Sunday, December 25, 2011

Can I Blame Gary Chapman?

Christmas Day is over.  Christmas itself, of course, is never over, because even after all the gifts have been opened, the carols have been sung, the family has been visited, the meals have been eaten (and eaten... and eaten... and re-eaten as sandwiches for the next three days), and the general bloating has subsided, there are still wonderful memories to cherish... and if you're lucky, new toys to play with.  But today, 12/25/11 (or 25/12/11, if you don't live in the USA), is pretty well over.

The kids made out like bandits.  They always do.  Oz and I spoiled each other rotten, as we always do.

We visited the apartment shared by two of my brothers-in-law for dinner today.  They and my mother-in-law cooked dinner, and we all stuffed ourselves silly.  After dinner came the visiting, the gifts, more visiting, dessert, more visiting, and finally the good-byes before we packed up and headed over to my dad's house for yet another round of family get-togetherness.

By the time we got home around 8:45 tonight, we were all tired.  Exhausted.  Worn the heck out.

Oh, except for M2.

She was still as chipper as the moment that we left the house at 11:30 this morning, if not more so.  And after great deliberation, I have worked out why Christmas is so wonderful for her and an actual pain in the [insert body part here... Oz has a sore lower back and legs, I have a sore back and neck, and M1 has a headache] for the rest of us.

1.  She's an extrovert.  M1, Oz and I are introverts.

2.  Her love language is quality time.

When I read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, it cleared up a lot of things for me, but sometimes I still have to go back and say to myself, "OH!  DUH!  That's why this is hard for me but easy for so-and-so." In our household, everyone has a different love language.  M2 loves quality time (with a secondary language of physical touch).  M1 loves words of affirmation (secondary quality time or gifts... I haven't quite decided yet).  Oz loves physical touch (secondary quality time).  And me?  Well, like I said, I'm an acts-of-service kind of girl (secondary words of affirmation... and quality time, if I can get it).  I think many moms are acts-of-service types. And these folks know that Christmas is a logistical nightmare. It's the toughest time I face every year, bar none.

Christmas is an extremely stressful time for everyone.  I know that.  It's incredibly busy, and there are so many stressors that can cause this whole merry season to turn sour, but I honestly believe that those who have acts of service as their primary love language have it the toughest.  This could be a skewed perspective, I realize, but if I leave even one person unsatisfied, then I haven't done my job, and I feel it.  I feel incredible guilt until I can do something nice for that person to make the guilt go away.  Not to mention I feel pressured to find the perfect gift for everyone, do all the holiday traditions, make sure that everyone else's holiday needs are fulfilled before mine, and just generally make the holiday season bright for all those around me.

I'll be honest... I'm really not sure how many more years I can keep it up.  As it is, I start stressing about Christmas sometime around August!  In my head, I'm supposed to be doing something every minute of every day.  It's almost impossible for me to slow down this time of year.  This is why when I arrived at the apartment today, it took all of 10 minutes for me to invite myself into the kitchen and help with the last of the meal preparations.  That's how I show love.  I do.  I hate buying gifts, because I'm absolutely horrible at picking things out for people and gifts are tied for dead last on my love language list.  My idea of a gift is cleaning someone else's house or taking them out to dinner because I'm doing something for them, not just handing them something and wandering off.  I buy gifts because I want to participate in the tradition, but shopping is not fun for me.  I give hugs to those who want them because some people really dig the whole physical touch thing and I try to cater to their needs, too.  I sit down and chat with those who love quality time because I know that's important to them, and I really do love a good chat.  I'm not great at words of affirmation (poor M1), but I try to at least write little notes in the Christmas cards that I send out.

So, this Christmas, I hope that everyone's needs were met.  And if they weren't?  I apologize.  Hopefully I'll make it up to you sometime during 2012! (Let's do lunch.  My treat.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reverb Days... Whatever

Since I've skipped about a week, I'm only going to pick a couple here today:

1.  What was your best "nature" moment this year?
This is my blog, so my definitions apply, and I'm going to assume that this 'nature' definition doesn't involve The Great Outdoors.  I've had some major discoveries about the natures of both children this year.  My first big discovery was that M2 isn't anything like M1.  In a way I knew this, but in another way, I didn't.  I've always known that M1 would work in a field of science someday.  There's not a single shred of doubt in my mind that one day he'll work in research (or R&D) somewhere and love, love, love his job.  M2?  I don't know.  She doesn't know.  And because her nature isn't like M1's, she's okay with that.  And I have to accept that she'll work it out on her own someday.  Because she will.

