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Wednesday, 13 May 2015 21:12

Just Be There, Mom!

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Last Sunday was Mother's Day, and along with all of the 'Happy Mother's Day!' sentiments plastered across the internets, I over heard and saw a few sad comments as well. Comments from Moms who feel inadequate. Comments from Moms who feel overworked and underappreciated - even on Mothers day.  And comments reminding all of us to remember that for some people around us, Mother's Day might be quite difficult - when Mothers have died, or when they have left their children to be raised by someone else. 

For the first seven years of my life, Mother's Day was a day of longing.  My school teachers would adapt my 'Mother's' Day gifts and cards to say 'Happy Grandmother's Day' instead - even though I knew it wasn't Grandmother's Day, and I knew that none of my friends were making crafts for their Grandmas. I tried calling my Grandma 'Mom', but she wouldn't allow it. I don't remember if I ever wrote 'a Mom' on my Christmas list, but I remember dreaming of a life that included her.

I suspect that my lack-of-Mom for those seven years is something that I could not adequately describe to anyone - and that anyone who has been raised by a mother who birthed them, and loved them, will never truly know the value of what they have.  I expect my own daughters to take me for granted in so many ways, and that is completely ok with me, because it means they have the luxury of... well, me!

 Just as someone who has never been without running water will never truly appreciate the convenience of a kitchen tap, and someone who has never been without food - and I mean truly without food - will never really appreciate a full pantry. I think it's ok for us to recognize our ignorance in some situations, because these are places we are ignorant because we have been blessed. Someone who has had two loving birth-parents who were there to watch them grow, will not truly appreciate their parents.  I can say certainly that I took my Dad for granted completely - but I only realized that after he had died, and I couldn't take him for granted any more.

So, I wanted to write this to all of the Moms out there who might be feeling overworked, underappreciated and the worst - inadequate. Trust me to know that being THERE is the greatest gift you can give your child.  I'm sure that making it clear to your child that you also love them dearly is important too, but in order to do that, you really have to be around.  Whatever choices you make for your kids and your family, and however frequently you fail in your own plans and goals, know that it is not the success of these things that matters most - it was always the attempt. Whatever choices you make, I know that all of you Moms out there are making choices that you believe are best for your family - and whether or not they turn out to be, it matters so much that you are there and trying.

And if your kids take you for granted, which they will - from one little mother-less girl, be glad that they don't know what it's like to be without you.  They are lucky. They are blessed. Just because they have you.  Please do not ever feel inadequate, because who you are to your children is amazing and incredible.

Obviously this post is written for birth mothers, who are raising the children they carried inside them. Because of my experience, I feel an overwhelming admiration for the Moms out there who choose to raise children who were birthed by someone else.  When I was 8, my Dad remarried and I was given a 'Mom' - finally.  Choosing to be my Mom was the greatest thing she could have done for me, and nothing she did after that mattered as much as that initial choice.  

Just be there, Mom!

*If my birth mother is reading this - please know that I believe every path my life has taken me down has been because God had this plan for me, and you were a part of that plan.  I am not angry with you for leaving, and although I understand how I struggled as a result of missing you - I also understand how that has shaped the person I have become and for that I am completely grateful. 

Monday, 27 April 2015 20:56

Snowstorm in April

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This past Sunday morning, April 26, we woke up to this. 

It's true, we live in Saskatchewan and we get a lot of winter here - I don't think the winter snow had actually completely melted until early April, but it WAS gone, and last week we had spent jacket-free days in the sunshine.  I even used sunscreen one day last week! And then this happened... 

Being from Saskatchewan, though, means that an unexpected snowstorm doesn't really mean anything. No one changes their plans, unless it was something they didn't really want to do anyway. The only reason anyone might actually stay home from work would be if they attempted to leave the garage and the car got physically stuck in the road - unable to move. This happened to me once. It took me an hour to free my vehicle enough to pull back up onto my driveway and off the street.  This day would be no different, and Brian started nagging me to get ready for church, because I'm a crazy procrastinator and my greatest joy in life is to make him late for things.  He thinks, anyway.  Oddly enough, though, there was a power outtage in the area where our church building is located and we were suddenly bombarded with texts and emails informing us that church was cancelled. 

An actual snow day.

So, with a long lazy day ahead, and no other plans, I was gazing out at the brilliantly white, clean snow and I remembered that nagging idea I kept having - always too late, after the snow had melted and become covered with dirt and leaves -  Maple syrup snow taffy! I remember my Mom telling me about this - it's supposed to be a Canadian 'thing', what with the maple trees and all - and I had never tried it. Here was my chance.

I brought the snow in on a cookie sheet so we could do this at the kitchen table. Maybe when the girls are older we'll take it outside, but for now this seemed best.  *See recipe at the bottom of this post.

Pouring the syrup in short ribbons of liquid gave us the best results. Picking up the syrup within about 5-10 seconds or so also made it easier to shape around the lollipop stick. 

Then I let the girls play. 

