May 31, 2007

Fuper Dirl

5/31/2007 — cori

I only have one question....how does a sweet, little, dancey, princess girl suddenly morf into this:


"Fuper Dirl" aka "Fuper Fighder Dirl" aka "Fuper Mommy". Whatever happened to "Fuper Pincess"? The days of "Bay-el" are long gone. The brainwashing phase of the boys' superhero mentality is finally complete. She now realizes it's not good enough to be a super princess only adding a cape to a princess costume. No...to really achieve superhero status, you must clad yourself in underwear, cape, tinker toy sword and batman mask. Chloe adds a bit of a fashion statement to her super persona with the fuzzy pink cape. I don't know that this would technically qualify as 'tom boy'. No, she is far from that. Is there really a definition for what we have going on here? Oh ya, one more thing the boys have taught her - how to have a 'mean face'. All superheroes must appear 'mean' at some point, you know, in order to let the bad guys know they mean business. The bad guys don't stand a chance with Chloe's face:

May 28, 2007

Chaucer, The Teacher

5/28/2007 — cori
Chuck and I were reminiscing a couple of weeks ago about a poem we had to learn as seniors in high school. Although it had been more than16 years since those words were originally memorized and recited, they flowed out of my mouth with the same rhythm and trepidation from all those years ago. The poem is the first few lines of the Prologue from "The Canterbury Tales", taken from the old English: Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,The droghte of March hath perced to the roote. You've just gotta love how it flows and sounds. Anyways...I didn't have the appreciation for it back then, but now, I can't consume it fast enough.

So, I decided to go check it out at the library - the modern English version, of course! As much as I love the Old English, my brain is too dense to read an entire book written in that format. That has been my casual reading book of choice lately. It's been lying around on coffee tables, the kitchen table, the counter-top, pretty much wherever I lay it down after having a few sacred seconds of alone time. Unbeknownst to me, Gavin has been picking it up after I have laid it down. Herein lies the moral of this story: most learning happens when you aren't planning for or expecting it.

I told the kids that Mommy needed a little private time to read and headed out back to sit at the patio table. Less than 3 minutes later, Gavin was sitting next to me. Obviously, I haven't done an adequate enough job of teaching the definition of the phrase 'private time'. However, when one of my children wants to spend time talking with me, I just can't refuse and listened to what important thoughts were on his mind. Turns out, it was Chaucer.

He tells me, "Mom, I've been reading a bit of that book that you're reading and I really like it. It's pretty amazing how he rhymes every two lines. I read the part about a Duke." Hmmm, oh really. Thus began an hour of awesome conversation that was neither planned nor prepared. We dove into the history of the time of Chaucer's life (1340's), England and the customs of their day, knights, religion (explaining the pilgrimage), language arts (we tried to describe people we knew by only describing their character), poetry (appreciating the difficulty and scope of Chaucer's work as well as differing styles), the sciences (many of which Chaucer studied and was extremely proficient in), languages (what Old English is and other languages Chaucer spoke)...all because he wanted to talk to me about "The Canterbury Tales". Had I insisted on my own time, I'm sure we would have eventually covered the myriad of subjects we just navigated our way through. But it wouldn't have been as dear to me as him initiating a 'grown up' conversation with me. I LOVE these teachable moments. They're all around. How many other's have I missed, I wonder?

May 27, 2007

Stuck in Bed

5/27/2007 — cori
Bennett sleeps on the top bunk. He had already gotten into bed last night but realized he forgot something. Now first, I need to explain that he is 'too cool' to get to and from the top bunk just using the ladder provided. Spiderman wouldn't take such an easy route...and neither does Bennett. He prefers to shimmey his way up and down the headboard side. This involves showing off his climbing prowess, his muscles and it's just plain cool to do. Who needs ladders?

