The Best Way to Use That App Called “RESPECT”

If you go to my personal Facebook page, you’d get the idea that I’m anti-gadget. I’m not. I use gadgets. I’m on the Internet a lot. I have to consciously wrest myself away from the Internet to make sure that I’m being mentally present with my kids. What I’m against, however, is the obnoxious, anti-social use of these mobile devices.

To those who know me, that may seem hypocritical. I can be very anti-social. Growing up, it was very characteristic of me to whip out a book wherever I might have been and read. I never did it, however, when I was in a social setting. I didn’t bring out my book and start reading while people were talking to me or trying to engage me. To do that would just be so rude.

These days, however, that seems to be the norm with smartphones. I can’t count the times I’ve wanted to grab somebody’s phone and hurl it at the wall. If I’m not as entertaining as a Facebook newsfeed or a YouTube video, then slink off to a corner and commit to your choice of engagement. I prefer that you not be in my presence at all if you’re not going to be present. Honestly, am I the only one who’s insulted by this kind of behavior?

I’m teaching my kids to not use gadgets when they’re supposed to be socializing. Right now, my daughter likes listening to music or watching movies on our old iPod. She also has a broken iPod Touch that we have yet to get around to having repaired, but with both, my rule for her is to not use either when she’s with other people. “Chat! Play!” I urge her, and I mean both in the unplugged sense.

She’s okay with this rule. She likes to talk (and, boy, does she!) and she appreciates all opportunities to play with other kids since she doesn’t get them on a daily basis, homeschooling as we do (Hold all comments about socialization – we’re happy with the organic socialization she gets. As a matter of fact, the issue I’m about to share rarely happens when we gather with other homeschoolers.).

The rub, however, is in the fact that most of the other kids she’s with are using their gadgets. The ones who aren’t using their gadgets are gathered around those who are using their gadgets. I hate seeing that. Whatever happened to playing tag, jacks, et cetera? Believe me, it may seem like “mirones” watching somebody else play chess, but it feels different.

Having banned my kid from gadget use when she’s with other people, she ends up being one of the kids to look over the gadget-using kid’s shoulder. When I come across this scene , my blood pressure rises (because, well, does anybody else think it’s pathetic?), which I try to hide, so I just calmly remind her that she has drawing materials in her bag, as well as a few toys she could play-share with other kids, not to mention whatever book she’s currently reading.

Call me a buttinski, but that little nudge gets me the result I want, and my kid is happy to remember that, yeah, she has those other options. As much as I prefer to just let kids be, there are moments when I feel compelled to interfere.

Take for example, this one time at church. I found Midge in the office, seated next to her friend, watching the other girl play on her tablet. The other kid was completely ignoring her, as absorbed as she was with the game she was playing.

It made me sad, not only because my daughter appeared a bit pitiful, looking on like that, but also because this should have been a chance for them to swap jokes, giggle together, talk each other’s ears off… I couldn’t help myself. I meddled.

“Hey, M!” I called my daughter over, while taking out a piece of paper and a pen from my bag. “Let’s see if you can guess this word. It’s something found inside this room.” And thus I started a game of Hangman with her.

After two words in and a lot of excited exclamations from M, the other girl placed her tablet down and wandered over to us. She soon started guessing along, and later, she asked for a turn to make us guess. I left them some minutes later happily playing that old chestnut of a game. I mentally dusted off my hands and thought, “My work here is done.”

I know there are those of you who see nothing wrong with kids playing with their gadgets in social settings and think it’s perfectly natural for kids to huddle around somebody playing on a gadget, but I disagree with valid reasons based on my personal convictions and values, and it is within my role as a parent to bring up my children accordingly. Believe me, there have been a few occasions where she asked that irritating question that begins with “How come my friends’ parents let them…?” but she has now memorized my reply: “Different families, different values, different priorities.”

Please don’t misunderstand. My kids get a lot of screen time – more than I’m happy with actually. What I’m opposed to is people ignoring each other in a social situation to focus on their gadget.

Feel free to express your agreement or disagreement with me.

Get Inspiration from Last Year’s Summer Bucket List

I saw a bunch of “things your kids can do in Manila” type of posts on my Facebook news feed, mainly stuff you have to pay for like lessons and camps, but, still, it got me thinking about this summer’s bucket list.

