Enter Wonder Woman: The Homeschooling Mom

My oldest started kindergarten this year, and we’re homeschooling. This Summer, with great excitement and much trepidation on my part I mentally began to prepare for schooling him. I was giddy and nervous. Was I going to do a good job? I love teaching kids, but I’ve never taught one to read before. What if I didn’t know how? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I couldn’t find the resources I wanted/needed? What if there were too many resources to choose from, what do I do then? How would I know what to get? What if I got something terrible that didn’t work at all and just made him miserable? What if I was so unprepared that we got to Spring and he didn’t know ANYTHING?

I took a deep breath and made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea. Then I huddled away on pinterest for a while till I had calmed down enough to be rational.

I was going to be fine. I would plan, research, and organize the way I always do. I had all Summer to do so, and my mom — who homeschooled me and my six siblings from kindergarten through highschool — was happily hauling out everything she’d saved and sorting through it for me. I was going to reach September with a folder of weekly school lists ready and every book/craft/project/resource I could possibly need all filed neatly in my bookshelf. That’s what I would do; I was going to plan the whole year and have stress-free schooling. I was going to be the On It Mom.

Turns out I’m more of the Almost On It Mom Who Plans The Day Before. Actually it was two weeks before, sort of, and mostly the week before, when I showed up at Mom and Dad’s for the weekly visit and frantically, with Mom’s help, figured out my first week’s schedule and went home with boxes of stuff from her. I have accepted that I am the Almost On It Mom, because even though I have an overall grasp of what the year will consist of the actual schedule only gets made on a week-by-week basis.

And that’s okay. To Roman I’ve got it together and he’s happily learning away, and that’s what is important.

Then, going into the year with renewed confidence, I decided I would be the Make It Yourself Crafty Mom. Flashcards? I’m an artist, I can make flashcards! Pictures for coloring? Who needs to spend all that time researching printables on the computer! I can draw those! Crafts? I am crafty enough, I can figure it out and spend the time to make shapes, draw and design, and cut everything out. Such as this week: we’re learning about leaves for science; what chlorophyll is and why the leaves change color in the fall. For the craft we’re making leaves to either turn into garland or tape on the windows.

I can do that. I’m the Crafty Homeschool Mom who is so amazing I make everything at home!

Turns out I’m more of the Find Printables Online Mom. Because really… when you have three children, all under the age of six, plus laundry, dishes, house care, and schooling… who has TIME to completely do it yourself?! I glared at the inner crafty me who was wailing with guilt, and gagged her. It is plenty crafty to print templates off the computer for school crafts. Think of all the time it saves so that you have the time to actually DO the craft with your child! Think of the time saved to plan other parts of school and take care of your house and other children, instead of being hunched at the table trying to get his next coloring picture done!

Flashcards? That I only, in two months, had time to create four of? I found an awesome printable for that! In color! He now has the entire alphabet in flashcards. Easy peasy.

Fall leaves to decorate the house in? I found an awesome printable for that! I took colored paper (I chose red, orange, and yellow) and printed out a whole bunch of sheets of gorgeous leaves for Roman to cut out and tape all over the house. Shazam.

I utilize many things I never thought I would. I use youtube all the time. Learning about Columbus, I found a wonderful 15 minute video done in dramatized storybook format for him to watch and learn about Columbus. Today, being our weekly Library Day, we’re going to look for some Columbus books. And maybe some other fun exploration books. And a Dr. Seuss or two.

So I’ve made my peace with not being the ‘Perfect’ On Top of It, Awesome, Make-It-Yourself Wonder Woman Homeschool Mom. He’s learning to read. He’s learning a bit of history. He’s learning some science. He’s becoming a whiz at math! (I wish math had been that easy for me to pick up!)

As far as my son is concerned, I am the Wonder Woman Homeschooling Mom.

He’s learning, and he loves it. And that’s what matters.

He was having trouble understanding how Columbus could have made the mistake of thinking he'd reached the Indies. So I found a map and printed it twice: a full one, and then just half of it (the Eastern half, which is the world as Columbus knew it). I taped them together so he could see the 'roundness' of the world, and then pointed out the similar distance between his starting point and intended/real destination, and voila! With the visual aid, he got it!

He was having trouble understanding how Columbus could have made the mistake of thinking he’d reached the Indies. So I found a map and printed it twice: a full one, and then just half of it (the Eastern half, which is the world as Columbus knew it). I taped them together so he could see the ’roundness’ of the world, and then pointed out the similar distance between Columbus’s starting point and intended/real destination, and voila! With the visual aid, Roman got it! He even got a good giggle out of it. That night he nearly ran Sackett Man over holding the two ‘globes’ and explaining about Columbus. 🙂

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“I’ve Got It!”

