Saturday, September 29, 2012

Kisses and Catfish

Olive has a ridiculous habit.  She has done this since she learned to talk.  It is her way of whining, of complaining, of just letting us all know that the words that she is saying should be taken in the grumpiest way possible.  She speaks words, but they sound like, well, a catfish.  If anyone has ever fished for catfish, you know that they "talk".  It is creepy and just plain disturbing to hear.  Olive makes this croaking sound with her throat as she cr-o-a-k-s the words out.  I   w-a-n-t   c-h-o-c-o-l-a-t-e   m-i-i-i-i-i-l-k-k-k-k.  It's absurd.

The other morning, Jeff was leaving for work at the crack of dawn and, of course, our little early riser was up.  She gets up before the sun, stomping through the house in the dark, speaking at volume 11, announcing that she has to pee-pee, and demanding for food, drink, and entertainment.  "You need to get uuuupppppp!"  To make matters worse, she chooses one phrase, like "I need Dora" and then repeats it, in the same tone and at the same speed... over. and. over.  Gah.  On this particular morning, Olive was even up early enough to see Daddy before he left for his long commute.

Jeff asked Olive for kisses, repeatedly.  "N-o-o-o", she croaked in her grumpy-frog-catfish voice.  He insisted, "Come give me some kisses!".  She informed him that he would be unsuccessful.  "NO!  I will kiss MYSELF!"  He continued, telling her that he wanted lots and lots of kisses.  Obviously, she has some negotiation skills, as she gave just a little.  "NOT lots of kisses." she said, firmly.  "Only two."

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Reluctant Book Worm

Anyone who knows Addison know that he is a reader.  He's not just a kid who likes to read... he reads rapidly, and I do not think that he processes written language in the same way that I do.  I don't know if he actually reads left to right... it is more like a full page absorption, with an amazingly high comprehension and retention.  He soaks it up like a sponge in a speedboat.

Over the summer, Addison read his textbooks for the upcoming year.  He also read four other years of history texts.  Specifically, he read "The Story of the World", which is a homeschool curriculum that begins with the first civilizations in volume 1 and provides a detailed chronological "story" of the history of the world, ending with modern times (through 9/11) in volume 4.  He read all 4 volumes... in less than 2 months.  Now, when anyone mentions any history topic, he has an interesting bit of information to add, because he read it.  When we went to Inman Farm Heritage Days and learned about moonshine stills, he informed us about prohibition and the problems that it caused.

(I have to tell a side story about Addison.  One day last week, my boys were riding home with a very good friend.  They were all talking in the van about what they would wish for if they had 3 wishes.  Their friend had some very good wishes, and the last one was "for more wishes", as any good hypothetical wish story would go.  Asa's first wish was that his friend Matthew, who moved away after last school year, would move back.  His next was a typical child wish of some flavor.  And, of course, his last was "for more wishes".  Addison's wishes were for everyone who needs a house to have a house, for everyone who needs food to have food to eat, and for the problem of our national debt to be solved.  That's my Addison.)

Now, Asa will read a book, but he sure doesn't like to.  I believe I have found a couple of books over the years that he really loves.  But, it is not easy.  One that he really fell in love with was "Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure".  I have been trying to find similar books that he would actually want to read, but to no avail.  Honestly, he is a normal, typical 9 year old boy.  He just happens to have a very academic brother, and twin to boot.  I do not compare, nor do I expect them to be the same.  They haven't been similar in many ways since birth!  Expecting Asa to love reading just because Addison does would be just like me assuming Addison should be able to take duct tape, chicken wire, a penny, string, and a paper towel roll, and make some kind of contraption that fries an egg.  Physics, engineering, and contraptions... those are Asa's passions.  However, as his mother and teacher, it is my job to get him to read more!

Tonight, I told him that he had to find something to read... and it couldn't be Calvin and Hobbes.  My three suggestions for books were busts, but Addison said that he had read one that he thought Asa might like.  It was a decent sized book, but not "big".  The cover had a crazy monster creature with sharp teeth, and the title was "The Reef of Death".  Yes, Addison, I believe you nailed it.

I got this book a while back in a pile of used books for young readers.  Addison had read it when his book pile ran dry.  It wasn't really his thing.  But, Asa picked it up and read for over 2 hours.  At 11:15pm, he came out of his room and insisted that I read 4 pages that were "really good".  "Really good" was debatable, but what was wonderful was his love for reading.

And so, I hit Amazon and ordered 6 used books by the authors of Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms and The Reef of Death.  The other Paul Zindel books were similar monster/adventure books, and Lissa Evans has other books with Horten as the main character.  I am crossing my fingers that these will fan the flames for him!  He doesn't have to want to read academic journals in his spare time, but he does need to try to learn to read for fun!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Inman Farm Heritage Days 2012

It's that time of year again!

We spent the weekend down on Minter's Farm for Inman Farm Heritage Days weekend.   Having your own personal shuttle that picks you up right outside your door and delivers you to BBQ and boiled peanuts is just plain AWESOME. This year, we had a booth set up for the homeschool class.