Okay, two things.

First, I know the term “bucket list” is supposed to refer to a life list and not a to-do list for a limited period of time since it stems from the expression “kick the bucket”, but I’m okay with using the term incorrectly, so moving on.

Second, I’m a chronic list maker. I make lists for everything. And I have a compulsion to make my lists as long as possible (I really have to curb this inclination when making the grocery list), so when I make bucket lists, they tend to be ridiculously long.

These two points serve as a sort of disclaimer as I’m about to share our family’s 2016 summer bucket list. It’s nothing fancy, just a colorful Word doc that I copied and pasted onto Paint, so I can share it as an image here on the blog. I obviously have mad tech skills, lol. My husband, who’s a techie, is probably cringing in embarrassment as he goes through this post.

I could have, of course, scanned the printout I had posted on the fridge all through summer of last year, but that’s kind of grungy with smeared ink, dirty fingerprints, and other stains, not to mention non-matching highlighters used to strike through accomplished items. Also, it’s now glued to the kids’ smashbook (it’s actually my smashbook, but it’s about the kids, so… yeah) and it would be a wonky scan.

Anyway, here it is.

You probably noticed the rather excessive number of items, but that’s just how I am. I like to aim high, so even if I didn’t accomplish everything, I’d still have done a lot. I also like to be thorough so my list can be as long as I can make it. I also put in a lot of “sure bets” because I like crossing things off the list. Don’t judge. It’s not that freaky. There are lots of silly list-makers out there. At least, I don’t add things to the original list for the purpose of having something to cross out, although I can understand how that can be fun and satisfying too.

Why am I sharing our old list? I thought it might provide some inspiration in case you want to make your own summer bucket list. Some of the items on this list are quite specific to our family’s preferences, but many are pretty generic to the season too. In any case, I’m making a new list for this year, and I can see that I’ll be keeping many of the items, but I’ll be weeding out a couple of things I’m not interested in at the moment. I might even come up with a free printable of a generic summer list, but that really depends on whether my husband has time to make something cute. I’m not about to give you something I made on Word and pasted on Paint. 🙂

Do you make bucket lists as well? What are your traditions and must-dos for summer? I would love to hear your ideas. They might even end up on the printable. Don’t worry; I’ll credit you.

6 Excellent Reasons Why Birdwatching Is Worth Your While

Java Sparrow in Intramuros

We went birdwatching in Intramuros the other day. This was the third time we took advantage of the free guided birding trips periodically offered by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. Not only that, I finally signed up to become a member. I’ve been wanting to join the club for the longest time and I finally did it. Yay, me! It only took me seven years.

My primary reason for joining is that I’ve always enjoyed birdwatching. I’m as much a “Look at that bird” person as a “Look at the moon” one, I suppose. 😀 My spark bird (the one that ignited the interest in birdwatching) was a bee hummingbird I spotted one morning while I was vacationing at my aunt’s home in Southern California.

During that trip, I also frequently saw bluebirds, seagulls, crows, and Pelicans. For a girl who’d never seen anything but Eurasian tree sparrows (maya) and pigeons freely flying about (I was wrong about this, btw), seeing different kinds of birds in the wild (well, suburban wild) was a huge deal.

Birdwatching is definitely an activity that I want to share with my family. It’s my own interest, but I believe that my kids can benefit so much from engaging in it as well. Let me list the obvious perks that come with birdwatching.

