Sunday, February 28, 2010

Where Has The Time Gone?!

So much has been going on these past couple of weeks! We went from being a family of five to a family of 8 in a week. We got a house bunny. We adopted two goats. Goats! I was fortunate to get the bunny, which my children affectionately named "Tom" (as in Tom and Jerry) from a wonderful family on Craigslist. He's about two months old and the calmest little you can see. He does freak out a bit when the kids chase him, as I would, too. They're getting better with him, as he is with them. It's been an interesting adjustment. I've never been a pet person, but I am in love with this little guy. I think it's probably because he requires very little from us. The dogs that have been in my life have been very needy, as dogs are. I don't do well with needy. Tom is litter-trained, for the most part. He will try to mark his territory once in awhile, which I promptly squelch by removing the poop and cleaning the area so the scent is gone. And he does not smell. The pee and poop are absorbed by a natural litter called Yesterday's News. We have the ferret litter right was on sale. As you can see, Tom does not have access to the litter, so it doesn't matter what type right now. We give him carrots, rabbit pellets, Timothy Hay and Alfalfa, broccoli and water. Tom just hops around the house and usually relaxes under the Pack-n-Play, if the kids are about. If it's the husband and me, Tom will stretch out on the floor. It's hilarious. We had planned on getting goats for a couple months now. I found a breeder on Craigslist and took the boys to go and visit. In her ad she stated that there were goats that were only a few days old. I figured we'd take a look, pick out which one we wanted and then come back in a month or two. Well, we went home with two goats that were 4 days old. When I asked the woman why she got into breeding goats her reply was, "For money and meat." At the same time Eli said, "Mom, I want that one!" and pointed to a Saanen. Sure, baby, let's get these goats out of here! I couldn't take all twenty, so I opted for two. The woman didn't ask if I knew what I was doing. She let me go with two goats and $70 later I had them in the back of the car. I knew nothing about goats. On the drive home all I could think of was HOW I was going to explain to the husband why I came home with two goats... The pen hasn't even been built. They needed to be bottle-fed. Fortunately, for me and the goats, the husband thought they were too cute. I called a local farmer about hay, seeing as it was 6pm. He was great enough to let me come to his home and sell me a bale. We made a little temporary home for the goats in the basement of the shed. I also had to buy goat nipples. They attach to soda/water bottles. And whole milk. My goodness! So, I've been bottle-feeding these sweet little animals before nursing my own little one. Then I have to feed my older boys. And of course, there's Tom. Oh, and the husband. He's got to eat, too. It's been so hectic, but I love it. I guess I'm a farm girl at heart? This morning the husband built a small pen in the shed. It's perfect and I love it and him. We have a light hooked up to provide additional warmth for the little doelings. They really are the sweetest things. Some things I have learned about goats in the past week: A sneezing goat is a playful goat. They love to curl up with one another. A goat will nibble on your fingers and clothing as a way to identify with you. In allowing a goat to do this you are allowing him or her to be a part of your family, and you a part of theirs. Disbudding a goat may seem cruel, but it's necessary in order to keep a pet goat, and anyone around the goat, safe. As you can see, I had the goats in my kitchen for a couple hours, before realizing that it wasn't going to work out well. Trying to keep the children out of the kids' poop and pee just wasn't going to happen. And I couldn't do my daily things in the kitchen with the goats penned up there. They sure did like it, though. They also seem to like the new area...all snuggled in the hay. It's like it was meant for them. The boys named the goats. The Saanen is Jerry...see above-mentioned note regarding Tom. The Nubian is Brownie. I'm assuming it is because she is brown.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Food Fight

I made and froze a zillion blueberry pancakes last week. Odin has decided they are his new favorite food. Frozen. For snack, lunch, breakfast, dinner. He wants a frozen pancake. Whatever, kid. As long as he's eating, I don't really care what he wants. I informed him that I was going grocery shopping in a couple of days. I asked if he would like anything. Chicken. He wants chicken. We had wingettes, or party wings or whatever you want to call them, for dinner tonight. He ate them with so much fervor that Joe and I pretended we were cavemen. The small boy literally ate all the meat off those bones. I looked over at Eli's plate and there were pieces of chicken still on the bones.

I was made to eat all my dinner. Even if that meant me crying at the kitchen table until, what seemed like, midnight. It was bedtime, at least. I remember cramming food into my pockets and then flushing it. Night after night I would sit with a plate of cold, unappetizing food in front of me. I can especially remember the high school years. I wanted to become a it's a career or something. My parents said no and I had to eat everything that was served. It was awful. I could dramatize the scenario and say I still have nightmares about it. I don't. But, it would make it more dramatic, though, wouldn't it?