We had an agriculture exhibit for our program, displaying what the students have been working on in class. We took farm animal donations from our amazing farm friends, and raffled them to go toward our field trip fund! My main concern through all this was that I not be stuck with all of the donated animals. I had no idea how well something like this would work, but I figured that it would be a lot of fun... and that my agriculture class would be able to show off all that they have learned so far. Much to my surprise and delight, everything raffled off on the first day! Now I know... animals are a HIT!   The class made $185 toward the spring field trip, and we had a fabulous (albeit exhausting) weekend!

Addison particularly loved selling the tickets. He took up money, made change, and explained the raffle to the guests. It was definitely his cup of tea! Asa, as well as some of his classmates, did an awesome job explaining the act of disbudding to those who asked if the baby goats' horns were growing in. The kids jumped right in and explained that they were disbudded, and described how. They all really showed me that they DO pay attention in class!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

New Baby In Town

There is a new baby in town (ok, so not my town, but my family!), and boy, oh boy, is he CUTE!  I am madly in love with my brand new nephew, Tripp.  The kids have not met him yet, but they are already talking about him all the time.  It's so exciting for them to have a brand new cousin!  Ivey explained that Tripp can play with her and Olive when he gets bigger.  Olive is going to be ceramonially boxing up all of the diapers in the house to give to Tripp as a present.  She is basically pottytrained, but if she wears a diapers she goes in it!  So, we are taking a leap.  What better way to feel like a big kid than to pass down something to the new baby cousin?  She's not the baby anymore!

Watching my brother and sister-in-law enter into parenthood has brought back so many emotions for me.  It's been a while since it was all new for me.  It's been a while since that feeling of  "Oh my goodness, what on Earth are they doing just letting us take these babies home!"  It is often said, but oh so true... No one knows what they are doing as they enter that new realm.  They can read all they want, study up on the facts, talk to friends that they really trust, and everything else under the sun.  But, one that baby lands in your arms and your breath is taken away by the unmatched love, the gut-wrenching fear, and massive responsibility of making him or her the best him or her possible, that massive wheeled duffle bag you've carefully packed with wisdom looks more like a ZipLoc snack pack stuffed with a few slivers and scraps of sloppily written hunches, assumptions, and speculations.

It is just you, your spouse, your baby (or babies), and God.  You have periphery assistance, but it is up to you to know when to call on them.  All of those feelings, "Should I take him to the hospital?",  "Why is this poop yellow", "What do we say when people want to touch them and we're not ready?"  "Is he eating enough?", they go on and on.  We get better at them, but all we can truly do is educate ourselves so that we can wallow through the messy pediatric or neonatal medical realm and still gain some sort of respect needed to glean useful information from the powers that be... information that we will then have to put in place on our own.  While we shake in our boots.

As I talked to Jen and Hal about their new roles, I tried to let them know that friends, families, strangers... everyone giving advice are only experts of the situations that they lived through... of their own kids swaddled tight in the familiarity of their own families.  I am an expert at raising Asa, Addison, Ivey, and Olive.  I am absolutely NOT an expert at baby Tripp, or any other child that is not my own.  Doing it.  Trudging through.  Making mistakes.  Pulling your hair out.  Learning about (and embracing) your child's uniqueness.  Being flexible to meet needs of a changing child, changing feeding/sleep schedule, a changing family, etc.  These are the stepping stones that get us from that feeling of "I have no idea how to bathe a baby!!" to being able to order for 4 chatty children in a busy restaurant while disciplining two of them, carrying one of them, and staying relatively in budget.

They are at the beginning of a beautiful journey.  They already know it's not always cooing and cuddling and smiling.  It gets hard.  There are tough choices.  You cry alot.  The protective feeling inside you has never been fired up quite so hot.  New insecurities bust out of your chest.  New feelings of being unsure and insecure collide with the need to make decisions and stand up for them when contested. We are all reminded that we are, at our core, animals.  We have instincts like animals.  We are no different than a bear with her cubs, or a doe with her kids.  We act the same.  And, they each make a sound for 'worry'.  For our goats, they talk to their kids in a worried voice by softly and gently bleating.  It just sounds like you would imagine motherly worry to sound.  We are no different, even with all of the information that we have right at our fingertips.

Although those beginning months are hard, the lack of sleep is crippling, and the learning curve is steep, I still feel that it is absolutely beautiful.  I take the ride in its entirety.  We have had more than our share of life and death experiences with our children, experiences that make trips to the hospital for stitches look like a party (and we've had 3 sets of stitches so far).  We have made crazy decisions, hard decisions, and it is all for the same exact reason as being extremely cautious of newborns being held by different people too soon.  In that case, we fear for their health.  In others cases, we feared for their life.  Some decisions we made we because we feared for their academic and intellectual needs.  Some were made because we were protecting their emotional health.  These are our jobs, but they are all based in the same root as those first-time parent fears.  Those fears that were the reason we strictly followed the neonatologist's recommendations and kept their premature bodies out of church nursery for 2 years (which not everyone understood).

