Friday, December 15, 2017

Conversations with Iggy

Terrible lighting but it's borderline impossible to get a pic of Mr. Contrary really smiling these days!

I have been recording funny things my 3yo son says, for over a year and a half, in a note on my phone! I figured it was time to share some of these gems.

The first few are from when he was 2, when his speech wasn't as clear (but so cute!). The rest are from the past 6-ish months when he talks mostly like an adult. So I've marked them into two separate sections.

Comments from age 2:

Any time I cleaned his hands with a wet washcloth:
"Thank you said the Little hands!"

After I went to the grocery store:
"Oh! You got me avocados?? Wow! You a good mama!"

"Donald" the reindeer (the name changed every time)

When something went wrong:
"Uh oh! Sup-a-ghetti oh!"

When he was excited (trying to say "yay"):
"Lay! Lay!"

Comments from age 3:

"If I were a dinosaur would God still love me? Even if I rawr at him?"

After my parents took him to a local Civil War reenactment:
"Mama, in this life, there are real soldiers. But they don't kill you. They just are friendly."

One day at preschool, the teacher reported that Frankie had colored all over his arms with markers. When he got home, I asked him why he did it and he said,
"I was making TATTOOS!!"

After his first time carpooling to school with his BFF Frances:
Him: Can I go in Frances's car again?
Me: Yes, you will tomorrow. Do you like going in her car?
Him: yep.
Me: why do you like going in Frances' car?
Him: because she's so sweet. And she's beautiful.

"I want Dada to be the zookeeper instead of the dad. Me and Kate can be animals. Actually penguins."

"My daddy is so big and strong! Bigger than tropic world!"
(Tropic World is the monkey house at the zoo.)

"If Daddy comes to gym class, I can teach him to play football."

Randomly in the middle of the day:
"I know what Daddy is doing right now! He's having tea at his office."

One day he was working at his art table and I heard him say "hey that's my spot!" ... to the other chair... which was empty.

Describing his use of colored pencils:
"They sound like the wind because they shiver."

We argue pretty much every day about whether or not his beloved local train store is open right now.

One day at preschool, the teacher couldn't figure out which sweatshirt belonged to him. She asked him if his name was in his sweatshirt, and he replied, "I'm 3T!"

I was explaining marriage one day, and I told him that Frank and I always have to take care of each other if one of us is sick. He replied,
"Mama, you were so sick when you had Kate, and Dada took care of you... Can we get a new baby now? ... Can we have 17 babies?"

"You're not the best mom actually, because you always say it's time to leave and it's NOT."

One day he told me his toy shark is named "narwhal zoom-zom finger-pop" and "he's a football player" and "he runs around all the goals."

"Mama, I love you more than the moon and stars. I love you more than kate or daddy. I love you the BEST." 😭

"I'm a frog who blessed the rains in Africa."

On All Saints Day, we were talking about all the different saints we could think of.
Me: there are four Saint Theresas. St Teresa of Avila, St Teresa of Calcutta, St Teresa Benedicta of the cross, and St Therese of the Little Flower.
Him: and one more!
Me: who??
Him: you!

Describing Kate:
"Aww, look at her little chubby hands!"

Randomly before Thanksgiving:
"Mama, tonight when we are sleeping, Santa is going to rise from the dead!"

"Mama, you are so pretty. You are more pretty than the moon and stars and PASTA!"

Once when Kate destroyed his train track:
"Kate, you are the wickedest and snares of the devil."
(He got that from the Saint Michael the Archangel prayer)

Describing Thanksgiving:
"First they were all England people. But the king wanted to put them in prison. So they went on a ship to the Indians, and then a big feast!"

While sharing his dinner with Kate:
“I gave the little walrus some meat!”

We walked past two cement mixers and he said:
“Thank you guys for your hard work making the sidewalk! Mama, I hope they are done soon so we can walk on it.”

"Mama, can you leave the keys in the car so I can drive myself to preschool tomorrow?”

He wanted his cousin to come over for a sleepover and said he wanted to share his pajamas with him.
Me: why can't he wear his own pajamas?
Him: because if you have a lot of pajamas, you should share them!
Me: who told you that?
Him: ... my Lord!

Me: What did you get me for Christmas?
Him, whispering and patting my arm: It’s a surpriiiiiise.

