Category: Parenting

Dream Job

I spent so much time in my 30′s trying on different hats, pursuing different interests, and wondering why I couldn’t figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. Sure, I was raising babies, but eventually I’d have to get a “real” job, right? But I had no idea what that would be, because this is all I’ve ever really wanted to do.

And then I started homeschooling and it has finally hit me: THIS IS ALL I’VE EVER REALLY WANTED TO DO. I didn’t need to find my dream job – I already had it! I now have a better understanding of why I felt so panicked about the idea of sending Tate to school full-time and having to find another job…because what that meant for me was giving up a job I loved.

Don’t get me wrong – when the kids were little, I was desperate for the hours they spent away at school or at their grandparents. Just like all parents of little ones, they messed with my head and scrambled my brain and made me crazy. But now? They are lovely, fun, wonderful, amazing people. I LOVE spending my days with them.

This year is probably the happiest I’ve ever been. The whole family is happier, because there is less stress, less pressure, less worry, less busyness, and all the time in the world to just enjoy each other and enjoy life.

I KNOW this lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but it has been a revelation for us. Every single day I am so glad I took the leap (it was scary!) and I can’t IMAGINE going back. (And as of now, neither can the kids).

I am unbelievably grateful to my husband who has given us his wholehearted support and encouragement, and to my amazingly wonderful boys. Getting to spend my days with you learning, exploring, laughing and experiencing the world together is the best thing ever.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 8.17.54 AM

 

Week 17, Friday aka “Technology: Fear Not”

Warning: I’m gonna get a little soapbox-y here.

This morning I woke up and ran across something on Facebook (during my morning iphone wake-up session) that got me thinking – as I have many times recently – about this fear of technology that I see online and in people I run across occasionally.

You know the articles – the ones that make you feel bad for ever looking at your phone while your child is around because you’re totally missing out on their childhood? Ok, I’m quite sure that there are a lot of parents out there who are pretty checked-out when it comes to their kids, but is the phone to blame? I’d be willing to bet that in many circumstances if they didn’t have their mobile phone, they would (and probably do) use other things as a distraction from their children – TV, booze, whatever. It’s just that now they are able to take their checked-outedness with them everywhere, where we can all see it.

But of course, then it’s hard to distinguish the regularly checked-out parent from the one that is just enjoying a few minutes of “me” time, while their kid is happily playing with friends at a park or studiously coloring on a restaurant placemat. I don’t know about you, but a little extra “me” time is good for my relationship with my kids. If I’m at the park and looking at my phone, you don’t know what I’m reading – it might be a BOOK for pete’s sake. Would you judge me if I was sitting on the park bench reading a BOOK?

Look, technology isn’t going away. You’re not going to wake up one day and find mobile devices a thing of the past. I easily found this article that illustrates my point exactly – people were fearing “information overload” as far back as when the printing press was first invented! It’s easy for me to wax nostalgic about hours spent winding the phone cord around my finger while chatting with my friends on an actual telephone, but then I see how much fun my kids have with their friends over facetime and I remember how we used to dream about the video phones of the future. This stuff is AWESOME!

In fact, I feel like my life is full of examples of wonderful things that would never have happened had I been fearful of technology.

I’m not going to go too far down the video-game rabbit hole, but I will say this: my husband wrote his first computer program at age 9. He has been a heavy video gamer his entire life, and he absolutely swears it has made him better at his job. It is his heavy use of technology that brought him into a field of work that he loves, is fairly secure, and supports our family very well.

We do not highly regulate our childrens’ use of technology. What we DO is have lots and lots of conversations about how the internet is different from real life. When our son had something he worked on for HOURS in Minecraft ruined by a complete stranger, we took the opportunity to talk about how people behave online in ways that they might not in real life because they are able to hide behind their anonymity. We remind him that people who are not comfortable with themselves will sometimes pretend to be someone they’re not.

But then again, they might exactly who they say they are, and they might be wonderful! After all, my husband and I met in an internet chat room in 1995. We lived 9 hours apart and he flew here to meet me just weeks after we first spoke. We had to MAIL pictures to each other. He could have been anyone (and so could I). But I took precautions (I took a friend/Army Ranger with me to the airport), and while it was still a risk, it ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made.

Recently, Fisher wanted to Skype with a friend he met on Minecraft, we said he was allowed only if they used video. This might be counter-intuitive, but think about it – it is not easy to mimic being a 12 year old girl on live video. As a result of this, he has made a friend in another part of the world! He regularly spends Saturdays talking and playing online with a Polish girl who lives in the UK. You can be sure that never would have happened had we allowed fears about the internet to override common sense.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that technology isn’t inherently bad. Just because it’s new and can be a little bit scary (I mean, is Facebook and/or Google trying to take over the world, or what?), doesn’t mean that avoiding it is the best route – especially if you have children. Because in my opinion, your kids are better off if you know MORE about technology, not less. I adopt or try to learn about most new social media that pops up, because eventually I’m not going to have a lot of control over what my kids are doing, and I don’t want to be caught with my pants down.

Or, heaven forbid, THEIRS.