Heck, I didn't even make it to their conception without having huge painful decisions to make about my job.  Even though I had not met my future children, I knew they would eventually come to me.  And, I knew they were so important that I should take a leave of absence from my job (looked down upon by that witch at the County BOE), yet again spend 2-3 month's salary on meds & treatments, drive to Atlanta multiple times per week for ultrasounds, pokes, prods, and so many blood draws that my arms were two long bruises, just to give my body one more chance to make all this work.  That tough decision, which did not earn me many friends, earned me a huge promotion.  Although many attempts had failed, this IUI cycle promoted me to Mommy.  All other jobs pale in comparison.

Watching Jen and Hal take their very organized and very planned existence and steep it in the unknown waters of parenthood is absolutely amazing.  No, babies don't fit in Excel and yes, feeding babies and babies' schedules are fluid.  But, if anyone can adjust to meet the challenge ahead, it's my brother.  He and Jen have a beautiful compatibility.  They are each other's perfect compliment.  I was blessed to be able to watch them transform... the way we all transformed.  The old you is gone and the new you is a different, stronger, more dedicated, more focused, person that must have grown a larger soul, as that would be the only possible way to contain all of the new feelings for your new life's focus.

I became a new parent over 9 years ago.  I was 24 when I went into the hospital.  Three months later, I was 25 and the mother of 2 tiny helpless creatures.  That was my moment of transformation.  Now, I know what genres of books they each prefer to read, I know which way to get their hair cut that compliments their cowlicks.  I know how to make, and cut, their sandwiches.  I know how they will react to something before they react.  I know that if I ask if anyone would like to help me with dinner, Asa will be elated.  I know that if I find a great show on the History Channel, Addison will be all over it.  I know not to expect them to care about what they wear or if they sleep on a bed, on a bed with no sheets, or on a hard floor.  I know them.  I am the expert on them.  And now, I have become an expert on two more.  I guess someone upstairs trusts me an awful lot to give me and my heart so much love and responsibility. 

Being a parent is a reminder than nothing is guaranteed.  Nothing is promised to be easy.  Being easy does not equate with being worthwhile.  Actually, I would say that the most difficult times that I have been through have been the most rewarding.  Even if the outcome wasn't always peachy, I find an Earthy sense of connection and life and nature in those painful moments.  Without the pain, we wouldn't realize just how bright the sun shines when it's out.  I've always been accused of being a serious romantic.  Well, I choose to romanticize parenthood as the complete package that it is.  I love it, I love all of my gorgeous works of art, and I love the fact that my brother and Jen are just entering this technicolor world for the first time.

Welcome, Tripp.  We love you!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

1st Day!

Yesterday, the girls and I went shopping for preschool.  They really needed some tennis shoes that they could run and play in.  We have been in flip flops and sandals all summer!  Out of the entire shoe department, she only wanted shiny red and blue SpiderMan shoes.  She didn't even know they lit up when she walked- BONUS!  Olive picked out a pair of red and black Minnie Mouse shoes.  The two of them were on cloud nine with their purchases!

This morning, the two of them were up, fed, dressed, and donning bright new shoes.  It was Ivey's first day of class.  Olive was going to meet her teacher for orientation.  The church gives each student a blue tote bag, which we use year to year.  This year, Ivey's teacher mentioned that they could decorate their bags and make them "theirs".  Well, we took that seriously.  The girls both picked out two fabrics each from my big massive stash of unfinished or never started sewing projects.  I then went to work jazzing up their bags! 

Both girls bounced in the doors of the church.  They went to their classes, with big smiles on their faces and springs on their feet.  I knew Ivey would be just fine, but I wasn't sure about Olive.  Olive had a less than stellar year last year in the 1 year old room.  She never spoke.  I don't think she was comfortable, or felt like she should have been there.  I don't really blame her.  If I hadn't needed her to be there, she would have been pulled out mid-year.  But, she made it through the blah.  Now, I could not be more excited about her room!  She has fabulous teachers who already know and love her!  And... her buddy Carris is in her class!  She was only there for an hour today, but talked up a storm, colored a picture, and had a blast!  She actually talked to her teacher enough for them to know that she had fallen in the parking lot and skinned her knee.  I am absolutely positive she will have the best year should could possibly have!  YAY!

Ivey is my social butterfly.  I'm not worried about her... I may be worried about everyone else, though!  Hold on to your hats, three year olds.  Ivey is here to make sure you are doing the right thing at the right time!  I'm sure that, in a few weeks, I will be hearing about how Ivey has taught the class how to play zombie tag or something else relatively harmless but inappropriate, nonetheless!

Tomorrow, the full school year system that I set up in February will be in effect.  Between Gina (who we have missed terribly over the summer!), Kristen, Linda, Randy, and Mom, things should fall into place.  I'm just so glad I was able to take each one of them to their orientations, meet their teachers and classmates (and their parents), and see them off in their shiny new school shoes and jazzy bags.  They are getting so big!