Friday, September 28, 2012

A Kai quote

Kai, while putting on his pajama shirt tonight: "I'm just waiting for my mouth to stop talking."

Thursday, September 27, 2012


So, we've decided to homeschool. I think the entirety of my small group of readers already know that, so this post is for posterity more than anything else.

I've been drafting this post, in my head, for years. And yet, now that I'm sitting here at the computer ready to write it, I'm unsure what I want to say. I feel a bit like I'm starting out on the defensive, so maybe I should just get that out of the way. I want to be particularly clear that our decision is not a reactionary one (at least not entirely) and that we fully support our friends and family who have (and who will) make choices different from the ones that we are making. I also want to focus on why we DO want to homeschool as opposed to why we're not making other choices. We are not anti-school. We've made the choice that we think is right for our family, for right now. That might change in a year or it might never change.

I hope that we will be supported in our choice and that our circle of friends and family will be happy that we're happy. I know that I am truly happy when I see a family who is really satisfied with the choices they've made for the education of their children. That includes families who use public schools and are active in their children's classrooms. It includes families who use public charter schools or private schools or who homeschool. So many of my friends and family members are really invested in their child's education, really passionate. That is what matters. If you have questions or doubts about our choice, that's okay. But please reserve judgement until you've informed yourself. Please feel welcome to ask any questions of me at any time. Questions can even be left as comments on this blog, anonymously. 

I've been asked why I want to homeschool. It's a tough question to answer because there are so many reasons. If I had to give one reason only, it would be because I want to spend this precious time with my children. I want to have adventures with my amazing sons. I want to watch them learn, to know exactly what they're learning so that we can make connections to every day life. I want lessons to be experiences and experiences to be lessons. I want to be able to cuddle up in our pajamas and watch TV or play board games all day every once in a while just because that's what we need. I want to be able to take a day off from school because it's just the most gorgeous weather we've ever seen, or because we're dying to go visit a friend we haven't seen in forever, or because we need a break. I want to enable spontaneity. I want to be able to tailor their lessons to their learning styles, the speed at which they pick things up, and their interests. If they want to become experts on the social interactions of African elephants, I want them to have the time to do that. I want to rest assured that they are mastering the skills and core of knowledge that everyone should acquire. I want them to learn to work together, to challenge each other, and to be each others' confidants, teammates, and supporters. I want them to have plenty of time to just be children, to play and explore and invent and imagine and move their bodies. I want them to be passionate about learning and about living. I want them to be active members of our community and to make meaningful connections with it. Most of these things could still happen, at least to some degree, if the kids were in public school. But I believe that homeschool makes it easier for these things to happen. Alexander went to public school for two years. I've only been homeschooling for one month. But, so far, it feels more natural having him here. It feels right.

And now, some pictures of my kids "doing school."

Jack is a very eager learner, very careful and detail-oriented. He is very focused and will pay attention to school work for far longer than I would require of him. He loves to do rhymes, opposites, pattern completions, and numbers. He often enjoys participating in Alexander's science and English lessons. He looks way too grown up in this picture.  
The figure in black on the right side of the picture below is the "Math Ninja," although he appears to be doing copywork in this picture. Alexander has a sensory aversion to pencils, so I allow him to do most of his writing with fine-tipped markers. Jack is doing pattern completion and Kai is about to do some coloring. Sometimes we do all gather at the table like this (excuse the God-awful tablecloth, but I feel quite protective of my new dining table), but we're often moving from room to room depending on the activity or lesson and I try not to make them sit for too long at a time. 
For the past two weeks, we've been working on pop-out cards for our art projects. This is one of the first ones that Alexander made. He even made a pop-up book and he is now a professional artists, as a neighborhood girl bought one of his creations at his "art store" that he set up in front of our house.
Here Alexander is forming his spelling words using Scrabble tiles, with some crazy light coming in through the Venetian blinds. A friend recently told me that they stopped teaching spelling in the school that Alexander attended kindergarten and first grade at, because spelling has gone "out." However, here in Pennsylvania, spelling is a required subject for homeschoolers.

