Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I'm learnin' 'em real good...

Yesterday was the homeschool day from hell.

Cadence apparently forgot how to add. She didn't "get it," I guess. This was worth about an hour of very frustrated conversations. When that was finally done, I gave her some writing to do, sent her on her way, and moved on to Chad.

I gave Chad a map, and told him to label all the Scandinavian countries. (I should mention that he has done this sort of map project at least 10 times. I might also mention that a full half of my lineage is Swedish. That's half my family. That's a grandpa and a full set of great-grandparents to my kids. It's aunts and uncles. It's great aunts and uncles still living in Sweden.) "How am I supposed to know where the countries are?" he asked me. "There are no words on this map." Ahem. "Of course not," I told him, "You're supposed to put the words there." "How am I supposed to know where they are?" "Umm.. maybe try the atlas?"

He couldn't find the atlas. He said he didn't know what an atlas was, even though he's used it every few days since the beginning of the year.
He didn't know how to figure out what part of the world to look up in the atlas.
He couldn't find Greenland.
During writing, he asked what a paragraph was. "Is that the same thing as a sentence?"
I reminded him to indent, and he indented every line except the first one.

And I corrected his spelling of the word "they", like I've been doing for four years, bringing the total to about 5,473,000,058. Right about that time, Riley broke up the party by saying, "Mama come and see this. It was an accident." While trying to dislodge the toothpicks from the Cook button on the microwave, I announced school was over for the day.

Thankfully, today went much better.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Keeping busy in the winter...

The winter months are perfect for projects. Sure, you can go outside, but the time spent out there is significantly less, and the stuff you can do out there is pretty limited. Walks, building snow structures and sledding. And all of them are cold. I've been busily organizing things. The dreaded pan cupboard. The bookshelves. Tax records (ha!). Dresser drawers. When I'm not organizing like a crank addict with OCD, I knit and sew, read and cook. I'm busy.

The kids, however, are going insane. Up until last week or so, they were filling their days with arguments, inappropriate indoor behavior (water balloons, slingshots and roller-skating, to name a few), and slowly driving me insane with tattling. But something happened last week, when they suddenly realized they could be doing projects. Useful projects, like knitted potholders and decorated candles. Decorative projects like wall hangings and cross-stitch. A literally endless supply of projects to keep a person busy for an endless number of winters.

First, Cadence decided she'd draw pictures of all the planets to put up on her bedroom walls. She started with Saturn because, "It's the coolest planet. Besides Earth I mean." She asked how many moons Saturn has, and Vic told her Saturn has more than sixty. Here's how it turned out:

By my count, there's only 59 in this picture, but close enough I think.

Next, I showed them how to make what my Girl Scout leader called a God's Eye. Riley surprised me by catching on to the technique very quickly:Chad is experimenting with different wrapping arrangements, but hasn't been satisfied enough with anything to allow me to photograph it.

Then, they all made Dream Catchers. After a few failed attempts using regular sticks from the yard, Chad thought of using grape vine, which we happen to have an abundance of, since after the vine has been cut, torn up by the roots and even burnt repeatedly, just Will Not Die. Throw in some beads and chicken feathers, and you've got yourself a pretty awesome dream catcher to hang over the bed:Riley's (She's four, you know).


And Chad's. He helped the girls with theirs, but was sure that his was the most elaborate. He later complained that the star was not geometrically perfect, but it must have been good enough to hang over his bed.

As I type, they are all three in Chad's room cutting apart a dowel and making an exercise area in the rat cage. They're happily working together, and I've had an entire afternoon for my own projects and time-wasters. I'm starting to like winter.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Unintended pregnancies...

In local news:
Former first lady Christie Vilsack has launched a new statewide program aimed at
reducing unintended pregnancies in Iowa. The goal is to educate Iowans
about contraception and make it easier to get family planning services.
Vilsack is the new executive director of the Iowa Initiative to Reduce
Unintended Pregnancies. According to the organization, the level of
unintended pregnancy by age is 72 percent for 18-19 year olds, 48 percent for
20-25 year olds, 25 percent for 26-30 year olds, and 20 percent for 30-35 year
olds. Vilsack says when half of all pregnancies in Iowa are unintended,
then "we are not doing enough for women."

This from the wife of a governor that believed unless we allowed Child and Family Services to forcibly remove children from the home without proof abuse, we weren't doing enough for the children. But hat's a rant for another day.

