Sunday, September 29, 2013

Half-way to One!

It's hard to believe that my baby girl is already six months old. Lydia has changed so much, and I think I have too. I have adjusted to life with four kids and even feel like I'm coming into my own as a mother.
 I can not get enough of her squishy thighs. I just want to eat them. And I kind of love how they're not symmetrical- she has an extra roll stacked on her right leg. She's going to love me for this picture someday... :)
 She had a reverse mullet going on for a while- large fluffy puffs on top and over her ears and most of the newborn hair rubbed off in the back. I gave her a trim over her ears a few weeks ago, which I think helped. Her hair has really lightened since she was born, and is coming in bright red like Benjamin's. Her eyes are a beautiful, brilliant blue.
Lydia is a bright, active little girl. She sits and entertains herself with toys, and loves watching her siblings play. She still has her signature little shriek to let us know whenever she's excited.
 She now eats one meal with us at dinner, and nurses the rest of the day. She is getting better at feeding herself, and will eat anything you give her.
We sure love our Lydia Jane! She is a joy, and we're grateful for the light she adds to our home.

*Six month stats: weight 19 lbs. 10 oz. (89%), length 25 3/4" (29%), head 17 1/8" (72%).

Coolest Babysitters Ever

video

I'm usually terrible about getting babysitters or planning dates in general. It's just easier not to.... Last week while Paul was out of town, I had somewhere I needed to be one night, so I called up our babysitters. I love these girls, and so do my kids. They are so full of energy, and they MADE A MOVIE TRAILER on their phone with the boys. I was totally impressed, and the kids have been asking when they'll come back ever since. I will certainly be having them back soon! Hooray for potential date nights!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

To School or Not to School?

I've been sitting on this post for almost two weeks now. I've had a lot going through my mind, but I haven't wanted to publish anything before I'd made a decision. I still don't know what I'm going to do in the long run, but I've made up my mind to at least take the first step.

A few weeks ago, Paul sent me a few links to articles he read about homeschooling and said, "maybe we should consider this." The articles were pretty interesting and got me thinking about homeschooling as a viable option for our kids. This is especially strange because for my entire life, I have had a fairly strong bias against it, though I won't go much into the reasons.

Paul has often commented how he wishes he didn't have to work so he could be our kids' full-time educator. He has done a fantastic job too with his spare time with them in the evenings. He's the one reading wonderful giant chapter books with each of them each night. He's the one who's taught them "mental math", and how to build cool robots. I have always loved him for this, but now I know who to blame for being at this crossroad. :)

We started hashing out the pros and cons. We debated every reason it might be a terrible idea, but finally came to the conclusion that while it might be hard initially, it could also be incredibly rewarding and hugely beneficial for our kids. Heck, we might even grow from it.

I was excited when preschool started. Even though it was only a few hours a day, it seemed like a good thing. I was anxious for Nora to make friends and for Peter to have some structure to his day. Peter has been having a lot of fun, but it started to feel like it was just expensive babysitting. With Nora, we were only a few days in before she was begging to stay home- apparently because some of the girls in her class were being mean to her. It felt unsettling to be pushing her away from home so early into such an uncomfortable environment. She's only three! I didn't feel that way with our last preschool at all- the earlier I could send them, the better!

I'm pretty sure our last preschool (Montessori) ruined me. Not only was it in the most loving, homelike environment, but it allowed them to progress at a rate they wanted, and gave them a lot of confidence in the process. Shifting to a regular preschool has been harder than I thought, which has made me wonder why I'm even doing it in the first place.

Peter is a good little reader; certainly well above where he needs to be as a kindergartener. His math skills are about par to the second grade worksheets Benjamin is bringing home. I of course knew there would be zero academic reinforcement once Peter started this new preschool, but now I'm realizing his progress will be halted for at least two years since kindergarten is really just a fancy term for the Great Leveler. Do I risk him getting bored? Should I just let it be and have him wait until his peers catch up? Is it his responsibility (as Benjamin's school likes to believe, and maybe I should too?) to help other kids around him who aren't quite at his level? Is that even reasonable to ask of a 5 year-old?

I am not super mom. I often look at each of my children's teachers in amazement, wondering how on earth they do what they do. I feel like I'm sort of lazy and unorganized, and I have often looked forward to the day when all my kids are at school so I can really get back into my art. I'm too impatient, not well read enough...even as I write this, the thought of having all my children home all day every day and having total responsibility for their education sort of terrifies me.