*Steps off Soapbox*

BFFs

I’m pretty sure the world is about to end, because these two things happened today:

First, I was making the boys breakfast this morning, and while I had my back turned to them, I heard Fisher say, “What was that kiss for?”

And Tate replied, “because I love you!”.

And Fisher said, “Awwww!”

THEN!

This afternoon, we were on our way home from school and Fisher said, “Tate, I just love you! Here, give me your hand!” and then he reached out and kissed it.

Also! Yesterday was my mom’s birthday. We didn’t do much to celebrate, because we’d all spent the previous day together. But last night she stopped by to pick something up, and Fisher gave her $2 as a birthday gift.

I’m pretty sure that all of this together secures my position as the world’s greatest mother, am I right? I mean, it’s obviously because of my heavy daily influence that they are being so damn sweet.

But really, this summer has been pretty fantastic so far. The kids haven’t spent a whole lot of time with other kids, which means they’ve spent a lot of time with each other. Sure, there’s some fighting here and there, but I have to say that it has been really minimal. They once went an ENTIRE DAY AT HOME PLAYING TOGETHER WITHOUT FIGHTING. Which is like, some kind of record!

I know that siblings don’t always get along. It’s really the luck of the draw, with many factors (age, gender, personality) playing into the equation. So I realize how lucky I am (and really, THEY are), that they care about each other so much. And I am so thankful, because suspect that as they get older, they will each have the opportunity to be the other’s ally on occasion.

Damn, I just love them so much.

 

 

Jumping on the Tramp

I am a huge fan of trampolines. So much so that I’ve entertained the idea of starting some kind of trampoline-advocacy website. Though, it should be stated that I come up with new (generally bad) website ideas practically daily, so that doesn’t really say a whole lot.

Our next door neighbors got a trampoline the summer Fisher turned 2, and he has been jumping ever since. We ended up getting one for our own yard (sometimes the older boys don’t want to share with the younger boys, and I’m just not down with that drama.)

Both of our boys are super coordinated. Sometimes I see other kids get on the trampoline who clearly aren’t used to it, and they look so stiff and awkward while my kids are doing flips and jumps and ninja moves and whatnot. Fisher isn’t super athletic, but he is fast and agile. Tate is pretty much awesome at everything, so apparently he’s working with an above-average baseline set of abilities.

Anyway, my working theory has always been that the boys are especially coordinated because of their trampoline usage, and I read something yesterday that (sort of?) supports that.

I am reading Temple Grandin’s book Animals in Translation. It’s about animal behavior, but there’s some human behavior stuff thrown in (newsflash: people are animals).  In talking about locomotor play, she says it is the “pretend chasing and jumping-and-spinning play a young animal does when it’s alone”. Sounds very much like how my kids play on the trampoline!  She goes on to say…

“Drs. Byers and Walker think the purpose of locomotor play might be to help grow good connections among the cells in the cerebellum, which is the [part of the brain] that handles posture, balance and coordination…it makse sense that a young animal or human might spend a lot of time leaping, running & chasing during the period that his cerebellum is forming new connections.”

True, this is just a theory, but it supports my antecdotal evidence so it must be COMPLETELY TRUE. Ok, not really, but a little confirmation bias never hurt anyone, right?

Also, I know people get all freaked out by trampolines, but in the 7 years my kids (and all the neighborhood kids) have been jumping out back, no one has ever been seriously injured. And the only minor injuries have occurred from improper use (not zippering the doorway, and slipping off the outside edge while walking around it WHILE IT WAS WET *coughtAmFamcough*.)

So, if you want a great backyard toy that your kids will use practically daily (I’m not even kidding when I say that my kids sometimes jump in the snow), is THOUSANDS of dollars less than one of those stupid wooden playsets, and is fun for the whole family (the kids love it when mom or dad get on!) and helps with coordination and brain development, then you just need to head over to your local Wal-mart with $250 in your pocket and pick up one of these puppies.

Plus, it comes with free static electricity!

PROTIP: Rig up a locking hose sprayer inside the trampoline and turn it into a slippery slidey trampoline.  They will think you are the best parent ever!!

And then when your kids grow up and get scholarships because they are so coordinated, you can come back and thank me.

 

Thank You, Katie

Today was Super Fun Day! at Fisher’s school, and I spent the morning monitoring one of the bouncy-houses they had on site (along with Am-Fam). I brought Tate with me, and he and Am-Fam’s daughter spent the time going back and forth between our station and the playground.

Most of the classes attending the morning session were younger kids – Kindergarten through Third Grade. Kids at this age still fine-tuning their social graces, and since they were standing in line waiting their turn for a majority of their time at our station, they were doing a lot of staring at Tate’s arm.

(In case you’re brand-new here, my 5yo son was born missing his right hand due to Amniotic Band Syndrome).

Normally when we get a starer, I’ll say something like, “do you have a question about Tate’s arm?” or something like that. But this was class after class of kids, and it was difficult not to get irritated. It was clearly bothering Tate (who was standing beside me and obviously trying to hide his arm) and I just didn’t feel like having this conversation over and over again.

