Columbus and My Children

I have two children in school now. My oldest is in 2nd Grade, and my second oldest is in Kindergarten. With Columbus Day coming, my oldest is learning about him in his history book and marking him on the timeline we’re creating about the discovery and settling of the Americas.

There is a huge controversy over Columbus. I never gave much thought to it before, but I have become very aware of it as a homeschooling mother these last couple of years as I look up and purchase school books and create crafts and teach my sons.

There is argument over the day celebrating Columbus. There is argument over what we should teach out kids, and even talk of striking him from the history books. I’ve thought about it long and hard, since what we tell our kids shapes them. In 2014 I wrote about my oldest’s first learning about Columbus, and our run in with a critical family member who ruined the experience for him. So this year, when the explorer appeared once more in my son’s history book (in greater detail), I wanted to think about how to present him. As a hero? As a murderer? As an explorer?

What is Columbus Day about?

I think it would be wrong to strike him from the history books, or to remove his day from our year. Here’s why. Because what we are celebrating is not the man himself, but the first time the continent of America made its appearance on the maps of the world. Before then no one knew of America, no one knew that the world they knew was actually only half of the world God created.

Was Columbus a hero? No. Was he a murderer? Yes, and a slaver. Many ship captains were back then. For some reason there was this prevailing thought that if a being was not white and did not speak one of the white languages, they were meant to be enslaved. It was their purpose, and it was okay. Sin makes people do awful things. His greed took him to dark places, and he did wicked things for his love for gold and power.

Was he an explorer? Yes. He went where others were too afraid to go, and explored and explored, originally for a greater cause. He encouraged those who were frightened. He mapped where he went so that others could follow safely. He was brave; one would have to be to take on the journey he originally took… setting off into an unknown vastness of ocean that he might never return from, in an effort to find a safe route to Asia so that merchants could retrieve and deliver their goods more safely than they could across the vast continents where they were besieged constantly by robbers and thieves. That is a noble cause.

And in the end, we learn about him because he’s the one who put the continent of America on the map. So in the end, that is what I am teaching my 2nd Grader. How the Americas were found.

He can learn about the murdering and enslavement later. When he’s older and learning about slavery.

Advertisements

Summer, Diary 3, 2016

We may or may not have strep throat. As a family. Whoopee!

So I made blood jello with my kids today.

As in: I mixed up raspberry jello and called it plasma, and they dumped in strawberries (red blood cells), marshmallows (white blood cells), and strawberry licorice (platelets).

Homeschooling is the bomb. 🙂

Waiting for cultures to develop and results to come in, it seemed a good day to learn about the human body. So we watched some Magic School Bus episodes, and went through a book on the human body complete with little flip up tabs with extra facts and pictures. My focus for this day was on blood. What makes it up? How does it work?

Strawberry flavored Australian Style Licorice, mini marshmallows, and cheerios glued to red tissue paper made up the four components of blood: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Of course the kids LOVE to make things they can eat, too, so we made the jello, which unexpectedly helped them have an “Aha!” moment in regards to why blood needs plasma, because all of the add-ins just stuck together in the bottom of the dish, but as soon as I poured in the jello it all began to flow and move freely.

Sore throats and mild temps… and a lot of fun.

Summer, Day 1, 2016

It’s really been about a week of this, but today somehow seemed to hit home for me. The air, the sunshine, getting to leave the door open (with the screen closed, of course, to keep the invading wasps outside where they belong).

Sometimes I struggle with being very global-minded, which means I see the entire picture. Not a detail, not one part, but every single part. It means I am very, very good at multi-tasking and dealing with multiple children, and I can tell you the entirety of a movie or book that I have only seen/read once. It also means that I often get overwhelmed. The house is messy? I see the whole mess: dishes, laundry, toys, socks on the floor, food and crumbs on the dining room floor, shoes all a-scramble by the door, coats and gloves-without-matches creeping their way through my living room, kids clothes that are out of season and suddenly too small needing to be changed over and, of course, my boys can rarely keep the clean and the dirty separate… I mean, who puts clothes in drawers and hampers? So sometimes I just melt down because I see ALL OF IT and it’s all equally important, and I just don’t know what to do.

Then I found my old copies of the Little House books on my shelf, lovingly worn books my mom read to me since I was small that she recently passed on to me, and I pulled down Little House in the Big Woods and started to read.

