The Last First Time

FullSizeRender (2)I’ve had a lot of Big Feelings this week.

David, my oldest, is turning 5 (FIVE?!?!) in a few days and I honestly can’t believe it. This little boy–my BABY–who I carried in my belly for 9 months (actually, more like 10 months, the persistent little bugger) is officially NOT a baby any more. When he was toddling around at 2 years old, I was justified in calling him a baby; when he was learning his colors and shapes and the intricacies of Angry Birds at age 3, I could get by calling him a baby–even at age 4 when he still sported the round, chubby face of a cherub could I call him a baby. But not any more.

He is tall and lean and feisty and fantastic and…FIVE. Holy moly, how did that even happen? Last week I was looking back at his baby book with him and I was recounting all of his firsts–his first smile, his first tooth, him eating his first foods, his first steps, his first word (“Mama”, obviously). I realized that in his short life that actually seems quite long, he’s had a lot of firsts. And I’ve been there for all of them, taking pictures and writing them down in his baby book (ok, I mostly just posted everything on Facebook, but that’s the modern day equivalent of a baby book, right?). So, the other day I went shopping for David’s birthday gift and I was pondering all of this–the beauty and the irony of life already moving so quickly.

Then the real kicker came. As I was walking over to the toy section, I happened to (on purpose) walk through the baby section. I hadn’t had a chance to go shopping for our new baby yet, so I decided to take advantage of my solo shopping time and do a quick browse through the baby clothes. Somehow, three of the pinkest, frilliest outfits managed to find their way into my shopping cart. And then it hit me: this was the last first time I’d shop for my new baby. I could vividly remember my first pregnancy and the thrill of shopping for David for the first time. Then, a year or so later, I had the joy of picking out sweet new things for Jacob. But now. NOW. It’s our last baby and this was my LAST first time shopping for her.

I lost it, right there in the middle of the baby section. It’s probably not the first time a pregnant lady started crying over baby clothes at Target, but I still felt like a fool. A fool who really didn’t care because COME ON–this is IT. This is the beginning of the end, and it’s bittersweet.

I am in the last few months of pregnancy…EVER. In the coming months and years, there will be a lot of last first times. I recently began to feel my baby move, for the last first time. I am carrying another human life, for the last first time. In a few short months I will hold my baby in my arms, for the last first time. And every moment with here from there on out, it will be the last first time. It’s glorious and terrifying at the same time, and I almost can’t handle it.

So, this week I’m going to pull up my big girl panties (no, seriously, pregnancy panties are preeeeeeetty big) and I’m going to celebrate my baby-who’s-not-a-baby-anymore. I’m going to relish in his firsts–of past, present, and future–as he blows out those five flickering candles. I’m going to remember the first time he smashed a (homemade organic baked from scratch with no refined sugars) birthday cake and I’m going to smile because he’s come a long way, baby. And I’ll probably dream about the day that my other children will reach these milestones, these firsts, in their time.

And then I’ll probably (definitely) cry. Because that’s what I do.

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A Week In The Life of Our Homeschool

If you would have asked me last year what I thought I would be doing RIGHT NOW, the answer would have been: NOT homeschooling my kids. And yet, here I am…homeschooling my kids…and I actually kind of love it. No, I really love it. I love watching my kids learn–and learning along with them. I love playing teacher again. I love the way our boys’ relationships with each other and with us have strengthened. Homeschool has been a good move for our family, and I’m glad we made it.

We are still very new to this whole homeschooling thing, though, and I get a lot of questions from people about it.

How is school going?
Overall great, with plenty of hiccups and meltdowns along the way.

Are you exhausted yet?
Ummm…YEAH.

What do you do all day?
Stuff…I call it “playing with a purpose”.

Our days are surprisingly packed and the weeks have been flying by. In order to give you a better picture of what school looks like for us, I’ve put together a little tour through our week. So pack your bags and come along with us for your first week enrolled at the Peterson Learning Academy!

Day 1
On Mondays I introduce our weekly themes: our book (with our curriculum, Five In A Row, we have a new children’s book each week. We read the book every day of that week and base our activities around the themes found in the book), letter of the week, and Bible verse.