  1. You learn about nature and appreciate how full of wonders it is. Different aspects of nature are intertwined, so the knowledge gained won’t be limited to birds. The impact on your kids could also be that, from being exposed to nature, they won’t be easily impressed by materialistic goods. If you’re a homeschooler, you could also integrate birdwatching into nature walks, make creating a safe habitat for birds a project, etc.
  2. You get yourself outdoors. Have you ever heard of Nature-Deficit Disorder? Child advocacy expert Richard Louv coined the term, which refers to the condition in which human beings, particularly the young, spend less time outdoors, resulting in various behavioral problems. It’s important to get yourself and your family outdoors. If you’re kind of a homebody, you can start with your backyard, gradually move on to the park, and then move on to easy nature hikes. Perhaps you can venture farther and attempt something even more outdoorsy from there. You get to enjoy the fresh air, soak up the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin D, and have an adventure.
  3. You get some great exercise – So engrossed in watching birds, you won’t notice that you’re walking miles at a time. This gives you a solid cardio workout. You also build up the strength of your upper arms, having to lug around spotting scopes as well as lift binoculars and hold them steadily.
  4. You effectively develop skills necessary to slow living. You learn to be more patient since birdwatching is not an exercise in instant gratification. Sometimes you have to wait hours (or years) to spot the bird you want to see. Besides that, birdwatching can also be a meditative activity and provide you with plenty of opportunity for contemplation and introspection.
  5. You hone quick reflexes and mental alertness at the same time that you develop patience. Birds won’t stop and pose for you while you scramble for your binoculars and focus them accordingly. You also need to be fast at spotting clues of a bird’s presence and identifying its kind based on the features you saw, no matter how fleetingly.
  6. You become a member of a special community. By becoming a birdwatcher, not only do you gain the physical and mental benefits of the activity, you also boost your social health. It’s a great way to meet kindred spirits, both offline and online.

Do you love birdwatching? Do you find it interesting and see yourself taking it up? Or do you think it’s, well, for the birds? Let us know your thoughts on this and tell us which birds you frequently see in your neighborhood.

*This post has affiliate links.

How to Effectively Transition into a Prepper

Inuit elders warn that the earth has shifted. They say that that their sky has changed. The sun and moon rise from different places than they used to. The sun is higher and warms up more quickly, giving them longer daylight for hunting.

They say that the Sun, the Moon, and the stars have all changed, affecting not only the temperature, but also how the wind blows. This makes it hard for the Inuit people, who inhabit the northern regions of the US, Canada, and Greenland, to predict the weather, something that is essential when living in the Arctic.

This warning happens to coincide with all the recent extreme weather events as well as the increased activity happening in the Ring of Fire, including the frequency of active volcanoes going berserk and large magnitude earthquakes occurring along the Ring of Fire.

This portent of doom and gloom, unscientific thought it may be, has definitely caused some disquiet to those living in the area. Californians buzz about the San Andreas Fault, which could unzip all at once with “The Big One”, making the entire state fall into the ocean.

Closer to home, we brace for the havoc that the West Valley Fault is expected to wreak. I live in Marikina so you can probably understand my concern. The experts say that the fault is ripe for a serious quake.

It doesn’t help that oarfish have been washing up ashore. Japanese myth has it that this “sea serpent” is a messenger from the sea god’s palace and is a herald of earthquakes.

Now, I listen to what the scientists say, but I’m not one to dismiss what the indigenous peoples and the animals are saying either. In this case, however, all parties are warning of impending catastrophe.

We could leave, of course, settle elsewhere, but we’re reluctant to disrupt our lives for a disaster that may or may not happen. And where would we move, anyway? Is there a place that is truly safe? So, we’ve decided to stay put, but we’ve also chosen to prepare as much as we can in the event that a devastating earthquake does occur.

We’re putting together an emergency earthquake kit, which includes:

  • Food and water (canned fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish; crackers and other packaged snacks with a long shelf life; camping food, etc.)
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Portable radio (better yet, get a flashlight radio – we won one  at our church’s Christmas raffle, and it’s really nifty)
  • First aid kit (include dust masks)
  • Rescue tools (wrench, hammer, crowbar, rope ladder, fire extinguisher, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous supplies for comfort and hygiene (sleeping bags, pillows, toiletries, wet wipes, paper towels, garbage bags, disposable plates/cups/cutlery, busy bags for the kids, etc.)

Of course, there are other things that need to be done. We need to train the kids on what to do if the quake strikes, identify safe points in the house and other places, fortify the house against intense tremors, etc. In short, it’s time to channel the preppers.

If you’re interested in learning the ways of preppers or survivalists, the following are some manuals, beginner’s guides, etc. available for free on Kindle at the time of this posting. You can get some good tips from the LA-specific manual as well.