Clara made a few small pops, while Audrey made one giant blob and ate it as quickly as she could. When the syrup was all gone, I left the pan on the table and let the girls continue to play in the snow from the warm comfort of the kitchen. Audrey kept eating - the girl will snack on ice like it's popcorn.

 I gave them excavation tools - small spoons and forks. They got a bit over-exuberant and I was glad I had used a baking sheet that I wasn't all that fond of. 

Excessive giggling ensued, the cause of which I couldn't quite say. They had fun, anyway. 

I followed up with another snow recipe I found online - Snow ice cream with sweetened condensed milk. I didn't exactly 'follow' the recipe (I don't really like doing what I'm told...) and I can't find the blog again now, so I apologize I can't link it. It involved an ice cream pail full of fresh snow plus a can of sweetened condensed milk. I actually thought it was really good - icy and cold, yet sweet. My husband didn't really enjoy it, but he also doesn't like snow cones and it was similiar, just creamy. I decided I would appreciate it much more on a hot summer day when it would be impossible to make... so I probably won't make that one again. Oh well. 

The maple syrup taffy, though, that was a hit and we'll definitely do it again. 

I looked up about a dozen recipes - as I typically do - to get the 'idea' of it, and set about to try this myself.  So, again, I can't link to any particular recipe - my apologies, you're stuck with my unsure variation. 

Ingredients:

  • Fresh, clean snow - one recipe I found suggested packing it down, which I did. Since I brought it in on a tray, though, I think I'll skip this part next time. The syrup didn't really sink into the snow, and I wonder if the effects would have been better on softer snow. 
  • 100 % Maple syrup - I used about a cup (didn't measure precisely), and it would have served 8 people easily, although I try to limit our sugar intake, so take that as you will. 
  • Some kind of lollipop sticks, or popcicle sticks for picking it up
Instructions:

I put the syrup in a small sauce pan and boiled it until a drop of syrup in a glass of cold water formed a soft ball.  The boiling took quite awhile (I didn't time it), and occasionally it threatened to boil over and required pretty much constant attention and stirring for the time it took.  If you had a candy thermometer (I don't), you could research the exact temperature required - that would probably be easier than what I did. The syrup drop appeared to be quite liquid still, but I could pick it up and shape it with my fingers. I wouldn't have wanted it to get much firmer - although some recipes said that this would just create a harder, crunchier candy. 

Immediately after cooking the syrup to desired temperature, I drizzled it onto the snow. We waited a few seconds for the syrup to solidify slightly in the snow, but we found it worked best if we didn't wait too long either, or the syrup became too hard to pick up with the stick. We could still pick it up with our fingers, though, and it still tasted fine, so not a complete waste. Our best technique was to poke the largest end of the syrup strip and roll it up as much as possible around itself to form a lollipop on the end of the stick. 

I set the saucepan down on the stove with the remaining syrup - only half comfortably fit in drizzles on my baking sheet - and I don't know if it became too cool, or what changed, but the rest of the syrup didn't produce very good taffy. It had become opaque - maybe with tiny bubbles - and didn't have the smooth, glassy consistency that the first amount had.  Audrey still ate it, and it was still sugary and candy-like, but not as nice as the earlier stuff.

There you have it, next time you have a random summer snow day - try something you can't do after the snow has gotten old and trampled.

Looking forward to plus 20 (celsius) temperatures this week!!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 08:40

Happy Wednesday!

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Not quite wordless, but it's been awhile so here are some pictures to remind you what we look like. Audrey is small for her age, but not compared to Clara - she is gaining, and sometimes they look almost like they could be twins.

Clara's first drawing of people - as far as I know. 

They like to have 'ballet  recitals' for us to watch. They don't take ballet, in case you were wondering...

We decorated marshmallows instead of eggs at Easter. 

Learning about ancient Egypt in preschool - the flexibility and freedom of homeschooling. :)

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Friday, 02 January 2015 13:54

Our Year in Review

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Obviously blogging has taken a very long backseat drive in my life, and although I can't speak at all to whether or not my blogging will pick up again in 2015 - here are a few notes and thoughts about 2014. 

I hope you have all had a great year, and that this letter finds you healthy and happy. Our year had moments of stress and sadness, but as a whole it was a wonderful year of growth for all of us. Here are just a few highlights from our 2014 year:

At the end of 2013, Brian started his own business, and 2014 was his first full year working for himself. He works in his downstairs office, and joins us for lunches and has a 15 second commute.  Occasionally, I've called him asking for help to get the kids in the car or when I've been sick he has taken an hour or two (because that's all it is when you have no commute) off so that I could have a nap.  The girls have been really good about knowing that 'Daddy is working', and they don't interrupt him very much at all. Sometimes he leaves his office door open, and they are free to stop in and say 'Hi', which both Brian and the girls enjoy, but they don't take advantage, and they know that when he closes the door, not to disturb.  It's been a learning experience for both of us - and it will continue to be, as we learn how to budget for vacations and medical expenses in 2015. 

