Friday, December 19, 2014

Style and Anniversary Dinners

Geoff and I are going out for dinner tonight to celebrate our anniversary, while the kids have dinner with my folks.

A few moments ago, when I was talking about it with the kids, Lizzie's first question was to ask what I was going to wear.  I said that I had no idea.

Lizzie's excited response:   "I wanna style you up, Mommy!"

Where does she get this stuff?

Though, actually, I could use the is much more Lizzie's forte than my own.

P.S.  Lizzie is plotting...sitting there and seriously plotting my look for tonight.  I don't understand people like her.  :)  She's mumbling to herself things like, "she needs to have makeup on...oh, and she needs to wear a dress...she never wears dresses...hmm...what to do...".  I'm not sure how to handle this situation.  I do plan to shower...

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Nasty Experience, Maturation...and a Further Thought about Facebook

I'm in my late 40s and I am finally least I'd like to think so.

Last Saturday, Matthew and I were out for breakfast with one of his best buddies and one of my best buddies (who also happen to be mother and son).  According to the boys, it has become an annual pre-Christmas tradition for the four of us to breakfast out together - the boys sit at one table, while the two moms sit at a different table.

About a half hour before we left, the boys were starting to get a little restless, so they asked if they could go stand in the entrance to the restaurant, between the double doors exiting the restaurant.  We moms agreed and off they went, assuring us that they would check in with us once in a while.  Sure enough, they came back to see us two or three times during the next twenty minutes, and then asked if they could spend the remaining minutes talking outside on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.  No problem.

After my friend and I paid our bills we headed out the two sets of doors to where our boys were standing on the sidewalk.  As I walked out, calling Matthew over to me, I noticed an older man standing outside by the door.  He was glaring at me and my friend, and said something under his breath while waving his cane in our direction.  I stopped beside him and said "I'm sorry, but are you talking to me?"

He then proceeded to lambaste, at high volume, my friend and me for being such terrible parents as to let our two boys act in the manner that they had been acting; he yelled that he had paid good money to be able to enjoy his breakfast in peace.  On and on and on.  Yelling.

Shocked, and wondering what could possibly have predicated this outburst, I finally interrupted him and asked him if he could please clarify, as I didn't know what he was talking about.  He started to yell again, and said that they were going in and out of doors, in and out of doors, in and out of doors.  You get the idea.  He was utterly enraged.

My friend calmly suggested that he was being rather rude (an understatement) in his approach and I then noted that he'd obviously not had a great experience but that I still wasn't clear about what had been so problematic.  I wondered whether he could offer any other observations about the boys that might concern him.  "Was it the going in and out of the doors between the restaurant and the outside," I wondered out loud, "or was there some other behaviour that was troubling for you?"

I never got more information, and I am pretty sure it was just the going in and out of doors that had been bothering him.  Now, you need to understand that between the doors into the restaurant and the doors to the outside is about a 20-foot-long space; that space is not visible from the restaurant at all, and so I am thinking that this man was standing outside and watching our boys talk and walk back and forth.

I frankly wasn't one iota concerned if the boys were wandering about in this space, or even in and out of this space.  But, despite trying three times, this man simply couldn't offer up any other explanations for his rage - he just kept saying that they were walking in and out of the doors more than a few times and that were terrible parents setting a terrible example for society, etc etc etc.

I asked if he would like to continue this discussion another time when we'd all had a chance to think about things (basically so he could calm down) and he said no.  Matthew said quietly from behind me that he really didn't think that they'd done anything they weren't supposed to do, and I believed him and quietly said so.  Certainly when they had walked to/from their table to the reception area, they had been totally calm, heads bent towards each other as they talked quietly and walked...nothing untoward at all.

Eventually, after the man continued referring to us as terrible parents, I said that I was sorry that he'd had a rough experience that he associated with our boys; I added that we moms had given our boys permission to be between the doors and outside on the sidewalk and that I was ok with this.  I said one or two other things, but I forget what they were.  Then my friend and I both expressed that we hoped his day got better, and I repeated that I was sorry that he'd had a bad experience.  He stomped off after his wife (who had been standing in the background looking embarrassed), who had waved her cane at him and was walking away.

My friend and I then took a few minutes to reassure our boys that everything was ok.  They were upset that he'd called us bad parents, but we assured them that we were totally fine.  I commented that perhaps he was having a bad day, or perhaps he was simply the sort of person who had a negative and harsh view about life or people; I doubted, given the look on his wife's face, that this was the first time he'd done this kind of thing.  We never know what's going on in other people's hearts, I said, and with that kind of perspective it's a little easier to find grace.

