Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What Can I Do With My 3.5 year old?

Ok mommies/parents. Since we aren't sending our son to preschool, I want to make sure I'm keeping up with him developmentally - giving him ways to play that match where he is - not talking serious schooling or anything. But as I read about "what do preschoolers learn" it's all stuff that he already knows and stuff we already do at home. It all seems like basic "good mommy" stuff that I wouldn't NOT do (read aloud to your children and point out colors and numbers and shapes or Your child will learn about geometric shapes in preschool - iow - talk about squares and circles). So... I'm looking for ideas from any of you... How do I not introduce formal home schooling to him but also step things up a bit? I'm not good at craftiness, but maybe being more dedicated in daily fun things at home would be good. Please tell me your #1 source for craft/activity ideas. I've spent hours on Pinterest before only to disappoint myself with how little I do. I need to be diligent with creating a schedule (for MYSELF) so that I actually DO - like: Monday - "nature walk to hunt for treasures and stick em on paper" Tuesday - "use markers and crayons to draw some letters and cut them out" Go!! Remember - he is 3.5.

A friend of mine recently asked this question on FB.  She tagged me in the post, and although I wrote a short response on her wall, I wanted to answer it more thoroughly here.

I think in short order, she is asking-- how do I homeschool without homeschooling?

And that was my question as my oldest Molly got to be about 3.5.   I wanted her to learn how to read- I thought she was smart enough- certainly- and I thought we had worked hard enough with her that it would be a breeze. She loved to sit with a pile of books, surely she was on the cusp of reading! Boy I was wrong. But now that she is in Kindergarten, I am so very glad we didn't push things. She is learning right alongside her classmates. She isn't bored (at all- she loves Kindergarten) at school, and she is right where they want her to be. She knows letters and their sounds. Nothing is new, so I personally think she is ripe for learning how to read.

I have an almost 3-year-old, a 1.5 year old, and a newborn at home.  How can I stay intentional with them, but also, as my very astute friend pointed out, not get overwhelmed by Pinterest craftiness and/or the pressure of "homeschooling"?  It certainly can backfire and it has for me... 

Just a simple set of materials.... paper, crayons, play-doh, etc.
1. Love your space.
You don't have to homeschool to have a place to "do school."  We call it "tot school" instead of homeschooling. It involves the things we love to do! 

2. Love your ritual.
Include things you will enjoy in the ritual. Make it a peaceful routine.  Don't give yourself a nervous break down. They're little.  This isn't boot camp, nor will your children die from a hot dog.

3. Love your materials.
If you look in your closet, and it makes you happy, then that's a good place to start.  Don't overdo it, but I guarantee if you are excited about your materials, they will be, too.  Read the books and watch the movies that you read and watched as kids. Introduce new stuff- but only the stuff that you approve of (a.k.a. doesn't drive you batty). If it isn't twaddle, then you and your child should both enjoy it (so wisely pointed out by Charlotte Mason).

4. Make it rich- for them and for you.
Every day is a precious gift. Teach that principle to them.  If it means making high tea (as the French would call it, a gouter- 'goutay') en route to dinner at 4pm with cake, cookies, and chocolate milk, in order to celebrate the day or a certain person, then do that. 
Frances memorized a verse :  "Do everything without complaining or disputing." Philippians 2:14

5. Teach Jesus.
At the end of the day-- THIS. THIS is what matters.  What did Jesus teach? Model it in your behavior and your words at all times.  This life is soooooo short. We're on our way to our eternal home.  Keep this before you as you do everything, all day!

Direct them to becoming the people you hope they'll be.
If you want one basic, simple principle, here it is.  Train them in the way they should go... and when they are old, they will not depart from it. AMEN.

linking up with Hallie.

Friday, August 16, 2013

My Fall Reading List 2013

**Photo courtesy of Etsy, the dreamy giraffe

I'm on my last book from the Summer Reading List- I'm trying to finish Nicholas Nickleby before the September train rolls in.

I feel set and ready to make my Fall Reading List known.  So without further ado.... here it is!

1. September: Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
I read about half, when my husband bought me this translation.  After a season, I'm picking it back up. It's time to conquer!

2. September: Choosing Joy: The Secret of Living a Fully Christian Life by Dan Lord
Husband of the ever-fun, muy respected Hallie, I'm excited to dive into this book that I've heard and read so much about.

3. September/October: Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
This one just sounds fun.  From the looks of it, it will be read quickly!

4. October: Life After Art by Matt Appling
I've read a few fabulous reviews of this book.

5. October/November: Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
Like the one above, the positive reviews are endless, and I've found a kindred spirit (and a fellow Westmont alum/student) in Shauna after reading her book Cold Tangerines. Isn't it comforting to know you'll love a book, even before you read it?  Does that sound too presumptuous? I'll get back to you on that.

