Thursday, December 30, 2010

Opposites and Halves

The last couple days Lucas has been hooked on talking about opposites. It doesn't take long to cover all the obvious ones. Hot/cold; up/down; left/right; wet/dry; north/south; big/small; etc. After exhausting the easy ones, he started delving into the obscure. "What's the opposite of fire?" "What's the opposite of trees?" "What's the opposite of air?" "What's the opposite of metal?" "What's the opposite of a construction crane?" If I had planned a lesson on opposites for him, would I have included construction crane? Probably not. It's one of the great perks of letting him freely explore topics. He takes them in directions I never would consider on my own.

Nico was exploring halves today. "What is half of 100?" "What is half of 20?" What is half of 10?" "If 100 plus 100 is 200, than 100 is half of 200." Every day Nico is finding new ways to manipulate the numbers around him. It's such a joy to be able to watch and facilitate their education.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas

What a phenomenal day!

It started for me about 8:30 am, when I woke up and found Nico hanging out in the living room by himself. I was amazed he hadn't touched a single present yet. Shortly after I came out, Nico starts to sort his presents from the pile, and puts each one on the couch. As he is doing this, he is taking wild guesses at what each one is. I just sat back and grinned, and enjoyed watching the magic through his eyes.

Although he was dying to, I told Nico he could not open the presents in his stocking until Lucas woke up. Nico kept going in and out of the room, trying to wake up his little brother. Finally, around 9 am, he succeeded and Lucas came out to the living room. They both began tearing paper wildly. After opening a few presents (calculator, math bingo game, scrabble slam card game) Nico says, "I think Santa is trying to make me smart". After opening a couple more (toothbrush and silly bandz) he says "These are boring, but I'm still glad I got them." Lucas basically got all the same things, with a few variations (hence the reason Nico had to wait) in his stocking.

The main presents could not be opened until the whole family was together, so I ducked into the kitchen to make some awesome cinnamon buns. Then a quick shower, and we were headed off to pick up Matthew.

Once our family was complete, we scooted over to see Gulliver's Travels in 3D (seeing a movie on Christmas has become a family tradition). I wasn't real impressed by the movie, although the boys enjoyed it. It was pretty much exactly what you would expect from a Jack Black movie. I was extremely impressed by the 3D graphics. I am one who gets motion sickness from video games, so I am surprised the new 3D movies do not cause the same effect.

Back at home, and the boys could finally open their gifts. Nico had already guessed what one of his presents was, and was super excited to find out he was correct. A new guitar for Nico, and a new electronic drum set for Lucas, and they now have the makings of a super awesome rock band. Nico loved the Knight Lucas picked out, and Lucas was thrilled to receive the Operation game from Nico.

Matthew had the biggest present, which was really five presents in one. An incredibly huge box, filled with newspapers and packing popcorn, which he was forbidden from dumping out. He had four of the five presents found in only five minutes, but twenty minutes later he was begging for help finding the last one. He enlisted both Nico and Lucas to climb in the box to search for it. Some time later, during his second trip into the box, Nico found the prize at the bottom. And that concluded the presents, or so they thought.

After all were settled down, Timmy pulled out a surprise present, hiding in our bedroom. It was addressed to the whole family, but we told the boys to unwrap it. See video.

Just after Daddy got the new Xbox hooked up, Grandma and Grandpa showed up, and the paper went flying once again. They stayed for a quick snack, but headed out just as I started preparing dinner. A lovely sirloin steak, baked sweet potatoes, and fresh steamed broccoli, with my mini-trifles for dessert. YUM! After dinner, a couple hours of Kinect play concluded our day.

I love Christmas, it is by far my favorite holiday, but I am so glad it only comes once a year. Now that's it's over, it's time to start preparing for next year. video

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Shopping

Last year I started taking the boys out one at a time to buy gifts for each other for Christmas. Today was our shopping day.

I love spending one on one time with each of the boys, even if it is just for 30 minutes. Lucas and I went to the store first. It's always such a pleasure being with Lucas alone, because he gets to shine. Whenever Nico is around, Lucas is quiet and reserved, as a result of always being hushed by his brother. Alone with Lucas, he is very talkative, and extremely silly. It's like you get to see a glimpse of the real Lucas, and I wish I could find a way to let him shine all the time.

Nico is Nico, whether other people are around or not. But, it's easier to deal with him one on one, because he has what he's always seeking; your undivided attention.

I walked along the toy aisle with each of the boys, and of course they both had to stop and push every demo button in the store. They both wanted to pick out the most awesome toy ever for their brother, which made me very proud. Lucas picked a black knight on a horse for Nico, and Nico picked the game Operation for Lucas. I think both boys will be happy come Christmas morning. Nico insisted on hiding Lucas's present until Christmas morning, so he wouldn't even be able to guess that it was a game. He wants it to be a complete surprise.

