Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Families belong together.

This morning, as we turned on the television in our Airbnb to watch the World Cup, the news came on because that was what the guests before us had been watching. Everett caught a glimpse of the national news for probably the first time in his life. MSNBC was covering what is taking place at the border in Texas, and Everett was intrigued and confused. “Mom, why are those kids in cages?” he asked repeatedly, because despite how I was trying to explain the situation to him, no answer could justify why there were children in cages in our country. He just kept saying, “But mom, why are the kids in cages?” I truly think that kids have all the answers in life. It is so obvious to a four year old that children should not be locked in cages separated from their parents, no matter what. I couldn’t help but cry as I tried to explain this inexplicable situation to my four year old. 

I took a shower by myself today, without a child in the tub or bathroom with me, which is a rarity. About a minute into my shower, Everett ran in and said, “Mom, are you almost done?” I responded, “Everett, I have only been in here for a minute,” slightly annoyed. He said, “But mom, I already miss you.” I couldn’t help but think about the children missing their parents and the fear and trauma they must all be experiencing. 

Cambria rode a pony for the first time today. She loved it, until the horse started moving in a direction away from her family. Her excitement turned to sadness about ten seconds into the pony ride, not because she was scared of the pony, but because she wasn’t near her parents. We were quickly reunited with a teary Cambria, and once again, I couldn’t help but think about the children at the border. 

My worst nightmare imaginable is to be separated from my children. My worst nightmare is to have my children’s safety threatened simply because of where we live. 

My thoughts lead me to thinking of my own privilege, about how I have done nothing to earn my safety and comfort. It is through luck that I was born where I was. I put myself in the shoes of the parents bringing their kids, and hell yes, I would do just what they are doing to try to keep my family safe. 

Like many of us, I have had a heavy heart lately seeing what is taking place at the border as children are separated from their families. I am still trying to have a practice of daily journaling, and I have had a hard time lately, because as I sit down to reflect, anything that comes to mind seems insignificant compared to the injustice taking place around us. As I sat down to journal today, I couldn’t help but just get all of this out. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation; other people have said things and posted much more eloquently than me. 

All I have to say is that I, too, have had a heavy heart witnessing this injustice. Here we are living comfortably in our bubble, on vacation nonetheless, enjoying our days of extravagantly spending all of our time together as a family.

I feel helpless, although we are trying to do what can. Contacting our representatives seems like such a small act in the midst of such a large injustice, and yet we do. Donating money doesn’t feel like enough, and yet we do. We will be out of town for the protest in San Diego, although I wish we could show up to support it. We are looking for ways to show up for events while we are on vacation.

Seemingly through the pressure of people speaking up, Trump has felt a need to change course, and I can only hope that if we keep speaking up in the ways we can, progress will continue to happen. Today for the first time ever, I contacted President Trump and encouraged him to make further progress to keep families together and uphold human rights. 

If we each do what we can, whether it’s through a social media post, contacting our representatives, donating money, or showing up for a protest, I have to believe we can make a difference. As for me and my family, we will keep speaking up.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rainbow fun.

Yesterday, I went to my old school to visit students and colleagues, and I cleaned out the last of the books I had left in the classroom I taught in for seven years (something I should have done a year ago, but I forgot). I think subconsciously, I wanted to leave a piece of me there.

It is always good and hard to go back, because I poured myself into that place for over seven years. I love that school so much; I believe so deeply in the students and the teachers and all that the campus stands for. Also, I don't miss it nearly as much as I thought I would. Yesterday, I found myself feeling incredibly grateful that after ten years of teaching high school students, I spent the past school year teaching my son.

As our "school year" is coming to an end, I can't help but think back to our "school" time together. Last August, we decided to keep Everett out of preschool this year, because: 1) He was adamantly opposed to going to preschool. 2) I was happy to have him home with Cambria and me. I told him that if he wasn't going to preschool, we would do school at home, not knowing at all what that would look like for a three year old. I bought a preschool curriculum box from Learning Resources, and we started with that. Then, I began planning little fun lessons based on Everett's interests, and that turned into planning units. 

I don't really know anything about early childhood education or homeschool, but one of the most fun parts of this past year for me has been doing "school" with Everett, and I will always look back at all the time we got to spend together this year fondly. 

My planning process for our "school" time has evolved and is now pretty simple. Everett will tell me something he wants to learn more about, I check out as many library books as I can, and we read them over and over throughout our unit. I try to incorporate an art lesson, a food lesson, dressing up, a field trip, and a run through the sprinklers.

These rainbow lessons were inspired by the book Monsters Love Colors, which we had checked out as a part of our monster unit. Everett wanted to paint and learn all about mixing colors, so I planned a little rainbow unit for us. 

Books we enjoyed from the library:

We loved this video: OK Go video about primary colors on Sesame Street 

Dressing up:
First, we read all of the rainbow books and then Everett dressed up as a rainbow superhero.
Painting a rainbow:
After learning more about rainbows and colors from the books. we painted our own rainbows. Everett and Cambria had their own interpretations of what a rainbow looks like. 
Eating the rainbow: 
We were learning about rainbows at the same time we were learning about the body, so this worked well to talk about healthy eating and colors. We read Eat Your ColorsI Can Eat a Rainbow: A Fun Look at Healthy Fruits and Vegetables, and Rainbow Stew. Then, we went to the store, and made sure we had something of every color. When we got home, Everett cut the banana and cucumbers, and lined everything up by color. He and Cambria had a picnic.
Mixing colors:
We read Mix it Up! and Monsters Love Colors, which are both about how the primary colors can be mixed to make new colors. We squeezed finger paint into ziplock bags, and they got to squish the colors together to make new ones. Then they finger painted, which led to a run through the sprinklers. Afterward, we watched the OK Go video on primary colors, which we all loved. 
Rainbow field trip:
We took a "field trip" to one of my favorite buildings in San Diego, which is painted in rainbow colors, and then had a little coffee and bagel date afterward.
Everett's photograph of me. "Mom, go stand over there and do something silly!"
Rainbow art:
Our rainbow field trip was supposed to help inspire us to make rainbow art. We tried two types of rainbow art, both of which ended up being more fun for me than Everett. We made shaving cream marble art, inspired by this tutorial. You squirt shaving cream into a pan, then add drops of acrylic paint, swirl the colors into the shaving cream, place card stock on top of it, and finally, scrape the shaving cream off of the paper with a popsicle stick. Everett enjoyed choosing paint colors, helping squirt the shaving cream and paint into the pan, and swirling the colors into the shaving cream, but he wanted nothing to do with scraping it off. I enjoyed it, though.

Then, we read The Day the Crayons Quit and made melted crayon art by gluing broken crayons to card stock, and then using a blowdryer to melt it. I let Everett choose the colors and where he wanted to glue the crayons. I ended up doing most of the blowdrying, because Everett did not have the patience. I, on the other hand, loved blowdrying the crayons and watching it slowly melt. It was kind of meditative.

Swirling the paint and the shaving cream:
Rainbow art finished products (shaving cream marble art on the left, melted crayon art on the right):
Rainbow crystal:
This was the best tool to teach Everett how the sun can make a rainbow and the colors we see. I bought Everett a crystal to hang in his window to teach him about rainbows. Every afternoon, when the sun begins to shine through his west-facing window, little rainbows are cast throughout this room. So far, each day this has happened, we all get excited, and then he jumps on his bed.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

My ideal day.

One of the greatest parenting lessons I have learned is to do what makes you happy and bring your kids along for the journey. Parenthood is not about sacrificing one's own happiness for one's children. This is an obvious idea, and yet, something that I had to learn for myself. Once I started planning our days around what makes both the kids and me happy, I have very much enjoyed being a "stay at home mom" who avoids spending an entire day at home. My kids are crazy, but we have fun being out and about.

Sometimes I like to think: what would an ideal day look like for me? Then, I plan it out, and do it with the kids. My plan for this day was: try a new bakery and share an almond croissant, get a latte to go, walk around La Jolla on a mural scavenger hunt, go to the beach to see the seals and play in the sand, and take photographs along the way. This day was more about me and what I like to do than the kids, but we all had fun. Everett has a newfound interest in photography, so he had fun being behind the camera a bit, too.

It was one of those days that makes me want to hit the pause button, so that my kids never have to grow up and go off to school, and we can spend our days going on local adventures together exploring our city.
The photograph above was taken by a kind person named Scott, who happened to be walking by and asked if he could capture this moment. A few days later, he emailed me the photograph, and I love seeing my little budding photographer holding a camera as big as his head. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

My crazy monsters.

It's amazing the level of humiliation one is willing to take on when hanging out with a three year old (just running into our neighbors while we all don monster hats). Mostly though, it's just fun to follow their lead and act like a kid with my kids.  

One of Everett's favorite books, which he has memorized, is Monster Party, so one day he said, "Let's be monsters for school!" Throughout the week, we made monster hats, monster snacks, pet monsters, monster slime, read a lot of monster books, and had a monster party of our very own. 

Everett and I decided that the best children's books out there as a collection have got to be monster books. There are so many good ones. Every time I plan a topic for "school," I research books, and then check out an obscene amount from the library. Matt makes fun of me for it, and even this time, the librarian made fun of me for how many monster books I had reserved. Some books we check out are good, and some are really not, so I keep lists on here of the ones that Everett and Cambria have enjoyed. We read the good ones over and over until we have to take them back. As a collection, the monster books are the ones we have enjoyed the most. Something about a silly make believe topic like monsters encourages writers to be creative and funny in ways that are enjoyable for both kids and adults.  

Books we enjoyed:


First, we read Monster Party, and we talked about what we wanted to eat at the party. Everett chose cheeseburgers, so we added them to our grocery list. 

Then, we had to make our monster masks for the party. We read Go Away Big Green Monster! and Monster Munch, which are both about shapes, and we discussed what shapes he wanted on the monster masks. Then, we read Monsters Love Colors, and we discussed what colors Everett wanted to use for the masks. Everett loves to cut paper, so he chose colors and cut a lot of paper to make our monster hats. We were going for cute, not scary monsters, but the masks Everett made for Cambria and him are kind of terrifying, although I pretended they weren't. I made a monster hat for myself as an example. Everett was in charge of masks for himself, Cambria, Daddy, and our dog, Aspen. He did almost all of the cutting himself, designed what he wanted them to look like, and I helped with the gluing. It took a couple of days to make all the masks. 
We made mud and worms for monster snacks. Everett smashed oreos, mixed it with pudding to create the mud, and then added gummy worms. 
Once we had everything ready, we were ready to put on our masks and have our monster party. Cambria was so excited to wear the "hat" that Everett made for her.
On another day, Everett and Cambria made monster pets. We read I Want a Monster! about a girl who gets a pet monster. Then, we read Jeremy Draws a Monster and the sequel, The Monster Returns, and Everett and Cambria drew their pet monsters.
Everett decided to draw a monster on each side of the paper to make his a two-headed monster. Then, he told me a story about it, and I wrote it down for him.
Cambria was proud of her monster, too.
Finally, we made green monster slime for "science," following this recipe.