Saturday, September 13, 2014

Things I Have Done to Lower My Stress Level (a Bullet Point List)

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More smiles, less crankiness. That's what I'm aiming for.

I have:
  • Paid to have groceries delivered. It's like magic - I place the order online and choose a delivery time, pay approximately five bucks, and all my groceries show up without me ever having to step foot in the store.
  • Purchased baby gates for the top and bottom of our stairs. They're steep, and the railing is such that Elvie could fall right through. In theory, I could accompany her up and down each time she wants to go. In theory, this stage where she is flirting with danger will be fleeting. In practice, I couldn't get much of anything done if I didn't strap her in her stroller to ensure her safety while I completed a task. (She knows how to take opportunities to do what she shouldn't, the little smarty pants.)
  • Delayed starting Zinashi's school term. There were so many good reasons to do it, and one of them was that I wasn't ready yet. (If you leave a comment stating that I am a selfish, negligent mother for this, I will not only delete it, but I will send both my children to your house to play a harmonica duet and then fight over who has the better harmonica. When you've figured out how to convince them that the harmonicas are exactly alike, for the love of Pete, you may bring them home to me.)
  • Eaten chocolate chips directly out of the 2.5kg bag. At midnight.
  • Started meal planning. Grocery delivery necessitates this, because I only want to pay that delivery fee once a week, but I'm also motivated because I want to cook in the way that's healthiest for my family, without a lot of fuss.
  • Decided to stop cooking dinner on Saturday nights. You know what tastes better than a home cooked meal? Cheese fries at Shake Shack, that's what.
  • Taken a little time for myself, to do only what is pleasurable to me, without guilt. That "without guilt" part is a big deal. But Deborah Gray said it would make me a better parent, so I am embracing that.
  • Started working out again, at a level that is manageable. It's just seven minutes per day, and it makes a difference.
What do you do to lower your stress level? I'm looking for both practical and funny things. I'd like to try out something new.


Friday, September 12, 2014

This Year in Homeschooling

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Zinashi on the morning we left for our day trip to Paris. This photo is sort of home education related.

I meant to start schoolwork with Zinashi when the rest of London started, two weeks ago. But there was that pesky thing about being unable to wrap my mind around ordering books we had no place to store, and I also just felt like we weren't ready to add something else to our daily schedule while we were still settling in. I toyed with the idea of doing a little something school-ish every day, but then I took a moment to observe how very much Zinashi was learning without the benefit of having begun our formal curriculum and I just backed off. 

Her reading in particular is coming along beautifully, with only a little input from me. She told me that she hated reading when I made her do it, but she loves to do it when she feels ready. I realize that there will be the swell of the chorus of voices saying, "She must do things she does not want to do," and yes, I agree, but - BUT! - in this case, I think it's better if I allow her some space. The kids that I know that were forced into reading before they were truly ready still hate it today, and I would much rather she progress without stress and love it forever. She adores stories, and I have no doubt that she will continue on the road to becoming an excellent reader.

I did finally order the books for our chosen curriculum this week, aside from the math texts I'm keen on using, for which I must make some shipping decisions. (As in, do I want to pay $63 in shipping or try to find something else? We can fill in with workbooks in the meantime.) I also ordered a compass, binoculars, and a magnifying glass. I was tempted to order a fancy pants watercolor journal and watercolor pencils, but then I remembered what happened to the watercolor paper I got on clearance before (markers and staples, that's what happened) and decided that the cheapest blank book possible and a new pencil will work just fine for a nature journal. A few more necessary items will be arriving with the rest of of our stuff from San Francico next week (our stuff is coming next week!), and then we'll get started.

There is no oversight whatsoever for home education in the UK, which surprised me quite a lot. If your child is in a school, you have to deregister them, but if you've never registered them, then you just...do your home education thing. While this is nice in the sense that I didn't have to figure out who to report to or explain our methods in the midst of figuring out a whole lot of other things that are new and different, I do think it is better to at least have some record of kids who are home educated, from a child protection perspective. However, that's not my call to make, and I am relieved that we can just proceed as we'd like during this period of transition.