Be it a looming earthquake, a supertyphoon, or even a zombie apocalypse, it’s good to be prepared. Are you the type to be ready for any eventuality or do you prefer to simply wing it?

*This post has affiliate links.

Pluto Day – Remembering the Ninth Planet

pluto

Remember when they messed with the universe as we knew it and said Pluto wasn’t a planet? Did your innards violently recoil at the suggestion and make you want to take to the streets and instigate a mutiny against the responsible governing body? In this case, it was the IAU (International Astronomical Union).

I didn’t understand it then, but that didn’t stop me from having a strong opinion. And I was having none of it. I couldn’t accept what they did to Pluto. I’d never given much thought to the planet prior to that announcement, but I suddenly found myself a staunch champion of the planet – just one of many, as it turned out. Other people were also rising up in arms against the injustice done to the ninth planet. Yes, we astronomy non-experts weren’t going to take the experts’ word for it.

Thanks to the very fun and catchy “Dwarf Planet Nothin’” (the video of which can no longer be found on YouTube, but you can still listen to the song here), I found out what was going on. I also learned how to pronounce Kuiper.

Basically, they decided to have a set criteria for planet status qualification in the Solar System:

  • Must orbit around the Sun.
  • Must be big enough to be rounded by its own gravity.
  • Must have cleared is local neighborhood of other large objects.

Apparently, Pluto failed to meet the last requirement since it’s surrounded by other icy Kuiper Belt bodies.

But the fight continued and people who didn’t want to deal with changes in the Solar System they learned in school pushed for Pluto’s reinstatement as a planet. In 2015, word on the street was that it was about to happen. I don’t know what that was about since I couldn’t find anything official classifying Pluto as anything other than a dwarf planet.

People continue to be torn and confused. Officially, Pluto has dwarf planet status, a clear demotion from being Planet No.9, but many scientists are tirelessly working to prove that it deserves to be considered a planet once again. Hopefully, NASA’s interplanetary space probe New Horizons (which has some of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes, btw) will be able to discover something in aid of this.

Whatever the experts say, Pluto will always be a real planet to me. I’m just waiting for the corroborating evidence, so… Happy Pluto Day, everyone!

You Might Be A Kindred Spirit To Anne Shirley If…

Did you grow up reading the Anne of Green Gables books? Did you become obsessed with Anne Shirley and wish to be her best friend? Did you feel as though you had many similarities with her? Were you convinced that she would have recognized you for a kindred spirit if she had met you? You might be right if…

1. You can never call a body of water just by its name (lake = shining waters). You use a poetic turn of phrase for everything because that just makes it more interesting or more properly conveys just how interesting whatever it may be is.
2. You love big words and feel joy and rightness in using them. You’ve felt others’ scorn toward this propensity of yours, but that’s how you enjoy language, so they can just like it or lump it.
3. You’re forever in despair over your hair. Anne may have lamented hers its color, but you could complain over any number of other features. Try texture, density, and shape (somebody must hate her coarse, frizzy, MUTANT hair). Because you can’t stand your hair, you might have tried to alter it to disastrous results (not quite green hair, but the outcome is still highly unpleasant).
4. You read books like they’re going out of style. They’re your most cherished material possessions. You’ve failed to do important tasks because you just couldn’t put a book down.
5. You write novel-length letters. You probably spend a small fortune on postage stamps. Some people may have delayed reading your letter because it required too much commitment.
6. You daydream like your life depends on it. You believe indulging in fancies is enriching to the soul – totally not a waste of time.
7. You speak and write with a lot of asides. You consistently go off on a tangent, but piously returns to the original point.
8. You have a genius for getting into trouble. Good ideas tend to turn traitor on you, but that doesn’t stop you from jumping in with both feet the next time you get another.
9. You don’t hide your passion for unpopular interests, even if you’re teased for it. Even if you get to be known as the girl who namedrops characters from the Anne of Green Gables series as though they were her peeps and quotes lines from the books ad nauseam. In modern times, the term “dork” may have been employed.
10. You wonder about the most prosaic things and have been told on more than one occasion that nobody gives a flying fig.
11. And finally, you keep going on and on about your kindred spirits and appreciate the heck out of people you’ve discerned to belong to the race that knows Joseph because as Captain Jim pointed out, they’re the salt of the earth. Meeting a kindred soul is like hitting the mother lode. It’s a relief and a delight to find somebody who gets you. Thankfully, as you grow up, you learn that “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.

