Friday, May 20, 2011

Encouraging Their Passions

Having all boys, we naturally own a variety of toy vehicles, construction equipment, and sports gear. It is easy to cater to their natural play instincts, but I have also made an effort over the years to try and include things like baby dolls, a play kitchen, and other such "girly" toys. And I have encouraged them to pursue their interests, being careful not to label things as girly (though they have picked it up at school already, and are quick to point it out at the store). Joshua, in particular, has always loved things that are tiny and/or shiny. For Christmas he received a set of Squinkies, and LOVES them. Nevermind that I could only find them in the pink aisle at Toys-R-Us, or that George told him, "That's a girl toy!" Josh didn't care if it WAS a girl toy. He liked it and it doesn't matter to him what anyone else thinks about it.

So it came as no big surprise to me that, while at the Homeschool Convention over Spring Break, a book about paper dressmaking caught his eye. It had sparkly things! It had shiny things! And it had the tiniest hangers ever! He ooohed and aaahed over it, but when I looked at the price, I told him we couldn't buy it. He cried and cried over it, but I gently reminded him that his birthday was coming up and that maybe that would be a good gift for him if he still wanted it. I found the book on for a lot less, and ordered it for him for his birthday. He was overjoyed when he opened it and saw that he got the much desired gift. I told him it was something we could do together, as it is recommended for ages 8 and up, and he would most likely need assistance.

He wanted to dig into it right away, but as we've been booked solid the past few days, we weren't able to open it up and work on it yet. While my parents were here preparing a fish fry dinner for us, Josh asked if he could use the book. I let him get out one of the tiny hangers (the whole reason I believed he wanted the book in the first place), but told him that we couldn't do a dress yet as it was nearly dinner time. So he asked if he could use regular paper and crayons, and I said sure. By golly if he didn't create his own dress AND purse with them. And he did a really great job! He even fashioned a way to get it to stay on the tiny hanger (the stenciled patterns in the books have tabs to hold them on). I was blown away by his ingenuity. That's Josh though - if he wants to do something, he doesn't let anything stand in his way.

This is what he created.
This is just to show the size of his tiny fashion creations. That's a quarter.
So now we're all excited to begin making dresses together, with all of the accessories as well, using the real paper and materials. I told him that if/when he ever designs real clothes for women to wear, he'd have to come up with some modest but stylish clothing (not that he knew what I meant, but we can talk more about modesty as we go along with this particular craft time).

I could have easily steered him away from this book. I could have said - this is for girls, honey -and left it at that. But what if, in doing that, I were suppressing a talent the likes of which the world has never seen? Who am I to stop him from using his God-given talents and abilities? I will not. I will encourage him to follow his passion to the fullest, and I won't think of him as any less manly for it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I couldn't let this birthday pass by without taking a peek at old photos and allowing myself to get nostalgic. Wow, how fast the past 6 years has gone by. I no longer have helpless babies who are completely dependent on me, who cannot comprehend what I am saying nor communicate their innermost desires. I can no longer have them fit easily on my lap or carry them around the house with ease. They are reading, writing, doing some math, and tying their own shoes. They are clever, funny, silly, and very independent thinkers. It is amazing to watch them change and grow. Before I know it they will be off to college! I hope to enjoy and capture and cherish as much of the time I have with them as possible. Now please enjoy a glimpse of my babies, er, big boys from the last 5 years. Oh, and if you click on the pictures you will get a bigger image.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring: The Good and The Bad

When we first moved to Tennessee, it was June 1st. Essentially we missed Spring. And that first summer, 2 years ago (come June 1st), it was a mild, relatively dry summer. I was flabbergasted, as I had expected oppressive humidity and sky-high temperatures. But it wasn't really much different than in Indiana (where we moved from).

The Bad: Then, last March, we experienced our first Spring in Tennessee. And how. Allergies went haywire, and it was so bad for Joshua that he was diagnosed with asthma and allergies, and had to begin breathing treatments and multiple medications to get it under control. As we would talk with people at the Farmer's Markets last year, we heard from several that allergies in East Tennessee were some of the worst in the country. Super. We bought some local raw honey, which seems to help, as long as I'm consistent with getting us eating some every day. And this year, when the Top 10 Allergy Cities article came out from, guess which city topped the chart at #1? Yep - Knoxville, Tennessee. At least this year I was prepared for what was to come, and we starting taking a concoction of what the boys have dubbed "allergy apple juice," which is comprised of 1 tsp. raw organic apple cider vinegar, 1 TBSP organic raw local honey, and boiling water to fill a coffee mug the rest of the way. I drink it hot (tastes MUCH better to me that way), but I make a pitcher of it and put it in the fridge for the boys. My brother swears by this drink, and told me about it last summer. And I really do think it helps a lot. So Spring here in East TN has done a number on us allergy-wise, but each year we get better with managing.

The Other Bad: We also get a lot of rain and severe weather in Spring. And that can result in damage, power outages, and scared little people (and big people).

The Good? Well, there is a lot of good, despite the sneezing and wheezing. How fast things green up, how it starts warming up in March, and my favorite...

Wild Honeysuckle
I wish you could smell that. It is an intoxicatingly sweet and delicately floral scent. Last Spring, when it burst forth from hibernation and graced our property, I would open the front door and the fragrance would waft in. It was heavenly. We have it all over the place here. It won't last long - just a matter of weeks, really. But for that brief time, it almost makes living in the #1 allergy city in the country worth it. We have taught the boys how to get a taste of the sweet nectar, and now their favorite thing to do is seek out honeysuckle on our nature walks and savor each little drop.

