Monthly Archives: February 2015

Day 127: Snow day

We woke up to 5 inches of snow, with a hard crust of ice on top. Papa made pancakes for breakfast while I did a math unit with Boy (on money), the last in this book.

After that Papa went out to scrape off the cars, and the kids got dressed up to go outside.

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When we first went outside, it was overcast and very cold. We were out there for a couple of hours, and in that time it got sunny and warmed up a little. Since the snow had a crust, it wasn’t great for snowmen, but it was great for breaking into chunks for stacking. The kids made inuksuit all over the yard, and tried to walk on the crust without breaking through.

The dog was terrified at first, but quickly realized that the snow was enormously fun, and since there were neither cars nor pedestrians, she got to run around freely in the front yard.

Later, inside, there was hot chocolate and food, more math, violin, some protracted arguments over toy cars, and some excellent teamwork on PBSkids.org. At bedtime I read the kids a beautifully illustrated story about Harriet Tubman called Moses.

Day 126: Ben Franklin

Day 2 of the Very Cold Week.

We should have had Geography Club today, but our host family has been sick, so we’re skipping this week. It’s snowing now, so co-op has already been cancelled for tomorrow.

Papa had errands to run today, and I wanted to get things cleaned up a bit, so our plan was to just let the kids play, with a little violin practice and math.

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This is the 'owl roost' that Boy built for Girl, and they were playing with it this morning.
This is the ‘owl roost’ that Boy built for Girl, and they were playing with it this morning.

First thing this morning, Boy asked me to read to him about Benjamin Franklin. I’m not sure whether to credit an exceptionally engaging book, or just the content of Franklin’s life, but this is the most interested Boy has been in a historical figure. Our book calls him ‘Ben’ but Boy doesn’t like that. He thinks it’s more polite and respectful to call him Benjamin Franklin.

While I was reading to Boy, Girl made this drawing of girls who live in the 'Redwoods' using some of her stickers.
While I was reading to Boy, Girl made this drawing of girls who live in the ‘Redwoods’ using some of her stickers.

Right after Papa left on errands, I got a message from a neighbor that she really needed a sitter for her son for a couple of hours; this boy is also eight, but he and Boy had never met. They both like Legos, and seemed to get along just fine.

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While the boys played Legos, Girl set up this tea party right next to them.
While the boys played Legos, Girl set up this tea party right next to them.

After lunch we read some more Ben Franklin and did a little bit of violin, but Boy was having a hard time today with it. And he wasn’t very happy that we didn’t go to ballet because of the snow. Tomorrow I’ll try to sit down and do ballet and math with him in the morning and see if he’s a little cheerier.  I think he just wants to do his Things. Tomorrow I think we might also try to make tortillas, and that should be fun.

Day 125: A Very Cold Week

Today, Sunday, was the first cold day of our Very Cold Week.

Boy had a birthday party today, a Really Perfect Party for Boys who love Nerf guns, with kids and big brothers and dads running around outside in the cold, having a battle. Boy’s gun kept jamming, and every male member of our host family unjammed it for him at one point or another. He particularly liked shooting at the targets, and used his ‘scope’ to hit the center a number of times.

Girl stayed home with Papa, and they watched some television together and had snacks first. Papa likes to find women’s sports for Girl to watch–today it was Judo and weight-lifting. She said later that a 5ft tall girl lifted 200 lbs, and showed me exactly how she did it (which was frankly adorable). Then I guess Girl said she wanted to do stickers, and Papa said she sat for more than an hour at her little table in the sunny living room, humming and singing to herself with the dog lying next to her on the floor, putting stickers on paper, creating stories about the stickers in her mind.

Other than that, all day, Boy and Girl were completely in their own world of play. I-Spy, bristle blocks and laughter, only a wee bit of fighting. Among other things, Boy made Girl a roost for her owl.

(Oh, and evidently if Boy and Girl are playing I-Spy and Mumma is the answer, then the answer to “Is it round?” is yes.)

Day 124: Blustery Saturday

I woke up this morning to Boy whispering to me that he’d thrown a ball up in the air and caught it ten times in a row. This is big news because Boy has had a hard time with catching. But I guess he found a tennis ball, awake by himself in the early morning, and just started practicing. Plus, you know how it is, little changes happen imperceptibly and all of a sudden your kid can do something he couldn’t.

