Friday, February 29, 2008
I know it's not fair to the poor kid, but he's earned the title for Super Velcro Boy over the past few days. He's sick again. Fever, cough, sleeping all the time. Body aches just rolling over.
He was just sick for 10 days with the flu in the middle of the month. Then he had a week off and got sick again. Same thing, but even more lethargic. He has to be leaning on my or lying on me even when he's asleep. Right now he's leaning on my big kid so I could hang some laundry and escape.
I'd like to register a complaint with whoever is in charge of this flu and the whole mutation thing. This poor child just had it! He hasn't eaten anything but a bowl of chips in 48 hours and he really can't afford to lose a few. We're all crying uncle over here.
With the big InHome Conference coming up next week, we really can't afford for all of us to get sick again. I'm almost caught up on my work for that - stop by the information table and check it out. I am also almost done updating the Westside House website and have done lots of other paperwork today. So all is not lost on being home for a few days. We even got out a 500 piece puzzle to work on.
Hey, I just figured out how to do that cool link thing! Now I can get back to my knitting.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Need help with a knitting problem? Ask your friends. Can't figure out what to do with your child's intimidating abilities in your weaker areas? Solutions are offered. About to have a complete breakdown when the delivery team tells you they cannot hook up your dryer? A friend looks for shut off valves. Youngest child sleeping all day with no food or drink intake? Reassurances from 6 moms ease the worry.
Thanks all you wonderful women! You make the world go 'round.
Monday, February 25, 2008
We took the path through the blowout, a section of valley between the dunes caused by the wind. It's our favorite walk to the beach. First we climbed up and down through a wooded dune section. Then it opens up to this beautiful scene. In the picture, two of our kids are on separate paths.
After going through the blowout, we climbed a small dune to get a view of the beach. It's a great, open space and was beautiful with strange ice and snow formations. Yesterday was warmish, in the 30s, with little wind. Obviously, there has been a lot of wind this winter.
Beautiful, jagged mountains of ice and snow with the open water peaking out behind. It was as if the waves were completely frozen in time.
I don't remember seeing the lake like this before. It was breath-taking. This little sand, snow and ice formation reminded me of pictures of the west - Wyoming or Utah - on a smaller scale.
There weren't a whole lot of people on the beach. One woman walking two dogs passed us. There were footprints of other dog walkers, but we had this whole space to ourselves.
We came back from the walk exhilarated, having walked down the beach to another access point and up and over a couple more sand dunes to get back to Grandma and Granddad's. Unfortunately, my parent's can't enjoy the beauty of the winter much anymore. It it too strenuous a walk for them, too dangerous at this point.
Friday, February 22, 2008
The needles were left in for an hour, so I had a lot of time to think about our conversation. First, she was under the impression that homeschooling parents have a lot of patience and superhuman ability to teach their children everything necessary. A product of the educational system with three children in the midst of it, she equated teaching with learning in a way that most homeschoolers don't. I told her several times that I am not all that patient, but that I am able to figure out ways that my children learn differently and work to their own particular strength if their struggles warrant intervention.
She asked for help with her 8 year old's math problems. I told her how we played a lot of math games before ever starting anything approaching a curriculum. She said she had tried games with her child, but that by the time school is out and homework is done, the last this the kid wants to do is play a game. This lead to a tangent about how school seems to be about crowd control and how mindless all the homework seems to be. She talked on about the frustrations and how her child just doesn't "get it" with math and asked for some resources.
As I was with the needles, I wondered why the obvious didn't occur. Maybe her child just isn't ready to learn whatever part of math was causing the stress. Homeschoolers can pull back and rest in their comfort zone when this happens, move on to different topics and come back when they are ready.
My own daughter is doing this now with fast addition reverse. She was easily frustrated with this topic on her on-line program, so I suggested just "fiddling around" with different topics until she was ready to do more in division. She's been happily learning bar graphs, simple geometry, word problems, rounding and estimating for the past week or so. She's learning the math she's ready to incorporate, while not creating a mental block about the topic she was stuck on.
