Ten weeks into home school

We have just completed our tenth week of our new and improved home school.

The best way to describe what we’ve been up to is to share some thoughts about how each one of us has fared through the last weeks–from my perspective. So, here goes.

Things I am learning about Ian

  • He really likes “couch time.” This is together time, where we sit down and do our main Sonlight stuff–Bible, World History, Geography and reading novels. He especially likes the Usborne Time Traveler and World History books we go through, which are packed with lots of great illustrations and encyclopedic information.
  • The boy needs structure and consistency. It has been helpful for him to see a list each day on the fridge that tells him what will be expected of him in both school and family life. His fits and whining have dramatically decreased.
  • He has a knack for a lot of things–things that surprised me. He has pretty quickly picked up novice piano reading and playing skills, and I didn’t realize he could spell as well as he does. His ability to communicate in writing has improved, too. I think it’s all the reading he’s doing, and the varied subjects that the Sonlight Readers give him.
  • Despite his bad attitude about going to church, he enjoys reading the Bible with me, listening to me explain meaning behind stories, and engaging in conversation. I think he thinks about these things later, at least I know he remembers them. Maybe this is a better way for him to do it than Awana, which we discontinued after last year.

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We’ve been spending many mornings doing couch time in front of a fire. Our woodpile may not last us through the winter.

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Portraying desk work worse than it actually is.

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Piano practice.

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Archeological dig.

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Smaller, indoor archeological dig that ended up bearing more fruit than its outdoor counterpart.

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Ian’s budding rock and treasure collection.

Things I’m learning about Imogen

  • She’s picking up a lot of what Ian is learning–the things that pique her interest. She likes the Bible memory verse songs and the Geography songs. She likes to move to them as she learns.
  • She LOVES Aesop’s Fables. Honestly, many of them can be perplexing and the lessons can be difficult to explain to children. She loves the animals, the older, unique writing style, and the pictures. So we’re going with it.
  • She is excited about learning and I don’t want to dismiss that because I’m busy doing stuff with Ian. She wants to be read to and to have her own library books to look at. She often says, “When I read I’m going to . . .” She’s memorized a Sandra Boynton book she reads to Beatrice.
  • She loves art. Love, love, loves it. I have a love/hate relationship with her doing it because it’s messy. But she feels so loved and inspired when we engage in art activities. I’m excited for her to enroll in the Art class at the HEE next year. I’m ordering her some drawing books to work on for now.
  • She plays well with Beatrice when I’m teaching Ian things she’s not interested in. I am very thankful for that.
  • She loves swimming, and I’m so glad we got her into lessons. She gets to shine, doing her own thing.
  • She’s still doing ballet, but I’m not sure that will be a long-run activity.
  • Doing Pre-K was a good choice for her. I don’t hear her talk a lot about it, but I also don’t hear her complain about going. I think she feels confident in her class. She gets some one-on-one time with her teacher developing skills as one of the oldest in her class.

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We found a great toy store called Toys that Teach. They have a fantastic book collection that clearly Imogen was intrigued by (not to mention I drooled over so many good titles). I’m thinking I may need to create her a quiet corner with a comfy chair.

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Things I’m learning about Beatrice

  • She’s definitely moved into that 2.5-3.5 year-old difficult phase. Hitting, calling names, yelling, throwing fits, being sassy. It’s not so bad yet, but as the youngest she is definitely getting away with more.
  • She talks like she’s a ten-year-old sometimes, complete with attitude and hand gestures. We think it’s cute, but I’m not sure we should encourage it all that much.
  • She really likes being at the HEE. She’s found a favorite toy (a pull along puppy) that she drags all over the place. Don’t tell her, but she’s getting one for Christmas.
  • She doesn’t put caps on markers and it drives me CRAZY.
  • She has picked up French words with more enthusiasm and ease than the other two.
  • She has memorized the Middle East geography song we worked on in our first weeks, and can sing the Alphabet. It’s amazing what little ones can learn through song and the influence of their siblings.
  • She can start doing more household chores, I just need to make an effort to include her and hold her accountable.
  • She was a fantastic potty trainer!