6. November: Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
I've heard good things, and I love me some historical fiction.

7. November: The Handbook for Catholic Moms by Lisa Hendey
I've been wanting to read something by Lisa Hendey, founder of This looks like a great place to start.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Back in May, I catalogued my Summer Reading List, and one of the books I couldn't wait to read was Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe.  I have thoroughly enjoyed hammering through this during our first week post-partum.  It's about all the things I like and am interested in-- culture, France, food, and parenting. What's not to like? Well, to be honest, I had one minor miff, myself. As she praises French parenting, increasingly throughout the book she - at first humbly, and later self-deprecating to a fault- puts down her own parenting, and with it, American parenting in general.

Le Pause and Le Cadre.
She deals with many driving ideas in French culture about parenting. Two that stuck out to me were 'le pause' and 'le cadre.' While Americans might rush at the first peep, 'le pause,' is the idea that you should teach your child patience, and that they can learn it even as infants. If you hear them crying, wait a minute, or a few minutes, and evaluate the situation. Can they soothe themselves? Is it hunger, or is it a momentary anxiety that - in waiting and letting them work it out- can help them to learn patience in the long-run?  'Le cadre' is French for 'the framework.' This term applies to the schedule about which most French parents remain strict. This often means no snacking between meals, an earlier lunch, and a 'gouter' or snack around 4pm, followed by a later dinner. This makes a lot of sense to me, and I think we might implement this with my own kids- especially considering the "after-school snack" will be apart of our everyday routine with Molly now. There are many more significant French terms- sage, betise, that I don't have time to cover.

Druckerman also starts the book by talking about pregnancy and childbirth. It is fascinating to read how differently American and French cultures approach this part of life.  I was fascinated that French women really work hard not to gain much weight during pregnancy, and they will get comments and social pressure not only to lose the baby weight, but not to gain it in the first place.  This contrasts with many Americans' approach (including my own way of thinking about it) that the baby needs a milkshake, or a woman is craving cake, so let her have some (more)! It seems that many French women -at least in Paris- are also influenced by ads, but in a much different way from Americans. They're into the sexy image, even if their primary occupation is motherhood. Interestingly, there is no division between the "Mom look" and the "on the town" look.  French mamas show up at the playground, not in the grubbies or drawstring pants they found on the floor of their bedroom, but in skinny jeans and boots, just months after baby is born.

She chronicles her daughter's acceptance in and experience at The Creche- a state-run day-care provider. While American day-care is sometimes looked down upon by those who want their children to have more one-on-one attention, the Creche is standard for each neighborhood in France, and getting a spot at The Creche is deemed admirable.  The workers are well-trained professionals, and the atmosphere is a nurturing place where lunch looks like a menu from a five-star restaurant, and kids receive potty training and (if you are Mrs. Druckerman's daughter), a crash course in French! While Day-Care often gets a bad rap in our country, these look much different.

She writes about the history of this institution, the Creche, as well as various philosophies that drive French women. For example, she chronicles their approach to teaching children patience as they grow up, and their relaxed sensibilities,  particularly just letting the children play and learn without too much intervention.   The example she gives in the book of "helicopter parenting" is a series of American mothers she sees at the playground who narrate everything their child is doing. "You are going down the slide!" she overhears one mother saying to her son.  She talks to a French pediatrician who is based in New York, and he thinks Moms do this to tell other people at the playground what good parents they are! However, it's an exhausting way to parent.

I think American mothers do overcompensate in parenting and motherhood in general, and one reason may be because of Corporate America and the struggle with materialism. For example, Parenting Magazine's take on a confident day at the beach. It would only make sense that the average American Mama has a bit of guilt over this issue.  If a certain product doesn't answer our parenting woes, then maybe the latest self-esteem philosophy. We turn to anything and everything, always influenced by the latest ad. There seems to be a guilt-factor from various other aspects of our culture, too.

She goes on to say that the framework and the authority is deeply important. She writes, "For French parents, living with a child-king seems wildly out of balance and bad for for the whole family. They think it would drain much of the pleasure from daily life- for the parents and the kids. They know that building this cadre requires enormous effort, but they believe that the alternative is unacceptable. It's obvious to French parents that the cadre is the only thing standing between them and two-hour 'goodnights'"  (p. 228). Can I just stop there and get an AMEN?!

All in all, I loved this book. I think it would be great fun to become a French mama for a while.  Pamela Druckerman is quite honest that she never tries to be what she is not. She does things the American way, (for example, nursing and gaining that extra baby weight), while learning from and admiring the French parenting happening all around her. I would say she adopts some techniques and wisdom from the French- read the book to find out what.