Every good day must and always shall be tempered with a little excitement.

We are in the middle of an aggressive potty training routine for our second son. With a fourth child on the way and him reaching three and a half years of age, we decided his relaxed comfort with where he was diaper-wise needed to be shaken up. So Sackett Man and I planned. We drew complicated diagrams and battle plans. We rendezvoused  in the dark of the night and whispered together secretly. Supplies were gathered, the preparations carefully made.

On Sunday we took the kids shopping. We wooed them with pasta and meatballs and breadsticks  at their favorite restaurant, then we went to the store, and marched our oldest to the boy section to pick two packages of awesome underthings in just his size, and then… gasp!… our second boy was taken to the aisle where, wonder upon wonders, there were undies in HIS size! And… he got to pick his very own package! Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 12.21.12 PM

Monday morning dawned. The nighttime diaper was changed, and he was slipped into a pair of undies. He thought it was cool. His potty chair was put in the little back room off of the kitchen, within fast and easy access as he played (restricted as he was to the dining room/kitchen area, the only place in the house without carpet). A Potty Chart was taped on the wall. Whenever he tried, he got a smiley face drawn with a red crayon. When he was successful he got a sticker on his chart and a treat (consisting of one jelly pumpkin, one of his favorite treats). It got to the point that even our youngest 16 monther would throw her hands in the air and cheer “YAY!” whenever he announced a success. We only had one accident, early on, and not again after.

It was my turn: “YAY!”

Must to our son’s chagrin he learned, as the day wore on and the novelty of undie-wearing wore off, that this was a permanent deal. The only diaper allowed to him from now on was his nighttime one. We had a few tears; he wanted the comfort of routine back, but I was gentle and firm that this was the new routine. I wiped his eyes and kissed his forehead, and gave him another candy pumpkin.

Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 12.21.42 PMThe boys played with duplos all day, sitting together on the kitchen floor. In the afternoon I made popcorn and set up a movie on my computer for them.

All three happily sat at the table and watched Frozen, munching away on buttery, yummy popcorn.

Around 3:30 I started on supper. I pulled the thawed beef soup bones from the fridge; they still had a good amount of meat on them, so I browned them first in my dutch oven and then I added water and slowly began to cook them through, watching as a delicious broth began to form and rejoicing as the fantastic scent of rich meat filled the room. I was going to make a rustic beef stew for the night. Satisfied that all was well on the stove, I hurried off to pick some things up and put things away and organize and… well, you know, mother stuff.

“What did you do today?”

“I… well, there was… You know, stuff!”

Sometime after four I heard James announce he’d had another success. I, with my arms full of something (I know longer remember what) quickly checked the location of my three children. All three, oldest to youngest, were back at the table watching Frozen. Good. I had time to quickly dispose of whatever I have in my arms so that I could go take care of the potty chair (this is a very important thing to take care of with all possible speed when you have a curious 16 month old). I emptied my arms and hurried to the little back room barely a minute later.

Rose had beaten me to it, and was now industriously cleaning.

Enter the excitement.

A box of baby wipes was sitting, open, next to her, and she was crouched before the chair, scrubbing the inside of the bowl vigorously with a thoroughly-used/soaked wipe. The seat was covered with many splashes, liquid dripping and running down the sides. Rose herself was also soaked, and crouched in a puddly mess that spread out across the floor from the base of the potty chair. The soggy remains of two wipes were left in the bottom of the now-semi-dried bowl.

I stood for a second in amazed horror and mind-numbing shock. My first thought was: How am I going to clean this? My second thought was: How am I going to carry her through the house to the shower?

Rose noticed my presence and looked up at me. She paused in her scrubbing and the biggest, cheesiest grin split her little face, as if to say:

“Don’t worry about this, Mom. I’ve got it!”

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Stories of Our Children: Part One

It was a Sunday, late morning. I stood in the store aisle, nervously looking at the selection before me, knowing I had to get back home before Sackett Man returned from Church. I had stayed home after waking up feeling horribly sick to my stomach, just as I had for the past two days. And just as it happened the last two days, by 11:30 am the nausea magically disappeared.

I couldn’t be.’ I thought.

And yet here I was, surrounded by dozens of small boxes that spouted promises of ‘Results 2 Days Sooner!’ ‘Test Before You’ve Even Missed!’ ‘Get 3 tests for the price of 2!’ I made my selection, paid for it, and hurried home, hoping to discover, before Sackett Man returned, whether or not my suspicions were correct.

The results were positive.

Our reactions were not so much. We wanted a family, someday, but we were young… very young… I was barely 22. Sackett Man was working two jobs. I had a part-time job and was in college full-time. We barely saw one another, just trying to get a good start on life and finish school so that we could give our future family our entire focus.