We bought our first 'SUV', a Ford Flex - which, after driving for, nearly a year I wonder how we ever managed with a smaller vehicle. We now have room to offer rides to other people (our Cobalt couldn't even fit one person in the backseat between the carseats), and can transport our own Christmas gifts back home from our parents' houses!! 

In early February, Audrey started walking!  This year she has gone from baby to little girl so quickly - she turned 2 on October 26th, and because she has an older sister to emulate and because she has a calmer nature and longer attention span than Clara, she seems more like Clara did at 3.  I wanted our girls to be close in age, and watching them happily playing together with the same sets of toys, I'm so glad they are!  

In March, Brian and I officially decided that we would be homeschooling our children.  So far, I have not been as organized as I would have liked. I began in September with the Pre-K curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler that goes through the Alphabet one letter a week. I should be on L or M, but I'm a few weeks behind at I or J... I can't actually remember, we sort of fell behind in December.  I like many of the activities in the downloaded curriculum, and it has already been well worth the $15 I spent on it, but I've learned some things about Clara and how she and I work together that might make me choose other options in the future. This February, Brian and I will attend a Homeschool Convention in our province, and I hope to gather more information on curriculums and ideas for schooling Clara. I'm excited to continue with her, as she and I both learn more about ourselves and about how to work together.  I've also tentatively decided to continue schooling her through the summer, because - well - why not? 

In Spring, we spent a number of days at my Grandparents' house getting ready for the auction sale they had in June. This was a challenging time for all of us - my Grandpa struggled to get rid of all of the things he had spent the last 80 years accumulating, and his family was frustrated by his hoarding personality - knowing that he could not keep all of these things as my Grandparents were planning to move soon to a condo where there would be much less room than they were used to.  It was a continual struggle, that made me miss my Dad terribly - as the oldest son, he would have had a big hand in helping with this project, and we all felt his absence very strongly. 

August was a busy month for us, looking back at everything. My friend and I took our kids camping without Dads, and it was a totally new experience for me to be the 'grown up' of my family - and be solely responsible for myself and my kids. I've taken for granted that in my life I moved from my parents' house into my husband's, and I've always been 'taken care of' by someone else in that way. It was a lot of fun, though, and I hope we can do it again! We also went on a trip to a family wedding in Alberta, visited with family and friends, and went to Banff for a day - the girls first experience seeing the mountains!  

We moved Audrey into a 'big girl bed' in August as well, and shortly after attempted to potty train her. You can read about the start of our attempt, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 - the day we gave up and decided to try again sometime in 2015. 

In September, I started homeschooling Clara. My goal was to work on her Preschool curriculum 3 days each week, and although I started out doing alright with this, I fell apart by December. I also began teaching piano two days a week in September, and I have been babysitting 2 days a week as well, and I have realized that in order to really focus on homeschooling, I need to slow down my schedule.  The babysitting I have been doing has been wonderful - the two little girls I watch are the same ages as my girls, and they are all very much best friends, but I have been very overwhelmed with how much extra work it is to have 4 kids under the age of 4 running around.  Although they have been getting somewhat easier, and I have found a few tricks for homeschooling with the extra girls around, I only have a few more months of 2 full days each week, and after that I will have them for only a partial day each week.  I'm looking forward to devoting a bit more time to homeschool after that, and my three month break from teaching piano over summer will give me a chance to devote some extra time to Clara as well. This is part of why I have chosen to continue schooling through the summer as well.  Homeschooling has taught me a lot about myself - and about Clara - and although my own motivation hasn't been the greatest, I am really encouraged by how much she is already learning, and I'm excited to continue.  

We had begun meeting with another group of Homeschooling families with young children, but I bowed out of the group when I realized how much I was being affected by an over-full schedule. I loved meeting with the group, and getting to know the other Moms, but there will be other opportunities for this sort of thing in the future, and I decided that for now I should focus on just 'getting going'. 

At the end of October, we said goodbye to my Grandpa who died after a long battle with Asbestosis. The doctors had given him only a few days to live in August of 2013, and he proved them all wrong by living - at home with only occasional home care - for another year. We were so glad to have been able to have the additional year with him, and we are confident that he is now in Heaven fellowshipping with his God, and although we miss him, we wouldn't wish him back for his sake. 

Clara turned 4 this December, and I can hardly believe how BIG she is getting! She behaves like a little kid these days, rationalizing things in a way that I remember from when I was a child. It's incredible how much she has changed this year. She is still occasionally difficult, but she is no longer the discipline problem she was a year ago. She is becoming more sensitive to how we treat her - as she becomes more perceptive of our moods and actions. She loves to learn, and truly wants to be reading, but she has an extreme aversion to being told what to do, and so I need to be a bit sneaky in my teaching.  When it comes to things like cleaning up her toys, however, I have been explaining to her that although she doesn't like to do it when she's told to, it is one of the things in life we just need to do, and she's getting better at understanding that kind of thing. 

This blog post may be evidence to why my blog has fallen apart lately - I wrote it over an afternoon filled with constant interruptions, and so I apologize if my writing is disjointed and confusing. I just wanted to get it out and start the year with something! 

