Post away! What are you up to? Triumphs, tribulations, day-in-the-life, ponderings ....
What movie? We watch Miracle on 34th street every year but I wouldn't mind trying a new one …
dd joined "Distributed Proofreaders" - it is a site that has pages of books that need to be proofread in order to be put online. You are expected to do a page a day. As a beginner you get feedback from the others, etc. So far she likes it.
We are also trying to grow avocados from seed. My mom did it and it took more than a month for anything to happen at all, so right now we are just letting the seed sit in a jar, half submerged in water.
We were traveling a bit last week and meeting some of my aunts and uncles whom we don't see often. It was fun on the whole but also a bit of a challenge because she gets irritated very easily. Someone says something that they think is funny, or they ask too many questions in a row (which could be even 2 questions, if she hasn't finished processing the first one), or any number of innocent comments which she takes the wrong way. Now that she is 10 I think she should learn to deal with this kind of thing rather than depending on me to step in to bridge communication gaps / generation gaps, etc. I tell her that different people have different ways of communicating, no one is trying to be mean, they haven't seen you in a long time and are just trying to make conversation - she likes conversation. I also tell her that language is by nature inexact - because she has a tendency to pick on little worlds and phrases.
As she is an only child I still do a lot of things for her that I probably wouldn't if there were younger ones to tend to. So I have consciously tried to encourage her to do things without making it seem like I am rushing her to grow up. Growing up is definitely not on her priority list (except when it is).
She has read Life of Fred in the past but never done the problems. This time we got one (pre-alg 1) and she has been doing every page. At the beginning she was zooming through it, now has slowed a bit. Let's see. She is also part of a book club with a monthly discussion. This month's book, Robin Hood, took her a long time to get into but now that she has started it, she likes it. We aren't in the US right now, and did not have a great choice of editions - I got the Henry Gilbert edition after reading some reviews. Later I learned that Barefoot Books has an edition as well -- I love their books. And it is shorter and probably uses simpler language. But would be expensive to order here. Anyway, for now she is reading this one.
Fiona (10) is making plans for her birthday. She, unlike her siblings, ever, is wanting to have an actual party with lots of friends invited. Problem is that her friends are all over the map in terms of age and interests. So we hit on a neat plan. We'll rent a local gallery space and a couple of DVDs and have a double-bill movie night. The first movie will be something intended for the 4- through 10-year-old kids and any of their parents who might like to come. We'll serve popcorn and punch. We'll time so the first show ends at, I dunno, 8:15 or something, which is when any of her older friends who don't want to see the first show will arrive. We'll have a 45-minute party-intermission with cake and ice cream and social time. And then the little kids will go home to bed, and the bigger kids can watch something more PG13-ish, with more popcorn and pop.
Our village doesn't have a movie theatre, but there used to be community movie nights that tons of kids and teens would go to. Those ended last summer due to lack of funding and organization, and lots of kids miss them, so I think her friends would really like this.
She had a happy violin lesson, which emotionally turned on a dime when she and her teacher sight-read through some nice contemplative-sounding duets. She's working on the Csardas by Monti as well, a really fun piece which against all odds had not inspired her. But the duets flicked the Happy Switch in her head and she emerged from the lesson motivated and excited about the violin for the first time in a couple of months.
We're in a really nice place at home the past couple of days; her teenaged siblings are happy and unstressed, and that's playing out with more willing and gracious interaction with Fiona. She's spent some lovely quality time with each of them recently. Her brother spent a couple of hours this afternoon showing her a bunch of his favourite a capella groups and some of the other music he's planning to arrange. She and her sister have been baking Christmas treats together; despite some sparks yesterday over whether the chocolate was tempering properly, things have been pretty giggly-happy most of the time. They've made marbled chocolate almond bark, cranberry-white-chocolate biscottini, pfefferneuse and penuche. I've done a few batches of other things, so we are well stocked.