Things I’m learning in this process

  • This gig is like a job. No, it is a job. Depending upon how much one invests in it, it can be part-time or full-time. I like it, but I didn’t think about how it would change my schedule and my relationships with others. I am missing some of my friends and fun activities, and need to consider how to fit those things into our lifestyle.
  • I really love learning, particularly when it comes to history and literature. This isn’t a revelation, but a rediscovery. There’s a reason I got a liberal arts degree in English Literature (I also strongly considered History). Ten years after leaving formal education I am seeing it bear fruit in the parenting and education of my kids. I know this is not for everyone, but I am having fun right now. You can ask me later how I feel when higher-level math and science come onto the scene.
  • I can see that this current endeavor could equip me for something else down the line, though I have no idea what. I like sharing what I know and engaging kids in good conversations. I can ask good questions appropriate to their level and then listen for their answers and personal views. I don’t think is just my kids; this has come naturally to me in nannying and other teaching scenarios.
  • I really love reading out loud. The more I do it, the better I get at it, and the more fun it is for all of us. It’s a bit of acting, of finessing words, and of creating the atmosphere I think the author is intending.
  • I can become a slave to the schedule and the checklist. I’m starting to feel that pressure to keep us on track with what is assigned each day and week. It’s wearing on me. Other Sonlight parents in the Facebook group I’m in warned of this. It is certainly not the intent of the Instructor’s Guide to encourage this. It’s just us Type A types.
  • In light of this, I am going to pick up Teaching from Rest, which has been sitting at my nightstand, waiting for me to come around to it. I’m interested to learn more about schole, the intentional slowing down of learning. This will be a challenge for me, but I think it will prove beneficial to my kids in the long run.
  • I can see myself living vicariously through my kids. Biggest example: I want to teach Ian Grammar (probably too early) because I learned very little when I was a kid. I turned out to be a good writer anyway, but I wonder if it hindered my foreign language learning. I am insecure about it. On the other hand, I don’t want to focus too much focus on Grammar in a way that hinders him from writing freely and outside of the box. Yes, these are the things that home school moms stress about and that I used to roll my eyes at.
  • I am tempted to choose the school stuff over the character building and discipline work. It’s just easier, folks. I’m trying to switch priorities.
  • I’m still hesitant to pick up French because I don’t have a set curriculum or lesson plan. I obviously don’t have the immersion option. With Ian going to Botswana in July it is more motivation to move forward, but this will be a real challenge for my personality. I’m hoping to focus on teaching him essential phrases for his travel experience and not venture too far out from that for now.
  • I’m still a homebody. Getting my kids outside for play is another weak point for me. I am glad they have the HEE and preschool two days a week.

Other things I’m excited about

  • Ian’s piano lessons with Miss Jane. I am thoroughly impressed with her skill and her thoughtfulness in considering the interests and needs of her student. Ian respects her tight ship. At the same time, he’s impressed when he requests songs like the Imperial March and Miss Jane practices it to perform for him at their next lesson. Sometimes I wish I could be a fly on the wall when they work together.
  • Usborne books. I’m not a fan of buying anything at full price, but I’ve gotten sucked into these fantastic materials. I’m particularly excited about some of the books I’ve ordered for Imogen that will help her transition into and get started in Kindergarten. (Side note: I have a book lady named Jessie, if you are interested in Usborne, and she did help me get some good deals.) I’ve also gotten a lot of used encyclopedic books from Goodwill I plan to dole out. I will be cracking them open myself in my *mass* of free time.
  • Putting together a centrally located bookshelf of good stuff that the kids will visit regularly (the one in their basement bedroom doesn’t get frequented).
  • How fun the HEE community continues to be, and how helpful and kind the staff is there.
  • Setting goals. I usually hate doing that. It’s like creating a mission statement–you forget it, move on and then feel guilty about how much you clearly didn’t care that much about it in the first place. That being said, the curriculum specialist at the HEE encouraged me to come up with some benchmarks for the school year. That way, I can put possible new endeavors through the checklist and see if they fit into what we are trying to achieve with our kids. This includes not just formal education, but also character traits we want to encourage, and our kids assimilation into being contributing members of our household and society. I really did feel relieved after putting my thoughts on paper, and I look forward to getting Jason’s feedback, so we can hone in on what we’re doing with these kiddos.

