Monday, December 10, 2007

The joys of having a reader.

When I started teaching my daughter to read, I never imagined the pure joy it would bring to me. I knew it would be a lifelong skill that would bring her knowledge and pleasure; Bob and I are avid readers ourselves.

It's impossible to describe the pride I feel hearing her practice reading her lines for the church Christmas play. They're doing a readers' theatre this year and Addy has two parts. However haltingly her words are read, they are music to this mommy's ears.

"Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be
to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
which is Christ the Lord and this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find
the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."


"God wants everyone to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the

The play is "No Strings Attached" by Arden Mead.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Please tell me this didn't really happen.

So I was giving the girls a bath when I noticed two faint red arcs on Dori's little, fleshy, toddler bottom. On closer inspection, I determined these to be teeth marks.

"Addy! Did you bite your sister's butt?!?"


"Let me see your teeth! Open your mouth!" Hmm, the marks on Dori's butt looked remarkably similar to Addy's bite pattern — a tiny little space at the top, the bottom teeth angled in ever so slightly.

"Addy, you are not allowed to lie to your mother. Did you bite Dori's butt!?!"

"Yes," she said meekly, then added:

"But she liked it."

Dori spent the next two hours pointing to the spot, saying, "Addy bite butt. Addy bite butt."

My head really is going to explode.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You were bottlefed!

I met a mother of five breastfed boys tonight who said the biggest insult her kids throw at each other when bickering is, “You were bottlefed!”

They weren’t, of course, but I guess that has replaced, “You belong to the milkman” or “Mom and Dad found you in a box.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Better than a pocketful of posies.

Cutest video ever. This was on a nice, sunny October 17.

The girl or boy section.

“If I ever work in a store and I'm the owner of it, I would change the girl and boy sections to a girl or boy section and a boy or girl section.”

— My 5-year-old daughter, Addy, who has noticed that for some strange reason the clothes in the boy section have dinosaurs and tractors on them and the clothes in the girl section have butterflies and kitties. But she says she draws the line at boys wearing dresses. And for the record, she loves dinosaurs, tractors, butterflies and kitties.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dori's waterbirth.

Water has always been soothing to me. I grew up on a big farm with a swimming pool in the middle of it. From infancy on, I spent a lot of time in that pool. I’m the youngest of 8 kids so there was always someone to watch me as I first learned to swim without arm floaties, then progress to tricks like doing back flips off the diving board. A couple weeks ago my mom joked that I practically lived in my bathing suit in the summertime. My sister Beth let her know that I really did. That was news to Mom; she often sent me to change and I came back with clothes or pajamas on top of my bathing suit. I would swim all day, sleep in my bathing suit, then get up and do it all over again. When Mom sent me to get ready for church, I’d take a bottle of shampoo to the pool. Often I would just float. I could even fall asleep floating on my back in the pool. So peaceful.

In the first house my husband and I bought, my bathtub was my refuge when I had pre-menstrual cramps. The water relieved enough weight and pressure that I felt better as long as I was in the tub. That was a short, shallow little tub with rust stains from our rural well water. But it was still a haven.

When I became pregnant with our first daughter, Addy, it was back to the tub. I have a newspaper from the day she was born. A front-page headline reads, “Hottest summer on record.” My heavy, hot pregnant body again found refuge in the cool water.

My non-water, hospital birth
Addy was born in a hospital — I never heard of anything different. It was wonderful because my beautiful Addy came out of it, but once I learned I had options, I would never go back to a hospital to birth again. Intervention led to intervention and I was left with a newborn who couldn’t latch (many factors, but our birth experience didn’t help) and a spinal headache that pounded for a week every time my head was higher than my feet. My water broke before I went to the hospital, so my labor was augmented with Pitocin. (Had I been left alone I think I still would have delivered well within 24 hours, a guideline to prevent infection that I disagree with anyway since they stuck their hands in to “check” me many times, surely introducing new bacteria each time.) The Pitocin brought on hard and fast contractions that had me asking for relief, so I was given Demerol — yes, a narcotic. With all my reading, classes and prenatal visits, I had never been educated about what the stages of birth felt like, so the intensity of transition had me asking for an epidural. I thought, “This is what birth must be like.” I thought that part would never end. The anesthesiologist was unable to get the needle into the space in my spine, so I didn’t have an epidural anyway, only the lovely spinal headache afterward.

Fortunately Addy came out easily. Good thing because I was flat on my back in a hospital bed. I didn’t even really push with her. The doctor wasn’t there yet and the nurse told me to wait. I didn’t, and after three little pushes — none of them really bearing down — she was out and the doctor was there to catch her.

We moved to a new part of the state when Addy was 14 months. Our new house has a pool in the backyard, so Addy is quickly taking on my love of the water.

Planning for waterbirth
When I became pregnant with Addy’s little sister, Dori, I called the midwife in our community. When I heard she had a waterbirth tub, I was ecstatic. I had heard of waterbirth. I remember seeing a news report about it on TV in the ’80s. I didn’t think it was something real people did though. I had no idea it would be an option for me.

We’re lucky our midwife had the portable pool from Waterbirth International. As a rural midwife she couldn’t afford the tub herself, but a previous client had purchased it for her in lieu of payment.

Later when doing some reading in preparation for Dori’s birth (the right books this time, not the silly girlfriend and what-to-expect books I read before Addy’s birth) I read The Birth Book by William and Martha Sears. Martha is mother of 8 and a registered nurse. She compared laboring in water to taking Demerol, saying that both took the edge off. I was already game for waterbirth, but this was sounding even better.

I found a Yahoo group dedicated to homebirth and many of the women had used or were planning to use waterbirth tubs. We shared good information and stories.