And yet here I am, contemplating what could be a HUGE shift in how we run our family.

I'm not sure if we'll end up homeschooling any or all of our kids. I am now a lot more open to the idea, where before I would never have even considered it. I am starting to feel like just sending my kids to public schools is sort of lazy and irresponsible, and that I am much better equipped than I think I am to give them a better education.

I also feel like the "socialization" argument is kind of weak. Kids are largely a product of their parents, regardless of where they're educated.  Since parents who choose to home school are usually weird, their kids turn out that way too. And it's not like public school is weirdo-free.  So I guess what I'm trying to say is that our kids will be weird because they're our kids, not because we decided to home school them or not.

In any case I will be taking Peter and Nora out of preschool and at least doing that myself. I actually have a friend nearby whose boy is the same age as Peter. She also decided against preschool for her son, so we'll join forces to provide some structure to their days. We'll go to a music group once a week, a larger play group once a week, and hopefully do science experiments or crafts together at one of our homes each week. I'll also organize another "field trip" every week or so, just to keep things fun. I think having a friend to do this with will keep me accountable, and sane! We can get really creative with all the money we'd be saving, too.

I have also decided to not feel guilty sitting my kids in front of a movie if I ever need a break. Especially since I personally feel they get about as much out of a movie as they would out of preschool.

As a disclaimer, I have no opinion whatsoever about what other parents do with their kids. It's such a personal choice, and parents know their own kids better than anyone else. I'm certainly not anti-public schools, but I hope I can know, step by step, what's best for each of my own kids...and then be brave enough to do it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Two Wheels!

 I went outside the other night after putting Lydia to bed, hoping to get a picture of Peter, who has just learned how to ride a two-wheeler. Instead, I was greeted by this. For anyone who follows Paul on Instagram (I don't have an account. My phone is too old school for that kind of thing), this sight is all too familiar. At least this time the mud came from actual rain and not the hose...needless to say, story time that night was swallowed up by bath time and the boys cleaning up the whole bathroom, which had gotten very muddy from their encounter with it. Kind of funny the first few times...but now? Not so much.
I guess it was about a week ago that Peter was begging Paul to put the training wheels back on Benjamin's old bike so he could ride it. Instead, Paul went out there with him and gave him a little coaching. One day later, all he needed was a little push to get his momentum going, and the day after that, he was off! He's been riding every spare minute ever since. I love that about Peter. He has no fear, and attacks challenging problems like they're no big deal. He's persistent and doesn't give up easily. He's like that with reading too. He begs me whenever we go to the library to let him pick these giant chapter books (that are more middle school age appropriate), and then reads from them to me, totally unfazed by big words he doesn't know.
 Nora decided it was time to take over the tricycle now that Peter's moved on. She's gotten really good at pedaling.
I love it when the first cool days of Fall come. It always reminds me that I actually do like being outside.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Girls/Boys Night

On Friday night, Paul took the boys to the annual Fathers and Sons Camp-out. This was no small sacrifice for him, since he was coming down with a cold and has a week of travel ahead of him, but they all had a great time. They broke in our new tent, which sleeps more than 2 1/2 people like our old one did.
 The boys were in heaven, exploring...
 climbing...
 ...but most of all, just having Dad all to themselves.
I was also informed that the camp-out sausage was the best in the world, and that they had "millions." What more could you ask for?
The girls and I had the sister missionaries over for dinner. Nora asked them a few too many times when they were going to leave so we could get on with the real fun, but who could blame her? Once they left, we painted toes and fingers...
We didn't paint Lydia's toes. She just sucked on the bottles of polish.
 We danced to our favorite Disney princess Pandora station music. After the girls were in bed, Mommy even got a minute to catch up on SYTYCD. Hulu posts them a month behind schedule, so I'm pretending I don't know who won yet, even though a certain person (cough...Meredith....cough) may have posted the pre-finale photo to Facebook. ;)
 In the morning, we played dolls.
We even went for a walk with our cute babies. Lydia's had this funny little kick lately where she playfully sticks her tongue out at people. Nora thinks it's funny, and tries to imitate her.
The boys returned that morning with a box of Dunkin' Donuts, as is tradition. Good times.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Shirts