Now you'll understand how Bennett's leg got stuck inbetween the slats on the top as he was trying to exit. His footing slipped on a pillow and his leg went sliding right through two slats - up past his knee. Now, the distance between the slats is maybe 4 or 5 inches. Thankfully this happened while he was still on the bed side of the headboard, not while he was precariously dangling over the edge.

All of this is happening unbeknownst to me, however. I'm having a wonderfully relaxing time in my bath as Chuck was tucking the kids into bed. Come to find out later, he told me that he had a 'little problem' upstairs he was fixing. A problem? What happened? Did the dog pee upstairs?

"Oh no, don't worry, the dog wasn't upstairs...it was Bennett" Chuck replied. Oh boy, what could have happened? Is he okay? "Oh yes...don't worry...I've just spent the past ten minutes slathering lotion on his leg." Should I ask why ? Did he have a bug bite? "No. He had his leg stuck inbetween the slats. I finally got it out" he finally replies. Oh, don't worry, huh?! My baby has just been sitting there the whole time I'm in my bath, stuck on the top bunk screaming for Daddy to call 911 and I don't need to worry?!

I ran upstairs to see how he was doing post trauma. Of course, the boys were laughing about it now. I told them of how glad I was that Daddy was home because I have no clue how I would have handled the situation. I told them I probably would have gotten a screw driver and started taking the bed apart. Then they both reminded me that if I did that, the bed would fall apart with Bennett's leg still stuck. I obviously am not a quick thinker under pressure. Bennett told me that he kept telling Daddy to call 911. I'm glad we went to the Fire Station and had that Emergency Training Course in which they let children know what constitutes an emergency and what does not. I'm proud of my boy - he was listening well.

May 20, 2007

Our Newest Addition

5/20/2007 — cori
We went to an organic farm for an awesome day of learning, picnicing and fresh-out-of-doors fun and....an organic puppy?!? Can someone please tell me how this happened? We surely didn't wake up this morning thinking, "Hmmm, if there are free puppies for the taking at the farm today, I think we'll just make a spur of the moment decision that will eventually change the course of our lives forever and just bring it home. Let's give no thought to the myriad of vet bills, shots, supplies and time this will eventually cost us. No, I think acting on impulse and pure emotion is a skill we need to teach our children. We haven't done enough of that." That's just not how my brain thinks. Yet...that is exactly what happened. It was love at first sight. We're suckers, alright!

Here are some of the events I witnessed first hand within the first 24 hours of bringing her home:

1. First, Gavin ate some dog food to see if his new puppy would like it.
2. Then Bennett followed suit and actually liked it.
3. I found Gavin brushing her with my hairbrush.
4. Gavin has already drawn 4 pictures of the new love of his life.
5. Bennett is going around "shushing" all of us because "the puppy is sleeping."
6. Chloe (who is still petrified of dogs) screams at the mere sight of the puppy.
7. Found the boys inside the kennel.
8. Found Gavin intently reading his newest book, "The Chosen Puppy"
9. Found Gavin sleeping in his sleeping bag on the floor next to the kennel, with his face right next to the puppy's so she wouldn't be scared at night.

We held a huge family forum on the drive back from the farm with the newest member of our family. The topic of discussion, "What shall we name the dog?" The three kids instantly said, "Sunshine". Who are we to veto their imaginations? But...that name just didn't strike Chuck or I as something that would stick. We'd had dogs prior to children and had always named them British names, such as: Heathrow, Emma and Libby. We kinda wanted to follow in our previous footsteps. So we started throwing names out of the hat. Man, is it hard to come up with names! Finally, by the grace of God, we all agreed upon Beth. Gavin and Bennett really wanted to call her Elizabeth. So...Elizabeth it is, but you may call her Beth for short - Gavin and Bennett said so.

Okay, now about the breed. Come to find out, we were just handed a 'free' dog that will grow up to become a small giant (oxymoron - as is the word free). Elizabeth just happens to be a Great Pyrenees mix. Upon immediately entering our house and making a mad dash for the computer so that we could Google 'Great Pyrenees', we learn that our adorable little puppy will grow to the healthy size of 80-100 pounds. Ahhh, lovely! But we also learned that you couldn't ask for a more gentle, kind, obedient dog who is also excellent with children. That's a plus because we do have children.

