Thursday, November 27, 2014

Why I've Been a Lazy Blogger

And this isn't even my picture. But this baby is the same age as mine!

Friday, November 21, 2014

7QT (Vol. 108): Anne Says and Peter Pictures

Anne has a cold and might be teething, too. She was up about every 20 minutes last night, mostly gassy, which I suspect is from swallowing a lot of air with her cold. We let her sleep in our bed all night, so not very restful for any of us.

This morning, Jeremy cheerfully changed diapers and got breakfast for both kids while I got a solid extra 30 minutes of sleep. My hero. When he got to work, he sent me the following Anne quotes from breakfast:

"Daddy, doughnut?"
"No, this is a bagel."
"No, doughnut."
"It's a bagel. See? It has seeds."
(concerned) "Why?"

(referring to chicken) "Baby!"
Peter: "Anne, why do you like babies so much?"
"I dunno. Never boring."

(later) "Daddy, doughnut?"
"It's not a doughnut, sweetheart, it's a bagel."
"Me doughnut?"
Hope springs eternal...

I realize I have been unusually lax in posting adorable pictures of my children. This is particularly bad since those pictures are the main reason most people visit my blog. I'll compensate with some pictures of Peter from when he was the age Anne is now (almost 2). How time flies!


7 Quick Takes is hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary

Monday, November 17, 2014

Small Victories

The furnace technician arrived a few minutes before 8:00 this morning (just routine maintenance) and I was already dressed and able to calmly answer the door. Anne hadn't had breakfast yet, but that was her decision. Apparently no one microwaves chicken nuggets like Daddy.

We slithered into Mass during the entrance procession, but we got there!

I accomplished all my cleaning goals for the day. Which was to sweep two rooms and empty the dishwasher. Let's not get crazy.

I had a very productive spiritual direction session that I think I'll be mentally unpacking for quite some time.

Jeremy made delicious grilled cheese sandwiches tonight, forever changing Heesu's perception of what that food should be. "This is really good! Grilled cheese are always junk, but this is very delicious!" Her only experience before tonight had been buttered white bread and American cheese. Jeremy's combination of mozzarella with tomatoes on wheat bread basted with olive oil astounded her. (OK, this is not really my victory. But it was fun to enjoy his victory!)

I finally connected with one of the kids in my class who has been pushing since the beginning of the year to find out how far she can go. She was a great addition to class tonight, not a single inappropriate comment or even facial expression. She's a smart kid and natural leader, so it was wonderful to have her engaged. AND got us out of the potential power struggle that seemed to be on the horizon!

This excellent ponytail placement is not today's victory,
but fits the theme anyway.

Friday, November 14, 2014

7QT (Vol. 107): Joseph and my Amazing Evening

My in-laws came out today. Such a great day! They brought apple crisp AND entertained my children so I could take a nap. :-) My mother-in-law "did school" with Peter, experimenting to see what floats and what sinks. She even went a step further and explained how surface area affects the ability to float. It was music to my ears, hearing him learn from his Grandma as I went up.

After dinner tonight, I went to Chocolate and Vines with Heesu, my mother-in-law, and a friend I met on the internet. (We pretend that's sketchy to amuse ourselves. In reality, it's because we're both too introverted to meet friends in real life.) After a relaxing and delicious dessert, we were off to the Auditorium Theatre for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat!

I can't even explain how much I enjoyed it! I saw it years ago with my dad; this performance more than lived up to my memories of that one. The performers were very talented, both in dancing and singing. And the LIGHTS! What I most remember from the first show was the effects achieved with the lights. Technology has improved in the past ten years; it was even more impressive! I think I was smiling for 90% of the show.

And this is just what they did while people were leaving!

A couple weeks ago, I recommended to the parents of my 6th grade religion students that they take their children to see the play if they had the resources. While watching the scene with Potiphar's wife seducing Joseph, I hoped that if the kids go, they won't catch all of that... Hmm. Although Heesu pointed out that it was still less suggestive than the costumes in the Donny Osmond movie.

Heesu and I watched the movie a few weeks ago, since she was learning the story in her Sacred Scripture class. The movie is fine. Heesu wasn't sure she wanted to come see the play, but hesitantly agreed. Tonight, she was overflowing with praise for it. "It was a BILLION times better than the movie!" I agree. I wish I had the resources to go see it again tomorrow night!

One of the little things I thought was cool about the play was that the first brother to embrace Joseph when he reveals his identity at the end was Reuben. He ran up, hugged him, then turned toward heaven and clasped his hands in prayer. Given that he was the only brother who tried to save Joseph's life in the Bible, I thought that was a nice touch.