I don’t know what it is about this book. I love all of the books; really, really love them, but there is something about Big Woods that just zones me. Something about Ma and Pa going about daily life, methodical and intentional and simple and happy, refocuses me and helps me look at my own house and see what to do. Suddenly everything wasn’t a mess around me, and by reading a little bit each day I receive a daily dose of Focus and I do the dishes, I make the meals, I sweep the floors, the kids do chores and school… and guys, I am getting extra done. My counters got cleaned off of the miscellaneous stacks that pile up (a result of my youngest now knowing how to walk and growing tall enough to catch things off the table and pull them off onto himself). I de-caned, fertilized, and mulched our patch of baby raspberries. I cleaned out the rhubarb patch. I planned my garden. I finished my book… honestly, I don’t know what happened. Where did this energy come from? Where did my time come from? But I swear that every time I read Big Woods it re-centers me and this miracle happens again and again. I think, in part, it helps me focus on today. I mean, God tells us we’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow. He tells us to just think about today, and it’s so easy for anyone but for a global-brained person it is especially easy to succumb to worry and becoming overwhelmed. And I realized that I don’t have to get it all done today, I just have to get a piece done. Who cares what that piece is; whatever I do, it’s one more thing than I had gotten done before. Hoorah!!!!

We put up the hummingbird feeder today. My kids did their chores, ate a good breakfast, my 1st grader did his school and my preschooler watched his science video, and then out they went into the warm sunshine to play and I got the entire Mount Everest pile of laundry on my futon folded, made a batch of hummingbird syrup, and while that cooled I and the kids marched down to Sackett Man’s shed and found the rain gauge, a piece of garden decor, and the humming bird feeder. We put up the rain gauge, stuck the garden decor in the ground attractively, and the kids crowded around in fascination as mother hung almost upside down on the shepherd’s crook that the feeder hangs decorously from.

You may laugh, but that thing is a beast to force into the ground. I leaped on it, hung from it, planted my feet and grabbed it and heaved, red-faced and sweating, till FINALLY that pointed end sank into the ground deeply enough to be stable.

Then they cheered, I grinned through the pain of pulled muscles, and then they crowded around and watched as I lifted the small sauce pan of syrup and poured it into the feeder, and screwed it shut. I hung it up, and we watched the glass and syrup glitter in the sunlight, and then we went inside for a cool drink and supper.

Now it’s bathtime, and the boys are laughing and playing upstairs while I bathe my daughter. And I feel so good and so happy.

Thank you, Ma Ingalls. Thank you, God.

Signs You May Have Kids

Signs You May Have Kids:

• Your toothbrush tastes like hand soap.

• Your spouse’s voice: “Why is there a stuffed dog in the toilet?”

• A child streaking through the hall into the living room from the direction of their room/the bathroom, stark naked. They see you and freeze, and immediately say: “I didn’t do anything.”

 

 

The Surprise Has Arrived :-)

You know, I have a good life.

Now I say it that way because life here on the Wisconsin homestead has been CRAZY these past few months… and as a mother of four, with a garden and school starting up in a month and the day-to-day battle in keeping house… well, one can get overwhelmed. But life really is good.

The last time I blogged I was still pregnant. Then hey presto, mid-Spring a cute little package showed up with huge charcoal eyes and an adorable, wide smile. Our William is the happiest baby ever… he’s been smiling since week one, and he smiles all the time. He’s also an alarming go-getter. He babbles non-stop, tries to copy the motion of my mouth as I talk to him, and is already trying to scoot himself on his belly. This will work better when he figures out how not to trap his arms under him when he rolls over. In the meantime, his nose is getting to know the carpet on a deep and meaningful level. I think the friendship has promise.

