Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thirteen Days

This morning, when I walked downstairs to our quiet little classroom, I noticed a little handwritten note in the top right hand corner of the whiteboard: "Days Left: 13". I must've read it ten times before it finally hit me that our whole homeschool experience will be over in THIRTEEN DAYS. I honestly had to look back at my Teacher Planner and make sure I hadn't missed entire weeks or months...and, sure enough, we have been in school for THIRTY-SEVEN WEEKS. What!? How is that even possible? 

have been trying really hard to take pictures of most of the projects and activities the girls do throughout the day, so that I could put together a Homeschool Yearbook for them at the end of the year. I finally got all of the pictures uploaded a couple of days ago and there are 745 pictures in the album. 745 memories to treasure. 

But, the real moments that I will treasure from this school year are the ones that I don't have photographs of...

Eraser dust;
Playdoh crumbles;
Crumpled up scratch paper;
Sticky fingerprints on my keyboard;
Paint marks on the craft table;
Science experiment ingredients and  supplies strung out all across the countertop;
Dirty breakfast and lunch dishes piled up in the kitchen sink;
Library books stacked on the dining room table;
Bookmarks sticking out of every book;
Pencil shavings and broken lead;
Tears of frustration;
The smell of Anna's Mr. Sketch markers lingering in the air;
Porch reading;
Baby doll tire-swinging;
Hours spent listening to the girls talk while we drive to museums, parks, appointments and field trips;
Craft projects for every holiday;
Multiplication table drills;
Tears of joy;
Late start every day;
Lunch with their Daddy;
Middle of the day doctor's appointments;
And, end of the day silence. 

I'm sure that next year, the silence during the middle of the day will be both intolerable and heavenly. And, I'll admit, I'm already having some serious anxiety about what I am going TO DO with all of my free time. #firstworldproblems But, I know that this is the right decision for all of us at this moment in time. Meanwhile, if you need me, I'll be over here teaching and soaking up all of the joy in these last 13 days. 

If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. - Lao Tzu

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Daring Greatly: One and Done

It's been almost a year to the day that I made our little announcement that we were going to homeschool the girls. And now, here we are, just a few short weeks away from the end of our first homeschool year and I'm making another little announcement: that our first homeschool year will be our last.  

I know there will be those of you that saw this coming; those that thought to yourself, that's great that you are doing it, but I could never homeschool my kids. Those who said you don't have the flexibility / patience / dedication / organization / whatever to pull it off. Those who said your kids are too social / hyper / unmotivated/ whatever to be homeschooled. Those who said you would miss your personal free time. Those who said the kids would be bored or they would hate it. Those who said you can't afford it. Those who said it's just too hard. 

You were all right. 

Homeschooling is damn hard. 

It requires enormous amounts of flexibility, patience, dedication and organization. Both on the part of the teacher AND the student. You can be the most organized and motivated person on the planet (and believe me, I'm Type A+ to the max), but if your kids aren't skilled in patience and flexibility, you can plan your heart out, but sometimes life (God?) has other plans. 

A friend of mine took her kids to Disney World a few years ago and while they were there her husband posted on Facebook that he had never seen so many parents yelling and kids screaming and crying and getting their butts whooped as right there at the Happiest Place on Earth

That's pretty much how homeschooling went for us. 

It is the Magic Kingdom. 

You plan the dream vacation from traditional schooling, complete with engaging curriculum, fancy new classroom and field trips/adventures to motivate and encourage learning like nothing you've ever experienced. And when you get there, the kids hate it. They miss their friends, their daily routine and the structure and predictability of public school. They enjoy the field trips and free days, but they miss their backpacks, gym class and social network. They like their teacher, but they miss their mom. 

I just finished reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and I can't quit thinking about the Theodore Roosevelt quote at the beginning of the book: 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds;...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..."

At least we failed while daring greatly.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Upstairs Bathroom Remodel

When we bought this house nearly three years ago, the upstairs bathroom was one of the first things we wanted to redo. Even though the original black and white floor tile was cool, that was about it. The rest of the room screamed OLD! DIRTY! HELP ME!

There was a wobbly pedestal sink instead of a vanity with drawers, which was completely impractical for two growing girls with lots of hairbands and nail polish.

There was gross "white" tile and grout that you could never get clean and a heavy cast iron bathtub that had stains that dated back several decades.

There was a phone jack in the wall for conducting your business while you conduct your business. Sick.

And my personal favorite was the lovely 24 x 18 inch hole in the wall where the old wall furnace used to sit.

For three years we hated that bathroom. But, every time we thought we were ready to remodel, something else came up.

