Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Beginning of an Era

You always hear about the END of an era, how about a beginning?

I expect 2010 to hold a whole slew of "experiencing new things" posts. One of the biggies is going to be homeschooling. It's easy for me to talk about homeschooling--we haven't started yet! I have no doubt I will be able to look back at these posts in a few years, or even a few months, and blush in embarrassment over my naiveté, but life is more about the journey than the destination, so I'll have to take the risk.

We have been considering homeschooling as long as we've been considering kids. Both of us felt there were flaws in our education that we were capable of fixing and that it was worth giving a try. Since the original idea came up, we've done a few things that I think are pretty reasonable for a parent looking into education choices:
  • We looked into schooling options: We've done a fair amount of research into the public schools, charter schools, and private schools available. None of them are horrible, just not our first choice. As Sierra got older, we became more familiar with things like age cut-offs, placement exams, grade skipping and extra-curricular options.
  • We looked into homeschooling options: You can go it alone, you can join a co-op and share the teaching with other parents (which would allow a science-focused person like myself to take on extra kids for science or math and send mine to someone else more qualified than me to teach music or art), you can even join an online program that lets you follow a regular school curriculum at home.
  • We researched homeschooling laws. These are different in each state and range from basically no requirements, to heavy monitoring of the homeschool by the local school district. You can get a basic run down for each state at the Home School Legal Defense Association website.
  • We researched our fears about homeschooling and found many of them to be myths.
So here's where we currently stand: Both girls attend a small Montessori school. Sierra is in her Kindergarten year there, a year earlier than the public schools would have let her start. She is having no trouble with first and second grade materials. Sedona just started there this year and has a decent grasp on pre-school concepts like colors and same/different. She is just starting to count and can pick out and say the appropriate sound for some letters--she is reading very basic, "short a" three letter words.

Here's the reasoning: From all the research I've done, I don't believe the schools will adequately accommodate Sierra's academic needs. My short term goal is to keep her interested in learning, without letting her get too far ahead--I regularly turn down her requests to do extra workbooks at home in the evenings and on weekends. My long term goal is to teach her what she's willing and able to learn, but not to allow her to start college until she's 17 (the idea being she would turn 18 at the beginning of October in her first year), at the earliest.

We'll get the social issue out of the way here: I don't buy into the socialization argument against homeschooling. I've seen first hand in the Montessori school that there is a big benefit to mixing ages and I would rather my children live each day among a mix of people rather than spend 12 years grouped within an age group and being prepared for "the real world". My vision of homeschooling includes much more than "school at home", and I plan for them to be out and about, meeting people and learning from several different sources.

And here's the plan: We've decided that it's easier to move into public school rather than leave it (both from a legal and adjustment standpoint), so we will try homeschooling first, but are not opposed to changing our minds about that if it turns out not to be a good option for our kids. We will have a "core curriculum" that we'll supplement with researching topics the kids are specifically interested in, traveling to interesting sites, and taking outside classes.

I wanted time to create a rough schedule (it will be flexible, but I need something to follow), so we've got all of Sierra's core things for next year already. We have math, reading and comprehension, grammar, science, geography, spelling and Spanish. I had originally planned to do a Charlotte Mason curriculum with her, but had an ah-ha moment a few weeks ago and scrapped the whole plan. I liked Charlotte Mason because it's heavily based in reading and Sierra LOVES to read. However, she's my child and it suddenly dawned on me that if I require her to read so much, she will start to hate reading. It has to be HER idea. I did soooo much better with self-guided learning when it was offered, and she is very much like me. Sedona's still so young, it will take a while to see what her learning style is going to be. She will focus on picking up wherever she leaves off at school--I expect that to be continuing with letter sounds and reading, along with basic number recognition. She will only be 3 and I don't intend to do a more formal curriculum with her until she's 4. Right now, she likes to be in the middle of everyone else's work, paying close attention to what's going on, so I'll go with that and let her work on whatever she shows interest in.

Now I have to go hide all the books...Sierra is already trying to talk me into starting them now.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Paging Dr. Hill

Joshua (of course) passed his Dissertation Defense last Friday. Several people have asked me what he's getting a PhD in--he's in the molecular and microbial pathogenesis department. Then they ask what's that (it's microbiology that specifically pertains to things that make people sick). I've also been asked what his dissertation was on--the title was "Modulation of Polymorphonuclear Leukocyte Function During Coxiella burnetii Infection". That means he's been studying the bacteria that causes a disease called Q Fever and how it keeps a certain type of white blood cell from effectively attacking it. He'll be staying in his lab as a post-doc for a little while, then move on to the post-doc position he's already been offered at Rocky Mountain Labs.

