PARENTING, TRAVEL, AND LITTLE JOYS
There are lots of things to be mad about right now. I would suggest there's nothing wrong with being mad. It's up to you to decide what to do when you're angry.
If you are angry about a social issue, I suggest that you act to better what's making your mad - with time or money. Give your time or your money to fix it. Small amounts of money can make a significant difference in addressing an issue.
My chosen place to give in the face of my anger at the most recent wave of police brutality and systemic racism captured on video is to the Massachusetts Bail Fund. A cash bail system is immoral. Innocent people spend days, months, and even years in jail, often losing everything, because they and their families do not have the cash reserves on hand for them to be released under a cash bail system. The best thing about donating to a bail fund is that bail is a renewable resource - your donation once can be used over and over again.
Posting on Facebook is not enough. Being mad is not enough.
I had the WORST Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) during pregnancy. Maybe it was my punishment for thinking it had a silly, stupid name when I used to see TV ads about it and thinking that it sounded made up - you have to move your legs? Haha.
NOT haha. It is the worst, and it makes you so uncomfortable and makes it impossible to sleep. I would just pace in our apartment for hours crying, because the second I'd lie down, it would start again. I tried lotions and baths and all the things I'd seen suggested, and nothing worked, until I found something that did.
I still get RLS now about once a week, but now that I know what stops it, it's gone from being a total nightmare to a completely minor inconvenience. What cured my restless leg syndrome during my pregnancy? What cures RLS now for me?
Protein powder. I don't know how to why. Because your leg muscles are some of the biggest in your body, I have a theory that if your body needs protein, it may go to these muscles as a source, causing "discomfort" (otherwise known as agony). I have no way of knowing if that's true.
But what I do know is that when I had RLS in every day of pregnancy, if I would drink a protein shake (for me, just a scoop of protein powder in water) before bed, I wouldn't have restless leg syndrome. If I didn't drink it, I would. If I forgot, and the RLS pain started, I could get up and drink a protein shake, and in 10 minutes it would be gone.
This is still true. If I lie down and it starts, I get up and drink a protein shake, and then 10 minutes later, no problem. This is the protein powder I've used. There's supposed to be no cure for Restless Leg Syndrome, but this really does cure it. It has worked 100% of the time I've done it, instantly. Fortunately, protein powder is affordable, safe, FDA-approved, and generally accepted to be good for you anyway, so there's really no risk in giving it a try.
If you are looking for a remedy for RLS or you are trying to stop suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, I strongly STRONGLY recommend giving it a try. Curing Restless Leg Syndrome could be just that easy.
I miss my job. I miss bringing my son to all his favorite haunts: playgrounds and libraries and the museum down the street. I miss personal space and quiet lattes like this one. I miss walking in the city.
It is day 60 for us. I'm surprised that it feels much shorter, despite how much has changed. It almost has become a new normal.
There's a lot to be learned by what we miss... and what we don't. What do you miss in this quarantine?
I am, like, NOT a homeschool mom. But now, I am! The Reluctant Homeschooler's Academy for Mildly Adequate Learning has been open for 53 days, and we finally have a routine and a lot fewer tears on all sides.
These are our favorite books for 4-year-old homeschooling so far. To get selected for this list, the book has to be applicable to multiple days of our curriculum, be bearable for me to read multiple times, be interesting for the kiddo, and be either factually educational or a great and engaging story.
1. The Cat in the Hat Learning Library.
This is the gift that keeps on giving. Other than teaching us that ostriches live in Australia (which they super don't), this series has been fun to read, full of interesting facts, and applicable to almost everything we wanted to study and learn. Animals, insects, space, dinosaurs, the human body, health, food, pets, marine life, birds... it's seriously great. It's a fun mix of basic info, science terminology and facts, and Dr. Seuss-style rhymes. We have matched these to walks outdoors, to crafts, to science experiments, to toys, to art projects, and to other books, and we've read them on their own over and over. The price seems high, but you get 20 books and you will get a LOT of use out of them.
2. Where the Sidewalk Ends
Reading poetry with kids can be so fun, and it can also help them to internalize rhyme, rhythm, and any number of literary and rhetorical devices. You can sing these poems, clap the rhythms, act them out, draw pictures about them, find words that rhyme, or act them out.
Single poems from the book make fun supplements to lessons about body parts, hygiene, travel, animals, feelings, friendships, and any numbers of other curricula. You can easily photocopy a page and have kids write on it, circle or underline certain parts of speech, find rhymes, or color the black and white pictures. Or, just read it and have fun - it's actually a good read for adults too.
3. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: a Pop-up Adaptation
This is a BEAUTIFUL book. It's a book to read together. It's a book for getting kids to love books and stories and art and magical things. These books are more durable than you might expect, but they could still be ripped if they're not handled carefully.
We have been snuggling up with these pop-up books to enjoy the stories, but this is a great supplement to other lessons since it's such a classic story. (Plus you can get the audiobook and lots of supplementary worksheets, coloring sheets, and exercises online for free since it's in the public domain.) Learning about fiction, poetry, fairy tales, or characters? Wanting to celebrate an un-birthday or have a silly day? You can pin any lessons in reading, writing, coloring, or drawing to an Alice in Wonderland theme.
4. Grasshopper on the Road
This is an "I CAN READ" Book (level 2), with simple words and short stories. But guys. It's also one of the best books I've ever read.
It's not heavy-handed in morals, but the grasshopper encounters some real characters, and he continues on his journey and sticks to his values as he engages with them in interesting ways. We can always count on Arnold Lobel for books that are sweet and charming without being saccharine, and this is another one.
5. Oddhopper Opera: A Bug's Garden of Verses
I thought this would be kind of a lame supplement to our learning about insects, but I was wrong. My son LOVED this book, and has gone back to it again and again to engage with it in different ways. My only (very small) complaint is that it seems to describe spiders, slugs, and other creepy-crawlies as "bugs" (which, of course, they aren't). BUT. The illustrations are beautiful and the poems are a rare combination of fun, mature, and silly. They are packed with interesting words and lots of onomatopoeia and action. They can stand alone or be read as a book. For a lesson on poetry or insects, they are a no-brainer. But this is also great for just a fun book for a rainy afternoon.
6. The Wonderful Weather Collector's Set
This set includes 6 short, easy-to-read books on topics such as snow and rain. It is SO HARD to find books that are at a beginner level (pre-school), that have charming illustrations and are fun to read, but include scientific facts. THIS BOOKS ARE THEM.
An example two-page spread includes drawings of different snowflake shapes and says "Each snowflake has six sides. They come twirling to the earth in a billion different shapes."
This affordable set is easy to read and gives quick facts. It's easy to build on these in a number of ways. For example, you could cut paper snowflakes, draw rainbows, learn about seasons, answer questions about snow, or write a story about the sun. This set is a bargain.
7. A is for Art
This is one of the more expensive solo books on the list, as it's only available in hardcover. BUT this book is worth it. I wrongly assumed from a glance at the cover that this was going to be a slapped-together collection of photos of artworks. (Why are so many kids' books about art so bad?!) Nope!
This book has the BEST descriptions of each artwork, packed with interesting words that start with each letter. For example, the page about C says:
"Countless colorful candied consciously collected, crammed, crushed, and confined crowd a clear circular container filled to capacity."
The artworks pictured were made by the author for this book. We can see why he's won the Caldecott Honor before. If it ends up inspiring you and your kid to make collages, sculptures, and paintings? Great. If it has you collecting items that start with the same letter? Cool. If you look up what all the words mean? Fun. If you just read it and read it over and over (which is all we've done so far)? Still good.
I think once you were done with it (if that ever happened), you could frame some of the pages for a cool room decoration or gift (spelling out a child's initials, for example), since each large page features one letter.
8. The Edible Pyramid: Good Eating Every Day
Let me start by saying that this isn't a good book (in my opinion). It uses the outdated food pyramid, it has no story, it's kind of awkward to read, and it spends the whole book just listing different kinds of foods and then quickly and confusingly jumps to how to portion them and combine them in the last two pages. It's a total missed opportunity and doesn't take advantage at all of the silly animals in the pictures or the restaurant setting. It's super weird, and not in a good way.
Then why is it on the list? Two main reasons. One, my son inexplicably loves it and reads it on his own all the time. He has learned lots of new foods and words from it, and I've been able to use it to get him to try a number of new foods that he wouldn't try before. That alone would get it on the list.
The second reason is that we've actually been able to use it in lots of activities. Sorting foods by food group in our kitchen, looking for foods for each letter of the alphabet, sorting play food, talking about what different types of animals eat, and drawing fruits and vegetables have been some of the activities where this book came back out. There's just something about the style of the book that lends itself to use in homeschool activities and engages my kid. Maybe it's a good book after all!