I suggested this to my doctor, that her child may just be not ready to get it, whatever it may be. She was baffled at this, the class moves on even when the child isn't ready, it teaches to the mean. There must be something wrong with the child, not with the system. Homeschoolers have the flexibility to adjust to their children's needs and interests.
Reason number 2,378 to rejoice in homeschooling.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Kim, whose blog I've been reading longer than any other - http://www.relaxedhomeskool.com/ - has bestowed the Excellent award to my blog. I couldn't be more proud, or look more red in the face than green. Before I knew what a blog was, I knew Kim and knew she blogged. I thought it was cool, but didn't get it. Then I started reading her blog and - gasp! - actually commented on it. From her blogroll, I got to other blogs and so on and so on. I've learned so much by reading blogs, misery loves company and so does victory, inquisitiveness, even introspection. Kim's blog is funny, informative, supportive and just a complete slice of her every time she posts.
I learned what a cool, creative, fun and hip world this blogging thing is all about. But I don't consider myself to be cool, creative, fun or hip, so it never occurred to me to write one. And then something happened this fall and I thought I would try to blog. Just for me. One day at Boys Club I mentioned to Kim that I had been writing a blog and she almost peed in her pants from wanting to see it. But I wasn't ready to share it yet, it seemed too private and too raw. I got over that.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
First - I do, I do like that hat! Cables around the brim, cables going all the way up, really tiny 7 stitches to the inch yarn in the ss and 13 stitches to the inch in the cable. Did the fancy math to figure out the gauage, picked up 175 stitches from the brim cable stitch and followed a basic Ann Budd pattern from the Handy Book of Knitting Patterns to to the rest. I like the cables going up. They don't show up as sharply with the tweedy yarn, it's a merino wool/alpaca blend. Soft and warm. Now I'm working on matching gloves. I've never done gloves before...
This morning I made a card for my sister's birthday package. The card is from a template at www.alittlehut.com. It was fun to make. The paper is some we made at our papermaking workshop at www.vargasart.net and that's what I wrote the note on and glued to the inside of the card. Fun.
Over the weekend I made these earings. They are fun to wear, but I wish the pin were longer. The felt beads are from a local yarn shop, I just couldn't resist them. But I but couldn't figure out what to make with them. Then I used up a few of my zillion coupons at Joann's for the sterling findings.
OH, and yesterday we paid off the credit card. BAM. It's done.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Sunday we took the Civic to Turtle Wax for detailing. The car was fairly clean, it just had another family’s dirt in it and we wanted a fresh start. Unfortunately, Chicago was having a monsoon so there were no detailers at Turtle Wax. We have an appointment for Wednesday.
The rest of Sunday was a soul-killing big box store shopping kind of day. WalMart for floormats and other items. It always takes us longer in WalMart because we don’t know the store well. From there to Home Depot where we bought a dryer. After that I went to Costco on my own and managed to fill the Civic’s surprisingly big trunk.
It’s not that I mind hanging two loads of laundry a day, it’s just that it takes so much time. Our house isn’t quite in the same league as those that you see on the news when they take the kids away, but we are on that path. I suppose reducing my homeschooling, knitting and crafting time may have allowed for more housekeeping time, but that didn’t happen.
So, things are looking up. We can now get to all of our activities and classes, go to the gym and shop before 8 p.m. We did, truly, live like no one else. That’s a Dave Ramsey expression. Other people would have bought a newer car with a loan, put a dryer on the credit card and called it a day. We are focused on getting rid of all debt, intensely focused. We don’t like using money that isn’t ours – credit card and car loan companies’ money. They make a profit from our poor planning and preparation.
We like living this way, although it took a while to get the hang of it. If we don’t have the money for something, we don’t buy it. It’s that simple. Our parents and grandparents lived this way, but our society has changed and now it’s unusual. Throughout this bleak period, we reinforced the difference between want and need. We wanted a car, but waited five weeks for the cash to come in. We wanted a dryer, but wanted two months for the cash to come in. We needed to get the furnace fixed, and had the money to do so.