I felt totally fine after leaving that encounter, though five years ago it would have been a traumatic event that would have taken me a day or two to get over.  But today, over a week later, as I think back to that incident, I realize that I really am totally fine about it all.  I haven't just been putting a good face on it; I'm really fine.  No trauma here...I've barely thought about the incident at all since, beyond checking in with Matthew a couple of times in case there was more discussion needed.  I have no regrets about how I handled myself in the face of extreme rudeness.  In my response to this man, I believe I managed to achieve a balance between respect and 'having our boys' backs.'

This incident led me to think of my recent post about Facebook.  I ended that post by suggesting that it is, in fact, possible to be respectful in the face of rudeness.  Even when people act disrespectfully towards us, I said, I believed it was possible to offer respect in return.

This thought has been reaffirmed for me by this latest experience.  That man's rudeness would have been a perfect, and arguably legitimate, opportunity to let my own frustrations find a foothold in how I spoke to him.  I really could have yelled back, and no one witnessing the whole encounter would have questioned my behaviour because it would have been warranted.  He really was extremely rude and disrespectful.  But I remember at the very beginning of that exchange something flash through was more of an impression, perhaps, something that just said Ruth, it's going to be ok.  Hear him out.  Protect the boys AND seek to understand AND model for the boys as to what it means to be respectful in face of disrespect.  You. will. be. ok.

There's something very validating about maintaining one's integrity in the face of rudeness.  It's a settling sort of feeling - a sense of assuredness that comes from knowing you did the right thing when a choice was to be had, when you have every reason to feel right but choose not to assert it with anything other than respect and a bit of grace.  I really wish that I felt this way about F/book, but I have to say that mostly being uninvolved with it for the past week or so has only proven to be an awesome choice.

Maybe I am getting a little wiser with age.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

20 Years

I remember looking at Geoff's face, in the fall of 1993, shortly before we got engaged, and thinking that his was likely the face that I would get used to seeing for the rest of our lives.  I specifically remember wondering what it would be like to see his face twenty years later, what our life together would look like then.

It was a strange thing to think - that his was the face.  I'd wondered for some time what that face would look like...and suddenly there it was.  It was a nice-looking face, I thought, but the strange thing was the contemplation of that face over any other.

We haven't always had an easy road, through his fault and my own, and because of life circumstance.  There have absolutely been times when his face has not been the one I've wanted to see in the morning, and I've no doubt that he's felt similarly.

But here we are.  Twenty years later.  Twenty years.  How does that happen?

We've weathered a lot.  We're still together, there's still this love between us, and there's still the commitment to seeing it through to the end...we know that now more than we did twenty years ago.

And that's saying something, because marriage is hard.  Next to raising kids, staying married is pretty much the hardest thing and the thing that makes us grow the most.  Yes, there's enjoyment and fun and love and joy and all of that good stuff.  But man is it hard work at times.  Although I believe that, as a people, we give up too easily on marriage at times, I understand why marriages fail...because Geoff and I have been surprised at times that there has been light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel.

I'm proud that we've made it twenty years...through the thick and the thin...through the everything.  I look at Geoff's face today, knowing all that I know, and it's a different experience entirely than in 1993 to say that his is the face I want to see for the next twenty years.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Word Mix-Ups

Seth often gets words jumbled up, and can have a hard time pulling the right word out of his memory.  Sometimes that can be frustrating; other times, funny.

On Monday, Seth and Lizzie were discussing the live animals we'd seen when touring a "Live Bethlehem" Christmas event we'd attended the day before.  Lizzie's favourite animal was the beautiful pony she'd touched.  But when she described that moment to Seth, here's what happened:

Lizzie:  "Oooo, my absolute favourite animal was the little horse.  He was so pretty with the long tail."

Seth (said totally seriously, and with great disdain):  "Lizzie, that wasn't a was a unicorn."

He had no idea why I was laughing so hard.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Article: 50 Reasons Homeschooled Kids Love Being Homeschooled

I occasionally enjoy reading from a blog called  Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.  Recently the author of that blog posted something that I enjoyed reading through.  Below is the post; here is the link in case you'd rather read it on her blog:  50 Reasons Why Kids Like Being Homeschooled

Sometime today I'll ask my kids which resonate most with them...I'll post their answers here.

Til later...have a great day everyone!