 

 

Monday, 27 October 2014 18:21

Homeschool Co-op

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Homeschooling is very new to me - I would have said flat out 'no way' just a few short years ago - and I'm a bit of a keener, so despite the fact that it will be 2-3 years before I need to even register as a homeschooler in my province, I'm making things official by going to conventions, ordering (and sometimes using) curriculum and the latest - joining a Homeschool Co-operative. 

I fell into this co-op kind of accidentally, when a friend was seeking out children who were the same age as her early homeschooler to arrange activities and field trips with. A sort of 'classroom' if you will of children who have the opportunity to get to know each other by meeting regularly and learning together.  Her stated age range was 5-8 (early homeschoolers), and since my girls are only 2 (since yesterday!) and not-yet-4, I feel a bit like a weaseled my way in. My friend, however, also has children who are exactly my daughters' ages as well as one who is younger, so I knew they would not be out of place. After our first meeting, I was happy to learn that there were many more children within the group who fell into my daughters' age group, and so our group will be sensitive to their ages, as well as occasionally planning events and activities that divide the babies and toddlers from the older children.  Having a large group of Moms with the same stated goal gives us a lot of people to rotate teaching, planning, and even occasionally babysitting the little ones.  

For our first event with all the kiddo's, we planned to meet at the local zoo.  There is a large playground just outside the gates, where we let the kids run for the hour before the zoo opened for the day, and then we all packed up the kids and toured the zoo together. 

Clara had an odd and unfortunate incident as we were walking into the zoo.  She was snacking on a rice cake (which she has had many times) and her face did this:

 I have no idea. That rice cake was passed between Clara and Audrey, fell in the wagon they were riding in and was probably held by various mittens before her face did this, so I expect it was something the rice cake picked up outside? Who knows... I'll have to get her allergy tested eventually, I suppose. 

Audrey was simply mesmerized by the wolves. She stood there staring until I managed to finally coerce her to keep walking. 

One thing I've learned about going to the zoo is that animals are MUCH more active and interesting in cooler weather. We have typically gone on the sunniest days of summer, and have often had trouble finding animals that were sleeping or even hiding. We went in early spring this year, and now in fall, and both times the animals were extremely active. The lynxes were chasing and grooming each other playfully, and both wolves were running around in their pen. 

Sadly, I can't say I know many... any?... of the kids in this photo yet, but I think they are all in our group, so I expect I will get to know them well. These kids were suddenly all standing on a giant rock, which seemed like a good photo opportunity...

Ten Moms who each have at least two - typically more - children, makes for a VERY large group of people!

It was a great day, and I was able to learn (and even remember) a few of the Mom's names, and hopefully even some of the kids'.  I'm looking forward to seeing friendships develop within the group, and I'm excited to be a part of the events and activities over the year!

Saturday, 25 October 2014 20:39

Audrey's Second Birthday!

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Audrey's birthday is technically tomorrow, and conveniently, it fell on a weekend - to fit in everyone we wanted to invite (friends and family), we split the parties into two days. We had a bunch of toddlers and their families over for a party today, and tomorrow (on her actually birthday) the family is coming over to celebrate!

So without a lot of time to give details, between cleaning the house from one party for the next and needing to go decorate the cupcakes for tomorrow, here are a few photos and a quick run-down of the day!

I will suspend judgement on Moms who rent entertainment for their kids' birthdays from now on - after thinking for days about how to entertain 2 year olds while still not boring a 6 year old, I decided to rent a bouncy castle...

After the kids came, we let them all bounce for about an hour before calling them inside for gifts and cake.

A homemade Anna dress... pretty much the star of the show. Clara 'borrowed' it for most of the rest of the day... She doesn't know there's already a homemade Elsa dress waiting for her to wear on Halloween...

Audrey was a bit slow - her big sister(s) Clara and the 3-year-old I babysat became very involved in helping her open gifts...

This wasn't the cake I'd planned - it would have been much more elaborate had the fondant worked out properly - but it looked ok. 

I forgot to take pictures of all the owl decorations - Audrey loves owls - but here are the treat bags that all the kids (except Audrey) took home. Clara got one, though, and she shared all of the treats with her little sister. I love how well they get along sometimes.

Clara had a difficult time with all 11 kids romping around in the bouncy castle, and although she really wanted to enjoy her time in it, she kept coming out in tears because someone had 'bumped into' her. She knew that was par for the course in the castle, so she kept going back in, but I think my introverted oldest just couldn't quite get comfortable. So, after everyone had left, when we still had another hour with the castle before it had to be taken down - we went in again, just us girls while Daddy started raking leaves.

She was yelling "Mooommy!!"

I tried to get the girls to sit together and smile at me. This was the closest I got.

Then, after watching the workers come deflate and roll up the bouncy castle, we all went to the front yard to 'help' Daddy with the raking. It's bizarelly warm for this late in August, and we were witness to a gorgeous sunset. Then we came inside and had chips for supper and watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  It was a beautiful day and a wonderful evening.  