Dori’s waterbirth
Because Addy was born 11 days before her due date, I was certain Dori would be early, too. Dori’s due date was February 22. As Valentine’s Day approached, I began to get impatient. After a few more days I think I had actually given up on her ever being born. Silly, I know. I knew that due dates are simply best guesses, and I knew the baby could be born into early March and still be well within safe and normal ranges. Still, I was anxious. I went from wanting to get the baby out of me so I would feel better to only wanting to hold the baby and meet him or her.

I never felt Braxton-Hicks contractions. I didn’t with Addy either, so I didn’t let it bother me too much. I did have the lingering thought that maybe I had them with Addy and didn’t know it, but I figured as an experienced mom I should know this time.

Just before Bob got home from work on Monday, February 20, I hopped on the Internet for information about postdates babies and how to tell if the placenta is still supporting them well. I knew it was too early to worry, but I gave myself something little to worry about throughout the pregnancy. (Doesn’t everybody?) This was the concern du jour. While there, I decided to read more about the lack of Braxton-Hicks contractions and if this meant anything. I knew the answer, but it felt better to read what other women experienced. If it had been a true concern, I would have called our midwife.

On Tuesday, February 21, I woke at about 6 a.m. for one of my frequent potty trips. This time was different though. I was pretty sure my water broke, but it wasn’t a huge gush so I didn’t wake up my husband, Bob. It was clear and odorless, not to mention right on time. When Bob woke up, I told him and he asked if he should go to work. By then I felt confident we would be having a baby instead.

It’s hard to remember the rest of the details as I’m finishing this story 15 months later. I remember that I labored all day, with the contractions getting closer together and more intense. In between I made the birth announcements, leaving the inside blank to fill in the details. I sat a lot on my big exercise ball. Gentle bouncing and rolling felt better.

My sister Anita was here to take care of Addy during the birth. We wanted Addy to be part of it, but we also wanted someone to focus on her since our attention would be divided. Anita ended up with one of her migraines, so we called another of my sisters, Carol, to come over. She lives just over an hour away so they were both there for Addy.

The birthing tub had been at our house for two weeks since Deb, our midwife, finished attending another birth. We set it up in our bedroom a week before Dori’s birth. That day I was anxious for them to get it filled up. She didn’t have a heater, so I knew that if filled it too early it might cool off. Once Deb and my husband filled it, I pretty much hopped into the water as soon as she suggested I could.

At one point I invited Addy to join me in the water. She played around in it for awhile, and then I had her get out.

As the labor progressed, there was pain. It turns out I had an anterior lip of cervix that wasn’t opening on its own. I remember shouting, “Owww!” My midwife said, “Ow?” I was thinking, “Yes, ow. Haven’t you ever attended a birth before?” She was the wise one and knew I shouldn’t be experiencing pain, so she asked lots of questions to determine the exact source and diagnosed the lip.

While I don’t have anything to compare it to because I only experienced the anterior lip this time, I think the water helped a lot. I was free to move around and the water let me move however I wanted. The only thing I couldn’t really do was put my head down and bottom up in the air to take the baby’s weight off and help the anterior lip resolve, so I got onto the bed for awhile for that. It wasn’t comfortable, so I got back in the tub and felt better.

Later Deb offered to check me, and at that time she was able to manually pull open the lip with her hand. Relief! It also broke another spot of my amniotic sac, so more fluid came out.

While laboring, I kept my focus on the clock that I could see in our adjacent bathroom. I focused on the round shape. I kept my lips in a circle, and tried to envision my cervix opening up into a big circle, just like the clock. I hadn’t planned to find a focal point, but it was right in my line of sight and worked well.

I was able to move around in the water into various positions. Sometimes I leaned back with my knees floating up into the air. Other times I knelt forward with my forehead on the edge of the tub. It was easy to change positions even though my pregnant body was huge and moving on land was cumbersome.

By 11:30 p.m. I was in intense labor. Bob and Deb joked that if I could wait half an hour, the baby would be born on my oldest brother’s birthday. I felt like punching them in the nose. At one point I actually did tell them to shut up. I’m glad that both know what a woman says in labor might not be something she would otherwise say.

Addy was downstairs with my sisters because I needed quiet to concentrate. When I was ready to push I asked Bob to bring her up. My sisters were also there to witness the birth.

I did end up birthing Dori on my brother Duane’s birthday, which also happened to be Dori’s due date. She was born at about 12:40 a.m. I remember pushing HARD in the water for a few minutes. I pushed so hard and felt the baby come down the birth canal, so I thought sure she was almost out, maybe only hanging by the feet. I yelled, “Can’t you just pull her out?!?” and Deb said, “You’ve got to do this, Sue.”

Bob said, “You ARE doing it,” which was just what I needed. I heard Addy’s little voice say, “Good job, Mama.” Deb checked and said the baby’s shoulders were rotating, so once I knew what was happening I had the strength to keep going. I pushed really, really hard, and kept pushing.

Finally Dori was out. She was born in water into her daddy’s loving arms, with her big sister watching every moment. I couldn’t ask for anything better. That two of her aunts and my midwife, now a friend, were there made it even more special.

Dori was a little blue at first, so Deb deftly milked the cord blood with its life-giving oxygen back into her and she pinked right up. It seemed like forever and I was asking, “She’s OK, right Deb?” with Deb not responding since all her attention was rightfully on Dori. My sister says it was only about 5 seconds before she was pink and healthy. Deb had oxygen on hand, as well as other emergency tools that she didn’t need to use.

I brought Dori to my breast, Bob undid my nursing bra, and she began to nurse like a champ. Addy came over and gave Dori her first kiss.

As she nursed I delivered the placenta, then Deb showed Bob where to cut the cord.

