Monday, November 28, 2011

Halfway to a Year

It seems as if it were just yesterday I were embarking on this crazy adventure of having two babies 15 months apart, and now the year is half over. The grueling postpartum period is behind me, never to be revisited again, which I must admit brings a feeling of excitement. Among the three things I will never miss about having babies (believe me there is enough to be missed) sleeplessness is one of them (the other two being morning sickness and transition.) It was a little bit of a hurricane for a while there, but the hardest part is behind me. The funny thing is that Anthony is and always has been the perfect baby. He can take no blame for any of my struggles. However, one can only be expected to function so normally on little sleep. Lack of sleep affects so many facets of my life; the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This is the main reason why I am so adamant about sleep training; it's essential for the well-being of the whole family.

Anywho, back to Anthony. He is the perfect baby. My 12 years of child rearing have taught me a thing or two, and I think Heavenly Father saw it fit to compensate me with a good baby for having two of them so close together. He is very soft, mild, and loveable.

I have been thinking lately that the one thing I am really going to miss is nursing. There is nothing like the closeness that nourishing your baby with your own body brings, and without any more pregnancies on the horizon this will be my last tie to doing this. Not that there has ever been any effort to wean on my part, but I especially will not be rushing this one. Yes, nursing is something I hold dear and sacred to my heart.

That being said, I am so anxious for all that the future holds. I look forward to "big kid" stuff like vacationing, camping, nights away with Forrest, and all those other things we've been holding back on while we've had our babies. I have many personal goals, such as running a half marathon and having the sit-down time to invest in developing other talents. I look forward to being able to more fully devote myself to our homeschool. All the kids have made sacrifices over the years when I've had my babies, and as they grow our study time can become more focused and our curriculum more advanced. In addition to mothering, I feel homeschooling is my calling and part of my livelihood.

As Anthony grows, I am enjoying having a little more time to spend doing the things I've missed with my other kids, like laying down with them at night. My nights are no longer occupied nursing a baby to sleep. The other night I was lying in bed with Noah, and we were having a conversation about how angels protect us from scary things. Out of the blue, he said, "Heavenly Father only takes us up (to heaven) when we give a good talk, right?" I was a little confused, so I asked him what he meant. He then went on to say, "Like Sister Speas; she gave a talk He really liked and so He took her up." Sister Speas was a woman in our ward who feebly bore her testimony on Fast Sunday and died later in the week from cancer. My kids were really touched by her testimony and we were talking about it in the car after church. In Noah's mind, the reason why she died later in the week was because of her sincere testimony. How would I know of this sweet innocence in his heart if I didn't take the time to be with him in the stillness that seems to only come at night?

I can not put into words my gratitude for being a mother. It is humbling to have the opportunity to bring a child into the world six times over. I do not think I would've realized my potential as a person and a woman had I not had children; for in them my life truly began. They continue to mold and shape me into the person I hope to be, now and in the eternities.

Anthony, thank you for being our perfect sixth child. Tomorrow you will be on the better half of a year, and I cherish every day with you. You complete our family.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

They come, they eat, they leave. Thanksgiving this year was pretty much a blur. I plugged in my camera battery to charge, and before I had a chance to put it back in the camera the feast was over and half our crew had taken little ones back home for some much needed sleep. We did manage to snap a few shots with our cell phones, so that will have to suffice. Let me see if I can recollect the menu: turkey, ham, cranberry apple sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrot casserole, sweet potato pie, green bean casserole, vegetables and dip, dinner rolls, sparkling cider, a jello dish, steamed seasonal veggies, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, chocolate cream pie, banana cream pie, pecan pie, and caramel apple bars. Did I forget anything? I must say, our family puts on quite the potluck! We had about 24 people in all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lake Oaks Performance

Ashlee had her first troupe performance the other night at Lake Oaks community center. YouTube disabled the audio in the second video, so you'll have to imagine Prince's "When Doves Cry" in your head as you watch it. She is making a ton of progress and really thriving in dance. Her troupe classes have given her much focus and provide the opportunity to hone in on her skills. We are looking forward to the Christmas parade in December down Placerville's Main Street! Oh, and check out Rachel jammin' right along. She couldn't help herself.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mama's Babies

It's not very often I get to sit with both of my babies. The other afternoon I was sitting in my chair with Anthony, and Rachel came downstairs after waking up early from her nap. Still sleepy, she climbed up into my lap and dozed off. She woke up when Noah starting taking these pictures (reluctantly, you can see.) I love the way she loves Anthony. She's a little mama for sure. 99% of the time she wants to soothe and comfort him, and I've only had to deter her from using him as a kicking board once or twice. She is in to putting things in his mouth (a bit scary) and the other day I caught her feeding him bread. I was in the kitchen making grilled cheeses when I heard a muffled cry coming from my bedroom. Assuming Anthony had the blanket over his face I ran upstairs to find him on his back, Rachel next to him, with a mouth full of bread. Since then I have caught her putting a small bar of soap in his mouth, goldfish crackers, and orange slices. I am hoping she will outgrow this phase sooner than later.

Tummy Time

Here's my husky boy getting some tummy time! He's strong yet soft. I like to think of him as my squishy marshmallow.

Christmas List in November

November is not too early to draft a Christmas list, is it? Apparently Jacob doesn't think so. I've seen about ten of these circulating around the house since last weekend. It's going to be a long November and December...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Guess Who's in a...