I got up and made the kids toast, and they sat on the couch watching This Old House and then Martha Stewart on PBS.

The plan was for Papa to drive Boy down to the wildlife refuge for another archery lesson but it was terribly cold, and he was already sniffling, so we called that off this time around. I brought Girl to our friend’s, the one with the new apartment, and we had a ladies’ brunch/playdate for a few hours, just the four of us.

When we got back Papa took Boy to the YMCA and they ‘worked out’ together for a bit. Then Papa took both kids and the dog down to the park to run around while I met with Miss P on our plan for Geography Club this week.

I spent my evening looking up books and recipes for Geography Club and I also signed Boy up for a one day violin workshop that his teacher wants him to attend with the other students in her studio.

I’m expecting cancellations of various plans and obligations this week, some for weather and some for illness. Frankly, I will welcome this. I could really use the time to do some things around the house, make phone calls, get organized, and do a couple of projects with the kids.

Meanwhile, winds have arrived. It sounds a little alarming out there, and I’ve heard intermittent sirens. It’s going to be a let-your-faucet-drip-so-the-pipes-don’t-freeze cold tonight. Both kids are asleep in my bed, and it’s an excellent night to snuggle with one’s babies.

Day 123: If You Lived With the Hopi

So, I’m not really sure what was wrong with all of us yesterday, but today was much better. It was surprisingly cold, though, so we stayed inside.

Last night after the kids went to bed I got out some things for the American West discovery table, which the kids were happy to see this morning. I was tickled that they immediately recognized the black-footed ferret after reading our prairie book yesterday.

The kids wanted to add more animals to the table, so they went through the bin of Schleich animals picking out appropriate ones: deer, horses, cattle, sheep, tortoises. Girl got out the meercats and said we should pretend they were prairie dogs. Boy remembered the book we read called prairie holes (wetlands) the “duck factories of North America,” so he put out ducks.

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We had breakfast and I sat with Boy on the couch and read him some more about Ben Franklin. We read about lightning, and electricity. Girl made this drawing of herself laying on the “smooth grass” in a thunderstorm.

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I wanted us to do math and violin next, but Boy and Girl greatly preferred to build with Legos. So that’s what they did.

And I was still terribly tired, as I was yesterday, so I fixed them a nice snacky lunch, and then I took a nap for an hour or so. I heard them playing very nicely a couple of times during my nap, but I probably stayed lying down five minutes too long, and overheard Boy complaining that Girl had taken all of the Lego plates, Girl telling him not to touch her thing, and then she said, “I’ll be watching you!” Boy started crying saying that Girl was threatening to watch him even when he only had underwear on. Clearly, that does not follow, but I just figured they’d been alone together for too long and needed a break. So I got up and asked Girl to go in her area, asked Boy to stay in his room, and he was fine within five minutes, and they started playing together again.

So I took a shower and then gave Boy a bath, and snuggled him up on the big chair with a book about cowboys from the discovery table while I bathed Girl.  They were both hungry, so I suggested that I make popcorn and hot chocolate and coffee, and I’d read to both of them. Both kids got dressed while I talked on the phone with a friend for a minute, making a Saturday playdate for Girl. First Girl wanted me to read one of our books, so I picked out a cute one about hugs, and then I made the snacks and sat down with them to read If You Lived with the Hopi.

I don’t think I can overstate how excited Girl is about the Hopi now.

Things she likes: That the Hopi lived with all of their relatives. That women owned the houses. That everyone built the houses together. That women and girls hung out together making food and singing songs. That they made beautiful pottery. That they believed all things have a spirit. That they always helped each other, all the time. Girl said she would like to be Hopi. “It’s perfect for me,” she said. She likes being with her relatives, and building, and working together, and singing songs, and she also thinks all things have a spirit. Boy was quieter, but also very interested.

After that I asked them if they were interested in looking at pictures of designs from some Southwestern pottery, and drawing some of them. They were.

Girl's drawing of a pottery figure of a woman and child.
Girl’s drawing of a pottery figure of a woman and child.
Boy's drawing (unfinished) of a prehistoric design of woman collecting clay by a river. I think he is going to add other figures.
Boy’s drawing (unfinished) of a prehistoric design of woman collecting clay by a river. I think he is going to add other figures.

