Tuesday, July 28, 2009

He's in for years of torture.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the evidence...

Kindergarten Readiness: A rant.

Kai is scheduled to start real Kindergarten next month. And I've got all of the usual mommy worries about Kindergarten. Add into that the fact that we suspect Kai is dyslexic (not just me, but our pediatrician as well & there is a family history of it) and I've been really nervous about the whole thing.

But, my girl is super smart. Okay, I know every mom thinks their kids are smart. So, whatever. But she is. For real.

Still she had to take the Gesell Assessment before Kindergarten enrollment. And I was freaking out. In my mind I built it up to be more like a test of my parenting of her. Did she learn enough from me? Did I do a good job raising her? This test would give me the answers.

What it gave me was even more questions. About education. About childhood development. About whether or not I could even hack being a parent of an elementary school kid.

Kai was ecstatic about the test. She loved the teacher (who was awesome!) and the questions she got to answer. I felt at ease about the whole thing. I just knew Kai had "aced" the test. The test that meant I was a wonderful, outstanding perfect parent of this precious 5 year (and 2 months) old girl.

(I should mention that I do know that this was a developmental test. That there was no way to "ace" it. I'm just being honest about that scary competitive streak that lies deep within me.)

Then we got the results. Kai, despite being 5 years 2 months old, supposedly had the developmental age of a 4 1/2 year-old.

No. Way.

Because she can tell me how many continents there are. And name them all on a map. She converses with adults better than she does with kids sometimes. And she uses words like marvelous and glorious and conundrum (and she knows what they mean). She asks big huge questions about God, the universe and everything in between. She can remember the most minute details from trips we took 2 years ago. And she never forgets a face. She's a creative problem solver. A brilliant (and persuasive) debater. She is unwavering when she sets her mind to something.


She has only just now picked which hand she writes with. She can write her name but not as well as her 5-year-old counterparts. And sometimes she writes it as a mirror image. Not backwards, but a complete mirror image. She is clumsy with a pencil and unsure of herself when writing letters. And this, it seems, makes her developmentally 4 1/2 years old.

I was told to enroll her in Kindergarten "with caution." If I listened to the test I'd have to wait until she's almost 6 1/2 years old. And, folks, that just isn't happening.

Here's the list of skills required for a Kindegarten student:

* Listen to stories without interrupting
* Recognize rhyming sounds
* Pay attention for short periods of time to adult-directed tasks
* Understand actions have both causes and effects
* Show understanding of general times of day
* Cut with scissors
* Trace basic shapes
* Begin to share with others
* Start to follow rules
* Be able to recognize authority
* Manage bathroom needs
* Button shirts, pants, coats, and zip up zippers
* Begin to control oneself
* Separate from parents without being upset
* Speak understandably
* Talk in complete sentences of five to six words
* Look at pictures and then tell stories
* Identify rhyming words
* Identify the beginning sound of some words
* Identify some alphabet letters
* Recognize some common sight words like "stop"
* Sort similar objects by color, size, and shape
* Recognize groups of one, two, three, four, and five objects
* Count to ten
* Bounce a ball

I can give her a big fat check mark beside each of those. And yet the "problems" she had with the test were that she couldn't write her last name for the teacher, had trouble writing some of her numbers, and held her pencil clumsily. I mean, since when did kids need to be writing academic papers to get into Kindergarten?

I know Kindergarten now isn't the way it used to be. It isn't about playing and learning how the world works through fun. To use one friend's description of it, Kindergarten today is "intense." Seven hour school days. Homework four nights a week. Five sentence paragraphs by the end of the year. Intense.

But I can't help but wonder if much of this is an attempt to beef up the test scores in an educational system that fails many of its students? And if forcing kids to fit into narrow guidelines contributes to that failure? I wonder if Einstein would have been able to fit so neatly into a box? I'm not saying my girl is Einstein (and I'm definitely not saying she couldn't be), but I am saying that defining a child's ability to learn with such narrow testing leaves out some very intelligent kids.

This whole experience totally reinforced my belief that homeschool was going to be the best fit for Kai. By schooling her at home we'll have the chance to work at her pace. She can do Kindergarten reading and writing and Second grade science if that is what she needs. She'll have the chance to participate in subjects to the extent that she is ready and capable while being challenged in a way that encourages confidence and security in her own abilities.