Is this true for you? Do you feel heartened to learn that so many people share your love of Anne Shirley? Can you be a candidate to be Anne Shirley’s bosom friend? And do you have anything to add to the list? Comment your thoughts below.

If you haven’t read the books yet or don’t have your own copy, you can buy a Kindle version of the eight-book collection for just $0.99 (about Php50). There’s nothing like cozying up with a traditional book and flipping through paper pages, but if the stories are what you’re after, the ebooks work just fine. And, yes, the following is an affiliate link.

How You Get More from Doodling

Zentangle Our Lemonade Days

I don’t know how things work in classrooms now with all the technology available. Do students still use notebooks or do they just record the lecture in their mobile devices? Hmm, I wouldn’t like that at all. When I was teaching, I didn’t allow my students to have their phones, ipods, or laptops out, except for very few and select instances. Gadgets weren’t as rampantly used back then, so I didn’t want some students to have an unfair advantage over the others by using one.

Since I homeschool my kids, they can’t clue me in either on what learning in a traditional classroom is like these days. In our eclectic homeschool setup, my daughter doesn’t have to take down notes. She does copywork, but she doesn’t note down important details when I’m explaining things to her. I think that’s a pity because I’ve found note-taking to be a very beneficial skill.

I was great at taking down notes. Classmates were forever borrowing mine to photocopy back in the day. They were practically written in shorthand, but were mostly legible, so the borrowers patiently put up with my penmanship.

I do have a nice cursive, if I do say so myself, but it’s hard to maintain it when you’re trying to catch and jot down all the salient points that the teacher is saying.

My chicken scratch wasn’t the only thing they had to deal with when using copies of my notes. I doodled in between actual note-taking, so they were treated to a lot of swirls, flowers, butterflies, paisley patterns, and Spencerian script practice lettering along the margin.

Doodling was frowned upon in my school. Notebooks were to stay neat. Also, I suppose if you were supposed to be listening to the teacher and taking down notes, but were doodling instead, it would seem as though you were being inattentive.

Doodling advocate Sunni Brown, however, proposes that the activity is more than just mindless drawing. She says it’s deep-thinking in disguise and is an effective problem-solving tool. There is also research that indicates that doodling actually aids memory retention.

Now, I may not have an eidetic memory, but I was the kind of student who remembered what she learned in class. If I had been paying attention, I would have been taking notes and doodling. Even if I never got around to reviewing my notes, I would still do well in tests.

Outside the classroom, doodling often helped me pass the time. I don’t have any remarkable drawing skills, but I have to admit liking the results of my doodling, which tended to look psychedelic. I had the habit of starting from a simple shape and then building up from that. You could tell that I was partial to swirls, polka dots, and paisleys. That was my natural doodling style. It was certainly a surprise to me to learn that there was a name for it: Zentangle®.

Described to be a purposeful and structured style of drawing similar to doodling, Zentangle® supposedly supports a mindful state of being (as opposed to mindless doodling). It is said to be a meditative art form that promotes relaxation and stress-reduction as well as improves mood and self-control.

Like my doodles, Zentangle® consists of repetitive patterns of straight lines, dots, curves, and shading. The Zentangler is allowed to be as creative and free-form in her use of these patterns.

I looked at examples of Zentangle® images and, wow, there are really gifted Zentanglers out there. A lot of the pieces I’ve seen are really intricate. Some people are even selling their creations.

My own doodles are pretty simple, and like I said, I’m not really particularly gifted when it comes to drawing, but I can come up with a pretty picture from putting together patterns of simple swirls, dots, and lines – nothing that anybody would want to pay money for, but the satisfaction derived from the creation process and the pleasure from the result make pretty good compensation as well.

I don’t know about traditional schools, but doodling totally passes as an art lesson in our home school. I introduced the concept of Zentangle® to my daughter and now she enjoys putting together easy patterns, usually inside alphabet letters. I’m grateful that she finds it engaging and that I can include it in my list of suggestions for replying to declarations of boredom. Also, she likes to include drawings and small craft projects in her letters to her pen pals, so for the next batch of mail, she’ll be enclosing their names done in Zentangle®.