We are fortunate to have a good income that can support this lifestyle – when we understand the difference between want and need. We are also fortunate to have gotten on the same page with financial matters, to have the same goals and the willingness to discuss them. Mostly we are fortunate to have understood all of this before it was too late.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Today they woke and made special valentines for each other. They were shocked to learn that all the kids on the block were in school during such a huge holiday. Things like this make no sense to them, its another one of those meaningless rules. Later they asked to have some of the Sweet Tarts I bought to go with the Writer's Workshop valentines. They had shared a box of them yesterday.
After passing out a box to everyone and putting the rest away in the kitchen, Buddy came running and screaming into the living room to tell us to put them down. The Little Man actually spit his right out of his mouth. There, clearly labled on the individual box was a "made in a facility" message. It included more than just peanuts and tree nuts, also wheat, oats, barley and a whole host of other things my youngest is allergic to. The Sweet Tarts were packaged as twelve individual boxes, shrink wrapped together. On the outside of the shrink wrap was an ingredient sticker - with no warning, no "made in a facility" message. But each box had the message printed on the side. I didn't read the individual box labels.
Now I know that my oldest boy's bad cough yesterday was a result of eating these Sweet Tarts. He told me a couple of times that he needed the nebulizer, but he was able to get out complete sentences and run down the stairs to relay the information. And he wasn't wheezing. I put him under steam and made him rest, but he was still coughing. With hindsight, I can see he was having a reaction to the cross contanimated candy. And I gave him nothing for it, suspecting nothing. Worse than that, we had a heated argument over the need for the nebulizer.
Honestly, I know it would take a superhuman strength and power to keep my kids completely safe from food allergies. The list of foods we avoid for anaphylaxis is long: peanuts, tree nuts of all kinds, all legumes except soy. The list of foods we avoid for severe eczema is even longer: dairy, eggs, wheat and all gluten (oats, barley, rye, etc.), flax, pineapple, mango, papaya, corn starch and syrup, cranberries, blackberries, watercress, cabbage and some other greens. Labels are long and complicated. Some are clear, some are double labled like the Sweet Tarts. Some are over labeled, like every single cut cheese at Whole Foods, because they cannot separate their cheese from their nuts in the back. (The cheese guy cheerfully told me they wash the cutters for different molds on different cheeses, but they can't clean up their act enough to extend to the rest of the kitchen.)
So, the challenge is great. But I cannot stop blaming myself when we are accidentally exposed. Whether the reaction resolves itself in the emergency room or the living room, I still feel completely inadequate and unable to confront the obstacles. I am educated and hypervigilant, and yet my kid can have a reaction without me even realizing it.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Yesterday the boys stayed in bed, watching PBS Kids until 4 or 5. A full day of Dragon Tails, Clifford and Super Why is a lot for a 9 year old to put up with. But his little brother was sicker than he was and neither felt like moving.
My girl is steadfastly refusing to admit she's getting this virus. But she fell asleep on the couch this morning and is coughing like the rest of them. My thermometer has been working overtime and I'm thinking of investing in Gatorade.
So, what have we accomplished with this virus? Domino towers and Rube Goldberg type contraptions. Valentines. Reading. Boggle. Art projects. A lot of fiddling with a spreadsheet for my investment club. There has been very little playing of the DS or gameboy. Too much stimulation, I think.
And I've been knitting in between temperature taking and dehydration monitoring. I discovered a round on Mark's cabled hat takes ten minutes. So, I knit that, then go upstairs to administer two teaspoons of Gatorade through a medicine dropper and come back down to knit another row. The cabled rows take a bit longer, but the formula worked enough yesterday afernoon for the little man to actually come downstairs and eat a bowl of potato chips. That, and a piece of toast is all he ate yesterday. Knitting helps me to not show my worry, it gives me something to count and the pattern is interesting enough for me to focus on it.
Today Little Missy has big plans for messy science experiments and making germ cookies. If she gets off the couch.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
We've all been pretty sick here. Fever, coughing. I thought Buddy was going into croup yesterday, his cough was very bark like. He goes to croup quickly and violently, usualy resulting in an oral steroid to reduce the inflamation. He was 8 1/2 the last time he had it, some people don't grow out of it. I called our doctor and she prescribes something called Viola Clear Fire Formula. It cleared his cough to normal. He's also taking Gan Mao Ling, San Ju Yin and what I call Su Ji Wada-Wada Boom Bang because the name is too long for me to remember.