Ah yes, and then there's Chloe and her innate fear of dogs. She has always been scared of dogs. I, too, used to be scared of dogs as a child until we got our own and raised her from a puppy. We thought this would be a wonderful way to slowly show Chloe all the virtues of dog ownership and the multiple benefits that ensue. But she's not buying it. I think she thinks she's fixin to be eaten alive by a 3 pound carnivore. That's the only explanation I can think of for her shrill screams, hiding and river of tears that happen whenever she sees Elizabeth from 25 feet away. Maybe this wasn't such a smart decision afterall...I guess only time will tell.

But on a positive note...our new prodigy has already potty-trained herself, letting us know she needs to go outside. She also doesn't make a mess in her crate - unlike previous pets we've had. This is a strong plus in her favor. Another key point...she doesn't howl all night. At least she didn't last night. I sure hope I won't have to amend that last statement after tonight.

So, I'm sure there will soon be multiple entries with references to Elizabeth in the near future. I'm not sure what's going to happen, but I know something will happen and when it does, I will write about it and it will go down in history as just another one of our crazy, fun-filled, any-thing-can-and-will-happen days!

May 18, 2007

Interest Driven Learning

5/18/2007 — cori
This is my passion. I believe children learn the most when they are ready and when they learn what they are the most interested in. As of late, my boys' interest has been in Native Americans. We have been reading an awesome book together called, "Chief Black Hawk". We have learned more about the Native American culture through this awesome story. The boys sit riveted wanting me to read "Just one more chapter, PLEASE!". This interest has prompted them to buy, with their own money, a bow and arrow set (from the dollar store).

While I was at my favorite store last night (Half Price Books), I came upon a clearance book titled, "The Encyclopedia on the Ancient Americas". This is one of the most extensive books I've found about the entire culture. But the coolest thing about the book was that on most pages, it actually teaches you how to make "Indian Items".

For instance, we just finished reading in "Chief Black Hawk" that only the war chief gets to carry the medicine bag and he carries it only into battle. It is the symbol of their nation, much like a flag would be. We then found in our new encyclopedia how to make one! Could life get any better? The boys begged me to make one with them.

So, we have just spent the better part of the afternoon, making our very own medicine bag. The things the boys have learned through this hands on experience have been innumerable. They are now out back mastering the art of shooting an arrow, climbing trees without making a noise, walking stealthily like an Indian brave and guarding their medicine bag with their life. Who wouldn't enjoy school if this is what is was like?

This interest may last a week, a month, or 3 days. But I can guarantee you they will never forget all that we learned because it was what they WANTED to learn. Here are just a few bits of knowledge they have gathered on their own:

1. Gavin started doing research in this new encyclopedia like there was no tomorrow. He couldn't drink in the information fast enough and started sharing things with me that he thought were cool, like: The Ancient Incas performed brain surgery and thought that by cutting a hole in the skull it would heal the patient and let out evil spirits.
2. They learned the value of money by having to pay for their bows and arrows from their piggy banks and what $1.50 looked like. They will now treat this 'toy' better because they know the 'cost' behind giving up their own money for it.
3. They learned perseverance while spending the past 3 hours making something that looked easy from a picture, but took a lot longer. They both said that "This is harder than it looks" and began discussing how much harder it must have been for the Indians to do. This led to a discussion about time and us wondering if Indians were ever in a hurry like we are in our society today. They learned the pride that comes in accomplishing something on your own (in our case as a team). That's another thing - teamwork. We all had an integral part to perform so that it would get done, which led to much verbal affirmation and encouraging of one another.
4. Gavin found out what types of herbs and plants they used to carry in the medicine bag. Cocoa, he said, was used as a pain reliever.
5. We had to use a ruler to take several measurements - lots of key math elements had to be implemented. However, my boys got to see the real life use of math, not just on paper.
6. Lots of fine motor skills were needed for the painting of the intricate designs and braiding the strap and making the tassels.
7. Gavin also asked if we could go to Oklahoma and go to a real Indian Museum. Bennett asked," Where are all the Indians, did the white man kill them all? I want an Indian friend. They're cool!" This led to an awesome History discussion on the Trail of Tears. My boys know the dates that Black Hawk and Tecumseh lived, when the Louisiana Purchase was and who fought in the War of 1812 now because of this little conversation.
8. Now, the best part, their imaginations have become alive in the back yard as they role play all that they are learning and put themselves in those scenarios we've read about.

