Thursday, February 13, 2014

A lot to catch up

I usually post some Christmas thoughts and here I am all the way into February and I haven't even done a year end review like I usually do.  I felt more like just enjoying our Christmas this year and not trying to document too much.  It had been so long since I'd gotten to spend a Christmas with my family that I just wanted to soak it all in.  The snow was so much fun that I played in it until I hurt my knee and had to stop crawling around in the snow for a while.  We built a snow fort and made snow balls and "hung" them on the bare maple in my parents yard.  I loved walking up my old hill, and found myself smiling almost constantly (until it got close to when we had to leave again.)  It felt sort of weird to smile so much.  My littlest was a bit afraid of the trees and snow (because it was all different from what she's used to) but she warmed up when I showed her little details. How the snow melts and how it looks up close and how the layers are fun to break up and look through.  We explored and talked and enjoyed the sparkling stars in the chilly air.  I was probably the happiest cold person around those parts.
My little brother (who is now taller than me!) had a snowball maker that made the perfect snowballs.  They looked like Christmas ornaments, so we made a bunch of them and carefully set them on the branches of my Mom's maple.
 I could have reflected more when we got back in January, but it took us a full month to get used to just being home again.  We are living with one car for a while now too so that's a bit different.  My oldest was having such a hard time sleeping and missing family that I actually let her get her own cat.  It's been really fun having a cat that wants to run and play with the girls.  Our old cat (almost 14) hasn't handled the change so well (he's pretty blind now), but we have him in the master bedroom with all his stuff and he seems to be happy and healthy in there and it's working out okay.
Lily with "Fluffy" her new cat the night that we got her.

Simplicity parenting is all about making small changes that make big differences.  We are still making tiny changes and I'm still seeing things getting better, but I feel like there's so much left to change.  I'm not in a place with a back yard and lots of room for my kids to play.  Where we live makes a lot of what I'd like to do difficult, but little changes are possible.

At the moment we are still dealing with how often the kids want to snack and snack and snack. They aren't overeating or eating very unhealthfully, I'm just SO tired of preparing food and cleaning up.  I feel like that's all I ever really do.  As much as I really don't like or work well with schedules I've been trying to come up with a meal plan that works for everyone that will hopefully save us some money (because all the food will be planned well and all eaten and not wasted) and eventually the complaining about what we have to eat (hopefully) will lessen.
Of course it always helps to have the kids join in the meal prep.  Here the 2 year old is making lemonade while wearing her backpack and tutu.. because it's always smart to squeeze lemons when you are prepared for anything.
What people don't know about the harder parts of homeschooling is just how much more housework there is.  How much more cooking and laundry too when you are home so much (I could blame the cooking more on the gluten free issue though than homeschooling.) But I'm enjoying this reflecting time because the pictures that I take - while they might look like the majority of my day - are probably only about 20% of it.  The other 80% is spent cooking and cleaning up and cleaning up and cleaning up.  I'm not sure how I end up cleaning up so much without actually really "cleaning" things, but there you go.  Another small change that I've been trying to make a habit out of is just taking those few minutes to windex the mirror that I haven't cleaned in at least half a year (you think I'm joking, but I'm not!) because it really doesn't take that long!  I've just got to realize that I can't do a big "cleaning day"... it's got to come in tiny amounts... like those tiny bits of dark chocolate that I've been known to snag while I'm cooking dinner.  ;]   Often the small changes will make the biggest difference in the long run.

We've been working on the girls clothes and putting things away in their rooms and taking their dishes to the sink when they are done eating.  All the little things that kids really should learn, but are often not put on a very high priority list.
In January we were mainly just trying to get used to being here again (and adding all those tiny changes in here and there.)  For the first 3 week at least my oldest was waking us up every night with her sleep walking and crying because she was so sad about missing family in Washington.  I didn't do a regular school plan with the girls, but I'm always impressed with how much they are interested in doing when they just see me start something.  They want to join in too!
This day they saw me get excited about what I was knitting and said that they wanted to learn how.  I'd tried teaching them last year and they weren't interested, but this day?  BAM!  They now know how to knit.  :)
 It started because I wanted to get back into the habit of making stuff.  I just need to be creative to feel fulfilled and it's been hard down here to be inspired to do anything when I've so often been sad and lonely.  I decided to just do a garter stitch blanket with all the green yarn I could find in my stash (I did buy a couple balls of green though too) and it was basic enough that I could easily read to the girls while knitting it.  I'm missing it now that it's done and want to start another one with all the other yarn just hanging around our house. 
The new green blanket