Friday afternoon, Josh's mom showed up to surprise us ("surprise" is a bit of an understatement, she lives 1200 miles away!). It was great to see her and as an added bonus, we had a whole weekend of free baby-sitting! We managed to make it out to three movies in one weekend, which I believe is more than we've seen together in the last 5 years.

The next few months will move quickly, lots of changes around here as we prepare to move and start a new stage in our lives!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Home is Where the Heart is

Just got back home late last night. I'd left Sunday afternoon to teach a class in Louisiana. This was the first time I had left either of my girls for such a long period of time--it sucked, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting because my hubby is so involved, I had no doubt at all my children were following the exact same routine they're used to. Sedona is keeping up her "verbal explosion" and I heard lots of "miss you so much momma!" this morning.

The teaching itself was fabulous. I had a great group of ladies. I was teaching a CAPPA CLE training, and the groups I get in this particular area tend to already be nurses or peer counselors, so it's like 3 days of breastfeeding continuing education. I like teaching parents and I like working with new babies and their mommies, but I LOVE the continuing education thing. These ladies already have a pretty good background and the basic science knowledge and they come up with fabulous questions...we have a chance to really get into the nitty gritty of the latest research. The best part is that I spend 3 days with a group of 10 women and I know I'm helping to bring evidence-based lactation support to hundreds of families. Even when the training's going really well and everyone is getting along, it's a little nerve-wracking to read the evaluations. Before I read them, I always psych myself up and remember the little lesson I've been told, "throw out the best, throw out the worst--the middle is the honest, helpful critique you need". I've been pleased to see the evaluations lately though--in my last 3 trainings, I have not had one single negative comment. The "harshest" comment I've gotten was "I liked the games, it'd be fun to add more".

I am glad to be home though. It was a 5 hour drive and coming home last night was dark, rainy and SUPER foggy--not fun.

Completely unrelated: I like this. A lot.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

-Prayer of Francis of Assisi

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A chance to give for free

This is Max. Max is a very dear friend of ours and he has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. DMD affects 1 in every 3,500 live male births and results in progressive loss of muscle use. These boys typically lose the ability to walk between the ages of 10 and 14. By their late teens they will lose strength in their upper body and require help with breathing. Young men typically don't survive past their 20's or early 30's. There is a fabulous organization called Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. This organization provides a source of information and support for parents, but mainly they raise money to fund Duchenne research. There is some really interesting progress with various therapies, including something called exon skipping, which may allow some boys with DMD to retain muscle function longer.

Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy has been involved in the Chase Community Giving event taking place on Facebook. In round 1, PPMD was one of the top 100 charities, which earned them $25,000. In round 2, we are voting for one charity to win $1,000,000. A million dollars is a significant amount of money to put towards DMD research. If you are on facebook, PLEASE take the time to vote!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The girls trying to do yoga together

I'm in a funk. My babies are growing up and that makes me sad. Babies are definitely not easy--there's the crying, the sleep deprivation, the poop explosions, the "will you please, please, please, just somehow tell me WHAT YOU WANT?!?". But I like babies. I'm good with babies. Nothing matches a soft, chubby hand against your skin and baby breath on your cheek. I also like toddlers. Yes, it's true. There's a sort of no-man's land where they want to be mobile but need constant supervision and that's hard, but the year from about 18-30 months is so far my favorite childhood time. The movements, the words, the cuddles, it's all so sweet. And my baby is quickly growing out of it :-( She alternates now between saying, "I not baby, I two now!" and "I two, momma's baby". I wish they stayed little longer. All my life I've wanted to be older, to move on to the next step and I can honestly say I don't miss any of it--I wouldn't repeat childhood, or high school, or college. My children's infancy and toddler hood is the very first phase that I've wanted to stop at, to just freeze time for a while and I can't and that sucks, and I'm not quite sure how to deal because I've never done this before. Sigh.

In (much) happier news, Josh will be defending his dissertation next Friday. In layman's terms, that means he'll pretty much be finished with his PhD. Hot damn and Hallelujah.

This is what happens when you let daddy have a turn at doing hair

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Easy Bake Mixes

Like I mentioned earlier, Sierra bought herself an Easy Bake Oven this week. Judging by my own childhood experience, I was pretty sure that'd be a reasonable investment for her and she'd have a lot of fun with it. I couldn't in good conscience let her spend a ton of money on mixes though. I spent a little time searching for mix recipes and we have tried a few out now.

First up was a plain white cake mix. This was easy for me to whip up and makes 10 mixes that she just has to add water to when she's ready to bake. We made a few changes to the recipe: It takes more like 5-6tsp of water to make up the batter and take note that one baggie of mix makes TWO cakes. We also found we had to bake for about 14 minutes.

To go along with this, we made a batch of white frosting mixes. Also easy for me to mix up and she just needs to add water to them. The only change I made on this one is I added a little powdered icing coloring so she could have pink frosting (the color will look darker once the water is added, so it's okay if the color is pale when you make up the mixes).