Each day is a joy and a treasure as we learn together and grow together! And the best part is, now I can add, "Medicine Bag Maker" to my Mommy resume.

May 17, 2007

Mommy Learns Something New

5/17/2007 — cori
Today I thought I would be nice and help Chuck out by mowing and weed-eating/edging for him. I'm a pretty good mower, if I do say so myself. I've always enjoyed it, even when my allergies had me sneezing the entire time. Call me weird, but I just think mowing is fun (especially a tractor mower - now, that's a good time!). But in all my years, believe it or not, I've never touched a weed-eater.

Actually, I take that back...yes, I touched one, once. Again, I was trying to be helpful while Chuck was at work and I thought I'd do a complete job so he wouldn't have to weed-eat when he got home. I had zero clue how to work the thing. So, I found the instruction manual and sat down in the garage and read the entire thing. Then I attempted to follow the instructions and was left feeling like a complete idiot for not understanding how to actually make the thing turn on. You would think I just read the Chinese version. I love to learn new things...but this 'new thing' just did not compute. That part of my brain that was supposed to understand technical instructions just said, "Duh!"

So, today was Attempt Number 2 at learning how to weed-eat. I got the big, long, heavy, stick like object out of the garage. Chuck's is a gas powered one, not the kind you plug in and turn on - that would make my life much easier. But apparently it's not manly to plug in your weed-eater. Once again, I try to make sense of the instructions, and once again, I fail. I come inside and ask Chuck (who is at home working), "Could I bother you for a moment to come outside and teach me how to turn on that stupid weed-eater thingy you have."

I get a crash course on "How to Turn on Your Weed-eater for Morons". I decide its easier just to let Chuck start it and never let it turn off. Now that I know what a "throttle" is, I let it rip and get a tiny glimpse of the power surge men get when they rev a motor loudly. I did feel pretty cool making such a loud noise at 9 o'clock in the morning. Now all I had to do, was figure out how which side of the thing to stand on and then, how to make it make that neat little edge line between the sidewalk and the grass. That is SOOO much harder than it looks - let me tell you!

I now have a new appreciation for those in the landscaping industry that must walk with this heavy, stick-like object glued to their hands for 8 hours a day. It's hard. And did you know that when it actually cuts the grass, the grass comes right back and hits your legs and it STINGS! Also, did you know that it's very hard to hold a weed-eater, keep it running (finger on the throttle) and itch your nose at the same time? It involved me finding some very interesting positions in which to try to balance.

I ended up butchering my way through 3 sections of sidewalk before I threw in the towel. Yes, I gave up. I didn't want to embarrass Chuck that bad. Everyone will think he did it. I did walk away from this experience with several key points, however:

1. don't wear shorts or your legs will hurt and it won't look like you shaved them the night before
2. if you're going to balance a weed-eater on your leg, make sure it's your strongest leg or both of you will fall
3. don't go back and try to 'fix' the mess you made or you will only make a bigger mess
4. leave the weed-eating up to the boys

Here is a picture of my handiwork:


May 15, 2007

Massanutten

5/15/2007 — cori
That would be the name of the mountain we lived on while we lived in Virginia. I guess I've been getting all sentimental and mushy thinking about it lately, since tomorrow is our 1 year anniversary of moving there (and also our 6 month anniversary of moving back). Life certainly took many crazy, unexpected, windy turns this past year - none of it we could have anticipated, but all of it changing each of us in immeasurable ways. All that to say... I've been aimlessly staring off into space these past few days with a silly little grin on my face thinking of events or situations that we experienced during (what we affectionately refer to as) our 6 month vacation. I had forgotten about this one incident and thought it would be fun to remember together...so, here it is:

It was a rainy, cold, gray Friday. It was mid-afternoon sometime in October, I think. I had already been cold for a good 2 months. I was wearing my newly acquired down filled jacket and gloves, I remember - it must have been at least in the 40's. We were on our way back from co-op which was a 45 minute drive through the country from 'our mountain'. It was nearing 1 o'clock, I recall because my stomach was growling loudly and so were the children, their stomachs, I mean. I couldn't wait to run inside and get a cup of hot chocolate, make lunches at lightning speed and get all cozy for the rest of the afternoon.

Then reality set in. There is only one way up and off the mountain. A very windy, curvy, tree lined road with the occasional deer. Everybody who lived in our community had to go through the main gate entrance. There was also an emergency exit off the mountain for things such as ice storms, but that road was roped off. The emergency road actually was pretty close to our house, maybe 1/2 a mile away only. It took us a good 7 to 10 minutes to wind our way up the mountain before we wound our way back down to where our house was situated. This probably doesn't even make sense. You see, you had to go all the way up to the gate, then wind your way through different subdivisions that went either further up or down the mountain. Ours was further down the mountain. Therefore, you go up to go down. Clear as mud, right?! Well, once you're able to secure this crazy picture in your head, you'll have a better visual for the story that's about to unfold.

So here we are, my hungry crew and I travailing up the mountain when we suddenly come to a quick stop only half way up the mountain. This is odd, I think to myself. There are no stop lights on this stretch of road. Well, we sit there for a good 10 minutes just waiting. We all know how much I love to wait. A plan is formulating in my brain - which surprises me because I thought I was too hungry to think. I'm used to eating lunch around 11:30am and it is now nearing 1pm. Major food frustration was about to set in. If I don't know when and what and where and how my next meal is coming...it's not a good thing. Add to that my parental responsibility of also feeding the three little people who follow me everywhere and think I can make food come out of a hat just because they say the magic words, "I'm hungry!". I guess I've inadvertently given them the wrong impression since food has magically popped out of my purse on several occasions - but that was my own personal stash in case of food emergencies...but I digress. Oh ya, and then there's the little thing of naps that need to taken. The nap schedule is already pretty much shot at this point.

The need for warmth, food and hot chocolate are fueling me on. I get an adrenaline rush and make a quick decision. I ever so gently attempt to turn the car around (on a one lane road) without perilously getting stuck in the 4 foot ditches on either side. Once that feat of driving prowess is achieved, I drive the van down the mountain a bit until I find a little 'pull off spot' shall we say. It is actually just a part of the side of the road that isn't a ditch. I suddenly shift into lieutenant Sargent of the troops and order all in the van to proceed outside with caution. We go into football huddle formation as I explain the task set before us. There is no other option - it must be done. We must all be brave and walk the near mile, in the rain and cold to get to our house which contains the food. I will have to come back for the car. Let's move 'em out!

I feel more like a momma duck with her ducklings waddling behind her. Our speed is slow, it is raining, did I mention cold? and it seems a lot longer than a mile. We reach the 'emergency exit' road that leads into our development. This is good. We decide to start running. Now I'm worried that some of the other stranded motorists are thinking I'm trying to steal children and run away with them. I try to look non-chalant. But how non-chalant can one look when you're running with a big, green bulky coat, a fur hood on, a two year old in your arms and two school aged children - not in school. I felt as if there was a spot light on me. My imagination can run pretty wild sometimes.