I'm making a few changes to the way we do things this year, and I'm really excited about them. Mostly, I am freeing Zinashi up to do a few things at her own pace, as long as it is done by the end of the week, and I am changing the way we schedule our readings. We are still using the Charlotte Mason method, and I got a book list and schedule for readings from Ambleside Online, but we are mostly ditching their schedule. So many of the books are chapter books, which are to be read at a rate of one chapter per week. The problem is that, with so many texts being used, we would often forget what happened in the previous chapter by the time we read the next one the following week. So we will do one chapter per school day of the chapter texts, and the rest we can weave in as fits with our daily routine. I cannot wait to read some of these stories with my girl.

The daily routine will be much the same, with readings and narration done over breakfast, then independent work (copywork, spelling study) done while I get household chores done, after which we'll do math, then head out for the remainder of the day. There is so much we can study so easily, just by hopping on the Tube and going to a park for nature study or to a museum for history, science, art, or geography (or sometimes all of the above), that Elvie can participate in, too. I get so excited about what awaits us outside our door; we can even go to other cities by train without much fuss. There is just so much, so near, and we have the freedom to explore it all on our own schedule. 

This, to me, is the beauty of home education. The world is our oyster. It is right outside our door. We can't wait to explore it more.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Real Life, Three Ways

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For every photo of sisters sleeping together in harmony, I've got at least one I haven't posted of Zinashi making this face while Elvie jumps up and down with glee. The problem is that Elvie thinks that angry faces are funny, and Zinashi is an easy target. This is a pretty common combination with siblings, and I don't know why, after years of witnessing this scenario as a nanny, it comes as a surprise. But I find myself incredulous at Elvie's laughter when she has hurt (or very severely annoyed) her big sister and at Zinashi's refusal to do anything to protect herself. Does no one but me have any common sense?

Oh.

Wait.

I guess that's why I'm the mom.

...

We are going to Paris tomorrow to see friends. This is blowing my mind, the reality of being able to leave our house in the morning and be in Paris by lunchtime, then be home for a late bedtime. I pulled out a few dresses to choose from and will be wearing my hair down. I don't think my usual ponytail is quite right for the occasion, at least not this first trip. I haven't seen Paris since I was fresh out of college and wearing socks with my Birkenstocks. I'd like to make a good impression this time around.

...

We are having furniture delivered next week, on the 16th, and not a moment too soon, because I am officially tired of not having a sofa and not having a place to put things away. We've been here six weeks. It's time. We still don't know just when the rest of our stuff from the US is coming, but I am still pretending to be fine with that. Please pretend with me. It will all be fine.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Co-Sleeping Phase 2: Sibling Bedsharing

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When we thought we'd be living in San Francisco for longer, we started discussing plans for Zinashi and Elvie to fully share a room. As in, no children would be sleeping regularly in our bed, but both would sleep together in the second bedroom. Having spent nearly four years with a child in our bed for at least part of the night, the concept seemed both strange and refreshing. 

The only change to be made was the bed situation; toys and Elvie's changing table were already in there, and they shared the big dresser already as well. But the bed was a twin, and while they sometimes snuggled together in it to read or play, it wasn't going to be workable for two kids all night. Plus, we thought they should each have at least a bit of their own space. Bunk beds wouldn't work for us, with Zinashi being the sensitive, cautious soul she is and still waking in the night afraid sometimes still. I had visions of her trying to get down a bunk bed ladder while terrified, and I just couldn't imagine that working. Have you ever tried to lift a solid seven-year-old down a bunk bed ladder? It's not ideal.

