Friday, March 22, 2013

It's All in a Name.

It's all in a name.

I took the kids to see "Rise of the Guardians" today. Of course, we were cutting it close on time, so Asa kept watching the red lights... making sure that my foot was on the gas pedal as soon as the lights changed.

"Mommy! The light turned green!"

(Now, to appreciate this next part, you have to have read the previous post about Olive's new superpowers.)

"Yeah," Olive calmly stated. "I changed it green. With my eyes."

We made it to the movie on time, and it was a pretty good one. During one scene, when the Easter Bunny was talking of hiding eggs, Ivey asked me if our rabbit, Honey (aka "Honey Bunny"), gave us eggs.

"No,"I whispered. "Just the Easter Bunny does. Not Honey Bunny."

She leaned over the arm rest.

"Let's change her name to Easter."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Addison's Big Night

Tonight was Addison's big Aikido test!  He was testing for the rank of 5th kyu.  He recently explained to me that there are 6 kyus, in reverse order.  The first test you take is for the 6th kyu rank.  Then, 5th, and so on until 1st.  After that, you take your blackbelt test.  Then, as Addison explained, there are 10 levels of black belt.

Addison informed me that he would most likely stop after becoming a black belt.  Why?  Because he said that he doesn't know what he is going to do when he is older, but he bets that it won't involve walking around in alleys where he would need to know anything more than a 1st level black belt.

I inquired, "Have you ever thought about just doing Aikido for fun?"

"Ummm.... I might could do that."

Tonight, Mim and I went with him to watch him test.  First of all, they call out all of the commands (if that's what you call them) in Japanese.  His sensei spoke no English.  Because Granddaddy brought and participated in class with Addison up until his surgery, I haven't watched him very much.  Until recently, I hadn't seen him practice much at all.  For me, it's completely amazing that he can watch them show these tricky moves a few times, and then he tries them out.  As some one with very little spacial relations skills, I am blown away.  Tonight, he did a great job!  He did so great that we headed to Dunkin Donuts afterward, where I let him pick out his favorite: glazed donut with chocolate icing and sprinkles.  Plus, he picked up another one for breakfast.  Success is sweet.

While Addison was at practice tonight, I noticed how he kept flipping his hair out of his face.  He has been wanting to just "let it grow" for a long time now, and I asked him if he was ready for a haircut.  I don't care, mind you.  He can have hair down to his rump as long as he's a smart, sweet, respectful kid.  But, he said he didn't think he was ready for a cut.  

Then, he thought for a minute.

"Can I just cut my bangs short, and let the back keep growing?"

"Addison," I answered, "that's called a mullet."

"Oh," he replied, with a sneer.  "I definitely don't want anything called that."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bonding Time

I know it is a common area of mommy guilt to feel that you aren't able to spend as much quality time with the youngest as you did when the oldest were little. For some, there are very little baby pictures of the younger ones. Maybe some don't remember to get that video camera out as often (guilty). For me, my guilt lies with not spending enough quality, quiet, learning time together. It is a rarity that I sit and read to the girls. Lord knows I don't read to them one on one. As a mother of twins and almost-twins, I do we'll to just get quality time in with them as pairs.

I used to sit and work puzzles with the boys. We would play together outside. We drove down the UGA campus just to ride the orbit bus and let them chat it up with every college kid that sat in a 5ft radius of them. We talked more. I listened more. Forget the fancy birthday cakes that I would make or the fact that I actually knew some of the parents from their preschool classes, my mommy guilt sets in when I think of the missed opportunities that I have had to connect those synapses and develop their love of learning. Yes, they have it. But, surely they would have a different environment, a different version of me, if they had been the first "set".

This year, the girls have been in the 2 year old class and the 3 year old class... which is where both of them are a perfect fit, socially.  Both of them started the year already knowing each letter of the alphabet by sight, the sound it makes, and how to write it on paper. They knew the meaning of addition, how to do it, and could use it when we set the table (well, you have two spoons, how many more do you need to set the table?), or to convince me to give them "just two" more cookies. They are very bright little girls. But, I feel like if they had a chance to play with me more, they would learn more.