We stop several times to catch our collective breaths. The house is in view. It has only taken us 20 minutes, I think. We can do this! We walk up the steps, in the house and all stand in the 2 x 3 space called our entry 'area' and attempt to all take off our wet shoes and jackets. The challenge seems insurmountable. I gulp down a glass of water and race through instructions for Gavin. You see, I still had to go back for the abandoned car. I didn't want to get a ticket for parking on the side of a mountain. I know that might sound absurd, but I've gotten called down by the police before for jay walking, so I'm all about following the letter of the law when it comes to driving safety.

I instruct Gavin to make each of them peanut butter sandwiches. To read Chloe a book and put her down for her nap. I HAD to go back for the car and there was no telling how long I was going to have to wait in that line to make it up the mountain. He was in charge - in a nice, kind, brotherly way, of course. And under NO CIRCUMSTANCES was he to open the door for anybody. I NEVER leave my kids alone and here I was running back to the main road for my car, in the rain (and still hungry) because I was afraid of a ticket. Now I'm afraid someone (a cop) will come to the door and see that my homeschooled children are left home alone. I was wrought with worry. What's a mom to do?

I lock the door and sprint all the way back to the car. Amazing how much faster you can run without carrying a two year old. I made it back in 5 minutes. And what do you know...they had opened the emergency road and everyone was driving thru it. It would only take me 2 minutes to get back home. The boys were super surprised that Mommy made it back so soon. Surprisingly, the day went on as normal. I guess they think things like this happen all the time to people.

Ahhh...the memories. I can almost guarantee that will never happen here in Texas since there are no mountains. I'm sure another crazy adventure will find us though!

May 7, 2007

Accessories

5/07/2007 — cori
Today, Chloe got a prize in the mail from Grandma and Grandpa. She was filled with anticipation and glee as she peaked into the bag to see what prize could possibly await her little eyes. She pulled it out and exclaimed, "A Bay-el dress!" That would be Belle (only with a Texas accent) from the famed and much adored Beauty and Beast movie. But then the realization hit her instantaneously and she declared, "But I don't have any shoes to match!"

Yep - she is all girl through and through! Upon putting on her new gown, she immediately adorned herself with a matching, plastic, gold beaded necklace. A Bay-el bracelet and the most shimmery yellow stick-on earrings she could find. She reluctantly put on her pink 'pincess' shoes, even though they didn't match. They'll work for now. Bennett was even quite the gentleman and lavished her with compliments such as, "Look Chloe, the dress even matches your hair. Everything on you is yellow!" She glowed in the light of his recent observations and even added an extra bonus feature, "Yes. And my boobies and yellow too!"

You can't teach skills like these. You've got to be born with them. I can now breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that my daughter truly appreciates how important the accessories can be and what value they add to an outfit or a home. It's in those small touches, you know. The details. If Chloe is nothing else - she is detailed. Excuse me, but Chloe and I must now go out and buy some yellow "pincess" shoes to match our yellow "pincess" gown.


May 3, 2007

WHY 2.0

5/03/2007 — cori
Chloe has taken the asking of the "why" question to the next level. Thus, the title: WHY 2.0. She has decided to incorporate a little phrase she has heard her brothers and me repeat quite often. She figured adding it to the beginning of all her 'why' questions would be a good lead in and would better grab her audience's attention. Here is the famous little phrase with examples of actual questions posed to me within the last 24 hours only:

"Dis is odd...why don't the cowds (clouds) hold all duh lain (rain)?"

"Dis is odd...why are yoyipops (lollipops) so drinky?"

"Dis is odd...why are tattors (crackers) so tunchy (crunchy)?"

"Dis is odd...why is wadoe (water) told (cold)?"

"Dis is odd...why do fum (some) tids (kids) haff (have) to take naps?"

This is odd...there really aren't any anwers to those questions. She's just inherited her Daddy's amazing ability of posing many rhetorical questions all in a row to anyone who will listen. Now we know who got the gene.

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