 Part of the "little changes" is where I sit when I'm done making breakfast for the girls and cleaning up and I'm usually eating my breakfast at that point.  My habit has been to sit at the bar and read something on my computer which would usually lead me to check something on Facebook.  I like Facebook, but, for me it's just been such a huge distraction.  I think only 20% of what I read (links that people or pages have shared) are helpful or encouraging and the other 80% is just noise.  There's just so much noise in this world and my introverted self needs to find rest.  I have this illusion that I'm less lonely when I get on Facebook, but it's just an illusion and distracts me from the little people right in front of me.  I can imagine that the biggest thing my kids would complain about when they are older is how I was too distracted on my computer too often and how their Daddy was on his phone too much when they just wanted to talk or play with us or have our full attention even for a short time.  So, the "little change" in this area has been that I am trying to make the habit of sitting at my desk instead of at my computer.  Now I can drink my breakfast smoothie while looking at a "to do" list for the day or plans for school or reading an encouraging book.
The littlest one's new favorite past-time = painting with Mommy.  We don't really try to paint anything in particular.. we just fill the pages with color and splotches and shapes.  It's very restful.
 To help me get into the right frame of mind for the days I decided to make a wall hanging above my desk of these "Twelve things every Homeschool Mom needs to remember"  I have never read a list more exactly perfectly appropriate and helpful to right where I am right now than this.  I think I shared a few posts back how insecure I feel about teaching my girls and parenting in general (probably the feelings of a lot a parents), but this was wonderful.  I need to breathe these in every morning.
I haven't tested the limits on how long she will actually sit and paint with me, but we are up to probably 40 minutes of this focus together.  I wonder if she could ever get tired of it.  I will be really happy when she gets to a point were she asks me to read to her or paint with her instead of asking for a tic-tac or a candy of some kind.

End product = really random, but that's totally okay.

Desk area where I am now going to be sitting each morning to avoid the distractions of the internet/facebook news that derails my thought process and usually puts me in a bad mood.
 Another thing I started up again since getting back from Washington for Christmas (besides the knitting) was writing in my old journal again.  Yeah, actually writing by hand instead of typing.  I don't spell as well when I write by hand, but hey.. isn't it better to try and not do something perfectly then to never do something at all?  It feels quieter and reminds me of simpler (less technological times) of when I was younger and thought something "fun" to do was reading in bed with snacks on a tray.  (I was such a wild child.)  ;]

Another little tiny change is partly taking an idea from the "One Thousand Gifts" book, but I'm not counting blessings I'm just writing the best part of each day.  Sometimes the best thing I can say starts with "this day was horrible, but..." the one redeeming thing about it was how sweet my 2 year old was when she gave me lots of kisses, or how the sun shone in the clouds at sunset, or how sweet my husband was to me.  It's hard to remember to write in sometimes, but this will become a habit too.  Just tiny habits to help.  A new place to sit for breakfast and writing in this book and in my journal more often than on Facebook.
As hard as it's been this past year to step back a bit and do more "unschooling" and projects and some free style school, it's been a good thing.  Almost a full year ago my oldest was hating to read and struggling with it.  Each word was laborious for her to sound out.  This last month I started having her practice reading again the book that she read through last year and it was like something clicked in her brain (she's 8 now) and you know what?  Something probably DID click!  That whole right/left brain stuff that I was learning about last year just needed some time.  She was strongly right brain dominant and just needed extra time till she was old enough for the two sides of her brain to start working together.  I'm glad I didn't keep pushing last year and this year while I'm wanting to have her practice regularly reading out loud more, I'm going to play down the spelling and handwriting.  I know she CAN do those things, but I also learned that she needs to learn reading and spelling at separate times.  She needs a lot of the whole picture before we need to (or should) get to the little details of spelling and grammar and so on.
Playing with play dough is always fun
I'm not sure if I hit on everything to "catch up" the blog on, but to sum up this last year and my thoughts for the new one -- I feel like I'm focusing more on trying to make habits for myself instead of trying to change my girls or where we are.  I'm accepting my loneliness and instead of running away from it, I'm sitting here in it.  I'm looking at my girls and where we are and focusing on how I can be myself through all of this.

My "New year's motto" is Life is hard: Do what you truly want to do anyway.

Because it is hard... there's always going to be something that doesn't make everything work easily.  We could compare with each other as to who's life is harder, but that would totally NOT work because we all have different capacities and personalities that make each bit harder or easier for all of us, but the point is that everyone has something.  This isn't heaven, but what can we do?  What do you WANT to do... truly?  I want to draw for fun and play music just for fun and create whatever I feel like "just because I want to"... I want to play games with my girls and hug my littlest and pet my old cat.  I want to sing again and not worry about who can hear me.  I want to do our eclectic literary projecty school with my girls even when the house is a mess or the littlest is have behavioral issues.  I don't want the hard stuff to stop me anymore, it too often has. 

What do you truly want to do?  Your life is probably hard and it's probably not easy to make those things happen, but some how... some way, we've got to learn how to make those deep desires happen.

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