Making my night complete, Jeremy got Anne to sleep tonight while I was at the play. This is the first time she has been put down to sleep without nursing first (or falling asleep in the car or while rocking), I think. She's getting to be so big! I am very happy to know she can fall asleep without me.

7 Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Sports Our Kids Will Play

A guest post by my husband.

I was not very active as a child. I started reading at a very young age, and my parents say that they often had to tell me to put down the book and go play outside (things you never think you'll have to say...). As such, I think they would've taken just about any sport that I developed an interest in; the only rule was that I wasn't allowed to play football, which also never interested me.

My children do not share my desire to be sedentary all the time.

We do, however, now know more about sports medicine than we did 20 years ago. Our international student played tennis at school this fall, and they had a very interesting guest speaker to discuss injuries in youth sports. Much of it was focused around concussions, but he also spent quite a bit of time talking about the harm of playing one sport year round. It increases the risk of overuse injuries significantly (which makes sense, but I'd never really thought about it), and anecdotal evidence suggests it might even be counterproductive toward excellence in that sport; I don't remember the exact number, but it was something like 98% of Olympic athletes at the 2012 games played two or more sports growing up.

Peter has thus far only done gymnastics, in part because you can start that at a much younger age than other sports, but now he's just about old enough to participate in others, and also developing more of an interest (thanks in part to going to the tennis matches this fall). In the spring, we're going to open up the choices for him a bit.

But which sports? I decided not to give him complete freedom in choosing, because there are certain things I just don't want to have to deal with as a parent. Please note that I'm not saying that the sports we've excluded are bad and I'm certainly not trying to cast judgment on anyone; they're just not a good fit for our family. We do also want him to play a sport; I used to be fairly anti-sports, and still have some misgivings, but I'm convinced at this point that they do more good than harm for kids, at least when set up properly.

These were our primary elimination criteria:

-High concussion rate. One of the things I learned in that presentation is that even getting a single concussion has the potential to cause lifelong migraine or mood issues. No sport is completely immune from the possibility; according to NCAA Division I athletes, golf has the lowest rate, but 5% of golfers still reported getting a concussion while playing! However, I don't want to assume that extra risk for my kids, if there are other sports where it happens less often. This information was surprisingly elusive, as many places just report raw emergency room data, which is not helpful. (For example, bicycling causes more emergency room concussion visits than football - but way more kids own bikes than play football, so that doesn't really tell us much.)

-High expense. I'm going to pick on hockey here because of personal familiarity. We have some friends and relatives whose kids play hockey, and the expenses are very, very high. We have been blessed with more than enough money to survive, but I'm frankly not sure we could fit travel hockey into our budget, so I don't see the benefit in introducing it if we wouldn't be able to support carrying it to a higher level if the interest stays.

-High environmental impact. This didn't eliminate much, but I wanted to get rid of anything that is demonstrably hurting the planet. That's not a worthwhile trade-off to me.

-Anything that's based on weight classes. I've heard too many body issue horror stories about this to want to risk it. I know there are plenty of kids who do these sports and have no problems, but there are also those who do, and as with the other things, I personally don't think the risk is worth it.

If I were going to pick a sport for our kids, it would be volleyball. It has just about the lowest concussion rate of any team sport, provides one of the best aerobic workouts of any lifetime sport (FIVA has a 75+ age bracket), is something that is relatively easy to access and can be played in a backyard, and doesn't have any high-profile professional leagues filled with bad role models (it's a sport you play much more so than a sport you watch). The only major downside is that youth volleyball doesn't really start until age 8.

However, just as I don't want to give them complete freedom of choice in this matter, neither do I want to dictate to them what they are going to do. I don't want them to end up resenting the sport, or worse, sports in general. We developed a list of choices, which I've broken into two tiers: sports I'll actively encourage, and sports that are acceptable and will be presented as options, but I'm not going to actively encourage. As with anything, it's subject to change, though I think it's probably pretty final.

Tier 1:
-Basketball. This was the sport I ultimately ended up playing growing up, and it still fits within all of our criteria.
-Martial arts. I know it's not exactly a sport, but it's still in the same category of highly active activities, and teaches many great life skills you don't necessarily get in sports.
-Baseball/Softball. We don't enjoy watching or playing baseball as much as the others, but it does have the lowest concussion rate, and would put our very-small-for-their-ages children at less of a disadvantage than the other sports in the top tier.

