Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wake me up in 30 minutes.

I LOVE this. I napped every day when I was pregnant with each of my kids -- completely guilt-free. A mama needs rest to grow a new baby, right? Duh.

But when I'm not pregnant (like, now), I feel a twinge of guilt when I get the urge to crash on the couch before the day's duties appear "done." (But seriously, when is it ever done? Even when I don't nap...?)

Most days, I just push myself until the kids' bedtime -- and then I fall asleep, too. Leaving no time alone with hubby. More guilt. More feeling like something's wrong with me because I need as much sleep as my kids.

This is ridiculous.

When our bodies need rest, we should rest. Stay-at-home parents usually have ready access to a sofa or bed. We should be able to fulfill this basic need than most people -- as long as our little ones are not in danger of escaping into the street or falling into the toilet. So why don't we?

Doctors nap at work. They have to. They're on call for 24 hours at times. So are parents. And our job is just as important. Just saying.

So, hey, it's the weekend. And it's probably hot outside. Give yourself a break and go take a nap. I will, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Milestones for Littlest

Over last few months, we started mentioning the possibility of Littlest sleeping in the "big boys'" room.

But, we said, "not until you're three." I didn't want him to feel rushed, but I wanted it to feel special. Of course, he didn't know quite what that meant, to "be three."

Until he realized he was having a birthday -- you know, one of those days when you get presents! And eat cake! And everyone sings to you!

After his birthday, he started asking about the big boys' room. "Mommy, when do I get to sleep in the bottom bottom bed?"

We are blessed to have a bunk bed with a trundle underneath, so all three boys can share a room.

We got to work one day last week, cleaning up the toys under the bed so the trundle would go in and out smoothly. Then I put on the vehicle-themed sheets I'd been saving for him, and the beautiful, summery quilt my friend Emily made him.

Does he look a little bit excited?

Oh, and he's using the potty now, too. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles!

He's 3 now. Not a baby. One of the big boys. And he knows it. He's wearing underwear. He's sleeping in his own bed.

What's next, college?

Fortunately, he'll have to stop nursing before he can move into the dorms. ;)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Abundant harvest!

Look at all this fabulous produce from our CSA! And that's not showing the lettuce, a huge bunch of green beans, half a dozen artichokes, another bowl of plums, and several pounds of zucchini (from the CSA and our garden). My fridge runneth over!

And check out all the garlic I pulled up this week!!! Forty heads!! (If you don't like to cook or garden, you might not find this quite as thrilling as I do.)

Obviously, my challenge is to make the most of it all. Last week I made another batch of strawberry jam, baked a peach/blueberry cobbler, four loaves of zucchini bread, used up all the heels in the freezer for bread pudding, and made two double batches of zucchini fritters.

YUM-O. My mouth is still watering, but my pants are not thanking me. I made myself squeeze into my bathing suit Saturday night, so I could join the kids in the pool at my friend's going-away BBQ -- and avoid further gluttony.

I've been pouring through some delicious cookbooks I picked up at the library last week, looking for some fresh inspiration.

I'd love to try Jamie's Gennaro Grande Cappella Rossa Calzone -- which seems to be a fancy name for ratatouille pizza pockets -- and his Savory Zucchini Bread (since I really don't need any more sugar at the moment).

I might try making Sarah Raven's recipe for French apricot jam, since we seem to have plenty, and more are ripening on my parents' tree. It calls for vanilla bean, which sounds lovely.

She also has a recipe for risotto with zucchini and flowers -- fun! And on the lighter side... zucchini and lemon salad.

I was starting to wonder why I planted so much summer squash until I found these recipes!

Also on the menu:

Panini w/grilled onions and zucchini (of course) and roasted red peppers

Fried tilapia w/ sauteed green beans and roasted Yukon gold potatoes

Baked salmon and pan-baked artichokes w/almonds, bread crumbs and herbs (Happy Days with the Naked Chef, p. 219)

Pasta salad w/baked chicken and lots o' veggies

Apricot oatmeal squares

Next week, I'm expecting to have some of our own green beans... and ripe tomatoes! We found our very first red one the other day....

Unfortunately, as cute as it looks, the bottom was rotted out. I don't see that problem on any of the others though, so hopefully it was a fluke.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fiber Arts Friday: Baby hat

I know some people like to make blankets as baby gifts. I can't seem to find the time to commit to such a big project. Especially with the baby boom going on around me this year.

Hats are more my style. They're small enough to carry around so I can sneak in knitting time wherever I go. And if I get a last minute shower invitation, I can whip one out in a couple days.