Then I went to go make dinner. Normally, Friday is our movie night. Tonight we decided to watch an old documentary about Hopi pottery and history, also talking about the Anasazi.  I was asking Boy some questions about the Hopi, and he remembered a remarkable amount from the book, as he did from yesterday’s prairie book. We finished the book about the Hopi in bed, and I read them the book about prehistoric pottery designs in the Southwest.

I genuinely love this part about homeschooling, when my kids go to bed knowing a whole lot about something they woke up not even knowing existed, and that I didn’t even necessarily plan on them learning. And that I get to do it with them, that we are building this whole imaginative structure of things that we learn together, and love together.

Like Inuksuit! We learned about them two weeks ago when we studied Canada and the Inuit with our Geography Club, and tonight Girl built some more.

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Girl’s Inuksuit

Learning this way can be kind of….thrilling.

Day 122: Fairness

Today is the 122nd day of this blog, which means we are a third of the way through our almost unschooling year.

I’ve brought books and relevant things to our first two Geography Club meetings, to set up a ‘research’ table and an ‘exploration’ table for the kids, and it occurred to me last night that I should set up a table here at the house with the library books I get on Wednesdays, so Boy and Girl can ‘explore’ the region we are studying that week before the meeting. So last night I set up a table with books about the Western US: books about pueblos, Southwestern pottery, cowboys, the redwoods, the prairie. Books of photography of the west, and of national parks.

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This morning after breakfast I offered to start reading Boy our Ben Franklin biography (which is fantastic), and asked Girl if she wanted to pick a book off the table. She picked up a book about the prairie, with really great pictures of the animals, and even the life underground. She looked at it for a bit, then started setting up play scenarios around the living room.

Baby groundhog and her two moms, eating their lunch.
Baby groundhog and her two moms, eating their lunch.
Girl's bunny and her 'handsome' husband, with their lunch. (The rabbit is Boy's and he told her that it only ate large carrots.)
Girl’s bunny and her ‘handsome’ husband, with their lunch. (The rabbit is Boy’s and he told her that it only ate large carrots.)
The Ben Franklin book and our cozy blanket.
The Ben Franklin book and our cozy blanket.
This android is sick, and has a cup to throw up in. She tried to eat a strawberry, but it wouldn't stay down.
This android is sick, and has a cup to throw up in. She tried to eat a strawberry, but it wouldn’t stay down.

After that Boy got dressed and took the dog out back to play, and I got Girl all dressed up in clothes and her warm things, which took a while, and then she joined them. Shortly after that I heard some yelling, and I should have gone right out to see what was the matter, but I didn’t. I had a headache and my neck and back hurt, and I was trying to take advantage of the quiet time to lay in the sunshine on the floor and roll on a tennis ball. I know that people say you should try to let your kids work conflicts out by themselves, but I’m not always that sure about that. Anyway here’s what happened when I let the yelling go: Girl came screaming around the side of the house yelling “Help me! Help me!” and when I opened the door she said that Boy had pushed her down. I got her in, and then Boy came around the side immediately saying it wasn’t true, and yelling and crying about how he’d lost some game because of her, and how she didn’t do what she was supposed to…none of it made any sense.  I asked Girl to go into her play area until Boy could calm down, which she did, and then Boy turned a chair over. I told him if he did that again he’d have to go outside until he calmed himself down. He did, so I scooped him up and plunked him out the door and told him he could come back in when he calmed down. And, ugh, that must sound awful, but being outside calms him down quickly, and being inside, once he starts being destructive, it seems like he just amps himself up. And mostly I’m trying to avoid putting my hands on him when he’s having a meltdown. And believe me, when Boy is that angry he doesn’t want hugs.

So he went out back, and I watched him to make sure he was okay, and I felt a heart-crushing kind of love watching him talking angrily to himself, swinging on the swings, kicking pinecones furiously, walking in circles. And then, as he started calming down, I saw him bending down to look at things on the ground. (The only thing I intervened in was when he was swinging the round swing against the side of the tree, potentially damaging the bark. I called out the window that if he used the swing to hurt the tree, I would have to take the swing down. He stopped.) On the one hand, I guess the message of putting him outside is you can’t be in the house if you don’t stay within certain limits, like not being destructive. Is it right to give an eight year old kid that message? I’m really not sure. On the other hand, just being outside puts things in perspective. When the kids were small, I used to take a minute to bring the trash out or something, and it would just be so quiet. I feel like sometimes Boy gets stuck on a thought, on being angry, on something that didn’t go like he thought it should. And being outside with trees and birds and bugs just gets him outside the crazy. But, gosh, I could be completely wrong about all of that.