So she's enrolling in a local homeschool academy one day a week despite the warnings that she may not be ready for the big bad world of Kindergarten. Because I know she is ready. And I know that if I wait a year and enroll her at the age of 6 1/2 she'll be bored out of her mind.

But I've learned something very important here. That I am my daughter's strongest and best advocate. That I know her capabilities better than any test ever can. And that I'm going to have to be vigilant in fighting that she get what she needs from others because no one else will.

(Updated to add: I thought I might need to clarify that on the test she scored in the 5 1/2 - 6 year range on everything BUT the writing portions. Her verbal, social, & categorizing/matching skills all placed her in the older range. But, since the test was so heavily influenced by the writing they averaged her age out to be 4 1/2 years.)

I guess that's just one more thing that goes along with being a mom. Now, let's just hope I'm as right as I think I am.

In the meantime, I'd love to know about how others handle similar situations. Have you had to fight on your child's behalf for the treatment they deserved? Any tips for the rest of us?

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Mom Box

I have dreams of being one of those moms who is prepared for anything. The mom who carries in her diaper bag every item she needs for any situation in which her kids need her. Changes of clothes, diapers, wipes, food, drinks, medicine, emergency sewing kit, etc. You know the type. Heck, you may even be the type. If you've spent more than 2 minutes on this blog, though, you know I'm not that type. I just can't ever seem to get it together that way.

But, I'm trying.

One of the things I've decided to keep with me is a "Mom Box." My goal with this box is to have everything I need for every bump, bruise, teething pain, and episode of colic. And my goal is to do it as naturally as possible.

So, behold the box.

The contents are:

Triaminic Decongestant Spray (for runny noses)
Florastor (for diarrhea and stomach upset)
Band-aids (Because I need those for my kids daily)
Neosporin (see above)
Saline nose drops
Hyland's Bumps & Bruises Ointment

And then the homeopathic medicines from Hyland's:

Aconitum Napellus (colds & fevers)
Arnica Montana (bruising & muscle soreness)
Belladonna (fevers & inflammations)
Chamomilla (teething & irritability)
Ferrum Phosphoricum (fevers & inflammations)
Hepar Sulph. C. (cough & runny nose)

And let me say something about these Hyland's tablets if you're unfamiliar with them. (I swear this is not a sponsored post!) I have used the teething tablets with all my kids and they work miracles. Seriously.

So, I thought maybe their other remedies would work too. And they really, really do. Don't get me wrong. I haven't totally abandoned conventional medicine. But, if I can try a homeopathic remedy first I will. I just feel better about putting something a bit more natural in our bodies as a first choice.

These things are awesome. I've used them with all the kids for a variety of problems and I've had better success than with more traditional medicines in most cases. The Chamomilla soothes Trav better than Tylenol or Orajel ever has. The Aconite has relieved his colic & gas pains better than Mylicon has been able to. Plus, they can be used by grown-ups, too.

I am in love with this kit. And I love having just one little kit that gets me a step closer to being that mom who is prepared for everything and anything. Even if I do end up forgetting diapers & wipes nearly every time we leave the house.

So, what about you? What tricks do you have to help you stay prepared for the unexpected?

(Oh, and BTW, this Mom Box is in the $1.96 pencil box I bought at Wal-mart. Think it was worth all the trouble?)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Littlest Outlaw

Or, "Mom is this hat really necessary?"

For more Wordless Wednesday, head over to 5 Minutes for Mom and 7 Clown Circus!

Dear Wal-mart, We are so over. Love, me.

It has been about a year since I last shopped at Wal-mart. A year since I became so fed up with their desperately lacking customer service that I walked out their doors never to return. Until yesterday.

I should have known I was in trouble after my experience in the parking lot. Nearly every parking place I attempted to pull into was surrounded by a flock of abandoned carts. The person or persons in charge of making sure renegade carts didn't take over their lot apparently called in sick yesterday. And judging by the level of cleanliness in the store I bet I could guess where he got sick.