And we are enjoying a new tradition each evening as a family. We have a potted spruce tree hung with 32 varieties of loose-leaf tea, and every evening from December 1 to January 1 we are brewing a pot to enjoy together. We're a family of tea-drinkers, and this is simple and ritualistic in a lovely, low-key way.
Rumi, thanks for mentioning Distributed Proofreaders, I'll have to check that out! Do you have an e-book reader of any sort? I would think that would make it much easier getting access to inexpensive books. Unfortunately Barefoot doesn't seem to publish ebooks, probably because of the type of publishing they do (eg. the illustrations being so integral to the presentation). But although I held out for quite a while on an ebook reader, I bought a $40 model last summer and have been really impressed with how it facilitates some things that are quite difficult or awkward with real books. Like getting specific books quickly and affordably when you don't live anywhere near a bookstore or library that would carry them. I've easily saved $40 twice over on the cost of books and shipping.
Speaking of books, the paper kind, I did my first on-line order in many months because I wanted a couple of print books I could give away or loan out, and on a whim I ordered yet another book about learning ASL, since Fiona had expressed a brief interest in this last summer which had almost immediately fizzled despite the fact that we already have a couple of books about it. The new one sat on the hearth for a couple of weeks. Yesterday she picked it up in a moment of boredom, and suddenly she's all about sign language. That wouldn't have happened with an ebook, I'm sure!
Sounds like a neat party, Miranda. Long, but fun, if your dd can sit through 2 movies :lol.
I've not gotten used to reading online and neither has dd. We still get regular books, which is so easy when you have access to a public library but very difficult when you don't - not only are fewer books available, but it is expensive to buy all of them and there is no place to keep all of them. I am weeding books (and clothes) as we speak.
But I should probably familiarize myself with the whole e-reader thing. Resistance is futile, I suppose.
Plus you are so right about picking up a long neglected book. If I remember one thing clearly about my childhood, it is being in a house surrounded by bookshelves and books in almost every room. It was a key attribute of our sense of place, sense of home, sense of being there (am I making sense?).
Also, I still associate going to bed with turning everything off and just curling up with a book. Can't do that if you have the computer / equivalent still "on."
Anyway, this all must sound terribly old fashioned to many of you but there it is. The money saving factor might finally tempt me though.
Rumi, we watched The Muppet's Christmas Carol. We will def. do Frosty and Rudolph at some point. Not sure what else we will watch. I am trying to dig up good ones. We are really starting to enjoys movies together as a family here. Last year we went through all the Studio Ghibli movies and that was fabulous.
Miranda, whoa! Your kids can bake. No bakers here except for bread here. Maybe someday :)
dd(6) and I recently found a program for learning Spanish called fluencia. She really loved it and it helped her realize how good she is at Spanish already. It makes her more confident to want to learn more...which is really good for her, because she's the perfectionist type who constantly says she doesn't know how to do things at all, if she doesn't do them perfectly, in her eyes. I've also noticed because it is so visual, it's been helping her to learn to read/spell in English and Spanish. I wasn't sure how I would get her to read in Spanish, since it's hard enough just getting her to believe she can read in English, but with this program it's working pretty naturally in both languages at once.
We've also been watching the show Salsa with dd(3) from PBS. It's a great show, it's all online (about 100 episodes) and I've never seen it on TV. They also have the transcripts and activities for each episode.
dd(6) has been helping with cleaning after a couple of weeks where the both of them were going through some serious messiness. She's been sleeping in her bed and saying some nasty things to me at bedtime, then getting upset with herself and changing her story before going to sleep. It's interesting how sleep has always been an interesting thing for her, about 2 years ago she would get hysterical every night before bed. We've come a long way.
Both girls have been playing on starfall.com and I've cracked down on TV again. Things are so much more peaceful and creative in the house when they don't watch TV...or Disney channel. We have watched a few nature shows on PBS and (I think) Discovery.
We've been going through some toy catalogs and talking about commercialism, marketing, manufacturing, etc. as well as making the kids lists of things they'd like and what they aim to learn from the toys they want. Well this was more a conversation between dd(6) that she actually brought up.