50 Reasons Homeschooled Kids Love Being Homeschooled

In the blog world, we hear a lot from homeschooling moms, but not so much from their students. I often have people find my blog by searching things like, “Do kids like to be homeschooled?” or “Why do kids like to be homeschooled?” So, I asked the folks on my Facebook page to ask their kids why they liked being homeschooled and let me know what they said. I asked mine, too, and compiled the answers for you.
Some answers were heard a lot. Some were pretty unique. Some got my added commentary, and some stand alone. So, if you’ve ever wondered why homeschooled kids like being homeschooled, here are the results, in no particular order after the first two, of my really unscientific poll.
Learn why kids love being homeschooled - from the kids themselves!
1. Sleeping in. It appears that the number one thing most kids like about being homeschooled is being able to sleep late. Now, before all the haters get up in arms, I asked kids. Did you expect academic answers?
And, rest easy. They’ll still be able to get jobs when they’re older. My daughter, who graduated last year, now has to be at school – and often work on the days she doesn’t have school – much earlier than she ever used to get up. She has adjusted just fine. Many studies have shown that teens need more sleep and schools should start later to accommodate them. See? Homeschoolers are just ahead of the game.
2. Doing school in their PJs. Again, I know there’s a whole school of thought out there that people work better when they’re dressed for work and even lots of homeschool families don’t like the stereotype that homeschoolers stay in the pajamas all day – but don’t tell these homeschooled kids that!
There are a lot of them who like that perk very much. Our family is half-and-half. Josh and I are usually dressed – though, when it’s cold there are lots of days I stay in yoga pants all day – but the girls are usually in PJs. (Okay, not Brianna anymore. She’s graduated and going to cosmetology school. They’d probably look at her funny if she showed up to school in her jammies.)
3. It’s safe at home. I thought that was such a telling response and it was shared more than once. No matter how much we may be accused of sheltering our homeschooled kids, they see the news and they are very concerned about school shootings. I know lots of young kids in public school. Those very necessary lock-down drills are extremely unsettling. My heart breaks to know that kids anywhere have to practice hiding under desks in case a shooter ever comes to the door.
4. They can spend time following their interests. No, they’re not just talking about video games. They’re talking about music, art, computer coding, cooking,  photography, archery, and a huge variety of other interests.
5. The food is better.
6. The field trips are awesome.
7. The teachers doesn’t pick favorites. (Just for the record, that might have been my favorite response.)
8. They don’t have to be confined to a classroom. School can be done anywhere – even in the tree in the backyard.
9. Freedom. This includes being able to: go to the bathroom when you need to, go outside when you want to, eat when you’re hungry, listen to music while you work, or take a break when you need to.
10. They love having educational choices. Homeschooled kids say they like being able to:
  • Delve into their favorite topics
  • Have some input in choosing their curriculum
  • Follow their interests with electives choices
11. They like being able work at their own pace and at their own level. They can take their time when they don’t understand something or move quickly through the material when they get it. They can work at, below, or above “grade level” depending on their needs. And, they don’t have to wait until everyone else is finished to move on.
12. Hot chocolate during math time or hot tea during history. Hey, sometimes it’s the little things, especially when it’s as cold as it’s been around here lately.
13. Being able to do school in princess dresses. This was the answer from one respondent. I’m sure it holds true for pirate and superhero costumes, as well.
14. No bullies.
15. Being able to do school with pets. Have you seen the recent studies that show that reading to dogshelps improve the proficiency of struggling readers?
16. Homeschooled kids enjoy being able to go places during the week without fighting crowds.Their moms like that one, too.
17. Kids and parents alike enjoy family read-aloud time.
18. One-on-one teaching. One respondent said it best, “Because my mom is my teacher, she will explain things multiple times, multiple ways until I understand it.”
19. Flexible schedules.
20. Doing classes with friends. Yep, you read that right. So many people still think that being homeschooled means being isolated, but there are so many opportunities for homeschooled kids to work with other kids in a more classroom-style setting, whether it’s classes for homeschooled kids, an organized co-op, or just a couple of families getting together to work on a few subjects.
21. No homework. Don’t misunderstand – these aren’t kids talking about having less work than their traditionally schooled friends. Instead, they’re referring to having a schedule that allows them to get their work finished before outside activities, such as sports or dance, so that they don’t have to rush home and do homework before bed.
22. Reading great books.
23. Being able to pray, read the Bible, and talk about God.
24. Homeschooled kids love being able to be themselves. I have to share this one quote from a 9 year old girl because I thought it was amazing: “One of the best things about being homeschooled is that I get to be the real me, and not have to hide my gifts. My thoughts can be my own, and I get to think and discuss and move and explore, and not be forced to memorize stuff…I just know stuff because I get to think about it and make it matter to me.”
Yes, that!
25. Learning for the sake of learning. They don’t dread school – they enjoy it.
26. Spending time with family. One 5 year old said, “That we don’t have to miss [mom] at all.” Doesn’t that just warm your mommy heart?
27. No uniforms. Well, unless you count the PJs.
28. Seeing the world from a different perspective. I just have to share this comment from Facebook follower, Alicia: “When I was 20 years old I nannied for an American family in France. One day we were at the military museum in Paris and there was a cross-section of an old battle ship and I took the five year old I watched and showed him all the different things on the ship: the cannons and artillery, the mess hall, etc. His mom (who was an engineer) sat back and watched and afterward thanked me and said it never would have occurred to her to point all those things out to him. My favorite thing about being homeschooled is that it never occurred to me see things like that and not share them.”
29. Spending time with the non-teaching parent. So many parents work shifts other than the typical 9 to 5. These working parents often miss so much time with their families. Homeschooled kids can spend time with their parent whenever that parent isn’t working.
30. Going on vacation during the off-season. Yep, homeschool moms like that, too.
31. Not having to catch the bus before the sun comes up! That probably goes along with sleeping it, but not having to catch the bus early was mentioned specifically so many times that I had to include it.
32. No busywork.
33. Getting to surf when the waves are good. I only saw this reply once, but it was so unique, it had to be included.
34. Not having to worry about peer pressure or being popular or labeled.
35. School breaks can include video games and TV.
36. Stress-free mornings.
37. Interests can be incorporated into learning. Lego and Minecraft are two examples of interests that many kids have that can easily be made educational..but, don’t suck all the fun out of it, Mom!
38. No bad language from other kids.
39. Having a later bedtime. My kids can attest to that.
40. They can get academic help when needed.
41. Not having to be medicated. This was from the kids with ADD/ADHD.
42. Having lots of room to be creative.
43. Enjoying close relationships with siblings.
44. Being able to work with fewer distractions.
45. Young homeschooled kids appreciate using treats for math manipulatives. They can add, subtract, multiply, and divide with M&Ms (or whatever) and eat them when the math is done!
46. Not getting sick as often. Definitely!
47. No mean teachers. This one made me smile – though my kids have been known to get the mean teacher from time to time. Never for a whole school year, though.
48. Homeschooled teens like learning time management by scheduling their own schoolwork.
49. Plenty of time to eat lunch. My oldest used to hate having to gobble down her food. Most days, it came home uneaten because she didn’t have time.
50. Birthdays are school holidays.
There you go – 50 reasons homeschooled kids love being homeschooled. What would your kids add to the list?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Taking a Break from Facebook

