I'm not a great cookie baker. I admit that. I'm not being falsely modest. I really don't bake good cookies. My cookies always turned out flat and spread out over the pan. There are times, when I'd be trying to take them off the pan when they'd just all smoosh together into one huge lump of cookie. It tasted good, but not anything you'd serve to... anyone, really. So, I'm not a good cookie baker. That is.... until I discovered the secret. See, yesterday, I decided to try again. I told our pastor's wife I'd bring cookies to the Wednesday night Kids' Swim Night, so I thought I'd give it another shot. I got out Betty, my good pal, who's rarely let me down and started to mix up a batch. Ok, 1/2 c butter or margarine. And then 1/2 c shortening. Hmm. Usually, I just put in 1 c butter because I like butter, but this time, I decided to follow the recipe. Oh.... My..... Word! I cannot describe adequately the difference this made. My cookies are thick, and delicious, and everyone at the Swim Night was raving about my oatmeal cookies. I skyrocketed from the depths, a mere cookie-baker wannabe, to the A List. I have arrived. Well, it wasn't quite like that. But, I was pretty proud of this batch, and I really did get a few complements on my cookies. So, whatever anyone else tells you, sometimes it pays to follow the recipe exactly.
I've been having a good time the past couple weeks. I've been teaching half a dozen 4th-6th graders how to build rockets. There's a tiny little Christian school that uses our church campus, and they're having a summer program/daycare there this summer. The sessions are two weeks long and this first session focuses on science things. So, I volunteered to do rocketry. I've built rockets with kids for.... I don't know how many years now. When I was teaching professionally I had a rocket club after school and taught the kids how to build rockets from scratch. I didn't do it for several years after I quit teaching, but this spring when I was trying to think of a project to do with our jr. highers during Wednesday night class, I thought rockets would be great. So, we built them, launched them, and had a great time. Now, I'm doing it again with these kids. It's a lot of fun!
I am writing this disclaimer because from time to time I talk about the fact that we homeschool. We homeschool for very specific reasons, but I never want to come across as thinking that homeschooling is the only way to go and that if you don't homeschool you're a terrible person. Some homeschoolers are very much that way. But, I have a lot of friends who have their children in school - public and private and in my heart of hearts I think no less of them or their educational decisions on behalf of their children. I guess I write this because it seems that mothers can get defensive, however their children are being educated. Homeschooling moms tend to brag up their kids and tear down public schools because we're so used to having to defend our choice to homeschool to the myriad folks (even family members) who think we're making a lousy decision to educate our children at home. And moms who's children are in school may feel like they're being judged as "lesser Christians" or whatever because their children attend public schools. I don't know, but I will really try to not let my defensiveness interfere with my posts. I admit, I do get defensive at times, but I hope that I can convey here in this disclaimer that when I mention homeschooling it is to bring out my observations about homeschooling and not to criticize or compare homeschooling with any other form of education.
Today was the first day of swimming lessons for the kids. They go every day for two weeks for half an hour. This is the first year since I've been taking the kids that I haven't had to be in the pool with someone taking the Waterbabies class. It was such a relief. I got to sit at the table with the other moms and watch my kids. Woohoo! I happened to be sitting by a mother with two girls, one seemed to be around 8 or 9 years old, the other was 5. I was watching how she interacted with the girls and she was kind of harsh with the older one and coddling with the younger one. Now, I try not to be judgemental with parents. The mom wasn't abusive in any way, she was just aggravated by her daughter's whining and goodness knows, my older one is a first class whiner and it drives me up a wall.
So, this woman strikes up a conversation with another mom, who's sitting behind us on the picnic table and as I was so close, I couldn't help listening in. I don't remember what topic started the conversation, but this woman (the one with the two girls) ends up telling the other one all about how she's the oldest of 9 kids and her dad left the family soon after the youngest one was born and on and on and on. I was wondering how the woman she was telling all this to was reacting, but I couldn't see her face and didn't want to turn around and let on that I was really eavesdropping.
But, I found it interesting, in a society where we really are pretty private people in a certain sense, some people have no qualms about telling strangers the intimate and ugly details of their life. Maybe we feel people who don't know us won't be so quick to judge us. People do this all the time on blogs and on Facebook and it amazes me how much we are willing to let others know about us. I guess it could be therapeutic in a way. It's getting it all out there without having to be accountable for the relationship. If this woman was telling this to a good friend, there's the emotional aspect of the friendship to take into account. With strangers, there's no strings. I felt bad for this woman, having had to go through what she did, but I also felt a little strange, having been privy to her entire life story without even knowing her.