We've been learning the lyrics to some songs and practicing singing them together.
Snowflakes are a great idea. I really need to figure out how to make some so we can do them together over here.
That is indeed a good idea. dd(6) has been growing a lot emotionally over the past few days. I should say that I am too, in talking with her more about the issues going on and not getting upset about it. Today I decided (since I've been working a lot lately with deadlines) to let them watch a Dora DVD. Before that they needed to put their toys and shoes away. They took care of the stuff in the bedroom so I put the DVD on, but when I went out into the living room there were tons all over the place.
I told them that they were supposed to put that stuff away and that I wanted to pause the DVD but since we lost the remote I can't. dd(6) came to me gave me a hug and said she was sorry. She also informed me that she would put the toys away tonight and that I could "pay" her tomorrow, saying she promised to fold all the clothes. She said, "you can pay and I will put the toys away tonight", and I said I will...she said it made her happy! Well, that makes me very happy that she's taking responsibility for her actions.
I don't know exactly where this phrase for "paying her" comes from, but I think we'll stick with it for now. I guess in a way I am paying her by giving her the responsibility for her actions. I have to be honest that during those few messy weeks, I was more getting upset and yet not making any actions to improve things.
Just wanted to share this, because I feel really good about it. I feel like having a lack of support and understanding is huge in why I sometimes give up on my parenting style, but since I've been reading this site again and recently started posting again, things are getting better already. :)
The tea tree:
We bought 4.5" quilting squares in a multi-pack of Christmas prints. Each contains about a Tablespoon and a half of loose tea wrapped in a bit of cling wrap and then the fabric, cinched with some embroidery floss. We sewed the embroidery floss in a circle inside the perimeter of the fabric square, like a little drawstring, which is such a simple sewing task that would be great first sewing project for a 5-year-old.
We have a pretty big tea collection, but even we had to stretch a little to come up with 32 distinct teas. We ended up buying a few new ones and mixing up a few new blends of our own. There's a rooibos/cocao nibs/mint combination that worked really well, and I'm looking forward to trying the rose-petal/orange-peel/white tea blend.
To steep we use this cool pot that lets us appreciate the look of the tea:
Wow Miranda! Thanks so much for showing that. Definitely makes me wanna bring out the sewing machine, but I think this project will have to wait till spring at the earliest or maybe next winter. I'd love to do this now with the picture, I feel like I understand it better.
Today we're going to make story books (or zines) and go trail walking. Other than that we're looking for new apps and today the kids can watch PBS kids, since I have a deadline.
My unschooler is having one of those intensive weeks where everything piles on itself. It would be nice is we could space things out a little bit.
She's attending the public school's Dance Workshop intensive all week. It runs Monday to Friday 9 to 3. She's been wanting to work with this dance teacher for a couple of years and had things fall through repeatedly, so she's thrilled this is working out.
Monday and Tuesday I'm out of town with her siblings, so after school she'll walk 20 minutes to the Locum Apartment, a small apartment owned by the local health-care facility that is where they put up locum doctors who provide relief for the two full-timers (dh and another guy). Dd is the housekeeper for the apartment, which was just vacated on the weekend, so she'll do some cleaning, and then she'll practice violin and just chill until her dad gets off work at 6-ish. Then he'll bring her home and they'll figure something out for supper. She'll need lots of sleep this week because of the relatively early mornings and all the physical activity during the day, so she's going to have to be pretty careful about her bedtimes.She'll have to make her own lunches and snacks during the first part of the week. And in the mornings she has to go an hang out at a café for 45 minutes until the school opens, as her dad can't drop her off any later. She's relishing the independence all this will afford.
On Wednesday I'm back home (we have a lunch date to "catch up"). She got herself hired at a local café as a dishwasher for a special dinner event that night, so she'll be busy from 5:30 to 8:30. So proud of her about this: she independently, unbeknownst to me, approached the proprietor and asked if there was any work available that night, and mentioned that she'd be happy to do dishes. So yeah, another job.
