of that time T-Guy had more ear infections and showed some obvious hearing loss, and advocating for him we had him tested and found that the PE tubes were blocked.  At that time he tested as having mild-to-moderate hearing loss.  I also had concerns about the size of his adenoids (his tonsils had shrink some).  In the end we did surgery to remove the blocked tubes, repair his ear drums and remove his adenoids.  At his post-op hearing test he had regained most of his hearing function, and the minimal loss wasn't considered important as it was thought it would resolve with further healing.

Here we are nearly three years later.  In February T-Guy ruptured an eardrum even though he had no signs of infection and no pain.  All he had complained of was his ears feeling "clogged".  We had him seen and treated and discussed our options.  We couldn't do a tympanogram at that time because of the hole in his eardrum, but the doctor and I were both concerned that his eardrum might be weak and that he once again was harboring fluid in his ears.

When he was younger T-Guy had a mild milk allergy, and as he'd gotten older he no longer got eczema when he ate cheese so we had added it back into his diet in the past year.  But dairy was the only straw I could grasp at, so we decided to cut it out completely.  He wasn't happy, but the choice was to try diet or reinsert PE tubes, and none of us want that.  So we did six weeks dairy free to attempt to eliminate the fluid while his eardrum healed.

Today we saw the doctor and the audiologist.  For the first time in the past decade T-Guy was able to have a hearing test without PE tubes, without healing scar tissue (there was scar tissue but it wasn't considered new) and without fluid behind his eardrums.  That's right, he had a clean tympanogram!

Unfortunately, he has unilateral low frequency hearing loss in the minimal to mild range.  But we have an answer!  He has finally been diagnosed with hearing loss that isn't considered intermittent/transitory.

This is an incredible answer for us!  T-Guy doesn't have some of the behavioral issues that can be related to hearing loss, but he does have some social issues.  Hearing loss can make it hard for kids to pick up on subtle differences in speech that communicate meaning, and this can make it appear that the child is deficient in social skills.  Kids with hearing loss don't always pick up the nuances of speech.  But not being able to hear the differences and not understanding them are different things, and knowing the problems makes it easier to find answers.  Also, his speech issues most likely have more to do with hearing loss than oral motor planning or dyspraxia.

I'm just a mom, a mom who worried for years, especially about the social issues.  I'll admit that for a time I worried that he had mild autism or Asperger's disease, only so many pieces of the puzzle didn't fit.  He's an even kid, never prone to outburts or tantrums.  He understands humor, he's connected, he has a wide range of interests, he handles transitions well.  He's bright, he's funny, he has friends.  He just doesn't always hear that well.  That's okay, now that I'm in midlife neither do I!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Weekly Recap

I won't lie and say that this week has been a breeze.  My boys are typical children who seek rhythm only to naturally chafe against it.

Thursday morning was particularly rough, and I have to wonder what exactly caused it.  I got up and made breakfast.  T-Guy was up already as the Puppy Girl (she's nearly 2 now, but she is still the Puppy Girl) consistently wakes by 7:15 and he cares for her in the morning.  J-Baby was sleeping at 8:30 and that may be a clue.  Either he slept in because he is coming down with something, it's allergy season, or because he slept poorly the night before.  As a child who had difficulty sleeping myself I can relate.  He was just grumpy, and kept glaring at his scrambled eggs even though Wednesday he told me that two pieces of toast was a small breakfast and that he needed more.

He was off track all morning and wasn't motivated to do his chores.  His grumpiness spilled over to T-Guy, who felt that J-Baby wasn't doing his fair share of tidying their bedroom.  So then I had too grumpy boys and a mama who was starting to feel grumpy herself.

We pulled it together and saved the day, but J-Baby was still off all afternoon.

One thing that I think homeschooling illuminates is the very humanness of our children and ourselves.  We all have days when we feel slow, or sensitive, or restless, and so do our children.  Homeschooling gives us the freedom to adjust; to have a lazy morning when someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed or to go on a morning adventure walk when the children are buzzing with energy.  We don't have to fit into a mold, to accomplish that day's activities no matter what.