Thursday, September 30, 2004

We've all been taking turns being sick, starting with Emily last Thursday. Yesterday was my turn, and the kids were all so sweet taking care of me. It was just a cold, and not a particularly bad one, but I was run down and my throat really hurt. I'm never very good at taking it easy, and even though I had the new Star Wars trilogy to watch on DVD, I would pop up every so often and putz around cleaning. By the end of the day, I had the whole house clean. *lol*

I helped the girls clean up their room at one point, and eventually even Sam joined in after he'd proclaimed that he didn't want to help. Later in the day, the kids were outside and Em came in and said she really wanted to help me with "chores." When I asked her what she meants, she said, "Oh, you know, like dishes and stuff." We'd already gotten the toys picked up and organized, so there wasn't much else to be done. I told her that dusting would be great, which she thought was a terriffic idea. The kids all came in, I gave them wet dust rags and they went to town wiping down the bookshelves and baseboards. Wow! I just burst with pleasure at the generosity in their hearts.

While we were watching the movie, they got me water and more ice for my water as it melted. They were having a grand day taking care of mama and telling me how sorry they were that I was sick. This morning, the first thing Sam asked me when I woke up was how was I feeling? He was so happy when I told him how much better I was. "See Mama," he beamed, "I told you you'd feel better soon!"

A New Era

Tuesday we were out grocery shopping and made the big move into Gameboy land... Dh and I had been discussing for several weeks whether buying Sam a gameboy would be a good idea because he is so good with computers. We both agreed that it would, and during the discussion, the SP Advance came down in price, which seemed to clinch the decision.

Tuesday, Sam chose his blue Gameboy at Toys R Us, and later at a gaming shop, the girls decided they would like to spend some money I had available for them on gameboys as well. So, we left with a few used games, a red Gameboy for Julia and the special edition tattoo one for Em.

The kids have been playing, swapping and sharing with dh and I for the past couple of days. They've been enjoying them on and off, but still finding several other things that capture their interest throughout the day. There've been a few instances of everyone wanting the same game, but overall watching them rotate gameboys rather than stopping the games to switch has been really heartwarming. They've been working together to figure out the games, especially since the used ones don't come with a booklet, and last night they took great pleasure in pointing out to their mama that there were, indeed, two more buttons to use!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Today's been a relaxing but busy day--ever have one of those paradoxical kind of days?

Sam played Spy Fox on the computer most of the morning, while Emily and Julia played with their Top Secret Agent Cards. Then Sam helped me get another coat of paint on the shelves in his bedroom. The kids then spent some time playing with a bag full of plastic grocery bags, popping them, shaking them, then ripping them to make hats, vests and skirts. They went out front for a while, playing some space commander game of some sort dressed in their quasi-futuristic garb. Too funny! Their imaginations never cease to amaze me!

After second breakfast, we headed over to the community center to schedule space for our 4-H meetings, after which we went to the park and the library.

When we got home we read through the Ultimate Guide to X-Men for a while, played with the Boggle letter cubes, looked through a book on folk art whirligigs and weathervanes, and read a fun book called Rotten Ralph Helps Out all about Egypt--one of Emily's passions. After reading the book, we talked about how we could make a papiermache pyramid, similar to a project the little girls does in the book. We decided to wait until tomorrow to begin, and in the meantime, the girls pulled out their markers and some paper. Emily made a beautiful picture of King Tut's mask, complete with his pharaoh beard.

The kids are now busy watching Kim Possible and the Proud Family on the Disney channel, now that their Scooby-Doo DVD from the library is over.

Whew! No wonder it felt like a busy day!

Friday, September 17, 2004

We've had a lovely week at the Jersey Shore, complete with beautiful weather. We spent our days playing on the beach, building sand castles, creating tidal pools, boogie boarding, jumping waves and surfing. Our nights were relaxing, filled with games of UNO, Italian Antepasto and Chinese food, with lots of Cartoon Network sprinkled in for seasoning!

The first weekend we were up visiting my inlaws, we attended the annual family reunion. The kids had a chance to reconnect with much of their extended family on my mother-in-law's side, playing with the next generation of cousins. The kids were also lucky enough to spend much of the weekend visiting their great aunts, one in from Florida and the other from California. They drew pictures, read stories and took long walks--time which Emily, Julia and Sam really enjoyed.

The best part of my week by far was boogie boarding in the big waves with Em, who has become quite the water rat this year. We've totally unschooled swimming--in a world intent upon signing just about every child up for their annual swimming lessons, I think. *g* This year we bought one of those big blow-up pools for our backyard, and Emily learned to swim just by playing in it so often. Sam's pretty close as well, though with all the rain, the level kept getting too high for him. I'm betting both he and Julia will be swimming next season.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

We've been down in Williamsburg, Virginia, having a wonderful time despite Frances's gusts and squalls. The weather here has actually been pretty good because we're far enough East to have missed most of the hurricane's dissipating energy.

Wednesday, we arrived in time to hang out in Colonial Williamsburg for a couple of hours, checking out the blacksmith, post office and, of course, gift shops. The best part was hanging around for the fife and drum parade, which the kids love. We marched and danced behind them for about a block or so, then headed over to check into the hotel.