We filled in a leaky pool.
We put in a privacy fence.
We replaced the dishwasher,
sump pump,
hot water tank,
garage door,
washing machine, and
We redid the carport.
We got new shutters.
We had the trees pruned.
We landscaped.
We fixed electrical issues.
We added a kitchen banquet.
We painted inside and outside.
We bought a riding lawn mower.
We fixed the roof.
We fixed the porch.

Then, finally, we were ready.

Let the DEMO begin!

Once the crew took the old medicine cabinet out, we figured out what that little slit in the back of the cabinet was for...

It was where people used to throw away their old straight razor blades! We found dozens of them inside the wall!

After over 6 weeks of construction, due to issues with every phase of the remodel, AND the fact that we had to buy an all new heating and air conditioning system about three weeks in, we finally have a gorgeous bathroom to enjoy!

We are still working on the decorating details, but the structure is there and I'm loving it!

Next on our list is the Master Bathroom!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Onward and Upward

I am sitting on a beach towel, at the back of the crowd, made up mostly of parents and their small children. The movie UP is playing on the big screen in front of us. Anna is on my left. Happily watching the movie...munching on popcorn and playing with her light-up yo-yo. Brendhan is to her left catching up on the OU Football press conference on his iPhone.  And I can't stop staring at the girl a few rows up from us. 

She is beautiful, but you can tell she has no idea. 

Except, maybe, when she walks to get popcorn with her friend, she ads a little extra pop in her hips, like she knows I'm watching. 

Her long, curly, brown hair hits the top of her tank top and just pools there in a curly mass of highlights and summer memories. 

She leans over and listens to something her friend says and they giggle. 

She looks over her shoulder and sees if anyone is watching. I quickly look down at my phone so she won't catch me staring. 

I notice how tan her shoulders are against her white tank top. She has spent a lot of time at the pool this summer. 

She sits up straight and tall. She looks so graceful and collected like she is keenly aware of the placement of her right ankle over her left and her hands clasped in her lap. 

I wonder what she is thinking about as she stares ahead at the movie. 

I wonder if she is thinking about her sister and remembering the last time they watched this movie together on their fluffy chairs inside a tent set up in her bedroom. 

Or when they put a leash on a stuffed blue bird and pulled "Kevin" around the backyard until they got to the treehouse version of Paradise Falls, where they collapsed in a tangled pile of squealing laughter. 

I wonder if she is thinking about me and remembering the time she looked at me with tears in her eyes during the part where Ellie dies and Carl has to carry on without her, and said, "This movie is too sad, Mom" and I replied, "I know baby, it is sad. But, I think it will be better in a minute."

I watch the girl from the back row. 

An audience of one, watching a movie about a girl that is full of drama and comedy. 

A movie that has a crazy cast of characters and a twisting plot. 

A movie about growing up, falling in love and chasing your dreams. 

A movie that is too sad, but, hopefully, will be better in a minute. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Learning Through Doing

As the summer comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on the last few weeks and trying to decide whether I feel satisfied for checking all of the To Do's off my list, or whether I fell short and need to spend the next week doing ALL.THE.THINGS. to prove I didn't waste away this entire summer.

For starters, I didn't teach Anna to read.
In fact, I don't think I read more than 10 books to her all summer.
But, Ava did.
I can't count the number of times I saw Ava reading a book to Anna with the picture side facing out, like a teacher during storytime.

Speaking of teaching, I didn't do a whole lot of that either.

I had big plans.


I bought like 10 Summer Bridge books. I pinned actual lesson plans. I bought a nifty planner and wrote down all of these BIG BIG plans in my neatest, smallest handwriting.

And, in the end, the lesson plans, and the pins, and the perfect penmanship, just weren't necessary.

We were simply too busy LEARNING THROUGH DOING to worry about STUDYING.

Things like swimming together every day.

Ava learned how to swim the entire length of the country club pool in one breath.
Anna learned how to tread water and how to go down a water slide without her floaties.
I learned that kids love when you get in the water with them.
Even if you just hold them like babies and walk around in the pool with them on your hip,
they love this.

Things like riding bikes to Chisholm Corner to get a piece of candy.

Ava learned how to pay for things and how to get the most for her money.
Anna learned how to ride her bike without training wheels and how to use the back brakes to slow down on the big hill.
I learned that kids open up to you when you are on a bike. Some of my best conversations with the girls occur when we are on two wheels.

Things like golfing.

Ava learned how to be on a team, how to play 9 holes without stopping for a break and how to be a strong female competitor in a male dominated sport.
Anna learned how to sell pretzels off the back of the golf cart to make a few bucks.
I learned how to keep score, which club does what and how to be Ava's biggest cheerleader.

Things like staying home. 