When Frank explained that he couldn't stay home from work and play:
"Tell your boss that Iggy said you should stay home today!"

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Homemade baby food hack / cheap food pouches

I wasn't quite sure what to call this hack since it makes my life easier in so many ways - it saves a ton of money, makes a cheap yet healthy snack for my toddler, AND allows my 8-month-old baby to feed herself!

My toddler pretty much lives on yogurt pouches, and now the baby eats (and loves!) them too. They're the ultimate on-the-go kid snack. But at $1 each, or more, those little suckers add up fast.

In an effort to save money on pouches, I bought some reusable food pouches a while ago. But I never knew what to fill them with. I wanted to recreate the flavors of the yogurt pouches my son loved, but making all the ingredients from scratch was daunting.

Until I thought of this. And now it's super easy!

Ready? Here goes:

1. Buy reusable food pouches (we have this set and it's perfect and look how cute! Don't forget the valve tops so your kids can't squirt them out and make a mess!)

2. Hit up your local Aldi for a giant tub of unsweetened applesauce and a giant tub of whole-milk vanilla yogurt. (You can also save even more by making vanilla yogurt in the crockpot - incredibly easy and delicious!)

3. Combine in blender. (OPTIONAL: Throw in some extra fruit/veggies like spinach, carrots, blueberries - whatever you have on hand. I used spinach and some leftover steamed carrots.)

4. Fill your food pouches...

5. Voila! The baby can feed herself. Also she can play with the pouch and top for approximately 45 minutes and buy you ample time to cook dinner. 😂

You can also go the old-fashioned route and spoon-feed her... but I prefer letting her feed herself. Saves so much time and she has a blast!

This stuff was really good, by the way. My toddler happily downed a pouch of it at the same time. I taste tested it too, and it was delicious!

Here's an official recipe if you want one. Note that these are estimates; I just eyeballed it. You can adjust ingredients to taste.

1 cup raw spinach
2/3 cup steamed carrots
2/3 cup applesauce
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt

This lazy method of making "homemade" baby food has been a game-changer for me. I hope it can be helpful to someone else! 😄

Monday, January 23, 2017

A few homeschool programs for preschool

Y'all know I love talking about education. Lately I've been researching various programs for homeschooling in the preschool years. There is a lot out there! I thought I might as well put what I've found together in one place.

I'll preface this by saying that we are actually planning to send my son to "real school" for preschool, because I want him to attend Montessori school for at least a year—I think it will form a good foundation for homeschooling. We found a local Montessori program that also offers Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, something that is a priority of mine for my kids. We haven't made a final decision but it's very tempting. After a year of preschool, we plan to homeschool from kindergarten on up.

First, you've got to read this article, 6 Ways to Early Years You Won't Regret. I kind of want to memorize it, maybe tattoo it to my arm. I'm often tempted to start pushing academic stuff, but my son is TWO. No need for that yet. This article is a much-needed reminder to just enjoy this time together ... and do lots of reading aloud.

These are the programs I've found so far. I know I must be missing some—please share any others in the comments!

A few friends have recommended The Homegrown Preschooler, which seems to be pretty simple and play-based. Good stuff.

The Joy School program is great if you have a few neighborhood friends interested in doing a little homeschool co-op. It's non-denominational but vaguely Christian, and seems intended to offer preparation for going to "real school" down the road.

Five in a Row is a program based on reading aloud children's literature. It looks like a lot of fun, to be honest, and I look forward to exploring it more closely.

For a slightly older crowd...

Mother of Divine Grace is a classical, more traditional, Catholic program. It seems comprehensive and rigorous, and I think we may use this program when we start homeschooling, although I haven't done enough research to say that for sure yet.

The Kolbe Academy program is also classical and Catholic, and I'm not actually sure how it differs from MODG. Clearly I need to do more research on that. Fortunately I have time.

What are your favorite resources for beginning to homeschool in the early years? I'd love to hear what else is out there!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Introducing our girl

Catherine Rose was born on Halloween. I'm going to have to start figuring out how to handle a Halloween birthday party from now on! She goes by many nicknames, mostly Kate or Katie Rose. She is the sweetest, squishiest little person and makes us all so happy.

Photos thanks to my dear friend Giedre of Walking Dot Photography

Matching kimonos thanks to my sister Catherine, our little Catherine's godmother. She's rocking the fairy godmother role already!