Today, we spent the day in Jamestown Settlement. It was the first time we'd been there, and the kids had a blast. The Powhatan Village was really interesting, though, in my opinion, not nearly so well done as the Wampanoag Village next to Plimoth Plantation. The kids had a chance to lay down in the Yehakins (Powhatan house), grind corn, stir bean soup, play with corn cob arrows, and feel several different animal pelts--bear, wolf, fox, beaver, raccoon, skunk, rabbit and deer.

We went on the Settlement where the highlights were getting to put on plate armor, hold a real sword and find out a bit about how children learned to sword fight, and watch a period gun being fired and hold it afterwards. We also saw a lovely flock of Golden Dorkings, and the cockerel was so beautiful--really made me wish we could have roosters! The kids also enjoyed exploring the reproduction Susan Constant and sleeping in the berths.

The girls are planning on dressing up in their 18th Century costumes tomorrow for our morning in Williamsburg before we head home. They are very excited by the prospect that some people may mistake them for actual Colonial children.

Friday, September 03, 2004

What a wonderful, relaxing, perfect unschooling day! The kids wanted to paint this morning when they woke up, so they pulled out the water colors. It's amazing to watch how self-sufficient they've become! They pointed out to me that all our watercolor paper is gone, so we'll have to head into The Art Store in Georgetown, which we're all looking forward to upon our return.

While I was eating breakfast, the kids decided they wanted water balloons, so they filled a bunch up and brought them up to me to tie. They took them outside to play, and before long, they were asking to take them into the pool. While they were swimming, they discovered that some of the water balloons would float while some would sink. They began hypothesizing that maybe it was the amount of water or the temperature of the water. Before long, Emily realized that it was the amount of air in the balloon with the water that made it float!

This afternoon, we watched Cats for a while, which Emily and Julia thought was pretty cool. The kids were all working to balance and dance the way the cats were; they were discussing the different costumes, which looked more cat-like, which was their favorite.

Sam soon grew bored after he'd had enough snuggling and headed downstairs, shortly to reappear with another balloon for me to tie. This time, instead of water, the balloon contained a magnetic ball. I blew it up for him, and he threw it up in the air for a while, watching the way it wobbled, spun and sunk--movement very different from the graceful floating of an air-filled balloon. Soon, he disappeared again and reappeared with a magnet to attach to the ball inside, knowing full well what would happen when he tried to pull it away because it's one of his favorite experiments.

The girls are now outside, dressed in their Colonial Williamsburg garb in anticpation of our upcoming trip, and they're harvesting vegetables like good little Colonial girls. As our gardens here in Southern Maryland are fading fast, it should be interesting to see what's in their baskets on their return! Sam has scattered a bag of cherry tomatoes on the table given to us by a member of our 4-H club, and he has experimented with how well the paper bag holds water, reporting that I was correct in pointing out that paper did not hold water so well. *lol* Emily just came in with a basket full of red hot chilis to roast! Not a bad harvest.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Yesterday, we went on this great Pirate Cruise out of Annapolis, called Chesapeake Pirates. The kids got to dress up and have their faces painted before the ride. Then, we went out on a pirate boat for a 75 minute cruise where the kids went on a treasure hunt to find the treasure map, battled a rival pirate with the water cannons and followed the map to the X to haul in the treasure. The kids had so much fun!

This week we've been recovering from our trip. I'm, unfortunately, coming down with a cold, so the kids will probably get it next. I'm guessing it'll be a low-key Labor Day weekend for us.

I brought some of Sandra Dodd's Thinking Sticks back from the Live and Learn Conference, and the girls and I have been playing with them every day. It's amazing to watch the connections they make and how Emily's mind, especially, works. Julia's mind is still working very literally, but Em's is just expansive. Each stick in the pack has a category like measurement, music, television on it. A player chooses two sticks at random and throws them down, and the players take turns making connections between the two categories.

Emily got safety/economics and made the connections that life guards have to pay for certifications in order to get their jobs. For music/cooking, she made up a cooking song, then I started singing, "Hey, good lookin', what you got cookin'?" Jim started telling us all about radio isotopes when we got time measurment/medicine. This morning we looked up Aesop's history because we were talking about time measurement/morality and I couldn't remember if he was enslaved or in jail when he wrote his fables. When we got steam/motion this morning, I brought up steam engines and how they revolutionized movement around the country and world, and Julia was able to talk about Thomas the Tank Engine and how he used coal to create his steam. All in all, we've had some really terrific conversations!

Julia continues to work really hard on her mosaic/ geometric coloring designs. Her dedication and focus is impressive, and she's come up with some really beautiful color combinations. I dug out a 3-ring binder for her and some page protectors, so she's been putting them all into a portfolio book that she takes with her everywhere.

Sam's still busy trying to settle himself back into a sense of normalcy. He has a much harder time with transitions than the rest of us, and he often spends his time wishing he was back where ever we left. So, while we're at home, he constantly talks about going to Grampa's shore house, but while we're there, he keeps saying he wants to come home. I really think for him it's a transition/ comfort zone thing that I'm trying hard to honor just by letting him talk about how he's feeling. For a long time, I would hear him, and then immediately start trying to fix things because I'm a problem solver. I'm starting to think he just wants some time to process and needs help doing that verbally with me there to support and hug when necessary. He's growing so much, though, every day.