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Archeological dig in the backyard.

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First day in our new workspace. It was clean then, but now it’s a mess of scribbled scrap paper, uncapped markers and really dirty carpet. But, we’re making our way through that shelf of books!

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Members of the HEE family (at our new location). These three aren’t official students yet, but they enjoy the space, the people, the regular refills of popcorn, and the lollipops that are given out by the generous Ms. Trudi.

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Weekly preschool carpool with this bunch

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Preschool pumpkin patch visit

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Trick-or-treaters who mean business

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Future homeschooler? Yet to be seen.

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On a sunny day at the HEE, watching the big kids with their remote-controlled truck.

*For those who are interested in the details of our curriculum and materials, Ian is using Sonlight’s Core B&C World History curriculum, Math Mammoth, and Spelling Power. I can’t seem to commit to more Language Arts materials, but we have been trying out Shurley English and Winning with Writing. I’m thinking about starting Rosetta Stone for French.

Imogen is a part of our Sonlight Bible, History and Reading time when she wants to be, she’s doing a few pages a week of a Scholastic Pre-K workbook I got at Costco, and I’m trying to get her books at the library that interest her. She attends Westgate Preschool two days a week and does ballet.

Portraits with Jessica Ribera

Hi.

On a note unrelated to more intimate writing and daily life-sharing, I am excited to talk about about a couple creative opportunities that have come my way. One involves my amateur photography skills (below) and the other is a possible job doing copy for a creative business a friend is starting up.

Both are 1) low pressure, 2) working with people I really like, 3) testing waters of a new hobby (photography) and 4) dipping my toes back into an older side job (website writing).

I’m also excited for these projects because I think I can pull them off and still have time for our daily grind of homeschooling and generally keeping everything and everyone here at the Haggard Haus in optimum condition (including myself, which, if you know me, is a BIGGIE).

The first project was portraits I took of Jessica, who needed head shots for her budding writing career. You may recall I did birth photos for her last summer.

Jessica is used to being in front of a camera due to her previous job as professional ballet dancer. She also just generally likes being in front of people, sharing herself, and getting attention. I think that’s obvious from what you find here. It also gave me an immediate and helpful advantage come picture-taking time.

Here’s my favorites. The last two made the final cut.

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I am a perfectionist, but I am pleased, and I’m really pleased that Jessica is happy with the end results.

What I wish I would’ve gotten during our time together were some of her great facial expressions in conversation. When she’s talking about something she cares about or telling one of her funny stories from daily life, her face is all over the map, in the best of ways.

This time, being a beginner photographer, I was so busy thinking about light, background, and settings that I wasn’t able to create good conversation. It would’ve been nice to have an extra friend there to talk with her and get her going down some rabbit trail.

I know that really wasn’t the goal of this project, but I think that would’ve rounded out this session. It could’ve given Jessica some more personal photos her family and friends could enjoy–the essence of Jesky Ribera.

Oh well, another time.

Read Jessica’s writing on her blog, and maybe you’ll see her words (and her picture) on some high-faluten website or in a publication one of these days.

Note: Photos were taken with a Nikon D60, 50mm lens, aperture priority setting at mostly 4.5. I have no experience with Photoshop or Lightroom; some very easy editing was done with iPhoto.

Homeschooling for real

Many of you know that I’ve been “homeschooling” Ian for the last couple years. When it comes up in initial conversations with people they say something like, “Oh, wow, that’s so impressive. I don’t know if I could do that. It must be hard.”

I quickly interrupt them to say, “You know, I’m not really a true homeschooling parent. It’s more like a 50/50 thing.”