Zentangle Midge

I think most people would cotton to the activity. It is simple, creative, and soothing. If your feelings are in some kind of turmoil, you might want to try some aimless zentangling and see if you’ll calm down. You can check out this Pinterest board for some easy patterns to get you started.

There’s obviously more to doodling than meets the eye. Are you a chronic and pathological doodler like me? What’s your doodling style? Have you tried zentangling before? Did you find it enjoyable? Go ahead and share photos of your efforts.

Sour Days: Pack Rat Forced to Declutter

Things around here have been on the sour side lately. I know I was supposed to just post about the sweet stuff, but this is related to the whole blogging endeavor. There was a recent decree to get rid of all the garbage that was accumulating in our pathetically small space, so with reluctance from me and copious tears from Marguerite, we got rid of several Pringles cans that were going to turn into this (although ours would have been a small toy sorter – LPS, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Jewel Pets, Lalaloopsy, etc.) or this, a rather pretty (I thought so anyway) fabric kite that I had sewn with my own hands (it was declared, nay doomed, by the declutter villain to remain flightless because of some principle about aerodynamics), the beginnings of a cardboard dollhouse, the beginnings of a recycled mirror using faux wrought iron frame like this, bags of used wrapping paper and gift bags that we’d been slowly recycling (we hadn’t needed to buy gift wrap at all, thanks to that bundle), the black beret I’d bought in Paris (because it wasn’t doing anything except gather dust bunnies), fabric scraps that were going to be used for various crafting and upcycling projects… Aargh, it literally pains me to go through this list so I’ll stop. I could put the mess away, and sometimes, they are properly stored, but the kids usually take some of the materials out, especially Marguerite who’s super imaginative and finds ways to have fun with all kinds of junk, and we all just get so tired of putting them away again that they’re just gathered on some surface until the next time (probably ten minutes from that time) we need them. So good luck to all my future upcycling, recycling, and crafting blog posts; they’ve been thrown out alongside the clutter.

I admit that I do tend to be messy. Growing up, I had maids to pick up after me and until now I’m still learning that all those household chores won’t be magically done for me. When we moved to this space, I curbed my creative recycling compulsion because it would have caused an issue with people who don’t share the same convictions about reducing, recycling and reusing. However, when we started this blog, I thought it was understood that I’d expect certain liberties about crafting materials and recyclables (you know, clutter) because I’d be posting about these projects. Now, I’m clearly disabused of this notion.

I’m unhappy about having been forced to give up the clutter. It makes me wonder about values and sacrifices, when two sets of the former are unsynched and when the latter are made grudgingly. So, in effect, the lesson in waste reduction I was hoping to instill in my kids turned into waste itself and got thrown out with the rest of the “garbage”. Sigh. I’ll probably post this, but I won’t be promoting it in social media.

Look, I’d already taken a picture of the cardboard scraps I’d used for the dollhouse in prep for that blog post. The structure was already built; it was just a matter of decorating and furnishing it. Hopefully, it was found by somebody who’d bother to finish the work.