The only quibble I take with the book is that Druckerman seems to put French parenting on a pedestal. When approaching the issue of authority, she compares herself to the French Mamas at the playground, and repeatedly undermines herself and her kids' behavior. We take for granted what our own culture says about parenting, and her humility is quite compelling. It can be refreshing and enlightening to read about other cultures and their perspective on little ones. Reading about the menu for toddlers at The Creche is itself worth the price of the book. However, stereotypes are made be broken, and perhaps American parenting should be held in higher esteem. Perhaps this book will help improve the culture of parenting in the U.S. and in turn change the tide and with it, the stereotype. I recommend it if you enjoy learning about other cultures, or if you have an interest or passion in parenting.
Linking up with Housewifespice for What We're Reading Wednesday!
...just because I couldn't resist! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Molly's First Day of Kindergarten!

Today was Molly's First Day of School!

Go, Molly! :)

~  ~  ~

When talking about the baby brother, we asked the girls what they thought his eye color would be, we said, "They could be brown like Frances,"
and Molly said "Or they could be hazelnut like mine!"
Frances said, "Yeah- they could be hazelnut!!!"

During dinner, Frances said, with delight, "Mommy, eating is FUN!"

While talking to the automated voice on Daddy's iphone (Siri), Frances asked, "Do you like to waltz with potatoes?" The iphone answered, "I don't like these arbitrary categories."

More Mollyisms...

Molly taking a sip out of my water bottle, "And the top is made out of rubbish!"
Me: Do you mean rubber?
Molly: Yeah! Rubbish.
Me: :)

Stephen put together a wooden wardrobe, and Molly wanted to help, so she asked me,
"Mommy, can I have a check board (clipboard) so that I can check things off and tell people what to do?"

Before Kindergarten: "I hope rest time is 20 minutes and not 30 minutes. Because 20 minutes is less than 30 minutes." (It was an hour).

On using her new ($5 from Walmart) backpack:
Daddy: You have to use the school bag that they gave you. They won't let you use the new one.
Molly: That's ok. I can save it for College.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Birth Story~ Anders Eliot Beck

My due date, August 1st, came and went. I packed bags for the girls on Wednesday night, July 31st so that we would be ready to go. We have a babysitter who usually comes on Thursday night, but since it was my due date, I told her I'll call her if we needed her. I called her that afternoon!  Stephen and I walked the Walnut Street bridge, hoping to start labor.

Friday I woke up, again hoping labor would start any time. We went through a normal- and by normal, I mean challenging- morning, and after sluggishly getting the girls their breakfast, I started sobbing. Baby, please come out! I can't do this!   I felt wrapped up in worry, but countered my fears with notes of faith. Maybe they got the due date wrong, I wondered.... but I'm measuring 40 cm and at 20 weeks ultrasound, the baby was measuring to be due August 1st!  God will bring him in his perfect time... I prayed over and over again for peace. And trust.

We went to run errands- a pretty normal, albeit somewhat busy Friday. Then while the girls were playing at the play area in the Mall, I started having some pain. Painful contractions, I thought.  My mind whirred into action.... what needs to be done, where the girls need to go, what I need to pack, etc. We got home and I spun into action.  And then it stopped. My Mom had called that morning to offer to take the girls to the playground. We ended up meeting her there in the afternoon and she took the girls home to have popsicles while I did some walking. We came home and had a normal Friday night.

Saturday, the same story. I woke up hoping I could induce labor by staying on my feet.  I did laundry, put it away, cleaned up, and vacuumed. Still, no signs of labor. Headaches seem to be the only indicator of pre-labor symptoms. I listened to my Labor Playlist and relaxed. I lit candles. I paced. I fiddled and did more laundry. That night I prayed over the Daily Readings and asked Stephen to pray for me- for protection, and that I would go into labor! Whenever concerned friends would call or text, I would ask them to pray that I would go into labor.

Sunday was a very restful day.  I was able to sleep in until about 9am, while Stephen watched the girls. My parents took the girls to church with them at the Little Brown Church. I did some light chores and Stephen and I went to the 11:30 Mass as usual. I walked on the way there, again, trying to bring on labor.  We then met my parents and brother and the girls for lunch.

We came home and watched 101 Dalmatians as a family, and rested.  I took a nap, then we headed out to pick up some dinner. It was nice to stop cleaning so frantically, and just rest. At about 6pm, after dinner, I started having some painful contractions.  I was in denial that it was actual labor, because I had been having pre-labor symptoms all day week. Desperate that I was almost four days overdue, I had taken 2 tbsp. of castor oil in the morning, but I had decided it hadn't worked a bit. I took another 1 tbsp. around 6pm. By 7pm, my contractions were coming regularly. Most were about 15 minutes apart. I rested and lit candles.  I was hoping it was true labor, as I thought it would be neat to go into labor after receiving the Sacrament that morning.