I've had a lot of time to work on my thing-a-day, between nebulizer treatments and gatorade replenishments. First I made muffins because it was 50 below zero and our super efficient furnace, turned down to 64 degrees at night, could not catch back up to our normal 67. The wheat/gluten/dairy/egg free muffins are on the left. I made a double batch of the no-nut ones on the right, but they wouldn't fit in the picture.
Yesterday, I was messing around with valentines and decided to make hearts out of magazine pages. Parenting magazine has really flimsy pages, I get such a mainstream publication because I ordered diapers from somewhere that gave me a free subscription. Flimsy pages and flimsy advice all in one! I ended up gluing pages together to get it thick enough to make a heart.
I'm happy we homeschool and the kids can be sick and get better on their own schedule. It's amazing to me that we even got sick in the first place! For four weeks we've been stuck at home except for local evening activities like dodgeball, dance and gymnastics. It truly takes only one person coughing or sneezing in your face to pass the germ along. More likely, it took one four year old with his finger up his nose to touch my four year old...
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I taught myself how to knit cables! Working on the blanket, with the stockinette stitch middle, inspired me to learn something new. Cables seemed so scary, so beyone my level of ability. I read the instructions and didn't get it. I found a youtube instruction video and it clicked.
I'm working on a hat for Mark. This will be the brim band and then I'll put cables going up so I can figure out how to do them in the round. The cable needle is fairly easy to work with and the plait cable I chose is easy to figure out if you get interrupted in the middle of the pattern repeat. The yarn is a yummy merino wool and alpaca blend. I'll try matching gloves when I'm done with the hat.
I don't know why I resisted cables for so long. They are interesting to work and fun to figure out. Maybe it's just getting out of the rut that's hard.
Friday, February 8, 2008
I was going to do the whole blanket in this star stitch pattern. You knit the right side and then on the reverse side do a series of purling three together but leave on the left needle, wrap the yarn around the right and then purl the same three together again. That makes the star. It's a pretty pattern, but it makes my hands cramp. I know in my head that a significant percentage of the population over the age of 40 has arthritis, but I'm not ready to accept it in my own hands. After I got four inches along in two days, I decided to make the star pattern a border. Sadly, that left a lot of boring stockinette stitch - I should have chose something else for the middle.
So, the giving story. I have a friend on the block who just had her sixth child. I feel the sixth deserves a hand-knitted something, especially when you know the whole story. This couple has two biological children, a boy and a girl, in their mid to late teens. They tried to have a third, wanting a big family, but were unsuccessful. Their third child, a boy, was adopted shortly after birth through a regular, domestic adoption. He is now 9. They decided to foster children, their hearts being capable of so much more.
They took in countless babies and toddlers, wanting to foster with the intent to adopt. They returned several children back to parents or family members. It was heartbreaking to witness. Then they fostered from early toddlerhood and adopted their fourth child, also a boy. He is now four. They thought they were done. A year later, they agreed to take in an infant until the grandmother could be qualified to take the child. After much uncertainty, the grandmother was unable to take the child and this wonderful couple kept him, adopting him this fall at nearly the age of two. Now their family was complete and happy.
Then, in December they got a call that the birth mother had given birth again and the family felt that one more child would be perfect. Despite spending a month in the hospital, being sick with drug exposure, this baby girl is the most perfect, most beautiful baby I have seen since my own were born. She is very lucky to have found this family, my friends are very lucky indeed to have her. They have every intention of adopting her as well, providing her with love and attention, giving her a life of her own and the possibility to reach her full potential.
I can't believe I have the good fortune to know people such as these, to learn from them and maybe capture a bit of their goodness.
The frog monitoring survery is part of the Habitat Project of Chicago Wilderness. It is possible to be a plant monitor, butterfly monitor and bird monitor. As the zoos and aquariums of the country have labeled 2008 as the Year of the Frog (with celebrations and information sessions on Leap Day), I decided to help out with the frogs. These critters are in trouble, all over the world they are becoming extinct. Because they are in the middle of the food chain, they are a good idicator of the health of our ecosystems.