Those numbers look shocking, unless you consider that "unintended" is not the same thing as "unwanted." I have given birth to four children. Two of them were unintended pregnancies. While the first of these unintended children was conceived when I was 18 and stupid (but thank goodness, right?), the second was after I was married with two kids running around, and well aware of all my contraceptive options. Heck, I was well aware of my contraceptive options at 18 too, I just didn't care. How many married couples had that "Surprise!" baby?? How many couples are using alternative methods and having numerous "unintended" pregnancies? How much do you suppose that percentage goes up in the 40-45 group? Holy cow. Unintended. That's not even the same as "unexpected." I mean, I didn't intend to get pregnant with Riley, but when there's sex and no contraception, I'd have to be an idiot not to expect that.

Babies don't have to be planned to be a valid, wanted blessing to their families. I don't care about women between the ages of 18 and 35 having an unintended pregnancy. Those women are adults with a firm grasp of where babies come from; most of whom have jobs and the means and maturity to care for a child. They don't need to be educated about contraception. They know where to buy condoms and how to get birth control pills, and they no longer have to worry about Mom and Dad finding out about it. They've got it covered, I think. I care about 12 year old girls with unintended pregnancies. Educate them, Christie Vilsack, you incompetent twit!

I'd like to know how much money it's going to take to educate adults in a subject they are already pretty clear on, and just where that money is coming from. I'm betting it could be better spent in about 57,396,478 different ways.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Soup freaks...

Who doesn't love settling into a warm bowl of soup in the winter? Here's what we had tonight:

Butternut Squash Soup

Shamefully snagged from AllRecipes (but then tweaked so much it's almost my own). This is the recipe:
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove chopped garlic
1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted (butter is better, of course)
2 medium sized butternut squash (about 6 cups after cooking and peeling)
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your taste for spice)
1 package cream cheese or Neufchtel (8 oz)
Slice and core squash. Brush lightly with butter, setting remaining butter aside. Roast squash in a 425 degree oven 25 minutes or until tender. While squash cools, in a large soup pot, saute onions and garlic in remaining butter until clear and tender. Scoop squash from the skins, discard skins (duh). Add chicken broth and spices to the soup pot, bring to a boil. Add squash and remove from heat. Process soup with cream cheese in batches in the food processor until smooth. Return to soup pot and heat through (do not boil). 6 servings.
I double this recipe, but I like to have lots of leftovers. As with just about any squash recipe, any old squash or pumpkin will do. This time I used acorn squash, but butternut gives it a slightly nutty undertone that I love. A fantastic change from the usual sweet squash soups, this soup is creamy, spicy and wonderful, and completely tweakable. Imagine it with roasted red peppers. Diced asparagus. ..bacon... mmmmm...


"School" was perfect today. Calm. No conflicts with time. No arguments about content. Cadence only said, "I don't get it," six times instead of sixty. I didn't lose my patience one time. Rare, but I can still appreciate how wonderful it could be, if every day were like this.

I struggle with Riley's schoolwork. Through the normal parenting stuff (singing songs, nursery rhymes, fairy tales, "look, radishes! See the sign says 'radishes'." etc.), my youngest child has learned all her letters, numbers, shapes and colors. Essentially, she's mastered preschool content without ever attending preschool. She knows several letter sounds and can sound out a lot of small words. She writes letters to people, asking the spelling of Every. Single. Word. BUT, she is not ready for Kindergarten work. Adding she can do, but put the numbers on paper and she's lost. She lacks the motor skills needed to write "right", and knows it (and it seems she's another perfectionist - great!), so she often refuses to practice writing letters and numbers. Sequencing is easy for her as long as it's a pictorial 3-step easy thing, like a whole apple, an apple with a bite out of it, and a well-eaten core. Anything beyond that and she's frustrated and refuses to do it.

Now before you get the wrong idea, I want it to be clear that I have never, EVER asked her to do any of this directly. She's four. There's no way I'm pushing her at all. Chad and Cadence start their schoolwork and Riley starts begging. "I want schoolwork too!" She loves workbooks, but has declared the preschool workbooks "baby books". When I give her the harder stuff, she refuses to do it, and of course I say, "You don't have to if you don't want to." But she DOES want to do SOMETHING, just not that. There have been a few workbooks she really likes, but I actually take those away from her after a few pages, afraid she'll finish the book and have nothing to do tomorrow.. and then have a huge fit because I don't have anything for her to do. *Sigh*