I entered a picture of us gathered around Dori, still in the tub, in a contest. It was selected as a winner by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. Their hope is to educate people that a million babies’ lives can be saved if every baby is breastfed within the first hour of life. I titled the photo “Dori’s First Minute: Breastfeeding at Waterbirth.” See it at:

Later we all snuggled into bed as I nursed Dori to sleep for the first time.

My sisters stayed awhile to help with Addy and meals so I could concentrate on Dori, then my mom came and helped for a week. Everyone was surprised how chipper I was. I was able to get up and get dressed from the beginning. Sure I was tired, but I wasn’t wrung out like a dishrag. It was truly a gentle birth for everyone. So that’s what normal birth is like!

With Addy’s hospital birth, I had a small tear that required a stitch or two — and she was only 6 pounds. Dori was a 9-pound baby and I had only a superficial tear. The water must have made the difference.

If we are blessed with another baby, he or she will be born in water, in my home, where I am in control.

After the birth
One of my friends thought birthing at home might be messy. It wasn’t. Deb strategically placed pads throughout our bedroom and we had a shower curtain ready to use as a tarp on the carpet. The only mess was my own fault. I read that some people keep their baby’s placenta. I decided we would keep Dori’s and plant it in our front yard with a special tree over it once our Michigan winter was over. I planned ahead and set out a bucket with a lid so we could freeze the placenta until springtime. I managed to choose a bucket with a crack in the bottom, so our carpet still shows a couple blood stains. It was worth it. Dori’s redbud tree is flourishing in the yard. It is as tall as she is. The redbud is a perfect tree since she is a little red-haired girl.

The funniest thing about our home waterbirth was that we had to do something with the 100-plus gallons of water and associated blood and stuff once we were done. Deb said we could pump it into the toilet, but unbeknownst to me, my husband just sent it out the bathroom window. We live in town, our tub was in our second-story bedroom, and there was snow on the ground. I’m just glad no one walking by could have possibly guessed what was coming out of the hose.

My football-player nephew attends college just down the road, so he was the first to come visit the morning Dori was born. Our midwife seized the opportunity to have him carry the tub in its carrying case out to her car. Later he asked what had been in the big black case. He was grossed out to learn it was the birthing tub.

Dori is now a toddler. As a baby she only used her little plastic baby bathtub three or four times. Each time she screamed. She has had a few showers with Bob or me, but mostly we bathe in the big tub. I remember being scared to bathe with Addy when she was an infant. How would I hold that slippery little body? The morning after Dori was born, my midwife had us bathe together with an herbal infusion in the water. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, co-bathing, what could be more natural?

We teach sign language to Dori, now 15 months old, so we can communicate before she can talk well. One of her first dozen or so signs was BATH. She loves our bathtime together. It’s cute to watch her rub her two little fists on her chest every morning, signing BATH, BATH, BATH. I think, “Baby, you were born in the bath!”

Dori is on the “I Was Born in Water!” list on the Waterbirth International web site at:

Monday, November 12, 2007

States I have visited.

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

Countries I have visited.

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

The site says I've visited 3% of them.

My husband has turned lactivist.

So I was up on a ladder painting the bedroom when my husband and little girls came home from a dad-and-me breakfast put on by the local early childhood agency. The girls were happy to see me. I was happy to see them all. But Bob was the one grinning.

The girls went off to play and he began to unload the contents of his pockets. A toy baby bottle, stolen from the playgroup. By him. Thief.

Another one.


Lined up in a neat row on the bed.

Six toy baby bottles, removed from circulation, in hopes that one more little child will know breastfeeding to be the norm.

They went in the trash.

And he doesn't even lactate.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Favorite t-shirt sayings.

If we wore t-shirts with words on them, here are some that fit our family. Most are from CafePress.

For Sue

I homeschool because I’ve seen the village and I don’t want it raising my children.

I homeschool because I don’t believe in the mass production of human beings.

I’m not talking to myself. I’m having a parent-teacher conference.

Epidurals are for sissies.

I make milk.
What’s your superpower?

Hospitals are for sick people.
Birth belongs at home.

Weapons of mass lactation.

All Night Milk Bar

For Addy

I am in school right now, and you’re talking during class.

Yes, I’m homeschooled.
I’ll try to use small words.

For Dori

Waterborn baby.

My midwife helped me out.

Born at home.

Happy homeborn baby.

I had a gentle birth.
I was born in water!

Splish, splash
I was born in the bath.

Catch the wave.
Water birth.

Jesus was breastfed.

Don’t be a weaner.

For Bob

Dads who change diapers rule.

My wife homeschools our kids.
And yes, this is my only clean shirt.

My wife gave birth at home. On purpose.
Now ask your silly questions.

Why wouldn’t I want to see more breasts in public?
(I support nursing moms.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Vacation Education: Epcot

My friend Corinne published a book and I helped her with the design. My daughter Addy is also on the cover — the little girl in the top right wearing a light blue shirt.
Check out my friend's web site at

Thursday, October 25, 2007

This is from the e-newsletter of Living Books Curriculum, a homeschool company that offers products based on the methods British educator Charlotte Mason used to help children learn in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Charlotte Mason said that a method implies a mental image of the object. In other words, what you picture and think on tends to come to pass. Do this: picture in vivid detail what your child is like grown. What are the qualities, the character traits, the activities you would like to see your child doing? Write all this down in full. Yes, it will take effort, but you will only need to do this once. When I did it, it produced a radical readjustment of my thinking. Good thing, as I was locked into traditional educational methods and could only imagine my daughter "doing well" in college. When I got the full Technicolor picture of character, life skills, enjoyments, spiritual growth, and "doing well" in college; then, Charlotte Mason and her method began to makes sense as the only way to achieve such a wonderful goal.