Finally he came back in, relaxed, and said he was wrong, that Girl didn’t win, he’d made a mistake, actually they were tied. As though that made everything okay. I also know that one shouldn’t talk about the problems right when a kid has calmed down from a meltdown, but I often can’t help it. This was one of those times.

I made the point that even if he lost a game, or Girl did something he didn’t like, he couldn’t act like that. That it wasn’t okay. He started getting angry again (though not nearly as badly) when I told him he needed to say he was sorry to Girl, so I asked him to go in his room for a while.

While he was in there (happily playing with Legos, it turned out) I asked Girl what had happened. She told me that it was fun for a while, but then Boy started yelling at her, and I told her that if he ever started yelling at her, to just come get me right away. She said she was going to, but that’s when he stopped her from coming inside and pushed her down.

At that point I knew that Boy had lied to me, and that was probably the source of his continuing anger and not wanting to say he was sorry. So I went in his room and very quietly and kindly told him that I knew there was something he needed to tell me about what happened. He lied again, but finally told me the truth. I told him I was proud of him for telling me, but he had to understand that lying like that is why Papa and I don’t believe him sometimes (which he hates).

Finally he said he was sorry, and Girl, of course, immediately said it was okay.

After all of that, there was only time for lunch before we had to drive to a friend’s house, so I could drop the kids off and go to a doctor’s appointment. They had a great playdate, I think, though by the time I picked them up I was horribly tired and hungry and probably even dehydrated, definitely headachy, and I could tell I was feeling short-tempered with them.  When we got home I tried to make a nice afternoon with a snack and some hot chocolate, a cup of coffee for myself, and we all curled up on the couch to read Girl’s prairie book, and they were having a great time pointing out animals and talking about the prairie.

But at the same time, I could feel myself getting super irritable. Girl kept putting her elbow in my ribs, they were both complaining and kind of arguing, and both of them refused tissues that were less than two feet away and kept wiping their noses on their clothing. Finally, when Boy denied wiping his nose on his pants leg and then Girl started yelling at me about something, I lost it in that mom way, where I threw the book down and yelled, “That’s IT!!” and commenced yelling at everybody. I yelled at both kids to get in bed (and even the dog put herself to bed in her crate), thereby giving myself a moment to sort of calm down, and then (still yelling) told both kids to sit on the couch and told them that they absolutely WOULD NOT lie to me or yell at me. I counted those two things on my fingers, and they also counted them on their fingers, their eyes wide.

And yes, I was doing the thing: yelling at them not to yell at me, but yelling louder than they can. Sometimes when I yell they will tell me that I should take a deep breath, but this time clearly we were beyond that. Did Boy want to scoop me up and plunk me outside? I don’t know.

Papa got home just at that moment and asked what was wrong, but when I said they’d just gotten in trouble he knew enough to let it lie.

I gave hugs and kisses to Girl, and asked Boy if he wanted a hug, too. He said yes, but he also said that he thought if I made rules for them, I should have to follow them. So, no yelling at you, and no lying to you? Right, he said.

Of course, those ‘rules’ are ridiculous. What was I thinking? The whole thing was ridiculous.

So, we had kind of a crap day, the both of us, Boy and I. And poor Girl got pushed over, and then yelled at.

But tomorrow we start again, like we do every day.

At bedtime I read more pages of the Ben Franklin biography, to Boy’s continuing interest, and read a well-illustrated book about the redwoods, that managed to capture the magic of them, particularly the world above the world in the canopy. You know those times as a parent when you really do a good job of reading a book, and you know you’ve really enabled your children to learn something, even better, to feel something, to want to see a place or do a thing, really brought something new into their imaginative universe? That. It’s not enough to make me feel better about our crap day, but I’m still glad it happened.