Hubby and I dated about 14 months before we got engaged. And, I can describe our courtship in one word.... uneventful. I know, that sounds horrible, doesn't it? But, it's not really. Actually, it's good. We spent those 14 months just getting to know each other and finding out what we were all about. It was a great time and everything I think a courtship should be.
One thing, though, that really stands out to me when I think back over those days, was how much hiking we did. We really do love the mountains, even now we do. But, back in those care-free days, we spent a lot of time up there. One of our first dates was a simple, easy hike called the Lewis Creek Trail. It was relatively flat, followed a creek (Lewis Creek, if you hadn't figured that out) and wasn't overly exerting. One of our favorite hikes is Heather Lake. Heather Lake is everything Lewis Creek isn't. It's not the least bit flat, it's not short and it's a toughy, especially if you're not really in shape. But, it is incredible. It gets you up in the higher elevations and it has views that will just take your breath away. The final destination (Heather Lake, if you hadn't figured that out) is a glacial lake and is as pure and pristine as can be. It's a wonderful hike. But, back in those days, we could just take off on a Saturday. We had no responsibilities, no kids and could pretty much do what we wanted. We also had a group of friends who loved to hike, too, so some Saturdays a half dozen of us or so would take off up to the mountains and make a party of it. Those were the days when inside jokes were developed, traditions started and memories were made. It was an awesome summer.
In the year that followed, most of that little group got engaged and then married, and unfortunately we all kind of drifted apart. Hubby and I moved to another town and went to another church. Marriage also tends to make people (some people) a little less care-free and a little more responsible and for some reason, we just didn't do those kinds of activities any more. And then, when kids come, forget about it. But, I loved that summer when we were dating. It sits in my memory fondly.
My Hubby and I celebrated our seventh anniversary yesterday. Seven years of marital bliss. Yes, it has been blissful. It has been an awesome seven years and with that in mind, I'm going to do a little series on... us.
It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was dark, at any rate. It was the beginning of December and I'd only just moved back to Fresno in August. I was trying to re-establish myself, find a church with a good singles group and make some friends. I went back to the church I'd been going to before I headed off to Brazil and then the Bay Area, but it's always hard to break back in and I was anxious to get involved in as many activities as possible. So, when one of my friends told me that a group was going to walk Christmas Tree Lane that Monday night I was all for it. Even when she called me earlier that day to say she didn't feel like going because she was cold and had a headache, I had no sympathy. "Take an aspirin and put on a sweater," I told her. We arrived at Phillip's house, the meeting place and were hanging out, waiting for the rest to arrive. Then, the door opened and a couple girls and a couple guys walked in. I still remember what he was wearing - blue jeans and a charcoal colored sweater. I remember thinking to myself, "He looks really nice. I need to get to know him." My friend was making introductions, and she introduced him as Dave, which is not his name. He quickly corrected her.
Soon everyone had arrived, and we started out on our walk. I made sure I just "happened" to be walking beside him every now and then and struck up a conversation of whatever came into my head. He was very easy to talk with, and what with the lights, the music, the cold air - it was really quite romantic. We ended up missing the street we were supposed to turn on to go back to Phillip's house, so we had an extra-long walk, but I didn't care. I don't think he did either.
That night, after I got home, I couldn't sleep. I went over every word that was said, what he looked like, and what did he mean when he said, "It was nice meeting you!" when we parted company that evening. I wanted to see him again so bad. I was in love.
We're one of those homeschooling families. I like it for the most part, but I'm finding out that teaching the boys how to read is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. It's not that the actual phonics part is so hard. It's the patience required that is about to send me over the edge. But, besides all that, I have found that from a scientific stand-point, teaching children how to read is fascinating. And one thing I have discovered, is exactly why reading aloud to very young children is so incredibly important to their literacy development.
There are two things that I have found that are direct results of reading aloud frequently to my children. The first is a large vocabulary. I mean, when you read books that have phrases like, "...that played a jaunty tune," and, "...thought she was an indescribable wonder," and "Your quarters are nice and jingly. And those glasses are absolutely fabulous", (all phrases gleaned from Kevin Henkes books) your kids are going to know words. And when they know a lot of words, they'll be able to make sense of the things they sound out. To a child with a limited vocabulary, they may be able to pronounce the word, but if they don't know what it is, then who cares if they can sound it out.