9. If You're Happy and You Know It
This version of the classic song is beautifully illustrated and features characters and scenes from around the world, including teaching how to say hello in a number of different languages. It is a great entry to learning about other languages and cultures around the globe, to talking about emotions, to getting moving and signing, and to an easy tune that can be easily adapted and changed to other words and themes.
10. Pizza Pat
We have read Pizza Pat SO many times. So many. Our copy doesn't have a cover anymore, and the pages are soft and leathery from being turned hundreds and maybe thousands of times. It still isn't annoying, which is saying a lot. The rhythm and rhyme are fun, it has some cute surprises, and it's a great tool for practicing everything from making a paper pizza to writing a recipe to rhyming words to adjectives.
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Just a reminder in case somehow it's unclear: you do not have to enjoy a pandemic.
If you are enjoying it? Great!
If you are savoring alone time, or time with your kids, or time with your cat, or whatever? Great.
If you are baking bread or writing a book or learning to crochet or binging Ozark? Great.
If you are choosing joy for yourself? Great.
I hope you are. I support it. I am here for it. I celebrate your positivity and success. You're a ray of light. You're working hard. Yes.
But I would implore you that telling other people to "choose joy" is not appropriate as blanket advice. There are people who are sick. Unemployed. Terrified. Sad. Angry. Lost. And these are appropriate feelings that aren't just a matter of attitude or choice of how hard anyone is trying. Giving the advice to others to "choose joy" (or whatever other platitude suggests that you just need a positive attitude) is a real privileged take, and it's yucky.
If you want to inspire other people to choose joy, I love it. You keep choosing joy and shining your light, and that will inspire them. If you want to really help other people who are in a time of need, help them with money or food or purchasing something from their business or advocating on their behalf to your elected officials or helping them with paperwork or listening to what they ask for and giving them that.
Just to recap: Choosing a positive attitude and finding the good in a tough time? Awesome. Trying to uplift others? Awesome. Telling other people to choose a positive attitude right now?
IT IS OKAY IF YOU ARE NOT ENJOYING A PANDEMIC. IT IS OKAY IF YOU ARE JUST GETTING THROUGH IT. You do not have to enjoy it, and it's not a moral failing if you don't, and it wouldn't all be okay if your attitude was different.
Today we were playing with some toy apples and pretending they were a family. And then...
Me: What does the Daddy Apple say?
Son: Don't eat me, I'm too big!
Me: What does the Baby Apple say?
Son: Don't eat me, I'm too little!
Me: What does the Mommy Apple say?
Son: Would you PLEASE leave me alone for just five minutes so I can pee?!
He's not wrong.
I never let my phone battery die. Never. If I need power for songs on a morning run, taking an Uber, or taking a late-night call, the battery is always charged. I've had this phone for 3 years, and the battery has never died, no matter what country I'm in, whether I'm on a long flight, or how busy the day is.
Until this quarantine, in which my phone battery has died 5 times and it's perennially on "low battery". I also keep losing my phone in my house, which is, like, SO not something I do.
I saw a meme saying that people who let their phone die when they're stuck at home are a special breed, but it made me wonder. When I'm using my phone so much less, and when I'm near an outlet all the time, how does it keep dying?
Presumably, I have lost my routine, so I've stopped charging it. I don't need to depend on it, so I have made it something that isn't dependable.
It seems like a very good metaphor for my personal battery. I have never had less to do than I do right now, but my battery is constantly low. It's not because I'm doing too much, but because I have lost the things that charge it back up (for me, that's alone time, work, routine, and... work!). I do not have a dependable battery right now.
So for those of you whose phone batteries or emotional batteries are running low and running out, you're not alone. We may not be able to find a way to charge up right now. We may have to take the little moments where we remember to plug in - both our phones and ourselves. We can get through it.
My hypothesis is that for both the phone battery and my internal battery, maybe mindlessly scrolling through my phone a little less would help!
6:55am: Argue about how “Arkansas” is pronounced. Lose.
6:59am: Learn that today isn’t school because mom “is not someone for learning”.
7:00am: Casually stepped on.
7:03am: Reminded for the literally one thousandth time that we don’t have any books about Pat Nixon.
7:05am: Did you know you can order tequila on the internet?
Happy Monday, reluctant homeschoolers!
The thing about making a carrot cake in quarantine is that then you’re quarantined with a carrot cake.