But, I was looking for cheap fabric and tacky candles so I persevered through the parking lot obstacle course. And once inside I thought to myself, "Look at these great deals! Why don't I shop here anymore?" Never fear, though, the employees of Wal-mart would soon remind me why.

The fabric was a strike-out because apparently my Wal-mart has stopped carrying fabric. To make up for that disappointment, I found some school supplies I had left off my list for Kai's new class. And with two preschoolers and a newborn I walked all the way across the store and up to the cashier. And here's where it gets good.

I managed to pick up a pencil box that (GASP!) didn't have a bar code on it. Silly me didn't think to double check. Upon failing to ring it up the cashier rudely barked out, "It don't have a price." Ummm...okay.

Me: "Is there a way to look it up? I think it was a little less then $2."

Cashier: "It has to have a bar code." And then dead silence and blank stares ensued.


Me: "So what should I do?"


Honestly, I was beginning to think the self-checkout stands had better problem solving skills than this lady.

Me: "So, seriously, should I go get one or what?"

At this point, there was a long line forming behind me and I wasn't sure what she wanted me to do. Though I suspect she wanted me to tell her to forget about it and just not buy the item in question. But, I wasn't leaving that store without my (not totally necessary) $1.96 pencil box. Not a chance.

After she gave me yet another blank stare I took my cart, my preschoolers, and my newly screaming baby all the way across this mammoth store to grab another pencil box of a completely different color to have her ring it up. I swear I prayed all the way back that the keypad question would be "Was your cashier friendly today?" so I could pound NOOOOO into it. (God answered that prayer. Thank you very much.)

And guess what? She was totally thrown off and rudely barked out, "Well, which one of them do you want? The first one you got or the second one?"

I couldn't even look at her at this point. The line behind me was building up and she was clearly not capable of basic reasoning skills. I told her which I wanted (the one I initially picked out of course!) and paid for my items. At which point she gave me one of my bags and kept the other in the bag carousel closest to her and totally out of my reach. After an unsuccessful attempt to reach the bag (and, you guessed it, yet another blank stare) I actually had to ask her to please hand me the bag.

I have never been happier to leave a store in my life. And (this time I really, really mean this) I will never return. Ever.

So, Wal-mart, thanks for helping me realize that I'm actually willing to pay a higher price to shop at a store where walking through the doors doesn't fill me with dread and loathing. I'm sure Target appreciates you guaranteeing that I'm a customer of theirs for life.

Last night after I finished writing this post and scheduled it to publish I discovered two recent stories of Wal-mart dissatisfaction in my Google Reader. Check out what ohmommy & Jo-Lynne have to say about their Wal-mart disasters.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Kai-versations: This sad, small, lonely house.

We found a home for the chicks at the beginning of this week. And Kai was absolutely devastated. In all fairness, she was like their foster mom. She fed them every day. Made sure they had water. And diligently checked the temperature in their brooder to make sure they were warm enough. So, in a way, they were her babies.

But I just couldn't have them living in my dining room forever and we eventually had to find them a home. We ended up selling them to my college friend's grandfather (via Twitter) and she came to pick them up. Kai bravely put each chick in the box and said goodbye, but the moment they were out of the house she broke down in tears.

And by tears I mean hysterical gut-wrenching sobs. For an hour.

When I finally got her to calm down I asked her why she was so upset and she said, "Because without those baby chicks we're just a sad, small, lonely house now. We have nothing here to keep us company. All we've got is 3 kids, 12 chickens, a rooster and a dog!"

Ah, yes. That sounds lonely indeed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sure she looks sweet, but...

this is the same girl who made him wear a plastic bowl on his head while he was trapped in the exersaucer yesterday. So, beware the cute older sister. They're never as sweet as they look. (Take it from someone who knows.)

For more Wordless Wednesday, head over to 5 Minutes for Mom!

If at first you don't succeed, try laziness...

Alternately titled: How I Potty Trained My 2nd Born Child

When Ivy was in school last year her teacher encouraged me to potty train her. I thought it was too early (she was not quite 2 and a half) but because I'm eager to please I complied. I sent her to school in panties. And she had a few accidents every day for a while but eventually she was mostly successful at being potty trained.