I'm excited about being a frog monitor and will have to learn to distinguish 13 different frog mating calls before the middle of March. That's probably going to be the hardest part, but the training session provided a lot of information and a cd to listen to and learn from. Here's a link to the mating call of the eastern grey tree frog: http://www.habitatproject.org/frogs/sounds/EasternGrayTreefrog_Call.mp3
Thursday, February 7, 2008
We had another snowstorm yesterday. Our house seems to be below the Mason-Dixon line and we only had 3 inches of snow (some areas got over a foot), but it was really wet and slushy. Walking the little man to dance proved impossible as it meant crossing great slush lakes at every intersection.
I learned two important factoids while watching the weather, and these kept me awake most of the night. The first is that we in Chicagoland have had 11 minutes of sunshine thus far in February. That's enough to depress even the most cheerful, half-full person without a Happy Light.
The second factiod was that the snow we received is called "Heart Attack Snow." Mark was already snoring when this information came out, so I carefully stayed primed all night to waken when his alarm rang at 4:15 to beg him not to shovel the snow. Then I promptly slept until 8 a.m. when the plow guy and his group of young, impervious to heart attack workers started plowing and shoveling.
This is my thing from yesterday. It's actually two things. The ball of silk came from the front of an old shirt. I have visions of going through all the old, stained and unwearable clothes I have stashed in the basement and making balls of knittable or weaveable yarn from them. Making a ball takes time as I like to cut it in one continuous loop to avoid sewing the strips together. And it creates a lot of waste as the ends need rounding. I came up with the idea of making a valenting with the waste fabric. Next time I'll use less glue to make it lie more flat and stay closed. Now all I need to do is make an envelope for it and send it to my mother!
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
In between screens at mathscore.com, I asked my daughter to turn on the oven to 450 because I'd like to give them hot dogs and french fries for lunch. It's a special lunch for us - a having friends over or celebrating something kind of lunch. Today the snow is just so glorious (we can afford to say that while we are immobilized) that it seemed a celebration lunch kind of day. Besides, calculating area makes sense now.
Buddy lifted his head from his math and said "Wait, why don't I get to know what we are having? Why does she get to know all about it?"
I thought about the many answers to this question for about a nanosecond and wound up saying "It's a vast conspiracy." (Someone please nominate me for Mother of the Year.)
"You mean 'vast right wing conspiracy,' Mommy!"
That made me laugh. Math was over. No, I'm not anti-Hillary, or even anti-Clinton. But I needed to explain. We headed to youtube to find this video:
This, in turn led to a history discussion (does it count as history when it was so recent?). We talked about the two party political system, political dynasties like the Bush and Clinton families and the role of the media in shaping policies. We also talked about personal responsibility and how "uncool" it is to have both a wife and a girlfriend.
This is yet another reason why I love homeschooling. We had the time to get deep into a topic, could strike while the iron was hot and give them as much information as they wanted. They also get to understand one of their mother's favorite expressions and have hot dogs for lunch with no worries about the incredible snow.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
But it brought to mind The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List and I said "No. 17" to myself. Number 17: "Stop saying 'Oh, I could never homeschool!' Even if you think it's some kind of compliment, it sounds more like you're horrified. One of these days, I won't bother disagreeing with you any more." You can find all 25 at http://www.secular-homeschooling.com/.
I have two all time favorite comments from other people about our family's very psersonal decision to homeschool. The first was from my brother, who said "How can there be no requirements from the state? What if you raise a bunch of idiots?"
Number 11: "Please stop questioning my compentency and demanding to see my credentials. I didn't have to complete a course in catering to successfully cook dinner for my family; I don't need a degree in teaching to educate my children. If spending at least 12 years in the kind of chew-it-up and spit-it-out educational facility we call public school left me with so little information in my memory banks that I can't teach the basics of an elementary education to my nearest and dearest, maybe there's a reason I'm so reluctant to send my child to school."
The second was from another mom at karate class. "Oh, I could never do that. I really just want my kids to blossom."
Number 3: "Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize."
So, when I know people really aren't interested, I keep my mouth shut. When people are interested in what we do all day, how we learn, what the adventure is like, I talk up a blue streak. When they shut me out with their judgements, I smile and call off a number in my head.