This week’s book is Ask Mr. Bear by Marjorie Flack, a classic book that has been enjoyed by four generations of children. The book is about a little boy who is trying to find the perfect birthday gift for his mother, so he asks all of the animals he meets if they have a gift for him. The main themes from the book that  we focused on this week were farm animals, forests, and birthdays (mostly because I wanted an excuse to eat more cake).

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After reading the book through one time we jumped right into our farm animal theme. We started with a matching game where the boys had to match animals with their products.
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Then we went outside to “milk” our “cows”.IMG_6854

Even though our cow udders were actually latex gloves and our milk was actually water, we still had a lot of fun (and we all agreed that we would not want to wake up early every morning to complete this chore).IMG_6856

Once our cows had been properly milked we measured how much water…er…milk…made it into our buckets. Despite a significant amount of liquid being lost to squirting themselves and each other, we did manage to pour enough into measuring cups to complete the activity.
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All that milking made us hungry, so we headed back inside to make a snack–farm style! We made our own butter by pouring heavy cream and a pinch of salt into a jar…IMG_6864

…and shaking, shaking, shaking like crazy!IMG_6867

Just when we thought our arms would fall off from exhaustion, the butter came together and we were able to enjoy some toast with VERY fresh butter.
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With tummies full of butter we were ready to move on to Messy Time (I have boys, so “messy time” is a suitable term for our artistic endeavors). Today we made “cow udder art” (ok, I’ve gotta think of a better name for that one…). We filled some more latex gloves with paint, poked holes in the ends of the fingers, and squirted away. They are very modern. I think I’ll sell the completed pieces to an art gallery and add the money to the boys’ college funds.
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After messy time we did a little work with our letter of the week, “o”. The boys love using their “dibble dots” (Bingo stampers), so we did a dibble dot letter tracing page to work on fine motor skills.IMG_6846

Monday happened to be a school holiday for the other kids in our neighborhood (Darn! We almost forgot to celebrate Columbus Day!). In the afternoon we met up with a bunch of the kids to go for a creek walk in our neighborhood. IMG_6876

Day 2
This was our “forest day”. After doing calendar time and reading our book again, we packed up and headed out for a day exploring the woods where Mr. Bear lives. There are several great hiking trails within a few minutes of our house, so we didn’t have to go too far to find a good forest. 
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The boys wanted to climb every tree we came to. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.IMG_6893

We hiked (and by “hiked”, I mean I hiked and they walked for short spurts between rides in the jogging stroller) a little over a mile to a small lake.
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The boys went “fishing” with poles we’d made that morning at home (they caught lots of little green plants and muck on their lines but, sadly for them, no fish).
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They also had fun exploring this exciting “tunnel” we found near the lake (and my, how it echoed!).IMG_6913

During our walk we made a nature board. I had painted several colors along one edge of the board and the boys worked together to find nature treasures of every color that we then taped on to the board. Their favorite finds were an acorn, multi-colored leaves…and an orange peel that someone had left on the side of the trail.
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When we returned home we made a page for our memory books (3-ring binders that we’re adding to all year). Today’s page was on the colors of Autumn and we used our color nature board to help us complete a poem about the different colors we see in nature at this time of year.
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Day 3
Our day started with the boys “reading” books to our dog, Bota, while I made breakfast.IMG_7011
Wednesday mornings are usually spent at our church doing either Playhouse (a fantastic morning just for preschoolers–they have open gym time with bounce houses, ride-on toys, gymnastics equipment, climbers, Play-doh, puzzles, crafts, stories, and circle time) or MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers). This was a MOPs week, so the boys went to their Moppetts group where they do a little Bible lesson, craft and games with other children their age. Meanwhile, Mommy went to her “class” where I learned how to take stunning iPhone photos while noshing on an uninterrupted hot breakfast and chatting with my friends.