I don't get into food fights with my kids. Well, I will put food on their plates and if they want more of something I ask them to try something untouched first. They're good about it, too. I fortunately have children who like more than just chicken nuggets...most of the time. If they don't want to eat something, that is fine. However, I will not prepare something else for them. They can get something fresh from the fridge that does not need any prep work...apples, pears, plums, etc. If they want a carrot, I refuse to peel it. I have no idea where my thought processes come from. Probably because they helped me make dinner and I don't want to have to make another one aside from that. Eli has assisted me in creating that nights' meal from beginning to end. All the while he's talking about he loves the different ingredients. When it actually comes time to eat..."This is yucky. I want something else." Sorry, Charlie. You're on your own.

I also have a thing about wasting food. If one of them specifically asks for something, like a banana, then takes on bite and declares that he is all done, I freak. Not so much on the outside, but inside. I can always freeze the banana and use it in a smoothie, but there are certain other things they'll ask for that are not so easily frozen. Like a bowl of oatmeal. "Nah. I think I want toast instead." Nope. You asked for it now belongs to you.

I give choices. I am all about choices. It drives the husband bonkers. They are little people. Little versions of us. Why shouldn't they have a choice in anything they do? Sometimes they can't. Like, if we're going to someones house as a family. Eli really cannot stay home matter what he thinks.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I've Still Got a Lot to Learn...

“Arbitrary rules and limits have the characteristic that they entice kids to think about how they can get around them and can even entice kids to cheat and lie. I know a couple of really really great unschooled kids whose parents set limits on their computer use time. The kids used to get up in the middle of the night to use the computer while their parents were asleep. It is an unintended but very very predictable side effect of rules and limits that they always set parents and children up as adversaries (the parents are setting the rules and the children are being required to obey them - these are adversarial positions) and can lead to kids feeling guilty and sneaky when they inevitably bend or even outright break the rules. Avoiding that kind of possibility is one really good reason for not having rules or limits at all.”
Pam Sorooshian

After I read this I almost cried. “Almost” because I’m not one who cries very easily…unless it’s a Hallmark commercial. Don’t ask…

There are a few reasons why I was moved so much. The first reason being that this is the way I grew up. My dad ruled the roost. He was loving in his own way and a provider. That’s what he was taught to do from a very early age. His father died when he was still in the single digits and being the only male left, he was “the man of the house”. I was given a set of rules. I was given many limitations. In response to them I lied, cheated and stole my way out. I became good at it, from a very young age. Somehow, over the years, I managed to climb out of that dark hole. There was a major turning point in my life and from that point on I was a different person.

The second reason is that this is the way we parent. I could say, “the way the husband parents”, but I have to take much of the responsibility. I can already see the sneakiness starting to rear its ugly head in my 4-year-old. It appeared about 6 months ago and I was floored.

You do what you are told. You live by my rules…even if they are gentle rules. The End.

But, that’s not the end. It is the beginning. The beginning of raising a child who does learn to lie, cheat and steal. And I feel I should know better. When my two oldest begin to argue over something I simply tell Eli that if he stops fighting with his brother, eventually Odin will put whatever it is down and walk away. Hello! This is exactly the same behavior occurring with me and Eli, or the husband and Eli or…well, pick a combination. How did I not see this before?

Over the past few months I have been reading a lot of Sandra Dodd’s website. A little here and there. This past week I have read a section a night. Tonight’s section was on The Value of Choices. I can honestly say that her words, and the words of many other unschoolers, have stayed with me throughout the day. (As I type these words I feel almost brainwashed and like I’ve given into a cult.) When a situation arises with my boys, I have begun to handle it differently…more proactively rather than reactively. This is a good thing. I love my boys more than anything. They are my babies. I will make many mistakes along the road, believe you me, but I can try to learn from them and hopefully change the behavior.

Make 'em run laps...

Unless I'm in the mood for it, I have a hard time taking the kids out to play in the yard when it's cold. I love snow storms. I'll go out and play, no problem. But, on a 28 degree day when there's no snow on the ground and a sky full of grey clouds, all I want to do is be warm. This has greatly affected my very energetic boys. The other day Eli, who is 4-years-old, started climbing up onto the kitchen table. And jumping off. I grabbed his boots and his coat. Odin has croup and the baby was moments away from waking up. I threw them on the floor and told him to get dressed. I got dressed. I took Eli outside and said, "Run!" I began running laps around our yard, with Eli right behind me. It's probably child abuse to just make him run off his energy alone, so I created a parent/child moment. We did about 5 laps around our backyard. Then I grabbed the soccer ball and we kicked it around for about 10 minutes. Odin stood at the door, snot running down his face, just in his diaper and crying. It was worth it, though. Eli's energy had been spent and his desire to run around was satiated.

