Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Amazing Children

Today our homeschool co-op had a mini Olympics field day at the park across the street from my house.  The day was cool and clear and we had a good showing with about fifteen of our twenty five or so kids.  This is the first year for my co-op, an idea started with two good friends last spring when we knew that the personal demands of our current co-op were putting too much strain on our already overburdened lives.  We set the plan in motion, arranged for classes at my church and managed to acquire twelve of the most wonderful homeschooling families, quite by sheer circumstance, and got the co-op off the ground in September.  It has been successful beyond my wildest dreams and exactly what I was looking for. We have lost a few members and gained a few, but still manage to have great cohesiveness.

Today we met at the park and the kids ran off to play, all fifteen of them, ranging in age from two to ten.  No one is left out. No ugly words are ever said.  This is a group of great kids who are excellent examples of the best traits that homeschooling brings out in children.  We moms chatted for a bit and laid out a loose plan for our planned activities.  These moms....I can't really put into words how grateful I am to them.  They are really why we are a success.  First, of course, they are raising these wonderful kids.  They are doing it right and our group is reaping the benefits.  Second, they have managed to take the burden off this micromanaging maniac of a woman that I am and allow me to really enjoy the experience.  Everyone steps up.  Every time.  We have managed to create a true cooperative, everyone pulling their own weight.

After about 30 minutes, one mom brought the kids together at the pavilion and talked to them about the history of the Olympics.  The rest of us set up stations around the area.  We had jump rope, hula hoops, long jump, football toss, bean bag toss, three legged race and frisbee toss.  We set the kids free (no need for grouping them or micromanaging them either, because they "get it" and hit all the stations on their own schedule) and we spent the next two hours having fun.  I was at the long jump station and I was happy to see the kids so interested in something so incredibly simple.  They got in line, made some practice jumps and then made two measured jumps, trying to best their own length.   Frisbee throwing was another huge success and they were so funny to watch as they learned about three legged racing.  I think we will make this field day a tradition!  Great kids!  Great parents!  Great day!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Week

Today we got back into school mode with the start to our celebration of Earth Week.  We have our "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" poster up and our bulletin board has it's RRR border and is waiting for all the cool art and poetry we do this week to fill it up.  I found a great Earth Day packet on and we choose to focus on water today, reading about water conservation and also about ocean pollution.  For art, we cut out a large circle, glued it to the inside of a box lid, dropped in a few splashes of blue and green, four marbles, and made an awesome Earth marble painting.  We also made a crazy color marble painting just to be on the creative side :-)  In addition to our other assignments, we also enjoyed our ongoing baseball unit, working on an ABC paper for baseball, a term for every letter, and reading a story about the Acceras, twelve brothers who put together their own semi-pro team and played across the country.  The best part of the day, however, was being able to finish everything by 1:30.  Love having a little time to myself in the afternoon....if only the baby would take her nap.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The College Tour

Today I dropped the little one off at co-op in the care of friends and my husband and I took our older son on the tour of his college campus, the place he will call home in a little over four months.  It was a rainy and dreary day, but despite this, I could tell that the campus was well kept, pleasing to the eye and orderly. We went along with out group, hearing about all the fun the kids were going to have, all the cool groups they could join, all the awesome services that were offered to them, from tutoring to computer fixing.  We saw all the places they could eat, hang with friends and relax outside.  We saw their dorm rooms and were told about the awesomeness of living with a roommate.  My husband thought it was the coolest thing he had ever seen and told our son he was jealous of the experience he was about to embark on.  I smiled, nodded, agreed that this definitely sounded like alot of fun.  In all honesty, the tour made me feel better about his being there.  It did look wonderful and the opportunities were so abundant.  I could see him thriving there, making friends, succeeding in his quest to become a sports broadcaster and journalist.  I know that he will succeed in making his dreams come true.  There is no question.  He is driven and goal oriented and he knows what he wants out of life.