Before Christmas, I started introducing the idea of "special sounds" to the girls, mainly to Olive only since she was the most interested. My Ivey is a wiz-kid, too.  But, she has lots of other things that she thinks are fun! We sound out words all the time, so I decided to throw out the "oo" sound, as in"tooth".  Ivey and Olive both soaked this UP.  They can now point out the "oo" sound in words, as well as add it to their "sounding it out" mental toolbox.  That sound went so well that I decided to teach "sh" as in "ship".  It's not hard for a little girl to understand that if an "s" and an "h" are best friends, they get to make a special sound.  I simply love the limitless possibilities for the minds of young children!  We, the adults, put stipulations on what concepts can be learned when.  We base it on what we have been told, how we were taught, and by the limits that we have placed on our own minds.  They are sponges.  Why can't a preschooler who can add be taught that adding the same amount over and over is called multiplication.  We learned that concept later in childhood, and so it is foreign and feels impossible to teach to a young child.  That is our misconception, not truth.

Both Ivey and Olive understand the concept of adding.  They can add by counting on their fingers.  So... why not introduce them to number bonds?  One of the most helpful things for my boys was that they already had many math facts memorized by the time 1st grade rolled around.  They could work out 34 + 25 easily because 4 + 5 and 3 + 2 were no-brainers by that point.  So, over a "how many more pancakes do you need to get 6?" breakfast discussion the other morning, I drew a number bond on Olive's plate.  I didn't explain.  I just wrote it and went back to what I was doing.  I then asked her again, "What is 3 + 3?"  She looked at her plate... and knew the answer.  She went back to her plate over and over again, following the lines and absorbing the meaning.  She had it.  She understands that you can count your fingers to figure out 3+3, but now she knows that she doesn't have to.  She has not committed that one to memory.

My girls have practiced their numbers up to 30 simply because I put their preschool calendars on the fridge.  I don't tell them to... they just do it.  So, now there is another paper on our fridge.  It has a "special sound" for the week, as well as a "number bond". 

One more year of preschool for us.  After Olive finishes the "3's" next year, and Ivey finishes the "4's", I'm bringin' my girls home.  I think back to when the boys were in kindergarten, when I made the decision to homeschool.  I think back on the anxiety and overwhelming sense that I had no idea what I was doing... and I see how far I have come.

I can't imagine it any other way.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

House Work

It has been almost a year since I posted about our crazy house project, but that does not mean nothing has been done!  Here's the last year, in a nutshell.

We spent most of last year finishing Randy's barn (our "practice house") and continuing to clear the driveway on our property.  The old shack has been completely torn down, without the use of power tools, only Jeff, a hammer, and a crowbar.  Jeff found a load of concrete chunks on Craigslist, and had it dropped off to use in raising up the low spots around the front of the drive.  (Funny enough, we realized after the fact that the load came from the old gas station right at the end of our road here!)  We also chose a building site, and it didn't result in marital strife!

After the barn was completed, in November, we lacked direction.  Jeff and Randy were just cutting what wood they had, stacking the beams up in piles.  Then, the neighbor at our property, who owns a tree service, dropped off 4 dump truck loads of trees in Jeff's parents' backyard.  (If I were Linda, I would have FREAKED.)

It just so happened that right after their backyard became logging insanity, Randy found out he had to have bypass surgery.  In a panic, Jeff began thinking of others who could come and help him out with all of these trees.  If there's one thing Jeff can't do alone, it's move trees and hoist them onto the sawmill!  He thought to call Corey, who just happened to need flooring for his barn.  What do you have a lot of when you are cutting beams from the middle of trees?  1 bys.  The two of them worked through the piles.  Randy was stuck... and antsy.

It was at this point that Randy came up with an idea to let us mock up the first floor of our house in his backyard.  Yes, build it in the backyard.  Remember, this is not a typically built home.  It isn't built with nails, but with jointed and pegged beams.  We would be constructing the house, numbering the pieces, and then moving them to the site.

