Friday, December 31, 2010

Reverse Bucket List

Bucket lists are kind of depressing.  I mean, yes, it’s good to have goals and dream big.  But a list that year after year has no more items crossed out is depressing.  It’s also pretty common if you have small children.  My lovely little baby who is the apple of my eye is also the one I often refer to as “my little anchor”.  She just makes it so difficult to do things!  Almost as if I had an anchor chained to my ankle.  Try unpacking a van full of boxes with a baby.  Or with an anchor.  Very similar.  Now imagine trying to backpack around Asia or join the Peace Corps or get your PhD with a baby.  Ummmm… yeah.  Anchor.  Add three more kids on top of the baby.  Here’s my cartoon of what that might look like:

Now mind you, I’m not complaining.  I love my kids and my baby and I‘m content with my life.  But the thought of a bucket list gets me down a bit. 

I recently I heard about the “reverse bucket list”.  That’s a list of what you HAVE done in your life.  Now that’s my kind of list.  No pressure, no expectations.  Just reflecting and enjoying what life has brought you and what you have made of life.  Because some of the most “buckety” experiences in life are ones that you never would have thought to put on a list.  Here’s my reverse bucket list, and I’d love to read some of yours in the comments.  What makes your life exciting, unique, spicy, special, triumphant, and fabulous?

My Reverse Bucket List:

  • Rocked the Air Force Basic Training in Texas for four weeks plus a week in medical hold
  • Gave birth to four children, one of them fabulously all-natural, with no complications
  • Graduated from Coon Rapids High School with highest honors
  • Provided free cloth diapers to a crap-load of local families through Teeny Greenies
  • Was a National Language Arts Olympiad
  • Joined Mensa
  • Was baptized Mormon (I know, I know, you’re thinking “wha-wha-wha-whaaaaaat?”, it was great though, I’ll tell you about it sometime)
  • Taken three of my children camping before they were a year old
  • Nurtured a culture of appreciation for nature, athletics, and the arts in our home
  • Have never turned down a request to let someone live on my couch (or extra bedroom or basement)
  • Won a National Merit Scholarship
  • Attended college through the ninth month of two pregnancies
  • Hosted painting parties
  • Got my tongue pierced
  • Became a Red Cross certified Lifeguard
  • Bladed the Northshore Inline Marathon for four years,  improving each year except the year I did it pregnant and had to take it slow
  • Breastfed three (gonna be four) of my kids for over a year
  • Went caving with Mitch
  • Let my kids play hooky.  Often.

I’m sure there are more of course, but those are the ones that sprung to mind first and make me feel all warm and happy and proud inside when I list them.

My New Year’s Resolution?  Add more things to my reverse bucket list in 2011, whatever they may be.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mr. Independent

I am very proud of Mitchell today.  He wanted cookies today and you know what he did?  He made them himself.  At first he wanted us to make them together, but I was in the middle of a math activity with Henry and Violet and said I wasn't in the mood to make cookies.  I told him if he wanted cookies he could make them himself though.  So he did.

He threw a bit of a fit at first because he wanted help reading the box and I wouldn't come in the kitchen, but eventually he brought me the box, I gave him a few pointers, and away he went.  That all by itself was an accomplishment.  Often, when he tries to do a big project, as soon as he comes across a bump of some sort, he gets derailed and moves on to something else.  I didn't think he'd actually make the cookies all by himself without me at least directing.

Imagine my surprise when not only did he make cookies, but he was also very benevolent in involving Henry and Violet in helping him AND they cleaned up all the mess when they were done!  He almost got distracted after the first batch went in the oven - 8 minutes is a looooong time for a kids with ADHD (or any kids!) to wait - but he managed to make it through and when they came out he was there to smell and taste and prepare another pan to go in.  After they were done, there was great feasting and I was the proudest mama in town.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Think of a Wonderful Thought...

Any merry little thought...

Think of Christmas, think of snow

Think of sleigh bells, off you go!

Like reindeer in the sky

You can fly!

You can fly!

You can fly! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our Day In Pictures... Minus the Pictures

I REALLY gotta find my camera.  Or my mom REALLY needs to find the charger for her good camera.  Aye me, the pitfalls of moving.  Instead you get to use your imagination.

:::As a pink and orange dawn approaches over the dark, bare trees, three tousled blonde heads are just barely visible poking out of a pile of blankets.  They may have been punching each other the night before, but when night falls and the boogeyman calls, the day's arguments are put aside and three little towheads snuggle together on the extra twin mattress in Mama and Papa's room.:::

:::Ivy smiles and drools from under a surgeon's hat that droops low over her eyes.  The kids are including her in their game of pretend (you may call her Dr. Baby) and she is so pleased that she doesn't even try to take the hat off even when she can't see anymore.:::

:::Henry's shaggy blonde head is bent over the multiplication board as he puzzles his way through the twos table.  His brow is furrowed in concentration as he carefully counts out unit cubes to check his work.:::

:::The frosty sky lights up the carpet in front of the bay window in the livingroom and frames a chubby cheeked little girl playing with Grandma's special dolls.  Moments later a smiling little boy joins her game and together they saddle the rocking horse.:::

:::Clouds of breath rise from two bundled, red faced boys as they cross the back deck, engaged in some kind of adventure and impervious to the cold.:::

:::The whole family packs into the small study like a litter of puppies in a cardboard box; some rolling on the floor in play, some working together to play Timez Attack on the computer, and Mama sitting on the chair, surveying it all and blogging.:::