The problem for me, however, is to do all these wonderful things, he has to leave home.  I know all the things that everyone says..... I know "it's time".  I know "he needs to branch out on his own".  I know that "he's still my boy and always will be".  I know "he's only 20 minutes away".  I know.  I know.  I know.  But does everyone have any idea how much I love this boy?  Does anyone know how it makes me not be able to breathe when I think about him leaving home?  Does anyone know how hard this is going to be for me?  It's not that I don't want him to go.  I do.  I'm just not ready.  The problem is, I'll never be ready.  I realize that this and I know this is my problem and not his.  I know I will survive and there will be a new normal.  I know I will be so proud of him.  I know he will visit often. I know he will still be my boy.  I also know that I am going to miss him so much that I won't know what to do with myself.  But I will survive.  I have before and I will again.  And I will be so proud of the man that my boy will become.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Back to School

Today was our first day back to school after spring break and Dakota woke up whining and hoping that I would change my mind.  Didn't happen lol.  We spent the morning finishing up our Magic Tree House book, Monday with the Mad Genius about Leonardo da Vinci.  I love how these books let you peek inside the lives of famous people and make them seem like someone you could be friends with.  Today we finished with chapters 9 and 10 and in chapter 9 we watched da Vinci painting a portrait of a woman who didn't want to smile.  Finally she graced him with just a small smile and he finished his painting of Lisa....Mona Lisa.  Koda was shocked!  "I know that picture!" he said.  "I've seen that before!"  I love how in the future, when we see that painting, the odds are good that not only will he remember who painted it, but the story that went along with it!  We did a storyboard, a word search, a crossword puzzle and a character trait paper.  We started our poetry unit, focusing on Haiku poetry, and wrote two of them based on Da Vinci and the book.  Dakota did really well with them and seemed to enjoy finding words to fit the syllable form for that particular type of poem.  For art, we did a cloud picture, using cotton balls to make a cloud that looked like a dragon head.  Da Vinci used "observation and imagination" in his every day life and one example was was finding pictures in the clouds, something Dakota enjoys doing on a regular basis.  The mission in this particular book, the second in the four part set, was to find one of the keys to happiness.  Curiosity ended up being the secret, something else Dakota could really relate to.

Just before lunch we sat together and talked about moving into the 1900's in history.  This week we are going to focus on 1900-1910.  Teddy Roosevelt was president and he is my very favorite one.  Dakota is familiar with him from the Night At The Museum movies.  We read a book that talked about President Roosevelt's camping trip to Yosemite with John Muir, where he honed his love of nature and began working to give the nation our National Park system.  He also saved the baby bear cub on this trip, hence the invention of the "Teddy Bear".  Dakota seemed to appreciate that our natural areas needed to be preserved and he loved learning about the teddy bear.  He ran into his room while I made lunch to see how many teddy bears he had left.

After lunch we did our spelling unit and starting testing out in Abeka 2.  I know he's probably familiar with almost all the concepts in the book, but I want to find out what he still needs work on and I just wasn't confident in the Harcourt material.  We also got back to our rocks unit, learning a bit more about igneous rocks, filling out our booklet and doing a sorting activity based on color.  I think we were both done by this point, so I let him go and wrapped up the paperwork that needed to be cleared up for the day.

Tonight is a quiet night in the house.  Our older son is working the O's game and the three of us left at home are in pjs watching TV.  I know I am personally looking forward to a new Ghost Hunters and the top 7 in American Idol.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My "Little" Girl

Twenty seven years ago today I gave birth to my first child in a hospital in Wurzburg, Germany after three days of unproductive labor.  I was nineteen years old and just a child myself, I suppose, but I wanted her so badly and after the shock of her being a girl, after everyone "knew" I was carrying a boy, I jumped right into motherhood with both feet.  My own mother had come to Germany to be with me, but it was stressful, as she is a very domineering woman who wanted to take over and do it all her way.  I stood strong, ended up hurting my mom's feelings, and doing things MY way.  My daughter was an easy baby, crying only when her belly hurt and sleeping very well, but I can still remember the day when it dawned on me that I could not even go to the bathroom now without knowing what was going on with this little life.  The realization was overwhelming!  My husband was gone alot and I was alone in a foreign country, so I had no choice but to rely on my own instincts and hope that I was doing the right thing.

