"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Television and Other Evils

No, I don't think television is evil. I was going to save that for later in the blog, but there it is. I'm actually quite fond of television.

Every so often on my parenting message board, there is a discussion about TV. I am invariably the odd man out, the weird one who doesn't have any TV-viewing rules. The popular opinion - by far - is that TV should be restricted, doled out as a reward, or withheld as punishment. It should be shunned in favor of more "educational" activities, or it should be avoided altogether. Television is bad, television sucks up our kids and replaces them with zombies, television destroys brain cells. The word "evil" is inevitably mentioned.

Here's the thing with TV: We do watch it, and we enjoy it. TV inspires us, entertains us, and amuses us. We learn from it. It brings interesting people, places, and information right into our living room. It is the catalyst for countless discussions, and the jumping off point for lots of imaginative play. Earlier this week a half hour show sparked an entire afternoon's worth of ice shields and special powers. But... it's just TV. It's just another activity, or resource, that my kids could take or leave anytime of their own volition. They are as free to watch TV as they are to play outside, read a book, bake cookies, play video games or use the computer (two other "evils") do a science experiment, and the list goes on. I place no more or less value on TV as I do anything else. Last night after dinner, Everett and Paxton helped me bake cookies, and Spencer and Mike watched Food Detectives. Was one more valuable than the other? Ironically, I think the people who are so ardently anti-TV make it far more important than it needs to be - either so evil and corrupting that it must be avoided, or so special and rare that it can only be used as a reward or a punishment... both of which I believe set up some unhealthy associations. It's just TV! Would it be a bad idea to watch TV all day, every day, for days and days on end? Probably. I also believe it would be a bad idea to read all day, every day, for days and days on end. (This coming from a person who adores reading and is currently in the middle of no less than half a dozen books) Life should be about variety, among other things, and kids who are free to choose naturally seek out that variety.

I have trust.

Some people homechool because they want to avoid certain aspects of public school. In a sense, they want to make their childrens' worlds smaller. I homeschool in part because I want to make my childrens' worlds bigger. I want them to have access to as much as possible, and I want them to recognize that learning is, indeed, everywhere. Could we live without TV? Could we homeschool without TV? Of course! But I can't understand, when it's something we're privileged enough to have access to, why I would limit an entire resource of fun, enjoyment, and yes, learning, just because I can.


We all wondered if she'd be toothless past age one, but she just got it in under the wire. These two beautiful pearly whites emerged about a week ago.

(Please disregard the food all over her face)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sweet Baby Girl

One year ago at this time I was in the hospital, staring in awe at my 9 pound baby girl, all wide-eyed and chubby-cheeked. Our fourth baby, Tegan, was so highly anticipated that I did something I never said I'd do: I had an elective induction. Past due, and in non-productive labor for over a week, my body told me it was done. When my OB suggested we go ahead and help nature along, I barely wavered. I was so very excited to meet my baby!!

I will never forget the way I felt when we went into the hospital - promptly at 6:45 AM thank you very much. Excited, nervous, and ready. So completely and totally ready. We hadn't found out the gender, a fact that the nurse found unbelievable, but having found out with all three boys (and knowing that this would be our last) we wanted to be surprised. And what a perfect, beautiful surpise she was!! I will remember that feeling for the rest of my life, that moment when they turned her over, that moment of suspension when we still didn't know if we had another boy or a little girl, a Gavin or a Tegan. Oh how I wished we'd let the boys be a surprise as well!

Everyone always comments on how happy we must be that we "finally had a girl" after three boys. The stone cold truth is that we are happy that we have TEGAN. Boy or girl, it wouldn't have mattered. But now that we know her, and from the moment we met her, we couldn't imagine a more perfect addition. God knew exactly the baby to entrust in our care (just as he did the first three times!) and we couldn't imagine life, or our family, without her.

So to you Tegan, on your first birthday....

I thank God for blessing us with you one year ago

I thank God for your big green eyes, and your huge, happy smile

I thank God for your sweet little voice, your deep belly laughs, and your ever-present sense of adventure

I thank God for your soft, curly hair, and the waterfall of ponytail on top of your head

I thank God for your chubby legs, and your puffy feet, and your squishy cheeks

I thank God for the way you adore your brothers, the way you dote on your daddy, the way you snuggle up to me at the end of the day

I thank God for the way you wave, and say hi, and scrunch up your entire body when you're excited

I thank God that I get to know, one last time, how beautiful and perfect it is to nurse a baby - who's fast becoming a toddler - and know that it is something special that only the two of us share.