My other favorite 'nature' moment was discovering that M1 has a quiet streak.  You'd think I would have known this, but I didn't.  When he's not medicated, he can't NOT talk.  His mouth is flapping 24/7.  And there are days when it still does, even on meds, but the meds give him the ability to shut up once in a while.  I find this lovely.


2.  Did you discover that someone in your family has a talent that had previously gone unnoticed?
M2 definitely has a talent for making people feel better.  I don't think I should discount this talent at all, just as I don't discount M1's talent for riling up a room full of kids just by walking into it.  People feel better after talking to M2.  She can even take adults under her wing and comfort them.  I have to be careful about when and where she uses this talent, though, because she tends to internalize a lot of the pain and cry about it later.


3.  Did you retire any favorite curricula, books or toys this year?
Ahh... yes.  Yes, we did.  M1 got rid of the last of his plastic bugs and Hot Wheels just this past weekend.  M2 gave her Legos to M1 because she realized that she didn't really care for them.  All of the 'easy' puzzles have disappeared from the house (with the one exception of a Winnie the Pooh puzzle) along with most of the 'easy' books.  They wanted to retire all the Dr. Seuss books, but I put the kibosh on that.  Just because the kids are growing up doesn't mean Dr. Seuss will ever disappear.  Some things have to stay forever!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Chain Gang

Every year, the kids look forward to making the Christmas chain.  It's just your typical countdown chain made out of paper, but I make sure to write a little something to do on each and every link.  Some days, like today, the link will read, "Watch Christmas movies" (they selected Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer today, though M2 had a secondary vote for Santa Claus is Coming to Town) or "Sing Christmas carols."  Some days we do big stuff like driving around town to see Christmas lights.  

No matter what's written, though, the kids really look forward to getting up in the morning and checking the chain.


They especially look forward to days where they can do the day's deed in their pajamas.


So when day 1 was "Drink hot cocoa on the porch," M1 insisted on being in pajamas.


My toothless little girl was still in her school clothes, though.


It was good cocoa.  Marshmallows, whipped cream, and sprinkles always make it even better.


On day 2, we put up the tree.  M1 can put the star on top all by himself now.  It's a big leap away from the little guy who had to be lifted up and helped only a few years ago.


Day 3?  M2 had her violin recital.  She screwed up!  And didn't melt!  This is huge.


One day this last week, the kids and I made pinecone bird feeders to hang on our tree outside.  They really enjoy doing this.  They love mixing the shortening and peanut butter and schmearing it on the pinecones that they have selected all by themselves from the pine trees outside (notice the pajamas have returned?).


They love rolling it in the birdseed...


... and really enjoy trying to hold on to the ribbon with their oily little fingers as they make the mad dash across the living room to the front door.

The birds have appreciated the 'gifts,' and most of the treats have disappeared already.  I think next week we might pick up some apples and cranberries and make a string of those to hang on the tree.

The best part of the chain for me is seeing their delighted faces each morning.  It's one of those things that I can hold onto forever, knowing that we're making some awesome memories together.  Their childhood really does fly by too quickly.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Poetry

As much as I love reading and writing prose, I'm not nearly as much a fan of poetry.  It may have something to do with my only real exposure to the genre being my sophomore high school English teacher, who was a rabid Emily Dickinson fan.  Seriously.  She dressed up.

Anyway, with her leading the charge, we parsed and analyzed poems within mere inches of our lives.  Some days it was touch and go.  I should also add that much of this analysis had to happen while on a charter bus to and from Arizona because the poetry unit landed square in the middle of Fiesta Bowl season, and assignment due dates waited for no band member.

It got ugly.

Because I'm trying to master my own Poetry PTSD and don't want to pass it along to my kids, M1 and I spent several days this week playing with poems.  The first thing that I did was print off these poetic/literary device cards.  Yay for DOING something from Pinterest!  Then I determined what kinds of poems that M1 and I were going to look at this week.  Kathimitchell.com was a major help to me in that regard.  Some of the 'poetry' made me kinda go, "Ka-wha...???" but some of them I found to be helpful.

First, M1 and I talked about alliteration and imagery.  We discussed how poems typically describe things, not narrate.  We talked a little bit about rhyme and a little bit about rhythm, and then I pulled out an acrostic poem sheet.  I asked M1 if he could make his own poem and use alliteration in it somewhere.  Obligingly, he wrote this:

GHOSTS
Glowing brightly with white light,
Hapless me they give a fright
Opening doors closer to me and 
Slamming them with a bang,
Toppling towering toys with glee.
Safely I go back to my bed (to wake up next morning with that ghost in my head).

He may also have been proud of his use of onomatopoeia, which was another term we touched upon.

After he finished his acrostic poem, I brought out a page about haiku, which we did together.  I asked him to try to keep it about nature, and he chose clouds as his subject.