I don't intend for this blog to become a homeschool blog. It's still just a Mommy blog. But, given that homeschooling is now a part of my mommyhood and a big part of our lives, you can certainly expect to hear about at least some of our homeschooling adventures along with our milestones, silly quotes, and other life stuff.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Summer Pictures

Just a smattering of photos from the summer. I really didn't take as many as I should have. In totally random order...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Summer Vacation: Part Three, The House

We are lucky. The kids and I arrived here on a Saturday. Justin came up the next day, Sunday. We gave the realtor the go ahead to have the pictures taken of the house and it was listed that Thursday. That very first day, we had a viewing and that couple placed a bid that Friday! It took a couple of back and forths, but we ended up with a ratified contract. The very first couple to look at our house, on the very first day it was on the market, bought it. So yeah, we are lucky. Well, let's not give luck all the credit, either. We did our research and priced the house perfectly. We (mostly Justin) worked our butts off to get it staged nicely. And Justin might disagree, but it is my honest opinion, after looking at a dozen or fifteen houses up here in PA, that I don't think there was even one of them that was staged as nicely as our house in Frederick was.

In fact, I was getting pretty discouraged looking at houses here. We looked at soooo many online in the weeks leading up to our move and in the time before we were first able to go look at houses. I should say, too, that we moved into our hotel having only the vaguest idea what area we might actually settle in. Justin had heard that one area was nice, but it was out of our price range. We initially considered New Jersey, but decided we really wanted to be somewhere between Philly and my dad near Allentown. We slowly, slowly started narrowing down the areas based on price, commute, and other factors. We did some driving around, but even that is tough with the kids. It is hard to pick a place to live when you know nothing of the area. Then, when we finally seemed to settle on an area, we were disappointed in the houses we were seeing. We just weren't seeing the perfect house. Some were out of our price range and STILL not something I'd buy, or they were in our price range but dumps, or they were beautiful and priced right but in a really weird location. Some of them looked great in pictures but turned out to be awfully strange in person. I am pretty sure we almost burst into flames in one house...

I was starting to think that we might really end up having to rent for a while, only because we couldn't find a house we liked! It seemed a shame to rent for that reason alone. Finally we saw this house, I'll call it "Irish." I had seen it online and requested to see it in our first batch with the realtor, but it wasn't available for viewing and we sort of forgot to circle back around to it until much later. I kept looking at it online. The kitchen was pretty darn ugly. It had the same cabinets as our ugly hotel! And that orange paint on the wall... yikes! But it was priced low enough that we could hope to save up to finish the basement. The neighborhood was great. The commute seemed reasonable. The layout of the house was just about perfect. It had a great yard. So we finally got an appointment to see it. I had put a lot of hope into "Irish," looking at the listing over and over again on my phone. And when we walked in, we were relieved to see that it looked the same in person as it did online. The kitchen was still ugly, but we can deal with some aesthetic issues. So, we put in our bid. Again, a couple of back and forths (and at least one frustrating misunderstanding) and again we had a ratified contract.

The house is not perfect, but no house is perfect. We can make this house our own over time. We can take care of it and improve it and become comfortable in it. We better, because they can pull my lifeless body out of this house in a hundred or so years. I am not ("do you hear me, I mean it") going to move next time.

So here we are in our new house in Pennsylvania, truly starting our new lives. We really like our new neighborhood. The kids are having fun in the new yard and love scootering around the cul-de-sac. We've been given gifts and warm welcomes by the neighbors. We still have a long way to go in terms of making meaningful connections, but that is the kind of thing that can only come in time. At least we're home.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Summer Vacation: Part Two, The Suite Life

During those first few week after we made the decision for Justin to accept the new job in Philly, it seems like we hardly had a second to talk to each other. I was forever taking the kids here or there to get them out of the way so that Justin could work on the house. Then when we got here to PA, Justin was immediately working long hours. He traveled almost immediately. And at that first hotel, there was the added problem of no bedrooms, so once the kids were asleep we had to be super quiet so as not to wake them up. The main floor bedroom opened to the living room, and the second bedroom was upstairs in the loft, which was open with a half wall (the one I was afraid they might throw themselves over). We solved that one problem a week in by moving hotels. The new hotel wasn't as pretty, but it had separate bedrooms, and that was more important to us.