Today, while the baby was sleeping, Odin decided it was time to bang on the kitchen table. I let him know that if he wanted to bang he could get dressed and go outside. Today, it was a balmy 36 degrees out. He banged his little fists wholeheartedly against the table. I let him know that if he decided to bang again that we would be going outside. He said, "No" and put his head shame? A minute later, the little bugger started banging fervently against our poor, distressed table. I picked him up, without a word, got him dressed (croup is gone, just sniffles now) and we went outside. I gave him a bat, I grabbed a bat and we began beating up everything in sight. Eli wanted in on the fun and came out, too. It ended up turning into a music lesson of sorts. We experimented with hitting different things - the ladder, playhouse, slide, picnic table, fence and metal bucket. We talked about high and low sounds. The husband came outside and watched for a bit...and I assume he thinks I'm crazy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Curriculum Nannies?!

Okay, so this is a couple months late. I just read that "Nannies must devise a “curriculum” that provides “evidence that programs provide specific, planned learning experiences” and that supports “school-readiness” ." Are you kidding me?! According to the Department of Early Education and Care in Massachusetts, daycares are now required to implement a tooth brushing program that helps the little ones practice excellent dental hygiene. In return, those same workers are now referred to as "educators". Oo la la. Along with that, those who are nannies have to write a curriculum. What happens if the family does not want a curriculum...that they just want their child to be a kid without the structure of predetermined activities. Sorry, little buddy, it's 11:00 a.m. we can't paint right now. The scheduled curriculum states that we must go outside right now. We'll be exploring with paint three Tuesdays from now.

I was a preschool teacher. I was a before and after school care teacher. I was an assistant teacher in a special needs facility. I know that plans do not always go the way they are planned. I just think it is preposterous for nannies to have to come up with a curriculum. What's next? Will all parents have to come up with a curriculum if they are not going to send their kid to preschool? This country is so obsessed with how our little ones are doing, despite the knowledge that children develop at different levels. My four-year-old is doing first grade math. He's bored with coloring-in worksheets and finger painting. Would a nanny have to start writing school-aged curriculum?

I have no problems with nannies teaching or leading the children they are caring for. But, it is not the place of the state to mandate that this be required of them. It should be an agreement between the family and the nanny.

Baby Yummies

The baby wanted my burrito. He lunged. I backed away. Then the yelling began. I finally gave him a small piece of the seasoned ground turkey...thinking he'd think it was too spicy and cry. Think again. This baby wanted more. I made the mix myself - not a prepackaged Taco Bell deal. Hmmm. Baby loves burritos.

I made the tastiest baby food. Now, he's almost 8 months old, but he doesn't have the pincer grasp down so giving him little bits of food is somewhat fruitless. I make a chunkier puree. Mmmm. Puree. I tried what I made, too. It was pretty good. Here's the recipe:

4 carrots, peeled and sliced (mine were 2 medium and 2 fatties)
3 leaves of Kale
1/4 of a sweet potato, peeled (it was left over and I just threw it in...for fun)
1 Bosc pear, peeled, cored and cut up

I threw the above into a pot, brought to a boil with cover on, simmered for about 45 minutes, waited until cool and threw into the food mill.

I gave the baby a spoonful of it. He responded with lunging forward while smacking his lips and making weird breathing sounds.

I scooped it all into ice cube trays and threw into the freezer. It filled 2 standard cube trays with a little left over for tomorrows lunch. That and a little seasoned ground turkey and the kid is set.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Commercialized vs Homemade Rant...and a challenge

While cleaning or doing the dishes is the time my mind starts racing. If I were a biologist, I would think of a cure for cancer while getting dishpan hands. Wait, is that the right reference? Would it be a biologist to discover the cure? Whatever. Even if it's the wrong profession, it would still happen. That is how amazing my mind is during that time.

Tonight, I started getting upset about how it is assumed that because it's on the shelves of a store it must be good. People seem to forget that baby food in jars is a very new idea. The masses don't seem to question it. Ironically enough, consumers first discouraged and stayed away from commercialized baby food. The market had to become very aggressive in their advertising.