I don't know that I agree that the Charlotte Mason method is the only way to get there — friends who home educate their children in other ways seem to be doing well — but I really appreciate the idea of thinking of Addy's and Dori's futures in full detail, well beyond just doing well in college. For me, homeschooling is definitely harder than sending them away to school, but this thought makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The lesson.

Addy didn't want to stay in her bed tonight. After coming downstairs twice, she crawled up on my lap and told me, "You might laugh about this, but I don’t want you to: This might teach you a lesson."

"A lesson about what?" I asked as I buried my face in her hair to hide my laughter.

"A lesson that you should let me sleep with you more often."

She went to bed. In her bed.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

She mitered the corners.

Addy wrapped a present last night for her friend, Gabrielle's, 4th birthday party. She asked me to cut off the appropriate amount of wrapping paper, then she took it from there — all by herself — while I left the room to do something else. She even mitered the corners.

Sometimes people say, "Wow! How did Addy learn to _________ (insert any skill that it doesn't seem like a 5-year-old would know how to do yet)?"

The answer is usually simple: I let her try.

Addy was 2 when she started to tear off unnecessarily long strips of tape to stick onto Christmas gifts. Most of them ended up being decorative rather than serving any adhesive function. No problem.

By the time she was 3, she was wrapping gifts all by herself. They looked as if they were wrapped by a 3-year-old, but that was OK.

Now today, she wrapped a gift that looked as pretty as if her father had wrapped it all by himself. (It's not perfect, but it was her process.) And she even mitered the corners.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The baby gets to stir.

It occured to me recently that Dori is becoming her own little person. No longer a tag-a-long, she has her own interests (shoes, balls and sweets) and desires (wearing shoes, playing with balls and eating sweets). So I let her stir the barbecue sauce.

Up until now, Addy has had all the chances to do everything, and Dori was a (noisy) accessory, often riding on my back or in a sling. On this day two weeks ago I let Dori stir the pot while Addy watched. It was quite a change for Dori, and she clearly loved it. She was pretty proud of herself and now likes to be a helper with everything.

From my local public school district web site:

Studies have shown that students learn faster and become more self-reliant when they are taught one-to-one.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Dori went poopy in the potty!

Dori pooped in her little potty tonight. I thought I better write it down somewhere before she is 18 years old and realizes we forgot to write down any details of her life past 12 months.

At only 5 years old, firstborn Addy already has four big scrapbooks chronicling her life. There's probably less biographical detail in some presidential libraries. I wrote down the exact date each of her teeth emerged. We have photo spreads not only of the big events, but even of everyday visits to the park. And her own blog.

My sister took pictures of Dori in front of Air Force One as it landed carrying the late President Gerald R. Ford, but even those haven't made it into a scrapbook. Oh, I have a big stack of good intentions and even materials to make Dori's first-year scrapbook. It's still empty.

I suppose it's nothing new. My mother wrote nice notes in my oldest brother Duane's baby book. Dale, child No. 4, has some of his filled in. Mine (I'm child 8 of 8) has only a few entries, and those were written in by to of my sisters, one of whom was only 7 years old. I guess the idea of recording a baby's every move gets less and less important with subsequent children.

Though I'll probably forget the date, Dori's first poop in her potty is a milestone. One of these days I'll have to accept the fact that she's not a baby anymore, but rather a toddler. By the time I get used to that she'll be a preschooler.

She's only 19 months old and in the wisdom gained in my 5 whole years of mothering, I have come to realize there's no need to rush the whole potty thing. She seemed a little interested in the big potty, so I put a little one out several weeks ago. Addy has been anxious to help her baby sister learn how to poop in the potty, so the mother lode Dori finally deposited tonight was pretty exciting to her. Addy has been coaching Dori whenever she chooses to sit on the potty. She squats down and says, "Like this, Dori!" as she grunts and strains and pretents to make a bowel movement. Her face even gets red.

And once again, it turns into a story about Addy.

I'm sorry, Dori. I really am.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

School is going well.

We have finished our second week of homeschool kindergarten and I actually feel like I am on top of things and know what I'm doing. I don't know why, but I was terrified before the first week. The whole reason we did the home preschool thing was to see how it would work, but for some reason this seemed more real and made me pretty anxious. I suppose part of it was that I feared Dori would be tearing the place apart while we tried to do school. So far so good. She does tear things up, but we've been able to at least direct it a bit — her applying stickers to her arms and markers to her legs has kept her fairly busy. Oh, and Cheerios. Yes, I'm bribing her with food.

Addy is an amazing learner. Seriously, my mind wanders so much that when we get to the end of a page that I have read aloud to her, I sometimes realize that I forgot to pay attention. So I ask Addy what happened and she always knows.

I'm not one for schedules, so I forced myself into a routine the first week and it paid off. We typically eat breakfast, do school, then are done by lunchtime. That leaves the afternoons for things like playing, dancing, doing crafts and reading for fun.

Then when Bob gets home, we can eat dinner, hang out and do chores. Oh, we've had lots of church and library meeting lately. So when am I supposed to clean the house? I suppose that's why I'm up at all hours of the night.

It's a crazy life, but it's just the one I asked for.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Poopy. And pizza.

We are all so proud that Dori's language skills have grown by leaps and bounds in the last several weeks. I could do without a couple of her phrases.

Like when she pokes at my butt — in public — with her index finger and says — in public — "Mommy poopy? Mommy poopy?"

Yesterday afternoon I asked Addy if homemade pizza sounded like a good choice for dinner. "Mmm, pizza!" she responded. Dori echoed the clearest sentence she has said in all her 18 months: "Mmm, pizza!"


Addy's blog

As we sat down at the dinner table tonight, Bob asked Addy, "So what did you learn in school today?"

Addy's response as she rolled her eyes: "Read my blog."

She is 5 years old.