The sky is clouded.
They are sinister and dark.
Rain is on the way.

The following day, we reviewed the definitions and added 'idiom' and 'personification' to his literary device vocabulary.  Then he wrote a cinquain.  I asked him to try to personify something with his poem, and he happily wrote this:

Snowman
Funny, happy,
Likes falling over.
Cold hands, warm heart.
Friend.

For the final day of our poetry unit (he was having way too much fun at this point, and I'd saved what I considered the best for last), I pulled out the limerick.  He had a little bit of trouble at first because of the rhythm, but once we got it down (and with a little bit of help from another web site), he made his own limerick.  I quite like it myself.

There once was a Corgi named Bump
Who liked to sit in a lump.
He jumped to his feet
For a piece of meat
And fell to the floor with a thump.

With that, our poetry unit ended.  He had fun.  He doesn't hate poetry.  WIN!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Not Cured, But...

I'm in a much better mood than I was yesterday.  For one thing, my head isn't threatening to explode.  For another, I've released myself from the expectation that M1 is going to function.  It's nearly 10 a.m., and he's just begun writing.  He's crouched behind the coffee table, manically twisting his hair, rocking, and going, "SHH. SHH. SHH. SHH. SHH. SHH. SHH. SHH. SHH. SHH," over... and over... and over.  Oh, wait, we just got an answering squawk to a cat howling at the back door to be let out.  Perhaps I should release the obnoxious cat and see if that red-tailed hawk which has been eyeing the chickens...

Never mind.

At this rate, M1 will get done with school sometime around 3 p.m., which doesn't work when he has a swimming lesson at noon and swim team practice at 2 and I really, really need to try to fit in a couple of errands in between.

I hereby absolve myself of any educational responsibility for the rest of the day.

There.  That feels better.

I got 10.5 hours of sleep last night, more or less, which probably has a lot to do with my New and Improved Mood.  Both kids were conked clean out by 7:30, despite their protestations of "I'm NOT tired!" and "Mom, I can't go to sleep."  I sipped a mug of warm apple cider, read a few chapters of a book, and put myself to bed at 8.  It was glorious.  Poor DH got home around 12:30 a.m. and was out the door by 6:30 a.m., so I missed him both ways, which I hate, but I think the sleep was worth it.  I still have the potential for a major grump-fest lurking in my system, but I don't quite feel like I'm perched on the edge of a cliff waiting for someone to show up so I can shove them off.

This is probably a good thing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let's Play!

Today's post is brought to you by my really crappy mood.  Hang on, folks... it's rant time.

Have you ever... had one of those days where you know you got up on the right side of the bed, because your spouse was taking up his 2/3 of the bed and you couldn't possibly have gotten out on the wrong side anyway... and yet the day decides to frisk and molest you like a rogue TSA agent with a power trip and a boner?

Have you ever... watched three people walk straight by the pile of cat urp on the carpet because clearly it's invisible to every being in the house except you and the old cat, and the old cat thinks you left it there as a delectable breakfast?

Have you ever... wished you could sink through the floor when your son starts making some of his infamous noises... right behind a person who clearly has some psychological/developmental issues of their own and is also making noises... and who gives you a look that says, plain as day, 'STOP YOUR KID FROM MAKING FUN OF ME...' but you're stuck there because it's the vet's office and kind of have to pay before you can bail and you somehow know that an explanation is NOT going to make things better?

Have you ever... watched your son hop through the house like a deranged lemur, realized that no good school is gonna happen, proposed the cessation of said school, and then watched Deranged Lemur Boy go off half-cocked because OMG YOU PROPOSED SOMETHING THAT WASN'T ON THE SCHEDULE?

Have you ever... realized you should have listened to your instincts rather than picking up the other child early from school because you're sick and tired of the phone calls from the front office informing you that your child has come in (yet again) complaining of a sore throat and cough and sniffles... but when you arrive, there's no fever and she's grinning like a Cheshire cat?

Have you ever... tried to run errands with an impending migraine and two kids on a December afternoon when one of them claims to feel ill and wants to climb you like a tree and the other has the maturity and mental stability of a honey badger on PCP?

Have you ever... ordered pizza at 4 p.m. because maybe the instigation of the dinner/bedtime routine will make it all stop?

I think I quit now.  Someone tell me when it's January.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reverb Days 4, 5, and 6

So I'm not keeping up with this very well.  Daily blogging ain't happening during December, no matter how much I try.  There's just too much to keep up with!  I'll be posting a bunch of photos later this week, but for now, REVERB 2011:

Question #4:  What was your family's biggest blessing in 2011?