Day 121: Good dreams

Early, early this morning Boy crawled into my bed saying that he had a leg cramp, asking me to rub it for him, and promptly fell back asleep. Later, when the sun came up, I thought he was waking up and I asked him quietly if he wanted to get up and read. Shhhhh, he said, I’m in the middle of a good dream. He didn’t wake back up until nearly 8am.

Girl has suffered from night terrors since she was a baby. When she was very small, I didn’t understand what was happening. She gets them less and less now, though, and just recently told me for the first time that she’d had a good dream.

This morning, the first thing she said to me when she opened her eyes, wrapping her arms around my neck and looking into mine, was:

I had my second good dream! I went to the grocery store by myself, just with Papa, and I had my own basket, and I got frozen mango and frozen peas and frozen corn. You never know when good dreams will come, they just come when they want to.

When they both got up they first made spiders out of Legos. On their way into the kitchen they started to argue because Girl’s spider had six legs, and Boy said it couldn’t be an arachnid unless it had eight legs, but Girl wanted him to say that it could be an arachnid, even though it had six. I had to rather sternly say that while it was a fact that arachnids have eight legs, this was pretend, and we don’t tell people that what they are pretending is wrong. Furthermore, I added, Boy’s spider had an external brain, a proboscis, and some kind of gun attachment, none of which are features of arachnids. Fine, he conceded sullenly.

Next they wanted to make pancakes. I helped them a little, but mostly they made the batter themselves. Of course, it took a lot longer than I do by myself, and Girl accidentally smashed an egg, but we got it cleaned up no problem. Boy cut the (slightly thawed) frozen strawberries by himself. I just put a load of wash in the machine while he was doing it. I felt like he was more likely to cut himself if I was staring at him, making him nervous.

While they were eating they told a story together with their spiders. Last night we read a folktale called Martina Martinez, in which Martina asks each of a series of suitors (none of which she likes) how he would sing to their babies if she accepted his offer. And she tells each of them, (a cat, a dog, and a rooster), that his song is too scary and would frighten a baby, so no thank you.

I missed how it started, but I heard this exchange between the two spiders:

Girl’s spider: How would you sing to the babies at night?

Boy’s spider (singing softly): Baby go to sleep. Babies close your eyes. Babies rest your head…Close your eyes little babies…

How would you play with the babies? I would give them lots of kisses and piggy back rides.

How would you feed the babies? I would put honey on my feet and let the babies lick it.

How would you carry the babies? I would carry the babies in pouches on my head.

Okay, said Girls’ spider, You can be in our family!

The two of them ate so many pancakes that I only got one half of one out of a two cup recipe.  The were eating for a very long time, and we needed to drop some things off for a sick friend, but I still wanted them to go outside with the dog before we went anywhere. Girl hadn’t been outside to play in several days, and was clearing getting a little crazy. So I bundled them up really well, so well, in fact, that they wouldn’t come in even when I wanted them to, and were outside for nearly an hour. And when I called them to get in the car they were pretty dirty–covered in leaf debris and so forth. Who knows what they were up to.

But since we were only driving to our friend’s house and back, not going inside, I thought we could bring the dog for the ride. She doesn’t really go places with us, but she loves the car. And being a smart girl she always knows when we are getting ready to go out. All I had to say was, Do you want to go in the car? And she launched herself down the driveway for the van.

The funny thing was, when we got back to the house, she refused, and I mean really refused, to get out of the van when the rest of us went inside. It might be that she knew, however it is that she knows things, that we were going right back out. (We only had time for a quick snack before heading out to violin, then games day at the library.) So I left her out there for a half hour while we had yogurt and blueberries and went potty and brushed teeth and collected library books to be returned and the violin and a backpack for Girl with her drawing supplies and I took a very, very quick shower and got dressed.  But when we went out to the van (and I’d been worried she’d be distressed at being out there by herself) she still refused to get out. I pulled on her leash, she pulled back. Her eyes said: No. What in the world?? I said aloud.

But it was pretty cold today, so I figured she’d be fine, really no different than being in her crate at home. I guessed she could sit in the van while we were in violin lesson? I was worried only that she’d bark at passersby, or get distressed and destroy something, but figured we’d take a chance and see how it went.