Last year the boys told each other before Christmas what they had picked out. This year I think they will do better at keeping the secret. For one, they only have to hold out for two more days, versus last years two weeks. Also, they have clever cover stories. If asked, Lucas will tell Nico that he bought him Ice, and Nico will tell Lucas he bought him a Nerf gun.

Woo-Hoo, only two more days until Christmas. I think I'm probably more excited than the boys.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Public Spaces


I took the boys to a Christmas Party at the park this morning, with some of our home-school friends. All in all it was a wonderful party, but Nico had trouble getting along with some of the other kids.

See, Nico and some of the kids from our group made this super, awesome fort out of tree branches and moss. It was off to the side of the park, out of sight from the picnic tables where I and most of the other adults were spending our time. Nico worked really hard on the fort, and was really proud of what he had done. There was a door, and sleeping quarters for everyone who wanted a place to stay.

Then come along the kids from a small private school across the street. The first group of kids to come over were pretty nice, and didn't really bother our group too much. (Although one boy in our group ended up in tears because he wanted to play with these new kids, however they were instructed by their teacher not to play with anyone outside their class!? Such great social skills those kids are learning, eh!) After about 20 minutes, the first group leaves, and along comes group number two.

The first thing these kids in group two did, was tear down Nico's fort. Nico, understandably, was furious. In tears, completely red-faced, wanting to go over to yell and scream at all of them. I felt his pain. He had been working on that fort for over two hours, just to have them come tear it all down. But I can't condone fighting. I made him stop and take some deep breaths. I tried to explain to him that this was a public park, and nothing here actually belongs to him. Yes it was incredibly rude of those other kids to tear down his hard work, but there was really nothing we could do about it.

After a few minutes of talking him down, Nico was able to rejoin the fun. He is still peeved about the incident, but thankfully was able to enjoy the remainder of the party.

Side Note: Pictured above, check out Lucas and one of his new friends on their home-made seesaw. My kids were being all kinds of creative today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

That dreaded four letter word...

MATH What did you think I was going to talk about?

I read an interesting article the other day, presented in Life Learning Magazine about how unschoolers learn math. The article really resonated with me, since I have witnessed, first hand, just how it happens.

When Nico was five, I was on my way to work, but I needed to get the boys some lunch and drop them off with their grandparents first. I was headed to BK, and Nico said he wanted some burger shots. I wanted to get him the kids meal, but he was insisting on the adult meal. I thought that would be too much food for him, but he said "It's only three twos, Mommy."

Hmm, it's only three twos. Immediately I thought multiplication, but he's only five. Surely he can't be ready to start multiplying. Especially since he has had almost no formal math lessons. So I asked him, "How many is three twos?" to which he promptly replied "Six". Maybe it's a fluke? Maybe he only knows from seeing the burger shots before? So I asked another one. "How many is five twos?" A moments thought, and then "Ten". I asked another, and another, and he was able to go as high as five fives is twenty five.

Unlike the mother in the article, I didn't have to ask Nico how he was getting the answer. Although he was trying to murmur under his breath, I could hear him counting out the answers. Much like the boy in the article, Nico too uses a rhythmic pattern to determine the answer. 123, 456, 789 three threes is nine.

I was amazed at how easily he seemed to grasp the concept. Since then, I have had no fears about how or when my boys will pick up math skills. Math really is all around us, and they are learning far faster on their own than I could have ever imagined.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Football

For those who don't know me well, I am a Tampa Bay fan. I was born a Tampa Bay fan, and I'll die a Tampa Bay fan. There's just no if, ands, or buts about it.

The first game of this season that I was able to watch at home was against Carolina. After I turned on the game, Lucas walks into the room and says "Go blue team!" To which I replied, "No, no. The red team are the Bucs, the blue team are the Panthers. I want the Bucs to win."

Well, of course my children are very independent, and capable of thinking for themselves. Lucas didn't want to root for the Bucs because they were wearing red, and the Panthers were wearing blue, and well see, blue is his favorite color.

So today I turned on the Bucs game, and Lucas asks how come the Panthers aren't on? I said I'm sure they are, but they're not playing against the Bucs today. He was disappointed, because he wanted to cheer for his blue team again. I don't know where I went wrong with that one? Imagine, a Panthers fan living right here in my own house. For shame!!

Stop and Think

At what age can kids stop and think about how their actions make other people feel?

I'm trying to get Nico to stop and think about how his actions make his brother feel. He picks at his brother all day long. He constantly puts him down, calls him stupid, and excludes him when he plays. Lucas on the other hand, loves his brother to pieces, and just takes it in stride.