And did I mention I felt, suddenly and wholly, far too young? I didn’t know if I was ready. Having a baby was HUGE, and I was determined to be the best mother I could be, and an even better mother than that with God’s help. I just didn’t know if I was ready now.

The first few months passed. I grew out of my jeans and moved into maternity pants. My aunt ecstatically surprised me with the gift of some adorable maternity shirts she had found on her last shopping trip. I began to feel okay with it, even to look forward to it, despite the panicky flippity-flop of my heart that still happened once in a while. I was cute in the clothes. People told me I was glowing and pretty. We began to think about names, and to get hesitantly excited about the fast-coming day we would have our ultrasound and find out if we should be buying blue or pink.

The day came. I was five months pregnant; it was the week before Finals. My college friends were dying to know. Sackett Man, my mom, and I went to the appointment and watched with baited breath as the picture of our little one appeared on the screen. *He* was there, adorable and cute, little legs and arms curled in.

He didn’t move.

The doctor frowned, staring at the screen.

He moved a little, but it quickly became clear that he was so still because there was almost no amniotic fluid. At all. The doctor continued to frown, and after the ultrasound we waited in the exam room nervously for him to come back and tell us the results.

I don’t remember, anymore, the doctor’s exact words. They were washed away in the understanding, the awful, horrible dawning of understanding, that we were going to lose our baby. He had Potter’s Syndrome. His kidneys didn’t develop properly. That explained the lack of amniotic fluid, since amniotic fluid is made primarily of the baby’s urine. We were ready to put his name down for donor kidneys, in the hopes we could save him once he was born, and then we were given the final blow: without amniotic fluid, the lungs also don’t develop normally. In our baby’s case, his lungs hadn’t developed at all.

There was no saving him.

I could deliver at any time. I might have him that night, as sometimes a woman’s body, telling that something is wrong with the pregnancy, goes into labor. Or I could go full term.

I barely remember the following days and weeks. They became lost in a fog, filled with tears and numbness and grief and prayer after prayer after prayer, begging God for something. Anything. I didn’t know what to pray for, so it was wordless and pleading. My husband prayed and pleaded with God to heal our son. He knew the miracles of God, knew that if it was in God’s will He could and would heal our baby. I wanted to pray for this miracle, but my breaking mother’s heart couldn’t bear to hope only to break again. So I left that prayer to Sackett Man, and I just prayed that God would bring an answer sooner rather than later.

I talked to my son. I held my belly and sang to him, every day, trying to convey to my quiet child still within me how much, how very much I loved him. How much I would always love him. How much I would miss him during the intervening years, till I got to heaven and would see him again.

In the middle of the night, late in July, I awoke to horrible stomach cramps. I don’t remember what I had eaten the night before, but I remember thinking it was the worst case of indigestion I had ever had. I tried to just ride it out, as one usually does, and then tried to sleep, but every time my eyes slid shut the cramping woke me up again.

I finally got up and walked around, hoping the movement would help things sort out. It did help my stomach cramping, except then my back began to cramp. Vise-like and crippling, making my knees buckle and my eyes water. It only took a few of those for me to grab my phone and call my mom. She told me to get my husband, to call an ambulance, and that she was driving over as fast as she could. I hung up and somehow managed to make my way to the bedroom. Sackett Man woke up, bleary and in shock. By the time he understood what was happening I knew it was close, it was too late. I got into the tub as he was on the phone, and barely a moment later our little David was born. Mom arrived a few minutes later, as I was catching my breath and trying to recover from the waves of dizziness that had taken me.

David was moving. Unable to breathe, but reaching for me just the same. In the short minute I had I held him, washed him, and told him I loved him.

I grieved most of that day. It didn’t fully hit Sackett Man until we entered the funeral home that afternoon, and he had to carry his son in and give him up. All we could do after that was hold each other. Even the Memorial Service we held at our house, with family and friends and our pastor, was a blur that we just tried to get through.

I won’t give any pat remarks about how God pulled us through it, how we drew closer and rested in His unfailing love and comfort. While true, those words cover the reality with a sugar-coating. We were not okay, not at all, but we knew we would be. We had lost our son, but we knew that he was with God and that he was not suffering. Our hearts were broken, but God continued to steadily fill us with His comfort and surrounded us with an amazing number of people who cared about us and supported us. There were times we felt empty of grief and were able to smile, and times we cried and cried and felt like nothing would ever be right ever again.

Sackett Man healed faster than I did, but that was due in large to the fact that I developed post-partum depression about eight to ten months later, and then one of my sister-in-law’s announced she was expecting. With the loss and the depression, it was not a difficult slide into bitter jealousy. I knew I shouldn’t; it was wrong of me to focus all of my resentment on her. She was lovely and kind and caring, and was very careful to be thoughtful and considerate around me. It was my own heart that was still in grief that was causing the issues.