Not very surprisingly (after yesterday’s practice) Boy had a very good lesson. Girl was quiet and patient as she always is, and drew these tigers and copied these words:

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The dog was just fine in the car when we got back to her, happy to see us, but not visibly distressed. She didn’t seem to have been barking. I took a quick phone call from a friend I never get to talk to while the Garmin loaded an address (“That was a rock-and-roll super fast phone call, Mumma!” said Girl), and then went to pick up one of Boy’s friends at his house to bring all of them to the library for game day.

(It was a little embarrassing having to shove an overenthusiastic Dog into a corner of the van so this poor kid could climb in, but she was reasonably respectful of his personal boundaries once he was strapped in to the back seat. She might have licked his face a little and stared at him a lot in a friendly manner.)

Dog did start to bark at pedestrians as we were driving through a local campus, but after I held her muzzle and said ‘NO’ very firmly, giving the raised eyebrows of extreme disapproval, she totally cut that out. It’s funny that she only barks at people when her people are in the car, not when she’s alone. Maybe she doesn’t feel so confident when she’s alone, or us being there triggers her protectiveness.

Game day was fun, as always, and Miss J our favorite librarian returned a mountain of books for us, and checked out two mountains of holds, and found a great biography of Ben Franklin that I can read to Boy this week. We will be doing a lot of reading aloud this week, and have a lot of great books for next weeks discovery table at Geography Club.

I brought the books out to the car, and by this time the dog had been a passenger for three and a half hours. She looked a little nervous when I checked on her, so I took her for a walk around the little wetland pond on the library grounds. She really liked that, though her tail was tucked with a little apprehension. She’s never been for a walk outside of our neighborhood! After that she was quite happy to be in the van again, and waited patiently until we were done.

We brought out guest home, and his sister, and hurried home so Boy could get another quick snack before ballet.

Day 120: Messy violin

This morning Boy woke up around 7, late for him, and I got him snuggled up in the big chair with his bathrobe on and some blankets on his lap, reading a Magic Tree House book, before I went back to bed for a little while with Girl. It was a cold, rainy day, and I saw the milkman pull up just as I had gotten up and was going around opening up the shades. I was thinking how much I didn’t want to go out there to get the milk cooler in my bathrobe in the rain (our front door doesn’t open, so we have to walk around from the side door to get milk and mail) when I saw that Boy was getting his rainboots on to go get it for me. Boy can’t carry the whole cooler (too heavy) so he had to make two trips, one for each glass bottle of milk. He only had shorty pajamas on under his bathrobe, so he was pretty chilly by the time he got back in. He said he didn’t want me to have to go out in the rain.

Since yesterday, moms from Geography Club have been posting ideas for making messy letters with Boy. One mom suggested we paint letters with our toes. I ran that one by him. No way, he said. Then he made each one of his toes tell me ‘no way‘ in turn. They were a unified front. Probably paint on one’s toes is a thing that must be eased into. We’ll stick to messy pencil letters for now.

After that I made pancakes and coffee, and then the kids headed into Boy’s room to build marble runs. I’d just been thinking last night that they’d been watching a lot of TV lately, and maybe I should intervene, but today they were on to other things, so I didn’t need to.

Boy's ball run, mid construction
Boy’s ball run, mid construction

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Girl's ball run. (She's working on it.)
Girl’s ball run. (She’s working on it.)

We skipped co-op because Girl had had a fever within 24 hours, but by today she was feeling a lot better.

I spent the mid-morning making phone calls and doing a few other things while the kids were busy, but around 11 I asked Boy to come out so we could write down his sentences for this week’s Biographies class. Even though he wasn’t in the class, I had the sentences from the Facebook group page, and thought it would be good to get it out of the way on the quietest day we would have this week.

I’m trying to have the foresight to be aware of when we are going to do things that can be hard for Boy, and make them as low-key and relaxed as possible, to try to disarm some of the tension that leads to meltdowns. I got us comfy on the couch, I put on the (ridiculous, yet soothing) ‘zen spa’ music I played for Girl’s spa day on Saturday. We got more than half way through the sentences without incident, but then Boy wrote a ‘t’ that wasn’t quite on the line, and wanted to erase it. I said no. Instant meltdown. But: he didn’t hit me, he didn’t crumple up the paper.