A happy second Birthday (part 1) for Audrey!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 08:56

What We've Been Doing

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Here's a post I started writing in July, it appears - and although it's horribly out of date by now, it's not irrelevant, and so I will post it anyway.  

July 20, 2014

Obviously blogging isn't high on my priority list this summer - which isn't a huge surprise since I tend to do things in seasons, but it's a bit disappointed because not only have I not been blogging, but Audrey and Clara are both changing so much and neither of their 'baby' books have been updated in probably over 6 months and because our only camera at the moment is a clunky DSLR, we have also been taking only minimal photos.  My girls' life of late has been sadly un-documented. 

But so much has been going on! This past June, my Grandparents held an Auction sale in preparation to move to a condo soon. For my Grandma, it was a happy time of decluttering her yard and home, but my Grandpa saw almost all of his prized posessions sold. My Grandpa loved to collect things, and like many antique collectors, he occasionally 'shopped' at the local junk yard.  One antique truck that he found in the junk yard sold at his auction for over $300!  It was mostly a sad day, knowing that so much of Grandpa's enjoyment came from all of these things. 

The horse in the photo above had been sitting in my Grandparents basement for years, and being the overprotective Mama I am, I kept my daughters away from it. (They could get pinched in the springs!!! And it's so old, you never know what might all of a sudden fall apart!) I was overruled, however, and not only were my daughters permitted to play on it at the sale - but my in-laws bought it and now it is at their home for the girls to play with for years to come.

Thanks, guys. 

No bitterness, though - I'm over it, really. On closer inspection, and after re-analyzing my position, I had to concede that the horse did not pose the dangers I thought it might and although there is always the finger-pinching, or falling-off risks, they aren't that serious and the enjoyment of the toy far outweighs those risks. 

Sigh. 

Here's our paddling pool, we got it from some friends who were moving and since their kids are all in high school they didn't feel the need to take this with them. It's been awesome for our girls. 

 For the first few times we filled it up, I got the girls all ready for 'pool time' in their bathing suits and everything, but since the weather has been so nice lately, and every outdoor playtime has involved getting into the pool, we've been keeping a few inches of water in it all the time now and just expect to have to change Audrey before she comes into the house. I'll still bathing-suit them up occasionally, but they don't seem to care either way...It gets a little frustrating when we're heading to the car and Audrey wanders off and is suddenly soaked from the armpits down and we have to haul her back inside to clean her up and change her, but this pool has been so worth the entertainment this summer.

Thursday, 16 October 2014 21:33

My "Pro-Life" Post

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I'm afraid to write this, because I know how polarizing this particular debate is, but part of the purpose of this blog is to document our life to my children, and that includes - occasionally - telling them how I feel about things...

When it comes to debates about abortion, my initial feeling is flat out confusion. I truly don't understand. 

I came across an info graphic on Facebook about a week ago that offended me deeply - and I'm not often offended. My looming menstruation was probably partially to blame for the fact that I found myself wanting to curl up into fetal position and cry for a week, but the feeling was real, and it really hurt. 

The graphic uses drowning as a metaphor for unwanted pregnancy. It facetiously stated that because being in water can lead to drowning, no safety devices should be permitted in the water, because everyone should know that water can lead to drowning and the only 100% effective way to keep from drowning is to stay out of the water.  It was snarkily poking at those who oppose birth control.   

Reading the graphic initially made my stomach sort of churn. I saw the parallel, even found myself being slightly - yet uncomfortably - swayed by the clever seeming presentation.

Until I saw this phrase: "You should see DROWNING as a gift."  

This phrase stuck in my head - it repeated because I knew there was something very, VERY wrong with it, but I couldn't quite place why it made me want to vomit. Shortly after this, I was trying to think of a different example for this parallel - a situation in which this statement would not be mockable, because simply putting one word in place of another to prove that the original statement is ridiculous is really not a valid style of argument.  There must be SOMETHING that could make this statement always, always true. Winning the lottery. Living in peace. Having parents and family who love you. Wait - A CHILD!!!  Just because the statement above is ludicrous, does NOT make the statement 'Babies are gifts', 'Family is a gift', 'Love is a gift', etc. equally ludicrous. It got me for a second - and everyone who agrees with the point of the infographic probably bought it as genius, but it really isn't.  It's actually stupid enough for me to wonder if the graphic might possibly be against the argument it seems to be representing... but anyway...

The infographic was subtly saying that being encumbered by an unwanted child is comparable to drowning. Baby = death. 

I was an unwanted child. My mother considered aborting me - and I don't blame her for this consideration because I understand that she was not ready for the complication I caused her. I understand, but that doesn't mean abortion would have been the right thing to do. I can understand a lot of poor choices, but having compassion on a person's situation does not make those poor choices 'right'.  Experiencing the frustration of a crying baby for nights on end made me understand how some mothers might be tempted to shake their babies - but it doesn't make it ok. 