"8:15 will be fine." I replied.
Monday, February 4, 2008
Her homecoming was amazing - as I'm sure the trip itself was. The boys hugged and hugged her and wouldn't let go, even with the promise of dinner. They made a banner welcoming her home and put it across the hallway to the dining room. Then everyone talked at once to catch each other up on what happened in her absence, she telling us what she did on her trip. After all that energy fighting on a daily basis, we had an evening of love and togetherness.
It made me think we are in a rut. Certainly our financial woes have put a strain on the kids, although we aren't in a place where we are depriving ourselves of necessities. Our being stuck at home for lack of a car has stiffled us considerably. So, when the kids got up this morning, I told them the project of the day was to make an igloo before the snow melted. They had to go outside and work together and figure it out. They were out there 2 hours, but the rain and the melt hindered them. I hope the start of their structure remains for the snow we are supposed to get tomorrow night.
Every time I looked out the window, they were hard at work arranging their bricks, trying to figure out how to make it stand up and hold a roof. It was amazing to see them at work/play. Collaborating, discussing, throwing snow, making snow angles, working on the igloo, getting really wet and hungry. We need more creativity in our lives. And less fog.
Two more paper box animals today. I made some marble magnets yesterday, but am not happy with them. Aside from that I've been knitting, knitting, knitting on the baby blanket with no end...
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Our little man has struggled with severe eczema his whole life. Food allergies are a big culprit, but not the only one. He can't have wheat, dairy, eggs, legumes, nuts, corn syrup, pineapple and other fruits or flax seeds. We haven't tried new foods with him lately, but have been able to expand his repetoire lately as his tastes change. In the past month, he's developed a love for yogurt - soy and goat. The goat yogurt is much better for him, given it has 8 grams of fat a serving and is a simpler food than soy yogurt. His belly button is, for the first time, an innie. He looks less and less scrawny every day and we are thrilled. His eczema is better, he has two spots now; around his mouth and behind his knees. A year ago he was a full body, bleeding mess. And the chinese herbal treatments have strengthened his immune system to the point where when he gets a cold, it's very short in duration. The rest of the family has experienced this as well.
For my part, I had accupuncture for the first time today. It was the most relaxing thing I've ever done! She gave me needles to help my ankle pain and help with weight loss, after a regular office visit. I had them in for 45 minutes or so and feel fabulous now. It could just be that I rarely have 45 minutes to myself to do nothing but be. I wish I hadn't resisted accupuncture for so long, particularly if it gets me over the mobility and pain issues. With one car, Mark had to take the kids shopping and come back to get me. I was in there for two hours, so maybe the needles were in longer.
And here is my thing for the day. All the things up at http://www.thing-a-day.com/ are so interesting! I've been dreaming of ways to use up my fabric stash. It's clogging the basement and cluttering my life. But I can't just throw it out, most of it. I need to weave rugs, a stair runner, knit blankets, etc. Big plans for big fabric. So, last week I got out an old dress and cut some strips to make beads with. There were fun to make, I especially like the fringe. Then I made a box out of card stock and glued them to the top. Someday I'll open up an Etsy shop...
Friday, February 1, 2008
But what everyone really needs to do it go to http://www.relaxedhomeschool.com/. Kim is hosting Unschooling Voices this month and there are some amazing things to read on there. Besides, Kim's blog is just generally cool.
In an unschooling manner, we took our Roots&Shoots cross country skiing today. We had probaby 8 inches of snow out here in the western suburbs between yesterday and today. (More fell near the lake, we are told.) We fought an as-yet unplowed driveway and poorly plowed or salted streets to a friend's house to take our girl on a Girl Scouts camping trip and then took our boys skiing at the same place we went to as a family last week. I use "we" and "took" pretty loosely, as I spent most of the time behind the Little Man or swinging him into a standing position one armed. He really got the hang of it today, though, and I am optimistic about our future skiing life. We all got to experience snow for the beautiful miracle it is, isntead of as an impediment or cause of traffic accidents. In our urban life, we tend to forget snow's purpose and wonder. That was lesson and learning enough for the day.