We love you princess, more than you'll ever know.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Week in Pictures ... and a few words too

Has it been only 9 days since my last blog? What a full and eventful 9 days it's been.

First, I'm sad to report that we lost the praying mantises. :( We still don't know what went wrong, but every last one of them had died by the time 3 days had passed.

On a brighter note, on Friday we released our butterflies. It actually took some coaxing to get them out of their habitat (I think I was envisioning them just gratefully bursting forth as soon as it was opened) but they eventually found their wings - and their freedom - among the bushes in our backyard.

In other animal news, Paxton's leopard frog tadpoles are still doing well, but Everett's tadpole is... off. We can't yet tell if he is dying or if he has just slowed way down because he is a critcal stage of his transition. I've been following the instructions, feeding him regularly (but not too regularly), keeping his water cloudy (but not too cloudy) etc. I guess all we can do now is wait.

We actually haven't had a lot of time to think about butterflies and tadpoles lately anyway, because we've been busy visiting! Our good friends Doug and Erika were here for five days and we had such a great time. We hadn't seen each other in six months so we had lots to catch up, necessitating lots of busy days and late nights... and in one case, staying up till 4 in the morning playing Wii, PS2 and baking cookies.

Our first order of business was going geocaching. We'd been wanting to do it forever, and were happy to finally have an excuse to go, and some willing cohorts to go with us. For the uniformed, geocaching is like a big treasure hunt game. You plug in some coordinates into a GPS, hunt for the cache - which is filled with little trinkets - sign the log book, take something & leave something, and re-hide it for the next person. It was a blast and it is now officially our new favorite family hobby. We can't wait to go out and do it again.

We also went to the Phoenix Children's Museum for the second time, and it was every bit as fun as the first.

Last, but most definitely not least, we celebrated both Spencer and Tegan's birthdays in one big party on Saturday. Tegan loved spending time with her grandparents and aunt and uncle, and she had a blast opening her presents

But the highlight for Tegan, in traditional Tegan style, had to be eating and enjoying her first ever birthday cake. I have to note again, for the people who have not yet heard me say it, that the lamb cake was made from the very same cake mold that made my first birthday cake 34 years ago. I was so very excited to make it for my own daughter, and what made it even more special was learning from my Mom that she too had a lamb cake for her first birthday. Three generations of little lambs! She commented that my grandmother - who passed away 5 years ago and whom I still dearly miss - would be tickled to know that Tegan had a lamb cake too... and I know that she was.

Spencer loved his cake too

and his presents

and having a real life police officer to show him how to use his new fingerprinting kit

All in all, it was a great day, and a great week... with great family, and great friends.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Praying Mantises, Butterflies, and ER Visits

I had just about given up on the egg sac ever hatching, then the other day I went into the boys' room to find this:

And this:

And this:

And this...

Our butterflies hatched this week as well, and while we didn't get to actually see them come out of the chrysalis (darn it!) we did watch the last one gradually uncurl and stretch his wings. They were a drab brown at first, and over the course of a few days, their bright orange and black markings came to the surface. They are beautiful! We're going to watch them for just a couple more days, and then release them into the backyard.

The praying mantises and butterflies were the highlights of an otherwise difficult and stressful week. Last Sunday we watched the Superbowl while enjoying our traditional carpet picnic feast. The game was one of the most exciting Superbowls I've seen, and we were heartbroken that the Cardinals lost! The next day I woke up in pain, and first attributed it to the guacamole, chips, and other various not-very-good-for-you goodies I consumed in mass quantities on Sunday. I felt like I was having a gall bladder attack all day on Monday, and by Tuesday it had spread to my upper back between my shoulder blades. To make a long, boring story shorter, I spent all afternoon Wednesday in the Emergency Room, having test after test... only to be told that they couldn't find anything wrong with me, but that they'd be happy to send me home with a prescription. One week later, I'm still in pain, eating ibuprofens like they're m&ms, and going to bed with a Percocet. I'm ready to stop feeling it, thinking about it, and talking about it.

And finally, I am reading a book by Alfie Kohn, called Punished by Rewards, that I think all parents and teachers should read. It's not an easy book to read, and it goes against everything that most people believe (really, should this surprise you? I don't read any other kind...) But he makes a compelling point, and I am finding myself nodding my head over and over as I read. Good stuff.


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