This was the first pregnancy where I had an epidural at the birth. I had always been against them before, because of all the stories I heard where the mother had one and then couldn’t feel to such an extent that she couldn’t tell what was going on and couldn’t push well and the birth took a much longer time than it needed to. Unfortunately, I have back labor, and after having my daughter (which took a total of three miserable hours) I swore I had to find some kind of pain management/killer that worked. I’m not afraid of pain, and I actually have a high pain tolerance… but back labor makes me crumple. Normal labor hurts; add back labor into it and it’s three times worse. I’ve had it with three out of four pregnancies. I decided that if I didn’t have back labor, I would just have William naturally, med-free. If I did, I was going for the epidural (nothing I had tried in any previous birth worked). And wouldn’t you know it, my old friend showed up again, worse than ever. I tried to stick it out for about an hour, and then I thought “This is crazy! I can’t even breathe and I’m bruising my poor husband’s arm with my fingernails… someone stick me!” And they did. And it was glorious. The pain completely went away, but I still had total muscle control. Why hadn’t I done this before?! I spent the rest of the birth sipping ice water and chatting with my mom and Sackett Man while we watched Guardians of the Galaxy. The actual birth took about two minutes, and then there he was… a bawling, fighting, beautiful baby boy who I got to hold for thirty minutes before they took him to clean him up. He spent the entire time howling his fury to me. It was actually hilarious. And when he was done he calmed down as if nothing was wrong and just looked at me with his big, dark eyes. When Sackett Man spoke he craned his head back and back and back till he could see his Daddy’s face. It was beautiful.

William

William

So here is our little surprise. The baby boy we hadn’t planned and hadn’t expected, but God knew we needed him. 🙂

The First Sign of Spring

It has been so warm the last few days. From cold Wisconsin winter weather to 60˚F. GORGEOUS! My boys have been outside more this week than they have in the last two months. Getting wet and muddy, thanks to the melting snow, but having a blast. And excepting today, it’s been sunny too. Sun! I’m a sun addict. I can actually feel sunshine like a physical touch, and my body literally feels like it’s soaking it in. Like, actually soaking. Of course today is grey and dreary, and it is so windy that out protected little homestead (surrounded on three sides by wooded hills) is being buffeted and blown. That’s windy, my friends.

A few days ago my Mom was visiting. Because she was here to chase after my rambunctious 22 month old daughter (I can do little chasing these days), my little girl actually got to go outside, and I didn’t have to worry about the muddy, spring-mess she might eat or coat herself in.

What a wonderful treat for us all. My two sons ran about the yard, my husband busied himself happily with work in the fresh air, I got to sit on the deck and soak the sunlight and chat with my Mom, and Rose got to run about our large deck and play in the sunshine, breeze, and balmy 55˚ air. Her blue eyes shone, her cheeks flushed pink, her golden hair bounced around her neck in wisps and baby curls.

She wanted a good cuddling when we came in later. That much fresh air after a long winter of very little does a little girl in. I held her, wrapped up in my arms and her little blanket, and stroked her head while she just rested and listened to Mommy and Grandma. And this is where I found the First Sign of Spring.

The smell of sunshine in her hair.

Yes, little kids actually trap sunshine in their hair. And yes, it has a scent. A lovely, nothing-else-like-it scent that you could just breathe in for hours and hours. Warm weather in March in Wisconsin does not always mean much; it can turn on you in the blink of an eye. But the warm smell of sunshine in the hair of a child?

Hello, Spring. 🙂

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 2.45.00 PM

Presenting… The Unpluggable Beast! \(˚o˚)/

The toilet…

… is plugged.

NOOOOOO! \(˚o˚)/

The beast glared at me, daring me to try the plunger that has, for two years, proved useless against the beast’s might. Formed in an oval, curved shape that could only have been designed by a maniacal madman, the bowl is resistant to any attempt to get a seal with the rubber plunger. What happens, instead of the plug dislodging, is the water burps and sloshes on either side of the rubber ring where the rubber and porcelain fail to meet. No effort of mine, however vigorous and determined, is ever successful. Only Sackett Man, my plumbing hero, has ever beaten the beast.

It chose its timing to strike well.

The disassembled remains of our basement bathroom mocks me with its silent, ghostly voice. To fix the water leak that happens every spring in the only finished room in the entire basement, Sackett Man has torn the bathroom down (walls and all), and jack-hammered up the raised concrete pad that housed the floor drain (which meant if a water flood happened, the water would have to be at least three inches deep before it could even reach the floor drain). Bags of cement wait in the garage for him to mix and pour a new, even floor, with a drain low enough to actually drain. A carpenter is on standby, ready to rebuild the walls. Other tools and materials for fixing the water leak are ready. Waiting.

But for now… there is nothing. Nothing but a room-sized, gaping hole in our basement floor. Bare dirt. A silent testament to what was and what will be.

There is only one toilet in the house now. One, for the use of a woman in her ninth month of pregnancy and her desperate, hourly trips. One, for the use of two potty-trained children, who often need to use it at the same time.

One.

And it plugged.