I'm going to take a break from Facebook for a least, most of it.  I'm not sure for how long, but for a while anyway.

I've been on f/book for a couple of years now.  At the beginning it was about wanting another connection point with my nephews, who live at a distance from me.  But gradually over time I accumulated some 'friends' and joined a number of groups dedicated to adoption, homeschooling, and unschooling.  For the most part, f/book for me has been about my nephews, and maintaining a level of currency about issues people are talking about in the circles that I'm interested in.  Until the past two or three months, my f/book feed was something I checked out every few days or on the weekend.

But my nephews have largely moved to different forms of social media, so that reason for my being on f/book is no longer particularly relevant.  And over the past few months, I have found myself becoming more and more drawn to 'checking' my news feed, to the point where I often go onto f/book a few times per day...a big increase for me.  It's rare that my presence there lasts longer than a few minutes, but it began to feel a little obsessive to me recently, and I don't like knowing that time spent on f/book is time spent away from the things right here in my real life.

All of this has been percolating with me for a number of months already.

And then there was the straw-that-broke-the-camel's-back thing that made me realize that I really don't need most of the stuff on f/book filling my mind and creating anxiety in me:  It suddenly dawned on me, after several less-than-pleasant occurrences, that I mostly don't like the way people talk to each other on f/book.

Have you ever noticed that when a f/book conversation starts to go downhill, it suddenly snowballs very quickly into an insane battle of insults, name-calling, sarcasm, innuendo, and other shame-inducing tactics?  Often in the name of education or research or general know-it-all-ness, commenters feel free to say whatever they want, however they want to say it and it can get just nasty and not at all's online bullying...and I really, really don't like it.  These comments are also often pedantic, which I find tiresome.  There seems to be little tolerance for differing views, at least in some of the circles I move about in on f/book, and how people 'talk' to each other about those differing views is really discouraging.

Would we really say some of these things if we were face to face with these people we purport to be friends with?

I rarely comment on f/book anymore because when I do it's often on a subject that I feel rather strongly about and about which I usually have a differing opinion than the masses...and I am more than a little tired of being trounced upon because of this.  It's made me a little gun shy, I guess.  I am astounded by how folks take one of my comments and go on to make wild assumptions about my intentions or meaning, and then proceed to 'call me out' based on their apparently-researched-but-really-rather-unoriginal-and-completely-wrong-about-me perspectives.

I sign off of f/book on those occasions thinking "what? How did THAT happen?"  My inner responses to these encounters have fluctuated between astonishment, amusement, horror, and puzzlement.  I'm a pretty decent communicator, for the most part, and yet I end up leaving those encounters feeling anxious, misunderstood, and resentful...and that does not translate into a rested or happy Ruth around the house here.  Just writing these things here makes my blood boil just a little.

