Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Things They Don't Tell You

Last week, I told you that you were being lied to - that the job of raising kids doesn't get easier as they get older. I got some great feedback on that piece (thank you!), and it turns out that most of you agree with me. It also turns out that I'm not the only one who was lied to when my kids were younger (I really shouldn't use that word, though. I've always taught my kids that a lie is a malicious intent to deceive, and I don't think that's what other parents do at all when they tell us it gets easier; I just don't think they are being very precise with their language.). It got me thinking, though, about all the things that we are not told when our kids are young. When my kids were around the age they are in this picture (that would be 8, 7, 5, and 5), I had begun telling parents with younger kids some of the things that I had already learned. But, oh! How much I still had to learn! Here's what I had learned to this point, however. For reference, I was 34 at this point in time (2009). N.B. - I know not all things apply to all people, and I know some of what I say may sound heretical. I'm okay saying it if it resonates with just one person. I would have appreciated hearing it myself.
  • You might not fall in love with your baby immediately. That's okay. Your body has just been through a tremendous shock. That love will come. If it doesn't, talk to your doctor; you are most likely suffering from postpartum depression and help is available.

  • Time will likely cease to have all meaning for a little while. It's normal. It may not feel like it, but life *will* return to normal. You have to give it time.

  • Babies cry. It's how they communicate their every need. I'm not getting into any debates about whether you should let them cry, but just know that they do cry. It doesn't mean they're broken (but do make sure you know why they're crying). It means they're normal.

  •  When you have babies (and when you're a stay-at-home mom of littles), the minutes and the hours crawl by, but the days, weeks, and months fly by. When people tell you to treasure these times because they'll be over before you know it - THAT ONE IS TRUE! I remember writing in my journal about the feeling of despair regarding endlessly nursing twins, but about feeling almost nostalgic at the same time knowing that it would end. True story: one day after church, we went to IHOP. The kids were probably about the ages you see above. There was another family from church there. They had four teenagers, two boys and two girls. The dad told us, "One day soon, you'll be us." That happened all too soon. It feels like that happened yesterday, in fact. Now when I see families with littles at church, I think the same thing about them. Enjoy those waddling little toddlers! Enjoy the easy "why" questions. Enjoy reading the same picture books over and over again. The things that used to seem so monotonous to me (I'm not a great "little kid" parent; if you know me in real life, you know that I don't talk to little kids like little kids - it's both a good and a bad thing.) now seem like a beloved memory that I would do anything to go back and visit in person.

  • A child's innocence is even more precious than you think. You know it's precious. It's more precious than you think. Yes, I said it twice. I'll say it again. A child's innocence is more precious than you think. If you have teens, you know why I'm saying it again and again. If your children are still little, guard than innocence, guard that innocence, guard that innocence! When you think you're doing everything you can, do more. Even the best kids are curious. Even the most obedient kids are still kids. They will find ways to circumvent your rules, your webguards, and everything else you think you've done to protect their innocence. I'm jumping ahead a tiny bit to my teen parent knowledge now (but I'm not jumping ahead by much), but the parents who say "not my kid," I promise some of you - it's your kid. I know your kids and I know you (and I would be po'ed if you were saying this to me, so I get that you're ticked and defensive), and it's your kid. In this day and age, there should be no such thing as trusting your children and letting them have privacy. Privacy to write in their journals? Okay. Privacy to text their friends? Nope. Privacy to cruise the Internet? No way. I wholeheartedly recommend Accountable2You. Click on the link to read my review, but I can tell you that when my free subscription ended, I never bought anything so fast in my life. I've made the mistake of trusting, and I will never make that mistake again. Children can be broken. And the guilt of having broken a child through neglect or inactivity or trust is crippling.

  • Children will hurt you like you have never been hurt before. You think it will hurt when your toddler says she hates you (which my first never did, but she did say she wanted to go live at her Aunt's house - that one always has known how to push my buttons! Her aunt is everything I'm not - organized, clutter-free, sweet, and calm.), but just wait for what your tween girl can hurl your way. Then, when your teen doesn't even deign to speak to you at all, you'll be wishing for the days of the tween's uninformed opinions about you. 

