Friday, January 8, 2010

Life Lesson: Some things just don't fit in my lesson books

When I hooked my laptop up to the tv this past Wednesday for a school lesson, I had no idea that it would turn into a day of dancing, discussions, debate and even a few tears from yours truly. I mean, I was only planning on using the computer to show some charity videos for the groups that I had chosen from our recent membership to the Foundation Beyond Belief. It was a 30 minute lesson according to my planner, we still had lots of other subjects to cover for that day and all. I just felt fancy because I knew which wires to connect so we could see the screen on the tv and the sound would come out of the stereo (we all know by now that me and computers just don't get along very well, so this is big and exciting for me and I hope to use this new skill often).

The kids both watched the videos from groups like War Child and Water for People and then, well, an interest was sparked. Learning happened. Humanitarianism happened. My children felt compassion for others and wanted to help. I felt like the Grinch at the end of the cartoon movie, you know, where his heart grows and swells so big that it breaks that little device that is measuring it? Sydney wanted to know why the people didn't have sinks before and how did they have water - Nicholas was outraged to learn that children around the globe no older than he are being forced to become soldiers and torn from their families. Understandably, they had a lot of questions and concerns.

But, lucky for me, and for my kids, I am around to answer the questions when they have them, to break free of the day's plan when something that sparks an interest leads them (or us) astray or when a new opportunity arises. It was one of those sparked interest moments that turned into a daylong discussion with a 9 year old that I did not expect, but I loved that I was here so it could happen. This lesson on charity and humanitarianism soon turned into something even more.

Nicholas has several areas of interest, including both music and military. He likes bands such as Linkin Park and System of a Down and when he chooses his own library books he often comes back with at least one true life military book. I thought that in light of the discussion and videos we had just watched, I could transition over into something else that he would benefit from. I gave him the basic definition of the word "lyrics", relating it to our ongoing poetry studies, and explained to him how artists often use their music as a way to express their beliefs and get their views heard. Two of our charities are helping those affected by war, and I wondered if he knew that some of the songs that he likes are very much anti-war.

We used youtube as a tool and listened our way through "21 Guns" by Green Day, "Disposable Soldiers" by Metallica, "Hands Held High" by Linkin Park and "Zombie" by the Cranberries. The videos helped him visually SEE what the song was about, but I still found the lyrics for us as well so we could read through them. Some of the songs found myself and Sydney dancing along, like Zombie. Who can resist swaying at the very least to that one when it's good and cranked up?

The next video had a scene from 9/11, and there came the tears from me. Nicholas wanted to talk about that, and we did, and that lead into a talk about why our country was still at war all these 9 years later. WELL. Turns out Nicholas has some different ideas on that than I do. And I just want to say - good for him :) I said I wondered when our soldiers would come home and when would it be done already, what are we still fighting for, etc etc. I love our military, I just want it to be over and the further we get from 9/11, the harder it is to believe that there is anything worth fighting for. Nicholas, well, he will make a good soldier for our country should he choose to do so someday - he was very loyal to our men and the freedoms they defend, whether or not he truly understands all matters at hand, he does understand that you get the job done and he looked me in the eye and told me so *gulp* My little boy just grew up ladies and gentlemen. Not only has he grown over 2 inches in 9 months, but he was comfortable expressing his political views to me and even gave me a "real life" example just like I give him. How could I not be proud?!? He said to me " they are still there because there are still bad people who want to hurt our country. They can not stop until we are all safe and the bad people have all been caught. It's like if I was outside working in the yard, I can't just quit until the job is done Mom."

So, did we get any math done on Wednesday? No. Did I read from our current novel? No. But that's ok with me. I think these are the moments where they are really learning something so much more than I could even plan for with my lesson book anyhow.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The New Year didn't start off quite the way I had imagined it: curled up on the couch with my husband, drinking chocolate wine, sharing a kiss when the ball dropped. No, not this year, not for this girl. Where was I when the magic happened and a New Year began? I was in the bathroom, thinking that I still had approximately 4 minutes of 2009 to piss away (literally). But no matter, because 2010 is going to be glorious anyhow.

In the great spirit of traditions, I had Nicholas and I make some resolutions. Sydney colored a fabulous New Years coloring sheet because when you are 3, there is nothing to resolve :) Nicholas has decided to continue to strive for muscles - he wants to continue his gymnastics, do some basketball playing in the driveway and remember to choose some healthy foods to help him get there. My list is a wee bit longer.

This year, I want to learn the art of BALANCE. I can't seem to figure out how to keep up with all my roles in life. Just when I get a grasp on one, something slips from my grasp. I will try to keep this in mind when working on all these others.

Relationships - There are so many people in my life who mean so much to me. In working in my balance, I am resolving to spend more time with those I love. I'm also going to place our playgroups in this category because I am resolving to spend more time going to them....this may mean that I need to step up and hostess and that lend itself to my next category.....