When I recently offered a comment that pleaded with people to be more respectful of different views (not even my own views in that case, but I was feeling very badly for others who were being trounced for their views...which I didn't agree with either, incidentally), that didn't go over well either.  I found it interesting that, in response to my plea, one commenter asked whether I really thought that we should be respectful back towards people who have already been disrespectful towards us (I forget the precise wording, as the thread of conversation was, appropriately, removed shortly thereafter).  The tone of his/her question was incredulous - as if of course we have a right to be rude and disrespectful back to someone who's already treated us in that manner.

I have thought long and hard about that question:  Should we be expected to be respectful in how we treat others who have been disrespectful (insulting, even) towards us??

And my answer, in direct contrast to what I've been observing on f/book, is yes.  A resounding yes, in fact.  Just because someone says something rude or insulting towards me doesn't take away the choice that I have about how I will respond.  That commenter's incredulous question reinforced my goal:  That I will attempt to be respectful even in the face of those who disagree with me or who are rude towards me.  I have a choice about how to conduct myself and, despite my own failures at times, my goal is, yes, to be respectful of others regardless of their treatment of me.

For all of these reasons, I'm going to be mostly off of f/book for the time being, taking a break...maybe a short one, maybe an extended one.  There are two h/schooling and u/schooling groups that I continue to find helpful and supportive and so I will likely continue with those periodically, but otherwise, I need to simply stop for a while.  It's not what I need to fill my head with, and I have enough stress in my life without being drawn consciously and unnecessarily into additional anxiety-producing issues.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting There...and Here are My Christmas Lists

I'm feeling a wee bit more prepared for Christmas.  After frantically putting together my lists last week, I've had opportunity to do some shopping - both online and at a few local retail outlets.  On Friday, a dear friend offered to take Lizzie for a couple of hours while Matthew and Seth were in their last art class of the term, and that was a fabulous opportunity to do a little running around.  That same afternoon, we decorated the tree that had been sitting naked in our sun room for a few days.  And the boys strung lights around the house in great abundance.

As a result, other than the chaos caused by having rooms turned upside down to accommodate the workers who are conducting repairs on all of the water-damaged areas of our house, and other than the fact that our front entrance is rather full of a bunch of things I'm trying to sell on kijiji (anyone want to buy a Thomas Train table or a workbench or various other toys that are taking up way too much room in our house?), our house is finally looking a little festive and I'm feeling a little less panicky.

For those who have expressed interest, below is my list of gifts for the kids (mostly ordered/purchased, a few things remaining).  I believe I have spent about $150 per child, in addition to the shared gifts for all three (which are more homeschooling expenses because I had intended to purchase these things anyway).  Oh, and my parents have purchased a lego set for each child, which they will love!
Circo Oversized Bean Bag
The bean bag chairs I've ordered are going to be great (this is a picture of one of them); the kids will use them for listening to me read in the library and for watching tv.  Their current chairs are full of holes and are almost unusable - in fact, Lizzie's is so deteriorated that her rear end goes through the seat so that she actually sits on the floor, with her back resting against the back of the chair frame. :)  I found a fab deal on these chairs, and they are currently being shipped (for free) from the southern U.S. to the warehouse just south of the border that we will pick them up from.

All three have outgrown their slippers and, given that we have a lot of pyjama days around here, slippers are a bit of a necessity.  This year Matthew's slippers will be a little on the drab side, unfortunately, because he's now into men's shoe sizes and they frankly don't look as cute as the slippers that are sold in the boys' departments.  Oh well!

They'll each get one toy - a remote control vehicle for the boys (high up on their lists) and spy gear for Lizzie (which she is quite desperate for, as she loves dressing herself in her black long underwear and undershirt, attaching a walkie talkie to her long underwear, donning her black balaclava and spying on her poor, unsuspecting mother).

Books are always a staple for Christmas and birthdays, so they will each receive two books, catered as much as possible to their tastes and interests.  In addition, they'll each receive one doodle/puzzle kind of book - this is one of the things they love to do while I read out loud to them in the mornings...they sit on their chair (or lie on their bellies on the floor) with their clipboards on their laps and they doodle or do puzzles or draw!

Oddly, one of the things I think my kids will like best are the little craft boxes I'm putting together for each of them.  I found sturdy little plastic containers with handles at Michaels and, armed with 50% off coupons, I walked through the checkout three different times on the same visit (so that I could use a coupon on each little container!) and got the containers for only a few dollars each.  Then I went to Home Depot and picked up duct tape in each of the kids' favourite colours, and to Walmart and the Dollar Store for the tape, markers, mini stapler and so on.  I think I spent around $15 completing each container.  My kids love crafting (despite their mother) and, although they have access to these things already, they will love having their own little box of things to use in their creative modes.  I loved putting them together.