He did throw himself around a lot and say I was ruining his life, he may have even said he wished I was dead? But maybe that was yesterday, and he definitely proclaimed that he would never, ever stop trying to get an eraser to erase that ‘t’. Long story short, I handed him an eraser and said it was up to him, but he had to decide whether it was more important to be in the class, or to erase the letter, because he couldn’t do both, just as I did last Thursday. He erased the letter. Okay, then, I said. You aren’t in the class.

He came back almost immediately and said he shouldn’t have done that, and that he took responsibility. Now of course one part of me thought it didn’t really matter, since he’d erased the letter like he wanted, so of course now he was calmed down and it was easy to say sorry. But what I said was, Okay, look. I’ll make a deal with you. If you can sit down and right me a page of messy letters like you did yesterday, I’ll sit down with you and we can try finishing your sentences.

That worked really well. He wrote really messy letters, and finally just scribbles. And he did it with…marker. Because, as Boy told me in an earnest whisper: You can’t erase marker. Girl joined in on the excitement and also wrote a whole page full of messy letters. I was glad to see her happy with me again, since when Boy had been raging, she decided it was my fault and came up behind me and gave my butt a hearty pummeling with her small fists.

Boy had no troubles finishing the Ben Franklin paragraph.

Then we had lunch, and practiced singing the Star Spangled Banner really, really loudly for Geography Club, while Girl did her ‘flag dance’ with a small flag she made herself. I only wish she’d do that dance for Geography Club, but alas, Girl is far too shy, and too dignified in public, to do that.

After that Boy sat down and finished his math exercises from the other day, which leaves us with only one unit in this book before we can move on to the next. (Yay!)

And then it was time for violin. I didn’t ask Boy to start in the middle of any songs today (choosing my battles) but he did not react badly when I said that he missed a Twinkle line, as happened a couple of times. He just started over. Then he played a fiddle song, one which he will start incorporating double-stop notes into shortly. He played it fine, but I told him that what I thought would make his teacher really happy, was if we could play it a little faster.

Boy has thus far had a very difficult time with speed in playing violin. He tries to keep too much control to go quickly, and gets very frustrated if his fingers or his brain get tripped up when he tries to go faster. But today he tried it.

One time, faster: okay. A little faster: okay. Even faster than that: still okay! Mumma! he exclaimed, I’m playing messy violin!! I clapped time faster and faster every time, and Girl got excited and started dancing, and then she and I just started jumping up and down with the music, and Boy was playing so fast we couldn’t even keep up. I like how this sounds, he said, It sounds like the wild west!

And then he played fast Run Pony Twinkle. And fast Wish I Had a Motorcycle Twinkle. And a tripalet Twinkle that was so fast I had a hard time counting to six along with his bow strokes. It was brilliant, and he had a bright, happy smile.

But then we played a regular Peanuts and Popcorn Twinkle because we don’t know who can play Peanuts and Popcorn fast–we only know it isn’t us. We have our limits.

Day 119: Eastern US

Girl woke up not feeling well today, so long story short she spent a couple of hours hanging out in one of the bedrooms of our host’s house, on the bed, looking at books and finally falling asleep cuddling her blankie.

We covered the Eastern US in Geography Club. Boy had a meltdown about coloring slightly outside of a line on his American flag, so I had to carry him out of the house whilst he was trying to throttle me, and then stand outside the van while he calmed himself, but eventually we were able to return and he ate lunch and played for an hour.

The club activities as a whole were a success.

Here is the discovery table Miss P and I put together today.

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After the kids explored the table for a bit, Miss P showed them the Eastern US on a map, and talked to the kids about the Mississippi River, and how it divides our country down the middle. The Eastern US is what is to the east of the Mississippi. They talked about things that were in the Eastern US: particular cities, mountains, and some special things about the east that were shown on the discovery table. What kind of animals, what kind of forests and natural environments, what people lived there and settled there, and some other things like the fact that the first factories in our country were built in the Northeast, to manufacture things like shoes.

After that I read two books to the kids, one about a walk in a northeastern forest, and the things the kids find there, and then a second about what it was like to live in a cabin in the Appalachian mountains in coal country. The kids were completely engaged with both stories, which is of course extremely gratifying to the story reader (in this case: me).