We lived in that hotel for two and a half months. All of the kids grew one clothing size. Alexander lost two teeth. Kai quickly seemed to forget that we had ever lived anywhere else and insisted that the hotel was our house. We were on a first name basis with most of the staff. It did actually start to feel a bit like home, if only in the sense that when you get "home" after a long day of whatever, you have that sense of comfort and relief.

There were perks to living in a hotel, but even those perks came with a cost (not a financial cost... the company was paying for our stay). Yes, we had a daily maid, but that also meant that not just one, but at least two people were coming into our "home" at totally random times every single day. One guy would come for the dirty towels anywhere between 8:30AM and 11AM. The maid never came at the same time. Sometimes it was 9AM, sometimes 4PM. I also had to depend on other people to do things for me that would have been easier to do myself, if I had had the tools or resources needed. For example, I had to wait for them to take out my trash, even thought it always filled up more quickly than they could empty it. And when Kai spilled popcorn all over the carpet or Noah puked on our sheets, I had to either call and ask for help or deal with it in creative ways. I did like it when I timed it just right, went out with the kids for a while on our "full clean" day and came back to a magically clean suite. Mmmmm, I do like the smell of a freshly bleached bathroom! Justin and I joked, though, that a maid who doesn't do dishes or laundry is practically useless to us!

And then there were the meals. We really were quite lucky that the hotel offered free hot breakfast every day and dinner three times a week. The downfall was that it meant that my children dined in public ten times a week. I often felt like an exhibit at the zoo, the way that people looked at us. To be fair, I got complimented almost every single day on how beautiful my boys were, or how cute, or how funny, or how I was doing a great job handling all of them. For some reason people seem to be pretty chatty at hotels!

We did have some summer fun amidst the chaos of relocation tasks. The kids and I found several fun playgrounds. We took walks around our hotel grounds, played with sidewalk chalk, and were able to visit the pool a few times. There was a Chuck E Cheese not too far away that we enjoyed. The kids made forts pretty much every single day. We got lots of visits from PopPop and his blocks and puzzles. The kids were also allowed way too much TV and video game time, but we all survived with sanity somewhat intact. Everyone had some meltdowns as we all adjusted, but I guess that is to be expected.

I realize how incredibly lucky we are, especially with the housing situation... and I guess that can be another post.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Our Summer Vacation: Part One, The Journey

For the past few summers, we've had a Summer To Do List, filled with fun and meaningful activities that we try to accomplish over the summer. This summer, we had one main goal, with about a bazillion little "to dos." RELOCATE. New job, new house, new city, new state, new health insurance, new doctors, new dentists, new friends, new license plates, new drivers licenses, new grocery store, new everything. Okay, so we didn't change our names...

We told the kids it would be an adventure. The details are already getting fuzzy. We made the decision to relocate on May 29th. Noah was six weeks old. Three days later we had our first meeting with our realtor, who would help us sell our house. Some of my MOMS Club friends managed to throw together an extremely touching going away party for me (thanks, T!) and a couple even got me the sweetest, most meaningful little gift that I treasure (thanks, K and S!). Justin and I (mostly Justin) scurried around prepping the house for sale, doing repairs, putting stuff in storage, and staging. Just two and a half weeks after making the decision, the kids and I left for Pennsylvania, with me crying all the way out of our Frederick neighborhood.

In order to use the space of the van wisely, Alexander and Jack rode with my dad, who was helpful enough to be escorting us up to the hotel where we would be living temporarily, for up to three months while we waited for our house in MD to sell. I had Noah and Kai with me, along with most of the selected belongings that we had chosen to bring to the hotel. Justin was going to stay in MD for an extra day to finish staging the house without the hurricane we call our sons ruining it at every step of the way.