Then I go on to explain about the Home Education Exchange (HEE) in our school district, which is an amazing resource for us. It’s essentially a school for homeschooled kids, where they can take the messy or hard-to-simulate-at-home classes, and experience community with other students and families. Also, because Ian is a registered public school student, the program provides a variety of options for curriculums in many subjects, as well as support from the teachers and coaches who staff the HEE.

Ian’s kindergarten year we did maybe a half hour of schoolwork at home, a few days a week. I relied heavily on the classes he took at the HEE, which were Science, PE, Art and Lego. I told myself, “This year is no biggie. Besides, in the state of Washington you technically don’t have to start school until second grade to get a high school degree!”

I kept that lackadaisical attitude through first grade, too. Ian took the same classes and he did math and reading at home. He generally picks things up quickly (when he wants to) and he was reading very well. Honestly, if  we got around to schoolwork in a day that was a bonus. If we didn’t, oh well. Life is an education, right?

But, by the end of last school year I began to acknowledge that I couldn’t continue on our course (or lack thereof). Ian wasn’t being challenged. Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of great learning experiences over the year, but our learning wasn’t just lacking in amount, it was also lacking in rigor. Honestly, my agenda for the day or week took precedent over setting aside time to do school, whether it be book work or more exploratory learning.

I knew I needed to kick it up a notch come second grade, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like. I know I like structure and a schedule (something we haven’t had in our school at home), but I didn’t know how to tie various subjects into something more cohesive that we (I) would stick with.

We ended the year early and went to North Carolina in June for the Haggard family reunion. While we were there I learned that my sister-in-law, Tiffany, had decided to homeschool her two younger kids (2nd grade and kindergarten). North Carolina doesn’t offer anything like the HEE, so she had talked with friends and chose to do Sonlight along with some other curriclums to teach her kids.

We happened to still be at Tiffany’s when all her materials showed up in the mail. I was very intrigued. Regardless of the subject, it’s hard to keep me away from a stack of fresh, new books, even if it’s just to flip through and admire them. The smell of print and the feel of pages between my fingers woos me. I feel like a kid in the library or bookstore again.

Tiffany told me a bit about how Sonlight works and she let me look at her catalog (which is very exhaustive and informative). I was fascinated by how the curriculum worked. I was excited by all the books–lists and lists of them–ones I would love to read myself or to my kids. And I was very impressed by the company’s philosophy on how families can learn together.

The downside was the sticker price. It’s not that Sonlight is outrageously pricey, but up until this point almost everything we have done so far has been provided to us for free through our school district or the public library. We’ve had it really good. Spending several hundred dollars seemed like a big commitment, possibly even a waste. [Note: Sonlight is not covered by our district because it contains religious materials.]

Yet, as I imagined how Sonlight could play out at our house, I got pretty excited. The teaching guides are structured, while at the same set up in a way that isn’t rigid. The approach isn’t stuffy or complicated, but simple and based on a love of reading. And because doing it is such a group activity, Imogen and Beatrice could be incorporated into at least part of our learning time.

It is true that you stick with things you are excited about. So I decided that I would pay the money to try Sonlight this year because if I liked it, I would go at it with gusto. And hopefully that enthusiasm would rub off on the kids.

Sonlight says that “box day” (the day when your materials arrive in the mail) is a lot like Christmas. The company is usually referring to the kids’ delight, but since this is our first time doing this, Ian had no idea what I had gotten him into. I, on the other hand, was pulling out each thing in the box as if it were an individual gift.

Usually summer is the time where you take a welcome respite from the demands of school, whether you school your kids at home or they go to school elsewhere. But knowing we had this new thing to look foward to, I was ready to started homeschool–for real.

I think we have a great combination this year:

  1. A couple of years of “sorta” homeschooling under our belt
  2. Ian taking Science, PE and Art at the HEE
  3. Math, spelling, writing, etc., curriculums provided through the HEE as well as a great community
  4. Sonlight’s Bible/Lit/History Core B&C (World History)

We just finished up our first week of school at home. Ian threw a stink on Monday morning at 9am, which was no surprise. But by the end of the week, even he was giving the books and topics we are learning together his stamp of approval (which is no small achievement for Sonlight, tell me tell you!).