At one point, a first grade class came to our station, and shortly after having yet another “please don’t stare at my kid” conversation, I looked over to see a little girl smile at Tate and wave to him so shyly and sweetly that I nearly burst into tears right then and there.

I KNOW the other kids were just curious, and weren’t meaning to be cruel, but it is so rare to have so MANY people staring at Tate (this just isn’t as common a problem for us as you might think) and it was difficult.

I went over to tell her teacher what happened, so she could be sure to relay it to her parents. I don’t know her or her parents, but I’m told she’s a pretty special kid. Thank you, Katie – I’ll never forget that sweet little smile and wave you gave Tate today. He might not have noticed, but I sure did.

I feel like I should point out that we know a lot of kids at the school, and the kids who know Tate are incredibly kind to him. No one was being mean in any way – they were just bored standing in line, and curious. Totally natural, but also totally annoying.  And sometimes funny – one girl cupped a hand over her eye so she wouldn’t “accidentally stare”.  Ha!

Budgeting & Charity of the Month

BUDGETING

About twice a year I sit down to review our budget, and every single time I think “gee, we really should be able to save a lot more money than we are”. Only, I’ve never been very good at tracking our spending in the past, so the budget is basically useless.

This month I decided I was going to set up a budget and then very carefully track our spending through Mint. It took me a little while to get a feel for the site and how to best set up our budget categories, but now I am able to look and see exactly where we are in every spending category.

A little detail about how I’ve set up our budget, and how I keep it simple:

BILLS – I have a budget set up for each of our monthly bills (including Savings & Charity). Only electric is variable, all others are static.

FOOD – I have 4 food budgets set up (groceries, scott lunches, patti lunches, eating out)

GAS – self explanatory.

SHOPPING – All purchases which do not fall under one of the above categories gets labeled “Shopping”. It seems pointless to me to set up budgets for things like clothing and oil changes and haircuts and birthday presents and household purchases, etc. because they vary from month to month. So I have budgeted a large amount to cover this umbrella of general spending, and this is the category I watch most closely throughout the month. Mint has a little bar graph for categories, and so I try to keep our spending somewhat close to where we are in the month (i.e. halfway at the 15th, etc.)

I’ve been doing this for a grand total of 20 days so far, but it’s working really well. I absolutely feel like it’s causing me to think more closely about my purchases, and we’re on track to save a good chunk of our income this month (which will pay off the new computer I bought last week).

It sounds cliche, but doing this has shifted my mentality toward feeling like I am in control of our money rather than the other way around. I am happy to answer any questions about using Mint or how I set up our budget if anyone is interested. Once I got it all set up, it’s been super easy to manage. I just log in once a day and categorize any transactions that have come through. It takes less than 5 minutes a day to manage.

MONTHLY CHARITY

As part of setting up our budget, I decided that I wanted to set a certain amount aside for us to donate to charity. We are currently donating monthly to the Human Rights Campaign, but it’s not much, and we’re not consistent about donating regularly to other organizations – we’ll just send a chunk here and there to causes we want to support. But it makes sense budget-wise to have a certain amount set aside each moth, and I like the idea of deciding as a family what organizations we want to help. I feel like this will be a great learning opportunity for the kids, and a good habit to start now.

I thought it would be fun to post each month about what charity we’ve selected. This month’s charity was actually chosen only by me, because I came up with this idea after I’d already made a donation, but I’ll share it with you anyway.

CHARITY OF THE MONTH – FEBRUARY

The Freedom from Religion Foundation

The organization’s statement of purpose: The purposes of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc., as stated in its bylaws, are to promote the constitutional principle of separation of state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

The president of this organization is a former pastor and the author of Godless, a book that was pivotal during my time of spiritual seeking and really helped me feel more comfortable and confident in declaring myself a non-believer. I believe in their mission, and appreciate their work.

I am being harassed by my children to get off the computer already, so if you want more info on FFRF you’ll have to visit the site.

 

Sick day.

I feel like I’m not very good at knowing when my kids need to see a doctor, does anyone else have this problem? My 8 year old has had a mild cough for about a week. This morning he woke up and there was a definite rattle in his chest, and those wet kind of coughs that are contagious the way yawns are contagious and make my eyes water when I hear them. He didn’t have a fever or any other symptoms really, but for some reason I felt like I should take him in. Possibly I have been watching too many historical British dramas where people regularly die from quick-moving diseases. Not that I suspected Spanish Flu or Tuberculosis, but still. I’m allowed to worry about my kid, right?

Our pediatrician lives next door, but his office is on the other side of town. Normally I’d wait for a house call, but I didn’t really want to wait until he got home (usually near bedtime) and I didn’t feel like driving to the other end of town, so I took him to the CVS Minute Clinic.

This is going to be the most anticlimactic story ever. He’s totally fine, just needs to work on getting steamed up and getting that junk out of his lungs so it doesn’t turn into anything else.

The fact is, I really enjoy spending time with him these days. Eight is a really nice age. And his day off wasn’t entirely wasted, as he spent a bit of time in front of the new computer making videos. Enjoy!

He is so weird. I love it.