DSC_2964

The Unrelenting Pursuit of an Extraordinary Life: I’m Inspired to Blog Because…

Waldorf star lanternsThe baby – he’s halfway done with his second year, but he’ll be THE baby for a long time – stirs in his sleep, restlessly pecking at my arm, indicating his intent to feed. I wait a few seconds before acquiescing, whereupon the tiny being beside me escalates his message of demand by grabbing my top in resolute search of the source of his nourishment and comfort. I look at the time. It’s half past four. I start to weigh my chances of being able to get some more sleep and end up running a mental list of all the things I need to do instead. At the top of my mind is my part-time work. I have a noon deadline and still have all 3 articles to write. Now is the time to get those out of the way. As soon as the baby unlatches, I turn on my computer from hibernate mode, and tiptoe to the bathroom for my morning ritual. Afterward, as I reacquaint myself with the various tabs I left open the night before, I whip out my devotional, have a quick read, and utter a short prayer. Most of the time, it’s a silent wail for help. In the silence of the morning, the day still so fresh and unspent, I sag at the weight of the expected demands of the day. However, assured by God’s promise of help, I buck up and get started on tasks that can be done simultaneously. Basically, I alternate between writing and nursing, and then writing and getting the baby’s and my breakfast. Later, I juggle writing with attending to the needs of two more people who have now woken up. I know I should have done my writing the night before, but the kids were bent on sabotage and didn’t go to sleep until I was so exhausted that all I could do was open a couple of references. And even then my head kept on pathetically bobbing forward in fits and spurts of persistent slumber. Time is gold, however, and there’s none available for ruing last night’s inability to get any work done. I do a desperate task edit to see if there’s any chance I can get baths done this morning, mine included preferably. I dismiss the hope and resolve to schedule baths right after lunch. In the interim, I alternate writing, entertaining the baby, and homeschooling my daughter. It’s not even 9:30am and the day is not about to let up… How dare I try to fit blogging into that crazy schedule!?!

“Why do you blog?” That’s a pretty loaded question. It comes with unspoken judgment. There’s no need for it. With all that I already have to do in a day, blogging just seems like a poor choice – nothing more than pure indulgence. However, I love to write, and since I can’t muster the energy, concentration, and commitment to regularly write fiction and poetry like I used to, blogging seems to me the next best thing; I get to choose what to write and how to write it.

But it’s not only about sating the writer’s soul. If I were to finally be blessed with my own house, I would resolve to make it a place from which goodness emanates. The same applies to my blog, even if it’s merely virtual real estate. I’ve previously mentioned my natural tendency to be negative. I may have the propensity to always regard and react as though I were perpetually having a Jonah Day (I have the possibly annoying habit of sourcing my language from the Anne of Green Gables series), but I believe I’ve attained sufficient maturity to realize that there’s a better way of living my life. For this reason, I created this blog to be a consciously positive space.

But, yet again, it’s not only about that deliberate effort to have a positive element in my life. Our Lemonade Days is, more than anything else, a tool. On our wedding day, I vowed to my husband to always bring beauty, poetry, wonder, etc. into our life. When each of our children was born, I made a similar promise to the newborn I held in my arms. As a matter of fact, I believe I made an extraordinary life filled with joy and creativity a personal goal long before I even got married. Definitely, the conviction to homeschool came upon me pre-marriage and pre-children as well. Somehow, the goal and the conviction are intertwined, probably stemming from the same propulsor in my genetic makeup. The thing about life is that it’s so easy to neglect such noble aspirations as one gets lost in the pursuit of mundane matters. In my case, I find that blogging induces introspection, an evaluation of my efforts, and an honest assessment of the life I’m making for myself, which certainly influences that of my family.

Many people blog to reach out and be included in a community of like-minded individuals. That’s also my intent. Mommy bloggers wish to have a concrete record of their children’s precious moments. Again, I have the same hope. Our Lemonade Days is, indeed, a chronicle of our days. To me, this is paramount. Don’t you find it sheer agony to fail at bringing to mind a face or a moment in time with perfect clarity? While a blog is an efficient documentation tool that can be browsed through with the purpose of recalling memories, capturing nuances of time, etc., it’s definitely more than that for me. It is the fuel for consistent refocusing, for making sure that I have the right perspective in place. With it, I’m able to keep within the path I should be taking if I want to make good on the promises I’d made. In a nutshell, I am inspired to blog because I and, consequently, my family greatly benefit from it.

When I find myself succumbing to my negative nature, when I find myself drowning in the mundane and inessential, my blog leads me back to the right path, reminding me, “These are the things that are truly important to you, and this is the life that you want.”

*This post is my entry to DaintyMom.com’s Blogaversary Giveaway Contest.

Art and Our Unschooled Child (Must-have Arts and Crafts Supplies)

DSC_2871We put a lot of emphasis on art. I don’t really care if my child doesn’t learn how to count to 100 until she’s much older. It honestly doesn’t bother me; when it’s finally practical for her to learn it, I’m confident she will. And she encounters numbers in daily life, so I’m sure she’ll naturally pick it up. I just refuse to drill her. Art, on the other hand, is one of the things I consciously expose Marguerite to (and even Cameron, as young as he is), pretty much the same way we intentionally cultivate the love of books and reading. This exposure starts early and we truly invest in it. We’ve enrolled her in art classes and we’re never short of supplies and projects to work on.