On Thursday she'll have to duck out of dance for half an hour to complete a block-printing T-shirt project at the homeschoolers' art class (thankfully held in the same building) and then back to dance, and then immediately after school finishes she'll head to the city for her evening 2.5-hour gymnastics class, home by about 10 pm. On Friday she'll have a violin lesson after school and then she's off to be an apprentice babysitter for the evening (of a baby, helping her sister). I think she'll be ready to sleep for 24 hours straight on the weekend. She'll make $50 or so for her various jobs, which she's got allocated for Christmas shopping.
Sometimes I feel badly about having her cherry-pick so relentlessly from the local school's offerings. But heck, they school district gets funding for her, and this is working for her. Not only does it allow her to take advantage of the best-fitting components of the school's offerings, but it tends to come in intense snatches like this which show her just exactly how tiring it is to try to fit in school hours and also continue with the other things she likes to do. She'll no doubt emerge from the week thrilled but exhausted and wanting at least a week with lazy mornings and lots of chill time in front of the fire and puttering around the house.
Christmas always brings out the busyness in our family. There is the rituals with bringing out the window lights and decorations. Then we get the tree from the tree farm, singing an improvised version of "Oh Christmas Tree" ("Oh ___ Oh ___/ thou art so green and love-rly...."). I adjust the lights just so, put my favorite ornaments towards the top, and let my girls have the rest of the tree. I take the girls separately out for Christmas shopping. It's fun to see them planning their own Christmas surprises for the family, now they are older. We make a "countdown calendar" chain. We shop for gingerbread house candy.
Yesterday I mixed up the dough, and today rolled it out. They had wanted to help, but they've been playing together fairly well and wanted to do that instead. I baked it up and rolled the scraps. This year I cut out ornaments for the tree, and then the girls did come over to make some of their own custom ornaments. Made the royal icing and glued the house together, then put on the candy. We all got our fair share of leftovers. This year we used up every scrap of dough--the last bits I sculpted into trees--and the last of the icing, glopped onto the "ground" and sprinkled with jelly beans and candy rocks. twisted up some candy-stripe yarn to tie up the cookie ornaments. With all the candy canes--real and beaded, made at 4-H--and the cookies, this is the most beautiful tree ever.
The weather, the weather, the weather...... pretty strange. No, not strange if I hadn't just spent Thanksgiving Day with the windows thrown open. Several days of below freezing day and night, starry nights, icy ponds and puddles, sunshine, finally snow. DH has been home a lot. He can't work in frozen soil, so everything gets crammed and suddenly our days leading up to Christmas are intensely busy.
The girls are started to fight better. (Snort! I'm so glad you ladies will understand that without explanation!) It was getting worse than ever for a while, but we've been working some things out, the girls are becoming more articulate and while the fights still happen, we are talking through them. They are each acknowledging hurt feelings, and I've even heard some spontaneous apologies. Yes, a new system of stars is helping ease the transition. I am so desperate, I don't even feel like that might be a cop-out. I really couldn't care less.
DD2 continues to spontaneously create anything and everything that comes to her head. She finally made some jewelry from the beads I bought them for Christmas years ago. DD1 is less prolific, but even she has been working on snowflakes and Christmas ornaments. And lists. Always those lists.
I am enjoying the spaciousness of time, fitting in some yoga and some walks. Bought myself a blaze orange hat for my walks in the woods. DH bought me a traffic vest I requested for Christmas (shhhh! I'm not supposed to know!) I feel a bit safer being so visible.
The temps are warming up, thankfully without storms or ice. I think the *calmness* of the weather in the NW is what stands out to me the most.
Sorry for the lack of editing, I scrunched this post in before bedtime.
ETA some pictures:
Our gingerbread house has two front doors. The girls made the gingerbread signs (I'm tickled that dd1 did all the tying!)
Lastly, a couple of the ornaments I made for the tree. The star in the background is also a cookie.