At 9pm we called my parents. My contractions were coming about every 10 minutes, but I had just had two that were 7 minutes apart. Some were bad and others were very mild.  I wasn't sure what to do- should they wait until the contractions were closer together? Both of my parents and I ended up agreeing that I shouldn't wait- after all, that's what we did last time when Madeleine was born.... contractions had come every 7 minutes, every 10, every 5, every 10.....and then we told the Midwife that, and she didn't make it to our house in time!

We checked into the hospital at 10pm.  My contractions had slowed down, but they checked me and I was 4-5 cm dilated.  I answered a litany of questions from a nurse in triage, another series from the OB doctor whom I had never met, and another set of questions from another nurse.  They checked me into a nice, big Labor and Delivery and started me on an IV and monitor, for the baby and for me.  I had to lay down for about an hour of monitoring.

I had a birth plan of sorts written up, recommended by the doula we met with prior to his birth. She recommended writing your three top things that are most important to you, at the top, and then anything else desired below that. This proved invaluable, and all of the people on staff when we checked in were respectful of my desire for "freedom of movement," and my disinterest in having my water broken, or other serious interventions that felt unnatural. The doctor on call was a young guy whose wife had recently had a natural birth herself! (Praise God!)

Thankfully labor progressed naturally and rather quickly. By midnight, they had taken me off the regular monitoring and were letting me and Stephen walk the halls. I only had two big contractions out in the hallway, but boy, when we came back and sat down in bed, they picked up. We could watch them on the screen and around 1:30am, I had twelve to fifteen contractions back to back- within 3 minutes of each other.  It was interesting being able to watch them rise and fall, since last time we were at home without all the technology! You could see some were short and sharp, and some were long and intense. Stephen could watch them along with me, which I liked.

Stephen was amazing. He kept encouraging me and saying (sincerely) "You are so close. Keep going. The contractions are helping him to come. He'll be here soon."  The nurses were good, and did not interrupt us much.  They brought ice chips and asked how things were going occasionally. The room felt very sacred. It was dim and quiet.

The second time they took me off the monitor, I could tell that any little bit of movement would bring on a strong, painful contraction. I had probably just started transition at that point.  I asked for a birthing ball, and a bit later a nurse brought one in. That was just what I needed to cope with the pain.  I sat on it for a few contractions and they offered me a popsicle and I said YES to that! Eating the orange popsicle around 2am was the last thing I did before I pushed that boy out into the world! I think it helped my sanity, and my blood sugar!

We walked to the bathroom, then walked out to the sink in my room.  I stood with Stephen, leaning against him for two painful contractions, then I started panting.  I could tell my body was building up to something! I gained a bunch of oxygen from panting and used it all to let out a huge scream and push with all my might! I could feel the head about to crown. Stephen paged the nurse and said, "Um, I think my wife needs to get CHECKED!" :) They heard my scream. Several nurses and two doctors came rushing in - right in time for the birth.

I let out two more huge screams and gave two pushes- the first one to get the head out, and the second one to get the body out!   A nurse caught the baby, while I leaned on Stephen for support. We were standing right at the foot of the bed. My bag of waters had stayed in tact until he was born.

I laid down, and kept thinking, "Oh wow, that hurt. That really, really hurt." I think I mumbled, "He was big."Stephen cut the cord.  I laid down on the bed, dreading delivering the placenta.  The doctors and nurses did a quick clean-up and laid him on my chest for skin-to-skin time. I could tell he was going to be a very sweet baby. I delivered the placenta and was informed I didn't need any stitches and hadn't torn at all. I was shocked! After some time holding him they weighed him- 7 lbs 7 oz. Again, I was shocked.  I was not surprised by how quickly he came once labor started progressing and picking up. It was much like Madeleine's birth in that way. I could tell my body was ready to push and so I pushed!

All in all, I think it was the perfect birth. It was slow and steady, but all in all only about 8 hours of labor. The thing I am most surprised by was how ready I was so far in advance this time. I really had to lean on God in faith to wait for him to come. (Although the castor oil is something I would recommend to other moms out there who are overdue and ready!)  I was also imagining him coming during the day, so a 2:30AM birth wasn't on my radar!  Thankfully, I was not very tired during labor. I felt relaxed.

Compared to the home birth, being in the hospital was a relaxing experience in so many ways.  We enjoyed the support, the time away from home, the meals, and the time to just spend time with baby before bringing him home. I'm very thankful for how God orchestrated and perfectly timed Anders Eliot's arrival.  We are so proud and so happy!

Anders means Strong and Brave.
Eliot means The Lord is my God.

Welcome to the world, baby boy!!!! :)