Moppetts wore out little Jacob and he fell asleep in the car on the way home. While Jacob was napping, I took advantage of the quiet to work one-on-one with David. David has his own handwriting book that we are going through this year and he completed the “o” page for our letter of the week.IMG_6998

Then David did a letter building game, working with our letters of the week from this week and last week.IMG_7004

We had just enough time to do our “writing project”–thank you notes for his birthday party that we had last weekend!IMG_7007
After Jacob’s nap the boys worked on some animal puzzles together.IMG_7023

Then it was calendar time (a group activity where we go through the days of the week, counting, patterns, and graphing using our daily calendar). I’ve also been incorporating a song or poem each week that goes along with our theme, and this week’s poem is about farm animals. The boys used our farm puppets to help act out the poem.
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Next, we caught up on an activity that we ran out of time for last week when we were studying Corduroy. We made a page for our memory books that involved measuring and weighing their teddy bears.IMG_7030

Finally, we had Bible time. We’ve been using our Awana Cubbies book for a lot of our Bible time activities, and today’s story was about God creating the animals (quite fitting since we’ve been learning so much about animals lately!).IMG_7033 

Day 4
Now that we had heard our story several times and were getting quite familiar with it, I gave the boys some time for dramatic play. We started by talking about setting and we looked through several of our favorite books so we could identify the setting of each story. Then we got out the butcher paper (thank you, Melodie!) to draw a mural of the setting in Ask Mr. Bear.

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After our setting was complete, we hung it up and set up a “stage” so we could re-enact the story with puppets. The boys had a great time making their puppets move and talk just like the characters in the story.
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After several versions of the puppet show we worked on a letter-o craft project (they made an o-shaped octopus with Cheeri-o suckers on the tentacles…the vast majority of the “suckers” ended up in their mouths, though, so we counted this as snack time. Bam. Double-duty art project.)
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While they were content at the table with bowls full of Cheeri-o’s I had them color a mini farm animal book. The pattern of the text is so simple that they can “read” their own books–they really enjoyed getting to read to me for a change!IMG_7048
Day 5
Friday fun day! Since the plot of our book this week centered around a little boy trying to find the perfect birthday gift for his mother, I thought it would be fitting to have our own birthday celebration (note: Friday fun day also apparently implies that we got to wear pajamas and/or Halloween costumes all day. Homeschool for the win.)

I try to do at least one cooking project with the boys every week, so we headed into the kitchen to make birthday cupcakes (shhh…they were actually banana muffins, but don’t tell the un-birthday boys).IMG_7052

While our muffin cupcakes were baking we made a collaborative book. On each page they dictated while I wrote who they would like to give a gift to and what it would be. Then they drew a picture of the gift in the “gift box” at the bottom of the page and taped a piece of wrapping paper along the top edge of the gift box. It’s a really fun book similar to a lift-the-flap book that I’m sure they’ll enjoy reading and re-reading.
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We also played some balloon games. The first game involved rolling dice and bouncing the balloon the same number of times as the number they rolled. Once they got the hang of this we added a second dice and they had to add the numbers together (David could do this on his own, but Jacob still needed some help counting and adding the larger numbers).IMG_7064

We also did an experiment with balloons and FIRE (this one definitely had the wow factor going for it!). I blew up two balloons—one with just air, and the other with air and about 1/4 cup of cold water. We made predictions about what we thought would happen when the flame touched each balloon and then tested out our theories (the air balloon popped right away and the water-filled balloon lasted awhile longer before exploding). We talked about how heat changes things and they gave me examples of things they have seen changed by heat. Then we went back into the kitchen to check on our muffins in the oven to see how heat had changed THEM!IMG_7071

The boys decorated their birthday muffins with some frosting and sprinkles (eh, why not…) and I gave them each a birthday candle. We sang “Happy Un-Birthday To You” and they each made a wish before blowing out their candles. Then they licked their plates (and fingers, and table) clean.IMG_7072

While they were eating their cupcakes I got out their baby books and showed them the only completed sections in the books–their very first birthdays. We compared the size of their baby footprints to their giant boy feet and the size of their newborn ID bracelets to their giant boy hands. We looked at pictures of their tiny little selves and Mommy gushed about how stinkin’ adorable they were. Mommy may have also cried. Just a little.IMG_7079

After our snack we went back to our book and found all of the gifts that the animals suggested Danny give his mother for his birthday. We listed each gift on a whiteboard and then came up with rhyming words for each gift. I have a little rhyming song that we like to sing any time we rhyme, so we sang several verses using our gift rhymes.IMG_7084And thus concluded our week of Ask Mr. Bear (and with it, our unit on bears). This afternoon we’ll go to the library to return all of our bear books and check out some new books for next week’s study of pumpkins!