It was only 10:30 this morning when it happened. My mind raced. What could I do? I was facing an entire day, with little kids, with no working toilet!

It is in the 50’s today, bright and sunny, but did I dare send my two sons outside every time nature called, into the mud and melting snow? Did I dare go outside, every hour, hiking entirely too far to get to our woods so that I could answer ‘the call’ in privacy, beyond the curious eyes of three little kids and the many windows of our house? I couldn’t hike that far. I’ve had three false labors already; I didn’t need to have the real one out in the woods!

No. While my oldest could stand on the edge of the deck, my second was too young yet… I didn’t want to think what the state of his pants would be!

What else? I could throw aside all shower rules and have them go in the shower. It had a drain, and could be easily cleaned. I was pleased with this solution. No muss, no fuss. But then my eldest posed a very dark and disturbing question: What about… number two?

Oh no. There was no plan for this. No good way to fix it. What about Two? That was NOT happening in my shower!!! I couldn’t see any good way of having the two little ones going outside for it, either. Not in the mud and barely-melting snow, and we certainly didn’t want a surprise of that sort in our yard when spring really, truly came!

I could line a pail or a bucket with plastic bags, but then I would have to help them perch by holding them up above the bucket so they didn’t fall in. Kids are heavy. Not pregnant, I could do this. Nine months pregnant? This was not a good plan. I scratched it immediately.

And then it came to me. The potty chair! The one we had put away months and months ago! The boys could easily use that! And if I lined the bowl with a bag, that would make any cleanup the easiest thing ever!

With more delight than a scientist discovering renewable, unending world energy, I set about my task. I made my single trek downstairs to the basement (my doctor has limited me to stairs once a day). I found the potty chair, brought it up, and cleaned the dust from it. I lined it lovingly with a plastic shopping bag. I set it gently against the wall in the bathroom, and put the free-standing toilet paper holder beside it with great care. I took blue painter’s tape and taped the toilet-beast shut. And then I called in my two-member troop of boys, and explained to them what to do when they needed to go. I was met with approval, but not the applause I was hoping for.

Oh well. I thought. Someday, when they are grown and have children of their own, they will understand.

Silently, I cheered.

The toilet, unpluggable beast that it is, thought it had finally beaten me. But I have risen victorious and found a way.

The day may be long. The hours will not be the easiest. But we will survive.

And when evening comes, so too shall Sackett Man, riding up the driveway in his noble green pickup.

With his toilet auger.

Nesting a Car

Nesting is a funny thing. We ready-to-pop pregnant mothers have so little energy, but a buzz of unexpected, out of the blue get-up-and-go can enable us to do some hard stuff. I have so little energy right now, and the little mister inside of me is currently grinding his head into some rather painful nerves, making it hard to walk and causing my sciatic to go bonkers. Naughty boy! So moving is difficult, to say the least. But yesterday I went down into our attached garage to clean the seat where our baby will go. Vacuum up the crumbs, clean off the spill of milk from my daughter, and then hook in the base for his infant car seat. I took a big rag, some safe cleaner, and the dustbuster to vacuum up the crud and crumbs.

About ten minutes later I realized I was upside down vacuuming under the seat, and that I’d removed two car mats already. And I couldn’t stop! I just kept removing mats and vacuuming and vacuuming and vacuuming, crawling and getting myself into crazy positions to try and get the crumbs and crud that liked to hide in out-of-the-way places and corners, and then I took my rag and cleaner and scrubbed and scrubbed. Then I took the rubber mats and dumped them in the tub of our basement bathroom, grabbed a cleaning brush, and washed and scoured them till they looked like new. Finally, an hour-and-a-half later, I hooked in the infant car seat and shut the doors. (Don’t worry, I had turned off all the lights to save the battery.)

The car doesn’t look brand-spanking new, but it’s pretty good. It’s the best that a fully-pregnant woman could do, anyway!

You should have seen the look Sackett Man gave me when he came home from work. “Not to criticize, but was that the best thing for you to do right now?” he asked, concerned. “I mean, you can hardly walk…”

I hobbled around, my baby boy grinding his head, nerves pinching and hurting like fire and my sciatic twanging away as I tried to prepare supper. “Right now, I go when the energy’s good!”

He shook his head in exasperation, but his green eyes were soft and tender, and a little smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.

And once the kids were in bed, he treated me to a leg and foot rub. 🙂