I clung to Sackett Man, and I clung to God. He promised that nothing would ever separate us, that everything good is from Him, that He could take even a bad situation and mold it into something better. I didn’t know WHAT He could take from this, but Sackett Man and I had never, ever been closer or more in love with each other. We were ready for a family; we WANTED a baby now more than anything. Our lives and priorities had shifted for the better, and settled into something solid and sure. I had discovered that no matter how crazy, unpredictable, and horrifyingly unsteady the world was around me, God had proven His promise to be there and to be the same. It was true. He never changed. He never wavered. He heard my whispers and my wails. My son was safe now, forever, with Him, and someday I would see him again.

The storm had been wild and horrible, but I was beginning to see a break in the clouds.

And the next year, the sun came blazing out, and God revealed the wonderful, bright eyed, eight pound miracle He had waiting for us…

Autumn Green

It snowed last night. The snow melted immediately once the morning light touched it, but its brief presence made one things very clear—

The garden must be picked.

Unfortunately I am in no state to do it. I am confined to my husband’s recliner with my laptop, taking vicodin every four hours, because yesterday I was in the hospital having a cerclage. So my husband geared up with grocery bags, scissors, laundry baskets, and gloves. Our oldest bundled up in his winter coat, hat, gloves and boots. The two of them are outside picking EVERYTHING. Bless them!

Most of what’s coming in I can take care of later. One thing, however, cannot wait, unless I want a limp, green, slimy mess.

Ew.

What is this potential mess? My cilantro. I love cilantro! Its fresh lemony scent wafts through my nose and washes my thoughts clear of any stress and trouble. Its bright flavor bursts in my mouth and proves to every taste bud that God loves each and every one of them and wants them to be happy!

But cilantro attacked by the unforgiving, freezing forces of nature? A malicious cruelty done to a completely innocent herb, if you ask me. So Sackett Man is outside with scissors and cutting and bagging it all for me. I figure that I can take five minutes today to stand in my kitchen and preserve it. Despite my achy back and other, general achiness, it will be SO worth it!

Mom and I have tried different ways of preserving cilantro over the years. We’ve tried drying it, which preserves it nicely, but you loose the fresh, bright burst of flavor that I love so much. We tried freezing it whole last year, in ziploc bags, but it was difficult to pull out just what you needed and when it thawed it was just not the same. And then one day a couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with Mom, and she was telling me about all the things she was doing with her garden produce. That day she happened to be making pesto, and I thought… “Pesto. Pesto! PESTO!” And why not? Why NOT make a pesto out of cilantro? As far as I know there’s no law that says pesto can only be made out of basil, but even if there is I’m willing to risk jail for this wonderful and amazing concoction. Because it’s delicious.

The next day I picked a bunch of cilantro to try it out. My heart pounded as I put it in the blender; my hands shook as I added the oil. My whole body quivered as I pushed the button and watched as it spun and blended into a brilliant emerald green elixir. I carefully, meticulously measured in the salt and the lemon juice, and blended it once more, gently and lovingly.

And then… I tasted it.

Oh heaven! I had found it… the perfect way to preserve cilantro so that its fresh wonderfulness could be enjoyed even in the depths of winter. I made Indian chicken and rice that night, and tried a spoonful of the Cilantro Pesto on top. It was fantastic, and Sackett Man gladly put it on top of his second and third helpings.

The process is really and truly very simple.

You’ll need 10 cups of cilantro total, but be aware that you’ll have to add it in a bit at a time.

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Firstly, I put 5 cups of cilantro into my blender.

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I added 1 cup of olive oil, to give the blender enough moisture to blend.

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I pulsed the blender, using the handle of a wooden spoon to push the cilantro down in between pulses.

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I added the last 5 cups of fresh cilantro and pulsed all over again. Then I added approximately 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and some salt. A quarter to half a teaspoon, depending on how salty you like it.

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Look at that! Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

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I put it into two quart-size ziploc bags, and spread them flat to put in the freezer. Flattening them works well for usage, too, because you can just open the bag and break a piece of the frozen ‘slab’ off whenever you want to use some.

This is what I shall do with the cilantro my husband is bringing in today.

I can’t wait!

 


 

~ Cilantro Pesto ~ Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.51.35 PM

• 10 C. Fresh Cilantro
• 1 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 ½ – 2 T Lemon Juice
• ¼ – ½ tsp Salt

Put 5 cups of cilantro and the olive oil into the blender. Blend in pulses, scraping down the sides in between. When it’s blended, add the rest of the cilantro and blend again in pulses. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste and blend just enough to mix.

Pour into two quart ziploc bags, flatten, and freeze.

Enjoy!