Next I looked into a toddler bed for Elvie, but I couldn't figure out where we'd put it. Plus, Elvie was used to having someone next to her, and I was afraid that she just wouldn't stay in a bed if she were entirely alone, and then we would have bought a toddler bed for no reason, except that it probably would become another jumping space. Eventually we decided that when the time came, we'd get a trundle bed so each girl would sort of have their own bed, but could snuggle if they wanted to, and the trundle could be stowed each day to allow more space to play.

Then the big move happened, right as we would have started transitioning Elvie out of our bed into Zinashi's room. Our original plans didn't make as much sense anymore, and I started seriously doubting that each girl actually needed her own private bedspace. The bedrooms here are smaller, and we talked about the possibility of a trundle here, but it also started to seem appealing to have them share a double bed. Zinashi liked the styles of the double beds that were in our price range much better than the trundle beds, and both girls are such snugglers that it seemed like it just might work. Fast forward to house selection, when it became clear that we would end up in a furnished place, and the deal was done. None of the furnished places had trundle beds; they were all doubles.

It's worked out beautifully. In the beginning, Jarod and I divided and conquered, with each of us sleeping all night with one of the girls, but one night we simply put Elvie in Zinashi's bed with her, and that was that. At first Elvie would wake and come into our room at night or in the early morning hours, but this past week she's simply stayed in her own bed all night, right next to Zinashi. I look in on them before I go to sleep, and they are almost always touching in some way. It is sweet and beautiful, and I am so very glad it worked out this way.

To be honest, I'm not sure how many years they'll end up sharing a bed. I have no plan for it, really. Just as it went with co-sleeping in our bed, I figure that when they're ready for something different, they will let us know. For now, it is working out perfectly for our new life. 

A few days ago, Zinashi was talking about sharing the bed with Elvie. "She always is moving over to be closer to me," she said, "putting her arm or her leg over me." I asked if that bothered her, and Zinashi said, "No, it's cozy. I really like it." Snuggle on, sweet sisters. Snuggle on.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Thoughts on Our First Month in London

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Yesterday marked one month living in London. It seems like we've been here longer than that, or at least that we were in San Francisco a long time ago. I only get sad about what we left behind there when Elvie starts asking where each of our old friends is. "Where Dack? Where Tadie? Where Amos? Where Header?" And I have to answer, "At their homes, in San Francisco." It's hard to explain an international move to a two-year-old. In time, we will have plenty of friends in this place, but for now she only thinks of the ones we left behind, who were familiar fixtures in her day to day life. I know it will get better, but for now it stings a bit.

At the same time, we love our new life here. The kids seem to have adjusted to life without a sofa, as illustrated by the photo above, in which they are sitting where the sofa should go, happily reading together despite being sofa-less. On Saturday, I came home to both of them asleep in that spot, as if they were getting practice napping where they might someday nap more comfortably. They don't at all notice the lack of other furniture. Who needs a bookshelf when you can leave the books on the floor? And why on earth would they want me to sit at a desk to do all the things I've been putting off all this time because it's too hard without a desk*?

We have favorite places we go, and places we go regularly because we need things there. We can get to Whole Foods practically blindfolded if we go to the Costa on Piccadilly first. Tesco Metro is practically our second home. And let's not forget IKEA - we may be going for a record when it comes to the number of IKEA trips in a month's time. It doesn't hurt that there's a Tesco Extra across the street, where there truly are many extra things that one cannot find in just any Tesco (the gluten free cereal with chocolate hazelnut filling comes to mind). When it comes to errands, I most definitely feel settled.

And yet so many things are all still so new. I haven't sent anything by post yet because I don't want to have to figure it out. I still bumble around the bank like a nervous badger when I need to make a payment to someone** or a deposit. We haven't started school yet because we are still getting so many unfamiliar things done that doing reasonable things like ordering books (which would only end up in an unruly stack in my empty living room anyway) is beyond me.

But it's a lucky thing that my kids are still who they are. Zinashi is inquisitive enough*** that I know she will keep learning every day whether we are following our formal curriculum or not.

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And Elvie is just so very Elvie that despite the fact that I know she would love to see all our friends every day, she still manages to find joy everywhere we go.