Addy has her own blog now where she'll dictate posts to me about her homeschool adventures. Check out We hope she'll also continue to interact with humans.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Everything you wanted to know about our homeschooling, but were afraid to ask.

Sue, have you turned weird?

(My brother actually asked.) I mean, homeschooling is either for women with long, straight hair who refuse to let their ankles show or women with long, wild hair who strap Birkenstocks around their ankles. Right?

While I hate to place myself into a box, there’s a rapidly growing segment of the population who homeschool their children because they know it is best for their children. Free love and Bible thumping aside.

So why do you homeschool?

This is probably the hardest question to answer, simply because the reasons are numerous and I could drone on about it for hours. But since you asked:
  1. I can give my children one-on-one attention. Classroom teachers perform amazing work and I don’t discount their efforts. What they cannot do is focus their efforts on my child and only my child — all day, every day. One-on-one tutoring is simply more effective.
  2. No one loves my children as much as I do. Again, classroom teachers each have gifts, and I know they count a love for children among them. However, only my husband and I share the same deep and abiding love for our girls that drives us to educate them as entire little persons every day. I’m not attempting to raise children who are good at math, good at reading, good with science, good at music. While all those would be nice and we work hard at each every day, we are raising our children to be good people. Period.
  3. I’m selfish. I was there when each of my girls took their first steps and said their first words. I will continue to be there as each reads her first book, counts to 100, learns to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. I’d hate to miss it.
  4. It’s my responsibility. I didn’t send my girls off to day care for someone else to raise part of the day. I will not send them off for someone else to educate when I am able to do it myself. I’m the first to admit that homeschooling isn’t for everyone. Not everyone could do it. Not everyone is living in the right situation to make it feasible. I am. So I will.
  5. My children deserve normal socialization. Every single homeschooler I have ever met is sick of the whole socialization question. Let me explain. Many people see my super-outgoing 5-year-old (who wanted to invite 26 of her closest friends to her birthday party) and say that while she won’t have a problem with socialization, those other homeschoolers will have trouble. They’re wrong. Sure, there are a few people who live secluded in the deep woods and like it that way, but all the homeschoolers I know are normal people, active in their communities. Their kids play soccer. They join 4-H clubs. They swim. They play at the park. They use the library. They play with other kids. They have normal conversations with adults and other children nearly every day as they go about their business. That’s what I call socialization. What I don’t need is for my 5-year-old to be socialized a great part of the day primarily by two dozen other 5-year-olds. And if I were going to force socialization upon my child, it certainly wouldn't be to assimilate and maintain the status quo.

Are you qualified to homeschool?

I don’t have a teaching degree. So sorry, I know nothing about classroom management. I couldn’t gain order in a classroom full of kids for anything. Nor could I teach much to two dozen children at a time.

But I do have the skills, desire and resources to teach my own children. If I end up with more than 24 of them, that may change. For now, I’m good.

My husband points out that he and I have each fully mastered the skills typically learned in Kindergarten. And 1st grade, and 2nd grade, probably with 100% competency up to at least 6th grade.

I’m a doer. Give me a challenge and I can probably find a way to meet it. I have never been so motivated to do anything as to teach my own children.

Won’t they miss out on the normal school opportunities?

Yes, that is why I plan to do what this couple proposed. This piece called “Homeschooling Family Finds Ways to Adapt to a Public School ‘Socialization’ Program” was in the fall 2005 Kolbe Little Home Journal:

“When my wife and I mention we are strongly considering homeschooling our children, we are without fail asked, ‘But what about socialization?’ Fortunately, we found a way our kids can receive the same socialization that government schools provide. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie and take his lunch money. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease our children for not being in the ‘in’ crowd, taking special care to poke fun at any physical abnormalities. Fridays will be ‘Fad and Peer Pressure Day.’ We will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, the most expensive clothes, and the loudest, fastest, and most dangerous car. Every day, my wife and I will adhere to a routine of cursing and swearing in the hall and mentioning our weekend exploits with alcohol and immorality ... . And we have asked them to report us to the authorities in the event we mention faith, religion, or try to bring up morals and values.”

Really, won’t they miss some of the things that public school children get to do?

The prom and varsity sports are the least of our family’s concerns. Our children are still little and, seriously, our priorities are something entirely different at this point. Our girls get so many opportunities that some other children do not. If their priorities change over time, their schooling will change, as well.

You suck at math. How are you going to teach Addy and Dori trigonometry if you can’t even define it?

You’re right. I could never give a lecture about advanced math concepts. That’s why I’m working so hard now to raise independent learners. Rather than squash their desire to learn, our brand of homeschooling is all about fostering a love of learning.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Patience of Job? I don't think so.

Apparently my mother-in-law thinks I have the patience of Job. (Siblings and husband: Stop laughing. Now.) Twice this has come up when we have discussed homeschooling. Fact is, I have the patience of any other harried mother of a spirited child and active toddler who has managed to overbook herself with far too many activities. (Low to nil, in chase you need the translation.)

The topic of patience came up at the grocery store this afternoon, too. A mother with two carts full of little boys (!) commended me on my decision to homeschool. I could never do it, she told me. I don't have the patience. I wonder if she believed me when I told her that I don't either.

I wish I could sit down and explain this to every single parent who has seriously contemplated homeschooling, but thinks they couldn't hack it. I work hard at displaying what looks like patience. In my life B.K. (before kids) I had a full-time career in public relations. I liked the writing, forming the messages, working with reporters on deadline, touting my organization. But the schmoozing with executives, budget reports and a whole host of other stuff was not so fun for me. I really had to work at it. It was work, right?

That's what mothering and homeschooling are for me now. They're my work, so I work at them.