:::Mama reaches high on the wall to tape up a piece of brown grosgrain ribbon that has now been dubbed "The Timeline".  It doesn't exactly match the decor, but everyone's excited to have it up and add things to it.  It's a little heavy on the ancient history since Mitch decided it should go from 10,000 BC to 2,500 AD, but that's okay since everyone loves ancient history.:::

:::A snowy and jolly Papa comes home from work bearing gifts like a hardhatted Santa.  Three bright faces peer into a cardboard box to find... our encyclopedia!  Cheers erupt.:::

:::Four children and a Mama and a Papa eat chicken and rice and animatedly discuss possibly learning a foreign language as a family.  Everyone chuckles at the thought of busting out into Russian while having guests over for dinner.:::

:::The stove timer beeps, announcing that the late-night adult-only cookies are done, as a tired and whiny jammied little boy stands on the stair landing with his Spiderman pillow and blankie, grousing about noisy siblings.:::

Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't Push Me!

This last week or so I've been learning a lot more about homeschooling.  As you may have noticed, we've been struggling lately.  I have tried everything I can think of to make homeschooling a positive, inspiring experience for Mitch, and I keep coming up short.  I tried some different curriculums, a stricter schedule, a more relaxed schedule, focusing on the basics and letting the rest go, trying to be more well-rounded in our learning, doing hands on things, doing more bookwork, you name it.

I was feeling pretty frustrated and incompetent.  And I'll go ahead and say it, I was considering that maybe Mitch's special needs were more than I could handle.  Maybe teaching him was just always going to be a battle and by positioning myself as the teacher, I was inviting many more arguments and meltdowns into our home and our relationship than need be.

But then I had a conversation with a certain wise farm mama and I realized that maybe I was being too pushy.  I had tried everything I could think of to make him learn, but I hadn't tried NOT making him learn.  At least not since this summer, when we weren't "technically" homeschooling yet.  Over the summer our "cave lessons" were a big hit with all the kids.  We were just exploring something intriguing and not doing English or Math per se.  But lately I've been more panicky and worrying about what will happen next year if we get him back into his Montessori school and he's fallen behind.  I'm forgetting to just live a day at a time.  So with that in mind, instead of trying to make Mitch learn, I tried to make myself see the learning in what he was already doing.  I tried to get back to my Montessori roots and "follow the child".

So where did I find his "school"?

He and Henry have spent plenty of time learning about physics by building and knocking over towers made out of various materials...

Lots of great storytelling going on, even if none of it makes it to paper just yet.  Dress-up is a game the whole family can agree on.

He loves videography and was receptive to my requests that he storyboard his scenes instead of just screwing around with Grandma's camera (though that's fun too).

He discovered the computer game "Timez Attack" (a great free multiplication game) and I had to kick him off of it eventually for fear his eyeballs would melt from staring at the screen for so long.  He got discouraged at level 3 because it was getting too tough for him and so he decided to delete his profile and start all over at level 1 so he could get more practice.  Cue the angels singing "Gloria"...

And tonight he fell asleep rereading "Diary of a Wimpy Kid".  I think I can live with this.

It also seems like if I set out things that I'd like him to work on, enticingly displayed on the shelf, he gets around to asking about them or taking them down eventually, in his own time.  I'm usually just not that patient.  I need to work on that.  So, going all Montessori on y'all again, I need to work more on preparing his environment and putting all kinds of 3rd graderish work close at hand and work less on "teaching" him anything.

Everyone did like our themed lessons over the summer though so I asked Mitch if he'd like to do some more of those again and he said yes.  So at Mitch's suggestion I'm working on getting some car and truck lessons going. 

I'm also praying more.  Dear God, I'm at a loss with this boy, show me what to do with him (or not do with him as the case may be).  And I feel like He's answering.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blood in the Water

It's tough to feel like you can't be honest.  Like you can't reach out for help when you need it.  But that's how I feel to a certain extent about homeschooling.  While I do have people I can go to for support, there is also a large group of people who I feel like I need to put on the "happy face" for.  People who pooh-pooh homeschooling and think it's ridiculous.  People who are convinced we could never pull it off.  When they ask me how it's going it's frustrating that I can't be honest.  Whenever I AM honest and say how tough it is, it's like dumping a gallon of blood into shark infested waters.  They attack.  Mostly in a very passive aggressive way, but still.  When I'm feeling bad about how homeschooling is going, the last thing I need is someone rubbing my face in the fact that they "told me so" and asking me if I'm going to send Mitch to public school now. 

And our personal experience aside, the last thing I want to do is give these people more ammunition for their "Homeschooling is Bunk" mindset.  Even if homeschooling doesn't work out for us in the long run, it doesn't mean that it's a bad idea in general.  Regardless of how my kids end up being taught next year or the year after or the year after that, I will always think that homeschooling is a very valuable educational option for families.  So I sometimes feel like, besides preserving my own dignity, I also have a responsibility to preserve the "face of homeschooling".  And so I hide how I'm really feeling and how things are going.

I am usually a very up front, honest, and open individual.  So this is a new thing for me, this hiding, and I don't really like it at all.  But the alternative, getting torn down for our choices, is something I like even less.  So for now, I'll smile and nod and say "Everything's great!" and give examples of what our best days look like.

Homeschooling families - have you dealt with this scenario in the past?  How have you approached it or come to terms with it?
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