The girls learned how to play together. Really play TOGETHER.
They learned how to be big sister, little sister, friend, teacher, student and partner.
They fought, they made up, they put "Stay Out" notes on their doors, they slept in the same bed at night, they hit and kicked and they hugged and made up.
I learned to let them work it out. To stop hovering. That Ava can do a lot more than I allow her to do. That Anna will do too much if I don't keep an eye on her. I learned that I long for a quiet, peaceful home, but if they are playing too quietly, this is often a sign of trouble. I learned that Anna drives Ava nuts and Anna thinks Ava is bossy, but they can't go more than a couple of hours without missing each other like crazy.

I learned that I feel the same way. 

I learned that sometimes I just need to breathe, trust, let go, and see what happens.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Top Secret Girls Only Book Club - The Chocolate Touch

Reading is at the top of my Favorite Things to do List.
Over the years my tastes have evolved from chick lit (Kinsella) and Mystery (Patterson) to memoirs (Moehringer) and non-fiction (Hillenbrand).  But, I generally have anywhere from 5-20 books on my bedside table in various states of consumption. My family is used to seeing me retreat from the evening chaos to curl up on my bed to read for "a few minutes" nearly every day. 
Reading is my normal.
And I really want reading to be something that my kids enjoy, too.
That being said, reading hasn't exactly come naturally for either of my girls.
When they were toddlers, they would never sit still long enough for me to read to them.
Ava, especially. 
Ain't nobody got time for dat.
Which is probably why she didn't start *really* reading until First Grade.
But, even then (and now) she sees reading as a destination, rather than a journey.
It's just something else to check off her To Do List or,
most recently, as a way to earn AR points to buy trinkets at school.  
Anna started reading in December of last year.
She can sound out words,
has several sight words memorized
and can make her way through most of the BOB books,
but I wouldn't say she loves it.
Again, it's more of a means to an end.
And, if it's something that Ava can do then, by God, she's gonna do it, too.
I saw the idea of a Kids Book Club on Pinterest and started doing a little research.
And pinning. 
Lots of pinning.
(Sorry followers)
And I decided to give it a whirl.
Most kids, mine included, will read whatever you tell them to read,
 but they aren't just going to pick up a book and start reading...
especially during the summer. 
So, a Summer Book Club made perfect sense.
It will be a way for Ava and her friends to stay in contact,
stay focused and stop the "summer slide"
that occurs during the lazy summer months
when there is very little learning going on.
I invited a few of Ava's peers
that I thought were all on the same reading / interest level,
assigned our first book - The Chocolate Touch -
and we were off!
The first meeting was a hit!
A few of the girls couldn't make it due to graduation /
end of school stuff,
but we had a good group of five (plus little sister)
that made it easy to facilitate discussion and activities.
The girls answered about 25 questions about the book...some fact recall, some prediction and some comprehension / analysis, while they enjoyed a Hershey's chocolate bar. I was pleasantly surprised how well everyone did on the questions. Everyone obviously had done their homework!
Then, they completed a candy word puzzle (unscramble the letters),
while I prepared the chocolate fondue.
Next, we all enjoyed various foods
(strawberries, pineapple, pretzels, graham crackers, marshmallows, etc.)
dipped in chocolate!
Finally, the girls decorated their own book bags
and folders for them to store their Book Club goodies!
We plan to meet every other week during the summer
to encourage regular summer reading and to, hopefully,
spark a lifetime love of reading!

Our next book is Clementine by Sara Pennypacker! Can't wait!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day

At first I didn't think I liked this picture because it looks like Ava was giving me a fake smile...the kind that didn't make it all the way up to her eyes and like Anna was just following my instruction with no emotion...hug your sister and try not to choke her out.

But the more I look at it, the more it tells the whole story.

Long, lanky limbs, full of scrapes and bruises and sweet awkwardness. Always on guard. Wanting to please but not sure how to go about it. Very protective of her sister but a little jealous too. Teaches Anna everything she knows about life. Growing more mature and more beautiful every day that passes.
Loves her Mom deeply and privately.
Sticky and sweet and a little mysterious, like snowcone that has several flavors blended together that you can't quite identify. A hugger if there ever was one. A quickwitted comic with stories to tell. Eyes that capture you and dimples that deliver the kill shot. A born pleaser. A sponge for Ava's love and attention.
Loves her Mom openly and unrelentlessly.
I've said this before and I'll probably say it until my dying day.
I don't have a clue what I'm doing with this whole mothering thing.
I literally wing it every.single.day.
Most days I make mistakes.
Some days, my mistakes are bigger than others.
But, every day, my love for them is bigger than any mistake I've made.
I don't need a day on the calendar to tell me I should feel special for being a Mom.
I honestly feel special every day that I am able to be with these two.
They make every day Mother's Day.