And of course, they must each have a CD of some type - whether audio book or music.  They all listen to a lot of audio books and music.

And that's kinda it, in addition to a few things in stockings.  I don't know whether our gifts would be considered extravagant or modest, but it's what we are comfortable with.  Maybe one of these ideas resonates for someone in your family??

Have you finished shopping for your family yet?  What have you purchased?  Did you come up with any brilliant gift ideas this year?  What do you spend per family member?

(3 Kids)
  • Squigz Bendesr
  • Zentangle books x 3
  • Magna tiles
  • #1: bean bag chair
  • #2: remote control helicopter
  • #3: doodle book
  • #4: slippers
  • #5: arts & craft box: duct tape; tape; markers; stapler; eraser; charcoal pencil; oil pastel set; etc
  • #6: books x 2
  • #7: CD:  Adventures in Odyssey #58
Christmas Eve:  Footed PJs; hot chocolate
  • #1: bean bag chair
  • #2: remote control car
  • #3: doodle & puzzle book
  • #4: slippers
  • #5: arts & craft box: duct tape; tape; markers; stapler; eraser; oil pastel set; etc
  • #6: books x 2
  • #7: CD: Classic Children’s Tales
Christmas Eve:  Footed PJs; hot chocolate
  • #1: bean bag chair
  • #2: spy kit: long distance listener; belt; around-the-corner viewer; etc
  • #3: spirograph book
  • #4: slippers
  • #5: arts & craft box: duct tape; tape; markers; stapler; eraser; pencil crayons; etc
  • #6: books x 2
  • #7: CD:  118 Songs That Kids Really Love
Christmas Eve:  Footed PJs; hot chocolate

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Another Pentatonix Video...Perfect for the Season

This one's for you case you haven't already heard it!  Enjoy!!


An Evening of Video Games

We don't play video games in our house.  We don't own a gaming system and, other than a few reading apps on my phone, we don't have any games downloaded onto my ipad or iphone.  Shocking, perhaps, but true.

My kids have played games on occasion:  On a cousin's phone for a few minutes here or there; on the ipads at Staples when I need to make a stop for some school/office supplies; on my sister's Wii once in a long while; random times like that.  The kids used to complain that we didn't have video games at home, because they'd like to play them, but over time they've stopped complaining - in part because we have simply said no, and in part because the boys have observed for themselves that a few of their friends can be rather boring because all they want to talk about or play with is video games.  Given a choice, however, all three would likely want to own a gaming system.

So in this context, imagine Matthew's delight when the Church Christmas party that he attended last night was a video game night...he was pumped.  He was given a choice of three Christmas parties that he could attend for his age group at church, and he chose the video game night (over a games' night and a cookie-baking night).

Geoff and I had no problem with that; in fact, we were happy for him to choose this kind of party.  We're not actually against all video gaming; some of them we think are educational and can teach a skill set that might benefit our kids.  We just happen to think that there's time for all of that yet, that there's too much likelihood of addiction at this point, and that whatever educational component can be gained from video games is outweighed by the learning and fun to be had from  being involved in other activities.

Whatever...every family makes its own decisions about video's just kinda where we're at and so far it's been ok for us.  We'll re-evaluate as needed, and when the time comes.

What is interesting to me this morning is Matthew's reaction to last fact, as he was talking, I pulled out my computer and had him repeat what he'd just said so that I could write it down here.

Here's what he said:
Mom, I'm never going to play that many video games again.  I had a really good time and I'm glad I went and I'm glad I played all of those games.  It was really fun.  But I noticed that I didn't actually talk much to other kids, and I ended up eating while I was playing games and didn't even notice how much I was eating.  And I had a terrible sleep because all night I felt like my hands had to keep moving and my body was vibrating like it was humming and all I could think and dream about was playing video games.
Now, I'm not naive enough to think that his resolution about not playing video games like that again will last.  I fully expect that he'll want to play them again...and likely for hours at a time.  I'd also happily support his going to another party like this and I'm glad he went.

But I was fascinated by his observations about himself following his first at-length indulgence in video gaming.  Not many kids today are as old as Matthew (10) when first playing video games for an extended period of time, and so they might not be able to articulate as well the effects of the experience.  I wonder, to be honest, how many other kids unconsciously have similar experiences when they play video games for an evening just before going to bed.  I have read over and over (because I often second guess our stand on video games) that video games don't affect kids...but Matthew's observations rather confirm my own gut can they NOT affect our kids?  Maybe kids get immune to these kinds of effects - that's certainly possible...I don't know.  But if that's true, I'm not sure I want my kids getting accustomed to these kinds of effects at this tender age.

