Wednesday, September 28, 2016

It's Flying

Time is that is, just flying.  It's almost October and that means my little girl is almost three months old.  Three months the second time around feels like the blink of an eye versus the long slog that comes with your first kid.  It's like the return trip that feels half as long.

I don't want to jinx things, but life has been going really well - it's been a bit chaotic, but in a good way.

We've had a lot of changes in the last few months - the months before Helena's arrival were bogged down with stress and way too many family members facing health crisis'.  Then July hit and things slowed down just in time to pick back up again.

Henry started school in August - there were many tears on my part, not so much on his.  It was a huge change - even though I'm a working mom there's only been a small fraction of time in the last 5 years where he was spending a bulk of time with someone who wasn't family as we've been blessed with arrangements that have kept our kids out of full time daycare since he was about two and a half.  I know why people choose homeschool for this reason - it's a big change in your life, and once that first kid is off to school your life is never quite the same.  Helena's spent more time in the car than her brother did at this age, our days aren't as lazy, etc.  It's scary walking out that door, but it can be a good kind of scary and a good kind of change.

He's thriving as far as I can tell.  We have a good balance between home and school learning, no homework, reasonable expectations, and a great school.  There are things that aren't perfect - there are mean kids on the playground and technology choices that wouldn't be my first pick, but it's nothing that can't be dealt with.

I'm back at work as of a few weeks ago.  So many people have asked how it's going - it just is.  There's not really another option than what we're doing right now which made the return easier I think.  Life just is what it is and I've waited three years for this baby, I'm not going waste time and energy bemoaning something I can't change for the better.  I work.  My husband works.  We have our priorities in the right order.  Our family is awesome.  If that changes we'll change, plain and simple.

Helena is doing great.  She has the best little chubby legs, a good eater, an amazing sleeper and just yesterday learned to lift her head up during tummy time (a major milestone for my large noggin' babies - it takes a bit longer to build up that strength when your head is over the 100th percentile and the rest of you is firmly in the 50th).  She's incredibly chatty and just the happiest thing and I still can't believe she's here.  

This weekend is the one year anniversary of our trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Gaudalupe in Wisconsin.  Exactly, to the day (because of her early c-section arrival) 9 months later Helena was born.  I hadn't realized the timing on that until a few days ago - a bit of a miracle isn't it?

Life in general is busy - we're working, Henry is doing soccer once a week and we might finally have him convinced to try swimming lessons this winter, he's also in Religious Ed. at our new parish.  I've just started writing for Blessed is She again and plugging away at a long list of craft projects for the fall - new hats, baby sweaters, Halloween costumes and more - and I'm still pumping whatever I can for the baby so have found a bit more down time to tackle these things.

Three months in and I'm still pumping - I wish I could say I love it and it's wonderful and all going well, but I'm just learning that my body is not built to do things the easy way.  After trying everything that my LC's could throw at me - different pumps, different flange sizes, foods, hydration, supplements, compresses, massage, etc., etc., etc. we've finally just thrown our hands up in the air with an unofficially diagnosis of either mild mammary hypoplasia or "IGT"(insufficient glandular tissue), which long story short means I get to spend hours a day hooked up to this pump for an average of 12-16 oz of milk.  Nothing we've tried has changed that number.  I still oscillate between being angry that between fertility, birthing and breastfeeding issues my body is completely incompetent and thanksgiving that I live in a time in which my body is not a death sentence for me or my children because of it's shortcomings.

Life is busy and the days are getting shorter, but we're definitely keeping them full right now.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Supplementing School

School starts on Wednesday.  I can't begin to explain the sea of emotions this churns up.  It's big, scary and new - mainly for Mom.  It's the end of an era - 5 years of rhythm and time are over, now it's on to something entirely new.  I'm proud of what we've done over the last five years, the time we've spent together (even as a working parent I feel my husband and I have maximized our time with Henry and really set some firm foundations with him) and now it's on to something new.  Now we start our lives with a little less time together, a little more outside influence, busier schedules, actual schedules and the like.  But, as much as I would like to keep him little and innocent forever I can see clearly after this summer that he is ready for new challenges too.

But this isn't about the emotional side of it all, this is about the practical side.

Now, no educational method is perfect.  If I had my way (or lived in another part of the country) my ideal would be a classical mind part brick and mortar, part homeschool program, with the structure of classroom time for a few days a week and more time at home than normal brick and mortar school allows.  But you can't always get what you want.  So off we go to a good public school, knowing full well that they won't cover everything we'd love for our kids to learn; with a belief that public school is not meant to be the be all and end all of his education and that home learning is still important.

I'm a firm believer that school is meant to help give a firm foundation in the basics and that it's my job as a parent to keep the learning going, to encourage the personal interests, to give my kids the time and resources outside of the regular school day to delve deeper into things that interest them.  That doesn't mean we do hours of extra school once they walk in the door, we just find ways to encouraging that natural interest or bolstering areas that need a little help at home too.  There is no syllabus or schedule for what I hope to encourage at home, just a desire to continue to be active in the learning process.

I'm hoping these will help us continue to work on fine motor skills when it comes to writing, etc.  He's not big into drawing or similar skills so it's our biggest area of weakness.  This isn't something we'll do everyday, just something to keep around for vacations or rainy days

We already have these and have been slowly making our way through them.  As much as I'd love Henry to be an early reader, he's not and that's okay.  He knows his letters and is learning phonics and sight words little by little.  We pick these up as the spirit moves us, maybe twice a month and read through ones we've done before and try to read one or two that he couldn't do before.  For now I feel my job is to encourage and test out his interest, but not push too hard.  I want him to love reading and part of that means letting him learn at his own pace (and yes, this is something I'm ready to go to bat for at school.... if he's not a strong reader until 7 or 8 or later that is okay in his parents eyes if it means when that switch flips he develops a love for reading because it didn't become difficult and tedious for him).

An assortment of things to start a very slow introduction to history; for car trips and driving to church.

Something Henry and I have been enjoying together, learning the birds that come to our backyard.  I've always loved birding since I was a kid, so I'm hoping this is an interest we can continue to develop together.

An assortment of read alouds we may or may not get to this year.  I've been in a rut with read alouds with Henry for the last year as his interests have been firmly in the non-fiction section, but we've recently turned a corner with his attention span and his need for illustration (though we still read lots of great picture books and will continue to do so for a long time).  I'm trying to get more relaxed about what we read aloud and not get so caught up with big lists of "classics" or must read books.  What my job is is to encourage good literature while following along with his natural interests - sometimes this will be a good, solid time worn classic and sometimes this will be a collection of Star Wars stories and that's okay.
Note:  We're currently reading "The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail" and loving it, and I normally can't stand talking animal books outside of Redwall or NIMH, but this is excellent - a mystery set is Victorian England and really well done so far.

Honestly when I lay this all out it basically could be a complete homeschool curriculum, but I know that's not what we're meant to be doing right now.  I'm actually excited to have separate spheres for formal learning and the home even if lots of learning continues to take place at home (and I hope it does).  He needs a bit more structure and right now our house is not the place that encourages that structure even though we have rules and responsibilities a plenty here.  It's going to be a big change, but I think it will be a good change.
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