I hope to write more about our learning experience as it progresses. . . but for now, here’s to the 2016-2017 school year!

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Note: I would  recommend requesting a Sonlight catalog as a resource–regardless of whether or not you buy, homeschool or don’t. They have awesome books lists and descriptions for various grade levels. It is a gold mine!

If you happen to decide to purchase, please use my Rewards number: EH20435116 at checkout. That means I’ll collect points that somehow benefit me in the future.🙂

Lastly, if you use Sonlight, I would love to talk with you. This is all new to me, and I’d like to hear how it works for your family.

Imogen at five

Dear Imogen,

At this time last year your inner world was mostly a mystery to me. You are by no means introverted or quiet, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was going on in that little head of yours. Your dad was even perplexed, and he doesn’t obsess about things like this nearly as much as I do.

Well, I’m elated to report that your fifth year was a true emotional and mental unveiling. You grew up in so many very big ways. You were like the peony in our front yard that surprisingly and delightfully popped up and bloomed this last spring in the most natural and delicate way. It was just waiting for it’s time, and so were you.

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You brought your fifth year in dressed as Belle at a fantastic birthday party. And the summer that followed was a pretty awesome one. We spent lots of time outside, went to Grandma T’s for a couple weeks, and went camping with our church family. I wish our family fun wasn’t so dependent upon my health, but I was feeling great and it worked to our whole family’s advantage. Just as you are with anything that promises amusement, you were all in.

In the fall you started Pre-K at Westgate Chapel. I can’t stop saying how wonderful of a school it is, and you had a great teacher, Diane. She has given us lots of insight into what you’re like in the classroom and in social settings. She says you are a kinesthetic learner, but regardless of your regular movement, you are absorbing everything like a sponge. You have a great memory, recalling experiences from all areas of life, dating back quite a ways. You talk about these memories through your own unique lens, in a way that shows that your heart is attached to what you’re sharing.

Teacher Diane has also consistently pointed out how tender and loving you are, and it’s so true. You have soaked up the affirmation and encouragement from the staff at Westgate. You can’t give or get enough hugs. It melts my heart when I imagine you sitting right next to Teacher Diane during preschool circle time; she tells me that you sat right by her side, every day of class. There’s probably a spot worn on the floor right next to her chair!

Your faith has grown much this year, too. You have a vast knowledge of Bible stories and you were an enthusiastic participant at Awana yet another year. But you also wanted to pray for Jesus to come into your heart, and several months later you asked if you could take communion with us, too.

It’s been such a privilege to see how your love of Jesus is manifesting itself. Teacher Diane made a point to tell me that one of her favorite parts of the preschool class was hearing your prayers. She said they were so intentional and sweet, in a way that was different from others in your class. You also have a heart for those in need–you pray for ambulances you hear, homeless people on the sidewalks, friends and family who are sick or sad. You have a sweet voice and I know God loves hearing it.

When we talk about God’s family and how Jesus loves His children, you often smile with a hint of pride, knowing that means you. I think, at least right now, one of the most valuable things I can impress upon you is that God loves you, and He hears you and sees you. I can see that being left alone is a fear of yours. Even though I can’t always answer the questions of why God doesn’t heal someone or why he didn’t make your scary thoughts go away at bedtime, I can emphatically say that you will never be left alone. That you will always be loved and cherished.

You enjoy all the relationships in your life, and you really do want everyone to get along. I appreciate that about you, but it also pains me because I know from experience that it’s just not going to happen (in this life). That is a hard thing for someone who is so relational and so much wants love and peace between people.

It’s also hard to hear you insist you wear a pretty dress to preschool so so-and-so will want to play with you in class. Or to hear Ian and the neighbor girl engaging in play that leaves you out. You want people, why don’t they want you?!