Anyway, I had my own two observations about Matthew during the night.

First, even though he went to bed later than usual because of the party, and even though he yawned all the way home, it took him almost 90 minutes to fall asleep and he was restless and fidgety during those times (and I know this because he sleeps on the floor of our bedroom these days and so I was in the room with him as usual).

Second, Geoff and I were up twice during the night because Matthew had two vomiting episodes and we had to shower him and change bedding and get out the wet vac to clean the carpet, etc etc.  Matthew's always been a highly sensitive kid, including in his physical body, and we've experienced many times over the course of his ten years that if he overeats, or eats too much junky food, he throws up during the night.  But he hasn't done this for quite a while, and I have wondered from time to time if we were done with the high body sensitivity.  But I guess not...I guess we've just gotten way better, over the years, at helping him learn how to manage what he eats.  Last night, particularly given what he said this morning about over-eating, I figure the vomiting was because the video games dulled his consciousness about what he was eating and how much.

Anyway, I have no regrets about last fact, I'd do it again in a heart beat.  I figured that if ever video-gaming was to be done relatively safely, it would be within the context of a church-led party.  There were some lovely people there last night - kids and leaders.  We are also trying really hard to help Matthew build friendships at church, and we have terrific leaders of Matthew's age group who are working on this with us.  I also think it's awesome for Matthew to figure out his own reaction to video games.

So no, no regrets at all.  I would, however, be happy for Matthew to share his observations with his slightly-younger brother!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Intimidating? Me?

Someone told me yesterday that my blog was intimidating.  I was shocked, and asked why.  The example she brought up was last Christmas...apparently I announced by early December that I was entirely ready for Christmas.

Oh.  Right.  Nervous chuckle.  That was me.

I think she may have been referring to one of these posts:

Christmas is Coming, Christmas is Coming!

Ready for Christmas

And as I skimmed through these posts, read the words I wrote last year about my preparedness for the season, I felt a mixture of awe (at the level of organization of that woman), envy (because wow, would I like to be in the same position this year), and embarrassment (because those posts really do come off as a little arrogant...I feel daunted reading them, too).

Actually, I did have my act together last year, which is likely the most intimidating part of it all.  Maybe that's why I had no comments on the second of those posts...'cause I freaked everyone out!!  I'm so sorry.  And J, to you, for your bravery in telling me that my posts were intimidating, thank you...and I'm sorry.  Sometimes we see things only in hindsight.

The truth is that I was ready for Christmas early last year.  By around December 1st, I believe.  Hard to believe, but true.  I mentioned to my friend yesterday that likely the reason I blogged about it was because it was the first time ever I was ready for Christmas by what felt like a reasonable time to be ready.  With three needy and high-attention kids last year, organization and early prep seemed the key to my managing the season...and it felt good to actually deliver on my goal.

But this post, today's post, is for those whom I intimidated last year.  J, this post is for you.  I'm about to make you feel much better.

This year, I'm the one who cannot bear to read any of those self-satisfied blogs written by women who have their pinterest-worthy christmases ready to go!  This year I am more likely to proclaim:  "What?? It's December already? How did that happen??!"