... toddler bed now! Yep, our Rach. We made the transition a little earlier than I normally would for my babies, but when we saw this in the consignment store yesterday I thought it would be a good idea. She started climbing on it and acting like she wanted it, so it must've been meant to be! Besides, with Anthony right on her tail she's having to do everything a little faster.

We demolished the crib tonight, and the plan is to move Anthony into the playpen in the boys' room. He is pretty much sleeping through the night now, but once again with my last baby I am just a little more hesitant to cut the apron strings. If only I could get on board with his 7:30 bed time I'd be getting a full eight hours too!

To be honest I'll be curious to see how this works out... especially at nap time. I have never had success with getting my kids to take naps once they move out of their crib, but Rachel is definitely not ready to give up naps yet. I dread the whole in-and-out-of-bed game, but hopefully she'll be obedient. I don't think she can open her door handle, so that will help. I am open to any advice on keeping young'ins in their beds!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Real Life Homeschooling

Among the many changes that make their appearance when a new baby comes are changes to our homeschool. No two of my six years of homeschooling have been the same. Despite my tendencies to want to find the "perfect fit" in the way of a schedule and technique, I am learning that the chore charts, the textbooks, the daily schedule- all are buffering agents between one change and the next. . Much like parenting, when it comes to homeschooling there is no one "right" way. There is a sign near my front door that reads, "If nothing ever changed, there would be no butterflies." I suppose my efforts to bridle the experience of homeschooling and devise one tried and true technique that will carry us from year to year are in vain. But that's not such a bad thing...

I have taken the kids to Apple Hill 3 times in the past 2 weeks. Any bit of guilt I carried for breaking the schedule and leaving on a "school day" dissolved as I realized that this is where true learning takes place. After all, if I deprived my children of the spontaneous opportunities of climbing on hay bails, watching a cider mill in action, meandering among crates of colorful squash, pumpkins, and gourds, feeding farm animals, and enjoying the bounty of the season, I would be an accomplice to the very oppressive, hyper-scheduled, exhausting effect of public school, which is one of the reasons why I kept them home in the first place. Kids who spend 6 hours in school every day, 2 hours in transit, and another 1+ hours on homework do not have the same time and opportunities to develop their talents, enjoy one another, and follow their natural curiosities as I have chosen to give my children through homeschooling. Now, go back and read that sentence carefully. My intent is not to bash public school or make it seem inferior, but to honestly point out that much of my kids' character and all of their talents have been developed through our efforts in homeschooling. My error was in believing that public school can be carried out at home, because it can't.

Textbooks are great, but most of our learning takes place in conversations that are generated from them. I am learning to use textbooks as springboards rather than an absolute. Conversely, this lessens the pressure to complete x amount of assignments in any given day.

Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer in teaching my kids fundamentals such as Pythagorean Theorem, quadratic equations, Boyle's Law, and how to find the area of a trapezoid, and these aren't things my kids will pick up through playing in the backyard- I get that. For what it's worth, Ashlee scored in the high end of proficient to advanced in all of her last STAR test scores. However, the areas where my children are most accomplished have been a direct result of the free, unstructured time provided them by homeschooling. The countless hours spent playing piano, dancing, crocheting hats, building habitats for bugs and frogs, practicing acrobats on the trampoline, and picking apples to put in our pie have not come through penciled in assignments. I realized today as my children chased each other over hay bails and ran up tractor tires with no hands that this was P.E. While trick-or-treating last night we had a conversation about the waxing and waning of the moon, only to have it re-visited in one of our free reading books today. I love when life aligns itself with our studies to provide invaluable teaching moments like that.

Above all, my kids are safe. In the scheme of things, taking 3 months off to honor the arrival of a new baby will be far less detrimental to my daughter than sending her to 7th grade public school where she will be taught gay history... just saying. I would rather undo the effects of too much computer time than the hurt of being bullied, or the denouncing of religion, or the celebration of a "holiday party" when it's really Christmas.

So now I have a new resolve and it is this: no typical days. The only thing I will schedule into my day is spontaneity (okay, as spontaneous as I can be between the diapers, dishes, and laundry.) My point is this: trying to keep myself from breaking the "schedule" is like trying to keep life from moving forward. If I wanted the same schedule, same routine, same books day in and day out, I would send my kids to public school. But I don't, we homeschool. Teachers have their place and bless them for it; the masses must be educated. But like I told Ashlee, try giving your classroom teacher an infant, throw a toddler in the mix, have her clean and decorate the classroom, then have her be the lunch lady and the janitor and you will appreciate the role I have taken on. Hence my efforts to shift to "real life" homeschooling. The phone will ring, the baby will cry, and just when you've settled into a good history lesson you will be summoned. That is the "home" element of our homeschool. Nevertheless, my children are learning and they are thriving, and they are safe. I never have to wonder about what they did in a day. I believe there is something inspired about the mass immigration towards homeschooling, and it makes my heart smile every time I hear of a new family being called to take this path. The golden nuggets are there if you look for them.

As I sit here now I feel this was more for me than you, but those are my thoughts and I invite you to take them at face value. I don't profess to have it all figured out, but I unapologetically do the best that I can. The world is on a downward spiral and public schools are no exception, and if this is uncomfortable for you maybe it's because you know it too. If ever you have felt the seeds of homeschooling land in your heart, try giving them some fertile soil. You just might be surprised at the fruit you can bear. Which brings me to another sign I have hanging in my kitchen...

With God, All Things Are Possible