What amazes me the most is that those who are the poorest in this country are the first to pick up their WIC check, or whatever assistance each state offers for women and infants, and spend it on formula. I firmly believe that they could help their children by nursing their babies. Imagine the amount of doctors visits that would be cut because they had healthier babies? (I should stop here and say that I have absolutely no physical proof of this. It's just me ranting...) If we encouraged women to nurse instead of handing them a check each week or month, imagine the money our government would save! Educate these women. Educate them regarding breastfeeding versus formula. Educate them that it's actually cheaper to make baby food at home than it is to buy it. Educate them on how to cook their own meals from scratch rather than buying prepackaged foods. Their health and the health of their children would be greatly impacted. Their health and our fiscal budget! I have to throw in money somewhere in order to grab the attention of those fiscal conservatives, you know.

While researching this, I came across the site How amazing! This blog has an entry entitled Reader Challenge: Healthy meals on a food stamp budget. Perfect. I'm going to take this challenge, even though it's over a year old.

If interested, there is another site by the Hillbilly Housewife that manages to create a weekly menu for $45 a week. I can't imagine. I spend at least three times that a week.

This is very interesting and challenging. Stay tuned...

What Am I Doing?!

I am a multi-tasker. Maybe I just have ADD. Either way, I start projects and then start a new one before I finish the last. And I start projects a lot. This has hampered my homeschooling goals, I think. I will use a curriculum, sometimes. I lean more towards unschooling than school-at-home. My oldest is four and there is no hurry to "school" him, but I can't help but be pulled towards wanting to teach him stuff. There are unit studies and lapbooks. There is curriculum for reading and math. I personally love the Usborne Learning Palettes. I also like the Now I'm Reading series. As a homeschooling mom who has worked in a teaching capacity for years, I am a bit confused by unschooling. I joke about the husband's need for rules and boundaries. When it comes to teaching, I feel like I need those rules, too. I am having a difficult time just waiting... My children are naturally curious, as all children are, so the waiting game shouldn't be long. Math. What about MATH?! I have a hard time differentiating between what "learning naturally" and parent-led learning is. If I put a topic in front of my child, does that defy unschooling? And more importantly, will the unschooling police come knock down my door and drag me away? Obviously they won't...although, some radical unschoolers might.
Joking aside, as a parent and a homeschooling parent, I worry about the path I'm leading my family down. I know I'm doing the right thing for my family, but should we be meandering down the path or skipping? I know in the end I'll just do what feels right. Most likely, it'll be a mix of everything. We'll make our own label - or defy all the labels - which ever definition makes us happy for that day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Another Crazy Week...

I tried eating healthy. I can't. Well, it's not that I can't, but I can't be the vision of health I want to be. I love my carbs and sugars and meats. I thought maybe I could go without, but it seems my addicted body just won't let me. So I gave in. Foooood.

The children are sick. Eli won't stop crying or coughing. It's the sad, yet somewhat annoying, random crying because, well, he just doesn't know why. He started throwing things tonight. For no reason, except because he's sick...I'm assuming. At 6:30 p.m. he decided to go to bed. Then woke up and wanted to change his pajamas. Then cried. A lot.

I have begun knitting. Finished? No. It's driving me crazy. A friend referred me to, but I haven't had the chance to check it out. I'll let you know how it goes. My mother also unwound all of my first-time was beautifully awful and I watched her take it apart. I started another piece using ugly orange acrylic (from our craft cabinet) in hopes that maybe it was the yarns fault. It wasn't.

This week we had Literature Club with the Villagers. No. Not the members of a movie about crazy people living in the woods. Lovely homeschool families. Eli had soccer. We visited the Zig Zag Zone in Milford, MA. We went at a pretty good time when there were only two other children. I can't imagine that place crowded. I'd go insane. The kids got to run around. Goal accomplished. We went to Modelville in Ashland, MA. We rented slot cars and drove them around the track. We were the only ones there. The owners were gracious and it seemed that Richard (I think it was Richard) seemed to enjoy us being there more than we did! You can really tell that he's got a passion for racing.

Today I got some "me" time. Not really, though. I attended a swap with some of the Villagers. I hoisted out bins of unwanted stuff from my basement and bedrooms. I hauled it to Adele's house and unloaded. Then I slowly proceeded to refill the bins with stuff for my kids. We also got a boat. Thanks to Corrie. The gift of the boat to the husband eased the pain of seeing more stuff come into the house. I've wanted to do swaps with friends before, but we could never manage to organize ourselves. I love that this group of women just plan and do. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.