It hit me that the world really seems to believe that because I was not wanted - my life is somehow not valuable. That my mother may as well have died as carried me to my birth.  Like I said earlier, I blame my emotional pre-menstrual state, but this struck me to tears. It struck me because I have friends who believe this. Members of my own family believe this. 

But the frustrating thing is, they would probably refuse to draw this parallel.  This is where I don't understand.

They wouldn't mean ME. They might say that if I had been aborted, no one would have known any different, so it somehow wouldn't have mattered. This is true, but that doesn't mean that the implication and bold statement that life might have somehow been better without me doesn't hurt. It does. It hurts a lot.  And even if my mother's life would have been drastically improved by my non-existance, would that really justify my death? 

I didn't like the idea of abortion for personal reasons for years before I became pregnant with my first child, but I had reservations. Pregnancy locked it for me. I learned the science behind an infant's development. I learned when a fetus develops major organs, loses a tail :) and begins to hear sounds outside a mothers' body.  I learned about how distinctly HUMAN a baby is from the first things we know about their development. Then, when I had my second child, I learned how completely different children are - even months before they are born. There are quirks that I noticed about Audrey's personality within me that were SOOO different than Clara's, and some of these quirks I was blessed to witness when she emerged. Funny little body spasms and movements that are just so very HER.

Another thing that struck me remarkably was how bizarre it felt to carry ANOTHER human being inside my body. This was another person - not a part of me. This person was as much a mystery to me as any other person is. I didn't know my child's thoughts, and I couldn't feel my child's physical body.  My body fed their little bodies, kept them safe and kept them warm, but that is all.  They were not me.  If they had died in utero, I might not have known for days.  There is no scientific or medical argument that proves that these little beings are actually, physically, part of a woman's body. They aren't.

This is when true confusion set in. 

Why are the people who so actively fight against killing these incredible little beings the same people who have a reputation for being the LEAST scientific.  Wouldn't the scientific community - more than anyone - be in the best position for realizing just how human we are from the time of conception?  Wouldn't they be the ones who would understand that because a child who can survive outside a mothers' body now is drastically younger than a child who could survive in the 1900's, we can't possibly determine an individual life based on their dependency level? 

Before I became pregnant I was unsure. I was unsure because I had compassion for girls who became pregnant as teenagers - girls who really didn't understand the consequences of what they were doing, and would now have to face a completely different future. I had compassion for girls who became pregnant as a result of rape, and had to choose whether or not to carry the reminder of their pain, and I had compassion for girls and women who become pregnant and the pregnancy threatens their own lives. I still do have compassion for people in all of these circumstances, and I want to say this completely without judgement - I understand how abortion could seem like the only reasonable option in so many circumstances.

The only reasonable option - as long as we ignore that the 'thing' we are getting rid of is another human being. As long as we don't call it a person, as long as we convince ourselves that it somehow is not yet a human being. So it makes sense that we all believe the lie that a fetus is not a person, because if we didn't, we would all have to admit that it was murder, and the debate would be much more complicated.

If I see our world as a place where people increasingly tell each other that life is about enjoyment - it's about having fun, and taking it easy - it makes sense. We really don't want to have to deal with consequences, and we feel as though it is our right to not have to face consequences wherever possible.  When those we love become deathly sick, we blame doctors for not doing their job properly, we angrily claim the right to life - but in many cases doctors don't have nearly as much power as we give them.  When people around us die as the result of a tragic accident, there is no avoiding the consequence - a life without that person. We can plead if we wish - "it was only an accident!", "I didn't know this would happen!", "I'm only a child!" - but we can't reverse death.  

I see a world where many, many people experience pain and horror beyond what most of us want to admit. Even in our 'peaceful' western culture, there are people watching their family members die in horrific ways everywhere - if you haven't, you probably know someone who has.  We avoid pain wherever possible, and although I know an abortion must come with some level of pain - the idea behind it is that it results in less pain than a pregnancy. I won't even speak to whether or not that is true, but I don't believe that life is all about the 'pursuit of happiness' or comfort - especially not when another human being is at stake. So many people never experience physical comfort, wealth or even financial stability, peace... why do we so completely convince ourselves that we must be different?

"Life is pain, Highness - anyone who says differently is selling something" The Dread Pirate Roberts

Wednesday, 17 September 2014 11:25

Homeschooling: Beginning

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Earlier this year, I wrote a post, detailing how I came to the decision to homeschool my children. I won't go into all of that again, but I do want to say a little bit about my decision to begin now instead of waiting until Clara is older, and a little about my chosen curriculum.

In regards to starting now, my parenting has gotten lazy, and I know that if in choosing to homeschool, I am choosing to be quite the opposite of a lazy parent. I will need to be able to discipline myself (and my children) to stick to a schedule - even if loosely - and get things done. I could give myself the next two years to be lazy and start discipling myself THEN, but I don't think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out how that will probably go... So, I decided to start the process now to get us all used to the routine. I also have a tendency to get impatient to start things I've decided to do, and get a bit over excited. 