  • Children will love you like you've never been loved before. And that's the most important thing to take away from this post. A child's love when they are small is so pure. The trust in their eyes when they look at you, the bouquets of picked wildflowers that sit in cups on windowsills until they are dead and brown because you can't bear to throw them away, the bins of drawings of stick figure families with mommies with long hair and daddies with no hair (okay, that one is particular to my family!), the rib-crushing hugs from teenage sons who are taller than you, the careful manicures from teenage daughters who know all the latest nail trends - it's all so incredibly precious. And it's all over way too soon. The feelings are all so intense, on all sides. Parenthood is the job where, if you do it right, you're raising your kids *not* to need you - to be able to leave you, when all you want to do is to hold on tightly to them; to make sure that nothing will ever hurt them or take them away from you. What an eternal conundrum! No wonder there is conflict amidst so very much love!
Post-Script: I know there are those of you reading this who are thinking, "I don't have any of those problems with my children. My teens are trustworthy, we never argue, my toddlers don't hate me, and my days are ordered and perfect." To y'all, I say - you're blessed. Thank the Almighty for your blessings and pray for the rest of us. I think the rest of us make up the majority of the Bell curve.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

You're Being Lied To...

Christmas 2006

This is one of those posts that floats around in my head all the time, but that I have always hesitated to write. It seems, well, mean. You know how when you have babies, everyone tells you it gets easier? At what point did you realize they were lying to you? I'm not sure when I realized the jig was up. I mean, intellectually, I know that it must have been rough for me. I had four kids in less than 3 1/2 years. So, Therese was not yet 3 1/2 when I had the twins. Between Therese and two newborns, I had a 16 month-old. That's a lot. I didn't have much help. My mom came over once a week. That's it. I didn't know that it was supposed to be nearly impossible, so I just did it (and, yes, I nursed the babies). I knew that it would get easier because someday I would sleep again. Someday I would be able to take migraine medicine again. (That, I do remember - calling my doctor almost every day begging for something for my headaches. He would always ask if I was still nursing and then try to prescribe anything that was safe for the babies that might work for a migraine. Nothing did, but God bless him for trying!)

In so many ways, having four almost all the same age *was* easy. They all played together, slept at the same time (eventually), did school together, etc. Let me just tell you, though, it has not gotten easier. Easy was being able to corral them in front of the TV for PBS Kids. Easy was being able to make chicken nuggets and no one complaining that they didn't like chicken nuggets (they weren't allowed to do that, so they didn't - can you even imagine?). Easy was all of them going to bed *before* Henry and me every night so we could have some time together. Easy was back when a toddler's "no" was the epitome of talking back. How I wish.

So, it does not get easier -- at least it doesn't get easier on your heart. Logistically, things do get easier. It is easier when kids can dress themselves, feed themselves, take care of their own bodily functions, etc. But those are just logistics. It's not easy when four teenagers tell you you're doing things wrong. When they ignore simple requests from you. When they know far more than you (obviously!). When four former best friends fight and squabble like there's no tomorrow. When they seem to have forgotten everything you ever taught them about the importance of siblings - to say nothing of the importance of respecting their parents. When they were little I would check on them to make sure they were covered and that their noses weren't obstructed so they could breathe. Now I check on them just to look at them when their faces aren't angry - just to look at them for the short time they have left at home.

It's not to say that my kids are bad kids - my kids are exceptionally good kids, but they aren't easier than when they were toddlers. I'm willing to bet no one's are. I'm going to stop telling parents it gets easier when they get older. I'm going to start saying it gets easier when they're potty trained.