 I just recently realized that I never posted about the shirts I made for the reunion. I used a really great website called Customink, which I highly recommend! It was easy to use, and I felt like I had a lot of creative control over the design.
For the back of the shirts, Paul helped me create a crossword puzzle, using everyone's names as the answers. Now is the time when I concede that I am an idiot and didn't fact check two of my clues...Isaac loved Rebecca, not Rachel. :) And Rachel certainly prefers Sam to Isaac, but more especially Jacob. Ah, well!
Unfortunately, it would have cost at least double the price of the others to make baby sized shirts, so I came up with an alternative. It just didn't make sense to spend that much, knowing they'd be outgrowing them the fastest. As you can see, Lydia already just barely squeezes into hers.
 For the baby shirts, I pulled out my old copy of Blueberries for Sal, and found a good image of a bear cub to copy and simplify. I sketched out my drawing on a piece of craft foam, then cut it out and glued it to another piece of darker foam. I glued that onto a piece of cardboard, and waited for it to thoroughly dry. Then I used a foam roller and some fabric paint to print the image on the shirts. I used a paper towel to catch any spots of paint that got on the background. In hindsight, I wish I would have mixed some white fabric paint into the yellow to get a more opaque look, but they turned out pretty cute- kind of vintage and worn looking.
I'm already imagining the new found possibilities with this technique. It's a lot of fun!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nauvoo

This past weekend was so fun! Paul's parents, his sisters Katie and Abby, her husband Patrick and their baby, Lincoln all flew out to St. Louis for a few days. Katie was going through the Nauvoo Temple for her first time, and we were lucky to be right along the way so we could join her.
Lydia and Lincoln had a good time getting reacquainted.
We stayed above the Zion's Mercantile store, with a beautiful view of the temple...
...and found some gorgeous and meaningful artwork to take home with us.
"Morning and Evening Star" by Oliver Johnson
I think both will live in our bedroom.
"Chimney Rock" by George Ottinger

The kids remembered various things, like wagons, from our recent study of church history.
Benjamin and Peter posed like the inseparable brothers Hyrum and Joseph Smith.
We soaked up every minute we could with Grandma and Grandpa.
Peter found an old style Book of Mormon that he wanted to buy. He declared that this book is true and that wants to be a missionary!
While everyone attended the session with Katie, I stayed out with the kids. We walked around the temple grounds and took a tour through the visitor center.
We also spent some time in the Family Living Center, where we learned how to make wool thread, linen, rope, candles, rugs and bread.
The sheep is always a favorite for riding on! Later that afternoon, we also visited the blacksmith, the shoemaker, and the printing press.
I wish we had taken more any pictures with our camera of the group. It was a quick trip, which can make me forgetful I guess! Another highlight of the trip for me was an impromptu private tour of the lesser-known sites of Nauvoo with Susan Easton Black (now Durrant), who I believe is the foremost authority on the history of Nauvoo. I learned a lot! For example, did you know that the stones used to build the original temple had unique patterns, which could identify who had cut it? We saw a the old stone quarry and a tiny jailhouse that had been built from some of those original stones. Some were rough and bumpy, others had a crosshatch pattern to them, and some had distinct ridges.
It really was a special time to be together. I am so excited for Katie, who will be reporting as a missionary in just a few more months. She'll sure make a great one!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Preshool Begins

Yesterday marked Peter and Nora's first day at their new preschool. Peter will go four days a week, and Nora will go two. I love this picture from the morning, as it pretty well summed up the experience.

 Peter wanted me to lay out his first day of school outfit for him. At around 6:30 in the morning, I heard him trying to get his shoes on by himself. He packed his little stuffed moose in his brand new Lego Chima backpack, and was ready to just get there!
 He loves his classroom. There is a cute reading loft and a science corner and a huge bin of Legos. So basically, he's set! He excitedly told me after school  that he got to ride the "best bike in the whole world" on the playground that day. He also told me that it's the funnest preschool in the whole world, even though "everything about it is different" from his last preschool. Clearly, he's not one to exaggerate! :)
 Nora had no trouble leaving me, but we had some differences of opinion about what suitable school clothes looked like. I decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting in the end, and she wore her well-worn, pink open-toed heels over some purple socks. I don't know why I even cared so much. She looked adorable, and she's three.
 Even though I got her a few new things to wear, none of them were appealing on the first day-- not even the Disney Princess backpack that she absolutely had to have at the store. Funny girl. She made sure once she was in the classroom that she got the right dress-ups on, and we parted ways without any drama.
It was a quiet house when we got home, as it was Lydia's nap time. I've had a few grand ideas about what I'll do with all my free time, but in reality, it's just a little over two hours and it will most likely be laundry and dishes. :)