The first day of school

Today was our first day of school. Addy is officially a homeschooled kindergartener. It went very well. We finished everything we hoped to this morning. She loved everything, though admitted to being not so fond of the reading lessons. That's OK; we're almost done with those (93 down out of 100).

We spent the afternoon running errands and getting groceries. Addy was a walking billboard for homeschooling everywhere we went. People saw her little 5-year-old self and asked if she started school today, if she was in kindergarten, etc. She gave her little speech at least half a dozen times.

I even took a first-day-of-school photo of her this morning. I thought about dressing her in her pink fuzzy bathrobe and slippers and sending that photo to the naysayers in our family: "Addy's first day of school, still in her pajamas. Isn't homeschooling great?" But that might induce heart attacks so I decided against it.

We decided to keep Dori in the official first-day-of-homeschool photo because, after all, isn't that part of the point?

Gone batty

Last night I got the family to bed early so I could lay out the breaskfast dishes and Addy's books for her first day of homeschool kindergarten. I was also attempting to get myself to bed at a decent hour. I was just about finished in the kitchen when a large bat flew across the table. After ducking, shrieking and swinging (in that order), I decided that this was worth waking up Bob.

I had a laundry basket on my head and a yardstick in my hand. We (and by we I mean he) finally got it to fly out the sliding door after it circled the other downstairs rooms several times.

This afternoon I opened my e-mail to read that rabid bats have been found in our area of the state. Great.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bad mommy. Bad, bad mommy.

When Bob got home from work, we took the girls to the soccer field to play. I managed to kick the ball — hard — directly into Dori’s little toddler tummy. It couldn’t have been more of a direct hit had I tried. The poor baby turned 18 months old today and this is how I honor her. We were all stunned. But she got me back.

I rushed to pick Dori up to comfort her. I heard a gurgle, then she repaid me by puking the entire contents of her stomach all down my neck and back.

After I was sure she was OK, I started peeling off my shirt. I mean it was stinky stuff. I took it off, saying out loud, “It will just look like I’m wearing a sports bra.” Then I suddenly realized that flabby, plus-sized women don’t wear sports bras in public — especially a polka dot one paired with a striped broomstick skirt. It hit me that the traffic on the highway could see me, so I ran to the car to hide. I found my Columbia windbreaker and put that on. My skirt had a splash of puke on it, too, so I took that off and wrapped a bedsheet around my waist. It was 80+ degrees at that point.

After about half an hour, Dori regained the color in her cheeks. She’ll probably flinch everytime she sees me go near a ball now.

The typewriter.

I freecycled an old typewriter today. I think it was originally my sister Beth’s, so in 1986 it was a high-quality, Smith-Corona model. It even had the fancy auto-correction tape. I remember buying it with Mom and Dad at the office supply store before Beth went to college.

Brother-in-law Mark just yesterday forwarded the annual list of things that date the incoming class of college freshmen. One was that the World Wide Web has been a tool their whole lives.

So I suppose they’ve never used typewriters either.

A real estate agent saw my listing on Freecycle and came by to pick it up. Addy wanted to know why that lady came over. Her next question: “What’s a typewriter?”

It was surprisingly difficult to explain.

Making sense of it all.

I've been keeping an e-journal of the kids' antics for awhile now, but am just now getting them posted to the blog. That's why you'll see a bunch of post-dated posts.

October 25, 2006

Addy just taught me how to change my log-on icon on the computer. Her instructions were right on.

She's 4.

October 28, 2006

It seems like the girls each reach milestones on the same day. Today Dori and I attended a state La Leche League workshop while Addy stayed home with Bob.

Dori was happiest pulling up to stand and holding onto me for support. She kept testing herself by letting go and maintaining balance for awhile until she fell on her padded bottom (11 seconds max.).

I brought home the Dick and Jane book We Play for Addy. She was able to read it pretty well with some help on new words such as “look,” “father” and “where.”

October 29, 2006

Dori still has four teeth. Two more are visible, but have just a bit of gum covering them so I guess they haven’t officially erupted yet. She has been eating table food off our plates — bits of potato, turkey, cheese and lots of Cheerios.

November 29, 2006

(E-mail to my sister Beth)

My classic story that could be in the book I like, How to Talk to Your Kids so They'll Listen and Listen so They'll Talk, happened at the farm after Addy climbed over you then jumped on the couch. I told her I was frustrated and wondered what we could do to help her remember not to climb on people or stand on furniture. Did you see the sign she made hanging on the closet at the farm? Her answer to my question was, "Make a sign?" So I said, "OK, go get some paper and I'll help you spell the words." She asked me to tell her how to spell, "Don't Climb on People / Also / Don't Climb on Furniture." It worked! I couldn't believe it.

Just a minute ago she was holding her little tin box of coins from Grandma B. It's a perennial problem because she ends up spilling coins all over the floor where Dori could choke on them, then there are so many coins it's overwhelming and Addy doesn't think she can pick them all up — so she doesn't want to pick up any. This time (mostly since Dori is asleep on my shoulder right now) I decided not to say anything or even acknowledge that I noticed. Addy said, "Oh no!" then proceeded to pick up the coins. She said, "Don't worry, I'll get them so my sister can't choke on them." Then a few minutes later I heard her say to herself, "This box keeps falling open. (pause) I'll go get a rubber band so it stays closed." Yay! She’s learning problem solving.

November 30, 2006

Bob is on the couch, holding a sleeping Dori and reading Pippi Longstocking to Addy.

It occurs to me why Addy is so attracted to stories about Pippi Longstocking and Laura Ingalls. It’s clear that they, like her, were … shall we say … spirited children.

December 11, 2006

Positive discipline really pays off. As I write this Addy and Dori are standing at the Lego table playing with a younger friend, Gabrielle, who is visiting for the morning.