Also, both Brian and I were early readers. By the time we both walked into the doors at kindergarten, we were reading books. I had an alphabet poster on my bedroom wall, and my Dad would routinely go through the alphabet with me, asking me what the letters were and what each letter said. I've heard it said that the most important thing is to read to your children - and I don't disagree - but my Dad had dyslexia, so he didn't read to me often and as soon as possible encouraged me to read to him. I spent a lot of time with my Grandma, and I remember being read to, but I think for me, it had more to do with the active teaching on the part of my Dad. 

Brian was given one of those 1980's learning computers, and used this to teach himself how to read. Neither of us recall being read to as much as we both enjoy reading now, and neither of us recall seeing our parents read for their own enjoyment. Yet, both of us now read for enjoyment as much as we possibly can. 

If Clara and Audrey inherit the desire/willingness/capacity to learn how to read at the age of 4 (like we did), I want to make sure that I've created a learning environment in which reading is encouraged and that both girls have every opportunity to learn as early as possible. Will I push it? No. But if they want to read, I want to know I've made that possible.

I came across this Letter of the Week curriculum on Confessions of a Homeschooler and absolutely loved it! Sometimes I decide to do a ton of research, compare different options - and I'm sure there are a lot of great options out there, but there were a number of things I loved about this curriculum, and so I jumped on it. We started at the beginning of September with 'Letter A', and just this past week finished with 'Letter D'.  After the first two weeks, I learned a few things about my oldest daughter.

One, is that she responds best to one-on-one attention from me. She has a tendancy to become a bit of a 'class clown' among other kids, and for this reason I think homeschooling will be really good for her.  This has posed a challenge recently, because I have been babysitting quite a bit, and now I have learned that although I can make it work with other children here - in the future, I need to plan to homeschool with Clara during times when other children (except her sister, obviously) are not around. 

Another thing I have learned is that Clara is more intrigued by a pencil and workbook than she is by colourful games and activities. She loves to paint and puzzle, certainly, but the 'Letter of the Week' curriculum contains a lot of colourful printables for playing various teaching games - and I highly recommend all of them - but for Clara, I've discovered that picking out the 'workbook' style printables is what works best for us.  In the future, I will look for curriculums and workbooks with pages of pencil activities.  We have also been using Kumon books on the side, and Clara loves these as well. She got through an entire Tracing book for ages 2-4 in less than an hour while sitting at the table one day. When I bought the books, I thought we would do 2-4 pages each day, but she killed this book all at once! I'll be looking for more activities like this, and probably buying more copies of these Kumon books in the future as well. 

I try to encorporate playing with sensory toys like sand and playdough as much as possible, as well as craft projects weekly. I'm not very good at these things, because I tend to feel like they will be a lot more work than they end up being. More practice will help - I will get better! It also gets easier as the girls get older.

So far our schedule has not been as strict as I had planned from the start. We have done 2-3 hours of school each week, on Mondays,Wednesdays and Fridays - usually in the morning, but not always. Since it is her preschool year, I have decided not to worry too much about schedule - this is a baby step, and we ARE doing more than we were before.  Also, I realized this past week that Clara is learning her alphabet. I can thank Leap Frog videos for a lot of this, I'm sure, but she knows (easily) the letters A-D, and can tell me what each of them 'says'. She also (surprisingly, to me) can recognize the lower case letters a-d, which I hadn't actively been teaching her, although they have been part of our curriculum in the graphics and colouring pages.  

So far, I'd have to say homeschooling is a great success!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014 11:31

And the Day I DID Give Up...

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This post is delayed, because it's been hard for me to write.  Last week Friday, I woke up with the determination to give Audrey one more day. So many encouraging sentiments on Facebook kept me going and hopeful, although still apprehensive. I knew that in so many ways, Audrey was READY to do this - she could hold her pee for long periods of time, she frequently woke up dry in the morning, and she is stubborn and determined to do everything 'by self'. I even struggled to get her to allow me to help her get herself up on the toilet - she didn't want help. She is so independent and determined in so many areas.

Peeing in the toilet, though? She wouldn't do it.

Anyway, here is basically how our 'Day 4' went:

I hired a babysitter for the day because I was scheduled to babysit my friends' daughters, and I wanted to be able to spend the day entirely one-on-one with Audrey, so the babysitter came and did her best to keep all three girls entertained while I spent my day next to Audrey.

8:10am - Audrey wakes up in a dry bed, but refuses to pee in the toilet. We keep trying, but she doesn't really even try.

9:30am - I notice a small wet spot on her panties and take her immediately to the toilet. She pees!!! I was so excited, I probably did a happy dance. I was hopeful for the rest of the day.

10:45am - Huge accident on the living room floor.  She doesn't hold back - just lets it all out.

11:30am - Audrey decides she wants to have a bath, and I don't really want her to have the opportunity to pee in the water where I can't really see it, but I like the idea of containing a mess. I fill the tub with shaving cream and cover it in glitter. She's not overly impressed, but after awhile she plays in it a bit. Eventually - to clean both her and the tub - I fill the tub with water and she has a short bath.