I hope you enjoyed coming along with us on our week of learning. Until next time!

XxX Allison

The Beam

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So, there’s this book.

It’s called For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, and I’m so in love with it. If you haven’t read For the Love yet, then do yourself a favor and go out and buy it. Right now. (You can thank me later.) This book is so good that you’ll actually want to skip watching So You Think You Can Dance after the kids’ bedtime just so you can soak in more of those wonderful words. If For the Love were a food instead of a book, it would be dark chocolate cake smothered in cream cheese frosting. I dare you to take just a bite, but guaranteed you’ll devour the whole thing in one sitting.

I may be a bit biased because the book is written by my blogger idol, Jen Hatmaker. She is perhaps the wittiest, most honest writer/speaker/liver of life that I’ve ever met (ok, I haven’t actually met her…not in the physical sense…but I cyber-stalk her and kind of want to be her when I grow up and a friend of mine once sat by her on a plane …so that all has to count for something, right?).

The book covers the hilarious (there’s a whole chapter on the appropriate-ness of leggings, tights, and yoga pants. She speaks straight to my heart.) to the more practical issues we all deal with in life. One topic in the book really got under my skin, in a good way. It made me take a critical look at my own life and make some actual changes. So what is this powerful topic of personal change? A gymnastics balance beam.

The balance beam is a metaphor for the balance in our own lives–particularly the lives of busy modern-day moms. As Hatmaker observes:

Here is the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self-care”, served neighbors/church/world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior.

You can’t balance that job description.

Amen! Hallelujah! It’s so true. We are constantly shown the best side of people–on social media (When’s the last time you updated your profile picture to how you look RIGHT NOW? ), on TV (I’m pretty sure most celebrities don’t forget to take a shower for 3 or 4 days in a row), and even face to face (I put on “real clothes” and “makeup” when I know I’m going somewhere where people might recognize me).

What we don’t see is the other 99% of peoples’ lives that are happening outside of the glimpses we catch of their highlight reel. Those times when they lose it with their kids and/or spouse. Those times when they stuffed a Lunchable into their kid’s lunchbox and called it a day. That week when she didn’t touch a broom or a vaccuum or a toilet bowl brush because she just didn’t care. That time she looked jealously at the working mom and felt she wasn’t doing enough. That time she looked at the stay at home mom and felt she wasn’t doing enough.

And isn’t that the truth? We set expectations for ourselves based on what we think the perfect life should be, and we see how much other people are just killing it…and it’s slowly killing us. We often see the best in people but fail to see that perfection simply doesn’t exist. We are striving toward a goal that is unreachable, and we are destined to fail. You can’t be the Pinterest mom AND the CEO mom AND the Martha Stewart mom AND the PTA mom AND the marathon mom AND the…you get the picture. You can’t and I can’t and nobody is.

So where do we go from here?

The balance beam! As Hatmaker points out, “We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.” Just as you can’t possibly make it across a balance beam if it’s too crowded with STUFF, we can’t possibly make it through life if it’s too overrun by the unnecessary (I was in gymnastics for 6 years and I could hardly make it across that dang beam with NOTHING in my way). Some things we do for all of the wrong reasons–they need to go off the beam. In some areas we are sacrificing a Good for a Best–they need to find room on the beam.