Friday, January 8, 2010


Sierra bought herself an Easy Bake Oven. Can't even tell you how many little cakes I made myself when I was little and she thinks it's just as cool as I did. Here she is frosting her first cake and fussing at me because, "Momma! I'm trying to concentrate!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On the 12th day of Christmas... true love gave to me King Cake! Happy 12th day of Christmas, also known as the Feast of the Epiphany. A day for King Cake.

And in honor of this, I also had my own epiphany this morning: health goals and housecleaning goals are contradictory. When your whole family's been home trashing the house for almost 2 weeks and everyone heads back to school, the stay at home mom of the family is suddenly facing a day full of serious cleaning (my goal is to be able to take down the biohazard signs by the end of the day. I kid! I kid! sorta...). Who wants to tackle a massive to do list on a stomach full of oatmeal and fruit? I say start the day with a treat! Go ahead and let the car veer towards the donut shop and reward yourself before you even get started. And this is why I have never made any progress on my lofty ideal of drastically reducing refined sugar in our diets. I have a very addictive personality. Thankfully I recognize this, respect it, and my strongest addiction is sugar.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Oh The Cold, and The Cold!

It's about to get a little chilly around here. This time next year (when I've acclimated to Montana) I probably won't think so. But this year, in Texas, where my "winter wardrobe" consists of 2 sweatshirts I pull out of the closet every fall, it's gonna get cold. We're expecting lows of 18 and wind chills in the single digits and that, my friends, is cold. I actually didn't realize just HOW cold until I tried to explain it to Sierra. I suddenly remembered the digital readout on the freezer, which shows a steady temperature of 4 degrees Fahrenheit. And I explained to her that on Friday morning when she wakes up, it's going to feel as cold as the inside of the freezer. And now I feel not only anxious about the weather, but also silly for paying to keep my freezer cold inside my house, when all my food would do just fine if I threw it out on the patio.

Then there's the cold. The random assortment of symptoms that snuck up on me Wednesday and got better and then got worse again. It's a testament to a good marriage when your spouse can listen to you hack and snort and whine in the shower every morning and still conceive of a day when you might actually be sexy again. Too bad today is not that day. So this morning, I painfully loosened the purse strings and paid $25 to see the doctor. Through his thick Russian accent, he told me.....absolutely nothing, actually. We've seen him once before and he did the same thing, horrible bedside manner. When the nurse came back, she handed me a sheet about sinus infections and a prescription for a z-pak. So I guess we're going with a diagnosis of sinus infection, but I'm not sure it really even matters since the z-pak would cure just about anything that could be wrong with me (except a virus, of course, but it just doesn't have a "virus-y" feel to it).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Nun-uh! Uh-huh! Nun-uh! Uh-huh!

The girls had their first fight over the dinner table last night. Now, Sedona has been slightly behind on her verbal development for a long time and just recently hit a "verbal explosion" and started talking A LOT, but she still doesn't hold up her end of a conversation. So Josh and I thought this was HILARIOUS

Sierra: I'm like a grown up, I have grown up legs and feet (apparently when you start losing the baby chub you're a grown up)
Sedona: Me too
Sierra: No you don't! You're a baby!
Sedona: No I not!
Sierra: Yes you are!
Sedona: No! I two now!
Sierra: You're still a baby!
Sedona: Stop! No ma'am!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Bizarre Sort of Perfectionist

This time last year, I started on a quest to become a better housekeeper. It actually went really well at first. I made it about a month keeping up with the cleaning schedule and really enjoyed having a clean house for just about an hour's worth of effort each day. But when I started keeping a friend's children part-time and started having a few off days here and there, I used it as a convenient excuse to give up because, well, me and cleaning just don't mix.

It's true that housework seems pointless because something clean never STAYS clean. Another part of it is I'm a perfectionist. I know, I know, it's hard to see my Type A personality through all the play-doh on the floor and the dishes in the sink, but it's there. And since I've never excelled at keeping a SPOTLESS house, cleaning at all seems quite overwhelming because it never gets to the point where it's perfect. So I clean some, but it's not RIGHT, therefore it's not good enough, therefore it's demoralizing, therefore why bother? It's logical, right?

This is where I would lay out some grand scheme, but I don't actually have a grand scheme, just a random thought I happened across today. That cleaning checklist is STILL on my wall right next to the computer. I'm not watching any extra kids and my own are both in school for the next 5 months worth of mornings, so it stands to reason that I have the time to get back on track. But where to start? It'd take days to get it right and I'd have to kick my family out during that time to maintain the progress I'd made. And obviously, if I had kicked my family out, I would NOT waste that time cleaning--I'd float in a bubble bath with a good book and a hot chocolate. Or a margarita, whatever.
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