Tier 2:
-Gymnastics. I'm definitely supportive of him continuing, though it is more expensive than the tier 1 sports, especially if he decides to get competitive.
-Swimming. This is even more expensive, and really only makes the cut because we think swimming in general is a very important life skill, and if competitive swimming gets them to learn the skills, it's worth it.
-Tennis. I don't really have any objections to tennis other than that it's not something you can just play anywhere. We live within walking distance of a few public courts, but it's still not something you'll just be hanging out with your friends and be able to play spontaneously.
-Fencing. Our town has a fencing program, and I think it's pretty cool. Only misses tier 1 because it's not quite as physically rigorous as most of the rest of the list; you have to be in good shape to excel, but the actual sport itself isn't inherently as intense of a workout.
-Jump rope. I guess this is a thing now; from what I've read, it sounds like it's sort of like a gymnastics floor/synchronized swimming/dance routine. I couldn't find any programs near us with a cursory search, but if it keeps growing the way supporters claim it is, I'll be keeping my eye on it.
-Soccer. Truthfully, if it were entirely up to me, soccer would not be on the list. The third most interesting thing I found during my concussion rate research (#1 being 1 in 20 D1 golfers getting their bell rung, somehow) was how incredibly high the concussion rate is in soccer. It's nearly double basketball's, the next highest sport on this list. This is especially true in girls' soccer, which brings me to the second most interesting thing: for the same sport, girls tend to have about double the concussion rate as boys. Girls' soccer has by some accounts a higher concussion rate than field hockey, and by most accounts a similar rate to boys' lacrosse. My wife, however, was a soccer player and coach, and is very adamant that soccer remain on the list. I don't want to undermine her, but I'm not going to push it myself.

When we've shared this list with some of our friends, we usually get questions about things like track and bowling. Those cover the two main categories of things to which we don't object, but I'm not counting as their "sport". Running and cycling are things which they can do on their own or in one-off races without being part of a team or sacrificing another sport that they're doing, and since we're homeschooling, I'm not really sure if they'd be able to do them at an organized level anyway. Bowling, archery, ping pong and other things like that we're going to count as activities because they don't provide the full-body workouts of the other sports. (This is actually a slight concern about baseball as well, but if they stick with it until they're older it requires quite a bit of exertion, so we're willing to invest those stand-around-and-wait years.)

Like many of these kinds of parenting decisions, this one has caused me to alter my own lifestyle as well. I suspect part of the reason I was never interested in sports growing up was that my parents weren't either - I'm quite certain that was the case with football, as I never even really saw the game other than on Thanksgiving. What ultimately got me interested in basketball was NBA Jam. (Growing up in the '90s, far and away the most interesting period of professional basketball ever, helped, but my kids don't have that option.) This doesn't match my wife's experience, but I know that's reasonably common; I had a number of friends who got interested in skateboarding because of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, for example, or baseball because their parents were die-hard Yankees fans. I don't really watch sports; even basketball, which is the closest thing I have to following something, I haven't really cared about since the NBA outlawed defense in 2004.

The last great team before the dark age. But I digress.

I have, however, given up Tony Hawk, and the other video games I enjoy which depict sports I don't really want my kids to play. This has been a bigger sacrifice than it may sound; I've got extremely fond memories of playing through the entirety of Pro Skater 2 with a friend one summer in college while we talked through our future plans, and that game was on a very short list of games I was hoping to play through again with my kids someday. Ultimately, though, I'm sure we could have the same experience dusting off NBA Street Vol. 2; it's not the game that matters so much as the people and the experience of playing it.

Come to think of it, that last part really sums up the reason I went through this exercise to begin with. The sport I played most after basketball in middle and high school was baseball; I quit organized play shortly after T-ball, but my neighbor was really into it, so we used to play 1 on 1 often, and it was a lot of fun. I'm sure our kids will be able to find a couple of things from that list that they really enjoy.

How about the rest of you - how did your kids end up playing the sports they play?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jack-o-Lantern and Costumes

A little unnerved by pumpkin goo

But willing to help with a spoon


Happy Hallowe'en!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Learning is Everywhere

Bowser explores Lego city with Spider-Man and Snoopy

Up until recently, Peter's top interest was trucks. His grandpa introduced him to Mighty Machines; Peter was an instant fan. For my part, I found it easy to use that interest in schooling. There is no shortage of books about trucks! We visited construction sites and talked about careers with trucks. 

For the last month, he has been enamored with Mario World. Yes, he loves the video game, but he is equally happy telling stories about it or making up his own with the Mario characters he and Anne got in their Happy Meals. He wants me to make up lullabies about jumping on crates and avoiding Goombas. I must admit, I was at a loss for how to use this interest in school. Pinterest to the rescue! I found an excellent lapbook on Mario World and a math activity that can be branded as Mario Kart. 

Peter has begun making connections on his own, too. Reading about lions recently, we learned that they live on savannahs. "Like Sprawling Susanna!" :-) So, he still pronounces it incorrectly, but the connection was there anyway! This has been a good lesson for me, too, in being able to find the value of any activity, even if it doesn't fit into a neat educational box.