Gabrielle yells, “No baby!” when Dori holds a toy she doesn’t want her to have.

Addy’s response: “You don’t have to yell at her. Just take care of the problem.”

Gabrielle indicates she isn’t sure what to do.

“Well, take her hand off it,” Addy suggests. “Give her another toy. Trade her. Trade her.”

February 2, 2007

As all our relatives know, Addy likes to be an entertainer. Bob and I often envision ourselves on some E! biography 20 years from now, saying, “She always did have to be the center of attention.”

Addy now has her first regular gig. A friend has been taking her granddaughter and Addy to the nursing home a few blocks from our place to sing to the residents on Wednesday mornings. They each get microphones and share tunes such as “Jesus Loves Me” and “Kum Ba Yah.” Addy loves her time at the “medical scare febrility” (medical care facility).

Dori’s signing has officially taken off. I even had a little conversation with her today. It’s great to be able to get into the mind of a baby! After I changed her diaper, she started waving her hands in her version of FATHER and making some noises like da-da-da. I told her. “No, Dori. Daddy’s not home. Daddy is at work.” She looked at me, smiled, then signed SISTER and started repeating Ah-jah, which means Addy. “Yes, Dori, Addy is here. Let’s go find your sister.”

You might remember that Dori started signing diaper CHANGE a long time ago, even telling us when she was wet. That tapered off, but now she will sometimes sign while we are in the middle of changing her. We might need to work on signing it with her more. She waves her hands to sign FATHER and does a little happy stomp-dance when Bob gets home from work. She can’t quite get her open hand up to her forehead to make the sign, but we know what the open-hand wave means. To sign SISTER, she gets the second part of the sign halfway. The sign for sister is GIRL + SAME. She skips the girl part. For same, the index fingers are supposed to be stacked together, but she takes one index finger and points it at her other open hand. Close enough! She also signs MILK, but for now MILK also means MOTHER. Go figure. She sometimes signs UP when I remind her as I pick her up.

February 16, 2007

I will never cease to be amazed at how quickly they learn and grow. Fourteen months ago, I let Addy try to sign her name to our 2005 Christmas cards, but she was not yet able to write it except for scrawling an “A.” By the first week of February, she picked up a pen and wrote her name on every one of the Valentine’s Day 2006 cards she made for her friends. Just two weeks later, Bob took her to the Dad and Me Breakfast and she asked him to tell her the letters for “Happy Valentine’s Day Mommy.” I was able to decipher the writing when she presented me with the Valentine. This Tuesday at our weekly homeschool co-op afternoon, she wrote her first mini-report (as in two or three sentences), “What do turtles do in winter?” She needed reminders to “sound it out,” but handled the spelling pretty much on her own.

I’m starting to learn some lessons that veteran homeschool moms have been trying to tell me all along: The learning will happen when she is ready. She will motivate herself. Focus less on teaching and more on giving her the tools to learn. And sorry to freak some of you out, but do “unschooling.” Addy asked me to read a favorite board book that Aunt Carol gave her based on a common preschool rhyme called Five Little Pumpkins. Then she said, “Now that you read it to me, can I read it to you?” She read the whole thing, with only a little help on two words. “I love to be a big reader!” she exclaimed. Then she asked if she could write a book report about it for the online book club she joined. She then read it twice to Dori. Yes! None of this was my idea.

February 28, 2007

Today I found myself saying things I never would have imagined five years ago (pre-kids).
  • “Hey, who stuck this to the baby’s head?!?”
  • “Crayons are not for eating.”
  • “[Addy’s friend], I know exactly why you are hiding under the table. Now please come on out and use this tissue instead.”

March 16, 2007

Sometimes when Addy first wakes up she waxes philosophical. Among the first statements out of her mouth this morning:

  • “Happy is something you should have in your heart.”
  • “If I found a lot of bird feathers, maybe I could fly.”

Meanwhile, Dori has learned to say, “Hi,” or, more accurately, “Hi, hi, hi.” The words are coming now.

Someone gave Addy a fingerpainting set featuring Ariel, the Disney mermaid. She made a comment about how cute Ariel is. I wondered aloud if the mermaid was smart, or brave, or kind. Addy said she didn’t think she was brave, but was sure she was smart — and also pretty. We talked about what makes a person good and, as usual, Addy was quick with an honest answer. I was attempting to help her see that pretty isn’t part of a person’s character. I asked, “Do you know anybody who is a really good person, but not very pretty?” She finally understood. “You!” she answered, pointing at my face. Ugh. Lesson over.

9 p.m.: More Addy philosophy. “Isn’t milk great? It makes you strong, and healthy, and I love it!”

April 10, 2007

Bob and I were cleaning up dinner when I heard a knock at the front door. Addy had gone out to play in the front yard, so I figured it was her.

It was, but standing next to her was some man I had never seen before. I asked (shouted), “What’s going on!?”

He told me, “She was stuck up in a tree.” After thanking him profusely and thanking God that he wasn’t a kidnapper, Addy said she had been calling, “Mommy! Daddy!” for a long time and we never came.

Bad parents. Bad, bad parents.

May 4, 2007

While folding laundry inside I noticed that Addy got into the rhubarb and shared some with her friend and Dori. It’s a beautiful thing when your children can help themselves to a snack from your own garden, dirt and all.

May 16, 2007

Bob and Addy took a walk this evening. They were talking about her birthday, and Bob told her she was born August *, 2002, at about 3 o’clock in the morning. “That’s really early,” he told her. “The doctor had to get up out of bed to attend your birth.” Addy asked, “Why did the doctor have to come. He explained that she was born in a hospital. Addy asked, “I was born in a hospital?” When Bob said yes, she wondered, “Didn’t scientists know then that you could be born at home?”