Home - I just need to suck it up and go back to a cleaning schedule. I am pretty sure that is the only way my house was ever clean, and I don't know why I am so resistant to getting back on one now. I also have like 37 projects going on and need to just learn how to FINISH them before moving on and starting so many others. The downstairs bathroom is still my biggest project to complete, good news is that I bought the wall paint a few days ago! I have a lot of changes in mind for home, but balance probably means pacing myself.

School - I need to remember to carve out more time for lesson planning, I know I am lacking in this area for sure. We are working on getting a computer upstairs for the kids to use, we just got a desk today in fact ($25 at the thrift store, score! And it has an an attached wall hutch for books!) and this will help in so many ways. Having the kids and I all sharing my laptop was so not working for me anymore.

Charity - I try to teach the kids to be considerate of others and to lead a life of giving, but find myself lacking in that area more and more. The problem is that a lot of times, I can't find a way to give without compromising my own beliefs. In my area, it just seems like most charities are tied to a church in some way, and I just don't want my funds to go there. I don't want people in need to have to be preached to in order to receive help either. In the end, I have had to donate foods to charities that I didn't agree with because I still felt as if it were for the greater good - to feed hungry people. But now a friend and fellow blogger has helped me find a way to keep my beliefs and not feel like I am betraying myself or further empowering any organizations that I do not believe in when I give to them for any greater good: a group called Foundation Beyond Belief . Jeff and I are becoming members and I can enjoy teaching the kids about the charities that the group is helping each quarter as they rotate, and we can choose which ones we want our monthly donations to go to. I feel really good about this one.

So that is enough for one girl to work on I think.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Of chickens and children - our Thanksgiving hunt

It was the day before we were leaving for an out of town wedding over Thanksgiving. I had a LOT to get done - laundry, packing, lists, cleaning, and making lunch for my mom and showing her how to care for the animals while we were away. I was just about done making the mile long list of things to accomplish for the day when Jeff and Nicholas came inside and declared that I "didn't have to worry about the chickens while we were away". Um, what? Then I noticed the tears in Nic's eyes. Then his lip began to quiver and the waterworks that he was working so hard to contain began to let loose.

They had been trying to move the 2 chickens to the garage to make caring for them easier in their new "vacation home", and it was, well, a disaster. Mission FAILED. I was told that one chicken headed to the woods behind our house and the other went for the ditch between our house and the neighbors. At about that point Jeff had to get dressed and head off for work. I was left with a heartbroken child who had just lost 2 pets who was blaming himself, a still messy house, a half packed suitcase, company on the way, and now a twitching eye to complete the package.

Lucky for me, my mom wears the same size sneakers as I do :) When she and my 16 year old brother arrived, we abandoned lunch for the moment, and came up with an AWESOME plan of attack. It's called: Me, Nic, Syd, Nana wearing my extra sneakers, Matthew and 2 laundry baskets with a spare comforter and some extra sheets hunting chickens. Did you know my chickens are the same color as the pine straw? Well, they are. It made it extra fun. An hour later, we actually CAUGHT a chicken!!

Matthew chased it from the ditch to a hole in the fence...the fence that keeps the Weimeraner in the yard. Oops. But Nic put the dog in the house and then Matthew and I had the pleasure of cutting through pricky vines to get to where the chicken was now hiding in the corner of the yard. Apparently we have some maintenance to do. We got it in the basket and covered it with the blanket and got it in the garage coop. I felt like I had just won the frickin lottery! It was a hoot. And my neighbors witnessed some of this...and my children heard a lot of new words whilst we were running after said chicken . Effin chicken is a grand phrase after all. But that's ok, because Nicholas had 1 pet back before going out of town, and we could have lunch.

After lunch, mission chicken was back on. This time was harder because we were headed to the woods and the chicken was not playing nice. Matthew and I incurred many an injury from vined trees, but once the chicken was spotted by my mom (waiting on the back deck with Sydney, laughing at us, once again we were swearing and running after a chicken after all) I just couldn't stop going you know? I wasn't going to go to Charleston and leave this chicken behind. Nicholas tried very hard to catch it with us, and eventually it gave up and laid down in a weird circular formation of sticks. Maybe it thought we couldn't see it there? So we gathered around it and I had no other option that to TOUCH THE CHICKEN. This is where my comfort zone ends. Me and feathered creatures outside of a cage who may or may not bite me, um, no thanks. But this was Nic's chicken. He feeds them and cares for them and calls them "his girls". *sigh* It had to be done, and quickly. Even Matthew told me to get the friggin chicken. So I did it. I scooped it up, put it in my laundry basket, and continued to hold it. I couldn't chance it getting away again.

So there it ends. The Crimson Twins were home again. It was traumatic for us all. A bonding experience and probably the best Thanksgiving story our family will ever have. And we still made it to Charleston with packed suitcases, although the house just had to stay the way it was. A small sacrifice for the kids happiness.

A family that hunts chickens in the backyard together is a family that stays together, or something like that :)