Then in October I took her out of school. And being pregnant, exhausted, and (if I'm honest) a little lazy I put her in pull-ups to avoid having to clean up accidents during the day. I still encouraged her to use the potty but the presence of pull-ups lead to her regression into the not-even-remotely-potty-trained stage.

And I didn't care. Because I think it is easier to have a kid in diapers with a new baby than one who is teetering precariously on the edge of being potty trained. I know what you're thinking. But, I'd rather change a diaper than my sofa slipcover. Again. Apparently, though, other people cared. And I got some concerned inquiries into when I was going to start potty training again. I always said I'd tackle it when she turned 3. And then she turned 3. But the process was so overwhelming to me that I just couldn't stick with it. Plus my pediatrician said as long as she was potty trained by the end of summer I'd be fine. I was more than prepared to put it off until the end of summer. Or the beginning of Kindergarten. Whichever.

Then about a month ago, Ivy came up to me and said she needed to go potty. Which was nothing new since she'd been half-heartedly doing this all along. But she did it throughout the day. And the next day. And the next.

So I pulled out the Disney and Nick, Jr. panty collection and prepared myself for the weeks and weeks of accidents that would come next. But they didn't. In fact, in one month the only accident we have had was one where she fell asleep for the night without a pull-up on and woke up wet because she couldn't hold it through the night. Other than that? We've been gold.

It was so easy. So completely natural. And so much less painful than the 6 month process I put Kai through just so I could say my 2-year-old was potty trained. God bless her.

With Ivy, I took the lazy way out. And for once it actually paid off.

What potty training tips worked like magic for you? **Bonus points awarded if you give me tips for training boys to file away for when I have to train Trav!**

Sunday, July 12, 2009

It's like Green Acres without the sparkly Gabor sister

Did I mention we hatched a bunch of baby chicks last week? Oh, we did. And they are too cute. Though not cute enough for me to consider keeping them. But, cute nonetheless.

Last week we got home from a birthday party and Thomas went out to collect eggs and ta-da! 12 baby chicks were staring at him from the nesting box. We lost one to an unfortunate water bowl drowning incident but the rest are residing comfortably in their brooder our dining room. (No, I'm not kidding.)

Did you ever know someone who had chickens in their dining room? Well, you do now...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Three Musketeers

For more Wordless Wednesday head over to 5 Minutes for Mom!

I'm Tackling a Mountain (of Laundry, that is) **Giveaway**

If there is one domestic chore I am terrible at staying on top of it's laundry. If I told you how many times I had to dig for clean clothes for every member of our family you would be horrified. Truly.

In fact, just this morning my husband scoured the house for a clean pair of khakis because I'd apparently forgotten to wash anything but dark clothes for the last, oh, 4 loads. True story.

And if you saw the mountain of clean clothes on top of the washer and dryer? Yeah, you'd probably think I'm the worst housewife ever. (And, I'm not sure you'd be too far from the truth.)

The thing is, I don't actually mind doing laundry. In fact, I like the actual process of washing/drying. But the putting away? That is the part that throws me off every time. And I end up dreading the putting away process so much that I avoid laundry altogether.

I'm trying to get better. Really. And today I'm tackling the laundry. All day. I'm not stopping until it's under control. But, I'm wondering if maybe you can help a girl out?

I just recently got a chance to try a bottle of Sun Burst Laundry Detergent to help me out in my laundry endeavors. And they want you to have a chance to try it, too!

First, though, I'll tell you a little bit about what I thought about it. My favorite thing about it? It's cheap. I mean, inexpensive. Because I totally hate spending money on soap. I mean, after all, isn't that literally throwing money down the drain? But I also hate clothes that don't smell/feel clean. So, when I discovered that this stuff did a great job, smelled good, and was super cheap? I was sold on it. It's even HE compatible which is awesome.

So, if you'd like to give it a try here's your chance. I've got 5 coupons good for one FREE 45.4 oz bottle of liquid detergent or one 49 oz box of powder detergent in any scent. And all you have to do to enter to win is help me with my laundry. No, really.

Leave me a comment below with your favorite and most helpful tip for getting laundry done or staying on top of laundry and you'll be entered to win!

So, go ahead, give me your best tips for controlling the laundry monster.