I've used the "wizard's cap" pattern in Kids Knitting a few times. It's so cute, and you can use any color combo you like. But I needed something even quicker for the last shower I attended. Plus I found some lovely, chunky organic cotton I wanted to use. I found this sweet and easy Cabled Baby Beanie pattern at

A single skein of super soft yarn and a free pattern, and, voila! Cute, handmade baby gift!

When I'm giving something as small as a hat, I usually add a book or a toy, and some cute receiving blankets, and use one of the blankets as the wrapping "paper." Nothing to throw away afterwards! (Maybe I'll actually knit the toy next time, too.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Outsider-directed learning, part two.

Thanks for all your great comments on my last post, everyone. I do think most of the time nothing you can say will change anything. But every once in a while, the right words can make someone think a little bit... if you can get them out!

Leanne, your children are certainly blessed to have had teachers who are able to be so flexible! I've known a lot of teachers, and in general, this is a very difficult thing to do. The "standards" -- and accompanying punishments for not following them -- are extremely limiting.

I agree that this was an example of poor parenting... but this mentality stems from a dependence on outside sources for a child's education and learning.

This can happen even among families who have chosen to homeschool, but are still trying to follow some outside idea (often state education standards, or maybe the "What Your Child Needs to Know" series) of what their kids need to learn, and what order to do things in.

Letting go of that idea, and allowing yourself to use the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling to follow your child's own needs is a process some of us call "deschooling."

Obviously, this idea is not a black-and-white home education vs. school issue. I know plenty of public school parents who are as involved as they can be in their child's learning. Many are in "well-off" neighborhoods with schools that are under less pressure from state standards. The parents value learning, read to their children, and allow them to follow their interests outside school hours.

But there are still limitations. And some may find themselves buying into the idea that the school knows best about certain things.

My husband teaches at a school in a poor, inner city neighborhood, where many of the children are afraid to walk home alone. Some have not a single book at home, besides their own school textbooks. They own iPods, but not calculators. They have access to drugs and alcohol, but not piano lessons. Learning is for school.

These are the extremes, but they're the examples I'm most familiar with. And the idea that the school knows best about what your child needs to learn and when is rampant everywhere, not just among "bad" -- or even tired -- parents. It is perpetuated by educators of educators, and yes, classroom teachers who buy into it.

The alternative, of course, is to trust your child.
"Birds fly, fish swim, man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to motivate children into learning by wheedling, bribing or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and classroom (in our case, into their lives); give children as much help and guidance as they ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."
--John Holt
Alright, enough of that. I don't really enjoy philosophizing much anymore.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Public anti-learning

I had one of those public experiences tonight that always catches me off guard, perhaps because I spend more time with people who share my perspective about learning than those who don't.

I was at the bookstore, looking for some field guides for the boys, when a mother and her two daughters came up behind me.

"Mommy, can I have this clock?" said the younger girl, who was around age 6. She was holding a children's book with a built in analog clock for learning to tell time.

"No, that's too old for you," answered her mother.

I don't know if the woman noticed my jaw drop and my brow furrow in confusion as I glanced at the little girl, but she may have.

"You don't learn time-telling until the end of first grade," the older girl informed her sister.

"But I'll be in first grade!"

"No, you're getting a workbook," said the mother.

"Do I have to have a workbook?" asked the little girl.

"Yes!" answered her sister, obviously well-indoctrinated in school learning theory. "Otherwise you'll forget everything over the summer."

Oh. Dear.

I wish that I were not always so dumbfounded in these situations. I wish I were better able to grasp the opportunity to speak up and provide a different perspective. I'm sure the mother was simply thinking about her budget, and about how she just wanted to get home quickly and put the kids to bed.

She probably was not fully conscious of the message she was sending her daughter: that she was incapable of learning what it was she wanted to learn. That what the school said she should learn was more important than what she was interested in.

It's easy to forget, sometimes, that my perspective on learning as a homeschooler is not the norm. That school is normal in our culture. Most -- not all -- parents do rely on the school to tell them what their child needs when it comes to education.

And so, I'm rarely prepared to say anything helpful. I wish that I'd been able to say something like, "I've found that children learn very efficiently when they're interested in a subject, whatever the level." Or, "My son learned to tell time quite early, and it was so helpful!" Or maybe, "Summer's a great time to learn things that aren't taught in the classroom!"

But instead, I slink away, aghast and dismayed that a parent would not want to help her child learn what she's interested in learning. And I don't help either.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

My littlest dinophile turns 3.

Another week in pictures...

Can it have been three years already?

Littlest requested a knitted dinosaur for his birthday. So, of course, he got one.