Take this morning for example. Nico wanted to play rough, but Lucas didn't. So Nico tells Lucas he's going into the bedroom to build a submarine, and since Lucas didn't want to play he couldn't come in. Of course Lucas wanted to go in, but Nico said no. Lucas stayed in the living room, and about ten minutes later Nico comes out to tell him the submarine was done.

I had to stop him. I asked, "Why did you come out here to tell Lucas the submarine was done? Was it because you are inviting him in? Or was it because you wanted him to get upset because he couldn't go in?" Of course Lucas still wasn't allowed in the submarine, but Nico insisted he wasn't trying to make his brother upset. So what was the point in telling him it was done? Nico didn't have an answer.

I tried to explain to him that his actions affect how other people feel, and he needs to be aware of that. I asked how he would feel if other people treated him the way he treats his brother, which did no good at all. Nico said he would just get over it, which is absolutely true. Nico doesn't hold on to his feelings. Sometimes they explode out of him, but once they're out, they're out and he lets them go. It's actually one of the really good things about Nico, he doesn't hold grudges. He can be angry one second, and happy the next.

So how do I get him to see that not everyone is capable of shrugging things off? Lucas doesn't help the situation any. He too, doesn't really hold on to his feelings, so it's hard to get Nico to stop and see how upset Lucas gets. In all honesty, it probably bothers me a whole lot more than it bothers Lucas. Hmm, I just don't know. Maybe I should just stay out of it, and let them work it out. It's just hard to sit back and see Lucas get walked all over. I want him to stand up for himself, but instead he just enables his brother. What's a mother to do?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Over used words or phrases

Are my kids the only ones that find a word or phrase they like, and over use the hell out of it?

Of course they both were infected with the 'WHY?' bug early on, and that one doesn't really bother me very much. I like that they ask why, and are so curious about the world around them. Dare I say, I encourage them to ask why. But there are some peculiar phrases they have latched onto, and use every chance they get (whether it makes sense or not).

Nico really likes the word apparently. Apparently, he likes it a lot, since he apparently uses it in every sentence. I guess he thinks everything should be readily apparent, even though some things I have no way of knowing with out asking. Apparently that doesn't stop him from thinking I should have known the answer. Apparently I should be a mind reader.

Right, is another word that gets over used by Nico. You can't have a conversation with him with out hearing it at-least 100 times (not an exaggeration). It's like he needs constant affirmation, so at the end of every sentence he adds Right?! Sometimes all I hear is "Blah blah blah blah, Right Mommy?!"

Lucas, in particular, has picked up an odd phrase, and I'm not sure where he got it from. It creeps into his sentences at the weirdest times. Usually it goes something like this. "Mommy I want some, let me just say, milk." Or how about, "I would like to go to the, let me just say, park." I haven't the faintest clue where 'let me just say' came from, or why he likes to slip it into the middle of his sentences like that.

I like that my kids have a diverse vocabulary, and get excited about learning and using new words. It's great that they explore their language and how to use it. Soon enough they will start using a new word or phrase that catches their fancy. I can't wait to hear what comes out of their mouths next.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bowling and Independence

We went to the bowling alley the other night, and the boys got to bowl. This was their second time bowling. Nico did pretty well, bowling an 85 his first game and a 60 something his second game. Lucas still had a hard time with the weight of the ball; he needed a lot of help.

I love that my boys are now old enough that they don't need to be watched every second. After they were done with their two games, I was still bowling on the other lane, and was able to send them over to the arcade to play. They knew where to find me, if I was needed, and I was able to check on them every few minutes. They didn't have any money to play the games, but they love watching others play, and climbing on the equipment.

The boys really love that little bit of freedom and independence. Since I've never been the type to hover, I know my boys can solve their own problems. I also know, when faced with problems that are too big for them, they don't hesitate to ask for help. They aren't the type to bully other kids, nor are they the type to stand by and let other kids bully them. I am confident that they can interact, in a public space, with other kids, on their own, and have a wonderful experience, despite the fact they haven't been properly socialized in a school.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good to have them home!

The boys are back in town!

It's easy to tell because the volume in my house has raised to an alarming level again. The house is filled with conversations, arguments, laughter and tears. It's only been two days, but already I can't wait to get to work for some quiet, me time.

They've definitely grown and matured in the two months they were away, but they are exactly the same as I remember. Nico, forever seeking the spotlight; stubborn as a mule and can't go a full minute with out making some kind of sound. Already I've been furiously frustrated with him, and yet all I want to do is smother him in hugs and kisses. Lucas is still silly beyond measure, and so sweet. He has developed a little bit of a back bone, and isn't quite so content to let his brother push him to the side.

No matter how loud the house gets, how frustrated and tired I get, I am ecstatic to have my boys home again. The hugs, kisses and snuggles, are worth every headache!