By the time we went home for a visit between our tour in Germany and our last year in the service in Colorado, I was a confident young mother and my daughter was a friendly, alert three month old.  The family all met us at the airport to meet her, but my mom was crushed when she didn't want to go to anyone.  After all, they knew about her, but she didn't know about them!

We were home for about six weeks and there was alot of tension between my mother and I.  She was determined to do it her way and I was determined to do it mine.  We ended up not speaking for several days, but I think that finally got the point across and things were better after that.  My father and my daughter, however, fell in love with one another.  It was a relationship that would stand the test of time.

We lived in Colorado for a year before my husband got out of the military.  Kris grew into a very bright, happy toddler, walking at nine months old and taking three naps a day.  When she woke up, she played happily in her crib, talking to her toys.  By a year, she was playing with her toys and putting them back on the shelf!  Honestly!  We returned to Maryland the summer after her first birthday.  We lived a few different places, finally settling in a nice home in Arbutus.  Kris had my father wrapped around one pinky and my mother wrapped around the other. She would chatter away in her Mickey Mouse voice, petite and tanned with a silky blond bowl cut.  She would sing, dance and light up the room!  Just after she turned two life changed for all of us.  A sister was born, who would be her shadow for the next several years, and the marriage to her father ended.  Through it all, she was my strength and the light of my life.  She helped me survive some very tough times, always being right there with me, even though I tried to hide the stress.  She knew me so well.

We three girls were inseparable!  Kris was tiny and petite and Keri was big for her age, roly poly and adorable. I dressed them alike and got compliments everywhere I went, most people just assuming that they were twins.  The girls and I lived with my dad for some time and he would be a daily fixture in their young lives up until his death.  We all idolized PopPop and he treated us like princesses....who loved "chocolate krueller" donuts lol.

When Kris was four and her baby sister was a year and a half, we met Daddy, who would swoop in on his gallant steed and whisk us girls away.  I will never forget when Kris first met him, sitting at our table drinking orange juice one late summer morning.  Keri was at the top of the steps waiting for her cue and Kris poked her head down into the kitchen and gave Brian the once over.  She wanted to know who he was, why he was here and where he came from.  She edged closer, taking him in and trying to make up her mind if he was acceptable.  And then he baited the line and tossed it into the water.  "Do you and your sister like ice cream? You do?  Well, I have asked Mommy to watch me play baseball later and I thought you could come too and then we could all go for ice cream.  What do you think?"   Score!  She took the bait and the rest is history.

We were lucky, in the sense that there never was any mention of "stepfamily" in our home.  My husband was the girl's Daddy.  Their natural father, was their father.  They saw him here and there, but he was not dependable.  Daddy, however, was always there, reading bedtime stories, watching ballet recitals and playing tickle bug on the sofa.  We were blessed and we were happy.  Before too long, we welcomed a baby brother.  Kris found her calling that day, I believe.  My little momma took her premature brother into her heart and under her wing.  All her maternal instincts kicked in to her little eight year old body and from that day forth she practiced her parenting skills on him, waiting on the day she would have her own child.

Over the years there were rocky times.  She was always in tune to me, but we went through those rocky preteen and early teen years when nothing I did was quite right or quite good enough.  She wouldn't outwardly say hurtful things, but she didn't want me to pry into her business and, while she would do things with me and bring her friends around, I wasn't the one who heard her secrets or who knew what was in her heart.  Through it all, however, I knew that she would come out okay on the other side.  She was so much like me and I understood that meant pushing away to find out who she really was apart from me.