As of this moment:
  • It is December 4th.
  • On Sunday, it was at the beginning of the church service when I saw the four big pillar candles at the front that I realized with a quiet "oh shit" that it was the first Advent Sunday and I'd done nothing about it...hadn't even thought of it until that moment.  I'd just slumped into my seat for the service and was feeling ok about getting the hooligans to church on time.  Then I saw the candles.  Marking Advent is something that I love to do, and buried in the basement bins are my lovely purple and while pillar candles which I love to leave out on our kitchen table throughout December...and last year I came up with readings, etc, to mark each Advent Sunday.  This year, not only have I not marked the first Advent Sunday, I haven't even pulled up yet the little advent tree that my mom made for us and which we're supposed to decorate one ornament at a time from December 1st onwards (while consuming chocolates).  I feel sorry for my kids...they love that tradition and I've failed in maintaining it.  Did I mention that it's already December 4th and we're already three days behind? Oh well, when we finally get to it, I guess we can just eat all of the chocolates for the days we've missed...I can turn that into a parenting hero moment.
  • I have baked not one festive cookie (in fact, I haven't baked any cookies at all in over a month)...I don't even have a list ready as to what I hope to bake for Christmas.  If truth be told, and why not because I'm baring it all here anyways, I secretly don't feel like baking anything this year...but you know...traditions and kids and all....   I did buy a pre-fab, boxed gingerbread house the other day when I happened upon it at the grocery's still in the box.  And OK, side commentary here:  I'm really irked by the number of times recently that I've noticed other writers mixing up the words "bearing" and "baring..." have you noticed this...hmm...actually, I'm confusing myself here...I hope I just used it properly.
  • Until last week, it never even occurred to me to get my gift list going...and that's something that I am usually pretty good at maintaining.  The only thing that prompted any list-generation momentum last week was my sister's innocent query about whether I was going to order anything online for Christmas during Black Friday sales.  "Oh, right," I said.  And so on Wednesday, I frantically prepped most of the list - unfortunately before remembering that, in the heat of annoyance last year, I'd snapped at Geoff that this year he could prep the darn list if he didn't like what I'd purchased for the kids!
  • We actually picked up our Christmas tree yesterday on route home from our afternoon at our Learning Centre.  But, unlike previous years, when we have set aside a weekend afternoon to pick and decorate our tree as a family, this time the kids and I did the picking of the tree without Geoff; I simply pointed to an aisle of some of the more reasonably-priced trees at the tree store and told the kids that they were welcome to choose one from that row.  They chose the first one they saw...literally.  We were in and out in five minutes.  I barely remembered to take a picture of them in front of their choice before the nice man tied it to the top of my van.  The boys lugged it into the house (thank goodness for growing boys with some strength in their arms, but my word they left a trail of pine needles from front door to back of the house...and those needles still lie strewn all over the floor because Geoff was working late last night and because the kids and I were dancing and because we never got around to the cleaning up of the needles...which is ok, really, because they made the house smell good as we took them from room to room with our socks).  The tree is currently lying flat on its side in my sunroom, where it will likely remain for a couple of days until I have a chance to pull up decorations from the storage area in the basement.  Because Geoff has a big work deadline to meet this week, it'll likely be the kids and me decorating it on our own this year...lucky schmuck...jk...sort of...
  • We started listening to Christmas music just yesterday after we brought the tree into the house...and that took a reminder from the kids and their digging through the CD piles that I still haven't uploaded/downloaded (I never choose the right word here) onto my computer or phone.  Good news there was that they/we actually spent over an hour dancing in the family room to the accompaniment of the music; and Matthew and Lizzie actually cut a few nice moves together.
  • My house is a bit of a construction zone at the moment.  The guy we contracted a few months ago to help us fix our house after all of the summer's water damage issues finally came on Monday to start working on our house.  Of course it's right before Christmas.  Currently the contents of one section of our library are lying atop every surface in my dining room; there is a hole (literally) in the floor of the library where he's having to replace the water-rotted floor boards, and two walls have been opened up and have just been re-framed, re-insulated and re-plasticked (is that even a word?).  The entire library and adjoining dining room are covered with plastic and our kitchen will join the gang later this week when he begins to work on the bulkhead area where poopy water from the upstairs sprayed through the kitchen light fixture a few months ago when one of the kids jammed up the upstairs toilet (and that bathroom is still un-usable because I'm terrible with decorating and am frozen at the prospect of having to choose new flooring/countertops/toilet/etc up there).  It's going to be fun baking our festive cookies directly under where our contractor is going to be fixing drywall and repainting ceilings, and bulkheads and walls.  Oh well, what's a little drywall dust in and amongst the shortbread?  Can you see why a few pine needles on the floor aren't really bothering me?  I barely even flinched when I turned yesterday, in the midst of a dance move with Seth, and saw our contractor guy standing there watching this big mama dance crazily with her kids...I'm chill, man.
  • We have not a single decoration fancying up the house yet...unless you count the prone tree in the sunroom.  
  • Our days today and tomorrow and through to Friday morning are totally packed with places to go and people to see and so our immediate horizon includes nothing to do with Christmas plans yet.  Which means that I could be writing this exact same post a few days from now, on, say December 7th or 8th...or 13th...!  Instead of festive preparations we will, over the next two days, visit with friends, go to IKEA because my sister is graciously offering to help me generate some ideas for our upstairs bathroom (the one that's not usable because of the summer poop fiasco), do the kids' mid-week church program, struggle through swimming lessons, take in a theatre production of Peter Pan, enjoy the last art class of the year, and pick up groceries from our food co-op (which I'm not volunteering to sort at this week because of our theatre commitment).

OK, I'm tired just thinking about everything that needs doing...or maybe that's because it's 4:19am as I finish writing this post because I couldn't sleep and have been awake since 3:00am.  Maybe I should just get up and go downstairs and decorate the damn tree already.

How's this for less intimidating than last year??

J, feeling any better?

P.S.  I just realized that, in trying to figure out today's date, I was looking at last year's calendar (perhaps with a sense of nostalgia?).  It is, in fact, December 3rd today, and not the 4th, which was way more relieving to discover than it ought to have been.  There is joy to be found in small mercies.