Then I went to go read a story to Girl (Cinderella, which was pretty perfect considering that she finished building her Lego Cinderella castle this morning, and she LOVED the story, a very nice version), while Miss P had the kids hold on to a series of blue silk scarves tied together, and march around the house pretending to be the Mississippi River, chanting: M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.

We spent a little time looking at the books on the literature table before we moved on to activities: cutting apples for an apple pie (which the kids subsequently ate) and coloring their flags and maps.

Boy coloring with his friend, before it all went tragically wrong.
Boy coloring with his friend, before it all went tragically wrong.

Of course, coloring is where it went wrong for Boy today, but at least he made it back inside in time for playtime and potluck lunch. Today we had homemade Boston baked beans, hotdogs, brown bread (the traditional New England molasses bread, cooked by steaming in a can, which is what we brought), pasties, muffaletta, chocolate cake, apple pie. It was a great lunch.

I occurred to me on the way home that maybe Boy should sometimes practicing making messy letters and scribble-scrabble coloring on purpose. He thought that was a great idea, and did a little of that when we got home. He was still pretty touchy for the rest of the day, though.

Tomorrow we’ll be missing co-op since Girl is sick, so maybe I can (finally) catch up on a few things.

Day 118: Rock wall and Zen spa

When I got up this morning Papa was already up with the kids, making french toast sticks from a baguette we got yesterday. After breakfast the kids asked Papa to put on some ‘blues’ music, and they staged a Lego Friends dance party.

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Then it was time to get Boy ready to go.

Boy and Girl had very different activities today. Boy went to another birthday party, this time at a local YMCA with a rock-climbing wall. Papa said he was very brave and did a great job climbing, something he’d never done before.

He had a great time at the party overall with his buddies.

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Girl wanted to go to the party, but we realized at the last minute that she would probably be bored and unhappy, and complain copiously. So we kept her home, and she was NOT happy, so I promised we’d have a spa day, and I’d do her nails.

I gave her a bath and set her up in her ‘spa chair’ in her fleece bathrobe, put some ‘Zen spa’ music on Spotify, and got things out to paint her nails and brush her hair. Girl looked delighted. When I sat down to start on her little piggies, though, her face clouded over, and I asked her what was wrong. She stammered a little but finally got it out that she wondered if I might have a tub that one could soak one’s feet in….? Why, yes! I said, I had exactly such a tub. Would she like to soak her feet and have a lotion massage before we painted her nails? Yes, she would like that very much.

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I put warm water in the tub with some essential oils and let her soak her feet while I brushed her wet hair out (she had some terrible tangles). The zen spa music, the essential oils, and the sunshine coming though the big windows, all really infused the house with a spa feel. Girl seemed so relaxed, so happy. I gave her smooth stones to hold, then dried one foot off at a time, massaged her feet and legs with lotion, then (finally) painted her toesies. (She’d gone to a spa for her birthday with Nana and me, so I kind of knew what she had in mind.) While her feet were drying I did her hands. I heard her murmuring something to herself about how I was painting them so carefully because I was ‘caring about (her) so much.’

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Even the dog could feel the zen spa vibe.

When all her nails were dried we went in to her room and picked out an outfit, and I could tell she was feeling kind of special and wanted to get a little fancy. She asked me to braid her hair, then said, Maybe a necklace would look nice…

I asked, would you like to put on your good jewelry? So we got out her special jewelry box that sits on top of my dresser, and unpacked all the little boxes, with the antique platinum baby ring her grandparents got her for her baptism, and a delicate matching set of silver necklace and bracelet with dangling bunny charms, made in France, that the Easter bunny brought her one year.

So we got Girl all dressed up, and set out on a walk for the park. But when we got down the street, Girl suggested shyly that maybe we could see if her friend A was outside. It was a gorgeous GORGEOUS day, and we’d inadvertently spent most of it indoors, and I know Girl wanted to play, and probably also she wanted someone to appreciate her in her finery. Long story short, I left Girl in the company of our neighbors, and walked back home alone. By this time I had barely any time to clean anything (my original plan for the day) before Boy and Papa came home.

Boy immediately wanted to join Girl at our neighbor’s house, so I walked him down there, too.

I had to meet some other women at a coffee shop for a co-op meeting, and was there for three hours. When I got home the kids were in bed already, wanting to say goodnight to me, but so tired they could barely keep their eyes open. They had a good day.