Wow. Seriously, easier said than done. This idea of taking things on and off my beam got me thinking. I looked at my own crowded beam and I knew that there were some things that had to change. Here are a few of the things I pushed off my beam, and some that I pulled back on:

Off the beam: 
-Extra volunteering/leadership. I’m usually one of the first to raise my hand when they need someone to help out and, honestly, I love doing it. But I can’t do it all. And maybe someone else can even do it better. I’ve chosen a few areas where I will consistently serve, and I’m saying no to the rest.
-Late nights. As much as I love the moments in my day that are just my own, and even though my husband is the living definition of a night owl, Mama needs her sleep.
-The kids’ school. This was absolutely my hardest off the beam decision, and it took us nearly a year to make it. Traditional school wasn’t working well for David or our family during this season, and we had to take it off the beam (Goodbye mornings to myself! Goodbye lovely teachers whom we adore! Goodbye “normal”). Which brings me to…

On the beam:
-Homeschool. Hands-down the most rewarding–and exhausting–thing we’ve put on the beam this year. A total lifestyle switch, and it’s taking up a lot of room on my beam.
-The gym. I hadn’t joined a gym in about 6 years, but I needed some scheduled exercise breaks during the week…without my kids. The gym gives me 90 minutes of kid-free exercise every day I can manage to drag us out the door–enough time for a barre class and a solo shower: win-win!
-Writing. I enjoy writing, both here on the blog and for my own self, so I’m carving out specific time during the week where I can make that happen.

There are other things I’m still working on moving on or off my beam, but change takes time. One step at a time, I will make it across this balance beam called life. Even if I do fall every now and then.

Now it’s your turn, friend–what are you pulling on or pushing off your beam?

The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady: A Parody

caterpillar

The other day I was reading to the boys (for the gajillionth time) one of their favorite books: Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For those of you who may not be as intimately familiar with the story as I am, it follows a tiny caterpillar from the day he hatches from his little white egg through his journey as he eats different foods every day getting nice and fat for his grand finale: building a cocoon and finally emerging as a beautiful butterfly. It’s a classic story, and one that I find myself relating more and more to now that I have my condition (condition = pregnancy).

I feel for the poor little caterpillar–he’s just hungry all the time and it is his JOB to eat and grow so he might become more beautiful. As such, I’ve decided to adopt the Very Hungry Caterpillar’s mantra: I, too, have dedicated myself to eating and growing so that I might become more beautiful (or produce a more beautiful baby?). You see, I take the whole “eating for two” thing very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that you might mistake my food consumption for that of two competing sumo wrestlers rather than that of an average sized woman and a nearly-1-pound baby. Not to brag, but some might call me a professional double-eater.

As an illustration, here is my own version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar–tweaked a bit to mark my own glorious transformation. I now present:

The Very Hungry Pregnant Lady

In the light of the moon a tiny baby was formed in her mother’s womb.IMG_6600

One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and–pop!–out stuck the mother’s belly as the tiny baby began to grow.11953069_10101444379903150_5148467840828573354_n

Growing a baby is hard work, so the pregnant lady started to look for some food.

On Monday she ate through one piece of apple pie à la mode. But she was still hungry.
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On Tuesday she ate through two brownies, but she was still hungry.IMG_6558

On Wednesday, she ate through three slices of pizza, but she was still hungry.FullSizeRender (2)

On Thursday she ate through four graham crackers smothered in Funfetti frosting, but she was still hungry.IMG_6522

On Friday she ate through five pieces of deli meat (microwaved to steaming, first, to remove the possibility of Listeria poisoning), but she was still hungry.FullSizeRender (3)

On Saturday she was a good girl and she ate through six tangerines, but she was still hungry.IMG_6557

On Saturday she ate for dinner: one chocolate pudding cup, one heaping scoop of Nutella, one salami, one plate of spaghetti, one bag of popcorn, one buttery croissant, and one bottle of sparkling mineral water.

That night she had a stomachache!FullSizeRender (4)

The next day the pregnant lady ate salad. After that she felt much better.
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Now she wasn’t hungry any more–and she wasn’t a little lady any more. She was a big, fat pregnant lady. She crawled inside her cocoon-of-a-bed and read celebrity gossip magazines while her devoted husband rubbed her swollen feet. She grew that baby for nine whole months. Then she went to the hospital, got an epidural, and pushed out…

…a beautiful baby!76245_689686136550_5492270_n

Now she wasn’t a Very Hungry Pregnant Lady any more. She was a Very Blessed Mommy.
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The end.