At one point during the bath, I think I understand her telling me that she has to go pee. I pick her up and put her on the toilet, and hear water dribbling. I get excited - thinking she's peed, and congratulate her and give her chocolate while she's still on the toilet - but when I pick her up, the water is perfectly clear and so I wonder if she really peed, or if I was just hearing the bath water trickling off her and into the toilet. I guess I'll never know. I may have just confused her completely...

12:30pm - She says she has to pee, sits on the potty, but does nothing.

12:40pm - Giant puddle in the living room. She doesn't seem concerned at all about holding it in, and only the last bit lands in the toilet - because I've picked her up and put her there.

This is where I stopped tracking - I had given up on panties at some point, and for a few minutes in the afternoon we went out to the backyard to say goodbye to the other girls who were heading off to the park. Audrey was disappointed about not going, and so I tried to explain to her that she needed to learn to pee in the potty first.  A few minutes later - she lets out a big pee on the cement next to her playhouse. Again, she doesn't even seem to be trying to hold it in.

I'm pretty much a nervous wreck, panicking about the weekend, and trying to decide the pros and cons of giving up, keeping on as we were, or finding some middle ground like continuing at home and putting her in diapers to go out (so we could go on with life!). Brian came upstairs at around 2:30, and after a short discussion, we both agree that the best plan - for now - is to give up entirely and try again later.

It took me a number of hours to get over my failure, and I was really reluctant to admit this to anyone for awhile, but now I'm glad for the decision, and I've had to change my outlook on a few things.

This girl is wearing shorts - because she's in a diaper - and she's doing a happy dance.

Firstly, I was reminded that Clara and Audrey are not the same.  When we tackled this with Clara, she was younger than Audrey is now - Clara was under 22 months. Clara was completely on board from the start, and from Day 1, she personally refused to put on another diaper ever again.  Audrey hasn't seemed interested one way or another in this whole diaper/panties situation. She likes to do what her sister is doing, but she obviously didn't enjoy peeing on the toilet, and it didn't offend her to be put back in a diaper. In fact, she seemed happy to do it.  We chose our timing with both girls for the same reasons - in both girls' cases, something was coming up on the calendar that would make it nearly impossible to put the time into training until quite a few months into the future - and so we chose to get training done first. In Clara's case, Audrey was due in a few weeks, and in Audrey's case, Piano and homeschooling was about to begin, and I knew (and still know) that it would be 6 months or more before we could devote any time to this again.  When I planned the time for Clara, I knew she would want to do it soon, and that waiting for 6 or more months wouldn't work out for her. I thought Audrey would be the same, but now I realize that she'll be fine waiting another 6 months. Or 8 months. Or 12... 

I also realized that not potty training Audrey now will not have anything to do with whether or not she becomes a lazy adult. This is a great fear of mine, that I intend to combat with everything I am, but I think I've come to terms with the probability that waiting another 6 months or a year for Audrey to potty train will not have much of an effect on her in the long run. I'm ok with that now.

In general, I've relaxed a bit on some of my parental expectations. I still want to be pretty strict about obedience - I think that's important for so many reasons - but when it comes to milestones, I'm softening. My Dad raised me with the mentality that 'if you're capable of something - you need to acheive that something'. I still agree that if a child seeks to perform a certain task, is capable of excellence in that task, a parent or teacher should be disappointed with anything but excellence from that child.  However, that doesn't mean that everything a child is capable of doing is necessarily the right thing for them to do 'right now'. 

For Audrey - potty training just isn't the 'right thing' 'right now'. 

I intended to end my post right there, but I wanted to add a few notes about the things I learned about both of my girls in this whole process.  Things I may have seen glimpses of before, but didn't really know until this week. Things I'm really glad to know.

About Audrey:

Without Clara at her side constantly, Audrey has a longer attention span. She has a determination to succeed, and an ability to repeat processes that allows her to systematically complete tasks - like doing up a buckle, or completing a puzzle - over, and over, and over, and over... 

Audrey is not socially driven. Although she is intrigued by things that other people do, and even copies actions and words frequently, she doesn't seem to have the desire to impress others that Clara did. Audrey wants to do that thing you're doing - but she doesn't care if you want her to, or what you'll think about her if she does it. 

About Clara:

She is desperately concerned about getting approval from us. While we were praising Audrey about peeing in the toilet, Clara wanted the same praise - despite the fact that she has been peeing in the toilet for almost 2 years. She seemed threatened by Audrey's extra attention and although she didn't take it out on Audrey, she seemed completely insecure - I heard her say 'Look what I did, Mommy!' more in those three days than I think I ever had before. 

She is deeply connected to her sister.  On Friday afternoon, after we had given up - and I released Audrey back into 'normal life' - the girls played, and played, and played. And Clara relaxed, because Audrey was free! Clara stopped demanding my approval, and for a few days Audrey was the only person who mattered. "Come here, Audrey!" "Look at this, Audrey!" "Come play with me, Audrey!".  She had her sister back, and all was well. 

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