It was a dinosaur-themed week, at least at home. (Eldest and Middlest were visiting the early Christians in Rome all week.)

In between playing with his birthday presents, he took advantage of the absence of his brothers, and mastered using the computer mouse. Only dinosaur games would do, so I dug up as many as I could find online. He played them all.

Look how big he's gotten! Oh, wait, that 4-pound zucchini makes him look kind of small, doesn't it? (And yes, that's a T-Rex on his shirt.)

Happy birthday, sweet boy! We love you!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Jamminess. Synonym for happiness.

Perhaps I should have scheduled more blogging time into the last few days? ;) Thank you for all the sweet comments on my last post. If you actually use the idea, I'd love to hear about it!

We had a lovely first week with Scott home. Lots of hanging out time. Some baking. Blueberries! Some jam-making. Jam sessions. Pajama and movie days.

Plus, some yard work. Skating on the new driveway.

Lightsaber duels. Sunshine with a breeze.

New library books. Side-by-side reading. Dinosaur books. Dinosaur games.

Chess. Math sticker books. Nature trivia mazes. Playdough. Potty learning!

Busy, busy, and mostly at home. Yay!

Now this week is all about Vacation Bible School (for the three big guys), and Littlest's 3rd birthday -- I can hardly believe it. Except that he's growing and learning so fast, I half expect him to be four by next week.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

WFMW: Creative scheduling

Every few months, when the season changes, and our plans and routines follow suit, I find myself yearning for a calendar I can manipulate with my hands.

(Yes, even unschoolers can use a schedule. We just prefer really flexible ones.)

I was inspired by Mary's spreadsheet, but I wanted something I could change whenever I wanted, without having to re-print. No online cut-and-pasting. No erasers. No more messy scribbles in my daytimer.

I needed something visual -- so I could see if I was trying to squeeze too many things into one day or week. And I wanted to look at all the possibilities -- even the ones that wouldn't fit.

I stole Jessica's magnetic fridge menu idea long ago. Brilliant. It's visual. It's kinesthetic. If only it would speak out loud and remind me to thaw the meat.

I already had the Days of the Week magnets. I just needed the rest of my calender on magnets.

I don't have any fancy programs on my Mac. Or at least, I don't know how to use them. But I know Word. So, I started with some text boxes. Typed in the various things we do -- eat, shower, play, eat, clean, go to church, etc. Duplicated the ones we repeat throughout the week. Color-coded them for fun. Outdoor activities: green. Indoor fun: red. Housework: blue. Mommy time: orange.

Then I printed the text boxes on magnetic paper, which I had leftover from my refrigerator menu. Cut them up with my rarely-used scrapbooking cutter. Found some colorful number stickers to use for the Time of Day.

And then I played with my new fridge schedule puzzle!

The best part about this is that I can change our plans anytime I want to, and still make sure the important stuff fits in somewhere. Obviously we can't do everything in one day, or even one week. This helps me adjust my expectations when I start a week with long list of hope-to-dos.

It also helps me see that we have a rhythm, even when it doesn't feel like it. And we get a lot done, even when it feels like we're moving slowly or haphazardly.

More about what's filling up our schedule later...

For tips on finding your routine with the kids, go to Simple Mom.

For tips to beat summer boredom, visit Works for Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I haven't felt much like menu planning the last few weeks. Maybe because it's getting so hot. Maybe because I keep forgetting to call the appliance repair guy to come check out why my oven stopped working.

Although I'm pretty sure I know why -- it was feeling overworked! It quit after I baked four dozen cookies, and then tried to bake a lasagna. Fortunately, my parents didn't mind me coming over to use their oven and share the lasagna! Or the bbq chicken pizza, or the strawberry banana bread...

But it's been mostly about easy, stove-top meals lately:
Tacos, grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti, pancakes and eggs for dinner, quesadillas, bbq burgers or chicken, fried fish and sauteed veggies...

I'm about done with soup for the season, but I need to make that yummy Swiss Chard and Artichoke soup one more time before the artichokes disappear for another 11 months.

And I definitely want to get back to baking this week. I've got six pounds of organic blueberries waiting for me to turn them into blueberry cobbler, pie, muffins and jam! And we're about to have zucchini coming out of our ears. Time for zucchini bread!!

On that note, here's a recipe (I'm sorry, I don't remember where I found this one):
Zucchini bread

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
(Note, adding a handful of chocolate chips is great too)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients except for nuts (and chocolate chips if you go that route) in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients. Fold into dry, and add nuts (and chips). Bake in two greased loaf pans for one hour, or until done.
For more Menu Plan Monday, visit Organizing Junkie. She's got a giveaway going on this week!
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