Randy also contacted the county about building the house on a foundation of pillars.  Because we haven't sold any of our houses at this time, we don't have any money.  A foundation is, well, a pretty important step in building a house.  So, we are trying to come up with a creative way to begin building our house, before we have a lot of money to spend.  Of course, we could always come back and close it in for a basement, but we could get started now... and getting started is the first step towards getting finished!

As he began feeling better, Randy and Jeff cut the corner braces for the house.  We need about 80 braces.  Each 6 ft 3 x 8 will have a decorative arch.  This was a trick.  A jigsaw wouldn't work, so they borrowed a portable band saw.  This didn't work, either, since it was designed for metal.  Randy saw, online, that someone used a skill saw for the arch.  To their surprise, it worked.  It was tricky because they had to make a cut from the top and a cut from the bottom, lining them up in the middle.  To compensate for this, they cleaned it up with a chisel and sander.

Currently, they have finished 25 braces.
Jeff, Randy, and Corey have cut about 1/2 of the 4 huge dump truck loads of trees.  From this, they have cut all of the needed foundation beams.  (For those concerned, we will be treating it all with Tim-Bor.)

Jeff had a shoulder injury from a bout of drunken bar boxing back in college, and it has worsened over time.  He is now doing six months of physical therapy to try to strengthen the incredibly loose/torn tendons and whatnot.  Needless to say, that shoulder has been slowing him down in the past few months! Hopefully, it will continue to improve... and we will continue to plug along.... in spite of our lack of funds! 

No News Is Good News

The other night, I was taking Addison to Aikido... just him and me.

For those who may not know him, Addison can monologue like no other.  He gets on a topic.. and flies.  Another interesting thing to note is that Addison speaks as if he is writing a 5 paragraph essay, and always has.  Pretty much every morning, after he comes in from chores, he comes to me with, "There were three interesting things that happened during chores today.  First, we ran low on goat grain.  We need more.  Secondly, Gretta and April are afraid of the noises my coat makes.  I need to remember to always wear this coat when I do chores.  Finally, Goliath's water bowl needs to be cleaned out.  Since I am afraid of Goliath, I need you or Daddy to handle that for me."  The points may change day to day, but the layout pretty much stays the same. 

On the way to Aikido, he explained to me that he didn't think it was good for people to leave the news on when kids are around.  He talked about drone strikes.  He talked about how living in a country that did not end with "stan" is a good idea.  He talked about the safety measures that should be taken when unpopular presidents end their terms in office and go out into the real world.  We came to the red light where they just finished the new entrance fountain (the "waterfall").  Addison expressed great concern at its cost.  "The national debt," he explained, "is way high.  Like, crazy high.  They shouldn't be building stuff like this!"  Once I let him know that it was private construction, he collapsed back into his seat and said with a relieved sigh, "Yes".

Addison told me that sometimes, when he gets stressed out about taxes getting high and all kids of other things, he tries to close his eyes and say, "I'm just a kid". 

Do you know who this reminds me of?

This is Hal, to a tee. 

My brother, at a young age, would stress out about all sorts of world issues.  And, we didn't have 24 hour news stations.

To be stressed out about taxes, the national debt, and the legality of drone usage, is one thing.  But, the vile things that are strewn across our television sets during the news should not be viewed by children.  We were all better off when we turned on the news at 6:00 to see what was going on in our world.  For children who are mindful of the issues of the world, having these words and images running free is unhealthy and painful, not to mention full of inappropriate content.

Yet another reason why I am happy not to have t.v. stations at home!

Wacky Wednesday

Ivey has her own style.  It began with her signature "goggles" look, her "shirt over the head" phase, and evolved over time to include wigs and all sorts of awesome uniqueness.  She's just our little Punky Brewster meets Nightmare Before Christmas meets Cyndi Lauper.  She has always been reluctant to conform to "dress up" days at school.  Once, I got her to dress up for pajama day, but just once.  After that, she just declines to participate.  Some might think that it is an stubborness.  I know that it is more likely a desire to NOT be the one looking like everyone else.