Christmas 2017

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Review of Home School in the Woods

We have used so many products from Home School in the Woods over the last ten years that I could not even begin to remember, much less list, them all. Products from this amazing company were some of the first I ever bought as a homeschooler. Some of my kids have loved them, while others haven't been as crazy about them (artistic kids will go nuts for these innovative projects, though!). One reason some of my kids haven't loved Home School in the Woods previously is because some of their studies are rather long and intense and it just ends up being a lot of creative work for kids whose strength isn't creativity. Home School in the Woods solved that problem in a big way, though, with their  Á La Carte products! Now, instead of buying an entire unit study product from Home School in the Woods, you can just buy the projects that you want to do! It's such a great idea! And with dozens of projects to choose from, you're sure to find something for every single one of your kids. There are timelines, games, file folder projects, lap book projects, and more. You can choose something from Ancient History, World History, Early America, 19th Century America, 20th-21st Century America, or Bible Times. Honestly, the hardest part is narrowing it down to which projects you'll do!

In my case, I knew that Mary-Catherine (13) would want to do a lap book, so that helped me narrow down my choices. Then, when I saw the Literary Genres Lap Book Mini-Study, I knew we had a winner. Mc loves to read, and she knows what she loves to read, but we have never formally studied the different types of genres before, so this lap book would hit on all cylinders. First, she loves lap books (my kid loving cutting, coloring, and gluing? Must be a genetic anomaly...). Second, she loves Home School in the Woods (I have to agree with her there - everything they put out is just so visually lovely). Finally, this lap book covers an actual curricular need that I have not addressed. Yay!

The lap book is downloadable and includes incredibly detailed instructions on printing and assembly. If you, like me, glaze over when you have to read long detailed instructions, be patient. The instructions aren't actually complicated - they just look like they are. Home School in the Woods wants to make sure that you don't waste your printer ink and paper, so they tell you everything you need to know up front. It's all pretty basic. And when you're finished, you'll have a beautiful lap book, complete with a center insert, that looks something like this:

Your child will have learned ten genres: poetry, biography, autobiography, fantasy, fairy tale, tall tale, mystery, science fiction, historical fiction, and realistic fiction. She will have also been given sample pieces of literature from each genre. She will have learned vocabulary and steps to story building. There is also room in the lap book for some story summaries. The lap book itself is, of course, a thing of beauty, as you can see from these in-progress pictures of Mary-Catherine working on hers:

If the Literary Genres lap book isn't for you, be sure to check out some of the other projects that Home School in the Woods has available - perhaps the Science, Invention, and Mathematicians Timeline or the The Art of Quilling (3D) - something I've always wanted to try! Other Review Crew members tried a bunch of different projects! Click through to the Crew Blog to read all of their reviews!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

When It Rains...

...yeah, everyone knows how that one finishes. Mary-Catherine and I have just had one of those weeks. For starters, I found out that a decision I made was so completely the wrong one that it could have been disastrous. By the grace of God, it wasn't, but it could have been. Now I'm sitting on a similar decision and just praying that it will turn out okay.

The day after I was dealing with those issues, Henry, Mc, and I were out doing errands having a very nice time preparing Mc for her shooting competition today when we came to a known dangerous intersection. We passed through it and saw a bad situation building. I had my eyes forward, but Henry, watching in the rear view mirror, saw what happened next when a motorcyclist, trying to avoid becoming involved in an accident, jumped the median and laid down his bike while he rolled over and over before ending up face down in the street unmoving. Henry has some EMT training, so he immediately pulled over and was first over to the man. I yelled at Mc not to look. She immediately started crying and praying. I stayed with her while Henry and a few others rendered aid and I called 911. Mc and I didn't know, but the man was only unconscious. Henry knew right away that he wasn't dead because he was snoring. We had no way of knowing that, though. It was awful. Henry stayed while the ambulance, fire engine, and police came. He gave a statement to the police to describe what happened. The officer called him later to tell him that he had seen the man in the hospital and that he was going to be fine. Praise God.

Mc is shooting this morning without a coach, although an older shooter is assisting her, so she's been a nervous basket case anyway, but her anxiety has been off the charts. None of this helps. I've been dealing with so many other things, too. A close family member is very ill, a closer family member is a different kind of ill, and I feel guilty for being so beaten down because, overall, we are so unbelievably blessed. Everything could be so, so much worse.