Answer:  No surgery.  It sounds ridiculous, but that's a big one.  In 2003, when M1 was three months old, he had his first surgery.  In 2005, I had M2 (not really surgery, but it still involved a hospital stay) and M1 had another surgery.  In 2006, M2 had surgery; in 2007, it was M1's turn again.  We skipped a couple of years after that, and I thought we were done when the children inflicted the Infamous Earberry Incident upon us last year.  The fact that we've gone more than 12 months without surgery is a wonderful blessing.  It meant we got to take a family vacation, which was long overdue!


Question #5:  What was the best science experiment you did in 2011?


M1, who is the guru of all things science in this house, isn't entirely sure, but I know he really liked making red cabbage juice and playing with it (and discovering that boiling cabbage releases sulfur, too).  His favorite experiments, though, probably have to do with his snap circuits and other electrical sets.  He loves building things out of them to see if or how they work.

Question #6:  What was your or your children's favorite Art project from the 2011 homeschool year?


M1 LOVED learning how to use a grid to draw things to a larger or smaller scale.  That makes perfect sense to me and to him, because he got to use his analytical brain to provide him with a framework for his art.  I'll admit, too, that the finished product was one of his better projects.  And it's always good to know that somewhere deep down, he does like art.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reverb 2011, Days 2 and 3

OK, so life tends to get in the way of me doing this every day, but let's see if I can answer days 2 and 3 in one post and not make a novel out of it:

Reverb Question #2:  What was the best new resource that you found in 2011? Book, website, local support group, or other? How did it help in your homeschooling journey?


Hmmm... this is a hard one.  I really, really like our new science curriculum, Elemental Science, but I think my best new 'resource' isn't even a resource.  For writing this year, I've more or less been making my own curriculum, and I couldn't be happier.  Now, I'm still using a workbook for some parts of writing - some of the basics - but I've been doing a lot of the instruction on my own, basing it simply on experience, 'what he needs to know,' and his desires.  This week, for instance, we're working on comma usage.  Then we're going to do a poetry unit.  Using this... can I even call it a method?... I think he's absorbing so much, and I'm thrilled at my own ability and confidence to create this subject in a way that he and I can both enjoy it.

All that being said, having some good homeschooling friends is one of the best things ever, and I'm grateful for them, too!


Reverb Question #3:  If you could have one moment  that you could do differently in 2011, what would that moment be?


Y'know, I'm not quite sure how to answer this.  If I look at it from a homeschooling aspect, I would probably have started our current math book earlier and left him work through the end of the old one in between other lessons.  The way Math-U-See is structured, there are some really tough lessons one after another at the end of the book followed by several really easy lessons at the beginning of the next; a good mix would have been a better fit.

I could also answer this from a general perspective.  In that case, I know I've stuck my foot in my mouth several times and wish that I could go back and keep my mouth shut!

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Hope everyone is staying warm and dry.  I'm still grateful for the rain, because it's definitely better than a drought, but gosh it is making for a drab, gray weekend.  Off to avoid Bedlam and read a good book!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reverb 2011, Day One

I didn't do the 'I'm thankful for X' leading up to Thanksgiving.  I personally believe that being thankful is something that happens year-round and doesn't need extra attention just because of an impending holiday.  I know it means a lot to a lot of people to verbalize all their blessings, and I have enjoyed reading their posts, but I think that living with graciousness and gratitude goes a lot farther than posting a daily announcement somewhere.

My opinion.  I have one.  It may not be yours.  I'm thankful for that.

Anyway, despite my aversion to this November tradition, I do enjoy the idea of wrapping up the year in December.  To that end, when I read Rebel Homeschool's idea for wrapping up 2011, I thought, "Ya know... it's so crazy it just might work!"

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REVERB 2011, DAY ONE:

The question:  Did you have a turning point in 2011? A point where homeschooling became easier, or conversely, more difficult? 

Did your circumstances, your mindset or your child/children's mindset suddenly click into a new groove with a certain subject or with your homeschooling routine? 
Did unexpected life circumstances throw up new obstacles? Maybe you and yours had more than one turning point. . .

The answer:

I think the turning point for us came prior to that, back when we restarted ADHD medications for M1.  Prior to that, I had been constantly having to rethink school - how it was being done, whether this was something I could do, whether it was something even M1 could do.  Once we started the medication, it all just got so much easier!  He was able to articulate the problems, understand things better, and even initiate changes for himself.  He also loves his schedule that he created (by the way, we talked, and the only change he really wants is to add some computer-based math games to the agenda now and then) and it's made our schedule much easier to handle.

It's been a good year of homeschooling in this aspect.  Can't wait to see what the Reverb will be for tomorrow!