Who are these kids????
Heard in the back of the car: "That's so frustrating! You hurt my feelings" and "Well, mango isn't my favorite, but I know you like it."
DD1 is "practicing for when she turns 10". Just at the brink, as she is complaining of nothing to do, she has also started sketching and planning bake sales and planning on how she can take on more responsibility. It's like I go from swimming in the deep amongst the sharks, to dry warm land with fresh water and a complimentary buffet and deluxe suite. I'm dizzy and disoriented. Not sure what to do, but I am sure as shootin' going to reserve a table at the next bazaar. I am encouraging her to price her goods so we don't pay out to hold a bake sale.
Went swimming today, after our housekeeping day. They make $7 and $10 helping me at my client's. They are suddenly in love with saving money as their stash grows. At swimming, they plopped faces in the water, swam fairly well. DD1 is exploring how much she can learn without going so far as putting her head in the water.
She asked for an American Girl doll for her birthday, so she can practice taking care of hair. She likes her new bathing suit, and was happy that it looked like all the other girls at the pool, because she says she likes "fitting in", not being more plain nor more flashy.
DD2 just poured herself some juice.
Who are these kids?????
Well, the week of dance is over. A couple of short rehearsals next Monday and Tuesday, then a performance Tuesday evening. She soldiered enthusiastically through all the training and the late nights and the sleep deprivation but by the time dance wrapped up today (the last day) it was time to come home and crash. I cancelled her violin lesson, and she stayed at home rather than go babysitting with her sister. I don't think she moved out of the tub chair in the living room from 3:30 pm until bedtime, except to eat dinner.
So... dance. Four years ago at age 6 Fiona did a one-day workshop in baroque (historical) dance for music students. She loved it, and after doing the program for her age-group she joined in with the teens too. We've tried over and over to find her dance workshops or classes to do but to no avail. Finally this week she did the immersion dance elective for high schoolers. The average age in the class was 16 but by virtue of some creative school district / homeschoool paperwork we were able to get her in, and it worked out really well.
I'm feeling sad, though, because when I picked her up this afternoon at the conclusion of the workshop, it was exactly the same situation that happened at the end of the baroque dance workshop years ago: the instructor, a former professional dancer in both cases, pulled me aside and said "You need to get that kid some dance instruction. Really. Need. To."
I brushed the episode when she was 6 off. Back then it seemed like she impressed adults with everything she tried. She was tiny, cute, smart, focused and eager. We were hearing all about her immense potential from her violin, piano and aikido instructors too. I knew dance wouldn't work for us where we lived. We were driving 6 to 16 hours a week already for the older kids and for her aikido and violin, and I knew we'd have to drive another 3-4 hours for every single day of dance ... and that would quickly become 3 or 5 days a week. It was logistically impossible.
But when this happens twice, years apart, with the only two dance experiences your child has ever had, with completely different instructors and totally different dance approaches, you have to wonder. Wonder what might have been if you'd been able to nurture that potential they see in her. I feel sad that she has grown up in an area where she doesn't have access to dance classes. As the teacher said today: "She's got the flexibility, the stamina, the strength, the musicality and sense of rhythm and flow, incredible focus and such motivation! All that's missing is the learning to dance, and that she gobbles up so fast."
If only we'd lived somewhere else. If only we'd found a way. I have this recurring thought: dance would have been Her Thing just the way violin is my eldest dd's thing, but Fiona hasn't had access to the opportunities that she needs to develop her passion. (I realize she's still just 10, and there are probably a few examples of great dancers who didn't start training until that age. But in our case I can't see things changing. Not enough, anyway.)
The good news is that the woman who did the Dance Elective this week (the new high school English teacher and a former dancer) is going to offer a weekly after-school dance class in the New Year. It's for high schoolers, and it'll focus a fair bit on hip-hop, but she wants Fiona to be part of it, and has changed the schedule in order to accommodate her. It won't be much, and it won't make up for the years of not learning ballet and jazz and all that, but it's something.