The new big brother and cousin trying to help burp the baby  - cracks me up!

About the birth... I tried to have a VBAC with a very supportive midwife group, but despite another horrible, long labor with a posterior baby, I ended up with another c-section. Eventually I will blog the birth story. Not yet. It's too soon. I'm heartbroken that I had to have another c-section. But I'm completely in love with my darling baby and so grateful she is here, safe and sound.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The One Conversation that Convinced Me to Homeschool

For many years, I was the person who always said, “I will never homeschool. It’s great for other people, but I know it’s just not for me.”

I reasoned that you could get a great education from homeschooling, but you could also get a great education from regular schooling, and I saw no reason why a busy mom—already immersed in cooking and cleaning and tending to babies and running a home—would want to add the strenuous task of organizing and implementing her children’s entire education on top of everything else. I figured that moms with more energy or organization than myself would be great homeschoolers, but I just wasn’t interested.
Despite my declared lack of interest, I seemed to have conversations about homeschooling everywhere I went. In college I happened to have several close friends who had been homeschooled, and the topic of education came up from time to time, as they all had loved their homeschooling experiences. 

I got a lot of opinions about homeschooling from them, everything from “X curriculum is the very best!” to finding out that some were able to take math classes and play on sports teams at their local public high schools. 

I also quickly learned that the oft-cited “socialization” concern is groundless. Some of my homeschooled friends, of course, were shy or introverted, but many were among the friendliest and most popular people on campus. 

One friend wisely pointed out, “I’d argue that us homeschoolers have better ‘socialization’ than kids in regular schools, because all day we are out interacting with people of all ages from different parts of society—while they are stuck in a classroom all day with just the same group of people their own age, for decades.” 

From these friends I learned to have a healthy respect for homeschooling—and a great deal of respect for homeschooling moms!—but I always maintained that “it just sounded like too much work.”

Then, ironically, I fell in love with and married a man who had been homeschooled. He was very enthusiastic about homeschooling and told me many things he loved about it, such as the self-direction that taught him responsibility and allowed him to explore topics outside the curriculum as they interested him. He also had loved that he was usually able to finish his schoolwork by lunchtime, so he could spend his afternoons engaged in the imaginative and open-ended play that children love and that we know is so good for them. 

He didn’t just tell me why he had loved being homeschooled; he also said he hoped I would consider homeschooling our future children. Once, when we were engaged, he even told me that one reason he wanted to marry me was that he "could tell I would make a great homeschooling mom.” I didn't really take this as a compliment at the time.

Before we got married, I told him several times, “I don’t want to homeschool. I don’t plan to homeschool. It sounds like so much work and stress and hassle. I will be busy enough keeping house and raising kids [and working, although I didn’t know that at the time]. There are plenty of great schools out there and our kids will go to one of them.” He always listened and nodded, and replied, “We don’t HAVE to homeschool. We have plenty of time to decide. Just learn more about it before you make up your mind.”

I promised to learn more, but privately, my mind was already made up; I could never see myself as a homeschooling mom.

Then one winter day, when my oldest was just a baby, a friend sent me a Facebook invitation for a talk on homeschooling sponsored by a local church moms’ group. The speaker was a homeschooling mom of twelve and the talk promised to be informational, offering pros and cons for those who weren’t homeschooling yet but might in the future. Most importantly for me, there would be other young moms with babies there. I figured I might as well go, fulfill my promise to Frank to “learn more about homeschooling,” and hopefully make some new friends.

The morning of the talk, I trudged through the snow, my chubby baby bundled in his carrier on my chest, to knock on the front door of a pretty Victorian home. Inside, I eagerly accepted a mug of steaming coffee and plopped on a comfortable living room sofa, propping my baby on the floor in front of me with a toy. 

Perhaps 6 or 8 other moms were there, mostly women whose kids were too young for school yet. Like me, they were researching their options before the time came to make a decision. Our friendly small talk hushed as the speaker entered the room and introduced herself. We were all eager to hear what she had to say.

The speaker didn’t waste any time getting to her reasons to homeschool. “The first thing I want you to consider is the economic argument,” she said.

I leaned forward, curious. I had heard countless arguments in favor of homeschooling, for moral or religious or intellectual or cultural reasons, but I had never heard an argument from an economic perspective.