For more great projects, head over to Tackle it Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom!

***This giveaway (and all comments) will close Friday, July 10th at 2 p.m.***

Monday, July 6, 2009


This weekend was one of those rare perfect weekends where time with friends and family have a way of reminding you just how blessed you are to have so many incredible people in your life.

I could write a whole post about how much we love our friends and how blessed we have been to be a part of many wonderful small group Bible studies. But, I won't because my friend, dewde, already said it better than I could.

Plus, he has an awesome video from this weekend to prove it.

Check out his post here. It makes me teary eyed every time...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Swimming for Faith

I love to watch my kids swim.

Ivy, having just turned 3, bobs in the water with her floaty vest on and her mouth just barely hovering above the water line. She swims all over the pool with her head straining to stay out of the water. It's heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. Her persistence coupled with her newly developing water skills make her a sight to behold.

It's like watching a calf try to walk for the first time. The whole thing is some ballet of awkwardness. Muscles learning their purpose. Uncertain steps being taken slowly and deliberately. Failure and success taking turns throughout the process and determination keeping the whole thing moving.

I like to think I've made it through all those awkward stages but lately I think I've become more and more aware of what an ugly sort of dance I'm in the middle of. My problem lately is simply this - I just can't seem to get the hang of this whole faith thing.

I know God is real. I know He is with me. And, if I'm really lucky, when things go bad I remember to turn to Him for help. It's just that the instinct to turn to Him seems to be mostly when it's the little bad things and not the big bad things that come my way.

My problem is that I lack faith in whether God will sustain me through difficult times. And the root of that is, if I'm honest, blatant materialism. God never promised us nice perfect houses and well-manicured lives. He promised not to give us something we couldn't handle. He promised not to leave us or forsake us. But, I want that to mean that I'll never have to struggle financially. Or endure emotional pain. And the thing is, that isn't realistic.

Like a spoiled child who always demands a present, I've tied God's love to my circumstances. I lose faith in His love for me when I don't get my way. In that way I'm no different than Kai or Ivy who accuse me of not loving them each time we leave Target without a new Hannah Montana doll. In those moments as I drag them out the door pouting and crying and insisting I'm the worst mommy ever because they didn't get the toys they wanted right that very moment, I think to myself, "Can't you see that my love for you is bigger than some silly toy? Can't you see that these stupid toys will be sitting in the Goodwill box in a few years while my love for you continues on?" I want to shake them out of their superficial understanding of my love for them. I want desperately for them to understand how big that love is. Does it not stand to reason, then, that God wants the same thing from me?

Last week God and I had a rough week. I posted that post about my keys and was all proud that I'd been happy with that little bit of encouragement. And then the next day, Thomas didn't get paid. He worked his hours. He did his job. And because someone in his department didn't do one thing that needed to be done he just didn't get paid. Though that didn't stop every bill I had scheduled online from clearing at exactly the same time leaving us with a bank balance that started with - and was highlighted in red. Which, as I'm sure you know, is never a good thing.

And then I had a fight with God. A big one.

'Cause, after all, hadn't I just told everyone how great He was for letting me know He was there with my keys? And hadn't I been so spiritually evolved when I said that it was enough for the day?

It was an ugly fight. And if I believed that God was the type to hold a grudge I'd be pretty scared right now about an imminent lightning strike. Luckily, I don't think God is really the lightning type.

In fact, as it turns out, He's more of the kill them with kindness type. Because despite all my tantrums (and a few very un-kosher words) He sent us a really huge (and much needed) blessing at the end of the week. And suddenly my faith was restored.

But, the problem is, if my faith depends on my circumstances then it can't really be faith, can it? At least not the kind that it should be.

For me, the whole thing is a lot like learning to swim. I can tell Kai or Ivy exactly how to swim. I can talk them through the steps. But unless it just clicks for them they're never going to get it. Something has to happen in them to make it work. And that is nothing I can give them.

And that is where I am right now. Struggling to swim in this sea of uncertainty and turmoil. Struggling to hang onto the buoy of faith that I know is there but that keeps alluding me. This is a lesson I need to learn. It is one I desperately want to learn. But, oh how I hate going through what it takes to learn it.