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Someday our things from San Francisco will arrive. Someday we will order furniture to be delivered. Someday we will live in a house that truly looks like our house, with all the things that are meaningful to us in it. But those somedays are not now, nor do they need to be. I am determined to allow this season to pass at its own pace, to recognize the gift in going without so many things to which we are accustomed. In making peace with the lack, we will be every more joyful at the eventual gain, and ever more cognizant of our many privileges.

So let the days without a sofa pass with peace. Let the weeks without friends at our table remind us of how blessed we are to be held so dear in the hearts of those far away. Let the joy we find radiate, until we feel how perfectly our losses have given birth to our many gains.



*I realize this is silly. I can just get things done on the dining room table, can't I? But it's not the same. I need a space where office things go, where I can do official office business and not have to put it back in a box and relocate it when we need to eat. High maintenance, I know. I am persnickety, and sometimes it can't be helped.

**While it is still not second nature to me, I'll admit that being able to send a payment to someone via direct bank transfer is a wonder to me. The first time I did it, I was all, "Wait, I just put their bank account details in on this screen and hit confirm and that's it? I just tap this spot on the screen right here, and I've paid my bill? WHAT KIND OF SORCERY IS THIS, BANK HELPER MAN?" But apparently it's just normal, and way more efficient than writing a check or filling out an online bill pay form.

***Zinashi asks me questions all day long, every day, and I am not exaggerating. She will see something that picques her interest and immediately start asking me about it. When she's done asking about that thing, it might remind her of something else she is curious about, or she will see something else that interests her. We are going to work hard on increasing her reading speed and comprehension this year so that she can start to do her own research. She is not keen on this idea - she'd prefer I just figure it out and answer her. "Wouldn't that just be easier?" she asks.  NO.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Internet is Overrated (Mostly) (Sometimes)

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Every now and again I do a little Whole30 to reset my healthy eating habits, and it does the trick for awhile, before I slide blissfully back into Sugarville and need to do it again. I wonder if it is the same with home internet access. I went thirty days without it, and I have to admit that I wasn't scrambling to get online as much as I thought I would be. It was connected yesterday morning, and I haven't shown up here until today is nearly done. And honestly? I'm just here so the kids and I can go to Paris. I can't book a lap child from the app on my phone. It turns out that real life wins over internet life most of the time.

We are still waiting on the funds transfer we need to purchase furniture. We are still waiting on the things we shipped by sea to be delivered. We are not waiting on getting comfortable in our new city. Slowly but surely, this feels like normal life. (Though I'll be honest that, given that my life thus far has usually included a sofa, our home life isn't as normal as I'm accustomed to.)

I feel like this time we've had with less communication with the outside world has been really good for me. I love all our friends and family dearly, but it was a treat to focus on our little family mostly, to give all the time and energy that might have been spent on communication to settling in and getting everyone comfortable. It's felt like a vacation of sorts, or at least a vacation for introverts.

There are so many things I want to write about. They've been piling up, really, all these thoughts to share. This is, I think, what will bring me back here the most, that I simply have things that I feel are worth passing on. I've been reading so much wisdom. Zinashi has been challenging me to think deeper and harder about so many things. I've got stuff to say. So while I hope I won't sink as far into my attraction to the internet as I had sunk before, I will show up here more often than I have been.

See you soon.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Timelines


It's been two weeks and two days since we moved here. We will have internet service at home in twelve days. We will have homemade injera in one day. The rest - when the stuff we shipped by sea will arrive, when we will order our living room furniture, when Jarod and I will stop using our kids' beach towels and buy proper bath towels - is yet to be determined.

It feels more normal and more like home here every day. I am falling in love with our little house. I was already in love with this city, and it is not disappointing me. I feel like this all happened very fast, and it has taken time for the reality of living here to sink in, but today I ran errands in the city by myself, and it felt like normal life. Normal, amazing life.

See you again in twelve days, fine internet friends.
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