June 8, 2007

It’s a regular biology lab around here.

Last week Addy ran in from her swingset with an inchworm on her arm. Last night she chased the fattest toad I have ever seen under our deck. But there’s more.

Last week we took a trip to Sunrise Lake, a county park and our favorite swimming hole. Addy likes to jump from the big rock — about diving board height — into the shallow water. Dori likes to throw fists full of sand. Bob and I like that it’s quiet and we are usually the only ones there. We all enjoy watching the baby bluegills swim around our feet. Every time we try to catch them, and every time we fail. It seems like it should be so easy.

But on the ride home, we spotted a painted turtle in the road. I pointed it out so Bob could swerve and spare its life. We decided to stop and investigate (possibly inspired by reading my copy of Carschooling by Diane Flynn Keith) and ended up bringing the poor sucker home. Addy named him Joseph. It’s an appropriate name because as an Eastern painted, he wears a coat of many colors. She only chose it because I thought the name Dori would be redundant. Joseph now lives in the fish tank we freecycled. While we have managed to kill many a fish and even snails over the years, Joseph is still alive. He eats earthworms.

Joseph joined the two goldfish in our garden pond for a quick dip while we set up the tank. We started the season with six fish, but four floated in May. We buy the 15-centers at Meijer, so high mortality is expected.

We get plenty of birds at the garden pond. They like to perch on the edge of the big pot we turned into a fountain and take a drink. We usually see robins and blue jays.

Then there are the starlings. Starlings are a noisy, messy species introduced from Europe. After we had our new roof put on, a pair introduced themselves to a little spot where a section of roof overhangs another section. They built a nest last year and are back again this year. I can hear them the loudest when using the throne in our master bedroom. The babies’ chirping is kind of cute, so they have been allowed to stay.

Every night this time of year, we hear lots of chirping in the sky overhead. About 500 chimney swifts live in the chimney of the old hospital next door. At dusk they all come in over the course of about half an hour, devouring insects as they go. It’s fun to stand outside from about 8:30 p.m. til pitch dark and watch them dive bomb and shoot into the chimney. It’s a little itchy, though, because they don’t get all the mosquitoes.

We have also been observing woodpeckers lately. Right now there’s a flicker on the maple tree in front of our house. We camped one night at Rose Lake this weekend and watched a downy as I set up the tent and Bob and Addy worked on starting the fire. A couple weeks ago we woke every morning to the loud sound of a woodpecker east of our house. We dropped everything and took a walk one afternoon when we heard it again and found a hole 2 feet high and a foot deep into the side of a red maple a block away. We haven’t seen the bird, but surely it was a pileated. I had only seen one pileated before (they’re as big as a crow and have the Woody Woodpecker red crest) and that one was on a residential street near Ferris (Lukie’s college). Then this week, I spotted one on a stump near the side of US-10 just outside of town. We stopped and rolled the windows down to hear it peck away for awhile. Could it be the same one that drilled into our neighbor’s maple?

We accompanied Bob to Big Rapids for his church council executive meeting on Tuesday. We stopped for ice cream afterward where Addy and a little girl watched some sort of green caterpillar crawl up Addy’s arm. Once it reached her neck (sorry, a little gross to me) I offered that we could take it home. She put it in a jar with a twig and some leaves. I figured it would die. This morning when we came down for breakfast she couldn’t find it. Dead, I assumed. Nope. It had spun a cocoon under a leaf. Addy is looking forward to a moth emerging. We’ll see. Another cool site: What is this caterpillar?

So with our pool still empty (except for some dark water and aquatic insects in the deep end), yesterday I suggested a trip to Cadillac to run some errands and then swim in Lake Cadillac. I was hot from planting annuals out front and the girls are always game to get wet. By the time Bob got home from work, we loaded up the car, then ran all our errands, it was 7 p.m. and it got mighty windy and a little cloudy at the beach. Since it was also hot, it seemed like one of those tornado’s-a-brewin’ days. Some drops of warm rain fell and I was about to rush Addy out of the water, but Bob reminded me that as long as she didn’t mind the light rain and there was no lightning, we were fine. The rain stopped, but the waves were choppy from the wind. Bob, Dori and I waded in the water while Addy swam.

I turned toward the shore and noticed a big dark spot in the water. I asked Bob to check it out. I didn’t remember a huge rock at this beach, and if a big log were rolling around in the water I thought we should remove it for the kids’ safety. He waded over and stared at it awhile before declaring, “It’s a school of fish!” I didn’t think it was possible. It was almost a solid mass, about 5 feet long and 2 feet deep and wide. The edges were wavy, so it was surely a huge mess of seaweed. But nope. We saw a very big fish swimming around the mass in circles. It was at least two feet long, nice and broad. Finally convinced that this could possibly be fish, I called Addy over. Bob went to the van to get Addy’s butterfly net (left from the trip to Sunrise Lake the previous week) as Jaws swam around our feet and the school of little fish. We followed the mass and when he came back he scooped the net into the edge of it. He dipped out two dozen little fish. I estimate there were 10,000 in the school.

We slid them into a travel mug (which will never hold my drink again) and drove home. Half are living with Joseph the turtle and half are in the garden pond. If they live, they’ll probably eat the two remaining goldfish. Thanks to a very cool University of Wisconsin fish identification database,, we found out they are bowfin. Our estimate of thousands of babies was confirmed by what we read online. Up to three females lay their eggs in a mud nest. The male bowfin stays near, swimming around them as eggs and for a few weeks after they hatch. They’re an ancient species from prehistory and have an unusual bladder used for breathing.

We wonder if the odd weather and the big waves brought them to the shore of Lake Cadillac. It was among the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. And yes, we realize a DNR officer would not be thrilled to hear what we’re keeping in our tank and pond.