The second thing I discovered is that children who are read to internalize grammatical conventions and it helps them figure out what the word is, just from the tense of the sentence. For example, the reader we are working out of right now is introducing the -ed suffix. Duh-duh, who's really just started to catch on to reading like wildfire, hasn't been thrown off at all by this new idea, simply because he's read the first part of the sentence and knows that the word should be "started" and not just "start" or "starts", even before he comes to the end of the word and sees the suffix. It feels right to him, and I can tell that by the way he reads.
I'm not sure if I've articulated my discoveries all that well in this post, but it has been very interesting to actually see and be able to "document" the results of reading aloud to my children. Everyone always says it's a good thing, but I'm seeing tangible results and it's been fascinating.
My daughter has an obsession with shoes. She's only three years old and she loves shoes. I just finished checking on her before retiring for the night, and she had two pairs of shoes in bed with her. Sometimes she wears shoes to bed. Her closet floor is covered with shoes. Most of them are hand-me-downs, but still... The other day I took the kids to the Dollar Store and told them they could each pick out two things - Missy Lou picked out two pairs of shoes. One pair was a pair of sparkly plastic heels and the other a pair of flip-flops, which she wears constantly. She just cracks me up. I hate shoes. I wear them because I must, but I hate buying them. Missy Lou, on the other hand is the next Imelda Marcos.
Nobody ever said motherhood was easy. I never expected it to be easy. But I'm finding out that it's really really hard. It's not like I found that out today or anything. It's always been pretty hard, but when you realize that you really need to change your way of thinking about things... it's just... hard. You see, I have two boys. They're a little less than a year apart in age and they are really close as brothers. But, they are as different as night and day. Bubba, the oldest just turned six, and all of the sudden it dawned on me that all of his extremely irritating qualities weren't necessarily huge character flaws. They were a result of the fact that he has a tremendous amount of testosterone flowing through his little veins. In other words, he's a boy. He's a boy's boy. He's loud and noisy and dirty, and he doesn't have an ounce of sensitivity in his body. He's agressive and competitive, and very physical. He eats a ton, is as lean and lithe as they come and he's so heavy I can't pick him up anymore. He's had pecs since he was four. Seriously. I still remember watching these 5 little boys at swimming lessons. Four of them had normal little boy chests, Bubba had pecs. So, that's him.
Duh-duh, on the other hand, is not like that. I mean, sure he's loud and dirty and loves bodily noises as much as any boy. But, he's cuddly and sensitive. He shares everything. His favorite playmate is his sister and they love imaginative play. They play house, doctor, shopping, picnic, whatever. They converse with eachother. He's always been terribly verbal, and loves interaction.
So, last night, when my eyes were finally opened to the fact that I need to embrace Bubba's boyness, since that is what it is, I've found that parenting has become more complicated, but also easier. I have a little more understanding into what makes Bubba tick. I'm working on what I need to correct in his life, and what I need to let slide. I'm working on deciding when to stop him from constantly bugging his siblings and when to just let them figure out how to take care of it. Like I said, noone ever said motherhood is easy!
It is 8:17am. Generally, the kids have been up for an hour, I'm serving them breakfast and getting ready for the days' lessons. But today... I'm the only one prowling the house. The only sounds are the hum of the computer and some birds twittering away outside. Everyone is still fast asleep. Why? I have no idea. I'm suspecting it's because we were gone all day yesterday, and then last night we had a swim party for church and the kids didn't get in bed till 9:00pm. But, a late night doesn't always mean sleeping late for my crew. So, this morning, I'm just enjoying the quiet. I'm even trying to type softly so they don't wake up. Shhh!
Bubba turned six years old last Thursday. Yikes, time does fly. I still remember the day we met him. It was down at CFS and Hubby and I were pretty nervous. Abby, the social worker in charge came down to meet us and take us up to the room where the boys were and she had this little boy on her hip. It didn't even dawn on me that this was our little boy. She took us into a room and we met the boys. Bubba was 13 months old at the time and wasn't walking yet, but he could crawl. Boy, could he crawl. He was all over the place, and he wasn't the least bit interested in the toys strewn about the floor. He wanted to go under the computer desk and get into the files and everything else that was in reach. That was almost five years ago.
Now, he's six, lean and strong as an ox. He's still terribly curious about everything and drives me crazy with all his questions. He's got a very mathematical mind and can build just about anything with his legos. He's as good looking a kid as you're going to find and has so much potential. We are so proud of him and are thrilled to call him our son!