What I can say to you (when you’re a bit older and read this) is this: You will probably struggle with this for a long time. I wish I could say it gets easier, but it will get harder first (i.e. adolescence). I am praying that through every season of life God puts people around you that invite you into the best of circles, those that have Jesus’ arms wrapped around them. And that you can bring people who are sad or lost into these circles, too, with your gentle ways. I can already see your desire to do that.

Before this last year I would’ve said that you were on the shyer side, especially when it came to large audiences. But now I realize you just hadn’t yet had the opportunity to perform. You completed a year of ballet and your performance this last spring in front of hundreds was a smashing success. You had no jitters, just total confidence and enjoyment. In fact, you led most of the other kids in the choreography AND you re-performed the dance in front of your preschool class a few days later! As someone who loves an audience as well, I say keep going for it, girl.

Ian does try to outshine you, so beware. He pretty much tries to outshine everyone. I hope at this point you realize that and aren’t taking it personally. I often have to tell him to shut his pie hole because I want to hear what you have to say. Teacher Diane was right when she encouraged me to make sure you have a voice in a household of strong opinions.

Partly because of this, we decided to have you do another year of Pre-K at Westgate. I love the idea of you being one of the oldest in your class, leading other kids gently and with confidence. But also, this means that as you get older you and Ian will be another year apart in school and that may be for the best.

Another perk to this is that you and Beatrice will be a year closer in grades. Up until a few months ago you and her didn’t play that much together. In fact, if I found Bea with anybody it was Ian. But as she has grown into a full-fledged toddler you have taken her under your wing–with her permission, of course, since she doesn’t let anyone do anything without that.

Your games usually include you being the mom and calling her “sweetie.” She is either the baby or the puppy dog. You make her little beds around the house and she crawls in, settles in, and sticks her thumb in her mouth. Meanwhile, Ian broods in his room, building Lego bases in solitude. This be a hint of the future Haggard sibling dynamic.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not all peacefulness in this house. Bebo bowls over you at times, and Ian has been doing that since day one.  He’s forceful and bossy, and you whine. Dad and I feel a tension between telling him to back off and telling you that you agreed to play with a boy who is sometimes harder to stop than a freight train.

Nevertheless, some of the absolute best sibling moments this year have happened between you and Ian–at bedtime. We turn off the lights, leave the door cracked, and warn you to settle down. Then you two proceed to get all riled up, singing goofy songs, doing impersonations, telling stories. I think Ian instigates, but you are the comic. You are on stage, and Ian is in for uncontrollable laughter. I half-heartetedly yell down my authority, but usually let it slide because you two love each other so much in these moments.

You are still a barnacle, and proud of it. It’s almost monkey-like; you crawl into laps, play with hair, breath in people’s smells. You love snuggling with Dad in bed on Saturday mornings. Oftentimes you have to fight for your space when Bebo comes in like a bulldozer. You are calculated in battle–you don’t shove her off, you just wait until she gets distracted and then sneak back in. Or you gently slide her over when she isn’t paying attention. And then you hold me extra tight, making eye contact with her so she knows what she’s missing.

There have been times I have wondered if you and I lack some particular connection we would’ve had if I hadn’t struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety after you were born. This was compounded by the fact that you and I are different in so many ways, and that in your earlier years I couldn’t quite figure out your internal world.

I feel happy thinking back (and writing about) all the things I’ve learned about you. I feel confident we will grow closer, and you will teach me many things.

Please stay sweet and sensitive. I get it–you’ll have your days of defiance and of sneakiness (your particular sin of choice right now). You are human. But the world needs more of your empathy. Hold onto that, as you know God firmly holds on to you. Also, hold on to others. Vulnerability is a rare, rare jewel, one that God is very pleased with.

I love you, Imogen (innocent) Annabelle (beautiful) Haggard.

Mama

Here are photos of Imogen’s fifth year, in chronological order.

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All I’ve got (new pics)

I’ve been working on some writing projects off and on for the last month or two but everything is disjointed and muddled. I don’t have much of anything pressing to say about life, which bothers me. Even with prompts, I’m coming up almost empty.