Kris graduated from high school just after starting the first serious relationship of her life.  Her boyfriend was younger and she had chosen him carefully.  I loved him....still do to this day....and he was a permanent fixture in our house for a long time.  When she was twenty, we also got another permanent fixture.  Brother number two was born.  I think that this was bittersweet for my daughter because by that time I believe she truly wanted a child of her own.  She again took her baby brother into her heart and under her wing and I knew then, as I do now, that if something ever happened to me, she was the one I would want to raise those boys. She loved them almost as much as I did and knew them every bit as well.

There were more rocky years, moving in and out, breaking up and starting anew.  She wasn't gone long and spent the majority of time living in her large room in our basement.  I loved having her there and secretly hoped that she would stay for years and years....until one day, when I went into her room and realized that she wanted so much more.  She wanted a marriage like her Daddy and I had, a house to call a home and she wanted to fill it with children.  I grew up a bit that day.  I put my wants and needs aside and starting praying for her wishes to come true.

Two and a half years ago my daughter got married.  It was NOT the wedding I had envisioned! but it was done her way...short, sweet and to the point.  Her soldier husband was stationed in Germany, but not for long, so she would stay for six more months here at home and then she would be moving....away.

I spent many, many, many nights crying over what might happen.  She had been my sidekick for so long.  We had been through it all together and she knew me and her sister and brothers and all our history and I didn't even have to say a word.  We were on the same page.  People hated to play games with us like Pictionary because as a team, we were unbeatable.  She would draw a line and I would guess the picture.  I would be baking and put out a hand and in it, she would put what I needed, no words spoken.  What would I do without her?  Who would be that person who knew me so well?

Well, she did move and I survived.  I cried and my heart broke into tiny pieces, but I picked them up and I survived.  She made me proud, making a little home for herself and her husband in North Carolina.  They visited often and I treasured the time she would spend at home.  We visited a few times too, and it was fun to turn the tables, helping her make food in her own kitchen and do chores in her own house.  Then in September of that year she came home....and told me that her dreams were coming true.  She was pregnant! Oh what joy!  And what sorrow!  A grandbaby!  But my baby would be pregnant without me!  She would grow and change and need me and I wouldn't be there!  More tears.  More acceptance.  She came home often at first and spent the whole month of February with us.  Her baby shower was in March and besides that, through the miracle of Skype and the internet, I did get to see her grow.  April was a very tough month. She found out she had gestational diabetes and she was sick and needed help to figure it all out.  I couldn't be there for her.  And, for the first time in her life, I wouldn't be with her on her birthday.  I spent most of the day feeling sorry for myself and then decided to bake her a cake, even though she wouldn't be able to eat it.  We ended up using Skype to see her and we did get to sing her Happy Birthday and she got to laugh and when her dad pushed her little brother's face in the cake.  Dakota and I missed her so much during that long year!  It was nice to be able to still do silly things as a family, even if it wasn't in a traditional manner.

In late May of 2011, my husband, Dakota and I made the trip to North Carolina.  I wouldn't miss being there when my baby had her own baby.  I was right there through 36 long hours of labor.  I held her hand and she held my heart.  On May 26, 2011, at 3:40 in the afternoon, I watched as my daughter gave birth to her own daughter and I know that I will remember that moment for the rest of my life.

So now here we are, a year later.  Kris and her family moved home in August.  They are living close by now, right in our neighborhood, but are set to move soon. Thankfully only 20 minutes away  this time.  My daughter and I are once again hand in hand and heart to heart.  She is an everyday part of my life, as is my precious granddaughter.  She parents and I grandparent Natalie in the same way, learning from each other and respecting the wisdom that we both have.  We are mothers, first and foremost and we love that little girl with all our hearts.  She helps me still with her brothers and I help her with her daughter.  I respect her judgment and her opinion and I try to stand back and let her shine.  I am incredibly thankful for this gift of a daughter.  My life would be so very empty without her.  She is my child, but she is also my friend.  I wouldn't change that for the world.  Happy Birthday, Princess.  And many, many more.  I love you!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Spring Break!