Josh pulled a section of vine for Blake to hold during our walk.
This is a patch (?) of it in the backyard.
Sweet, sweet, nectar.
I think they could do this all day.
George suggested that we make a drink from honeysuckle nectar. And while I thought that was a smashing idea, I explained that it would take probably all of the honeysuckle we could find to make even a small glass of it, as each flower contains just a drop. And all of the work that would go into "juicing" honeysuckle flowers is beyond what my brain is willing to grasp.

No. This is not wild honeysuckle, but it is no less important.
These are the flowers that will become my favorite of all berries: black raspberries. This is another reason to be grateful for the location of our current residence. Lots of wild black raspberries around. We bought a few raspberry plants for our own property, and hopefully those will produce lots of yummy fruit for us in the years to come.

To add to The Good category is also our strawberry bed:
That was taking right after I weeded and mulched it for about 3 hours. Last year we mulched it with straw, and thought we had ruined them forever because of all of the grass and weeds that came up. The strawberry plants were all but swallowed up. We thought we'd have to start all over. Imagine our delight and surprise when they came back - strong! And now, we're getting a crop of lovely organic strawberries. We're going to add a couple more beds down the road, so that we can actually use them to make things like jam and sorbet.

This was today's yield. And they were SO good.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Exotic Fruit Day: Star Fruit

Back when I worked in a cubicle, my friend Frank and I would try to make work life more interesting however we could. We came up with "Exotic Fruit Day," and once every couple of weeks, one of us would seek out a type of fruit we'd never tasted before and bring it in for us both to eat. We shared with our other cubicle buddies as well. So I got to taste things like kumquats, pummelo, ugli fruit, and a few others that I can't remember. There were some delightful flavors, as well as some that were surprisingly UN-tasty. I always look back fondly on those attempts to broaden my palette, and we've decided that as part of our homeschooling efforts, we will introduce new/foreign/exotic foods for us all to try as we go along. Most likely in a limited fashion, especially at first, being that our kids are still very young and, as previously mentioned, some foods can get a bit pricey.

Recently we came upon an Asian market, and as we had some time before we had to pick the boys up from school, we decided to go in and peruse. I saw that they had dragon fruit - something I had seen and read about, but not tried. I was sorely tempted to get one, but the cheapest one there was $6.99. For ONE piece of fruit. And as we have not yet officially begun our exotic food journey here, I decided that paying that much on a whim was probably not the best idea. There were also other fruits like mangosteen and lychee. In fact the Asian market was chock full of interesting and totally strange-looking items that I am dying to try. So we will be going back there for sure.

Then, as I was grocery shopping the other day, I saw star fruit. This is something else I have never tried, but at $1.37, I figured it would be fun for the boys and worth a shot. It's been several days since I bought it, and I decided today was the day I would slice it up for the taste test. Here's what it looked like as a whole piece of fruit:

I had no idea what to do with it, so I just went online and looked up "How to eat a star fruit," and got instructions (with photos!). I realized after reading a bit that the particular piece of fruit in my possession might be a tad overripe. But I was still hopeful. I noticed as I was slicing it that it smelled really good. Kind of like a grape and banana together. And here it is sliced:
Chris and I tried it first, and we both decided that it MUST be overripe, because it had just the teensiest hint of tasting "off." But if I had cut it up a few days ago, I'm certain it would have been great. The texture definitely reminded me of a grape, and it was juicy. I gave some to the kids, and they all liked it immediately. I could not get a good picture, but here they are enjoying a slice (Josh had finished his and went back to his video game).
Overall review? I would definitely try it again, and maybe even make it a semi-regular offering at our house. It is a fun shape, which is always great for kids, and is very appealing. Good taste and smell, and not a terrible price for a once-in-a-while treat. I'm glad I bought it. Exotic fruit day is back!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Art Show

Check me out! I am posting two days in a row!

Last night we went to the boys' art show at school, where every student has a piece of artwork on display. The hallway walls are lined with the various drawings, paintings, sketches, and the like. I have always loved looking at kids art - I am always amazed at the skill and creativity that some of these children show in their work. I didn't take any pictures of anyone else's work, unfortunately, but trust me, there were some pretty amazing pieces of art.

George's contribution: I believe these are chickens.

Josh's patterned turtle:

And Blake, just because he's cute and because he said "Do me! Do me too!"

Milestone Mania

Time is flying, and shame on me for not documenting more of our life here in the trenches. Stories have been created, milestones reached, and decisions made. But I have neglected to share with my readers (which is mostly family, whom this was originally created for anyway). So I am once again going to attempt a more regular pattern of sharing the stories, pictures, videos, and daily happenings. We shall see how it all pans out. For today, I wanted to share with you all the fact that both of my Kindergarteners learned how to tie their shoes. Today. In like, half an hour. If they can successfully demonstrate that they are able to repeat the action each day until the end of this week, they will receive a new online video game. They are excited.

I had decided some time ago that I would make them a practice shoe out of sturdy cardboard and use different colored laces (from our lacing cards). So we started with that. George called his the "dummy shoe." I thought that was pretty clever. Chris showed him how while I was working with Joshua. George got it pretty quickly, whereas Joshua was struggling a bit. So I sent him to Daddy to see if his way would be better. He was still having some trouble, and I showed him one thing different and that was the clincher. It reminded me of when I learned how to drive (on a stick shift, no less). My dad had been trying to teach me, and I struggled to get the car to move smoothly without lurching. But my brother gave me a lesson one day, and one thing he said made me get it. Sometimes you never know what is going to make you get something, know what I mean? I bet you do. I bet you know what I mean. (Sorry, the boys watched Veggie Tales Pistachio the other day, and I heard that line and cracked up.)

Anyway, once they got the hang of it, I took a video of them each performing the long-awaited task (which we probably could have taught them SO long ago - oops). Enjoy.