The best I’ve got are little snippets of words and pictures from our days that I post on Facebook. What started out as an outlet to practice being succinct (and honestly, get some instant gratification with all your liberal “like”s) has turned itself into a whole lot of nothing else.

It feels like I’m living in the shallow end of the pool. I’m not sure what to do about that.

Haven’t I said this all before? Oh yes, that’s right; I say it about every other post on this blog, going back for a couple years. Oy.

I have made a little progress recently by bringing all our photos up to date on our Flickr account.  Now you can find new photos all the way back to December 2015. (Disclaimer: It’s almost all kid pics.)

Until I write again . . .

 

 

Beatrice at two years

Dear Bebo,

I want to take a moment to remind you that you’re given name is Beatrice. You insist on being called Bebo, and I suppose I can’t blame you; it most likely originated from my own postpartum stupor of tiredness. And then it really, really stuck.

Over the course of your second year you went from babe in arms to a walking toddler.  I guess that’s how it’s supposed to go, but you took your time. I could tell you could’ve walked earlier if you had wanted to, but you stayed crawling well after your first birthday. You made the commitment to walk at sixteen months, and man, now you’re running to keep up with your siblings, and calling me to run along, too. Maybe you gave me that extra time as a semi-baby as a sweet, wonderful gift. I just loved that time with you.

God gave you beautiful brown eyes. Your sister has them, too, but in a different way, with a different tone. When I open the van door to get you out of your seat, I see it most then, in the natural light.  I can’t explain it, but they have a sparkle, a shine to them. I think that’s unusual for darker-eyed children. It makes me stop and really look at you, which when you are a busy mom, you don’t do enough with your kids. Yet another gift.

I see both your siblings in your face, and your Dad and I, too, but you have your own look. Ian says you are the “key to cuteness.” He’s been saying you’re cute from day one. In fact, he sings about it constantly, with the same lyric and sometimes a varying tune: “Bebo is so cuuuuuute!” He was pretty stinkin’ adorable at your age, but he doesn’t have the lone dimple, which is a pretty big leg-up on his toddlerdom of yesteryear.

Your brother is obsessed with both delighting you and annoying you. In the first few months of your second year you didn’t notice so much, and when you did, you would sometimes dance along. By your second birthday you were annoyed, would yell “NOOOOOOO!!!!!” and gave him a good slap. He would laugh and laugh. Beatrice, you have total power over that boy.  Be nice to him as you get older, even if he drives you nuts. He’s devoted to you.

You learned how to smile for the camera this year, and it’s is such a cheeky smile. Your face is small enough that all if it scrunches up–your cheeks, your eyes, and a big, memorable crease across the bridge of your nose. Before you could walk you had a wholehearted and joyful desire to dance along with your siblings to “I Like to Move it, Move It!”(played MANY times at our house), even when all you could do was crawl up to the speakers and bounce up and down with a smile on your face.

You love the bath. Early on in the year, the moment I would turn on the faucet you’d come crawling with incredible speed, then pull yourself up to the side of the tub and try to tip yourself over into the water. You’d splash and splash, and now you and Imogen fight over toys. She takes great joy in seeing how much you love the water.

You have chub like your brother and sister didn’t, and I LOVE IT. We play belly drums on you all the time. What I find miraculous is that you’re padded despite the fact that it seems you barely ate anything this year. Carbs, carbs, carbs. That’s what you ate. No fruits, no veggies, barely any meat. I would put loads of butter on anything you ate, though it’s better now. And smoothies–that’s really what got us through it. Even ice cream–you’d turn your face away and even when we’d force it into your mouth you’d spit it out. You do things on your own time.

You babbled this last year, and you certainly weren’t a quiet child, but you didn’t really start talking until closer to two. The doctor said you should be saying some ridiculous amount of words (23?) by a 18 months, which your siblings never did. Nevertheless, we took you to a speech therapist at Children’s per the doctor’s recommendation. You were an absolute delight to the therapist; you played farm and ball with her and she showed me you were actually trying to say quite a few words, you just didn’t have them down yet. It was not worry; by two you were chatting away. Now it’s full sentences and you hold your own against the rest of us loud, opinionated chatterboxes.