Let me tell you, however, that until now that she’s 6.5 years old she’s still not careful about staying within the lines. My knee-jerk reaction is to correct this “wrong” habit, but another side of me vehemently balks at the idea. She also chooses and changes colors without following the normal rudiments of coloring. Since her favorite hues are purple and pink, she frequently sticks to shades of those two when coloring something. She’s not bothered about making things look neat and realistic.

Now, by circumstance of her attending a regular Sunday School program, I’m able to compare her progress with that of other kids her age, and my (also others’) observation is that she’s on an entirely different plane. Again, part of me is driven to worry, but this urge is fortunately squelched by a kind of fascination. It would seem as though she were behind her peers, but I’m discerning a much deeper implication. Take for instance one coloring activity they had to do in her class. The picture was pretty sparse of details, so the teacher told the kids to add other elements to the picture to make it come alive. All the other kids added a sun, a couple of clouds, a tree, a stretch of grass, and a flower while Marguerite chose to add a rainbowfly (some bug thing she invented), a pumpkin dragon (another invention), cotton candy clouds (“Why are they pink?” “Because they’re made of cotton candy.”), and a few other made-up creatures.

I have no idea if she’ll later end up the better artist for it, but I’m really fascinated by the freedom, the lack of compulsion to conform, the rawer imagination her work suggests. I think I crave these things. I’ve always had the inclination to rebel and to be contrary, but at the end of the day, my outlook is quite ordinary. I’m also quite anal and sadly afflicted with a lack of originality, although I believe I make a valiant effort to put up a fight against these particular traits.

work from art classPicasso said that every child is an artist, that the problem is in remaining one once grown up. My aim is to nourish this inherent characteristic and encourage it to flourish.  And, as much as I encourage it, I’m not going to make a serious business out of doing art either. When Marguerite was about to start her art classes, one of the teachers asked me if there was an area I was especially concerned about, and I replied that I just wanted Marguerite to have fun and learn, in that order. I already know that it is her impulse to be creative, so if she could broaden her knowledge and experiences, then she could have more fun ways of making art.

bloom coloring pageI also think it’s important for our children to see us engaging in creative pursuits as well. I personally am not an official artist, but I do like taking up artistic pursuits. I find that my kids always want in on whatever I’m doing, so I’ve conditioned myself to welcome this and not resent the intrusion. I do enjoy doing art activities with my kids. Cameron, of course, either wants to get everything that you’re using or makes it his mission to put everything in his mouth. It’s definitely not the relaxing, tranquil moment you probably hope for, but, in terms of quality, it’s definitely better. Take this coloring page I downloaded for free from Beauty That Moves. I printed two copies, one for me and one for Marguerite. I gave Cameron a blank sheet on which he happily scribbled, but to which he wasn’t about to confine himself to. He kept on lunging at my paper with his crayon, meeting with success one time. Naturally, Marguerite, who’s ambidextrous, finished early as, like I said, she’s not particular about staying within the lines, and she could switch hands easily when one got tired. Seeing that I was far from finished, she offered to help me. Naturally, I couldn’t refuse. It was an intricate picture with lots of details. If you find coloring therapeutic, I suggest working on this page.

I said that we’re never short of arts and crafts supplies, and as a homeschooling family, it’s really important to have some handy. Sometimes, the inspiration to work on a project comes spontaneously, so you want to be able to have the necessary materials ready when the desire to be artsy or crafty comes along. The ones we consider must-haves are the following: paper, pencils, crayons, markers, watercolors, tempera paint, glue, Scotch tape, scissors, color pencils, oil pastels, ruler, and brushes. You could assemble an art kit by buying supplies separately, or you could just buy a complete kit, which is what I prefer to do for my daughter. Some other supplies that are nice to have ready are craft foam, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, pom poms, googly eyes, ribbons, strings, rubber stamps, felt, colored chalk, glitter glue, and double-sided tape.

Did I miss anything? What nifty craft material not included here would you recommend or add to the list?

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