“One year’s tuition at a Catholic grade school will cost your family, on average, $5000,” she said, “and often a lot more. Then consider if you have a large family, and you’re paying that much for child after child. Perhaps there is a sibling discount, but these days, it may not be much.”

I had never looked up the price of Catholic-school tuition, so I nodded, intrigued. Since that talk, I have looked up tuition for various local schools, and found that that her tuition estimate is indeed accurate and actually on the low end for local schools.

“Then let’s consider what it costs to homeschool,” she said. “One year of homeschooling—including all reading materials and workbooks, detailed lesson plans, grading help, and even phone support to an educator as needed—will cost your family, at the absolute most, $500.”

My jaw practically dropped to the floor. I had no idea the cost difference was that much. I also didn’t realize the extent to which an established curriculum does the work of lesson planning and course-material selection for you, so that homeschooling your children can be far less strenuous and exhausting than I had imagined.

“Homeschooling costs less than 10 percent of what Catholic school costs, and even less if you factor in the hidden costs of school, such as uniforms, school fundraisers, and commuting expenses,” she finished up. “If you homeschool, what could your family do with all the money you would save?”

I had never considered this aspect before. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. My friends who were homeschooled have amazing stories of weeks spent driving around the country, doing schoolwork on the road while they toured redwood forests or Civil War battlefields in the cool of autumn while other kids were in school. Nowadays there’s a trendy moniker for traveling while homeschooling—“road schooling”—but many of my friends’ parents were doing it before it was cool. 

Some even took international family trips, visiting Lourdes or the Vatican together, taking advantage of cheaper travel deals at times when most American children are in school. It all made sense now; these trips were not only opportunities to enrich their homeschool education, but were actually MADE POSSIBLE by homeschooling and the money these families saved, not to mention the flexibility in schedule. (Certainly families may be able to take trips like these while sending their children to regular school, but they would be a lot harder to afford or find time for.)

Yet my initial thought—the lure of travel and adventures made possible by homeschooling—is not the biggest draw for me. Yes, a family could afford to take better vacations at more convenient times if they homeschool. But more importantly, a family could afford a better quality of life overall. Money saved by homeschooling can be used to pay off parents' student debt or save for a house (or pay a mortgage). Or it could be used to get housekeeping help: A dear family friend who homeschooled her nine (!) children recently told me, “If you can possibly afford a cleaning lady while you are homeschooling, do it! I didn’t have one, but it was really hard, and I would have been able to do a better job focusing on my kids’ education if I had had someone to help with the cleaning.” 

For many families, the money saved by homeschooling could be used for services like cleaning or cooking help, freeing up Mom’s (or Dad’s) time to focus on teaching. This realization answered my concern about homeschooling being "too much work" for the mom. Schooling on top of cooking, cleaning, and running a home sounds overwhelming. But schooling alone sounds like an exciting intellectual challenge, and I'd gladly outsource cleaning to make homeschooling my primary "work" in the home. 

Most importantly, however, is simply that homeschooling may make it possible to be open to having more children. When I talk to other moms, either at the playground or in online forums, again and again I hear women say, “We would like to have another child, but each one is so expensive. We need to pay for daycare and save for braces, for college… and grade schools aren’t cheap, but we want them to get a good education.” So they decide not to have that second or third or fourth child so that they can afford a better quality of life for the kids they do have. Personally, as one of seven kids, I know that I would rather have my siblings than any material possession or amount of money in the world—but that’s another blog post. Simply put, homeschooling drastically reduces educational costs, making it possible for couples to afford more children while still ensuring the same quality of life and great education for each child.

I find it a little funny, looking back, that years and years of conversations about homeschooling with friends and even my husband left me unconvinced. Yet this one brief conversation, in which a stranger simply explained the economic advantages to homeschooling, made me a “true believer” and I’ve never looked back. Now I’m the one talking up the benefits of homeschooling to my skeptical friends.

I know there are countless excellent reasons to homeschool that are entirely unrelated to economics. Everything from family unity to parent-child communication to sibling bonding can be enhanced by a positive homeschooling experience—not to mention the child’s growth in personal responsibility and opportunities for intellectual stimulation that benefit the whole family. I know all these things, but at the end of the day, it was the “numbers” argument that won me over. It’s such a simple reason to homeschool, but to me, such a good one. After all, what COULD we do with the money we would save? Our oldest is only two, but I’m already dreaming big!