Is anyone else guilty of playing the, "If only I can get through the next big thing, everything will begin to look up" game? That's definitely me, but it's such a fallacious approach. All of life is about the next big thing. There will always be a next big thing. *Life* is the next big thing. When you get through it, you're dead. I need to find a new perspective. If you have one that works for you when you're feeling overwhelmed or beaten down, I'd love to hear it. I also get in this pattern where I know that knitting (for example) makes me feel better when I'm down, but I'm too down to knit. It's so ridiculous. A big part of me just wants to slap myself and tell myself to grow up. If life were easy, everyone would be doing it. Er, wait a minute. That went terribly wrong somewhere...

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Review of CursiveLogic

CursiveLogic has to be one of my most recommended companies ever. Their approach to cursive is so different and so unique that it has been a Godsend to more people than just my dysgraphic son (13). We first reviewed this company in 2015 when Michael was 10. Since then, they have changed their workbook a little, but the best change has been the addition of a webinar, which is now part of the CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack. This option includes one CursiveLogic workbook, plus six months access to the 45-minute instructional webinar which tells you everything you need to know to teach the CursiveLogic method to your own child. 

This time around, I also received a new, very awesome adult coloring book - The Art of Cursive. Those who follow me on Facebook may remember when I posted about the Kickstarter for this very coloring book! I contributed (in fact, I couldn't throw my money at them fast enough! That's how much I believe in this company and their product!) and received a few of the pages in advance of the book's publication. I loved it on sight. The book has a few instructional pages at the beginning, but it is not meant to take the place of the curriculum. It is for those who already know cursive, either through CursiveLogic, or through another method. It is a beautiful product.

As before, Michael (13) was my tester with this cursive program. Yes, he has used CursiveLogic before, and yes the program is still essentially the same, using a shape-based, multi sensory approach to learning cursive. Letters are taught by their shapes, not alphabetically. They are also taught in strings so that hand writers are actually *writing* things almost immediately, which makes writing so much more enjoyable. Most of all, CursiveLogic makes sense. The approach is, well, logical. Colors are tied to shapes, which are tied to phrases to use while writing. For someone like me, who talks herself through tasks routinely, this approach is by far the best one we've ever used.

Now, anyone who knows me very well (or who had me as a 3rd grade teacher!) knows that my love is fancy 19th century style script. My own children beat the notion of teaching it to them out of me, though. The final blow came from my dysgraphic son. His hand was just not going to make all those beautiful swirls. However, cursive is less fatiguing for his hand when writing. The cursive logic font is perfect for him. It's definitely cursive (not italic, or any such substitute), but it is reasonable - easy to learn and easy to use in daily life:

Because Michael had slipped back into print recently, I was thrilled for him to be able to refresh himself with CursiveLogic!

And that coloring book! Initially, I had taken it for myself, but when Michael's twin sister saw it, I relented and let her have it. She learned cursive way before Michael and uses it as her main form of handwriting, so she was actually a great tester for the coloring book. She had only been using it for a few minutes when she exclaimed, "This is so calming!"

She thought that the embedding of the letters in the pictures was so neat! I think she's saving the facing handwriting practice pages for Michael, though!

I was going to say that I wish I had known about CursiveLogic when my older kids were learning cursive, but I just checked its "founding" date, which is 2010. At least one of my kids already knew cursive by then, but my now 14 year-old could have benefited! Still, it was around for my child who most needed it, and for that I am so grateful. I am also so excited when I see people to whom I have recommended it bring their copies to me to show me what their kids have done with their Orange Ovals, and their...(you didn't think I would actually tell you what shape/color comes next, did you?! I don't believe in spoilers!)

Most fortunately, CursiveLogic is offering an awesome coupon for the rest of March! 

If you've been considering cursive, I don't think you'll be disappointed with this program. You don't have to take my word for it, though. Click through to the Crew Blog to read all of the reviews, some of which even include before and after pictures of real users' handwriting, changed for the better because of CursiveLogic!