You have always been a super snuggler. Imogen can stealthily sneak into a lap without anyone noticing–that’s her talent. You announce your presence as you climb up, and make sure no one tries to take over your spot (sometimes by force). You would babble and talk and grab my face to make sure I was listening. If you were tired you’d lay your head on my shoulder and stick your thumb in your mouth. I have LOVED that.

In fact, for a few months after you turned one, we had really special moments at the start of the day. You’d wake up before the other kids, and I’d still want to sleep, so I’d pull you out of bed, get back into our big bed, and lay you on my chest. You’d snuggle in, your head in that shoulder-spot, still and quiet. These were best moments of your second year for me, bar none. I will not forget them.

That phase has passed and you’re a ball of energy now. Towards the end of the year when I knew you wouldn’t sit still on my chest, I’d leave you in your crib for a few more moments of wake up for myself. You would start bouncing up and down, thumping pretty loudly. You’d chant, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” with increasing volume until I’d finally come and get you.

One of the first phrases you started saying was “NO WAY!” Again it started with me–a silly thing I’d say to you when you’d kick me during diaper changes. You laughed and then started saying it back.  But then it was “NO WAY!” to a lot of things, sometimes in silliness, but later on in defiance.

As the youngest, you’ve picked things up, including Ian’s obsession with Star Wars. You started humming the Imperial March at about 20 months. I could hear you during nap time alternating between that and your “NO WAY!”s. Geesh.

You love books. If I couldn’t find you or hadn’t heard from you in a while, I’d peek into your room and find you on the rocking chair looking at books quietly. As your language developed you would chat to yourself, your intonations going up and down, as if you were actually saying words.  This went on for a few months, but now you want me to read the books to you, and you anticipate what’s next in your favorites, which include all of Sandra Boyton’s hippos and cows. I think it’s meant to be.

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To my surprise you expressed an interest in the potty not long after you could walk. I’d set you on the big toilet and you’d even push, proud of yourself and saying you peed. I’d have to coax you off the toilet. Then one day your actually did pee. And you did it a few more times. I didn’t commence potty training (you may be ready, but I’m not quite yet), but I am hopeful for our future efforts.

You grow in personality and tenacity and smarts every day. I don’t want to dive into your third year, though months of it have already passed by. That’s for another time, and there’ll be lots more to say. For now, I’ll just say it’s getting better and better. You have made your place in our family. Everybody loves Bebo.

You were a surprise, Beatrice. Truly a miracle, coming into the world at the most perfect time, but also at an uncertain and honestly scary time for me and our family. But I can’t imagine a day without you–back when you were a newborn in my arms, a snuggler on my chest, and now in the chaos as your siblings show you the way (and when sometimes you give them a piece of your mind).

Keep growing into yourself, Bringer of Joy. There’s so much more of it in you to come!

Love,

Mommy (dum dum dum, dum de dum, dum de dum)

_________________________

Here is Beatrice’s second year in pictures, in chronological order starting with her 1st birthday and ending with her 2nd.

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Labor and birth photos, Jessica Ribera

Back in July I had the privilege of taking photos during my friend Jessica’s labor and the birth of her fourth child, Bran Raphael Ribera.

My first goal was to take as good of photos as I could (duh). Bran coming into the Ribera family has a special story and I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw up documentation of his entrance.

Second, was to capture the mother. My underlying desire in all that has to do with pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum is to lift up that magical woman at the center of it all. And being how in this case that mother was a dear friend, it made this experience all the more fun and special.

I hope the Riberas (mainly Jessica) enjoy a little walk down memory lane. And I hope the rest of you get a glimpse of how incredible labor and birth is.

The photos displayed are just some of my favorites.  View all photos on my flickr page.

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Painting by Elizabeth VanSnellenberg

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Photos taken with a Nikon D60, 50mm lens.