Last Wednesday was "Wacky Wednesday" for Ivey's class.  The teacher asked for any student who wanted to, to dress wacky.  The day would be centered around the theme, with the reading of the book "Wacky Wednesday".  I thought Ivey might eat UP the chance at dressing crazy!  Silly me.  She just looked at me like I had lost my mind.

"No," she said.  "I don't think so."

My quick-thinking mommy brain jumped into action.  "Ok!  No problem."  I told her.  "Hey!  I have an idea!  Do you want to pick out your own real clothes for school tomorrow?"

She took the bait. 

She started off saying she wanted to wear tights and pants, but I reminded her that you can't see the tights if they are under pants.  So, she picked out her tights, skirt, shirt, and shoes.  It was perfectly Ivey, and not the least bit wacky.  I let Grandmomma know of her non-wacky clothing choice, as she was the one to take her and drop her off.  If she had called it "wacky", Ivey may not have even made it to the car!  Once inside, Ms. Gina told me that Ivey was quick to point out that she was in her real clothes. 

Love my unique little independent girl!  

Self Portrait found on the Ipad
Another one of Ivey's pictures I found on the Ipad

Our Super Hero

Yesterday morning (or "laster-day", as Olive calls it), Olive crawled up in bed with me to snuggle.  As I tried to catch a few more z's, she started explaining her super powers.  Yes, it appears that Olive possesses a super power.  According to her, she can turn things green with her eyes... and sometimes with her foot.  She showed me this amazing power by turning my ceiling and fan green.  I was "magical" she said.

Later on, while we were outside helping Daddy put a roof on the new animal shelter, Olive further explained this power that she wields.  It seems that it cannot be used outdoors.  She can only turn things green if they are inside.

"Why?" I asked.

"Because the trees get in my way," she replied.

We all have our kryptonite. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Happy Olive Day

Our little caboose is now THREE!

Olive has been so very excited about her birthday.  She had grand ideas about what it will be like to be three.  Three year olds don't need a bapi.  Three year olds don't whine (ha).  According to Olive, when she turns three, "I won't be afraid of frogs anymore!"  Yes, three is the magic number.

When the day of her birthday finally arrived, she woke up, as usual, at the crack of dark.  Everyone was asleep, except Jeff, who was getting ready for work.  Jeff told her happy birthday, and she refused to believe him.  "It's my birthday today?"  "No... I'm not three yet... am I?"  By the time the rest of us woke up, she had fully accepted this news, announcing to us all that she is no longer afraid of frogs!

It was a preschool day, so Ms. Gina took the girls to school, along with a sprinkle-laden cookie cake.  Olive was on top of the world!  Since I was teaching and couldn't make it to class, one of Olive's AMAZING preschool teachers texted me pictures, which completely made my day!

 Although she opened a present or two beforehand, we had Olive's birthday party the following Sunday.   She wanted a My Little Pony party!  Mom and I split the party preparations, which was absolutely awesome.  I have been so busy lately!  In addition to gift bags, having it at her house, and decorating, Mom pre-baked the pony cake for me.  On Saturday night, I had an awesome time over there decorating!  Jen, Hal, and Tripp were there, so we hung out, talking and decorating.  Jen handled the base of pink stars, which gave me a HUGE boost!  By 1:30am, the cake was complete.  Success!

As a special surprise, Gram and mom gave Olive her present... pony rides at the party!  The ponies were gorgeous, and Ivey and Olive were in love!  Ivey, especially, is pony and horse CRAZY.  She spent her time trying to hijack other kids' pony rides and trying to talk the owners into giving Olive one to take home "because it is her birthday".

Overall, the party was a success.  Olive eventually even accepted that her party was on MY actual birthday!  We had talked to Olive about letting her bapi go on balloons, like the had done with the boys (Ivey never had one).  But, we honestly lost hers a week prior, and I wasn't about to bring it up.  As of now, she doesn't even ask for it anymore!  I would have never expected my hard-headed little girl to let go so easily!

Happy birthday, little Pickle.  Our family definitely was incomplete before you came along!