I think we were probably three quarters of the way there when I got separated from my dad. I went through a yellow light I didn't think I could stop for, and he got stuck behind. My van was driving really weird, oddly sluggish. It kept getting weirder and weirder. Eventually it got to the point where I was on the highway, flooring it, and only going about 40 mph. The people around me were not amused. I was not amused, either. There were jersey walls and construction all around. I had very little idea where I was and I had my two little babies to think of. I was way too nervous to just stop on the highway, even though I was very nervous that the van would just STOP, and there I'd be in the middle of the road.

I managed to make it to the exit that I needed to take to get to the hotel, but I was scared to keep driving. I pulled into an empty parking lot. I couldn't even see the street signs. I debated getting the kids out and walking down to look at the street signs, but I don't think I even had the stroller with me and there were no sidewalks. I didn't feel safe. I honestly did not know what to do with myself. I called the hotel to ask them to let my dad into the room if he got there first. Then I called Justin for advice, but he didn't pick up, busy painting and fixing up the house as he was. There were so many issues with calling a tow truck (not knowing where I was, not knowing how I'd get myself and the kids to the hotel), that I wasn't sure that was the best choice. Eventually, I decided to see if the little rest the van had gotten while I thought about things had done it any good. I had figured out with the help of my GPS that I was only about a half mile from the hotel (I could have walked there, but again: no stroller, no sidewalks, two babies). I tried out the van in the parking lot and it did seem a bit less sluggish, so I decided to give it a go. I managed to get to the hotel, check in, and take the kids up to the room.

Where I discovered that we had no bedrooms doors. And a scary loft that I thought my kids might throw themselves over. And that my dad wasn't there yet. I couldn't really even unload the car because of Kai and Noah. I finally talked to Justin and he told me to just chill. Just sit and wait for my dad. So I did. He got there about a half an hour later, having gotten lost and stopped to ask for directions I think twice. He was nice enough to unload the car for me, and stay overnight with us until Justin got there. He even went and picked up some groceries so we could actually eat. 

The next day Justin arrived in the afternoon and we got the van dropped off at a nearby mechanic. The day after that, he started his new job. And there we all were, living in a hotel in Pennsylvania, KIND OF starting our new lives.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our New Pets

**Shivers** They're freakin' me out, man. ANTS!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jack!

Don't give up on me yet, folks! I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

Our little second child, our sweet Jack, just turned five! FIVE. He is the first of the family to celebrate a birthday in the new house. Jack requested a "rainbow Angry Birds" theme for his party. His "party" stretched out over a week, with a series of several nice visits from family. On his actual birthday, Alexander made Jack stay upstairs while we decorated for him. Alexander made him an adorable heart-shaped card which said he loved him. Later, we went to Target where Jack chose a small gift, since his REAL gift (a "Dream Lite") hadn't arrived yet. He is such a darn sweetie that he hadn't even asked about a present, but I still felt like he should have a little something on his real birthday. After dinner we had some cake and sang to him. The following Saturday, we had a nice visit from Aunt Eileen and Great Grandpop. On Sunday, Grandma and Grandpa visited, and on Tuesday, PopPop and Memaw came over! It was nice for Jack (and the rest of us!) to get to spend special time with each set of people.

At five, Jack is an interesting mix of stubborn with a temper and sweet, generous, and affectionate. His current favorite food is bread with butter. He thinks most foods are "disgusting." He is an extremely eager learner and wants to "do school" far more than I would require of him. He has an excellent grasp of the concepts of opposites and rhymes and is on the verge of reading readiness. He enjoys riding his scooter in the cul-de-sac, playing with his brothers, building with Legos, Play-Doh, and of course video games and TV.

Jack just had his five-year well visit and he is perfectly healthy. He is above the 98th percentile for height, at around the 88th percentile for weight, and his BMI is at the 50th percentile, which is just about perfect. He was a champ for his exam and flu shot. He's doing great! Love you, my sweet boy!