We had a very busy, very fun spring break week!  Monday started the week with Dakota having a friend over for the day.  The boys got along great and I took them both to the park before dinner to enjoy the nice day.  Tuesday was even warmer, with gorgeous skies.  My sister brought her granddaughter and grandson over and the four little ones played so well outside.  Natalie stayed in her play yard without a fuss and the three older ones jumped in the bounce house and ran and ran and ran.  We ordered pizza and ate at the picnic table in the yard.  Around 2, we took them all inside, put the baby to bed and let the other three watch a movie.  I love spending time with my sister.  She is someone with whom I would always choose to spend time, and I am madly in love with my great niece and nephew.  They are so sweet and honestly two of the most beautiful kids I have ever seen.

Wednesday I hosted an Easter egg hunt and picnic at Lake Waterford in Pasadena.  I got a great turnout and I really enjoyed the fact that we had so many family members there.  Kris came with Natalie, I had Koda with me.  Keri came and brought a friend's children.  My mother in law was there, as well as my cousins and their children.  Then we had lots of friends and homeschool acquaintances.  The kids had a blast and the weather was, again, beautiful.  Later that evening we tried out my new toy, an outdoor movie projector.  Dakota, Brian and I watched the Replacements sitting in our lawn chairs with a fire in the firepit.  LOVED it!!

Thursday was my day completely off, with no babysitting and no obligations.  My friend, Leigh, brought her granddaughter over for a few hours and we put up the bounce house again.  Koda and Olivia jumped for about 2 hours and it gave my friend and I time to chat and catch up.

Friday was a fun day!  My older son got to go to his first day on the job working for the Baltimore Oriole's and my husband, Dakota and I got tickets to the game and had such a nice time.  We got there early to take in the ambiance.  We got to see our son in his uniform and snap some pictures.  I am such a proud momma!! Nolan Reimold threw a ball to my husband to give to Dakota during batting practice.  Koda was so thrilled!  We had lunch sitting in the open area and then went up to our seats for the opening ceremony.  Dakota learned how to keep score and this kept him very focused.  I was focused on watching my son perform and my husband was focused on the game!  It was a good one, with lots of action and we cheered them on to a victory.  Afterward, we met our older son and we all went to Hooters for dinner, sitting at a table outside and watching a gorgeous golden moon rise over the harbor.

Saturday we went shopping for some items for the yard and got Dakota a trampoline.  I spent the day cleaning and prepping for Easter.  The guys had little league practice and then we all watched the O's game, looking for a glimpse of our son on tv.  It's silly, I know, but we are so proud of him and so happy for him.  This is a dream job and no one deserves it more.

Easter Sunday was also my mother's 80th birthday.  Dakota found his eggs when he woke up, but it was pretty low key.  Kris and her family joined us for breakfast and then we had a little down time before we had to get ready to go to my mom's house.  We picked up Keri and then went to Annapolis to sped a few hours with my mom, stepdad and my niece and her family, catching up and fussing over Natalie, who was exquisite in her little white princess dress.  She was the center of attention and I got some great pictures.  When we got home, big Brian put together Koda's trampoline and I visited with my mother in law and sister in law.  When they left Brian was finishing up and then Dakota and I spent about 30 minutes jumping and sitting on the trampoline as dusk fell.

Today my husband spent all day outside working on the play area and the back yard.  It always looks so nice when he does this.  Dakota and his buddies jumped in the trampoline all day, literally.  Kris and Natalie and I were indoors, doing our girl thing.  I can't believe that the week is really over, though.  I don't want it to end!  It's been so nice not to have the pressure of schooling, daycare or a tight schedule.  I loved having everyone come to me, catching up with family and friends in a relaxed way.

Tomorrow, unfortunately, it's back to the race.  Put a quarter in the merry go round, because here we go again.